Sept. News Reports

 

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

 

Sept. 19

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection Probes

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Justice

 

More On Afghanistan

 

World News

 

U.S. Auctions, Entertainment, Media

 

Top Stories

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. will fly migrants who have streamed into Texas back to Haiti, officials say, Nick Miroff, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The deportations, expected to start as soon as Sunday, are aimed at discouraging more border-crossers from coming to a South Texas camp.

The Biden administration is preparing to send planeloads of migrants back to Haiti starting as soon as Sunday in a deportation blitz aimed at discouraging more border-crossers from streaming into a crude South Texas camp where nearly 14,000 have already arrived, according to five U.S. officials with knowledge of the plans.

us dhs big eagle logo4Homeland Security officials are planning as many as eight flights per day to Haiti, three officials said, while cautioning that plans remained in flux. The administration was preparing to announce the flights Saturday, said two of the officials, who were not authorized to discuss the plan.

Haitian authorities have agreed to accept at least three flights per day, but Biden officials want to maximize deportations to break the momentum of the massive influx into the Del Rio, Tex., camp, one official said.

Another U.S. official involved in the planning insisted that the flights were not a targeted measure aimed at Haitians, but the application of U.S. immigration laws allowing the government to swiftly return border-crossers who arrive illegally.

“This isn’t about any one country or country of origin,” the official said. “This is about enforcing border restrictions on those who continue to enter the country haiti flagillegally and put their lives and the lives of the federal workforce at risk.”

The Biden administration continues to use a pandemic enforcement measure known as Title 42 to rapidly “expel” border crossers to Mexico or their home countries. Officials said some of the flights to Haiti would probably be expulsion flights relying on the public health authority of the Title 42 provision.

A federal judge on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from using Title 42 to expel migrant families but stayed the order for 14 days. The Biden administration appealed the ruling Friday.

The administration’s preparations to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti was first reported Friday by the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press.

By announcing its intent to deport the Haitians before launching the flights, Biden officials also appeared to be hoping some in the camp would abandon their attempt to enter the United States and return to Mexico. Migrants arriving to the camp have been given numbered tickets by the Border Patrol as they await a turn to be formally taken into U.S. custody, the first step in starting the process of requesting U.S. asylum or some other form of protection from deportation.

Some Haitians seeking to avoid deportation could abandon the Del Rio camp and attempt to remain in the United States illegally, or return to Mexico, two U.S. officials acknowledged.

Many of the migrants crowded under the highway bridge are part of a larger wave of Haitian migrants that arrived in Brazil, Chile and other South American nations following their country’s devastating earthquake in 2010.

    Washington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing  Migrants walked across the Rio Grande carrying food and other supplies to a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas (Photo by Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times).Migrants walked across the Rio Grande carrying food and other supplies to a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas (Photo by Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s Entire Presidential Agenda Rests on Expansive Spending Bill, Jim Tankersley, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). No president has ever packed as much of his agenda, domestic and foreign, into a single piece of legislation as President Biden has with the $3.5 trillion spending plan that Democrats are trying to wrangle through Congress over the next six weeks.

  • No president has ever packed as much of his agenda into a single piece of legislation as President Biden has with the $3.5 trillion spending plan.
  • The bill tackles the economy, education, immigration and more. It binds disparate Democratic lawmakers, but risks sinking under its own weight.

The bill combines major initiatives on the economy, education, social welfare, climate change and foreign policy, funded in large part by an extensive rewrite of the tax code, which aims to bring in trillions from corporations and the rich. That stacking of priorities has raised the stakes for a president resting his ambitions on a bill that could fail over the smallest of intraparty disputes.

If successful, Mr. Biden’s far-reaching attempt could result in a presidency-defining victory that delivers on a decades-long campaign by Democrats to expand the federal government to combat social problems and spread the gains of a growing economy to workers, striking a fatal blow to the government-limiting philosophy of President Ronald Reagan that has largely defined American politics since the 1980s.

But as Democrats are increasingly seeing, the sheer weight of Mr. Biden’s progressive push could cause it to collapse, leaving the party empty-handed, with the president’s top priorities going unfulfilled. Some progressives fear a watered-down version of the bill could fail to deliver on the party’s promises and undermine its case for a more activist government. Some moderates worry that spending too much could cost Democrats, particularly those in more conservative districts, their seats in the 2022 midterm elections, erasing the party’s control of Congress.

The legislation, which Democrats are trying to pass along party lines and without Republican support, contains the bulk of Mr. Biden’s vision to overhaul the rules of the economy in hopes of reducing inequality and building a more vibrant middle class. But its provisions go beyond economics.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan family ravaged by U.S. drone strike mistake wants headstones for the dead — and possible new life in America, Sudarsan Raghavan, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. apology was welcomed. But they want someone held accountable for the attack that claimed 10 lives. Family members in interviews on Saturday expressed no visible animosity toward the United States government for killing their loved ones. But "forgiveness" may be too strong a word.

By the time the American apology arrived, the lives of the Ahmadi family were already upended. And being falsely accused by the U.S. military of ties to the Islamic State was not the worst part of the ordeal.

There was their shattered family house. There were the nightmares, the bouts of crying and the screams triggered by the memory of a U.S. drone strike on Aug. 29 that killed 10 of their relatives, including seven children.

There were the fresh fears of persecution by the Taliban after the media spotlight on the family noted that some members, including survivors, worked for U.S.-Department of Defense Sealbased entities or the former Afghan security forces.

The Hellfire missile — the weapon used in the Pentagon’s capstone attack at the end of a two-decade war — also killed the family’s only breadwinner, Zamarai Ahmadi.

“We didn’t have money to bury our relatives,” said his 32-year-old brother Emal on Saturday, steps away from the mangled carcass of a white Toyota sedan. “We had to borrow the funds.”

U.S. military: ‘Horrible mistake’ led to drone strike that killed 10

Without doubt, the Pentagon’s mea culpa Friday — that a series of miscalculations led to the wrongful targeting of Zamarai Ahmadi, an aid worker with a U.S.-based group — has lifted a heavy weight off the family.

“The Americans kept emphasizing they killed an ISIS-K terrorist,” said Emal, referring to the Islamic State’s Afghanistan branch. “Now we are happy they have acknowledged their mistake and confirmed that they killed innocent people.”

What the family seeks now is to exit their American-made hell. Family members in interviews on Saturday expressed no visible animosity toward the U.S. government for killing their loved ones. But forgiveness may be too strong a word.

  • New York Times, Pentagon Says Drone Strike That Killed 10 in Afghanistan Was Mistake, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, Sept. 17, 2021. 
    The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that the last U.S. drone strike before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, after initially saying it had been necessary to prevent an attack on troops.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 ny times logoNew York Times, They Shunned Covid Vaccines but Embraced Antibody Treatment, Benjamin Mueller, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Championed by doctors and conservative radio hosts alike, monoclonal antibodies for Covid are in high demand — even among people who don’t want a vaccine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid hospital bills arrive as insurers restore co-pays and deductibles, Christopher Rowland, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As large insurance providers stop fully covering covid-related hospital stays, an uneven patchwork of patient billing has emerged. In some cases, patients in the same ICU can be hit with very different charges.

In 2020, as the pandemic took hold, U.S. health insurance companies declared they would cover 100 percent of the costs for covid treatment, waiving co-pays and expensive deductibles for hospital stays that frequently range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But this year, most insurers have reinstated co-pays and deductibles for covid patients, in many cases even before vaccines became widely available. The companies imposed the costs as industry profits remained strong or grew in 2020, with insurers paying out less to cover elective procedures that hospitals suspended during the crisis.

Now the financial burden of covid is falling unevenly on patients across the country, varying widely by health-care plan and geography, according to a survey of the two largest health plans in every state by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Washington Post, Pandemic marks another grim milestone: 1 in 500 Americans have died of covid-19, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). 

washington post logoWashington Post, Rationing care becomes a reality as covid-19 patients crowd hospitals in some areas, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Meryl Kornfield, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The most feared scenarios of the pandemic are happening in parts of the United States as coronavirus infections remain at surge levels. Doctors in Alaska, Idaho and Montana face agonizing ethical questions.

Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, a physician on the coronavirus triage committee at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, found her team last weekend making one of the most agonizing decisions of their careers. With the delta variant surging, the hospital was overwhelmed, and the doctor-on-call had paged the group for guidance.

Four patients needed continuous kidney dialysis, her colleague explained, but only two machines could be made available. How should I choose?

“This is the worst it’s been for us,” Solana Walkinshaw said, and “it’s not over.”

ny times logo

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 19, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds:

World Cases: 229,005,546, Deaths: 4,701,437
U.S. Cases:     42,866,805, Deaths: 691,562
India Cases:     33,448,163, Deaths: 444,869
Brazil Cases:    21,230,325, Deaths: 590,547

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 211.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 19, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 181 million people, or 54.5 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

 

More On Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigation: January 6 Was a Violent Nationwide Insurrection—Not One Attack on One Building in Washington, Seth Abramson, left, Sept. 18-19, seth abramson graphic2021. Many Americans don't realize that Trump's plan for a January 6 attack on American democracy was national in scope—and continues to be. As his insurgency continues, capitals across America are at risk.

Introduction: One of the gravest misunderstandings about January 6 is that it was a localized event involving a single target: the United States Capitol. In fact, it was a decentralized plot that involved dozens of individual attacks around the country and which—moreover—the President of the United States at the time, Donald Trump, publicly acknowledged he knew was a diffuse network of attacks on American democracy. Indeed, Trump said all of the following in his speech the White House Ellipse on Insurrection Day:

seth abramson proof logo• That in addition to the crowd in front of him, he was well aware his speech was being heard by “hundreds of thousands of American patriots who are committed to the honesty of our elections and the integrity of our glorious republic”, a reference to Trumpist insurrectionists gathering “live” in other locations outside D.C. (as any reference to a TV audience would have accounted it in the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands);

• that the purpose of the upcoming march on the Capitol, among other things, was to convince Vice President Mike Pence to “send it [the results of the Electoral College votes in the fifty states] back to the states to re-certify [them]”, a plot Trump believed would lead to the de-certification of Joe Biden’s electors and which he knew would only be aided if massive protests occurred in the states Trump was claiming wanted to revisit their Electoral College votes;

• that “in addition to challenging the certification of the election, I’m calling on…state legislatures to quickly pass sweeping election reforms, and you better do it before we have no country left”;

• that he was “looking out all over this country and seeing fantastic crowds” (emphasis supplied), a confession that he was tracking January 6 events across America;

• that the supposed theft of the 2020 presidential election was very much a state-by-state issue, with the former president spending time in his speech at the Ellipse discussing not just the national outcome of the November vote but specific events in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania (as well as, in the same speech, falsely characterizing the 2020 election results in Ohio, Texas, Florida, and projecting his false claims of election theft forward into future elections in Wyoming and New York); and

• “If this happened to the Democrats, there’d be hell all over the country going on, there’d be hell all over the country” (emphasis supplied), a repetition of a calculated phrase pointing toward a nationwide protest against democracy, and another attempt to send a message to pro-Trump insurrectionists outside D.C. unsure about how violent they had the sitting president’s permission to get so far from what was (at the time) seen as the epicenter of the January 6 spectacle.

With all of the foregoing in mind, America needs a comprehensive summary of what happened on January 6 outside the nation’s capital.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court hearings, guilty pleas belie right-wing recasting of Jan. 6 defendants as persecuted patriots, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). There are about 73 pleas, with roughly 600 charged and dozens still jailed. Ahead of the Justice for J6 rally, a look at where the defendants stand.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice for J6 rally sees a sparse crowd and tight security, Emily Davies, Marissa J. Lang, Teo Armus, Peter Jamison and Katie Mettler, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). A small band of right-wing protesters decrying the treatment of the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was dwarfed by hundreds of police and news reporters. Police said they made four arrests and seized two weapons.

The most anticipated visit by right-wing activists to the nation’s capital since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 ended with a whimper Saturday, as demonstrators supporting the rioters found themselves far outnumbered by police, journalists and counterprotesters.

Although the protesters returned to the scene of a historically grievous attack on American democracy, it was immediately obvious that much had changed. The Capitol grounds — where poorly prepared police fought a losing, hand-to-hand battle against President Donald Trump’s supporters just over eight months ago — were secured Saturday with metal fences and hundreds of officers. The halls of Congress were all but deserted. No president, or former president, delivered a bellicose speech urging that his election loss be overturned.

In recent weeks the agency had repeatedly warned that it would have a large force in the field, aided by police departments from across the region and the National Guard. The entire D.C. police force was activated Friday and Saturday. The massive law enforcement presence Saturday was unmistakable, with many in full riot gear and others on horseback.

As evening approached, police remained concerned about the risk of clashes between pro-Trump protesters and others on a busy Saturday in Washington that included the annual H Street Festival in Northeast D.C., a Howard University football game and a baseball game at Nationals Park. Counterprotesters held their own event about a mile from the Capitol rally. Some wore black helmets, gas masks and flak jackets.

The rally’s poor attendance came as no surprise — and did not necessarily signal a weakening of attempts on the right to falsely recast the deadly riot of Jan. 6 as something more benign. Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally argued that many of the hundreds of people charged in connection with the breaching of the Capitol were not violent and were exercising their constitutional right to engage in political protest. Similar claims have been made by Trump and embraced by many of his supporters, including some Republican lawmakers.

Influential figures on the far right actually discouraged their followers from showing up Saturday, asserting the event was a trap. Baseless rumors ricocheted through social media alleging that the federal government was attempting to lure demonstrators to Washington to arrest them. The Proud Boys, a group with a history of violence that includes participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection, discouraged their members from attending.

Capitol Police said Saturday afternoon that between 400 and 450 people had been observed at some point inside the protest zone. But many of them were journalists and other bystanders.

“There are more hurdles here in place than reasons for people to come out to this event,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “People are simply just too fearful after all of the arrests related to Jan. 6 to go out and do this kind of big nationwide event.”

Simultaneous demonstrations elsewhere in the country were also sparsely attended. In Seattle, a group of about 15 stood in the rain, chanting “USA.” Some 20 people gathered across the street from the federal courthouse in Charlotte, where they were observed by joggers and heckled by a man who shouted out the window of his car as he drove by: “They’re all insurrectionists! Get over it! They deserve to be in jail!”

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Senate Republicans say they will vote to allow debt default, leaving Democrats scrambling for plan to avert economic crisis, Paul Kane, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Early last year, one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s longest rivals offered a lesson about why the Kentucky Republican is unfazed by his critics whenever he digs in on a political strategy.

“The people in Kentucky who know him understand that he can’t be shamed into changing,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who has worked with and clashed with McConnell for more than 50 years, said in an interview.

Mitchell_McConnellThat was January 2020, and the context focused on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) decision to hold articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over his actions toward Ukraine to try to pressure McConnell into agreeing to hold an expansive Senate trial that would include witnesses.

Now, almost two years later, Democrats have set up a similar type of strategy that, if successful, will force Republicans to accept their fair share of the national debt that now tops $28 trillion. If this strategy fails, the federal government could run out of funding authority and enter another congressionally forced shutdown — the fourth in less than a decade — and create a debt crisis that could rattle global financial markets.

McConnell has declared that Senate Republicans will not vote to increase the Treasury’s authority to continue borrowing, which is the same as voting to allow a default. As he has done before, McConnell has essentially created a new rule out of whole cloth to justify his actions.

“Let me make it perfectly clear. The country must never default. The debt ceiling will need to be raised. But who does that depends on who the American people elect,” McConnell told Punchbowl News on Tuesday, acknowledging he will vote for a policy outcome he says he doesn’t want to occur.

Because Democrats control the White House and both branches of Congress, his argument goes, they alone are responsible for safeguarding the government’s creditworthiness and preventing a potential economic calamity.

No such rule exists, nor has it ever.

republican elephant logoIn fact, almost every time the debt ceiling has been lifted, it has been done in bipartisan fashion under the regular Senate order that requires at least 60 votes to end debate on the legislation.

In today’s 50-50 Senate, that means at least 10 Republicans have to join Democrats to approve a new debt limit or, as has been done in recent years, suspend that law for a few years.

Instead, McConnell says he is vehemently opposed to the more than $6 trillion proposed agenda President Biden has pushed on Capitol Hill and is now urging Democrats to use a parliamentary budget move to deal with the debt issue on their own.

The goal is purely political.

Democrats are determined to break the Republican blockade by exposing how their threats could lead to both a government shutdown and a potential default.

“Nobody gets to hold the American economy hostage. Right now, we’re in the middle of it, Mitch McConnell trying to establish a double standard,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview Tuesday.

No one is certain of the exact timing of all this. The latest estimates, from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and private market analysts, suggested the government would run out of maneuvers to juggle the books by late October. Democrats plan to attach the debt-ceiling issue to the legislation to keep the government funded, a deadline that hits Sept. 30. If Republicans block that measure, over the debt issue, the government would shut down the next day.

  • Washington Post, Opinion: The debt-ceiling debate is out of control. Here’s how to stop the madness, Allan Sloan, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Joe Manchin Got the Voting Bill He Wanted. Time to Pass It, Editorial Board, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Far too many Republicans are players in a cynical pantomime: They say that the new voting restrictions being passed across the nation are designed solely to thwart widespread voting fraud, when the reality is that widespread fraud does not exist and the new restrictions’ purpose is to frustrate and disadvantage voters who lean Democratic — especially minority, young and lower-income voters.

Are Democrats going to do a darn thing about it? We’ll soon find out.

Republicans in Congress have repeatedly rejected measures to make voting fairer, more accessible and more secure. In state after state, the party has spent this year pushing laws that tighten ballot access — at least for certain groups — and that make the system more vulnerable to partisan meddling.

This antidemocratic (and anti-Democratic) agenda began before President Donald Trump, but he supercharged it. Now, the former president and his supporters — who tried unsuccessfully to overturn the last election by lying about fraud and trying to strong-arm state officials and Congress into flipping electoral votes — have continued their crusade against democracy at the state and local levels. In the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, Republicans began floating bogus claims of fraud long before the votes were tallied. “Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged?” Mr. Trump charged Monday, on the eve of Election Day. Urging voters to mistrust the system and to reject the outcome if they dislike it has become standard operating procedure for the G.O.P.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats rolled out a reform bill aimed at curbing the madness. The Freedom to Vote Act, introduced by Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, would address longstanding flaws in the electoral system along with some of the Republicans’ recent machinations. It is a compromise proposal of sorts, crafted by a coalition of moderates and progressives after a more sweeping reform bill, the For the People Act, was blocked in June by a Republican filibuster. This slimmed-down package jettisons some of the more controversial elements of the earlier plan. It would not, for instance, restructure the Federal Election Commission or mandate the use of nonpartisan commissions for congressional redistricting. It is nonetheless an ambitious, urgently needed corrective to Republicans’ ongoing assault on the franchise.

The package’s provisions range from making Election Day a public holiday to protecting local election officials from partisan interference. Partisan gerrymandering and voter caging, a sketchy method of purging voting rolls, would be banned. Same-day voter registration would be available in all states, as would automatic voter registration systems. A 30-minute wait-time limit would be imposed for in-person voting, and uniform, flexible ID requirements would be established in states that require voter IDs. The list goes on.

Federal voting protections wouldn’t just protect voters in red states. Blue and purple states with less liberal standards would have to up their game as well. For instance, neither Connecticut nor New Hampshire currently provides for early in-person voting, nor does New Hampshire have online voter registration. Wisconsin has a strict photo ID law. New York does not have same-day voter registration (though voters have the opportunity to move to change that in November). Federal standards would serve all voters in all states and of all electoral hues.

“Put simply, if the new bill is enacted, more citizens will be able to register to vote, vote in person and by mail and have their votes counted,” asserted Marc Elias, one of the Democrats’ top legal champions on voting rights. “And, those of us fighting suppression laws in court will have the tools necessary to achieve fast, consistent victories for voters when states fail to follow the law.”

Merits aside, the new bill’s prospects are shaky at best. To avoid death by filibuster, it needs the support of all 50 Democrats plus 10 Republicans. Absent that, Democrats will face a hard choice: Let this crucial legislation die or eliminate the legislative filibuster in order to pass the bill on a party-line vote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Think all politics are local? The California recall says most politics are now national, Dan Balz, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). It may be time to revisit the old axiom from Tip O’Neill, the former Democratic House speaker from Massachusetts, who famously said that all politics are local. These gavin newsom headshot Customdays, as the California recall election showed, most politics are national.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), right, easily avoided being recalled last week by employing a strategy to nationalize the race, drawing energy by bashing the Republican-led states of Texas and Florida for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, linking the GOP’s leading candidate to former president Donald Trump and in the process waking up what had been a slumbering Democratic base. In a state as blue as California, that’s all it took for Newsom to prevail.

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Talks and a Hidden Agenda: Behind the U.S. Defense Deal that France Called a ‘Betrayal,’ David E. Sanger, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts, U.S. officials gave no heads-up about their plans to upend France’s largest defense contract.

The United States and Australia went to extraordinary lengths to keep Paris in the dark as they secretly negotiated a plan to build nuclear submarines, scuttling France’s largest defense contract and so enraging President Emmanuel Macron that on Friday he ordered the withdrawal of France’s ambassadors to both nations.

Mr. Macron’s decision was a stunning and unexpected escalation of the breach between Washington and Paris, on a day that the two countries had planned to celebrate an alliance that goes back to the defeat of Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Yet it was driven by France’s realization that two of its closest allies have been negotiating secretly for months. According to interviews with American and British officials, the Biden administration had been in talks since soon after President Biden’s inauguration about arming the Australian Navy with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that could patrol areas of the South China Sea and beyond that Beijing is trying to dominate with its own military forces.

But one thing was standing in their way: a $60 billion agreement that called for Australia to buy a dozen far less sophisticated, and far noisier, conventionally-powered submarines from France.

For Mr. Biden, who has made pushing back on China a central tenet of his national security policy, those French submarines would not do. They did not have the ability to range the Pacific and show up unexpectedly off Chinese shores — adding an element of military advantage for the West. And the Australians, officials say, came to the same conclusion long ago, after being bullied by an increasingly emboldened China.

In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts — some including Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken — the Americans did not give France a heads-up about their plans to upend the French deal, the officials said, asking for anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. U.S. officials only told the French about the new agreement hours before it was publicly announced at the White House in a virtual meeting with Mr. Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.

ny times logoNew York Times, France Recalls Ambassadors to U.S. and Australia, Roger Cohen and Michael D. Shear, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). It is the first time in the long history of the French-U.S. alliance that a top diplomat has been recalled, illustrating the depth of France’s anger. Calling American and Australian behavior “unacceptable between allies and partners,” France announced on Friday that it was recalling its ambassadors to both countries in protest over President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a “brutal” American decision and a “stab in the back” from Australia.

In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said the decision was made by Mr. Macron, who is understood to be furious about the way the United States, Britain and Australia negotiated the deal without informing France.

Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement to purchase French-built, conventionally powered submarines, hours before the deal with Washington and London was announced.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

ny times logoNew York Times, The Sharp U.S. Pivot to Asia Is Throwing Europe Off Balance, Steven Erlanger, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The new U.S. alliance with Australia and Britain against China has put Europe closer to a question it has tried to avoid: Which side are you on?

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Justice

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Senate knew about Kavanaugh’s partisan history. It confirmed him anyway, Jackie Calmes (a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the author of "Dissent: The Radicalization of the Republican Party and Its Capture of the Court"), Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). ‘What goes around comes around,’ the future justice warned. Now it really could.

brett kavanaugh confirmation hearing 2004 CustomNearly three years after his confirmation, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, right, remains a deeply divisive figure, the best-known but least-popular justice on the Supreme Court. Occasionally, his votes or some news story will renew the bitter sense among many Americans that he got away with a lie in denying Christine Blasey Ford’s and Debbie Ramirez’s allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as a third such accusation, from his Yale years, that Senate Republicans all but bottled up.

Earlier this summer, reports said the Justice Department had confirmed that, in 2018, the FBI received more than 4,500 tips against Kavanaugh and sent “relevant” ones to the Trump White House, where they disappeared. This month, Kavanaugh joined the 5-to-4 ruling allowing a Texas antiabortion bounty-hunting law to take effect, though it plainly violates court precedents upholding a constitutional right to abortion. To many, that provided further evidence — along with his previous support for a Louisiana antiabortion law — that he’d bamboozled Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who provided the linchpin vote for his confirmation after he assured her that he respected those precedents as “settled law.”

Yet Kavanaugh’s credibility was suspect even before the sexual misconduct allegations. The Senate had received plenty of evidence, at an earlier hearing on his nomination, that he had at best misled senators and possibly lied under oath in 2004 and 2006, when he was a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, about matters suggesting just what a partisan operator he’d been as a young lawyer. The hearing record signaled that Kavanaugh was a Republican with an ax to grind long before his televised tirade in 2018 dismissing the misconduct allegations as a Democratic “political hit” — payback for Donald Trump’s election and Kavanaugh’s role in Ken Starr’s Javert-like pursuit of the Clintons.

He warned us then: “What goes around comes around.”

And in fact, it still could. Kavanaugh could be a decisive vote if the court is drawn into vote-suppression cases and election disputes in 2022 and 2024 that couldn’t have been imagined only recently — before Trump refused to accept defeat, helped inspire an insurrection, and spurred Republicans nationwide to echo his lies about fraud and, in key states, enact laws giving party officials the final word on elections.

 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Brett Kavanaugh must go, Paulette Halpern

Proof via Substack, America's Video Game Scandal Continues: More Evidence of Deception By Grading Company WATA, Seth Abramson

Palmer Report, Opinion: Brett Kavanaugh must go, Paulette Halpern, Sept. 19, 2021.  We could disagree a lot about the leanings of any justice on the Supreme Court, but are they a criminal or not, is a different question.

Our actions, even in your youth, influence your attitudes as an adult. Getting away with bad decisions in your youth, could lead someone to believe that every decision they make is a good one – regardless of the consequences to others. NOT what I would want in a sitting justice on the Supreme Court.

bill palmer report logo headerThat brings us to the recently disclosed information by Guardian reporter Stephanie Kirchgaessner that “The FBI disclosed to the Senate this June — two years after questions were initially asked — that it had received 4500 tips from the public during the background check and that it had shared all ‘relevant tips’ with the White House counsel at that time. It is not clear whether those tips were ever investigated.”

Of course sharing that information with The Former Guy’s White House counsel was going to lead nowhere. Trump himself probably thought that what Kavanaugh did in his youth, made him an even better candidate for the court.

Now we have a man sitting on the court, passing judgement on the fate of women’s healthcare rights, who has likely demonstrated such little regard for women. It doesn’t matter that he is married and has children.

4500 tips — don’t tell me that none of them had merit — that would seem like a foolish expectation and the best way to make sure that NONE of them come to light, is to investigate NONE of them.

We can change that. If it makes Kavanaugh squirm like he did during his Senate confirmation…..and his sniffling behavior returns, so be it. The truth has a right to be heard.

 

More on Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Political battle lines harden after general’s testimony that he advised keeping some troops in Afghanistan, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Political battle lines are forming ahead of Congress’s first public oversight hearing to scrutinize senior military leaders’ recommendations to the White House in connection with last month’s calamitous exit from Afghanistan, as lawmakers in both parties pursue accountability for the loss of life and failure to evacuate everyone who wished to leave.

austin scott millerSenate Republicans have seized on a disclosure from Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2018 until his departure in July, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that before President Biden announced his decision in April to pull out all military personnel, the general had advised superiors to leave a few thousand troops rather than complete a full withdrawal. Democrats left the session frustrated so many people were left behind and seeking a sweeping examination of the 20-year mission.

The response to Miller’s testimony, delivered in a private briefing for the committee, has foreshadowed the tense reception that awaits Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie when they appear on Capitol Hill on Sept. 28.

“The president wasn’t there, but [Miller] did talk to Austin, McKenzie and Milley, and told them that he had been opposed to the total withdrawal,” Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the committee’s top Republican, told reporters after Miller’s testimony had concluded. “We heard enough to know that there are inconsistencies between what the administration has said and the truth. Clearly, President Biden didn’t listen to all the military advice.”

Miller told the committee that he could not verify whether his recommendation made it to the White House, said an official familiar with the general’s testimony who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive. A separate official said Friday that Miller’s position was conveyed to Biden.

The Pentagon declined to detail what others advised the president, and the White House did not return a request for comment.

“The Secretary is more than comfortable with the degree to which senior defense and military leaders contribute to the policy-making process,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “We won't detail the specifics of their advice, but their counsel was fully considered.”

The Taliban apologized after two Afghan reporters were beaten. The journalists are skeptical.
U.S. military admits ‘horrible mistake’ in drone strike that killed 10 Afghans, including children

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Iranian Scientist and the A.I.-Assisted Weapon That Killed Him, Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.).  Israeli agents had wanted to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist for years. Then they came up with a way to do it with no operatives present. Here’s how the killing unfolded using a new, satellite-controlled weapon that could reshape the worlds of security and espionage.

Israel FlagSince 2004, when the Israeli government ordered its foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the agency had been carrying out a campaign of sabotage and cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment facilities. It was also methodically picking off the experts thought to be leading Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Iran FlagSince 2007, its agents had assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists and wounded another. Most of the scientists worked directly for Mr. Fakhrizadeh (pronounced fah-KREE-zah-deh) on what Israeli intelligence officials said was a covert program to build a nuclear warhead, including overcoming the substantial technical challenges of making one small enough to fit atop one of Iran’s long-range missiles.

Israeli agents had also killed the Iranian general in charge of missile development and 16 members of his team.

washington post logoWashington Post, First all-amateur space crew splashes down in the Atlantic off Florida, Christian Davenport, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The quartet of amateur astronauts onboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean Saturday evening, completing the first all-civilian mission to orbit the Earth and setting the stage for more privately funded missions to come.

washington post logoWashington Post, As France escalated its submarine dispute, it decided to go a bit lighter on Britain. Here’s why, Rick Noack and Sammy Westfall, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As the French faced one of their biggest fights among allies in years — which was prompted at least in part by Britain — French ire at their neighbors to the north was curiously limited. Paris on Friday recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations as part of its outrage over a quietly negotiated deal involving the United States and Britain to share technology on nuclear-powered subs with Australia. The pact effectively canceled an earlier agreement by Australia to buy French diesel-powered submarines.

But France didn’t recall its ambassador to Britain, and officials appeared relatively tight-lipped about London’s role even as they lashed out at Australia’s “treason” and compared the U.S. decision to a Trump-era move against an ally.

“There really is a serious crisis between us,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France’s public broadcaster on Saturday evening.
China, France rebuke U.S. nuclear submarine pact 'AUKUS'
China and France denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia on Sept. 16. (Reuters)

Observers have struggled to make sense of the light touch with Britain. France’s Le Monde newspaper called the decision to not recall the French ambassador to Britain an “odd exception” on Saturday. Was France trying to spare Britain to save their already strained relations, as some have hypothesized? Or, perhaps, are French diplomats suggesting that Britain is not worth bothering with?

French officials suggested Saturday that the latter hypothesis may come closer to the truth: Britain was seen as a junior partner in the three-nation defense pact. “The U.K. tagged along with this entire operation opportunistically,” said a French diplomatic official. “There’s no need for us to consult with our ambassador in Paris to know what to make of it and what conclusions to draw.”

  • Washington Post, Australia says France knew it had ‘deep and grave concerns’ about its submarines before U.S. deal

washington post logoWashington Post, How an intelligence officer’s disappearance in Somalia has ripped the government apart this week, Rachel Chason and Omar Faruk, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The disappearance of a young intelligence officer in Somalia has led to a rapidly escalating power struggle between the president and prime minister that has torn the government apart and potentially gives new openings to al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Details of what happened to Ikran Tahlil Farah, a 25-year-old cybersecurity analyst, are still murky. But her abduction led President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Thursday to suspend the powers of the prime minister, who has accused him of obstructing justice in Tahlil’s case.

The political showdown risks becoming a security crisis, experts say, and has blown up any pretense that Somalia’s federal government is functioning. That could strengthen the hand of al-Shabab — which Somalia’s government has been fighting for years, aided by billions of dollars in security support from the United States.

“Anytime you have this level of political infighting, it benefits al-Shabab in so many ways,” said Omar Mahmood, senior Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group. “This narrative paints into everything they say about the federal government. That it is ineffective, weak, divisive and provides nothing to the public. And it is hard to argue against that.”

Implications of the back-and-forth between the president, known by his nickname, Farmaajo, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble rippled Friday across international borders. The president’s office accused neighboring Djibouti of illegally detaining the former head of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, Fahad Yasin, as he tried to board a flight to Mogadishu. Roble suspended Yasin — who is known as the president’s right-hand man — earlier this month in connection with Tahlil’s disappearance.

 

U.S. Auctions, Entertainment, Media

Proof via Substack, America's Video Game Scandal Continues: More Evidence of Deception By Grading Company WATA, Seth Abramson, Sept. 19, 2021. WATA seems to have staged yet another fake "appraisal" on the History Channel to manipulate America's video game market. In fact, it might be the embattled grading seth abramson graphichouse's most preposterous stunt yet.

Introduction: When the conspicuously scuzzy History Channel program Pawn Stars bills one of its recent segments as involving “RARE Atari Video Games” (emphasis in original), you certainly don’t expect there to be much truth in that advertising. And so it was that at the very end of last year, the show promoted a clip in which an allegedly random pawn store customer tried to sell a sealed copy of Atari 2600 game Frogger alongside a seth abramson proof logonon-plastic-wrapped copy of another title from the 1980s console, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In fact, not only are these games among the five most common sealed Atari 2600 games out of the 525+ released for the console—see this Proof market report for more details—they’re also nearly worthless, comparatively speaking, giving to lie to the other bold claim made by Pawn Stars in promoting the clip: that these miserably common second-generation video game titles could be worth some “BIG $$$” (emphasis in original).

Even today, with the sealed video game market exploding into semi-regular six- and seven-figure sales reported on by the likes of CNN and the New York Times, you can still get a copy of Frogger much like the one seen on Pawn Stars last December for under $175. Raiders of the Lost Ark is an even cheaper buy, and can be had right now—again, at a time this submarket has more or less doubled since 2020—for under $85.

But this article isn’t about any of that.

Our focus here isn’t on how an overtly skeezy television program lies to viewers about the significance of what it depicts, but on whether WATA, a 2019-founded collectibles grading company that has tasked itself with neutrally and objectively grading millions of dollars of merchandise, is staging conflict-of-interest-laden TV appraisals in order to artificially inflate the booming video game market. And to be clear, we’re speaking here of something beyond the usual fakery that all television programming is heir to; what’s described below is—if everything is as it appears on the surface to be—much more of a market manipulation plot than a mere exemplar of Hollywood skullduggery.
Introducing “DRob”

One of the most well-known sealed-and-graded video game collectors in the relatively small high-end video game collecting community goes by the nickname DRob online. DRob may well be a nice guy, and this article doesn’t accuse him of any illegal conduct. It just notes some facts about DRob significant to this report, which is, fundamentally, about the corporate business practices of WATA—not about any one collector it may have recruited to its cause at a time when that collector stood to make literally millions of dollars for playing dumb on a facile television show.

So here’s everything you need to know about DRob:

1. He’s a self-described “friend” of WATA co-founder and president Deniz Kahn, as he confesses during his prep for this interview with journalist Karl Jobst and Tom Curtin, the latter a longtime public ally of WATA and Kahn.

2. DRob is currently selling $330,000 worth of video games on eBay via his eBay account, DRobGaming.

 

Sept. 18

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection Probes

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Media News /  Investigations

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

 

More On Afghanistan

 

Other U.S. Court, Crime, Immigration

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Says Drone Strike That Killed 10 in Afghanistan Was Mistake, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, Sept. 17, 2021. 
The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that the last U.S. drone strike before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, after initially saying it had been necessary to prevent an attack on troops.

Department of Defense SealThe extraordinary admission provided a horrific punctuation to the chaotic ending of the 20-year war in Afghanistan and will put President Biden and the Pentagon at the center of a growing number of investigations into how the administration and the military carried out Mr. Biden’s order to withdraw from the country.

Almost everything senior defense officials asserted in the hours, and then days, and then weeks after the Aug. 29 drone strike turned out to be false. The explosives the military claimed were loaded in the trunk of a white Toyota sedan struck by the drone’s Hellfire missile were probably water bottles, and a secondary explosion in the courtyard in a densely populated Kabul neighborhood where the attack took place was probably a propane or gas tank, officials said.

In short, the car posed no threat at all, investigators concluded.

The acknowledgment of the mistake came a week after a New York Times investigation of video evidence challenged assertions by the military that it had struck a vehicle carrying explosives meant for Hamid Karzai International Airport.

lloyd austin oDefense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, left, ordered a review of the military’s inquiry into the drone strike to determine, among other issues, who should be held accountable and “the degree to which strike authorities, procedures and processes need to be altered in the future.”

Congressional lawmakers, meanwhile, said they wanted their own accounting from the Pentagon.

Senior Defense Department leaders conceded that the driver of the car, Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group, had nothing to do with the Islamic State, contrary to what military officials had previously asserted. Mr. Ahmadi’s only connection to the terrorist group appeared to be a fleeting and innocuous interaction with people in what the military believed was an ISIS safe house in Kabul, an initial link that led military analysts to make one mistaken judgment after another while tracking Mr. Ahmadi’s movements in the sedan for the next eight hours.

washington post logoWashington Post, The insurrectionists and their defenders are an old American story, Colbert I. King, right, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Rest assured, our nation’s colbert king 2003capital will not be occupied wall to wall with protesters attending Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally. The sponsors will be lucky to draw enough warm bodies to fill a State Department auditorium. But it’s the thought that counts.

The mere idea of people coming to town to hail insurrectionists charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion as “patriots” is as profane as it is insane. But this is where America finds itself at this stage in the “big lie” campaign, which holds that twice-impeached, soundly defeated former president Donald Trump was cheated out of reelection.

It is, however, the pernicious and sinister intent of the liars — not their staged protests — that poses the real threat, which is no less than a slur on democracy.

That makes the work of the House select committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 attack of paramount importance. The peaceful transfer of power was threatened by the Trump-inspired rampage. His “big lie” as CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale reports, has spawned nationwide Republican efforts to change election laws to make it more difficult to vote, spurred Republican crackdowns on election officials who are doing their jobs, and provided ammunition to conspiracy theorists inclined to take matters in their own hands.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Panel Recommends Pfizer Boosters for Those Over 65 or at High Risk, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The committee said there was insufficient evidence to recommend third shots for all adult recipients of the vaccine, as Pfizer had requested.

fda logoA key advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly rejected recommending Pfizer booster shots for most recipients of the company’s coronavirus vaccine, instead endorsing them only for people who are 65 or older or at high risk of severe Covid-19, and received their second dose at least six months ago.

The vote — the first on boosters in the United States — was a blow to the Biden administration’s strategy to make extra shots available to most fully vaccinated adults in the United States eight months after they received a second dose. The broader rollout was to start next week.

Committee members appeared dismissive of the argument that the general population needed booster shots, saying the data from Pfizer and elsewhere still seemed to show two shots protected against severe disease or hospitalization and did not prove a third shot would stem the spread of infection. Some also criticized a lack of data that an additional injection would be safe for younger people.

“It’s unclear that everyone needs to be boosted, other than a subset of the population that clearly would be at high risk for serious disease,” said Dr. Michael G. Kurilla, a committee member and official at the National Institutes of Health.

But the panel’s final recommendation left some room for the White House to argue that the core of its booster strategy remained intact. Depending on how “at high risk” is defined, tens of millions of Americans could conceivably wind up eligible for additional shots of the Pfizer vaccine.

The committee of largely outside experts voted 16 to 2 against a Pfizer booster for people 16 and older after a tense daylong public discussion that put divisions in the agency and the administration on public display. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health joined infectious disease experts and doctors in voting against additional shots for such a broad swath of the population.

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Study Shows Pfizer Vaccine’s Protection Wanes, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The new study found that beyond 120 days after recipients got their second dose, the effectiveness fell to 77 percent. Here’s the latest on the virus.

  • pfizer logoThe Biden administration is negotiating to buy another 500 million Pfizer doses to donate overseas.
  • England’s coronavirus restrictions on international travel will ease, and simplify, as of Oct. 4.
  • A new study suggests that children’s eyesight may have worsened during lockdown.
  • The U.S. virus surge appears to be declining in some states, but deaths are still increasing.
  • India boosts its Covid vaccine drive with 25 million shots given on Modi’s birthday.

 ny times logoNew York Times, They Shunned Covid Vaccines but Embraced Antibody Treatment, Benjamin Mueller, Sept. 18, 2021. Championed by doctors and conservative radio hosts alike, monoclonal antibodies for Covid are in high demand — even among people who don’t want a vaccine.

ny times logo

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 18, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds:

World Cases: 228,521,181, Deaths: 4,695,184
U.S. Cases:     42,799,907, Deaths:    690,714
India Cases:     33,417,390, Deaths:    444,563
Brazil Cases:    21,102,536, Deaths:    589,744

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 211.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 18, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 181 million people, or 54.5 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

 

More On Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigation: January 6 Was a Violent Nationwide Insurrection—Not One Attack on One Building in Washington, Seth Abramson, left, Sept. 18, seth abramson graphic2021. Many Americans don't realize that Trump's plan for a January 6 attack on American democracy was national in scope—and continues to be. As his insurgency continues, capitals across America are at risk.

Introduction: One of the gravest misunderstandings about January 6 is that it was a localized event involving a single target: the United States Capitol. In fact, it was a decentralized plot that involved dozens of individual attacks around the country and which—moreover—the President of the United States at the time, Donald Trump, publicly acknowledged he knew was a diffuse network of attacks on American democracy. Indeed, Trump said all of the following in his speech the White House Ellipse on Insurrection Day:

seth abramson proof logo• That in addition to the crowd in front of him, he was well aware his speech was being heard by “hundreds of thousands of American patriots who are committed to the honesty of our elections and the integrity of our glorious republic”, a reference to Trumpist insurrectionists gathering “live” in other locations outside D.C. (as any reference to a TV audience would have accounted it in the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands);

• that the purpose of the upcoming march on the Capitol, among other things, was to convince Vice President Mike Pence to “send it [the results of the Electoral College votes in the fifty states] back to the states to re-certify [them]”, a plot Trump believed would lead to the de-certification of Joe Biden’s electors and which he knew would only be aided if massive protests occurred in the states Trump was claiming wanted to revisit their Electoral College votes;

• that “in addition to challenging the certification of the election, I’m calling on…state legislatures to quickly pass sweeping election reforms, and you better do it before we have no country left”;

• that he was “looking out all over this country and seeing fantastic crowds” (emphasis supplied), a confession that he was tracking January 6 events across America;

• that the supposed theft of the 2020 presidential election was very much a state-by-state issue, with the former president spending time in his speech at the Ellipse discussing not just the national outcome of the November vote but specific events in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania (as well as, in the same speech, falsely characterizing the 2020 election results in Ohio, Texas, Florida, and projecting his false claims of election theft forward into future elections in Wyoming and New York); and

• “If this happened to the Democrats, there’d be hell all over the country going on, there’d be hell all over the country” (emphasis supplied), a repetition of a calculated phrase pointing toward a nationwide protest against democracy, and another attempt to send a message to pro-Trump insurrectionists outside D.C. unsure about how violent they had the sitting president’s permission to get so far from what was (at the time) seen as the epicenter of the January 6 spectacle.

With all of the foregoing in mind, America needs a comprehensive summary of what happened on January 6 outside the nation’s capital.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court hearings, guilty pleas belie right-wing recasting of Jan. 6 defendants as persecuted patriots, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). There are about 73 pleas, with roughly 600 charged and dozens still jailed. Ahead of the Justice for J6 rally, a look at where the defendants stand.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice for J6 rally sees a sparse crowd and tight security, Emily Davies, Marissa J. Lang, Teo Armus, Peter Jamison and Katie Mettler, Sept. 18, 2021. A small band of right-wing protesters decrying the treatment of the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was dwarfed by hundreds of police and news reporters. Police said they made four arrests and seized two weapons.

The most anticipated visit by right-wing activists to the nation’s capital since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 ended with a whimper Saturday, as demonstrators supporting the rioters found themselves far outnumbered by police, journalists and counterprotesters.

Although the protesters returned to the scene of a historically grievous attack on American democracy, it was immediately obvious that much had changed. The Capitol grounds — where poorly prepared police fought a losing, hand-to-hand battle against President Donald Trump’s supporters just over eight months ago — were secured Saturday with metal fences and hundreds of officers. The halls of Congress were all but deserted. No president, or former president, delivered a bellicose speech urging that his election loss be overturned.

In recent weeks the agency had repeatedly warned that it would have a large force in the field, aided by police departments from across the region and the National Guard. The entire D.C. police force was activated Friday and Saturday. The massive law enforcement presence Saturday was unmistakable, with many in full riot gear and others on horseback.

As evening approached, police remained concerned about the risk of clashes between pro-Trump protesters and others on a busy Saturday in Washington that included the annual H Street Festival in Northeast D.C., a Howard University football game and a baseball game at Nationals Park. Counterprotesters held their own event about a mile from the Capitol rally. Some wore black helmets, gas masks and flak jackets.

The rally’s poor attendance came as no surprise — and did not necessarily signal a weakening of attempts on the right to falsely recast the deadly riot of Jan. 6 as something more benign. Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally argued that many of the hundreds of people charged in connection with the breaching of the Capitol were not violent and were exercising their constitutional right to engage in political protest. Similar claims have been made by Trump and embraced by many of his supporters, including some Republican lawmakers.

Influential figures on the far right actually discouraged their followers from showing up Saturday, asserting the event was a trap. Baseless rumors ricocheted through social media alleging that the federal government was attempting to lure demonstrators to Washington to arrest them. The Proud Boys, a group with a history of violence that includes participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection, discouraged their members from attending.

Capitol Police said Saturday afternoon that between 400 and 450 people had been observed at some point inside the protest zone. But many of them were journalists and other bystanders.

“There are more hurdles here in place than reasons for people to come out to this event,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “People are simply just too fearful after all of the arrests related to Jan. 6 to go out and do this kind of big nationwide event.”

Simultaneous demonstrations elsewhere in the country were also sparsely attended. In Seattle, a group of about 15 stood in the rain, chanting “USA.” Some 20 people gathered across the street from the federal courthouse in Charlotte, where they were observed by joggers and heckled by a man who shouted out the window of his car as he drove by: “They’re all insurrectionists! Get over it! They deserve to be in jail!”

washington post logoWashington Post, A one-time Trump aide finds the spotlight he sought — if not broad support — with today’s Jan. 6 rally, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Some of the members of Congress most outspoken in spreading false narratives around the Capitol attack did not plan to attend. Former president Donald Trump himself called the rally a “setup.”

The last time Matt Braynard held a rally in D.C. to defend those arrested for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, about 100 people showed up. But now Braynard is taking his protest outside the site of the insurrection, leading to heightened law enforcement and widespread media coverage.

He has the attention he has long sought, putting Washington on high alert for a rally he himself estimated hundreds, not thousands, would attend. But he doesn’t have the broad support of the far right as he seeks to position himself as one of its leaders.

Braynard, who as of last fall ran some of his efforts from a Northern Virginia apartment, has his own consulting firm and has worked for years in Republican polling and data analysis. But he has found a more public role supporting false narratives surrounding the 2020 election.

“He has taken it upon himself to try to embody the far right’s greater desire to rewrite the history of January 6 in a way that is more flattering to themselves,” said Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s digital forensic research lab who researches domestic extremism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder draws scrutiny from federal officials and followers for role in Jan. 6 riot, but he remains free and uncharged, Hannah Allam and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). It depends on who’s talking.

To some, Stewart Rhodes is a paramilitary commander enlisting thousands of foot soldiers to overthrow the government.

stewart rhodesTo others, he’s a couch-surfing grifter — and the most shocking thing about the involvement of his Oath Keepers group in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was that some members actually showed up.

To federal prosecutors, Rhodes, 56, is “Person One,” which is how he is referenced in court filings for roughly 22 Oath Keepers associates charged in connection with the Capitol attack, including 18 who are accused of conspiracy in the largest single indictment of the probe. Five have pleaded guilty.

In the prosecution’s timeline, Rhodes coordinated with participants, allegedly giving advice about what weapons to bring and speaking with one who was part of the “stack” formation implemented moments before the group charged into the Capitol — one of the most salient images of the day.

washington post logoWashington Post, What to know about today’s rally for those arrested in Capitol riot, Ellie Silverman, Sept. 18, 2021. Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally at a public park near the Capitol Reflecting Pool say they expect around 700 attendees.

washington post logoWashington Post, Capitol Police chief dropped request to have armed National Guard on standby for Saturday’s rally after official’s protocol concern, Carol D. Leonnig and Aaron C. Davis, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. Capitol Police chief formally asked for 100 armed National Guard members to be on standby for a rally this Saturday at the Capitol in case it turns violent, but he withdrew the request at the urging of a top Senate security official who said he had not followed protocol.

Days later, Chief J. Thomas Manger instead asked for unarmed Guard members after conferring with the official, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson and the Pentagon, according to internal correspondence and three people familiar with the discussions. The Guard members would be armed only with batons and would be accompanied by armed police.

On Friday morning, the Defense Department approved the request for support, saying unarmed soldiers will be stationed at the D.C. Armory and will deploy only if necessary. It’s highly unusual for armed National Guard members to respond to protests, and strict rules must be followed in such cases.

But the change to the chief’s original security plans infuriated some Capitol Police officials. They privately argued it was a foolhardy repeat of a central mistake that had left the Capitol so vulnerable during the Jan. 6 insurrection — not preparing for the worst — according to interviews with three people familiar with the dispute.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hochul Orders Release of 191 Rikers Detainees, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Chelsia Rose Marcius, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The New York governor signed a bill on Friday that authorized the release of the detainees, but the population of the city’s notorious jail will remain far higher than it was last spring.

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Bureau of Land Management headquarters to return to D.C., in reversal of Trump decision, Joshua Partlow, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday announced the move and said current headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo., would become a “Western headquarters" for the agency.

The Interior Department will summon the far-flung headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management back to Washington from the mountains of western Colorado, reversing a move by the Trump administration that caused upheaval within the agency and led to nearly 90 percent of the former headquarters staff to retire, quit or leave for other jobs.

deb haaland oInterior Secretary Deb Haaland broke the news to BLM staffers on a phone call Friday afternoon, before the announcement was made public in a statement shortly afterward. Haaland said the agency will create a new “Western headquarters” in Grand Junction, Colo.

During the staff call, Haaland said her “primary concern has always been for your well being and to restore the effectiveness of the BLM’s operations.”

“I know the past few years have been difficult for many of you. The relocation of the BLM headquarters scattered employees and programs across the West, driven others out of the agency, and put enormous stress on those who remained,” Haaland said, according to the call heard by The Washington Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal workers can be fired for refusing vaccination, but they must show up to work until their cases are determined, new guidance says, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Federal employees can be fired for refusing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, but as their disciplinary cases wind through the system, they will report to work alongside vaccinated colleagues, according to Biden administration guidance issued this week.

The new guidance to implement a vaccine mandate for the government, which Biden announced last week, represents a reversal of the strategy the White House coronavirus task force pushed in August for those employees without shots who refused under an earlier plan to get regular testing for covid-19.

Then, agencies were told they could place employees on administrative leave, a paid suspension used widely for short-term absences but also when a manager proposes removing an employee.

“They seem like they decided to go with a harder approach,” said Jeff Friday, general counsel for the National Federation of Federal Employees, which has about 100,000 members at the Defense Department, U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.

“You’re still going to have to work until you’re let go,” Friday said. “Paid leave is certainly a disincentive to getting vaccinated.”

The rules on how to enforce the mandate were among several new details of what will be a complex, potentially messy process that will likely stretch deep into winter if not longer, given the government’s sprawling size and presence in every state. The details will leave multiple groups of people following different rules in the same workplace.

In most agencies, for example, civil servants work side-by-side with employees who work for federal contractors. But under the policy announced by the president last week, contractors who are not vaccinated must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within three days before entering a federal facility — or enroll in a regular testing program.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Senate Republicans say they will vote to allow debt default, leaving Democrats scrambling for plan to avert economic crisis, Paul Kane, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Early last year, one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s longest rivals offered a lesson about why the Kentucky Republican is unfazed by his critics whenever he digs in on a political strategy.

“The people in Kentucky who know him understand that he can’t be shamed into changing,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who has worked with and clashed with McConnell for more than 50 years, said in an interview.

Mitchell_McConnellThat was January 2020, and the context focused on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) decision to hold articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over his actions toward Ukraine to try to pressure McConnell into agreeing to hold an expansive Senate trial that would include witnesses.

Now, almost two years later, Democrats have set up a similar type of strategy that, if successful, will force Republicans to accept their fair share of the national debt that now tops $28 trillion. If this strategy fails, the federal government could run out of funding authority and enter another congressionally forced shutdown — the fourth in less than a decade — and create a debt crisis that could rattle global financial markets.

McConnell has declared that Senate Republicans will not vote to increase the Treasury’s authority to continue borrowing, which is the same as voting to allow a default. As he has done before, McConnell has essentially created a new rule out of whole cloth to justify his actions.

“Let me make it perfectly clear. The country must never default. The debt ceiling will need to be raised. But who does that depends on who the American people elect,” McConnell told Punchbowl News on Tuesday, acknowledging he will vote for a policy outcome he says he doesn’t want to occur.

Because Democrats control the White House and both branches of Congress, his argument goes, they alone are responsible for safeguarding the government’s creditworthiness and preventing a potential economic calamity.

No such rule exists, nor has it ever.

republican elephant logoIn fact, almost every time the debt ceiling has been lifted, it has been done in bipartisan fashion under the regular Senate order that requires at least 60 votes to end debate on the legislation.

In today’s 50-50 Senate, that means at least 10 Republicans have to join Democrats to approve a new debt limit or, as has been done in recent years, suspend that law for a few years.

Instead, McConnell says he is vehemently opposed to the more than $6 trillion proposed agenda President Biden has pushed on Capitol Hill and is now urging Democrats to use a parliamentary budget move to deal with the debt issue on their own.

The goal is purely political.

Democrats are determined to break the Republican blockade by exposing how their threats could lead to both a government shutdown and a potential default.

“Nobody gets to hold the American economy hostage. Right now, we’re in the middle of it, Mitch McConnell trying to establish a double standard,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview Tuesday.

No one is certain of the exact timing of all this. The latest estimates, from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and private market analysts, suggested the government would run out of maneuvers to juggle the books by late October. Democrats plan to attach the debt-ceiling issue to the legislation to keep the government funded, a deadline that hits Sept. 30. If Republicans block that measure, over the debt issue, the government would shut down the next day

 ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Joe Manchin Got the Voting Bill He Wanted. Time to Pass It, Sept. 18, 2021. Far too many Republicans are players in a cynical pantomime: They say that the new voting restrictions being passed across the nation are designed solely to thwart widespread voting fraud, when the reality is that widespread fraud does not exist and the new restrictions’ purpose is to frustrate and disadvantage voters who lean Democratic — especially minority, young and lower-income voters.

Are Democrats going to do a darn thing about it? We’ll soon find out.

Republicans in Congress have repeatedly rejected measures to make voting fairer, more accessible and more secure. In state after state, the party has spent this year pushing laws that tighten ballot access — at least for certain groups — and that make the system more vulnerable to partisan meddling.

This antidemocratic (and anti-Democratic) agenda began before President Donald Trump, but he supercharged it. Now, the former president and his supporters — who tried unsuccessfully to overturn the last election by lying about fraud and trying to strong-arm state officials and Congress into flipping electoral votes — have continued their crusade against democracy at the state and local levels. In the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, Republicans began floating bogus claims of fraud long before the votes were tallied. “Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged?” Mr. Trump charged Monday, on the eve of Election Day. Urging voters to mistrust the system and to reject the outcome if they dislike it has become standard operating procedure for the G.O.P.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats rolled out a reform bill aimed at curbing the madness. The Freedom to Vote Act, introduced by Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, would address longstanding flaws in the electoral system along with some of the Republicans’ recent machinations. It is a compromise proposal of sorts, crafted by a coalition of moderates and progressives after a more sweeping reform bill, the For the People Act, was blocked in June by a Republican filibuster. This slimmed-down package jettisons some of the more controversial elements of the earlier plan. It would not, for instance, restructure the Federal Election Commission or mandate the use of nonpartisan commissions for congressional redistricting. It is nonetheless an ambitious, urgently needed corrective to Republicans’ ongoing assault on the franchise.

The package’s provisions range from making Election Day a public holiday to protecting local election officials from partisan interference. Partisan gerrymandering and voter caging, a sketchy method of purging voting rolls, would be banned. Same-day voter registration would be available in all states, as would automatic voter registration systems. A 30-minute wait-time limit would be imposed for in-person voting, and uniform, flexible ID requirements would be established in states that require voter IDs. The list goes on.

Federal voting protections wouldn’t just protect voters in red states. Blue and purple states with less liberal standards would have to up their game as well. For instance, neither Connecticut nor New Hampshire currently provides for early in-person voting, nor does New Hampshire have online voter registration. Wisconsin has a strict photo ID law. New York does not have same-day voter registration (though voters have the opportunity to move to change that in November). Federal standards would serve all voters in all states and of all electoral hues.

“Put simply, if the new bill is enacted, more citizens will be able to register to vote, vote in person and by mail and have their votes counted,” asserted Marc Elias, one of the Democrats’ top legal champions on voting rights. “And, those of us fighting suppression laws in court will have the tools necessary to achieve fast, consistent victories for voters when states fail to follow the law.”

Merits aside, the new bill’s prospects are shaky at best. To avoid death by filibuster, it needs the support of all 50 Democrats plus 10 Republicans. Absent that, Democrats will face a hard choice: Let this crucial legislation die or eliminate the legislative filibuster in order to pass the bill on a party-line vote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Think all politics are local? The California recall says most politics are now national, Dan Balz, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). It may be time to revisit the old axiom from Tip O’Neill, the former Democratic House speaker from Massachusetts, who famously said that all politics are local. These gavin newsom headshot Customdays, as the California recall election showed, most politics are national.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), right, easily avoided being recalled last week by employing a strategy to nationalize the race, drawing energy by bashing the Republican-led states of Texas and Florida for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, linking the GOP’s leading candidate to former president Donald Trump and in the process waking up what had been a slumbering Democratic base. In a state as blue as California, that’s all it took for Newsom to prevail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Tomi Lahren’s vanishing voter-fraud claim, Erik Wemple, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). On Wednesday, Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren tweeted about the results of the California recall election. The snippets were very responsible, at least by the standards of some of her colleagues:

The California Recall was not a waste or a lost cause. You sent a message to Newsom and elected tyrants from coast to coast that they are not untouchable and they are not too big to fail. Keep pushing. We have a lot left in the tank. Stay hungry!
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) September 15, 2021

Something was missing in the messaging: Just a week before the recall, Lahren had discussed the election on “Outnumbered,” Fox’s noontime roundtable. “The only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud,” she predicted. “Pay attention to the voter fraud going on in California because it’s going to have big consequences not only for that state but for upcoming elections.”

Then came Election Day. With 78 percent of the vote counted, the “No” ballots — rejecting the initiative to remove Newsom — were ahead of “Yes” ballots by about 2.6 million votes. News organizations had little trouble making an election-night call. Don’t the vote-fraudsters know that they don’t need to provide that big a margin?

Given that Lahren got a bit of attention for her prediction — including scrutiny from CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” — we figured she’d want to discuss it further. So we asked Fox News for an interview with her, and we asked the network whether it stands by the fraud prediction. We’ve heard nothing yet from Fox News.

News outlets with standards would discipline or fire commentators for speculating about voter fraud in advance of an election. It’s not just that such drivel undermines faith in democracy; it’s also that it’s unsupported by evidence, something that should concern leaders at organizations with “News” in their name.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ambassador nomination of Rahm Emanuel, a target of the left, may be rescued by Republicans, Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Emanuel, President Biden’s choice for ambassador to Japan, drew the hostility of many liberals during his long career. But some Senate Republicans say they will support his confirmation.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: California shows US future once again! Webster G. Tarpley, right, Sept. 18, 2021. Newsom’s landslide win in California recall marks failure for webster tarpley 2007GOP‘s anti-social ”health freedom” demagogy: Silent Majority of Vaccinated emerges despite media focus on loudmouth rejection front; Time for Dems to take gloves off!

In Virginia gubernatorial debate, Wall Street’s GOP candidate Youngkin showcases his plan for avoiding Larry Elder‘s fate: LYING!
Gen. Milley provides much-needed model of patriotism;

Playing small ball, FDA advisory board backs covid boosters for over-65s;

Definitively refuting trickle-down economics, 2020 direct stimulus payments cut US poverty rate by unprecedented 2.7% despite pandemic and closures; now make Child Tax Credit permanent!

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

washington post logoWashington Post, Judges strike down North Carolina voter ID law, citing its ‘discriminatory purpose’ against African Americans, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). A panel of North Carolina judges on Friday struck down the state’s law requiring voters to present photo identification before casting ballots, saying that the measure “was enacted in part for a discriminatory purpose” against African American voters.

The ruling is the latest development in a state battle over voting rights that has drawn national attention, and it comes amid a raft of new restrictions by GOP-led state legislatures across the country, as well as an effort in Congress to restore key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The North Carolina measure, known as S.B. 824, was enacted in December 2018 after a supermajority of the state legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper (D). North Carolina voters also approved a ballot measure creating a constitutional requirement that voters present a photo ID. At the time, Cooper said the law would disenfranchise minority voters, who are less likely to possess the required identification.

 

U.S. Media News / Investigations

mckayla maroney saul loeb pool reuters

 U.S Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 2021 (Saul Loeb/POOL via Reuters).

ABC News, McKayla Maroney's gut-wrenching statement to Congress about FBI's handling of Nassar abuse, Staff edits, Sept. 15, 2021 (7:51 min. video).  "They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing," she said.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Indianapolis Star showed Simone Biles the ‘magnitude’ of the abuse in U.S. gymnastics, Elahe Izadi, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Local newspapers may be struggling, but they are still publishing journalism that makes a difference. Here’s how it landed the story.

As Simone Biles delivered stirring testimony before a Senate committee about her abuse at the hands of the doctor Larry Nassar, she blamed a system that failed to protect her and later kept her in the dark, even as she competed at the summer 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In fact, the Olympian said, “I didn’t understand the magnitude of what all was happening until the Indianapolis Star published its article in the fall of 2016 entitled ‘Former USA Gymnastics doctor accused of abuse.’ ”

That article — in which former gymnast Rachael Denhollander publicly accused Nassar of abuse — was part of an investigative series from the Indianapolis newspaper called “Out of Balance.” The project, which brought accountability where there had been none, all began with the Star acting swiftly on a tip.

In March 2016, Indianapolis Star reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski had been reporting on the problem of schools failing to report abuse when a source told her to look into a similar issue with USA Gymnastics, which is based in Indianapolis.

“Marisa took off one day from the newsroom, and you could tell something big was going on,” recalled fellow reporter Tim Evans. She got on a plane to Georgia the same day and came back with thousands of pages of documents related to a lawsuit filed there by a former gymnast against both a coach and USA Gymnastics. She had moved quickly, concerned the court was about to seal the records in the case.

Kwiatkowski and Evans, along with their reporter colleague Mark Alesia, pored over the documents, conducted numerous interviews and dug up more information that eventually led to their first blockbuster story, published Aug. 4, just as the Rio Olympics got underway. The story detailed how USA Gymnastics, the national governing body of the sport, had dealt with sexual abuse allegations against coaches who continued to work with young girls. The Georgia court documents helped expose the organization’s long-standing policy of not reporting child sex abuse allegations to law enforcement or child welfare, unless the complaints came directly from athletes or their parents.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The Iranian Scientist and the A.I.-Assisted Weapon That Killed Him, Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 18, 2021.  Israeli agents had wanted to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist for years. Then they came up with a way to do it with no operatives present. Here’s how the killing unfolded using a new, satellite-controlled weapon that could reshape the worlds of security and espionage.

Israel FlagSince 2004, when the Israeli government ordered its foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the agency had been carrying out a campaign of sabotage and cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment facilities. It was also methodically picking off the experts thought to be leading Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Iran FlagSince 2007, its agents had assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists and wounded another. Most of the scientists worked directly for Mr. Fakhrizadeh (pronounced fah-KREE-zah-deh) on what Israeli intelligence officials said was a covert program to build a nuclear warhead, including overcoming the substantial technical challenges of making one small enough to fit atop one of Iran’s long-range missiles.

Israeli agents had also killed the Iranian general in charge of missile development and 16 members of his team.

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Talks and a Hidden Agenda: Behind the U.S. Defense Deal that France Called a ‘Betrayal,’ David E. Sanger, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts, U.S. officials gave no heads-up about their plans to upend France’s largest defense contract.

The United States and Australia went to extraordinary lengths to keep Paris in the dark as they secretly negotiated a plan to build nuclear submarines, scuttling France’s largest defense contract and so enraging President Emmanuel Macron that on Friday he ordered the withdrawal of France’s ambassadors to both nations.

Mr. Macron’s decision was a stunning and unexpected escalation of the breach between Washington and Paris, on a day that the two countries had planned to celebrate an alliance that goes back to the defeat of Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Yet it was driven by France’s realization that two of its closest allies have been negotiating secretly for months. According to interviews with American and British officials, the Biden administration had been in talks since soon after President Biden’s inauguration about arming the Australian Navy with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that could patrol areas of the South China Sea and beyond that Beijing is trying to dominate with its own military forces.

But one thing was standing in their way: a $60 billion agreement that called for Australia to buy a dozen far less sophisticated, and far noisier, conventionally-powered submarines from France.

For Mr. Biden, who has made pushing back on China a central tenet of his national security policy, those French submarines would not do. They did not have the ability to range the Pacific and show up unexpectedly off Chinese shores — adding an element of military advantage for the West. And the Australians, officials say, came to the same conclusion long ago, after being bullied by an increasingly emboldened China.

In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts — some including Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken — the Americans did not give France a heads-up about their plans to upend the French deal, the officials said, asking for anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. U.S. officials only told the French about the new agreement hours before it was publicly announced at the White House in a virtual meeting with Mr. Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.

ny times logoNew York Times, France Recalls Ambassadors to U.S. and Australia, Roger Cohen and Michael D. Shear, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). It is the first time in the long history of the French-U.S. alliance that a top diplomat has been recalled, illustrating the depth of France’s anger. Calling American and Australian behavior “unacceptable between allies and partners,” France announced on Friday that it was recalling its ambassadors to both countries in protest over President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a “brutal” American decision and a “stab in the back” from Australia.

In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said the decision was made by Mr. Macron, who is understood to be furious about the way the United States, Britain and Australia negotiated the deal without informing France.

Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement to purchase French-built, conventionally powered submarines, hours before the deal with Washington and London was announced.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

ny times logoNew York Times, The Sharp U.S. Pivot to Asia Is Throwing Europe Off Balance, Steven Erlanger, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The new U.S. alliance with Australia and Britain against China has put Europe closer to a question it has tried to avoid: Which side are you on?

 

More on Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Political battle lines harden after general’s testimony that he advised keeping some troops in Afghanistan, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Political battle lines are forming ahead of Congress’s first public oversight hearing to scrutinize senior military leaders’ recommendations to the White House in connection with last month’s calamitous exit from Afghanistan, as lawmakers in both parties pursue accountability for the loss of life and failure to evacuate everyone who wished to leave.

austin scott millerSenate Republicans have seized on a disclosure from Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2018 until his departure in July, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that before President Biden announced his decision in April to pull out all military personnel, the general had advised superiors to leave a few thousand troops rather than complete a full withdrawal. Democrats left the session frustrated so many people were left behind and seeking a sweeping examination of the 20-year mission.

The response to Miller’s testimony, delivered in a private briefing for the committee, has foreshadowed the tense reception that awaits Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie when they appear on Capitol Hill on Sept. 28.

“The president wasn’t there, but [Miller] did talk to Austin, McKenzie and Milley, and told them that he had been opposed to the total withdrawal,” Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the committee’s top Republican, told reporters after Miller’s testimony had concluded. “We heard enough to know that there are inconsistencies between what the administration has said and the truth. Clearly, President Biden didn’t listen to all the military advice.”

Miller told the committee that he could not verify whether his recommendation made it to the White House, said an official familiar with the general’s testimony who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive. A separate official said Friday that Miller’s position was conveyed to Biden.

The Pentagon declined to detail what others advised the president, and the White House did not return a request for comment.

“The Secretary is more than comfortable with the degree to which senior defense and military leaders contribute to the policy-making process,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “We won't detail the specifics of their advice, but their counsel was fully considered.”

The Taliban apologized after two Afghan reporters were beaten. The journalists are skeptical.
U.S. military admits ‘horrible mistake’ in drone strike that killed 10 Afghans, including children

washington post logoWashington Post, Pakistan calls for engagement with Taliban as West highlights concerns of abuse, Pamela Constable and Haq Nawaz Khan,Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). For years, Pakistan has been accused of secretly backing Taliban insurgents in next-door Afghanistan. Now leaders here, reluctant to criticize the new Afghan rulers, find themselves facing pressure from the West to help keep their neighbors in line.

The question of how much influence the Pakistani government retains over a group that once depended heavily on its support has become especially relevant since the Taliban announced an interim cabinet Sept. 7.

To the dismay of many Afghans and foreign governments, the cabinet includes leaders of the Haqqani network, a militant group that American and former Afghan officials have charged was covertly sponsored by Pakistan’s military-led intelligence agency. The Pakistani government denies those charges.

The prominence of the Haqqanis, a group blamed for deadly terrorist attacks as well as scenes of Taliban fighters repressing protesters and journalists, has undermined the new Afghan government’s attempts to put a benign face on its intentions and has prompted Washington and other Western governments to press Pakistan to take a strong stance.

  • Washington Post, Taliban reopens high school for boys but makes no mention of female students

washington post logoWashington Post, As an Afghan newspaper struggles to survive, a brutal beating — and a Taliban apology, Sudarsan Raghavan, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The Etilaatroz daily, one of Afghanistan’s few remaining critical outlets, is facing financial problems and concerns over its security and future. The Taliban has sought to silence a vibrant media ecosystem, one of the most significant achievements of the 20-year American and Western presence.

 

Other U.S. Court, Crime, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial Board: John Durham’s zombie Russia investigation produces an iffy indictment. Is this all there is? Editorial Board, Sept. 17, 2021. After more than two years and the persistent goading of former president Donald Trump, special counsel John Durham, the lawyer Trump-era attorney general William P. Barr tapped to probe the Justice Department’s 2016 Russia investigation, finally did something on Thursday. He indicted attorney Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI.

This, to put it mildly, is not the confirmation of some broad 2016 deep-state conspiracy against Mr. Trump that the former president apparently desired.

The danger of special counsel investigations is that, given unlimited time and resources, they often find some bad action tangentially related to their original inquiry that may have had little or no substantial negative impact. Mr. Durham has uncovered alleged wrongdoing that has little to do with whether federal officials tried to sabotage the Trump campaign.

Justice Department log circularThe case against Mr. Sussmann is iffy. It revolves around a Sept. 19, 2016, meeting Mr. Sussmann had with James Baker, an FBI lawyer, in which Mr. Sussmann relayed concerns about curious Internet data that may have indicated that Mr. Trump, then a candidate for president, was in secret contact with Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution. Mr. Baker claims that Mr. Sussmann said he was not representing any client during the meeting, when he was in fact working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Mr. Sussmann denies he said that, and he argues that he was not technically representing the campaign during the meeting, anyway.

The indictment claims that had Mr. Sussmann informed the FBI of his ties to the Clinton campaign, they might have taken a different view of the information he presented. This is not the same as saying that investigators would have taken substantially different actions as a result. Indeed, the indictment admits that federal officials knew about Mr. Sussmann’s associations. Investigators would have examined the strange Internet traffic anyway, and dismissed the alleged Trump-Alfa Bank connection, as they did.

Even if true, the Sussmann episode is far less alarming than the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Mr. Barr moved to protect from punishment and Mr. Trump later pardoned. Mr. Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, an issue of central importance to the investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The consequences of Mr. Sussmann’s alleged lie are minimal by comparison.

The Justice Department indicated Thursday that Mr. Durham’s investigation is ongoing. So far there are no indications he has uncovered anything suggesting an illegitimate government plot to subvert the 2016 Trump campaign — or even that the Russia inquiry was unwarranted. That is because the facts already public proved long ago that there was ample reason for federal investigators to launch and pursue the Russia investigation. If Mr. Durham has nothing more compelling coming, he should bring an end to this long-running exercise.

Wonkette, Analysis: Special Counsel John Durham Blows His Measly Load Trying To Make Serverghazi Happen Again, Liz Dye, right, Sept. 17, 2021. For years the liz dye twitterwingers have promised special counsel John Durham was preparing to rain down hell on the Deep State and do LOCK HER UPS to Hillary Clinton and all the dastardly Democrats in DC.

In 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr tasked the former US Attorney for Connecticut with cobbling together evidence of a Justice Department conspiracy to frame Donald Trump for cahootsing with Putin to steal the election. But aside from one conviction of a low-level DOJ attorney for falsifying an email related to Season 1 dipshit Carter Page, it's been crickets.

john durham CustomUntil yesterday when John Durham, left, did the home team proud by bringin' it to those Deep State conspirators for their evil attempt to bring down saintly Donald Trump by making him look like he was in bed with Mother Russia.

Just kidding! Durham indicted an outside lawyer on a single count of lying to the FBI. PFFFFFFFT.

Yesterday the special counsel announced the culmination of three years of work: one measly charge against attorney Michael Sussman for failing to disclose that he was working for the Clinton campaign and the DNC when he met with FBI general counsel James Baker to hand over information about the "Alfa Bank server" in Trump Tower that was mysteriously pinging back and forth with a server in Russia. As if anyone in DC, down to the busboys at Busboys and Poets, is unaware that Sussman's former law firm Perkins Coie is associated with major Democratic causes.

Indeed, as Politico notes, Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan openly sneered at the idea that Sussman's partisan bona fides could have escaped Baker's notice when he appeared before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees in October 2018.

"Did you know when he was giving this information did you know he was working for — that he did extensive work for the DNC and the Clinton campaign?" Jordan demanded.

"I am not sure what I knew about that at the time," Baker replied.

"You knew what his career was," Meadows hammered. "And you knew generally speaking that he had some involvement with the Democratic National Committee." (He slipped that time and said "Democratic." Mostly Meadows refers to it as the "Democrat National Committee," because he's a dick.)

And Baker conceded that he did, because, hello, DC ain't that big.

While Baker and Jordan were pursuing a theory that Baker was part of a Deep State Democrat conspiracy with Sussman to frame poor, innocent Donald Trump, michael sussmann perkins youngerDurham has taken the opposite position. In the special counsel's telling, Sussman, right, pulled one over on Baker by hiding the fact that his real client was the Clinton campaign.

Here's how Durham makes a case that Sussman's alleged misrepresentation was actually material — i.e., important enough to affect how the FBI conducted its business — in the indictment:

Had SUSSMAN truthfully disclosed that he was representing specific clients, it might have prompted FBI General Counsel to ask SUSSMAN for the identity of such clients, which, in turn, might have prompted further questions. In addition, absent SUSSMAN's false statement, the FBI might have taken additional or more incremental steps before opening and/or closing an investigation. The FBI also might have allocated its resources differently, or more efficiently, and uncovered more complete information about the reliability and provenance of the purported data at issue.

Thats a lot of "mights." Particularly since Baker says that's not how it went down at all.

Baker testified that he was pretty sure Sussman said he was coming forth as a private citizen, although he wasn't entirely certain about that. But even if Sussman had said, "Here's a little something from Hillary Clinton, Fusion GPS, and the DNC," it wouldn't have made any difference to the way the FBI treated the information.

DEM HOUSE LAWYER: So regardless of not being the most typical route for evidence besides the FBI, when the evidence is provided to you, does the FBI have a process to evaluate the credibility of the evidence, to vet it as it would any other piece of evidence coming to the FBI?

BAKER: Yes.

DEM HOUSE LAWYER: Okay. So whatever evidence was provided to you would have been evaluated by the same individuals the FBI as through whatever typical challenges the FBI gets its evidence?

BAKER: Yes. Yes.

Indeed, Baker said that he wanted to know as little as possible about Sussman's allegations.

"I mean, so I was uncomfortable with being in the position of having too much factual information conveyed to me, because I'm not an agent. And so I wanted to get this — get the information into the hands of the agents as quickly as possible and let them deal with it," Baker testified. "If they wanted to go interview Sussmann and ask him all those kind of questions, fine with me."

In fact, the only contemporaneous written notes of the meeting, taken by Bill Priestap, assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division, make it clear that everyone involved was well aware of Sussman's connections to Clinton and the DNC.

Not for nothing, but good luck getting this memo — in which Priestap records what Baker says he thinks Sussman said — admitted at trial. Hearsay evidence may be acceptable in a grand jury, but it's not gonna play in an IRL court of law.

Astute observers will note that the FBI just dropped charges against Michael Flynn because his lies to the FBI were not "material," according to Bill Barr. There's also the niggling detail that Barr set up a special intake process at the Justice Department for Rudy Giuliani's insane book reports about Joe Biden's supposedly nefarious dealings in Ukraine. But that was very cool and very legal, unlike what Sussman did, okay?

And if Durham's big plan is to get Sussman to flip on the Deep State, he appears to have miscalculated.

"The special counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge," Mr. Sussmann's lawyers said in a statement reported by the Wall Street Journal. "This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for. Mr. Sussmann will fight this baseless and politically-inspired prosecution."

In summary and in conclusion, they're trying to make Serverghazi happen again. It's not going to happen.

washington post logoWashington Post, A woman accepted $50 from a West Virginia police chief so he could rape her 17-year-old relative, feds say, Jonathan Edwards, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). In exchange for $50, Kristen Naylor-Legg brought her 17-year-old family member to a community center in June 2020 where a local police chief allegedly raped the girl, federal prosecutors claim.

Naylor-Legg, court documents say, stood by — directing the girl during the alleged rape and providing her with towels to clean up afterward. A West Virginia police chief, who was on duty, according to court documents, allegedly failed to pay the woman the agreed-upon price and left.

On Wednesday, Naylor-Legg, 28, pleaded guilty in a West Virginia federal court to one count of conspiracy to sex traffic a minor. She faces up to life in prison at sentencing, which is scheduled for December.

Larry Allen Clay Jr., the now ex-police chief of the small town of Gauley Bridge, is charged with sex trafficking a minor using coercion and conspiracy. Clay, who was 57 at the time of his March arrest, also worked roughly eight years as a Fayette County Sheriff’s deputy.

He pleaded not guilty in May; his trial is scheduled for November.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. predicts globe could warm by a worrying 2.7 degrees Celsius, William Booth and Tyler Pager, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). New Glasgow commitments, if implemented, would result in a 12 percent emissions cut by the decade’s end, well short of what is needed to curb global warming.

The United Nations warned Friday that based on the most recent action plans submitted by 191 countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is on track to warm by more than 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century — far above what world leaders have said is the acceptable upper limit of global warming.

Even a lower increase would mean millions of people losing their homes to rising seas, vast sections of permafrost lost and extinction for scores of animal species.

The report set the stakes as President Biden gathered the world’s biggest emitters to the White House on Friday to try reach an agreement among some of them to cut methane — a potent greenhouse gas — by 30 percent by 2030.

The U.N. report said that it had received 86 new plans — known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs — but that as of the end of July, nearly as many countries had still not stepped forward with new road maps. The plans submitted thus far would, if implemented, lead to a 12 percent reduction in their greenhouse gases by 2030 compared with 2010.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Populists Decline, the Center-Left Sees Hints of a Comeback, Max Fisher, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). A long-struggling political faction has seen surprising gains this year, in part because of changes wrought by the pandemic. Can it hold on to them?

The gray-suited technocrats of the center-left are once more a serious force, at the expense of both the establishment conservatism that prevailed among Western democracies for much of the 21st century, and the right-wing populism that arose in backlash to the status quo.

This month alone, center-left parties have taken power in Norway and appear on the verge of doing the same in Germany. They hold the White House, share power in Italy and lead a newly credible opposition movement in authoritarian-leaning Hungary.

Calling it a comeback would be premature, analysts warn. Center-left gains are uneven and fragile. And they may be due less to any groundswell of enthusiasm than to short-term political tailwinds, largely a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s Longest-Serving President, Dies at 84, Amir Jalal Zerdoumi and Carlotta Gall, Updated Sept. 18, 2021. Mr. Bouteflika, ousted from the presidency in 2019 after 20 years in office, helped lead the nation out of a brutal civil war in the 1990s.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who joined his country’s fight against French colonial rule in the 1950s, rose to foreign minister at 26, went into exile over corruption charges and then returned to help lead the nation out of civil war, has died, He was 84.

 

Sept. 17

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection Probes

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

 

Other U.S. Court, Crime, Immigration

 

Personal Privacy / Security / Advertising


World Security, Climate Change

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Disclosures on Milley’s Trump pushback could further politicize the military, Missy Ryan, Sept. 17, 2021. Supporters say the country’s top officer sought to protect the Constitution, but some fear his actions could compound existing problems. New revelations showing how Gen. Mark A. Milley, the nation’s top military officer, quietly maneuvered to check President Donald Trump reveal the lengths that top officials went to prevent potentially rash action, but the disclosures also threaten to thrust the military deeper into the partisan fray, former officials said.

mark milley army chief of staffA series of dramatic inside-the-room accounts, including one in which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, right, promised to alert China’s top officer if Trump was preparing to launch an attack, provides new insight into military leaders’ response to the previous administration’s fraught final period.

But Kori Schake, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the revelations that Milley covertly acted to counter his commander in chief are “bad for the military as an institution.”

“It encourages people to do what Americans are already doing, which is viewing the military as they view the Supreme Court: apolitical when they agree with them, partisan when they don’t,” she said.

Biden comes to Milley’s defense after revelation that top general, fearing Trump, conferred with China to avoid war

The latest exposé comes in a book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who write that Milley, alarmed by the possibility Trump might strike China as he tried to stay in power, reached out to Gen. Li Zuocheng in the months surrounding the 2020 election in order to dismiss any Chinese fears of a preemptive American attack, they said.

That followed other dramatic accounts involving Milley, including in a book by Washington Post journalists Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, which said the general likened the circumstances around the election to those of Nazi-era Germany.

washington post logoWashington Post, Milley says calls to Chinese counterpart were ‘perfectly within the duties and responsibilities’ of his job, John Wagner, Sept. 17, 2021. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday that calls he made late in the Trump administration to his Chinese military counterpart were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job and that he would explain his actions in greater detail during an upcoming appearance before Congress.

Milley, who has come under fire after a new book revealed the conservations aimed at averting armed conflict, described the calls as “routine” and said they were done “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”

“I think it’s best that I reserve my comments on the record until I do that in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the U.S. military,” Milley said, according to the Associated Press. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”

The AP reported that Milley, the Pentagon’s top uniformed officer, made his comments to reporters traveling with him to Europe. Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are scheduled to testify Sept. 28 before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden comes to Milley’s defense after revelation top general, fearing Trump, conferred with China to avert war, Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Critics of Gen. Mark Milley contend he should be removed as Joint Chiefs chairman after a new book disclosed the extent of his alarm that Trump might order a strike on China in the waning days of his presidency.

President Biden on Wednesday threw his full support behind the Pentagon’s top uniformed officer, who has come under fire after a new book revealed he privately conferred with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng, left, to avert armed conflict late in the Trump administration.

Gen. Li Zuocheng“I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden told reporters at the White House, following calls from former president Donald Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill for the removal of Gen. Mark A. Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Biden’s declaration, coinciding with efforts by the chief spokespersons for the White House and the Pentagon to stage a similar defense of the embattled general, effectively ends speculation that Milley’s assignment may be cut short. But the controversy surrounding his fitness for the job rages on — and thus far is falling mostly along party lines.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Says Drone Strike That Killed 10 in Afghanistan Was Mistake, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, Sept. 17, 2021. 
The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that the last U.S. drone strike before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, after initially saying it had been necessary to prevent an attack on troops.

The extraordinary admission provided a horrific punctuation to the chaotic ending of the 20-year war in Afghanistan and will put President Biden and the Pentagon at the center of a growing number of investigations into how the administration and the military carried out Mr. Biden’s order to withdraw from the country.

Almost everything senior defense officials asserted in the hours, and then days, and then weeks after the Aug. 29 drone strike turned out to be false. The explosives the military claimed were loaded in the trunk of a white Toyota sedan struck by the drone’s Hellfire missile were probably water bottles, and a secondary explosion in the courtyard in a densely populated Kabul neighborhood where the attack took place was probably a propane or gas tank, officials said.

In short, the car posed no threat at all, investigators concluded.

The acknowledgment of the mistake came a week after a New York Times investigation of video evidence challenged assertions by the military that it had struck a vehicle carrying explosives meant for Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III ordered a review of the military’s inquiry into the drone strike to determine, among other issues, who should be held accountable and “the degree to which strike authorities, procedures and processes need to be altered in the future.”

Congressional lawmakers, meanwhile, said they wanted their own accounting from the Pentagon.

Senior Defense Department leaders conceded that the driver of the car, Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group, had nothing to do with the Islamic State, contrary to what military officials had previously asserted. Mr. Ahmadi’s only connection to the terrorist group appeared to be a fleeting and innocuous interaction with people in what the military believed was an ISIS safe house in Kabul, an initial link that led military analysts to make one mistaken judgment after another while tracking Mr. Ahmadi’s movements in the sedan for the next eight hours.

Former teen gymnastic stars Simone Biles, MyKala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, left to right, testify before Congress against sexual abuse and FBI indifference at a hearing on Sept. 15, 2021 (Pool photo by Saul Loeb via AFP).ol 9 15 21

Former teen gymnastic stars Simone Biles, MyKala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, left to right, testified before Congress against sexual abuse and FBI indifference at a hearing on Sept. 15, 2021. See New York Times, Biles and Other Gymnasts Rip F.B.I. for Botching Nassar Abuse Case.(Pool photo by Saul Loeb).

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Panel Recommends Pfizer Boosters for Those Over 65 or at High Risk, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Sept. 17, 2021.  The committee said there was insufficient evidence to recommend third shots for all adult recipients of the vaccine, as Pfizer had requested.

A key advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly rejected recommending Pfizer booster shots for most recipients of the company’s coronavirus vaccine, instead endorsing them only for people who are 65 or older or at high risk of severe Covid-19, and received their second dose at least six months ago.

The vote — the first on boosters in the United States — was a blow to the Biden administration’s strategy to make extra shots available to most fully vaccinated adults in the United States eight months after they received a second dose. The broader rollout was to start next week.

Committee members appeared dismissive of the argument that the general population needed booster shots, saying the data from Pfizer and elsewhere still seemed to show two shots protected against severe disease or hospitalization and did not prove a third shot would stem the spread of infection. Some also criticized a lack of data that an additional injection would be safe for younger people.

“It’s unclear that everyone needs to be boosted, other than a subset of the population that clearly would be at high risk for serious disease,” said Dr. Michael G. Kurilla, a committee member and official at the National Institutes of Health.

But the panel’s final recommendation left some room for the White House to argue that the core of its booster strategy remained intact. Depending on how “at high risk” is defined, tens of millions of Americans could conceivably wind up eligible for additional shots of the Pfizer vaccine.

The committee of largely outside experts voted 16 to 2 against a Pfizer booster for people 16 and older after a tense daylong public discussion that put divisions in the agency and the administration on public display. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health joined infectious disease experts and doctors in voting against additional shots for such a broad swath of the population.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: C.D.C. Study Shows Pfizer Vaccine’s Protection Wanes, Sept. 17, 2021. The new study found that beyond 120 days after recipients got their second dose, the effectiveness fell to 77 percent. Here’s the latest on the virus.

  • The Biden administration is negotiating to buy another 500 million Pfizer doses to donate overseas.
  • England’s coronavirus restrictions on international travel will ease, and simplify, as of Oct. 4.
  • A new study suggests that children’s eyesight may have worsened during lockdown.
  • The U.S. virus surge appears to be declining in some states, but deaths are still increasing.
  • India boosts its Covid vaccine drive with 25 million shots given on Modi’s birthday.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA advisers to meet on highly charged issue of recommending coronavirus vaccine boosters, Laurie McGinley, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Lena H. Sun, Sept. 17, 2021. In an all-day meeting, the agency’s outside experts will hear from representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments and Pfizer. The Biden administration has said it wants to begin offering the shots next week.

fda logoExpert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will meet Friday on the increasingly contentious issue of coronavirus vaccine boosters, the first phase of what could be a multiday effort to come up with government policy on who should get the extra shots and when.

The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, in an all-day meeting, will weigh whether the agency should clear a third dose of the shot by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech for the public. The companies want the agency to approve boosters for people at least 16 years old who finished their immunizations six months earlier.

The decisions made by the FDA’s outside experts — and subsequently by the agency itself and advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — will determine whether the Biden administration will be able to begin offering boosters the week of Sept. 20, as outlined by senior officials a month ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Biden says GOP governors are risking lives as 24 states threaten legal action over vaccine mandate plans, Adela Suliman and Andrew Jeong, Sept. 17, 2021. President Biden accused some Republican governors on Thursday of “the worst kind of politics” by using their powers to push back against vaccination and testing requirements. “The governors of Florida and Texas are doing everything they can to undermine the lifesaving requirements that I proposed,” he said in remarks from the White House about his economic plans.

Meanwhile, Republican attorneys general from 24 states including South Carolina, Missouri and Florida threatened to “seek every available legal option” against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate plans. In an open letter published Thursday, they called the vaccine requirements for millions of federal employees, contractors and nearly two-thirds of the private sector workforce, “disastrous and counterproductive,” adding that such a move would be a “threat to individual liberty” and could overburden companies.

In an ongoing war of words, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) also called Biden “a habitual violator of the U.S. Constitution” on Thursday and accused the president of lacking the authority to issue vaccine mandates. “I’m confident Texas will win this constitutional showdown,” Abbott said.

Here’s what to know

  • The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee is set to meet Friday for a highly anticipated nonbinding vote on whether the agency should approve a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
  • The FDA said Thursday it would expand emergency use authorization for a coronavirus antibody cocktail made by Eli Lilly, which will serve as a preventive drug for people who have been exposed to the virus and are at risk of severe symptoms.
  • Alaska is facing “one of the sharpest surges” in covid-19 cases in the country, its state epidemiologist warned Thursday, with hospitals stretched. Some 20 percent of patients hospitalized in Alaska now have covid, the state health department reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, California is seeing covid-19 cases drop. Has the state turned the tide on the delta variant? Derek Hawkins and Jacqueline Dupree, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Experts say the state’s embrace of vaccines, masks and other public health measures has helped it contain the highly transmissible variant.

Daily Beast, Laura Loomer, Who Once Said ‘Bad Fajitas’ Were Worse Than COVID, Says She’s Tested Positive, Jamie Ross, Sept. 17, 2021. The far-right activist laura loomersaid in a Gettr post that she’s experiencing severe coronavirus symptoms. "Pray for me."

The far-right, anti-Muslim, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer says she’s tested positive for the coronavirus, after suffering from severe symptoms that she wrote left her feeling like she “got hit by a bus.”

In a post on the Trumpist social network Gettr, Loomer complained that she started suffering from “fever, chills, a runny nose, sore throat, nausea and severe body aches” on Wednesday that she said felt like “a bad case of the flu... So I took a COVID test and it came back POSITIVE.”

daily beast logoShe added: “I have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine, and I don’t plan on ever taking it because it is unsafe and ineffective. Today, I immediately started a treatment of Azithromyacin and Hydroxychloroquine. I’m also taking the OrthoMune dietary supplement.” She said she’s also received the Regeneron antibody treatment used by ex-President Donald Trump.

Last year, Loomer expressed a wish that she could catch COVID to show everyone that it was no big deal. She wrote on Parler in December 2020: “I hope I get COVID just so I can prove to people I’ve had bouts of food poisoning that are more serious and life threatening than a hyped up virus. Have you ever eaten bad fajitas? That will kill you faster than COVID.”

However, in follow-up messages on her Telegram channel late Thursday, she made it clear that she was suffering severe symptoms. “Just pray for me please,” she wrote. “Can’t even begin to explain how brutal the body aches and nausea that come with COVID are. I am in so much pain.”

She then posted more vaccine conspiracy theories, writing that the government “doesn’t want you to know what it really does,” despite the scientific fact that it would have offered her some protection.

Loomer, a far-right activist who was embraced by Trump, lost a U.S. House bid in Florida last year. She has been banned from most mainstream social networks—as well as Uber and Lyft—for blatant Islamophobia. In June, she was thrown out of a cryptocurrency conference in Florida after heckling Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about her ban from the platform.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 17, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds:

World Cases: 227,958,122, Deaths: 4,686,595
U.S. Cases:    42,634,769, Deaths:     688,488
India Cases:    33,381,728, Deaths:     444,278
Brazil Cases:   21,069,017, Deaths:     589,277

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 211.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 17, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 180.6 million people, or 54.2 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

dusty graham tristan graham

Tristan (left) and Dusty (right) were known in the reseller community by the name "Alabama Pickers." The pair died of COVID less than a month from each other after saying they wouldn't be getting the vaccine.

Al.com, Alabama Pickers, couple known for reselling and vaccine opposition, both dead of COVID, Tandra Smith,Sept. 17, 2021.  A married Alabama couple known for their reselling videos on YouTube under the name “Alabama Pickers” have both died of COVID.

Dusty and Tristan Graham lived in Huntsville, where they would often post videos about various tips and tricks to reselling vintage items like clothes and home decor. They sold on eBay under the username, bama4348.

Dusty died Thursday, almost three weeks after his wife did, according to the GoFundMe page set up by one of their children.

“Unfortunately, Dusty and Tristan have both passed away,” Windsor Graham posted on the page. “Thank you all for your kind words and helping us during this difficult time. We will be using the money to pay for funeral expenses.”

One of the last videos the married couple posted on their now deleted YouTube channel was about how they wouldn’t get the vaccine.

It was later reposted on Vaxx Mann’s channel, which is connected to a website titled SORRYANTIVAXXER.COM, dedicated to sharing stories of people who have gotten COVID and died, or came close to dying after sharing their anti-vax beliefs.

Tristan died on Aug. 25 in her sleep, according to the GoFundMe page. Two days later, Dusty started a GoFundMe for her expenses on the 27th, while still in the ICU himself.

 Recent Headlines:

 

More On Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: A Secretive Summit That Trump Attended in December of 2020 May Explain Both Trump's Role in the January 6 seth abramson graphicInsurrection and Why Both CJCS Milley and China Feared Trump Would Start a War, Seth Abramson (left, attorney, professor, Newsweek columnist, metajournalist, and New York Times bestselling author), Sept. 16-17, 2021.

Introduction: On December 27, 2020, fresh off receiving one of the most controversial presidential pardons in U.S. history—from then-president Donald Trump, the very man he had committed federal felonies to protect—Roger Stone traveled to Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach to “thank[ ]” his patron and criminal co-conspirator.

seth abramson proof logoOnly a few U.S. media outlets covered the astonishingly brazen meeting at the time, and surprisingly that didn’t change nine days later—when a “movement” co-led by Stone, Stop the Steal, coordinated with the 2020 Trump Campaign in a sequence of events resulting in armed insurrection and a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Back in December 2020, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported on the meeting in a way that should have, but didn’t, lead to it becoming a focus of sustained national attention: per the paper, Stone went to see Trump on December 27 not just to “deliver a personal thank you to the president” but also, critically, to “counsel the president on how he could ‘ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.’” This was during the same period that, as Proof has reported, Stone recorded a video seeking donations for arms and armor for Proud Boys and Oath Keepers planning to travel to Washington on January 6—the precise conduct Proud Boy “sergeant-at-arms” and Stone associate Ethan Nordean would later be arrested for.

So there can be no doubt that when Stone met Trump just nine days before January 6 to discuss how that day could lead to an overturning of the November 2020 election, Stone’s focus was on the Stop the Steal–cosponsored March to Save America that he was personally involved in coordinating at a logistical as well as strategic level.

The Sun-Sentinel report noted that, after posting a picture of (and commentary upon) the strange golf club meeting on Parler, Stone subsequently thought better of it and deleted all reference to the event on the far-right social media platform. At the time, he claimed it was to honor a policy supposedly in place at Trump’s golf club to prevent guests from posting pictures of the club; journalists have not yet been able to verify that any such policy exists, and a Google Image search certainly suggests it doesn’t (especially when the photograph promotes Donald Trump in any way). In any case, Stone had by then deleted not only photos of the meeting but also any reference to it on social media—and thereafter would refuse to discuss it with journalists. It did not, therefore, seem like a reticence related to an eldritch country club photography policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder draws scrutiny from federal officials and followers for role in Jan. 6 riot, but he remains free and uncharged, Hannah Allam and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 17, 2021. It depends on who’s talking.

To some, Stewart Rhodes is a paramilitary commander enlisting thousands of foot soldiers to overthrow the government.

stewart rhodesTo others, he’s a couch-surfing grifter — and the most shocking thing about the involvement of his Oath Keepers group in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was that some members actually showed up.

To federal prosecutors, Rhodes, 56, is “Person One,” which is how he is referenced in court filings for roughly 22 Oath Keepers associates charged in connection with the Capitol attack, including 18 who are accused of conspiracy in the largest single indictment of the probe. Five have pleaded guilty.

In the prosecution’s timeline, Rhodes coordinated with participants, allegedly giving advice about what weapons to bring and speaking with one who was part of the “stack” formation implemented moments before the group charged into the Capitol — one of the most salient images of the day.

Palmer Report, Opinion: These idiots are going to play right into our hands on September 18th, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 17, 2021. In spite of the ongoing sensationalism bill palmercoming from the media and the pundits, January 6th wasn’t a “test run” for anything. It was a one-off, based on the element of surprise and Donald Trump still having control of federal law enforcement, and it still failed miserably. Just as January 20th was a non-event, so will be September 18th.

bill palmer report logo headerThat doesn’t mean we can just ignore September 18th. Whenever right wingers threaten to gear up for something, the government must always meet them with much stronger forces, so the right wingers will cower like the snowflakes they are. Which is what the government has already said it’s going to do – and no, Trump isn’t in charge of the government this time.

The point is, we shouldn’t cower. You should spend all day on September 18th making fun of these right wingers for being the whiny fragile losers that they are. Do not assign them imaginary magical powers to overthrow the government; that only gives them leverage that they don’t otherwise have.

So sit back on September 18th, let these idiots get arrested and/or humiliate themselves, and then make sure the voters in the middle know that these whack job losers outside the Capitol are what now define the Republican Party. Point out the Democrats have no lunatic equivalent.

And once the January 6th Committee begins holding high profile televised hearings every day, remind voters in the middle that these right wing losers spent Sept 18th taking credit for the murderous and treasonous nature of January 6th. It wasn’t antifa; it was Trump Republicans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The potential trouble with Jan. 6 defendant prosecutions, Amber Phillips, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). As far-right groups prepare to come back to the Capitol on Saturday, prosecutors may have hit a speed bump with some of the more serious charges against Jan. 6 defendants.

D.C. and Capitol police are preparing for a rally Saturday with potentially hundreds of people in support of defendants who are jailed or facing charges over their actions on Jan. 6.

The protest comes as federal prosecutors move on from charging people who stormed the Capitol with smaller crimes to prosecuting those they say committed the most egregious ones, such as inciting people to intimidate and commit violence against elected officials.

But now those prosecutors may have run into a problem with their legal strategy.

At least two federal judges have questioned the main charge prosecutors are using to try to go after more than 200 people involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, to obstruct “any official proceeding” of Congress, reports The Post’s Spencer S. Hsu.

But legal experts who spoke to The Fix say there’s still hope for prosecutors’ main legal avenue to punish some of the most prominent Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Here’s what’s going on.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here come the January 6th superseding indictments, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. “They’ve gotten away with it all!” It’s the rallying cry of defeatists everywhere who are so eager to feel outrage, they’ve baselessly convinced themselves that the January 6th attackers are off the hook. Meanwhile back in the real world, the indictments continue to come down – and now we’re getting into superseding indictments.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, prosecutors handed down superseding indictments today against Capitol attackers Ronald Sandlin and Nathaniel DeGrave, who had already been hit with lesser January 6th charges. It’s a reminder that as the evidence continues to add up, and people start cutting plea deals and ratting each other out, the indictments are continuing to get more serious.

The criminal indictments in relation to January 6th are still just getting started. That’s a fact made clear by the evidence. How high up will these indictments go, and will they reach the likes of Roger Stone and Donald Trump? We’ll see. But the narrative that they’ve “gotten away with it all” is simply fiction.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ohio House Republican, Calling Trump ‘a Cancer,’ Bows Out of 2022, Jonathan Martin, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, is the first of the group to retire rather than face a stiff primary challenge.

Calling former President Donald J. Trump “a cancer for the country,” Representative Anthony Gonzalez, Republican of Ohio, said in an interview on Thursday that he would not run for re-election in 2022, ceding his seat after just two terms in Congress rather than compete against a Trump-backed primary opponent.

anthony gonzalezMr. Gonzalez, right, is the first, but perhaps not the last, of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to retire rather than face ferocious primaries next year in a party still in thrall to the former president.

The congressman, who has two young children, emphasized that he was leaving in large part because of family considerations and the difficulties that come with living between two cities. But he made clear that the strain had only grown worse since his impeachment vote, after which he was deluged with threats and feared for the safety of his wife and children.

Mr. Gonzalez said that quality-of-life issues had been paramount in his decision. He recounted an “eye-opening” moment this year: when he and his family were greeted at the Cleveland airport by two uniformed police officers, part of extra security precautions taken after the impeachment vote.

“That’s one of those moments where you say, ‘Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?’” he said.

Mr. Gonzalez, who turns 37 on Saturday, was the sort of Republican recruit the party once prized. A Cuban American who starred as an Ohio State wide receiver, he was selected in the first round of the N.F.L. draft and then earned an M.B.A. at Stanford after his football career was cut short by injuries. He claimed his Northeast Ohio seat in his first bid for political office.

Mr. Gonzalez, a conservative, largely supported the former president’s agenda. Yet he started breaking with Mr. Trump and House Republican leaders when they sought to block the certification of last year’s presidential vote, and he was horrified by Jan. 6 and its implications.

Still, he insisted he could have prevailed in what he acknowledged would have been a “brutally hard primary” against Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide who was endorsed by the former president in February.

Yet as Mr. Gonzalez sat on a couch in his House office, most of his colleagues still at home for the prolonged summer recess, he acknowledged that he could not bear the prospect of winning if it meant returning to a Trump-dominated House Republican caucus.

“Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now,” he said. “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”

For the Ohioan, Jan. 6 was “a line-in-the-sand moment” and Mr. Trump represents nothing less than a threat to American democracy.

“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.”

Washington Post, Court hearings, guilty pleas belie right-wing recasting of Jan. 6 defendants as persecuted patriots, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 17, 2021. There are about 73 pleas, with roughly 600 charged and dozens still jailed. Ahead of the Justice for J6 rally, a look at where the defendants stand.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Don’t Let Trump Steal the Show With ‘Stop the Steal,’ Jamelle Bouie, right, Sept. 17, 2021. You cannot actually debunk Republican jamelle bouieaccusations of voter fraud. You can show they aren’t true (and they aren’t), but that has no bearing on the belief itself.

“Voter fraud” is not a factual claim subject to testing and objective analysis as much as it’s a statement of ideology, a belief about the way the djt maga hatworld works. In practice, to accuse Democrats of voter fraud is to say that Democratic voters are not legitimate political actors; that their votes do not count the same as those of “the people” (that is, the Republican electorate); and that Democratic officials, elected with those illegitimate votes, have no rightful claim to power.

In a sense, one should take accusations of voter fraud seriously but not literally, as apologists for Donald Trump once said of the former president. These accusations, the more florid the better, tell the audience that the speaker is aligned with Trump and that he or she supported his attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election. They also tell the audience that the speaker will do anything necessary to “stop the steal,” which is to say anything to stop a Republican from losing an election and, barring that, anything to delegitimize the Democrat who won.

The problem is that to break the hold of this ideology on Republican voters, you need Republican politicians to lead the charge. A Margaret Chase Smith, for example. But as long as Trump controls the party faithful — as long as he is, essentially, the center of a cult of personality — those voices, if they even exist, won’t say in public what they almost certainly say behind closed doors.

It is up to Democrats, then, to at least safety-proof our electoral system against another attempt to “stop the steal.” The Senate filibuster makes that a long shot as well, even as centrist Democrats like Joe Manchin insist that there’s a compromise to strike with Republicans. Let’s hope he’s right because at this stage of the game, it is the only move left to play.

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Talks and a Hidden Agenda: Behind the U.S. Defense Deal that France Called a ‘Betrayal,’ David E. Sanger, Sept. 17, 2021. In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts, U.S. officials gave no heads-up about their plans to upend France’s largest defense contract.

The United States and Australia went to extraordinary lengths to keep Paris in the dark as they secretly negotiated a plan to build nuclear submarines, scuttling France’s largest defense contract and so enraging President Emmanuel Macron that on Friday he ordered the withdrawal of France’s ambassadors to both nations.

Mr. Macron’s decision was a stunning and unexpected escalation of the breach between Washington and Paris, on a day that the two countries had planned to celebrate an alliance that goes back to the defeat of Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Yet it was driven by France’s realization that two of its closest allies have been negotiating secretly for months. According to interviews with American and British officials, the Biden administration had been in talks since soon after President Biden’s inauguration about arming the Australian Navy with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that could patrol areas of the South China Sea and beyond that Beijing is trying to dominate with its own military forces.

But one thing was standing in their way: a $60 billion agreement that called for Australia to buy a dozen far less sophisticated, and far noisier, conventionally-powered submarines from France.

For Mr. Biden, who has made pushing back on China a central tenet of his national security policy, those French submarines would not do. They did not have the ability to range the Pacific and show up unexpectedly off Chinese shores — adding an element of military advantage for the West. And the Australians, officials say, came to the same conclusion long ago, after being bullied by an increasingly emboldened China.

In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts — some including Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken — the Americans did not give France a heads-up about their plans to upend the French deal, the officials said, asking for anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. U.S. officials only told the French about the new agreement hours before it was publicly announced at the White House in a virtual meeting with Mr. Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.

ny times logoNew York Times, France Recalls Ambassadors to U.S. and Australia, Roger Cohen and Michael D. Shear, Sept. 17, 2021. It is the first time in the long history of the French-U.S. alliance that a top diplomat has been recalled, illustrating the depth of France’s anger. Calling American and Australian behavior “unacceptable between allies and partners,” France announced on Friday that it was recalling its ambassadors to both countries in protest over President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a “brutal” American decision and a “stab in the back” from Australia.

In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said the decision was made by Mr. Macron, who is understood to be furious about the way the United States, Britain and Australia negotiated the deal without informing France.

Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement to purchase French-built, conventionally powered submarines, hours before the deal with Washington and London was announced.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

ny times logoNew York Times, The Sharp U.S. Pivot to Asia Is Throwing Europe Off Balance, Steven Erlanger Sept. 17, 2021. The new U.S. alliance with Australia and Britain against China has put Europe closer to a question it has tried to avoid: Which side are you on? Sept. 17, 2021.

 

Other U.S. Court, Crime, Immigration

Wonkette, Analysis: Special Counsel John Durham Blows His Measly Load Trying To Make Serverghazi Happen Again, Liz Dye, right, Sept. 17, 2021. For years the liz dye twitterwingers have promised special counsel John Durham was preparing to rain down hell on the Deep State and do LOCK HER UPS to Hillary Clinton and all the dastardly Democrats in DC.

In 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr tasked the former US Attorney for Connecticut with cobbling together evidence of a Justice Department conspiracy to frame Donald Trump for cahootsing with Putin to steal the election. But aside from one conviction of a low-level DOJ attorney for falsifying an email related to Season 1 dipshit Carter Page, it's been crickets.

john durham CustomUntil yesterday when John Durham, left, did the home team proud by bringin' it to those Deep State conspirators for their evil attempt to bring down saintly Donald Trump by making him look like he was in bed with Mother Russia.

Just kidding! Durham indicted an outside lawyer on a single count of lying to the FBI. PFFFFFFFT.

Yesterday the special counsel announced the culmination of three years of work: one measly charge against attorney Michael Sussman for failing to disclose that he was working for the Clinton campaign and the DNC when he met with FBI general counsel James Baker to hand over information about the "Alfa Bank server" in Trump Tower that was mysteriously pinging back and forth with a server in Russia. As if anyone in DC, down to the busboys at Busboys and Poets, is unaware that Sussman's former law firm Perkins Coie is associated with major Democratic causes.

Indeed, as Politico notes, Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan openly sneered at the idea that Sussman's partisan bona fides could have escaped Baker's notice when he appeared before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees in October 2018.

"Did you know when he was giving this information did you know he was working for — that he did extensive work for the DNC and the Clinton campaign?" Jordan demanded.

"I am not sure what I knew about that at the time," Baker replied.

"You knew what his career was," Meadows hammered. "And you knew generally speaking that he had some involvement with the Democratic National Committee." (He slipped that time and said "Democratic." Mostly Meadows refers to it as the "Democrat National Committee," because he's a dick.)

And Baker conceded that he did, because, hello, DC ain't that big.

While Baker and Jordan were pursuing a theory that Baker was part of a Deep State Democrat conspiracy with Sussman to frame poor, innocent Donald Trump, michael sussmann perkins youngerDurham has taken the opposite position. In the special counsel's telling, Sussman, right, pulled one over on Baker by hiding the fact that his real client was the Clinton campaign.

Here's how Durham makes a case that Sussman's alleged misrepresentation was actually material — i.e., important enough to affect how the FBI conducted its business — in the indictment:

Had SUSSMAN truthfully disclosed that he was representing specific clients, it might have prompted FBI General Counsel to ask SUSSMAN for the identity of such clients, which, in turn, might have prompted further questions. In addition, absent SUSSMAN's false statement, the FBI might have taken additional or more incremental steps before opening and/or closing an investigation. The FBI also might have allocated its resources differently, or more efficiently, and uncovered more complete information about the reliability and provenance of the purported data at issue.

Thats a lot of "mights." Particularly since Baker says that's not how it went down at all.

Baker testified that he was pretty sure Sussman said he was coming forth as a private citizen, although he wasn't entirely certain about that. But even if Sussman had said, "Here's a little something from Hillary Clinton, Fusion GPS, and the DNC," it wouldn't have made any difference to the way the FBI treated the information.

DEM HOUSE LAWYER: So regardless of not being the most typical route for evidence besides the FBI, when the evidence is provided to you, does the FBI have a process to evaluate the credibility of the evidence, to vet it as it would any other piece of evidence coming to the FBI?

BAKER: Yes.

DEM HOUSE LAWYER: Okay. So whatever evidence was provided to you would have been evaluated by the same individuals the FBI as through whatever typical challenges the FBI gets its evidence?

BAKER: Yes. Yes.

Indeed, Baker said that he wanted to know as little as possible about Sussman's allegations.

"I mean, so I was uncomfortable with being in the position of having too much factual information conveyed to me, because I'm not an agent. And so I wanted to get this — get the information into the hands of the agents as quickly as possible and let them deal with it," Baker testified. "If they wanted to go interview Sussmann and ask him all those kind of questions, fine with me."

In fact, the only contemporaneous written notes of the meeting, taken by Bill Priestap, assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division, make it clear that everyone involved was well aware of Sussman's connections to Clinton and the DNC.

Justice Department log circularNot for nothing, but good luck getting this memo — in which Priestap records what Baker says he thinks Sussman said — admitted at trial. Hearsay evidence may be acceptable in a grand jury, but it's not gonna play in an IRL court of law.

Astute observers will note that the FBI just dropped charges against Michael Flynn because his lies to the FBI were not "material," according to Bill Barr. There's also the niggling detail that Barr set up a special intake process at the Justice Department for Rudy Giuliani's insane book reports about Joe Biden's supposedly nefarious dealings in Ukraine. But that was very cool and very legal, unlike what Sussman did, okay?

And if Durham's big plan is to get Sussman to flip on the Deep State, he appears to have miscalculated.

"The special counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge," Mr. Sussmann's lawyers said in a statement reported by the Wall Street Journal. "This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for. Mr. Sussmann will fight this baseless and politically-inspired prosecution."

In summary and in conclusion, they're trying to make Serverghazi happen again. It's not going to happen.

Wall Street Journal, Editorial: Durham Cracks the Russia Case, Editorial Board, Sept. 17, 2021. The special counsel’s indictment tells the real story of 2016 collusion. John Durham on Thursday indicted a Clinton campaign lawyer from 2016 for lying to the FBI, but this is no ho-hum case of deception. The special counsel’s 27-page indictment is full of new, and damning, details that underscore how the Russia collusion tale was concocted and peddled by the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Durham charged Michael Sussmann, an attorney at the Perkins Coie law firm that represented the Clinton campaign. Mr. Sussmann is accused of making false statements to then-FBI general counsel James Baker in a Sept. 19, 2016 meeting when he presented documents purporting to show secret internet communications between the Trump Organization and Russia-based Alfa bank.

The indictment says Mr. Sussmann assured Mr. Baker he was not doing this work “‘for any client,’ which led the FBI General Counsel to understand that SUSSMANN was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative.” This was false, says the indictment, which documents how Mr. Sussmann was working with other Democrats (including fellow Perkins Coie lawyer Marc Elias ) and billing his time to the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Sussmann’s lie “deprived the FBI” of crucial information, says the indictment, and led the agency to initiate an investigation into the Trump-Alfa claim, which was quickly leaked to the media. Mr. Sussmann didn’t lie to the FBI to protect himself. He is accused of lying to the FBI to trigger an investigation into a rival campaign based on a false claim of Russia-Trump collusion. He has pleaded not guilty.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial Board: John Durham’s zombie Russia investigation produces an iffy indictment. Is this all there is? Editorial Board, Sept. 17, 2021..After more than two years and the persistent goading of former president Donald Trump, special counsel John Durham, the lawyer Trump-era attorney general William P. Barr tapped to probe the Justice Department’s 2016 Russia investigation, finally did something on Thursday. He indicted attorney Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI.

This, to put it mildly, is not the confirmation of some broad 2016 deep-state conspiracy against Mr. Trump that the former president apparently desired.

The danger of special counsel investigations is that, given unlimited time and resources, they often find some bad action tangentially related to their original inquiry that may have had little or no substantial negative impact. Mr. Durham has uncovered alleged wrongdoing that has little to do with whether federal officials tried to sabotage the Trump campaign.

The case against Mr. Sussmann is iffy. It revolves around a Sept. 19, 2016, meeting Mr. Sussmann had with James Baker, an FBI lawyer, in which Mr. Sussmann relayed concerns about curious Internet data that may have indicated that Mr. Trump, then a candidate for president, was in secret contact with Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution. Mr. Baker claims that Mr. Sussmann said he was not representing any client during the meeting, when he was in fact working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Mr. Sussmann denies he said that, and he argues that he was not technically representing the campaign during the meeting, anyway.

The indictment claims that had Mr. Sussmann informed the FBI of his ties to the Clinton campaign, they might have taken a different view of the information he presented. This is not the same as saying that investigators would have taken substantially different actions as a result. Indeed, the indictment admits that federal officials knew about Mr. Sussmann’s associations. Investigators would have examined the strange Internet traffic anyway, and dismissed the alleged Trump-Alfa Bank connection, as they did.

Even if true, the Sussmann episode is far less alarming than the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Mr. Barr moved to protect from punishment and Mr. Trump later pardoned. Mr. Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, an issue of central importance to the investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The consequences of Mr. Sussmann’s alleged lie are minimal by comparison.

The Justice Department indicated Thursday that Mr. Durham’s investigation is ongoing. So far there are no indications he has uncovered anything suggesting an illegitimate government plot to subvert the 2016 Trump campaign — or even that the Russia inquiry was unwarranted. That is because the facts already public proved long ago that there was ample reason for federal investigators to launch and pursue the Russia investigation. If Mr. Durham has nothing more compelling coming, he should bring an end to this long-running exercise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Durham grand jury indicts lawyer whose firm represented Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). A grand jury working with special counsel John Durham’s office handed up an indictment Thursday of lawyer Michael Sussmann, who prosecutors have accused of making false statements to the FBI during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sussmann, the indictment charges, “lied about the capacity in which he was providing ... allegations to the FBI” of potenmichael sussmann perkins youngertial cyber links between a Russian bank and a company owned by former president Donald Trump.

An attorney at Perkins Coie, a prominent law firm tied to the Democratic party, Sussmann, right, had been bracing for possible indictment.

  • Read the indictment: U.S. v. Michael Sussmann

Charging him marks a strange twist in the special counsel’s probe championed by Trump and his Republican allies, and which to date has resulted in a single conviction of a low-level FBI lawyer.

Durham  was tasked with finding crimes that may have been committed at the FBI and elsewhere in the federal government, but in charging Sussmann, the special counsel is in essence arguing that the FBI was the victim of a crime.

In a statement issued Wednesday, ahead of the indictment, lawyers for Sussmann insisted their client committed no crime.

“Michael Sussmann is a highly respected national security and cyber security lawyer, who served the U.S. Department of Justice during Democratic and Republican administrations alike,” his lawyers Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said in a joint statement. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work. We are confident that if Mr. Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name.”

Durham grand jury examines if anyone presented false evidence to FBI

In recent months, Durham’s team has questioned witnesses about how the allegation of a possible digital tie between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank Justice Department log circularwas presented to the FBI. Durham also has examined the authenticity of data given to the FBI.

Durham is pursuing a prosecutorial theory that Sussmann was secretly representing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which was a client of Sussmann’s firm, these people said.

It was not immediately clear how an individual lying to the FBI’s top lawyer would square with the Justice Department’s historical practice of charging false-statements cases. Typically, such cases are charged when a witness knowingly lies to a special agent conducting an investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing, Arelis Hernández and Nick Miroff, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Authorities in Del Rio, Tex., say more than 8,000 people have arrived at an impromptu camp, and they are expecting thousands more — numbers that are overwhelming Customs and Border Protection capacity.

Thousands of Haitian migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande since Tuesday are sleeping outdoors under a border bridge in South Texas, creating a humanitarian emergency and a logistical challenge U.S. agents describe as unprecedented.

Authorities in Del Rio say more than 8,000 migrants have arrived at the impromptu camp, and they are expecting more in the coming days. The sudden influx has presented the Biden administration with a new border emergency at a time when illegal crossings have reached a 20-year high and Department of Homeland Security officials are straining to accommodate and resettle more than 60,000 Afghan evacuees.

The migrants arriving to Del Rio appear to be part of a larger wave of Haitians heading northward, many of whom arrived in Brazil and other South American nations after the 2010 earthquake. They are on the move again, embarking on a grueling, dangerous journey to the United States with smuggling organizations managing the trip, according to border authorities and refugee groups.

More than 29,000 Haitians have arrived over the past 11 months, the latest Customs and Border Protection figures show, including some in mixed-nationality families with children born in Brazil, Chile or other South American nations.

They have trekked through the jungles of Panama’s Darien Gap, navigated migrant camps and criminal gangs in Central America and dodged border guards and troops along the highways of southern Mexico. Many say the economic toll of the pandemic pushed them to leave, while others say a more welcoming U.S. administration has offered them a fleeting opportunity to reach the United States.

“I see brave people who instead of being trapped by conformity chose to find a better life,” said Wendy Guillaumetre, 31, who spent four years in Chile before setting out with his wife and 3-year-old daughter for the United States. “They are courageous,” he said. “Conditions are too hard in Haiti.”

mckayla maroney saul loeb pool reuters

U.S Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 2021 (Saul Loeb/POOL via Reuters).

ABC News, McKayla Maroney's gut-wrenching statement to Congress about FBI's handling of Nassar abuse, Staff edits, Sept. 15, 2021 (7:51 min. video).  "They had legal, abc news logolegitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing," she said.

Introduction: Gymnast McKayla Maroney testified to Congress about the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar case. Nassar, a former doctor, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of hundreds of women and girls. Maroney, a 2012 Olympic medalist, has said Nassar repeatedly abused her. The Justice Department's inspector general said in a report the FBI's investigation included major missteps. This is a transcript of Maroney's opening statement to Congress.

Good morning. Thank you Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and members of the Judiciary Committee for inviting me to speak today.

As most of you are probably aware, I was molested by the U.S. Gymnastics national team and Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar. In actuality he turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.

What I'm trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal. After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.

After reading the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) report, I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others.

My story is one in which special agent in charge Jay Abbott and his subordinates did not want you to hear, and it's time that I tell you.

In the summer of 2015, like I said, I was scheduled to speak to the FBI about my abuse with Larry Nassar over the phone. I was too sick to go meet with anyone in person, and talking about this abuse would give me PTSD for days, but I chose to try to speak about it to try to make a difference and protect others.

....

I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough, and we deserve justice.

These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nassar for over a year.

To not indict these agents is disservice to me and my teammates; it is a disservice to the system, which was built to protect all of us from abuse; it was a disservice to every victim who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke up.

Why are public servants whose job is to protect getting away with this? This is not justice. Enough is enough. Today, I ask you all to hear my voice.

I ask you, please, do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report and for covering up for a child molester.

In closing, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the United States Senate, a very powerful institution that from the very beginning has fought for us rather than against us. Thank you and I welcome any questions.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). An FBI agent accused of failing to properly investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and lying about it later — has been fired by the FBI, days before a high-stakes public hearing into the bureau’s flawed investigation of the child sex-abuse case involving Simone Biles and other world-famous gymnasts.

FBI logoMichael Langeman, who as a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office interviewed gymnast McKayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.

A July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz harshly criticized Langeman — without naming him — as well as his Justice Department log circularformer boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to inspector general investigators when confronted with those failures.

IG report: FBI failed to pursue Nassar sex abuse allegations

At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent — a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. FBI firings are relatively rare; most investigators facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Robert Durst Found Guilty of Murder After Decades of Suspicion, Charles V. Bagli, Sept. 17, 2021. Mr. Durst, the onetime heir to a Manhattan real estate empire, was convicted of killing a close confidante in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2000.

Robert A. Durst, the enigmatic real estate scion who evaded criminal suspicion for half his life only to become a national sensation after damaging admissions were aired in a 2015 documentary on HBO, was convicted on Friday in the execution-style murder of a close confidante more than 20 years ago.

The verdict, which came after about seven and a half hours of deliberations, was the latest act in a case that spanned almost four decades. It began in the wealthy precincts of New York with the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Durst’s first wife, Kathie, in 1982 and concluded with his conviction for the 2000 killing of Susan Berman, a friend who prosecutors said helped him cover up his wife’s disappearance and death.

Mr. Durst, a frail 78-year-old millionaire who sat through the trial in a wheelchair, was convicted of first-degree murder and faces the possibility of a life sentence. A judge is scheduled to sentence him at later date.

The trial was remarkable on many levels. It began in March 2020 but adjourned days later for 14 months because of the coronavirus pandemic. When it resumed in May, the jurors were spread across the gallery while the prosecutors sat in the jury box. Everyone, including the judge and witnesses, wore masks as precautions against Covid-19.

Ultimately, the prosecution called 80 witnesses and introduced nearly 300 exhibits. But the most damaging evidence came, as a deputy Los Angeles County district attorney, John Lewin, said in his opening statements, right out of Mr. Durst’s own mouth. The jury heard Mr. Durst make a series of acknowledgments in a nearly three-hour interview with Mr. Lewin right after his arrest in 2015, in hundreds of jailhouse phone calls and in more than 20 hours of interviews with the producers of the documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

Mr. Durst, whose family owns many iconic buildings in Manhattan, has lived a life with enough titillating elements that they could fill a dozen true-crime shows, including a Mafia princess, a missing young wife, the death and dismemberment of a drifter, celebrities like Laraine Newman and Steve Rubell, and decades of family betrayal.

Although Mr. Durst was charged only with killing Ms. Berman, the prosecution contended that her death was connected to the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Durst’s first wife and the killing of the drifter, whom he had befriended in 2001. Mr. Durst was acquitted in 2003 of killing the drifter, Morris Black, who lived across the hall from him in a rooming house in Galveston, Texas, where Mr. Durst was hiding from the authorities and living as a mute woman.
Mr. Durst has never been charged in connection with his wife’s disappearance despite investigations by the New York Police Department, the State Police and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. His lawyers have emphasized that there was no weapon, fingerprints or fibers connecting him to her disappearance and death.

Still, the disappearance of his wife has long been both in the background and at the core of this case against Mr. Durst; prosecutors said he had confided in Ms. Berman, who helped him evade the authorities.

 

World Security, Climate Change

Wayne Madsen Report, Shifting military alliances to gain the literal "high ground," Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books, frequent commentator on national security issues and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Sept. 16-17, 2021. Geopolitics have been affected but not halted by wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe Covid pandemic.

The September 15 announcement of a new military concordat between the United States, Britain, and Australia that will see nuclear submarine technology transferred to Australia by Washington and London is but one of several shifting strategies on the international chessboard aimed primarily at China's growing influence.

The hurried pace of new and refurbished alliances has little to with China's growing politico-military or economic clout and everything to do with another global peril -- the increasing impact of climate change.

Global military competition is no longer fixated on islands and maritime regions. Instead, military planners are looking to secure the high ground as a refuge for highly-populated cities that are already seeing the effects of torrential rains and rising seas.

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Expands Inquiry Into Climate Disinformation by Oil Giants, Hiroko Tabuchi, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Executives from Exxon, Shell, BP and others are being called to testify after a secret recording exposed an Exxon official boasting of such efforts.

The House Oversight Committee has widened its inquiry into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.

The move comes as Washington is wrestling with major climate legislation intended to slash the nation’s reliance on oil and gas, and in a year of climate disasters that have affected millions of Americans. Raging wildfires in the West burned more than two million acres, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States left a path of destruction from Louisiana to New York City, and heat waves smashed records and delivered life-threatening conditions to regions unaccustomed to extreme heat.

Thursday’s demands from the powerful Oversight Committee put senior executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies at the center of an investigation into the role their industry has played in undermining the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.

 

Personal Privacy / Security

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle That Is Reshaping the Internet, Brian X. Chen, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the implications, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul. Apple introduced a pop-up window for iPhones in April that asks people for their permission to be tracked by different apps.

twitter bird CustomGoogle recently outlined plans to disable a tracking technology in its Chrome web browser.

And Facebook said last month that hundreds of its engineers were working on a new method of showing ads without relying on people’s personal data.

The developments may seem like technical tinkering, but they were connected to something bigger: an intensifying battle over the future of the internet. The struggle has entangled tech titans, upended Madison Avenue and disrupted small businesses. And it heralds a profound shift in how people’s personal information may be used online, with sweeping implications for the ways that businesses make money digitally.

facebook logoAt the center of the tussle is what has been the internet’s lifeblood: advertising.

More than 20 years ago, the internet drove an upheaval in the advertising industry. It eviscerated newspapers and magazines that had relied on selling classified and print ads, and threatened to dethrone television advertising as the prime way for marketers to reach large audiences.

google logo customInstead, brands splashed their ads across websites, with their promotions often tailored to people’s specific interests. Those digital ads powered the growth of Facebook, Google and Twitter, which offered their search and social networking services to people without charge. But in exchange, people were tracked from site to site by technologies such as “cookies,” and their personal data was used to target them with relevant marketing.

Now that system, which ballooned into a $350 billion digital ad industry, is being dismantled. Driven by online privacy fears, Apple and Google have started revamping the rules around online data collection. Apple, citing the mantra of privacy, has rolled out tools that block marketers from tracking people. apple logo rainbowGoogle, which depends on digital ads, is trying to have it both ways by reinventing the system so it can continue aiming ads at people without exploiting access to their personal data.

If personal information is no longer the currency that people give for online content and services, something else must take its place. Media publishers, app makers and e-commerce shops are now exploring different paths to surviving a privacy-conscious internet, in some cases overturning their business models. Many are choosing to make people pay for what they get online by levying subscription fees and other charges instead of using their personal data.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Emboldened by recall win, Democrats brush aside talk of unity and escalate attacks on Republicans, Sean Sullivan and David Weigel, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). The party, worried that the Biden administration’s accomplishments have not gotten through to the public, has taken on a more aggressive posture that dovetails with anger among its voters.

Democrats have been sharpening their attacks on Republicans over the pandemic, former president Donald Trump and other polarizing topics, and now, emboldened by victory in California’s recall election, party leaders are seeking to further escalate hostilities ahead of the midterm elections.

Beyond prompting a collective sigh of relief in a party reeling from a difficult summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Tuesday win served as the first test of a revamped campaign strategy that Democrats quietly began assembling weeks ago, amid a realization that positive talk about President Biden getting the country back on track had run into the harsh realities of a delta variant coronavirus surge.

Chastened by the resurgence, the difficult Afghanistan withdrawal and declining public confidence in Biden’s handling of the pandemic and other issues, Democrats have gone on offense against the GOP, following private summer polling that showed broad and growing anger at the Republican resistance to vaccination, according to Democrats familiar with the discussions who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Thomas defends the Supreme Court’s independence and warns of ‘destroying our institutions,’ Mike Berardino and Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Justice Clarence Thomas defended the independence of the Supreme Court on Thursday and warned against "destroying our institutions because they don't give us what we want, when we want it."

Clarence Thomas HRThomas, right, the longest serving justice, acknowledged that the high court has its flaws, comparing it to a “car with three wheels” that somehow still works. But he said the justices are not ruling based on “personal preferences” and suggested that the nation’s leaders should not “allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcome that we like.”

The justice’s remarks came during a lecture at the University of Notre Dame in which he talked about traveling by RV in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee with his wife, Ginni. Thomas reflected on his childhood in the segregated South and his religious faith. He also alluded several times to the political polarization in the United States.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re really good at finding something that separates us,” Thomas told the crowd of more than 800 students and faculty gathered at the school’s performing arts center.

Thomas is the latest justice to add his voice to the mix and publicly come to the court’s defense in the face of growing criticism that the nine justices are merely politicians in robes.

“I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference. So if they think you are antiabortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician,” Thomas said in response to a question about public misconceptions of the court.

“That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump gave six months extra Secret Service protection to his kids, three officials. It cost taxpayers $1.7 million, David A. Fahrenthold and Carol D. Leonnig, Sept. 17, 2021. The former president required the Secret Service to devote agents and money to wealthy adults with no role in government, whom the agents trailed to ski vacations, weekend houses, a resort in Cabo San Lucas and business trips abroad.

In June, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Israel to scout investments for his new company, then flew to Qatar for a conference. At the time, Mnuchin had been out of office for five months.

secret service logoBut, because of an order given by President Donald Trump, he was still entitled to protection by Secret Service agents. As agents followed Mnuchin across the Middle East, the U.S. government paid up to $3,000 each for their plane tickets, and $11,000 for rooms at Qatar’s luxe St. Regis Doha, according to government spending records.

In all, the records show U.S. taxpayers spent more than $52,000 to guard a multimillionaire on a business trip.

These payments were among $1.7 million in additional government spending triggered by Trump’s highly unusual order — which awarded six jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookextra months of Secret Service protection for his four adult children and three top administration officials — according to a Washington Post analysis of new spending documents.

That $1.7 million in extra spending is still tiny in comparison to the Secret Service’s $2.4 billion budget.

But, as the records show, Trump’s order required the Secret Service to devote agents and money to an unexpected set of people: wealthy adults, with no role in government, whom the agents trailed to ski vacations, weekend houses, a resort in Cabo San Lucas, and business trips abroad.

“Who wouldn’t enjoy continuing their free limo service and easy access to restaurant tables?” said Jim Helminski, a former Secret Service executive, who said the decision appeared to show Trump giving a public service as a private benefit to his inner circle. “Even if there was a credible risk to family and associates of Trump, these people are now private citizens who can afford to hire some very talented private security firms for their personal protection.”

 

U.S. Congress

Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) thumbs down vote

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Manchin gets all the attention. But Kyrsten Sinema, shown above voting "No!" on increasing the federal mininum age to $15 this spring, could be an even bigger obstacle for Democrats’ spending plans, Mike DeBonis, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). After objecting to the price tag of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan in late July, the Arizonan has remained almost entirely mum. But behind the scenes she has been peppering her colleagues with questions and concerns.

Senate Democrats were riding high on the afternoon of July 28: A long-delayed bipartisan infrastructure package had finally come together, with many senators eager to finish that bill and move forward with a multitrillion-dollar piece of economic, climate and social legislation — President Biden’s signature “Build Back Better” plan.

But one senator, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), punctured the gleeful atmosphere with a warning shot. While Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee may have agreed on the size of the second bill, she had not.

“[W]hile I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” Sinema said in a statement that struck some of her fellow Democrats as poorly timed — coming just hours before she was counting on a united caucus to advance the infrastructure deal she had painstakingly negotiated.

Palmer Report, Opinion: By all means, Republicans, please proceed! Ministry of Trvth, Sept. 17, 2021. Conventional wisdom says that voter turnout in off-year elections favors the Republican party. There are many reasons why this has historically been the case, but they all boil down to voter engagement.

And so the Democrats were expected to lose two Senate seats in Georgia. After all, we had just spent four exhausting years working to rid ourselves of the most corrupt president in our history. We had won the war, and the pundits expected us to return to our woke covens to feast on the flesh of the unborn in celebration while our progress quietly regressed.

But then a funny thing happened. Some idiot decided to pretend he didn’t lose the election in a blowout, giving American voters bad flashbacks to that time when the Supreme Court halted the counting of votes and handed the election to the (now) second-worst president in our history. And so the war dragged on from November into January.

We stepped up and put in the hard work in Georgia to rip the gavel out of Moscow Mitch’s frail hands, delivering a razor-thin Senate majority to the Democrats. Sweet victory! But just as we were about to pop the cork on that special bottle of Tears of the Deplorables, a storm of idiots, with the support of some elected lawmakers, desecrated our nation’s capital in a pathetic attempt to thwart the ceremonial counting of electoral votes.

We just can’t have nice things, it would seem. Republicans abuse their waning power to oppose common-sense mask and vaccine mandates or to enact onerous restrictions on voting or abortion rights. They file frivolous go-nowhere lawsuits and televise fake election audits to steal what we have worked so hard to win. Midterm elections are over a year away, but thanks to some premature super-spreader rallies we can sense that the 2024 primaries have already begun. They even tried to recall a popular governor and replace him with a clown carousel, only to draw us out in even greater numbers with a resounding “NO!”

So if this is supposed to be some genius winning strategy for the GQP, I say “bring it.” Tsunami season is still going strong.

 

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, For Some, Afghanistan Outcome Affirms a Warning: Beware the Blob, Sarah Lyall, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan exposed the shortcomings of views within the foreign policy establishment, also known as “The Blob.”

First there was the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then there was the chorus of disapproval. And then, as is so often the case in American foreign policy, there was the Blob.

“‘The Blob’ turns on Jake,” Alex Thompson and Tina Sfondeles wrote in Politico, referring to President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. And then: “I’ve got to say hats off to the Blob on this whole Afghanistan thing,” the commentator Matthew Yglesias said sarcastically on Twitter. “They couldn’t achieve any of their stated war aims, but they’ve proven they can absolutely wreck you politically.”

What is this Blob of which they speak? What does it have to do with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and whether they can actually govern? And why, like the nebulous malevolent organism in the 1958 horror film with which it shares a name, is it perpetually lurking around, sucking up everything in its path?

The term “Blob” is generally understood to describe members of the mainstream foreign-policy establishment — government officials, academics, Council on Foreign Relations panelists, television talking heads and the like — who share a collective belief in the obligation of the United States to pursue an aggressive, interventionist policy in the post-9/11 world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen in this context as Blob-approved.

This foreign-policy philosophy has its origins in the post-World War II view of American exceptionalism, epitomized by officials like Dean G. Acheson, that U.S. military intervention in foreign conflicts was vital to defending American interests and generally did more good than harm. To the extent that the Blob holds this view, the Afghanistan withdrawal was a defeat for its position. For Blob critics, it was more fodder for discussing why the Blob gets things so wrong.

“Coming out of Afghanistan was a rebuke to, or the swan song of, the neoconservative approach, which had its heyday during the Iraq war,” said Vali R. Nasr, a professor of Middle East studies and international affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “After the first Iraq war, the United States developed a sense that the U.S. could basically engage in war, and help shape outcomes internationally, at little or no cost.’’

Former President George W. Bush positioned “a group of ragtag terrorists as America’s great strategic rival and an existential threat to the United States,” Mr. Nasr continued. “Even though the effort failed early on, it continued unimpeded and became fundamental to the Blob’s thinking post-9/11.”

ny times logoNew York Times, As Russians Vote, Resignation, Anger and Fear of a Post-Putin Unknown, Anton Troianovski, Photographs by Sergey Ponomarev, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Many say they are fed up with corruption and stagnant wages. But there’s fear that, as one man said, “if things start to change, there will be blood.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake candidates and jailed opposition: Russia’s parliament elections stack the cards for Putin, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). But even from prison, opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s “Smart Voting” app has the Kremlin uneasy.

Boris Vishnevsky is a slight man with thin graying hair, mournful eyes and a beard. He's running for parliament against Boris Vishnevsky, a slight man with thin gray hair, mournful eyes and a beard.

russian flagAlso on the ballot in Russia's State Duma elections: another Boris Vishnevsky, same hair, same beard, similar eyes.

The latter two Vishnevskys are fakes. They were created by rivals, at least one associated with President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, to peel votes off from the real Vishnevsky, an opposition candidate from the pro-democracy Yabloko party.

Russia’s parliamentary elections — taking place amid Putin’s withering crackdown on opposition — run Friday to Sunday and, to many Putin opponents, are another low-water mark for Russia’s post-Soviet democracy.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in jail. His electoral network has been banned, and its leaders have been arrested or have fled the country. Dozens of opposition candidates were barred or withdrew from their contests.

Sept. 16

Top Headlines

 

World Security, Climate Change

 

Virus Victims, Responses


More On Justice Probes, Courts

 

Personal Privacy / Security

 

Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection Probes

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance


U.S. Congress

 

World News

 

Trump Watch / U.S. Media

 

Top Stories

Former teen gymnastic stars Simone Biles, MyKala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, left to right, testify before Congress against sexual abuse and FBI indifference at a hearing on Sept. 15, 2021 (Pool photo by Saul Loeb via AFP).ol 9 15 21

Teen gymnastic stars Simone Biles, MyKala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, left to right, testify before Congress against sexual abuse and FBI indifference at a hearing on Sept. 15, 2021 (Pool photo by Saul Loeb via AFP, photographer also of Biles, below right).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biles and Other Gymnasts Rip F.B.I. for Botching Nassar Abuse Case, Juliet Macur, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). “I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system,” Simone Biles told senators in emotional testimony. The F.B.I. director apologized.

Sitting at a witness table alongside three of her former gymnastics teammates, Simone Biles broke down in tears while explaining to a Senate committee that she doesn’t want any more young people to experience the kind of suffering she endured at the hands of Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor.

simone biles saul loeb afp pool 9 15 21“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles, 24, said Wednesday as her mother, Nellie Biles, sat nearby, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Biles and hundreds of other girls and women — including a majority of the members of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics teams — were molested by Nassar, who is now serving what amounts to life in prison for multiple sex crimes. His serial molestation is at the center of one of the biggest child sex abuse cases in American history.

McKayla Maroney, an Olympian in 2012, also testified, describing in detail how Nassar repeatedly abused her, even at the London Games, where she won a gold medal. She said she survived a harrowing ordeal when she and Nassar were at a competition in Tokyo, certain she “was going to die that night because there was no way he was going to let me go.”

“That evening I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me, molesting me for hours,” she said.

In 2015, when Maroney was 19 years old and before she had even told her mother what Nassar had done, she described her abuse to an F.B.I. agent during a three-hour phone call from the floor of her bedroom. When she finished, Maroney said the agent asked, “Is that all?” She said she felt crushed by the lack of empathy.

“Not only did the F.B.I. not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney testified. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”

christopher wray oIn a remarkable turn, the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, right, acknowledged the agency’s mishandling of the case and apologized to the victims. He said the F.B.I. had fired an agent who was involved in the case early — the one who interviewed Maroney. It was the first time anyone at the agency had submitted to public questioning about the F.B.I.’s failure to properly investigate a sexual abuse case that shook the sports world to its core.

Wray, who became the F.B.I. director in 2017 said he was “heartsick and furious” when he heard that the F.B.I. had made so many errors in the case before he took charge of the agency.

“I’m sorry that so many people let you down again and again,” Wray said to the victims. “I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we are doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”

Wray said that one of the agents initially involved in the case, Michael Langeman, was fired two weeks ago. When asked why the case was mishandled in the first place, Wray said the agents had made many basic mistakes that clashed with how the F.B.I. usually conducts investigations.

“I don’t have a good explanation for you,” Wray said, later adding, “On no planet is what happened in this case acceptable.”

Wray said that as a result of the Nassar case the F.B.I. had strengthened its policies, procedures, systems and training, including emphasizing that agents report abuse cases to state and local law enforcement. He promised that steps in future investigations would be “quadruple checked” so that there was not “a single point of failure.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden comes to Milley’s defense after revelation top general, fearing Trump, conferred with China to avert war, Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner, Sept. 16, 2021. Critics of Gen. Mark Milley contend he should be removed as Joint Chiefs chairman after a new book disclosed the extent of his alarm that Trump might order a strike on China in the waning days of his presidency.

mark milley army chief of staffPresident Biden on Wednesday threw his full support behind the Pentagon’s top uniformed officer, right, who has come under fire after a new book revealed he privately conferred with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng, left, to avert armed conflict late in the Trump administration.

Gen. Li Zuocheng“I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden told reporters at the White House, following calls from former president Donald Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill for the removal of Gen. Mark A. Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Biden’s declaration, coinciding with efforts by the chief spokespersons for the White House and the Pentagon to stage a similar defense of the embattled general, effectively ends speculation that Milley’s assignment may be cut short. But the controversy surrounding his fitness for the job rages on — and thus far is falling mostly along party lines.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Newsom’s Anti-Trump Recall Strategy Offers G.O.P. a 2022 Warning, Jonathan Martin, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Gov. Gavin Newsom emphatically turned back the effort to recall him from office. A key factor in the results: the tribal politics of today. California Democrats were able to nationalize the vote — thanks to an avalanche of money, party discipline and, above all, an easily demonized opponent.

gavin newsom headshot CustomThe first-term Democratic governor will remain in office because, in a deeply liberal state, he effectively nationalized the recall effort as a Republican plot, making a flame-throwing radio host the Trump-like face of the opposition to polarize the electorate along red and blue lines.

Mr. Newsom, right, found success not because of what makes California different but because of how it’s like everywhere else: He dominated in California’s heavily populated Democratic cities, the key to victory in a state where his party outnumbers Republicans by five million voters.

“Gavin may have been on a high wire, but he was wearing a big, blue safety harness,” said Mike Murphy, a California-based Republican strategist.

The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office, at least when the strategy is executed with unrelenting discipline, an avalanche of money and an opponent who plays to type.

 

World Security, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, From snub to subs: Will new deal improve strained U.S.-Australia relations? Michael E. Miller, Sept. 16, 2021.The announcement Wednesday that the United States will share highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia as part of a new defense alliance came with a sense of whiplash down under, where just a few weeks ago some analysts were wondering if the relationship was wobbling.

scott morrison 2016President Biden’s decision not to dial Prime Minister Scott Morrison, right, until two days after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan stung in Australia.

But the surprise submarine deal between the two countries and Britain signals a strengthening of the already close U.S.-Australian military partnership, and may pave the way for a thawing of the so-far frosty relationship between the two leaders ahead of a meeting next week, australian flag wavingexperts said.

U.S. will share nuclear submarine technology with Australia as part of new alliance, a direct challenge to China

“I don’t think it’s too much to say it’s turning a page in the relationship,” said Eric Sayers, an ​​expert in Asia-Pacific security policy at the American Enterprise Institute. The Biden administration had “fumbled” communication with allies including Australia during the Afghanistan withdrawal, he said, but the message behind the new alliance was clear.

washington post logoWashington Post, China accuses new U.S.-Australian submarine deal of stoking arms race, threatening regional peace, Lily Kuo, Sept. 16, 2021. China on Thursday slammed a decision by the United States and Britain to share sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia, a move seen as a direct challenge to Beijing and its growing military ambitions.

After President Biden’s announcement on Wednesday of a new defense alliance, to be known as AUKUS, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian described the agreement as “extremely irresponsible” while Chinese state media warned Australia that it was now an “adversary” of China and should “prepare for the worst.”

At a regular news briefing in Beijing, Zhao said the alliance “seriously undermined regional peace and stability, aggravated the arms race and hurt international nonproliferation efforts.”

ny times logoNew York Times, France Is Outraged by U.S. Nuclear Submarine Deal With Australia, Roger Cohen, Sept. 16, 2021. French officials accused President Biden of acting like his predecessor, saying they were not consulted and describing it as a “knife in the back.” The indignation reflected the fact that France had its own, now-collapsed deal to provide Australia with less technologically sophisticated submarines.

France reacted with fury on Thursday to President Biden’s announcement of a deal to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines, calling it a “unilateral, French Flagbrutal, unpredictable decision” that resembled the rash and sudden policy shifts common during the Trump administration.

The angry words from Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, in an interview with Franceinfo radio, followed an official statement from him and Florence Parly, the minister of the Armed Forces, calling “the American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France” a “regrettable decision” that “shows a lack of coherence.”

The degree of French anger recalled the acrimonious rift in 2003 between Paris and Washington over the Iraq war and involved language not seen since then. “This is not done between allies,” Mr. Le Drian said. His specific comparison of President Biden to his predecessor appeared certain to infuriate the American president.

His indignation reflected the fact that France had its own deal with Australia, reached in 2016, to provide it with conventional, less technologically sophisticated submarines. That $66 billion deal has now collapsed, but a harsh legal battle over the contract appears inevitable.

“A knife in the back,” Mr. Le Drian said of the Australian decision, noting that Australia was rejecting a deal for a strategic partnership that involved “a lot of technological transfers and a contract for a 50-year period.”

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Shifting military alliances to gain the literal "high ground," Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books, frequent commentator on national security issues and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Sept. 16, 2021. Geopolitics have been affected but not halted by wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe Covid pandemic.

The September 15 announcement of a new military concordat between the United States, Britain, and Australia that will see nuclear submarine technology transferred to Australia by Washington and London is but one of several shifting strategies on the international chessboard aimed primarily at China's growing influence.

The hurried pace of new and refurbished alliances has little to with China's growing politico-military or economic clout and everything to do with another global peril -- the increasing impact of climate change.

Global military competition is no longer fixated on islands and maritime regions. Instead, military planners are looking to secure the high ground as a refuge for highly-populated cities that are already seeing the effects of torrential rains and rising seas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden launches fresh push for trillions in additional spending, Tyler Pager and Tony Romm, Sept. 16, 2021. The president’s pitch Thursday was part of a pivot away from the first chapter of his presidency, in which Washington and his administration were consumed by emergency funding measures to combat the pandemic.

Six months after signing a massive economic stimulus package into law, President Biden on Thursday embarked on a fresh push for trillions of dollars in additional spending, attempting to pivot from an emergency posture to advancing a long-term liberal vision of government.

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden heralded the return of jobs and other recent economic gains, which he attributed to a combination of federal relief efforts and the arrival of effective coronavirus vaccines. But he stressed the need for even deeper, lasting policy changes to ease the hardships that many Americans have faced since long before the coronavirus took hold.

“This pandemic has been god-awful for so many reasons,” Biden said. “But it does present us with an opportunity. We can build an economy that gives working people a fair shot this time. We can restore some sanity and fairness to our tax code. We can make the investments that we know are long overdue in this nation.”

Democrats prepare for next phase of budget fight

Biden’s pitch marked an important political inflection point: Even as the pandemic simmers, the battered U.S. economy is still much healthier than it was at the start of his presidency, when millions more were out of work and businesses nationwide lay dormant. The improved tail winds have allowed Biden to pivot and pursue a dramatic expansion of the country’s social safety net, chiefly through a series of new spending proposals that would be paid for by tax hikes on wealthy Americans and profitable corporations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing, Arelis Hernández and Nick Miroff, Sept. 16, 2021. Authorities in Del Rio, Tex., say more than 8,000 people have arrived at an impromptu camp, and they are expecting thousands more — numbers that are overwhelming Customs and Border Protection capacity.

Thousands of Haitian migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande since Tuesday are sleeping outdoors under a border bridge in South Texas, creating a humanitarian emergency and a logistical challenge U.S. agents describe as unprecedented.

Authorities in Del Rio say more than 8,000 migrants have arrived at the impromptu camp, and they are expecting more in the coming days. The sudden influx has presented the Biden administration with a new border emergency at a time when illegal crossings have reached a 20-year high and Department of Homeland Security officials are straining to accommodate and resettle more than 60,000 Afghan evacuees.

The migrants arriving to Del Rio appear to be part of a larger wave of Haitians heading northward, many of whom arrived in Brazil and other South American nations after the 2010 earthquake. They are on the move again, embarking on a grueling, dangerous journey to the United States with smuggling organizations managing the trip, according to border authorities and refugee groups.

More than 29,000 Haitians have arrived over the past 11 months, the latest Customs and Border Protection figures show, including some in mixed-nationality families with children born in Brazil, Chile or other South American nations.

They have trekked through the jungles of Panama’s Darien Gap, navigated migrant camps and criminal gangs in Central America and dodged border guards and troops along the highways of southern Mexico. Many say the economic toll of the pandemic pushed them to leave, while others say a more welcoming U.S. administration has offered them a fleeting opportunity to reach the United States.

“I see brave people who instead of being trapped by conformity chose to find a better life,” said Wendy Guillaumetre, 31, who spent four years in Chile before setting out with his wife and 3-year-old daughter for the United States. “They are courageous,” he said. “Conditions are too hard in Haiti.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Expands Inquiry Into Climate Disinformation by Oil Giants, Hiroko Tabuchi, Sept. 16, 2021. Executives from Exxon, Shell, BP and others are being called to testify after a secret recording exposed an Exxon official boasting of such efforts.

The House Oversight Committee has widened its inquiry into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.

The move comes as Washington is wrestling with major climate legislation intended to slash the nation’s reliance on oil and gas, and in a year of climate disasters that have affected millions of Americans. Raging wildfires in the West burned more than two million acres, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States left a path of destruction from Louisiana to New York City, and heat waves smashed records and delivered life-threatening conditions to regions unaccustomed to extreme heat.

Thursday’s demands from the powerful Oversight Committee put senior executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies at the center of an investigation into the role their industry has played in undermining the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hospitals in crisis as Idaho rations care, Bryan Pietsch and Annabelle Timsit, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Coronavirus fears play major role in Newsom recall election.

Health officials in Idaho said Tuesday that hospitals in parts of the state may soon get the green light to start rationing health care amid a sharp rise in covid-19 cases and lackluster coronavirus vaccination uptake, joining two other districts that activated crisis standards of care last week.

Covid-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated, are flooding Idaho hospitals, and as a result, the Panhandle and North Central health districts of Idaho said they would not be able to provide the same level of health care for patients who don’t have the virus in at least 10 hospitals as of Sept. 7 due to a shortage of staff and beds.

Officials now say hospitals in the Boise-Nampa and Magic Valley regions could be next as Idaho, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates among states, recorded a 44 percent average increase in covid-19 deaths over the past week.

Hospitals across the United States are at a breaking point. At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense recently deployed 20-person teams of military medical personnel to support health-care staff in Idaho and Arkansas, after doing the same in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. In large states like Florida and Texas, 89.2 and 92.1 percent of ICU beds are in use, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And Alaska’s largest hospital has started rationing care and implemented crisis standards amid a surge in cases there, the Associated Press reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, California is seeing covid-19 cases drop. Has the state turned the tide on the delta variant? Derek Hawkins and Jacqueline Dupree, Sept. 16, 2021. Experts say the state’s embrace of vaccines, masks and other public health measures has helped it contain the highly transmissible variant.

washington post logoWashington Post, 1 in 500 Americans have died of covid-19 in another grim pandemic milestone, Dan Keating and Akilah Johnson, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Death rates for those in the prime of life have been lower than those for older Americans, but racial inequities have grown larger, with a disproportionate burden on Black, Latino, and American Indian and Alaska Native people.

The idea, he said, was to prevent “the humanitarian disaster” that occurred in New York City, where ambulance sirens were a constant as hospitals were overwhelmed and mortuaries needed mobile units to handle the additional dead.
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The goal of testing, mask-wearing, keeping six feet apart and limiting gatherings was to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus until a vaccine could stamp it out. The vaccines came but not enough people have been immunized, and the triumph of science waned as mass death and disease remain. The result: As the nation’s covid death toll exceeded 663,000 this week, it meant roughly 1 in every 500 Americans had succumbed to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

People older than 85 make up only 2 percent of the population, but a quarter of the total death toll. One in 35 people 85 or older died of covid, compared with 1 in 780 people age 40 to 64

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of LAPD employees seek vaccine exemptions, police officials sue city over mandate, Timothy Bella, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Thousands of Los Angeles Police Department employees are planning to seek exemptions from getting vaccinated against the coronavirus after a group of police officials filed a federal lawsuit against the city over its vaccine and mask mandate.

washington post logoWashington Post, This pastor will sign a religious exemption for vaccines if you donate to his church, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). A pastor is encouraging people to donate to his Tulsa church so they can become an online member and get his signature on a religious exemption from coronavirus vaccine mandates. The pastor, Jackson Lahmeyer, is a 29-year-old small-business owner running in the Republican primary challenge to Sen. James Lankford in 2022.

Lahmeyer, who leads Sheridan Church with his wife, Kendra, said Tuesday that in the past two days, about 30,000 people have downloaded the religious exemption form he created.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “My phone and my emails have blown up.”

The rules around religious exemptions for coronavirus vaccines vary widely as each state or institution often has its own exemption forms for people to sign. Experts on religious freedom claims say that most people do not necessarily need a letter from clergy for a religious exemption

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Publishes First Analysis of Pfizer Booster Shot Application, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). The analysis comes amid significant disagreement about the need for boosters between career scientists and top health officials. Here’s the latest on Covid.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday offered the first public look at Pfizer’s application for a booster coronavirus shot, two days before an outside advisory committee of experts is scheduled to meet to recommend whether or not the agency should approve the company’s request.

pfizer logoIt also comes amid significant disagreement about the need for boosters between career scientists at the agency and top Biden health officials, who have already started planning a broad booster campaign for this fall.

In a 23-page document reviewing the company’s application, regulators examined safety and immune response data on roughly 300 adults who received a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine six months after their second dose, finding an increased immune response in study participants, even as they said that coronavirus vaccines were holding up powerfully against severe forms of Covid-19. There were no serious safety concerns associated with the booster injection, the regulators reported.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 16, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds:

World Cases: 227,387,581, Deaths: 4,676,271
U.S. Cases:    42,479,780, Deaths:     685,023
India Cases:    33,347,325, Deaths:     443,960
Brazil Cases:   21,034,610, Deaths:    588,640

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 210.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 16, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 180.1 million people, or 54.1 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Just Disheartening’: Schools Face a Shortage of Essential Workers, Giulia Heyward, Sept. 16, 2021. Just weeks into the new year, U.S. schools are struggling to fill jobs. Low pay, few benefits and erratic schedules are keeping workers away.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker is activating the National Guard to help with the shortage in bus drivers. In North Carolina, legislators are hoping to ease a cafeteria worker shortage by giving districts federal funding to cover signing bonuses for new hires. And some Missouri districts are wiping away some of the requirements to become a substitute teacher to attract more applicants.

Across the country, school districts are desperate to fill jobs. Some are struggling to retain counselors, teachers and principals, but a more urgent need seems to be for employees who have traditionally operated behind the scenes — cafeteria workers, bus drivers and substitute teachers — according to Chip Slaven, interim director for the National School Boards Association.

hunter pepperDaily Beast, Unvaxed Teen Councilman Who Attacked Mask Mandates Now Battling ‘Terrible’ COVID Pneumonia, Zoe Richards, Sept. 16, 2021. Hunter Pepper, a 19-year-old council member who vowed to “fight to the end” against a mask mandate in Decatur, Alabama, revealed he’s been hospitalized with shallow breathing.

A teenage city council member in Morgan County, Alabama, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday after railing against mask mandates said he’s now battling coronavirus-related pneumonia in the hospital.

daily beast logo“I am still shallow in breathing but my oxygen remains okay for now,” Decatur City Councilman Hunter Pepper, 19, right, wrote on Facebook Thursday. He received a CT scan on Wednesday night that confirmed he has COVID pneumonia, “which is absolutely terrible,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, Pepper—who’s repeatedly slammed mask mandates and refused to get vaccinated— said that he took two rapid tests and a PCR test for the coronavirus after he started to feel sick on Monday.

“Well, it has finally happened to me. Unfortunately, this morning I have confirmed two positive [tests] for Covid-19,” Pepper wrote Wednesday on Facebook. Everything In me wants to tell myself it is something different but every way I look it’s ‘Covid this, Covid that’ and it has terrified me and my family.”

Pepper wrote that he was “terrified” by the way that the media “continues to report on Covid-19 and explains ‘Death’ each time they do,” adding that he has “faith in the lord.”

“Maybe this will clear up soon and the symptoms of this sickness shall not progress as I can tell you, it feels terrible not to be able to breathe.”

He later told the Decatur Daily News that he had begun to show a “massive amount of symptoms” of the virus on Wednesday and that his oxygen levels were “holding a little well, and I don’t feel good at all.”

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More On Justice Department'Investigations

 

mckayla maroney saul loeb pool reuters

U.S Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 2021 (Saul Loeb/POOL via Reuters).

ABC News, McKayla Maroney's gut-wrenching statement to Congress about FBI's handling of Nassar abuse, Staff edits, Sept. 15, 2021 (7:51 min. video).  "They had legal, abc news logolegitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing," she said.

Introduction: Gymnast McKayla Maroney testified to Congress about the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar case. Nassar, a former doctor, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of hundreds of women and girls. Maroney, a 2012 Olympic medalist, has said Nassar repeatedly abused her. The Justice Department's inspector general said in a report the FBI's investigation included major missteps. This is a transcript of Maroney's opening statement to Congress.

Good morning. Thank you Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and members of the Judiciary Committee for inviting me to speak today.

As most of you are probably aware, I was molested by the U.S. Gymnastics national team and Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar. In actuality he turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.

What I'm trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal. After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.

After reading the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) report, I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others.

My story is one in which special agent in charge Jay Abbott and his subordinates did not want you to hear, and it's time that I tell you.

In the summer of 2015, like I said, I was scheduled to speak to the FBI about my abuse with Larry Nassar over the phone. I was too sick to go meet with anyone in person, and talking about this abuse would give me PTSD for days, but I chose to try to speak about it to try to make a difference and protect others.

I remember sitting on my bedroom floor for nearly three hours as I told them what happened to me. I hadn't even told my own mother about these facts, but I thought as uncomfortable and as hard as it was to tell my story, I was going to make a difference and hopefully protecting others from the same abuse.

I answered all of their questions honestly and clearly, and I disclosed all of my molestations I had endured by Nassar to them in extreme detail.

They told me to start from the beginning. I told them about the sport of gymnastics, how you make the national team and how I came to meet Larry Nassar when I was 13 at a Texas camp. I told them that the first thing Larry Nassar ever said to me was to change into shorts with no underwear because that would make it easier for him to work on me, and within minutes, he had his fingers in my vagina.

The FBI then immediately asked, "Did he insert his fingers into your rectum?"

I said, "No, he never did."

They asked if he used gloves.

I said, "No, he never did."

They asked if this treatment ever helped me.

I said, "No, it never did. This treatment was 100% abuse and never gave me any relief."

I then told the FBI about Tokyo, the day he gave me a sleeping pill for the plane ride to then work on me later that night. That evening, I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me molesting me for hours. I told them I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go. But he did. I told them I walked the halls of Tokyo hotel at 2 a.m., at only 15 years old.

I began crying at the memory over the phone, and there was just dead silence. I was so shocked at the agent's silence and disregard for my trauma.

After that minute of silence he asked, "Is that all?"

Those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me. To have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me, just to feel like my abuse was not enough.

But the truth is my abuse was enough, and they wanted to cover it up. USA Gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic Committee were working together to conceal that Larry Nassar was a predator.

I then proceeded to tell them about London and how he'd sign me up last on his sheet so he could molest me for hours twice a day. I told them how he molested me right before I won my team gold medal, how he gave me presents, bought me caramel macchiatos and bread when I was hungry. I even sent them screenshots of Nassar's last text to me, which was, "McKayla, I love how you see the world with rose-colored glasses. I hope you continue to do so."

This was very clear, cookie-cutter pedophilia and abuse. And this is important because I told the FBI all of this and they chose to falsify my report and to not only minimize my abuse but silence me yet again.

I thought given the severity of the situation that they would act quickly for the sake of protecting other girls. But instead, it took them 14 months to report anything when Larry Nassar, in my opinion, should have been in jail that day. The FBI, USOC and USAG sat idly by as dozens of girls and women continued to be molested by Larry Nassar.

According to the OIG report, about 14 months after I disclosed my abuse to the FBI -- nearly a year and a half later -- the FBI agent who interviewed me in 2015 decided to write down my statement, a statement that the OIG report determined to be materially false.

Let's be honest: by not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year, and this inaction directly allowed Nassar's abuse to continue.

What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?

They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing. If they're not going to protect me, I want to know, who are they trying to protect?

What's even more upsetting to me is that we know that these FBI agents have committed an obvious crime. They falsified my statement, and that is illegal in itself.

Yet no recourse has been taken against them -- the Department of Justice refused to prosecute these individuals. Why? Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco couldn't even bring herself to be here today, and it is the Department of Justice's job to hold them accountable.

I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough, and we deserve justice.

These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nassar for over a year.

To not indict these agents is disservice to me and my teammates; it is a disservice to the system, which was built to protect all of us from abuse; it was a disservice to every victim who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke up.

Why are public servants whose job is to protect getting away with this? This is not justice. Enough is enough. Today, I ask you all to hear my voice.

I ask you, please, do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report and for covering up for a child molester.

In closing, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the United States Senate, a very powerful institution that from the very beginning has fought for us rather than against us. Thank you and I welcome any questions.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). An FBI agent accused of failing to properly investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and lying about it later — has been fired by the FBI, days before a high-stakes public hearing into the bureau’s flawed investigation of the child sex-abuse case involving Simone Biles and other world-famous gymnasts.

FBI logoMichael Langeman, who as a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office interviewed gymnast McKayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.

A July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz harshly criticized Langeman — without naming him — as well as his Justice Department log circularformer boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to inspector general investigators when confronted with those failures.

IG report: FBI failed to pursue Nassar sex abuse allegations

At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent — a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. FBI firings are relatively rare; most investigators facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.

BradCast, Commentary: Sen. Whitehouse Presses FBI Director Wray on Whitewash of Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Probe, Brad Friedman, Sept. 16, 2021. If there's one guy you really don't want vowing to dog you, it may be Rhode Island's Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, easily one of the most persistent Senators in the upper chamber. If you're Trump's FBI Director or, especially, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, that's probably not good news. But it's just one of the stories covered on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

After the well-publicized testimony of U.S. gymnasts in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, regarding the FBI's years-long failure to adequately investigate hundreds of allegations of sexual assault against now-convicted team physician Larry Nassar, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse had a few related questions for Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray about another similarly flubbed investigation --- perhaps more accurately described as a Trump Administration/FBI cover-up --- regarding serious allegations of sexual assault against a young girl by a now sitting Supreme Court Justice.

After alleged sexual assaulter Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's second nominee to be packed onto the U.S. Supreme Court by Republicans, Whitehouse vowed to Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh's main accuser, that he would get to the bottom of the FBI's clearly whitewashed pre-confirmation "background check" probe of Kavanaugh. It's three years later and Whitehouse has not forgotten. As he explained while pressing Wray during Wednesday's hearing, he has been waiting all of that time for answers and documents from the FBI. He made clear to Wray that he will not stop until he gets them. As evidenced by his nearly ten years of weekly "Time to Wake Up" climate addresses on the floor of the U.S. Senate, the Rhode Island Senator does not back down easily.

washington post logoWashington Post, Durham grand jury indicts lawyer whose firm represented Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 16, 2021. A grand jury working with special counsel John Durham’s office handed up an indictment Thursday of lawyer Michael Sussmann, who prosecutors have accused of making false statements to the FBI during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sussmann, the indictment charges, “lied about the capacity in which he was providing ... allegations to the FBI” of potenmichael sussmann perkins youngertial cyber links between a Russian bank and a company owned by former president Donald Trump.

An attorney at Perkins Coie, a prominent law firm tied to the Democratic party, Sussmann, right, had been bracing for possible indictment.

  • Read the indictment: U.S. v. Michael Sussmann

Charging him marks a strange twist in the special counsel’s probe championed by Trump and his Republican allies, and which to date has resulted in a single conviction of a low-level FBI lawyer.

john durham CustomDurham, right, was tasked with finding crimes that may have been committed at the FBI and elsewhere in the federal government, but in charging Sussmann, the special counsel is in essence arguing that the FBI was the victim of a crime.

In a statement issued Wednesday, ahead of the indictment, lawyers for Sussmann insisted their client committed no crime.

“Michael Sussmann is a highly respected national security and cyber security lawyer, who served the U.S. Department of Justice during Democratic and Republican administrations alike,” his lawyers Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said in a joint statement. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work. We are confident that if Mr. Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name.”

Durham grand jury examines if anyone presented false evidence to FBI

In recent months, Durham’s team has questioned witnesses about how the allegation of a possible digital tie between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank Justice Department log circularwas presented to the FBI. Durham also has examined the authenticity of data given to the FBI.

Durham is pursuing a prosecutorial theory that Sussmann was secretly representing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which was a client of Sussmann’s firm, these people said.

It was not immediately clear how an individual lying to the FBI’s top lawyer would square with the Justice Department’s historical practice of charging false-statements cases. Typically, such cases are charged when a witness knowingly lies to a special agent conducting an investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr’s last hurrah just flopped, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 16, 2021. Even as most of the media spent two years portraying Attorney General Bill bill palmerBarr as an all-powerful villain with an evil magic wand who got his way on everything, Palmer Report kept factually pointing out that almost none of Barr’s antics ever got him (or Donald Trump) anywhere.

Case in point: Barr tasked U.S. Attorney John Durham with investigating the “origins” of Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe. At the time, we pointed out that this wouldn’t go anywhere, and that it wouldn’t have any political impact because no one outside Trump’s base would care anyway. Sure enough, it had zero impact on the 2020 election.

bill palmer report logo headerStill, even after Trump and Barr were gone from office, alarmists insisted that Trump was somehow magically going to “get away with it all” because incoming Attorney General Merrick Garland didn’t immediately wave a magic wand and make the Durham probe go away. Of course nothing works that way. Now Durham has apparently wrapped up his probe, with the whimper of a single indictment against someone you’ve never heard of, for having given inconsistent testimony to federal investigators in 2016. Big whoop.

In other words, the Durham probe turned out to be precisely the legal and political non-event that we said it would be. Merrick Garland made the right move by quietly letting it die of its own accord. And it’s the latest reminder that Bill Barr’s simplistic antics never did get him anywhere. As with most of Barr’s moves, the Durham probe was simply to impress Trump, and it was never actually going to help Trump.

Of course Donald Trump’s base will point to this one irrelevant indictment as “proof” that the Trump-Russia investigation was some kind of evil plot against Trump. But none of that matters one bit, because no one in the real world listens to the hysterically conspiratorial ramblings of Trump’s base. As for Bill Barr, the Durham probe was his last remaining hurrah, and it turned out – as usual – to be a flop.

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly Pressed Victims to Write Letters Absolving Him, Prosecutors Say, Emily Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. Many of Kelly’s accusers say he pressured them to write letters that said he was innocent of the sexual abuse that they now say he committed.

r kelly twitterFive months after R. Kelly’s 2019 arrest, federal agents searching a locked safe in a Chicago storage facility discovered a stack of the singer’s personal papers in protective sleeves. Among them: a seven-page handwritten letter from a woman who began living with Mr. Kelly when she was 17.

Calling Mr. Kelly, right, a “great man,” the woman wrote: “At the age of 17 I never had sex with Robert Kelly,” then proceeded to tick off a list of specific sex acts that she said she had not participated in with the R&B superstar.

But less than two years later, when the woman who had written the letter testified under a pseudonym during Mr. Kelly’s federal trial in Brooklyn, she said she had experienced coerced and recorded sexual encounters with the singer starting when she was 17. He hit her often, she said, and forced her to abort a pregnancy.

The letters that investigators found, she said, had been filled with lies, written under pressure from Mr. Kelly in an effort to conceal his abuse.

Again and again during Mr. Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn, women who have accused him of abuse have shared the same curious detail: While they were sexually involved with the singer, they have testified, he had them prepare letters that appeared designed to exonerate him from precisely the accusations they are now leveling against him.

Mr. Kelly, who has been trailed by sexual misconduct accusations for years, appeared to be attempting to ward off prosecution, or laying the foundation for an eventual defense. Instead, the letters have been presented by prosecutors as evidence of coercion and manipulation that even suggest he long knew his activities could land him behind bars.

Every letter introduced by prosecutors at trial came from Mr. Kelly’s own collection, discovered in the storage facility and his Chicago apartment, signed by women who now are at the heart of the case against him.

washington post logoNew York Times, Opinion: Governors Shouldn’t Be the Only Ones Responsible for a Person’s Freedom, John J. Lennon (Mr. Lennon, a contributing editor for Esquire, has been incarcerated since 2002), Sept. 16, 2021.

In New York State, the governor has the power to grant clemency to prisoners in the form of reprieves, commutations and pardons, at her “sole discretion.” (Parole is handled by a separate entity.) A pardon wipes out a conviction, while a commutation reduces a sentence. Just before stepping down, Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted executive clemency to Bobby Ehrenberg (who killed a Long Island jewelry store owner during a 1992 robbery) and nine others. Bobby’s term was commuted, and he would soon walk free.

But many of us are perplexed about clemency. Who deserves mercy? Can we earn it? If our victims won’t forgive us, will a governor? And why should mercy fall on the grace of the governor alone?

In Mr. Cuomo’s decade in office, he granted a total of 41 commutations. He left a heaping pile of petitions for his replacement, Kathy Hochul, to sort out: a total of 3,682 commutation and pardon applications have been filed since the beginning of 2020, according to the state corrections department.

 

More On Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: A Secretive Summit That Trump Attended in December of 2020 May Explain Both Trump's Role in the January 6 seth abramson graphicInsurrection and Why Both CJCS Milley and China Feared Trump Would Start a War, Seth Abramson (left, attorney, professor, Newsweek columnist, metajournalist, and New York Times bestselling author), Sept. 16, 2021.

Introduction: On December 27, 2020, fresh off receiving one of the most controversial presidential pardons in U.S. history—from then-president Donald Trump, the very man he had committed federal felonies to protect—Roger Stone traveled to Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach to “thank[ ]” his patron and criminal co-conspirator.

seth abramson proof logoOnly a few U.S. media outlets covered the astonishingly brazen meeting at the time, and surprisingly that didn’t change nine days later—when a “movement” co-led by Stone, Stop the Steal, coordinated with the 2020 Trump Campaign in a sequence of events resulting in armed insurrection and a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Back in December 2020, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported on the meeting in a way that should have, but didn’t, lead to it becoming a focus of sustained national attention: per the paper, Stone went to see Trump on December 27 not just to “deliver a personal thank you to the president” but also, critically, to “counsel the president on how he could ‘ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.’” This was during the same period that, as Proof has reported, Stone recorded a video seeking donations for arms and armor for Proud Boys and Oath Keepers planning to travel to Washington on January 6—the precise conduct Proud Boy “sergeant-at-arms” and Stone associate Ethan Nordean would later be arrested for.

So there can be no doubt that when Stone met Trump just nine days before January 6 to discuss how that day could lead to an overturning of the November 2020 election, Stone’s focus was on the Stop the Steal–cosponsored March to Save America that he was personally involved in coordinating at a logistical as well as strategic level.

The Sun-Sentinel report noted that, after posting a picture of (and commentary upon) the strange golf club meeting on Parler, Stone subsequently thought better of it and deleted all reference to the event on the far-right social media platform. At the time, he claimed it was to honor a policy supposedly in place at Trump’s golf club to prevent guests from posting pictures of the club; journalists have not yet been able to verify that any such policy exists, and a Google Image search certainly suggests it doesn’t (especially when the photograph promotes Donald Trump in any way). In any case, Stone had by then deleted not only photos of the meeting but also any reference to it on social media—and thereafter would refuse to discuss it with journalists. It did not, therefore, seem like a reticence related to an eldritch country club photography policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The potential trouble with Jan. 6 defendant prosecutions, Amber Phillips, Sept. 16, 2021.  As far-right groups prepare to come back to the Capitol on Saturday, prosecutors may have hit a speed bump with some of the more serious charges against Jan. 6 defendants.

D.C. and Capitol police are preparing for a rally Saturday with potentially hundreds of people in support of defendants who are jailed or facing charges over their actions on Jan. 6.

The protest comes as federal prosecutors move on from charging people who stormed the Capitol with smaller crimes to prosecuting those they say committed the most egregious ones, such as inciting people to intimidate and commit violence against elected officials.

But now those prosecutors may have run into a problem with their legal strategy.

At least two federal judges have questioned the main charge prosecutors are using to try to go after more than 200 people involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, to obstruct “any official proceeding” of Congress, reports The Post’s Spencer S. Hsu.

But legal experts who spoke to The Fix say there’s still hope for prosecutors’ main legal avenue to punish some of the most prominent Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Here’s what’s going on.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here come the January 6th superseding indictments, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. “They’ve gotten away with it all!” It’s the rallying cry of defeatists everywhere who are so eager to feel outrage, they’ve baselessly convinced themselves that the January 6th attackers are off the hook. Meanwhile back in the real world, the indictments continue to come down – and now we’re getting into superseding indictments.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, prosecutors handed down superseding indictments today against Capitol attackers Ronald Sandlin and Nathaniel DeGrave, who had already been hit with lesser January 6th charges. It’s a reminder that as the evidence continues to add up, and people start cutting plea deals and ratting each other out, the indictments are continuing to get more serious.

The criminal indictments in relation to January 6th are still just getting started. That’s a fact made clear by the evidence. How high up will these indictments go, and will they reach the likes of Roger Stone and Donald Trump? We’ll see. But the narrative that they’ve “gotten away with it all” is simply fiction.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ohio House Republican, Calling Trump ‘a Cancer,’ Bows Out of 2022, Jonathan Martin, Sept. 16, 2021. Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, is the first of the group to retire rather than face a stiff primary challenge.

Calling former President Donald J. Trump “a cancer for the country,” Representative Anthony Gonzalez, Republican of Ohio, said in an interview on Thursday that he would not run for re-election in 2022, ceding his seat after just two terms in Congress rather than compete against a Trump-backed primary opponent.

anthony gonzalezMr. Gonzalez, right, is the first, but perhaps not the last, of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to retire rather than face ferocious primaries next year in a party still in thrall to the former president.

The congressman, who has two young children, emphasized that he was leaving in large part because of family considerations and the difficulties that come with living between two cities. But he made clear that the strain had only grown worse since his impeachment vote, after which he was deluged with threats and feared for the safety of his wife and children.

Mr. Gonzalez said that quality-of-life issues had been paramount in his decision. He recounted an “eye-opening” moment this year: when he and his family were greeted at the Cleveland airport by two uniformed police officers, part of extra security precautions taken after the impeachment vote.

“That’s one of those moments where you say, ‘Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?’” he said.

Mr. Gonzalez, who turns 37 on Saturday, was the sort of Republican recruit the party once prized. A Cuban American who starred as an Ohio State wide receiver, he was selected in the first round of the N.F.L. draft and then earned an M.B.A. at Stanford after his football career was cut short by injuries. He claimed his Northeast Ohio seat in his first bid for political office.

Mr. Gonzalez, a conservative, largely supported the former president’s agenda. Yet he started breaking with Mr. Trump and House Republican leaders when they sought to block the certification of last year’s presidential vote, and he was horrified by Jan. 6 and its implications.

Still, he insisted he could have prevailed in what he acknowledged would have been a “brutally hard primary” against Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide who was endorsed by the former president in February.

Yet as Mr. Gonzalez sat on a couch in his House office, most of his colleagues still at home for the prolonged summer recess, he acknowledged that he could not bear the prospect of winning if it meant returning to a Trump-dominated House Republican caucus.

“Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now,” he said. “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”

For the Ohioan, Jan. 6 was “a line-in-the-sand moment” and Mr. Trump represents nothing less than a threat to American democracy.

“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.”

 

Personal Privacy / Security

microsoft logo Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Microsoft is going password-free for consumer accounts, Sept. 16, 2021. You’ve got a lot of passwords to keep track of for your online bank account, insurance company, social media profiles and even your kid’s school software. But starting today, your Microsoft account doesn’t have to be one of them.

The company said Wednesday that it is officially retiring written passwords for personal accounts, including Outlook, OneDrive and Family Safety. Corporate accounts have been eligible for password-free sign-on since March.

The change comes as the entire IT industry rethinks its decades-long reliance on “shared secret” passwords — or the kind you have to remember. People have a tendency to lose and forget them, creating extra costs and headaches for companies and customers alike.

“We know people hate passwords,” Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of security, compliance and identity, said in an emailed statement. “Thirty percent of people said they just have stopped using an account or service they were trying to log into rather than deal with a password reset. I’ve even done that. Imagine the shopping carts, memberships or accounts that have been abandoned because of password issues.”

pennsylvania map major cities

washington post logoWashington Post, Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers approve wide-ranging subpoenas for personal information of 2020 voters, Elise Viebeck and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania on Wednesday approved subpoenas for a wide range of data and personal information on voters, advancing a probe of the 2020 election in a key battleground state former president Donald Trump has repeatedly targeted with baseless claims of fraud.

The move drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats who described the effort as insecure and unwarranted and said they would consider mounting a court fight. Among other requests, Republicans are seeking the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called Wednesday’s vote “merely another step to undermine democracy, confidence in our elections and to capitulate to Donald tom wolf o CustomTrump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.”

Wolf, right, added in a statement, “Election security is not a game and should not be treated with such carelessness. Senate Republican[s] should be ashamed of their latest attempt to destabilize our election system through a sham investigation that will unnecessarily cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

But Sen. Cris Dush, the Republican chairman of the committee that approved the subpoena, argued during the hearing that the information is needed because “there have been questions regarding the validity of people who have voted — whether or not they exist.”

“Again, we are not responding to proven allegations. We are investigating the allegations to determine whether or not they are factual,” he said, adding that the vetting process for outside vendors will be “rigorous.”

Judges, including on the Pennsylvania and U.S. Supreme Courts, have denied bids by Trump and his allies to overturn President Biden’s win in the state or invalidate millions of ballots.

Yet in Pennsylvania and other battleground states, Republican legislators have bowed to pressure from Trump and his base to investigate the results, despite a consensus among judges, election officials and experts that there was no widespread fraud in the election.

In Wisconsin, protesters gathered at the state Capitol last week to call for a ballot review like the one conducted in Arizona and push for an examination of voting machines. As of late last month, multiple reviews were ongoing in the state — including one by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and one led by former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman, whose approach recently raised fresh concerns with some election clerks.

In Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Wednesday, the Intergovernmental Operations Committee voted 7 to 4 to subpoena Wolf’s administration after a testy debate. In addition to voters’ records, the subpoenas for the Pennsylvania Department of State also request all guidance issued to counties, as well as communications between the Department of State and county election officials, for the period covering the two votes.

Wednesday’s party-line vote advanced the GOP probe, which state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R) has promised will be a “full forensic investigation” of the 2020 election.

After the vote, Corman sought to allay fears that Pennsylvania voter information could be vulnerable if obtained by the committee.

“Every necessary step will be taken to ensure this information is secure, including making any vendor personnel sign non-disclosure agreements to make sure the data are protected under penalty of law,” he said in a statement.

Republicans also emphasized that the subpoena would not seek information about voters’ party affiliation. But Dush declined to answer further questions from Democrats, including about the outside vendors he is considering to handle the data.

“What you’re now describing sounds very much to me like a partisan investigation,” said state Sen. Steven Santarsiero (D), noting that the subpoenas could cover information for “nearly 7 million Pennsylvanians.”

That hearing’s only witness — Stuart Ulsh, chairman of the county commission in rural Fulton County where Trump’s margin of victory was larger than anywhere else in the state — testified that people in his community had vowed never to vote again because of what they had heard about the 2020 election.

Neither Ulsh nor the committee’s Republican senators acknowledged that Trump has been responsible for spreading misinformation about the election or that many previous reviews of Pennsylvania’s results have confirmed Biden’s victory.

In an interview, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) called the hearing “a dud.” Shapiro said his office would carefully review any election-related subpoenas issued by the legislature, particularly any that sought tabulating machines or ballots. “I would expect a subpoena like that to face litigation,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle That Is Reshaping the Internet, Brian X. Chen, Sept. 16, 2021. As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the implications, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul. Apple introduced a pop-up window for iPhones in April that asks people for their permission to be tracked by different apps.

twitter bird CustomGoogle recently outlined plans to disable a tracking technology in its Chrome web browser.

And Facebook said last month that hundreds of its engineers were working on a new method of showing ads without relying on people’s personal data.

The developments may seem like technical tinkering, but they were connected to something bigger: an intensifying battle over the future of the internet. The struggle has entangled tech titans, upended Madison Avenue and disrupted small businesses. And it heralds a profound shift in how people’s personal information may be used online, with sweeping implications for the ways that businesses make money digitally.

facebook logoAt the center of the tussle is what has been the internet’s lifeblood: advertising.

More than 20 years ago, the internet drove an upheaval in the advertising industry. It eviscerated newspapers and magazines that had relied on selling classified and print ads, and threatened to dethrone television advertising as the prime way for marketers to reach large audiences.

google logo customInstead, brands splashed their ads across websites, with their promotions often tailored to people’s specific interests. Those digital ads powered the growth of Facebook, Google and Twitter, which offered their search and social networking services to people without charge. But in exchange, people were tracked from site to site by technologies such as “cookies,” and their personal data was used to target them with relevant marketing.

Now that system, which ballooned into a $350 billion digital ad industry, is being dismantled. Driven by online privacy fears, Apple and Google have started revamping the rules around online data collection. Apple, citing the mantra of privacy, has rolled out tools that block marketers from tracking people. apple logo rainbowGoogle, which depends on digital ads, is trying to have it both ways by reinventing the system so it can continue aiming ads at people without exploiting access to their personal data.

If personal information is no longer the currency that people give for online content and services, something else must take its place. Media publishers, app makers and e-commerce shops are now exploring different paths to surviving a privacy-conscious internet, in some cases overturning their business models. Many are choosing to make people pay for what they get online by levying subscription fees and other charges instead of using their personal data.

washington post logoWashington Post, Brutal killing of a woman and her dog in an Atlanta park reignites the debate over city’s growing crime problem, Tim Craig, Sept. 16, 2021.  The last time Emma Clark saw her girlfriend, Katherine Janness, she was headed out for a late-night walk with her pit bull near Piedmont Park, a sprawling and popular 187-acre green space in Midtown.

Janness, 40, had been stabbed repeatedly and appeared to have been mutilated, police said. Her dog also was stabbed to death. Although police and the FBI have said little publicly about the ongoing case, the brutal nature of the July 28 crime has rattled even veteran investigators.

Crime in Atlanta has skyrocketed over the past two years. The city recently surpassed 110 homicides — up 15 percent compared with the same time last year. But the viciousness of Janness’s killing, combined with where it happened — in an upscale and vibrant area seen as a symbol of the city’s economic and cultural transformation over the past 20 years — has shaken residents.

Despite a relentless wave of gun violence that has killed hundreds of Black Atlantans in recent years, the death of Janness has struck a nerve among residents of the city’s upscale neighborhoods who have been mostly sheltered from the surge in violent crime that hit cities during the pandemic. Last year was the city’s deadliest in nearly three decades, and homicides are up 64 percent this year compared with 2019 — before the city was embroiled in turmoil over its police department and its handling of Black Lives Matter protests.

Janness also was the city’s first White homicide victim this year.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Emboldened by recall win, Democrats brush aside talk of unity and escalate attacks on Republicans, Sean Sullivan and David Weigel, Sept. 16, 2021. The party, worried that the Biden administration’s accomplishments have not gotten through to the public, has taken on a more aggressive posture that dovetails with anger among its voters.

Democrats have been sharpening their attacks on Republicans over the pandemic, former president Donald Trump and other polarizing topics, and now, emboldened by victory in California’s recall election, party leaders are seeking to further escalate hostilities ahead of the midterm elections.

Beyond prompting a collective sigh of relief in a party reeling from a difficult summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Tuesday win served as the first test of a revamped campaign strategy that Democrats quietly began assembling weeks ago, amid a realization that positive talk about President Biden getting the country back on track had run into the harsh realities of a delta variant coronavirus surge.

Chastened by the resurgence, the difficult Afghanistan withdrawal and declining public confidence in Biden’s handling of the pandemic and other issues, Democrats have gone on offense against the GOP, following private summer polling that showed broad and growing anger at the Republican resistance to vaccination, according to Democrats familiar with the discussions who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy.

washington post logoWashington Post, The perils that the book ‘Peril’ reveals should be investigated by Congress, Editorial Board, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). There are many ways to destroy a constitutional democracy. One is by partisan mob attack on its electoral processes, of the kind that President Donald Trump incited at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Another is through military encroachment on civilian authority, in the name of national salvation or some other ostensibly higher cause. Outright physical destruction might come from war, intended or as a result of miscalculation, with a nuclear-armed foe. All of these risks are swirling through the debate over the recent conduct of Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as reported in “Peril,” a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Post.

It’s important to draw distinctions — and to be clear about what we do and do not yet know. Gen. Milley feared both what an out-of-control Mr. Trump might do and how, on the other hand, China might misinterpret U.S. intentions amid U.S. political turbulence. Through back channels, before and after the election, the general tried to reassure his military counterpart in Beijing of the United States’ peaceful intentions. Two days after the attack on the Capitol, having spoken with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and agreed with her that Mr. Trump was unstable, Gen. Milley arranged for a delay in military exercises the People’s Republic might have seen as provocative.

It’s not clear how much, if any, contemporaneous knowledge Mr. Trump had at the time. For what it’s worth, the former president says he would never have started a war with China. Republicans are predictably outraged; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is demanding the general’s resignation for threatening the “longstanding principle of civilian control of the military.” Yet concerns are not exclusively partisan: Former Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who sacrificed his military career to stand up to Mr. Trump’s abuse of power, has also called for Gen. Milley to step down.
(Simon and Schuster)

No doubt, Gen. Milley explored the limits of his constitutional authority. This could be quite benign if he was simply telling China’s top general, Li Zuocheng, as “Peril” reports he did on Jan. 8, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” Axios has separately reported that Gen. Milley’s Oct. 30, 2020, phone call to Gen. Li formed part of wider reassurances, orchestrated by his civilian boss, then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, the purpose of which was to counter reports the Chinese were receiving from their own intelligence service to the effect that the United States intended war.

What could be considerably less benign is the pledge Gen. Milley reportedly made to alert Gen. Li ahead of any U.S. strike: “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.” According to “Peril,” this came in the Oct. 30 call — before the insurrection and, indeed, before the election. We struggle to understand what circumstances — absent clear authorization from civilian policymakers — could justify offering a foreign adversary such a pledge.

All of this should be investigated by Congress, with Gen. Milley afforded an ample opportunity to explain publicly, under oath. The country needs the same transparency about events on — and leading up to — Jan. 6, which, as these latest revelations suggest, may have been even more dangerous than already is known. The best forum would be a bipartisan committee of Congress or credible nonpartisan commission — the very mechanisms that Republicans, including some now protesting Gen. Milley, did their best to obstruct. However, a House committee led by Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is at work. It has some new leads to follow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Thomas defends the Supreme Court’s independence and warns of ‘destroying our institutions,’ Mike Berardino and Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 16, 2021. Justice Clarence Thomas defended the independence of the Supreme Court on Thursday and warned against "destroying our institutions because they don't give us what we want, when we want it."

Clarence Thomas HRThomas, right, the longest serving justice, acknowledged that the high court has its flaws, comparing it to a “car with three wheels” that somehow still works. But he said the justices are not ruling based on “personal preferences” and suggested that the nation’s leaders should not “allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcome that we like.”

The justice’s remarks came during a lecture at the University of Notre Dame in which he talked about traveling by RV in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee with his wife, Ginni. Thomas reflected on his childhood in the segregated South and his religious faith. He also alluded several times to the political polarization in the United States.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re really good at finding something that separates us,” Thomas told the crowd of more than 800 students and faculty gathered at the school’s performing arts center.

Thomas is the latest justice to add his voice to the mix and publicly come to the court’s defense in the face of growing criticism that the nine justices are merely politicians in robes.

“I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference. So if they think you are antiabortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician,” Thomas said in response to a question about public misconceptions of the court.

“That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.”

washington post logoWashington Post, California is seeing covid-19 cases drop. Has the state turned the tide on the delta variant? Derek Hawkins and Jacqueline Dupree, Sept. 16, 2021. Experts say the state’s embrace of vaccines, masks and other public health measures has helped it contain the highly transmissible variant.

 

U.S. Congress

Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) thumbs down vote

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Manchin gets all the attention. But Kyrsten Sinema, shown above voting "No!" on increasing the federal mininum age to $15 this spring, could be an even bigger obstacle for Democrats’ spending plans, Mike DeBonis, Sept. 16, 2021. After objecting to the price tag of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan in late July, the Arizonan has remained almost entirely mum. But behind the scenes she has been peppering her colleagues with questions and concerns.

Senate Democrats were riding high on the afternoon of July 28: A long-delayed bipartisan infrastructure package had finally come together, with many senators eager to finish that bill and move forward with a multitrillion-dollar piece of economic, climate and social legislation — President Biden’s signature “Build Back Better” plan.

But one senator, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), punctured the gleeful atmosphere with a warning shot. While Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee may have agreed on the size of the second bill, she had not.

“[W]hile I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” Sinema said in a statement that struck some of her fellow Democrats as poorly timed — coming just hours before she was counting on a united caucus to advance the infrastructure deal she had painstakingly negotiated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Trump aides to spearhead a $10 million effort to fight Biden economic plan, Jeff Stein, Sept. 16, 2021. Senior Trump officials Larry Kudlow, Linda McMahon and Brooke Rollins are among the leaders of the “Save America Coalition,” a campaign that plans to rally organizations and draw donors for advertisements and a social media push criticizing the proposal in key states and districts.

A new conservative coalition led by former Trump administration advisers plans to launch an up to $10 million campaign attacking President Biden’s economic package as it advances through Congress.

The effort, slated to be formally launched on Friday, is being spearheaded by the America First Policy Institute founded earlier this year by former Trump officials, as well as conservative organizations such as the Conservative Partnership Institute, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and FreedomWorks.

Leaders of the campaign, called the “Save America Coalition,” met Wednesday night at the Washington headquarters of the America First group located near the White House. They discussed plans to rally more than 100 conservative organizations and draw donors for advertisements and social media campaigns criticizing the Biden proposal in swing states and districts controlled by centrist Democrats.

Democrats prepare for next phase of budget fight as House readies package and Biden meets with Senate skeptics

Conservative alarm about Biden’s proposed tax hikes — which some nonpartisan estimates have found overwhelmingly target the rich and large corporations — has intensified as they move toward passage. Democrats face a difficult legislative path in holding together virtually all of their members in both the House and Senate to approve a plan to spend approximately $3.5 trillion over 10 years on safety net expansions, education programs, and funding to mitigate climate change.

 

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Murphy’s misfired claim that 8 out of 10 U.S. drones miss their target, Glenn Kessler, Sept. 16, 2021. The Democratic senator from Connecticut made a startling statement that turns out to be wrong.

“Studies of our drone strikes have suggested that maybe eight out of 10 times we are hitting the wrong target, we have killed thousands of civilians.”

— Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), in an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Sept. 14

Murphy appeared on CNN to discuss an Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan in the waning days of the U.S. presence there. The U.S. military initially claimed that the drone targeted an Islamic State vehicle preparing for a car-bomb attack.

But now it appears that the vehicle was driven by an aid worker who had loaded his car with water canisters, not explosives. Investigations by The Washington Post and the New York Times raised doubts about the military’s claim that the weapon used, a Hellfire missile, triggered a “secondary explosion” indicative of a car loaded with explosives.

As many as 10 people may have been killed, including the aid worker and seven children ranging in age from 3 to 16.

chris murphy new officialAs part of his appearance on “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Murphy made a claim that jumped out at us — that studies have shown that “maybe eight out of 10 times we are hitting the wrong target.”

That would be an astonishing record of failure. Is he right?

The short answer is no.

Peter Bergen, vice president for global studies at the New America Foundation, heads a project that has documented in great detail the drone war in Pakistan, air and ground operations in Yemen and Somalia, as well as the internationalized air war in Libya. He was puzzled by Murphy’s statement.

“Eight out of 10 is not a stat I have ever heard of,” Bergen said. “As I document in my new book, ‘The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden,’ based on the documents that came out bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, he was very worried about the precision of CIA drone strikes, which were killing a large number of al-Qaeda’s leaders.”

“What I said was true,” Murphy said in a statement to The Fact Checker (in response). “The data we have does suggest over 80 percent of strikes hit the wrong target. Since the government classifies data on the efficacy of drone strikes, the only full public data set is from a leak of the Haymaker drone campaign in Afghanistan. And a study of that data by The Intercept showed that 90 percent of drones killed the wrong target. At the time of this disclosure, the military did not offer any exculpatory evidence to rebut this claim, and so without any other data and no contradictory information from the military it’s completely reasonable to infer a broader trend from the limited data available. The bottom line is that the data released by the Intercept provides ample evidence that our drone program is wildly ineffective and badly in need of reform

Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The potential trouble with Jan. 6 defendant prosecutions, Amber Phillips, Sept. 16, 2021. As far-right groups prepare to come back to the Capitol on Saturday, prosecutors may have hit a speed bump with some of the more serious charges against Jan. 6 defendants.

D.C. and Capitol police are preparing for a rally Saturday with potentially hundreds of people in support of defendants who are jailed or facing charges over their actions on Jan. 6.

The protest comes as federal prosecutors move on from charging people who stormed the Capitol with smaller crimes to prosecuting those they say committed the most egregious ones, such as inciting people to intimidate and commit violence against elected officials.

But now those prosecutors may have run into a problem with their legal strategy.

At least two federal judges have questioned the main charge prosecutors are using to try to go after more than 200 people involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, to obstruct “any official proceeding” of Congress, reports The Post’s Spencer S. Hsu.

But legal experts who spoke to The Fix say there’s still hope for prosecutors’ main legal avenue to punish some of the most prominent Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Here’s what’s going on.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: WMR, Trump's Covid-19 adviser was FBI's "person of interest" in post-9/11 anthrax attacks, Wayne Madsen, left, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallauthor of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 15-16, 2021.

The Trump administration and, specifically, Donald Trump's trade negotiator, the virulent anti-China Peter Navarro, right, relied initially on advice for the Covid-19 virus on Dr. Steven Hatfill, the individual named by then-Attorney peter navarro headshotGeneral John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the post-September 11, 2001 anthrax attacks on political figures and the media.

In 2003, Hatfill successfully sued John Ashcroft, the Department of Justice, Justice employees Timothy Beres and Daryl Darnell, the FBI, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Van Harp and other FBI agents for defamation. After his exoneration by the Justice Department, Hatfill received an award of $2.825 million in cash and an annuity paying $150,000 a year for 20 years.

Considering Hatfill's strong ties to the far-right, it should have come as no real surprise that his private ProtonMail e-mail exchange with Navarro, right, at the White House were discovered by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone served ‘a big, big stack of papers’ from Capitol riot lawsuit during radio interview, Timothy Bella, Sept. 16, 2021.  As he was asked in a phone interview whether former president Donald Trump would run in 2024, Roger Stone paused to answer the front door.

Stone, a longtime confidant to the former president, apologized to the St. Louis radio show, but he had a good reason: He was being served with papers related to the federal lawsuit filed by seven U.S. Capitol Police officers against him, Trump, far-right “violent extremist groups” and others accused of being responsible for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“Hold on a second, I have a process server at my front door about to serve me in the latest lawsuit,” Stone said on “Tomorrow’s News Today with Joe Hoft & Kell Brazil.”

After Stone could be heard greeting the person at the door, the process server could be heard saying, “You know what I have.” The self-described “dirty trickster” inaccurately noted it was a civil lawsuit before the process server corrected him.

“It’s still a fraud, doesn’t matter,” said Stone, thanking the man. “All right, I have just been served in the Jan. 6 lawsuit — live, right here on your radio show.”

Stone, who was pardoned by Trump after he was convicted as part of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, noted to the radio show, in his own way, of the sheer heft of the documents served to him.

“This is a big, big stack of papers, which is good, because we’re out of toilet paper,” he said, as the radio hosts laughed.

While Roger Stone was live on the air this morning with ‘Real Talk 93.3’ (St Louis) doing an interview about the 2024 election, he gets served by a process server with the January 6 lawsuit. (Audio) pic.twitter.com/pnXBPQh3Vn
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) September 15, 2021

Stone being served in the lawsuit comes ahead of the Saturday rally of demonstrators supporting those arrested in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters trying to overturn President Biden’s election victory. Capitol Police have requested the support of the National Guard on Saturday if events get violent. The perimeter fence around the Capitol will also begin to be reinstalled Wednesday night, according to an email sent to Senate staff and obtained by The Washington Post’s Ellie Silverman. The fencing was erected after the failed security response in January and stayed until two months ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The state of the effort to undo Biden’s victory, a sixth of the way into his presidency, Philip Bump, Sept. 16, 2021. Pennsylvania joins the Second Lost Cause.

In late December, Republican officials had a bit of a problem. President Donald Trump was telling their voters that rampant fraud had occurred in the November election, an entirely baseless claim. They needed to respond, somehow, though they still needed to keep one foot in reality. So they came up with a compromise position: The problem was that states such as Pennsylvania changed voting rules in ways they shouldn’t have. They could say that the election was “stolen” in broad strokes, agreeing that there were ongoing questions about the results — questions fomented by dishonesty from Trump. They could nod along with the crowd while whispering some caveat like in the sense that voting expansions were questionable.

This sort of compromise has taken on a life of its own. In state after state, legislators are seizing on the people are asking questions rationale to launch reviews of the 2020 election that they often assiduously insist have nothing to do with overturning the results. But the shouting base knows what’s up. Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists — apparently including Trump — think that states will, at long last, prove that something so bad and so extensive occurred that it shows that Trump should be reinstated as president. Somehow. And Republican legislators, either trying to manifest those conspiracy theories surreptitiously or trying to get attaboys from that thundering base, are demanding or launching sweeping efforts to raise suspicions about how the election unfolded.

It’s the Second Lost Cause: a defeated confederacy of voters seeking to convince themselves and the world that they are right about what occurred in November. In multiple states, legislators have initiated formal processes to aid the effort.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, As Russians Vote, Resignation, Anger and Fear of a Post-Putin Unknown, Anton Troianovski, Photographs by Sergey Ponomarev, Sept. 16, 2021. Many say they are fed up with corruption and stagnant wages. But there’s fear that, as one man said, “if things start to change, there will be blood.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake candidates and jailed opposition: Russia’s parliament elections stack the cards for Putin, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 16, 2021. But even from prison, opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s “Smart Voting” app has the Kremlin uneasy.

Boris Vishnevsky is a slight man with thin graying hair, mournful eyes and a beard. He's running for parliament against Boris Vishnevsky, a slight man with thin gray hair, mournful eyes and a beard.

russian flagAlso on the ballot in Russia's State Duma elections: another Boris Vishnevsky, same hair, same beard, similar eyes.

The latter two Vishnevskys are fakes. They were created by rivals, at least one associated with President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, to peel votes off from the real Vishnevsky, an opposition candidate from the pro-democracy Yabloko party.

Russia’s parliamentary elections — taking place amid Putin’s withering crackdown on opposition — run Friday to Sunday and, to many Putin opponents, are another low-water mark for Russia’s post-Soviet democracy.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in jail. His electoral network has been banned, and its leaders have been arrested or have fled the country. Dozens of opposition candidates were barred or withdrew from their contests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bolsonaro Is Getting Desperate, and It’s Clear What He Wants, Vanessa Barbara, Sept. 15, 2021. Ms. Barbara is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

For weeks, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has been urging his supporters to take to the streets. So on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day, I was half expecting to see mobs of armed people in yellow-and-green jerseys, some of them wearing furry hats and horns, storming the Supreme Court building — our very jair bolsonaro brazilown imitation of the Capitol riot.

Fortunately, that was not what happened. (The crowds eventually went home, and no one tried to sit in the Supreme Court justices’ chairs.) But Brazilians were not spared chaos and consternation.

For Mr. Bolsonaro, right, it was a show of force. In the morning, addressing a crowd of around 400,000 people in Brasília, he said he intended to use the size of the crowd as an “ultimatum for everyone” in the three branches of government. In the afternoon, at a demonstration in São Paulo of 125,000 people, the president called the elections coming in 2022 “a farce” and said that he will no longer abide by rulings from one of the Supreme Court justices. “I’m letting the scoundrels know,” he bellowed, “I’ll never be imprisoned!”

brazil flag wavingIt seems to be part of a plan. By picking a fight in particular with the Supreme Court — which has opened several investigations of him and his allies, including about his role in a potentially corrupt vaccine procurement scheme and his efforts to discredit Brazil’s voting system — Mr. Bolsonaro is attempting to sow the seeds of an institutional crisis, with a view to retaining power. On Sept. 9 he tried to back down a little, saying in a written statement that he “never intended to attack any branch of government.” But his actions are plain: He is effectively threatening a coup.

Perhaps that’s the only way out for Mr. Bolsonaro. (Apart from properly governing the country, something that apparently doesn’t interest him.) The antics of the president, struggling in the polls and menaced by the prospect of impeachment, are a sign of desperation. But that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed.

Mr. Bolsonaro has good reason to be desperate. The government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the deaths of 587,000 Brazilians; the country faces record rates of unemployment and economic inequality; and it’s also afflicted by soaring inflation, poverty and hunger. Oh, and there’s a huge energy crisis on the way, too.

That has taken its toll on Mr. Bolsonaro’s standing with Brazilians. In July, his disapproval rating rose to 51 percent, its highest-ever mark, according to Datafolha Institute. And ahead of next year’s presidential elections, things are not looking rosy. In fact, polling suggests he’s going to lose. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the center-left politician and former president, is comfortably outstripping Mr. Bolsonaro. As things stand, Mr. Bolsonaro would lose to all possible rivals in a second-round runoff.

This explains Mr. Bolsonaro’s eagerness to push unfounded claims of fraud in Brazil’s electronic voting system. “There’s no way of proving whether the elections were rigged or not,” he said about past elections (including the one he won), during a two-hour TV broadcast in July, while failing to provide any evidence to support his allegations. He has repeatedly threatened to call off the elections if the current voting system remains in place — and although Congress recently rejected his proposal to require paper receipts, he continues to cast doubt on the voting process. (Sound familiar, anyone?)

Then there’s the corruption. A growing number of corruption accusations have been made against the president and two of his sons, who both hold public office. (One is a senator; the other sits on Rio de Janeiro’s City Council.) Prosecutors have suggested that the Bolsonaro family took part in a scheme known as “rachadinha,” which involves hiring close associates or family members as employees and then pocketing a portion of their salary.

ny times logoNew York Times, SpaceX Updates: Inspiration4 Crew Spends First Day in Orbit, Staff Reports, Sept. 16, 2021. After a successful launch on Wednesday, the first space crew with no professional astronauts aboard is circling Earth. Here’s the latest on the mission. The crew of the Inspiration4 mission is flying safely around Earth, SpaceX said in a Twitter update Wednesday afternoon.

The @Inspiration4x crew is healthy, happy, and resting comfortably. Before the crew went to bed, they traveled 5.5 times around Earth, completed their first round of scientific research, and enjoyed a couple of meals
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021

 

Trump Watch / U.S. Media

Daily Beast, Mike Lindell Repeatedly Tried to Get Ads Back on Fox. They Keep Rejecting Him, Asawin Suebsaeng and Maxwell Tani, Sept. 16, 2021. After angrily yanking MyPillow ads from Fox in July, the pillow mogul has tried at least three times to advertise on Fox, but no matter what changes he’s made, they keep saying no.

daily beast logoIn late July, Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who’s made a new name for himself as one of Donald Trump’s most diehard political supporters and 2020 election deadenders, irately announced he was yanking his company’s pillow ads from the Fox News airwaves.

The immediate source of tension between the MAGA pillow magnate and the pro-Trump cable-news giant—a relationship that for years has been financially fruitful for both, and led to Lindell’s seeming omnipresicence on the Fox universe—was the network’s refusal to run a TV ad mentioning Lindell’s then-upcoming “cyber symposium” featuring baseless 2020 election “fraud” conspiracy theories.

mike lindell screengrabIt was the latest salvo in a media mini-saga of bruised feelings, constant accusations of censorship and election-hacking, and political extremes, with the quarrel between Lindell and Fox serving as a microcosm of the ravingly anti-democratic state of U.S. conservatism in the long shadow of a Trump presidency.

By August, however, according to Lindell and Fox, the pillow mogul began trying to rekindle the advertising bond with Fox, following the speedy MyPillow withdrawal. But the overture towards a Fox-Lindell detente only went so far, with Fox rejecting his new ads multiple times, including as recently as this past Monday and Wednesday.

This reporting was first discussed on this week’s episode of The Daily Beast’s “Fever Dreams” podcast, listen and subscribe below:

djt maga hatThe Trump era was crazy, but wait ’til you hear what the right has planned next. Subscribe to Fever Dreams on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music or Acast to keep up with the conspiracy-mongers, MAGA acolytes and straight-up grifters. Hosted by Asawin Suebsaeng and Will Sommer.

“MyPillow is done with them, MyPillow is done!” Lindell claimed in an interview early this week.

But he revealed that “about a week or two” after he declared he was pulling the MyPillow commercials, he and his ad buyers approached Fox again, this time with a new ad for FrankSpeech, Lindell’s attempt at a social media website.

Lindell said that though that second ad was for FrankSpeech, it also promoted MyPillow with “promo codes” and “exclusive specials at FrankSpeech dot com” for both “MyPillow products and MyStore products.”

That ad, however, was soon rejected by Fox because, according to Lindell, it also managed to reference the summit on election-fraud conspiracy theories. “They still didn’t like that the ‘cyber symposium’ was still mentioned,” Lindell said.

But the pillow magnate wasn’t done yet.

After that, Lindell said he and his associates produced a third FrankSpeech ad to run on the network, this time leaving out “everything about the machines and the symposium or the election.”

But then, Lindell continued, “They denied that one anyway! We got a message from them on Monday, Sept. 13, that they did not like the content of FrankSpeech dot com…They went from not liking the content of the ad to not liking the content of the website!”

A Fox News spokesperson on Wednesday evening confirmed to The Daily Beast that Lindell’s two, more recently submitted FrankSpeech ads were, in fact, rejected.

“I’m going to make another ad this week, and see if they deny that ad,” Lindell promised on Monday.

 

djt evander holyfield vitor belfortMediaite, Trump-Announced Evander Holyfield Boxing Match Reportedly a Box Office Dud, Nets a Paltry 150k Pay-Per-View Buys, Brandon Contes, Sept. 16, 2021. Former US President Donald Trump poses for a photo prior to the fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

In a fight that never should have happened, Evander Holyfield was embarrassed in his return to the ring last week against Vitor Belfort, getting KO’d in the first round. But the real loser might be Triller Fight Club.

According to boxing journalist Dan Rafael, sources say the fight generated around 150,000 PPV buys. If that number holds, it will represent a massive fail for Triller, who promoted and sold the PPV event for $49.99.

In comparison, Mike Tyson’s return to the ring against Roy Jones Jr. last year surpassed a reported 1.6 million PPV buys, or more than 10 times the reported amount of Triller’s Holyfield bout.

Triller brought former president Donald Trump on board last week, in a desperate attempt to add juice to the fight and provide alternate commentary of the event. The former president’s boxing prowess dates back decades, having welcomed some of the world’s best fighters to Trump Plaza in Atlantic City long before the dying venue imploded earlier this year.

But even Trump, who loves to falsely criticize other sports for their dwindling popularity by invoking the “go woke, go broke” narrative, wasn’t enough of a draw to help this dud of a boxing match. While the NBA and NFL watch their TV ratings start to bounce back from a deplorable 2020, the Triller-Trump partnership just oversaw an epic fail for boxing.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Donald Trump’s boxing match stunt was a money losing disaster for everyone involved, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. Given Donald Trump’s treasonous acts against the United States, anyone who even tries to do business with him should be financially shunned by every mainstream American on principle alone. Even as we continue working toward that goal, it turns out Trump’s own inherent toxicity and crappiness is working to make sure his financial partners end up punished.

bill palmer report logo headerTake for instance, the disgusting decision to allow career criminal Donald Trump to provide pay per view commentary for a boxing match this past week. Mediaite is reporting that just a relative handful of people paid to tune in for Trump’s incoherent commentary, and the whole thing has apparently turned into a major financial loss for the promoters. In other words, the promoters got exactly what they deserved.

Hopefully this will send a message to anyone else who thinks about partnering with anti-American traitor Donald Trump going forward. His base is comparatively small, and even they seem increasingly uninterested in his ramblings. And the vast majority of the country wants nothing to do with Trump, or with anyone disgusting enough to partner with Trump. The traitor is a terrible financial bet. Then again, he always has been.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘CUT HIM OFF NOW!’ Newsmax Host Short-Circuits After Guest Commits Unforgivable Sin of Criticizing Trump, Ken Meyer, Sept. 16, 2021. Newsmax’s Grant Stinchfield had a major-league meltdown where he screamed and cut off a guest on his show for mildly criticizing Donald Trump over the former president’s approach to Afghanistan.

Stinchfield spoke on Wednesday night with Joe Saboe, an Iraq War veteran who recently made headlines for his efforts to help people flee Afghanistan in light of the Taliban’s national takeover.

During the interview, Stinchfield and Saboe had a dispute about whether the current state of affairs in Afghanistan is a “hostage situation,” and the Newsmax host eventually made the argument that Trump would’ve never let this happen.

I can tell you, this didn’t happen under President Trump, and I know there’s a lot of people on the Left that want to try to blame President Trump. He wanted out of Afghanistan real bad. He was real frustrated, not being able to get out, but he didn’t pull out because he knew this would happen. In fact, we all did.

Stinchfield moved to dismiss Saboe from the show, but before he could, Saboe offered a counterpoint by saying “we followed this closely from multiple administrations. We know that Trump’s administration’s efforts here were fairly weak, that they were trying to limit the number of people that would get out…”

At that moment, Stinchfield claimed he was “low on time” and once again moved to terminate the segment. Saboe kept on speaking though, which caused Stinchfield to repeatedly shout “Cut him off now!”

“You’re not gonna blame this on President Trump on my show!” He exclaimed. “Don’t come on this program and take the talking points of the left and blame President Trump! That’s not helping anybody!”

Stinchfield concluded by shouting that “the Biden administration screwed this up from the very start,” and he also took some parting shots at Saboe for disagreeing with his “hostage situation” commentary.

Sept. 15

Top Headlines

gavin newsom victory 9 14 21

 

Investigations

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Investigations

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

World News

 

Top Storiesgavin newsom victory 9 14 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican-Led Bid to Oust Him Ends in Defeat, Shawn Hubler, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). A Republican-led bid to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom of California ended in defeat late Tuesday, as Democrats in the nation’s most populous state closed ranks against a small grass-roots movement that accelerated with the spread of Covid-19.

Voters affirmed their support for Mr. Newsom, shown above at his victory celebration, whose lead grew insurmountable as the count continued in Los Angeles County and other large Democratic strongholds after the polls had closed. Larry Elder, left, a conservative talk radio host, led 46 challengers hoping to become the next governor if a majority were to approve the recall.

larry elder screenshotThe vote also spoke to the power liberal voters wield in California: No Republican has held statewide office in more than a decade.

But it also reflected the state’s recent progress against the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed more than 67,000 lives in California. The state has one of the nation’s highest vaccination rates and one of its lowest rates of new virus cases — which the governor tirelessly argued to voters were the results of his vaccine and mask requirements.

Although Mr. Newsom’s critics had started the recall because they opposed his stances on the death penalty and immigration, it was the politicization of the pandemic that propelled it onto the ballot as Californians became impatient with shutdowns of businesses and classrooms. In polls, Californians said no issue was more pressing than the virus.

“I want there to be someone in charge who believes in vaccines,” said Elliot Chang, 56, as he waited to cast his ballot during early voting on Monday in Rowland Heights, a Los Angeles suburb. “Who believes in masks.”

Considered a bellwether for the 2022 midterm elections, the outcome in the recall election came as a relief to Democrats nationally. Though polls showed that the recall was consistently opposed by some 60 percent of Californians, surveys over the summer suggested that likely voters were unenthusiastic about Mr. Newsom. As the election deadline approached, however, his base mobilized.

President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota traveled to California to campaign for Mr. Newsom, while Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former President Barack Obama appeared in his commercials. Some $70 million in contributions to his campaign poured in from Democratic donors, tribal and business groups and organized labor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Newsom’s Anti-Trump Recall Strategy Offers G.O.P. a 2022 Warning, Jonathan Martin, Sept. 15, 2021. Gov. Gavin Newsom emphatically turned back the effort to recall him from office. A key factor in the results: the tribal politics of today. California Democrats were able to nationalize the vote — thanks to an avalanche of money, party discipline and, above all, an easily demonized opponent.

The first-term Democratic governor will remain in office because, in a deeply liberal state, he effectively nationalized the recall effort as a Republican plot, making a flame-throwing radio host the Trump-like face of the opposition to polarize the electorate along red and blue lines.

Mr. Newsom found success not because of what makes California different but because of how it’s like everywhere else: He dominated in California’s heavily populated Democratic cities, the key to victory in a state where his party outnumbers Republicans by five million voters.

“Gavin may have been on a high wire, but he was wearing a big, blue safety harness,” said Mike Murphy, a California-based Republican strategist.

The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office, at least when the strategy is executed with unrelenting discipline, an avalanche of money and an opponent who plays to type.

U.S. Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed shortages as of Sept. 9 (right) compared with July, according to federal data (chart via New York Times)U.S. Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed shortages -- with darkest red indicating ICU beds at or above 95 % capacity -- as of Sept. 9 (right) compared data from the week ending July 1, according to federal data (chart via New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid Hospitalizations Hit Crisis Levels in Southern I.C.U.s, Charlie Smart, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). One in four intensive care units in the U.S. is 95 percent full or more, and available beds are gone or dwindling fast in Alabama, Texas and Florida. Hospitals in the southern United States are running dangerously low on space in intensive care units, as the Delta variant has led to spikes in coronavirus cases not seen since last year’s deadly winter wave.

One in four hospitals now reports more than 95 percent of I.C.U. beds occupied — up from one in five last month. Experts say it can become difficult to maintain standards of care for the sickest patients in hospitals where all or nearly all I.C.U. beds are occupied.

In June, when Covid-19 cases were at their lowest level, less than one in 10 hospitals had dangerously high occupancy rates.

In Alabama, all I.C.U. beds are currently occupied. In recent days, dozens of patients in the state have needed beds that were not available, according to data published by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“It means they’re in the waiting room, some are in the back of ambulances, things of that nature,” said Jeannie Gaines, a spokesperson for the Alabama Hospital Association.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). An FBI agent accused of failing to properly investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and lying about it later — has been fired by the FBI, days before a high-stakes public hearing into the bureau’s flawed investigation of the child sex-abuse case involving Simone Biles and other world-famous gymnasts.

Michael Langeman, who as a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office interviewed gymnast McKayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.

FBI logoA July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz harshly criticized Langeman — without naming him — as well as his former boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to inspector general investigators when confronted with those failures.

IG report: FBI failed to pursue Nassar sex abuse allegations

At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent — a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. FBI firings are relatively rare; most investigators facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biles and Other Gymnasts Rip F.B.I. for Botching Nassar Abuse Case, Juliet Macur, Sept. 15, 2021. “I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system,” Simone Biles told senators in emotional testimony. The F.B.I. director apologized.

Sitting at a witness table alongside three of her former gymnastics teammates, Simone Biles broke down in tears while explaining to a Senate committee that she doesn’t want any more young people to experience the kind of suffering she endured at the hands of Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor.

“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles, 24, said Wednesday as her mother, Nellie Biles, sat nearby, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Biles and hundreds of other girls and women — including a majority of the members of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics teams — were molested by Nassar, who is now serving what amounts to life in prison for multiple sex crimes. His serial molestation is at the center of one of the biggest child sex abuse cases in American history.

McKayla Maroney, an Olympian in 2012, also testified, describing in detail how Nassar repeatedly abused her, even at the London Games, where she won a gold medal. She said she survived a harrowing ordeal when she and Nassar were at a competition in Tokyo, certain she “was going to die that night because there was no way he was going to let me go.”

“That evening I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me, molesting me for hours,” she said.

In 2015, when Maroney was 19 years old and before she had even told her mother what Nassar had done, she described her abuse to an F.B.I. agent during a three-hour phone call from the floor of her bedroom. When she finished, Maroney said the agent asked, “Is that all?” She said she felt crushed by the lack of empathy.

“Not only did the F.B.I. not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney testified. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”

In a remarkable turn, the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, acknowledged the agency’s mishandling of the case and apologized to the victims. He said the F.B.I. had fired an agent who was involved in the case early — the one who interviewed Maroney. It was the first time anyone at the agency had submitted to public questioning about the F.B.I.’s failure to properly investigate a sexual abuse case that shook the sports world to its core.

Wray, who became the F.B.I. director in 2017 said he was “heartsick and furious” when he heard that the F.B.I. had made so many errors in the case before he took charge of the agency.

“I’m sorry that so many people let you down again and again,” Wray said to the victims. “I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we are doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”

Wray said that one of the agents initially involved in the case, Michael Langeman, was fired two weeks ago. When asked why the case was mishandled in the first place, Wray said the agents had made many basic mistakes that clashed with how the F.B.I. usually conducts investigations.

“I don’t have a good explanation for you,” Wray said, later adding, “On no planet is what happened in this case acceptable.”

Wray said that as a result of the Nassar case the F.B.I. had strengthened its policies, procedures, systems and training, including emphasizing that agents report abuse cases to state and local law enforcement. He promised that steps in future investigations would be “quadruple checked” so that there was not “a single point of failure.”

 

Investigations

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: WMR, Trump's Covid-19 adviser was FBI's "person of interest" in post-9/11 anthrax attacks, Wayne Madsen, left, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallauthor of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 15, 2021.

The Trump administration and, specifically, Donald Trump's trade negotiator, the virulent anti-China Peter Navarro, relied initially on advice for the Covid-19 virus on Dr. Steven Hatfill, the individual named by then-Attorney peter navarro headshotGeneral John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the post-September 11, 2001 anthrax attacks on political figures and the media.

In 2003, Hatfill successfully sued John Ashcroft, the Department of Justice, Justice employees Timothy Beres and Daryl Darnell, the FBI, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Van Harp and other FBI agents for defamation. After his exoneration by the Justice Department, Hatfill received an award of $2.825 million in cash and an annuity paying $150,000 a year for 20 years.

Considering Hatfill's strong ties to the far-right, it should have come as no real surprise that his private ProtonMail e-mail exchange with Navarro, right, at the White House were discovered by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. hospitals in crisis as Idaho rations care, Bryan Pietsch and Annabelle Timsit, Sept. 15, 2021. Coronavirus fears play major role in Newsom recall election.

Health officials in Idaho said Tuesday that hospitals in parts of the state may soon get the green light to start rationing health care amid a sharp rise in covid-19 cases and lackluster coronavirus vaccination uptake, joining two other districts that activated crisis standards of care last week.

Covid-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated, are flooding Idaho hospitals, and as a result, the Panhandle and North Central health districts of Idaho said they would not be able to provide the same level of health care for patients who don’t have the virus in at least 10 hospitals as of Sept. 7 due to a shortage of staff and beds.

Officials now say hospitals in the Boise-Nampa and Magic Valley regions could be next as Idaho, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates among states, recorded a 44 percent average increase in covid-19 deaths over the past week.

Hospitals across the United States are at a breaking point. At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense recently deployed 20-person teams of military medical personnel to support health-care staff in Idaho and Arkansas, after doing the same in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. In large states like Florida and Texas, 89.2 and 92.1 percent of ICU beds are in use, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And Alaska’s largest hospital has started rationing care and implemented crisis standards amid a surge in cases there, the Associated Press reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, 1 in 500 Americans have died of covid-19 in another grim pandemic milestone, Dan Keating and Akilah Johnson, Sept. 15, 2021. Death rates for those in the prime of life have been lower than those for older Americans, but racial inequities have grown larger, with a disproportionate burden on Black, Latino, and American Indian and Alaska Native people.

The idea, he said, was to prevent “the humanitarian disaster” that occurred in New York City, where ambulance sirens were a constant as hospitals were overwhelmed and mortuaries needed mobile units to handle the additional dead.
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The goal of testing, mask-wearing, keeping six feet apart and limiting gatherings was to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus until a vaccine could stamp it out. The vaccines came but not enough people have been immunized, and the triumph of science waned as mass death and disease remain. The result: As the nation’s covid death toll exceeded 663,000 this week, it meant roughly 1 in every 500 Americans had succumbed to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

People older than 85 make up only 2 percent of the population, but a quarter of the total death toll. One in 35 people 85 or older died of covid, compared with 1 in 780 people age 40 to 64

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of LAPD employees seek vaccine exemptions, police officials sue city over mandate, Timothy Bella, Sept. 15, 2021. Thousands of Los Angeles Police Department employees are planning to seek exemptions from getting vaccinated against the coronavirus after a group of police officials filed a federal lawsuit against the city over its vaccine and mask mandate.

Roughly 3,000 LAPD employees are expected to seek either religious or medical exemptions ahead of the city’s Oct. 5 deadline for municipal employees to be vaccinated, according to figures released by the city Tuesday. The vast majority of them are filing for religious exemptions. If those numbers hold up, nearly a quarter of the LAPD workforce will try to avoid vaccination.

The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times and KNBC.

The development follows the federal lawsuit recently filed by six LAPD employees against the city, Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and LAPD Chief Michel Moore, saying the vaccine and mask mandate for city employees violates their constitutional right to privacy and due process. The suit, filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, says that some employees involved in the litigation “could not assert a medical or religious exemption,” while others claim they have acquired antibodies from previous covid-19 infection.

Nonexempt employees must be vaccinated by Oct. 19 as a condition of employment.

Neither the police department nor the mayor’s office immediately responded to requests for comment early Wednesday. Moore said Tuesday that he “won’t comment on the sincerity level” of those LAPD employees claiming a religious exemption.

“We have seen a number of our personnel who have filed for an intent to have an exemption, based on either medical or sincerely held religious belief,” Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission. “The department will wait for the city to provide instructions relative to the interpretation and what will happen to those intentions to file.”

The news is the latest instance in which police officers have spurned vaccinations and been resistant to mandates. The virus has been devastating among law enforcement in the country, with more officers dying of covid-19 last year than in firearm-related incidents, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Police unions nationwide have sought in recent weeks to prevent or delay mandatory vaccination for officers. Law enforcement agencies in cities including Portland, Ore., Cincinnati and San Jose have warned that vaccine mandates could result in mass resignations that decimate already understaffed departments. Some unions, as in New York City, are pushing for unvaccinated officers to be tested during working hours or to be given overtime pay if they get tested while off duty.

Other police departments’ unions have denounced the mandates outright. John Catanzara, the president of Chicago’s police union, likened vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. He later apologized. Police departments in Arizona have even begun recruiting officers in Washington state after Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that he would not offer exemptions to Washington state’s vaccine mandate.

Pushback has been seen throughout California as well. The San Diego police union said an internal survey of employees found that nearly half of those polled would prefer to be fired than comply with a vaccine mandate the city is pursuing, according to the Times of San Diego.

washington post logoWashington Post, This pastor will sign a religious exemption for vaccines if you donate to his church, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Sept. 15, 2021. A pastor is encouraging people to donate to his Tulsa church so they can become an online member and get his signature on a religious exemption from coronavirus vaccine mandates. The pastor, Jackson Lahmeyer, is a 29-year-old small-business owner running in the Republican primary challenge to Sen. James Lankford in 2022.

Lahmeyer, who leads Sheridan Church with his wife, Kendra, said Tuesday that in the past two days, about 30,000 people have downloaded the religious exemption form he created.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “My phone and my emails have blown up.”

The rules around religious exemptions for coronavirus vaccines vary widely as each state or institution often has its own exemption forms for people to sign. Experts on religious freedom claims say that most people do not necessarily need a letter from clergy for a religious exemption.

Some institutions request a signature from a religious authority, but Charles Haynes, senior fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum in Washington, said that those institutions could be on a shaky ground constitutionally. Haynes said that if a person states a sincere religious belief that they want to opt out of vaccination, that should be enough.

“He’s not really selling a religious exemption,” said Haynes, who compared Lahmeyer’s exemption offer to televangelists who sell things like prayer cloths. “He’s selling a bogus idea that you need one.”

Religious exemptions from coronavirus vaccines are expected to become a legal battleground

Lahmeyer, a father of five, also runs an investment company where he buys and sells real estate.

Many pastors across the country have decided not to sign religious exemption forms, Lahmeyer said, so he wanted to give people an opportunity to get one signed. He said that the bylaws of the church, which has been running for 70 years, require that for the church to consider someone an online member, they must stream the services through one of the church’s platforms and donate at least $1 to the church. The charismatic nondenominational church has about 300 in-person members.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Publishes First Analysis of Pfizer Booster Shot Application, Sept. 15, 2021. The analysis comes amid significant disagreement about the need for boosters between career scientists and top health officials. Here’s the latest on Covid.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday offered the first public look at Pfizer’s application for a booster coronavirus shot, two days before an outside advisory committee of experts is scheduled to meet to recommend whether or not the agency should approve the company’s request.

It also comes amid significant disagreement about the need for boosters between career scientists at the agency and top Biden health officials, who have already started planning a broad booster campaign for this fall.

In a 23-page document reviewing the company’s application, regulators examined safety and immune response data on roughly 300 adults who received a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine six months after their second dose, finding an increased immune response in study participants, even as they said that coronavirus vaccines were holding up powerfully against severe forms of Covid-19. There were no serious safety concerns associated with the booster injection, the regulators reported.

Pfizer said in a separate filing that one month after a third injection, levels of neutralizing antibodies against the Delta variant in a subgroup of trial volunteers were between five and seven times higher, roughly, than they were a month after the second dose. The company also reiterated its findings that the effectiveness of its vaccine against symptomatic disease fell from about 96 percent to about 84 percent by six months after the second shot, although it held steady against severe disease.

Pfizer argued in its filing that ebbing of the vaccine’s potency was the dominant reason for breakthrough infections among vaccinated people in Israel, which has relied almost exclusively on the Pfizer vaccine and has vaccinated its population faster than the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida landlord says tenants must get the covid vaccine: ‘You don’t want to get vaccinated? You have to move,’ Andrea Salcedo, Sept. 15, 2021. Jasmine Irby was leaving her two-bedroom apartment in South Florida last month when she noticed a letter from the management company taped to her door.

It read: “As of August 15th, all new tenants must show proof of vaccination before moving in. … Existing tenants must show proof of vaccination before leases are renewed.” The policy, the notice stated, also applied to building employees.

Irby, a security guard who had lived in the Lauderhill, Fla., building for the past two years, was appalled, she told The Washington Post. Irby, 28, had planned to renew her lease by the end of August, but she did not intend to get the coronavirus vaccine.

After unsuccessful negotiations with the management company and her landlord, Santiago A. Alvarez, Irby filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services demanding that she be allowed to renew her lease “without having to disclose my personal health information.”

The letter about the vaccine requirement was posted on Irby’s door as Florida began to grapple with a surge of coronavirus infections attributable to the highly transmissible delta variant. To date, more than 65 percent of Florida residents have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to The Post’s vaccine tracker.

Although Gov. Ron DeSantis was vaccinated in April, the Republican has said that getting immunized is a personal choice that should be left to individuals. DeSantis has pushed against mask and vaccination mandates in businesses and schools. He has also issued executive orders banning businesses and government entities from requiring proof of vaccination.

washington post logoWashington Post, Special enrollment for ACA health plans attracts nearly 3 million consumers, Amy Goldstein, Sept. 15, 2021. President Biden said the record enrollment total reinforces his goal of building on the health-care law.

About 2.8 million people signed up for Affordable Care Act health plans during an unprecedented, six-month special enrollment period that President Biden ordered to help Americans find insurance coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures his administration released Wednesday.

The additional enrollees push the reliance on ACA health plans to a record level of 12.2 million since the insurance marketplaces that were created under the law first offered health plans in 2014.

The enrollment tally — along with a raft of figures illustrating that such health plans are affordable for many people — comes as the president is pressing Congress to make permanent a temporary upgrade in federal subsidies for ACA health plans that began early in the spring through a pandemic relief law.

Before the Biden administration threw the doors wide open, consumers had been allowed to enroll outside the regular, yearly enrollment time only if they had a substantial change in their life, such as the birth of a baby, a move or a lost job. Under former president Donald Trump, who opposed the health-care law, health officials tightened the rules to be eligible.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 15, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds:

World Cases: 226,790,624, Deaths: 4,665,612
U.S. Cases:     42,288,983, Deaths:    682,348
India Cases:     33,316,755, Deaths:    443,528
Brazil Cases:    21,019,830, Deaths:    587,847

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 210 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 15, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 179.3 million people, or 54 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

Recent Headlines:

Willamette Week, A Progressive Biologist From Portland Is One of the Nation’s Leading Advocates for Ivermectin, Anthony Effinger, Sept. 15, 2021. Because of people like Bret Weinstein, a drug meant for 1,000-pound animals is flying off the shelves in feed stores.

The loudest COVID-19 vaccine skeptic in Oregon? You might think it’s pistol-packing, Trump-loving talk radio host Lars Larson. Or Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten, whose opposition to mask and vaccine mandates is stoking her run for governor.

You’d be wrong.

Instead, the loudest voice may be that of a Toyota-driving Bernie Bro who lives near Lewis & Clark College, an evolutionary biologist with a Ph.D. who studied and taught at two of the nation’s most liberal universities and participated in Occupy Wall Street.

His name is Bret Weinstein, and he makes his living preaching the dangers of COVID-19 vaccines while extolling ivermectin, the controversial drug often used to deworm horses.

Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying on their podcast.

Weinstein, 52, is one of the foremost proponents of ivermectin. He’s appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show to flog the drug. He and his wife, Heather Heying, also a Ph.D. biologist, went on Real Time With Bill Maher in January, an appearance that boosted interest in their DarkHorse Podcast, which has 382,000 subscribers on YouTube alone.

Weinstein’s biggest fan is probably Joe Rogan, host of the most popular podcast in the U.S. Weinstein appeared with Rogan four times, including a June 2020 show that’s gotten almost 8 million views on YouTube. In June 2021, it turned into a lovefest.
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“Your podcast is one of my very favorites,” Rogan said. “I listen to it or watch it all the time. It’s an amazing source of rational thinking by educated people who talk about things they understand, which is exactly the opposite of what I do!”

Now, because of people like Weinstein, a drug meant for 1,000-pound animals is flying off the shelves in feed stores not just in red states, but even in Multnomah County, where the vaccination rate is approaching 80%.

Tyler Blach, a sales associate at Linnton Feed & Seed just west of the St. Johns Bridge, says the store has no more of the paste form—flavored with apple—that’s used for horses and has proven popular with vaccine-skeptical humans.

“Before this, I can’t recall a time when we were out,” Blach says.

Tyler Blach of Linnton Feed & Seed. (Thomas Teal)

Weinstein, 52, is no dummy. He has a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Michigan and, until recently, held a tenured professorship. Weinstein declined to be interviewed for this story, saying he would not be treated fairly. But Weinstein and Heying reveal much in their prolific writing and podcasting, where talk about minutiae goes hand in hand with postulating megatrends.

Weinstein, for example, would fit in well with much of Portland. He is gluten intolerant and a keen cyclist. He has a bike helmet that plays music. Heying loves paddle-boarding on the Willamette and watching wildlife. In an April piece for the online outlet called UnHerd, Weinstein said he and Heying considered cities around the world before choosing Portland for its “proximity to nature and its world-class food culture.”

But unlike most of their fellow residents in Multnomah County, both say they are not vaccinated. Instead, they protect themselves from COVID by eating whole foods from farmers markets and by taking weekly doses of ivermectin, along with vitamins C and D, and zinc.

Interviews with Weinstein’s former colleagues and a review of his work—starting with an explosive op-ed in his college newspaper—draw a picture of Weinstein as a tilter at windmills, someone who for much of his career has challenged authority and is now trafficking in what many medical experts and scientists say are false and dangerous theories about COVID.

“Bret Weinstein is one of the foremost purveyors of COVID-19 disinformation out there,” says Dr. David Gorski, a surgical oncologist and professor at Wayne State University who also debunks quack remedies as managing editor at a website called Science-Based Medicine. “Weinstein can be ‘credited’ with playing a large role in popularizing the belief that ivermectin is a miracle cure or preventative for COVID-19, that the vaccines are dangerous, and that the disease itself is not. Why are Rogan and Maher attracted to his messages? Contrarians and conspiracy theorists tend to be attracted to each other.”

Gorski says ivermectin is the new hydroxychloroquine, a malaria treatment pushed by former President Donald Trump and later proven worthless.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

The American Prospect, Opinion: A Grand Bargain on Infrastructure and Saving Democracy? Robert Kuttner, Sept. 15, 2021. Chuck Schumer is bargaining with Joe Manchin on two vital fronts. One concerns the survival of American democracy. The other involves the scale of President Biden’s public-investment program, to be resolved in budget reconciliation.

In a just world, Joe Manchin, below left, would not be calling the tune, but this is the world we live in. We urgently need his vote on both fronts.

Dick ShelbyOf the two fights, literally nothing is more important than voting rights. If Republican state legislatures are able not just to suppress voting and intimidate poll workers but overturn election results after the fact, it’s game over—not just for Biden’s slender majority in Congress but for democracy itself.

On this front, there seems to be a breakthrough. Schumer, Amy Klobuchar, and Manchin have co-sponsored a voting rights bill called the Freedom to Vote Act. It doesn’t quite have everything progressives might wish for, like public financing of elections, but the bill does what needs to be done to block the various forms of Republican mischief and safeguard the right to vote. Here is a good summary.

The choreography is simple. The bill is brought to the Senate for a vote, Republicans use the filibuster to block it, and then it is showtime for Manchin.

chuck schumer smileDoes Schumer, right, have a deal with Manchin, whereby Republicans block the bill and then Manchin makes a one-time exception to his defense of the filibuster in order to save this Republic?

Schumer isn’t saying. Neither is Manchin. It’s hard to believe they would go this far without a plan for the endgame. (A far inferior backup plan would be to tack some, but not all, of a voting rights bill onto budget reconciliation, which has to involve taxing or spending.)

Due to the interesting timing, there may be an even grander bargain here. As I reported Monday, there also seems to be a deal in the making whereby the spending part of Biden’s Build Back Better program is cut by at least a trillion dollars in budget reconciliation; but in return, a lot of de facto spending is done through what are described as "middle-class tax cuts," most notably the Child Tax Credit.

So progressives get their $3.5 trillion total package, and fiscal conservatives get their spending cuts. This deal is also tailor-made to get Joe Manchin’s support.

The two deals might even be connected: Schumer goes along with steep cuts on the spending side; Manchin agrees to a one-time suspension of the filibuster, enabling Democrats to get voting rights.

If Majority Leader Schumer pulls this off, he is a worthy successor to LBJ as Master of the Senate—and with a 50-50 partisan split and Joe Manchin, no less.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, Elder’s campaign falsely claimed fraud before Calif. votes were counted — a growing GOP tactic, Elise Viebeck and Tom Hamburger, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump’s false voter fraud claims found new life in California’s biggest election this year.

larry elder screenshotThe top Republican seeking to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in Tuesday’s recall declined before the election to say whether he could accept the results. A website affiliated with his campaign invites visitors to “sign a petition to stop the fraud of the California recall election.” And a previous version of the site — published before the election took place — blamed voter fraud for Newsom being republican elephant logo“reinstated” as governor.

There is no evidence for these claims, which have nonetheless been amplified repeatedly this week by former president Donald Trump. But their arrival in the country’s largest blue state offered proof of their currency within the Republican Party, where some leaders have increasingly sought to undermine public confidence in Democratic victories by baselessly alleging that elections are vulnerable to manipulation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: GOP suffers historically large embarrassment in California recall, Aaron Blake, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). The results are still coming in, but it’s become clear that Republicans have lost the California recall by a historically large margin.

The idea that Republicans would fall short in California, of course, isn’t terribly surprising; it’s a blue state, and the margin is similar to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) win in 2018. But it’s also a blue state in which they proactively picked this fight — and lost by an embarrassing margin.
California’s quirky recall process could put a conservative libertarian in the governor's office

gavin newsom headshot CustomThe latest results show Newsom, right, defeating the recall 63.9 percent to 36.1 percent, with about 68 percent of expected voted counted.

That margin will shift in the days to come and could narrow, but even if it does, this will mark one of the biggest repudiations of a recall effort in the last 100 years.

Starting with the successful recall of North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921, at least 41 recalls targeting either statewide officials or state legislators have made the ballot in the relatively few states that allow them. A little more than half of them succeeded, either by recalling the lawmaker or forcing their resignation.

Among those that failed, though, a strong majority came at least somewhat close, garnering between 41 and 50 percent of the vote. Only seven — 17.5 percent of these recall efforts — failed to crest with at least 40 percent of the vote.

The roughly 36 percent of people supporting this particular recall would make it the fourth least-successful recall in the last century — ahead of only a trio of state legislative recalls in California and Wisconsin.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats to Propose a Compromise Voting Rights Bill, Staff Report, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). The stripped-down measure is intended to demonstrate party unity in the face of Republican opposition. Follow updates from Washington.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday will propose a pared-down voting rights bill that has the backing of both progressives and centrists in an effort to present a united front against deep Republican resistance to new legislation setting nationwide election standards.

The measure is the result of weeks of intraparty negotiations overseen by Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and majority leader, and was built on principles put forward by Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the lone Democratic holdout against an earlier, much more sweeping piece of legislation called the For The People Act. Still, like that measure, it faces steep odds in the Senate, where it is unlikely to persuade Republicans to drop their opposition to legislation they have argued is an egregious overreach and an existential threat to their party.

The new bill, called the Freedom to Vote Act, drops some contentious elements of that initial bill such as restructuring the Federal Election Commission. It focuses heavily on guaranteeing access to the ballot following new voting restrictions being enacted around the country by Republican legislatures since the 2020 elections. And it would set a national voter identification standard — something that many Democrats have vehemently opposed — but one that would be far less onerous than some states have attempted to impose, allowing voters to meet the requirement with a variety of identification cards and documents in paper and digital form.

The revised measure would also require that states allow at minimum 15 consecutive days of early voting, including two weekends; ensure that all voters can request to vote by mail; establish new automatic voter registration programs, and make Election Day a national holiday. The legislation would mandate that states to follow specific criteria when drawing new congressional districting lines and would force disclosure of donors to so-called dark money groups.

“Following the 2020 elections in which more Americans voted than ever before, we have seen unprecedented attacks on our democracy in states across the country,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Minnesota Democrat who leads the Rules Committee, which is responsible for election oversight. “These attacks demand an immediate federal response.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Abortion Has Never Been Just About Abortion, Thomas B. Edsall, Sept. 15, 2021. As recently as 1984, abortion was not a deeply partisan issue.

Some of the scholars and journalists studying the evolving role of abortion in American politics make the case that key leaders of the conservative movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s — among them Richard Viguerie, Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell Sr. — were seeking to expand their base beyond those opposed to the civil rights movement. According to this argument, conservative strategists settled on a concerted effort to politicize abortion in part because it dodged the race issue and offered the opportunity to unify conservative Catholics and Evangelicals.

“The anti-abortion movement has been remarkably successful at convincing observers that the positions individuals take on the abortion issue always follow in a deductive way from their supposed moral principles. They don’t,” Katherine Stewart, the author of the 2019 book “The Power Worshipers, wrote in an email.

For 20 years, Gallup has asked, “Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable or morally wrong.” In 2001, 53 percent said morally wrong and 40 percent said morally acceptable. By 2021, however, 69 percent said gay and lesbian relations were morally acceptable compared with 30 percent who described such relations as morally unacceptable. The issue has been “demoralized” and has effectively disappeared from the national debate.

No such luck in the case of abortion. Over the same 20 years, Gallup asked whether abortion is morally acceptable or unacceptable. In 2001, 42 percent said the procedure is morally acceptable and 45 percent said morally unacceptable. Over those two decades, the numbers varied modestly year to year but effectively changed very little: In 2021, 47 percent said acceptable, 46 percent said unacceptable.

The bottom line: For at least the medium term, the abortion issue is here to stay. If anything, the Supreme Court 5-4 decision on Sept. 1 to refuse to block a Texas law prohibiting most abortions demonstrated that the issue will remain on center stage with no resolution in sight.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hawley threatens to block national security nominees unless Austin and Blinken resign over Afghanistan, Andrew Jeong, Sept. 15, 2021. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has pledged to hold up all of President Biden’s nominations to the State Department and the Pentagon unless the top official at both departments resign in the wake of the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

Hawley, left, called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to take josh hawley missouriresponsibility for the administration’s Afghanistan policy, which involved a disorderly evacuation from Kabul last month and the deaths of 13 American service members, including a Marine from Missouri.

“Instead of planning for the worst, they planned for the best,” Hawley said Tuesday. “And now, there must be accountability.”

Hawley’s legislative threat to block the nominations is mostly symbolic and comes as he attempts to position himself as a leading critic of the White House. Because Democrats control the Senate, Hawley can effectively only delay Biden’s nominations, but his move will force Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to go through procedural hurdles on the Senate floor, rather than move quickly with a pro forma vote that is more common for nominees to lower-profile posts.

Hawley’s efforts “would undermine U.S. national security and its interests,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN.

“There is no chance that the threat will ‘work’ in forcing the secretaries” to resign, said Eric Schickler, a politics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “But Republicans have [made] Democrats choose between staffing the executive branch and spending time on legislation.”

Hawley, who is seen as a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has backed President Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 election and objected against certifying Biden’s win on Jan. 6 — the same day a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

Politico, Court reinstates Nunes suit over reporter's tweet, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 15, 2021. 8th Circuit says journalist Ryan Lizza republished story about lawmaker's family by highlighting it on social media.

A federal appeals court has rejected Rep. Devin Nunes' defamation suit over a magazine story about his relatives in Iowa, but the court revived the lawmaker's claim that he was libeled when a reporter linked to the story in a tweet more than a year after it was first published.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a lower court judge correctly sided with reporter Ryan Lizza over the 2018 Esquire article, "Milking the System," about how members of Nunes' family quietly moved their farming operations to Iowa. However, the three-judge panel said that when Lizza tweeted out a link to the story late the following year, he essentially republished the story after Nunes (R-Calif.) had filed suit over it, rejecting what he said was an implication that the Iowa farm employed undocumented immigrants.

"The complaint here adequately alleges that Lizza intended to reach and actually reached a new audience by publishing a tweet about Nunes and a link to the article," Judge Steven Colloton wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Lavenski Smith and Ralph Erickson. "Lizza tweeted the article in November 2019 after Nunes filed this lawsuit and denied the article’s implication. The pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in 'the purposeful avoidance of the truth.'"

Colloton acknowledged that other courts have ruled that merely posting a new link to an old story doesn't necessarily constitute republishing it, but he said those decisions didn't foreclose the possibility it could sometimes be a republication

"It’s certainly a novel application of a couple of important libel doctrines, and a potentially troublesome one if the 8th Circuit’s ruling is allowed to stand," said Chip Stewart, a professor at Texas Christian University. "It’s an odd kind of bootstrapping argument. Nunes claims the underlying article is false. He sues over it. Lizza tweets the exact same story after the lawsuit is filed. And what was originally not actual malice now all of a sudden is, at least plausibly enough for a lawsuit to advance to further costly litigation. All over a tweet that changed nothing about the original story."

One curious aspect of the ruling is that it appears to open the door to lawsuits against anyone who tweeted or retweeted the original story with knowledge of Nunes' lawsuit, and to similar claims over members of the public or those with significant social media followings tweeting or retweeting stories after learning that the subject of the story is disputing it in some way.

If the decision stands, the suit would be returned to a district court judge for further proceedings. The appeals court decision did not find Lizza or Hearst liable for the retweet but left those issues for the district judge to revisit.

Stewart said the appeals court's ruling is also disturbing because it allows Nunes, a sitting member of Congress, to press on with his legal campaign against his critics.

Colloton and Smith are appointees of former President George W. Bush. Erickson was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pope Weighs In on Calls to Deny Communion to Biden Over Abortion, “What must the pastor do?” Elisabetta Povoledo and Richard Pérez-Peña, Sept. 15, 2021. Francis said when a reporter asked him about the subject. “Be a pastor, don’t go condemning.”

Pope Francis weighed in on Wednesday on a debate roiling the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, where conservative bishops are pushing for guidelines that would deny communion to politicians, like President Biden, who support abortion rights.

“I have never refused the eucharist to anyone,” Francis said, though he added that he did not know of any instance when such a politician had come to him for communion. Bishops should be pastors, he said, not politicians.

It was the closest the pope has come to addressing the issue head-on, although the Vatican in June warned conservative bishops in the country against their push to deny communion to Mr. Biden, who is only the second Roman Catholic to be U.S. president. Francis left little doubt about his view.

“If we look at the history of the church, we will see that every time the bishops have not managed a problem as pastors, they have taken a political stance on a political problem,” he told reporters on his plane as he returned from a four-day trip to Slovakia and Hungary. He cited a history of atrocities committed in the name of the faith when the church became involved in politics.

“What must the pastor do?” he asked. “Be a pastor, don’t go condemning. Be a pastor, because he is a pastor also for the excommunicated.”

The issue has become one of the deepest rifts within the church in the United States, as well as between the American church and the Vatican. With an observant, liberal Catholic in the White House, some leading American prelates want to draw a harder line on abortion, making opposition to it a more central requirement of the faith.

Though the pope’s comments have no official implications for the U.S. bishops’ stance on communion, they illustrate the widening gap. “This will be one other brick in the big wall built since 2013 between this pontificate and the majority of these bishops,” said Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology at Villanova University and the author of a book about Mr. Biden’s Catholicism. “That’s a major historical change.”

Francis said “communion is not a prize for the perfect,” echoing statements he has made in the past, though not specifically in the context of politics or the United States. Arguing that the church must be as open as possible, he said at a Mass in June that “the eucharist is not the reward of saints but the bread of sinners.”

On Wednesday, the pope emphatically restated the Catholic position that abortion is homicide.

“Abortion is more than a problem — abortion is homicide,” he said, speaking in Italian. “Whoever has an abortion kills.”
“It is a human life,” he added. “This human life must be respected — this principle is so clear.”

Despite warnings from Rome, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted in June to draw up guidelines for administering the eucharist, which conservatives hope can be the basis for refusing it to politicians who favor abortion rights. Once drafted, the proposed guidelines are expected to be put to a vote of the bishops in November, with two-thirds approval needed for adoption.

ny times logoNew York Times, Boston Mayor’s Race Narrows to a Progressive Versus a Moderate, Ellen Barry, Sept. 15, 2021. The city’s 91-year succession of Irish American and Italian American mayors has ended, with Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George facing off in November.

Michelle Wu, an Asian American progressive who has built a campaign around climate change and housing policy, sailed to a first-place finish in Boston’s preliminary mayoral election on Tuesday, winning 33 percent of the vote in a city that for nearly 200 years has elected only white men.

As a front-runner, Ms. Wu, 36, marks a striking departure for this city, whose politics have long turned on neighborhoods and ethnic rivalries.

The daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, she is not originally from Boston and has built an ardent following as a city councilor by proposing sweeping structural changes, like making the city’s public transportation free, restoring a form of rent control, and introducing the country’s first city-level Green New Deal.

Because of difficulties counting mail-in and drop-box ballots, the vote count moved slowly through the night, with many results being tallied by hand, and full unofficial results were not released until 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Ms. Wu, who like all of the top candidates in the contest is a Democrat, will face off in November against the second-place finisher, Annissa Essaibi George, who won 22.5 percent of the vote. Raised in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood by immigrant parents of Tunisian and Polish ancestry, Ms. Essaibi George has positioned herself as a moderate, winning endorsements from traditional power centers like the firefighters’ union and a former police commissioner.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Democrats and Republicans Squabble on Redistricting, Nicholas Fandos and Grace Ashford, Sept. 15, 2021. New York’s new bipartisan redistricting commission got off to an inauspicious start on Wednesday, as its Democratic and Republican members failed to reach an agreement on an initial set of congressional and legislative map proposals.

Instead, the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission, the body empowered by voters to remove politics from the mapmaking process, said it would proceed for now with two competing proposals, one drawn up by its Democratic members and another by Republicans.

With New York slated to lose a seat in its congressional delegation after last year’s census, both maps proposed eliminating a district upstate, where the population has declined. But the Republican plan appears to offer its party’s candidates a better shot at retaining seats in northern and western New York, as well as on Staten Island, while Democrats’ proposals appeared more likely to extend their party’s dominance in Congress by shifting more seats downstate.

Nothing in the State Constitution requires the commission, which is drawing lines for the first time since it was created in 2014, to agree to a single set of maps for congressional, Assembly and State Senate districts at this point in the process. But the partisan squabble over what amounts to a preliminary discussion does not spur optimism that the commission can unite around a single set of bipartisan maps to present to Albany for ratification.

Its failure could pave the way for Democratic supermajorities in Albany to step in to determine the final maps. Party leaders there and in Washington are already quietly circling in case the commission cannot reach a final agreement or produce a final result party leaders like. They hope to use the process to knock out as many as five Republican congressional seats, boosting the party nationwide as it tries to maintain a narrow House majority, and to shore up permanent majorities in the Legislature.

Under the New York Constitution, the redistricting commission leads the way in drawing maps. But if it fails to come to a consensus among itself or delivers lawmakers a map they simply don’t like, the Legislature can overpower the body and establish almost any map they choose, so long as the districts meet constitutional requirements and are roughly equal in size.

Republicans in New York and Albany are certain to balk at the process and could challenge the outcome in the courts, which drew the current congressional map in 2012 amid a partisan dispute in Albany.

Two competing proposals have advanced. The failure to compromise may pave the way for Democrats to step in and knock out Republican congressional seats.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dennis Kucinich falls short in bid to return to mayor’s office in Cleveland four decades later, John Wagner, Sept. 15, 2021. Dennis Kucinich, a former Democratic congressman from Ohio and twice-failed presidential candidate, came up short Tuesday in a bid to regain a job he held more than four decades ago as mayor of Cleveland.

Kucinich, 74, finished third in the city’s nonpartisan mayoral primary, from which the top two finishers will advance to the general election in November.

Nonprofit executive Justin Bibb was the top vote-getter, followed by Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley.

“I want everyone to know how proud I am of the campaign you have worked on,” Kucinich told supporters Tuesday night. “And I think we can be proud of the campaign Justin Bibb has run.”

During his concession speech, Kucinich said he looks forward spending more time with his wife and “feeding and refreshing” friendships forged during the election. His campaign focused on creating a safer, more peaceful Cleveland.

In 1996, Kucinich won an election to represent Ohio’s 10th District in the U.S. House. He would serve eight terms, during which he emerged as one of Congress’s staunchest critics of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney for starting the war.

 

Investigations

les wexner mansion jeffrey epstein wmr graphic mariaWayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Bannon's involvement with Epstein reflects on a past littered with ties to pedophiles, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer investigating pedophilia, among other matters, Sept. 14-15, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. According to a new book by Donald Trump biographer Michael Wolff, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon coached the late pedophile and child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein for a planned CBS "60 Minutes" interview in the months prior to Epstein's arrest by federal authorities in 2019.

wayne madesen report logoAccording to Wolff's book, Too Famous: The Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious, the Damned," Bannon conducted 15 hours of practice interviews with Epstein at his Manhattan townhouse [known as the Wexner Mansion, named for Epstein's benefactor Leslie Wexner, the clothing retailing mogul and shown above in a WMR graphic].

We have previously reported that Epstein's New York residence was the scene of the 1994 rape of two girls, one 12 and the other 13, by Epstein and Trump. Bannon has, for quite some time, been under our radar for his past association with pedophiles. In 2005, Bannon was affiliated with a Hong Kong-based company alexander acosta o cropped Customcalled Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE) [whose silent partner included Marc Collins-Rector].

There is a common thread that extends far and wide within Trump's circle of friends and associates. U.S. Attorney in Miami Alex Acosta, right, whom Trump named as his Labor Secretary, the government's chief monitor for underage sex trafficking, was more interested in burying the criminal activities of pedophiles like Epstein, Trump, and Rector than in protecting children from predators with large bank accounts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Top general was so fearful Trump might spark war that he made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). “Peril,” a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, reveals that Gen. Mark A. Milley called his Chinese counterpart before the 2020 election and after Jan. 6 in a bid to avert armed conflict.

Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, the country’s top military officer was so fearful that the president’s actions might spark a war with China that he moved urgently to avert armed conflict.

mark milley army chief of staffIn a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (shown at right as Army chief of staff), assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and national political reporter Robert Costa.

One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that unseated President Trump, and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege carried out by his supporters in a quest to cancel the vote.

bob woodward robert costa peril coverThe first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack. That belief, the authors write, was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

In the book’s account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel. “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

Li took the chairman at his word, the authors write in the book, Peril, which is set to be released next week.

In the second call, placed to address Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6, Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. General Twice Assured China Trump Wouldn’t Launch Strike, Michael S. Schmidt, New Book Says, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.).  According to “Peril,” the top military officer’s concern about President Trump prompted a meeting to remind commanders of nuclear launch procedures.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff twice called his Chinese counterpart in the final months of the Trump administration to reassure him that Donald J. Trump had no plans to attack China in an effort to remain in power and that the United States was not collapsing, according to “Peril,” a new book by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

li zuocheng“Things may look unsteady,” the chairman, Gen. Mark A. Milley, told Gen. Li Zuocheng of China, right, on Jan. 8, two days after Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to try to stop the certification of his election loss and in the second of two such calls. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Yet despite his assurances, General Milley was so concerned about Mr. Trump that later that day he convened a meeting with top commanders to remind them that the procedures for launching a nuclear weapon called for his involvement in such a decision.

The book also reveals how Vice President Mike Pence struggled more than was publicly known over how to navigate Mr. Trump’s demands that he upend the election certification. Speaking privately to former Vice President Dan Quayle, who oversaw the certification of the 1992 election in which he was on the losing ticket, Mr. Pence appeared open to going along with Mr. Trump’s plan, pushed the false claim that Arizona’s voting results were wrong and asked whether there was any way he could delay certification. “Peril,” which is scheduled to be released next Tuesday, says its accounts are based on contemporaneous notes, documents and interviews with unnamed firsthand participants and witnesses. The New York Times obtained a copy of it.

 djt mike pence

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Awful new revelations about Trump and Jan. 6 show Mike Pence is no hero, Greg Sargent, right, Sept. 14, 2021. Ever since Mike Pence greg sargentannounced on Jan. 6 that he lacked power to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election in Congress, it’s been widely suggested that the vice president was one of the few heroes in this ugly tale.

But new revelations in the forthcoming book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa cast doubt on this account. And the new details also hint at lines of inquiry about Jan. 6 that will shape aspects of the House select committee’s examination of those events.

The key details concern Trump’s relentless pressure on Pence to help subvert the electoral college count on Jan. 6, pursuant to the vice president’s role as president of the Senate. The day before, in the Oval Office, Trump angrily told Pence that various people believed he did have the power to somehow derail the count.

CNNCNN reports on what the book says came next....Obviously Pence might have been exaggerating his efforts to placate Trump. But notably, the book also reports that Pence privately said the same to former vice president Dan Quayle.

Regardless, we need to know how far Pence actually did try to go. Which raises a bunch of other questions. For instance, did Trump try to pressure the Justice Department to develop a fake legal rationale for Pence to somehow derail the electoral count?

Trump sent the mob to terrorize Pence. Did Pence believe Trump and his allies wanted him removed in hopes that this would somehow halt the count and then kick it back to the states or into the House for a contingent election decided by state delegations? The new revelations make these lines of questioning more relevant.

And the new Pence revelations underscore how complicated and ugly that task will truly be.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. asks federal judge to block enforcement of Texas abortion law, Rachel Pannett, Sept. 15, 2021.  The move comes less than a week after the Biden administration sued Texas to try to block the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which bans the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Justice Department log circularThe department argued in a court filing late Tuesday that Texas had adopted the law, known as Senate Bill 8, “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.”

The move comes less than a week after the Biden administration sued Texas to try to block the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy and allows private citizens to take legal action against anyone who helps a woman terminate her pregnancy.

Abortion pills are booming worldwide. Will their use grow in Texas?

In Tuesday’s emergency filing, the department argued that even though the Supreme Court has ruled that “a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,” Texas has banned abortions months before viability — at a time before many women even know they are pregnant.

Richard Richard "Alex" Murtaugh, left, and Curtis Edward Smith (file photo and mug shot).

washington post logoWashington Post, A lawyer was shot months after his wife and son were killed. Police say it was a $10M insurance fraud scheme, Katie Shepherd, Sept. 15, 2021. The mystery surrounding the South Carolina legal dynasty at the heart of the unsolved double homicide of a mother and her son took another turn on Tuesday, when police revealed that Richard Alexander “Alex” Murdaugh, the surviving patriarch, allegedly hired a hit man to shoot him dead.

Police said Murdaugh confessed on Monday to “the scheme of having [a hit man] murder him for the purpose of his son collecting a life insurance policy.” Murdaugh had hoped that his surviving son, 25-year-old Buster, would receive $10 million after his death, according to an affidavit.

But the plan went awry, and Murdaugh survived. He called 911 after the bullet grazed his head on Sept. 4, telling police he had been changing a tire on the side of the road when an unknown gunman fired at him from a truck.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division arrested 61-year-old Curtis Edward Smith of Walterboro, S.C., on Tuesday and charged him with assisted suicide, assault and battery of a high aggravated nature, pointing and presenting a firearm, insurance fraud, and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Smith was jailed at the Colleton County Detention Center, police said.

“Mr. Smith admitted to being present during the shooting of Mr. Murdaugh and to disposing of the firearm afterwards,” police said in an affidavit.

According to court records, Murdaugh had represented Smith in a 2013 speeding case, the Associated Press reported. Police said Murdaugh provided the gun that Smith used in the Sept. 4 shooting.

A series of tragic events involving the Murdaugh family began on Feb. 24, 2019, when Alex Murdaugh’s teen son Paul allegedly slammed a boat carrying five friends into a piling near a bridge over Archers Creek. One of the passengers, 19-year-old Mallory Beach, disappeared below the water in the chaos of the crash and was found dead a week later.

Paul Murdaugh faced three felony charges, including boating under the influence causing death, but a trial was never scheduled.

Three generations of Murdaugh men had served as elected prosecutors in South Carolina’s Lowcountry region for 87 consecutive years. The family’s ties to the law enforcement community spurred concerns that the case against Paul Murdaugh had been mishandled. His family said Paul received online death threats after the wreck.

On June 7, Alex Murdaugh said he found his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh, and Paul shot dead outside their home in Islandton, S.C. Police have not yet made any arrests or named any suspects in connection with the deaths.

Earlier this month, Alex Murdaugh stepped down from the law firm where he was a partner amid allegations that money had gone missing. A day later, Smith allegedly shot Murdaugh.

“I am immensely sorry to everyone I’ve hurt including my family, friends and colleagues,” Murdaugh said in a statement shared with The Post last week. “I ask for prayers as I rehabilitate myself and my relationships.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-U.S. Intelligence Officers Admit to Hacking Crimes in Work for Emiratis, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). They were among a trend of Americans working for foreign governments trying to build their cyberoperation abilities.

Three former American intelligence officers hired by the United Arab Emirates to carry out sophisticated cyberoperations admitted to hacking crimes and to violating U.S. export laws that restrict the transfer of military technology to foreign governments, according to court documents made public on Tuesday.

The documents detail a conspiracy by the three men to furnish the Emirates with advanced technology and to assist Emirati intelligence operatives in breaches aimed at damaging the perceived enemies of the small but powerful Persian Gulf nation.

The men helped the Emirates, a close American ally, gain unauthorized access to “acquire data from computers, electronic devices and servers around the world, including on computers and servers in the United States,” prosecutors said.

The three men worked for DarkMatter, a company that is effectively an arm of the Emirati government. They are part of a trend of former American intelligence officers accepting lucrative jobs from foreign governments hoping to bolster their abilities to mount cyberoperations.

Legal experts have said the rules governing this new age of digital mercenaries are murky, and the charges made public on Tuesday could be something of an opening salvo by the government in a battle to deter former American spies from becoming guns for hire overseas.

The three men, Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke, admitted violating U.S. laws as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement. If the men comply with the agreement, the Justice Department will drop the criminal prosecution. Each man will also pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The men will also never be able to receive a U.S. government security clearance.

Mr. Baier worked for the National Security Agency unit that carries out advanced offensive cyberoperations. Mr. Adams and Mr. Gericke served in the military and in the intelligence community.

DarkMatter had its origins in another company, an American firm called CyberPoint that originally won contracts from the Emirates to help protect the country from computer attacks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Simone Biles to Congress: ‘I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system,’ Devlin Barrett, Sept. 15, 2021. Simone Biles, FBI director to testify at Senate hearing on Larry Nassar investigation.

Star gymnasts Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney offered gut-wrenching testimony to Congress Wednesday, emotionally describing the abuse they suffered at the hands of USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and blaming FBI officials for letting him continue to molest children.

Biles blamed USA Gymnastics, the US Olympics committee, and the FBI for the long-running abuse by the doctor, who molested girls under the guise of medical treatments. At times, her voice quivered as she tied her mental health difficulties at the Tokyo Olympics this summer directly to the long-term effects of Nassar’s abuse.

“I don’t want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured, before during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse,” Biles said as she fought back tears. “To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: This doesn’t look good for Steve Bannon, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 15, 2021. Multiple major media reports over the past few months have confirmed bill palmerthat the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is criminally investigating Steve Bannon on a number of matters. State charges aren’t covered by his federal pardon, so if he’s indicted and convicted in New York, he’ll rot in prison. Now he has another legal front to worry about.

bill palmer report logo headerAn upcoming book from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reveals that it was Steve Bannon who convinced Donald Trump to make a big deal out of January 6th, even going so far as to convince Trump that they were going to “bury” Joe Biden on that date. Given that Trump then turned around and directly incited a deadly domestic terrorist attack against the United States Capitol, Bannon now has to worry that he could end up being indicted for incitement and/or conspiracy.

Trump gave Steve Bannon a federal pardon that covered his “Build The Wall” fraud scheme and related crimes, but it didn’t cover the Capitol attack. If the Feds do end up bringing high level conspiracy charges, Bannon will have to worry about going down on federal charges, in addition to the state charges that New York is reportedly bringing against him. The wheels of justice turn excruciatingly slowly, but this doesn’t look for Bannon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For Sirhan Sirhan, no remorse, no release, Charles Lane, right, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). As political leaders are wont to do after terrorist charles laneattacks, President Biden directed angry words at the branch of the Islamic State behind the Aug. 26 bombing in Kabul that killed 13 American service members. “We will not forgive,” he declared. “We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Never is a long time, though, and the years have a way of eroding such sentiments.

The day after Biden spoke, a two-member panel of California’s parole board offered a measure of forgiveness to a forgotten terrorist: They recommended release for Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee who fatally shot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), then 42, on June 5, 1968, leaving 11 children fatherless, snuffing out a remarkable career and decapitating a political movement.

Sirhan’s case raises complex questions about punishment and redemption. It centers, or should center, on remorse, which is the key to unlocking any decent society’s store of forgiveness — while honoring its pain and preserving the truth.

sirhan sirhan 2016On behalf of society, the parole commissioners should have been more demanding. They duly noted Sirhan’s “lack of taking complete responsibility,” as one put it, then legalistically assigned greater, mitigating, weight to Sirhan’s advanced age now, and, per a 2018 California law, his youth at the time of the offense.

The majority of Kennedy’s immediate family — six children and his widow, Ethel, 93 — issued statements decrying the parole recommendation. It may be overturned within four months by the full 16-member board or, failing that, by the winner of Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election.

These Kennedys should be heeded — not because they are the victim’s family, of course, and still less because they are Kennedys.

This is about sending the right message to California and to American society as a whole: Justice may be tempered by mercy, for those offenders who sincerely, humbly, seek it.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, In Rural Afghanistan, War Remnants Are Everywhere but Violence Has Declined, Photographs and Text by Jim Huylebroek, Sept. 15, 2021.  Much of the countryside has seen a big drop in violence after 20 years of fighting. “It has been a long time now since a bullet hit our homes,” one resident said.

Sixty bone-rattling miles southwest of Kabul, remnants of America’s longest war are abundant. Pillaged outposts scatter the hilltops, and skeletons of burned-out police pickup trucks and Humvees litter the road that weaves through the valleys in between.

The walls of an American-constructed local government building in Chak-e Wardak, a district in Wardak Province, are pockmarked by the impacts of recently fired bullets and rockets. Holes have been carved out of the walls for shooting positions, and only a few of the glass windows remain intact.

But the once-constant volley of rifle fire is no more.

In recent years, driving out of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, would evoke fear of pop-up Taliban checkpoints at which young fighters pulled passengers out of cars, looking for government workers or members of the security forces. Getting caught up in an impromptu shootout between the two warring sides was always a risk.

But since the Taliban takeover in mid-August, the majority of Afghanistan’s countryside has seen a substantial drop in violence. Where airstrikes and pitched battles would be commonplace, the guns have fallen silent. The checkpoints have mostly disappeared.

washington post logoWashington Post, Haitian prosecutor seeks charges against prime minister in president’s assassination, Widlore Merancourt and Anthony Faiola, Sept. 14, 2021. One of Haiti’s top prosecutors on Tuesday sought charges against Prime Minister Ariel Henry in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, adding a fresh injection of uncertainty to a nation reeling from political instability, gang violence and the aftermath of a major earthquake.

jovenel moiseHaitian President Jovenel Moïse, right, was assassinated at his home by unidentified gunmen.

Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude asked a judge to charge Henry and bar him from leaving the country, arguing that Henry was in telephone contact with a chief suspect in the case — Joseph Badio, a former Justice ministry official — on the night of the July 7 slaying, citing two calls made shortly after the killing, according to a copy of the two-page indictment request. 

columbia flag mapThe allegations against Henry amount to an new twist in the complex and mired investigation into the mysterious assassination, and is sure to increase already growing calls from human rights and civil society groups for a new caretaker government to be installed.

It also comes as Haiti is struggling to grapple with the aftermath of an earthquake last month that killed more than 2,200 people, and as the hard-hit communities insist not enough is being done to aid them.

Henry came to power a week and half after the assassination of Moïse, following a power struggle with the president’s inner circle, and after winning the backing of the international community. Claude is seeking Henry’s indictment on a series of charges including assassination, conspiracy against the state and armed robbery.

washington post logoWashington Post, Slaughter of nearly 1,500 dolphins sparks outcry over traditional hunt in Faroe Islands, Rachel Pannett, Sept. 15, 2021. The hunt is part of a centuries-old tradition in the islands, but locals admit that the sheer size of the catch this time around was unprecedented.

The slaughter of nearly 1,500 dolphins in the remote Faroe Islands has revived a debate about a centuries-old tradition that environmentalists condemn as cruel.

The pod of white-sided dolphins was driven by hunters in speed boats and on water scooters on Sunday into the largest fjord in the North Atlantic territory, where they were corralled into shallow waters and killed.

Many locals defend the hunt as an important local custom, with meat and blubber shared by the local community of the semi-independent Danish territory, which is located halfway between Scotland and Iceland.

But the size of this year’s hunt — which conservationists estimate is the largest in Faroese history, and possibly the largest single-day hunt ever worldwide — may be too much to feed the rocky archipelago’s population of around 50,000 people.

“Normally meat from a grindadrap is shared amongst the participants and any remainder among the locals in the district where the hunt [took] place,” the Sea Shepherd conservation group, which has been campaigning to stop the traditional Faroese “Grind” hunt since the 1980s, said. “However there is more dolphin meat from this hunt than anyone wants to take, so the dolphins are being offered to other districts in the hopes of not having to dump it.”

The chairman of the Faroese Whalers Association, Olavur Sjurdarberg, told the BBC that the hunters underestimated the size of the pod, only realizing their error when they began killing the dolphins.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bolsonaro Is Getting Desperate, and It’s Clear What He Wants, Vanessa Barbara, Sept. 15, 2021. Ms. Barbara is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

For weeks, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has been urging his supporters to take to the streets. So on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day, I was half expecting to see mobs of armed people in yellow-and-green jerseys, some of them wearing furry hats and horns, storming the Supreme Court building — our very own imitation of the Capitol riot.

Fortunately, that was not what happened. (The crowds eventually went home, and no one tried to sit in the Supreme Court justices’ chairs.) But Brazilians were not spared chaos and consternation.

For Mr. Bolsonaro, it was a show of force. In the morning, addressing a crowd of around 400,000 people in Brasília, he said he intended to use the size of the crowd as an “ultimatum for everyone” in the three branches of government. In the afternoon, at a demonstration in São Paulo of 125,000 people, the president called the elections coming in 2022 “a farce” and said that he will no longer abide by rulings from one of the Supreme Court justices. “I’m letting the scoundrels know,” he bellowed, “I’ll never be imprisoned!”

It seems to be part of a plan. By picking a fight in particular with the Supreme Court — which has opened several investigations of him and his allies, including about his role in a potentially corrupt vaccine procurement scheme and his efforts to discredit Brazil’s voting system — Mr. Bolsonaro is attempting to sow the seeds of an institutional crisis, with a view to retaining power. On Sept. 9 he tried to back down a little, saying in a written statement that he “never intended to attack any branch of government.” But his actions are plain: He is effectively threatening a coup.

Perhaps that’s the only way out for Mr. Bolsonaro. (Apart from properly governing the country, something that apparently doesn’t interest him.) The antics of the president, struggling in the polls and menaced by the prospect of impeachment, are a sign of desperation. But that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed.

Mr. Bolsonaro has good reason to be desperate. The government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the deaths of 587,000 Brazilians; the country faces record rates of unemployment and economic inequality; and it’s also afflicted by soaring inflation, poverty and hunger. Oh, and there’s a huge energy crisis on the way, too.

That has taken its toll on Mr. Bolsonaro’s standing with Brazilians. In July, his disapproval rating rose to 51 percent, its highest-ever mark, according to Datafolha Institute. And ahead of next year’s presidential elections, things are not looking rosy. In fact, polling suggests he’s going to lose. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the center-left politician and former president, is comfortably outstripping Mr. Bolsonaro. As things stand, Mr. Bolsonaro would lose to all possible rivals in a second-round runoff.

This explains Mr. Bolsonaro’s eagerness to push unfounded claims of fraud in Brazil’s electronic voting system. “There’s no way of proving whether the elections were rigged or not,” he said about past elections (including the one he won), during a two-hour TV broadcast in July, while failing to provide any evidence to support his allegations. He has repeatedly threatened to call off the elections if the current voting system remains in place — and although Congress recently rejected his proposal to require paper receipts, he continues to cast doubt on the voting process. (Sound familiar, anyone?)

Then there’s the corruption. A growing number of corruption accusations have been made against the president and two of his sons, who both hold public office. (One is a senator; the other sits on Rio de Janeiro’s City Council.) Prosecutors have suggested that the Bolsonaro family took part in a scheme known as “rachadinha,” which involves hiring close associates or family members as employees and then pocketing a portion of their salary.

 

Sept. 14

Top Headlines

 

Investigations

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

Media, Entertainment

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP rejection of Biden vaccine mandate fuels concern for other directives, Felicia Sonmez, Marianna Sotomayor and Mariana Alfaro, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Leading Republicans have declined to say whether they think requirements by schools, the military and private employers should be overturned, raising concerns among public health experts as vaccines become more politicized.

Republicans’ sweeping denunciations of President Biden’s plan to force more people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus are raising concerns among public health experts that this heated criticism could help fuel a broader rejection of other vaccine requirements, including those put in place by schools and the military, as the issue of inoculations becomes increasingly political.

kevin mccarthyOver the weekend, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), right, declared on Twitter that there should be “NO VACCINE MANDATES.”

More than a dozen other prominent Republicans in Congress and in the states have made similarly defiant statements in recent days, often using inflammatory rhetoric. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster pledged to fight Biden and Democrats “to the gates of hell” on coronavirus vaccine mandates, while Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) condemned Biden’s recent mandate as “authoritarian” and the work of “a power hungry government.”

Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.) declared in a tweet Sunday evening that “vaccine mandates are unAmerican!”

Many of these elected officials have declined to elaborate on their views about vaccine requirements and whether they only object to Biden’s federal plan or also think other mandates put in place by school districts, the military and private employers should be rethought or banned.

The sharp rhetoric and failure to clarify their broader views on vaccines are worrying some public health experts.

“The 20th century was a century of incredible progress against leading killers, and much of that progress was because of vaccinations,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “If we turn our back on vaccines at this moment where vaccines are really having a scientific heyday . . . I think that would be tragic, and it would cause a lot of unnecessary suffering and death, particularly among children.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) greets President Biden, who visited California on Monday to survey wild fire damage, announce remediation measures and support Newsom's fight against a recall election culminating in voting on Sept. 14California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) greets President Biden, who visited California on Monday to survey wild fire damage, announce remediation measures and support Newsom's fight against a recall election culminating in voting on Sept. 14, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live: California Recall: Voters to decide whether to replace Newsom with a Trump-supporting Republican, John Wagner, Sept. 14, 2021. California’s electorate more heavily Democratic since 2003, when voters last ousted a Democratic governor; Newsom opponents hope for a turnout miracle.

The effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom comes to a close Tuesday, as voters head to the polls for a final day to decide whether to remove a relatively popular, first-term Democrat and replace him with one of 46 other candidates, including Larry Elder, a conservative Republican who supports former president Donald Trump.

Newsom, now in the third year of his first four-year term, has in recent weeks taken a strong lead in the recall race as more Californians became aware of the need to vote in September of a non-election year.

irs logo

washington post logoWashington Post, With big tax push, Democrats aim to tackle enormous gains of top 1 percent, Jeff Stein, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The plan, reflecting President Biden’s pledge to confront a dramatic surge in U.S. inequality, is a central component of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion economic package, but they can’t proceed unless almost all of the party coalesces.

Senior House Democrats on Monday unveiled legislation that would represent the most significant tax hikes on the rich and certain corporations in decades, reflecting President Biden’s pledge to confront a dramatic surge in U.S. inequality.

richard neal oHouse Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), left, proposed more than $2 trillion in new revenue that would overwhelmingly hit the richest 1 percent of Americans with a bevy of new taxes and tax changes affecting their incomes, investments, businesses, estates, retirement funds, and other assets.

House Democrats circulate new tax plan as party seeks unity on key economic package

Neal’s plan pares back some of the ambitions from the Biden administration’s initial $3.5 trillion tax plan, rejecting a key White House proposal to tax the inheritances of the very wealthy and offering less aggressive changes for both domestic and multinational firms. And Democrats still have not completely rallied behind the package yet, with some members studying the details as votes are expected in the coming days.

But economists and tax experts say the proposal — which has White House support — amounts to the first major effort in Congress to address the populist political fervor over the gap between America’s ultrarich and its middle-class that has widened to levels unseen in nearly a century. The fears of a tax system unduly weighted to the rich have only intensified during the pandemic. Since 2019 alone, the wealth controlled by the top 400 people in America increased by $1.4 trillion, according to Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California Berkeley.

Democrats face numerous remaining hurdles in enacting the legislation, which is entangled with broader negotiations over the $3.5 trillion spending package. They also face amplifying GOP attacks alleging that the tax hikes will hurt middle-class families, drain investment, and strain economic growth. And there are signs Republicans could try and hammer Democrats over the tax proposal in midterm election campaigns.

House Democrats tried to blunt some of these criticisms by designing the proposal to put the lion’s share of tax increases on wealth earned by the most rich.

While an estimate from Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper Monday suggested suggested Neal’s tax plan would raise roughly $2.2 trillion, Democrats say their $3.5 trillion package is fully paid for because it makes up for the remaining revenue by cutting costs on prescription drugs and from “dynamic scoring,” or assuming higher economic growth leads to more government tax revenue.

“This is a critical time. The magnitude of the inequality in America today is much larger than it’s been in years. We are in an era not seen since the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th Century, or the Roaring ’20s right before the Great Depression,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist at Columbia University. “The question is: Will our political system be dictated by the vast majority of Americans, or a small minority of vested interests who want to keep their goodies for themselves?” 

 

Investigations

les wexner mansion jeffrey epstein wmr graphic mariaWayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Bannon's involvement with Epstein reflects on a past littered with ties to pedophiles, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer investigating pedophilia, among other matters, Sept. 14, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. According to a new book by Donald Trump biographer Michael Wolff, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon coached the late pedophile and child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein for a planned CBS "60 Minutes" interview in the months prior to Epstein's arrest by federal authorities in 2019.

wayne madesen report logoAccording to Wolff's book, Too Famous: The Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious, the Damned," Bannon conducted 15 hours of practice interviews with Epstein at his Manhattan townhouse [known as the Wexner Mansion, named for Epstein's benefactor Leslie Wexner, the clothing retailing mogul and shown above in a WMR graphic].

We have previously reported that Epstein's New York residence was the scene of the 1994 rape of two girls, one 12 and the other 13, by Epstein and Trump. Bannon has, for quite some time, been under our radar for his past association with pedophiles. In 2005, Bannon was affiliated with a Hong Kong-based company alexander acosta o cropped Customcalled Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE) [whose silent partner included Marc Collins-Rector].

There is a common thread that extends far and wide within Trump's circle of friends and associates. U.S. Attorney in Miami Alex Acosta, right, whom Trump named as his Labor Secretary, the government's chief monitor for underage sex trafficking, was more interested in burying the criminal activities of pedophiles like Epstein, Trump, and Rector than in protecting children from predators with large bank accounts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Top general was so fearful Trump might spark war that he made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 14, 2021. “Peril,” a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, reveals that Gen. Mark A. Milley called his Chinese counterpart before the 2020 election and after Jan. 6 in a bid to avert armed conflict.

Twice in the final months of the Trump administration, the country’s top military officer was so fearful that the president’s actions might spark a war with China that he moved urgently to avert armed conflict.

mark milley army chief of staffIn a pair of secret phone calls, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (shown at right as Army chief of staff), assured his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army, that the United States would not strike, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and national political reporter Robert Costa.

One call took place on Oct. 30, 2020, four days before the election that unseated President Trump, and the other on Jan. 8, 2021, two days after the Capitol siege carried out by his supporters in a quest to cancel the vote.

bob woodward robert costa peril coverThe first call was prompted by Milley’s review of intelligence suggesting the Chinese believed the United States was preparing to attack. That belief, the authors write, was based on tensions over military exercises in the South China Sea, and deepened by Trump’s belligerent rhetoric toward China.

“General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay,” Milley told him. “We are not going to attack or conduct any kinetic operations against you.”

In the book’s account, Milley went so far as to pledge he would alert his counterpart in the event of a U.S. attack, stressing the rapport they’d established through a backchannel. “General Li, you and I have known each other for now five years. If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.”

Li took the chairman at his word, the authors write in the book, Peril, which is set to be released next week.

In the second call, placed to address Chinese fears about the events of Jan. 6, Li wasn’t as easily assuaged, even after Milley promised him, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

 djt mike pence

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Awful new revelations about Trump and Jan. 6 show Mike Pence is no hero, Greg Sargent, right, Sept. 14, 2021. Ever since Mike Pence greg sargentannounced on Jan. 6 that he lacked power to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election in Congress, it’s been widely suggested that the vice president was one of the few heroes in this ugly tale.

But new revelations in the forthcoming book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa cast doubt on this account. And the new details also hint at lines of inquiry about Jan. 6 that will shape aspects of the House select committee’s examination of those events.

The key details concern Trump’s relentless pressure on Pence to help subvert the electoral college count on Jan. 6, pursuant to the vice president’s role as president of the Senate. The day before, in the Oval Office, Trump angrily told Pence that various people believed he did have the power to somehow derail the count.

CNNCNN reports on what the book says came next....Obviously Pence might have been exaggerating his efforts to placate Trump. But notably, the book also reports that Pence privately said the same to former vice president Dan Quayle.

Regardless, we need to know how far Pence actually did try to go. Which raises a bunch of other questions. For instance, did Trump try to pressure the Justice Department to develop a fake legal rationale for Pence to somehow derail the electoral count?

Trump sent the mob to terrorize Pence. Did Pence believe Trump and his allies wanted him removed in hopes that this would somehow halt the count and then kick it back to the states or into the House for a contingent election decided by state delegations? The new revelations make these lines of questioning more relevant.

And the new Pence revelations underscore how complicated and ugly that task will truly be.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s “serious mental decline,” Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 14, 2021. As 2020 went on, we all watched Donald Trump become more bill palmerdesperate, more deranged, and more incoherent in his public behavior. By the time he lost and then tried to falsely declare himself the winner, and then turned around and incited the January 6th Capitol attack, no one was surprised at his worsening behavior. But it turns out he was even further off the deep end than we knew.

bill palmer report logo headerBob Woodward and Robert Costa have written a new book which says that Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley was “certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election,” screaming and ranting all day about whacked out conspiracy theories. Milley went so far as to hold a secret meeting in order to preempt any potential nuclear strikes that Trump might order.

The book also reveals that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called General Milley after January 6th and urged him to get a handle on things, adding that Trump was “crazy.” Milley’s response to Pelosi: “I agree with you on everything.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans support vaccine mandates for office work and schools, poll shows, Annabelle Timsit and Bryan Pietsch, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). As President Biden rolls out sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandates, more than half of Americans say they support businesses requiring proof of vaccination to return to the office, according to a CNN poll published Monday.

The poll — conducted by research group SSRS before Biden announced on Sept. 9 he is seeking to compel businesses with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations or weekly coronavirus testing — shows Americans have warmed up to the idea of vaccine mandates in some cases.

cdc logo CustomThey are more supportive than they were in an April poll of vaccine mandates for office workers (54 percent now), students returning to schools (55 percent) and people seeking to attend a sporting event or a concert (55 percent). Fewer than half of Americans (41 percent) supported vaccine mandates for customers entering a grocery store.

“Support for these mandates has risen across the board since April, growing 6 percentage points with regard to students, 8 points regarding office workers and event attendees, and 15 points regarding grocery shoppers,” according to CNN. The survey was conducted between Aug. 3 and Sept. 7 online and on the phone among a sample of 2,119 adults.

The poll shows just how polarized the issue has become, with 51 percent of Americans agreeing that requiring proof of vaccination in exchange for the right to perform “everyday activities outside of the home” is “an acceptable way to increase the vaccination rate,” while 49 percent felt it was “an unacceptable infringement on personal rights.”

Here’s what to know.

  • Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN broader vaccine mandates may be needed to control the pandemic in the United States if vaccination uptake doesn’t increase.
  • New York City public schools reopen on Monday, welcoming staff, teachers, and approximately 1 million students back from the summer for in-person learning — with some twists.
  • A real-life experiment is underway across the United States to test where schools can stay open safely amid the aggressive spread of the delta variant.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Schools Reopen Fully After 18 Months, Staff Reports, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). New York City’s classrooms reopened on Monday to roughly a million children, most of whom were returning for the first time since the United States’ largest school system closed in March 2020.

bill de blasio 11 2 2013While the city reopened schools last fall for part-time learning, the vast majority of students chose to keep learning remotely. But with no remote option now available to almost all parents, classrooms will be full for the first time in a year and a half.

For months, Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, has forecast the first day of school to be a triumphant coda in New York City’s long recovery from the pandemic. But the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has complicated the city’s push to fully reopen schools and left many families and educators anxious about what the next few months will hold.

Roughly one million children are returning today — most of them for the first time since the school system closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

daniel marcias davey marcias

washington post logoWashington Post, California couple dies of covid, leaving five kids behind. Their newborn is three weeks old, Julian Mark, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Davy Macias, 37, was intubated and dying of complications from covid-19 when doctors helped her give birth to her daughter. She would never see her baby.

Her husband, Daniel Macias, 39, would only get a brief glimpse of their child because he, too, was hospitalized after contracting the virus. According to Davy’s sister-in-law, Terri Serey, Daniel waited to name the baby girl because he believed he and his wife would walk out of the hospital alive to introduce the newborn to their four other children, the eldest age 7 and the youngest, 2.

But about a week after the baby was born, Davy died. Two weeks later, so did Daniel (shown together above).

Daniel “was well enough to send me a picture of the baby,” Serey told The Washington Post. But “that was the last text I received from him.”

Davy and Daniel Macias, of Yucaipa, Calif., are among the 658,000 Americans to have died of covid-19 as the delta variant causes a resurgence of cases and health officials race to immunize a population divided on whether to take the shot. Davy Macias did not get vaccinated because she was pregnant, Serey said. It is unclear if Daniel was vaccinated.

Federal News Network, November deadline for vaccine mandate, Scott Maucione, Sept. 14, 2021. The Army will require all of its active duty soldiers to complete their full COVID-19 vaccinations by the middle of December. Vaccine mandatory for feds, contractorsBiden announces 2022 pay raise

The implementation plan is in response to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Aug. 24 orders that all active duty service members must get vaccinated.

Army Reserve and Army National Guard units must be vaccinated by the end of next June. In total, more than a million soldiers are required to get the shot. Under the policy, those who have previously had COVID must still get vaccinated.

“This is quite literally a matter of life and death for our soldiers, their families and the communities in which we live,” said Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, the Army surgeon general. “Case counts and deaths continue to be concerning as the delta variant spreads, which makes protecting the force through mandatory vaccination a health and readiness priority for the total Army.”

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 14, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds:

World Cases: 226,214,149, Deaths: 4,655,120
U.S. Cases:    42,140,103, Deaths:    680,274
India Cases:    33,289,579, Deaths:    443,247
Brazil Cases:   21,006,424, Deaths:    587,138

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 210 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 14, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 179.3 million people, or 54 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

amy coney barrett 9 12 2021

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett speaks to an audience at the 30th anniversary of the University of Louisville McConnell Center on Sept. 12. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Amy Coney Barrett might know she’s a political hack, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 14, 2021. Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s recent remarks in jennifer rubin new headshotLouisville, alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the architect of the frantic rush to put her on the Supreme Court in 2020 even as people were voting in the presidential election, set off gales of laughter, much eye-rolling and a new appreciation for the necessity of term limits for justices.

"My goal today is to convince you that this court is not composed of a bunch of partisan hacks,” Barrett said with a straight face. She continued, “Sometimes, I don’t like the results of my decisions. But it’s not my job to decide cases based on the outcome I want.”

The declaration might be a tad more credible if she had not chosen to appear in an overtly political setting. University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck tells me: “I’m hard-pressed to imagine a worse place to give a speech about the court not being partisan than . . . at an event in which she was introduced by Senator McConnell. It’s either remarkably tone-deaf or it’s deliberate. Neither is encouraging.”

And it might be a tad more credible if it did not come just days after she and her fellow conservatives on the bench used the “shadow docket” to allow Texas’s antiabortion law to go into effect. Shredded by Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, no one could honestly think the order was guided solely on procedural grounds.

Barrett, who was nominated by a president who pledged to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and was picked from a list of judges vetted by antiabortion advocates, was no neutral observer in the majority’s refusal to block the law. We saw and heard during her confirmation hearing evidence of her own extreme antiabortion advocacy and her own remarks about backpedaling on decades of abortion precedent. Yet we are to believe none of her views had any impact on the shoddily argued order issued in the dead of night allowing a statute plainly in violation of Roe to go into effect?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Amy Coney Barrett wants us to believe the Supreme Court isn’t partisan. Good luck with that, Eugene Robinson, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). “My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” the newest Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett, said Sunday. Good luck with that. When the court’s hard-right majority stops acting like partisan hacks, maybe we’ll believe her.

Barrett was speaking in Louisville, having been warmly introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who, in 2020, rushed Barrett’s confirmation through the Senate just eight days before the November election. That unprincipled exercise in raw political power increased the conservative majority on the high court from 5-4 to 6-3 — and likely cemented the balance of power on the court for a generation.

The arithmetic means that the court’s five most right-wing justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Barrett — can impose their will even when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a conservative but also an institutionalist, decides to side with liberal justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. That is exactly what happened earlier this month when the court let stand a bizarre and draconian Texas law that comes close to nullifying the constitutional right to abortion recognized nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade.

“Judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties,” Barrett claimed in her speech. And it is true that the conservative justices (all appointed by Republicans) and the liberal justices (all appointed by Democrats) reach consensus or cross party lines on many decisions. But on the issues most associated with partisan politics — such as abortion, gun control, affirmative action and voting rights — philosophy and party affiliation function in lockstep on the high court, with Roberts sometimes straying from GOP orthodoxy.

Barrett complained that this is not how the justices see their work. She said that when the media and “hot takes on Twitter” report a decision by the court, that “makes the decision seem results-oriented. It leaves the reader to judge whether the court was right or wrong, based on whether she liked the results of the decision.”

But Barrett is being disingenuous. The Supreme Court’s rulings are not theoretical exercises in abstract legal reasoning. They have real-world results. In Texas, the second-most-populous state in the nation, many reproductive health clinics have stopped offering abortion services because they and their workers could face a ruinous avalanche of civil lawsuits brought by state- and self-appointed antiabortion vigilantes. Roe v. Wade is still on the books. But in Texas it no longer functionally applies.

The conservative Federalist Society, which has become a crucial gatekeeper on the right and vetted a list of acceptable Supreme Court candidates for Trump to choose from, did its job well. The result is a solid five-vote and sometimes six-vote majority that opposes abortion, supports gun rights, questions affirmative action, doubts existing federal protection of voting rights, doesn’t see the influence of big money in politics as a problem... in short, a majority that agrees with the Republican Party’s position on issues the party most cares about.

What can Democrats and progressives do about all the terrible, reactionary, wrongheaded decisions that look likely to come in the next months and years? On voting rights, they could pass strong new federal legislation, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act or the For the People Act. On other issues, they should prepare to battle at the state level — and to bring the same legislative creativity and tenacity that Texas conservatives brought to bear on the abortion law.

And they should ignore Barrett and others who claim this court’s decisions are nonpartisan — at least until and unless we see evidence to the contrary.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Barrett says the Supreme Court’s work is not affected by politics, Adam Liptak, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). “To say the court’s reasoning is flawed is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoJustice Amy Coney Barrett said on Sunday that political partisanship plays no role in decision making at the Supreme Court.

Speaking at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, in Kentucky, Justice Barrett, right, said that “judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties.”

“To say the court’s reasoning is flawed,” she said, “is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner.”

Her remarks came after an introduction by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who helped found the center. Mr. McConnell was instrumental in ensuring Justice Barrett’s rushed confirmation just weeks after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and weeks before President Donald J. Trump lost his bid for re-election.

The court now has six Republican appointees and three Democratic ones.

Justice Barrett’s remarks, reported by The Associated Press, were consistent with those of other members of the court who insist that partisan affiliations have nothing to do with their frequent splits along ideological lines. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, has, for instance, made that point in a new book and in interviews promoting it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Texas’ Abortion Law Traps Desperate Teenagers, Michelle Goldberg, right, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). In Texas, teenagers who need michelle goldberg thumbabortions must get their parents’ consent, but for many young people, that’s not an option. Maybe they’re in foster care, or they’re unaccompanied minors in immigration detention, in which case the government has legal authority over them. Maybe their parents are abusive, or adamantly opposed to abortion.

The Supreme Court has ruled that parents don’t have absolute power to make their children continue unwanted pregnancies, so Texas, like many other states, has an allowance for what’s called a judicial bypass. If a pregnant minor can prove to a judge that she’s mature enough to make her own decision, or that texas mapnotifying a parent is not in her best interest, she can get a waiver allowing her to have an abortion.

But Texas’ six-week abortion ban, which the Supreme Court has refused to stay, has all but put an end to judicial bypasses. Even if a girl finds out she’s pregnant the moment a home test can pick it up, getting through the judicial bypass process and the state’s 24-hour waiting period before six weeks of pregnancy is extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible.

As long as the law, known as Senate Bill 8, stands, abortion is going to be unavailable to some of the state’s most vulnerable teenagers. It doesn’t matter, under the law, if they were raped, or if telling their parents they’re pregnant will put them in danger. It doesn’t even matter if their father was the one who impregnated them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Imposes Limits on Oversight of Local Police, Katie Benner, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The changes address longstanding requests of police departments, who had said that monitors overseeing policing overhauls needed more accountability.

The Justice Department will curb the power of the monitors who oversee local police departments carrying out federally mandated reform plans, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, right, told the nation’s law enforcement officers on Monday.

merrick garlandThe announcement was praised by law enforcement officials. They have long argued that the monitors, who earn lucrative consulting fees while police forces make changes, have incentive to keep departments locked into such overhaul plans for too long.

Mr. Garland’s remarks come as the Justice Department under the Biden administration has increased its scrutiny of policing practices, opening investigations into allegations of abuse patterns by forces in Minneapolis; Louisville, Ky.; and Phoenix, cities that saw high-profile cases of officers killing civilians.

Justice Department log circularSuch investigations often lead to so-called consent decrees, court-approved deals between the Justice Department and local governments that create and enforce a road map for training and operational changes. Monitors are appointed to oversee the agreements.

“While consent decrees and monitorships are important tools to increase transparency and accountability, the department can and should do more to improve their efficiency and efficacy,” Mr. Garland said in remarks delivered via video at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“Organizational change takes time, but a consent decree cannot last forever,” Mr. Garland said.

He said the department would immediately put in place 19 actions to address police concerns, including placing caps on monitors’ fees and assessing their work after a set term to determine whether their contracts should be renewed or whether the consent decree should be terminated.

And the department will restrict monitors from serving on multiple cases at the same time.

“Monitoring is a public service, and there should be no question that the monitors’ commitment is to the department and community they serve — not to their bottom line,” Mr. Garland said.

The actions are the result of a 120-day review of monitors and consent decrees that began soon after Mr. Garland and his top deputies were confirmed to lead the Justice Department in March and April.

ny times logoNew York Times, The trial of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks is at least another year away, the presiding judge said, Carol Rosenberg, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The new judge presiding in the Sept. 11, 2001 case at Guantánamo Bay said on Monday that the trial of the five men accused of plotting the attacks will not begin for at least another year.

matthew mccallThe judge, Col. Matthew N. McCall, right, who took over the case last month, was holding his second week of pretrial hearings at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after a delay of more than a year and half caused by the pandemic.

The timeline set by the judge on Monday would mean the trial of the five men, including the accused mastermind of the plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would not get underway until more than 21 years after hijacked jetliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Penn.

Colonel McCall was ruling on objections by defense lawyers for two of the defendants, Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The lawyers questioned his qualifications to preside in a death-penalty case because he had not read the filings and court record stretching back to the arraignment of the defendants in May 2012, including the 33,660-page transcript.

They urged him to suspend proceedings until he was properly trained as well as fully acquainted with the rulings by three previous judges in the case.

The judge replied that he had ample time, and a plan, to get up to speed, including taking a National Judicial College course on how to handle capital cases. Because of the pandemic, he will be taking it online, he said.

“At a minimum we are least one year away from trial,” said Colonel McCall, an Air Force colonel. He declared himself qualified by military commission regulations, Air Force bar and ethical obligations and “not bound by a particular timeline to get to trial.”

Colonel McCall is the fourth judge to preside at the Guantánamo court in the conspiracy case against Mr. Mohammed and the four other men who are accused of helping to plot the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon 20 years ago.

He has been a military judge for just two years, and was recently promoted to colonel, making him the youngest and least experienced of the judges who have overseen the case.

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Blinken clashes with Republican lawmakers over Afghanistan withdrawal, John Hudson and Missy Ryan, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Secretary of State Antony Blinken clashed with Republican lawmakers Monday over the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in his first hearing before Congress since the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Republicans excoriated the administration for ending the U.S. military evacuation before every American left the country, the sluggish pace of visa processing for Afghan allies, and other tactical decisions, such as the abandonment of its largest military base at Bagram airfield.

“I never thought in my lifetime that I would see an unconditional surrender to the Taliban,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (Tex.), the committee’s top Republican. “The American people don’t like to lose, especially to the terrorists.”

“The majority of Americans wanted to leave Afghanistan, but not like this,” added Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).

While declaring the Taliban takeover a humiliation, Republicans stopped short of advocating for a new surge of U.S. troops into the country — an unpopular antony blinken o newproposal that Blinken said would’ve been the only real alternative to withdrawing all personnel.

“President Biden immediately faced the choice between ending the war or escalating it,” said Blinken, right, noting President Trump’s 2020 agreement with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces.

“Had he not followed through on his predecessor’s commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed, and the Taliban’s nationwide assault on Afghanistan’s major cities would have commenced,” he said.

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, A Million Afghan Children Could Die in ‘Most Perilous Hour,’ U.N. Warns, Marc Santora, Nick Cumming-Bruce and Christina Goldbaum, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Millions of Afghans could run out of food before the arrival of winter and one million children are at risk of starvation and death if their immediate needs are not met, top United Nations officials warned on Monday, putting the country’s plight into stark relief.

Secretary General António Guterres, speaking at a high-level U.N. conference in Geneva convened to address the crisis, said that since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan last month, the nation’s poverty rate has soared and basic public services have neared collapse and, in the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless after being forced to flee fighting.

“After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that one in three Afghans do not know where they will get their next meal.

The deepening humanitarian crisis tops a dizzying array of challenges confronting the new Taliban regime as it navigates governing a country propped up for decades by aid from international donors.

Speaking to the news media on Monday afternoon, Mr. Guterres said more than $1 billion in aid pledges had been made at the meeting by the international community, which is still grappling with how to work with an organization like the Taliban, with a history of brutality and human rights abuses.

The international community pledged more than $1 billion in emergency aid as millions of Afghans risked running out of food just as winter sets in.

Recent Afghanistan and 9/11 Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

ny times logoNew York Times, Poverty Rate Declined Last Year as Aid Made Up for Lost Jobs, Ben Casselman and Jeanna Smialek, Sept. 14, 2021. The coronavirus pandemic last year left millions of people out of work and set off the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression. Yet the share of people living in poverty in the United States last year actually declined by at least one measure because of the government’s enormous relief effort.

About 9.1 percent of Americans were poor last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, down from 11.8 percent in 2019. That is based on a measure of poverty that accounts for the impact of government aid programs, which last year lifted millions of people out of poverty. The government’s official measure, which leaves out some major aid programs, rose to 11.4 percent, from a record low 10.5 percent in 2019.

The fact that poverty did not rise more during such an enormous economic disruption reflects the equally enormous government response. Congress expanded unemployment benefits and food aid, doled out hundreds of billions of dollars to small businesses and sent direct checks to most American households. The Census Bureau estimated that the direct checks alone lifted 11.7 million people out of poverty last year, and that unemployment benefits prevented 5.5 million people from falling into poverty.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 7 reasons to think Senate Democrats will actually change the filibuster, Norman Eisen, below at left, and Norman Ornstein, right, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The norm ornstein leading authoritiesparty has to pass voting rights legislation. Changing the rules is the only way to do it.

In the middle of a brazen nationwide assault on voting rights, of a kind we have not seen since Jim Crow was established after the Civil War, some are skeptical that Democrats in Washington will respond. If they don’t, allowing the filibuster to block voting rights legislation, it will consign the party (and its majority of U.S. voters) to possible permanent minority status.

norman eisen SmallAfter decades of studying and working with the Senate, we think the signs point the other way: There are seven reasons to believe that the filibuster will be reformed and voting rights legislation will be passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Biden.

The “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen did not end when President Donald Trump left office. It has only intensified, with over 216 bills in more than 41 states targeting our system of voting based on that falsehood. Trump and his acolytes in many of these states have continued to pour on the disinformation. They are trying to undo the things that made the 2020 election one of the most successful in history, such as early voting, drop boxes, mail-in voting and high minority turnout. A number of these bills would even make it possible for Trump’s allies in state legislatures to take steps to reverse future elections, irrespective of the will of the voters.

That’s where Congress comes in. Lawmakers can set national minimums for best practices to prevent open targeting of minority voters and block legislative hijacks of election outcomes. Those issues are addressed by bills such as the For the People Act (which already passed the House as H.R. 1), the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (which passed the House as H.R. 4) and the Preventing Election Subversion Act, sponsored by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.).

The obstacle, of course, is the filibuster, which has already twice blocked the For the People Act. But that can change. As we explain in a new paper, reform is possible if 51 votes can be mustered in the Senate — all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris, voting as the presiding officer to break a tie. As when the GOP eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in 2017, modifying it to pass voting rights legislation can be achieved with a bare majority.

Manchin thinks the filibuster fosters bipartisanship. Here’s why it doesn’t....

Democracy Docket, Commentary: My Thoughts on Manchin’s Compromise Bill, Marc Elias, right, Sept. 14, 2021. When it comes to voting rights, being asked to marc eliascompromise is typically a warning sign. There is no middle ground between the arsonist and the firefighter. Just as we don’t ask the media to compromise their right to publish news stories, we should not require citizens to compromise their rights as voters.

After considering the For the People Act this past summer, Senator Joe Manchin, along with other key Senate Democrats, used the August recess to draft a long-awaited revision of the landmark voting rights bill.

The Freedom to Vote Act, introduced this morning, reveals a surprisingly good voting rights bill. It reflects a sobriety and understanding of the challenges facing voters that is worthy of its lofty name. It is not just a reformulation of the prior For the People Act, but in many places, it is an improvement.

Much of the new bill is familiar to those concerned about voting rights in our country. The new bill establishes minimum requirements for how states conduct federal elections. It expands voter registration, requires a minimum number of days and hours for early voting and creates a nationwide right to vote by mail.

With respect to voting by mail specifically, the bill rolls back many of the Republicans’ latest disenfranchisement schemes. For example, the bill forbids states from requiring notarization or witnesses to vote by mail. It also requires states to count ballots cast by Election Day if they are received up to seven days after the election. It provides for a free postage system for returned ballots, requires states to notify voters whose ballots are rejected due to a signature omission or mismatch and creates an easy way for voters to cure those ballots.

What makes this new bill exceptional, however, is its attention to several small, but important details that have been raised in the last few months. For example, it requires states to count provisional ballots cast by eligible voters in the wrong precinct but in the correct county. It also imposes a 30-minute limit on wait times for in-person voting. And, in a nod to a significant court victory in Florida, it requires polling locations on college campuses.

To prevent voter intimidation, it prevents frivolous challenges to voter qualifications. This provision alone would undo the worst provision of the Georgia suppression law. It bans the pernicious practice of voter caging as a technique to illegally purge voters. It restricts who can serve as poll observers and how close they can be to a voter (no closer than eight feet). It prevents states from outlawing the provision of food and water to voters waiting in line to vote.

The new bill would also provide increased protections for election workers. It would give them new protections from harassment and intimidation, while also making it harder to fire them for improper reasons.

To prevent excessive partisanship from dominating the redistricting process, the new bill imposes new standards prohibiting partisan gerrymandering. It also ensures that Republican efforts to rush new gerrymandered maps into place ahead of its passage will fail.

But, the crown jewels of the Freedom to Vote Act are contained in the judicial review provisions. The bill not only creates a specific “right to vote” in federal elections but guarantees it. Under the new bill, states would be prohibited from enacting laws or policies that are “retrogressive” — i.e., that make voting harder. In addition, the bill would subject significant state restrictions on the right to vote to heightened judicial scrutiny. In another small but important improvement, the new bill allows for virtually all voting rights cases to be filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which has the promise of creating a national, uniform pro-democracy jurisprudence.

Put simply, if the new bill is enacted, more citizens will be able to register to vote, vote in person and by mail and have their votes counted. And, those of us fighting suppression laws in court will have the tools necessary to achieve fast, consistent victories for voters when states fail to follow the law.

This, of course, does not mean the new bill is perfect.

While it gives election officials more protections, it does not tackle the underlying problems facing our counting and certification process. That will require a much more extensive rewrite of how states conduct post-election tabulation and certification. There are provisions, like the new 30-minute standard for in-person voting wait times, that lack sufficient enforcement mechanisms. And, there are additional provisions Congress could add that would prevent the undermining of our elections, such as heightened legal pleading standards for claiming fraud and additional safeguards to the right to vote.

None of these omissions or revisions to the bill are deal breakers. All can be fixed as the legislative process proceeds.

Before the summer recess, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer promised that “last month’s vote [on the For the People Act] represented the starting gun—not the finish line— in our fight to protect our democracy.” While we have not yet reached the finish line, this week he, and Senate Democrats, took a very big step towards making good on that promise.

ny times logoNew York Times, Consumer Prices Rose More Slowly in August, Welcome News for Fed, Sept. 14, 2021. The run-up in consumer prices cooled slightly in August, a sign that although inflation is higher than normal, the White House and Federal Reserve may be beginning to see the slowdown in price gains they have been hoping for.

Policymakers have consistently argued that this year’s burst of inflation has been tied to pandemic-related quirks and should prove temporary, and most economists agree that prices will climb more slowly as businesses adjust and supply chains return to normal. The major question hanging over the economy’s future has been how much and how quickly the inflationary burst will fade.

The Consumer Price Index rose 5.3 percent in August, from the prior year, data released by the Labor Department on Tuesday showed. That’s a slightly slower annual pace than the 5.4 percent increase in July. On a monthly basis, price gains moderated to a 0.3 percent increase between July and August, down from 0.5 percent the prior month and a bigger slowdown than economists in a Bloomberg survey had expected.

Lael Brainard, left, a Fed governor, is more aligned with President Biden, so picking her may please Democrats. Mr. Powell may have more bipartisan approval (Reuters photo by Ann Saphir).

Lael Brainard, left, a Fed governor, is more aligned with President Biden, so picking her may please Democrats. Mr. Powell may have more bipartisan approval (Reuters photo by Ann Saphir).

ny times logoNew York Times, Should Biden Reappoint Jerome Powell to Lead the Fed? It Depends, Neil Irwin, Sept. 14, 2021. President Biden is facing a big decision, and deep divides among his allies. Should he reappoint Jerome Powell to lead the Federal Reserve when Mr. Powell’s term ends early next year, or select a replacement who is more fully aligned with the Democratic policy agenda?

Pro-Powell forces argue that he has proved exceptionally committed to generating a robust job market that will lead to better conditions for American workers. Those who argue against reappointment say that he has been too soft a regulator of banks and other financial institutions, and that he is insufficiently committed to using the Fed’s powers to combat climate change.

But there is a more fundamental question for President Biden: What is his theory of how change happens?

 

Media News

fec logo black background Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, The F.E.C. dismisses claims that Twitter illegally blocked a Hunter Biden article, Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The commission’s ruling provides further flexibility to social media giants to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed Republican accusations that Twitter violated election laws in October by blocking people from posting links to an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden, in a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns.

The F.E.C. determined that Twitter’s actions regarding the Hunter Biden article had been undertaken for a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, and were thus allowable, according to a document outlining the decision obtained by The New York Times.

twitter bird CustomThe commission’s ruling, which was made last month behind closed doors and is set to become public soon, provides further flexibility to social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The suppression of the article about Hunter Biden caused an avalanche of conservative criticism in October and prompted accusations that the tech company was improperly aiding the Biden presidential campaign, including a formal complaint by the Republican National Committee that said Twitter’s actions amounted to an “illegal in-kind contribution” to the campaign.

But the F.E.C. disagreed. The commission said Twitter had “credibly explained” that blocking the article’s distribution was a commercial decision and that the move followed existing policies related to hacked materials, according to the “factual and legal analysis” provided to the parties involved in the complaint.

Twitter actually reversed course within a day of its decision to block distribution of the Hunter Biden article, and its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has called the initial move a “mistake.”

The F.E.C.’s official vote on the case — the commission is split equally between three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans — is not yet public, nor are any additional statements written by commissioners. Such statements often accompany the closure of cases and can provide further insight into the commission’s reasoning.

djt melania trump filePalmer Report, Opinion: Melania Trump just got sold out, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 14, 2021. It’s exceedingly rare that I write about Melania Trump these days because, well, bill palmerwhy would I write about her? She’s simply no longer relevant in almost anything she says or does. But there was one development yesterday that’s notable not so much because it involves Melania, but because it’s yet another example of what happens to rats on a sinking ship.

If you’re not exactly sure what Stephanie Grisham did in the Trump White House, that’s because she never really did whatever it was she was supposed to be doing. For instance, she was White House Press Secretary for a good amount of time, but never held a single press briefing. Mostly she worked for Melania Trump, doing everything she could to cover for Melania’s inherent crappiness.

bill palmer report logo headerSo you’d expect Grisham to remain personally loyal to Melania to the end, right? After all, her entire Trump White House career was based on her personal loyalty to Melania. But no, that’s not how anything works when it comes to terrible people.

With Donald and Melania Trump now both out of a job, it seems Stephanie Grisham has also found that her career viability in politics is at an end. So she’s doing what crappy political figures do when their viability is over: they cash out with a lucrative book deal. And in Grisham’s case, she’s cashing out at Melania’s expense.

stephanie grisham unsourced CustomIn her upcoming book, Stephanie Grisham (shown at right in a file photo) reportedly says that when the January 6th Capitol attack was happening, she texted Melania and asked her if she wanted to put out a statement condemning the criminality and violence. Melania’s response: “No.”

Why should we care about this? It serves to underscore what a terrible and pathetic person Melania Trump is – but we already knew that. The real story here is that yet another Trump underling is selfishly selling out the Trumps, now that it’s obvious to everyone involved that Team Trump has no future anyway. The ship is sinking, and the rats are eating each other.

 

World News

jovenel moiseHaitian President Jovenel Moïse, right, was assassinated at his home by unidentified gunmen.

Washington Post, Haitian prosecutor seeks charges against prime minister in president’s assassination, Widlore Merancourt and Anthony Faiola, Sept. 14, 2021. One of Haiti’s top prosecutors on Tuesday sought charges against Prime Minister Ariel Henry in connection with the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July, adding a fresh injection of uncertainty to a nation reeling from political instability, gang violence and the aftermath of a major earthquake.

Port-au-Prince prosecutor Bed-Ford Claude asked a judge to charge Henry and bar him from leaving the country, arguing that Henry was in telephone contact with a chief suspect in the case — Joseph Badio, a former Justice ministry official — on the night of the July 7 slaying, citing two calls made shortly after the killing, according to a copy of the two-page indictment request. 

columbia flag mapThe allegations against Henry amount to an new twist in the complex and mired investigation into the mysterious assassination, and is sure to increase already growing calls from human rights and civil society groups for a new caretaker government to be installed.

It also comes as Haiti is struggling to grapple with the aftermath of an earthquake last month that killed more than 2,200 people, and as the hard-hit communities insist not enough is being done to aid them.

Henry came to power a week and half after the assassination of Moïse, following a power struggle with the president’s inner circle, and after winning the backing of the international community. Claude is seeking Henry’s indictment on a series of charges including assassination, conspiracy against the state and armed robbery.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wildfire in Spain is razing forests, uprooting villages – and raising concerns about climate change, Ellen Francis, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Spanish troops are assisting firefighters battling a raging blaze that has emptied out Andalusian villages and burned through forest land for days.

Already, the fires have forced hundreds of people out of their homes in the south of the country. Six more villages and towns were evacuated on Sunday.

“We have talked for a long time about the consequences of abandoning the environment or climate change. Today, we are living them,” Juan Sánchez, director of the operations center at Andalusia’s forest fire agency, told reporters.

At least 365 firefighters were tackling “the most complex fire we have seen in recent times,” he added.

  • Washington Post, Wildfires rage across Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Russia and Lebanon

ny times logoNew York Times, Tropical Storm Nicholas Hits Houston Area, Threatening a Foot of Rain, Sept. 14, 2021. The storm made landfall early Tuesday, bringing heavy rain and high winds to parts of Texas. Here’s the latest on extreme weather.

Sept. 13

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Police, Reviews, Law

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

Media, Philanthropy, Entertainment

 

World News

 

Top Stories

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (file photo) .jan 8 2019 screengrab

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (Screengrab after their joint statements on Jan. 8 following the pro-Trump insurrection and Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021).

Roll Call, After August recess, Congress faces legislative deluge, Todd Ruger, Sept. 13, 2021. Finishing work on Biden agenda, debt limit are top Democratic priorities; Congress has a busy next few weeks with Democrats’ two-track strategy on jobs and infrastructure bills and a possible government shutdown looming.

If Congress runs on deadlines, lawmakers face a series of simultaneous sprints this fall that could reshape the U.S. economy and reverberate into next year’s campaigns to determine which party controls the House and Senate.

The most immediate of three major priorities is that the government will partially shut down on Oct. 1 unless Congress does something in the next three weeks to keep appropriations flowing past the end of the fiscal year, on Sept. 30.

The government might also not be able to meet its financial obligations as early as October unless Congress raises or suspends its borrowing authority known as the debt limit, as outlined in a series of increasingly dire letters from Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen to congressional leaders.

And Democrats set up a quick timeline for a two-track legislative strategy for jobs and infrastructure bills. That would entail passing a bipartisan infrastructure measure that has already passed the Senate, and coupling that with a sweeping $3.5 trillion package of social spending for health care, environment, education, job training and more through the budget reconciliation process — which is not subject to the Senate filibuster and hence prevents Republicans from blocking it.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Sept. 8 that she was “so proud” when the Senate passed an infrastructure bill but that “they recognized that that was not the totality of the president’s vision.”

“That was important, and we will pass that legislation,” the California Democrat said. “But we can only do so as we recognize that if we’re going to build back better, we have to do so including many more people.”

That creates a slog through September as House and Senate lawmakers write, negotiate and advance what will amount to a giant package — which represents the heart of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda — through the reconciliation process.

“Is it going to be easy on reconciliation? Absolutely not,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer told reporters last month. “But if past is prologue, we have a chance, a good, decent chance.”

But wait, there’s more. All that arrives simultaneously with contentious issues that will require time and attention, including oversight of Biden’s withdrawal from the Afghanistan War and increased action with the House select committee that is looking into the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. That comes as right-wing extremist groups are planning to attend a Friday rally at the Capitol to demand “justice” for those charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the building.

To that, add pressure on Democrats to respond to the end of the eviction moratorium related to the coronavirus pandemic, more restrictive state voting laws and a new Texas law that ends most legal abortions in that state. A smaller group of negotiators is still trying to hammer out a deal on an overhaul to policing policies.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Seethes at Biden Mandate, Even in States Requiring Other Vaccines, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Resistance to vaccine mandates, once a fringe position, has entered the Republican mainstream. But the governors fighting President Biden’s Covid-19 requirements impose mandates of their own.

Like other Republican governors around the country, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, right, reacted angrily to the coronavirus vaccine mandates President Biden imposed on tate reevesprivate businesses. Declaring the move “terrifying,” he wrote on Twitter: “This is still America, and we still believe in freedom from tyrants.”

There is a deep inconsistency in that argument. Mississippi has some of the strictest vaccine mandates in the nation, which have not drawn opposition from most of its elected officials. Not only does it require children to be vaccinated against measles, mumps and seven other diseases to attend school, but it goes a step further than most states by barring parents from claiming “religious, philosophical or conscientious” exemptions.

djt maga hatResistance to vaccine mandates was once a fringe position in both parties, more the realm of misinformed celebrities than mainstream political thought. But the fury over Mr. Biden’s mandates shows how a once-extreme stance has moved to the center of the Republican Party. The governors’ opposition reflects the anger and fear about the vaccine among constituents now central to their base, while ignoring longstanding policy and legal precedent in favor of similar vaccination requirements.

“Republicans care about getting beyond this pandemic every bit as much as Democrats do,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. But, he added, “politicians are certainly happy to exploit this issue for political gain, which is why I think the Republican governors are up in arms.”

Mr. Biden also imposed vaccine mandates on federal workers and many health care workers. But Republican outrage is really boiling over his plan to require all private-sector businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing for their work forces.

republican elephant logoGov. Greg Abbott of Texas called the president’s move “a power grab.” Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina promised to fight Mr. Biden in court, to “the gates of hell.” Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana called it “unlawful and un-American.” Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama called the move “outrageous” and “overreaching.”

But each of these states — indeed every state in the country — already mandates certain vaccinations for children, and sometimes for adults, including health care workers and patients in certain facilities.

Mississippi, which has one of the lowest coronavirus vaccination rates in the nation, has consistently led the United States in childhood vaccinations — a point of pride for its health officials and many of its lawmakers. Alabama, similar to Mississippi, also refuses to acknowledge “philosophical, moral or ethical” exemptions to mandatory childhood vaccinations.

Experts in public health law agree that Mr. Biden is on solid legal footing, because his actions are grounded in federal workplace safety laws. They say Republican governors who insist that vaccine mandates are an intrusion on personal liberty need a refresher on their own state policies.

“That is pure hypocrisy,” Lawrence O. Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University, said of Mr. Reeves’s remarks. “Even religious exemptions are swept away in the state of Mississippi, so how can he say that an order that a president makes to keep workers safe, with authorization by Congress, is an overreach or in any way unconstitutional?”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A make-or-break moment for our democracy, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Sept. 12, 2021. It’s a habit of journalism to declare nearly every ej dionne w open neckimpending period as a turning point, a “defining moment” that will set a nation or even the world on a course for years or decades to come.

The routinization of the momentous is mostly harmless, but over time it has a cost. Declaring too many junctures as decisive can lead us to overlook the ones that genuinely are.

Thus the importance of recognizing that the next month is make-or-break not only for President Biden and the future of American social policy but also for the right to vote and our democracy itself.

Failing to enact Democrats’ social policy plan would be a big problem. Failing to protect democratic rule would be catastrophic.

nso group logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Issues Emergency Security Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw, Nicole Perlroth, Sept. 13, 2021. Apple issued emergency software updates for a critical vulnerability in its products on Monday after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.

Apple’s security team had worked around the clock to develop a fix since Tuesday, after researchers at Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog organization at the University of Toronto, discovered that a Saudi activist’s iPhone had been infected with an advanced form of spyware from NSO.

The spyware, called Pegasus, used a novel method to invisibly infect Apple devices without victims’ knowledge. Known as a “zero click remote exploit,” it is apple logo rainbowconsidered the Holy Grail of surveillance because it allows governments, mercenaries and criminals to secretly break into someone’s device without tipping the victim off.

Using the zero-click infection method, Pegasus can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages, texts, emails, calls — even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal — and send them back to NSO’s clients at governments around the world.

“This spyware can do everything an iPhone user can do on their device and more,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, who teamed up israel flagwith Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, on the finding.

The discovery means that more than 1.65 billion Apple products in use worldwide have been vulnerable to NSO’s spyware since at least March. It signals a serious escalation in the cybersecurity arms race, with governments willing to pay whatever it takes to spy on digital communications en masse, and with tech companies, human rights activists and others racing to uncover and fix the latest vulnerabilities that enable such surveillance.

gavin newsom joe biden 9 13 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Politics Updates: Biden Campaigns for Newsom in California Recall, Staff Reports, Sept. 13, 2021. Voting ends on Tuesday in the election to decide whether to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom, and if so, who should replace him. Follow updates here. According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, above left, California residents have two days left to decisively reject a Republican takeover of the nation’s biggest and most powerful Democratic stronghold.

His leading rival, the conservative radio host Larry Elder, has promised that his first moves as governor would be to lift the vaccine and mask mandates that Mr. Newsom put in place. Mr. Newsom argues that his policies have helped California begin to recover from the worst of the pandemic. The recall election, he has said repeatedly, “is a matter of life and death.”

On Monday, President Biden joined the governor in Long Beach to make his case — the last in a stream of national Democratic leaders to offer their support in the final days of the campaign to help Mr. Newsom keep his job.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Americans support vaccine mandates for office work and schools, poll shows, Annabelle Timsit and Bryan Pietsch, Sept. 13, 2021. How Maxime Bernier, a populist exploiting covid divisions, could help Trudeau in Canada’s election

As President Biden rolls out sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandates, more than half of Americans say they support businesses requiring proof of vaccination to return to the office, according to a CNN poll published Monday.

The poll — conducted by research group SSRS before Biden announced on Sept. 9 he is seeking to compel businesses with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations or weekly coronavirus testing — shows Americans have warmed up to the idea of vaccine mandates in some cases.

cdc logo CustomThey are more supportive than they were in an April poll of vaccine mandates for office workers (54 percent now), students returning to schools (55 percent) and people seeking to attend a sporting event or a concert (55 percent). Fewer than half of Americans (41 percent) supported vaccine mandates for customers entering a grocery store.

“Support for these mandates has risen across the board since April, growing 6 percentage points with regard to students, 8 points regarding office workers and event attendees, and 15 points regarding grocery shoppers,” according to CNN. The survey was conducted between Aug. 3 and Sept. 7 online and on the phone among a sample of 2,119 adults.

The poll shows just how polarized the issue has become, with 51 percent of Americans agreeing that requiring proof of vaccination in exchange for the right to perform “everyday activities outside of the home” is “an acceptable way to increase the vaccination rate,” while 49 percent felt it was “an unacceptable infringement on personal rights.”

Here’s what to know.

  • Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN broader vaccine mandates may be needed to control the pandemic in the United States if vaccination uptake doesn’t increase.
  • New York City public schools reopen on Monday, welcoming staff, teachers, and approximately 1 million students back from the summer for in-person learning — with some twists.
  • A real-life experiment is underway across the United States to test where schools can stay open safely amid the aggressive spread of the delta variant.

ny times logoNew York Times, West Virginia, once a vaccination pacesetter, is struggling against the Delta variant, Daniel E. Slotnik, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). The state now has the country’s lowest percentage of vaccinated residents 18 and over, despite efforts from state officials to reach the hesitant. Coronavirus cases are nearing record levels in West Virginia, and the state’s schools are closing and its hospitals are choked with patients stricken by the perniciously infectious Delta variant.

Just seven months ago, as the Covid vaccine was still being rolled out, the state was a national leader. By late June the state’s governor, Jim Justice, left, a Republican, had removed a statewide mask requirement.

jim justice facebookBut West Virginia has since fallen far behind, and its pandemic status has deteriorated, a situation shared with other states with large unvaccinated populations. Just under 48 percent of West Virginia’s 18 and over population is fully vaccinated, the lowest of any state, according to federal data compiled by The New York Times.

President Biden tried to push the roughly 80 million eligible but unvaccinated people in the United States to be inoculated when he announced on Thursday a sweeping plan that included vaccine requirements he said would cover some 100 million American workers.

Federally authorized vaccines greatly decrease the risk of hospitalization and death, even from the Delta variant, according to three studies released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

republican elephant logoGovernor Justice has been more outspoken about vaccinations than many other Republican governors. “We can stop this, West Virginia, we can stop it,” Mr. Justice said at a news conference on Friday. “The vaccines are safe. The vaccines are not an invasion on anyone.”

Even though Mr. Justice regularly beseeches his constituents to get a shot, vaccine mandates are “something that I absolutely do not believe in,” he said. Mr. Justice also suggested that Mr. Biden’s announcement of new vaccine mandates was a ploy to try to distract the public from the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the crush of migrants at the southern border.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ala. man dies after being turned away from 43 hospitals as covid-19 packs ICUs, family says, Timothy Bella, Sept. 12, 2021. The family of Ray DeMonia, 73, is urging people to get vaccinated after dozens of hospitals in three states were too overrun with covid-19 patients to treat him.

ray demonia family photoWhen Ray DeMonia (shown at right in a family photo via Dignity Memorial) was having a cardiac emergency last month, his Alabama family waited anxiously for a nearby hospital with available space in its intensive care unit.

But in a state where coronavirus infections and unvaccinated patients have overwhelmed hospitals in recent months, finding an available ICU bed was an ordeal. It was so difficult, his family wrote this month, that the hospital in his hometown of Cullman, Ala., contacted 43 others in three states — and all were unable to give him the care he needed.

DeMonia, who was eventually transferred to a Mississippi hospital about 200 miles away, died at 73 on Sept. 1.

Raven DeMonia, his daughter, told The Washington Post on Sunday that it was “shocking” when the family was told that dozens of ICUs were unable to treat her father.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: New York City Schools Reopen Fully After 18 Months, Staff Reports, Sept. 13, 2021. New York City’s classrooms reopened on Monday to roughly a million children, most of whom were returning for the first time since the United States’ largest school system closed in March 2020.

While the city reopened schools last fall for part-time learning, the vast majority of students chose to keep learning remotely. But with no remote option now available to almost all parents, classrooms will be full for the first time in a year and a half.

For months, Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, has forecast the first day of school to be a triumphant coda in New York City’s long recovery from the pandemic. bill de blasio 11 2 2013But the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has complicated the city’s push to fully reopen schools and left many families and educators anxious about what the next few months will hold.

On Monday morning, Neriyah and Khyree Smith boarded a subway car with broken air-conditioning and headed back to their East New York, Brooklyn, school for the first time since they left 18 months ago.

Neriyah, who is 8, said she was nervous and excited about seeing her classmates again.

“I made a lot of friends before I was on computers,” she said. Khyree, 4, showed off his matching SpongeBob SquarePants backpack and lunchbox. Their mother, Tiffany Smith, chose to keep her children learning from home last year.

But she said they both struggled to focus, and that she now felt safe with them back in classrooms. “They have a lot of safety protocols,” Ms. Smith said of city schools.

Roughly one million children are returning today — most of them for the first time since the school system closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has cast the reopening as a triumphant coda in New York’s recovery. But the Delta variant’s spread has left anxiety about what comes next.

  • A Chinese province reports an outbreak of the Delta variant.
  • Australia starts vaccinating children as young as 12.
  • A small upstate New York hospital will pause baby deliveries after some staff quit over vaccines.
  • Researchers will tackle an unusual question: Might the vaccines affect women’s periods?
  • Hospitals in Washington State, already strained, are taking on Covid patients from Idaho.

daniel marcias davey marcias

washington post logoWashington Post, California couple dies of covid, leaving five kids behind. Their newborn is three weeks old, Julian Mark, Sept. 13, 2021. Davy Macias, 37, was intubated and dying of complications from covid-19 when doctors helped her give birth to her daughter. She would never see her baby.

Her husband, Daniel Macias, 39, would only get a brief glimpse of their child because he, too, was hospitalized after contracting the virus. According to Davy’s sister-in-law, Terri Serey, Daniel waited to name the baby girl because he believed he and his wife would walk out of the hospital alive to introduce the newborn to their four other children, the eldest age 7 and the youngest, 2.

But about a week after the baby was born, Davy died. Two weeks later, so did Daniel (shown together above).

Daniel “was well enough to send me a picture of the baby,” Serey told The Washington Post. But “that was the last text I received from him.”

Davy and Daniel Macias, of Yucaipa, Calif., are among the 658,000 Americans to have died of covid-19 as the delta variant causes a resurgence of cases and health officials race to immunize a population divided on whether to take the shot. Davy Macias did not get vaccinated because she was pregnant, Serey said. It is unclear if Daniel was vaccinated.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 13, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds):

World Cases: 225,591,287, Deaths: 4,646,295
U.S. Cases:     41,853,362, Deaths:    677,988
India Cases:     33,264,175, Deaths:    442,907
Brazil Cases:    20,999,779, Deaths:    586,882

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 209.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 13, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 178.7 million people, or 53.8 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, The Legacy of America’s Post-9/11 Turn to Torture, Carol Rosenberg Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Twenty years later, the United States is still grappling with the consequences of brutal interrogations carried out in the name of national security.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi is almost clinical as he recalls details of the torture he endured in the summer of 2003 at Guantánamo Bay.

There were the guards who menaced him with attack dogs and beat him so badly they broke his ribs. The troops who shackled him, blasted him with heavy metal music and strobe lights or drenched him in ice water to deny him sleep for months on end. The mind-numbing isolation in a darkened cell without his Quran. The female guards who exposed themselves and touched him sexually in an effort to undermine his adherence to Islam.

But what left Mr. Slahi in utter despair, he said, was the interrogator who tried to threaten him into acknowledging that he was complicit in plotting a terrorist attack.

“If you don’t admit to it, we are going to kidnap your mother, rape her,” the interrogator said, by Mr. Slahi’s account.

“I remember telling them: ‘This is unfair. This is not fair,’” Mr. Slahi recalled. The interrogator, he said, responded: “I’m not looking for justice. I’m looking to stop planes from hitting buildings in my country.”

To which Mr. Slahi said he replied, “You need to get those people, not me.”

Today, Mr. Slahi, 50, is a free man in Mauritania, his homeland in West Africa, after nearly 15 years as a detainee, an early portion of that time with the threat of a death-penalty trial hanging over him.

In the end, he was released in 2016 without ever being charged, the confessions he made under duress recanted, a proposed case against him deemed by the prosecutor to be worthless in court because of the brutality of the interrogation.

“I was very naïve, and I didn’t understand how America works,” Mr. Slahi said.

For the United States, as for Mr. Slahi, the legacy of the torture remains complex and multifaceted two decades after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, led the George W. Bush administration to set aside legal and moral constraints in the name of national security.

CIA LogoThe United States has long since stopped employing the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used in what studies have concluded was a fruitless or counterproductive effort to extract lifesaving information from detainees in secret C.I.A. prisons and at Guantánamo Bay.

But the choice to turn to government-sanctioned torture remains a stain on the country’s reputation, undercutting its authority to confront repression elsewhere. Even today, some former Bush administration officials risk questioning when traveling to Europe by investigators invoking the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

After his first meeting with President Biden in June, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia reminded journalists that Guantánamo remained open and that the C.I.A. had carried out torture in secret foreign prisons. “Is that human rights?” he asked.

ny times logoNew York Times, The trial of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks is at least another year away, the presiding judge said, Carol Rosenberg, Sept. 13, 2021. The new judge presiding in the Sept. 11, 2001 case at Guantánamo Bay said on Monday that the trial of the five men accused of plotting the attacks will not begin for at least another year.

matthew mccallThe judge, Col. Matthew N. McCall, right, who took over the case last month, was holding his second week of pretrial hearings at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after a delay of more than a year and half caused by the pandemic.

The timeline set by the judge on Monday would mean the trial of the five men, including the accused mastermind of the plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would not get underway until more than 21 years after hijacked jetliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Penn.

Colonel McCall was ruling on objections by defense lawyers for two of the defendants, Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The lawyers questioned his qualifications to preside in a death-penalty case because he had not read the filings and court record stretching back to the arraignment of the defendants in May 2012, including the 33,660-page transcript.

They urged him to suspend proceedings until he was properly trained as well as fully acquainted with the rulings by three previous judges in the case.

The judge replied that he had ample time, and a plan, to get up to speed, including taking a National Judicial College course on how to handle capital cases. Because of the pandemic, he will be taking it online, he said.

“At a minimum we are least one year away from trial,” said Colonel McCall, an Air Force colonel. He declared himself qualified by military commission regulations, Air Force bar and ethical obligations and “not bound by a particular timeline to get to trial.”

Colonel McCall is the fourth judge to preside at the Guantánamo court in the conspiracy case against Mr. Mohammed and the four other men who are accused of helping to plot the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon 20 years ago.

He has been a military judge for just two years, and was recently promoted to colonel, making him the youngest and least experienced of the judges who have overseen the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. to unveil new rules on federal monitors overseeing local police reforms, David Nakamura, Sept. 13, 2021. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday will unveil new rules governing federal monitors responsible for overseeing police reforms in local jurisdictions, including setting caps on the watchdogs’ tenure and budgets, and requiring them to undergo more training, people familiar with the plans said.

merrick garlandGarland, right, plans to announce the changes during an online speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, culminating a four-month Justice Department review aimed at bolstering public confidence in federal efforts to rein in unconstitutional and abusive policing.

Since he was appointed to the nation’s top law enforcement job by President Biden earlier this year, Garland — a former federal appeals court judge and Supreme Court nominee — has launched sweeping “pattern or practice” investigations of police departments in Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix.

Such probes can result in federal intervention, in the form of a court-approved consent decree that sets a detailed reform plan. Local political leaders, police chiefs and law enforcement unions have complained that the plans often stretch on years longer than anticipated, harming police morale and frustrating community residents.

Federal monitors can cost millions, with mixed results. Seattle is an example.

Justice Department log circularMonitoring teams have typically billed local taxpayers between $1 million and $2 million per year, and some consultants have served on federal oversight teams in more than one city at the same time, drawing criticism over a conflict of interest.

Under the new rules, described to The Washington Post by two people briefed on the matter, monitors would have their tenures capped at five years, after which they would be subject to a performance review from the Justice Department and the federal judge in charge of the settlement.

The monitors would have to meet federal standards before being hired and undergo mandatory training once on the job, and they would be restricted from serving as consulting principals in multiple localities simultaneously.

Another change would allow the Justice Department and the judge to slim down the consent decrees — which typically mandate that local jurisdictions meet hundreds of requirements before the federal oversight is lifted — to make them less onerous as law enforcement agencies demonstrate progress. That would hand back greater autonomy to local agencies in some areas, even as the federal monitors continue to ask for improvements in others.

Some of the new requirements have been tried in existing consent decrees, including in Baltimore. But now they will be mandatory in all new agreements, the people familiar with the new policy said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because Garland had not yet announced the changes.

The rules also will pertain to federal monitors who oversee the Justice Department’s court-negotiated settlements with local jurisdictions involving housing, education, the environment and workplace discrimination.

Garland ordered the review of federal monitors in April, when he released a memo restoring the agency’s ability to pursue consent decrees three years after the Trump administration banned the strategy. In 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he viewed the intervention into local jurisdictions as federal overreach.

Garland’s aides have called consent decrees an important tool to force changes among some of the nation’s most unaccountable law enforcement agencies. But the efforts have achieved mixed results, often moving more slowly than civil rights groups and police reform advocates have demanded.

The Justice Department spent more than 12 years overseeing police reforms in Los Angeles, 11 in Detroit, nearly a decade in New Jersey and seven years in both Washington, D.C., and Prince George’s County, Md.

Among ongoing agreements, federal authorities are still monitoring reforms that began in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2009, in Seattle in 2012, in New Orleans and Puerto Rico in 2013, and in Portland, Ore., and Albuquerque in 2014.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two Florida middle-schoolers charged with plotting mass shooting after ‘extensively studying’ Columbine, Andrew Jeong, Sept. 13, 2021. Two Florida middle-schoolers are being held at a juvenile detention center after being accused of planning a mass school shooting inspired by Columbine.

The 14-year-old and 13-year-old boys, whom The Washington Post is not naming because they are minors, are eighth-graders at Harns Marsh Middle School in Lee County, about two hours away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a gunman killed 17 people in 2018. They were charged with conspiracy to commit a mass shooting and have been ordered to be held at a juvenile detention center for three weeks, according to the county sheriff’s office.

Police investigations suggest the boys had looked for guns on the black market, studied ways to build pipe bombs and researched the 1999 school shooting that occurred at Columbine High School in Colorado, County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said.

The two teens were arrested last week, after authorities were told by a teacher that one of the boys could be carrying a gun at school. Deputies who arrived at the middle school on Thursday found no firearms.

“However, a map of the school was located. The map contained markings indicating the location of each of the school’s interior cameras,” Marceno told reporters on Friday.

Subsequent investigations convinced detectives that the pair had plotted to carry out a school shooting, Marceno said. Detectives learned the boys were attempting to learn how to construct pipe bombs and how to buy firearms on the black market, he added. Authorities also learned of the pair’s interest in the two gunmen who killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine before killing themselves; Marceno said the boys were “extensively studying” that shooting.

amy coney barrett 9 12 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Barrett says the Supreme Court’s work is not affected by politics, Adam Liptak, Sept. 13, 2021. “To say the court’s reasoning is flawed is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said on Sunday that political partisanship plays no role in decision making at the Supreme Court.

Speaking at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, in Kentucky, Justice Barrett (shown above in an Associated Press story about the event) said that “judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties.”

“To say the court’s reasoning is flawed,” she said, “is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner.”

Her remarks came after an introduction by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who helped found the center. Mr. McConnell was instrumental in ensuring Justice Barrett’s rushed confirmation just weeks after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and weeks before President Donald J. Trump lost his bid for re-election.

The court now has six Republican appointees and three Democratic ones.

Justice Barrett’s remarks, reported by The Associated Press, were consistent with those of other members of the court who insist that partisan affiliations have nothing to do with their frequent splits along ideological lines. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, has, for instance, made that point in a new book and in interviews promoting it.

Justice Barrett’s remarks followed a series of recent rulings — on asylum policy, the federal eviction moratorium and a novel Texas abortion law — in which the court’s three justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents were in dissent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t let Amy Coney Barrett fool you: Everything the court does is political, Paul Waldman, right, Sept. 13, 2021. If you want to know what paul waldmanRepublicans will say if and when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade next year, you only have to look at Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s extraordinary new display of, well, trolling.

Not every justice would have the sheer gall to make a speech about the importance of the court staying above politics while appearing at a celebration for Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). But that’s what Barrett did.

And she showed how the Supreme Court can pursue a radical ideological agenda, one aimed at creating a conservative legal and political revolution in America, while simultaneously protesting that they would never consider something as unseemly as politics.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoThe occasion was an event honoring the anniversary of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville in the senate minority leader’s home state of Kentucky. He, of course, is the man who fast-tracked her nomination in the waning days of the Trump presidency, after refusing to allow Barack Obama’s nominee a hearing on the grounds that it was too late in Obama’s term.

McConnell’s ruthlessness has already borne fruit — in no area so vividly as Roe, whose destruction both liberals and conservatives now regard as all but inevitable after Barrett and four other conservatives allowed Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional antiabortion law to take effect.

But with McConnell by her side, Barrett insisted that she and the other justices are unsullied by politics. “This court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she said. “Judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties,” she went on, reminding everyone that she’s an “originalist.”

In her confirmation hearings, Barrett said much the same — which Republican nominees always do. She was particularly vigorous in her insistence on her own breathtaking purity of mind, in which the grubbiness of politics was so far beneath her that she could barely see it from her perch in the intellectual clouds.

Weirdly enough, conservatives greeted her confirmation with rapturous joy, almost as if they didn’t believe her when she promised to rule in ways unmoored from any political or ideological concern or agenda.

Those conservatives popping the champagne know full well that those who call themselves “originalists,” as Barrett did, are seldom constrained from finding their way to whatever rulings they prefer on complex contemporary issues the Framers could not possibly have foreseen.

So how can Barrett say she’s not “partisan” and is motivated not by an ideological agenda but by a “judicial philosophy” unencumbered by political considerations? By defining “politics” so narrowly that it loses all relevance. The truth, however, is that everything the Supreme Court does is political, and that’s particularly true of its conservative majority.

No honest person can claim, for instance, that the string of decisions the court has issued upholding Republican efforts to solidify their minority rule — aggressive voter purges, brutal gerrymandering, all manner of techniques to make it harder to vote — are not political. Are the court’s attacks on unions not political? When Barrett and her fellow conservatives overturn Roe, is that not going to be political?

Of course it will be. Politics is about how power is distributed and used, how government relates to citizens, and how the law chooses to structure those relationships. It’s all political, because the political is where the law meets the real world.

The fact that in a particular case a justice can come up with a justification beyond “I’m just ruling this way because it’s what Republicans want” — even a persuasive one — doesn’t mean that her decisions don’t have profound political implications. And she and the other justices are well aware of those implications before they rule.

Sometimes they rule in ways that might confer political advantage on their ideological compatriots and sometimes they’ll rule in ways that might create political problems for their friends, but they do it with their eyes open every time, even as some of them continue to weave a myth of their own innocence.

The pending demise of Roe is a perfect example. If and when the conservative justices overturn that decision, they’ll do so knowing that it will almost certainly produce a backlash that will harm the Republican Party. But stopping women from being able to access abortion is such a long-standing ideological goal for conservatives — including those on the court — that they’re willing to see the GOP take some political damage.

The decision will affect politics in every corner of the country, probably in some ways we can’t anticipate. But when it happens, Republicans will say it was only the court doing the right thing, and that it was nothing more than what the Constitution and the beliefs of the Framers demand. And they’ll say it with a smirk, knowing that lying so gleefully drives liberals crazy, when the truth is far more simple: They’re the ones with the power, and they’ll use it to get what they want.

That’s politics too — a form of politics that is now playing out in a battle for control of women’s bodies and lives. And precisely because it’s political, it couldn’t be more important. Don’t let anyone get away with denying it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Police Inquiry Into Jan. 6 Riot Recommends Disciplining Six Officers, Emily Cochrane, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). None of the officers, or details about the recommended penalties, were identified. Criminal charges will not be filed against any of the officers. Capitol Police investigators have recommended disciplinary action against six police officers for their actions during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, when Trump supporters stormed the building in an effort to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory.

Three officers were singled out for unbecoming conduct, one officer for failure to comply with directives, one officer for improper remarks and one officer for improper dissemination of information, the Capitol Police said in a statement on Saturday.

None of the officers, or details about the recommended penalties, were identified. No criminal charges will be filed, after the U.S. attorney’s office did not find sufficient evidence to do so.

The internal inquiry, which was conducted by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, covered 38 investigations, although investigators failed to identify 12 officers involved in the cases. One investigation, into an unidentified official who was “accused of unsatisfactory performance and conduct unbecoming,” remains open, according to the statement.

brian sicknickThe security failures stemming from the Jan. 6 breach has cast scrutiny on the secretive agency, which is responsible for protecting the Capitol complex. Officer Brian D. Sicknick, right, died in the hospital after fending off the mob, and at least 73 officers were hurt that day after being assaulted with flagpoles, fire extinguishers and hockey sticks, injuries that ranged from bruises to concussions and burns.

Even as the majority of the police force grapple with the trauma of the attack, videos widely circulating on social media appeared to show some officers treating the rioters sympathetically or doing little to stop them from entering the complex.

After the riot, the Capitol Police announced it would open an investigation, with at least six officers suspended with pay at the time. The agency made public the results of its internal investigation on Saturday only after sharing details with the Justice Department, which in turn notified the lawyers representing clients charged in connection to the riot.

In its statement, the Capitol Police said that it was “committed to accountability when officers fail to meet the standards governed by U.S.C.P. policies and the congressional community’s expectations,” and that the six violations “should not diminish the heroic efforts” of most officers who defended the building.

Last month, agency leaders said they had cleared Lt. Michael Byrd, who fatally shot a rioter during the attack, of any wrongdoing after investigators found he had acted lawfully and potentially saved lawmakers, aides and others in the House chamber from harm or death.

J. Thomas Manger, a veteran police chief from the Washington region, took over the department in July after the Capitol Police chief at the time, Steven Sund, resigned along with the Senate and House sergeants-at-arms. The police union also issued a vote of no confidence in agency leadership.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Two Parents Are the First to Face Trial in College Admissions Scandal, Kate Taylor, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). At issue are the parents’ conduct, U.S.C.’s admissions practices and possibly the fairness of the college admissions process itself.

Gamal Abdelaziz, a former hotel and casino executive, is accused of paying $300,000 to get his daughter admitted to the University of Southern California as a basketball player based on false qualifications.

John Wilson, a private equity executive, is accused of paying $220,000 to get his son admitted to U.S.C. as a water polo player, then conspiring to pay another $1.5 million to secure admission for his daughters to Harvard and Stanford.

Opening statements begin on Monday for the first parents to face trial in a sweeping college admissions case that exposed the role that money, athletics and family privilege play in the competition for coveted seats at brand-name schools.

Over the coming weeks, the fairness of the admissions process may also be on trial.

The mastermind of this college admissions scheme, a college consultant named William Singer, and known as Rick, has already pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges and cooperated with the government. He specialized in getting his clients’ children into schools through what he called the “side door” — a process that involved making a donation to an athletic department (or simply a payment to a coach) in exchange for the student being designated as a recruited athlete, often in a sport that he or she didn’t play at all.

Part of the trial will hinge on the question of whether Mr. Abdelaziz and Mr. Wilson believed that U.S.C. embraced the “side door” or whether they knowingly engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the university by lying about their children’s athletic qualifications and making quid pro quo payments to athletic officials.

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

washington post logoWashington Post, Blinken clashes with Republican lawmakers over Afghanistan withdrawal, John Hudson and Missy Ryan, Sept. 13, 2021. Secretary of State Antony Blinken clashed with Republican lawmakers Monday over the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in his first hearing before Congress since the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Republicans excoriated the administration for ending the U.S. military evacuation before every American left the country, the sluggish pace of visa processing for Afghan allies, and other tactical decisions, such as the abandonment of its largest military base at Bagram airfield.

“I never thought in my lifetime that I would see an unconditional surrender to the Taliban,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (Tex.), the committee’s top Republican. “The American people don’t like to lose, especially to the terrorists.”

“The majority of Americans wanted to leave Afghanistan, but not like this,” added Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).

While declaring the Taliban takeover a humiliation, Republicans stopped short of advocating for a new surge of U.S. troops into the country — an unpopular proposal that Blinken said would’ve been the only real alternative to withdrawing all personnel.

“President Biden immediately faced the choice between ending the war or escalating it,” said Blinken, noting President Trump’s 2020 agreement with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces.

“Had he not followed through on his predecessor’s commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed, and the Taliban’s nationwide assault on Afghanistan’s major cities would have commenced,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Million Afghan Children Could Die in ‘Most Perilous Hour,’ U.N. Warns, Marc Santora, Nick Cumming-Bruce and Christina Goldbaum, Sept. 13, 2021. Millions of Afghans could run out of food before the arrival of winter and one million children are at risk of starvation and death if their immediate needs are not met, top United Nations officials warned on Monday, putting the country’s plight into stark relief.

Secretary General António Guterres, speaking at a high-level U.N. conference in Geneva convened to address the crisis, said that since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan last month, the nation’s poverty rate has soared and basic public services have neared collapse and, in the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless after being forced to flee fighting.

“After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that one in three Afghans do not know where they will get their next meal.

The deepening humanitarian crisis tops a dizzying array of challenges confronting the new Taliban regime as it navigates governing a country propped up for decades by aid from international donors.

Speaking to the news media on Monday afternoon, Mr. Guterres said more than $1 billion in aid pledges had been made at the meeting by the international community, which is still grappling with how to work with an organization like the Taliban, with a history of brutality and human rights abuses.

The international community pledged more than $1 billion in emergency aid as millions of Afghans risked running out of food just as winter sets in.

 


king abdullah left crown prince salman abdul aziz third right praying during 2003 funeral saudi press agency via apThe Saudi royal family, including Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (standing, center at front), is show attending a funeral in the kingdom (Saudi Kingdom photo).

WhoWhatWhy, Analysis: FBI Makes Midnight Release of Shocking New Information on Saudi-9/11 Complicity, Russ Baker, right, Sept. 12, 2021. Late Saturday night — a russ baker cropped david welkertimeslot usually reserved for announcements designed to be buried — the FBI released a previously classified report related to its extraordinarily sensitive investigation of possible Saudi government complicity with the September 11 attackers.

whowhatwhy logoThe report on “Operation Encore” contains critical admissions that move forward, to some extent, understanding of the relationship between the Saudi government and the perpetrators of the greatest attack ever committed on American soil.

The release was in compliance with an executive order from President Joe Biden.

However, significant information was redacted, continuing a long pattern of the government withholding crucial material.

Among the assertions from the April 4, 2016, “review and analysis” report was an admission that Saudi officials had met with hijackers — but while the meetings were termed “accidental,” that was contradicted by an eyewitness who said it appeared pre-arranged. The report also shows that one Saudi official had actually lived with a high-ranking al-Qaeda operative in the United States.

As readers will see from the WhoWhatWhy article below, published less than 24 hours before the new release, the involvement of Saudi officials with the hijackers could in no way be construed as limited and accidental, as they included writing checks to and finding housing for the hijackers.

Despite the continued withholding of information, particularly the names of sources interviewed by the Bureau, the report was welcomed by families of 9/11 victims suing the Saudis.

“With this first release of documents, 20 years of Saudi Arabia counting on the U.S. government to cover up its role in 9/11 comes to an end,” said New York attorney James Kreindler, who represents the families. “The findings and conclusions in this FBI investigation validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the Saudi government’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how al Qaeda operated inside the US with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government.”

Kreindler highlighted several areas of the 16-page report that seem particularly significant.

One unanswered question is: Why would the Saudi officials act in this sort of a transparent manner, given the stakes? We will provide updates and original reporting.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI releases 9/11 investigation document that scrutinized Saudis, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). The FBI has released the first of what are expected to be several documents from its investigation into whether agents of the Saudi Arabian government provided support to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror plot, a move heralded by victims’ families though it yielded no tangible proof of official involvement.

The Saturday night release was the result of an executive order issued by President Biden earlier this month ordering government agencies to review, declassify and release more information regarding the investigation.

FBI logoSome families of 9/11 victims have sued the Saudi government, alleging the Saudis knowingly provided financial and logistics support to the terrorism plot, something that country’s government has long denied. As part of that lawsuit, lawyers for the families have fought for years to force the FBI to share what it knows about possible connections between the 9/11 hijackers, most of whom were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and any Saudi diplomats or intelligence operatives.

Brett Eagleson, whose father was killed in the attacks, said it was “particularly meaningful” that first document in response to the executive order was released on the 20th anniversary of the attacks. “Today marks the moment when the Saudis cannot rely on the U.S. government from hiding the truth about 9/11,” he said in a written statement pledging to “hold the Saudi government fully accountable for the tremendous pain and losses we suffered.”

Biden signed the executive order after families of hundreds of 9/11 victims said he would not be welcome at this year’s events marking the anniversary unless he declassified evidence.

In 2019, the Trump administration said it would share some of the relevant information with the families, but would not provide other details about the bureau’s findings, invoking the rarely-used state secrets privilege to argue that some elements of the investigation into the 9/11 attacks would damage national security if they were revealed.

Justice Department lawyers said last month they had recently closed an investigation related to the attacks, making it easier to share documents like the one released Saturday.

That document shows that FBI agents were still investigating as recently as 2016 possible ties between two of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, and those who may have helped them after they arrived in the United States in 2000.

Investigators were particularly interested in details about the Saudi government’s connections to Fahad al-Thumairy, a former Saudi consulate official, and Omar al-Bayoumi, a person the FBI once investigated as a possible Saudi intelligence officer.

After the 9/11 attacks, Bayoumi told investigators that he met the hijackers by chance in early 2000 in a Los Angeles restaurant and that they became friends. Bayoumi said he helped them navigate their new lives in the United States, but denied any knowledge of their terrorist intentions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan American woman’s escape highlights secretive CIA role in Kabul rescues, Dan Lamothe and Ellen Nakashima, Sept. 13, 2021.  Five days after Afghanistan’s fall, Shaqaiq Birashk, holed up in her Kabul apartment, was contacted by a stranger offering to have her picked up and escorted to the airport for evacuation. The man claimed to work for the U.S. government, said Birashk, an American citizen who, until the Taliban’s takeover, worked on a USAID project.

After some trepidation and encouragement from a friend who had already gone through the process, she accepted. That night, dressed in a flowing abaya that CIA Logoconcealed a backpack stuffed with clean clothes, Birashk, 37, nervously walked past the Taliban guards who had taken over security at her building and climbed into the back seat of a green Toyota Corolla, hopeful it would lead to her freedom.

“We were driving against the traffic,” she recalled in an interview. “You would see male and female, young and old, all walks of life, just walking toward the airport.”

Birashk did not know it at the time, but her rescue had been orchestrated in part by the CIA, which played a pivotal role — alongside elite U.S. troops and Afghan counterterrorism forces — in the dangerous extraction of Americans, Afghans and foreign nationals facing threats of reprisal from the Taliban due to their affiliation with the U.S. government. A spokeswoman for the agency, Tammy Thorp, declined to detail the operation, saying only that CIA personnel, in concert with other U.S. agencies, supported the broader evacuation effort “in various ways.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghans, Including a Million Children, Face ‘Perilous Hour’ Over Hunger, Marc Santora, Sami Sahak and Nick Cumming-Bruce, Sept. 13, 2021. Top U.N. officials warned that millions could run out of food before winter and one million children could die if their immediate needs are not met.
The agency said it needed $606 million in emergency funding to address the immediate crisis, while acknowledging that money alone will not be enough.

The plight of the Afghan people came into stark relief on Monday when top United Nations officials warned that millions of people could run out of food before the arrival of winter and one million children could die if their immediate needs are not met.

Secretary General António Guterres, speaking at a high-level U.N. conference in Geneva convened to address the crisis, said that since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the nation’s poverty rate is soaring, basic public services are close to collapse and, in the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless after being forced to flee fighting.

“After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that one in three Afghans do not know where they will get their next meal.

Speaking to the news media on Monday afternoon, Mr. Guterres said more than $1 billion in aid pledges had been made at the meeting by the international community. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, promised $64 million in new funding for food and medical aid.

With the prospect of humanitarian catastrophe long looming over the nation like the sword of Damocles, it now poses an immediate threat to the nation’s children.

“Nearly 10 million girls and boys depend on humanitarian assistance just to survive,” Henrietta H. Fore, the executive director of UNICEF, said at the conference. “At least one million children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year and could die without treatment.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Pilots Who Sought Safety in Uzbekistan Transfer to U.S. Base, Eric Schmitt and Madeleine Ngo, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Taliban leaders have been pressuring the Uzbek government to turn over the pilots, who fear for their safety and that of their families. 

An initial group of Afghan pilots who flew themselves and their family members to safety in Uzbekistan aboard Afghan Air Force aircraft were transferred to a U.S. military base in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, according to the office of Representative August Pfluger, which has been in contact with one of the pilots and his wife.

Two other groups of Afghan pilots and their relatives are expected to fly out in the next day or so under an arrangement the United States negotiated with Uzbekistan to move more than 450 Afghans.

The Afghan pilots, whom the Taliban consider among the most reviled members of the Afghan military for their role in conducting airstrikes against Taliban fighters, have been caught in a delicate diplomatic tug of war since fleeing their country as the government in Kabul was collapsing last month.

Taliban leaders have been pressuring the Uzbek government to turn over the pilots, who fear for the safety of themselves and their families. The United States, for its part, has been leaning on the Uzbeks to let the Afghans leave and fulfill its pledge to secure safe passage to pivotal members of the Afghan military who fought alongside the United States.

Since 2010, the Defense Department has appropriated over $8.5 billion to develop a capable and sustainable Afghan Air Force and its special mission wing.

Recent Afghanistan and 9/11 Headlines


U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 7 reasons to think Senate Democrats will actually change the filibuster, Norman Eisen, below at left, and Norman Ornstein, right, Sept. 13, 2021. The norm ornstein leading authoritiesparty has to pass voting rights legislation. Changing the rules is the only way to do it.

In the middle of a brazen nationwide assault on voting rights, of a kind we have not seen since Jim Crow was established after the Civil War, some are skeptical that Democrats in Washington will respond. If they don’t, allowing the filibuster to block voting rights legislation, it will consign the party (and its majority of U.S. voters) to possible permanent minority status.

norman eisen SmallAfter decades of studying and working with the Senate, we think the signs point the other way: There are seven reasons to believe that the filibuster will be reformed and voting rights legislation will be passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Biden.

The “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen did not end when President Donald Trump left office. It has only intensified, with over 216 bills in more than 41 states targeting our system of voting based on that falsehood. Trump and his acolytes in many of these states have continued to pour on the disinformation. They are trying to undo the things that made the 2020 election one of the most successful in history, such as early voting, drop boxes, mail-in voting and high minority turnout. A number of these bills would even make it possible for Trump’s allies in state legislatures to take steps to reverse future elections, irrespective of the will of the voters.

That’s where Congress comes in. Lawmakers can set national minimums for best practices to prevent open targeting of minority voters and block legislative hijacks of election outcomes. Those issues are addressed by bills such as the For the People Act (which already passed the House as H.R. 1), the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (which passed the House as H.R. 4) and the Preventing Election Subversion Act, sponsored by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.).

The obstacle, of course, is the filibuster, which has already twice blocked the For the People Act. But that can change. As we explain in a new paper, reform is possible if 51 votes can be mustered in the Senate — all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris, voting as the presiding officer to break a tie. As when the GOP eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in 2017, modifying it to pass voting rights legislation can be achieved with a bare majority.

Manchin thinks the filibuster fosters bipartisanship. Here’s why it doesn’t:

 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris campaign against the state's gubernatorial recall election that ends Sept. 14 (Reuters photo by Fred Greaves).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Vice President Kamala Harris campaign against the state's gubernatorial recall election that ends Sept. 14 (Reuters photo by Fred Greaves).

ny times logoNew York Times, In California, Republicans Struggle to Broaden the Recall’s Appeal, Jeremy W. Peters, Sept. 13, 2021. California has not been as progressive lately as its reputation would suggest. Yet Republicans have had trouble breaking the recall out of the fringe.

The small faction of Californians who still call themselves Republicans did something seemingly impossible when they forced Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of America’s largest Democratic state, to face voters in a recall.

It was a side of California often overlooked: the conservative minority that for decades has been on the leading edge of the Republican Party’s transformation into a vehicle for the anti-establishment grievance politics that swept former President Donald J. Trump into office in 2016. The California conservative movement led a national campaign against affirmative action in the 1990s, later shaped the anti-immigration views of the Trump strategists Stephen Miller and Stephen K. Bannon, and gave rise to a new generation of media heavyweights such as Breitbart News and Ben Shapiro.

But with Mr. Newsom leading the latest polls before the election on Tuesday, some of those same forces have struggled to gain mainstream support for the recall.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hopkins fire prompts more California evacuations ahead of Biden visit, Adela Suliman, Sept. 13, 2021. It’s the latest wildfire to hit the state as the Caldor and Dixie fires are not fully contained.

Another wildfire is prompting evacuations in parts of California, as President Biden is set to visit the state Monday to outline how his administration plans to respond to wildfires and climate emergencies.

The Hopkins wildfire, in Northern California’s Mendocino County, started Sunday afternoon and has burned some 275 acres — and has only been 10 percent contained so far, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

As of Sunday evening, no injuries or fatalities were reported but approximately 200 structures were potentially at risk, according to Cal Fire. Images on social media showed huge blazes and helicopters dropping water in attempts to stamp out the fires near Lake Mendocino.

Shelters — for both people and animals — were set up as evacuation orders were issued Sunday for some areas and roads closed off, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. Some residents, however, were given permission to return home overnight.

Elsewhere in California, the Caldor Fire that began mid-August remains active and has burned nearly 220,000 acres, while the Dixie Fire that started in July — the second-largest fire in California’s history that forced thousands from their homes — has burned 960,335 acres so far and is only 67 percent contained.

On Sunday, Biden approved a disaster declaration for California and ordered federal assistance to supplement local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the Caldor Fire.

Biden will visit the area Monday and receive a briefing from emergency response personnel on the impacts of recent wildfires in the state. He will also survey damage from the Caldor Fire by taking an aerial tour of parts of El Dorado County.

ny times logoNew York Times, Courting Moderates, House Democrats Ease Off Boldest Plans to Tax the Rich, Jonathan Weisman, Sept. 13, 2021. House Democrats’ plans to raise taxes on the rich and on profitable corporations stop well short of the grand proposals many in the party once envisioned to tax the vast fortunes of tycoons like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk — or even thoroughly close loopholes exploited by high-flying captains of finance.

Instead, the House Ways and Means Committee, influenced more by the need to win the votes of moderate Democrats than by progressive Democratic ambitions, focused on traditional ways of raising revenue to pay for the party’s $3.5 trillion social policy bill — by raising tax rates on income.

The proposal, which is set to be considered by the panel on Wednesday, does include measures to raise taxes on the rich. Taxable income over $450,000 — or $400,000 for unmarried individuals — would be taxed at 39.6 percent, the top rate before President Donald J. Trump’s 2017 tax cut brought it to 37 percent. The top capital gains rate would rise from 20 percent to 25 percent, a considerably smaller jump than President Biden proposed.

A 3-percent surtax would be applied to incomes over $5,000,000.

But more notable is what is not included. The richest of the rich earn little money from actual paychecks (Mr. Bezos’s salary from Amazon was $81,840 in 2020). Their vast fortunes in stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets grow each year largely untaxed.

The Senate Finance Committee wants to tax that wealth with a one-time surtax imposed on billionaires’ fortunes, followed by levies annually on the gains in value of billionaire assets, the way property taxes are adjusted each year to reflect gains in housing values. The Ways and Means Committee shrugged that off.

Representative Bill Pascrell, Democrat of New Jersey and a Ways and Means Committee member, conceded on Monday that the real wealth in the country is tied up in assets, not large salaries, but he said many Democrats were leery of going too far.

House Democrats’ plans stop well short of the proposals many in the party once envisioned to tax vast fortunes of tycoons like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
The House Ways and Means committee instead focused on traditional ways of raising revenue to pay for the $3.5 trillion social policy bill.

washington post logoWashington Post, With big tax push, Democrats aim to tackle enormous gains of top 1 percent, Jeff Stein, Sept. 13, 2021. The plan, reflecting President Biden’s pledge to confront a dramatic surge in U.S. inequality, is a central component of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion economic package, but they can’t proceed unless almost all of the party coalesces.

Senior House Democrats on Monday unveiled legislation that would represent the most significant tax hikes on the rich and certain corporations in decades, reflecting President Biden’s pledge to confront a dramatic surge in U.S. inequality.

richard neal oHouse Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), left, proposed more than $2 trillion in new revenue that would overwhelmingly hit the richest 1 percent of Americans with a bevy of new taxes and tax changes affecting their incomes, investments, businesses, estates, retirement funds, and other assets.

House Democrats circulate new tax plan as party seeks unity on key economic package

Neal’s plan pares back some of the ambitions from the Biden administration’s initial $3.5 trillion tax plan, rejecting a key White House proposal to tax the inheritances of the very wealthy and offering less aggressive changes for both domestic and multinational firms. And Democrats still have not completely rallied behind the package yet, with some members studying the details as votes are expected in the coming days.

But economists and tax experts say the proposal — which has White House support — amounts to the first major effort in Congress to address the populist political fervor over the gap between America’s ultrarich and its middle-class that has widened to levels unseen in nearly a century. The fears of a tax system unduly weighted to the rich have only intensified during the pandemic. Since 2019 alone, the wealth controlled by the top 400 people in America increased by $1.4 trillion, according to Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California Berkeley.

Democrats face numerous remaining hurdles in enacting the legislation, which is entangled with broader negotiations over the $3.5 trillion spending package. They also face amplifying GOP attacks alleging that the tax hikes will hurt middle-class families, drain investment, and strain economic growth. And there are signs Republicans could try and hammer Democrats over the tax proposal in midterm election campaigns.

House Democrats tried to blunt some of these criticisms by designing the proposal to put the lion’s share of tax increases on wealth earned by the most rich.

While an estimate from Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper Monday suggested suggested Neal’s tax plan would raise roughly $2.2 trillion, Democrats say their $3.5 trillion package is fully paid for because it makes up for the remaining revenue by cutting costs on prescription drugs and from “dynamic scoring,” or assuming higher economic growth leads to more government tax revenue.

“This is a critical time. The magnitude of the inequality in America today is much larger than it’s been in years. We are in an era not seen since the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th Century, or the Roaring ’20s right before the Great Depression,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist at Columbia University. “The question is: Will our political system be dictated by the vast majority of Americans, or a small minority of vested interests who want to keep their goodies for themselves?”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans cannot duck responsibility for Trump, Jennifer Rubin, Sept. 13, 2021. It makes for uncomfortable TV. Republicans get really grumpy. Republicans who enabled former president Donald Trump right up to the 2020 election — or beyond — do not like to admit complicity in the rise of a dangerous authoritarian movement. That, however, does not mean the rest of us should forgive and forget.

We saw how incapable Trump enablers are of defending themselves on Sunday’s “This Week.” Journalist Roland Martin simply would not allow Trump ally and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie or Trump’s former Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur off the hook.

Christie gave a high-minded speech at the Reagan Library last week urging his party to step away from conspiracy theories. Fine. But does he imagine we have amnesia? He was a loyal Trump supporter who even helped prepare him for a presidential debate.

Isgur thinks people won’t be “persuaded” by reminding them that she enabled arguably the most corrupt Justice Department in history. That tactical analysis is a wee bit self-serving and in any event non-responsive.

She supported a president and party that attacked truth and democracy (and still does!) at every turn. (She was previously more forthcoming in an op-ed for The Post, admitting, “We told ourselves that, by going [into the administration], we were preventing greater harm to the country. But we obscured the reality of a Trump presidency from the public. We gave voters a false sense of what kind of president Trump was.”)

Christie’s bizarre excuse for enabling Trump — he ran against him before helping his campaign — is essentially a defense of partisan hackery. Once the party spoke, what choice did he have but to go along?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden is making his big move on the filibuster, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 13, 2021. President Joe Biden has spent enough decades in politics bill palmerto know that there’s a timing to everything. If you just immediately take the biggest swing possible on something, without getting your ducks in a row first, that’s not a strategy – and it’s likely to fail badly.

bill palmer report logo headerSo even as a lot of observers have spent all of 2021 insisting that Biden must instantly do something about voting rights and the filibuster, Palmer Report has pointed out that the next major election isn’t actually until late 2022 – more than a year from now. Better for Biden to take his time and line up the necessary leverage before taking that swing.

For instance, Biden and his team spent months painstakingly lining up the legal basis for the employee vaccination rules that he rolled out last week. Now that it’s out of the way, and it’s a given that infrastructure will end up happening at some dollar amount, Biden is circling back to voting rights legislation.

joe biden twitterRolling Stone is reporting that Biden is about to enact a huge pressure campaign against Manchin and Sinema, and he’ll use everything he has in order to pressure them into exempting voting rights from the filibuster so it can be passed with 50 votes.

It’s important to keep in mind that while the media has painted Manchin and Sinema as somehow having infinitely powerful magic wands for doing anything they want, and while Twitter pundits have spun wild conspiracy theories about Manchin and Sinema and some Republican donors who aren’t even still alive, nothing works that way in the real world.

In reality Manchin and Sinema are two-bit lightweights who always end up caving to whoever puts the most pressure on them or is most willing to give them what they want – and Biden is, well, the President. In fact, Biden just gave Manchin what he wanted when it came to the ATF this week, and that’s now starting to look like a carrot for moving Manchin closer to caving on voting rights reform. If that doesn’t work, Biden will get use the proverbial stick – and we all saw this week what it looks like when Biden gets out the stick.

Once President Biden formally announces his big push on voting rights legislation, your job will be to support his effort by placing as much pressure on Manchin and Sinema as possible. Biden is going to get this done before the 2022 midterms – and your support is going to be crucial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats sorting through painful sacrifices as social bill enters final stretch, Sean Sullivan, Marianna Sotomayor, Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). The party confronts a narrow window to enact a once-in-a-generation liberal agenda. But their goals far outstrip the funding, and aggressive jockeying has started over whose priorities get jettisoned.

As top Democrats hashed out a plan this summer for a historic expansion of the social safety net, Sen. Bernie Sanders privately struck a deal with White House officials and Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer that is now having major ramifications.

Bernie SandersSanders (I-Vt.), left, a democratic socialist, agreed to support a $3.5 trillion package — much smaller than he wanted — in exchange for a promise that more than a tenth of the money, at least $380 billion, would go toward his longtime goals, chiefly expanding Medicare to cover hearing, vision and dental care.

That deal, described by a person with direct knowledge of it who like some others in this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive negotiations, is looming heavily over the tense negotiations on the bill’s final shape. At the insistence of centrist Democrats, the bill faces more big cuts, with some demanding it shrink to $1.5 trillion. Democrats have given themselves only a few weeks to finalize its contours — forcing painful decisions in coming days on which parts of their long-awaited agenda to sacrifice, from education to health care to climate.

While the White House and Schumer (D-N.Y.) may be backing Sanders’s Medicare expansion, a House committee recently embraced a plan that appeared to devote fewer resources to it than Sanders wants, foreshadowing the fights to come.

us senate logo“There’s more good things that we want to get done than there is revenue to do it,” said Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a close Biden ally. “There are hard choices. That’s the point of this month.”

And the stakes are unusually high. Strategists in both parties believe Democrats are likely to lose the House and possibly the Senate next year, so this could be the party’s only chance in years to enact an expansive domestic agenda. The finished product will become the clearest picture of what today’s Democrats stand for, supplanting the countless speeches, platforms and 10-point plans they delivered when out of power.

 Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: WMR, Where are DeSantis's Navy Officer fitreps? Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 13, 2021. Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallis hoping for re-election in 2022 and planning a run for the White House in 2024, often brags about his being a naval officer. Before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, DeSantis served on active duty as an officer from 2004 to 2010. He remained in the Naval Reserve after 2010.

DeSantis joined the Navy while in his last year at Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, DeSantis became a member of the Navy's Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. DeSantis's collateral duties in the Navy included being an Awards Officer, which would include the authority to recommend military personnel for various medals.

wayne madesen report logoBased on DeSantis's abysmally dishonest record as Florida's Governor, did he have any personal input on his being awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, reported to have been for his prosecuting 25 court martial cases in the Navy, but curiously, also includes cases in federal court involving procurement fraud and stolen valor?

There are enough questions about DeSantis's Navy record that should compel him to make public all of his Navy Fitness Report and Counseling Record documents.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Pro-Trump rally flames out, Jesse Green, Sept. 13, 2021. Some Branch Trumpvidians decided to have a bund meeting…excuse me, I meant rally…in Kentucky. Among the featured speakers were Mike Lindell, Michael Flynn, and Lin Wood.

bill palmer report logo headerThe people that put this event together expected about 10,000 people. Did they get that many people? Was the Muhlenberg County Agriculture & Convention Center Fairgrounds packed full of flag waving, cheering Orange Florida Man (OFM) worshippers? Oh, hell no. Fewer than 300 people showed up for this little shindig.

The local NBC station tried to cover the event, but organizers would not allow them to stay. Probably out of embarrassment they didn’t have the kind of bund meetings OFM had during his maladministration and only had a handful of people show up. (Including someone who should’ve used spell check before writing on their vehicle’s window). Maybe they would have had better luck if they had booked the nearest landscaping center like OFM stooge Giuliani did before instead of the local fairgrounds.

Perhaps the writing is on the wall for OFM’s hangers-on like Lindell, Powell, Flynn, and Wood. With OFM’s star no longer on the rise, and on its way to a correctional institution of some sort there doesn’t seem to be that much energy for has-beens who are torpedoing what’s left of their careers and their businesses defending OFM. People have better things to do on a weekend then listen to this band of idiots peddling the same old bullshit they’ve been peddling the past 10 months. Maybe events like these are just becoming little more than background noise that attract OFM’s most rabid supporters but just about no one else.

WFIE- TV (Evansville IN). Hundreds gather for ‘We The People’ rally in Muhlenberg Co., Brady Williams, Sept. 11, 2021. The “We the People Reunion,” a conservative rally, began in Muhlenberg County on Friday.

The event is hosting speakers such as the CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Pastor Greg Locke, who has in the past admitted to being at the Capitol during the January 6 Capitol riot.

The rally began at the Muhlenberg County Agriculture and Convention Center.

Promoters said they expected crowds of around 10,000 people.

Fewer than 300 were at the event when 14 News arrived.

14 News was allowed in the parking lot to shoot some video, but was later asked to leave the fairgrounds. Any attempts made to speak with local leaders and event organizers have been denied.

14 News did speak with a group of women who fear that such a large event is dangerous during a pandemic. “People are getting sick and they’re dying,” Powderly resident Rhonda Wood said. “Friends of ours, people we know, and we haven’t been able to stop it. We’ve tried, we’ve pleaded, we’ve sent requests - done whatever we could.”

 

Media, Philanthropy, Activism

 

george soros uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, The Great Read, George Soros Is Making Changes at His Foundation While He Still Can, Nicholas Kulish, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). The result at his left-leaning foundation is a painful restructuring to focus on the fight against rising authoritarianism around the world.

The mass email that went out to Open Society Foundations’ grant recipients in the United States in March began with an upbeat note about “how resistance is translating into real progress.”

The bad news was buried farther down. The left-leaning foundation — started by the billionaire investor George Soros (above) and today the second-largest private charitable foundation in the United States — was beginning a transformation, as officials there refer to their restructuring plan. So, the email said, “the nature of many partnerships will shift.”

What that actually meant in practice only became clear amid a flurry of phone calls between concerned nonprofit leaders and foundation staff in the days that followed. Many of the nonprofit groups that relied on support from Open Society were getting what were called “tie-off grants,” a final year or so of funding to ease the blow of getting cut off. The foundation set aside an enormous $400 million for what amounted to severance payments to organizations around the world, and more than 150 foundation employees took buyouts as part of the restructuring.

Grant recipients in public health said they were stunned to be told during a global pandemic that they would be losing funding. Others supporting refugees were similarly surprised given the worldwide needs of the refugee population and the fact that Mr. Soros himself was a refugee from communism.

For years, Mr. Soros watched the world march in fits and starts toward the vision of open, pluralistic democracy that he has embraced since he was a young Hungarian Holocaust survivor studying philosophy.

The changes at the Open Society Foundations are a painful but necessary adjustment, its leaders say, because that march has halted. Now, with its founder in his 90s, the foundation — and the world — confronts rising authoritarianism and deeply divided civil societies. In the United States, that means that Mr. Soros’s work on progressive causes has made him a target of right-wing conspiracy theories.

fec logo black background Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, The F.E.C. dismisses claims that Twitter illegally blocked a Hunter Biden article, Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 13, 2021. The commission’s ruling provides further flexibility to social media giants to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed Republican accusations that Twitter violated election laws in October by blocking people from posting links to an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden, in a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns.

The F.E.C. determined that Twitter’s actions regarding the Hunter Biden article had been undertaken for a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, and were thus allowable, according to a document outlining the decision obtained by The New York Times.

twitter bird CustomThe commission’s ruling, which was made last month behind closed doors and is set to become public soon, provides further flexibility to social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The suppression of the article about Hunter Biden caused an avalanche of conservative criticism in October and prompted accusations that the tech company was improperly aiding the Biden presidential campaign, including a formal complaint by the Republican National Committee that said Twitter’s actions amounted to an “illegal in-kind contribution” to the campaign.

But the F.E.C. disagreed. The commission said Twitter had “credibly explained” that blocking the article’s distribution was a commercial decision and that the move followed existing policies related to hacked materials, according to the “factual and legal analysis” provided to the parties involved in the complaint.

Twitter actually reversed course within a day of its decision to block distribution of the Hunter Biden article, and its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has called the initial move a “mistake.”

The F.E.C.’s official vote on the case — the commission is split equally between three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans — is not yet public, nor are any additional statements written by commissioners. Such statements often accompany the closure of cases and can provide further insight into the commission’s reasoning.

Best-selling author Michael Wolff's two 2021 books:

Best-selling author Michael Wolff's two 2021 books: "Landslide" and "Too Famous."

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Why Our Monsters Talk to Michael Wolff, Ben Smith, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). In his new book, the author of “Fire and Fury” continues his specialty: teasing out stories from men in power, our media columnist Ben Smith writes.

It’s early 2019, a few months before Jeffrey Epstein will be arrested on sex charges, and he is sitting in the vast study of his New York mansion with a camera pointed at him as he practices for a big “60 Minutes” interview that would never take place.

The media trainer is a familiar figure: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s campaign guru and onetime White House adviser. Mr. Bannon is both conducting the interview and coaching Mr. Epstein on the little things, telling him he will come across as stupid if he doesn’t look directly into the camera now and then, and advising him not to share his racist theories on how Black people learn. Mainly, Mr. Bannon tells Mr. Epstein, he should stick to his message, which is that he is not a pedophile. By the end, Mr. Bannon seems impressed.

“You’re engaging, you’re not threatening, you’re natural, you’re friendly, you don’t look at all creepy, you’re a sympathetic figure,” he says.

This explosive, previously unreported episode, linking a leader of the right with the now-dead disgraced financier, is tucked away at the end of a new book by Michael Wolff, Too Famous: The Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious, the Damned. Mr. Bannon confirmed in a statement that he encouraged Mr. Epstein to speak to “60 Minutes” and said that he had recorded more than 15 hours of interviews with him.

michael wolff folded armsMr. Wolff, 68, left, has been at this since before I had a byline, infuriating his rivals by the access he gets, the stories he tells and the gleeful way he tells them. And he has been the subject of pieces like this one — scolding profiles of the journalist enfant terrible and New York media scenester — for decades.

He has managed to stay at the top of his game because of his undying interest and expertise in a particular subject: big, bad men. What Oprah Winfrey is to tearful celebrities and earnest royals, Mr. Wolff is to louche power players. The litany is astounding: Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Harvey Weinstein, Boris Johnson, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Trump. All appear in his new book, a collection of profiles, some previously published, some not.

Magnates seem to think Mr. Wolff gives them their best shot at a sympathetic portrait. He writes, in “Too Famous,” that Mr. Weinstein called him during his 2020 rape trial to propose a biography. “This book is worth millions,” Mr. Weinstein told him, according to Mr. Wolff. “You keep domestic, I’ll take foreign.” As for Mr. Epstein? “He wanted me to write something about him — a kind of a book — it wasn’t clear why,” Mr. Wolff told me.

Few women appear in “Too Famous.” Tina Brown, Arianna Huffington and Hillary Clinton are the exceptions. “These are the women, and there are not too many, who have done exactly what men would do,” he said. And Democrats rarely talk to him. “They don’t have a sense of play,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, TV news networks started the ‘crawl’ on 9/11 to feed us constant information. It never went away, Paul Farhi, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Even after the news cycle slowed down, the constant scroll of headlines stokes a perpetual sense of potential crisis.

Fox News was the first that day. Some 50 minutes after the first tower collapsed, it cranked up a whizzing scroll of text across the bottom of the screen, fox news logo Smallsummarizing the horror of the morning for those still catching up.

A day of terror in the United States … it began. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York … WTC towers collapsed … Manhattan is sealed off …

CNN and MSNBC launched their crawls minutes later. NBC and CBS jumped in briefly. Local stations did so, too.

“It was an overwhelming story and people were desperate to know more,” said Jonathan Glenn, a vice president at Fox News who oversees the network’s news writing.

CNNFaced with a traumatized public that sought news and community in the hours and days after the attacks, the national broadcast and cable news networks dispensed with commercials and reported round-the clock for days on end. The crawls were an improvisational addition.

The crawl introduced viewers to a new, busier visual landscape long before there were smartphones, Twitter and Facebook and “second screens” to distract from the first screen. Bewildering as 9/11 was, TV news became even more frenetic and cluttered in its wake.

In the years after the terrorist attacks, the crawls remained, becoming little conveyor belts of doom and dread: Airstrikes resume Wednesday in Afghanistan … Two Washington postal workers die of anthrax … Shoe bomb suspect to remain in custody … Washington area on edge as sniper manhunt continues …

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Wildfire in Spain is razing forests, uprooting villages – and raising concerns about climate change, Ellen Francis, Sept. 13, 2021. Spanish troops are assisting firefighters battling a raging blaze that has emptied out Andalusian villages and burned through forest land for days.

Already, the fires have forced hundreds of people out of their homes in the south of the country. Six more villages and towns were evacuated on Sunday.

“We have talked for a long time about the consequences of abandoning the environment or climate change. Today, we are living them,” Juan Sánchez, director of the operations center at Andalusia’s forest fire agency, told reporters.

At least 365 firefighters were tackling “the most complex fire we have seen in recent times,” he added.

  • Washington Post, Wildfires rage across Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Russia and Lebanon

Billowing clouds of smoke could be seen rising from the Sierra Bermeja mountains, in footage from emergency workers who dug through the woods to rein in the flames. Helicopters cruised above, dropping water into the valley.

Sept. 12

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U.S. President George W. Bush in a nationwide address in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks and below on Sept. 11, 2021.

george w bush speech on 9 11 21

washington post logoWashington Post, George W. Bush compares ‘violent extremists at home’ to 9/11 terrorists in 20th anniversary speech, Amy B Wang and Caroline Anders, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). On the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed his presidency, former president George W. Bush on Saturday warned there is growing evidence that domestic terrorism could pose as much of a threat to the United States as terrorism originating from abroad, and he urged Americans to confront “violence that gathers within.”

Without naming it, Bush seemed to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, when a pro-Trump mob overran the complex in a violent siege that resulted in the deaths of five people. Bush compared those “violent extremists at home” to the terrorists who had hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, and crashed them in New York City, Arlington, and Shanksville, Pa., killing nearly 3,000 people.

“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said in a speech at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols — they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

Bush, a Republican who was president when the 9/11 attacks happened, continually invoked “the nation I know” in his remarks Saturday, an echo of his previous rejection of the rhetoric of former president Donald Trump. Bush spoke of the difficulty of describing “the mix of feelings” everyone experienced on that clear September day 20 years ago.

“There was horror at the scale of destruction and awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it,” Bush said. “There was shock at the audacity — audacity of evil — and gratitude for the heroism and decency that opposed it. In the sacrifice of the first responders, in the mutual aid of strangers, in the solidarity of grief and grace, the actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people. And we were proud of our wounded nation.”

As President Biden and Vice President Harris also did in remarks for the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Bush called on the nation to once again hold fast to its best qualities and shared strengths, to come together as many Americans felt the country had in the days after 9/11. Left unspoken — but alluded to plenty of times Saturday — was that the nation felt as divided as ever, and that Trump was continuing to stoke those divisions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden quietly marks milestone anniversary of the attacks, Seung Min Kim, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). A solemn President Biden on Saturday marked two decades since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, leading a day of nationwide grief and remembrance at all three sites of the terrorist attacks and emphasizing the importance of memorializing the painful assault that left nearly 3,000 people dead.

joe biden black background resized serious fileBiden deliberately stayed in the background as he participated in the anniversary of the attacks for the first time as the nation’s commander-in-chief, a milestone that came less than a month after he formally ended the war in Afghanistan launched in response to the attacks.

Biden began his day at the Sept. 11 memorial in Lower Manhattan, alongside dozens of other political dignitaries including former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. He later traveled to Shanksville, Pa., to meet privately with family members of the victims of Flight 93 and finally, to the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Va., to participate in another wreath laying ceremony.

“These memorials are really important,” Biden told reporters in Shanksville. “But they’re also incredibly difficult for the people affected by them, because it brings


king abdullah left crown prince salman abdul aziz third right praying during 2003 funeral saudi press agency via apThe Saudi royal family, including Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (standing, center at front), is show attending a funeral in the kingdom (Saudi Kingdom photo).

WhoWhatWhy, Analysis: FBI Makes Midnight Release of Shocking New Information on Saudi-9/11 Complicity, Russ Baker, right, Sept. 12, 2021. Late Saturday night — a russ baker cropped david welkertimeslot usually reserved for announcements designed to be buried — the FBI released a previously classified report related to its extraordinarily sensitive investigation of possible Saudi government complicity with the September 11 attackers.

whowhatwhy logoThe report on “Operation Encore” contains critical admissions that move forward, to some extent, understanding of the relationship between the Saudi government and the perpetrators of the greatest attack ever committed on American soil.

The release was in compliance with an executive order from President Joe Biden.

However, significant information was redacted, continuing a long pattern of the government withholding crucial material.

Among the assertions from the April 4, 2016, “review and analysis” report was an admission that Saudi officials had met with hijackers — but while the meetings were termed “accidental,” that was contradicted by an eyewitness who said it appeared pre-arranged. The report also shows that one Saudi official had actually lived with a high-ranking al-Qaeda operative in the United States.

As readers will see from the WhoWhatWhy article below, published less than 24 hours before the new release, the involvement of Saudi officials with the hijackers could in no way be construed as limited and accidental, as they included writing checks to and finding housing for the hijackers.

Despite the continued withholding of information, particularly the names of sources interviewed by the Bureau, the report was welcomed by families of 9/11 victims suing the Saudis.

“With this first release of documents, 20 years of Saudi Arabia counting on the U.S. government to cover up its role in 9/11 comes to an end,” said New York attorney James Kreindler, who represents the families. “The findings and conclusions in this FBI investigation validate the arguments we have made in the litigation regarding the Saudi government’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. This document, together with the public evidence gathered to date, provides a blueprint for how al Qaeda operated inside the US with the active, knowing support of the Saudi government.”

Kreindler highlighted several areas of the 16-page report that seem particularly significant.

One unanswered question is: Why would the Saudi officials act in this sort of a transparent manner, given the stakes? We will provide updates and original reporting.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A make-or-break moment for our democracy, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Sept. 12, 2021. It’s a habit of journalism to declare nearly every ej dionne w open neckimpending period as a turning point, a “defining moment” that will set a nation or even the world on a course for years or decades to come.

The routinization of the momentous is mostly harmless, but over time it has a cost. Declaring too many junctures as decisive can lead us to overlook the ones that genuinely are.

Thus the importance of recognizing that the next month is make-or-break not only for President Biden and the future of American social policy but also for the right to vote and our democracy itself.

Failing to enact Democrats’ social policy plan would be a big problem. Failing to protect democratic rule would be catastrophic.

Police Officer Heather Weyker in 2016 (St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press photo).

Police Officer Heather Weyker in 2016 (St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: If the Police Lie, Should They Be Held Liable? Often the Answer Is No, Shaila Dewan, Sept. 12, 2021. Federal agents and police officers are often immune from lawsuits, even for serious violations. The Supreme Court is being asked to re-evaluate that.

In 2010, Officer Heather Weyker of the St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota had the biggest case of her career: a child sex-trafficking ring said to have spanned four states and involved girls as young as 12. Thirty people, almost all of them Somali refugees, were charged and sent to jail, many of them for years.

Then the case fell apart. It turned out, the trial judge found, that Officer Weyker had fabricated or misstated facts, lied to a grand jury and lied during a detention hearing. When three young women unwittingly got in the way of her investigation, according to their court filings, she had them locked up on false charges.

“She took my life away,” said one of the women, Hamdi Mohamud, who was a senior in high school at the time.

But there is little Ms. Mohamud can do. For decades, the Supreme Court and Congress have declined to close the many legal loopholes, like qualified immunity, that protect the police from accountability. Now legal advocates say that an increasingly conservative Supreme Court has emboldened lower courts to close off the few avenues that plaintiffs once had to seek redress.

“If a federal law enforcement officer lies, manipulates witnesses, and falsifies evidence, should the officer be liable for damages?” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit wrote of Officer Weyker, whose investigation ultimately resulted in no convictions. The answer was no.

More than 20 civil lawsuits have been filed against Officer Weyker, a former vice officer who is still the subject of an internal department investigation. Some of the suits failed because she was granted qualified immunity, a doctrine created by the courts that shields officers from lawsuits unless they violate a “clearly established” right.

In others, the courts found that if the facts before them were to be believed, she had indeed violated people’s rights. But she was shielded by an even more robust immunity offered to federal law enforcement officers — even though she is not one.

The protection extends not just to federal agents but to state and local police officers who, like Officer Weyker, serve on one or another of the numerous joint task forces that bring state, local and federal agents together to fight problems like terrorism, gang violence or human trafficking.

Federal law allows state and local officers, but not federal agents, to be sued for rights violations, even when their actions are the same. That is why a federal judge recently told the Black Lives Matter organization that it could sue the local — but not the federal — police officers who violently cleared protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington in June 2020.

 

U.S. Courts

supreme court resized 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Breyer’s airbrushed portrayal of the judicial process, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). Could the timing of Supreme Court Justice ruth marcus twitter CustomStephen G. Breyer’s new book be any worse? It’s hard to imagine.

Breyer’s latest — an earnest testament to the nonpartisanship and professionalism of his conservative colleagues — comes on the heels of the decision by five of them to let a blatantly unconstitutional Texas abortion law take effect.

Breyer dissented from that move, saying it undermined “the ability to ask the Judiciary to protect an individual from the invasion of a constitutional right — an invasion that threatens immediate and serious injury.”

He dissented a few weeks earlier, when a six-justice majority rejected the Biden administration’s bid to extend the eviction moratorium. And again, a few days before that, when the same six justices rejected the Biden administration’s effort to undo the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Breyer’s book, loftily titled The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, is an earnest plea to preserve the former and avoid the latter, a paean to the rule of law and a warning against precipitous steps — such as expanding the size of the court — that might undermine its legitimacy.

stephen breyer biography“Under the law, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; and the same is true of the public’s willingness to accept judicial decisions with which it disagrees,” Breyer, left, writes. “The rule of law is not a meal that can be ordered à la carte.”

Except that the goose and gander seem to be treated awfully differently these days. Conservative justices insist on strict adherence to statutory text, except when they don’t: See the court’s evisceration of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Conservative justices lunge to prevent the perceived infringement of some constitutional rights — stepping in to block pandemic restrictions that limit religious observance — while insisting that procedural hurdles make it impossible to halt the Texas abortion law. They praise the importance of precedent, then casually toss it aside.

And the conservative justices are increasingly ordering off-menu, using their “shadow docket” to make decisions without the fig leaf of full briefing and oral argument. When the conservative justices leap to employ their power to issue emergency orders at the behest of the Trump administration but then act differently when the Biden administration comes calling, that sauce has a bitter aftertaste.

When it comes to politics, Breyer sees plenty of blame to go around — just not among his colleagues. Journalists, for one, who routinely identify the political party of the president appointing the justices when reporting on the court, a change from decades past. “Going further, they systematically label judges as conservative or liberal,” Breyer laments.

Guilty as charged — and it’s because times, and the court, have changed. To take one salient example: Four of the seven justices in the majority in Roe v. Wade were named by a Republican president; one of the two dissenters was nominated by a Democrat. Today, except in unusual and increasingly infrequent circumstances, the justices’ votes can be reliably predicted by looking at party affiliation. The labels are accurate.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Texas Abortion Law Creates a Kind of Bounty Hunter. Here’s How, Alan Feuer, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). There is little precedent for the provision that deputizes ordinary citizens to enforce an effective ban — and offers them a financial incentive to do so.

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind the Texas Abortion Law, a Persevering Conservative Lawyer, Michael S. Schmidt, Sept. 12, 2021. A onetime Supreme Court clerk, Jonathan Mitchell spent years honing a legal approach that has flummoxed the courts and enraged abortion rights supporters. He is only now emerging as a pivotal player in one of the most high-profile examples yet of the erosion of the right to abortion.

Jonathan F. Mitchell grew increasingly dismayed as he read the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2016 striking down major portions of a Texas anti-abortion bill he had helped write.

Not only had the court gutted the legislation, which Mr. Mitchell had quietly worked on a few years earlier as the Texas state government’s top appeals court lawyer, but it also had called out his attempt to structure the law in a way that would prevent judicial action to block it, essentially saying: nice try.

“We reject Texas’ invitation to pave the way for legislatures to immunize their statutes” from a general review of their constitutionality, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in the majority’s opinion.

For Mr. Mitchell, a onetime clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, the decision was a stinging rebuke, and he vowed that if he ever had the chance to help develop another anti-abortion law, he would ensure it survived at the Supreme Court.

Last month, he got his chance. With its ideological balance recast by President Donald J. Trump, the court refrained from blocking a new law in Texas that all but bans abortion — a potential turning point in the long-running fight over the procedure. And it was the deeply religious Mr. Mitchell, a relative unknown outside of Texas in the anti-abortion movement and the conservative legal establishment, who was the conceptual force behind the legislation.

The court’s decision did not address the law’s constitutionality, and the legislation will no doubt face more substantive challenges. But already, the audacious legislative structure that Mr. Mitchell had conceived of — built around deputizing ordinary citizens to enforce it rather than the state — has flummoxed lower courts and sent the Biden administration and other supporters of abortion rights scrambling for some way to stop it.

Baltimore Sun, He swallowed the the evidence, then as FBI went to arrest him in case of illicit images of a child, Caroline County judge killed himself, Justin Fenton, jonathan newellSept. 12, 2021 (print ed.).  An Eastern Shore judge, who had been on a leave of absence for more than a month amid an investigation into illicit images of children, took his own life Friday morning as federal agents moved in to arrest him.

Judge Jonathan G. Newell, 50, right, was pronounced dead at 6:43 a.m. from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced. A judge since 2016 and before that Caroline County’s top prosecutor for more than a decade, he was to be taken into custody on federal charges of sexual exploitation of a child, prosecutors said.

A boy that Newell took on a hunting trip on Hoopers Island discovered a hidden camera in the bathroom on July 23, and his parents reported it to police, which The Sun reported last week. When confronted by investigators, Newell is believed to have chewed up and swallowed a camera memory card, authorities said in a criminal complaint unsealed Friday.

A neighbor of Newell posted pictures on Facebook saying the FBI was outside his Henderson, Md. home asking him to come out over a loudspeaker. The neighbor, Kimberly Keith, said that she heard flash bangs and what she believed to be gunshots, and later an ambulance.

FBI logoThe FBI interviewed several young males, who said they had been to the hunting lodge with Newell and that while in the bathroom, Newell checked their bodies for ticks, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in federal court and unsealed Friday following his death.

“At least two of the males stated they were naked when Newell checked them for ticks — one stated that he moved his own genitalia for Newell to look for ticks, and the other initially did not recall if Newell touched his genitalia, but later stated that Newell once or twice moved the minor’s genitalia to look for ticks,” FBI Special Agent Rachel Corn wrote in the criminal complaint.

Authorities searched Newell’s home, truck and judicial office, and located a hard drive in his den that they said contained numerous videos of young men showering. Newell can be seen on the footage setting the camera up, the FBI said. In one video clip, he can be seen searching a young man’s naked body for ticks.

When confronted by authorities, Newell denied knowledge of a camera, and asked if he could plug his phone into a charger in another room and make some calls. They saw him reach down multiple times, but believed he was holding the phone charger into an outlet. A few moments later, the investigator observed Newell’s right hand closed in a fist and saw him place his fist to his mouth.

“The investigator heard a loud, distinguishable, ‘crunch,’ sound from the area of Newell’s mouth. After another minute or two, the investigator heard the same ‘crunch’ again from Newell’s mouth, followed by Newell immediately reaching for and drinking from a cup located on his dresser,” the FBI wrote in charging documents.

They took him to a hospital and obtained a warrant to have a CT scan performed, which revealed a “foreign object” had been ingested. The SD card from the camera discovered by the boy was missing, and the FBI believes Newell chewed it up and swallowed it.

republican elephant logoNewell, a Republican, has been Caroline County’s only Circuit Court judge, earning $174,433 annually. The county, population 33,000, also has an appointed family magistrate judge, and civil case examiners.

Newell began his law career as a public defender in 1999, then became the deputy state’s attorney for Kent County. He held both positions for two years each. He was elected state’s attorney for Caroline County in 2003, a position he held until 2016 when Gov. Larry Hogan appointed him to be a judge. He retained that position in 2018 and was serving a 15-year term.

Keith, Newell’s neighbor, said rumors about the ongoing investigation were “very well known around here.” Before the investigation, Keith said she found Newell’s Facebook posts to be “very odd.”

“All he ever posted on Facebook was about boys,” she said.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, At-home testing is becoming part of Biden’s plan for managing the pandemic, Derek Hawkins and Fenit Nirappil, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). The administration wants to send hundreds of millions of rapid and at-home tests to clinics, schools and other establishments.

Instead of waiting days for results from slower but more accurate PCR tests, more Americans could test themselves before returning to school, going to weddings or attending conferences, and get a reading in minutes. It’s part of a broader shift away from the restrictions that upended life last year and toward individual mitigation measures intended to help people protect themselves against a virus that isn’t going away anytime soon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The GOP’s halting, uneven journey toward becoming the anti-vaccine mandate party, Aaron Blake, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). There are a couple of perplexing things about the political opposition to the Biden administration’s decision to force large employers to mandate coronavirus vaccines or weekly testing — and vaccine mandates more broadly.

pfizer logoOne is that our country has been mandating vaccines for a very long time, and the Pfizer vaccine now has the same status as those other vaccines: full authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. The Republicans who today say vaccines should be a matter of choice have done relatively little over the years to fight mandates of other such vaccines.

The second is that, for all the pushback on vaccine mandates, this isn’t truly a vaccine mandate at all; it’s a mandate to either get the vaccine or get tested weekly. You could even call it a testing mandate with a vaccination opt-out, if you wanted to. People who don’t want the vaccine needn’t get injected with anything or forfeit their job. To the extent this is “authoritarianism,” it’s the tyranny of a brief-if-relatively-frequent nasal swab.

Many things have conspired to bring us to this moment in American politics, in which more than 600,000 deaths are apparently insufficient in the minds of some for such a step. But perhaps the turning point came in Texas in 2007.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP lawmaker who refused to follow mask mandate while flying says she can’t get to Alaskan capital, Derek Hawkins, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). An Alaska lawmaker who is banned from flying on the state’s leading airline for refusing to wear a mask was excused from attending floor votes for the rest of the year after telling legislative leaders she has no way to fly to and from the state capital.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccine Resisters Seek Religious Exemptions. But What Counts as Religious? Ruth Graham, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). Major denominations are essentially unanimous in their support of Covid vaccines, but individuals who object are citing their personal faith.

When Crisann Holmes’s employer announced last month that it would require all employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Nov. 1, she knew she had to find a way out.

She signed a petition to ask the company to relax its mandate. She joined an informal protest, skipping work with other dissenting employees at the mental health care system where she has worked for two years. And she attempted a solution that many across the country are now exploring: a religious exemption.

“My freedom and my children’s freedom and children’s children’s freedom are at stake,” said Ms. Holmes, who lives in Indiana. In August, she submitted an exemption request she wrote herself, bolstered by her own Bible study and language from sources online. Some vaccines were developed using fetal cell lines from aborted fetuses, she wrote, citing a remote connection to a practice she finds abhorrent. She quoted a passage from the New Testament: “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit.”

Major religious traditions, denominations and institutions are essentially unanimous in their support of the vaccines against Covid-19. But as more employers across the country begin requiring Covid vaccinations for workers, they are butting up against the nation’s sizable population of vaccine holdouts who nonetheless see their resistance in religious terms — or at least see an opportunity. Vaccine-resistant workers are sharing tips online for requesting exemptions to the requirements on religious grounds; others are submitting letters from far-flung religious authorities who have advertised their willingness to help.

The conflict was picking up steam even before President Biden announced sweeping new workplace vaccine mandates on Thursday. The new orders will require the vast majority of federal workers and those who work for large private employers to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Overall, the mandates are expected to affect 100 million American workers.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 12, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds):

World Cases: 225,213,074, Deaths: 4,640,672
U.S. Cases:     41,816,668, Deaths:    677,737
India Cases:     33,236,921, Deaths:    442,688
Brazil Cases:    20,989,164, Deaths:    586,590

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 209.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 12, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 178.7 million people, or 53.8 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s vaccine mandate pulls OSHA to the center of political storm, Eli Rosenberg, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). The federal agency that President Biden has tasked with implementing a national vaccine mandate has struggled to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, drawing fire for failing to issue broad safety rules specifically aimed at keeping workers safe from workplace transmission.

But with the vaccine mandate announced Thursday, Biden has finally given the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the green light to take aggressive action.

The new rule compels private companies with more than 100 workers to require employees to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing for the virus. Agency officials, who only learned about the mandate last week, must now move quickly to draft a plan for implementing and enforcing the mandate, a complex undertaking that represents one of the biggest challenges in the agency’s 50-year history.

“This is certainly the most controversial thing OSHA has ever done,” said Jordan Barab, a former OSHA deputy and workplace safety expert with the House Committee on Education and Labor. “It’s very big and very significant.”

Politically, the effort is already drawing fire. Prominent Republicans have condemned the mandate, blasting it as an unconstitutional infringement on personal liberties. Republican governors in multiple states have threatened to sue, with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) pledging to “pursue every legal option available to the -state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration.”

But many business groups have been more receptive. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposed previous efforts to create emergency rules to combat the coronavirus in workplaces, said it would wait to review the details of the new vaccine mandate before commenting.

On Friday, officials at the Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA, declined to comment on how they plan to implement the vaccine mandate. Many questions about the process ahead remain unanswered.

Among the most pressing: How long will businesses have to comply with the mandate, and how will OSHA enforce it? Should the mandate include other workplace safety requirements — such as masking and social distancing — to prevent workplace transmission? Should businesses be required to communicate any exposures or outbreaks to their workers? And will OSHA provide federal funding to cover the cost of Biden’s requirement that workers be compensated for time off to get the vaccine and recover from any side effects? Or will those costs fall on employers?

OSHA officials will proceed under broad authorities granted the agency by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, adopted in the 1970s. The act gives the Labor secretary authority to create a rule in times of duress — called an emergency temporary standard or ETS — to protect employees from “grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards.” The ETS process allows the agency to circumvent months of hearings and public comment normally required to implement a new safety rule.

Recent Headlines:

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden faces uncertain path to closing Guantánamo Bay, Missy Ryan, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden faces major obstacles. Opposition to closure remains, though the dysfunctional military trial process has failed to yield a verdict or even a trial for the men accused in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Obstacles to achieving his goal of closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, including abiding opposition in Congress and a dysfunctional military trial process that has failed to yield a verdict — or even a trial — for the men accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

This week, the five men charged with helping to plan those attacks, including self-described mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, appeared in a pretrial hearing at the prison, the first such occurrence since the coronavirus pandemic largely halted the already slow-moving court process.

That their trial, delayed by years of initial proceedings, is not expected to begin until at least 2022 is a stark example of the problems and dark detours that have characterized the detention operation since the first terrorism suspects arrived there after the 9/11 attacks.

The high-security facility, located at a U.S. naval base in Cuba’s southeast, has receded from the headlines as its population has dwindled from over 700 at its peak to just 39 today, but Guantánamo remains a global symbol of U.S. excesses after 9/11, including the brutal mistreatment of prisoners and the detention of suspects for two decades without charge.

Supporters warn against sending former Guantánamo inmate home to Russia

“The actual practicalities of closing Guantánamo are easier than they’ve ever been,” said Michel Paradis, a law professor who has represented Guantánamo detainees, many of them now aging and infirm. “That doesn’t mean the politics are any easier.”

Biden administration officials say they are taking steps toward closing the prison, citing the repatriation this summer of a Moroccan man. But eight months into Biden’s presidency, officials have yet to reveal specifics about how they intend to navigate legal and political challenges that stymied an earlier closure effort by the president’s former boss, Barack Obama.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI releases 9/11 investigation document that scrutinized Saudis, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). The FBI has released the first of what are expected to be several documents from its investigation into whether agents of the Saudi Arabian government provided support to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror plot, a move heralded by victims’ families though it yielded no tangible proof of official involvement.

The Saturday night release was the result of an executive order issued by President Biden earlier this month ordering government agencies to review, declassify and release more information regarding the investigation.

FBI logoSome families of 9/11 victims have sued the Saudi government, alleging the Saudis knowingly provided financial and logistics support to the terrorism plot, something that country’s government has long denied. As part of that lawsuit, lawyers for the families have fought for years to force the FBI to share what it knows about possible connections between the 9/11 hijackers, most of whom were citizens of Saudi Arabia, and any Saudi diplomats or intelligence operatives.

Brett Eagleson, whose father was killed in the attacks, said it was “particularly meaningful” that first document in response to the executive order was released on the 20th anniversary of the attacks. “Today marks the moment when the Saudis cannot rely on the U.S. government from hiding the truth about 9/11,” he said in a written statement pledging to “hold the Saudi government fully accountable for the tremendous pain and losses we suffered.”

Biden signed the executive order after families of hundreds of 9/11 victims said he would not be welcome at this year’s events marking the anniversary unless he declassified evidence.

In 2019, the Trump administration said it would share some of the relevant information with the families, but would not provide other details about the bureau’s findings, invoking the rarely-used state secrets privilege to argue that some elements of the investigation into the 9/11 attacks would damage national security if they were revealed.

Justice Department lawyers said last month they had recently closed an investigation related to the attacks, making it easier to share documents like the one released Saturday.

That document shows that FBI agents were still investigating as recently as 2016 possible ties between two of the hijackers, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, and those who may have helped them after they arrived in the United States in 2000.

Investigators were particularly interested in details about the Saudi government’s connections to Fahad al-Thumairy, a former Saudi consulate official, and Omar al-Bayoumi, a person the FBI once investigated as a possible Saudi intelligence officer.

After the 9/11 attacks, Bayoumi told investigators that he met the hijackers by chance in early 2000 in a Los Angeles restaurant and that they became friends. Bayoumi said he helped them navigate their new lives in the United States, but denied any knowledge of their terrorist intentions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds closing the book on 9/11 is fraught with perils and uncertainty, Matt Viser, Ashley Parker and Anne Gearan, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). The president’s arc on the global war on terrorism largely traces that of the nation — from enthusiastic supporter after 9/11 to strident critic.

Joe Biden was sitting on a park bench outside the U.S. Capitol, as helpless in the moment as the rest of the nation. He had just arrived on an Amtrak train, the twin towers smoldering and a violent fire raging at the Pentagon — and his demands to enter the Capitol denied by security guards fearing a fourth plane was heading toward the building.

Outside, the veteran senator sat and fielded calls on his cellphone, eager to showcase that the foundations of American democracy would not be shaken. “I refuse to be part of letting these bastards win,” Biden said that day. At 2:12 p.m., records show, he connected with President George W. Bush for a two-minute call, urging him to return to Washington to display some sense of normalcy.

“This in a sense is the most godawful wake-up call we’ve ever had,” he said that afternoon.

Recent Afghanistan and 9/11 Headlines


U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris campaign against the state's gubernatorial recall election that ends Sept. 14 (Reuters photo by Fred Greaves).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Vice President Kamala Harris campaign against the state's gubernatorial recall election that ends Sept. 14 (Reuters photo by Fred Greaves).

ny times logoNew York Times, Gavin Newsom’s Strategy for California Recall: It’s Me or the Abyss, Shawn Hubler, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.).  Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, the California governor is running against the influence of a certain former president.

As the campaign to oust him heads into its final weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is hammering home the choice he has presented to voters since the start of the recall — Donald J. Trump or him.

“We defeated Trump last year, and thank you, but we haven’t defeated Trumpism,” the governor has repeated for the past two weeks in a blitz of campaign stops and Zoom calls. From vaccine resistance to climate denial, he says, everything that terrified California liberals about the last president is on the ballot. And far more than his own personal future hangs in the balance: “This is a matter of life and death.”

His opponents dispute that. The governor, they say, is the problem, and the recall never would have come to an election had a critical mass of the state not resented his pandemic restrictions on businesses and classrooms, even as his own finances were secure and his own children got in-person instruction. The former president, they note, is not a candidate. “Newsom is scaremongering,” David Sacks, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist supporting the recall, tweeted recently.

Only three governors have faced recall votes in the United States before Mr. Newsom, and he — and the Democratic establishment — are going all-out in presenting the effort as a radical power grab, with some partisans even comparing it at one point to the violent Jan. 6 attempt to block President Biden’s election.

By invoking Mr. Trump as his opponent of choice, Mr. Newsom is reprising a message that he has used in the past to blunt criticism effectively, while also testing a strategy that is likely to be echoed by Democrats seeking to mobilize voters in midterm races across the country next year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats sorting through painful sacrifices as social bill enters final stretch, Sean Sullivan, Marianna Sotomayor, Tyler Pager and Jeff Stein, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). The party confronts a narrow window to enact a once-in-a-generation liberal agenda. But their goals far outstrip the funding, and aggressive jockeying has started over whose priorities get jettisoned.

As top Democrats hashed out a plan this summer for a historic expansion of the social safety net, Sen. Bernie Sanders privately struck a deal with White House officials and Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer that is now having major ramifications.

Bernie SandersSanders (I-Vt.), left, a democratic socialist, agreed to support a $3.5 trillion package — much smaller than he wanted — in exchange for a promise that more than a tenth of the money, at least $380 billion, would go toward his longtime goals, chiefly expanding Medicare to cover hearing, vision and dental care.

That deal, described by a person with direct knowledge of it who like some others in this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive negotiations, is looming heavily over the tense negotiations on the bill’s final shape. At the insistence of centrist Democrats, the bill faces more big cuts, with some demanding it shrink to $1.5 trillion. Democrats have given themselves only a few weeks to finalize its contours — forcing painful decisions in coming days on which parts of their long-awaited agenda to sacrifice, from education to health care to climate.

While the White House and Schumer (D-N.Y.) may be backing Sanders’s Medicare expansion, a House committee recently embraced a plan that appeared to devote fewer resources to it than Sanders wants, foreshadowing the fights to come.

us senate logo“There’s more good things that we want to get done than there is revenue to do it,” said Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a close Biden ally. “There are hard choices. That’s the point of this month.”

And the stakes are unusually high. Strategists in both parties believe Democrats are likely to lose the House and possibly the Senate next year, so this could be the party’s only chance in years to enact an expansive domestic agenda. The finished product will become the clearest picture of what today’s Democrats stand for, supplanting the countless speeches, platforms and 10-point plans they delivered when out of power.

 robert e lee statue richmond times

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Robert E. Lee was a stone-cold loser, Dana Milbank, right, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). Trump’s praise of the Confederate general (shown dana milbank newestabove in previous years via a Richmond Times photo) isn’t just ugly. It’s fake history, too.

No general in U.S. history was defeated as unequivocally and as totally as Lee. For all his supposed strategic skill, his army was entirely destroyed. One-quarter of those who served under him were killed, and an additional half were wounded or captured. He was a traitor to the United States who killed more U.S. soldiers than any other enemy in the nation’s history, for the supremely evil cause of slavery. To boot, he was a cruel enslaver and a promoter of white supremacy until his death.

It is ridiculous that, in the year 2021, these simple truths are in dispute. But here we are.

As the massive statue of Lee and his horse finally came down this week from its pedestal in Richmond (as shown at left), former president Donald Trump, the unquestioned leader robert e lee statue removalof the Republican Party, penned an impassioned defense of the Confederate commander. It was ugly in its embrace of the themes that have powered white supremacists for generations. It was also fake history.

“Robert E. Lee is considered by many Generals to be the greatest strategist of them all,” Trump wrote. “President Lincoln wanted him to command the North, in which case the war would have been over in one day. Robert E. Lee instead chose the other side because of his great love of Virginia, and except for Gettysburg, would have won the war. He should be remembered as perhaps the greatest unifying force after the war was over …

“If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan, that disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago. What an embarrassment we are suffering because we don’t have the genius of a Robert E. Lee!”

For a point-by-point grading of Trump’s history paper, I checked in with Ty Seidule, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and military historian who is the former head of the U.S. Military Academy history department. Now at Hamilton College, he’s the author of “Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner’s Reckoning With the Myth of the Lost Cause.”

Ty Seidule: What to rename the Army bases that honor Confederate soldiers

Greatest strategist of all? “Well, he’s a loser,” Seidule responded. “He wasn’t just defeated; his army was destroyed. The idea that he’s the greatest strategist of all is just ludicrous.”

djt evander holyfield vitor belfort

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Talked as Holyfield Got Pummeled. Just Another Day in Boxing’s Absurd Summer, Kevin Draper, Sept. 12, 2021. Of course it was a circus (shown in a promotional ad above) — the kind that makes sense in boxing these days.

In a single zany sentence, this is how the once-promising summer of boxing ended: Triller, a social video app that is a much less popular version of TikTok, put on a pay-per-view fight between a 58-year-old Evander Holyfield (who hasn’t fought in a decade) and a 44-year-old mixed martial artist, Vitor Belfort — and paid former President Donald J. Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to serve as live commentators, all on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The result of the (legally) professional fight is mostly beside the point — Belfort won by a technical knockout in the first round, after the referee stopped the bout because of how clear it was that Holyfield never should have been allowed into the ring — but it served to underscore what could have been.

Earlier this year, Triller won the right to promote Teófimo López’s lightweight title defense against George Kambosos Jr. The app paid more than $6 million for the privilege, after the fight went to an open bid because López and his promoter, Top Rank, could not agree on a deal.

Triller had burst onto the boxing scene last winter, with an exhibition fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. The internet celebrity Jake Paul knocked out a former N.B.A. player, Nate Robinson, on the undercard, and the rappers Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and French Montana all performed between fights.

An optimist could see an evolution in how boxing was being presented: a brash entrant aiming to attract a new type — and a new generation — of fans to a sport that has been the subject of a thousand obituaries.

The López-Kambosos fight, then, was Triller’s chance to show that it was serious. That its foray into boxing was not just an expensive, attention-grabbing marketing strategy for its app — though it was definitely that — and that its flashy presentation would work for real fights, too, and that it had figured out something that traditional promoters like Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions had not.

As if to punctuate its seriousness, on June 1, Triller announced that it had hired the Boxing Hall of Fame announcer Jim Lampley to call the fight. Cast aspersions on Triller all you want, but Lampley calling a López title bout is a strong way to present a legitimate draw.

Alas, that announcement would be the high point.

The fight, scheduled for June 19, was pushed back to August after López tested positive for the coronavirus. It was moved again, to September, onto the same card featuring Oscar De La Hoya — who has not fought since George W. Bush was president — fighting Belfort. But that date did not work out — in theory, López will now fight in October — and then, last week, De La Hoya was hospitalized with the coronavirus, in what he said was a breakthrough infection.

On a week’s notice, Holyfield stepped in to fight Belfort instead. The bout, originally to take place in Los Angeles, was moved across the country to Florida after the California State Athletic Commission refused to sanction it — even as an exhibition. (In Florida, it counted as a pro fight.)

But we are not done yet. On Tuesday, Triller announced that Trump and Trump Jr. would commentate the fight. The next day, Lampley, objecting to the presence of the Trumps even though they were to be on a separate commentating stream, pulled out.

That is how Triller’s big summer showcase, to be voiced by Lampley, became three hours of Trump recalling different boxers he’d known and been friends with, before two depressing top bouts, both over in the first round, each of which featured one washed-up fighter beating another.

“They say there is a lot of people watching,” the former president said with a smile between fights. “I can’t imagine why.” The night was one of Trump’s highest-profile, and lengthiest, public appearances since leaving office, and a fairly rare event in light of his suspension from a number of social media sites.

 

evander holyfield vitor belfort cbs boxingCBS Boxing, Analysis: Holyfield vs. Belfort fight results: Ex-MMA star knocks out Evander Holyfield, while Anderson Silva shines, Brian Campbell, Sept. 12, 2021. The two quick fights headlined an event that will also be remembered for some odd moments.

Well, the good news is that no one got seriously injured. That's about the best thing one can say about Saturday's Triller Fight Club pay-per-view card from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.

MMA legend Vitor Belfort, above right, knocked out 58-year-old former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, left, in the main event and Anderson Silva continued to raise his stock on the boxing side of his post-UFC combat career in one of the most bizarre fight cards in recent memory.

Let's take a closer look at what we learned following this circus from south Florida.

  1. Triller is the bottom of the combat sports food chain
    2. Let's be happy for Holyfield it wasn't much worse
    3. Consider Anderson Silva the new face of the celebrity boxing era

ron desantis hands out

 

Palmer Report, Opinion: The numbers say Ron DeSantis is in real trouble, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 12, 2021. Back in April, bill palmerPalmer Report predicted that Ron DeSantis (above) would end up being more likely to lose than win reelection in Florida in 2022. We based this on the fact that his numbers were already fairly unimpressive, and his rigid insistence on playing to his base even when the majority is firmly against him.

It should surprise no one that as the year has gone on, DeSantis has proceeded to double down on the unpopular side of key issues such as school mask mandates, thus driving his own numbers down. Now President Biden is throwing down the gauntlet on pushing Americans to get vaccinated, and DeSantis is naturally trying to push back against him.

bill palmer report logo headerPolling done last month shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans in five key swing states favor corporations forcing employees to get vaccinated or be constantly tested. This poll did not include Florida, but the numbers there surely look similar to the other five swing states.

Now that Ron DeSantis has decided to make himself the face of the pushback against Biden on this, he’s managed to pick an issue where perhaps two-thirds of his own state is against him. This is on top of a separate poll which shows that three-fifths of all Floridans favor school mask mandates – another issue where DeSantis has decide to make himself the face of the opposition.

This is why we’ve predicted all along that Ron DeSantis would end up having real trouble getting reelected in Florida. DeSantis firmly comes from the Trump school of only ever pandering to your base, and expecting it to magically get you reelected. DeSantis doesn’t appear to understand that this is such a bad strategy, it cost Trump reelection. With Florida being Florida, it’ll take real work to oust DeSantis in 2022. But the numbers say that it’s extremely doable. And of course DeSantis is likely just getting started sabotaging himself.

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Police Inquiry Into Jan. 6 Riot Recommends Disciplining Six Officers, Emily Cochrane, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). None of the officers, or details about the recommended penalties, were identified. Criminal charges will not be filed against any of the officers. Capitol Police investigators have recommended disciplinary action against six police officers for their actions during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, when Trump supporters stormed the building in an effort to stop the certification of President Biden’s victory.

Three officers were singled out for unbecoming conduct, one officer for failure to comply with directives, one officer for improper remarks and one officer for improper dissemination of information, the Capitol Police said in a statement on Saturday.

None of the officers, or details about the recommended penalties, were identified. No criminal charges will be filed, after the U.S. attorney’s office did not find sufficient evidence to do so.

The internal inquiry, which was conducted by the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility, covered 38 investigations, although investigators failed to identify 12 officers involved in the cases. One investigation, into an unidentified official who was “accused of unsatisfactory performance and conduct unbecoming,” remains open, according to the statement.

The security failures stemming from the Jan. 6 breach has cast scrutiny on the secretive agency, which is responsible for protecting the Capitol complex. Officer Brian D. Sicknick died in the hospital after fending off the mob, and at least 73 officers were hurt that day after being assaulted with flagpoles, fire extinguishers and hockey sticks, injuries that ranged from bruises to concussions and burns.

Even as the majority of the police force grapple with the trauma of the attack, videos widely circulating on social media appeared to show some officers treating the rioters sympathetically or doing little to stop them from entering the complex.

After the riot, the Capitol Police announced it would open an investigation, with at least six officers suspended with pay at the time. The agency made public the results of its internal investigation on Saturday only after sharing details with the Justice Department, which in turn notified the lawyers representing clients charged in connection to the riot.

In its statement, the Capitol Police said that it was “committed to accountability when officers fail to meet the standards governed by U.S.C.P. policies and the congressional community’s expectations,” and that the six violations “should not diminish the heroic efforts” of most officers who defended the building.

Last month, agency leaders said they had cleared Lt. Michael Byrd, who fatally shot a rioter during the attack, of any wrongdoing after investigators found he had acted lawfully and potentially saved lawmakers, aides and others in the House chamber from harm or death.

J. Thomas Manger, a veteran police chief from the Washington region, took over the department in July after the Capitol Police chief at the time, Steven Sund, resigned along with the Senate and House sergeants-at-arms. The police union also issued a vote of no confidence in agency leadership.

 

U.S. Media News

 

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, center, performing in Accra.Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, center, performing in Accra.

The Guardian, Louis Armstrong and the spy: how the CIA used him as a ‘trojan horse’ in Congo, Jason Burke, Sept. 12, 2021. Book reveals how the jazz musician unwittingly became party to secret cold war manoeuvres by the US in Africa.

It was a memorable evening: Louis Armstrong, his wife and a diplomat from the US embassy were out for dinner in a restaurant in what was still Léopoldville, capital of the newly independent Congo.

The trumpeter, singer and band leader, nicknamed Satchmo as a child, was in the middle of a tour of Africa that would stretch over months, organised and sponsored by the State Department in a bid to improve the image of the US in dozens of countries which had just won freedom from colonial regimes.

CIA LogoWhat Armstrong did not know was that his host that night in November 1960 was not the political attaché as described, but the head of the CIA in Congo. He was also totally unaware of how his fame had allowed the spy who was making small talk across the starters to gain crucial information that would facilitate some of the most controversial operations of the entire cold war.

“Armstrong was basically a Trojan horse for the CIA. It’s genuinely heartbreaking. He was brought in to serve an interest that was completely contrary to his own sense of what was right or wrong. He would have been horrified,” said Susan Williams, a research fellow at London University’s School of Advanced Study and author of White Malice, a new book which exposes the astonishing extent of the CIA’s activities across central and west Africa in the 1950s and early 60s.

Documents found by Williams in the archives of the UN during five years of research strongly suggest that the Armstrongs’ host, CIA station chief Larry Devlin, and other US intelligence officers posted to Congo used the cover of the musicians’s visit to get access to the strategically important and very wealthy province of Katanga, which had recently seceded. The US, though sympathetic to the agenda of the province’s leader, had not officially recognised the self-declared government there.

There was much of interest to the CIA in Katanga, ranging from senior officials with whom they could not otherwise meet to crucial mining infrastructure, with 1,500 tons of uranium and vast potential to procure more. Armstrong’s tour to Katanga was the perfect opportunity, so Devlin and others flew down from the capital with the musician and his famous band. “They needed a cover and this gave them one,” said Williams.

There was something else that Armstrong, who had pulled out of a similar tour to the Soviet Union three years earlier in protest at racism in the US, did not know. The CIA in the Congo, led by Devlin, was trying to kill the Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister, 35-year-old Patrice Lumumba, fearful that he would lead the country into the Soviet camp. Historians now believe the nationalist leader wanted his country to remain neutral in the cold war.

patrice lumumba raising arms 1960Just a mile or so from where Armstrong and Devlin had dined, the charismatic Lumumba was being held prisoner in his official residence by soldiers loyal to Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, the young military chief with a close working relationship with the CIA, who had effectively seized power some weeks earlier.

Within two months of Armstrong’s tour, Lumumba (shown at left in a 1960 file photo) was murdered in Katanga by officials of the breakaway province and police officers from Belgium. Mobutu would later consolidate his hold on Congo, and become a loyal US client.

Devlin later claimed that the CIA was responsible, telling a US Congressional investigation “that the coup of Mobutu … was arranged and supported, and indeed, managed, by the CIA”.

washington post logoWashington Post, TV news networks started the ‘crawl’ on 9/11 to feed us constant information. It never went away, Paul Farhi, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). Even after the news cycle slowed down, the constant scroll of headlines stokes a perpetual sense of potential crisis.

Fox News was the first that day. Some 50 minutes after the first tower collapsed, it cranked up a whizzing scroll of text across the bottom of the screen, summarizing the horror of the morning for those still catching up.

A day of terror in the United States … it began. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York … WTC towers collapsed … Manhattan is sealed off …

CNN and MSNBC launched their crawls minutes later. NBC and CBS jumped in briefly. Local stations did so, too.

“It was an overwhelming story and people were desperate to know more,” said Jonathan Glenn, a vice president at Fox News who oversees the network’s news writing.

Faced with a traumatized public that sought news and community in the hours and days after the attacks, the national broadcast and cable news networks dispensed with commercials and reported round-the clock for days on end. The crawls were an improvisational addition.

The crawl introduced viewers to a new, busier visual landscape long before there were smartphones, Twitter and Facebook and “second screens” to distract from the first screen. Bewildering as 9/11 was, TV news became even more frenetic and cluttered in its wake.

In the years after the terrorist attacks, the crawls remained, becoming little conveyor belts of doom and dread: Airstrikes resume Wednesday in Afghanistan … Two Washington postal workers die of anthrax … Shoe bomb suspect to remain in custody … Washington area on edge as sniper manhunt continues …

Daily Beast, Pranksters Dupe Newsmax Into Interviewing Fake Paul Wolfowitz—Twice, Justin Baragona, Updated Sept. 12, 2021. Three weeks after falling for an obvious prank, right-wing cable news outlet Newsmax was embarrassingly duped by the same trick when they interviewed someone they believed was former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz—who promptly called the conservative network “a much bigger threat to America than the hijackers of 9/11.”

Following the fall of Kabul and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, cable news has been flooded with commentary from the original architects of the War on Terror. In that same vein, on August 21, Newsmax sought out an interview with Wolfowitz to discuss the end of the war in Afghanistan, only to get in touch with a group of pranksters known as The Yes Men.

daily beast logoAs first reported by Mediaite, according to the pranksters, Newsmax anchor Tom Basile and his producers ended up chatting online with Yes Men member Andy Bichlbaum, whose original plan was to pose as a “colleague” of Wolfowitz’s from the American Enterprise Institute. (Wolfowitz is a senior fellow at the think tank.)

Citing “internet trouble” as the reason the ex-Bush administration official supposedly couldn’t take part in the interview, Bichlbaum attempted to convince Basile’s team to interview him as Wolfowitz’s fake colleague instead. The producers, however, declined that offer and “suggested just patching Wolfowitz through on the phone.” What resulted was an 11-minute on-air interview with Basile, with Bichlbaum impersonating Wolfowitz.

Basile, who claims he knows Wolfowitz personally, never noticed or acknowledged that Bichlbaum’s voice didn’t sound anything like his supposed friend’s. On top of that, the fake Wolfowitz was purposely pushing a new “conservative angle,” as Bichlbaum later described it, throughout the entire conversation.

Claiming that Americans had “nothing else to be proud of” due to the end of the 20-year-war, the Wolfowitz impersonator then suggested that the next time the United States thinks of spending $2 trillion on fighting overseas it instead invests that money into domestic infrastructure and health care. Despite these positions being completely contradictory to Wolfowitz’s actual views, Basile ate it all up and never caught on that he was speaking to a phony.

Fast forward three weeks and Newsmax decided to once again call up “Wolfowitz,” this time to talk about the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Even though The Yes Men had immediately publicized their Aug. 21 prank after it occurred, and the real Wolfowitz has recently granted interviews to other networks, the network apparently contacted the group to patch in Wolfowitz to take part in their special coverage.

“This time we were determined to stop them from calling again,” the pranksters wrote on their website shortly after the Saturday interview.

Wasting no time once he was on air, Bichlbaum warned the network’s viewers that there’s a “different kind of terrorism, much worse than 9/11,” adding that the “new master terrorists” make the 9/11 hijackers look like “rank amateurs.”

Bichlbaum then called for the Newsmax panel—which included Basile—“to make an ‘X’ over your head with your hands,” resulting in at least one panelist actually doing so.

“Great. You’re under arrest. As a friend of this station I’ve got to tell you, Newsmax is a much bigger threat to America than the hijackers of 9/11,” the imposter Wolfowitz said, prompting the hosts to cut the interview short.

“Thank you for your service—what was that?!” Basile exclaimed after they dropped the prankster, seemingly still unaware that “Wolfowitz” wasn’t the real deal.

Fellow anchors Heather Childers and Rob Schmitt, meanwhile, lamented over his “embarrassing” remarks, chastising him for sowing division on a day that was about “unity and bringing people together.” Childers also grumbled that the “former Deputy Secretary of Defense” didn’t want to “share some real thought” with the panel.

“He was at the Pentagon that day and you would think that he wouldn’t choose this moment to be, frankly, hateful and intolerant,” Basile added.

Childers would also declare that “Wolfowitz” had “dishonored” the memory of late Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with his comments while Schmitt claimed the former Bush administration official was just looking for a “viral moment” [because] he’s “probably not very important anymore.”

A day after being duped for the second time by The Yes Men, Newsmax provided the following statement to The Daily Beast over the prank.

“While we were covering special 9/11 remembrances and honoring those who had lost their lives, including heroic police officers and firefighters, horribly there were others whose only goal is to lie, deceive, and destroy,” the network said. “They dishonored the memories of true heroes.”

Sept. 11

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Investigations

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

U.S. Crimes, Courts, Law

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Unvaccinated people 11 times more likely to die of covid-19, CDC finds, Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.). The Moderna vaccine is more effective at preventing hospitalizations, according to another CDC study, though all three vaccines show continued efficacy as the delta variant spreads.

cdc logo CustomPeople who were not fully vaccinated this spring and summer were more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die of covid-19, than those who were fully vaccinated, according to one of three major studies published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that highlight the continued efficacy of all three vaccines amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

moderna logoA second study showed that the Moderna coronavirus vaccine was more effective in preventing hospitalizations than its counterparts from Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson. That assessment was based on the largest U.S. study to date of the real-world effectiveness of all three vaccines, involving about 32,000 patients seen in hospitals, emergency departments and urgent-pfizer logocare clinics across nine states from June through early August.

While the three vaccines were collectively 86 percent effective in preventing hospitalization, protection was significantly higher among Moderna vaccine recipients (95 percent) than among those who got Pfizer-BioNTech (80 percent) or Johnson & Johnson (60 percent). That finding echoes a smaller study by the Mayo Clinic Health System in August, not yet peer-reviewed, which showed the Moderna vaccine to be more effective than Pfizer-BioNTech at preventing infections during the delta wave.

george w bush oval iraq 2003 w

U.S. President George W. Bush in a nationwide address in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks.

washington post logoWashington Post, George W. Bush compares ‘violent extremists at home’ to 9/11 terrorists in 20th anniversary speech, Amy B Wang and Caroline Anders, Sept. 11, 2021. On the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed his presidency, former president George W. Bush on Saturday warned there is growing evidence that domestic terrorism could pose as much of a threat to the United States as terrorism originating from abroad, and he urged Americans to confront “violence that gathers within.”

Without naming it, Bush seemed to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, when a pro-Trump mob overran the complex in a violent siege that resulted in the deaths of five people. Bush compared those “violent extremists at home” to the terrorists who had hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, and crashed them in New York City, Arlington, and Shanksville, Pa., killing nearly 3,000 people.

“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said in a speech at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols — they are children of the same foul spirit, and it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

Bush, a Republican who was president when the 9/11 attacks happened, continually invoked “the nation I know” in his remarks Saturday, an echo of his previous rejection of the rhetoric of former president Donald Trump. Bush spoke of the difficulty of describing “the mix of feelings” everyone experienced on that clear September day 20 years ago.

“There was horror at the scale of destruction and awe at the bravery and kindness that rose to meet it,” Bush said. “There was shock at the audacity — audacity of evil — and gratitude for the heroism and decency that opposed it. In the sacrifice of the first responders, in the mutual aid of strangers, in the solidarity of grief and grace, the actions of an enemy revealed the spirit of a people. And we were proud of our wounded nation.”

As President Biden and Vice President Harris also did in remarks for the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Bush called on the nation to once again hold fast to its best qualities and shared strengths, to come together as many Americans felt the country had in the days after 9/11. Left unspoken — but alluded to plenty of times Saturday — was that the nation felt as divided as ever, and that Trump was continuing to stoke those divisions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of workers, firms to face Biden’s new rules on vaccines, testing, Rachel Siegel and Eli Rosenberg, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.). While some companies, have already moved to mandate vaccination or regular testing, the new federal rules threaten to escalate workplace tensions.

The Biden administration’s far-reaching announcement mandating coronavirus vaccines or rigorous testing for larger businesses prompted a mix of critical and supportive responses from companies, employers and corporate advocacy groups.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe White House is compelling businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or subjected to weekly testing. Companies that ignore the policy could face penalties of up to $14,000 for each violation, according to a senior administration official. Also, companies would be required to give workers paid time off to get the vaccine.

The employer mandates, which the White House estimates could reach as many as 80 million people, or two-thirds of U.S. workers, would be the most extensive government intervention into private companies and employer practices since the pandemic began.

While some companies, like McDonald’s, Delta Air Lines and Tyson Foods, have already moved to mandate vaccination or regular testing in their U.S. workforces and offices, the new federal rules threaten to escalate tensions in office work places, where some workers have already been arguing about masks and testing rules. In the backdrop, the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus has sent cases surging to more than 150,000 new ones a day, mostly among unvaccinated, while also weighing on the economy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents thousands of businesses affected by the measure, released a muted statement that did not flag immediate opposition to the mandates. Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the Chamber of Commerce, said “the Chamber will carefully review the details of the executive orders and associated regulations.”

In a statement Thursday, Business Roundtable President Joshua Bolten said the group, which represents chief executives from some of the largest companies, including Chevron, Caterpillar and Citigroup, "welcomes the Biden administration’s continued vigilance in the fight against covid.” Bolten added that “America’s business leaders know how critical vaccination and testing are,” which is why many are encouraging customers and employees to get vaccinated and providing paid time off.

  • Biden orders companies with more than 100 workers to require vaccines or weekly testing
  • TSA doubles fines for people who refuse to wear masks at airports, in other transportation setting

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Amid a Painful Year, the U.S. Remembers the Deadliest Attack in Its History, Staff Reports, Sept. 11, 2021. Ceremonies in Lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania are commemorating the horrific event that shaped the past two decades. A nation grappling with a lingering pandemic and a fraught exit from Afghanistan pauses and unites once again to remember the Sept. 11 attacks. At ground zero in New York, the names of each victim are being read at a memorial service, with President Biden in attendance. Watch live.

 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Vice President Kamala Harris campaign against the state's gubernatorial recall election that ends Sept. 14 (Reuters photo by Fred Greaves).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Vice President Kamala Harris campaign against the state's gubernatorial recall election that ends Sept. 14 (Reuters photo by Fred Greaves).

ny times logoNew York Times, Gavin Newsom’s Strategy for California Recall: It’s Me or the Abyss, Shawn Hubler Sept. 11, 2021. Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, the California governor is running against the influence of a certain former president.

As the campaign to oust him heads into its final weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California is hammering home the choice he has presented to voters since the start of the recall — Donald J. Trump or him.

“We defeated Trump last year, and thank you, but we haven’t defeated Trumpism,” the governor has repeated for the past two weeks in a blitz of campaign stops and Zoom calls. From vaccine resistance to climate denial, he says, everything that terrified California liberals about the last president is on the ballot. And far more than his own personal future hangs in the balance: “This is a matter of life and death.”

His opponents dispute that. The governor, they say, is the problem, and the recall never would have come to an election had a critical mass of the state not resented his pandemic restrictions on businesses and classrooms, even as his own finances were secure and his own children got in-person instruction. The former president, they note, is not a candidate. “Newsom is scaremongering,” David Sacks, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist supporting the recall, tweeted recently.

Only three governors have faced recall votes in the United States before Mr. Newsom, and he — and the Democratic establishment — are going all-out in presenting the effort as a radical power grab, with some partisans even comparing it at one point to the violent Jan. 6 attempt to block President Biden’s election.

By invoking Mr. Trump as his opponent of choice, Mr. Newsom is reprising a message that he has used in the past to blunt criticism effectively, while also testing a strategy that is likely to be echoed by Democrats seeking to mobilize voters in midterm races across the country next year.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden thought he could persuade vaccine skeptics. He couldn’t. So he embraced mandates, Annie Linskey, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.). The president also shed his hesitancy to wade directly into the rough currents of “pandemic politics.”

President Biden’s initial approach to the pandemic did not include widespread vaccine mandates, a policy that some advisers and public health officials wanted but that was viewed as a step too far.

Biden instead tried to persuade people hesitant to get the coronavirus vaccine, making reasoned arguments and emotional pleas to try to win them over while embracing requirements in limited circumstances.

His aides said the government’s role was to advocate for vaccinations, not mandate them as they maintained hope that the vaccine skepticism stoked by misinformation on social media, conservative commentators and some Republican politicians would fade.

That hope was not realized.

On Thursday, Biden abandoned his initial strategy, instead embracing the growing frustration among the vaccinated with the country’s roughly 80 million unvaccinated citizens and announced a sweeping set of mandates, including compelling businesses with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations or weekly coronavirus testing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Biden Is Right: Vaccine Refusal ‘Has Cost All of Us,’ Editorial Board, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.). As Americans contemplate the prospect of a second winter trapped in the grip of Covid-19, remember that it didn’t need to be this way. Vaccines were developed in record time, and have proved to be both incredibly safe and stunningly effective. Nearly two-thirds of eligible Americans have accepted these facts and done their part by getting fully vaccinated.

Yet tens of millions more have not, allowing the more contagious Delta variant to sweep across the country, where it is now killing more than 1,500 people in the United States daily. Right now, the list of the very sick and the dead is made up almost entirely of the unvaccinated. But as long as the virus continues to spread widely, it can and will evolve in ways that put everyone at risk.

Faced with this avoidable catastrophe, President Biden is right to order tighter vaccine rules, which he did for roughly two-thirds of the nation’s work force on Thursday. “We’ve been patient,” Mr. Biden told vaccine holdouts. “But our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”

The president moved to require all executive branch employees, federal contractors and millions of health care workers to be vaccinated. Workers at private businesses with 100 or more employees will have to either get vaccinated or take a weekly Covid test. Any business covered by the order must offer its employees paid time off to get their shots or recover from any side effects.

As incursions on bodily autonomy go, this is pretty mild stuff. No one, the Times columnist David Brooks wrote in May, is being asked to storm the beaches of Iwo Jima.

Yet vaccine resisters carry on about violations of their freedom, ignoring the fact that they don’t live in a bubble, and that their decision to stay unvaccinated infringes on everyone else’s freedom — the freedom to move around the country, the freedom to visit safely with friends and family, the freedom to stay alive.

The Supreme Court made this point more than a century ago, when it upheld a fine against a Massachusetts man who refused to get the smallpox vaccine. In a majority opinion that echoes powerfully today, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote, “Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.”

Refusers’ hollow appeals to “freedom” are especially hard to take considering that Americans already accept countless restrictions in the name of safety: We are required to wear seatbelts, for example, and to get vaccinations to attend public school.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccine Resisters Seek Religious Exemptions. But What Counts as Religious? Ruth Graham, Sept. 11, 2021. Major denominations are essentially unanimous in their support of Covid vaccines, but individuals who object are citing their personal faith.

When Crisann Holmes’s employer announced last month that it would require all employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Nov. 1, she knew she had to find a way out.

She signed a petition to ask the company to relax its mandate. She joined an informal protest, skipping work with other dissenting employees at the mental health care system where she has worked for two years. And she attempted a solution that many across the country are now exploring: a religious exemption.

“My freedom and my children’s freedom and children’s children’s freedom are at stake,” said Ms. Holmes, who lives in Indiana. In August, she submitted an exemption request she wrote herself, bolstered by her own Bible study and language from sources online. Some vaccines were developed using fetal cell lines from aborted fetuses, she wrote, citing a remote connection to a practice she finds abhorrent. She quoted a passage from the New Testament: “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit.”

Major religious traditions, denominations and institutions are essentially unanimous in their support of the vaccines against Covid-19. But as more employers across the country begin requiring Covid vaccinations for workers, they are butting up against the nation’s sizable population of vaccine holdouts who nonetheless see their resistance in religious terms — or at least see an opportunity. Vaccine-resistant workers are sharing tips online for requesting exemptions to the requirements on religious grounds; others are submitting letters from far-flung religious authorities who have advertised their willingness to help.

The conflict was picking up steam even before President Biden announced sweeping new workplace vaccine mandates on Thursday. The new orders will require the vast majority of federal workers and those who work for large private employers to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Overall, the mandates are expected to affect 100 million American workers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fla. school mask fights heat up as appeals court backs DeSantis and Biden administration opens civil rights investigation, Lori Rozsa and Valerie Strauss, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.).  An appeals court on Friday sided with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, reinstating for now his ban on mask mandates in the state’s public schools while a lawsuit over the issue moves through the courts.

The decision by the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee reversed a decision by Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper that had temporarily allowed school districts to enforce their mask rules as the court looks at the substance of a lawsuit filed by parents.

Also Friday, the Education Department said its Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether Florida was violating the rights of students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from the coronavirus by preventing school districts from requiring masks. The department has opened similar probes in Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.

Biden administration opens civil rights investigations over bans on school mask mandates

The moves mark the latest salvo in a legal back-and-forth over a controversial July 30 executive order by DeSantis (R) prohibiting mask mandates in schools.

washington post logoWashington Post, Liberty University returns to in-person classes, with hundreds of new covid cases, Susan Svrluga, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.). More than 1,800 people have been asked to quarantine at the private university in Virginia Two weeks ago, after reporting 159 covid-19 cases on campus, Liberty University announced it would switch to virtual classes until Sept. 10.

liberty university sealNow there have been nearly 1,000 reported cases — all since Aug. 23, when classes began.

Despite the rapid rise in cases, school officials announced Friday that they will return to in-person classes and indoor gatherings Monday as planned, prioritizing “both health and freedom.”

Masking will not be mandated, but officials at the Lynchburg, Va., school said it is “strongly encouraged.” Some large gatherings will continue to be held outside, and other events held indoors would be limited to 50 percent capacity. For a time, students can choose to take classes virtually.

School officials had promoted campus life since the spring as a joyful return to normal: no requirements for vaccines or masks.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 11, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds):

World Cases: 224,773,245, Deaths: 4,633,238
U.S. Cases:     41,741,693, Deaths:    677,017
India Cases:     33,208,330, Deaths:    442,350
Brazil Cases:   20,974,850, Deaths:     585,923

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 208.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 11, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 177.9 million people, or 53.4 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s vaccine mandate pulls OSHA to the center of political storm, Eli Rosenberg, Sept. 11, 2021. The federal agency that President Biden has tasked with implementing a national vaccine mandate has struggled to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, drawing fire for failing to issue broad safety rules specifically aimed at keeping workers safe from workplace transmission.

But with the vaccine mandate announced Thursday, Biden has finally given the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the green light to take aggressive action.

The new rule compels private companies with more than 100 workers to require employees to get vaccinated or submit to regular testing for the virus. Agency officials, who only learned about the mandate last week, must now move quickly to draft a plan for implementing and enforcing the mandate, a complex undertaking that represents one of the biggest challenges in the agency’s 50-year history.

“This is certainly the most controversial thing OSHA has ever done,” said Jordan Barab, a former OSHA deputy and workplace safety expert with the House Committee on Education and Labor. “It’s very big and very significant.”

Politically, the effort is already drawing fire. Prominent Republicans have condemned the mandate, blasting it as an unconstitutional infringement on personal liberties. Republican governors in multiple states have threatened to sue, with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) pledging to “pursue every legal option available to the -state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration.”

But many business groups have been more receptive. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposed previous efforts to create emergency rules to combat the coronavirus in workplaces, said it would wait to review the details of the new vaccine mandate before commenting.

On Friday, officials at the Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA, declined to comment on how they plan to implement the vaccine mandate. Many questions about the process ahead remain unanswered.

Among the most pressing: How long will businesses have to comply with the mandate, and how will OSHA enforce it? Should the mandate include other workplace safety requirements — such as masking and social distancing — to prevent workplace transmission? Should businesses be required to communicate any exposures or outbreaks to their workers? And will OSHA provide federal funding to cover the cost of Biden’s requirement that workers be compensated for time off to get the vaccine and recover from any side effects? Or will those costs fall on employers?

OSHA officials will proceed under broad authorities granted the agency by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, adopted in the 1970s. The act gives the Labor secretary authority to create a rule in times of duress — called an emergency temporary standard or ETS — to protect employees from “grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards.” The ETS process allows the agency to circumvent months of hearings and public comment normally required to implement a new safety rule.

Recent Headlines:

 

Investigations

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Evidence Disputes U.S. Claim of ISIS Bomb in Kabul Drone Strike, Matthieu Aikins, Christoph Koettl, Evan Hill and Eric Schmitt, Updated Sept. 11, 2021.  Officials said a drone followed a car and then fired based on evidence it was carrying explosives. But our in-depth video analysis casts doubt on that account. It was the last known missile fired by the United States in its 20-year war in Afghanistan, and the military called it a “righteous strike” — a drone attack after hours of surveillance on Aug. 29 against a vehicle that American officials thought contained an ISIS bomb and posed an imminent threat to troops at Kabul’s airport.

But a New York Times investigation of video evidence, along with interviews with more than a dozen of the driver’s co-workers and family members in Kabul, raises doubts about the U.S. version of events, including whether explosives were present in the vehicle, whether the driver had a connection to ISIS, and whether there was a second explosion after the missile struck the car.

Military officials said they did not know the identity of the car’s driver when the drone fired, but deemed him suspicious because of how they interpreted his activities that day, saying that he possibly visited an ISIS safe house and, at one point, loaded what they thought could be explosives into the car.

Times reporting has identified the driver as Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group. The evidence suggests that his travels that day actually involved transporting colleagues to and from work. And an analysis of video feeds showed that what the military may have seen was Mr. Ahmadi and a colleague loading canisters of water into his trunk to bring home to his family.

While the U.S. military said the drone strike might have killed three civilians, Times reporting shows that it killed 10, including seven children, in a dense residential block.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Analysis suggests no evidence of explosives in target of U.S. drone strike, Alex Horton, Sarah Cahlan, Dalton Bennett, Joyce Sohyun Lee, Meg Kelly and Elyse Samuels, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.). The Post provided military assessments and imagery of the damage from the deadly strike to a physicist, former bomb technicians and other experts.

When a Hellfire missile was launched on Aug. 29 at a target in a Kabul neighborhood — a parked car suspected of containing explosives for use in a suicide attack — U.S. military officials said they were confident the driver and another man at the location had suspected militant ties and were the only people nearby.

The missile took about half a minute to reach the white sedan. In that time, three children approached the car just before it was destroyed, according to a senior U.S. military official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing military investigation. The children were killed, the official said, and families of the victims said another seven people also died in the strike, including the driver and the second man.

U.S. Central Command’s initial description of the drone strike in a statement said that the operation targeted a vehicle linked to the Islamic State-Khorasan and produced “significant secondary explosions” from the vehicle, indicating a “substantial amount of explosive material.”

The Washington Post provided imagery of the damage caused by the strike and U.S. military assessments of the operation to experts, including a physicist and former bomb technicians, and spoke to the nonprofit that employed the driver targeted in the operation. Taken together, their assessments suggest there is no evidence the car contained explosives; two experts said evidence pointed to an ignition of fuel tank vapors as the potential cause of the second blast.

The driver’s employer, a California-based group, said his movements around the city were part of his duties for the nonprofit and said the military may have misinterpreted what he was doing as he moved from place to place and loaded packages into the vehicle.

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Yes, the Jan. 6 insurrectionists were terrorists. George W. Bush just indicted them, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 11, 2021. Few jennifer rubin new headshotAmericans expected wisdom from former president George W. Bush on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Even fewer expected wisdom on the current state of our politics. That is nevertheless what we got from his remarks in Shanksville, Pa., today.

In perhaps the most important words spoken in his political career, Bush in his remarks at the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 drew a straight line between the 9/11 terrorists and the 1/6 terrorists.

“We have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders but from violence that gathers within,” he said. “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit." He added, "It is our continuing duty to confront them.” Bush’s words were an indictment not only of the violent MAGA insurrectionists but also, implicitly, of his party that coddles them and the leader whom the 1/6 terrorists wanted to install by force.

The violent insurrectionists carried symbols of the Confederacy (the traitors whose rebellion resulted in more than 600,000 American deaths) in the Capitol, where they trashed the citadel of democracy and tried to hunt down House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Capitol, of course, was the suspected target of Flight 93; the heroes on board that plane spared the lawmakers and others who worked there from the fate of occupants of the twin towers and the Pentagon. The 1/6 terrorists breached the building the 9/11 terrorists could not. Both the 9/11 terrorists and the domestic 1/6 terrorists sought to destroy our democracy in service to a crazed ideology of intolerance.

When viewed in that context, the actions of the former president and his party should horrify all decent Americans. One can imagine how their actions and rhetoric would have sounded if the other “children of the same foul spirit” were radical Islamists.

“We love you; you’re very special,” then-President Donald Trump told the Jan. 6 terrorists as their assault on democracy continued. Later, he declared, "These were peaceful people, these were great people.” He insisted, “The crowd was unbelievable and I mentioned the word ‘love,’ the love in the air, I’ve never seen anything like it.” No president and no party could have survived if the object of his remarks were foreign rather than domestic terrorists. No president could have avoided prosecution if the crowd he inspired to march on the Capitol had been radical Muslims ready to kill elected leaders and stop democracy in its tracks.

And the Republican Party continues to minimize, deflect and ignore the 1/6 terrorist attack. Can one imagine in the wake of 9/11 Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asking senators as a "favor” not to investigate the 9/11 attacks? Consider the reaction had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insisted we not bother investigating 9/11 because the other side was simply seeking to score political points. One can only imagine the reaction if, after a foreign attack premised on the big lie, Sens. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and the other Republicans proceeded to make challenges to the democratic process based on the same conspiracy theory advanced by foreign terrorists.

In every case, had the terrorists been foreigners, we would have labeled their Republican apologists as anti-American, if not traitorous. There is no difference, as Bush pointed out, when the terrorists carry Confederate flags or a radical Islamist flag. As he said, “It is our continuing duty to confront them” — not to sympathize with them, not to turn them into martyrs.

In musing about what has become of a country where “every disagreement [turns] into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures," Bush decried politics that is no more than “a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment.” Only one party matches that description. Bush used a powerful refrain, one that also serves as a rebuke to the racist, antidemocratic MAGA movement:

At a time when religious bigotry might have flowed freely, I saw Americans reject prejudice and embrace people of Muslim faith. That is the nation I know.
At a time when nativism could have stirred hatred and violence against people perceived as outsiders, I saw Americans reaffirm their welcome of immigrants and refugees. That is the nation I know.

Bush’s bluntness was a refreshing antidote to the usual blasé treatment of a radicalized Republican Party that embraces “children of the same foul spirit” as the 9/11 terrorists. The press, the ecosystem of donors, activists and operatives, and even, to an extent, the Democrats all treat Republicans as a normal political party within our democratic system, rather than as the enablers of a “foul spirit” and violent extremism. They shy away from labeling Republicans as “1/6 truthers” when the GOP’s effort to direct blame away from the actual terrorists is no better than claiming 9/11 was an inside job. (McCarthy and his cohorts insist it’s Pelosi who should be investigated.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden faces uncertain path to closing Guantánamo Bay, Missy Ryan, Sept. 11, 2021. President Biden faces major obstacles. Opposition to closure remains, though the dysfunctional military trial process has failed to yield a verdict or even a trial for the men accused in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Bybstacles to achieving his goal of closing the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, including abiding opposition in Congress and a dysfunctional military trial process that has failed to yield a verdict — or even a trial — for the men accused in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

This week, the five men charged with helping to plan those attacks, including self-described mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, appeared in a pretrial hearing at the prison, the first such occurrence since the coronavirus pandemic largely halted the already slow-moving court process.

That their trial, delayed by years of initial proceedings, is not expected to begin until at least 2022 is a stark example of the problems and dark detours that have characterized the detention operation since the first terrorism suspects arrived there after the 9/11 attacks.

The high-security facility, located at a U.S. naval base in Cuba’s southeast, has receded from the headlines as its population has dwindled from over 700 at its peak to just 39 today, but Guantánamo remains a global symbol of U.S. excesses after 9/11, including the brutal mistreatment of prisoners and the detention of suspects for two decades without charge.

Supporters warn against sending former Guantánamo inmate home to Russia

“The actual practicalities of closing Guantánamo are easier than they’ve ever been,” said Michel Paradis, a law professor who has represented Guantánamo detainees, many of them now aging and infirm. “That doesn’t mean the politics are any easier.”

Biden administration officials say they are taking steps toward closing the prison, citing the repatriation this summer of a Moroccan man. But eight months into Biden’s presidency, officials have yet to reveal specifics about how they intend to navigate legal and political challenges that stymied an earlier closure effort by the president’s former boss, Barack Obama.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. branded the Haqqanis terrorists and issued $5 million bounties. Now they’re in power in the Taliban government, Sudarsan Raghavan, Sept. 11, 2021. Twenty years after al-Qaeda attacked the United States — a plot hatched in Afghanistan — its loyalists hold senior positions in the Taliban's new transitional government. There is one name that stands out: Haqqani.

A U.N. report in June described the Haqqani network as the “primary liaison between the Taliban and Al-Qaida.” Its leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani — a brutal sirajuddin haqqaniinsurgent commander known for dispatching suicide bombers who’ve killed or maimed hundreds of civilians — was “assessed to be a member of the wider Al-Qaida leadership, but not of the Al-Qaida core leadership.”

Today, he is Afghanistan’s acting interior minister, overseeing the nation’s police, intelligence services and other security forces.

He is also in charge of combating terrorism.

“It’s a major concern,” said Colin P. Clarke, director of policy and research at The Soufan Group, an intelligence and security consulting firm. “You are one step removed from having the group that attacked us on 9/11 running the country.”
An undated photo of Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is featured on the agency’s Most Wanted List. Haqqani is now Afghanistan’s acting interior minister, overseeing the nation’s police, intelligence services and other security forces. (FBI)

The appointment of Haqqani, as well as relatives and members of his network, underscores his immense influence inside the Taliban. It also raises concerns that the new government will pursue a hard line agenda, even as Taliban leaders publicly claim to be gentler and more moderate than their brutal image in an effort to curry favor with donors and foreign governments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden finds closing the book on 9/11 is fraught with perils and uncertainty, Matt Viser, Ashley Parker and Anne Gearan, Sept. 11, 2021. The president’s arc on the global war on terrorism largely traces that of the nation — from enthusiastic supporter after 9/11 to strident critic.

Joe Biden was sitting on a park bench outside the U.S. Capitol, as helpless in the moment as the rest of the nation. He had just arrived on an Amtrak train, the twin towers smoldering and a violent fire raging at the Pentagon — and his demands to enter the Capitol denied by security guards fearing a fourth plane was heading toward the building.

Outside, the veteran senator sat and fielded calls on his cellphone, eager to showcase that the foundations of American democracy would not be shaken. “I refuse to be part of letting these bastards win,” Biden said that day. At 2:12 p.m., records show, he connected with President George W. Bush for a two-minute call, urging him to return to Washington to display some sense of normalcy.

“This in a sense is the most godawful wake-up call we’ve ever had,” he said that afternoon.

 ny times logomajor league baseball mlb logoNew York Times, Post-9/11 Patriotism in Sports Is Seen as Unifier, and ‘Manipulation,’ Jonathan Abrams, Updated Sept. 11, 2021. The jingoism at sporting events that surged during the Gulf War and after Sept. 11 now often drives wedges, but sports leagues want it to stay.

Wayne Madsen Report, WMR, 9-11: The day before, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 10, 2021. Monday, September 10, 2001 was, for many people, just another beginning of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe work week. For this reporter, I had just returned to Washington on September 9 from a previous week's speaking engagement in Helsinki.

I vividly recall that just after my flight took off from JFK Airport in New York, the plane flew just south of the southern tip of Manhattan. I had a picture wayne madesen report logopostcard view of the World Trade Center towers, which were brilliantly reflecting the setting sunlight from the west. I recall thinking to myself that those two buildings represented one of the greatest marvels of modern construction. Little did I realize that in less than 48 hours, those gleaming buildings would be replaced by a gigantic heap of rubble, office furniture, and, most grotesquely of all, human remains.

Only a few people on the planet would know that Monday, September 10, 2001, would be the last "normal" day in their lives.

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