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. 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.”

 Recent Headlines:

 

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:

 

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

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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.

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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

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Courts

 

Virus Victims, Responses


Afghanistan, 9/11

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

U.S. Police, Reviews, Law

 

U.S. Media, Entertainment

 

Top Stories

george w bush oval iraq 2003 w

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.

Recent Afghanistan and 9/11 Headlines


U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, A secretive Pentagon program that started on Trump’s last day in office just ended. The mystery has not, Craig Timberg, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.).The program had drawn scrutiny because of its unusual timing, starting amid a politically charged changeover of federal power, and because of its enormous scale. Control of a remarkable 6 percent of the Internet was handed over to a Florida company as part of a cybersecurity pilot project. Now the Pentagon has taken all 175 million IP address spaces back.

A Pentagon program that delegated management of a huge swath of the Internet to a Florida company in January — just minutes before President Donald Trump left office — has ended as mysteriously as it began, with the Defense Department this week retaking control of 175 million IP addresses.

The program had drawn scrutiny because of its unusual timing, starting amid a politically charged changeover of federal power, and because of its enormous scale. At its peak, the company, Global Resource Systems, controlled almost 6 percent of a section of the Internet called IPv4. The IP addresses had been under Pentagon control for decades but left unused, despite being potentially worth billions of dollars on the open market.

Adding to the mystery, company registration records showed Global Resource Systems at the time was only a few months old, having been established in September 2020, and had no publicly reported federal contracts, no obvious public-facing website and no sign on the shared office space it listed as its physical address in Plantation, Fla. The company also did not respond to requests for comment, and the Pentagon did not announce the program or publicly acknowledge its existence until The Washington Post reported on it in April.

And now it’s done. Kind of.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon made a technical announcement — visible mainly to network administrators around the world — saying it was resuming control of the 175 million IP addresses and directing the traffic to its own servers.

On Friday, the Pentagon told The Post that the pilot program, which it previously had characterized as a cybersecurity measure designed to detect unspecified “vulnerabilities” and “prevent unauthorized use of DoD IP address space,” was over. Parts of the Internet once managed by Global Resource Systems, the Pentagon said, now were being overseen by the Department of Defense Information Network, known by the acronym DODIN and part of U.S. Cyber Command, based at Fort Meade.

Minutes before Trump left office, millions of the Pentagon’s dormant IP addresses sprang to life

The IP addresses had never been sold or leased to the company, merely put under its control for the pilot program, created by an elite Pentagon unit known as the Defense Digital Service, which reports directly to the secretary of defense and bills itself as a “SWAT team of nerds” that solves emergency problems and conducts experimental work for the military.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mountain of Money Fuels Newsom’s Surge to Recall Finish Line, Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 11, 2021. Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken full advantage of California’s loose financing rules for recall elections, overpowering Republican challengers for whom the cavalry never arrived.

There had been moments over the summer when Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, had appeared vulnerable in public polls, as California’s unique recall rules seemed to provide an opening to conservatives in one of the most reliably Democratic states in the nation. But Mr. Newsom raised more than $70 million this year into an account to battle the recall, much of it in July and August, allowing him and his allies to dominate the television airwaves and out-advertise his opponents online.

California has no limits on donations to recall committees, and Mr. Newsom has taken full advantage of those loose rules. His contributions have included an early $3 million from Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix; $500,000 from the liberal philanthropist George Soros; and $500,000 from the Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg. Dr. Priscilla Chan, a philanthropist and the wife of the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, contributed $750,000, and the real estate magnate George Marcus gave $1 million.

Millions of dollars more have come from interest groups with business before the state, including labor unions representing service workers, teachers and prison guards, the real estate industry and Native American tribes that operate casinos.

Mr. Newsom’s aggressive efforts to keep any other prominent Democrat from running consolidated the party’s financial might toward protecting his post. In a California recall, voters consider two questions: first, whether to recall the governor and second, whom the replacement should be. During the last recall election, in 2003, Democrats struggled to sell the famously unwieldy slogan “no on recall; yes on Bustamante” as Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, swept into the governorship.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump May Be Gone, but the Fight Against His Border Wall Goes On, Edgar Sandoval, Sept. 11, 2021. Residents in Los Ebanos, Texas, thought a Biden victory would end fears of losing their property for President Trump’s wall. It hasn’t worked out that way.

World Crisis Radio, Commentary: Last days to fight back against fascism by voting to keep Newsom as governor of California! Webster G. Tarpley, right, Sept. 11, 2021 (58.58 min.). 20 years after webster tarpley 20079/11, focus has shifted to domestic terrorism under heading of #CERTUNREST2021 on eve of September 18 threat.

On January 4 conference call, security officials were warned of danger of “mass casualty event” on Capitol Hill; so why so little action to defend counting of electoral votes? DoJ seeks rollback for unconstitutional Texas abortion law.

In ambitious 6-point plan, Biden deploys OSHA to fight pandemic in workplace; Two dozen GOP governors and RNC hacks promise harassing lawsuits; Corporate media programs on 9/11 stress radical subjectivism, but obscure contradictions of official narrative!

 

U.S. Crimes, Courts, Law

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, center, with businessman Lev Parnas, above right, and their colleague Ignor Fruman, with Parnas and Fruman arrested while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles Airport.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bad news for Rudy Giuliani, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 11, 2021. When it was revealed a couple weeks ago that Igor Fruman had decided to plead bill palmerguilty, it was also revealed that he hadn’t yet cut a cooperation deal. So it’s perhaps not surprising that when he went ahead and formally pleaded guilty on Friday, he still didn’t have a cooperation deal in place. It’s still not clear if he’s going to cut one; it’ll be the thing to watch for between now and his sentencing hearing.

bill palmer report logo headerIf Igor does cut a cooperation deal, it’ll be really bad news for Rudy Giuliani, for obvious reasons. But even if Igor doesn’t end up cooperating, it’s still got to be bad news for Rudy. Consider that Igor spent two years sticking with his not guilty plea, before suddenly deciding a couple weeks ago to hurry up and change his plea to guilty.

The most likely impetus for this is that federal prosecutors let Igor know that Rudy Giuliani is about to be indicted, and that he decided to go and get his own legal affairs sorted before things got even uglier for everyone involved with the Trump-Ukraine scandal. So we take Igor’s plea as a sign that the case against Rudy is finally about to culminate in a long awaited indictment.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Germany Investigates Russia Over Pre-Election Hacking, Melissa Eddy, Sept. 11, 2021 (print ed.). Berlin has protested to Moscow after identifying repeated attempts to steal politicians’ private information before the election this month that will decide Angela Merkel’s successor. The federal prosecutor’s office german flagin Germany said Friday it was investigating who was responsible for a spate of hacking attempts aimed at lawmakers, amid growing concerns that Russia is trying to disrupt the Sept. 26 vote for a new government.

The move by the prosecutor’s office comes after Germany’s Foreign Ministry said this week that it had protested to Russia, complaining that several state lawmakers and members of the federal Parliament had been targeted by phishing emails and other attempts to obtain passwords and other personal information.

 

Sept. 10

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Sept.18 Threats

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

Afghanistan

 

U.S. Abortion Law, Politics

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Top Stories

joe biden podium

ny times logo

New York Times, Biden Unveils Vaccine Mandate Plan Covering Two-Thirds of U.S. Workers, Staff Reports, Sept. 9, 2021. President Biden moves to require tens of millions more American workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Fauci says virus cases are ten times higher than needed to control the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of workers, firms to face Biden’s new rules on vaccines, testing, Rachel Siegel and Eli Rosenberg, Sept. 10, 2021. 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.

The 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

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden and China’s Xi speak for a second time amid rising tensions, Anne Gearan, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the second time as president, the White House said Thursday, amid rising tensions over human rights, military ambitions, trade and the coronavirus.

China FlagThe call Thursday evening in Washington yielded no specific announcements, including about whether the two leaders would meet in person for a much-anticipated summit this fall. It was meant to underscore Biden’s view that the United States and China are now the defining global competitors but can cooperate where each finds it useful, a senior U.S. official said before the call.

“The two leaders had a broad, strategic discussion in which they discussed areas where our interests converge, and areas where our interests, values and perspectives diverge,” a White House statement said.

The call followed discussions among lower-level officials in which U.S. officials had sought to set rules of the road to prevent stiff competition between the two nations from veering into conflict. Those discussions were unproductive, according to the senior Biden administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under rules set by the White House.

Xi Jinping’s crackdown on everything is remaking Chinese society

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.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s six-step covid strategy does not go far enough to compel vaccinations, Leana S. Wen, right, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). President leana wenBiden’s much-hyped new strategy for fighting covid-19 is a tepid half-measure that falls short of the dramatic reset the country needs. The six-pronged strategy announced on Thursday can be summarized as “more of the same” — these are good steps in the right direction, but they’re not enough to get the job done.

The biggest problem with Biden’s plan is that it does not go nearly far enough toward compelling vaccinations. Only 54 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of first-time vaccinations is falling, even as the delta variant is overwhelming hospitals in many places and more than 1,500 Americans are dying every day.

Biden needs to acknowledge that we have reached the end of the line when it comes to asking individuals to get vaccinated. We’ve tried education, incentives and appealing to people’s patriotic duty. It’s not working. Now is the time for mandates, with the federal government using the full extent of its authority.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden’s New Vaccine Push Is a Fight for the U.S. Economy, Jim Tankersley, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). Faced with the Delta variant and slowed job growth, President Biden is pursuing vaccinations as fewer states impose lockdowns and business restrictions. A surge in Covid deaths has deterred would-be workers from accepting jobs, economists say, causing labor shortages and potential cutbacks in consumer spending.

President Biden’s aggressive move to expand the number of vaccinated Americans and halt the spread of the Delta variant is not just an effort to save lives. It is also an attempt to counter the continuing and evolving threat that the virus poses to the economy.

Delta’s rise has been fueled in part by the inability of Mr. Biden and his administration to persuade millions of vaccine-refusing Americans to inoculate themselves against the virus. That has created another problem: a drag on the economic recovery. Real-time gauges of restaurant visits, airline travel and other services show consumers pulled back on some face-to-face spending in recent weeks.

After weeks of playing down the threat that a new wave of infections posed to the recovery, the president and his team blamed Delta for slowing job growth in August. “We’re in a tough stretch,” he conceded on Thursday, after heralding the economic progress made under his administration so far this year, “and it could last for a while.”

ny times logoNew York Times, What’s in the Biden administration’s six-part vaccine plan? Read the highlights, Aishvarya Kavi, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). To increase the number of Americans who are vaccinated, the Labor Department will develop an emergency rule requiring all private-sector businesses with more than 100 employees to require that their workforces be fully vaccinated or test negative at least once a week. The rule would affect an estimated 80 million workers. Employers will also be required to give paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.

In an expansion of his earlier push to vaccinate the federal work force, Mr. Biden signed an executive order requiring all executive branch employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated, with no exception to test out of the requirement.

 ny times logoNew York Times, New York Edges Closer to Prepandemic Life, as City Workers Return, Dana Rubinstein, Sept. 10, 2021. The city’s more than 300,000 municipal employees must report to full-time, in-person work on Monday. Many of them are not happy. On Monday, as New York City students fully return to public schools, a less heralded reopening will also take place: The city’s entire municipal labor force, the largest in the nation, will return to work.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, below at left, has ordered the city’s more than 300,000 employees to report to work five days a week, with no general hybrid or remote option. The move will be closely watched in cities around the nation, as the mayor navigates a thicket of safety procedures.

Office workers will have to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, and masks will be required in most indoor communal settings. Social distancing will not be required, except where workers are interacting with the public.

bill de blasio 11 2 2013The mayor’s push to return city employees has been met by significant resistance from unionized workers. But Mr. de Blasio has been determined to restore the city to some semblance of its prepandemic existence, and he believes that returning to work will greatly help efforts to revive the city’s economy.

Much of the city’s municipal work force has already returned to work in some measure; roughly 80,000 city workers out of a total work force of more than 300,000 began reporting to the office in May on a hybrid schedule. The rest, many of them uniformed workers and teachers, have already returned full time, with some — most notably teachers and health care workers — required to be vaccinated with no testing opt-out.

At least 65 percent of city workers have received at least one dose of a vaccine, which is slightly lower than the citywide average.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Is a Big Mistake, Robby Soave (a senior editor at Reason who has written extensively about law, public policy and free speech), Sept. 10, 2021. Forcing vaccines on a minority contingent of unwilling people is a massive error that risks shredding the social fabric of a country already being pulled apart by political tribalism.

Rather than punishing the unvaccinated, the government could create an incentive for vaccination by lifting restrictions for the vaccinated. This was the approach initially taken by the C.D.C., which said earlier this year that since the vaccinated were well protected, they could almost always safely discard their masks. Unfortunately, the more transmissible Delta variant spooked federal health officials, and the C.D.C. reversed course.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Virus Updates: Republican governors threaten to sue over Biden’s vaccine mandates, Annabelle Timsit and Bryan Pietsch, Sept. 10, 2021. republican elephant logoRepublican leaders in the United States are blasting President Biden’s sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates for businesses and federal workers, decrying them as unconstitutional infringements on personal liberties and promising to sue.

Biden took a newly antagonistic tone in his address Thursday in outlining his plan to mandate immunization for employees and contractors, as well as health-care workers in facilities that treat patients on Medicare or Medicaid. Biden aims to require businesses with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccinations or test their employees weekly.

texas mapRepublican governors from Texas to Missouri and Georgia threatened to fight back. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the mandates “an assault on private businesses” and said the state is “already working to halt this power grab.” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said he asked his state’s attorney general “to stand prepared to take all actions to oppose this administration’s unconstitutional overreach of executive georgia mappower,” and South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem said, “See you in court.” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the group “will sue the administration to protect Americans and their liberties.”

Biden, for his part, seemed unconcerned about escalating political tensions. “A distinct minority of Americans — supported by a distinct minority of elected officials — are keeping us from turning the corner,” he said. “These pandemic politics … are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die. … If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”

Here’s what to know

  • The White House estimated that the new mandates would affect about 80 million workers — about two-thirds of the workforce in the United States.
  • Biden outlined other measures, including getting more at-home rapid test kits into people’s hands, doubling the fines that travelers can receive from the Transportation Security Administration if they don’t wear masks, and making free monoclonal antibody treatments available in more hospitals.
  • While the United States waits for an official verdict on vaccine booster shots from the Food and Drug Administration, Biden said his administration has bought enough doses for those the agency decides may need them and “is ready to administer them.”
  • German firm BioNTech plans to submit the coronavirus vaccine it developed with Pfizer for approval in children as young as 5 to regulators across the globe, top executives told Der Spiegel.

Palmer Report, Opinion: President Biden just landed one heck of a punch, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 10, 2021. President Biden’s moves on Thursday bill palmer– which ensure that all federal employees and most corporate employees will soon be vaccinated from COVID – could end up single handedly ending the pandemic as we know it in this country. It’s precisely the bold, decisive leadership we need right now.

It’s also brought about a remarkable amount of whining from the other side. At various points on Thursday evening, “Dictator Biden” and “King Biden” were trending on Twitter, as right wingers complained that Biden was exceeding his authority when it came to vaccinations.

This is notable for two reasons. First of all, Biden will very likely win any court challenges to this new rule. Unlike the former guy, Biden has an army of competent legal experts running his administration who know precisely how to craft a rule such that it’ll withstand legal scrutiny. Polls show that Biden also has a strong majority of public support for this move.

bill palmer report logo headerThe second reason this is notable: I always like to point out that in politics, if you’re whining, you’re losing. More specifically, if you’re whining about how the other side is “getting away with it all,” then you’re telling voters in the middle that the other side is powerful and successful, and that your side is weak and powerless. Far too often, liberal activists end up whining their way to defeat. But now it’s the right wing activists who are whining loudly, and informing voters in the middle that Biden is powerful and successful, and that the Republicans are too weak to stop him.

Not only has President Biden made the right move for the country, he’s also made the right move politically. It can be all too rare that a politician gets to do both with the same big swing. Yet here we are. The more you hear the other side whining about Biden’s moves, the more you can take it as a sign that Biden is winning.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 10, 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: 224,163,154, Deaths: 4,623,460
U.S. Cases:     41,562,429, Deaths:    674,589
India Cases:     33,163,004, Deaths:    442,046
Brazil Cases:    33,163,004, Deaths:    442,046

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 208.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 10, 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.

Recent Headlines:

washington post logoWashington Post, Howard Stern blasts unvaccinated Americans, casting vaccine mandate as ‘freedom to live,’ Timothy Bella, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). Howard Stern was reflecting this week on the coronavirus deaths of four conservative talk-radio hosts who had espoused anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments when he took aim at those who have refused to get vaccinated.

“I want my freedom to live,” he said Tuesday on his SiriusXM program. “I want to get out of the house. I want to go next door and play chess. I want to go take some pictures.”

The shock jock, who advocated for the coronavirus vaccine to be mandatory, then turned his attention to the hesitancy that has played a significant role in the U.S. spread of the virus, leading to what Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He pointed to unvaccinated people who are “clogging” up overwhelmed hospitals, calling them “imbeciles” and “nut jobs” and suggesting that doctors and nurses not treat those who have not taken a coronavirus vaccine.

“I’m really of mind to say, ‘Look, if you didn’t get vaccinated [and] you got covid, you don’t get into a hospital,’ ” he said. “You had the cure and you wouldn’t take it.”

Stern’s comments come after several other celebrities expressed to their large social media audiences their frustration with the ongoing lag in vaccinations when hospitals are being pushed to their limits by the highly transmissible delta variant.

More than 185,000 coronavirus infections were reported Wednesday across the United States, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Nearly 102,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19; more than 26,000 are in intensive care units. A slight decline in hospitalizations over the past week has inspired cautious optimism among public health leaders.

On his eponymous program this week, Stern referred to four conservative talk-radio hosts who bashed the vaccine and eventually died of the virus: Marc Bernier, 65; Phil Valentine, 61; Jimmy DeYoung, 81; and Dick Farrel, 65. In the weeks and months leading up to their deaths last month, all four men had publicly shared their opposition to mainstream public health efforts when coronavirus infections were spiking.

“Four of them were like ranting on the air — they will not get vaccinated,” Stern said Tuesday. “They were on fire … they were all dying and then their dying words were, ‘I wish I had been more into the vaccine. I wish I had taken it.’ ”

After he played a clip of Bernier saying he would not get vaccinated, Stern suggested that the coronavirus vaccine be considered as normal as a measles or mumps vaccine.

“When are we going to stop putting up with the idiots in this country and just say it’s mandatory to get vaccinated?” he asked.

WyoFile, Bouchard calls for Fauci to be tried then executed, Nick Reynolds, Sept. 10, 2021. Bouchard calls for Fauci to be tried then executed. Wyoming Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne) posted a meme on his congressional campaign’s Facebook page accusing White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci of lying and suggesting that Fauci should be executed.

“After prosecution, the chair, the gallows, or lethal injection?” Bouchard wrote in the post, which was accompanied by an image of Fauci superimposed over a hanging noose.

The Wyoming Democratic Party reported the image — which Bouchard told WyoFile he designed himself — to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Earlier this week, The Intercept published a trove of documents from the National Institutes of Health showing the United States funded pathogenic research in Wuhan, the Chinese province where the novel coronavirus is believed to have first emerged.

A meme posted by House candidate Anthony Bouchard advocating for White House Chief Medical Advisor Anthony Fauci to be executed. (Screenshot/Facebook)

Conspiracy theorists have speculated that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab and was either accidentally or deliberately released into the public. The publication of the Intercept article has renewed interest in the theory, particularly among conservatives like Kentucky Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

Bouchard has made skepticism about the COVID-19 pandemic, and government responses to it, a central piece of his political identity. He has promoted unapproved treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, and was a key figure in anti-public-health-order protests at the Wyoming State Capitol last winter.

He also sponsored legislation during the 2021 legislative session to prevent vaccine mandates.

In recent days, Bouchard traveled to Worland, according to Cowboy State Daily, to join protestors against a vaccine mandate issued by Banner Health, which operates a healthcare facility in the area.
What they said

Bouchard defended his post Friday, describing Fauci’s actions as a “crime on humanity.” He also alleged liberals had evoked similar imagery toward officials like former President Donald Trump.

“If that’s the way it’s going to be, that only [Democrats] can say it, but if somebody else does something it’s a problem… oh boy that’s scary,” Bouchard said.

Democrats condemned Bouchard’s post.

“Senator Bouchard’s willingness to lower the political discourse to such despicable and dangerous depths is disgusting, shameful, embarrassing, and unacceptable,” Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman Joe Barbuto said in a statement. “Time and time again, he has shown his true character through abhorrent comments and behavior — the legislative leaders of his party need to take a firm stance in condemning this nonsense and make it clear that there is no room in their caucus for rhetoric designed to incite violence.”

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

steve bannon billionaire guo wengui

wayne madesen report logoWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: International fascist collusion to overthrow the U.S. government, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 9-10, 2021. Not wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsince the planned 1934 fascist coup against the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt by various right-wing, fascist, and Nazi forces, backed by wealthy Wall Street interests, has the United States faced a coordinated plot by Americans and foreign interests to overthrow democracy in the United States.

Today, substitute the government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (shown at right), Chinese expatriate billionaire Guo Wengui (shown above right with ultra-right strategist and Trump confidante Steve Bannon), and groups like the jair bolsonaro brazilProud Boys, Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Bois, and Falun Gong, and you will see that history is merely repeating itself with different countries and groups involved in establishing a fascist dictatorship in America, Brazil, and other nations.

Bannon's effort to create an international fascist movement, which is known as simply as "The Movement," has brought together Donald Trump loyalists with the Brazilian government of Bolsonaro and his family.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Trump Coup Is Still Raging, Kevin D. Williamson (a frequent contributor to the National Review), Sept. 10, 2021. What happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was not a coup attempt. It was half of a coup attempt — the less important half.

The more important part of the coup attempt — like legal wrangling in states and the attempts to sabotage the House commission’s investigation of Jan. 6 — is still going strong. These are not separate and discrete episodes but parts of a unitary phenomenon that, in just about any other country, would be characterized as a failed coup d’état.

As the Republican Party tries to make up its mind between wishing away the events of Jan. 6 or celebrating them, one thing should be clear to conservatives estranged from the party: We can’t go home again.

The attempted coup’s foot soldiers have dug themselves in at state legislatures. For example, last week in Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini introduced a draft of legislation that would require an audit of the 2020 general election in the state’s largest (typically Democratic-heavy) counties, suggesting without basis that it may show that these areas cheated to inflate Joe Biden’s vote count.

Florida’s secretary of state, a Republican, knows that an audit is nonsense and has said so. But the point of an audit would not be to change the outcome (Mr. Trump won the state). The point is not even really to conduct an audit.

The obviously political object is to legitimize the 2020 coup attempt in order to soften the ground for the next one — and there will be a next one.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Foreign Terrorists Have Never Been Our Biggest Threat, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). It may seem like a paul krugmanterrible thing to say, but a fair number of people — especially in the news media — are nostalgic about the months that followed 9/11. Some pundits openly pine for the sense of national unity that, they imagine, prevailed in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. More subtly, my sense is that many long for the days when the big threat to America seemed to come from foreign fanatics, not homegrown political extremists.

But that golden moment of unity never existed; it’s a myth, one that we need to stop perpetuating if we want to understand the dire current state of American democracy. The truth is that key parts of the American body politic saw 9/11, right from the beginning, not as a moment to seek national unity but as an opportunity to seize domestic political advantage.

And this cynicism in the face of the horror tells us that even at a time when America truly was under external attack, the biggest dangers we faced were already internal.

It’s now a matter of public record that the immediate response of Bush administration officials to 9/11 was to use it as an excuse for an unrelated project, the invasion of Iraq. “Sweep it all up, things related and not,” said Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, to his aides while the Pentagon was still burning.

It’s also notable that some of the most prominent neocons — intellectuals who promoted the invasion of Iraq and called for an even wider set of wars — eventually became eloquent, even courageous Never Trumpers. This suggests that their belief in spreading democratic values was genuine even if the methods they advocated — and the political alliances they chose to make — had catastrophic results.

But it’s not an accident that Republicans today have left both tolerance and respect for democracy behind. Where we are now, with democracy hanging by a thread, is where we’d been heading for a long time.

America was viciously attacked 20 years ago. But even then, the call that mattered was coming from inside the house.

washington post logoWashington Post, An alleged Capitol rioter says his ankle monitor beeps too loudly. He wants a judge to let him remove it, Jonathan Edwards, Sept. 10, 2021. Potential customers eyeing Supreme Aluminum Florida’s handiwork might have been wowed by the construction company’s poolside pergolas or outdoor grilling enclaves.

But some who met with owner Gabriel Garcia this year have had their in-person consultations interrupted by loud beeping.

The noise may have required an embarrassing explanation: The sound was coming from a court-ordered GPS ankle monitor Garcia has had to wear since being charged with participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Garcia is now asking a judge to order the removal of the device, saying it threatens his Miami-based business when it goes off in front of would-be clients.

Federal prosecutors oppose his request, though no hearing has been scheduled to consider the motion. Prosecutors have accused Garcia of aggressively confronting officers in the Capitol and inciting other rioters to charge and break through police lines.

Garcia recorded multiple live videos to his Facebook account on Jan. 6 that FBI agents used to make their case against him, according to court records.

Garcia told members of the crowd to “storm” the wall of officers, which they eventually did, the affidavit says. After breaching the phalanx, Garcia went to the Rotunda, where he uploaded another video. About 35 seconds into it, he asked “Nancy,” referring to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, to “come out and play.”

At the end of it, Garcia addressed the camera once more, telling the powers that be to “Free Enrique,” an apparent reference to Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, a right-wing organization former president Donald Trump famously told to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate against then-candidate Joe Biden. Tarrio had been arrested in D.C. two days earlier.

Prosecutors believe Garcia is a member of the Proud Boys and that he, along with other members, took part in at least one additional “hostile demonstration” in D.C., before Jan. 6.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

jacob chansley shaman costume and mugJacob Chansley is seen at the U.S. Capitol in a Jan. 6, 2021 (Getty Images photo). He is also seen in a Feb. 4, 2021 mugshot released by the Alexandria, Va. Detention Center.

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Judge Refuses to Let Jacob Chansley Out of Jail Ahead of Sentencing, Calls Him a ‘Mascot’ for QAnon and ‘Hopes’ He’s Really Had a Change of Heart, Matt Naham, Sept. 10, 2021. The federal judge who has presided over Jacob Chansley’s criminal case doesn’t appear to be entirely convinced that the so-called “QAnon Shaman” of Jan. 6 has had a change of heart and renounced the sprawling conspiracy theory for which he is a “mascot.”

Senior Judge Royce Lamberth, a Ronald Reagan appointee, said in a memorandum opinion and order unsealed Friday that Chansley will not be allowed to get out of jail ahead of sentencing for obstruction of an official proceeding.

“Upon consideration of the parties’ briefs, the arguments offered at the hearing, and the record herein, the Court will DENY Chansley’s motion for release from custody pending sentencing,” Lamberth wrote.

Just one week ago, Chansley, perhaps the most unique Jan. 6 defendant out of the hundreds of people charged, pleaded guilty in Lamberth’s court.

Defense lawyer Albert Watkins has gone out of his way to argue that his client has repudiated QAnon.

“Mr. Chansley, a long-avowed and practicing Shaman, has repudiated the ‘Q’ previously assigned to him and requests future references to him be devoid of use of the letter ‘Q’,” Watkins recently wrote in a statement.

But Judge Lamberth said Friday that he hasn’t heard that from Chansley’s own mouth.

“Chansley is a mascot of ‘QAnon,’ an active conspiracy group,” wrote Lamberth, before tacking on the footnote (citation to NY Times removed) pointing out that Chansley’s plea hearing was interrupted by random people screaming “Freedom”:

Chansley’s counsel said in a statement that Chansley “repudiated” QAnon. Chansley has not personally indicated as such to this Court. Still, regardless of any potential repudiation, there is no doubt that he is a mascot for the QAnon movement. Hundreds of attendees joined Chansley’s September 3, 2021 plea-agreement hearing on the public access line, and at least once this Court’s proceedings were interrupted with shouts of “Freedom!”

Lamberth said that Chansley has ultimately “failed” to persuade the court with “clear and convincing evidence” that he is not a flight risk. The judge also expressed skepticism about whether Chansley has really had a change of heart.

Again, the judge tacked on a footnote pointing out that his “hopes” for Capitol siege defendants who pleaded guilty in his courtroom have been “dashed” before. Though he did not name Anna Morgan-Lloyd, Lamberth was clearly referring to the Fox News interview she did after she was sentenced to probation. During that appearance, Morgan-Lloyd downplayed her actions.

Lamberth took Morgan-Lloyd’s words as being in direct conflict with the “contrite statements she made to the undersigned.”

As for Chansley, the judge had twice denied already his requests for release from jail. Because the third time was not the charm, Chansley will have to remain jailed ahead of his Nov. 17 sentencing.

The government has said that Chansley’s sentencing range has been calculated between 41 and 51 months in prison. The judge can go higher or lower, so Chansley’s behavior between now and Nov. 17 could prove crucial.

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Second Wagner Family Member, a Grandmother, Pleads Guilty in Pike County Massacre That Left 8 Dead, Angenette Levy, Sept. 10, 2021. A grandmother admitted Friday to her role in the 2016 murders of eight members of another family over the custody of her granddaughter.

Angela Wagner, 50, pleaded guilty to several lesser charges, including conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, in the April 22, 2016 massacre of the Rhoden and Gilley families. Other charges included aggravated burglary with firearms specifications, unlawful possession of a dangerous ordinance, tampering with evidence, forgery, and unauthorized use of property.

Prosecutors have said Angela Wagner and her husband, George “Billy” Wagner and her two sons, Edward “Jake” Wagner and George Wagner IV, committed the crimes so the family could have sole custody of a little girl Jake Wagner had with Hanna Rhoden. Jake Wagner pleaded guilty on the fifth anniversary of the murders earlier this year.

Under a plea agreement, Angela Wagner would serve 30 years in prison in full and have to cooperate against other family members, including her husband and son.

Jake Wagner admitted during a hearing that he and his family devised a plan to kill Hanna Rhoden and any member of her family that could stand in the way of Jake gaining full custody of the child who is now 7 years old. Jake Wagner sought full custody of the child days after the murders and was granted full custody in June 2016. The Wagners had denied involvement in the murders. But during the hearing, Jake Wagner apologized to the Rhoden family, and prosecutors said he led them to guns and a vehicle used to commit the murders. His guilty plea resulted in the death penalty being taken off the table for him and his family members. He also agreed to testify against his parents and brother.

Prosecutors said the plot to commit mass murder began in late 2015 when Angela Wagner hacked into Hanna Rhoden’s Facebook account and read a message from Hanna Rhoden to another person in which she discussed the Wagners wanting full custody of her daughter. Special prosecutor Angie Canepa said Hanna Rhoden wrote “they’ll have to kill me.” Canepa said Angela Wagner showed the message to Jake and the murder plot unfolded from there.

On April 22, 2016, the Rhodens were found shot to death at four locations on Union Hill Rd. and Left Fork Rd. in Pike County, Ohio.

Investigators turned their attention to the Wagner family in the Spring of 2017. They descended upon a farm Jake and George had recently sold and searched the property along with the Flying W farm owned by Fredericka Wagner, Jake and George’s grandmother.

Angela Wagner told Law&Crime’s Angenette Levy in a Facebook message in May 2017 that her family was being slandered and that they were innocent. The Wagners moved to Alaska in 2017. When the family moved to Alaska, they took Jake’s daughter and George’s young son with them. George also had sole custody of his son that he had with his ex-wife. Prosecutors have said the Wagners were “obsessed” with custody and control of children.

Court documents filed by prosecutors state Jake Wagner married a woman named Elizabeth while the family was living in Alaska and that he and other family members controlled her every move and threatened to kill her. Prosecutors wrote that the family became upset when Jake’s daughter referred to Elizabeth as “mom” because the child was supposed to call Angela Wagner “mom.”

 

Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Islamic world has changed over the past 20 years. The Taliban is about to feel it, Fareed Zakaria, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). If you want to understand what Islamist militancy today is really about, pay attention to this statement by the Taliban’s spokesman last week: “China is our most important partner, and represents a fundamental and extraordinary opportunity for us.”

Let me remind you that China is credibly accused of massive and pervasive persecution of its Muslim population — including mass incarceration, systematic “reeducation,” 24/7 surveillance and, in some cases, forced sterilization.

In other words, the world’s most ideologically committed Islamist government has said that its closest ally will be a nation engaged in what many observers call cultural genocide against Muslims. Lesson: The Islamist militant movement has always been more about power than about religion.

Twenty years after 9/11, we are still not clear on how to think about radical Islam. It is real, it is evil, but over the past two decades, it has lost the ideological argument. The real clash of civilizations was never between the West and Islam. It was within the world of Islam, between the existing regimes and their Islamist opposition movements, and more broadly between moderates and radical religious groups.

In 2001, the United Arab Emirates was, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, one of the only three governments on the planet to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Today, the UAE has not yet recognized the Taliban, but it has established diplomatic relations with Israel and is building stronger economic and social ties with that country — without facing great fallout in the Muslim world.

Gulf cities such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha are open, diverse and modern by comparison with most places in the Middle East and even many in Asia. These are all absolute monarchies, of course, but the fact that they have stopped pandering to fundamentalists and are now openly embracing Western and modern values is telling.

It is not surprising that the Taliban is seeking out China as its most important partner. My bet is that it will have a much harder time finding easy allies in the Muslim world.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We Truly Have Lost Everything’: A Journey Out of Kabul the Day It Fell, Madeleine Ngo, Sept. 10, 2021. Nadima Sahar, a government official, was determined to stay. But then she learned the palace staff, and maybe even the president, had already fled.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Consulting, speaking fees: How generals thrived after Afghanistan, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). Stanley A. McChrystal (shown at right in a 2010 photo) exemplifies how ex-generals sell their battlefield experience in other arenas, from corporations to covid-19 response.

The failure of the American mission in Afghanistan became deadly apparent last month when the Afghan army collapsed as the Taliban took control.

stanley mcchrystal 2010 wBut the generals who led the mission — including McChrystal, who sought and supervised the 2009 American troop surge — have thrived in the private sector since leaving the war. They have amassed influence within businesses, at universities and in think tanks, in some cases selling their experience in a conflict that killed an estimated 176,000 people, cost the United States more than $2 trillion and concluded with the restoration of Taliban rule.

The eight generals who commanded American forces in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2018 have gone on to serve on more than 20 corporate boards, according to a review of company disclosures and other releases.

Last year, retired Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who commanded American forces in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, joined the board of Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s biggest defense contractor. Retired Gen. John R. Allen, who preceded him in Afghanistan, is president of the Brookings Institution, which has received as much as $1.5 million over the last three years from Northrop Grumman, another defense giant. David H. Petraeus, who preceded Allen and later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for providing classified materials to a former mistress and biographer, is a partner at KKR, a private equity firm, and director of its Global Institute.

Petraeus said several firms “aggressively sought” him for his military and CIA experience. As for his leadership in Afghanistan, he said, “I stand by what we did and how I reported it during my time.” Dunford said he pushed no policy in Afghanistan but “did exactly what the president directed me to do,” and that 80 percent of his time now is devoted to nonprofits, several serving veterans. Allen, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.

McChrystal is the runaway corporate leader. A board member or adviser for at least 10 companies since 2010, according to corporate filings and news releases, he also leverages his experience to secure lucrative consulting contracts on topics distant from defense work, such as managing the coronavirus pandemic for state and local governments. The general, who was dismissed after being quoted in 2010 disparaging then-Vice President Joe Biden, has made millions from corporations, governments and universities, commanding six-figure salaries for some of his board positions and high five-figure speaking fees.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. flagged 44 Afghan evacuees as potential security risks in past 2 weeks, reports show, Nick Miroff, Sept. 10, 2021. More than 60,000 evacuees have arrived on U.S. soil since Aug. 17. Officials said that evacuees who have been flagged for additional checks or denied admission show how the vetting process is working.

The Department of Homeland Security flagged 44 Afghan evacuees as potential national security risks during the past two weeks as the government screened tens of thousands for resettlement in the United States, according to DHS vetting records reviewed by The Washington Post.

Of the more than 60,000 evacuees who have arrived on U.S. soil since Aug. 17, the lists show 13 Afghans remain in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody awaiting additional screening and review procedures, including interviews with FBI and counterterrorism teams.

Another 15 evacuees who were considered security concerns have been turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), sent back to transit sites in Europe or the Middle East, or in some cases approved for release after additional review. There are 16 Afghans on the DHS lists who have not been cleared to travel and remain overseas at the transit sites U.S. officials call “lily pads.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans refuse to leave Afghanistan without their families as evacuation flights resume, Karoun Demirjian, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). In the days and weeks before the U.S. military’s hectic departure from Afghanistan, two former interpreters for the American military already resettled in the United States — one a naturalized U.S. citizen, the other a holder of a green card — journeyed back into the war zone to rescue stranded female relatives.

But nearly two weeks after the U.S.-led airlift ended, both men remain in harm’s way along with their relatives who have the paperwork that should make them eligible for evacuation, they said. As charter flights carrying other Americans began to depart Kabul again Thursday, the one with a green card had yet to hear from the State Department whether he and his family would be included. The U.S. citizen, meanwhile, said he was told he could exit with his wife via Uzbekistan but must leave behind other relatives, including his mother-in-law, a California resident who has a green card.

“No, this is unbelievable,” he said he told the U.S. government representative who called him Wednesday night. “I’m going to stay with them until you guys figure out something.”

Scores of Afghan dual nationals, including Americans, leave from newly reopened Kabul airport

The two former military translators, who do not know one another, spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the dangerous security environment that threatens Americans and others still trying to escape Afghanistan and evade detection by the Taliban.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The double standard for GOP vs. Democratic budget bills, Catherine Rampell, right, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). How much does President catherine rampellBiden’s proposed agenda cost?

This seems like a straightforward question, but the answer varies wildly depending on your accounting method. And this has caused headaches as Democrats try to lock in crucial moderate votes within their own party.

In recent years, there has been something of a budgeting double standard in the framing of Republican and Democratic economic proposals. Consider Republicans’ signature achievement during the Trump era, their 2017 tax cut. This bill was usually referred to as a "$1.5 trillion” tax cut because that was the initial estimate for its net cost over a decade.

A bill’s net cost refers to the price if you add up all the provisions that raise money, subtract all the provisions that lose money and then see how it all washes out. For the 2017 tax bill, the net result was forecast as a $1.5 trillion increase in deficits over a decade. (This was later revised upward, to nearly $2 trillion.)

democratic donkey logoIf, however, we had counted only the law’s gross costs (i.e., without offsetting revenue-raisers, such as the cap on state and local tax deductions), its price tag would have looked multiple times more expensive.

But that’s exactly how most politicians and journalists are tallying the “cost” of Democrats’ safety-net-and-climate legislation.

As Republicans did in 2017, Democrats are trying to pass their legislation through “reconciliation,” a process that requires only a party-line vote. Most references to the Democrats’ package describe it as costing $3.5 trillion.

That number reflects the gross costs of Democrats’ agenda items, such as paid leave, health-care expansions, universal pre-K and child tax credits.

Last month, lawmakers agreed to a maximum deficit increase of about $1.75 trillion over a decade. They could ultimately choose a smaller number. The White House says it’s aiming for a fully paid-for bill — i.e., with a net cost of zero — though that outcome seems unlikely.

The $1.75 trillion maximum net cost has gotten almost no attention, while the $3.5 trillion gross figure dominates news coverage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Robert E. Lee’s statue is gone. Now can we dismantle the myth, too? Eugene Robinson, right, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). Now that the eugene robinson headshot Customstatue of Robert E. Lee that towered over the onetime capital of the Confederacy has been cut into pieces and hauled away to some obscure warehouse, maybe the weaponized myth of Lee as a great man — or even a good one — can finally be mothballed as well.

Lee’s bronze equestrian likeness, removed from its lofty pedestal Wednesday, was the most imposing of the “lost cause” memorials that once lined leafy Monument Avenue in Richmond. And it represented the biggest lie.

Southern propagandists concocted and embellished the Lee myth toward the end of the 19th century, as part of a larger justification for erasing the gains made by African Americans during Reconstruction and reimposing a system of state-approved white supremacy. The statue, erected in 1890, was part of that project. One of the true good things it’s possible to say about Lee, who had died 20 years earlier, is that he would have been among the first to object.

“I think it wiser … not to keep open the sores of war,” he wrote in 1869, declining to help choose the locations for memorials at Gettysburg, “but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

Letting go and moving on were not on the agenda of the architects of Jim Crow repression, however. They chose Lee as the dignified, slightly tragic hero of their fanciful retelling of what they called “The War Between the States.” They painted Lee as an honorable man, personally opposed to slavery, who reluctantly chose loyalty to his state of Virginia over allegiance to the Union — and who, albeit in a losing cause, was the most brilliant general in U.S. history.

Lie after lie after lie.

washington post logoWashington Post, McCarthy asks Supreme Court to overturn House proxy voting rules adopted as pandemic precaution and used by nearly 100 Republicans, Amy B Wang, Sept. 10, 2021. Lawmakers from both parties, including nearly 100 House Republicans, have taken advantage of the ability to cast votes remotely — and not always for coronavirus-related reasons.

kevin mccarthyIn a statement Thursday, McCarthy, right, blasted proxy voting as a “power grab” and “a raw abuse of power” by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who along with many Democrats pushed for the historic rule change at the beginning of the pandemic. The House adopted the new protocols in May 2020 in a 217-189 vote along party lines.

“Although the Constitution allows Congress to write its own rules, those rules cannot violate the Constitution itself, including the requirement to actually assemble in person,” McCarthy said. “Since its adoption 14 months ago, proxy voting has shattered 231 years of legislative precedent supreme court buildingand shielded the majority from substantive policy debates and questions, effectively silencing the voices of millions of Americans."

Left unmentioned was that lawmakers from both parties, including nearly 100 GOP members of the House, have since taken advantage of the ability to cast votes remotely — and not always for reasons directly related to covid.

In February, several Republican lawmakers skipped House floor votes, instead asking proxies to vote on their behalf, citing the “ongoing public health emergency” in proxy letters filed with the House clerk. However, those members of Congress were actually spotted at or expected to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A dangerous trend among GOP candidates shows the Trump threat is here to stay, Greg Sargent, right, Sept. 10, 2021. So is this really greg sargenthow it’s going to be? Are more and more Republican candidates across our great land going to treat it as a requirement that they cast any and all election losses as dubious or illegitimate by definition?

We’re now seeing numerous examples of GOP candidates running for office who are doing something very close to this. Which suggests the legacy of Donald Trump could prove worse for the health of democracy than it first appeared.

It isn’t just that Republicans will be expected to pledge fealty to the lost cause of the stolen 2020 election. It’s also that untold numbers of GOP candidates will see it as essential to the practice of Trumpist politics that they vow to actively subvert legitimate election losses by any means necessary.

 

U.S. Abortion Law, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. sues Texas to block six-week abortion ban, Devlin Barrett and Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration sued Texas on Thursday 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.

The law took effect Sept. 1, effectively ending most abortions in the nation’s second-most-populous state.

merrick garlandThe suit filed by the Justice Department in federal court in Austin asks a judge to “protect the rights that Texas has violated” by declaring the abortion law unconstitutional and issuing an injunction blocking its enforcement. At a news conference, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the ban “is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent.”

“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear,” said Garland, right, warning that what he called the “bounty hunter” element of the law may become “a model for action in other areas by other states and with respect to other constitutional rights or judicial precedents.” The U.S. government, Garland added, has a responsibility “to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights.”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Roe’ baby whose conception sparked landmark abortion ruling comes forward to share her name — and her story, Timothy Bella, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). The child of “Jane Roe,” whose conception brought about the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade on a woman’s legal right to an abortion, came forward for the first time Thursday after decades of secrecy where she was known only as the “Roe baby.”

Shelley Lynn Thornton was publicly identified in an excerpt published in the Atlantic of journalist Joshua Prager’s upcoming book The Family Roe: An American Story, which explores those connected to the landmark 1973 case. In the excerpt, Thornton, 51, of Tucson, opened up about her life and the complex family history connected to the “Roe baby” over the last half-century.

“I want everyone to understand that this is something I’ve chosen to do,” she told Prager about why she’s speaking out. “Secrets and lies are, like, the two worst things in the whole world. I’m keeping a secret, but I hate it.”

She also pointed to the effect the Supreme Court ruling has had on her life. Thornton, the youngest of Norma McCorvey’s three children, was born in 1970, the same year her biological mother filed the Roe v. Wade lawsuit over an abortion she sought but never received.

“My association with Roe started and ended because I was conceived,” she said.

McCorvey, who revealed herself to be Jane Roe shortly after the court case, died in 2017 at the age of 69.

Thornton’s public identity being revealed now comes at time when antiabortion activists and Republican leaders are celebrating Texas’s new abortion law, which bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. After the Supreme Court decided last week to let the Texas law stand while the legal battle over the statute continues, abortion providers in Southern states with Republican-led legislatures are concerned their states will copy the Texas law and further chip away at Roe v. Wade.

The story of Roe v. Wade began in March 1970, when McCorvey, then a 22-year-old pregnant waitress, filed a lawsuit under the name Jane Roe against Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, challenging the state laws that banned abortion. Although McCorvey won her lawsuit after a three-judge panel ruled in June 1970 that the Texas ban was unconstitutional, she never got her abortion.

On June 2, 1970, McCorvey gave birth to a girl at Dallas Osteopathic Hospital about two weeks before she won the lawsuit. McCorvey placed the child, her third daughter, up for adoption. The baby would be adopted by a Dallas woman named Ruth Schmidt and her eventual husband, Billy Thornton. Schmidt eventually named the child Shelley Lynn Thornton. When the Roe v. Wade decision eventually came down, antiabortion activists pointed to Thornton’s existence as an anonymous 2½-year-old as a something of a symbol for their movement — one that her adoptive parents were unaware of at the time.

In fact, McCorvey was unaware of the court’s decision years after she had given up Thornton for adoption, Melissa Mills, McCorvey’s oldest daughter, told CBS News.

“Mom didn’t even know that the abortion law had passed,” Mills said.

Schmidt told Thornton when she was young that she had been adopted, and Thornton joked to Prager that she envisioned her birthparents to be Elvis Presley and actress Ann-Margret. But she often wondered about her biological parents.

In 1989, McCorvey began to look for Thornton, who was then about 19. McCorvey appeared on NBC’s “Today” show in hope of getting her message out to the public: Can you help me find my third daughter? The public plea got the attention of the National Enquirer, which eventually located Thornton as living in Seattle. When an Enquirer reporter met with Thornton and Schmidt, the adoptive mother stressed to the journalist that the family did not believe in abortion before letting her daughter know the truth.

“Unfortunately,” Schmidt told Thornton, “your birth mother is Jane Roe.”

Though the National Enquirer kept her name out of the 1989 article, Thornton was left “shaking all over and crying” upon learning her biological family history, Prager reported. While Thornton eventually met her half-sisters, she avoided her birth mother, largely communicating with her through contentious phone calls. Thornton recalled how she struggled with depression and anxiety in the years that followed.

“When someone’s pregnant with a baby and they don’t want that baby, that person develops knowing they’re not wanted,” Thornton said in The Family Roe.

McCorvey reportedly understood her youngest daughter’s anger and hesitation. In an unpublished interview that was obtained by Prager, McCorvey said, “How could you possibly talk to someone who wanted to abort you?”

Abortion remained part of Thornton’s life long after Roe v. Wade. When she was pregnant at age 20, Thornton said to the Enquirer “that she couldn’t see herself having an abortion,” but described antiabortion activists as “a bunch of religious fanatics going around and doing protests.” But she did not consider herself to be an abortion rights advocate either, she told Prager, because of her birth mother.

“Norma was pro-choice, and it seemed to Shelley that to have an abortion would render her no different than Norma,” Prager wrote.

Despite her anger toward McCorvey, Thornton was set to meet her biological mother in person in 1994. A heated phone call between the two, in which McCorvey allegedly said Thornton should have thanked her for not going through with the abortion, upended those plans.

“I was like, ‘What?! I’m supposed to thank you for getting knocked up … and then giving me away?’” she said in the book. “I told her I would never, ever thank her for not aborting me.”

McCorvey’s public life was further complicated when she became an antiabortion activist following what was called a spiritual conversion. But in the 2020 documentary “AKA Jane Roe,” McCorvey admitted in an interview before her death that she was paid thousands of dollars to pose as an antiabortion activist despite not holding those views.

Thornton did not meet McCorvey before she died of heart failure more than four years ago. Thornton, now a mother of three of her own, recalled to Prager how she long hoped McCorvey would “feel something for another human being, especially for one she brought into this world.”

“I want her to experience this joy — the good that it brings,” she told the journalist. “I have wished that for her forever and have never told anyone.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Germany Investigates Russia Over Pre-Election Hacking, Melissa Eddy, Sept. 10, 2021. Berlin has protested to Moscow after identifying repeated attempts to steal politicians’ private information before the election this month that will decide Angela Merkel’s successor. The federal prosecutor’s office german flagin Germany said Friday it was investigating who was responsible for a spate of hacking attempts aimed at lawmakers, amid growing concerns that Russia is trying to disrupt the Sept. 26 vote for a new government.

The move by the prosecutor’s office comes after Germany’s Foreign Ministry said this week that it had protested to Russia, complaining that several state lawmakers and members of the federal Parliament had been targeted by phishing emails and other attempts to obtain passwords and other personal information.

maria kolesnikova

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: A brave woman in Belarus gets 11 years in prison. Her crime? Trying to bring democracy to the country, Editorial Board, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). Maria Kolesnikova, above, a leader of the democratic opposition in Belarus, was already in prison for 10 months when she wrote a letter to her father that was amazingly sunny, considering the circumstances. “I’m well, healthy and cheerful!” she wrote. “Sending you and everybody a big-big hug! . . . May goodness persevere!” In court appearances, she formed her handcuffed hands into a sign of a heart and danced in the cell. In the grim dictatorship of President Alexander Lukashenko, she has been a beacon of light, and defiance.

We hope she can continue to summon such strength. Mr. Lukashenko’s kangaroo court has just sentenced her to 11 years in prison on specious charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government. Her opposition colleague Maxim Znak, a lawyer who stood trial alongside her, was sentenced to 10 years. Neither are guilty of the charges against them. Their true offense: They worked to bring democracy to Belarus.

Ms. Kolesnikova is a flutist who studied in Belarus and Germany. In 2020, she became campaign manager for presidential candidate Viktor Babariko, a longtime Minsk banker who collected some 400,000 signatures to get on the ballot. He called for democracy, separation of powers and presidential term limits. Mr. Babariko was detained before the August 2020 vote, part of Mr. Lukashenko’s scheme to fraudulently guarantee his own reelection. In July, Mr. Babariko was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, Iraqi Detainee Reported Suffering Paralysis at Guantánamo, Carol Rosenberg, Sept. 10, 2021. The case has highlighted the challenges of providing health care for an aging population of prisoners at the remote base. A Marine Corps judge has ordered the medical staff at the wartime prison to submit an emergency report Friday on an Iraqi prisoner who according to his lawyer suddenly suffered paralysis and lost the ability to walk.

The prisoner, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, 60, was discovered to have lost all feeling in his legs Wednesday evening.

He has degenerative disc disease, and is among the most physically disabled of the 39 detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He has undergone a series of spine surgeries in recent years by Navy medical teams who were airlifted to the remote base.

“He no longer has use of his legs,” his lawyer, Susan Hensler, said on Friday. “He cannot walk even with a walker.”

Mr. Hadi, who says his true name is Nashwan al Tamir, is accused of commanding Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan that committed war crimes against U.S. and allied forces around 2002-2004. He could be imprisoned for life if he is convicted.

He was captured in Turkey in 2006 and held by the Central Intelligence Agency as a “high-value detainee,” then was transferred to U.S. military custody at Guantánamo Bay the next year.

Even before his capture, according to his lawyers, he had been diagnosed with spine problems and signs of degenerative disc disease. His condition became acute in 2017 when guards discovered him incontinent in his cell. The Pentagon scrambled a neurosurgical team to the base ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma for the first of five spine surgeries in nine months.

 

Sept. 9

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Sept.18 Threats

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

9/11 Investigations, Events

 

Afghanistan

 

U.S. Human Rights, Courts, Crime, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Drought, Fires, Climate Change

 

Top Stories

ny times logo

New York Times, Covid Live Updates: Biden to Unveil Vaccine Mandate Plan Covering Two-Thirds of U.S. Workers, Staff Reports, Sept. 9, 2021. President Biden will move to require tens of millions more American workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Fauci says virus cases are ten times higher than needed to control the virus.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Biden is expected to require the vast majority of federal workers to get vaccinated or face disciplinary measures.
  • U.S. virus cases are more than ten times too high, Fauci says.New
  • U.S. states with low vaccination rates see sharp spikes in children with Covid-19.
  • Africa’s C.D.C. director urges wealthy nations to forego Covid vaccine boosters and donate them instead.New
  • Qantas becomes one of the first airlines to require that international passengers be vaccinated.New
  • Israel will reopen to small groups of vaccinated tourists after the High Holy Days.
  • L.A. is set to become the first major U.S. school district to require vaccinations for students.

President Biden on Thursday will use the full force of his presidency in a push to require tens of millions more American workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, including the vast majority of federal employees, who could face disciplinary measures if they refuse.

USTR seal Custom 2Through a pair of executive orders and other federal rules, Mr. Biden will either require or prod two-thirds of the American work force to get vaccinated, officials said. His administration also intends to compel vaccination for federal contractors as well as 17 million health care workers in hospitals and other institutions that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Beyond that, Mr. Biden is seeking to extend vaccine mandates to the private sector. He will also instruct the Department of Labor to draft a rule mandating that all businesses with 100 or more workers require their employees to either get vaccinated or face mandatory weekly testing, the officials said.

The mandate for federal workers is an especially assertive move by the president. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Thursday that, aside from some religious and disability exemptions, the vast majority of federal workers would be subject to a 75-day grace period for receiving a vaccine.

If workers decline to receive shots in that time frame, Ms. Psaki said, they will “go through the standard H.R. process,” which she said would include progressive disciplinary action. At least one major labor union challenged the mandate even before Mr. Biden delivered his speech.

Cathie McQuiston, a deputy general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, a union representing some 700,000 federal workers, said in an interview that her organization would be working with agencies to “not skip over procedures and make sure employees have due process” if they were disciplined.

The new moves, which the president is to announce in a White House speech scheduled for 5 p.m. Eastern time, are the most expansive actions he has taken to control the pandemic since he assumed the presidency in January. Initially reluctant to enact mandates, Mr. Biden is now waging an aggressive effort that will also put pressure on private businesses, states and schools to enact stricter vaccination and testing policies as the Delta variant continues its spread across the United States.

It is unclear how long it will take for the new requirements to go into effect, and some will almost certainly give rise to lawsuits.

The federal employee mandate will apply to employees of the executive branch, including the White House and all federal agencies and members of the armed services — a work force that numbers more than four million — but not to those who work for Congress or the federal court system, according to White House officials.

The mandate for health care workers will apply to those employed by institutions that accept Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, including hospitals and nursing homes, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity to preview the president’s plan.

“We would like to be a model for what we think other business and organizations should do around the country,” Ms. Psaki added.

The spread of the highly infectious Delta variant had pushed the country’s daily average caseload over 150,000 for the first time since late January, overwhelming hospitals in hard-hit areas and killing roughly 1,500 people a day. The surge has alarmed Mr. Biden and his top health advisers, who see mass vaccination as the only way to bring the pandemic under control.

Mr. Biden, who was briefed by his team of coronavirus advisers on Wednesday afternoon, will outline six broad strategies for better combating Covid-19.

 

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Harris stumps with Gavin Newsom ahead of California recall election: ‘Everyone has to vote,’ Scott Wilson, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). There has been a palpable exhale, a sigh of some relief among California Democrats. And it was evident Wednesday, with a political rally-cum-afternoon party that warmed up with funk and ended with native daughter and Vice President Harris (D) calling the California governor a "great American leader."

democratic donkey logoNo, the recall is not over, and the results still very much in the balance. But polls and mail-in ballot returns are all trending toward Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, pulled along by his message to reject for reasons of public health, women’s reproductive rights and environmental policy a Republican-led recall effort mounted against him three years into his first term.

The momentum is the result of a more-refined Democrat message, focused now on the efficacy of the public health measures Newsom has imposed to stop the coronavirus’s spread. It has caught on with a worried electorate as coronavirus cases rise again in parts of the country.

Nearly every speaker at the rally emphasized the risk of voting for candidates on the Republican side, including its front-runner, the conservative radio host Larry Elder, who has pledged to abolish the mask and coronavirus vaccine regulations Newsom has put in place.

After a handful of introductory speakers, Harris took the stage and began, “I came home for one purpose — to stand and speak in support of my friend, my longtime friend.”

The two emerged as prominent Bay Area politicians together, and Harris recalled Newsom, as San Francisco’s mayor, going against legal advice to issue the nation’s first same-sex marriage licenses. Harris served as the city’s district attorney at the time.

The event, drawing a couple hundred guests and transmitting a pro-union vibe, was hosted in a sunny parking lot of a training center of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Newsom advisers say labor organizers have knocked on 2 million doors in the state and made millions of calls since the effort began.

  • Fact Checker: Larry Elder’s false and misleading claims in recall race
  • Elder becomes likeliest candidate to replace Gov. Newsom — and the likeliest to let him hold on to his job

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats face many hurdles in advancing $3.5 trillion economic package, Tony Romm, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). They are rushing to resolve differences on health care, taxes and education while staring down other deadlines.

democratic donkey logoHouse Democrats are set to begin writing significant swaths of their $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending plan on Thursday, even as new political fissures among their ranks threaten to complicate its path to passage.

The days ahead are likely to be grueling for the party’s lawmakers, who are about to embark on the tough task of translating President Biden’s broader economic agenda into law. To start, Democrats intend to focus their efforts on proposals to expand Medicare benefits, authorize new family and medical leave programs and make child care and community college more affordable.

But Democrats are starting their legislative slog at a precarious time politically, as the party’s liberal and moderate factions increasingly snipe at each other over the price tag and policy scope of their still-forming bill.

ed henry former chief white house correspondent

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Ex-Fox News Anchor Ed Henry Must Face Sex Trafficking Suit, as Judge Advances Multiple Claims Against Him and Network, Adam Klasfeld, Sept. 9, 2021. Ex-Fox News anchor Ed Henry (shown above in a file photo) cannot dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of sex trafficking, as a federal judge advanced several claims against him and the network in a ruling on Thursday.

The developments came in a lawsuit filed by ex-associate producer Jennifer Eckhart roughly a year ago, which opened with a “Trigger Warning” cautioning readers with blaring red text in block capital letters that the complaint contained “Highly Graphic Information of a Sexual Nature, Including Sexual Assault.”

“She asserts that [Henry] is liable for sex trafficking because she says he used empty promises of career advancement to defraud her into coming to his hotel room, then used force to cause her to have sexual intercourse with him,” U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams summarized in a 52-page opinion and order.

The judge, who is the sister of Law&Crime’s founder Dan Abrams, noted that Eckhart’s allegations are not what traditionally comes to mind when the public thinks of the statute.

fox news logo Small“To be sure, this is not a conventional claim of sex trafficking,” the judge wrote. “Eckhart has not alleged, for example, that Henry forced her into prostitution or sexual slavery.”

During oral arguments in July, Eckhart’s lawyer Michael John Willemin described Henry’s conduct as “Weinstein-esque, but worse.”

“He hit her,” Willemin said, referring to Henry and his client. “He handcuffed her. He bruised her up. He called her a ‘whore.’ He told her she doesn’t have a choice.”

Ultimately, Judge Abrams found that Eckhart’s allegation fell under the “relatively broad language of the applicable statute,” classifying sex trafficking as the use of “force” or “fraud” to cause a person to “engage in a sex act” for a “thing of value.”

The judge also advanced multiple harassment-related counts against Fox News, though not the sex-trafficking one.

“At this juncture, the Court concludes that Eckhart has plausibly alleged that the network knew or should have known about Henry’s sexually harassing behavior but not necessarily the specific conduct that amounts to sex trafficking,” Judge Abrams found.

Eckhart’s lawyer said he and his client are “very pleased with the Court’s decision.”

“Neither Fox News nor Ed Henry succeeded in their early attempts to escape liability as to Ms. Eckhart’s allegations of rape, sexual assault and unlawful termination,” Willemin told Law&Crime in an email.

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Sept.18 Threats

nancy pelosi mask

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi says participants in Sept. 18 Capitol rally are ‘coming back to praise the people who were out to kill’ on Jan. 6, Felicia Sonmez and Ellie Silverman, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday sharply condemned those who are planning to take part in a Sept. 18 rally outside the U.S. Capitol, accusing them of “coming back to praise the people who were out to kill” during the Jan. 6 attack by a pro-Trump mob.

In response to a question at her weekly news conference, Pelosi (shown above in a file photo) said the House Administration Committee is holding briefings related to the upcoming rally and that she will make an announcement on the topic soon.

Supporters of former president Donald Trump are planning to rally outside the Capitol to argue that the hundreds of people charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection are political prisoners, an assertion that has exploded beyond far-right rallying cries and into mainstream conservatism.

“And now these people are coming back to praise the people who were out to kill, out to kill members of Congress, successfully causing the deaths — ‘successfully’ is not the word, but that’s the word, because it’s what they set out to do — of our law enforcement,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer, died a day after being injured in the Jan. 6 attack.

Pelosi added: “So this is a — whatever your questions are, understand how strongly we think about this … because we want to return the Capitol to a place where people can come, children can learn, families can celebrate together the greatness of our country.”

Asked specifically whether there are plans for fencing to be re-erected around the Capitol, Pelosi replied, “Not necessarily, no.”

“We intend to have the integrity of the Capitol be intact,” she said. “I’m not going into any specifics in that regard.”

According to a person familiar with the situation, Pelosi has invited Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to a security briefing on the morning of Sept. 13.

capitol riot pipe bomb suspect fbi

washington post logoWashington Post, Washington Post, FBI releases new footage of possible RNC, DNC pipe-bomb suspect, Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The FBI on Wednesday released new video of a person believed to have placed pipe bombs near the Republican and Democratic National Committee headquarters in D.C. the night before the U.S. Capitol riot and revealed that investigators think the suspect is “not from the area,” as officials made another call for the public’s help to solve the case.

The new information underscores how investigators have struggled to identify the suspect (shown above in an FBI screenshot from the video) more than eight months after the incident, despite footage that captured some of the person’s actions, similar public appeals for help and a $100,000 reward. Steven M. D’Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, seemed to direct his latest appeal to those who might be close with the person who placed the devices but reluctant to come forward.

“We know it is hard to report information about a friend or family member, but these pipe bombs were viable devices that could have detonated, causing innocent bystanders to be seriously injured or killed,” D’Antuono said in a statement. “Your tip could be the one that prevents this person from harming themselves or anyone else.”lonnie coffman marching

washington post logoWashington Post, Man accused of bringing molotov cocktails, five loaded firearms to Capitol on Jan. 6 set to plead guilty, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The FBI investigated why Army veteran Lonnie Leroy Coffman, shown circled at right on Jan. 6 and at home below at left, came so heavily armed to the Capitol on the day of the pro-Trump riot and whether he was working with others.

An Alabama man is set to plead guilty after authorities say he brought five loaded firearms and 11 molotov cocktails with napalm-like properties to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors and his defense told a judge Wednesday.

Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Ala., was charged in a 17-count indictment with possessing some of the deadliest unregistered weapons and explosives found lonnie leroy coffman homeon the day of the pro-Trump riot that led to assaults on nearly 140 police officers, breached the Capitol and forced the evacuation of Congress.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly had tentatively set a Sept. 29 plea hearing for Coffman, a 71-year-old Army veteran and the first person indicted in the Capitol riot probe, and gave both sides a deadline of Wednesday to act on a plea offer extended by the government in July. In a late-afternoon joint notice with Coffman’s defense, prosecutors wrote, “The parties have reached an agreement to resolve this case prior to trial through a plea agreement,” adding that Coffman was ready to plead as scheduled.

The notice did not specify what Coffman would plead guilty to or whether he was cooperating with prosecutors.

A plea is not final until accepted by a judge. But the investigation of Coffman could shed light on the lingering mysteries of his case: what prompted him to come to the Capitol while allegedly heavily armed and whether he was working in concert with others.

Coffman has been jailed since his arrest Jan. 6. According to charging papers, police spotted weapons in his red pickup while searching an area of Capitol Hill that had been sealed off because unexploded pipe bombs had been reported near the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic parties minutes before the mob assault began about 1 p.m.

No arrests related to the pipe bombs have been made. Coffman was arrested while returning to his truck.

 

capitol riot shutterstock capitol

washington post logoWashington Post, Second U.S. judge questions constitutionality of charge against Oath Keepers in Capitol riot, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). A second federal judge in Washington questioned whether the lead felony charge leveled by the government against Capitol riot defendants is unconstitutionally vague, as 18 Oath Keepers accused in a conspiracy case urged the court on Wednesday to toss out a count carrying one of the heaviest penalties against them.

amit mehta CustomU.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta, right, asked how federal prosecutors distinguish felony conduct qualifying as “obstructing an official proceeding” of Congress — punishable by up to 20 years in prison — from misdemeanor offenses the government has charged others with, such as shouting to interrupt a congressional hearing.

“Essentially, what you said is, ‘Trust us,’ ” Mehta said. “. . . And that is a real problem when it comes to criminal statutes, to suggest, ‘We know it when we see it, and we’ll pick and choose when it is an appropriate exercise of prosecutorial discretion.’ ”

Lead felony charge against Jan. 6 defendants could be unconstitutionally vague, U.S. judge warns

At issue is a statute the Justice Department has employed against at least 235 defendants accused of corruptly disrupting Congress’s certification of the 2020 electoral-college vote.

Prosecutors have brought the obstruction charge in many of the most notorious cases, including against members of the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters groups who allegedly conspired and prepared in advance for violence. The government has also leveled the charge against scores of individuals not accused of attacking police or destroying property but facing some of the most egregious allegations — such as occupying the Senate chamber, sitting in the vice president’s chair and targeting government officials.

Prosecutors have sought to distinguish such acts from protest-related civil disobedience that rarely results in prison time and more politically charged offenses such as sedition.

However, defendants in at least eight cases have moved to dismiss the count. They assert that the joint House and Senate session that met Jan. 6 does not qualify as an official proceeding of Congress; that the law is unconstitutionally vague on its face or as applied; or that it does not cover individual’s alleged illegal actions, among other things.

The challenges rejoin a long-standing debate over what Congress meant when it overhauled an obstruction-of-justice statute in 2002, when as part of the ­Sarbanes-Oxley corporate responsibility act it broadly expanded a provision to cover “whoever corruptly . . . obstructs, in­fluences, or impedes any official proceeding.”

The Justice Department has argued that Congress intended a broad “catchall” provision for obstructive acts, passing Sarbanes-Oxley after a corporate fraud crisis wiped out hundreds of billions of dollars of shareholder value, including the early-2000s collapse of Enron Corp. and accounting giant Arthur Andersen.

Hundreds of people stormed the Capitol. Most won’t face hefty prison terms, legal experts say.

Congress’s whole point in enacting such general clauses is to cover “matters not specifically contemplated,” because lawmakers do “not know what inventive criminal minds” might come up with in the future, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Nestler said during the hearing Wednesday.

But some legal scholars question whether the expansion applies only to financial fraud or to traditional ­obstruction-of-justice crimes such as destroying documents.

As U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss did last month, Mehta noted that the Supreme Court in 2015 rejected an expansive reading of a related law, tossing the conviction of a Florida fisherman who destroyed smaller-than-20-inch red grouper to impede U.S. wildlife inspectors. The court ruled that when Congress barred the destruction of any “tangible object,” it meant documentary evidence, not fish.

“It seems to me — and I say this after having thought about this a fair amount — this statute potentially suffers from the same problems,” Mehta said.

Mehta, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2014, said he could easily follow the high court’s plurality opinion and toss out the charge. Like Moss, Mehta said the government must be able to put individuals clearly on notice how “corruptly” obstructing or influencing Congress differs from ordinary trespassing, parading or disorderly conduct in the Capitol — lesser charges that are punishable by no more than six months in prison.

Roll Call, Capitol Police prepare for Sept. 18 rally, lawmakers invited, Chris Marquette, Sept. 8, 2021. Event supports rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. The Capitol Police department is preparing for potential violence at a Sept. 18 protest that members of Congress have been invited to attend.

The organization Look Ahead America — led by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign employee — requested a permit for up to 500 people to demonstrate at noon Sept. 18 in Union Square for a so-called #JusticeForJ6 rally. The event is intended to support those arrested as a result of storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 and to call for justice for a rioter who was fatally shot that day. More than 570 defendants have been arrested in connection with the attack, according to the Department of Justice.

“Though outwardly Matt Braynard has instructed attendees to remain peaceful, given the propensity for this group to attract domestic extremists, their support for the insurrectionists, and their continued challenges to democratic institutions, it is not unreasonable to plan for violent altercations with those associated with this demonstration,” a department assessment said.

“Tyrants want us to live in fear. They want us to fear being labeled ‘domestic terrorists,’’ one post says. Another says, “I sure hope people will show up and not coward to these rotten people in DC.” Some commenters offered advice like telling prospective attendees not to bring their cell phones and to stay in hotels outside of D.C.

The Proud Boys put out a video that encourages members of the far-right extremist group to attend the rally, and White Lives Matter is promoting a nationwide protest on Sept. 18 that includes the District of Columbia, according to Capitol Police intelligence. White Lives Matter is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a neo-Nazi group.

benjamin martin doj photoRaw Story, Anti-mask Capitol rioter to be released despite new gun charges, John Wright, Sept. 9, 2021. Anti-mask Capitol rioter (shown above in a Justice Department photo) to be released despite new gun charges.

An anti-mask activist and accused Capitol insurrectionist is expected to be released from jail this week despite new gun charges against him — stemming from weapons FBI agents found when they arrested him earlier this month.

Benjamin Martin, a real-estate agent from Fresno, Calif., faces six felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with the Jan. 6 riot. When FBI agents arrested him at his home on Sept. 2, they found a safe containing four rifles, two shotguns, a pistol, and an assault rifle, according to a report from the local ABC affiliate. Martin is not allowed to possess weapons due to a 2018 domestic violence conviction, as well as a 2020 restraining order protecting his sister.

However, Magistrate Judge Erica P Grosjean on Wednesday agreed to release Martin from the Fresno County Jail, and he is expected to be out by Friday, according to his attorney, Roger Nuttall.

Nuttall told the Fresno Bee that Martin "is adamant that he did not break the law in either case."

"He denies any criminal or civil liability," Nuttall said. "There was no violence alleged at all. At best he was there protesting. He has been very interested in the Trump momentum."

Martin claims the weapons found by the FBI belong to his father-in-law, according to ABC 30, but investigators also found his birth certificate and passport in the safe. Martin told investigators that during the insurrection, he got between officers and the crowd and was trying to calm everyone down.

"Federal prosecutors have an image of Ben Martin as someone with a violent history who's escalating and lashing out not just at his inner circle, but publicly," the station reported. "Video showed him yelling at officers to let them in the Capitol, clashing with officers at the door, and walking inside through the hallway."

Martin has gotten "a lot of attention in the Valley for his anti-mask protests outside grocery stores, including Sprouts, which now has a restraining order against him," according to ABC 30.

Back in April, Martin made headlines when he aggressively confronted a city council member about coronavirus restrictions at a local brewery.

Grosjean, the magistrate, ordered Martin to be released on the condition that he provides a $200,000 property bond, which is expected to come from his fiancee's home.

"The process could take several weeks, so in the interim, the judge allowed Martin to put up $15,000 in cash and surrender his passport, allowing him to get out of jail sooner," the Fresno Bee reported. "Federal prosecutors consider Martin a flight risk."

Martin faces a new federal charge of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, which carries up to 10 years in prison.

In the Capitol riot case, he is charged with entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in the Capitol building; parading; demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol building; obstructing law enforcement during civil disorder and obstructing or impeding an official proceeding.

Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, right, is shown conferring with Rudy Giuliani last November.Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, right, is shown conferring with Rudy Giuliani last November.

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, After Blistering Ruling Put Law Licenses in Danger, ‘Kraken’ Lawyers Could Be on the Hook for More Than $200,000 in Legal Fees, Adam Klasfeld, Sept. 9, 2021. Some two weeks after a federal judge granted sanctions that could put their law licenses on the line, so-called “Kraken” lawyers Lin Wood, Sidney Powell and their seven associates could be on the hook for more than $200,000 in attorneys’ fee sanctions.

On Aug. 25, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker issued a furious ruling against the lawyers associated with the so-called “Kraken” litigation, a series of lawsuits seeking to topple election results in Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona.

linda parkerThe shorthand for the litigation comes from Powell’s remark at a press conference: “Release the Kraken,” an allusion to the octopus-like monster from mythology dramatized in the Hollywood blockbuster “Clash of the Titans.”

Like the creature of the movies, Powell’s legal beast was quickly slain—with an ongoing fallout for its creators.

Judge Parker, left, referred all nine lawyers associated with the Michigan lawsuit, King v. Whitmer, to their bar associations for “possible suspension or disbarment” and ordered them to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees to their opposing counsel.

What that financial penalty might amount to came into view on Wednesday evening.

The city of Detroit’s lawyer David Fink, the managing partner for Fink Bressack (FB) who spearheaded the sanctions motion, noted that he gave the city a discounted rate of $325 per hour for all partners, a rate “substantially lower” than what his firm charges on most litigation matters.

Fink, who served the city’s law department before entering his private practice, gave his old employer an additional 10-percent discount from there.

“From the outset, it was clear that this litigation would require immediate attention and substantial time from FB partners, including its senior partner,” Fink noted in an affidavit. “The hourly rate was established considering the specialized nature of the issues involved. The rate was also established considering that, unlike some municipal work, it was clear that the majority of the work would be done by the most senior attorneys. Finally, the rate was affected by the likelihood of unanticipated and unique arguments that might be (and were) made during the pendency of the litigation.”

By far, the biggest expense came from preparing arguments from the extensive time needed to prepare sanctions motions, for which his firm is billing $116,116. Billing records for the trial court matters added up to $39,999 and appellate court wrangling tacked on additional $26,077.

In filing a Rule 11 sanctions motion to punish the “Kraken” team, Detroit opted for a far more aggressive counterattack than states and municipalities around the country in deflecting the post-election litigation onslaught by former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

In her 110-page ruling, Judge Parker found that request wholly justified, and Fink previously explained to Law&Crime why his firm opted for that approach.

“The City of Detroit was determined enough to look to the future and say, ‘If we just let these folks dismiss this case and walk away, they’re just going to come back and do it again,’” Fink told Law&Crime in a phone interview on the night of the ruling. “Somebody has to stop and say, ‘This has to stop.’ So when the city moved forward with this, there was some risk to it—and certainly some cost. But in the end, the city’s completely vindicated, and they will actually recover some of the costs, recoup some of the costs that they were forced to expend in defending the case.”

Attorneys for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) did not file a Rule 11 sanctions motion or hire private counsel, and their billing statement reflects that. They requested $21,964.75 in attorneys’ fees.

The relatively modest legal fees could amount to a fraction of the “Kraken” team’s fundraising from efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Weeks before the ruling, the organizers of the so-called Arizona “forensic audit” released information about their donors. Some $550,000 came from Powell’s entity Defending the Republic, a fact that Fink previously described as an example of the “cross-pollination of extremist funds” in an interview with Law&Crime.

kellye soRelle lawyers for trump

HuffPost, FBI Seizes Phone Of Oath Keepers Lawyer In ‘Seditious Conspiracy’ Investigation, Ryan J. Reilly, Sept. 9, 2021. “I have so much information in there -- it’s nuts,” Kellye SoRelle (show above in a graphic with Oath Keepers) told HuffPost about her iPhone.

The FBI seized an iPhone this week from a Texas attorney who volunteered for Lawyers for Trump and served as general counsel for the far-right Oath Keepers organization, and a search warrant indicates the seizure is part of an investigation into “seditious conspiracy.”

Kellye SoRelle, who was on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, told HuffPost that the FBI took her phone and presented her with a search warrant. SoRelle is closely associated with Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, who has repeatedly come up in a broader Jan. 6 case.

In a message to HuffPost on Signal that SoRelle indicated she’d sent from her computer, she called it “frustrating” that the feds had seized her phone. She wrote that she had met with two law enforcement officials at her home. They went to a “Krogers/Starbucks” and they chatted for about four hours, she wrote.

“I have so much stuff in there,” she wrote, referring to her phone. “They either think i am the mastermind or they wanted a free dig through everything ― either way it is unethical.”

A copy of the search warrant cover sheet, signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui on Aug. 30, states that the FBI seized SoRelle’s iPhone as part of an investigation into conspiracy, civil disorder, false statements, destruction of government property, obstruction of Congress, and unlawful entry on restricted buildings or grounds.

Most notably, the search warrant also refers to 18 U.S. Code § 2384: the “seditious conspiracy” charge. The charge makes it unlawful for two or more persons to “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.”

Seditious conspiracy had been discussed as a potential charge in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but no defendants have faced that charge to this point. In the main indictment against individuals affiliated with the Oath Keepers, 17 defendants are facing felony charges like obstruction of an official proceeding and civil disorder, but no “seditious conspiracy” charges.

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Biden outlined new strategy to battle delta variant surge, Annabelle Timsit and Bryan Pietsch, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.).  President Biden outlined a “robust plan to stop the spread of the delta variant and boost covid-19 vaccinations” on Thursday, the White House said.

Here’s what to know

  • The World Health Organization’s chief once again criticized the widespread use of booster shots for healthy people and called for a moratorium on their administration until the end of the year, chiding nations for thinking “the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”
  • Scores of Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients say they feel left behind by the White House’s move toward boosters for everyone but them.
    Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the country will donate 3 million coronavirus vaccine doses to Afghanistan and promised more in the future, as it grapples with a shattered health-care system.
  • United Airlines employees who get vaccine exemptions must take temporary leaves, company says.
  • Supreme Court to resume in-person hearings, but building still closed to public.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. pediatric cases surge as kids return to school, Annabelle Timsit, Bryan Pietsch and Adela Suliman, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). South Korea joins other countries planning how to live with covid.

It’s back-to-school week for many families in the United States — just as coronavirus cases surge among children and teens. Weekly pediatric coronavirus cases surpassed 250,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to the most recent data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Its data shows that more than a quarter of weekly reported coronavirus cases in the United States were among children for the week ending Sept. 2. And while most pediatric cases are not severe, nearly 2,400 children were hospitalized nationwide with covid-19 in the seven days ending Tuesday — more than ever before, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

Covid cases in children dipped early in the summer but quickly rose again, both with the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant and because coronavirus vaccines are not authorized for children under 12. Half of children age 12 to 15 have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while that number climbs to 58 percent for 16- and 17-year-olds.

With the return to schools, experts fear the situation could worsen as battles over mask and vaccine mandates rage, although Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that is not inevitable. “We’ve got to get the school system masked in addition to surrounding the children with vaccinated people,” he told CNN on Tuesday. “That’s the solution.”

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 9, 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: 223,502,957, Deaths: 4,611,920
U.S. Cases:     41,397,587, Deaths:    671,183
India Cases:     33,139,981, Deaths:    441,782
Brazil Cases:    20,928,008, Deaths:    584,458

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 208.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 9, 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 177.4 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.

Recent Headlines:

 

9/11 Investigations, Events

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary, Anti-vaxxers and Covid hoaxers take over the 9/11 Truth Movement, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligece wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallofficer and NSA analyst, Sept. 8-9, 2021. As someone who believed it was my duty as a journalist to follow every substantial lead and write about verified evidence on the major crime of this century, namely, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and an aborted aerial attack on the U.S. Capitol by hijacked United Flight 93, it is with sadness and disgust we report that one of the 20th anniversary "9/11 Truth" conferences this year has been hijacked by a crew of anti-vaxxers and Covid-19 pandemic hoaxers. One of the slated speakers has even bizarrely suggested that Covid is the "new 9/11."

I was honored to have been invited to speak at several 9/11 anniversary truth seminars. They included the 2nd anniversary, where I spoke at the famed Riverside Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as well as Manhattan's Cooper Union, where I stood on the same stage that Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony once graced as orators.

Not every event is the result of a criminal conspiracy, but every criminal conspiracy seeks to debase the conspiracy investigators and researchers by infiltrating their numbers with ne'er-do-wells, wackos, and disinformation provocateurs.

AE911Truth, Dylan Avery and AE911Truth yesterday released a one-minute teaser for our new feature documentary, 'The Unspeakable,' Staff Report, Sept. 8-9, 2021.
AE911Truth will hold a free online preview of the film on the homepage of its website, AE911Truth.org, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The screening will begin at 8:00 PM Eastern. Afterwards, actress and comedian Rosie O’Donnell will host a Q&A with three of the film’s protagonists: 9/11 family members Bob McIlvaine and Drew DePalma and architect Bill Brinnier. They will be joined by 9/11 family member Michele Little.

The film will be released on YouTube one week later — Friday, September 17 — and will play at the Village East in New York City September 17–23.
Bob McIlvaine, Drew DePalma, and Bill Brinnier were all slated to appear in a 30-minute section of the final episode of Spike Lee’s HBO docuseries, NYC Epicenters 9/11 → 2021½, which airs on the night of September 11th. The entire section was excised from the film amid a wave of media backlash calling for it to be censored. Mr. McIlvaine and Mr. DePalma released a statement the following day calling on HBO and Mr. Lee to restore the original final episode.
About ‘The Unspeakable’

The Unspeakable is a feature-length documentary that follows four families in their ongoing struggle to find the truth about the death of their loved ones on September 11, 2001.

Interwoven with their stories are the elucidating words of psychologist Robert Griffin, who guides the audience through an exploration of trauma and the healing power of bringing suppressed truths to light.

Also in the film, renowned forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht reviews the autopsy report of Bobby McIlvaine, whose father — as profiled in this month’s cover story of the The Atlantic — has long held that Bobby was killed by an explosion while entering the North Tower lobby.

TheAnalysis.news, 9/11 Lies and the National Security State – Thomas Drake, Paul Jay, Sept. 9, 2021. Twenty years later, Thomas Drake still says the NSA knew about the 9/11 plotters prior to the attack, and likely reported the intel through a back channel to VP Cheney. Nothing was done to prevent the attack, says Drake a former senior executive at the NSA. Why? To prepare public opinion in favor of invading Iraq. Drake joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news.

Twenty years later, Thomas Drake still says the NSA knew about the 9/11 plotters prior to the attack, and likely reported the intel through a back channel to VP Cheney. Nothing was done to prevent the attack, says Drake a former senior executive at the NSA. Why? To prepare public opinion in favor of invading Iraq. Drake, shown at right in a Steven DePolo photo, joins Paul Jay on theAnalysis.news.

This is the sixth part of the Reality Asserts Itself with Thomas Drake series. Here is a link to the playlist:

TRANSCRIPT:

Paul Jay

Hi, welcome to theAnalysis.news. My name is Paul Jay. In a few seconds, I’ll be back with the man who knew too much, Thomas Drake. We’re going to talk about the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

In 2015, I interviewed Thomas Drake, a former Senior Executive of the National Security Agency and one of the more important whistleblowers in recent years. The interview was titled From 9/11 to Mass Surveillance, The Man Who Knew Too Much. The five-part interview is on the front page of theAnalysis.news, and I think it’s one of the most important interviews I’ve conducted. On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I urge you to watch all five parts for an explosive look into the role of the NSA [National Security Agency] and the [George W.] Bush/ [Dick] Cheney White House in suppressing intelligence that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. It’s also an important discussion about the roots of the national security state, more or less from 1947, that led to the massive apparatus that exists today.

I also urge you to watch the interview I conducted with Sen. Bob Graham, who was the Co-Chair of the Joint Congressional Committee, investigating 9/11. Graham was convinced that Bush and Cheney not only knowingly allowed the attacks to take place, but in some ways, facilitated them. Graham came to believe the quote, “intelligence failures were by design, engineered mostly by Cheney.”

Thomas Drake went public about secret surveillance programs, and for that, was charged and almost went to jail. That story is also found in the interviews I mentioned above. Drake is a decorated United States Air Force and United States Navy Veteran who worked, in many capacities, within the National Security State. He started a new job as Senior Executive for the NSA on September 11, 2001. That’s right, his first morning of work was the day of the attack on the World Trade Center. He reported directly to the number three leader of the NSA, the signals intelligence director, Maureen Baginski, that put Drake in the position of having access to some of the most critical intel acquired by the NSA prior to 9/11. Although, he saw this data after the fact.

Here’s a short segment of my 2015 interview with Thomas Drake.

CLIP

DRAKE: I was never actually interviewed for the 9/11 Commission.

JAY: Why?

DRAKE: Because I think my testimony was so explosive. It was smoking gun evidence of NSA’s culpability.

JAY: Just to remind people, we talked about this in an earlier segment, that the NSA actually had eavesdropping hard evidence of the connection between these guys, two guys that end up on the American Airlines flight in San Diego and what was known as a Yemeni switchboard for al-Qaeda, and I’m sure much more than that.

DRAKE: Oh, actually, far more. That was just one part of it. There was actually an entire intelligence report that they had done prior–months and months. It was actually in early 2001 that NSA refused to allow it to go out for distribution to the rest of the community. And the analysts were beside themselves. I didn’t find out about it until shortly after 9/11 when it was brought to me.

JAY: What was in it?

DRAKE: The entire network that we knew at that time, based on signals intelligence.

JAY: The entire network that winds up doing 9/11.

DRAKE: The entire al-Qaeda and associated movement. Yes. Not every single hijacker, but most of them were known. Yes.

JAY: Well, I’ve got to return to something we talked about earlier. There’s a backchannel to Cheney. You can’t sit on this stuff.

DRAKE: Of course not.

JAY: Well, watch the earlier segment, ’cause we talked about this.

DRAKE: That was the other intelligence network. He couldn’t trust what was set up from 1947 on. This is one of the ironies of history. Cheney himself could not trust the early alert and warning system that had been put into place in 1947, in which we would never have another [incompr.] like Pearl Harbor.

JAY: Unless you want one.

DRAKE: Well, he knew it would take something like that. I’ll just–we’re going to put it right on the table again, ’cause we keep saying it. He knew it would take something like a 9/11 in the 21st century for Americans to just cede to the government whatever was necessary to deal with whatever happened.

OpEdNews, 9-11 20th Anniversary Retrospective: "Possible Explanations for the Behavior of Pres. George W. Bush, in re 9-11," Steven Jonas, right, Sept. 9, 2021 (first stephen jonaspublished in 2004). Introduction: This is the first part of a three- part retrospective series of selections from the set of articles that I have published over the years on this topic. The series is being published now, in remembrance of that awful day, 9-11-2001, on the three days leading up to that anniversary, Sept. 8, 9, and 10.

Despite the swirl of revelations over the past months, the public remains facing a large set of unanswered 9/11 questions, glaring inconsistencies, and seeming lies-at-the-time and very possibly lies now, combined with a drive by the Georgites (my term for the George W. Bush Administration) to withhold as much information as possible (cover-up, anyone?). Only extreme political pressure can force further key disclosures.

The subject of this writing is not a comprehensive review of that data. As a follow-through to the "Condi Rice Testimony" column published on 4/22/04, I will present here just a few prime open issues that have raised unanswered questions. The subject of this column is to take a look at possible explanations for the Georgite response concerning events and non-events before, during, and after 9/11. Doing so is in the hope that someday, sooner rather than later of course (and hopefully before the next election), the true story will be revealed. Please note that I wrote this piece on April 19, 2004, so that any information revealed after that date does not play into it.

Steven Jonas, right, MD, MPH, MS, is a professor emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine (NY) and author /co-author / editor / co-editor of over 35 books. He has been published also on many current affairs news sites. His own political website,stevenjonaspolitics.com, will eventually be an archive stony brook medicine2of the close to 1,000 political columns he has published since 2004.

Dr. Jonas’ latest book is Ending the ‘Drug War’; Solving the Drug Problem: The Public Health Approach, Brewster, NY: Punto Press Publishing, (Brewster, NY, 2016, is available on Kindle from Amazon, and also in hardcover from Amazon). In 1996, he published a ‘future history’ of the United States entitled The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel (Third Edition published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY), and available on Amazon.

 

Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Taliban gives permission for at least 200 Afghan dual nationals, including Americans, to leave the country, Susannah George and Siobhán O'Grady, Sept. 9, 2021. Diplomats say those allowed to leave include German, Dutch and British passport holders.

Roughly 200 Afghan dual nationals — including about 30 Americans — have been granted permission to leave the country Thursday, two diplomats based in Kabul confirmed, as the airport was declared to be repaired and ready for some commercial flights.

The manifest for the Qatar Airways flight granted permission for 211 Afghans to leave from Kabul, but it is unclear how many people reached a convoy in time for safe passage to the airport. The diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

The dual nationals on the manifest also included passport holders from Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Canada and Germany.

Qatari and Taliban officials gathered on the tarmac in Kabul on Thursday to announce that the airport was nearly fully operational after significant repairs were made in the aftermath of chaos when the Taliban came to power.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump reaches out to families of U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan, Matt Viser and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The former president and his team, sensing a political opportunity, have issued more than 50 statements about Afghanistan, and his PAC has raised millions with repeated fundraising pitches on the topic.

When Darin Hoover traveled to Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket of his 31-year-old Marine son, who was killed in Afghanistan, he, like several other families, declined an offer to meet with President Biden.

But out of the blue last week his cellphone rang, and he instantly recognized the voice on the other line: Donald Trump.

“It was just very cordial, very understanding. He was awesome,” Hoover said, recalling the conversation. “He was just talking about the finest of the finest. He said he heard and saw everything that we had said, and he offered his condolences several times, and how sorry he was.”

The past two weeks have put on display not only a nation divided about a 20-year war and its messy withdrawal but also a nation whose politics do not allow it to grieve together. Some families opted to not meet with or hear from Biden at all, while others have been publicly critical of him and have resisted having any further dialogue with the president.

Meanwhile, Trump has placed several calls over the past week to some family members of the 13 service members killed in an Islamic State-Khorasan terrorist attack during the withdrawal. Several have invited him to attend the funerals, and he has suggested he may try to do so.

Trump and his allies have seen the calamitous end to the war in Afghanistan as a potent political opportunity as he weighs a potential 2024 reelection bid — even though Trump himself advocated for the withdrawal, negotiated with the Taliban before leaving office and urged Biden to leave even sooner.

As Biden plans to attend several solemn ceremonies Saturday to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Trump has not announced any plans to attend memorial events, though an adviser said he may attend one in Manhattan. That evening, he is slated to provide color commentary for a pay-per-view heavyweight boxing match at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Taliban Crush Dissent, New Leaders Face Cascading Challenges, Matthieu Aikins, Salman Masood and Marc Santora, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The Taliban continued to brutally crack down on demonstrations against their rule. The new government faces an unfolding humanitarian crisis and flaring tensions on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Only one day after the Taliban named an acting cabinet to lead the nation they spent two decades trying to conquer, the dizzying challenges that accompanied victory were coming into sharp relief Wednesday.

Tensions flared with neighboring Pakistan. Afghanistan’s longstanding humanitarian crisis deepened. And the militants’ brutal crackdown on dissent threatened to further erode public trust.

The Taliban, who witnesses say crushed several small protests around the country on Wednesday, have been rounding up scores of demonstrators and subjecting them to abuse in overcrowded jails, according to journalists who were present. The repression followed a Taliban announcement Tuesday that protests would not be allowed without government approval.

Several Afghan journalists said they had been arrested and beaten in custody while covering a protest Wednesday in front of a police station in Kabul — one of the first accounts of journalists being abused since the Taliban came into power.

Nemat, a videographer for Etilaat-e Roz, a local newspaper, said that he and his colleagues had just arrived in the street where several dozen women were gathered with placards and a loudspeaker when Taliban militants from the police station seized his camera and arrested him.

“I told them I was a journalist and showed them my ID card, but they accused me of organizing the protests,” Nemat said. “They took me into a room, tied my hands with a scarf and started beating me with a cable.”

Already facing international isolation, the Taliban are also struggling to deal with longstanding tensions on the Afghan-Pakistani border, where the Pakistani Army has continued to shell suspected militant hide-outs in recent days, according to Taliban and Pakistan officials. Sporadic mortar strikes in the rugged reaches of Kunar Province in northeastern Afghanistan the past week have left at least four people injured, including a child, according to senior Taliban officials.

As complicated as the border tensions are — over the years, Pakistan has both supported the Taliban in Afghanistan and accused the Afghan government of giving safe haven to a Pakistani branch of the Taliban that they view as a direct threat — they are just one of the problems on the Taliban’s plate now that the group is in charge.

During its two-decade insurgency, the group exploited the mistrust of previous Afghan governments by the Afghan people, and it knows well the kind of issues that can ignite rebellions.

One former leader, Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president who abruptly resigned in mid-August, is still trying to salvage his tattered reputation, releasing a statement on Wednesday to deny that he stole millions of dollars before he fled Kabul in the hours before the capital fell.

He once again offered an apology, while saying his fate was the same fate of those who came before. “It is with deep and profound regret that my own chapter ended in similar tragedy to my predecessors — without ensuring stability and prosperity,” his statement said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who leads Afghanistan’s new government? Here’s what we know about the Taliban’s top officials, Rachel Pannett, Sept 9, 2021. The all-male, all-Taliban makeup of Afghanistan's new cabinet could complicate plans to restart the country’s economy. Afghanistan’s new caretaker government, announced Tuesday, is made up entirely of hard-line Taliban members. Many of them are known for their closeness to the movement’s late founder — the one-eyed cleric Mohammad Omar — which could complicate efforts to restart the economy and restore relations with the international community.

The acting cabinet — the Taliban said it would name permanent leadership soon — also includes members of the powerful Haqqani militant network, responsible for many deadly attacks and kidnappings over the past two decades. Several senior members of the new government had been detained at Guantánamo Bay and were released in a prisoner swap for Bowe Bergdahl in 2014.

But there is no space for officials who had played senior roles in Afghanistan’s Western-backed government, such as former president Hamid Karzai and former national reconciliation leader Abdullah Abdullah.

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U.S. Human Rights, Courts, Crime, Law

Mark Preston Jones

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Georgia District Attorney Indicted on Nine Felony Charges, Including Bribery and Subornation of Perjury, Jerry Lambe, Sept. 9, 2021. A recently-elected district attorney in Georgia, above, continued to make headlines with his indictments, though not in the manner typically associated with prosecutors.

Embattled Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Mark Preston Jones (D) was arrested on Tuesday after being indicted by a Muscogee County Grand Jury on nine felony counts of misconduct in office, including charges of attempting to bribery and subornation of perjury. It marks the third time that Jones, who took office in January 2021, has been indicted in criminal cases since 2019.

According to the indictment, filed Tuesday in the Superior Court of Muscogee County, Jones allegedly tried in July to persuade a police officer to lie to a grand jury to get a murder indictment. Prosecutors allege that Jones told the officer to testify about a bogus motive to pin charges on Elijah Farral, who was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his girlfriend Sara Holtrop. Jones wanted the office to claim Farral believed Holtrop was cheating on him, in a bid to upgrade the charge to intentional murder, authorities say.

Jones is also accused of attempting to bribe an assistant district attorney under his supervision. Per the indictment, Jones allegedly offered a state prosecutor $1,000 in March if she was able to obtain a murder conviction in a particular case. He’s similarly accused of offering another female state prosecutor $1,000 in exchange for “announcing ready on a murder trial to the Superior Court on a case that was not ready for trial.”

Additionally, the state alleges that Jones “did knowingly use a threat and engage in misleading conduct” to prevent Chris Bailey, who is described as the victim of a crime, from providing a victim impact statement to the court.

According to a report from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, two brothers allegedly killed Bailey’s uncle in North Columbus following a dispute over children playing basketball in the street. Bailey had filed a motion claiming his family wasn’t notified when one of the suspects was released from jail on bond, but allegedly withdrew the motion after he spoke to Jones about the statement.

Jones is charged with two counts of influencing a witness, two counts of bribery, two counts of violation of oath by public officer, two counts of attempted violation of oath by public officer, and one count attempted subornation of perjury.

“It is important for the citizens of Georgia to know that our office will not hesitate to enforce the rule of law, including when it involves the actions of a public official,” Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) said in a statement Wednesday. “We appreciate the critical role and service of the Muscogee County grand jury, and we thank the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for their hard work in this investigation. We look forward to presenting our case in Court.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to resume in-person hearings, but building still closed to public, Robert Barnes, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court will return to its historic courtroom in Washington to hear arguments when its term begins Oct. 4, but the hearings will be conducted without the public in attendance.

The court announced Wednesday that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the building remains closed except for official business.

“Courtroom access will be limited to the Justices, essential Court personnel, counsel in the scheduled cases, and journalists with full-time press credentials issued by the Supreme Court,” the court said in a news release.

It added: “The Court will continue to closely monitor public health guidance in determining plans.”

The court will provide live audio of the proceedings in October, November and December, as it has been doing in cases heard by teleconference.

Supreme Court resumes arguments, with all the grandeur of working from home

The court has not held arguments in person since March 2020. All were held remotely last term. But all nine justices are vaccinated against the coronavirus, the court has said, and they began to meet together for their private conferences this past spring.

It will be a new court that returns to the mahogany bench. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate last October, has never sat for hearings with her colleagues in person.

She replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died nearly a year ago. When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. takes his position at the center of the court, the most senior justice, Clarence Thomas, will be at his right. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was confirmed three years after Thomas, in 1994, will be on Roberts’s left.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. is likely to breach debt ceiling soon unless Congress acts, Yellen says, Tony Romm, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Once the government reaches its borrowing limit — which the Treasury secretary warned may happen next month — it becomes very difficult for the government to pay its bills. h

janet yellen oTreasury Secretary Janet Yellen, right, warned Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. government is likely set to breach the debt ceiling some time in the month of October, and she said lawmakers should not be “waiting until the last minute” to address the risk.

Yellen’s missive threatened to turn up the political heat on lawmakers in what already is a jam-packed month of September, as some on Capitol Hill thought they had more time before they needed to raise or suspend the statutory limit on federal borrowing. Once the government reaches its borrowing limit, it becomes very difficult for the Treasury to pay all of its bills.

“A delay that calls into question the federal government’s ability to meet all its obligations would likely cause irreparable damage to the U.S. economy and global financial markets,” Yellen wrote in her letter to Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Blueprint Aims for U.S. to Get 45% of Energy From Solar by 2050, Ivan Penn, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The Energy Department analysis provides only a broad outline, and many of the details will be decided by congressional lawmakers.

The Biden administration on Wednesday released a blueprint for producing almost half of the nation’s electricity from the sun by 2050 — something that would require the country to double the amount of solar energy installed every year over the next four years and then double it again by 2030.

USTR seal Custom 2The expansion of solar energy is part of President Biden’s effort to fight climate change, but there would be little historical precedent for increasing solar energy, which contributed less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity last year, that quickly.

Such a large increase, laid out in an Energy Department report, is in line with what most climate scientists say is needed to stave off the worst effects of global warming. It would require a vast transformation in technology, the energy industry and the way people live.

The Energy Department said its calculations showed that solar panels had fallen so much in cost that they could produce 40 percent of the country’s electricity by 2035 — enough to power all American homes — and 45 percent by 2050.

President Biden’s administration released a plan to produce almost half of the nation’s electricity from the sun by 2050, a leap from last year’s 4 percent.
But getting there would mean trillions of dollars in investments by homeowners, businesses and the government, and the electric grid would have to be remade.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House to withdraw ATF nominee in face of bipartisan pushback over his gun-control advocacy, Seung Min Kim and Tyler Pager, Sept. 9, 2021. The White House is planning to withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this week amid bipartisan pushback over his gun control advocacy, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

President Biden nominated Chipman, who worked at ATF for more than two decades before joining the gun control group led by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), in April as part of a larger effort to curb gun violence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Amy Klobuchar reveals she underwent treatment for early-stage breast cancer this year, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 9, 2021. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) revealed Thursday that she underwent treatment for early-stage breast cancer this year, including a lumpectomy and radiation treatment.

In a Medium post, Klobuchar, 61, said her doctors determined in August that the treatment went well and that her “chances of developing cancer again are no amy klobucher button croppedgreater than the average person.”

Klobuchar, right, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, also urged Americans not to put off routine health screenings, noting that “doctors are seeing patients who are being treated for more serious conditions that could have been caught earlier.”

“It’s easy to put off health screenings, just like I did,” Klobuchar said. “But I hope my experience is a reminder for everyone of the value of routine health checkups, exams, and follow-through. I am so fortunate to have caught the cancer at an early enough stage and to not need chemotherapy or other extensive treatments, which unfortunately is not the case for so many others.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expected to endorse Wyoming lawyer in race against Cheney, who spoke out against him, Marianna Sotomayor and Josh Dawsey, djt hands up mouth open CustomSept. 9, 2021. The former president has vowed to unseat Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) since she voted to impeach him in January over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

liz cheney oDonald Trump is expected to announce Thursday that he is endorsing Harriet Hageman to take on Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, left, in a Wyoming primary contest that will serve as the marquee test of the former president’s ability to purge his critics from the party, particularly lawmakers who challenge his false claims about the 2020 presidential election.

Trump has vowed to unseat Cheney since she voted to impeach him in January over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which was carried out by a mob of supporters who echoed Trump’s false claims about the election while seeking to stop Congress from certifying its results and declaring Joe Biden the president-elect.

The news of Trump’s expected endorsement was confirmed by a person familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it has not been announced publicly. A spokeswoman for Trump declined to comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion, Georgia’s GOP lieutenant governor conducts the 2020 autopsy his party won’t, James Hohmann, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) felt queasy last December after dodging a reporter’s question about whether Joe Biden was president-elect. He said he’d seen no evidence of fraud but added that the process needed to fully play out. This was a standard GOP talking point, but Duncan understood how such vacillation gave oxygen to President Donald Trump’s efforts to steal the election.

djt maga hatThe lieutenant governor decided he had a duty to acknowledge reality: The president he’d campaigned for had lost. Duncan knew this bit of truth-telling might cost him reelection. “My breathing suddenly became quick and shallow,” he recalls.

Just as Duncan feared, telling the truth about the "big lie" derailed a promising political career. He announced this spring he won’t seek a second term, averting probable defeat in a primary. That’s liberated the former professional baseball player to release a book this week, “GOP 2.0,” that recounts “the six nightmarish months” he spent in a “bizarre Twilight Zone” after the November election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking the political appointees Biden is nominating to fill the top roles in his administration, Harry Stevens, Madison Walls and Adrian Blanco, Sept. 9, 2021. Follow the president-elect’s progress filling nearly 800 positions, among the 1,200 that require Senate confirmation, in this tracker from The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.

We are tracking 800 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • 229 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 18 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 206 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 127 have been confirmed by the Senate.

Additionally, we have identified 220 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

Recent Political Headlines:

washington post logoWashington Post, White House asks several Trump appointees to resign from military service academy boards, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 8, 2021. The White House said Wednesday that it has asked a number of Trump administration appointees to resign their positions on the advisory boards at military service academies, arguing that the move was about qualifications, not politics.

Among the 11 officials are former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, right, according to CNN, which first reported news of the request.

Earlier Wednesday, one of the Trump appointees, Russ Vought, shared on social media a letter he received from the White House requesting that he resign or else face termination effective 6 p.m.

“Yes, we have,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked whether the White House had requested the resignations. “And the president’s objective is what any president’s objective is: to ensure you have nominees and people serving on these boards who are qualified to serve on them and who are aligned with your values. And so, yes, that was an ask that was made.”

Asked whether the White House was concerned that the move might risk politicizing positions that have traditionally been nonpartisan roles that have spanned administrations, Psaki reiterated that the president’s primary concern was an appointee’s qualifications and values.

The boards are composed of members of Congress and presidential appointees and serve for three years in an advisory capacity.

“I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and others were qualified, or not political, to serve on these boards,” Psaki said. “But the president’s qualification requirements are not your party registration.”

Conway had been appointed to the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors. Spicer, a Navy Reserve commander, had been serving on the Naval Academy’s advisory board. McMaster had been appointed to the advisory board at the U.S. Military Academy; the retired U.S. Army lieutenant general is a West Point graduate and previously taught history there.

Retired four-star Army Gen. Jack Keane also was on the U.S. Military Academy Board.

Vought, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump administration, had been serving on the Naval Academy’s Board of Visitors. In a tweet Wednesday afternoon, he shared a copy of the letter he received from the White House requesting his resignation.

Vought tweeted a defiant reply: “No. It’s a three-year term.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: President Biden cleans house, Shirley Kennedy, Sept. 9, 2021. President Joe Biden continues his quest to “clean house” by removing Trump loyalists from advisory boards. Good. No one associated with Trump ever had any interest in serving the American people.

It was all about the power for them. In his last attempt at wielding his power prior to leaving office, Trump placed his loyalists on various boards, probably to continue to wreak havoc after he was gone. One of the worst appointments was Trump’s lie-filled former “adviser” Kellyanne Conway to the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors. These are positions for people of integrity, not Trump ass-kissers who do nothing positive for anyone for any reason. One of those appointments is trying to stay.

Russell Vought was appointed to the Naval Academy Board of Visitors. Instead of gracefully exiting as requested, Vought tweeted that he plans to serve out his entire term. If you are not familiar with Vought, he founded the Center for Renewing America, which sounds like something Trump would endorse. The organization’s mission statement is enough to turn you away from it with its talk of “a nation under God” and “individual enjoyment of freedom.” Don’t get me wrong: I believe in God, but not in the twisted way these people proclaim. I am also a believer in personal freedoms—if they do not encroach on my own. These people care nothing about freedoms other than their own, and they use God as a battering ram to beat others over the head with their own beliefs. They consider truth in history as “threats to our communities, our families, and our faith” and liken “critical race theory” to Marxism. First, Republicans are the ones who named historical truth “critical race theory.” There is no such thing. Second, they claim to be protecting children in grades K-12, when truth history is only taught on the college level. Once again, Republicans have come up within something to divide, and because their staunchest supporters live in fear, it has become a buzz phrase for them. Remember when Donald Trump said he liked Republicans because they are “the dumbest group of voters?” Yeah, me too.

According to Politico, President Biden’s Director of White House President Personnel Office Cathy Russell sent letters to 18 appointees, advising them that she expected their resignations by the close of business, and if she did not receive it, they would all be terminated as of 6:00 p.m. That is called getting to the point with no bullshit. Politico reported that Jack Keane is “disappointed” that the President is not keeping them because “it is tradition.” What a joke. Trump did nothing to honor or uphold tradition, including inviting President Biden to the White House after his victory. Yet, they expect Biden to honor everything Trump did. I hate to tell them, but the river flows both ways. They should expect no more from Biden than they did from Trump, even though Biden is a much more honorable man. His honor, however, does not have to extend to anyone who had anything to do with the previous administration.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Xi Jinping’s crackdown on everything is remaking Chinese society, Lily Kuo, Sept. 9, 2021. The far-reaching campaign affecting industry and individualism comes as the leader prepares for a contentious third term.

The orders have been sudden, dramatic and often baffling. Last week, “American Idol”-style competitions and shows featuring men deemed too effeminate were banned by Chinese authorities. Days earlier, one of China’s wealthiest actresses, Zhao Wei, had her movies, television series and news mentions scrubbed from the Internet as if she had never existed.

China FlagOver the summer, China’s multibillion-dollar private education industry was decimated overnight by a ban on for-profit tutoring, while new regulations wiped more than $1 trillion from Chinese tech stocks since a peak in February. As China’s tech moguls compete to donate more to President Xi Jinping’s campaign against inequality, “Xi Jinping Thought” is taught in elementary schools, and foreign games and apps like Animal Crossing and Duolingo have been pulled from stores.

A dizzying regulatory crackdown unleashed by China’s government has spared almost no sector over the past few months. This sprawling “rectification” campaign — with such disparate targets as ride-hailing services, insurance, education and even the amount of time children can spend playing video games — is redrawing the boundaries of business and society in China as Xi prepares to take on a controversial third term in 2022.

“It’s striking and significant. This is clearly not a sector-by-sector rectification; this is an entire economic, industry and structural rectification,” said Jude Blanchette, who holds the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

At China’s national congress next fall, Xi is expected to retain his title as general secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a move that would upset a decades-old system of term limits and leadership succession. To build momentum, he is pushing an agenda of tackling income inequality under the banner of “common prosperity,” a campaign that gives officials and companies rallying around the cause opportunity to show their loyalty before the reshuffle of party personnel.

washington post logoWashington Post, In custom-built court, trial begins for November 2015 Paris attacks, Rick Noack, Sept 8, 2021 (print ed.). The trial of the alleged perpetrators and accomplices of the attacks that killed 130 people, including at the Bataclan concert venue, is France’s biggest criminal court case in contemporary history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia’s minister for emergencies dives into an Arctic lake to rescue a filmmaker. They both died, Robyn Dixon, Sept 8, 2021.  Russia's minister for emergencies leaped into a waterfall in its Arctic region during a training exercise on Wednesday in an attempt to rescue a prizewinning film director, but both died in the incident.

The deaths occurred during Arctic emergency drills ahead of Russia's massive quadrennial Zapad military exercises with Belarus, which are due to begin Friday.

Yevgeny Zinichev, the emergency management chief in President Vladimir Putin’s government, had previously served as the president’s aide-de-camp and was a trusted member of Putin’s inner circle from his home city, St. Petersburg. Zinichev, 55, also shared a Soviet-era KGB background with Putin from St. Petersburg, then known as Leningrad.

According to reports, film director Alexander Melnik stumbled and fell from a cliff into the Kitabo-Oron waterfall on the Putorana Plateay outside Norilsk. The minister then dived in to save him.

washington post logoWashington Post, A fire in a packed Indonesian prison killed 41 convicts. Many were trapped in their cells, Ellen Francis, Sept 8, 2021. The deadly blaze near Jakarta underscores the risks of the country’s notoriously crowded prisons

 

U.S. Drought, Fires, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Record heat, fire danger plague West after summer rivaling the Dust Bowl, Jason Samenow and Diana Leonard, Sept. 8, 2021. Another punishing heat wave has moved over the region, raising the risk of dry lightning setting off wildfires. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the months of June through August matched the Dust Bowl summer of 1936 as the hottest on record for the Lower 48 states.

Punishing heat waves have plagued the West all summer and, even at the brink of fall, another sweltering blast has moved over the region. The heat has brought record-setting temperatures in the Southwest and is exacerbating a volatile fire situation farther north.

This latest heat wave enveloping the West coincides with an announcement from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that the months of June through August matched the Dust Bowl summer of 1936 as the hottest on record for the Lower 48 states. “A record 18.4% of the contiguous U.S. experienced record-warm temperatures,” NOAA wrote.

The excessively high temperatures of the moment are being generated by a large and unusually strong zone of high pressure or heat dome parked over the Four Corners area, a situation that has occurred repeatedly in recent months. Temperatures near the core of the heat dome are generally 10 to 20 degrees above average, and its influence extends everywhere west of the Central Plains.

 

Sept. 8

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

9/11 Investigations, Events

 

U.S. Floods, Fires, Hurricanes, Climate

 

U.S. Human Rights, Courts, Crime, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Afghanistan


World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Blueprint Aims for U.S. to Get 45% of Energy From Solar by 2050, Ivan Penn, Sept. 8, 2021. The Energy Department analysis provides only a broad outline, and many of the details will be decided by congressional lawmakers.

The Biden administration on Wednesday released a blueprint for producing almost half of the nation’s electricity from the sun by 2050 — something that would require the country to double the amount of solar energy installed every year over the next four years and then double it again by 2030.

USTR seal Custom 2The expansion of solar energy is part of President Biden’s effort to fight climate change, but there would be little historical precedent for increasing solar energy, which contributed less than 4 percent of the country’s electricity last year, that quickly.

Such a large increase, laid out in an Energy Department report, is in line with what most climate scientists say is needed to stave off the worst effects of global warming. It would require a vast transformation in technology, the energy industry and the way people live.

The Energy Department said its calculations showed that solar panels had fallen so much in cost that they could produce 40 percent of the country’s electricity by 2035 — enough to power all American homes — and 45 percent by 2050.

President Biden’s administration released a plan to produce almost half of the nation’s electricity from the sun by 2050, a leap from last year’s 4 percent.
But getting there would mean trillions of dollars in investments by homeowners, businesses and the government, and the electric grid would have to be remade

 

joe biden podium

ny times logoNew York Times, From Cradle to Grave, Democrats Move to Expand Social Safety Net, Jonathan Weisman, Updated Sept. 8, 2021. The $3.5 trillion social policy bill that lawmakers begin drafting this week would touch virtually every American, at every point in life, from conception to old age.

When congressional committees meet this week to begin formally drafting Democrats’ ambitious social policy plan, they will be undertaking the most significant expansion of the nation’s safety net since the war on poverty in the 1960s, devising legislation that would touch virtually every American’s life, from conception to aged infirmity.

Passage of the bill, which could spend as much as $3.5 trillion over the next decade, is anything but certain. President Biden, who has staked much of his domestic legacy on the measure’s enactment, will need the vote of every single Democrat in the Senate, and virtually every one in the House, to secure it. And with two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, saying they would not accept such a costly plan, it will challenge Democratic unity like nothing has since the Affordable Care Act.

That is largely because the proposed legislation would be so transformative — a cradle-to-grave reweaving of a social safety net frayed by decades of expanding income inequality, stagnating wealth and depleted governmental resources, capped by the worst public health crisis in a century.

The pandemic loosened the reins on federal spending, prompting members of both parties to support showering the economy with aid. It also uncorked decades-old policy desires — like expanding Medicare coverage or paid family and medical leave — that Democrats contend have proved to be necessities as the country has lived through the coronavirus crisis.

“Polls have shown for a very long time that these issues to support American families were important, and were popular, but all of a sudden they became not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have,’” said Heather Boushey, a member of Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers who has been developing such policies for decades. See below

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden surveys Ida damage in N.J. and N.Y., warns of a climate-change ‘code red,’ Seung Min Kim, Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden, in his second Ida-related visit in less than a week, used his trip to press for robust action to combat climate change and focus attention on his expansive domestic infrastructure agenda in Congress.

President Biden on Tuesday is touring two northeastern states ravaged by the remnants of Hurricane Ida, surveying the steep damage as his administration prepares to ask Congress for billions in additional federal aid to respond to last week’s fatal storm and other recent natural disasters.

Biden, in his second Ida-related visit in less than a week, is using his trip to press for robust action to combat climate change and focus attention on his expansive domestic infrastructure agenda in Congress, which includes significant climate-related provisions.

In a briefing at an emergency center in Somerset County, N.J., Biden warned that no area of the country was immune from the destructive impact of climate change.

“We’re now living in real time what the country is going to look like,” Biden said during the roundtable, flanked by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell and various state officials. “We can’t turn it back very much, but we can prevent it from getting worse.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexico decriminalizes abortion, a dramatic step in world’s second-biggest Catholic country, Mary Beth Sheridan and Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul, Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.). Mexico’s supreme court voted Tuesday to decriminalize abortion, a striking step in a country with one of the world’s largest Catholic populations and a decision that contrasts with tighter restrictions introduced across the border in Texas.

mexico flag1Ten supreme court judges ruled unconstitutional a law in northern Coahuila state that imposed up to three years of prison for women who underwent illegal abortions, or people who aided them. The 11th judge was absent during the vote. The ruling is binding on other states.

“Today is a watershed in the history of the rights of women and pregnant people, above all the most vulnerable,” Chief Justice Arturo Zaldívar said.

The vote comes as a powerful women’s movement is transforming Mexico. Female politicians now make up half of the National Congress, and an ambitious constitutional reform passed in 2019 aims to ensure gender equality in senior government positions. While abortion remains illegal in most of Latin America, there has been a surge in demonstrations demanding more rights for women, particularly focused on rising violence.

Mexico's bold break with machismo: Women are now half of Congress and gender parity is the law

“This will not only have an impact in Mexico; it will set the agenda for the entire Latin American region,” said Melissa Ayala, coordinator of litigation for the Mexican feminist organization GIRE.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, As experts debate boosters to protect against covid, vaccinated people are calling their own shots, Joel Achenbach, Sept 8, 2021 (print ed.). Third shot after eight months? Six? Five? “It shouldn’t be this confusing,” a doctor said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. pediatric cases surge as kids return to school, Annabelle Timsit, Bryan Pietsch and Adela Suliman, Sept 8, 2021. South Korea joins other countries planning how to live with covid.

It’s back-to-school week for many families in the United States — just as coronavirus cases surge among children and teens. Weekly pediatric coronavirus cases surpassed 250,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, according to the most recent data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Its data shows that more than a quarter of weekly reported coronavirus cases in the United States were among children for the week ending Sept. 2. And while most pediatric cases are not severe, nearly 2,400 children were hospitalized nationwide with covid-19 in the seven days ending Tuesday — more than ever before, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

Covid cases in children dipped early in the summer but quickly rose again, both with the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant and because coronavirus vaccines are not authorized for children under 12. Half of children age 12 to 15 have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while that number climbs to 58 percent for 16- and 17-year-olds.

With the return to schools, experts fear the situation could worsen as battles over mask and vaccine mandates rage, although Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that is not inevitable. “We’ve got to get the school system masked in addition to surrounding the children with vaccinated people,” he told CNN on Tuesday. “That’s the solution.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Two teachers die, and a small Texas town rethinks masks, Jack Douglas and Laura Meckler,Sept 8, 2021 (print ed.). When classes began a couple of weeks ago, before the first and then the second teacher at Connally Junior High School died of covid-19, only a scattering of students wore masks. On Tuesday morning, every face emerging from the line of yellow school buses was covered.

Masks are now mandatory for students and staff in the Connally Independent School District, on the outskirts of Waco. The decision, made late last week, followed the two teacher deaths and a surge of cases in the community.

“As educators, it is our duty to keep our students safe and healthy. We feel instituting a mask mandate is a step towards doing this,” Superintendent Wesley Holt said in a letter to parents.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in May barred Texas school districts and other governmental entities from requiring masks, saying it should be a matter of personal choice. But as this school year began, with the highly contagious delta variant bearing down, several big-city school districts defied him. Then a court put his order on hold.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘An Emotional Hellscape’: Frayed Nerves for the Teachers of Unmasked Students, Anemona Hartocollis, Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.). Amid Covid-19 surges, university instructors have little choice but to teach in places where masks aren’t enforced and vaccination is optional. Some have quit.

Some schools are caught between faculty demands for more safety and the fear of losing revenue from students if universities return to online learning.

Matthew Boedy, an associate professor of rhetoric and composition, sent out a raw emotional appeal to his students at the University of North Georgia just before classes began: The Covid-19 Delta variant was rampaging through the state, filling up hospital beds. He would teach class in the equivalent of full body armor — vaccinated and masked.

So he was stunned in late August when more than two-thirds of the first-year students in his writing class did not take the hint and showed up unmasked.

It was impossible to tell who was vaccinated and who was not. “It isn’t a visual hellscape, like hospitals, it’s more of an emotional hellscape,” Dr. Boedy said.

North Georgia is not requiring its students to be vaccinated or masked this fall. And as in-person classes return at almost every university in the country, after almost a year and a half of emergency pivoting to online learning, many professors are finding teaching a nerve-racking experience.

The American College Health Association recommends vaccination requirements for all on-campus higher education students for the fall semester. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings, regardless of vaccine status, for indoor public spaces in areas where the rate of infection is high.

But this is not how it has worked out on more than a few campuses.

More than 1,000 colleges and universities have adopted vaccination requirements for at least some students and staff, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. In an indication of how political vaccination has become, the schools tend to be clustered in states that voted for President Biden in the last election.

But at some campuses, particularly in Republican-led states with high rates of contagion — like the state systems in Georgia, Texas and Florida — vaccination is optional and mask wearing, while recommended, cannot be enforced. Professors are told they can tell students that they are “strongly encouraged” or “expected” to put on masks, but cannot force students to do so. And teachers cannot ask students who have COVID-like symptoms to leave the classroom.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 8, 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: 222,916,882, Deaths: 4,603,162
U.S. Cases:     41,207,404, Deaths:    669,027
India Cases:     33,096,718, Deaths:    441,443
Brazil Cases:    20,913,578, Deaths:    584,208

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 207.6 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 8, 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 176.7 million people, or 53.2 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.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio judge reverses colleague’s decision on covid patient’s ivermectin treatment: ‘Judges are not doctors,’ Andrea Salcedo, Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.). Last month, an Ohio judge ordered a hospital to treat covid patient Jeffrey Smith with ivermectin after his wife sued, alleging that the facility refused to give her husband the drug, despite him having a doctor’s prescription.

Since mid-July, Smith has been under care in West Chester Hospital’s intensive care unit, battling a severe case of the coronavirus, according to court records. Ivermectin — a deworming drug that some people are using to prevent or treat covid-19, despite several public health agencies advising against it — was Smith’s last shot at survival, his wife and guardian, Julie Smith, argued.

But on Monday, after Smith’s wife and the doctor who prescribed him the ivermectin failed to provide “convincing evidence” at a court hearing to show that the drug could significantly improve his condition, a different judge reversed course. Butler County Judge Michael A. Oster Jr. ordered the hospital to cease administering Smith, 51, the unproven treatment, arguing that “judges are not doctors or nurses.”

“Based on the current evidence, ivermectin is not effective as a treatment for COVID-19 … Even Plaintiff’s own doctor could not say [that] continued use of ivermectin would benefit [Jeffrey] Smith,” Oster wrote in an order filed on Monday.

Oster added: “After considering all of the evidence presented in this case, there can be no doubt that the medical and scientific communities do not support the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.”

The judge’s reversal is the latest attempt by a government official to steer people away from using the medicine — long used to kill parasites in animals and humans — as a treatment for the coronavirus. In recent months, the Food and Drug Administration and other public health agencies have urged people to refrain from taking the unproven treatment, warning it could be “dangerous” and potentially fatal.

Press Run Podcast, Opinion: Sorry Chuck Todd, America is not hopelessly “divided” over Covid, Eric Boehlert, Sept. 8, 2020. Both Sides nonsense. Delivering this Sunday’s morning update like a disappointed dad, Meet the Press’ (MTP) Chuck Todd conveyed distressing news about how America is split down the middle over Covid, causing cultural and political fissures.

“The U.S. enters this Labor Day weekend suffering from two viruses: Covid and polarization,” the host lamented. “Covid has become an MRI of America's soul. Who would have imagined that masks -- wearing or refusing them -- would become such a political statement?”

msnbc logo CustomThis week’s MTP episode was built around the “divided” theme, with Covid being a prism used to view it. “It is not an exaggeration to say that we are more divided than at any time perhaps since the 1960s, and frankly, maybe since the Civil War,” Todd announced.

Except that premise is false and it reflects a misguided brand of Both Sides journalism. Instead of the country being “divided” over Covid, including whether to get vaccinated and wear masks, 75 percent of eligible Americans have received at least one shot, and 70 percent support mask mandates in schools. Just “17 percent of adults say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated,” according to a recent ABC-Washington Post survey.

Meanwhile, a strong majority of Americans support requiring proof of vaccination to travel by airplane, according to Gallup. (39 percent oppose.) And the percentage of parents who plan on vaccinating their kids has climbed to nearly 70 percent.

We’re only truly “divided” when it comes to the Covid carnage in this country. In blue states in the Northeast the pandemic remains essentially over. That’s where low case, death, and hospitalization numbers remain the norm. In Florida and Texas, the virus is claiming victims at will, as Republican governors do everything in their power to put citizens at risk. Soon, the number of Covid deaths in both Florida and Texas could surpass the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.

The press ought to focus on that divide, and detail how the Republican Party and its leaders have made a conscious decision to prolong a deadly pandemic, even though a free and effective vaccine is available to stop it. It represents a stunning chapter in American history. Instead of focusing its attention on a conservative movement that is quite clearly killing its own, the press wallows in the shallow confines of its Divided narrative.

Recent Headlines:

 

9/11 Investigations, Events

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary, Anti-vaxxers and Covid hoaxers take over the 9/11 Truth Movement, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligece wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallofficer and NSA analyst, Sept. 8, 2021. As someone who believed it was my duty as a journalist to follow every substantial lead and write about verified evidence on the major crime of this century, namely, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and an aborted aerial attack on the U.S. Capitol by hijacked United Flight 93, it is with sadness and disgust we report that one of the 20th anniversary "9/11 Truth" conferences this year has been hijacked by a crew of anti-vaxxers and Covid-19 pandemic hoaxers. One of the slated speakers has even bizarrely suggested that Covid is the "new 9/11."

I was honored to have been invited to speak at several 9/11 anniversary truth seminars. They included the 2nd anniversary, where I spoke at the famed Riverside Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as well as Manhattan's Cooper Union, where I stood on the same stage that Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony once graced as orators.

Not every event is the result of a criminal conspiracy, but every criminal conspiracy seeks to debase the conspiracy investigators and researchers by infiltrating their numbers with ne'er-do-wells, wackos, and disinformation provocateurs.

AE911Truth, Dylan Avery and AE911Truth yesterday released a one-minute teaser for our new feature documentary, 'The Unspeakable,' Staff Report, Sept. 8, 2021.
AE911Truth will hold a free online preview of the film on the homepage of its website, AE911Truth.org, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The screening will begin at 8:00 PM Eastern. Afterwards, actress and comedian Rosie O’Donnell will host a Q&A with three of the film’s protagonists: 9/11 family members Bob McIlvaine and Drew DePalma and architect Bill Brinnier. They will be joined by 9/11 family member Michele Little.

The film will be released on YouTube one week later — Friday, September 17 — and will play at the Village East in New York City September 17–23.
Bob McIlvaine, Drew DePalma, and Bill Brinnier were all slated to appear in a 30-minute section of the final episode of Spike Lee’s HBO docuseries, NYC Epicenters 9/11 → 2021½, which airs on the night of September 11th. The entire section was excised from the film amid a wave of media backlash calling for it to be censored. Mr. McIlvaine and Mr. DePalma released a statement the following day calling on HBO and Mr. Lee to restore the original final episode.
About ‘The Unspeakable’

The Unspeakable is a feature-length documentary that follows four families in their ongoing struggle to find the truth about the death of their loved ones on September 11, 2001.

Interwoven with their stories are the elucidating words of psychologist Robert Griffin, who guides the audience through an exploration of trauma and the healing power of bringing suppressed truths to light.

Also in the film, renowned forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht reviews the autopsy report of Bobby McIlvaine, whose father — as profiled in this month’s cover story of the The Atlantic — has long held that Bobby was killed by an explosion while entering the North Tower lobby.

 

U.S. Floods, Fires, Hurricanes, Climate

washington post logoWashington Post, White House asks Congress to pass emergency funding for disaster aid, Afghan refugees, Jeff Stein, Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.). As part of the request, the short-term spending bill would aim to avoid a government shutdown in October.

The White House budget office Tuesday sent Congress an “urgent” spending request asking for tens of billions of dollars in natural disaster relief and Afghanistan resettlement funding as the administration tries to respond to both emergencies.

The White House is asking for $14 billion in aid to respond to natural disasters that occurred before Hurricane Ida, as well as $6.4 billion to pay for the ongoing relocation of tens of thousands of Afghans who partnered with the United States during the war in Afghanistan. The administration anticipates that another $10 billion will have to be approved in disaster relief for Hurricane Ida, as well.

As part of the request, White House Office of Management and Budget acting director Shalanda Young called for Congress to approve a short-term extension in government funding so that there isn’t a partial government shutdown Oct. 1.

Afghan resettlement raises the question: Who is coming to the U.S.?

Government funding is set to lapse at the end of September under current law, which means that lawmakers would need to authorize a temporary “continuing resolution” to extend funding at their current levels for a set period.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Amid political storms, Biden turns to natural disasters to project competence, compassion: ‘Thank God you’re safe,’ Ashley Parker, Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.). As President Biden toured the damage from Hurricane Ida in Manville, N.J., on Tuesday, he marveled at the water marks that stretched as high as the windows of some ravaged homes — “Literally over your head, that’s pretty amazing,” he quipped — and consoled a family whose home was destroyed by a fire that began alongside the flooding.

“Well, thank God you’re safe,” Biden told the family.

Biden’s visit to New York and New Jersey to survey damage from Ida marked his second such trip in five days, coming shortly after a Friday visit to New Orleans where he similarly comforted families and inspected the devastation from the Category 4 storm that killed at least 60 people.

In his first year in office, Biden has embraced natural disasters, traveling to snow- and rain- and wind-ravaged communities on trips that not only fulfill his basic duties as president, but also allow him to demonstrate what he casts as his signature calling cards — compassion and competence. The president’s handling of such disasters also lets him push a message that has been central to his appeal since he was a candidate: That government can work for its people and that bipartisanship, at least in moments of crisis, still exists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oil spill in Gulf of Mexico is one of more than 2,000 reports of water pollution after Ida, Joshua Partlow, Sept 8, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. Coast Guard and oil companies are working to identify and contain spills as environmental officials assess the damage.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Human Rights, Courts, Crime, Law

A wall in a gun room in Airmont, N.Y., Deputy Mayor Brian Downey's house held a range of powerful weapons, many of which were not registered, authorities say. Photo via U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A wall in a gun room in Airmont, N.Y., Deputy Mayor Brian Downey's house held a range of powerful weapons, many of which were not registered, authorities say. Photo via U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Investigators say they found fake IDs purportedly from the FBI and other agencies in New Yorker Brian Downey's house. A portion of the credentials are seen here.

Investigators say they found fake IDs purportedly from the FBI and other agencies in New Yorker Brian Downey's house. A portion of the credentials are seen here.

National Public Radio (NPR), A Deputy Mayor Is Charged With Amassing 16 Assault Weapons And Fake FBI IDs, Bill Chappell, Sept. 8, 2021. The deputy mayor of Airmont, N.Y., has been arrested on multiple weapons charges after police discovered an arsenal of illegal guns in his house — including 16 assault weapons and 13 silencers, according to the district attorney's office. Investigators said they also found a stash of fake federal IDs, including FBI credentials.

Deputy Mayor Brian Downey, 47, now faces more than 30 state and federal criminal counts.

Department of Homeland Security agents recently alerted authorities in Rockland County, which includes Airmont, that Downey had bought an illegal rifle suppressor over the internet — information that led to a raid that uncovered a room full of guns and gun parts, the district attorney's office said.

"Our community is without a doubt safer today than it was yesterday," Rockland County District Attorney Tom Walsh said in a statement about Downey's arrest, noting the rise of gun violence around the United States.
Rifles were not registered — and some required special licenses, feds say

us dhs big eagle logo4One of the most serious charges against Downey accuses him of possessing unregistered firearms — specifically, two items that require special licenses to possess: a short-barrel rifle and a sawed-off shotgun. The rifle is a version of the AR-15 with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, according to a federal complaint signed by a Homeland Security Investigations special agent. The shotgun has a barrel less than 18 inches long, the document said.

Downey told investigators that he believed he was allowed to have a rifle with an illegal barrel "because he was a peace officer," the complaint said. It added he was aware short-barreled rifles cannot be legally possessed without special authorization from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Investigators also found a lockbox, which they opened after Downey said he did not have the combination.

"Inside the lock box, I located numerous federal badges and credentials," Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Daniel Suden said in the complaint. These included a Drug Enforcement Administration badge and badge holder; a U.S. marshals badge and holder; three FBI badges and badge holders; and three complete FBI credential sets, including two-part identification cards, with Downey's name and photo. Other credentials bore the imprints of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice.

All of the badges and credentials "are not authentic and not issued under the proper authority," Suden said.

In addition to those items, investigators also found Downey's name and image on several New York Court Officer badges and IDs, resulting in a state charge of possessing a forged instrument.

None of the court documents released so far by county and federal authorities suggest an explanation for why Downey allegedly amassed an illegal trove of guns and forged documents. A local newspaper, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News, describes the deputy mayor as "a Second Amendment advocate who has permitted handguns" and was elected in March 2019.

 

Anton

Anton "Tony" Lazzaro, shown above in a screenshot from Fox News, has been Fox News pundit and GOP strategist who recently worked on the 2020 campaign for Republican candidate Lacy Johnson in Minneapolis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Teen suing GOP donor claims he offered $1,000 in hush money after alleged sex-trafficking crime, lawsuit says, Julian Mark, Sept 8, 2021 (print ed.). By all appearances, Anton “Tony” Lazzaro was living the dream. The 30-year-old political strategist, self-described entrepreneur and prominent donor to Minnesota Republicans posed in photos alongside famous tony lazarro djtGOP figures like Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Fox News host Tucker Carlson and former president Donald Trump.

He also posted photos of his lavish lifestyle — sitting atop a private jet, putting gas in his red Ferrari and posing shirtless with wads of $100 bills.

Then, on Aug. 12, federal agents arrested Lazzaro on charges that he recruited minors for sex. Arrested alongside Lazzaro was 19-year-old Gisela Castro Medina, a University of St. Thomas student who a grand jury indictment alleges trafficked the minors with Lazzaro. Through his lawyer, Lazzaro has denied the allegations.

djt maga hatNow, an alleged victim is suing the embattled politico, claiming in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that Medina lured her into having sex with Lazzaro when she was 16. The lawsuit also claims that Lazzaro hired lawyers to offer the alleged victim and her family $1,000 for the girl’s silence.

The lawyer representing Lazzaro in the criminal case did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday, and court records do not list an attorney for Medina.

Before his arrest, Lazzaro was active in Minnesota politics. He operated a political action committee called Big Tent Republicans, whose stated goal is “broadening the appeal of the Republican Party,” according to Lazzaro’s website. Lazzaro has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns and political committees, the Star Tribune reported.

fox news logo SmallYet while Lazzaro pursued his political ambitions, prosecutors say he conspired with Medina to recruit and solicit sex from six minors. The abuse allegedly took place between May 2020 and December 2020.

It is unclear whether the alleged victim who filed the lawsuit is connected to the indictment, which offers few details about the federal investigation into Lazzaro. But her account is the first to publicly detail how Lazzaro and Medina allegedly lured a minor during that same time period.

According to the lawsuit, Lazzaro met Medina on a “sugar dating” website, where wealthy people meet younger people willing to exchange companionship for financial support. In 2020, Lazzaro allegedly gave Medina “money and gifts” to help him find underage women for sex, the lawsuit says. In May 2020, the lawsuit alleges, Medina began grooming the plaintiff, whom Medina had met two years before. Medina allegedly introduced the 16-year-old to Lazzaro, whom she portrayed as a “powerful, prominent, and wealthy businessman and political figure,” according to the lawsuit.

The father declined the offer and contacted law enforcement.

The allegations have roiled the state’s GOP over the past month, and many Republicans have attempted to distance themselves from Lazzaro. Multiple state legislators have donated Lazzaro’s contributions and publicly denounced him.

Lazzaro’s arrest also led to the ouster of Jennifer Carnahan, the state’s GOP chair, whose close ties to Lazzaro invited wider criticism of her leadership. She denied knowing about the allegations being leveled at Lazzaro.

“I found out when you guys found out,” she said, according to WCCO. “I was shocked and disgusted. I think Mr. Lazzaro is going to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

keith raniere nxivmny times logoNew York Times, Sex Cult Leader’s Top Deputy Sentenced to 42 Months in Prison, Colin Moynihan, Sept. 8, 2021. Nancy Salzman, the Nxivm “prefect,” left 20 years of “trauma and destruction” in her wake, a judge said on Wednesday.

For 20 years, Nancy Salzman, left, and Keith Raniere were business partners and allies who promised to improve people’s lives.

nancy salzmanThey led the self-help organization that they co-founded in the 1990s as it grew into the cultlike group Nxivm, and when it fell apart in 2018, Ms. Salzman and Mr. Raniere became co-defendants, accused of running a criminal enterprise that subjected women to sexual abuse.

Mr. Raniere was convicted on several charges and sentenced to 120 years in prison; Ms. Salzman pleaded guilty to a single count of racketeering conspiracy, and former Nxivm members have described her as an enabler who made Mr. Raniere’s abuse possible.

But as Ms. Salzman’s sentencing hearing approached, she sought to publicly distance herself from Mr. Raniere. In a letter to Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, Ms. Salzman’s lawyers portrayed her as Mr. Raniere’s dupe, writing that she had been “fooled, controlled, humiliated, and ultimately led to engage in criminal conduct by an egotistical, self-important, sex fiend.”

But Judge Garaufis did not appear to be persuaded, and on Wednesday Ms. Salzman was sentenced to 42 months in prison — slightly more than the sentence prosecutors had sought.

Before being sentenced, Ms. Salzman made a statement to the court in which she said that under Mr. Raniere’s influence, she had begun to “rationalize and overlook the wrongdoing around me.”

“I apologize to everyone I hurt, intentionally and not,” she added. “I don’t know that I can ever forgive myself.”

Judge Garaufis acknowledged that Ms. Salzman had been the first of Mr. Raniere’s co-defendants to plead guilty. But he also said that she had shared power with Mr. Raniere, facilitated his crimes and betrayed and harmed others.

“You positioned yourself alongside Mr. Raniere atop the Nxivm pyramid,” he said, adding: “In 20 years at Mr. Raniere’s side, you left trauma and destruction in your wake.”

In the more than two years since her guilty plea, Ms. Salzman had largely escaped the attention paid to co-defendants like the liquor heiress Clare Bronfman, who refused to disavow Mr. Raniere, or Allison Mack, who was described as having inducted women into a clandestine group of “slaves,” some of whom were directed to “seduce” Mr. Raniere and branded with his initials.

But as Ms. Salzman’s sentencing approached, former Nxivm members began speaking out. They described her as indispensable to Mr. Raniere’s control of the group and said she had played a central part in crafting his philosophical ideas into teachings that spread Nxivm’s code to followers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supermodels Speak Out Against Sexual Harassment, Elizabeth Paton, Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.). As former models prepare to testify against Gérald Marie, their former agency boss, big names like Carla Bruni and Paulina Porizkova are offering support. On the eve of fashion month, six women, all former models, flew into Paris from across the world — not to walk runways but to be interviewed by the child protection unit of the Paris police.

Their testimonies, set to be heard Sept. 7, include allegations of rape and sexual misconduct against Gérald Marie, who for three decades was one of the most powerful men in the fashion industry. A former European chief of Elite Model Management who was once married to Linda Evangelista and who now lives in Ibiza, Mr. Marie has long denied the allegations that have mounted against him over the years from at least 24 women.

Now, however, a year after prosecutors in France opened an investigation into the alleged incidents, which are said to have occurred in the 1980s and ’90s, a chorus of new and high-profile voices has emerged to support Mr. Marie’s accusers — and to demand more robust labor regulation to protect young and often vulnerable models whose work can take them far from home and supervision.

“Enough is enough — I stand with Carré and the other survivors of Gérald Marie as they come to Paris to testify against their abuser,” said Carla Bruni, one of the most famous models of the ’90s and the former first lady of France. She was referring to Carré Sutton, a onetime American supermodel who is leading the group of women testifying in Paris.

“No industry is immune from sexual abuse,” Ms. Bruni continued. “There is so much work to do in France and around the world to ensure that women are protected from sexual violence on the job.”

Helena Christensen said she stood with these “brave women all the way.” Paulina Porizkova added that in the early days of her career, young models were taught to view “sexual harassment as a compliment.”

“As models, we weren’t paid for our talents,” Ms. Porizkova said. “We were renting our body and face. Your body wasn’t your own.” She applauded the women who had traveled to Paris and who would, she said, “relive some painful memories to stand up for a better industry and the women who haven’t been able to come forward.”

Ms. Bruni, Ms. Christensen and Ms. Porizkova had decided to speak up at the urging of the Model Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group for fashion workers. The organization has offered resources to Mr. Marie’s accusers, including weekly Zoom meetings where the women have had access to legal counsel.

britney spears james spears resized ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Britney Spears’s Father Files to End Her Conservatorship, Julia Jacobs, Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.). In a petition, James Spears’s lawyers wrote that if the singer “believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance.”

Britney Spears’s father, James P. Spears, above, who agreed earlier this summer to eventually step down from his own role in the conservatorship that has overseen her finances and controlled much of her life since 2008, filed a petition on Tuesday asking the court to “now seriously consider whether this conservatorship is no longer required.”

The filing marked a turnaround for Mr. Spears, who long insisted that the guardianship — which was imposed 13 years ago amid concerns over the singer’s mental health and possible drug use — was in his daughter’s best interest. Last month, he said he would eventually step aside from his role overseeing the singer’s finances once there could be “an orderly transition to a new conservator,” but argued that he should not be immediately removed. Until now, he has not said that the conservatorship should end, something that Ms. Spears announced she wanted publicly for the first time in a June court hearing, when she called the arrangement “abusive.”

“As Mr. Spears has said again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter,” Mr. Spears’s lawyer, Vivian Lee Thoreen, wrote in the new filing. “If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance.”

Ms. Spears, 39, has not yet filed her own formal petition to end the conservatorship; she has, however, asked the judge to remove her father as conservator of her estate. He has not served as her personal conservator since September 2019, when Jodi Montgomery, a licensed professional conservator, took over on an ongoing temporary basis.

Mr. Spears’s lawyer wrote that Ms. Spears had recently “demonstrated a level of independence that calls into question whether a conservatorship of the person is required.” Ms. Thoreen cited news reports that the singer had been driving — something she had previously been unable to do under the strictures of the conservatorship — and that she had recently chosen her own counsel, Mathew S. Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor and Hollywood lawyer who took over as Ms. Spears’s representative in July. When the conservatorship began, Ms. Spears was found to be incapable of hiring her own counsel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: OnlyFans Is Not a Safe Platform for ‘Sex Work.’ It’s a Pimp, Catherine MacKinnon (lawyer, scholar, writer, teacher and activist. She teaches law at the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School and works for sexually violated people around the globe), Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.).

We are living in the world pornography has made. For more than three decades, researchers have documented that it desensitizes consumers to violence and spreads rape myths and other lies about women’s sexuality. In doing so, it normalizes itself, becoming ever more pervasive, intrusive and dangerous, surrounding us ever more intimately, grooming the culture so that it becomes hard even to recognize its harms.

One measure of this success is the media’s increasing insistence on referring to people used in prostitution and pornography as “sex workers.” What is being done to them is neither sex, in the sense of intimacy and mutuality, nor work, in the sense of productivity and dignity. Survivors of prostitution consider it “serial rape,” so they regard the term “sex work” as gaslighting. “When the ‘job’ of prostitution is exposed, any similarity to legitimate work is shattered,” write two survivors, Evelina Giobbe and Vednita Carter. “Put simply, whether you’re a ‘high-class’ call girl or a street walkin’ ho, when you’re on a ‘date’ you gotta get on your knees or lay on your back and let that man use your body any way he wants to. That’s what he pays for. Pretending prostitution is a job like any other job would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.”

“Sex work” implies that prostituted people really want to do what they have virtually no choice in doing. That their poverty, homelessness, prior sexual abuse as children, subjection to racism, exclusion from gainful occupations or unequal pay plays no role. That they are who the pornography says they are, valuable only for use in it.

Pornography’s power became clear once again last month, when OnlyFans, the London-based subscription service, announced that it would ban the “sexually explicit” from its platform, before abruptly reversing course amid criticism. “OnlyFans has been celebrated for giving adult entertainers and sex workers a safe place to do their jobs,” Bloomberg News observed. According to the A.C.L.U., a longtime defender of pornography, “When tech platforms like OnlyFans see themselves as arbiters of acceptable cyber speech and activity, they stigmatize sex work, making workers less safe.” On the contrary, it is the sex industry that makes women unsafe. Legitimizing sexual abuse as a job makes webcamming sites like OnlyFans particularly seductive to the economically strapped.

OnlyFans became a household name during the pandemic, when demand for pornography skyrocketed. People started living their lives online, domestic violence exploded, women lost their means of economic survival even more than men, and inequalities increased. OnlyFans, niche pornography as mediated soft prostitution, was positioned to take advantage of these dynamics.

OnlyFans has been to conventional pornography what stripping has been to prostitution: a gateway activity, sexual display with seeming insulation from skin-on-skin exploitation, temporary employment for those with their financial backs against the wall and few if any alternatives. It offers the illusion of safety and deniability for producer and consumer alike. But the outcry over the proposed ban made clear that only explicit sex — mostly, the sexual consumption of feminized bodies, usually female, gay or trans — sells well in pornography’s world. As Dannii Harwood, the first so-called content creator on OnlyFans, told The New York Times, “Once subscribers have seen everything, they move on to the next creator.” Empirical research has also documented that dynamic.

Van Christopher Havis and Holly Deboard via WHNT

Law&Crime, Alabama Man and Woman Set to Spend Rest of Their Lives in Prison for ‘Physically Repulsive’ Abuse, Bestiality, Alberto Luperon, Sept. 8, 2021. Authorities are closing the book on a truly sickening case. A man and a woman in Alabama (shown above) received quite lengthy sentences this week for abusing another man who authorities described as living with mental disability.

Van Christopher Havis, 55, received a term of life in prison with the possibility of parole for charges of sodomy and sexual torture, and a six-month punishment for bestiality, which is a misdemeanor, Marshall County District Attorney Chief Investigator John Young told Law&Crime. Co-defendant Holly Renae Debord, 37, received 99-year punishments each for sodomy and sexual torture, plus a year for bestiality, lead prosecutor Jennifer Reynolds Bray said in a Facebook post. Because the sentences all run concurrently, the total sentence is 99 years.

“In Alabama, it’s a possibility he can pop up in five years,” Young said of Havis, “but in our experience with these types of cases, he is going to be there for a while.”

The pair is reportedly eligible for parole.

Havis worked out a plea deal in which he was going to testify against Debord, Young told Law&Crime. Ultimately, both of them chose to admit guilt rather than face jurors. They were charged with abuse so disgusting that authorities have opted to discuss it in general terms. Bray said that Debord possessed 19 sickening videos of the crime.

“I’m so relieved that this case is over,” Bray wrote. “[All through] throughout my career I’ve seen some very disturbing things, nothing compares to the 19 videos Holly DeBord had on her phone of this heinous crime that lasted for hours. The first time I watched the video evidence in this case, it almost physically made me sick.”

Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims was also vague when discussing the bestiality charge.

“This is a different, unique type case from what it involved,” he said when Havis and Debord were arrested in January 2020, according to WHNT. “I’m sure one of the charges is not what you often hear, called bestiality. I’ll just say it involves a domesticated animal and leave it at that.”

Video of the abuse spread through Facebook messenger, texts, and email, authorities said.

“This is one case that was just physically repulsive,” Bray told WHNT. “You know, it made your stomach churn watching these videos. It is so violent and so aggressive. And what they’re doing to this victim, again it’s just awful. Words can’t describe it.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Ransomware is wreaking havoc on U.S.