Dec. 2021 News, Views

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and view in December, 2021

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this. 

 

 

Dec. 4

Top Headlines

 

Drought, Floods, Climate Change

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Attacks On U.S. Democracy, Elections, Capitol

 

World News

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Immigration

 

U.S. Politics, Governance


Media News


Top Stories

 

ethan crumbley

HuffPost, Parents Of Oxford High School Shooting Suspect Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter, Ryan Grenoble, Dec. 3-4, 2021. Ethan Crumbley's mother huffington post logoand father face charges in the wake of a Michigan school shooting that left four students dead and seven people injured.

The parents of a student accused of opening fire at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan, will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said Friday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of 15-year-old suspect Ethan Crumbley (shown aboved), will face four charges each, one for each of the four students fatally shot on Tuesday. Two of the four murder victims, Hana St. Juliana, left, and Tate are shown in adjoining photos. The shooting also hana st julianawounded seven other people.

In a press conference explaining the charges Friday, McDonald described what she said were the steps leading up to Tuesday’s tragedy. She said these included failing to secure the firearm the shooter used, and overlooking clear warning signs ahead of time.

“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there were other individuals who contributed, and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well,” McDonald said. “Gun ownership is a right, and with that right comes great responsibility.”tate myer

On Tuesday morning, hours before the shooting, a teacher came across a drawing that Ethan, a sophomore, had made, McDonald said. The drawing depicted a semiautomatic handgun and a person who’d been shot twice and was bleeding. Several captions accompanied the picture, according to McDonald, including “the thoughts won’t stop, help me,” “the world is dead,” and “my life is useless,” among others.

James and Jennifer were summoned to the school, McDonald said, and were instructed to take Ethan to counseling within 24 hours. The parents resisted taking him home, however, and sent him back to class.

Soon after, Ethan allegedly emerged from a bathroom, firing a 9 mm Sig Sauer pistol that McDonald said James purchased with him last Friday.

The prosecutor said that Jennifer texted her son after the news of the shooting had been made public, saying: “Ethan, don’t do it.”

Earlier in the week, after one of Ethan’s teachers caught him researching ammunition on his phone during class, his parents failed to respond to a voicemail and email from the school alerting them, according to McDonald.

WDIV-TV (Detroit), Parents of suspected Oxford High School shooter in custody after manhunt on Detroit’s east side, Kayla Clarke, Dec. 4, 2021. Son accused of killing 4, injuring 7 others in school shooting. The parents of a teen accused of carrying out a mass shooting at Oxford High School became wanted fugitives Friday when police couldn’t find them to bring them in to face involuntary manslaughter charges.

James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of mass shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley, 15, finally were arrested early Saturday morning in Detroit. Police said a business owner called 911 to report the suspects’ vehicle -- a black 2021 Kia Seltos SUV with the Michigan license plate number DQG 5203 -- in his parking lot on Bellevue Street near Jefferson Avenue. Jennifer Crumbley was spotted near the vehicle by the business owner, police said.

Police said she fled the area on foot after the 911 call was made.

“After an extensive search by DPD including Detroit K-9 units both of the fugitives were located and arrested by DPD. The two will be transported to the Oakland County Jail tonight,” reads a statement from Detroit police. “Kudos to the Detroit Police Department for this great response and work. We wish to thank all of the agencies that assisted on scene including Border Patrol, MSP, U.S. Marshals and our own Fugitive Team.”

The arrest was announced just before 2 a.m. Saturday. Police said the couple was found and apprehended in the basement of a building.

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The January 6th Committee is suddenly closing in on Donald Trump at high speed, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 3, 2021. Steve Bannon has bill palmerbeen arrested and is going to stand trial. Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has begun turning over evidence in the hope of avoiding arrest. Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark is preparing to plead the fifth in regard to what he and Trump did in relation to the 2020 election, even as he tries to fend off an imminent criminal referral. Ali Alexander has come out of hiding and says he’ll testify against everyone because, in his words, he doesn’t want to go to prison.

bill palmer report logo headerThat’s a whole heck of a lot of progress of late, when you consider that just three weeks ago there were no big names known to be cooperating, and the pundits were still trying to convince us that the DOJ wouldn’t act on the criminal referral against Bannon. Now we’ve got key Trump people cooperating, pleading the fifth, awaiting trial, you name it. In other words, the January 6th Committee’s strategy is working – and now it’s all starting to come together comparatively quickly.

The thing to remember here is that there simply are no magic wands that Trump’s people can use to get the January 6th Committee to just ignore them. As we’re now seeing, privilege isn’t a magic wand, partial cooperation isn’t a magic wand, pleading the fifth isn’t a magic wand, and whatever tactic any of them might try next won’t end up being a magic wand either.

Things truly are closing in on Donald Trump. As the committee gears up to hold very public hearings after the holidays, this is all about to get remarkably explosive in nature. And that’s before getting to the part where the committee inevitably subpoenas Trump himself, leaving Trump with the impossible choice of cooperating or being indicted for contempt.

 

Drought, Floods, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Snowfall may be nearly zero for years at a time in Mountain West because of climate change, study finds, Diana Leonard, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). The study warns of potential water supply problems in about 35 to 60 years.

A new study provides a glimpse into the future of Western U.S. snow and the picture is far from rosy: In about 35 to 60 years, mountainous states are projected to be nearly snowless for years at a time if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked and climate change does not slow.

Due to rising temperatures, the region has already lost 20 percent of its snowpack since the 1950s. That’s enough water to fill Lake Mead, the nation’s largest human-made reservoir. It stands to lose another half, and possibly more, later this century, from the Rockies to the Sierra Nevada and into the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, according to a literature synthesis conducted in the study leveraging dozens of peer-reviewed climate model projections.

The current snow situation in the West offers a preview of what the future may hold. Snow water equivalent, or the liquid water from snowpack, is much lower than normal in much of the Western United States. Snow cover across the nation is only at 6 percent — the lowest since records began in 2003.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Slow-Motion Climate Disaster: The Spread of Barren Land, Jack Nicas, Photographs and Video by Victor Moriyama, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.).  Brazil’s northeast, long a victim of droughts, is now effectively turning into a desert. The cause? Climate change and the landowners who are most affected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Record floods tied to climate change create a crisis in the world’s newest nation, Rachel Chason and Adrienne Surprenant, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). (Visual Story). Flooding this year displaced more than 700,000 people — about 1 in every 15 residents of South Sudan. Among the most vulnerable are villagers in the vast wetland of the Sudd, where the White Nile and its tributaries swelled to levels people said they had never seen.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Those new covid measures Biden announced? Europe’s been doing that and more for a while, Perry Stein, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). Refunding fast tests and imposing travel quarantines has been the standard in places like Germany, Britain and Belgium.

The Biden administration said it was “pulling out all the stops” with a package announced Thursday in response to surging coronavirus cases and a newly detected variant. But some of the key provisions — like reimbursable at-home tests — just allow the United States to catch up to what other countries have been doing for months. Others — like a shorter window for pre-travel testing — fall far short of the dramatic measures countries in Europe european union logo rectangleand elsewhere have implemented in the past days and weeks.

Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said covid-19 measures aren’t politicized in most countries to the degree they are in the United States, which has made it easier for foreign leaders to implement sweeping policies and restrictions without much controversy or obstruction. And, McKee said, most wealthy countries offer universal or more affordable health care than the United States does, so offering free or cheap at-home tests was expected in these places.

“This is where the U.S. is an international outlier,” McKee said. “Making testing free is clearly a good idea. Saying something will happen, though, and making it happen are two different things. There is going to be quite of lot of challenges in the supply chain. This is not going to happen overnight.”

E.U. recommends new restrictions for unvaccinated travelers

Here is some of what Biden laid out Thursday and how it compares to policies in other countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, Omicron covid variant three times more likely to cause reinfection than delta, S. Africa study says, Amy Cheng, Dec. 3, 2021. One of the study’s authors said coronavirus vaccines are likely to still offer the most effective protection against severe disease and death.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Dec. 4, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 265,340,007, Deaths: 5,261,639
U.S. Cases:     49,878,049, Deaths:   808,116
Indian Cases:   34,624,360, Deaths:   470,530
Brazil Cases:   22,129,409, Deaths:   615,454

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 197.8 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.6 % of the population, as of Dec. 4, 2021. Note: Due to adjustments in reporting, Pennsylvania removed 1.2 million doses on Nov. 23.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Attacks On U.S. Democracy, Elections, Capitol

 

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Gaslights Its Way to the End of 'Roe,' Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir, "Just linda greenhouse cover just a journalista Journalist"), Dec. 3, 2021. There are many reasons for dismay over the Supreme Court argument in the Mississippi abortion case, but it was the nonstop gaslighting that really got to me.

First there was Justice Clarence Thomas, pretending by his questions actually to be interested in how the Constitution might be interpreted to provide for the right to abortion, a right he has denounced and schemed to overturn since professing to the Senate Judiciary Committee 30 years ago that he never even thought about the matter.

Then there was Chief Justice John Roberts, mischaracterizing an internal memo that Justice Harry Blackmun wrote to his colleagues as the Roe v. Wade majority was discussing how best to structure the opinion Justice Blackmun was working on. The chief justice was trying to delegitimize the place of fetal viability in the court’s abortion jurisprudence, where for nearly 50 years, viability has been the unbreached firewall protecting the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

And then there was Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who rattled off a list of “the most consequential cases in this court’s history” that resulted from overruling prior decisions.

It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor who asked the uncomfortable question. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she demanded of Scott Stewart, a former law clerk to Justice Thomas who argued for Mississippi as the state’s solicitor general. Listening to the live-streamed argument, I first heard “political acts” as “political hacks,” I suppose because still in my mind were Justice Barrett’s words when she spoke in mid-September at a center in Louisville, Ky., named for her Senate confirmation mastermind, Senator Mitch McConnell. “My goal today is to convince you that the court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she said then.

Last month, the court heard arguments in a case that challenges New York’s strict requirement for a license to carry a concealed weapon. Most states have looser restrictions. New York, through its legislative process, is in a minority.

Will Justice Kavanaugh and those of his colleagues who glorify a recently manufactured version of the Second Amendment allow New York City to keep going its own way on gun safety in the name of “letting the people decide”? That’s about as likely as the chance that those very same justices will decide to keep the right to abortion on the books. In both cases, we know what they’re going to do. The only mystery is how they will explain it.

Linda Greenhouse, the winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, writes on alternate Thursdays about the Supreme Court and the law. She reported on the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008, and is the author of the forthcoming "Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months That Transformed the Supreme Court."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Liz Cheney has bad news for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 3, 2021. House Republican Liz Cheney is not in any way a friend of the Democrats. In fact she frequently votes against the Democrats on various issues, and she frequently tweets dishonest criticisms of the Democrats. Cheney, shown below at right in an official photo, is simply a far-right Republican extremist who happens to have a problem with Donald Trump’s treason.

That makes her an ally of the Democrats when it comes to the January 6th Committee, and nothing more – but she’s a crucial ally nonetheless.

bill palmer report logo headerSpoiler alert: the January 6th Committee was always going to end up subpoenaing Donald Trump in the end. It’s a probe focused primarily on his actions, so of course it’s going to go after him. It’ll just go after him last, because that’s how these things work. The point of going after everyone else first is to build the strongest case possible against Trump before going after him. But the committee has merely held the public position that it’ll “consider” subpoenaing Trump in the end, because that’s the judicious liz cheney olanguage that politicians use when they want to make sure they look reasonable in the eyes of the voters in the middle.

But after Donald Trump asininely announced this week that he wants to hold some kind of “debate” with the January 6th Committee, Liz Cheney – who holds the position of Committee Vice Chair – decided it was time to step up the rhetoric accordingly. Cheney fired back with this:

"This committee’s investigation into the violent assault on our Capitol on Jan. 6 is not a game. When this committee convenes hearings, witnesses will be called to testify under oath. Any communications Mr. Trump has with this committee will be under oath. And if he persists in lying, then he will be accountable under the laws of this great nation and subject to criminal penalties for every false word he speaks.”

In other words, the committee is indeed going to subpoena Donald Trump to testify when the time comes, and if he tries lying his way through the hearing, the committee will refer him to the DOJ for criminal prosecution for perjury. It’s also fair to presume the committee will refer him to the DOJ for criminal contempt if he fails to cooperate. And since the DOJ has already arrested Steve Bannon on this same charge, it’s reasonable to expect the DOJ will arrest Trump accordingly.

Recent Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia planning military offensive against Ukraine, U.S. intelligence warns, Shane Harris and Paul Sonne, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). As tensions mount between Washington and Moscow over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. intelligence has found the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops, according to U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post.

The Kremlin has been moving troops toward the border with Ukraine while demanding Washington guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO and that the alliance will refrain from certain military activities in and around Ukrainian territory. The crisis has provoked fears of a renewed war on European soil and comes ahead of a planned virtual meeting next week between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 with a scale of forces twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders,” said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. “The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment.”

The unclassified U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Post, which includes satellite photos, shows Russian forces massing in four locations. Currently, 50 battlefield tactical groups are deployed, along with “newly arrived” tanks and artillery, according to the document.

Threat of Russian invasion of Ukraine tests Biden administration

While Ukrainian assessments have said Russia has approximately 94,000 troops near the border, the U.S. map puts the number at 70,000 — but it predicts a buildup to as many as 175,000 and describes extensive movement of battalion tactical groups to and from the border “to obfuscate intentions and to create uncertainty.”

The U.S. analysis of Russia’s plans is based in part on satellite images that “show newly arrived units at various locations along the Ukrainian border over the last month,” the official said.

Details of the U.S. intelligence provide a picture that Secretary of State Antony Blinken began to outline this week on a trip to Europe, where he described “evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine” and warned there would be severe consequences, including high-impact economic measures, if Russia invaded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Congo Ousts Mining Leader in a Cloud of Corruption Claims, Eric Lipton and Dionne Searcey, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). The move, which followed a Times report that revealed new allegations, comes as the country becomes increasingly important in global clean energy.

The chairman of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state mining company was ousted on Friday after longtime allegations that billions of dollars in revenue had gone missing, a move officials said was intended to fight corruption as the country becomes increasingly important in the global clean energy revolution.

Albert Yuma Mulimbi, the chairman of the company since 2010, was replaced by President Felix Tshisekedi of Congo just days after The New York Times published an article revealing new allegations against Mr. Yuma.

The government agency, known as Gécamines, controls production of metals such as cobalt and copper, crucial resources in the push to expand electric vehicles and other renewables. Without his chairmanship, Mr. Yuma will no longer have a significant role in partnering with international companies over major mining deals.

“It is hard to underestimate the importance of this development — it is a significant step in the fight against corruption in Congo,” said J. Peter Pham, who until January served as a senior Central Africa official with the U.S. State Department. “Albert Yuma and the mining sector stand at the nexus of natural resources, political and economic power in the country.”

National Press Club, Sinn Féin leader: A unified Ireland possible within decade, Gwen Flanders, Dec. 3-4, 2021. One hundred years after Northern Ireland stayed with the United Kingdom when Ireland won independence, the goal of one united Ireland could be achieved within five to 10 years, Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald said at the National Press Club on Thursday.

Expectations have changed, and Brexit has elevated the idea of reunification, she told interviewer Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak, a past president of the Club.

The idea is not "just a Sinn Féin issue" since, for example, new trade rules under Brexit, the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, raised the prospect of a hardened border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, McDonald said.

"You can move seamlessly throughout the island, and people transact their business and live their lives ... with no sense that you are moving from one legal jurisdiction to another," she said of the current situation. "The reality is we live on a small island -- an incredibly beautiful island -- and it makes no sense at all ... to have two of everything. The opportunity for economic scale, for innovation, is so much greater when we work together. The smart way to do business, the smart way to be entrepreneurial, is to operate on an all-island basis."

Sinn Féin is the Republic of Ireland's largest opposition party, and its voter strength is growing. In Northern Ireland, it is one of five parties in a coalition government.

McDonald, who met with U.S. congressional leaders this week, said she has "deep appreciation for the very solid support that the United States has extended to Ireland" since the Good Friday agreement of 1998, which led to Northern Ireland's power-sharing system of government and an end to most political violence.

That political violence -- three decades known as "The Troubles" -- remains an issue. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party government is proposing amnesty to end investigations of killings by police, military and paramilitary groups in that era of conflict between people with British and Irish loyalties. Political parties in Northern Ireland are opposed to the policy.

Recent Global Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Flash mob’ retail robberies spike as groups likely organized online hit stores piled with holiday inventory, Abha Bhattarai and Gerrit De Vynck, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.).  Experts say the brazen crimes, which can involve dozens of thieves carrying weapons and breaking glass, are likely being coordinated on social media apps. A spate of brazen store heists, in which organized mobs have hit stores as varied as Nordstrom, Best Buy, Louis Vuitton and Home Depot, has shaken the retail industry and created fresh challenges for law enforcement.

While large-scale “smash-and-grabs” have been on the rise this year, experts say they hit critical mass in late November, when stores were piled high with holiday inventory. On Black Friday alone, a crew of eight made off with $400 worth of sledgehammers, crowbars and hammers from a Home Depot in Lakewood, Calif.; a group ransacked a Bottega Veneta boutique in Los Angeles; and roughly 30 people swarmed a Best Buy near Minneapolis, grabbing electronics.

Retail executives and security experts say the rise of such robberies — which have gone viral online and in some cases, spurred copycats — is the culmination of several factors, including a shortage of security guards, reluctance by police and prosecutors to pursue shoplifting offenses, and the growing use of social media as an organizational tool. They also coincide with a pullback from pandemic-era protocols that limited the number of people who could enter a store at one time.

The incidents have spooked workers, retailers say, as they can involve dozens of people swarming in with crowbars, guns and other weapons and breaking glass. Some have resulted in injuries: Two Nordstrom employees were assaulted and one was pepper-sprayed Nov. 20 after an estimated 80 people rushed the Walnut Creek store.

Best Buy chief executive Corie Barry says the high-profile events have made it more difficult to hire staff, particularly in shoplifting hot spots along the West Coast.

“This is a real issue that hurts and scares real people,” she said during an earnings call last week. “This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable.”

It also exposes the limitations of security mainstays such as cameras, electronic tags and even a well-positioned security guard, which might deter a shoplifter but have little efficacy against an unruly crowd.

 Other recent headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, The window to lift the debt limit is narrowing, an influential think tank warns, Alan Rappeport, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). The United States faces a default sometime between Dec. 21 and Jan. 28 of next year if Congress does not act to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, the Bipartisan Policy Center warned on Friday.

The projection was a more narrow window than the nonpartisan think tank previously provided last month and the group suggested that the actual deadline, or X-date, could be in the earlier end of that range.

Democrats and Republicans appear to have tempered their tone around the latest debt limit standoff this time around, yet there is no current plan for lifting the borrowing cap. Republicans continue to insist that Democrats must act alone to address the issue, while Democrats have countered that raising the borrowing cap is a shared responsibility given that both political parties have incurred big debts over the last several years.

“Those who believe the debt limit can safely be pushed to the back of the December legislative pileup are misinformed,” said Shai Akabas, BPC’s janet yellen odirector of economic policy. “Congress would be flirting with financial disaster if it leaves for the holiday recess without addressing the debt limit.”

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, right, warned lawmakers in November that the United States could be unable to pay its bills soon after Dec. 15. During testimony before the Senate Banking Committee this week, she underscored the urgency of the matter.

“I cannot overstate how critical it is that Congress address this issue,” Ms. Yellen said. “America must pay its bills on time and in full. If we do not, we will eviscerate our current recovery.”

After approaching the first default in American history, Congress in October raised the statutory debt limit by $480 billion, an amount the Treasury Department estimated would allow the government to continue borrowing through early December.

Other recent headlines:

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Alec Baldwin says he isn’t responsible for ‘Rust’ shooting: 8 takeaways from his emotional interview, Sonia Rao, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). In the six weeks since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed on the New Mexico set of “Rust,” the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office periodically released information gleaned from its criminal investigation into the fatal shooting. Details emerged from interviews with crew members, but the general public had yet to hear at length from the person who was actually holding the gun.

alec baldwin pr headshotThat changed Thursday night when ABC aired a prime-time special with Alec Baldwin — the actor’s first TV appearance since the gun went off in his hands on Oct. 21, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. Speaking to ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, Baldwin (shown in a file photo) was highly emotional and often paused to collect himself. He refrained from sharing some details due to the ongoing investigation, but said he came “to say, I would go to any lengths to undo what happened.”

Here are eight major takeaways from the interview, which is also set to stream on Hulu.

1. Baldwin said he wasn’t involved in hiring crew members.

2. Hutchins directed Baldwin to point the gun toward her, according to him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter’s new CEO unveils big reorganization of social networking company, Will Oremus and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). Twitter's engineering and design leaders are out as Parag Agrawal puts his mark on the company.

Twitter’s new chief executive, Parag Agrawal, announced a major reorganization of the company Friday, putting his stamp on the organization following the sudden departure of co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey earlier this week.

The shake-up, meant to streamline the company’s operations and accelerate its growth, will bring together employees previously divided by job function — such as engineering, design and product development — on teams organized by what they’re working on, such as consumer product, revenue and core tech. Two executives, head of engineering Michael Montano and chief design officer Dantley Davis, will step down as part of the reshuffling and leave the company by year’s end.

In a companywide email obtained by The Washington Post, Agrawal said that he will focus on “clear decision-making, increased accountability, and faster execution,” and said he was “making a number of organizational and leadership changes to best position us to achieve our goals. … We’ve all discussed the critical need for more operational rigor and it must start from the top.”

New CEO Parag Agrawal said he made the changes in the name of “operational rigor” and “faster execution.”

Twitter says it suspended accounts in error following flood of ‘coordinated and malicious’ reports

washington post logoWashington Post, Pegasus spyware was used recently to hack U.S. diplomats working abroad, Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 4, 2021 (print ed.). Confirmation of the attacks comes one month after the U.S. blacklisted NSO Group

Apple has alerted 11 U.S. Embassy employees that their iPhones have been hacked in recent months with Pegasus spyware from NSO Group, an Israel-based company that licenses software to government clients in dozens of countries that allows them to secretly steal files, eavesdrop on conversations and track the movements of its targets, according to people familiar with the notifications.

The revelation, the first confirmed cases of Pegasus being used to target American officials, comes a month after U.S. officials blacklisted the NSO Group amid allegations that its foreign government clients had enabled hacking against unspecified embassy employees, political activists, human rights workers and others.

These and other actions come after the July publication of the Pegasus Project, an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 other news organizations into the activities of NSO Group. One of the investigation’s findings was that U.S. diplomats and other embassy employees were at risk from Pegasus, especially when they used phone numbers based overseas.

Recent Media Headlines

 

Dec. 3

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Attacks On U.S. Democracy, Elections, Capitol

 

 Trump Watch

 

Floods, Dought, Climate Change

World News

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Immigration

 

U.S. Politics, Governance


Media News


Top Stories

 

ethan crumbley

HuffPost, Parents Of Oxford High School Shooting Suspect Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter, Ryan Grenoble, Dec. 3, 2021. Ethan Crumbley's mother huffington post logoand father face charges in the wake of a Michigan school shooting that left four students dead and seven people injured.

The parents of a student accused of opening fire at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan, will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said Friday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of 15-year-old suspect Ethan Crumbley (shown aboved), will face four charges each, one for each of the four students fatally shot on Tuesday. Two of the four murder victims, Hana St. Juliana, left, and Tate are shown in adjoining photos. The shooting also hana st julianawounded seven other people.

In a press conference explaining the charges Friday, McDonald described what she said were the steps leading up to Tuesday’s tragedy. She said these included failing to secure the firearm the shooter used, and overlooking clear warning signs ahead of time.

“While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there were other individuals who contributed, and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well,” McDonald said. “Gun ownership is a right, and with that right comes great responsibility.”tate myer

On Tuesday morning, hours before the shooting, a teacher came across a drawing that Ethan, a sophomore, had made, McDonald said. The drawing depicted a semiautomatic handgun and a person who’d been shot twice and was bleeding. Several captions accompanied the picture, according to McDonald, including “the thoughts won’t stop, help me,” “the world is dead,” and “my life is useless,” among others.

James and Jennifer were summoned to the school, McDonald said, and were instructed to take Ethan to counseling within 24 hours. The parents resisted taking him home, however, and sent him back to class.

Soon after, Ethan allegedly emerged from a bathroom, firing a 9 mm Sig Sauer pistol that McDonald said James purchased with him last Friday.

The prosecutor said that Jennifer texted her son after the news of the shooting had been made public, saying: “Ethan, don’t do it.”

Earlier in the week, after one of Ethan’s teachers caught him researching ammunition on his phone during class, his parents failed to respond to a voicemail and email from the school alerting them, according to McDonald.

  • New York Times, Facing Charges, Parents of Michigan Shooting Suspect Are Now Fugitives

joe biden podium

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s New Virus Plan Aims to Keep Economy Open as Omicron Spreads, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden, confronting a worrisome new coronavirus variant and a potential winter surge, laid out a pandemic strategy on Thursday that includes hundreds of vaccination sites, boosters for all adults, new testing requirements for international travelers and free at-home tests.

After nearly a year of pushing vaccination as the way out of the pandemic, Mr. Biden has been unable to overcome resistance to the shots in red states and rural areas. His new strategy shifts away from a near-singular focus on vaccination and places a fresh emphasis on testing — a tacit acknowledgment by the White House that vaccination is not enough to end the worst public health crisis in a century.

Mr. Biden’s announcement came as several new cases of the Omicron variant were reported in the United States, including five people in New York State, a Minnesota resident who had recently traveled to New York City and a Colorado resident who had recently returned from southern Africa. Hawaii also reported its first known case, and California its second.

Mr. Biden’s remarks at the National Institutes of Health were the second time this week that he had addressed the nation on the pandemic; on Monday he spoke about new travel restrictions he imposed last week on eight African nations.
The president’s plan shifts away from a near-singular focus on vaccination, as new cases of the variant have emerged in the United States.

President Biden’s strategy includes new testing requirements for international travelers and insurance reimbursement for at-home coronavirus tests.
“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” Mr. Biden said in a speech.

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The January 6th Committee is suddenly closing in on Donald Trump at high speed, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 3, 2021. Steve Bannon has bill palmerbeen arrested and is going to stand trial. Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has begun turning over evidence in the hope of avoiding arrest. Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark is preparing to plead the fifth in regard to what he and Trump did in relation to the 2020 election, even as he tries to fend off an imminent criminal referral. Ali Alexander has come out of hiding and says he’ll testify against everyone because, in his words, he doesn’t want to go to prison.

bill palmer report logo headerThat’s a whole heck of a lot of progress of late, when you consider that just three weeks ago there were no big names known to be cooperating, and the pundits were still trying to convince us that the DOJ wouldn’t act on the criminal referral against Bannon. Now we’ve got key Trump people cooperating, pleading the fifth, awaiting trial, you name it. In other words, the January 6th Committee’s strategy is working – and now it’s all starting to come together comparatively quickly.

The thing to remember here is that there simply are no magic wands that Trump’s people can use to get the January 6th Committee to just ignore them. As we’re now seeing, privilege isn’t a magic wand, partial cooperation isn’t a magic wand, pleading the fifth isn’t a magic wand, and whatever tactic any of them might try next won’t end up being a magic wand either.

Things truly are closing in on Donald Trump. As the committee gears up to hold very public hearings after the holidays, this is all about to get remarkably explosive in nature. And that’s before getting to the part where the committee inevitably subpoenas Trump himself, leaving Trump with the impossible choice of cooperating or being indicted for contempt.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Liz Cheney has bad news for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 3, 2021. House Republican Liz Cheney is not in any way a friend of the Democrats. In fact she frequently votes against the Democrats on various issues, and she frequently tweets dishonest criticisms of the Democrats. Cheney, shown below at right in an official photo, is simply a far-right Republican extremist who happens to have a problem with Donald Trump’s treason.

That makes her an ally of the Democrats when it comes to the January 6th Committee, and nothing more – but she’s a crucial ally nonetheless.

bill palmer report logo headerSpoiler alert: the January 6th Committee was always going to end up subpoenaing Donald Trump in the end. It’s a probe focused primarily on his actions, so of course it’s going to go after him. It’ll just go after him last, because that’s how these things work. The point of going after everyone else first is to build the strongest case possible against Trump before going after him. But the committee has merely held the public position that it’ll “consider” subpoenaing Trump in the end, because that’s the judicious liz cheney olanguage that politicians use when they want to make sure they look reasonable in the eyes of the voters in the middle.

But after Donald Trump asininely announced this week that he wants to hold some kind of “debate” with the January 6th Committee, Liz Cheney – who holds the position of Committee Vice Chair – decided it was time to step up the rhetoric accordingly. Cheney fired back with this:

"This committee’s investigation into the violent assault on our Capitol on Jan. 6 is not a game. When this committee convenes hearings, witnesses will be called to testify under oath. Any communications Mr. Trump has with this committee will be under oath. And if he persists in lying, then he will be accountable under the laws of this great nation and subject to criminal penalties for every false word he speaks.”

In other words, the committee is indeed going to subpoena Donald Trump to testify when the time comes, and if he tries lying his way through the hearing, the committee will refer him to the DOJ for criminal prosecution for perjury. It’s also fair to presume the committee will refer him to the DOJ for criminal contempt if he fails to cooperate. And since the DOJ has already arrested Steve Bannon on this same charge, it’s reasonable to expect the DOJ will arrest Trump accordingly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate passes bill to fund the government, averting shutdown, Tony Romm and Mike DeBonis, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). The spending measure funds government operations until Feb. 18. Some conservatives had threatened to block passage over vaccine concerns, but an amendment they offered was rejected.

After a wild day on Capitol Hill in which a group of House and Senate Republicans threatened to derail the spending bill over vaccine concerns, congressional leaders navigated a bill through Congress that would fund agencies into February.

us senate logoHouse and Senate lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill to fund the federal government into early next year, narrowly averting a shutdown after some Republicans sought to seize on the imminent fiscal deadline to fight President Biden over his vaccine policies.

The two successful evening votes spelled an end to a brief yet tense period that would have brought Washington to a halt come Saturday morning, a development that Democrats had described as irresponsible and dangerous in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

The new agreement, which awaits Biden’s signature, covers federal spending until Feb. 18. At that point, lawmakers must adopt another short-term measure or complete work on a dozen long-stalled appropriations bills that fund the government for the remainder of fiscal 2022, which ends in September.

Biden vows to fight omicron with "science and speed" as cases multiply and outlook worsens.

Even as both parties insisted they did not want to push the country toward a fiscal cliff, they still came dangerously close to missing their deadline. For days, conservative Republicans had threatened to hold up the funding bill as part of a long-running protest of Biden’s vaccine directives, including those ordering large employers to require inoculations or implement comprehensive testing programs. Some lawmakers, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), even explicitly called for a shutdown in a bid to deny the White House the ability to enforce its rules.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy adds just 210,000 jobs in November, Eli Rosenberg, Dec. 3, 2021. The U.S. economy added just 210,000 jobs in November, a disappointing month of growth that came as coronavirus cases began to rise in many parts of the country.

Yet, the unemployment rate still dropped to 4.2 percent, from 4.6 percent.

October’s strong report had raised hopes about a lengthy period of sustained growth, but coronavirus cases began rising the week that the surveys were taken. Supply chain issues and labor shortages remain a constraint on the economy as well. Economists had been predicting about 500,000 to 600,000 jobs for the month.

Still, labor market growth has been encouraging this year so far: the country has been averaging adding more than 500,000 jobs a month, gaining back more than 5 million jobs lost in the early days of the pandemic.

There have been positive economic signs recently as well. Weekly unemployment filings have trended steadily downward in recent months, even dipping below the pre-pandemic average to a new historical low the week before Thanksgiving.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We are pulling out all the stops’: White House details strategies to fight variants, Dan Diamond, Lena H. Sun and Tyler Pager, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden is set to unveil a plan that includes at-home test kits for no cost, more access to booster shots, stricter testing of travelers coming to the United States.

Within hours of the first confirmed infection from the new omicron variant in the United States, the Biden administration on Thursday announced an array omb logo management and budget seal Customof measures to protect Americans, including campaigns to increase vaccinations and booster shots, more stringent testing requirements for travelers entering the country and plans to make rapid at-home coronavirus testing free for more people.
FAQ: What to know about the omicron variant of the coronavirus

While some of the measures are new — notably a plan to launch “family mobile vaccination clinics,” where all eligible members of a family can simultaneously get first shots or boosters — others build on existing tactics, such as President Biden’s plan urging businesses to institute mandatory vaccination-or-testing requirements for their employees.

Biden’s package of coronavirus strategies comes as the nation grapples with mounting infections and deaths driven by the delta variant and braces for the emergence of the still-mysterious omicron. Scientists caution that it will take days, if not weeks, to understand if the new variant can evade current vaccines or cause more severe symptoms in infected people.

  • Washington Post, Mask mandate for transportation extended through March 18, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden’s approach for free rapid testing will require some legwork, like submitting receipts to insurers, Sarah Kliff and Reed Abelson, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). Over-the-counter rapid coronavirus tests will soon become a much bigger part of the Biden administration’s response to the pandemic and the new Omicron variant.

joe biden black background resized serious fileAfter a primary focus on vaccination, the White House announced on Thursday that private health insurers would soon have to reimburse patients for such tests. It also said it would make 50 million free tests available for uninsured Americans, to be distributed through health clinics and other sites in rural and underserved communities.

But for consumers who do have insurance, the White House approach will require some legwork. It left some health policy experts questioning why the United States does not purchase tests on behalf of all Americans and provide them at little to no cost, as some European countries have done. Instead, Americans will have to purchase tests and then submit the receipts for reimbursement.

“The direct provision of inexpensive tests for the American public would be the simplest from a consumer standpoint,” said Lindsey Dawson, an associate director at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who has studied rapid testing access. “Someone will need to know it’s reimbursable, navigate the reimbursement process, and front the cost to begin with.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Germany announces tough restrictions for unvaccinated people, Christopher F. Schuetze, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). The country is trying to fight a monthlong surge in infections that has been breaking daily case records.

Top German officials said on Thursday they had agreed on tough new coronavirus restrictions that would leave unvaccinated people out of many aspects german flagof public life, as the country tries to fight a monthlong surge in infections that has been breaking daily case records.

angela merkel w 2008“You can see from the decisions that we have understood that the situation is very serious,” Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, told reporters at a news conference after her teleconference meeting with state governors.

Under the new set of rules, those wishing to shop anywhere but in stores carrying basic necessities will have to present proof of full vaccination or documentation of recovery. States may also add the requirement that a negative test result be presented on top of the other documentation. Where they were not doing so already, restaurants, bars, museums and theaters will also bar entry to those who are not vaccinated or recovered.

In addition, for those who cannot provide proof, meetings, whether at home or in a public space, will be limited to two households.

The restrictions stop short of obliging the unvaccinated to stay at home, as restrictions enacted by Austria last month did.

washington post logoWashington Post, Those new covid measures Biden announced? Europe’s been doing that and more for a while, Perry Stein, Dec. 3, 2021. Refunding fast tests and imposing travel quarantines has been the standard in places like Germany, Britain and Belgium.

The Biden administration said it was “pulling out all the stops” with a package announced Thursday in response to surging coronavirus cases and a newly detected variant. But some of the key provisions — like reimbursable at-home tests — just allow the United States to catch up to what other countries have been doing for months. Others — like a shorter window for pre-travel testing — fall far short of the dramatic measures countries in Europe european union logo rectangleand elsewhere have implemented in the past days and weeks.

Martin McKee, a professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said covid-19 measures aren’t politicized in most countries to the degree they are in the United States, which has made it easier for foreign leaders to implement sweeping policies and restrictions without much controversy or obstruction. And, McKee said, most wealthy countries offer universal or more affordable health care than the United States does, so offering free or cheap at-home tests was expected in these places.

“This is where the U.S. is an international outlier,” McKee said. “Making testing free is clearly a good idea. Saying something will happen, though, and making it happen are two different things. There is going to be quite of lot of challenges in the supply chain. This is not going to happen overnight.”

E.U. recommends new restrictions for unvaccinated travelers

Here is some of what Biden laid out Thursday and how it compares to policies in other countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, As world focuses on omicron, delta variant overwhelms parts of U.S., Fenit Nirappil and Brittany Shammas, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). Public health experts are reminding Americans that the overwhelming majority of the nation’s coronavirus cases are caused by the highly transmissible delta variant.

While the United States braces for the unknowns of omicron, which has now been detected in Minnesota, St. Cloud Hospital in the central part of the state is still deep in a battle with the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Beds have been full for seven weeks with a flood of mostly unvaccinated patients, a hospital official said. The hospital routinely turns down other overwhelmed facilities trying to transfer covid-19 patients — sometimes saying no 15 or 20 times a day.

U.S. cases of omicron have been detected in California, Colorado, Hawaii and Minnesota — about 60 miles southeast of St. Cloud in Hennepin County, in a man who traveled to New York City last month. He was vaccinated and has recovered, health officials said. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said Thursday that five cases have been detected in her state.

But public health experts in Minnesota and nationwide are urging Americans not to lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the nation’s coronavirus cases — and those in Minnesota — are caused by the highly transmissible delta variant. Over the past six months delta has been responsible for some of the worst spikes of the entire pandemic. It is so contagious that even states with above-average vaccination rates have seen surges — and many are bracing for cases to increase again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Omicron covid variant three times more likely to cause reinfection than delta, S. Africa study says, Amy Cheng, Dec. 3, 2021. One of the study’s authors said coronavirus vaccines are likely to still offer the most effective protection against severe disease and death.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Many vaccines offer protection as boosters; study says Pfizer and Moderna may work best, Amy Cheng, Adela Suliman and Hannah Knowles, Dec. 3, 2021. Many vaccination and booster shot combinations appear to increase people’s protection against the coronavirus, but Pfizer’s and Moderna’s shots — both based on mRNA technology — may work best, according to a new study. The results lend weight to pfizer logo“mix-and-match” booster shots, which the United States’ top public health official endorsed this fall.

The study, published Thursday in British journal the Lancet, examined people who were initially vaccinated against the coronavirus with either the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The AstraZeneca shot has not been authorized in the United States.

Researchers gave study participants a wide range of booster shots and found that almost all of those vaccines boosted immune responses, regardless of the first set of vaccines received — with Pfizer and Moderna in particular standing out.

Here’s what to know

  • Nearly a dozen omicron cases have been detected around the United States. New York and Hawaii were the latest to announce infections, joining California, Minnesota and Colorado.
  • All international travelers must take a coronavirus test one day before their flight into the United States, starting Dec. 6. Domestic travelers will be required to wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses and other transportation through March 18.
  • Scientists in South Africa say the risk of infection by the omicron coronavirus variant is at least three times higher than from variants such as beta and delta, according to a preprint study published Thursday.
  • world health organization logo CustomWHO regional director says nations should use same approach for omicron as with delta
  • Germany reports 4 new omicron variant cases — all fully vaccinated — as country leans toward mandating shots

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal mask mandate for transportation extended through March 18, Lori Aratani, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration will extend a requirement that people wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses and other modes of transportation through March 18, according to senior administration officials.

The extension of the federal mask mandate, which had been set to expire next month, is one of a series of actions the White House is expected to announce Thursday aimed at allaying concerns about the emergence of the new omicron variant. The U.S. reported its first case of the variant Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, NFL suspends Antonio Brown, two others for submitting fake vaccination cards, Mark Maske, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). The NFL suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown and safety Mike Edwards for three games each after determining that they had misrepresented their vaccination status, the league announced Thursday.

nfl logo croppedThe players accepted their suspensions, which are without pay, and waived their right to appeal, the NFL said. Free agent wide receiver John Franklin III, formerly of the Buccaneers, also faces a three-game suspension if signed by a team, according to the league.

All three players submitted fake vaccination cards, according to a person familiar with the findings of the NFL’s review. All three players are now legitimately vaccinated, that person said.

The league said that the NFL Players Association represented the three players during a review “into the recent allegations that players misrepresented their vaccination status.” The review, the NFL said, “supported those allegations and found that the three players violated the protocols” developed by the league and NFLPA.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Dec. 3, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 264,643,506, Deaths: 5,253,587
U.S. Cases:     49,716,825, Deaths:    806,398
Indian Cases:   34,615,757, Deaths:    470,115
Brazil Cases:    22,118,782, Deaths:    615,225

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 197.8 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.6 % of the population, as of Dec. 3, 2021. Note: Due to adjustments in reporting, Pennsylvania removed 1.2 million doses on Nov. 23.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Attacks On U.S. Democracy, Elections, Capitol

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Saboteurs Took Over the G.O.P., Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). With everything else going on — the likely paul krugmanimminent demise of Roe v. Wade, the revelation that Donald Trump knew he had tested positive for the coronavirus before he debated Joe Biden, and more — I don’t know how many readers are aware that the U.S. government was almost forced to shut down this weekend. A last-minute deal averted that crisis, but another crisis is a couple of weeks away: The government is expected to hit its debt ceiling in the middle of this month, and failure to raise the ceiling would wreak havoc not just with governance but with America’s financial reputation.

The thing is, the federal government isn’t having any problem raising money — in fact, it can borrow at interest rates well below the inflation rate, so that the real cost of servicing additional federal debt is actually negative. Instead, this is all about politics. Both continuing government republican elephant logofunding and raising the debt limit are subject to the filibuster, and many Republican senators won’t support doing either unless Democrats meet their demands.

And what has Republicans so exercised that they’re willing to endanger both the functioning of our government and the nation’s financial stability? Whatever they may say, they aren’t taking a stand on principle — or at least, not on any principle other than the proposition that even duly elected Democrats have no legitimate right to govern.

In some ways we’ve seen this movie before. Republicans led by Newt Gingrich partly shut down the government in 1995-96 in an attempt to extract concessions from President Bill Clinton. G.O.P. legislators created a series of funding crises under President Barack Obama, again in a (partly successful) attempt to extract policy concessions. Creating budget crises whenever a Democrat sits in the White House has become standard Republican operating procedure.

Yet current G.O.P. attempts at extortion are both more naked and less rational than what happened during the Obama years.

ny times logoNew York Times, The window to lift the debt limit is narrowing, an influential think tank warns, Alan Rappeport, Dec. 3, 2021. The United States faces a default sometime between Dec. 21 and Jan. 28 of next year if Congress does not act to raise or suspend the debt ceiling, the Bipartisan Policy Center warned on Friday.

The projection was a more narrow window than the nonpartisan think tank previously provided last month and the group suggested that the actual deadline, or X-date, could be in the earlier end of that range.

Democrats and Republicans appear to have tempered their tone around the latest debt limit standoff this time around, yet there is no current plan for lifting the borrowing cap. Republicans continue to insist that Democrats must act alone to address the issue, while Democrats have countered that raising the borrowing cap is a shared responsibility given that both political parties have incurred big debts over the last several years.

“Those who believe the debt limit can safely be pushed to the back of the December legislative pileup are misinformed,” said Shai Akabas, BPC’s janet yellen odirector of economic policy. “Congress would be flirting with financial disaster if it leaves for the holiday recess without addressing the debt limit.”

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, right, warned lawmakers in November that the United States could be unable to pay its bills soon after Dec. 15. During testimony before the Senate Banking Committee this week, she underscored the urgency of the matter.

“I cannot overstate how critical it is that Congress address this issue,” Ms. Yellen said. “America must pay its bills on time and in full. If we do not, we will eviscerate our current recovery.”

After approaching the first default in American history, Congress in October raised the statutory debt limit by $480 billion, an amount the Treasury Department estimated would allow the government to continue borrowing through early December.

 

The five most radical right Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this view.

The five most radical right Republican justices on the Supreme Court are shown above, with the sixth Republican, Chief Justice John Roberts, omitted in this photo array.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Gaslights Its Way to the End of 'Roe,' Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir, "Just linda greenhouse cover just a journalista Journalist"), Dec. 3, 2021. There are many reasons for dismay over the Supreme Court argument in the Mississippi abortion case, but it was the nonstop gaslighting that really got to me.

First there was Justice Clarence Thomas, pretending by his questions actually to be interested in how the Constitution might be interpreted to provide for the right to abortion, a right he has denounced and schemed to overturn since professing to the Senate Judiciary Committee 30 years ago that he never even thought about the matter.

Then there was Chief Justice John Roberts, mischaracterizing an internal memo that Justice Harry Blackmun wrote to his colleagues as the Roe v. Wade majority was discussing how best to structure the opinion Justice Blackmun was working on. The chief justice was trying to delegitimize the place of fetal viability in the court’s abortion jurisprudence, where for nearly 50 years, viability has been the unbreached firewall protecting the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy.

And then there was Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who rattled off a list of “the most consequential cases in this court’s history” that resulted from overruling prior decisions.

It was Justice Sonia Sotomayor who asked the uncomfortable question. “Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” she demanded of Scott Stewart, a former law clerk to Justice Thomas who argued for Mississippi as the state’s solicitor general. Listening to the live-streamed argument, I first heard “political acts” as “political hacks,” I suppose because still in my mind were Justice Barrett’s words when she spoke in mid-September at a center in Louisville, Ky., named for her Senate confirmation mastermind, Senator Mitch McConnell. “My goal today is to convince you that the court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she said then.

Last month, the court heard arguments in a case that challenges New York’s strict requirement for a license to carry a concealed weapon. Most states have looser restrictions. New York, through its legislative process, is in a minority.

Will Justice Kavanaugh and those of his colleagues who glorify a recently manufactured version of the Second Amendment allow New York City to keep going its own way on gun safety in the name of “letting the people decide”? That’s about as likely as the chance that those very same justices will decide to keep the right to abortion on the books. In both cases, we know what they’re going to do. The only mystery is how they will explain it.

Linda Greenhouse, the winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, writes on alternate Thursdays about the Supreme Court and the law. She reported on the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008, and is the author of the forthcoming "Justice on the Brink: The Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Rise of Amy Coney Barrett, and Twelve Months That Transformed the Supreme Court."

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How to protect voting rights, prevent the Supreme Court from self-immolation and boost democracy, Jennifer Rubin, right (and author of the new book Resistance, shown below), Dec. 2, jennifer rubin new headshot2021. We have several serious constitutional crises underway. They are serious and intertwined, but remediable.

First, a majority of right-wing justices, strong-armed onto the Supreme Court by a caucus that has represented a smaller percentage of the country than Democrats since 1996, have repeatedly revealed themselves to be, yes, “partisan hacks.” These justices are at odds with the values of a significant majority of the country with no mechanism to hold them accountable. They discard precedent at will. They make up new rules to eviscerate statutory protections for voting rights and advance specious arguments to take away abortion rights established nearly a half-century ago. And they manipulate the “shadow docket” to assist “their” side and disable their ideological opponents.

jennifer rubin book resistanceSecond, Republicans have given up on democracy. They seek to tailor the electorate through voter suppression and undermine the administration of elections, thereby insulating themselves from accountability.

Third, through the operation of a Senate heavily weighted toward less populous red states, the electoral college, extreme gerrymandering and the filibuster, we have moved from democracy with minority protections to a tyranny of the minority. Republicans now wield their power to prevent accountability for crimes against our democracy (e.g., by refusing to establish a Jan. 6 commission) and to disable reforms for election integrity.

There is no easy way to interject greater democracy — and hence more accountability — into our system. The Senate and electoral college are not going away. And for the foreseeable future, Republicans will not abandon their authoritarian, might-makes-right outlook for self-restraint, tolerance, reverence for the rule of law and fairness. But that does not mean democracy’s defenders are without recourse.

Pro-democracy advocates can make this an issue in the election. Do we really want to entrust power to a party that tolerates anti-democratic extremists and foments violence? Will Republicans on the ballot acknowledge that President Biden won and vow to respect election results?

Beyond that, pro-democracy forces can focus on institutions where majority rule still applies. Gubernatorial elections in 2022 (of which there will be more than 30) are critical.

If pro-democratic forces have narrow legislative majorities and cooperative governors, they can move forward on other democratic reforms.

Ultimately, most problems come back to the Senate filibuster, which heightens minority control in an already non-majoritarian body. In short, informed voters can halt the atrophy of democracy through ballot referenda and in gubernatorial races (where gerrymandering is inapplicable). In the Senate, senators such as Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and a politically humiliated Collins can step up and secure constitutional rights. These actions will not be easy, but they are essential to preserve our democracy.

 

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020. At left above is attorney Sidney Powell, whom the Trump White House announced earlier in November as one of its lawyers before firing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood among attorneys ordered to pay $180,000 over Michigan ‘Kraken’ suit, Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). It's the latest in a series of rulings seeking to hold lawyers accountable for trying to use the courts to overturn a democratic election.

A federal judge in Michigan has ordered a group of lawyers who brought a failed lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results to pay more than $180,000 in legal fees to the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit, the latest in a series of rulings from federal judges seeking to hold lawyers accountable for trying to use the courts to overturn a democratic election.

linda parkerU.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker, shown in a file photo, had already ordered that the group of nine lawyers — including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, both allies to former president Donald Trump — be disciplined for their role in the suit, which in August she called “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

But the group had been balking at the fees requested by their opponents in the suit, particularly the city of Detroit, which had reported that it spent $182,192 defending the case.

On Thursday, Parker said those fees were for the most part reasonable. She ordered the lawyers to pay nearly $153,000 to the city and another $22,000 to the state to pay their costs in the case.

She said the hefty fee was an “appropriate sanction … needed to deter Plaintiffs’ counsel and others from engaging in similar misconduct in the future.” She also wrote that she believed that the attorneys have the ability to pay the fees, particularly given that they have been soliciting donations from lin wood gage skidmoremembers of the public to fund lawsuits like the one they brought in Michigan.

Neither Powell or Wood (shown at left in a Gage Skidmore photo) immediately responded to a request for comment Thursday. Federal prosecutors have also sought records from Powell’s fundraising groups as part of a criminal probe.

Prosecutors demanded records of Sidney Powell’s fundraising groups as part of criminal probe

David Fink, a lawyer for the city of Detroit, said: “These lawyers abused the federal courts to advance the big lie. They must pay a price for their misconduct, and this ruling is a good start.”

Recent Headlines

 

Trump Watch

Donald Trump debates Joe Biden on Sept. 29, 2020 (Associated Press photo by Patrick Semansky).Donald Trump debates Joe Biden on Sept. 29, 2020 (Associated Press photo by Patrick Semansky).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The bombshell about Trump testing positive also implicates the Trump family, Greg Sargent, right, Dec. 2, 2021. Only a few days after greg sargentTrump tested positive for covid, his family sat maskless in the debate audience.

The Trump family has long treated rules and laws as nuisances that are only for the little people. And the news that Donald Trump tested positive for covid-19 before the first 2020 presidential debate shows that this tendency may be even more depraved and malevolent than you thought.

It turns out that this revelation, which comes in a new book by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, also implicates members of Trump’s family, including Melania Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

Multiple news organizations, including The Post, have now confirmed from former Trump aides that he tested positive for coronavirus on Sept. 26, 2020, three days before his Sept. 29 debate with Joe Biden. So he had reason to believe he might have been infected heading into the debate.

Trump was informed of the positive test on Air Force One on Sept. 26, en route to a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, the book says. But the White House concealed this from the public and from debate organizers, even though he was “tired” and had a “slight cold."

Instead, Trump took a second test that came back negative, and Meadows called Trump to inform him of it. The Guardian reports that the book then relays the following:

Meadows says Trump took that call as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened.” His chief of staff, however, “instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive” throughout the Pennsylvania trip.

In other words, everyone around Trump was apparently told he was potentially contagious, and he even appeared potentially symptomatic, even as Trump roared into the debate as if the opposite were true. If this is right, then what happened at the debate is even worse than you thought.

Palmer Report, Opinion: White House metadata? No wonder Jeffrey Clark is pleading the fifth – and it’s all landing in Donald Trump’s lap, Bill Palmer, Dec. 3, bill palmer2021. Over the past few days former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark has gone from seemingly okay with being indicted for contempt of Congress, to suddenly wanting to come in and plead the fifth tomorrow at the last minute, to… suddenly being too ill to come in and testify tomorrow? This all keeps getting stranger, and now a huge piece of the puzzle has just been revealed.

bill palmer report logo headerJeffrey Clark is in legal trouble because he sent a letter to Georgia officials, demanding in bad faith that they overturn the election results, which constitutes election tampering. Tonight MSNBC is reporting that the January 6th Committee has discovered White House metadata on Clark’s letter, which means the letter electronically passed through the Trump White House at some point.

In other words, at least one person in the Trump White House was either involved in the crafting of, or was at least aware of, Clark’s letter before he sent it to Georgia. This implicates the Trump White House person in Clark’s election crimes. And this all comes in the midst of Clark having gone from suddenly wanting to plead the fifth tomorrow, to suddenly not being able to testify tomorrow.

There’s a lot going on here. At this point Clark has to be wondering if he should try to cut a plea deal against the Trump White House official he was coordinating with. But given that Clark could potentially end up criminally charged with some form of election tampering by the Department of Justice and Georgia officials, he’d have to negotiate one heck of a complicated deal.

Right now the Jeffrey Clark situation is confusing and there appear to be more moving parts than we know about. That’s before even getting to Trump lawyer John Eastman’s decision to also plead the fifth to the January 6th Committee. But as these things tend to go, more details and context should emerge this weekend, and we’ll soon likely have a much clearer picture about what’s really going on here.

In the meantime, Clark is already scared enough of criminal prosecution that he was going to plead the fifth tomorrow, and now there’s hard evidence that implicates at least one Trump White House official in Clark’s election crimes. The kicker is that if Clark flips on the unnamed Trump White House official, that person will then have to consider flipping on Donald Trump himself. Somebody is going to prison over this. It’s all steadily leading up to landing in Trump’s lap.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Election Workers Targeted by Pro-Trump Media Sue for Defamation, Reid J. Epstein, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). The two Georgia workers were falsely accused of manipulating ballots by Trump allies and right-wing news sites. Election officials said the workers did nothing wrong.

Two Georgia election workers who were the targets of a right-wing campaign that falsely claimed they manipulated ballots filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday against one of the nation’s leading sources of pro-Trump misinformation.

georgia mapThe suit against the right-wing conspiratorial website The Gateway Pundit was filed by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, both of whom processed ballots in Atlanta during the 2020 election for the Fulton County elections board. It follows a series of defamation claims filed by elections equipment operators against conservative television operators such as Fox News, Newsmax and One America News.

The lawsuit from Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss is among the first to be filed by individual election workers who found themselves unwittingly dragged into the alternate universe of far-right media that claimed, and still does, that Donald J. Trump won last year’s presidential election.

“I want the defendants to know that my daughter and I are real people who deserve justice, and I never want them to do this to anyone else,” Ms. Freeman said in a statement.

Ms. Moss, who continues to work for the Fulton County elections board, and Ms. Freeman, a temporary employee during the 2020 election, were ensnared by the Trump-supporting media and Mr. Trump himself after Gateway Pundit published dozens of false stories about them, starting last December and continuing through this November. The stories called the two women “crooked Democrats” and claimed that they “pulled out suitcases full of ballots and began counting those ballots without election monitors in the room.”

Investigations conducted by the Georgia secretary of state’s office found that the two women did nothing wrong and were legally counting ballots.

It all began one month after the 2020 election, on Dec. 3, when a lawyer for Mr. Trump’s campaign played a spliced segment of surveillance video footage for a Georgia Senate committee. The lawyer falsely claimed Fulton elections workers pulled 18,000 fraudulent ballots from a suitcase and illegally fed them through the voting machines.

The accusation, which was quickly debunked by Fulton County and Georgia elections officials, was nevertheless amplified by Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump allies. A week after the first Gateway Pundit story, Mr. Giuliani compared Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman to drug dealers and called for their homes to be searched during a hearing with Georgia state legislators.

Mr. Trump himself invoked Ms. Freeman’s name 18 times during his Jan. 3 call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state. The call at the time was among the president’s most egregious efforts to overturn the results of the election he lost to Joseph R. Biden Jr., who defeated Mr. Trump in Georgia by 11,779 votes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump could pocket $100 million in deal for money-losing D.C. hotel, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). When Donald Trump offered to spend $200 million overhauling one of Washington’s most treasured historic buildings into a luxury hotel a decade ago, competitors and critics scoffed.

Trump, they asserted, could never operate a hotel profitably after paying so much.

It turns out they were right. The hotel posted millions in losses over four years, according to financial documents Trump’s company provided to the government and released by the House Oversight Committee in October.

But the former president’s company recently signed a contract to sell its lease of the historic Old Post Office Pavilion to Miami-based investment firm CGI Merchant, which hopes to turn the property into a Waldorf Astoria in partnership with Hilton Worldwide, according to three people familiar with the arrangement who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the transaction. One of the people said the price was $375 million, which would eclipse the previous record for hotel sales in Washington.

Trump’s company to sell D.C. hotel lease for $375 million, report says

Experts say that price would also net Trump a hefty profit, probably $100 million or more, based on the financial documents and the company’s lease with the government. That would provide Trump with a rate of return that many hedge fund managers would envy, thanks to a market that is snapping up hotels in the expectation the pandemic will wane and travel will roar back.

“Hotels are hot. Even in cities that aren’t doing so well, people are paying robust prices for hotels,” said Suzanne Mellen of the financial firm HVS. “We are seeing extraordinary pricing.”

“I assume every global luxury chain has taken an interest in this property,” said Michael Bellisario of the Baird financial company.

Spokespeople for the Trump Organization, CGI Merchant and Hilton declined to comment.

There is no indication that politics played a role in the offer by CGI Merchant and its chief executive and founder, Raoul Thomas. Experts say that the price, while high, is plausible on business grounds, but some wondered how CGI will be able turn a profit after paying such a high price.

Hotels are priced on a per-room, or “per-key,” basis. In Washington the high water mark came in 2016, when the Capella Hotel Georgetown — now the Rosewood hotel — sold for about $1.3 million per key, according to industry data. At $375 million for 263 guest rooms, the proposed Trump sale would come to about $1.43 million per key, 10 percent higher than the Capella sale.

Hotel brokers said the historic nature of the 122-year-old-building, the scarcity of five-star hotels in Washington and the location on Pennsylvania Avenue — a backdrop for the presidential inaugural parade evert four years — probably drove up the price.

“How often do you have a hotel built the way that hotel was built?” said Dan Hawkins of Berkadia Real Estate Advisors. “Pure granite. Ideally positioned between the White House and the Capitol.”

If the deal closes, Trump will have fared far better than expected when he won the deal from the General Services Administration almost a decade ago, when the government sought private companies to redevelop the building from a government office building, food court and failed shopping mall.

In selecting Trump for the project, the government overlooked his past bankruptcies, business litigation and false claims about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. His company agreed to spend $200 million to rehabilitate the building, and Trump ultimately spent $217 million on the project — $194 million redeveloping the building and $23 million on furniture, supplies and build-out for the retail space, according to the financial statements. His company provided the hotel with millions more to keep the property afloat while it was losing money, according to the statements.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump asks to dismiss E. Jean Carroll defamation case, citing N.Y. law that would force her to pay fees, David A. Fahrenthold and Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump this week asked a federal judge to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed against him by E. Jean Carroll — a writer (shown in a file photo) who says Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s — citing a new state law intended to protect free speech.

e jean carroll twitterTrump’s request cited a new “anti-SLAPP” law passed in New York state last year. The law, which was signed last year, is intended to stop “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” — instances where wealthy companies or people seek to silence their detractors with frivolous lawsuits.

The law allows defendants to seek a quick dismissal of the case, if they can prove the lawsuits against them have no “substantial basis in fact and law.” In such cases, the people who brought the suit have to pay the defendant’s legal fees.

In his filing, Trump argued the same law should also protect the most powerful person in the country — since, at the time when Carroll filed suit, he was still president. Her lawsuit says that Trump defamed her by denying her allegations that he assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.

In the filing, Trump said that Carroll’s sole purpose in filing the suit was to retaliate for truthful comments, “maliciously inhibiting his free exercise of speech.”

The filing was signed by Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, who began representing Trump in this case and other lawsuits in September. Habba asked U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to grant Trump permission to file the anti-SLAPP claim.

Some experts said Trump’s motion ran counter to the intention of New York’s law.

“The spirit of anti-SLAPP laws are to prevent powerful people from bullying the powerless,” said Evan Mascagni of the Public Participation Project, a national group that advocates for anti-SLAPP laws. “Was an anti-SLAPP law designed to protect the president of the United States?”

Mascagni said several unsettled legal questions remained about New York’s law, which was written to offer broad protections. Mascagni said courts were just beginning to answer them — and sometimes different courts disagreed. Does the state anti-SLAPP law apply to federal cases, like this one? Does it apply retroactively, to cases filed before the law was passed? And does it apply to public officials like Trump?

Recent Headlines

 

Floods, Dought, Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, A Slow-Motion Climate Disaster: The Spread of Barren Land, Jack Nicas, Photographs and Video by Victor Moriyama, Dec. 3, 2021.  Brazil’s northeast, long a victim of droughts, is now effectively turning into a desert. The cause? Climate change and the landowners who are most affected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Record floods tied to climate change create a crisis in the world’s newest nation, Rachel Chason and Adrienne Surprenant, Dec. 3, 2021 (Visual Story). Flooding this year displaced more than 700,000 people — about 1 in every 15 residents of South Sudan. Among the most vulnerable are villagers in the vast wetland of the Sudd, where the White Nile and its tributaries swelled to levels people said they had never seen.


World News, Global Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia planning military offensive against Ukraine, U.S. intelligence warns, Shane Harris and Paul Sonne, Dec. 3, 2021. As tensions mount between Washington and Moscow over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. intelligence has found the Kremlin is planning a multi-front offensive as soon as early next year involving up to 175,000 troops, according to U.S. officials and an intelligence document obtained by The Washington Post.

The Kremlin has been moving troops toward the border with Ukraine while demanding Washington guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO and that the alliance will refrain from certain military activities in and around Ukrainian territory. The crisis has provoked fears of a renewed war on European soil and comes ahead of a planned virtual meeting next week between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 with a scale of forces twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders,” said an administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. “The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment.”

The unclassified U.S. intelligence document obtained by The Post, which includes satellite photos, shows Russian forces massing in four locations. Currently, 50 battlefield tactical groups are deployed, along with “newly arrived” tanks and artillery, according to the document.

Threat of Russian invasion of Ukraine tests Biden administration

While Ukrainian assessments have said Russia has approximately 94,000 troops near the border, the U.S. map puts the number at 70,000 — but it predicts a buildup to as many as 175,000 and describes extensive movement of battalion tactical groups to and from the border “to obfuscate intentions and to create uncertainty.”

The U.S. analysis of Russia’s plans is based in part on satellite images that “show newly arrived units at various locations along the Ukrainian border over the last month,” the official said.

Details of the U.S. intelligence provide a picture that Secretary of State Antony Blinken began to outline this week on a trip to Europe, where he described “evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine” and warned there would be severe consequences, including high-impact economic measures, if Russia invaded.

ny times logoNew York Times, Congo Ousts Mining Leader in a Cloud of Corruption Claims, Eric Lipton and Dionne Searcey, Dec. 3, 2021. The move, which followed a Times report that revealed new allegations, comes as the country becomes increasingly important in global clean energy.

The chairman of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s state mining company was ousted on Friday after longtime allegations that billions of dollars in revenue had gone missing, a move officials said was intended to fight corruption as the country becomes increasingly important in the global clean energy revolution.

Albert Yuma Mulimbi, the chairman of the company since 2010, was replaced by President Felix Tshisekedi of Congo just days after The New York Times published an article revealing new allegations against Mr. Yuma.

The government agency, known as Gécamines, controls production of metals such as cobalt and copper, crucial resources in the push to expand electric vehicles and other renewables. Without his chairmanship, Mr. Yuma will no longer have a significant role in partnering with international companies over major mining deals.

“It is hard to underestimate the importance of this development — it is a significant step in the fight against corruption in Congo,” said J. Peter Pham, who until January served as a senior Central Africa official with the U.S. State Department. “Albert Yuma and the mining sector stand at the nexus of natural resources, political and economic power in the country.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Talks on reviving Iran nuclear deal adjourn amid disappointment over lack of progress, Karen DeYoung, Dec. 3, 2021. Week-long talks between world powers and Iran trying to revive their 2015 nuclear agreement adjourned in Vienna on Friday after European negotiators expressed disappointment and concern over what they said was a lack of progress and unreasonable Iranian demands.

The Europeans and Iranian negotiators said they anticipated resuming talks next week.

Expectations had been low for the meeting, the first round since negotiations that began in April were suspended in June following the election of a harder-line Iranian government.

The new government, European diplomats said, presented proposals on the two main areas of discussions — U.S. sanctions on Iran and Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities — that backtracked on compromises tentatively reached with the previous government last spring.

United Nations

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, U.N. Asks Donors for $41 Billion in Humanitarian Aid, Staff Report (video), Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). Martin Griffiths, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, announced the organization’s 2022 funding drive, citing the need to help 183 million people across the world who are suffering from issues like political instability, climate change and the pandemic.

National Press Club, Sinn Féin leader: A unified Ireland possible within decade, Gwen Flanders, Dec. 3, 2021. One hundred years after Northern Ireland stayed with the United Kingdom when Ireland won independence, the goal of one united Ireland could be achieved within five to 10 years, Sinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald said at the National Press Club on Thursday.

Expectations have changed, and Brexit has elevated the idea of reunification, she told interviewer Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak, a past president of the Club.

The idea is not "just a Sinn Féin issue" since, for example, new trade rules under Brexit, the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, raised the prospect of a hardened border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, McDonald said.

"You can move seamlessly throughout the island, and people transact their business and live their lives ... with no sense that you are moving from one legal jurisdiction to another," she said of the current situation. "The reality is we live on a small island -- an incredibly beautiful island -- and it makes no sense at all ... to have two of everything. The opportunity for economic scale, for innovation, is so much greater when we work together. The smart way to do business, the smart way to be entrepreneurial, is to operate on an all-island basis."

Sinn Féin is the Republic of Ireland's largest opposition party, and its voter strength is growing. In Northern Ireland, it is one of five parties in a coalition government.

McDonald, who met with U.S. congressional leaders this week, said she has "deep appreciation for the very solid support that the United States has extended to Ireland" since the Good Friday agreement of 1998, which led to Northern Ireland's power-sharing system of government and an end to most political violence.

That political violence -- three decades known as "The Troubles" -- remains an issue. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party government is proposing amnesty to end investigations of killings by police, military and paramilitary groups in that era of conflict between people with British and Irish loyalties. Political parties in Northern Ireland are opposed to the policy.

ny times logoFrench FlagNew York Times, Migration Talking Points Surge in France, but Not Migration, Norimitsu Onishi, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). With a presidential election looming, French presidential hopefuls are hardening their positions against immigration even as other countries compete for migrant workers.

Recent Global Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Immigration

 darrell brooks jr mark hoffman milwaukee journal sentinel pool ap

Darrell Brooks Jr. is escorted out of the courtroom after making his initial appearance in Waukesha County Court in Wisconsin on Nov. 23. Brooks has been charged with intentional homicide in the deaths of at least six people who were killed when an SUV was driven into a Christmas parade. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel/Pool/AP)

washington post logoWashington Post, In first interview from jail, suspect in Wisconsin parade rampage says he feels ‘demonized,’ Jonathan Edwards, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, has been the object of intense media attention after being accused of driving through a Christmas parade, killing six and wounding dozens.

Darrell Brooks Jr. had spent 10 days locked up in the Waukesha County Jail after allegedly plowing through a crowd of people during a Wisconsin Christmas parade, killing six and injuring dozens more.

As Brooks was held in jail, he was causing a whirlwind outside its walls. His name and mug shot were beamed to screens across the country. A court official called the accusations against him “shocking” and said his criminal record was “extraordinary.” One of his ex-girlfriends described what he allegedly did as “a monstrous act … completely irredeemable.”

On Wednesday, Brooks broke his silence.

“I just feel like I’m being [made out to be a] monster — demonized” and “dehumanized,” he told Fox News Digital.
In Waukesha, agony after driver kills, injures those at Christmas parade

Brooks, 39, is charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, accused of driving an SUV through a throng of parade participants and spectators on Nov. 21 in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha. The six people who were killed range in age from 8 to 81. Brooks is being held on a $5 million bond.

Child is sixth to die after SUV slammed into parade in Wisconsin

“I’ve not seen anything like this in my very long career,” Waukesha County Court Commissioner Kevin Costello said on Nov. 23 when he set the bail amount.

The state public defender’s office, which represents Brooks, did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Wednesday night.

Before the parade incident, Brooks was at the scene of an alleged altercation involving a knife but sped off in a red SUV when police got there, a law enforcement official has said. Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said officers were not chasing Brooks when he entered the parade.

On Wednesday, the two Fox News Digital reporters who interviewed Brooks described him as soft-spoken, calm and lucid. He told them he was “very” close with his mother, Dawn Woods, but appeared not to know she had released a statement about her son earlier in the day.

In the roughly 670-word letter, Woods said she was not making excuses but noted that her son has suffered from mental illness since he was young. As a child, he was treated with counseling and medication. But when he became an adult, she said Brooks lost the insurance he needed to pay for treatment. Since then, he’d cycled in and out of jail, she wrote.

“Mental illness is real and the system is broken it can and must be fixed NOW, not next year or with a new legislation NOW. So many like Darrell that have fallen through the cracks because of a broken system that no one cared to address, can get the help they so desperately need.”

The Wisconsin parade suspect was accused of a car attack weeks ago. Here’s why he was out on bail.

When the reporters told Brooks of his mother’s letter, he put down the phone and got up from his chair, two jail guards shielding him from view. Even though the interview was over and the reporters could not see Brooks, they could still hear what was happening on the other end.

It sounded like sobbing.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Flash mob’ retail robberies spike as groups likely organized online hit stores piled with holiday inventory, Abha Bhattarai and Gerrit De Vynck, Dec. 3, 2021. Experts say the brazen crimes, which can involve dozens of thieves carrying weapons and breaking glass, are likely being coordinated on social media apps. A spate of brazen store heists, in which organized mobs have hit stores as varied as Nordstrom, Best Buy, Louis Vuitton and Home Depot, has shaken the retail industry and created fresh challenges for law enforcement.

While large-scale “smash-and-grabs” have been on the rise this year, experts say they hit critical mass in late November, when stores were piled high with holiday inventory. On Black Friday alone, a crew of eight made off with $400 worth of sledgehammers, crowbars and hammers from a Home Depot in Lakewood, Calif.; a group ransacked a Bottega Veneta boutique in Los Angeles; and roughly 30 people swarmed a Best Buy near Minneapolis, grabbing electronics.

Retail executives and security experts say the rise of such robberies — which have gone viral online and in some cases, spurred copycats — is the culmination of several factors, including a shortage of security guards, reluctance by police and prosecutors to pursue shoplifting offenses, and the growing use of social media as an organizational tool. They also coincide with a pullback from pandemic-era protocols that limited the number of people who could enter a store at one time.

The incidents have spooked workers, retailers say, as they can involve dozens of people swarming in with crowbars, guns and other weapons and breaking glass. Some have resulted in injuries: Two Nordstrom employees were assaulted and one was pepper-sprayed Nov. 20 after an estimated 80 people rushed the Walnut Creek store.

Best Buy chief executive Corie Barry says the high-profile events have made it more difficult to hire staff, particularly in shoplifting hot spots along the West Coast.

“This is a real issue that hurts and scares real people,” she said during an earnings call last week. “This is traumatizing for our associates and is unacceptable.”

Opinion: The perverse incentives behind the ‘smash and grab’ wave

It also exposes the limitations of security mainstays such as cameras, electronic tags and even a well-positioned security guard, which might deter a shoplifter but have little efficacy against an unruly crowd.

 Other recent headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, House Republicans express concern over party infighting, but not the Islamophobic rhetoric that set it off, Jacqueline Alemany and Marianna Sotomayor, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). House Republicans have decried the public feuding this week among a small group of GOP lawmakers as detrimental to the party’s ability to win back the House in the 2022 midterm elections because it distracts from their attacks on Democrats’ agenda.

But little has been said publicly by party leaders or rank-and-file members about whether they find the source of this feuding problematic: Islamophobic attacks by some Republicans against a Democratic congresswoman who is Muslim.

The party’s focus on the political ramifications of the infighting rather than the substance of the disagreement has led civil rights groups and Democrats to charge that Republicans are embracing, or at least enabling, bigotry.

“The GOP has made it very clear that they are not condemning this bigotry, this violent rhetoric, and in fact they are allowing this to become the political foundation to raise more money and to get more clout — and if there is any remaining traditional moral leadership within the GOP, I’m asking where it is,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP tactics herald a grim new era of governing for Biden and Democrats, Mike DeBonis, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the longest-serving senator and Appropriations Committee chairman, could only growl his frustration to reporters Wednesday as a small clutch of congressional Republicans threatened to delay a short-term government funding patch and spark a partial federal shutdown at midnight Friday.

“I’m just worried that there are some Republicans who have forgotten the disaster the last time they shut down the government,” said Leahy (D-Vt.), referring to the 16-day shutdown of 2013, prompted by conservative lawmakers on a ill-fated quest to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Leahy’s worries were not misplaced: This week’s shutdown threat, which was averted with a Senate vote Thursday night, was not only just as quixotic — aimed at forcing President Biden to sign a bill blocking his own coronavirus vaccine mandates — but is being led by some of the same Republican plotters.

Other recent headlines:

 

Media News

PBS Frontline, Investigation: What the Pandora Papers Reveal, Evan Williams, Will Fitzgibbon and Raney Aronson-Rath, Dec. 3, 2021. How does the world of secret finance enable some of the globe’s richest and most powerful people to shield their deals and assets?

In October 2021, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — with 150 partner news organizations around the world, including FRONTLINE — began publishing the results of an investigation based on a massive leak of confidential documents.

The leaked files, known as the Pandora Papers, exposed a secretive financial system that enables the world’s wealthy and powerful to hide their money and assets from creditors, taxing authorities and governments. The revelations have reverberated across the globe.

In today's episode of The FRONTLINE Dispatch podcast, FRONTLINE producer Evan Williams and ICIJ reporter Will Fitzgibbon, both featured in the November 2021 short documentary Pandora Papers, from ICIJ and FRONTLINE, join FRONTLINE executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath to discuss some of the investigation’s key findings, the ongoing impacts and the importance of global reporting collaborations.

“The basic principle of ICIJ really is one of journalistic equality, I think. Recognizing that the smartest reporter in New York City or Washington, D.C., is never going to have the experience or the ability to find a story in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in the Philippines, right?” Fitzgibbon says. “And that’s why we provide access to the data and bring on reporters from more than 100 countries. Because we know that, hidden in these documents, are only stories the reporters from those countries can tell.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Alec Baldwin says he isn’t responsible for ‘Rust’ shooting: 8 takeaways from his emotional interview, Sonia Rao, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). In the six weeks since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was killed on the New Mexico set of “Rust,” the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office periodically released information gleaned from its criminal investigation into the fatal shooting. Details emerged from interviews with crew members, but the general public had yet to hear at length from the person who was actually holding the gun.

alec baldwin pr headshotThat changed Thursday night when ABC aired a prime-time special with Alec Baldwin — the actor’s first TV appearance since the gun went off in his hands on Oct. 21, killing Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. Speaking to ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, Baldwin (shown in a file photo) was highly emotional and often paused to collect himself. He refrained from sharing some details due to the ongoing investigation, but said he came “to say, I would go to any lengths to undo what happened.”

Here are eight major takeaways from the interview, which is also set to stream on Hulu.

1. Baldwin said he wasn’t involved in hiring crew members.

2. Hutchins directed Baldwin to point the gun toward her, according to him.

washington post logoWashington Post, News organizations join Bannon’s battle to get Jan. 6 prosecution documents, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). A coalition of news organizations, including The Washington Post, has sided with former Trump White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon in asking a federal court to release documents that are part of Bannon’s prosecution for refusing to testify before the Jan. 6 congressional committee.

Bannon is fighting a proposal by prosecutors to keep the documents under wraps — including more than 1,000 pages of witness testimony, grand-jury proceedings and other information generated as part of the discovery process in the prosecution of Bannon alleging contempt of Congress. Journalists would be unable to see the documents if the Justice Department prevails in persuading a judge to impose a protective order.

The legal brief by the media coalition — which includes The Post, the New York Times, CNN, NBC News and others — creates some strange bedfellows. It aligns some of the biggest news organizations with one of their harshest critics.

  • Washington Post, Facebook says it carried out broad takedown of disinformation networks, including some tied to anti-vaccine groups, state actors, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 1, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter’s new CEO unveils big reorganization of social networking company, Will Oremus and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 3, 2021. Twitter's engineering and design leaders are out as Parag Agrawal puts his mark on the company.

Twitter’s new chief executive, Parag Agrawal, announced a major reorganization of the company Friday, putting his stamp on the organization following the sudden departure of co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey earlier this week.

The shake-up, meant to streamline the company’s operations and accelerate its growth, will bring together employees previously divided by job function — such as engineering, design and product development — on teams organized by what they’re working on, such as consumer product, revenue and core tech. Two executives, head of engineering Michael Montano and chief design officer Dantley Davis, will step down as part of the reshuffling and leave the company by year’s end.

In a companywide email obtained by The Washington Post, Agrawal said that he will focus on “clear decision-making, increased accountability, and faster execution,” and said he was “making a number of organizational and leadership changes to best position us to achieve our goals. … We’ve all discussed the critical need for more operational rigor and it must start from the top.”

New CEO Parag Agrawal said he made the changes in the name of “operational rigor” and “faster execution.”

Twitter says it suspended accounts in error following flood of ‘coordinated and malicious’ reports

washington post logoWashington Post, Pegasus spyware was used recently to hack U.S. diplomats working abroad, Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 3, 2021. Confirmation of the attacks comes one month after the U.S. blacklisted NSO Group

Apple has alerted 11 U.S. Embassy employees that their iPhones have been hacked in recent months with Pegasus spyware from NSO Group, an Israel-based company that licenses software to government clients in dozens of countries that allows them to secretly steal files, eavesdrop on conversations and track the movements of its targets, according to people familiar with the notifications.

The revelation, the first confirmed cases of Pegasus being used to target American officials, comes a month after U.S. officials blacklisted the NSO Group amid allegations that its foreign government clients had enabled hacking against unspecified embassy employees, political activists, human rights workers and others.

These and other actions come after the July publication of the Pegasus Project, an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 other news organizations into the activities of NSO Group. One of the investigation’s findings was that U.S. diplomats and other embassy employees were at risk from Pegasus, especially when they used phone numbers based overseas.

Recent Media Headlines

Dec. 2

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Attacks On U.S. Democracy, Elections, Capitol

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Senate passes bill to fund the government, averting shutdown, Tony Romm and Mike DeBonis, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). The spending measure funds government operations until Feb. 18. Some conservatives had threatened to block passage over vaccine concerns, but an amendment they offered was rejected. After a wild day on Capitol Hill in which a group of House and Senate Republicans threatened to derail the spending bill over vaccine concerns, congressional leaders navigated a bill through Congress that would fund agencies into February.

House and Senate lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill to fund the federal government into early next year, narrowly averting a shutdown after some Republicans sought to seize on the imminent fiscal deadline to fight President Biden over his vaccine policies.

The two successful evening votes spelled an end to a brief yet tense period that would have brought Washington to a halt come Saturday morning, a development that Democrats had described as irresponsible and dangerous in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

The new agreement, which awaits Biden’s signature, covers federal spending until Feb. 18. At that point, lawmakers must adopt another short-term measure or complete work on a dozen long-stalled appropriations bills that fund the government for the remainder of fiscal 2022, which ends in September.

Biden vows to fight omicron with "science and speed" as cases multiply and outlook worsens.

Even as both parties insisted they did not want to push the country toward a fiscal cliff, they still came dangerously close to missing their deadline. For days, conservative Republicans had threatened to hold up the funding bill as part of a long-running protest of Biden’s vaccine directives, including those ordering large employers to require inoculations or implement comprehensive testing programs. Some lawmakers, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), even explicitly called for a shutdown in a bid to deny the White House the ability to enforce its rules.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s New Virus Plan Aims to Keep Economy Open as Omicron Spreads, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden, confronting a worrisome new coronavirus variant and a potential winter surge, laid out a pandemic strategy on Thursday that includes hundreds of vaccination sites, boosters for all adults, new testing requirements for international travelers and free at-home tests.

After nearly a year of pushing vaccination as the way out of the pandemic, Mr. Biden has been unable to overcome resistance to the shots in red states and rural areas. His new strategy shifts away from a near-singular focus on vaccination and places a fresh emphasis on testing — a tacit acknowledgment by the White House that vaccination is not enough to end the worst public health crisis in a century.

Mr. Biden’s announcement came as several new cases of the Omicron variant were reported in the United States, including five people in New York State, a Minnesota resident who had recently traveled to New York City and a Colorado resident who had recently returned from southern Africa. Hawaii also reported its first known case, and California its second.

Mr. Biden’s remarks at the National Institutes of Health were the second time this week that he had addressed the nation on the pandemic; on Monday he spoke about new travel restrictions he imposed last week on eight African nations.
The president’s plan shifts away from a near-singular focus on vaccination, as new cases of the variant have emerged in the United States.

President Biden’s strategy includes new testing requirements for international travelers and insurance reimbursement for at-home coronavirus tests.
“We’re going to fight this variant with science and speed, not chaos and confusion,” Mr. Biden said in a speech.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden’s approach for free rapid testing will require some legwork, like submitting receipts to insurers, Sarah Kliff and Reed Abelson, Dec. 3, 2021 (print ed.). Over-the-counter rapid coronavirus tests will soon become a much bigger part of the Biden administration’s response to the pandemic and the new Omicron variant.

After a primary focus on vaccination, the White House announced on Thursday that private health insurers would soon have to reimburse patients for such tests. It also said it would make 50 million free tests available for uninsured Americans, to be distributed through health clinics and other sites in rural and underserved communities.

But for consumers who do have insurance, the White House approach will require some legwork. It left some health policy experts questioning why the United States does not purchase tests on behalf of all Americans and provide them at little to no cost, as some European countries have done. Instead, Americans will have to purchase tests and then submit the receipts for reimbursement.

“The direct provision of inexpensive tests for the American public would be the simplest from a consumer standpoint,” said Lindsey Dawson, an associate director at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who has studied rapid testing access. “Someone will need to know it’s reimbursable, navigate the reimbursement process, and front the cost to begin with.”

supreme court Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Supreme Court Seems Poised to Uphold Mississippi’s Abortion Law, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 1, 2021. After two hours of adam liptaksometimes tense exchanges in one of the most significant abortion cases in years, the court appeared poised to uphold the state law, which bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Supreme Court seemed poised on Wednesday to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, based on sometimes tense and heated questioning at a momentous argument in the most important abortion case in decades.

Such a ruling would be flatly at odds with what the court has said was the central holding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and prohibited states from banning the procedure before fetal viability, or around 23 weeks.

But the court’s six-member conservative majority seemed divided about whether to stop at 15 weeks, for now at least, or whether to overrule Roe entirely, allowing states to ban abortions at any time or entirely.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was the leading voice on the right for a narrow decision. “The thing that is at issue before us today is 15 weeks,” he said.

He repeatedly questioned whether the viability line was crucial, saying that Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the author of the majority opinion in Roe, had called the line arbitrary in his private papers. Chief Justice Roberts added that much of the rest of the world has similar limits.

Julie Rikelman, a lawyer for the abortion clinic challenging the Mississippi law, disputed that, saying that limits in many other countries are subject to significant exceptions.

Other conservative justices indicated that they were not interested in the chief justice’s intermediate approach. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said “the only real options we have” are to reaffirm Roe or to overrule it.

Assuming the three most conservative members of the court — Justices Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch — are prepared to overrule Roe entirely, Chief Justice Roberts would need to attract at least two votes for a narrower opinion, one upholding the Mississippi law but not overruling Roe in so many words, to be controlling. But the most likely candidates, Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said little to suggest that they were inclined toward that narrower approach.

The court’s three liberal members — Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — were adamant that Roe should stand.

The Supreme Court seemed poised on Wednesday to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, based on sometimes tense and heated questioning at a momentous argument in the most important abortion case in decades.

Such a ruling would be flatly at odds with what the court has said was the central holding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and prohibited states from banning the procedure before fetal viability, or around 23 weeks.

But the court’s six-member conservative majority seemed divided about whether to stop at 15 weeks, for now at least, or whether to overrule Roe entirely, allowing states to ban abortions at any time or entirely.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was the leading voice on the right for a narrow decision. “The thing that is at issue before us today is 15 weeks,” he said.

He repeatedly questioned whether the viability line was crucial, saying that Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the author of the majority opinion in Roe, had called the line arbitrary in his private papers. Chief Justice Roberts added that much of the rest of the world has similar limits.

Julie Rikelman, a lawyer for the abortion clinic challenging the Mississippi law, disputed that, saying that limits in many other countries are subject to significant exceptions.

Other conservative justices indicated that they were not interested in the chief justice’s intermediate approach. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said “the only real options we have” are to reaffirm Roe or to overrule it.

Assuming the three most conservative members of the court — Justices Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch — are prepared to overrule Roe entirely, Chief Justice Roberts would need to attract at least two votes for a narrower opinion, one upholding the Mississippi law but not overruling Roe in so many words, to be controlling. But the most likely candidates, Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said little to suggest that they were inclined toward that narrower approach.

The court’s three liberal members — Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — were adamant that Roe should stand.

  • New York Times, Mississippi says progress in the workplace makes abortion rights unnecessary. This is what the research says.

 washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We are pulling out all the stops’: White House details strategies to fight variants, Dan Diamond, Lena H. Sun and Tyler Pager, Dec. 2, 2021. President Biden is set to unveil a plan that includes at-home test kits for no cost, more access to booster shots, stricter testing of travelers coming to the United States.

Within hours of the first confirmed infection from the new omicron variant in the United States, the Biden administration on Thursday announced an array omb logo management and budget seal Customof measures to protect Americans, including campaigns to increase vaccinations and booster shots, more stringent testing requirements for travelers entering the country and plans to make rapid at-home coronavirus testing free for more people.
FAQ: What to know about the omicron variant of the coronavirus

While some of the measures are new — notably a plan to launch “family mobile vaccination clinics,” where all eligible members of a family can simultaneously get first shots or boosters — others build on existing tactics, such as President Biden’s plan urging businesses to institute mandatory vaccination-or-testing requirements for their employees.

Biden’s package of coronavirus strategies comes as the nation grapples with mounting infections and deaths driven by the delta variant and braces for the emergence of the still-mysterious omicron. Scientists caution that it will take days, if not weeks, to understand if the new variant can evade current vaccines or cause more severe symptoms in infected people.

  • Washington Post, Mask mandate for transportation extended through March 18, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Germany announces tough restrictions for unvaccinated people, Christopher F. Schuetze, Dec. 2, 2021. The country is trying to fight a monthlong surge in infections that has been breaking daily case records.

Top German officials said on Thursday they had agreed on tough new coronavirus restrictions that would leave unvaccinated people out of many aspects german flagof public life, as the country tries to fight a monthlong surge in infections that has been breaking daily case records.

angela merkel w 2008“You can see from the decisions that we have understood that the situation is very serious,” Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, told reporters at a news conference after her teleconference meeting with state governors.

Under the new set of rules, those wishing to shop anywhere but in stores carrying basic necessities will have to present proof of full vaccination or documentation of recovery. States may also add the requirement that a negative test result be presented on top of the other documentation. Where they were not doing so already, restaurants, bars, museums and theaters will also bar entry to those who are not vaccinated or recovered.

In addition, for those who cannot provide proof, meetings, whether at home or in a public space, will be limited to two households.

The restrictions stop short of obliging the unvaccinated to stay at home, as restrictions enacted by Austria last month did.

washington post logoWashington Post, House and Senate leaders announce deal as they race to avert shutdown, Tony Romm and Mike DeBonis, Dec. 2, 2021. The stopgap bill would fund the government until Feb. 18. But it’s still unclear whether the measure can be rushed through the Senate by midnight Friday, which is the deadline to avert a government shutdown.

House and Senate leaders on Thursday announced they had reached a deal on a bill to fund the government into mid-February, opening the door for lawmakers to narrowly avoid a shutdown entering this weekend.

The agreement on a new stopgap spending measure set the House on a path to vote before the end of the day, though swift action still seemed uncertain in the Senate, where some Republicans have threatened to grind the government to a halt as they protest President Biden’s vaccine and testing mandates.

Both chambers must pass identical bills by midnight on Friday to avert a shutdown. Lawmakers from both parties have warned that a failure to fund the government could be disruptive, especially at a time when the country is responding to a new, potentially more dangerous variant of the coronavirus.

Government nears possible shutdown as Republicans take aim at vaccine and testing mandates.

“If there is a shutdown, it will be a Republican, anti-vaccine shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the chamber floor, touting the fact that the new funding deal carries broad bipartisan support.

Yet a crop of Republicans led by Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) signaled Thursday they still aren’t yet willing to back down in their effort to defund federal agencies carrying out Biden’s vaccine and testing policies.

“Nothing is different today from yesterday,” said Marshall, describing the conservative blockade as an attempt to protect “jobs” and “national security.”

The new funding proposal, known as a continuing resolution, covers federal operations into February 18 — at which point lawmakers either must adopt another short-term deal or complete their work on roughly a dozen longer-term appropriations bills that fund the government for the remainder of the 2022 fiscal year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michigan school shooting prosecutor suggests she will charge parents, Griff Witte, John Woodrow Cox and Mark Berman, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The prosecutor overseeing the investigation into a mass killing at a Michigan high school this week strongly suggested Wednesday that she would charge the teenage suspect’s parents, an unusual move but one that gun control advocates say is essential to combating the nation’s scourge of shootings by minors.

Officials have said that the father of the suspect, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, bought the semiautomatic handgun used in the killings last Friday. Just four days later, on Tuesday, Crumbley forged a path of terror at Oxford High School, killing four people and injuring seven others, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said.

While it is unclear how Crumbley may have obtained the gun from his father, McDonald said Wednesday that gun owners have a responsibility to secure their weapons — particularly when young people are involved.

“Those who do not do that should and will be held accountable,” she said. “We have to do better.”

McDonald said in addition to charges announced Wednesday against the teen — including four counts of first-degree murder — she expected that other charges could be filed, including against Crumbley’s parents.

Such a charge would be a rarity: Adult gun owners are almost never held accountable when children use their weapons to harm themselves or others.

That’s despite the fact that if children as young as 6 did not have access to guns, well more than half of the country’s school shootings since 1999 would never have happened, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

ny times logoNew York Times, The 15-year-old suspect in the school shooting was charged with murder and terrorism, Jennifer Conlin, Mitch Smith, Giulia Heyward and Jack Healy, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Wednesday, as people in the shattered Oxford community grieved and asked whether any warning signs had been missed, authorities offered the first details of what they described as a “mountain” of digital and paper evidence showing the suspect’s planning and desire to kill students at Oxford High School.

During a video arraignment, law enforcement authorities told a judge that investigators had recovered two cellphone videos Mr. Crumbley had made the night before the shooting in which he talked about killing Oxford students the next day. They also found a journal in his backpack detailing his desire to “shoot up” the school, authorities said.

“This defendant planned the shooting,” Marc Keast, an Oakland County prosecutor, told a judge. “He deliberately brought the handgun that day with the intent to murder as many students as he could.”

Mr. Crumbley fired more than 30 rounds as terrified students raced for safety and locked themselves inside classroom doors barricaded by desks, the authorities said. He still had 18 rounds in his possession when he was apprehended, they said.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Omicron variant identified in U.S.: First case of covid-19 linked to new variant found in California, Lena H. Sun, Katie Shepherd and Alissa Greenberg, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Fauci, right. confirms first case of omicron variant in U.S.

anthony fauci CustomThe omicron variant of the coronavirus — which has sparked concern across the world — has landed on U.S. shores, with the nation’s first case identified in a San Francisco resident who recently returned from South Africa. Amid uncertainty surrounding the potential threat of omicron, health officials said the discovery was both expected and a sign that precautions for travelers are working to keep tabs on the new variant.
FAQ: What to know about the omicron variant of the coronavirus

The San Francisco resident, who arrived Nov. 22 from South Africa, began feeling ill around Nov. 25 and got tested for the coronavirus Nov. 28, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Wednesday at a news conference.

The previously healthy patient, who was fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine but had not received a booster shot, tested positive Nov. 29, officials said.

The person had received a second vaccine dose in August and had not yet reached the six-month mark to become eligible for a booster, according to a state health official briefed on the case. The individual — who is between the ages of 18 and 49, according to San Francisco’s health department — has mild symptoms that are improving and is in self-isolation. Genetic sequencing was performed by the University of California at San Francisco and confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Federal mask mandate for transportation extended through March 18, Lori Aratani, Dec. 2, 2021. The Biden administration will extend a requirement that people wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses and other modes of transportation through March 18, according to senior administration officials.

The extension of the federal mask mandate, which had been set to expire next month, is one of a series of actions the White House is expected to announce Thursday aimed at allaying concerns about the emergence of the new omicron variant. The U.S. reported its first case of the variant Wednesday.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Dec. 2, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 263,934,966, Deaths: 5,245,606
U.S. Cases:     49,573,122, Deaths:    805,004
Indian Cases:   34,606,541, Deaths:    469,724
Brazil Cases:   22,105,872, Deaths:    615,020

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 197.8 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.6 % of the population, as of Dec. 2, 2021. Note: Due to adjustments in reporting, Pennsylvania removed 1.2 million doses on Nov. 23.

Related Recent Headlines:


Attacks On U.S. Democracy, Elections, Capitol

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How to protect voting rights, prevent the Supreme Court from self-immolation and boost democracy, Jennifer Rubin, right (and author of the new book Resistance, shown below), Dec. 2, jennifer rubin new headshot2021. We have several serious constitutional crises underway. They are serious and intertwined, but remediable.

First, a majority of right-wing justices, strong-armed onto the Supreme Court by a caucus that has represented a smaller percentage of the country than Democrats since 1996, have repeatedly revealed themselves to be, yes, “partisan hacks.” These justices are at odds with the values of a significant majority of the country with no mechanism to hold them accountable. They discard precedent at will. They make up new rules to eviscerate statutory protections for voting rights and advance specious arguments to take away abortion rights established nearly a half-century ago. And they manipulate the “shadow docket” to assist “their” side and disable their ideological opponents.

jennifer rubin book resistanceSecond, Republicans have given up on democracy. They seek to tailor the electorate through voter suppression and undermine the administration of elections, thereby insulating themselves from accountability.

Third, through the operation of a Senate heavily weighted toward less populous red states, the electoral college, extreme gerrymandering and the filibuster, we have moved from democracy with minority protections to a tyranny of the minority. Republicans now wield their power to prevent accountability for crimes against our democracy (e.g., by refusing to establish a Jan. 6 commission) and to disable reforms for election integrity.

There is no easy way to interject greater democracy — and hence more accountability — into our system. The Senate and electoral college are not going away. And for the foreseeable future, Republicans will not abandon their authoritarian, might-makes-right outlook for self-restraint, tolerance, reverence for the rule of law and fairness. But that does not mean democracy’s defenders are without recourse.

Pro-democracy advocates can make this an issue in the election. Do we really want to entrust power to a party that tolerates anti-democratic extremists and foments violence? Will Republicans on the ballot acknowledge that President Biden won and vow to respect election results?

Beyond that, pro-democracy forces can focus on institutions where majority rule still applies. Gubernatorial elections in 2022 (of which there will be more than 30) are critical.

If pro-democratic forces have narrow legislative majorities and cooperative governors, they can move forward on other democratic reforms.

Ultimately, most problems come back to the Senate filibuster, which heightens minority control in an already non-majoritarian body. In short, informed voters can halt the atrophy of democracy through ballot referenda and in gubernatorial races (where gerrymandering is inapplicable). In the Senate, senators such as Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and a politically humiliated Collins can step up and secure constitutional rights. These actions will not be easy, but they are essential to preserve our democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood among attorneys ordered to pay $180,000 over Michigan ‘Kraken’ suit, Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 2, 2021. It's the latest in a series of rulings seeking to hold lawyers accountable for trying to use the courts to overturn a democratic election.

A federal judge in Michigan has ordered a group of lawyers who brought a failed lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results to pay more than $180,000 in legal fees to the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit, the latest in a series of rulings from federal judges seeking to hold lawyers accountable for trying to use the courts to overturn a democratic election.

U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker had already ordered that the group of nine lawyers — including Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood, both allies to former president Donald Trump — be disciplined for their role in the suit, which in August she called “a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process.”

Federal judge in Michigan orders pro-Trump lawyers disciplined over lawsuit seeking to overturn 2020 election

But the group had been balking at the fees requested by their opponents in the suit, particularly the city of Detroit, which had reported that it spent $182,192 defending the case.

On Thursday, Parker said those fees were for the most part reasonable. She ordered the lawyers to pay nearly $153,000 to the city and another $22,000 to the state to pay their costs in the case.

She said the hefty fee was an “appropriate sanction … needed to deter Plaintiffs’ counsel and others from engaging in similar misconduct in the future.” She also wrote that she believed that the attorneys have the ability to pay the fees, particularly given that they have been soliciting donations from members of the public to fund lawsuits like the one they brought in Michigan.

Neither Powell or Wood immediately responded to a request for comment Thursday. Federal prosecutors have also sought records from Powell’s fundraising groups as part of a criminal probe.

Prosecutors demanded records of Sidney Powell’s fundraising groups as part of criminal probe

David Fink, a lawyer for the city of Detroit, said: “These lawyers abused the federal courts to advance the big lie. They must pay a price for their misconduct, and this ruling is a good start.”

Raw Story, MAGA rioter with middle-finger tattoo arrested after girlfriend tags him on Facebook, John Wright, Dec. 2, 2021. MAGA rioter with middle-finger tattoo arrested after girlfriend tags him on Facebook.

justin jerseyAn accused Capitol rioter who swung a stick at police on Jan. 6 was arrested Thursday after online sleuths tracked him down based partly on the tattoo on his middle finger saying, "F*ck you."

Justin Jersey of Flint, Michigan, right, who became known as #Fingerman, was shown attacking officers while wearing a University of Michigan sweatshirt in video circulated by the FBI over the summer. At the time, he was listed as No. 106 on the FBI’s Capitol wanted page.

djt maga hat"Jersey was friends with another Capitol riot defendant, Trevor Brown, and Jersey’s girlfriend publicly tagged the two men in a post about Jan. 6 on Facebook," the Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly reports. "Online sleuths found an Instagram image of Jersey that showed what appeared to be a 'FUCK YOU' tattoo on his left middle finger — which can also be spotted in images of him swinging a stick at officers — erasing any doubt about the identification."

Reilly added on Twitter, "Tattoos are the unsung heroes of the Jan. 6 probe, probably followed closely by freckles and moles."

According to the Detroit News, which first reported Jersey's arrest, he is facing six charges, including assault, civil disorder, breaking into a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct, violent entry and engaging in physical violence. The assault charges are punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, In interrogation video, tearful Jan. 6 defendant apologizes for assault on officer, Rachel Weiner and Peter Hermann, Dec. 2, 2021. Rodriguez has pleaded not guilty and is attempting to block prosecutors from using his statements to the FBI at trial.

A Southern California conservative activist cried and apologized for using a Taser on a police officer outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, in the first interrogation video of a riot defendant released publicly.

Daniel Rodriguez is among those accused of assaulting D.C. police officer Michael Fanone, who was shocked with a stun device as rioters dragged him down the steps of the Capitol. Fanone lost consciousness and was stripped of his badge and gun; he suffered a heart attack and a traumatic brain injury.

Rodriguez, 39, has pleaded not guilty and is attempting to block prosecutors from using his statements to the FBI at trial. At first, he declined to discuss the assault on Fanone with the two special agents who interrogated him just after his arrest in March. But when pressed, Rodriguez suggested he used a Taser on Fanone to keep him from getting more seriously injured.

michael fanone embattled but standingD.C. police officer Michael Fanone, right, is shown being swarmed by pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“I don’t know if I tasered him to protect him, but maybe just to, like — so he wouldn’t struggle and get hurt, maybe,” Rodriguez said. “If they’re going to beat him up or injure him or, like — I don’t know if they’re going to — I don’t know what was going to happen to him.”

Soon after, Rodriguez broke down, apologizing and cursing himself.

“I’m sorry,” he said through tears. “I don’t know. He’s a human being with children, and he’s not a bad guy. He sounds like he’s just doing his job and he’s — I’m an a------.”

Fanone has said he was nearly killed by the mob before appealing to their humanity by invoking his four daughters.

Asked by the agents what he would say to Fanone if he could, Rodriguez replied, “I’m sorry he had to go through that. It’s not right that he had to suffer like that. And it puts fear in him and worrying about his life. He was scared for his own life and thought about having to kill us.”

Rodriguez’s recorded interrogation offers an unusual account of Jan. 6 in a defendant’s own words. While defendants may testify at trial or explain their actions at sentencing hearings, proceedings in federal court in the District are not recorded on video.

 

Trump Watch

Donald Trump debates Joe Biden on Sept. 29, 2020 (Associated Press photo by Patrick Semansky).Donald Trump debates Joe Biden on Sept. 29, 2020 (Associated Press photo by Patrick Semansky).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The bombshell about Trump testing positive also implicates the Trump family, Greg Sargent, right, Dec. 2, 2021. Only a few days after greg sargentTrump tested positive for covid, his family sat maskless in the debate audience.

The Trump family has long treated rules and laws as nuisances that are only for the little people. And the news that Donald Trump tested positive for covid-19 before the first 2020 presidential debate shows that this tendency may be even more depraved and malevolent than you thought.

It turns out that this revelation, which comes in a new book by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, also implicates members of Trump’s family, including Melania Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

Multiple news organizations, including The Post, have now confirmed from former Trump aides that he tested positive for coronavirus on Sept. 26, 2020, three days before his Sept. 29 debate with Joe Biden. So he had reason to believe he might have been infected heading into the debate.

Trump was informed of the positive test on Air Force One on Sept. 26, en route to a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, the book says. But the White House concealed this from the public and from debate organizers, even though he was “tired” and had a “slight cold."

Instead, Trump took a second test that came back negative, and Meadows called Trump to inform him of it. The Guardian reports that the book then relays the following:

Meadows says Trump took that call as “full permission to press on as if nothing had happened.” His chief of staff, however, “instructed everyone in his immediate circle to treat him as if he was positive” throughout the Pennsylvania trip.

In other words, everyone around Trump was apparently told he was potentially contagious, and he even appeared potentially symptomatic, even as Trump roared into the debate as if the opposite were true. If this is right, then what happened at the debate is even worse than you thought.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two Election Workers Targeted by Pro-Trump Media Sue for Defamation, Reid J. Epstein, Dec. 2, 2021. The two Georgia workers were falsely accused of manipulating ballots by Trump allies and right-wing news sites. Election officials said the workers did nothing wrong.

Two Georgia election workers who were the targets of a right-wing campaign that falsely claimed they manipulated ballots filed a defamation lawsuit on Thursday against one of the nation’s leading sources of pro-Trump misinformation.

georgia mapThe suit against the right-wing conspiratorial website The Gateway Pundit was filed by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, both of whom processed ballots in Atlanta during the 2020 election for the Fulton County elections board. It follows a series of defamation claims filed by elections equipment operators against conservative television operators such as Fox News, Newsmax and One America News.

The lawsuit from Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss is among the first to be filed by individual election workers who found themselves unwittingly dragged into the alternate universe of far-right media that claimed, and still does, that Donald J. Trump won last year’s presidential election.

“I want the defendants to know that my daughter and I are real people who deserve justice, and I never want them to do this to anyone else,” Ms. Freeman said in a statement.

Ms. Moss, who continues to work for the Fulton County elections board, and Ms. Freeman, a temporary employee during the 2020 election, were ensnared by the Trump-supporting media and Mr. Trump himself after Gateway Pundit published dozens of false stories about them, starting last December and continuing through this November. The stories called the two women “crooked Democrats” and claimed that they “pulled out suitcases full of ballots and began counting those ballots without election monitors in the room.”

Investigations conducted by the Georgia secretary of state’s office found that the two women did nothing wrong and were legally counting ballots.

It all began one month after the 2020 election, on Dec. 3, when a lawyer for Mr. Trump’s campaign played a spliced segment of surveillance video footage for a Georgia Senate committee. The lawyer falsely claimed Fulton elections workers pulled 18,000 fraudulent ballots from a suitcase and illegally fed them through the voting machines.

The accusation, which was quickly debunked by Fulton County and Georgia elections officials, was nevertheless amplified by Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump allies. A week after the first Gateway Pundit story, Mr. Giuliani compared Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman to drug dealers and called for their homes to be searched during a hearing with Georgia state legislators.

Mr. Trump himself invoked Ms. Freeman’s name 18 times during his Jan. 3 call with Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state. The call at the time was among the president’s most egregious efforts to overturn the results of the election he lost to Joseph R. Biden Jr., who defeated Mr. Trump in Georgia by 11,779 votes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump could pocket $100 million in deal for money-losing D.C. hotel, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold, Dec. 2, 2021.
When Donald Trump offered to spend $200 million overhauling one of Washington’s most treasured historic buildings into a luxury hotel a decade ago, competitors and critics scoffed.

Trump, they asserted, could never operate a hotel profitably after paying so much.

It turns out they were right. The hotel posted millions in losses over four years, according to financial documents Trump’s company provided to the government and released by the House Oversight Committee in October.

But the former president’s company recently signed a contract to sell its lease of the historic Old Post Office Pavilion to Miami-based investment firm CGI Merchant, which hopes to turn the property into a Waldorf Astoria in partnership with Hilton Worldwide, according to three people familiar with the arrangement who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the transaction. One of the people said the price was $375 million, which would eclipse the previous record for hotel sales in Washington.

Trump’s company to sell D.C. hotel lease for $375 million, report says

Experts say that price would also net Trump a hefty profit, probably $100 million or more, based on the financial documents and the company’s lease with the government. That would provide Trump with a rate of return that many hedge fund managers would envy, thanks to a market that is snapping up hotels in the expectation the pandemic will wane and travel will roar back.

“Hotels are hot. Even in cities that aren’t doing so well, people are paying robust prices for hotels,” said Suzanne Mellen of the financial firm HVS. “We are seeing extraordinary pricing.”

“I assume every global luxury chain has taken an interest in this property,” said Michael Bellisario of the Baird financial company.

Spokespeople for the Trump Organization, CGI Merchant and Hilton declined to comment.

There is no indication that politics played a role in the offer by CGI Merchant and its chief executive and founder, Raoul Thomas. Experts say that the price, while high, is plausible on business grounds, but some wondered how CGI will be able turn a profit after paying such a high price.

Hotels are priced on a per-room, or “per-key,” basis. In Washington the high water mark came in 2016, when the Capella Hotel Georgetown — now the Rosewood hotel — sold for about $1.3 million per key, according to industry data. At $375 million for 263 guest rooms, the proposed Trump sale would come to about $1.43 million per key, 10 percent higher than the Capella sale.

Hotel brokers said the historic nature of the 122-year-old-building, the scarcity of five-star hotels in Washington and the location on Pennsylvania Avenue — a backdrop for the presidential inaugural parade evert four years — probably drove up the price.

“How often do you have a hotel built the way that hotel was built?” said Dan Hawkins of Berkadia Real Estate Advisors. “Pure granite. Ideally positioned between the White House and the Capitol.”

If the deal closes, Trump will have fared far better than expected when he won the deal from the General Services Administration almost a decade ago, when the government sought private companies to redevelop the building from a government office building, food court and failed shopping mall.

In selecting Trump for the project, the government overlooked his past bankruptcies, business litigation and false claims about President Barack Obama’s birthplace. His company agreed to spend $200 million to rehabilitate the building, and Trump ultimately spent $217 million on the project — $194 million redeveloping the building and $23 million on furniture, supplies and build-out for the retail space, according to the financial statements. His company provided the hotel with millions more to keep the property afloat while it was losing money, according to the statements.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump asks to dismiss E. Jean Carroll defamation case, citing N.Y. law that would force her to pay fees, David A. Fahrenthold and Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 2, 2021. Former president Donald Trump this week asked a federal judge to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed against him by E. Jean Carroll — a writer (shown in a file photo) who says Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s — citing a new state law intended to protect free speech.

e jean carroll twitterTrump’s request cited a new “anti-SLAPP” law passed in New York state last year. The law, which was signed last year, is intended to stop “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” — instances where wealthy companies or people seek to silence their detractors with frivolous lawsuits.

The law allows defendants to seek a quick dismissal of the case, if they can prove the lawsuits against them have no “substantial basis in fact and law.” In such cases, the people who brought the suit have to pay the defendant’s legal fees.

In his filing, Trump argued the same law should also protect the most powerful person in the country — since, at the time when Carroll filed suit, he was still president. Her lawsuit says that Trump defamed her by denying her allegations that he assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.

In the filing, Trump said that Carroll’s sole purpose in filing the suit was to retaliate for truthful comments, “maliciously inhibiting his free exercise of speech.”

The filing was signed by Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, who began representing Trump in this case and other lawsuits in September. Habba asked U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to grant Trump permission to file the anti-SLAPP claim.

Some experts said Trump’s motion ran counter to the intention of New York’s law.

“The spirit of anti-SLAPP laws are to prevent powerful people from bullying the powerless,” said Evan Mascagni of the Public Participation Project, a national group that advocates for anti-SLAPP laws. “Was an anti-SLAPP law designed to protect the president of the United States?”

Mascagni said several unsettled legal questions remained about New York’s law, which was written to offer broad protections. Mascagni said courts were just beginning to answer them — and sometimes different courts disagreed. Does the state anti-SLAPP law apply to federal cases, like this one? Does it apply retroactively, to cases filed before the law was passed? And does it apply to public officials like Trump?

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Mark Meadows is such a problem for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 2, 2021. Steve Bannon has always been the bill palmeroverconfident self destructive type, whose bouts of success have always ultimately resulted in failure or ouster. So it wasn’t shocking that he almost immediately ended up on the losing end of the January 6th Committee, getting himself indicted and arrested right off the bat. If there’s a way to lose, Bannon always finds it. But then there’s Mark Meadows.

He’s the kind of guy who managed to fail upward from being a terrible Congressman to being a terrible White House Chief of Staff, because if nothing else, he understands how the game is played. If there was a magic wand to be waved when it came to fending off the January 6th Committee without consequences, a weasel like Meadows was going to be the one to find it.

bill palmer report logo headerMoreover, everyone knows that Meadows is the kind of guy who can just sort of worm his way out of something like this, if there is indeed a way out. In fact, plenty of people in Trump world have probably been watching Meadows, hoping he could find a magic wand to wave that could make the committee just leave him alone.

Mark MeadowsThat’s why it’s such a big deal that Meadows, right, is struggling so badly when it comes to dealing with the committee. First he tried just refusing to cooperate, hoping that perhaps the committee wouldn’t refer him for criminal prosecution… because he’s Mark Meadows? No logic there, but desperate people usually skip past logic in the search for hope.

Once Meadows realized he was indeed about to find himself referred to the Department of Justice, indicted, arrested, and facing a federal criminal trial, he indeed caved. By all accounts he’s now turned over important enough documents that the committee has decided to hold off (for now) on having him indicted. But he’s still reportedly considering trying to invoke privilege when it comes to some of his interactions with Trump, because… wait, why does he think this is going to work? Oh right, he doesn’t. He’s already seen Bannon arrested for invoking imaginary privilege. Meadows is just desperately searching for baseless hope.

At this point Mark Meadows has now sold out at least some of the people around him with the evidence he’s turned over, and yet he’s still stuck trying to thread the needle of providing even more cooperation so he doesn’t get indicted for contempt, while not providing so much cooperation that he makes it easier for the Fulton County Georgia District Attorney to indict him for election tampering. Good luck pulling that one off.

Whether Mark Meadows ends up indicted, or whether he gives up everyone else in the name of keeping himself out of prison, is less relevant than the fact that everyone can see him struggling to walk this particular tightrope.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Immigration

vicky ward investigates

Vicky Ward Investigates, Investigative Commentary: Less Than Total Recall, Vicky Ward (author and pioneering reporter in Jeffrey Epstein scandal), Dec. 2, 2021. In the past two years while I’ve been researching “Chasing Ghislaine,” my Audible podcast and discovery+ documentary series (airing in back-to-back episodes on ID starting at 8/7c this Friday, December 3rd), sources close to Maxwell’s defense team have told me consistently that they are unbothered by the fact that the Southern District of New York’s conviction rate is extraordinarily high—reportedly over 95 percent.

“I don’t care what the statistics are,” someone close to Maxwell and her lawyers told me nine months ago. “Ghislaine is innocent, and we will prove that.”

At the time, I thought this person was crazy.

The charges against Maxwell are so heinous, and the notoriety of the case so great. Plus, the fact that Jeffrey Epstein, who Maxwell is accused of aiding in his abuse and sex-trafficking of minors, died in jail pre-trial has led almost every New York lawyer I speak to to say they believe the government really, really doesn’t want to lose in the wake of that. There is just too much at stake.

Now, however, I’m beginning to see why the defense appears so confident in the way they handle themselves in the courtroom. (By contrast, the four prosecutors look absurdly young. “Are any of them out of their 20s?” a lawyer, a veteran prosecutor herself, who was sitting next to me asked rhetorically. “Why didn’t they add one person, at least, who was more experienced?”)

Yesterday in court, the defense didn’t just prevail—they hammered yesterday’s shocking testimony by Maxwell Accuser Number One, who is going under the pseudonym “Jane.” The most oft-repeated phrase of the day was “I don’t recall,” uttered by Jane when asked by Maxwell’s attorney Laura Menninger to explain the contradictions between Tuesday’s testimony and the prior statements Jane had made to the FBI in the past two years.

It's understandable one wouldn’t have perfect recall of traumatic events from twenty years ago. It’s quite another not to be able to recall what happened just months ago—a point Menninger got at in her clever, dogged way.

If the last three days showed the best opening the government has got, I can see why Maxwell’s defense has been quietly confident for so long. I cannot reveal my source, but I have been told that the most pressing question on their minds this past year is if they can find an unbiased jury. If so, they have always said, they believe they will win.

I, like most people I know, ignored that.

Now, I am paying attention.

 darrell brooks jr mark hoffman milwaukee journal sentinel pool ap

Darrell Brooks Jr. is escorted out of the courtroom after making his initial appearance in Waukesha County Court in Wisconsin on Nov. 23. Brooks has been charged with intentional homicide in the deaths of at least six people who were killed when an SUV was driven into a Christmas parade. (Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel/Pool/AP)

washington post logoWashington Post, In first interview from jail, suspect in Wisconsin parade rampage says he feels ‘demonized,’ Jonathan Edwards, Dec. 2, 2021. Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, has been the object of intense media attention after being accused of driving through a Christmas parade, killing six and wounding dozens.

Darrell Brooks Jr. had spent 10 days locked up in the Waukesha County Jail after allegedly plowing through a crowd of people during a Wisconsin Christmas parade, killing six and injuring dozens more.

As Brooks was held in jail, he was causing a whirlwind outside its walls. His name and mug shot were beamed to screens across the country. A court official called the accusations against him “shocking” and said his criminal record was “extraordinary.” One of his ex-girlfriends described what he allegedly did as “a monstrous act … completely irredeemable.”

On Wednesday, Brooks broke his silence.

“I just feel like I’m being [made out to be a] monster — demonized” and “dehumanized,” he told Fox News Digital.
In Waukesha, agony after driver kills, injures those at Christmas parade

Brooks, 39, is charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, accused of driving an SUV through a throng of parade participants and spectators on Nov. 21 in the Milwaukee suburb of Waukesha. The six people who were killed range in age from 8 to 81. Brooks is being held on a $5 million bond.

Child is sixth to die after SUV slammed into parade in Wisconsin

“I’ve not seen anything like this in my very long career,” Waukesha County Court Commissioner Kevin Costello said on Nov. 23 when he set the bail amount.

The state public defender’s office, which represents Brooks, did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Wednesday night.

Before the parade incident, Brooks was at the scene of an alleged altercation involving a knife but sped off in a red SUV when police got there, a law enforcement official has said. Waukesha Police Chief Daniel Thompson said officers were not chasing Brooks when he entered the parade.

On Wednesday, the two Fox News Digital reporters who interviewed Brooks described him as soft-spoken, calm and lucid. He told them he was “very” close with his mother, Dawn Woods, but appeared not to know she had released a statement about her son earlier in the day.

In the roughly 670-word letter, Woods said she was not making excuses but noted that her son has suffered from mental illness since he was young. As a child, he was treated with counseling and medication. But when he became an adult, she said Brooks lost the insurance he needed to pay for treatment. Since then, he’d cycled in and out of jail, she wrote.

“Mental illness is real and the system is broken it can and must be fixed NOW, not next year or with a new legislation NOW. So many like Darrell that have fallen through the cracks because of a broken system that no one cared to address, can get the help they so desperately need.”

The Wisconsin parade suspect was accused of a car attack weeks ago. Here’s why he was out on bail.

When the reporters told Brooks of his mother’s letter, he put down the phone and got up from his chair, two jail guards shielding him from view. Even though the interview was over and the reporters could not see Brooks, they could still hear what was happening on the other end.

It sounded like sobbing.

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Number of immigrants held in private facilities grows despite Biden’s promise to end practice, Maria Sacchetti, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The near collapse of immigration detention in New Jersey marked a significant victory for “abolish ICE” activists, but their mood these days is hardly celebratory. Instead of crippling immigration detention, they have simply relocated it. Agents transferred dozens of immigrants from New Jersey to other facilities, often run by private companies, in states such as Louisiana, Georgia, and New York.

“I can’t believe they did that,” said Chia-Chia Wang, organizing and advocacy director with the American Friends Service Committee in New Jersey, after ICE moved some detainees from Bergen County in November to a facility in Upstate New York.

The transfer called fresh attention to the Biden administration’s unkept campaign promise to eliminate the vast network of private jails that researchers say detain most immigrants facing deportation. But it also exposes the pitfalls of activists’ strategy to push Democratic leaders to also boot ICE from local jails, where detainees are often closer to their loved ones, advocates and free legal aid.

“Sometimes, you know, you get what you ask for but you don’t want what you’re going to get,” U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez, an Obama appointee, told an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who tried unsuccessfully to stop ICE from transferring dozens of immigrants out of the Essex County jail in New Jersey last summer, when the county executive, a Democrat, said they would stop holding immigrants. “It just seems as though this was not well thought out on behalf of the advocacy groups.”

Biden had promised during his campaign to “end for-profit” detention, but he did not include ICE in his January executive order eliminating the use of private prisons. Instead he has expanded immigration detention, sometimes in the same prisons he deemed too unsafe for criminals.

Washington Post, U.S. and Mexico reach deal to restart Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ program along border

 Other recent headlines

 

Abortion Case Reactions

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The question is not whether ‘Roe v. Wade’ is overturned — but how, Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). “For today, at ruth marcusleast, the law of abortion stands undisturbed,” Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote in 1989, dissenting in a case that cut back on constitutional protection for abortion rights. “For today, the women of this Nation still retain the liberty to control their destinies. But the signs are evident and very ominous, and a chill wind blows.”

On Wednesday, that icy wind whistled through a nearly empty Supreme Court chamber as justices considered whether — or, to be more precise, how — to abandon the Roe v. Wade precedent that Blackmun helped write into law almost 50 years ago.

The oral argument made it all too clear: Constitutional protection for a woman’s right to choose whether to end an unwanted pregnancy is about to be dramatically curtailed if not eliminated altogether.

The advocates trying to forestall that eventuality, Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights and U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, did an excellent job, and yet the argument in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health could hardly have gone worse.

Ruth Marcus: A newly radicalized Supreme Court is poised to reshape the nation

Three justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — are all but guaranteed votes to overrule both Roe and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the 1992 case in which a court that had seemed poised to take the plunge of overruling instead stepped back and reaffirmed Roe.

That leaves two questions: Are two or perhaps three other justices prepared to join them? If not, how much damage will be done by a decision that upholds the Mississippi law, which prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks, but doesn’t explicitly overrule Roe.

The answers appear to be “perhaps” and “significant.”

The three justices who occupy what passes for the middle on this court each offered separate grounds for worry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Potential loss of Roe v. Wade as a legal standard shakes political landscape, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats immediately vowed to make abortion rights a central focus in next year’s midterm elections, where their prospects have been viewed as dim, while many Republicans sought to keep the focus on inflation and other problems facing President Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What We Learned From the Supreme Court’s Abortion Arguments, Charles M. Blow, Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which involves a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, may give an indication of the future for access to the procedure, and for national politics.

The Times columnists and a Times Opinion podcast host gathered to discuss what they heard at the court on Wednesday, where they see it heading and how they, and the country, will continue to wrestle with the issue of abortion.

michelle goldberg thumbMichelle Goldberg, right: I don’t think there’s any doubt that this court is going to uphold the Mississippi law. To me the only question is whether it overturns Roe v. Wade altogether, or comes up with some new standard to replace viability, an outcome Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to be groping toward. My guess is it overturns. What do you all think?

Lulu Garcia-Navarro: I agree, all the justices showed their cards and their thinking on this issue. What fascinated me was how plainly the liberal justices — mainly Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor — spoke about the politics of this issue. Justice Sotomayor’s comment about whether the court can “survive the stench” of overturning Roe was almost a direct appeal to Chief Justice Roberts, who has been vocally worried ross douthatabout how the court is viewed since the conservative majority has taken over.

Ross Douthat, right: Yes, it’s a peculiar situation where everybody assumes (rightly, in my view) that none of the conservative justices think that either Roe or Casey was rightly decided, so the question then becomes to what extent do they act like politicians — something Roberts especially is always ready to do! — as opposed to just following their legal convictions.

dan rather bookSteady, Opinon: The End of Roe? Dan Rather (author and former CBS Evening News Managing Editor and Anchor, shown above in a file photo), Dec. 1, 2021, published Dec. 2. Today was not the ultimate judgment day; that will come with a formal decision. But if events transpire as most legal experts suspect they will, what happened in Washington on December 1, 2021, will be marked in American history.

The issue of abortion is one on which fair minded people, honest to their own beliefs and moral codes, can disagree. But today was not about personal choice. It was about the law of the land that will make no exceptions other than those carved out by the states. And if the history of a time before legal abortions is any guide, and there is no reason to suspect otherwise, today will beget many personal tragedies, ruined lives, hardship, and despair.

What transpired in the marbled halls of the Supreme Court (shown below) was not genteel, even if it was wrapped in the ceremony and vocabulary of polite legal discourse. It was a traumatic reckoning. First and foremost for the rights of women to have control of their bodies and their lives. And secondly for a nation of laws, where precedent is supposed to matter. Instead, we saw a fixed legal right, enshrined in jurisprudence for half a century, likely shredded supreme court amazon imagesby a handful of unelected and unaccountable arbiters of what our nation of more than 300 million souls can and cannot do.

Was it a surprise? Not really to anyone who has followed the Court. But somehow the shock of what this will mean was not tempered by its inevitability.

For decades Republicans have railed against abortion to fan the ire and passions of their most reliable voters. They have played footsie with gutting Roe, with more lip service than action. It took the shameless cynicism of Mitch McConnell and the gleeful transactionality of President Trump to secure a majority on the Court that would boldly go so far.

There are many subplots to this drama. We can talk about how a majority of the justices on the reactionary side of the ledger were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and what that means for the health of our democracy.

We can talk about how many of the justices were less than truthful, or outright lied, in their confirmation heariings when they acted like they would judge an abortion case on precedent and the law instead of having their minds made up. We can talk about the politics of the court and whether Democratic voters slept-walked on the issue for too long. But if this were a Hollywood movie, all that would be in the preamble. A new story begins now.

Many women of all ages in America have come to take safe, legal abortions as a given. Although we must note that many women also are vocal opponents of legal abortions. What happens now? What happens when the inevitable stories emerge of victims of rape and incest being forced to carry a pregnancy to term? How many will die from illegal abortion attempts? As someone who is old enough to clearly remember the world before Roe, I don't think America, or the justices on the Court, or the political establishment, knows what is going to come.

We will see abortion effectively outlawed in many states, and not only deep red ones. Gerrymandered state governments in purple states will jump in as well. Will this provoke a response, in the streets or at the ballot box? Will there be pressure on businesses who want ot recruit workers in states where abortion is illegal? Or will America adjust to this new reality in ways that do not change the political stakes?

Ultimately, while it is important to consider the politics, my mind tonight is with those who will likely suffer, now and into the future. We now likely have a situation where the government will come between women, their doctors, and their body. Those who consider terminating pregnancies often face the most difficult decisions of their lives. They are often on the most vulnerable fringes of society, contending with violence, trauma, and economic insecurity.

Others face grave medical problems. Others know they would be unable to provide a good life for their baby. Others know what a baby will mean for their own lives. Ultimately the reasons shouldn’t matter. There is no moral relativism. I believe, no matter one’s personal beliefs about abortion, this is a right that women should have.

If Roe is gutted and not replaced by new laws, a wave of desperation will engulf the nation. Countless women will feel the loneliness of fear, the disorientation of anxiety, and the despair that comes with pain and loss. They will cry tears and shake with anger. They will weigh the risks of traveling to states where abortion is legal, of finding other ways to end their pregnancies. They will be forced to carry life to term, knowing that the same political forces who insisted they do so will do little to help care for that life once it is born.

Tonight I understand the anger. I understand the fear. My primary emotion is one of sadness. We are stumbling towards a future that is unmoored from our past.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Gutting ‘Roe’ would devastate millions of Americans — and the court itself, Editorial Board, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in an abortion case that could mark a perilous turning point for American society.

Judging by the justices’ tone, the question is not whether they will eviscerate the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and the subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling in 1992 but how drastically they will curtail these core precedents.

The justices should have no illusions: A partial or total reversal of Roe would devastate not only the Americans who rely on the abortion rights that have been theirs for nearly 50 years, but also the court itself, undermining its legitimacy.

  • The Opinions Essay, The Rule of Six: A newly radicalized Supreme Court is poised to reshape the nation, Ruth Marcus

 

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices hear arguments over Miss. abortion law challenging 'Roe v. Wade,' Ann E. Marimow and Amy B Wang, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Wednesday is taking up the most serious challenge in decades to the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The Mississippi law at issue bans most abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy and has not taken effect because lower courts said it violated Roe and the subsequent decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which said states may not ban abortion before viability, usually between 22 and 24 weeks.

Mississippi has only one abortion clinic in the state, and one of its doctors sued, saying the ban imposes an undue burden on the right to abortion. Mississippi told the court that allowing the 2018 law to stand would “scuttle a half-century of precedent.” The state says the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion and that the court’s precedents are “grievously wrong, unworkable, damaging and outmoded.”

Here’s what to know:

  • In accepting the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court said it will decide whether all prohibitions on abortion before viability are unconstitutional. Abortion opponents believe this is their best chance in decades.
  • The justices could overturn Roe or find another way to uphold the Mississippi law. The state suggested the court could hold that the law does not impose an “undue burden” on a significant number of women because the Mississippi clinic performs abortions only up to 16 weeks.
  • Past court rulings, public appearances and other public comments by the nine justices give insight into their thinking on abortion and court precedents.
  • Mississippi is represented by recently hired Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart, a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas. The abortion provider is represented by attorney Julie Rikelman, litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar also argued on behalf of the abortion provider.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican Trump critic, will not seek reelection, Joanna Slater, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker will not seek re-election to a third term, he announced on Wednesday, a move that will bring an end to his tenure as the moderate Republican leader of a heavily Democratic state.

charlie baker o cropped massBaker, 65, right, was one of his party’s most public critics of former president Donald Trump. He has served two terms as governor of Massachusetts and remains popular with voters, according to opinion polls, although his approval ratings have fallen since last year. Baker won his second term in 2018 with 66 percent of the vote.

Baker said in a note to supporters on Wednesday that there were several factors in his decision, including a desire to spend more time with his family and to keep the focus on recovering from the pandemic, rather than the “grudge matches political campaigns can devolve into.”

Baker’s announcement will prompt a wide-open contest for his successor. Maura Healey, the state’s Democratic attorney general, is considering a run. Geoff Diehl, a conservative Republican embraced by Trump, had already announced his intention to challenge Baker in the GOP primary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Government nears weekend shutdown as Republicans take aim at vaccine, testing mandates, Tony Romm, Mike DeBonis and
Seung Min Kim, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Growing group of conservatives pushes GOP leaders to block funding bill as deadline approaches.

The U.S. government on Wednesday moved one step closer to a potential shutdown, as some Republicans seized on a fast-approaching fiscal deadline to mount fresh opposition to President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine and testing mandates.

The emerging conservative campaign quickly divided GOP lawmakers, enraged congressional Democrats and threatened to unravel days of delicate bipartisan talks on Capitol Hill. The current federal spending agreement is set to expire Friday at midnight.

“We’re opposed to the mandate,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “We don’t want the federal government to be able to fund them in any way shape or form.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrat Stacey Abrams plans another run for Ga. governor, which could lead to rematch with Gov. Kemp, Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, announced Wednesday that she is pursuing a bid for governor in 2022.

The move means Abrams could face a rematch against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), to whom she narrowly lost the governor’s race three years ago.

In a video shared on social media, Abrams said she’s running “because opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn’t be determined by your Zip code, background or access to power.”
Stacey Abrams announces Georgia gubernatorial run
In a video posted to Twitter on Dec. 1, Stacey Abrams announced that she would enter the 2022 Georgia governor’s race. (Stacey Abrams | Twitter)

The Democrat was widely credited with boosting voter turnout in Georgia in 2020, helping Joe Biden defeat President Donald Trump in the state and aiding two Democrats — Raphael G. Warnock and Jon Ossoff — in capturing Senate seats this past January.

“If our Georgia is going to move to its next and greatest chapter, we’re going to need leadership,” Abrams said in her announcement video. “Leadership that knows how to do the job. Leadership that doesn’t take credit without taking responsibility. Leadership that understands the true pain folks are feeling and has real plans. That’s the job of governor, to fight for one Georgia — our Georgia. And now, it’s time to get the job done.”

Other recent headlines:

 

World News, Global Human Rights

United Nations

ap logoAssociated Press via New York Times, U.N. Asks Donors for $41 Billion in Humanitarian Aid, Staff Report (video), Dec. 2, 2021. Martin Griffiths, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, announced the organization’s 2022 funding drive, citing the need to help 183 million people across the world who are suffering from issues like political instability, climate change and the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Omicron Could Knock a Fragile Economic Recovery Off Track, Dec. 2, 2021. The latest zigzag in the pandemic has already curtailed travel, but its broader impact on growth and inflation isn’t likely to be known for weeks.

ny times logoFrench FlagNew York Times, Migration Talking Points Surge in France, but Not Migration, Norimitsu Onishi, Dec. 2, 2021. With a presidential election looming, French presidential hopefuls are hardening their positions against immigration even as other countries compete for migrant workers.

Belfast Telegraph, Flags report: SDLP and Greens call for action plan, while DUP MLA criticises Sinn Fein, Ralph Hewitt, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). The SDLP and the Green Party have called for an implementation strategy to be put in place for the recommendations made within the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) report.

However, DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said the “weaponisation” of culture and identity by Sinn Fein make solutions “very difficult to come by”.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly responded by saying the DUP “doesn’t do equality.”

The much-delayed 168-page FICT report -- costing £800,000 -- was released on Wednesday and outlined a number of recommendations on flags, bonfires and murals in Northern Ireland.

None of the recommendations from the report are expected to be implemented, as no action plan has been agreed

Recent Global Headlines:

 

Media News

PBS Frontline, Investigation: What the Pandora Papers Reveal, Evan Williams, Will Fitzgibbon and Raney Aronson-Rath, Dec. 2, 2021. How does the world of secret finance enable some of the globe’s richest and most powerful people to shield their deals and assets?

In October 2021, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — with 150 partner news organizations around the world, including FRONTLINE — began publishing the results of an investigation based on a massive leak of confidential documents.

The leaked files, known as the Pandora Papers, exposed a secretive financial system that enables the world’s wealthy and powerful to hide their money and assets from creditors, taxing authorities and governments. The revelations have reverberated across the globe.

In today's episode of The FRONTLINE Dispatch podcast, FRONTLINE producer Evan Williams and ICIJ reporter Will Fitzgibbon, both featured in the November 2021 short documentary Pandora Papers, from ICIJ and FRONTLINE, join FRONTLINE executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath to discuss some of the investigation’s key findings, the ongoing impacts and the importance of global reporting collaborations.

“The basic principle of ICIJ really is one of journalistic equality, I think. Recognizing that the smartest reporter in New York City or Washington, D.C., is never going to have the experience or the ability to find a story in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in the Philippines, right?” Fitzgibbon says. “And that’s why we provide access to the data and bring on reporters from more than 100 countries. Because we know that, hidden in these documents, are only stories the reporters from those countries can tell.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Those Cute Cats Online? They Help Spread Misinformation, Davey Alba, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). A mainstay of the internet is regularly used to build audiences for people and organizations pushing false and misleading information.

On Oct. 2, New Tang Dynasty Television, a station linked to the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, posted a Facebook video of a woman saving a baby shark stranded on a shore. Next to the video was a link to subscribe to The Epoch Times, a newspaper that is tied to Falun Gong and that spreads epoch timesanti-China and right-wing conspiracies. The post collected 33,000 likes, comments and shares.

The website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, below left, an osteopathic physician who researchers say is a chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, regularly posts about cute animals that generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook. The stories include “Kitten and Chick Nap So Sweetly Together” and “Why Orange Cats May Be Different From Other Cats,” written by Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian.

joseph mercolaAnd Western Journal, a right-wing publication that has published unproven claims about the benefits of using hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, and spread falsehoods about fraud in the 2020 presidential election, owns Liftable Animals, a popular Facebook page. Liftable Animals posts stories from Western Journal’s main website alongside stories about golden retrievers and giraffes.

Videos and GIFs of cute animals — usually cats — have gone viral online for almost as long as the internet has been around. Many of the animals became famous: There’s Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and Nyan Cat, just to name a few.

Now, it is becoming increasingly clear how widely the old-school internet trick is being used by people and organizations peddling false information online, misinformation researchers say.

The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information. But they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher.

Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation, said this kind of “engagement bait” helped misinformation actors generate clicks on their pages, which can make them more prominent in users’ feeds in the future. That prominence can drive a broader audience to content with inaccurate or misleading information, she said.

“The strategy works because the platforms continue to reward engagement over everything else,” Ms. Ryan said, “even when that engagement comes from” publications that also publish false or misleading content.

Perhaps no organization deploys the tactic as forcefully as Epoch Media, parent company of The Epoch Times. Epoch Media has published videos of cute animals in 12,062 posts on its 103 Facebook pages in the past year, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Those posts, which include links to other Epoch Media websites, racked up nearly four billion views. Trending World, one of Epoch’s Facebook pages, was the 15th most popular page on the platform in the United States between July and September.

One video, posted last month by The Epoch Times’s Taiwan page, shows a close-up of a golden retriever while a woman tries in vain to pry an apple from its mouth. It has over 20,000 likes, shares and comments on Facebook. Another post, on Trending World’s Facebook page, features a seal grinning widely with a family posing for a picture at a Sea World resort. The video has 12 million views.

“Dr. Becker is a veterinarian, her articles are about pets,” said an email from Dr. Mercola’s public relations team. “We reject any New York Times accusations of misleading any visitors, but are not surprised by it.”

The viral animal videos often come from places like Jukin Media and ViralHog. The companies identify extremely shareable videos and reach licensing deals with the people who made them. After securing the rights to the videos, Jukin Media and ViralHog license the clips to other media companies, giving a cut of the profits to the original creator.

Mike Skogmo, Jukin Media’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, said his company had a licensing deal with New Tang Dynasty Television, the station tied to Falun Gong.

“Jukin has licensing deals with hundreds of publishers worldwide, across the political spectrum and with a range of subject matters, under guidelines that protect the creators of the works in our library,” he said in a statement.

Asked whether the company evaluated whether their clips were used as engagement bait for misinformation in striking the license deals, Mr. Skogmo said Jukin had nothing else to add.

“Once someone licenses our raw content, what they do with it is up to them,” said Ryan Bartholomew, founder of ViralHog. “ViralHog is not supporting or opposing any cause or objective — that would be outside of our scope of business.”

facebook logoThe use of animal videos presents a conundrum for the tech platforms like Facebook, because the animal posts themselves do not contain misinformation. Facebook has banned ads from Epoch Media when the network violated its political advertising policy, and it took down several hundred Epoch Media-affiliated accounts last year when it determined that the accounts had violated its “coordinated inauthentic behavior” policies.

“We’ve taken enforcement actions against Epoch Media and related groups several times already,” said Drew Pusateri, a Facebook spokesman. “If we discover that they’re engaging in deceptive actions in the future we will continue enforcing against them.” The company did not comment on the tactic of using cute animals to spread misinformation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meghan Wins Legal Battle Against The Mail on Sunday, Mark Landler, Dec. 2, 2021. An appeals court rejected a bid to force a trial over the duchess’s claim that the tabloid violated her privacy by publishing an anguished letter she sent to her estranged father.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and the wife of Prince Harry, won a decisive victory in her long-running legal feud with a British tabloid on Thursday, as an appeals court rejected a bid by the publisher of the paper, The Mail on Sunday, to force a trial over her claim that it violated her privacy by publishing an anguished letter she sent to her estranged father in 2018.

The three judges upheld a judgment by a High Court judge in February that The Mail’s publication of the letter did not require a trial because it was “manifestly excessive and hence unlawful.” Meghan, an American and a former actress, had a “reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private.”

The decision will spare Meghan a sensational trial in which she might have had to testify against her father, Thomas Markle, a retired Hollywood lighting designer, with whom she fell out before her wedding to Prince Harry in May 2018.

In the letter, she accused Mr. Markle, who did not attend the ceremony and later spoke to the tabloids about their rift, of breaking her heart into a “million pieces.”

washington post logoWashington Post, News organizations join Bannon’s battle to get Jan. 6 prosecution documents, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, Dec. 2, 2021 (print ed.). A coalition of news organizations, including The Washington Post, has sided with former Trump White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon in asking a federal court to release documents that are part of Bannon’s prosecution for refusing to testify before the Jan. 6 congressional committee.

Bannon is fighting a proposal by prosecutors to keep the documents under wraps — including more than 1,000 pages of witness testimony, grand-jury proceedings and other information generated as part of the discovery process in the prosecution of Bannon alleging contempt of Congress. Journalists would be unable to see the documents if the Justice Department prevails in persuading a judge to impose a protective order.

The legal brief by the media coalition — which includes The Post, the New York Times, CNN, NBC News and others — creates some strange bedfellows. It aligns some of the biggest news organizations with one of their harshest critics.

  • Washington Post, Facebook says it carried out broad takedown of disinformation networks, including some tied to anti-vaccine groups, state actors, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 1, 2021.

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 supreme court Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Supreme Court Seems Poised to Uphold Mississippi’s Abortion Law, Adam Liptak, Dec. 1, 2021. After two hours of sometimes tense exchanges in one of the most significant abortion cases in years, the court appeared poised to uphold the state law, which bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Supreme Court seemed poised on Wednesday to uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, based on sometimes tense and heated questioning at a momentous argument in the most important abortion case in decades.

Such a ruling would be flatly at odds with what the court has said was the central holding of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion and prohibited states from banning the procedure before fetal viability, or around 23 weeks.

But the court’s six-member conservative majority seemed divided about whether to stop at 15 weeks, for now at least, or whether to overrule Roe entirely, allowing states to ban abortions at any time or entirely.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was the leading voice on the right for a narrow decision. “The thing that is at issue before us today is 15 weeks,” he said.

He repeatedly questioned whether the viability line was crucial, saying that Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the author of the majority opinion in Roe, had called the line arbitrary in his private papers. Chief Justice Roberts added that much of the rest of the world has similar limits.

Julie Rikelman, a lawyer for the abortion clinic challenging the Mississippi law, disputed that, saying that limits in many other countries are subject to significant exceptions.

Other conservative justices indicated that they were not interested in the chief justice’s intermediate approach. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said “the only real options we have” are to reaffirm Roe or to overrule it.

Assuming the three most conservative members of the court — Justices Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch — are prepared to overrule Roe entirely, Chief Justice Roberts would need to attract at least two votes for a narrower opinion, one upholding the Mississippi law but not overruling Roe in so many words, to be controlling. But the most likely candidates, Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said little to suggest that they were inclined toward that narrower approach.

The court’s three liberal members — Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — were adamant that Roe should stand.

  • New York Times, Mississippi says progress in the workplace makes abortion rights unnecessary. This is what the research says.

 

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Reports: Justices hear arguments over Miss. abortion law challenging 'Roe v. Wade,' Ann E. Marimow and Amy B Wang, Dec. 1, 2021. The Supreme Court on Wednesday is taking up the most serious challenge in decades to the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade in 1973. The Mississippi law at issue bans most abortions after 15 weeks into pregnancy and has not taken effect because lower courts said it violated Roe and the subsequent decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which said states may not ban abortion before viability, usually between 22 and 24 weeks.

Mississippi has only one abortion clinic in the state, and one of its doctors sued, saying the ban imposes an undue burden on the right to abortion. Mississippi told the court that allowing the 2018 law to stand would “scuttle a half-century of precedent.” The state says the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion and that the court’s precedents are “grievously wrong, unworkable, damaging and outmoded.”

Here’s what to know:

  • In accepting the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court said it will decide whether all prohibitions on abortion before viability are unconstitutional. Abortion opponents believe this is their best chance in decades.
  • The justices could overturn Roe or find another way to uphold the Mississippi law. The state suggested the court could hold that the law does not impose an “undue burden” on a significant number of women because the Mississippi clinic performs abortions only up to 16 weeks.
  • Past court rulings, public appearances and other public comments by the nine justices give insight into their thinking on abortion and court precedents.
  • Mississippi is represented by recently hired Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart, a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas. The abortion provider is represented by attorney Julie Rikelman, litigation director for the Center for Reproductive Rights. U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar also argued on behalf of the abortion provider.

washington post logoWashington Post, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles says hack breached about 400,000 patients’ information, Aaron Schaffer, Joseph Marks and Hannah Knowles, Dec. 1, 2021. A hacker gained access to the personal information of hundreds of thousands of Planned Parenthood patients last month, the reproductive health-care group’s Los Angeles branch said Wednesday.

The breach is limited to the Los Angeles affiliate, and spokesperson John Erickson said there is no indication at this point that the information was “used for fraudulent purposes.”

Supreme Court seems inclined to uphold Mississippi abortion law that would undermine Roe v. Wade

But an investigation is ongoing, he said, and information was compromised for about 400,000 patients of the organization at the center of the country’s fierce debates over abortion rights. Someone gained access to Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ network between Oct. 9 and Oct. 17, installed malicious software and “exfiltrated” some files, Erickson said in a statement.

Letters from PPLA to affected patients warned that “we identified files that contained your name and one or more of the following: address, insurance information, date of birth, and clinical information, such as diagnosis, procedure, and/or prescription information.”

Erickson said the attack involved a specific type of malware called ransomware that was behind this year’s shutdown of a major fuel pipeline — a wide-ranging hack on U.S. energy infrastructure.

Ransomware is a malicious computer code that hackers deploy to block an organization’s access to its own computer network to extort a ransom. Erickson did not immediately respond to questions about whether PPLA paid a ransom and how malware affected its systems.

Graphic: What abortion laws would look like if Roe v. Wade were overturned

Planned Parenthood has been hacked before. This year, the organization’s Metropolitan Washington branch revealed that patient and donor information — including dates of birth, medical data and Social Security and financial information — was breached in 2020.

Joshua Speiser, director of communications for PPMW, did not specify at the time how many patients were affected.

In 2015, names and contact information for hundreds of Planned Parenthood employees nationwide were posted online after another breach. The leader of the hacker group behind the posting was critical of the national organization.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies work to place supporters in key election posts across U.S., Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). If they succeed, the former president and his backers could pull down some of the guardrails that prevented him from overturning President Biden’s victory, critics say.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn Michigan, local GOP leaders have sought to reshape election canvassing boards by appointing members who expressed sympathy for former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 vote was rigged.

republican elephant logoIn two Pennsylvania communities, candidates who embraced election fraud allegations won races this month to become local voting judges and inspectors.

And in Colorado, 2020 doubters are urging their followers on conservative social media platforms to apply for jobs in election offices.

djt maga hatA year after local and state election officials came under immense pressure from Trump to subvert the results of the 2020 White House race, he and his supporters are pushing an ambitious plan to place Trump loyalists in key positions across the administration of U.S. elections.

The effort goes far beyond the former president’s public broadsides against well-known Republican state officials who certified President Biden’s victory, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Citing the need to make elections more secure, Trump allies are also seeking to replace officials across the nation, including volunteer poll watchers, paid precinct judges, elected county clerks and state attorneys general, according to state and local officials, as well as rally speeches, social media posts and campaign appearances by those seeking the positions.

 

marcus lamb joni lamb

Daystar founder Marcus Lamb and his wife, Joni Lamb.

washington post logoWashington Post, Marcus Lamb, head of Daystar, a large Christian network that discouraged vaccines, dies after getting covid-19, Michelle Boorstein, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Lamb’s network during the pandemic has made the virus a huge focus, calling it a satanic attack that should not be treated with vaccines. He was 64 years old.

Daystar is the second-largest Christian network in the world, according to CBN News, a competitor, reaching 2 billion people worldwide. Its brand is a fluid, modern, charismatic faith, more about general good-vs-evil, miraculous healings and religious freedom than any specific denominational theology.

But during the pandemic, Lamb and his network went in big with anti-vaccine conspiracies, hosting daily interviews with skeptics who talked about dangerous, hidden forces pushing vaccines and stealing Christians’ freedoms. “What if the most dangerous thing your child could face in life is the very thing you’re told by your doctor is safe?” is the headline of “A Hidden Crisis," about coronavirus vaccines.

daystar logo“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a spiritual attack from the enemy," Lamb’s son, Jonathan, said on the network earlier this month about his father’s covid-19 bout, Relevant magazine reported Tuesday. Talking about the alternative, unfounded treatments his parents promoted, Jonathan Lamb said, "there’s no doubt that the enemy is not happy about that. And he’s doing everything he can to take down my Dad.”

Daystar spokesman Arnold Torres declined to comment Tuesday on Lamb’s career or about his views of his illness before he died, or whether he was vaccinated.

“The family asks that their privacy be respected as they grieve this difficult loss. Please continue to lift them up in prayer,” Torres wrote in an email.

On social media, vaccine misinformation mixes with extreme faith

A brief statement said Daystar was launched in 1998 and grew to more than 100 television stations around the world. “[Lamb] will always be remembered for his fierce love of God, people, and his family.”

His wife, Joni, on their daily Ministry Show Tuesday, said her husband was diagnosed with covid-19, “got the covid pneumonia” and also had diabetes.

“We were trying to treat the covid and pneumonia with the different protocols we use, including the ones we talk about on Daystar. We used those — I myself used them and had breezed through covid,” she said on the show. His blood sugar spiked and he needed oxygen, she said. “He 100 percent believed in everything we talk about here on Daystar, things that help so many people around the world with early protocol treatments for covid. We still stand by those obviously.”

White evangelical Christians resist coronavirus vaccines at higher rates than other religious groups in the United States, a phenomenon experts say is bound up in politics, skepticism about government and in their consumption of alternative media and unfounded conspiracy theories about vaccine dangers.

Some Christian nationalists are fueling their movement with opposition to coronavirus vaccines and mask mandates

Lamb, whose network is headquartered in Dallas, was praised by prominent evangelicals Tuesday, who didn’t mention his anti-vaccine activism. Among them were Jentezen Franklin, a Georgia pastor who, with Lamb, was in a small circle of evangelical advisers to then-President Donald Trump, and Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and president of the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. Lamb appeared in a 2020 photo with Trump and a group of prominent Christians at an Evangelicals for Trump rally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fourth victim dies in Mich. school shooting; suspect charged as an adult with terrorism and murder, Lindsay Kalter, Paulina Firozi, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit and Reis Thebault, Dec. 1, 2021. A 15-year-old who opened fire on classmates at a Michigan high school, killing four and injuring seven, was charged on Wednesday as an adult with one count of terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder.

The news came shortly after the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a fourth victim, a 17-year-old, had died this morning at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Mich.

“There are facts leading up in the shooting that suggest this was not just an impulsive act,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said. She said "charging this person as an adult is necessary to achieve justice and protect the public. Any other option would put all of us at risk of this person because they could be released and still a threat.”

The four people slain were identified as 17-year-old Justin Shilling, who died Wednesday; 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana; 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin and 16-year-old Tate Myre, who died in a patrol car Tuesday while sheriff’s deputies were taking him to a hospital.

The suspected gunman, Ethan Crumbley, is a 15-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School who attended class before the attack, officials said. Law enforcement officials say the suspect’s father purchased the pistol on Nov. 26, just days before the shooting, but they declined to say how Crumbley then obtained the gun.

Crumbley was charged with a host of felonies — one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm — and a judge ordered him transferred from a youth detention facility to a county jail. McDonald said additional charges could be added later, and charges against both of his parents are under consideration.

McDonald said she could not offer much detail because she did not want to jeopardize the investigation, but said she was confident the acts were planned.

“There is a mountain of digital evidence: videotape, social media, all digital evidence possible,” she said. “We have reviewed it and we are confident we can show it was premeditation.”

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said authorities learned Wednesday that on the morning of the shooting, the suspect’s parents were brought in to the school and had a face to face meeting with school officials. School personnel also had a meeting with the suspect the day prior for “behavior in the classroom that they felt was concerning.”

Bouchard said the content of the meetings is part of the investigation. He added that prior to those meetings, there was “nothing in his file” on concerning behavior or discipline.

The mass shooting appears to be the deadliest episode of on-campus violence in more than 18 months, a period when instruction shifted online during the coronavirus pandemic and school shootings largely dropped out of headlines.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Stricter coronavirus testing being weighed for all travelers to U.S., Lena H. Sun and Tyler Pager, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is expected to require everyone entering the country, including returning Americans, to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure.

The Biden administration is preparing stricter testing requirements for all travelers entering the United States, including returning Americans, to curb the spread of the potentially dangerous omicron variant, according to three federal health officials.

As part of an enhanced winter covid strategy Biden is expected to announce Thursday, U.S. officials would require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. Administration officials are also considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival.

In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States.

The two testing measures are detailed in a draft public health order written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is under review by officials at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the White House. The self quarantine-related measures are not in that draft but could be added later if the proposals win broader sign-off, said the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the order has not been finalized.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA advisers narrowly recommend authorization of first antiviral pill to treat covid-19, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Katie Shepherd, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Expert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration recommended authorization Tuesday of the first coronavirus pill to prevent high-risk people from developing severe illness in a divided vote that reflects the complicated mix of benefits and risks involved with a new and easy mode of treatment.

fda logoMerck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics developed the drug, molnupiravir, as a five-day regimen to be taken at home within five days of onset of coronavirus symptoms. The FDA is not bound by the 13-to-10 vote but typically follows its external advisers’ recommendations. The drug could have an immediate impact on the pandemic if authorized — just as the ominous new omicron variant has emerged, jolting the world with the prospect of a longer and more complicated pandemic.

Merck has pledged to manufacture treatment courses for 10 million patients by the end of the year, and the United States has preordered enough medicine to treat 3.1 million people. Monoclonal antibodies, another treatment, are harder to administer but are more effective, which led experts to debate the benefits and drawbacks of an easy-to-use medicine that would offer an additional tool to reduce the strain on hospitals as a potential winter surge looms.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump-appointed judges block Biden administration vaccine mandate for health-care workers, Eli Rosenberg and Adela Suliman, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Another federal judge halted the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for certain medical workers on Tuesday, effectively halting the requirement across the country after it was blocked in 10 states a day before.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Nigeria reports West Africa’s first omicron cases, igniting confusion over timeline, Danielle Paquette, Dec. 1, 2021. Nigeria has confirmed its first cases of the omicron variant after three travelers arriving from South Africa tested positive, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said Wednesday.

nigerian flag wavingThe travelers all landed in Africa’s most populous country over the past week, Ifedayo Adetifa, the NCDC’s director general, said in a statement. The infections are “widespread globally,” he added.

“Therefore,” he said, “it is a matter of when, not if, we will identify more cases.”

Confusion abounded, however, after the nation’s top health agency initially reported that omicron was found in samples collected in October, which would have made Nigeria the first place the variant was known to have existed. The wording of the statement was subsequently changed.

How the omicron variant unsettled the world in just one week: A visual timeline

A medical official who works with the NCDC, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told The Washington Post that the information was a mistake, saying the passengers were actually swabbed in the last days of November.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Dec. 1, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying the numbers are far higher:

World Cases: 263,239,161, Deaths: 5,237,024
U.S. Cases:    49,428,913, Deaths:    803,045
Indian Cases:  34,596,776, Deaths:    469,247
Brazil Cases:   22,094,459, Deaths:   614,754

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.8 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.3 % of the population, as of Dec. 1, 2021. Note: Due to adjustments in reporting, Pennsylvania removed 1.2 million doses on Nov. 23.

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Trump Watch, White Supremecists, Cults

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Mark Meadows is cooperating against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 1, 2021. Yesterday we all learned that even as the bill palmerJanuary 6th Committee has been preparing to refer former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the DOJ for contempt of Congress, Meadows has decided at the last minute to cooperate. It’s not difficult to parse that Meadows is trying to avoid going to prison for contempt. But now it turns out he has another apparent motivation.

We all recall that Donald Trump did an in-person debate with Joe Biden on September 29th, 2020. Then on October 2nd, Trump announced that he had just tested positive for COVID, and was taken to the hospital. But Mark Meadows is telling a different version of that story.

bill palmer report logo headerMultiple major news outlets are reporting today that in his new book, Meadows, below right, claims Trump tested positive for COVID before the debate with Biden, but tested negative using a different kind of testing system, and decided to participate in the debate while keeping his positive test a secret.

Mark MeadowsIt’s not immediately clear how pro-Trump or anti-Trump the rest of the book is. But this bombshell alone is obviously going to make Trump look very bad in the eyes of a lot of mainstream Americans, and Meadows knows this. Trump is already releasing a statement calling it “fake news,” which suggests that he and Meadows are finished. Meadows had to know this kind of response from Trump was coming as well.

So what is Mark Meadows doing? Well, he’s suddenly decided to cooperate with the January 6th Committee against Donald Trump, at the same time he’s leaking ugly details about Trump from his upcoming book. Was this the plan all along? Was Meadows trying to stall on cooperating with the committee until his book was ready for release? Is Meadows releasing a Trump tell-all book to fund his legal defense in Fulton County, Georgia, where the District Attorney has empaneled a special grand jury into election tampering?

There are a lot of questions raised here. But it’s not difficult to parse that there’s some correlation between Mark Meadows’ decision to cooperate against Donald Trump and Mark Meadows’ upcoming release of a Trump tell-all book. So let’s keep an eye on this.

Regardless of Meadows’ specific motivations, all that really matters that he is cooperating with investigators, and that he keeps cooperating. If his book is part of that, then so be it.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump tested positive for coronavirus before first debate with Biden, three former aides say, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Annie Linskey and Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 1, 2021. President Donald Trump tested positive for the coronavirus days before he shared the debate stage with then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in late September 2020, according to his former chief of staff and two others familiar with the former president’s test — a stunning revelation that illustrates the dismissive approach to the dangers posed by the virus in Trump’s inner circle.

Trump’s positive test for the virus was Sept. 26, 2020, according to an account by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in a new book obtained by the Guardian newspaper. The Meadows account of the positive result was confirmed Wednesday by two former aides who requested anonymity to discuss their knowledge of the former president’s health.

The timing means Trump would have had reason to believe he was infected with the coronavirus three days before the Sept. 29 presidential debate and six days before he was hospitalized for covid-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The disclosure also provides new evidence of Trump’s often reckless and cavalier approach to his health and the health of those around him as he struggled through a chaotic response to the pandemic.

The White House did not reveal the positive test publicly or inform debate organizers at the time. In “The Chief’s Chief,” due to be published next week, Meadows writes that Trump received a negative result from a different test shortly after his positive one.

In a statement Wednesday morning, Trump denied Meadows’s account of events.

“The story of me having COVID before, or during, the first debate is Fake News,” Trump said. “In fact, a test revealed that I did not have COVID before the debate.”

Palmer Report, These Mark Meadows allegations against Donald Trump are just UGLY, Bocha Blue, Dec. 1, 2021. Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff to Donald Trump, has a new book coming out. And some disturbing new allegations against Trump are surfacing. Per the Guardian, Meadows admits that Trump tested positive for Covid BEFORE his debate with Joe Biden. He tested positive but, of course, said nothing — because why would a little thing like putting the lives of others in jeopardy stop Trump from debating?

Not that what he did could reasonably be called “debating” anyway. Trump also met with military families during this time — possibly exposing them to his germs as well Reportedly as Trump was on his way to a rally, his Doctor called — and asked that his aides stop Trump from leaving. “Stop the President from leaving,” a frantic Sean Conley said. They didn’t.

What they did do is retest — and this time, the results were negative. This, however, did not stop his aides from taking precautions — although they apparently did not seem to care much about others taking precautions — because they did not inform the public about any of this.

It is just now surfacing in this wretched book I’ve no intention of ever reading. We should not really be surprised. Trump has literally no regard for human life. Who knows — maybe he wanted President Biden to come down with Covid.

At this point, the sins of Trump are many, and now we can add this one to the endless list. It is unbelievable thinking about it that we had such a schmuck as our president for four dreadful years. It is also unbelievable that too many Republicans to count continue to worship at the shrine of a creature who does not give a damn about any one of them.

House Jan. 6 committee votes to hold former official of Trump-era Justice Department in criminal contempt, Jacqueline Alemany, The full House could take up the contempt resolution against Jeffrey Clark — who served as acting head of the Justice Department’s civil division at the end of the Trump administration — later this month.

Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall.

Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall, has pushed baseless claims of election tampering.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors demanded records of Sidney Powell’s fundraising groups as part of criminal probe, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Emma Brown and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).  

Federal prosecutors have demanded the financial records of multiple fundraising organizations launched by attorney Sidney Powell after the 2020 election as part of a criminal investigation, according to a subpoena reviewed by The Washington Post.

The grand jury subpoena, issued in September by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, sought communications and other records related to fundraising and accounting by groups including Defending the Republic, a Texas-based organization claiming 501(c) 4 nonprofit status, and a PAC by the same name, according to the documents and a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the probe.

As part of the investigation, which has not been previously reported, prosecutors are seeking records going back to Nov. 1, 2020.

 

capitol riot deposition list

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s coverup of his Jan. 6 corruption takes an ominous new turn, Greg Sargent, right, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). As the Jan. 6 greg sargentselect committee investigation gathers momentum, Donald Trump has gotten several cronies to refuse to testify by invoking “executive privilege.” That’s absurd on its face: Much of the information Trump wants to keep buried doesn’t relate to the office of the presidency, but rather to his incitement of mob violence to remain president illegitimately.

But there’s something uniquely troubling about the latest turn in this saga. Trump might now succeed, at least temporarily, in using this tactic to muzzle testimony from someone who apparently communicated personally and directly with Trump about some of his most flagrantly corrupt efforts to overturn our political order.

jeffrey clark nyt

We’re talking about Jeffrey Clark, above, the former Justice Department official who reportedly launched various efforts to conscript the department into helping Trump subvert the election. The committee subpoenaed Clark, but he has rebuffed questions, citing Trump’s effort to assert executive privilege to block Congress from obtaining internal information.

This week, the select committee will vote to hold Clark in criminal contempt. If and when the full House follows, the matter will be referred to the Justice Department for potential prosecution. But then the matter will likely land in the courts, perhaps for a long time.

To see why this is so perverse, let’s dig into Clark’s involvement. It’s detailed in a Senate Judiciary Committee report examining Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department, which relied on testimony from another top official, then-acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen.

That pressure constitutes the beating heart of Trump’s coup attempt. The report found that Trump extensively pressured department leaders to take official action to portray his loss as fraudulent, via investigations, lawsuits and public statements.

The idea was apparently to create a fake rationale for Trump’s vice president to simply declare Joe Biden’s electors invalid, after which friendly states might send alternate electors. That plot was outlined in the now-notorious Trump coup memo.

But the role of Clark was particularly troubling. The report found that Trump and Clark personally communicated before Clark undertook extraordinary actions on Trump’s behalf.

These included an effort to send official Justice Department letters to swing states declaring that the department was examining election problems and advising state legislators to consider appointing new electors. That was thwarted by Rosen and other officials, but it was an extraordinary abuse of power.

Subsequent to that, Clark reportedly informed Rosen that Trump had offered to install him in Rosen’s place, presumably amid Trump’s anger over Rosen’s rebuffing of his corrupt designs.

The question is, to what degree did Trump and Clark elaborate this scheme in their own conversations?

jamin raskin american university Custom 2Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), right, a member of the select committee, noted that Clark could testify about his conversations throughout that time. This might illuminate what Trump directed Clark to do, or understood him to be doing, on his behalf.

Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, told me that Clark could speak to potentially criminal conduct by Trump, by testifying about “Trump conspiring with Department of Justice officials to undermine our free and fair elections.”

That may have run afoul of the law, Kirschner notes, citing criminal conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States.

That offense, he said, could include seditious conspiracy or attempted coercion of government employees into carrying out political activity. Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe has also detailed how Trump’s pressure on the Justice Department could constitute such crimes.

But Clark has now refused to testify, citing Trump’s executive privilege claim. And we don’t know how long it will take to get Clark’s testimony, if ever. This could remain bogged down in court and could end up before the Supreme Court.

Rolling Stone, The Fringe QAnon ‘Cult’ Is Still Waiting for a JFK Jr. Miracle in Dallas, Steve Monicelli, Dec. 1, 2021. The group, led by conspiracy theorist rolling stone logoMichael Protzman, are trafficking in fascistic ideas that are far more concerning than they are kooky.

It’s been a month since the fanatical followers of a fringe QAnon influencer, Michael Protzman (aka Negative48), first gathered in Dallas, Texas, to witness the reveal — or resurrection, depending who you asked — of John F. Kennedy and JFK Jr. 

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crimes 

 

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images)

washington post logoWashington Post, Epstein accuser says Maxwell and Epstein groomed her, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Maxwell was often in room during abuse, The woman recalled meeting Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein at an arts camp in 1994.

A 41-year-old woman told jurors Tuesday how Ghislaine Maxwell allegedly helped groom and recruit her into the life of financier Jeffrey Epstein decades ago, including watching at times as Epstein forced her into sexual acts.

The woman — testifying under the pseudonym Jane — was the first of four alleged victims who will testify at Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. She gave a mostly matter-of-fact account of being lured into Epstein’s world of daily erotic massages as a 14-year-old and globe-trotting on private jets.

Maxwell, 59, who was Epstein’s longtime associate and paramour, has pleaded not guilty.

Epstein died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting his own federal trial

On the witness stand, Jane, now a professional singer and actress, said she met Maxwell and Epstein at a prestigious summer camp for music students for which Epstein was a benefactor.

The pair invited the girl and her mother to tea at Epstein’s mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., and earned the mother’s trust as potential mentors for her daughter, prosecutors allege. Eventually, Epstein paid for the girl’s schooling and an apartment in New York where she and her family stayed.

Jane testified that she visited Epstein’s mansion about every other week. Initially, she said, the visits were “casual” — centered around trips to the movies and poolside hangouts. The woman said she was first exposed to sex acts with Epstein when he led her into the pool house during a discussion about calls he could make to his influential friends to help her launch her career. There, he exposed himself, she said, using her as a prop as he masturbated.

“I was frozen in fear. . . . I was terrified, I felt gross and I felt ashamed,” she testified, saying it was the first time she had seen male genitalia.

Maxwell’s defense team began to cross-examine Jane late Tuesday afternoon and will continue Wednesday.

Laura Menninger, one of Maxwell’s lawyers, suggested in her initial questioning that Jane had exaggerated her family’s financial distress around the time she met Epstein and Maxwell in 1994 at the Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp in Michigan.

Menninger also pressed Jane on why she waited until 2020 to take her allegations about Epstein and Maxwell to law enforcement. By then, Menninger noted, she was represented by a personal injury attorney.

Jane answered that she was reluctant to tell many people because her story was “embarrassing” and “shameful.”

Defense lawyers said in opening statements that they will seek to undermine the credibility and motives of Maxwell’s accusers, presenting testimony about how memory can change over time and about alleged financial incentives the women may have had in coming forward. Jane recently was awarded $5 million by a fund set up to administer payments from Epstein’s estate to his victims. After attorney fees and deductions, she kept about $3 million.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-D.C. priest in prison for sexual abuse found guilty in separate case, Jasmine Hilton, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). A former assistant pastor at a Catholic church in Northwest Washington who is serving a prison sentence for sexually abusing children was found guilty Monday in a separate case of sexually abusing an adult parishioner, officials said.

After a one-day trial in D.C. Superior Court and hearing a victim impact statement, Judge Juliet McKenna sentenced Urbano Vazquez, 49, to the maximum sentence of 180 days on one count of misdemeanor sexual abuse, officials said. That term will be served consecutively to a 15-year sentence that was imposed after Vazquez was convicted in 2019 of four felony counts of child sexual abuse, according to a statement by the District’s U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves and Police Chief Robert J. Contee III.

Joaquin

Joaquin "El Chapo Guzman" under arrest in 2014 in Mexico City (Bloomberg via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Wife of Mexican drug kingpin ‘El Chapo’ sentenced to 3 years in prison, Paul Duggan, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Two years after the Mexican drug lord nicknamed “El Chapo” began serving life behind bars in the United States, his wife, who admitted taking part in his multibillion-dollar smuggling operation and aiding his notorious 2015 tunnel escape from a Mexican prison, was sentenced Tuesday to 36 months in a federal penitentiary.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, right, whose husband, Joaquín Guzmán Loera reigned for years as boss of Mexico’s murderous Sinaloa Cartel, pleaded guilty in June to three charges in U.S. District Court in Washington, including conspiracy to distribute 100 tons of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.

emma coronel aispuro“I address you today to express my true regret . . . and ask that you and all the citizens of this country forgive me,” Coronel, 32, told Judge Rudolph Contreras in Spanish. Speaking through an interpreter, she said, “I am sorry.”

The Justice Department and Coronel’s lawyers agreed that advisory sentencing guidelines in her case called for prison time in the range of 51 to 71 months. A prosecutor recommended only 48 months, noting that Coronel was a small “cog in a very large wheel of a powerful criminal organization” and that she “quickly accepted responsibility” after her February arrest.

But defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman asked for more leniency, saying Coronel, a former beauty queen, married El Chapo on her 18th birthday, when he was 49, and spent her adulthood under his sway. “Her involvement . . . was in many ways just being Joaquín Guzmán’s wife,” Lichtman said, arguing that her role in the organization should be “judged through the lens of how she entered it.”

Contreras, in giving her 36 months, indicated he agreed.

As part of a plea deal, Coronel admitted she helped her husband, now 64, keep control of the Sinaloa Cartel from his cell in a supposedly high-security Mexican prison before his escape in July 2015. She conceded that prosecutors could show she delivered messages from El Chapo to cartel associates as he continued directing and profiting from drug smuggling while in custody.

She acknowledged she received $1 million in heroin proceeds that were owed to Guzmán and used intermediaries to distribute some of the cash as bribes to ensure favorable treatment for him in the prison, known as Altiplano, near Mexico City.

And in a caper seemingly straight out of Hollywood, she admitted giving her incarcerated husband a GPS device disguised as food. Aided by the device, cartel engineers burrowed a mile-long tunnel, 33 feet deep, that came up under the shower stall in El Chapo’s cell.

The tunnel originated on property that Coronel acknowledged buying for the escape.

After months in hiding, the stout, 5-foot-6-inch kingpin, whose nickname roughly translates to “Shorty,” was captured in January 2016 and extradited to the United States a year later. He was convicted of federal drug-trafficking charges in 2019 and sentenced to life. In his years atop the cartel, authorities said, he raked in an estimated $14 billion and was responsible for innumerable acts of savage violence.

“He won me over with his kindness and his manners,” Coronel once told an interviewer. She and Guzmán are parents of 11-year-old twin daughters.

At El Chapo’s trial in Brooklyn, his wife cut a striking figure, arriving in fashionable outfits, stiletto heels and oversized sunglasses. From her reserved seat in the courtroom gallery, she would occasionally blow kisses to her husband.

“The Kardashian of Sinaloa,” she was dubbed. She launched a clothing line in El Chapo’s name and appeared on the VH1 reality show “Cartel Crew.”

Then, on Feb. 22 this year, Coronel was arrested by federal agents at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. In addition to the drug conspiracy charge, she pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiring to launder money and conducting a financial transaction intended to evade U.S. government sanctions against her husband.

Coronel “opted to take accountability for her actions, and she did so quickly,” prosecutor Anthony J. Nardozzi said in recommending a lesser sentence than called for by the guidelines. He said she “saved the government the considerable time and resources that would have been required to engage in adversarial proceedings against her.”

alice sebold black enterprise

washington post logoWashington Post, Author Alice Sebold apologizes to man wrongfully convicted of her rape, Jaclyn Peiser, Dec. 1, 2021. For eight days, author Alice Sebold (shown above) remained quiet about the exoneration last week of the man convicted of raping her in 1981. Sebold’s 1999 memoir Lucky, which describes in searing detail the attack in Syracuse, N.Y., when she was a college freshman, propelled her into a successful career as a novelist. She would go on to write The Lovely Bones, which sold millions of copies and was made into a 2009 film directed by Peter Jackson.

But after Anthony Broadwater spent 16 years in prison and decades struggling to move forward while tethered to the state’s sex offender registry, a New York Supreme Court judge freed him from the conviction.

On Tuesday, Sebold broke her silence. In a statement first released to the Associated Press and later posted on Medium, the author apologized directly to Broadwater, 61, but cast equal blame on “our flawed legal system.”

“I deeply regret what you have been through,” Sebold wrote to Broadwater. “I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you, and I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will.”

“I will remain sorry for the rest of my life that while pursuing justice through the legal system, my own misfortune resulted in Mr. Broadwater’s unfair conviction,” she continued.

Soon after the release, Broadwater’s lawyer told Syracuse.com that his client was moved to tears by Sebold’s words.

“It comes sincerely from her heart,” Broadwater said in an interview with the news site. “She knowingly admits what happened. I accept her apology.”

washington post logoWashington Post, An assistant principal in D.C. also worked as a principal in Rhode Island — at the same time, Hannah Natanson, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Michael Redmond faces allegations that he violated the city’s code of ethics by holding both jobs last year.

Michael Redmond had worked for D.C. Public Schools since 2014, earning accolades first as an assistant principal at Truesdell Education Campus, where he launched a popular book club for Black male students, and then at Kramer Middle School, where he helped students grieve the fatal shooting of a classmate.

But for 17 weeks last year, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Redmond led a professional double life, D.C. officials say — serving remotely as Kramer’s assistant principal while working in person as a principal of E-Cubed Academy in Providence, R.I.

Officials outlined that alleged double dipping in a filing with D.C.’s Board of Ethics and Government Accountability in early November, asserting that Redmond violated the D.C. Code of Conduct, which prohibits city employees from holding outside jobs. Possible penalties for such a violation include thousands of dollars in fines or a year in prison.

Redmond confirmed Monday that he worked the two jobs simultaneously and said he resigned from Kramer as soon as he learned that he was unable to hold both positions. He told The Washington Post that he worked around-the-clock to fulfill his responsibilities at Kramer, leading and attending professional development sessions and regularly meeting with parents and students.

Redmond said Richard Jackson, the head of D.C.’s Council of School Officers, told him that he was “not allowed to work both jobs,” at which point he resigned “immediately” from his position in D.C. In the ethics filing, officials said Redmond resigned from D.C. Public Schools on Nov. 30, 2020.

The 22-page filing asserts that Redmond took the job as assistant principal at Kramer at the start of the 2019-2020 school year at an annual salary of $125,434. Redmond then took the job at E-Cubed Academy on July 22, 2020, according to the filing, without leaving his position at Kramer.

Watergate prosecutors and Harvard Law School Professors Philip Heymann, left, and his mentor Archibald Cox in 1973 (Associated Press photo by Jim Palmer).

The late Watergate prosecutors (on leave from Harvard Law School) Philip Heymann, left, and his mentor Archibald Cox in 1973 (Associated Press photo by Jim Palmer).

washington post logoWashington Post, Philip Heymann (1932–2021); Legal scholar and aide to Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox dies at 89, Emily Langer, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Philip B. Heymann, a legal scholar who was a chief assistant to Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, later leading the Justice Department’s criminal division and serving briefly as the top deputy to Attorney General Janet Reno during a career that established him as an authority on presidential powers and civil liberties, died Nov. 30 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89.

The cause was complications from a stroke, said his daughter Jody Heymann, a distinguished professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and an authority on health and social policy.

Mr. Heymann (pronounced Hyman) had long taught at Harvard Law School, his alma mater and professional home during those periods when he was not engaged in government service at the Justice or State departments.

“An academician who has the hands-on experience of prosecution and administration,” a reporter for the Boston Globe once wrote, he was “well-respected both in academia and the workaday world of prosecutors” and thus belonged to “a singular group of major, national players in criminal justice who combine two attributes often considered to be in conflict in the field.”

Other recent headlines

 

Investigation

kirk shipley washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: They trusted a coach with their girls and Ivy League ambitions. Now he’s accused of sex abuse, Lizzie Johnson, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Kirk Shipley, above, the rowing coach at Walt Whitman High in Bethesda, Md., held onto his job through two investigations into his behavior. Then he was arrested.

The rowing season had already ended by the time the seven girls began drafting a letter that they hoped would get their coach fired.

They’d spent years competing for the crew team affiliated with Walt Whitman High, one of the Washington region’s highest-achieving public schools. In an affluent Maryland suburb fixated on success, their team was a juggernaut, regularly winning medals at Philadelphia’s prestigious Stotesbury Cup Regatta — the world’s largest high school racing competition — and sending its rowers on to Brown, MIT, Yale and other top colleges.

Many credited the team’s accomplishments to its longtime head coach: a Whitman High social studies teacher named Kirk Shipley. At 47, he was a three-time All-Met Coach of the Year who’d led the parent-funded club program for nearly two decades. He’d cultivated a loyal following, becoming drinking buddies with rival coaches and accepting invitations from rowers’ parents to dine at their Bethesda, Md., homes. They trusted him with their daughters — and their Ivy League ambitions.

Now, three days after their graduation from Whitman, the seven rowers decided to send a missive to the parent board, a group of mothers and fathers who volunteered to oversee the program. In just a few weeks, one girl was headed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; at least three others had earned scholarships to row in college. None of them wanted other students to have the same experiences they’d had with Shipley.

The coach, the seven warned in the letter they sent June 15, “has taken advantage of his role on the team and used his position to create a toxic, competitive atmosphere that fosters negativity and tension among the athletes. ... He very clearly plays favorites, and when athletes spoke up or criticized his actions, their boat placement was often affected. This could be seen all three years we were on the varsity team.”

They detailed the times he’d pitted girls in different boats against each other, called them names, asked probing questions about their boyfriends and delved into their personal lives in ways that felt invasive and inappropriate. After one of their teammates attempted suicide, they told the 14-member parent board, Shipley had bluntly asked her, “So, how did you try to do it?”

This wasn’t the first time Shipley, who declined an interview request through his attorney, had been the target of a complaint about the way he operated. He’d been investigated in 2018 after being accused that spring of creating a toxic culture — a claim he denied, arguing in an email to the complaining parent that it was just “the competitive nature of the Women’s program at Whitman.”

 

Abortion Case Reactions

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The fundamental deception behind the ‘pro-life’ movement, Jennifer Rubin, shown at right, with the cover of her recent book at left below, Dec. 1, 2021. As the Supreme Court considers jennifer rubin new headshotthe Mississippi abortion case, pro-choice advocates would do well to expose the fundamental dishonesty in the “pro-life” movement that it is about saving innocent life.

Set aside for a moment all the questions about personhood and the fact that many religious traditions do not recognize personhood at conception. (The arrogance associated with the view that “everyone” agrees when life begins is indicative of a movement that insists that our laws follow one particular religious tradition.)

jennifer rubin book resistanceInstead, focus on the contention from antiabortion activists that a woman’s right to bodily integrity must be sacrificed for the sake of another. This is a rule that is applicable in no other situation.

In what other context is someone’s body, health and daily life commandeered to save another? No one would countenance a law that said a person who is a bone marrow or organ match is legally obligated to donate to another. There may be a moral imperative (if the person’s life and health would not be impacted), but we do not override an individual’s bodily integrity against his or her will even for noble purposes. We generally do not punish bystanders who refuse to come to the rescue of others in distress, especially when there is any risk to themselves.

Moreover, these same voices roundly reject the obligation of self-sacrifice for others’ health when the inconvenience is far more trivial than the emotional, physical and financial burden of a nine-month pregnancy. The “my body, my choice” slogan from anti-mask and anti-vaccine advocates is the most stunning example of their refusal to compel even minor inconveniences to save innocent life. They refuse to apply that same demand for bodily autonomy in the abortion context.

Likewise, the same right-wing advocates for criminalizing abortion reject any slight inconvenience for gun buyers, such as background checks, even if it might save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. Their Second Amendment rights trump everyone else’s safety. The only ones denied the right of self-determination are pregnant women.

The Supreme Court may well uproot decades of precedent on abortion rights. State legislatures may follow with abortion bans.

But let us not pretend this is about the noble principle of “saving innocent life.” This is about denying women in particular the power to decide whether to undergo a substantial physical, hormonal, emotional and financial obligation for nine months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Potential loss of Roe v. Wade as a legal standard shakes political landscape, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, Dec. 1, 2021.
Democrats immediately vowed to make abortion rights a central focus in next year’s midterm elections, where their prospects have been viewed as dim, while many Republicans sought to keep the focus on inflation and other problems facing President Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Billie Jean King: My abortion story shows why the Supreme Court must save Roe v. Wade, Billie Jean King, Dec. 1, 2021. Billie Jean King is a former No. 1-ranked tennis player and the author of “All In: An Autobiography.” She co-founded the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, a nonprofit organization that seeks equality in the workplace.

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court this week in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization mark the court’s third major abortion case since 2016 — and just the latest effort to challenge the right of all women to decide whether to continue their pregnancy prior to viability. Most Americans today can’t remember a time when abortion was a felony in most states, even in instances of rape or incest, but I remember all too well. My own experience obtaining a legal abortion, two years before the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, illustrates why we must never roll back our hard-won reproductive rights.

In early 1971, I became pregnant. It was unexpected. I was 27 years old and the top-ranked women’s tennis player in the world. I was on the road constantly to help launch the world’s first professional all-women’s tour. In fact, I learned I was pregnant after almost throwing up on court during a match.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Gutting ‘Roe’ would devastate millions of Americans — and the court itself, Editorial Board, Dec. 1, 2021. The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in an abortion case that could mark a perilous turning point for American society.

Judging by the justices’ tone, the question is not whether they will eviscerate the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and the subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey ruling in 1992 but how drastically they will curtail these core precedents.

The justices should have no illusions: A partial or total reversal of Roe would devastate not only the Americans who rely on the abortion rights that have been theirs for nearly 50 years, but also the court itself, undermining its legitimacy.

  • The Opinions Essay, The Rule of Six: A newly radicalized Supreme Court is poised to reshape the nation, Ruth Marcus

washington post logoWashington Post, Kavanaugh, who told Senate Roe v. Wade was ‘settled as precedent,’ signals openness to overturning it, Amy B Wang,  Dec. 1, 2021. Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on Wednesday repeatedly indicated he would be open to overturning “settled law,” including Roe v. Wade, citing a long list of past Supreme Court cases that had been ruled against precedent.

Those cases, Kavanaugh said, included Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed the “separate but equal” doctrine; Baker v. Carr, which set the stage for one person, one vote; West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, which recognized the state’s authority to regulate business; and Miranda v. Arizona, which required police to give Miranda warnings about the right to remain silent and have an attorney present to suspects in criminal custody.

“If we think that the prior precedents are seriously wrong … why then doesn’t the history of this court’s practice with respect to those cases tell us that the right answer is to return to the position of neutrality?” Kavanaugh at one point asked Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Julie Rikelman, who is representing the abortion provider suing Mississippi’s new law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

It was one of several times Kavanaugh would return to his argument Wednesday that the Constitution was “silent and therefore neutral” on the issue of abortion as the Supreme Court heard arguments over the Mississippi law and the fate of the 1973 decision. In another line of questioning that was somewhat friendly to Mississippi Solicitor General Scott G. Stewart, Kavanaugh seemed to be looking ahead to hypothetical situations if Roe v. Wade were overturned and if the question of abortion rights were returned to states to decide.

Kavanaugh’s statements on Wednesday differed — if not in substance than certainly in tone — from the impression he left for some in 2018, during his Senate confirmation process. The question of how he would rule in a challenge to Roe v. Wade came up multiple times during his confirmation hearings, and at the time, Kavanaugh emphasized that Roe v. Wade was “settled as precedent.”

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Government nears weekend shutdown as Republicans take aim at vaccine, testing mandates, Tony Romm, Mike DeBonis and
Seung Min Kim, Dec. 1, 2021. Growing group of conservatives pushes GOP leaders to block funding bill as deadline approaches.

The U.S. government on Wednesday moved one step closer to a potential shutdown, as some Republicans seized on a fast-approaching fiscal deadline to mount fresh opposition to President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine and testing mandates.

The emerging conservative campaign quickly divided GOP lawmakers, enraged congressional Democrats and threatened to unravel days of delicate bipartisan talks on Capitol Hill. The current federal spending agreement is set to expire Friday at midnight.

“We’re opposed to the mandate,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “We don’t want the federal government to be able to fund them in any way shape or form.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz announces Senate run in Pennsylvania, joins GOP field, Amy B Wang and Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Mehmet Oz, who rose to fame as “Dr. Oz” on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” said Tuesday he is launching a Republican campaign for Senate in Pennsylvania, in a contest that is seen as a critical race for the GOP if the party wants to regain control of the chamber in 2022.

“Pennsylvania needs a conservative who will put America first, one who could reignite our divine spark,” Oz said in a video, echoing a familiar phrase of former president Donald Trump.

In a statement published in the Washington Examiner, Oz paid deference to Trump and criticized “elites” and others who he said had “squashed” great ideas during the coronavirus pandemic. Oz, who attended Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, also boasted that he had “fought the establishment” throughout his career. Outside of the headline on the statement, he made little mention of Pennsylvania or issues specific to the state.

Later on Tuesday, in an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” Oz said he is focused on energy independence, capitalism, lower taxes and the Constitution.

“Any government that’s large enough to give you everything is powerful enough to take it all away,” Oz said. “So, I don’t want that. I want liberty and freedom, and that to me means limited government. We can do it better than folks very far away from us that don’t know our local problems.”

Oz, 61, joins a crowded field vying to fill the seat of Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring at the end of his term next year. Oz’s announcement comes a little more than a week after Republican Sean Parnell, who had been endorsed by Trump, decided to end his campaign, leaving the GOP primary with no clear front-runner.

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Marjorie Taylor Greene, in feud with Nancy Mace on Islamophobia, launches personal attack over abortion, Rachel Pannett, Dec. 1, 2021. House Republicans Nancy Mace and Marjorie Taylor Greene (shown above in a fund-raising ad) are in a public and highly personal feud over abortion and religion, amid the ongoing fallout from Islamophobic remarks by some GOP lawmakers.

Greene (Ga.) denounced her colleague as “the trash in the GOP conference” — appearing to accuse Mace of being aligned with Democrats on religious and abortion issues, rather than her own party.

nancy maceShe wrote on Twitter Tuesday that Mace, right, is never attacked by Democrats or moderate Republicans “because she is not conservative, she’s pro-abort.”

Mace (S.C.), who is a rape survivor, supports restrictions on abortion. Greene’s suggestion that her colleague was “pro-abort” appears to stem from how as a state representative, Mace championed exceptions to an abortion ban for victims of rape and incest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrat Stacey Abrams plans another run for Ga. governor, which could lead to rematch with Gov. Kemp, Felicia Sonmez, Dec. 1, 2021. Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee, announced Wednesday that she is pursuing a bid for governor in 2022.

The move means Abrams could face a rematch against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), to whom she narrowly lost the governor’s race three years ago.

In a video shared on social media, Abrams said she’s running “because opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn’t be determined by your Zip code, background or access to power.”
Stacey Abrams announces Georgia gubernatorial run
In a video posted to Twitter on Dec. 1, Stacey Abrams announced that she would enter the 2022 Georgia governor’s race. (Stacey Abrams | Twitter)

The Democrat was widely credited with boosting voter turnout in Georgia in 2020, helping Joe Biden defeat President Donald Trump in the state and aiding two Democrats — Raphael G. Warnock and Jon Ossoff — in capturing Senate seats this past January.

“If our Georgia is going to move to its next and greatest chapter, we’re going to need leadership,” Abrams said in her announcement video. “Leadership that knows how to do the job. Leadership that doesn’t take credit without taking responsibility. Leadership that understands the true pain folks are feeling and has real plans. That’s the job of governor, to fight for one Georgia — our Georgia. And now, it’s time to get the job done.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Oregon Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio, chairman of transportation panel, to retire at end of his term, Mariana Alfaro, Michael Laris and Marianna Sotomayor, Dec. 1, 2021. DeFazio, who has served since 1987, said it’s time to pass the baton to “the next generation.”

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said Wednesday he is retiring at the end of his congressional term.

“It’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation so I can focus on my health and well-being,” DeFazio, 74, said in a statement. “This was a tough decision at a challenging time for our republic with the very pillars of our democracy under threat, but I am bolstered by the passion and principles of my colleagues in Congress and the ingenuity and determination of young Americans who are civically engaged and working for change.”

DeFazio has been an active member of the transportation panel since he was first elected to represent Oregon’s 4th Congressional District in 1986.

DeFazio becomes the 19th House Democrat to announce plans to leave office at the end of his term for either another office or retirement. DeFazio also is the third committee chair who will not seek reelection next year, following Reps. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), chairman of the House budget committee, and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), chairwoman of the science, space and technology committee.

washington post logoRoll Call, Leaders point fingers as defense bill remains stalled in the Senate, Andrew Clevenger, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans demand vote on amendment to sanction the Russian company building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans blocked progress on the defense bill to secure more amendment votes.

Once again, the annual defense policy bill has stalled in the Senate, leading to another round of recriminations over which party is to blame.

Department of Defense SealMajority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., took to the Senate floor Tuesday to criticize Republicans for holding up the bill, saying the deal offered by Democrats to vote on 19 amendments “is more than fair and reasonable” and had the approval of the Armed Services Committee's top Republican, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma.

Nonetheless, Inhofe joined most of his Republican colleagues in voting against cloture on Monday, although he supports the bill itself.

Schumer said the deal between Inhofe and Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., allowed for more amendment votes than in the previous four years combined. “To say that we’re being unfair, to say that we’re not giving enough amendments is poppycock, and they know it,” Schumer said.

In response, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Schumer of “botch[ing] the floor process” on a bill with broad bipartisan support.

“The Democratic leader wants to block the Senate from fully and robustly debating a number of important issues, from how to manage the fallout from the reckless Afghanistan retreat” to how to respond to China’s destabilizing military modernization, McConnell said.

A procedural vote to end debate on the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act fell short Monday evening by a tally of 45-51, with 60 yea votes needed to move forward.

susan collinsSusan Collins of Maine, right, was the only Republican to vote for cloture, while four progressive Democrats, Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, along with Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, voted with the other Republicans against cloture. They oppose the bill's increase in the defense topline.

Though the GOP's opposition has contributed to a year-end crunch for Democrats, who are trying to enact fiscal 2022 appropriations, raise the debt ceiling and pass a broad social welfare and climate bill, McConnell insisted that Republicans had acted only to secure more amendment votes. "That is the only reason that we pushed the pause button on this bill," he said at an afternoon news conference.

Republicans want to vote on an amendment, sponsored by Republicans Jim Risch of Idaho and Ted Cruz of Texas, who both are members of the Foreign Relations Committee, which would sanction allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline connecting Russia and Germany. But given that the Biden administration waived sanctions over the issue, Democrats are looking to avoid a vote that could potentially put them at odds with the White House.

Under apparent consideration is ditching the conference committee process that reconciles the Senate and House versions. Instead, the House could vote to attach the bill to an unrelated measure as an amendment and send it back to the Senate.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Honduras elects democratic socialist as its first female president, Kevin Sieff, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Democratic socialist Xiomara Castro is poised to become Honduras’s next president after her main rival conceded Tuesday, bringing the country’s left back to power after 12 years of conservative National Party rule, much of it pockmarked by scandal.

Speaking on local television, Nasry Asfura congratulated Castro on her victory and referred to her as president-elect.

Castroxiomara castro, 62, right, will be the first female president of the Central American country. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, a former president who was removed from office by the military in 2009, Castro ran on an anti-corruption platform with promises to end what she deemed a narco-state.

She will succeed President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose last term in office was clouded by investigations into his alleged ties to drug trafficking. Hernández’s brother, Tony, was sentenced in U.S. federal court this year to life in prison plus 30 years for drug trafficking. Juan Orlando Hernández was implicated in the court filings. He has denied wrongdoing.

honduras flagIt remains unclear whether Hernández will be extradited to the United States, but with a political rival soon to be in power, he appears to have even less cover in Honduras. The country maintains an extradition treaty with the United States that Hernandez himself helped negotiate when he was in congress.

Honduras is now the biggest source of migration to the United States — a fact that critics blame partly on the Hernández administration’s poor governance and an issue Castro will now inherit. While the Biden administration is crafting policy aimed at deterring migration, the Honduran economy depends on money sent home by its citizens working in the United States. Remittances make up roughly 20 percent of the country’s GDP.

“The Honduran people exercised their power to vote in a free and fair election,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday on Twitter. “We congratulate them and President Elect @XiomaraCastroZ and look forward to working together to strengthen democratic institutions, promote inclusive economic growth, and fight corruption.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Tensions with Russia loom over NATO talks, Missy Ryan, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is trying to forge a unified response to Russia’s military buildup near the Russian border with Ukraine.

NATO foreign ministers began talks here Tuesday as the alliance confronts mounting tensions with Russia over its military buildup near Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined his counterparts from across the 30-member bloc as the Biden administration attempts to forge a unified transatlantic response to Russia’s deployment of troops and weaponry along its border with Ukraine, which officials in Kyiv and Washington say could indicate plans for a Russian invasion.

American officials have been considering measures they hope will deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from escalating Ukraine’s simmering conflict, including additional military aid to Kyiv or new sanctions on Russia. But they also hope to avoid provoking Moscow into further action as rhetoric grows more antagonistic on both sides.

Belfast Telegraph, Flags report: SDLP and Greens call for action plan, while DUP MLA criticises Sinn Fein, Ralph Hewitt, Dec. 1 2021. The SDLP and the Green Party have called for an implementation strategy to be put in place for the recommendations made within the Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition (FICT) report.

However, DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said the “weaponisation” of culture and identity by Sinn Fein make solutions “very difficult to come by”.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly responded by saying the DUP “doesn’t do equality.”

The much-delayed 168-page FICT report -- costing £800,000 -- was released on Wednesday and outlined a number of recommendations on flags, bonfires and murals in Northern Ireland.

None of the recommendations from the report are expected to be implemented, as no action plan has been agreed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Japan’s prince decries ‘terrible’ comments about daughter’s decision to marry commoner, Annabelle Timsit, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Japanese Crown Prince Akishino has criticized the media coverage of his daughter Mako’s marriage and slammed Internet commenters for writing “particularly terrible” things about her and her husband, in unusually candid comments from a member of Japan’s royal family.

Akishino, who is the younger brother of Emperor Naruhito, said slander, “whether it is in a magazine or online,” can hurt people or even cause them to take their own lives, and “is not something that should be permitted.”

In October, Princess Mako married a commoner, Kei Komuro, who she met in college. The couple became engaged four years ago, but the marriage was delayed when their relationship became embroiled in controversy after news surfaced about a financial dispute involving Komuro’s mother.

washington post logoWashington Post, German court gives life in prison to ex-ISIS fighter for death of 5-year-old in first ‘genocide’ trial, Loveday Morris, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). A German court sentenced a former Islamic State member on Tuesday to life imprisonment for the killing of a 5-year-old Yazidi girl at his home, marking the first conviction for committing genocide against members of the minority religious community.

german flagTaha al-Jumailly, 29, an Iraqi citizen, was also found guilty of genocide and war crimes resulting in death at the court in Frankfurt. He was ordered to pay the child’s mother $57,000 in damages.

His 30-year-old German wife, Jennifer Wenisch, was sentenced last month in a separate trial to 10 years in prison in relation to the killing.

German court convicts ISIS bride for ‘crimes against humanity’ in death of 5-year-old Yazidi ‘slave’

According to the indictment, Jumailly joined the Islamic State sometime before March 2013. He and his wife were accused by prosecutors of purchasing the child, Reda, and her mother as “slaves” when they lived in the Islamic State-occupied Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2015. Both Reda and her mother were subjected to violent beatings and other abuse by Jumailly.

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chris cuomo cnn

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN suspends Chris Cuomo ‘indefinitely’ after documents detail help he gave his brother, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The decision follows revelations that he was far more involved in the efforts of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo than previously known.

CNN has suspended Chris Cuomo, above, one of its biggest stars, a day after the release of documents that detailed his efforts to help his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, fend off allegations of sexual misconduct.

CNNTranscripts from the New York Attorney General’s office on Monday showed that the cable host was far more involved in the governor’s crisis-management efforts than the younger Cuomo had previously acknowledged.

The network and its president, Jeff Zucker, had previously backed Cuomo for months, even as details accumulated about his role advising his brother, who eventually resigned in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations.
Cuomo calls sexual harassment investigation a 'political firecracker' during farewell speech
During his farewell address on Aug. 23, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) derided the investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women. (The Washington Post)

In May, The Washington Post reported that Cuomo had joined conference calls to discuss how to handle the allegations. At the time, the network said it was “inappropriate” for Cuomo to engage in conversations that included members of the governor’s staff; the host acknowledged his error in doing so and pledged not to do so again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lara Logan draws outrage for comparing Fauci to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele on Fox News, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). It’s the latest in a series of inflammatory and conspiracy-tinged comments from the once-lauded former ’60 Minutes’ correspondent.

Lara Logan, right, once a lauded foreign correspondent for CBS News’s “60 Minutes” and now a boundary-pushing Fox News guest commentator and lara logan 2013streaming show host, drew fierce condemnation for on-air comments Monday night comparing the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.

Her comments came during a segment in which Fox host Pete Hegseth, a frequent critic of coronavirus vaccine mandates and masking politics, accused the Biden administration of overhyping the new omicron variant.

Logan’s response, though, went well beyond.

“What you see on Dr. Fauci — this is what people say to me: that he doesn’t represent science to them. He represents Josef Mengele,” she said. “Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who did experiments on Jews during the Second World War and in the concentration camps. And I am talking about people all across the world are saying this, because the response from covid, what it has done to countries everywhere, what it has done to civil liberties, the suicide rates, the poverty, it has obliterated economies. The level of suffering that has been created because of this disease is now being seen in the cold light of day.”

fox news logo SmallIt was the latest and arguably the most inflammatory in a series of comments from Logan that have stunned viewers who remember her days as an impartial news reporter and star correspondent for the respected newsmagazine show.

But Hegseth, who guest-hosted Fox’s 7 p.m. opinion show Monday, showed little reaction while Logan spoke and did not contradict or push back on her statements. Before going to a commercial break, he promoted Logan’s show on the Fox Nation streaming service. (His other guest, Fox host Will Cain, called Fauci a “would-be authoritarian.”)

Known as “the angel of death,” Mengele performed “a broad range of agonizing and often lethal experiments with Jewish and Roma twins, most of them children,” while serving as a physician at the Auschwitz concentration camp, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Early Tuesday morning, the Auschwitz Museum’s official Twitter account released a statement seeming to condemn Logan’s remarks without naming her. “Exploiting the tragedy of people who became victims of criminal pseudo-medical experiments in Auschwitz in a debate about vaccines, pandemic and people who fight for saving human lives is shameful,” the organization said. “It is disrespectful to victims & a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to combat antisemitism, issued a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday saying that “there’s absolutely no comparison between mask mandates, vaccine requirements, and other covid-19 mitigation efforts to what happened to Jews during the Holocaust.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The Facebook executive in charge of the company’s cryptocurrency push just quit, Gerrit De Vynck, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).The top executive overseeing Facebook’s efforts to get into cryptocurrency and international money transfers quit Tuesday, further complicating the company’s efforts to gain a foothold in the fast-growing world of digital currencies and blockchain technology.

facebook logoDavid Marcus’s high-profile departure comes just months after the company began hitting walls in Washington when it relaunched its initiative to use cryptocurrency to allow its users to make payments and send money to each other without transaction fees. The project has faced delays and name changes since it was first announced in 2019, coming under scrutiny from regulators and users, many of whom are already concerned about the social media giant’s power.

“My entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it,” Marcus said in tweets announcing his departure. Stephane Kasriel, a vice president in Facebook’s fintech and crypto division, will take over the job, Marcus said. A spokesperson for Facebook did not return a request for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter’s new CEO is bringing an engineering background to a politics fight, Will Oremus and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 1, 2021. Parag Agrawal, right, was a surprising pick for one of tech’s most fraught positions. Here’s why he got the job.

On Day 1 of Parag Agrawal’s new job as CEO of Twitter, congressional Republicans took a tweet he had posted in 2010 out of context to imply that he’s biased against White people. On Day 2, Twitter unveiled a confusingly worded new policy banning the sharing of “private media,” which drew immediate fire from both left and right.

And that was all before Agrawal was formally introduced as the company’s new CEO at an all-hands meeting Tuesday, following outgoing CEO Jack Dorsey’s surprise resignation tweet on a Monday that was supposed to be a “day of rest” for Twitter’s employees.

Agrawal, who at 37 becomes the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, was chosen unanimously to succeed Dorsey by Twitter’s board of directors, twitter bird Customaccording to an official statement Monday. At Tuesday’s all-hands meeting, according to employees who attended, Dorsey emphasized Agrawal’s engineering background and the fact that he rose through the ranks over a decade at Twitter in touting him as the ideal choice to lead the influential social media firm.

Yet several current and former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said Agrawal was an unexpected choice internally — though not necessarily an unwelcome one — for one of the most fraught leadership roles in Silicon Valley. Having joined Twitter before completing his Ph.D. program at Stanford University in 2011, he spent much of his tenure there with zero direct reports, two of those employees said.

As chief technology officer, he also had limited experience handling the thorny questions of content policy — what people are allowed to post on social media — that make Twitter an influential force in global discourse and a target of criticism and regulation by governments and political actors around the world.

“Agrawal has to sort out how Twitter should respond to a fusillade of bills in Congress seeking to rein in social media companies and a new [Federal Trade Commission] chairwoman who has painted a target on the prominent platforms,” as well as attacks from former president Donald Trump and the right, said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, in an email. If Trump runs again, “pressure to reinstate him will be enormous. Impressive engineering chops won’t resolve that problem.”

  • Washington Post, Analysis: In Washington, Jack Dorsey will be remembered for polarizing calls and historic scrutiny, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).

wsj logoWall Street Journal, Racy Affair Saga Between Jeff Bezos and Enquirer Reaches Final Chapter, Staff report, Dec. 1, 2021. Probes by federal officials on phone-hack, extortion claims haven’t led to public action; Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer’s owner of extorting him in 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, News organizations join Bannon’s battle to get Jan. 6 prosecution documents, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, Dec. 1, 2021. A coalition of news organizations, including The Washington Post, has sided with former Trump White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon in asking a federal court to release documents that are part of Bannon’s prosecution for refusing to testify before the Jan. 6 congressional committee.

Bannon is fighting a proposal by prosecutors to keep the documents under wraps — including more than 1,000 pages of witness testimony, grand-jury proceedings and other information generated as part of the discovery process in the prosecution of Bannon alleging contempt of Congress. Journalists would be unable to see the documents if the Justice Department prevails in persuading a judge to impose a protective order.

The legal brief by the media coalition — which includes The Post, the New York Times, CNN, NBC News and others — creates some strange bedfellows. It aligns some of the biggest news organizations with one of their harshest critics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Symone Sanders, senior adviser to Vice President Harris, will leave post, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Tyler Pager, Dec. 1, 2021. Symone Sanders, a senior adviser and the chief spokesperson for Vice President Harris, is leaving the position, according to two administration officials with knowledge of the matter.

Sanders, who served as a senior adviser for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, has been one of Harris’s most vocal and public defenders during the first year of her historic vice presidency.

Harris, the nation’s first female vice president and the first person of Black and Asian descent to hold the post, faced criticism that she hasn’t done enough to address the issues in her portfolio, including tackling the root causes of immigration and attacks on voting rights. She has also battled claims of staff dysfunction.

Sanders has accompanied Harris on all three of her international trips, including one to the “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador this summer, and a trip to Paris last month. The departure was first reported by Politico.

Sanders was a spokesperson for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign but became a senior adviser to Biden in his 2020 bid for the White House, a race that happened amid racial unrest following the murder of George Floyd. Black voters emerged as key to Biden’s victory.

Biden asked Harris to address the root causes of migration from Northern Triangle counties, and critics have tried to brand Harris as Biden’s border czar — a claim Symone Sanders has loudly and repeatedly pushed back on.

Over the summer, she also sought to rebut reports of dysfunction within Harris’s staffing ranks.

washington post logoWashington Post, WTA halts China tourneys over fallout from Peng Shuai sexual assault allegation, Liz Clarke, Dec. 1, 2021. The Women’s Tennis Association announced Wednesday that it is suspending its tournaments in China and Hong Kong in response to concerns about the safety and well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

The decision — which would represent millions in lost revenue and may heighten calls for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics — was announced by WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon with the full support of its board of directors.

China FlagThere has been mounting concern about Peng’s well-being since she alleged in a social media post Nov. 2 that she was sexually assaulted by a former senior Chinese official. After not being heard from for several weeks, Peng reemerged in Chinese media in late November, but concerns about her situation have not abated.

“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,” Simon wrote in a statement, adding that he was “greatly concerned” about the risks that WTA players and staff could face if it held tournaments in China in 2022.

What you need to know about the case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai

“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable,” Simon wrote. “If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded — equality for women — would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

  • Washington Post, Facebook says it carried out broad takedown of disinformation networks, including some tied to anti-vaccine groups, state actors, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 1, 2021.

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