Sept. 2020 News

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative September 2020 news and views.

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

 

Sept. 30

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Elections, Justice Integrity

 

More On U.S. 2020 Debate, Elections

 

World News / Climate Change / Terrorism

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

Donald Trump, left, and Joe Biden at first presidential debae on Sept. 30, 2020 (Associated Press Photo by Patrick Semansky).

Donald Trump, left, and Joe Biden at first presidential debae on Sept. 30, 2020 (Associated Press Photo by Patrick Semansky).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump plunges debate into fiery squabbling, Anne Gearan, Philip Rucker and Annie Linskey, Sept. 30, 2020 (updated). Trump incessantly interrupts and insults Biden as they spar in acrimonious first debate; Biden says president has made U.S. more divided as Trump interrupts and slings insults.

The bickering overwhelmed a debate that displayed substantive differences between President Trump and Joe Biden on the nation’s converging crises. The president’s interjections and jeers led moderator Chris Wallace to repeatedly plead with him to follow the agreed-upon rules.

The presidential campaign devolved into chaos and acrimony here Tuesday night as President Trump incessantly interrupted and insulted Democratic nominee Joe Biden while the two sparred over the economy, the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court and race relations in their first debate.

The most anticipated event on the fall campaign calendar was an uncontrollable spectacle of badgering and browbeating, of raised voices and hot tempers. Trump’s interjections and jeers, some of them false and made in an apparent effort to fluster Biden, landed with such ferocity that moderator Chris Wallace pleaded multiple times with the president to follow the agreed-upon debate rules.

Biden, exasperated, asked Trump during the opening segment on the Supreme Court, “Will you shut up, man?”

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Debate commission says it will make changes to format after spectacle in Cleveland, Staff reports, Sept. 30, 2020. Presidential Debates Commission: ‘Additional tools to maintain order’ needed; Biden calls Trump’s behavior during first presidential debate ‘a national embarrassment;’ Schumer calls Trump’s debate performance one of ‘an idiot, full of sound and fury.’

ny times logoNew York Times, With Cross Talk, Lies and Mockery, Trump Tramples Decorum in Debate With Biden, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Sept. 30, 2020 (updated). Interrupting Joe Biden nearly every time he spoke, President Trump made little attempt to reassure swing voters about his leadership. Mr. Biden hit back: “This is so unpresidential.”

djt rncMr. Trump, trailing in the polls and urgently hoping to revive his campaign, was plainly attempting to be the aggressor. But he interjected so insistently that Mr. Biden could scarcely answer the questions posed to him, forcing the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, to repeatedly urge the president to let his opponent speak.

Yet Mr. Biden also lobbed a series of bitingly personal attacks of his own.

“You’re the worst president America has ever had,” he said to Mr. Trump.

“In 47 months I’ve done more than you have in 47 years,” Mr. Trump shot back, referring to his rival’s career in Washington.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis, Of Course, the Debate Was Always Going to Be About Trump, Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman, Sept. 30, 2020. A face-off with Joe Biden devolves into an ugly shouting match as President Trump, characteristically, makes it all about him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump refused to condemn white supremacists, militia members in debate marked by disputes over race, Toluse Olorunnipa and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Sept. 30, 2020. “Proud Boys — stand back and stand by,” President Trump said after Democratic rival Joe Biden challenged him to condemn far-right supporters who have taken to the streets in recent months brandishing weapons.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We run Cornell. Here’s how we’ve kept low covid-19 rates on campus. Martha E. Pollack and Michael I. Kotlikoff (respectively, president and provost of Cornell University), Sept. 30, 2020. Universities are often depicted as giant covid-19 petri dishes — places where unruly 20-somethings become infected, spread the disease widely and are likely to power a second wave of infections in college towns and cities.

That portrait has some truth to it. Less dramatic, however, but all the more noteworthy are the stories of campuses getting in-person instruction right — those institutions using science and technology to keep their students and neighbors safe, all while advancing their educational missions.

cornell bannerAt Cornell, science informed our decision to invite students back to campus this fall. Our epidemiological models showed us that by opening our doors for instruction and implementing robust pooled testing and contact tracing programs, we could keep our infection rate lower than if we were strictly online, knowing that many of our students would return to our area anyway.

At least so far, the situation on our campus is in hand. We have had an extraordinarily low rate of infection: just 10 cases in all over the past two weeks within our campus community of about 9,000 faculty and staff, and about 19,000 students (out of our normal enrollment of 25,000). Since the beginning of classes at the start of September, we have had fewer than 100 cases in total. And we are not alone. Several peers, including Boston University, Duke University, Colby College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are also managing to keep infection rates low.

Most important, we took the steps that are at the heart of any public health initiative to control infection: establishing robust programs for testing with rapid turnaround, contact tracing, and isolation and quarantine. We tested every student upon their return to campus. All of our undergraduate students are being tested twice per week, while graduate students, faculty and staff are being tested at varying rates, depending on the frequency and nature of their on-campus interactions.

washington post logoWashington Post, As colleges reopened, many more young people got covid-19, CDC reports, Susan Svrluga, Sept. 30, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that cases had risen nationally among people 18 to 22 years old between Aug. 2 and Sept. 5.

Covid-19 cases surged nationally among 18- to 22-year-olds between Aug. 2 and Sept. 5, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urged young adults as well as colleges and universities to take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Weekly cases among the age group jumped 55 percent across the country during that time and made up a bigger share of overall cases, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The agency said the increase in cases couldn’t fully be explained by ramped-up testing as colleges reopened for the fall.

The Northeast saw the biggest spike in virus cases among 18- to 22-year-olds, with a 144 percent increase. Cases in the Midwest among that age group also rose dramatically, with a 123 percent increase.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 30, 14:07 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here),

World Cases: 33,918,355, Deaths: 1,013,912
U.S. Cases: 7,408,506, Deaths: 210,839

washington post logoWashington Post, No deal after Pelosi and Mnuchin meet on economic relief package, but talks will continue, Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Rachael Bade, Sept. 30, 2020. House Democrats delay vote on new $2.2 trillion stimulus bill Republicans oppose, to allow more time for deal to emerge
Democrats pulled back plans to vote on their $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, which is opposed by House and Senate Republicans and has no chance of becoming law.

It remained uncertain whether a deal could be reached. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the sides were “very, very far apart,” leaving it unclear whether any agreement struck by Pelosi and Mnuchin could pass muster with Senate Republicans.

washington post logoWashington Post, The CDC softened a report on meatpacking safety during the pandemic. Democrats say they want to know why, Eli Rosenberg, Sept. 30, 2020. Representatives from the House say they believe political pressure explains why the report was softened with words like “whenever possible,” and “if feasible.”

A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about safety procedures at a meatpacking plant whose workers were falling ill at an alarming rate early on in the pandemic is raising new questions from Democrats about possible political interference at the agency.

On April 22, the CDC issued a report with basic health recommendations to control the spread of the novel coronavirus at a meatpacking plant run by Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, S.D.

The original draft version of the report put forth these recommendations about worker safety, according to a copy acquired by The Washington Post. But the final report sent to the plant included language that had been softened with qualifiers such as “whenever possible,” and “if feasible.”

The plant, which slaughters and processes pork, was one of the biggest coronavirus hot spots in the United States around that time; 904 cases and two deaths were linked to the plant as of April 21, according to the Argus Leader.

Democratic members from the House Committee on Education and Labor say they believe political pressure from the office of CDC Director Robert Redfield explains why some of the language in the report was changed.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. stocks end third quarter on a high note, despite rocky September, Taylor Telford and Hannah Denham, Sept. 30, 2020. The Dow and S&P 500 ended a seesaw session in the plus column and posted their best back-to-back quarters since 2009. Wall Street wrapped up the third quarter on a high note Wednesday, even as a maelstrom of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and stimulus hopes weighed on investors.

Better-than-expected jobs data, progress toward a possible coronavirus treatment by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and promising results from Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine trials spurred some positive sentiment on Wall Street. But conflicting signals about an possible stimulus deal from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dampened gains.

 

Trump Watch

brad parscale fox

Vanity Fair, “The Family Is Worried Brad Will Start Talking”: Trumpworld Panics Over Debate Fiasco as Campaign Turmoil Mounts, Gabriel Sherman, Sept. 30, 2020. Over three days, the New York Times dropped a tax bombshell, Florida cops cuffed Brad Parscale (shown above in a file photo), and the president just couldn’t help himself onstage. “Trump didn’t win over any voters,” said a prominent Republican, “and he pissed off a lot of people.”

Donald Trump’s campaign is still assessing the political damage from Tuesday night’s chaotic first presidential debate. The president’s refusal to condemn white supremacists, of course, is the immediate crisis. “He blew that for sure,” a campaign adviser told me. “It’s nuts,” a former West Wing official said wearily, sounding like a storm survivor with PTSD.

Trump advisers agree on what he needs to do differently at the next debate. “He has to just relax and let Joe Biden speak,” said the ex-official, who remains close to the White House. But Republicans are resigned to the fact that Trump is unlikely –– or unwilling –– to course-correct. “Trump thinks he won. He didn’t,” said another Republican with ties to the campaign. “But does anyone have the balls to tell him that? No. They’d be fired.”

Inside Trumpworld there’s a view that the past week is an inflection point in the campaign. It started on Sunday night with the bombshell New York Times report that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. “For Trump the Times story was worse than losing reelection,” said the second Republican. “If you had told Donald back in 2015 that his tax returns would be exposed and he’d have all these investigations, I guarantee you he wouldn’t have run.”

As the Times story lit up cable news and Twitter, news broke that Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale had been taken into custody outside his Ft. Lauderdale home and hospitalized after threatening to commit suicide and allegedly beating his wife days prior. Police body camera footage showing an officer brutally tackling a shirtless, 6’8” Parscale to the pavement instantly became a visual metaphor for the chaos engulfing the Trump campaign. One campaign adviser I spoke with was shocked by the amount of force the police used to subdue and cuff Parscale.

Parscale’s public meltdown happened while he is reportedly under investigation for stealing from the Trump campaign and the RNC. According to the source close to the campaign, the Trump family is worried that Parscale could turn on them and cooperate with law enforcement about possible campaign finance violations. “The family is worried Brad will start talking,” the source said.

In response the Trump campaign’s communications director, Tim Murtaugh, said: “It’s utterly false. There is no investigation, no audit, and there never was.”

 

U.S. Elections, Justice Integrity

washington post logoWashington Post, Barrett meets with senators as GOP fast-tracks nomination, Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim, Sept. 30, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy is meeting with Republican senators Tuesday as the GOP moves as quickly as possible to install Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the court before the November election.

us senate logoamy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met with Barrett, right, on Capitol Hill and said he is “glad to get the process started.” But he declined to say whether the president’s pick should recuse herself from any potential cases related to the election.

Asked whether he expects Barrett to be confirmed before the election, McConnell did not respond.

Some Democrats, including Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), have called on Barrett to recuse herself from any election-related cases. “One of the things I want to ask her is, will she recuse herself in terms of any election issues that come before us, because if she does not recuse herself, I fear that the court will be further delegitimized,” Booker said Sunday in an appearance on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

andrew weissmann resized cnn

washington post logoWashington Post, Mueller pushes back on insider book faulting special counsel for not doing more to hold Trump accountable, Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 30, 2020 (print ed.). In a rare public statement, Robert S. Mueller III responded to a tell-all written by Andrew Weissmann, above, suggesting the insider account was “based on incomplete information” and praising a top aide of whom the book was particularly critical.

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III pushed back Tuesday against a prosecutor in his office who says in a tell-all book that investigators should have done more to hold President Trump accountable, suggesting that the account is “based on incomplete information” and asserting that he stands by his decisions in the case.

The rare public statement from Mueller came on the day Andrew Weissmann, a former prosecutor in the special counsel’s office, released a book alleging that the group did not fully investigate Trump’s financial ties and should have stated explicitly that it believed he obstructed justice.

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)andrew weissman coverAlthough Mueller’s statement did not name Weissmann or the book, Where Law Ends, it seemed clearly designed to address some of his complaints — particularly those directed at Aaron Zebley, Mueller’s top deputy, whom Weissmann said was not sufficiently aggressive.

“It is not surprising that members of the Special Counsel’s Office did not always agree, but it is disappointing to hear criticism of our team based on incomplete information,” Mueller said.

Mueller said the team operated “knowing that our work would be scrutinized from all sides” and he sought to make clear that he was the office’s ultimate decider.

 

keith raniere nxivm

Associated Press via Washington Post, Seagram’s heir sentenced to prison in branded sex slave case, Tom Hays, Oct. 1, 2020 (print ed.). An heir to ap logothe Seagram’s liquor fortune was sentenced Wednesday to an 81-month prison term and immediately thrown behind bars for her role as an unwavering benefactor of Keith Raniere, the disgraced self-improvement guru convicted of turning women into sex slaves who were branded with his initials.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis gave Clare Bronfman, right, the harsh sentence at a hearing lasting more than three hours and featuring emotional statements from several victims gathered in a courtroom under strict coronavirus safety protocols. The judge repeatedly scolded Clare Bronfman for standing by Raniere and his upstate New York organization, even after the evidence made clear she eventually became aware of his sex-trafficking scheme.

clare bronfman croppedWith that knowledge, she “could have distanced herself from him,” the judge said, his bench fitted with a sheet of plexiglass. “Instead, she chose to double down on her support of Raniere.”

Before hearing the sentence, the 41 year-old Bronfman had told the judge in a soft voice that she was thankful for the prayers of her supporters.

“It doesn’t mean I haven’t made mistakes because I have made mistakes,” said Bronfman without mentioning Raniere.

The sentence far exceeded the three years probation sought by the defense and even the five years the government wanted for Bronfman, who had been under home confinement. She also was fined $500,000.

At trial where Rainere was found guilty last year, prosecutors told jurors his organization, NXIVM — pronounced NEHK-see-uhm — operated like a cult whose members called him “Vanguard.” To honor him, the group formed a secret sorority comprised of brainwashed female “slaves” who were branded with his initials and forced to have sex with him, the prosecutors said.

 

More On U.S. 2020 Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Trump’s evidence-free attacks on elections damage the Republican Party, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, Sept. 30, 2020. Benjamin L. Ginsberg practiced election law for 38 years. He co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power threatens collateral damage to Republican senators, the Republican Party and any Republican candidates who find themselves clinging to small post-election leads.

djt hands up mouth open CustomThe president has cited “fraudulent” voting and “rigged” elections, including in Tuesday night’s debate — but has produced no evidence of widespread ballot fraud in past elections or in 2020 to justify his abandonment of a core principle of American democracy. Republican leaders rightly rebuked the president’s words, if not the president himself.

As a Republican lawyer who has spent four decades monitoring elections and looking for fraud, I can say with confidence that evidence to support the president’s words and threatened actions does not exist. The president has consistently been behind in the polls, and his aim appears to be seeding chaos in order to somehow cling to power.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Chris Wallace tried — and failed — to control Trump. Something needs to change, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 30, 2020. The 90-margaret sullivan 2015 photominute debate fell, almost immediately, into chaos and cross-talking, not because Wallace isn’t a capable broadcast interviewer but because Trump was out of control.

Failing some radical reform in the debate format, there’s no reason for the next two debates to take place as scheduled on Oct. 15 and 22.

The debate commission should seriously consider allowing the vice-presidential debate to take place next Wednesday and calling off the other two presidential debates.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Portland Sheriff comes out swinging at Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 30, 2020. Donald Trump found so many ways to debase and bill palmerembarrass himself during last night’s debate, it’s easy to lose track of all the lies he told along the way. For instance, while the career bill palmer report logo headercriminal Trump tried to paint himself as a “law and order” president, he insisted that the “Portland Sheriff” supports him.

As it turns out, there technically is no “Portland Sheriff,” as Portland is policed by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office – and it’s run by Sheriff Mike Reese. After last night’s debate, Reese tweeted this:

In tonight’s presidential debate the President said the “Portland Sheriff” supports him. As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him. Donald Trump has made my job a hell of a lot harder since he started talking about Portland, but I never thought he’d try to turn my wife against me!

So there you have it. By falsely claiming that the Sheriff in Portland supports him, Donald Trump merely ended up handing a bigger microphone to the Sheriff in Portland, and giving him an opportunity to slam Trump. You almost get the sense that Trump isn’t very good at this.

Real Clear Politics, Analysis: Biden Survives Trump's Steamroller, Susan Crabtree, Sept. 30, 2020. Biden Survives Trump's Steamroller. Donald Trump drove a steamroller to a knife fight, and Joe Biden managed to survive simply because the overkill was so unseemly to so many observers. It also helped that the former vice president remained standing until the bitter end despite the overwhelming onslaught of invective.

djt biden smiles resizedOnce again, Biden remains a serious contender to win the Oval Office not so much because of his own strength as a candidate but because of the lack of mainstream support for his opponent – or more precisely in this case -- the president’s inability to operate in anything but bellicose overdrive.
Recommended

Going into Tuesday night’s debate, the bar for Biden was exceedingly low, especially after President Trump labeled him “Sleepy Joe” and for months relentlessly depicted him as a hollow shell of his former scrappy self. Team Trump tried to raise those expectations days before the debate, but the narrative had been set.

Not that Trump’s latest nickname for the Democratic nominee, Hidin’ Biden, was all that far-fetched amid months of the Democratic nominee remaining cloistered in his Delaware basement, failing to take questions from the media while calling early- morning “lids,” journalism-speak for no additional events for the day.

But as the debate showed, Trump remains his own worst enemy and steps on his own success, leaving Biden looking more presidential simply by not responding to every insult with equal vitriol. Amid the onslaughts, Biden’s best debate responses came when he simply ignored the insults, looked directly into the camera, and spoke to the American people.

“Do you believe for a moment what [Trump’s] telling you in light of all the lies he’s told you about the whole issue relating to COVID?” Biden asked viewers. “He still hasn’t even acknowledged he knew this was happening – knew how dangerous it would be back in February – and he didn’t even tell you.”

Many of Biden’s best lines of the night were clearly rehearsed, but still effective. At one point, he referenced Trump saying about the COVID death toll, “It is what it is.”

“It is what it is because you are who you are,” Biden added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Critic's Notebook: 95 minutes of proof that the nation has slipped into irredeemable darkness, Hank Stuever, Sept. 30, 2020. Years from now, we’ll rank this disruptive non-debate alongside terrorist attacks for TV that made us despair.

Other debate coverage:

  • Washington Post, Right-wing extremists celebrate Trump’s ‘stand by’ comment, Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Sept. 30, 2020. Images celebrating the president’s comments on white supremacy spread with particular speed on conservative channels on social media sites such as Parler and Telegram.
  • Washington Post, Analysis: Reliable polls show that Biden won the debate — so those aren’t what Trump’s allies are highlighting, Philip Bump, Sept. 30, 2020. The data also suggests that not many minds were changed.
  • Washington Post, The unedifying fracas in Japan — times two, David Crawshaw, Sept. 30, 2020. In clips of the debate, the Japanese interpreters can be heard repeatedly talking over one another — as well as over the three Americans duking it out in Cleveland. Viewers who heard six voices simultaneously could be forgiven for changing the channel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden showed why wavering conservatives are nervous about voting for him, Henry Olsen, Sept. 30, 2020. Much of America went to bed after Tuesday night’s debate feeling as if they had been “slimed,” to borrow a phrase from “Ghostbusters.” As repulsed as many rightly feel by President Trump’s boorish and at times unhinged performance, former vice president Joe Biden did not cover himself with glory, either. Worse, he showed many wavering conservatives and moderates why they feel uneasy about giving him the keys to the Oval Office.

Biden’s biggest problem is his party’s left. He knows that, which is why he repeatedly distanced himself from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal and Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) Medicare-for-all plan. On those points, he was reassuring to people who are willing to tolerate some drift to the left but not a wholesale lurch.

On other matters, Biden raised as many questions as he tried to settle. Take the matter of expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court — a.k.a. “court-packing” — that many in his party have proposed. Despite historically rejecting the idea, he now refuses to say whether he supports it, saying it will be a "distraction” from the issue of Trump’s appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But that’s not a distraction — it’s an essential question for Americans to weigh as they decide whom to support. If Biden won’t risk angering his left when the chips are down now, how can Americans who don’t want to see the court packed trust him to resist their push after he’s inaugurated?

 

World News / Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge Barrett represented Iranian exile group in fight to end terrorist designation, Paul Sonne and Yeganeh Torbati, Sept. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to join the Supreme Court, once represented an affiliate of an Iranian exile group as it challenged its State Department designation as a foreign terrorist organization.

Barrett disclosed her legal work for the group, which she undertook while employed at a law firm in Washington, in the Senate questionnaire she submitted during her 2017 confirmation process to join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The work did not come up in her confirmation hearing.

Barrett wrote that she was one of five lawyers on a team that represented the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its U.S. representative office from 2000 to 2001 in their petition to review the State Department’s foreign-terrorist-organization designation.

The NCRI is affiliated with the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), a onetime militant group comprising Iranian exiles who oppose Iran’s clerical regime. The Obama administration removed the group from the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations in 2012. The MEK has faced accusations of cultlike practices, which the organization has disputed as smears.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Trump’s tax returns caused a stir abroad, even as foreign leaders refuse to publish their own, Rick Noack, Sept. 30, 2020. In most of the world, the tax records of politicians are off-limits.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 73 million people watched that crazy presidential debate, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 30, 2020. Fox News was the most-watched network for the showdown between President Trump and Joe Biden.

Still, that audience number, which was based on 16 networks that carried it, was down significantly from the record 84 million people who watched the first debate of the 2016 general election campaign live across 13 television networks. But it was up from the 67 million people that watched the first debate of the 2012 general election campaign between incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney.

Editor's Note: The above totals do no include online viewers in the United States and worldwide.

washington post logoWashington Post, Misinformation about Biden’s health spreads after debate, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Sept. 30, 2020. Misleading information in TikTok videos and Trump ads on Facebook got more than 700,000 views and clicks the day after the first presidential debate.

False stories about Joe Biden’s health continued to spread on social platforms the day after the first presidential debate, including misleading Facebook ads by the Trump campaign and a viral video on TikTok.

A false story about Biden wearing an earpiece that emerged on Tuesday continued to get traction on Facebook after the debate. The Trump campaign ad, which encourages people to “Check Joe’s Ears,” and asked “Why won’t Sleepy Joe commit to an earpiece inspection,” was viewed between 200 to 250,000 times and marketed primarily to people over 55 in Texas and Florida. The implication of the ad, the content of which originated from a tweet by a New York Post reporter who cited a single anonymous source, is that Biden needed the assistance of an earpiece so someone could pass him information during the debates.

 

Sept. 29

 Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Trump Tax Revelations

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Integrity

 

U.S. Law, Religion, Race, Democracy

 

Media News

 

World News

 

U.S. Wildfires, Climate Change

Slate, Opinion: The Jerk Who Gave Me a C+ in English Could Cost Democrats the Senate, Aviva Shen

 

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump blows up the debate — and himself, Jennifer Rubin, Sept 29, 2020. Former vice president Joe Biden entered the first presidential debate Tuesday night with a solid polling lead both nationally and in critical battleground states.

With more states starting early and absentee voting each week, President Trump needed to shake up the race in a dramatic way. Trump did neither, leaving Biden’s lead intact — or perhaps larger than ever.

When faced with questions about his actual record and policy, Trump threw up word salads, switched topics, made scurrilous accusations and convinced any rational viewer he is in over his head. He mostly interrupted, repeatedly and falsely accusing Biden of harboring positions that his more progressive opponents in the Democratic primaries held. Trump was a walking Twitter feed — no facts, all bluster and all insults. Unfortunately, moderator Chris Wallace was never able to control Trump, so the debate devolved into constant interruption.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden and his wife paid nearly $300,000 in taxes, returns show, Sean Sullivan, Sept. 29, 2020. The release serves as a contrast to President Trump, after new reports that he has paid minimal or no federal taxes in recent years.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, paid nearly $300,000 in federal income taxes on earnings of more than $985,000 in 2019, according to returns he released Tuesday following a news report that President Trump has paid far less in recent years.

joe biden kamala harris campaign shotThe disclosure, coming just hours before the first general election debate, highlights the contrast Biden is seeking to sharpen with Trump over their personal finances and transparency. The New York Times reported Sunday that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and again in 2017 and that he paid no income taxes 10 of the previous 15 years, due to losses he declared.

“This is a historic level of transparency meant to give the American people faith, once again, that their leaders will look out for them, not their own bottom line,” Biden deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told reporters on a conference call.

Trump has not voluntarily released his tax records, breaking his own promise before his election and deviating from the practices of his predecessors. He has explained his decision not to release them by saying that he is under an IRS audit. But there is no law preventing him from releasing his taxes during such a review.

With his Tuesday disclosure, Biden has released 22 years’ worth of tax records. His running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), also released her 2019 taxes on Tuesday. Her return showed nearly $3.3 million in total income with her husband, Douglas Emhoff. They paid more than $1.1 million in federal taxes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Tax Records Reveal How Fame Gave Trump a $427 Million Lifeline, Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). ‘Apprentice’ Celebrity Fueled a Myth That Propelled Him to White House.

  • donald trump apprentice black and whiteWhile Donald Trump was bragging on TV that he was a billionaire who had overcome financial hardship, red ink was spilling from everywhere.
  • His genius, it turned out, wasn’t running a company. It was making himself famous — Trump-scale famous — and monetizing that fame.
  • Read Part 2 of our investigation into the president’s tax

From the back seat of a stretch limousine heading to meet the first contestants for his new TV show “The Apprentice,” Donald J. Trump bragged that he was a billionaire who had overcome financial hardship.

“I used my brain, I used my negotiating skills and I worked it all out,” he told viewers. “Now, my company is bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.”

It was all a hoax.

Months after that inaugural episode in January 2004, Mr. Trump filed his individual tax return reporting $89.9 million in net losses from his core businesses for the prior year. The red ink spilled from everywhere, even as American television audiences saw him as a savvy business mogul with the Midas touch.

Twelve years later, that image of the self-made, self-saved mogul, beamed into the natioal consciousness, would help fuel Mr. Trump’s improbable election to the White House.

But while the story of “The Apprentice” is by now well known, the president’s tax returns reveal another grand twist that has never been truly told — how the popularity of that fictional alter ego rescued him, providing a financial lifeline to reinvent himself yet again. And then how, in an echo of the boom-and-bust cycle that has defined his business career, he led himself toward the financial shoals he must navigate today.New York Times, Trump Deflects Questions About Taxes, but First Debate Has a New Issue, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). While President Trump’s allies generally kept their silence, Joe Biden noted that the president paid less in income taxes than everyday Americans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Deflects Questions About Taxes, but First Debate Has a New Issue, Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear, Updated Sept. 29, 2020. While the president’s Republican allies generally kept their silence, Democrats pounced and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the party’s presidential candidate, posted a video noting that the president paid less in income taxes than everyday Americans.

The disclosure that President Trump paid little or no federal income taxes for years, including while in the White House, convulsed the presidential campaign on Monday with only five weeks to go and immediately scrambled the equation and stakes of the first debate to be held on Tuesday night.

While Mr. Trump tried to deflect the news about his taxes, and his Republican allies generally kept their silence, Democrats pounced and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the party’s presidential candidate, posted a video noting that the president paid less in income taxes than everyday Americans like teachers, firefighters and nurses.

irs logoThe report in The New York Times, published online on Sunday evening and in print on Monday, revealed that Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes for 11 of the 18 years examined and just $750 in 2016, the year he won the presidency, and $750 in 2017, his first year in office. Mr. Trump wrote off more than $70,000 paid to style his hair during “The Apprentice” and collected $72.9 million in refunds challenged by I.R.S. auditors. He owes hundreds of millions of dollars to creditors due in the next four years.

The tax data analyzed by The Times, which was provided by sources with legal access to it, further undercut the image of a wildly successful businessman long projected by Mr. Trump while he was reporting expansive and chronic losses by many of his marquee properties like his golf courses in Florida and Europe and his hotel in Washington — losses that he then used to reduce or eliminate tax liabilities.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Pandemic Is Far From Over, Experts Say, Despite Trump Allies’ Claims, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Sept. 29, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and leading experts have concluded that as many as 90 percent of Americans are still vulnerable to infection.

In the last week, leading epidemiologists from respected institutions have, through different methods, reached the same conclusion: About 85 to 90 percent of the American population is still susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the current pandemic.

The number is important because it means that “herd immunity” — the point at which a disease stops spreading because nearly everyone in a population has contracted it — is still very far off.

The evidence came from antibody testing and from epidemiological modeling. At the request of The New York Times, three epidemiological teams last week calculated the percentage of the country that is infected. What they found runs strongly counter to a theory being promoted in influential circles that the United States has either already achieved herd immunity or is close to doing so, and that the pandemic is all but over. That conclusion would imply that businesses, schools and restaurants could safely reopen, and that masks and other distancing measures could be abandoned.

“The idea that herd immunity will happen at 10 or 20 percent is just nonsense,” said Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which produced the epidemic model frequently cited during White House news briefings as the epidemic hit hard in the spring.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden and Trump’s First Debate: What to Watch For, Shane Goldmacher and Adam Nagourney, Sept. 29, 2020. Tuesday’s debate is a chance for President Trump to shake up the race. Meanwhile, Joe Biden could benefit from greatly diminished expectations.

President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. will walk onto the first presidential debate stage of the 2020 general election with a very different set of political incentives.

djt biden smiles resizedFor Mr. Trump, it is a much-welcomed chance to shake up a race in which he is currently behind. For Mr. Biden, the debate is a risky but necessary step, a close encounter with an unorthodox rival who can and will say almost anything.

After complaining for months about Mr. Biden’s “basement” strategy, the debate is Mr. Trump’s biggest opportunity to reframe the election as a choice between two competing visions. The Biden campaign continues to cast the race chiefly as a referendum on Mr. Trump’s failures in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Two things can be true at once about the stakes of the debate.

First, the presidential race so far has been an extremely stable affair, with little disrupting Mr. Biden’s consistent polling lead — not a pandemic, not record joblessness, not mass protests over policing and racism, and not an unexpected Supreme Court vacancy. A 90-minute debate will be hard-pressed to move the needle more than those factors.

Second, the debate still represents one of Mr. Trump’s best opportunities to jostle the current dynamic, his first chance to speak directly to an audience of tens of millions of Americans alongside Mr. Biden.

With that in mind, here is what to watch during the debate. The Times will be livestreaming the event and providing live analysis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Joe Biden and President Trump will bring very different histories to their debate on Tuesday, and millions will be watching — and judging, Michael M. Grynbaum, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Viewers Should Expect Few Frills and No Fact Checks; “My job is to be as invisible as possible,” said Chris Wallace of Fox News, the moderator of the opening matchup on Tuesday.

Chris Wallace does not hold mock debates. Instead, the “Fox News Sunday” anchor and presidential debate moderator has been honing his questions at his fox-news-logo Small.pngweekend home on Chesapeake Bay, before he flies to Cleveland to take charge of the opening bout between Joseph R. Biden Jr. and President Trump.

Tuesday’s debate, which airs commercial free from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern time on every major network, is likely to attract a television and livestreaming audience of close to 100 million for the kind of civic gathering increasingly rare in a polarized, pandemic-stricken age.

A fragmented news media means that many voters will consume the Biden-Trump clash through a preferred, possibly biased lens, be it partisan cable news stations, custom-tailored social media feeds or online outlets that cater to ideological tribes.

But the few-frills format of Tuesday’s debate — two candidates, two lecterns, one moderator — is a break from highly produced events, like virtual conventions and overloaded primary debates, that have otherwise defined the major television moments of the 2020 presidential race.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 29, 2020, 13:53 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here),

World Cases: 33,617,129, Deaths: 1,007,650:
U.S. Cases: 7,364,646, Deaths: 209,896

nancy pelosi mitch mcconnell resized

washington post logoWashington Post, Economic relief talks between White House, Pelosi suddenly resume as House Democrats make new offer, Erica Werner, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Their $2.2 trillion plan would include stimulus checks and additional jobless aid.

The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) resumed discussions over a possible economic relief bill as Democrats offered a $2.2 trillion package and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin immediately engaged in talks.

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke Monday evening and agreed to talk again Tuesday morning, according to Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.

The two have negotiated extensively this year on economic relief bills. They initially found success but have been at odds in recent months, and talks have repeatedly broken down. They are running out of time to reach an agreement before the November election, but their planned talks this week appear to be their most extensive engagement in more than a month.

Democrats described their new offer as an updated version of the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May, which the White House and Senate Republicans dismissed as far too costly. Senate Republicans and Mnuchin have also said $2.2 trillion is too much to spend, but Mnuchin has said he is open to negotiations. It was not immediately clear whether the talks would bear fruit or whether Democratic leaders would use the bill to provide political cover for moderate House Democrats, who have grown increasingly anxious over Congress’s recent inaction on pandemic relief legislation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney lays off 28,000 as coronavirus slams its theme-park business, Steven Zeitchik, Sept. 29, 2020. Most are part-time workers, but the news shows the grim outlook for the leisure industry.

Disney announced Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 people across its theme-park division in the United States, demonstrating the devastating toll covid-19 has taken on its core business.

About two-thirds of those losing their jobs are part-time employees, the company said.

For six months, Disney has kept tens of thousands of theme park workers on furlough with full health-care benefits in hopes that a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel would appear. On Tuesday, Disney conceded that none was coming.

About 67 percent of the layoffs will involve part-time jobs that pay by the hour. However, executives and salaried workers will also be among those laid off. Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida employed roughly 110,000 people before the pandemic. The job cuts, which will come from both resorts, will reduce that number to about 82,000.

 

More On Trump Tax Revelations

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial Board: The Picture of a Broken Tax System, Editorial Board, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s tax returns illustrate the irs logoprofound inequities of the tax code and the shambolic state of federal enforcement. Opinion:

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: President Trump’s taxes show chronic losses and years of tax avoidance. Read Part 1 of our investigation. Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire, Sept. 27, 2020. The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.

ny times logoNew York Times,18 Revelations From a Trove of Trump Tax Records, David Leonhardt, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Among the key findings of The Times’s investigation: Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined. In 2017, after he became president, his tax bill was only $750.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump used the U.S. tax code to his benefit in 3 ways, In these three cases, tax law experts say, David A. Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Trump’s company ventured into complex legal territory — areas in which other firms have faced penalties for stretching the rules too far.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported it had obtained nearly two decades’ worth of President Trump’s tax information. Since then, most public attention has focused on what the Times reported about Trump’s federal income tax payments: He paid just $750 for the year in 2016, and then another $750 for 2017.the Times story also revealed three arrangements in which Trump’s company used the U.S. tax code to its benefit — to lower Trump’s taxes, or to donald trump money palmer report Custommake the IRS refund tens of millions in taxes he had already paid.

In these three cases, tax law experts say, Trump’s company ventured into complex legal territory — areas in which other companies have faced penalties for stretching the rules too far. Both the Trump Organization and the IRS did not respond to requests for comment.

Here’s what we know, courtesy of the Times’s reporting.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Courts view GOP’s voter fraud claims skeptically, Elise Viebeck, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found that judges have been dubious of Republican arguments about the risk of widespread fraud.

For six months, the rules for how Americans can vote during the coronavirus pandemic have been locked in court battles while states across the country rushed to embrace mail ballots.

Now, with just weeks to go before the Nov. 3 election, voting rights advocates and Democrats have advanced on key fronts in the legal war, scoring victories that make mail voting easier, ensure votes cast by mail are counted and protect the wide distribution of mail ballots in some states.

A review by The Washington Post of nearly 90 state and federal voting lawsuits found that judges have been broadly skeptical as Republicans use claims of voter fraud to argue against such changes, declining to endorse the GOP’s arguments or dismissing them as they examined limits on mail voting. In no case did a judge back President Trump’s view — refuted by experts — that fraud is a problem significant enough to sway a presidential election.

  • How to vote in your state
  • Take steps to prevent your mail ballot from being rejected

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates on The Day in Polls: Biden Leads by Enough to Withstand a Polling Misfire, Staff reports, Sept. 29, 2020. New Pennsylvania polls show Joe Biden is up by nine points in the state, a far more comfortable lead there than Hillary Clinton held four years ago.

For the first time since we started our poll tracker several weeks ago, Joe Biden leads by enough to withstand a repeat of the polling error in 2016.

If the polls were exactly as wrong as they were four years ago, Mr. Biden would hold the Clinton states and flip Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nebraska’s Second District, giving him more than the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

The big shift: Pennsylvania. An ABC/Post poll overnight and a Times/Siena poll Monday showed Mr. Biden up by nine points in the state, giving him a far more comfortable lead there than Hillary Clinton held over the final stretch four years ago. It’s worth waiting on a few more high-quality polls to confirm that Mr. Biden has a big edge here (it’s hard to overstate the electoral consequences if he does).

Of course, the polls won’t be exactly as wrong as they were in 2016. They could understate support for Donald Trump by an even greater degree. But there are good reasons to believe that many causes of 2016’s poll misfire are less likely this time around:

More pollsters now weight by education, which ensures that voters without a college degree make up an appropriate share of the sample. Many state polls had far too many college graduates four years ago, leading them to underestimate Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Everything Trump touches dies — including his presidency, Jennifer Rubin, Sept. 29, 2020. “Everything Trump touches dies,” jennifer rubin new headshotNever Trumper and former Republican strategist Rick Wilson likes to say. That has never been more evident, as the New York Times’s blockbuster reporting proves that after making a small fortune on the reality TV show “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump bought up loads of real estate — and promptly squandered his earnings.

Years of losses make him an extraordinarily unsuccessful real estate developer. One now understands that his failures were not limited to his casinos (which he drove into bankruptcy), but extended to everything else he touched. He brags about his wealth; in fact, his business record is distinguished by one failure after another.

djt maga hatHe has not paid taxes in 10 of 15 years in large part because he is a world-class failure in business. He now owes more than $421 million to unknown creditors, making him a walking national security risk. Let’s consider $750 — the amount Trump paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 — this election’s “47 percent,” the percentage of Americans that then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said were freeloaders and therefore not winnable as voters.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) picked up on the most salient point. ““Who does he owe the money to? Tell us. Who do you owe the money to?” she said in an MSNBC interview. “And do you owe debt to any foreign nation? Do you owe debt… do you owe anybody money who is impacted by any decision you make as president of the United States? We need to know that.” She added, "The American people have a right to know that when the president of the United States acts, he acts with their priorities in mind, not with his priorities in mind.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: The arrests continue – and they’re leading up to Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Sept. 29, 2020. When the police tackled and handcuffed Brad Parscale over the weekend and forcibly hospitalized him under the premise that he was an immediate danger to himself and others, we can debate whether this was technically an arrest – but realistically it was an arrest.

This means Brad Parscale is the fourth person to be in charge of Donald Trump’s campaign and then end up getting arrested. Trump’s first 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was arrested for assaulting a female reporter. Trump’s second 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort was arrested on a variety of charges and went to prison. Trump then hired Steve Bannon as his 2016 campaign CEO, and he was later arrested for fraud. And now Trump’s recently demoted 2020 campaign manager Parscale has gotten popped as well.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s not just the Trump campaign head honchos taking a fall, either. Trump’s 2016 campaign vice chairman Rick Gates went to prison. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, who was deeply involved with his 2016 campaign, went to prison. Trump’s 2016 campaign adviser George Papadopoulos went to prison. Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been convicted. So has Trump’s campaign adviser Roger Stone. The list is so long, we’ve probably left some people out.

The point is that this is an ongoing pattern for Donald Trump and his orbit, and lately the pattern has been escalating. Bannon finally got popped just recently. Parscale just got popped. Rudy Giuliani seems to be in danger of getting popped any day. That’s before getting to Trump’s newly leaked tax returns, which are enough to put him away on federal charges. And then there’s the well-documented New York grand jury that’s in the process of criminally indicting Donald Trump on state charges that he can’t pardon himself for.

It’s now essentially a given that if Donald Trump loses the election, he’ll end up indicted, arrested, tried, convicted, and yes, sent to prison. He’s pretty far behind in the polls, and his schemes to close the gap keep failing. All we have to do is put in the work required to win – volunteering, phone banking, voter registration – and we’ll finish him off for good.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Liberals Are Furious. Their Standard-Bearer Wants to Hold Back, Lisa Lerer, Sept. 29, 2020. As a high-stakes Supreme Court battle begins during the most bitter election season in decades, Joe Biden is wading cautiously into the fight.

Liberals believe the Supreme Court and the election are being stolen before Americans’ eyes. President Trump is openly saying that he needs nine justices on the court in case any voting disputes end up there. Senate Republicans are playing hardball to speedily confirm that ninth justice. And, to boot, Mr. democratic donkey logoTrump won’t even commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

And then there’s Joseph R. Biden Jr.

At a time when furious Democrats crave retribution, Mr. Biden is appealing to the “conscience” and the “hearts” of Senate Republicans.

“I have great respect for a number of my former Republican colleagues, and I’m hoping they will do the right thing,” he said on Sunday, pleading with them to “de-escalate.”

In the middle of the most bitter election season in decades, Mr. Biden is cautiously wading into the highest-stakes Supreme Court battle of his nearly half-century in politics. He’s sticking to his message of bipartisan comity and national unity, dodging questions from liberal allies and tempering his critiques of conservative opponents, on an issue on which polling shows a majority of voters siding with Democrats.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘This is a nightmare’: New Yorkers get absentee ballots with the wrong return envelope, Tim Elfrink, Sept. 29, 2020. This year, Brooklyn resident Kabeer Malhotra requested an absentee ballot for the first time, hoping to avoid the perils of a voting booth during the coronavirus pandemic. But when he tore open his ballot on Monday, he found an alarming error: A return envelope with someone else’s name printed on the front.

Malhotra wasn’t alone. Numerous New Yorkers reported Monday that they had received mixed-up return envelopes, which could invalidate their votes if they tried to mail them in.

The mass error comes soon after New York City struggled to tally a flood of absentee ballots in June primaries, leaving some races undecided for weeks. As GOP critics relentlessly assail the security of mail-in voting, the latest mishap — which President Trump highlighted in retweets Monday evening — will only add fuel to that argument, Malhotra worries.

Michael Ryan, executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, said that he learned of the error on Saturday, Gothamist reported. Ryan blamed a vendor with a contract to print and mail absentee ballots for voters in Queens and Brooklyn.

For now, the Board of Elections is asking every New Yorker who received the envelopes with the wrong name to contact them via Twitter, email or 1-866-868-3692. A spokesperson told WNBC that the board would “make sure people who received erroneous envelopes receive new ones” before the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: When Trump attacks Biden at the debate, his scam will hit rock bottom, Greg Sargent, Sept. 29, 2020. President Trump successfully markets a fictional version of himself. For years he has reaped immense rewards from that effort. But then his hallmark combination of incompetence and narcissistic overconfidence leads him to squander those rewards on ill-conceived schemes. Yet he continues milking his fictional image by peddling a series of increasingly transparent scams.

That works for a time. But then the bill finally comes due.

We are likely to see this vividly dramatized when Trump appears at the first presidential debate on Tuesday night. Trump is expected to try to rattle Joe Biden by attacking his son Hunter, and some Trump aides expect him to reiterate his silly claim that Biden is taking performance-enhancing drugs, CNN reports.

It is perfect that two producers of “The Apprentice” also helped produce Trump’s convention, which peddled the immensely fraudulent claims that his stupendous, benevolent leadership largely vanquished coronavirus and that the biggest threat to the rule of law is organized, violent leftist terrorism.

At the debate, when Trump peddles his various lies about the virus and Biden with the same zeal that he made a couple million bucks by “selling hope in a vitamin bottle,” the scam will hit rock bottom.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Joni Ernst is now in trouble. Trump is a huge part of her problem, Art Cullen, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in northwest Iowa and the author of the book “Storm Lake: Change, Resilience, and Hope in America’s Heartland.”

jodi ernst o CustomOne big reason Republicans are shoving a Supreme Court appointment through the Senate before the election is their rising fear of losing the upper chamber — and the White House — in November. Those fears are well-founded. Two weeks ago, one of the most respected polls in politics found Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), right, trailing Democrat Theresa Greenfield by three percentage points.

The Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll also found that all four of Iowa’s congressional races are dead heats — unusual in a state that went so bigly for Trump in 2016. The poll also found Joe Biden and Donald Trump deadlocked at 47 percent to 47 percent, a slight improvement for Biden in recent months.

Though it’s been months in the making, Iowa is now officially up for grabs. A natural disaster, impatience with bad farm economics, and a deep and abiding sense of anxiety about the country’s direction have made the state an unlikely battleground.

So far, $155 million has been spent in Iowa on the Senate race alone. The TV is filled with dark messages of political rot. Greenfield, the daughter of a crop-duster, has raised more money than Ernst. She is wearing well, attracting 10 percent of voters who supported Trump four years ago.

Not long ago, 60 percent of Iowans approved of Ernst’s performance.

djt impeachment graphic

Strategic Culture Foundation via OpEdNews, Opinion: The Menace of Far-Right Historical Revisionism, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 29, 2020. Trump, along with announcing his '1776 Commission,' also unveiled his proposal for a 'National Garden of American Heroes.'

strategic culture logoThe impeached U.S. President, Donald Trump, has taken a step never attempted by any of his predecessors. Trump, who every day is exposing his fascist policies and intentions, has announced that he is establishing a "1776 Commission" to re-write American history and force-feed it to every public and certain private school students throughout the United States.

Trump's move is intended to counter the 1619 Project of the New York Times, which is designed to place slavery and the slave trade in a central context in dealing with the history of pre- and post-colonial America.

Trump's designs on America's history book evokes the passage by George Orwell in "1984" - "Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past." While Mr. Trump has likely never read Orwell's novel about a dystopian North America and British Isles controlled by the dictator, "Big Brother," he is surrounded by enough neo-fascists who have read it and obviously find guiding thoughts and principles within its pages.

Trump's 1776 Commission is a blatant attempt to literally "whitewash" American history by advancing long discarded pollyannish tropes about European-Americans "civilizing" the Native peoples of North America, slavery being a necessary component of colonization, and unbridled capitalism being the engine that built the United States.

tom cotton o CustomExtreme right-wing Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, right, recently opined that slavery was what the founding fathers of the United States stated was a "necessary evil." Cotton wants to de-fund any school in the United States from receiving federal funds if they abide by the 1619 Project's contention about slavery causing the Civil War and resulting in many of America's social ills following that war. The 1619 Project quite correctly asserts that the U.S. African slave population grew from 500,000 to 4 million and it was the evil of a minority of white southerners treating 4 million human beings as their private property that rallied the Northern states to fight a costly war of emancipation and conveyance of full citizenship rights.

It is white racist extremists like Cotton who are revising history by claiming the founders of the American republic saw slavery as a "necessary evil." In fact, Cotton made up his assertion out of whole cloth.

Not a single signer of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 said or wrote that slavery was a "necessary evil." Trump and Cotton's cockamamie 1776 Commission will not stop with slavery but also seek to re-write the history of American expansionism into the Western part of North America and its wars of colonization against Mexico; indigenous tribes like the Navajo, Sioux, and Apache; Spain; and the Kingdom of Hawaii.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney lays off 28,000 as coronavirus slams its theme-park business, Steven Zeitchik, Sept. 29, 2020. Most are part-time workers, but the news shows the grim outlook for the leisure industry.

Disney announced Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 people across its theme-park division in the United States, demonstrating the devastating toll covid-19 has taken on its core business.

About two-thirds of those losing their jobs are part-time employees, the company said.

For six months, Disney has kept tens of thousands of theme park workers on furlough with full health-care benefits in hopes that a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel would appear. On Tuesday, Disney conceded that none was coming.

The company’s theme park division said it would eliminate 28,000 jobs in the United States. Theme parks will account for most of the layoffs, although Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s retail stores will also be affected.

“As heartbreaking as it is to take this action, this is the only feasible option we have in light of the prolonged impact of Covid-19 on our business, including limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said in an email to “cast members,” Disney’s term for its theme park workers.

About 67 percent of the layoffs will involve part-time jobs that pay by the hour. However, executives and salaried workers will also be among those laid off. Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida employed roughly 110,000 people before the pandemic. The job cuts, which will come from both resorts, will reduce that number to about 82,000.

 

U.S. Courts, Justice Integrity

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Flynn’s lawyer says she asked Trump not to pardon the former national security adviser, Spencer S. Hsu, Ann E. Marimow and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 29, 2020. Michael Flynn’s lawyer asked President Trump not to pardon his former national security adviser and personally briefed the president on the case this month, the attorney told a judge reviewing the Justice Department’s bid to dismiss the prosecution Tuesday.

The disclosure by Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell was one of the most striking notes of a contentious five-hour hearing before U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan into whether the court should grant a Justice Department request to dismiss the case.

Flynn was the highest-ranking Trump adviser charged in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation and pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying about his dealings with a Russian diplomat. As he awaited sentencing, though, Flynn changed legal teams and tried to undo his plea, and his effort soon gained an unlikely ally: Attorney General William P. Barr, who tapped a prosecutor to specially review the matter and then had the Justice Department move to walk away.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Judge Sullivan exposes bombshell about Donald Trump in Michael Flynn case, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 29, 2020. When the news broke last bill palmernight that Bill Barr’s DOJ had altered and apparently falsified evidence in the hope of painting Michael Flynn, above left, as a victim, we knew there were going to be fireworks in today’s Flynn hearing. But it turns out most of the judge’s ire was aimed at Donald Trump.

Judge Sullivan ended up asking Michael Flynn’s defense attorney if she had discussed the case with Donald Trump. She tried to invoke executive privilege, bill palmer report logo headerwhich isn’t a thing in this instance, before ultimately admitting that she’s been personally briefing Trump on the developments in the case. This is nothing short of a bombshell about Trump’s behavior. It’s not necessarily surprising, but it’s still shockingly corrupt.

At that point retired Judge Gleeson, who was appointed by Judge Sullivan to help sort out the Trump regime’s meddling in the case, announced his view that “Donald Trump has open disdain for the independence of the Justice Department.” Judge Sullivan hasn’t yet ruled, but this would seemingly end any brief shot that Flynn might have had of getting the charges against him dismissed. It also appears to be obstruction of justice on Trump’s part, but any such criminal charges against him will seemingly have to wait until after he loses the election

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Washington Post, ICE preparing targeted arrests in ‘sanctuary cities,’ amplifying president’s campaign theme, Nick Miroff and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 29, 2020. The immigration operation that could start next week would sync with two themes of President Trump’s reelection campaign: His crackdown on immigration and his push to vilify cities led by Democrats, who he blames for crime and violence.

washington post logoWashington Post, JPMorgan Chase to pay $920 million fine in ‘spoofing’ case, Hamza Shaban, Sept. 29, 2020. The company admitted to a multiyear scheme to manipulate market prices through illegal trading practices.

jp morgan chase logoJPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay more than $920 million to settle investigations with multiple federal agencies after admitting to a multiyear scheme to manipulate market prices through illegal trading practices.

The settlement, the largest ever imposed for this type of fraudulent activity, known as spoofing, resolves investigations by the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, according to statements from the government agencies Tuesday.

For years, JPMorgan traders initiated orders to buy or sell precious metals, Treasury notes and Treasury futures only to quickly cancel the trades before they were executed. The illegal practice sends a false signal to other market players, prompting price changes that the spoofers can then exploit.

 

BIG DIRTY MONEY
The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime
By Jennifer Taub

New York Times, Book Review: Why We Let White-Collar Criminals Get Away With Their Crimes, James B. Stewart, Sept. 29, 2020. Donald Trump is not the ostensible subject of “Big Dirty Money,” Jennifer Taub’s polemic against America’s failure to curb the destructive criminal tendencies of the very rich. Yet the president, his friends and former Trump campaign and administration officials parade through these pages. The latest example may be Steve Bannon, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman, whose arrest in August on fraud charges came too late for inclusion in Taub’s book.

Trump is very rich, although how rich remains a subject of investigation, given the wildly varying and self-serving values he’s assigned his many real estate assets. He has escaped the consequences of what amounts to a lifetime of dubious business dealings. As Taub, a law professor at Western New England University, writes, “Trump took advantage of a system that gives first, second, third and seemingly infinite chances to the elite.”

As president, he has been investigated, impeached, tried and summarily acquitted for high crimes and misdemeanors over his dealings with Ukraine and attempts to impede Congress. Trump also oversees the Justice Department and its investigations of white-collar crime, including cases involving many of his friends and associates. It should thus be no surprise that white-collar prosecutions on his watch have plummeted. He hasn’t hesitated to enlist his compliant attorney general, William P. Barr, in the effort to gain leniency for friends like his former campaign adviser Roger Stone and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Both were accused of lying under oath — one of the most common crimes committed by the wealthy and well connected.

The president wields the power of the pardon, and Trump has freely used it on behalf of wealthy white-collar criminals. He did so earlier this year for Michael Milken and Eddie DeBartolo Jr., sending a powerful message that white-collar crimes don’t really matter, even though white-collar crime in America “costs victims an estimated $300 billion to $800 billion per year,” Taub reports, while “street-level ‘property’ crimes, including burglary, larceny and theft, cost us far less — around $16 billion annually, according to the F.B.I.”

Trump is a stark illustration of why so few wealthy malefactors are held accountable. Like other members of the .01 percent, he can act with seeming impunity, able to buy or influence his way out of trouble. He empathizes with rich people who run afoul of the law. He minimizes their guilt, suggesting white-collar crimes aren’t really crimes, especially when the accused are white men, as the vast majority of all rich white-collar criminals are. Yet Trump is a symptom, not the cause.

Taub is hardly the first author to call attention to the American justice system’s curious indifference to white-collar crime, apart from occasional spasms of attention triggered by populist indignation. Brandon L. Garrett’s “Too Big to Jail” (2014) and John C. Coffee Jr.’s “Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement” (2020) are excellent examples.

But Taub explicitly and persuasively places the breakdown of enforcement and accountability in the context of money and class. She notes that the phrase “white-collar crime” was coined in 1939 by the sociologist Edwin Sutherland to describe an offense committed by “a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” This association with respectability manifests itself throughout the justice system. Prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges are largely white, well-educated, affluent men and, increasingly, women, who, consciously or not, Taub suggests, identify with the white-collar defendants who come within their purview.

Asked about the startling lack of high-profile criminal cases after the 2008 financial crisis, Lanny Breuer, who served as the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division during the Obama administration, told “Frontline” that the department looked “hard” at potential cases but couldn’t prove intent. “That’s the old standby excuse in any white-collar case,” Taub maintains.

 

U.S. Courts, Religion, Race, Democracy

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge Barrett’s writing criticizes the Supreme Court decision upholding Obama-era health law, Amy Goldstein and Alice Crites, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). In the days leading to his nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, President Trump emphasized anew his distaste for the Affordable Care Act. In his third chance to shape the high court, the president is turning to a conservative judge who could tilt its balance toward his goal of abolishing the law.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoBarrett has not participated in any cases during three years on the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit that dealt with the decade-old law, which has widened insurance coverage and altered many other aspects of the nation’s health-care system. Yet her academic writing and public action offer glimpses into her views: She has criticized the legal logic behind a Supreme Court decision that preserved the law and opposed a provision involving birth control.

Among the most revealing was an essay she wrote at the start of 2017, four months before Trump nominated her to the circuit bench. In the essay published by a journal of Notre Dame Law School, where she was a professor, Barrett argues that judges should respect the text of laws and contends that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote the majority opinion the first time the Supreme Court upheld the health-care law, “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Barrett meets with senators as GOP fast-tracks nomination, Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim, Sept. 29, 2020.  President Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy is meeting with Republican senators Tuesday as the GOP moves as quickly as possible to install Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the court before the November election.

us senate logoSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) met with Barrett on Capitol Hill and said he is “glad to get the process started.” But he declined to say whether the president’s pick should recuse herself from any potential cases related to the election.

Asked whether he expects Barrett to be confirmed before the election, McConnell did not respond.

Some Democrats, including Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), have called on Barrett to recuse herself from any election-related cases. “One of the things I want to ask her is, will she recuse herself in terms of any election issues that come before us, because if she does not recuse herself, I fear that the court will be further delegitimized,” Booker said Sunday in an appearance on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, Grand Juror in Breonna Taylor Case Says Deliberations Were Misrepresented, Rukmini Callimachi, Updated Sept. 29, 2020. Officials said they would release the panel’s recordings after a grand juror contended in a court filing that its discussions were inaccurately characterized.

A juror in the Breonna Taylor case contends that the Kentucky attorney general misrepresented the grand jury’s deliberations and failed to offer the panel the option of indicting the two officers who fatally shot the young woman, above, according to the juror’s lawyer.

The unnamed juror filed a court motion on Monday seeking the release of last week’s transcripts and permission from a judge to speak publicly to set the record straight. Hours later, the office of Attorney General Daniel Cameron granted both requests, saying that the juror is free to speak and that recordings of the session will be made public.

“This is something where the juror is not seeking any fame, any acclaim, any money,” said Kevin M. Glogower, the juror’s lawyer.

Mr. Glogower said the juror came to him last week in a state of turmoil after Mr. Cameron repeatedly said at a news conference that the law did not permit him to charge Sgt. Jon Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, the two white officers who shot Ms. Taylor, a Black woman, after one officer was shot by her boyfriend — and that the jury had agreed with him.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Immigrants Say They Were Pressured Into Unneeded Surgeries, Caitlin Dickerson, Seth Freed Wessler and Miriam Jordan, Sept. 29, 2020. Immigrants detained at an ICE-contracted center in Georgia said they had invasive gynecological procedures that they later learned might have been unnecessary.

ICE logoWendy Dowe was startled awake early one morning in January 2019, when guards called her out of her cellblock in the Irwin County immigration detention center in rural Georgia, where she had been held for four months. She would be having surgery that day, they said.

Still groggy, the 48-year-old immigrant from Jamaica, who had been living without legal status in the United States for two decades before she was picked up by immigration authorities, felt a swell of dread come over her. An outside gynecologist who saw patients in immigration custody told her that the menstrual cramping she had was caused by large cysts and masses that needed to be removed, but she was skeptical. The doctor insisted, she said, and as a detainee — brought to the hospital in handcuffs and shackles — she felt pressured to consent.

It was only after she was deported to Jamaica and had her medical files reviewed by several other doctors that she knew she had been right to raise questions.

A radiologist’s report, based on images of her internal organs from her time at Irwin, described her uterus as being a healthy size, not swollen with enlarged masses and cysts, as the doctor had written in his notes. The cysts she had were small, and the kind that occur naturally and do not usually require surgical intervention.

“I didn’t have to do any of it,” Ms. Dowe said.

The Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga., drew national attention this month after a nurse, Dawn Wooten, filed a whistle-blower complaint claiming that detainees had told her they had had their uteruses removed without their full understanding or consent.

Since then, both ICE and the hospital in Irwin County have released data that show that two full hysterectomies have been performed on women detained at Irwin in the past three years. But firsthand accounts are now emerging from detainees, including Ms. Dowe, who underwent other invasive gynecological procedures that they did not fully understand and, in some cases, may not have been medically necessary.

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cnn logoCNN, Analysis: Michael Flynn and DOJ return to court to argue his case should be dismissed, Katelyn Polantz, Sept. 29, 2020. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the Justice Department and US District Judge Emmet Sullivan meet for the first time in months Tuesday, as the judge weighs their attempts to exonerate the former top Trump official for lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia during the presidential transition.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014But dismissing the politically charged case, as Flynn and the DOJ have sought, may not be that easy.

Sullivan has made clear he might consider sentencing Flynn for his lies, which he pleaded guilty to under oath almost three years ago. A third-party lawyer, former federal judge John Gleeson, will be in court as well to argue the legal path Sullivan could take to keep the case alive and sentence Flynn.

It's the latest round -- and potentially the final act -- in a saga for Flynn in court that began with him flipping on President Donald Trump during the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. At that time and in a second court hearing, Flynn admitted to misleading the FBI in the early days of the Trump administration.

emmet sullivan 2012In the three years since, Flynn has narrowly avoiding being sentenced. He's also become an emblem of the Trump's persistent efforts to undermine the Russia investigation and a conduit for testing the separation of powers between judges and prosecutors. The Justice Department has argued Flynn never should have been questioned by the FBI in January 2017 and put in the position where he lied.

Sullivan, a sometimes unpredictable judge with a history of posing tough questions in heated cases, hasn't indicated how he may approach the long-awaited hearing. Flynn had even tried to avoid the hearing altogether, by unsuccessfully appealing the judge's authority to hold one.

But both Republican supporters and critics of Attorney General William Barr and Trump have hoped for some sort of comeuppance through the case. Tuesday's hearing gives Sullivan an opening to press Flynn's lawyers on his change of heart, probe Barr's controversial decision to unravel the plea deal cut by Mueller's team, and comment on the lawyering in the case in recent months.

ny times logoNew York Times, Clare Bronfman, Facing Sentencing, Refuses to Disavow ‘Sex Cult’ Leader, Nicole Hong, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Ms. Bronfman will be the first defendant in the Nxivm case to be sentenced. Prosecutors have asked for five years in prison.

For more than a decade, Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune, devoted her life to supporting a self-help group called Nxivm. She quit her equestrian career, moved to Nxivm’s headquarters in upstate New York and poured millions of dollars into the group.

clare bronfman croppedThe organization has since unraveled over accusations that it was a pyramid scheme and a sex-trafficking cult, estranging Ms. Bronfman from her father and turning her into a felon.

And yet, as she awaits sentencing by a federal judge, Ms. Bronfman, 41, has not wavered in her loyalty to Nxivm’s leader, Keith Raniere.

“Many people, including most of my own family, believe I should disavow Keith and Nxivm, and that I have not is hard for them to understand and accept,” Ms. Bronfman wrote in a letter last month to the judge. “However, for me, Nxivm and Keith greatly changed my life for the better.”

On Wednesday, Ms. Bronfman will be the first defendant to be sentenced in the Nxivm case, which led to criminal charges against six of the organization’s leaders and prominent members. After Ms. Bronfman and four others pleaded guilty, Mr. Raniere was the only defendant who went to trial, resulting in his conviction in June 2019 for racketeering, sex trafficking and other crimes.

The United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn, which investigated Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um), has asked the judge to sentence Ms. Bronfman to five years in prison, saying Mr. Raniere could not have committed his crimes without powerful allies like her.

Ms. Bronfman’s lawyers have argued she should not go to prison at all. She genuinely believed Nxivm was a force for good and had no idea about the human trafficking and sexual abuse within the group, they said. She pleaded guilty to two crimes in connection with her role at Nxivm, involving identity theft and immigration fraud.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Chris Wallace says he wants to be ‘invisible’ as debate moderator. Will Trump let him? Jeremy Barr, Sept. 29, 2020. The two have a history. But Democrats don’t expect the famously independent Fox anchor to go easy on Biden, either.

The long, sometimes-contentious relationship between Donald Trump and Chris Wallace will be on full display Tuesday night as the Fox News anchor moderates the president’s first debate with Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Over the course of his presidency, Trump has lavished praise on Fox’s biggest opinion stars, shouting out Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro at his campaign rallies. In contrast, the president has attacked Wallace, a key member of the network’s news division, in extremely personal terms.

“It’ll be unfair, I have no doubt about it,” Trump told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade on Thursday morning, previewing the debate. “He’ll be controlled by the radical left. That’s what — they control him.”

It’s a claim that is roundly scoffed at by colleagues of Wallace, who worked long stints at NBC and ABC before Fox. “Chris Wallace has, for his entire career, been an independent journalist,” emphasized Carl Cameron, the network’s chief political correspondent until his retirement in 2017.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cambridge Analytica database identified Black voters as ripe for ‘deterrence,’ report says, Craig Timberg and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Trump campaign says it did not use the information in 2016.

A database built by Cambridge Analytica, the Republican-aligned firm that unraveled over allegations of improper use of Facebook data, disproportionately identified Black voters as ripe for “Deterrence” in profiles prepared for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to a report Monday from Britain’s Channel 4 News.

cambridge analytica facebook logosThe president’s reelection campaign called the segment “fake news,” and an aide who handled data in 2016 said the material went unused by the campaign.

Still, the evidence the British broadcaster says it has uncovered is likely to intensify concerns about voter suppression and the opportunities afforded by Facebook to narrowly segment and target portions of the electorate.

The material revives debates over the extent to which the voter profiles touted by Cambridge Analytica were actually used to sway the vote in 2016. The firm was founded in part by the Trump campaign’s onetime chief executive, Stephen K. Bannon, and collapsed in 2018 after news reports detailed its improper use of Facebook data in analyzing voters and other allegations of impropriety.

During the first presidential debate in 2016, Hillary Clinton speculated that Donald Trump was keeping his taxes secret because he didn’t want Americans to know that “maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is,” “maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be,” and maybe “he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Qanon is a particularly dangerous cult following, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 29, 2020. There’s a fairly good chance that most wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAmericans know at least one person, including family and close friends, who have become followers of the wacko Qanon fringe conspiracy cult.

Extremist cults have plagued America in the past. What makes Qanon so different from the Manson family, People’s Temple, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, Raëlians, and NXIVM is that they were relatively smaller groups and were concentrated in certain geographical regions, for example, Southern California, Oakland, Texas, West Virginia, and New York state.

Qanon, on the other hand, has a wide following across the United States and, increasingly, around the world. Qanon, which maintains underpinniings of white supremacy and neo-Nazism, is a sect within the larger Donald Trump cult of personality.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Fashion Models Accuse Top Agent of Rape and Sexual Assault, Elizabeth Paton, Vanessa Friedman and Constant Méheut, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The former head of one of the world’s biggest modeling agencies is facing a legal investigation in France, after four women reported claims of rape and sexual assault dating back to the 1980s and 1990s.

Gérald Marie, 70, was president for 25 years of the European division of Elite Model Management, an agency that at its peak represented the likes of Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford. Now, in a complaint submitted on Sept. 21 to the Judicial Tribunal in Paris, two models have accused him of raping them, with another model and a journalist making allegations of sexual assault, in episodes that took place more than two decades ago.

Carré Sutton, 51, and Jill Dodd, 60, accused Mr. Marie of raping them when they were 17 and 20, respectively. A third woman, Ebba Karlsson, 51, alleges that Mr. Marie sexually assaulted her when she was 20 during a meeting in his office at Elite in Paris in the 1990s. A fourth woman, Lisa Brinkworth, 53, says she was sexually assaulted by Mr. Marie while posing as a model and working as a journalist on a BBC modeling industry exposé in 1998.

The events described by the four women currently fall outside the French statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault, and some of the accusations have been public for years. But the women and their lawyer hope that Ms. Brinkworth can circumvent the time limit based on evidence that recently came to light. The other three women’s accounts were included with her complaint to bolster it.

 

U.S. Wildfires, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, California wildfires erupt in wine country, damaging Santa Rosa and prompting evacuations, Andrew Freedman, Sept. 29, 2020 (print ed.).
The fires have spread during yet another in a series of heat waves that have shattered records across the state since August, and dry offshore winds are pushing the flames to spread rapidly downwind.

forest fire public domainSwiftly moving wildfires roared into parts of Santa Rosa, Calif., overnight and Monday morning, causing damage in the eastern parts of the community and sending thousands fleeing during hasty nighttime evacuations. The fires (illustrated with a stock file of another fire) not have erupted during yet another in a series of heat waves that have shattered records across the state since August, and dry offshore winds are pushing the flames to spread rapidly downwind.

Homes were engulfed in flames in the Skyhawk neighborhood in eastern Santa Rosa as the Shady Fire advanced into the community. That blaze began Sunday night in Napa County, near the Glass Fire that had begun early Sunday.

 

Sept. 28

 Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Trump Tax Revelations

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Courts, Religion, Race, Democracy

 

World News

 

Top Stories

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ny times logoNew York Times, Exclusive: TRUMP’S TAXES SHOW CHRONIC LOSSES AND YEARS OF TAX AVOIDANCE, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.

The Times has obtained tax-return data for President Trump extending over more than two decades. It tells a story fundamentally different from the one he’s irs logosold to the public.

Mr. Trump’s finances are under stress, beset by hundreds of millions in debt coming due and an I.R.S. audit that could cost him over $100 million.

He paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and nothing at all in 10 of the prior 15 years — largely because he lost so much money.

The Times obtained Donald Trump’s tax information extending over more than two decades, revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.

The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president.

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office. It does not include his personal returns for 2018 or 2019. This article offers an overview of The Times’s findings; additional articles will be published in the coming weeks.

The returns are some of the most sought-after, and speculated-about, records in recent memory. In Mr. Trump’s nearly four years in office — and across his endlessly hyped decades in the public eye — journalists, prosecutors, opposition politicians and conspiracists have, with limited success, sought to excavate the enigmas of his finances. By their very nature, the filings will leave many questions unanswered, many questioners unfulfilled. They comprise information that Mr. Trump has disclosed to the I.R.S., not the findings of an independent financial examination. They report that Mr. Trump owns hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable assets, but they do not reveal his true wealth. Nor do they reveal any previously unreported connections to Russia.

washington post logodjt hands up mouth open CustomWashington Post, Trump dismisses New York Times report that he paid nothing in income taxes for 10 years, but dodges questions about details, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Trump dismisses New York Times report that he paid nothing in income taxes for 10 years, but dodges questions about details; Pelosi: Democrats must control more state delegations in the House in case they decide the election; Appeals court halts injunction that gave extra time for mail ballot counting in Wisconsin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden maintains lead over Trump as support from women fuels ex-vice president’s advantage, Post-ABC poll finds, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). After two political conventions, the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus, economic dislocation, more racial upheaval and a coming battle over a Supreme Court vacancy, the race for the White House remains stable, with former vice president Joe Biden holding a steady advantage over President Trump, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

joe biden 2020 button CustomBiden and vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) lead Trump and Vice President Pence by 53 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, statistically unchanged from the 12-point margin in a poll taken in August just before Democrats and Republicans held their conventions. Biden and Harris also have a 10-point advantage among likely voters, 54 percent to 44 percent.

Biden’s lead narrows to six points among likely voters (49 percent to 43 percent) and among registered voters (47 percent to 41 percent) when Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen and Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins are included as response options in the survey.

National polling reflects only the potential popular vote for president and is not a direct indicator of the state-by-state competition for electoral votes that determines the winner. Further complicating any comparison, the Libertarian candidate will be on all state ballots but the Green candidate will not.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Voters Believe Winner of Election Should Fill Court Vacancy, Poll Shows, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). A clear majority of voters believes the next president should fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll; Joe Biden retained a lead over President Trump, 49 to 41 percent.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosMore striking, the voters Mr. Trump and endangered Senate Republicans must reclaim to close the gap in the polls are even more opposed to a hasty pick: 62 percent of women, 63 percent of independents and 60 percent of college-educated white voters said they wanted the winner of the campaign to fill the seat.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2020 Election Live Updates: Trump Falsely Says Information in Tax Report Was ‘Illegally Obtained,’ Staff reports, Sept. 28, 2020. Mr. Trump will inevitably face questions about a Times report on his tax avoidance when he debates Joe Biden. The weekend’s polls brought more good news for Mr. Biden. Kamala Harris plans to speak about Amy Coney Barrett during a campaign trip to North Carolina.

  • Republicans greet the news of Trump’s tax avoidance with silence.
  • After dismissing an investigation into his taxes as ‘fake news,’ Trump falsely claims the information was obtained illegally.
  • A Biden campaign video shows how small Trump’s $750 tax bill is, compared with what average workers pay.
  • End the filibuster? Pack the court? Democrats are pushing Biden.
  • A complete guide to how to vote, by mail or in person, early or on Election Day.

Republican lawmakers reacted with nearly complete silence on Monday to a New York Times investigation that revealed President Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017 and that he oversees a network of businesses that are riddled with debt and losing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Spokesmen for Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the top two Republicans in the Senate, declined to comment on the article Monday. Aides to other Republicans involved in writing tax law — Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee — did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Trump initially called the Times article “totally fake news” on Sunday, and then shifted to falsely accusing the paper of basing the report on illegally obtained information about his finances.

Democrats quickly seized on the investigation. House lawmakers, who have spent years fighting in the courts for access to the president’s tax records, hailed the revelations in the report as proof that their inquiries were justified.

“Trump hides his tax returns because, unlike most working Americans, he is a freeloader who doesn’t believe in paying taxes, only personally benefiting from taxes others pay,” Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas, said in a statement. “Most any American who pays taxes has paid more than Trump. He is a taker, not a maker.”

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said on MSNBC Monday that the report raised national security concerns because of the amount of money that the president owes to lenders.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: What’s the Plan if Trump Tweets That He’s Won Re-election? Editorial Board, Sept. 28, 2020. Social media platforms must not tolerate voter disinformation. On election night in 2012, Barack Obama trailed Mitt Romney by some 30,000 votes at the moment Mr. Obama was projected to win his re-election bid. By the time the votes were tallied, Mr. Obama had five million more votes than Mr. Romney.

In 2016, when Donald Trump accepted Hillary Clinton’s concession, he was leading the popular vote count by nearly one million votes. When all the votes were counted, he lost the popular vote by nearly three million.

This longstanding and well-documented phenomenon, known as the “blue shift,” opens the door to a troubling scenario on election night this year.

Imagine: It’s midnight, and the electoral map looks quite red. But news networks and election officials aren’t calling the swing states, as this year’s record numbers of mail-in and absentee ballots have yet to be fully counted. Mr. Trump, leading in the popular vote, decides he’s seen enough. He takes to his social media platforms and declares that he has won re-election and will accept no other result. He tells his tens of millions of followers that the Democrats and the press will try to change the result and steal the election. The door to unrest and constitutional crisis swings wide open.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have all pledged to crack down on misinformation around voting and electoral outcomes. Perhaps in the above scenario they append a label to the president’s posts saying that the information is disputed and that the results are not in. They could introduce friction into the algorithms to slow the reach of the posts.

But pro-Trump lawmakers and pundits most likely would have picked up the argument by then, amplifying the president’s message. What started as one prominent piece of voter disinformation easily could become widespread in the Republican Party and among a large segment of Americans. What would the platforms do then?

That one cannot answer that question with confidence, weeks before Election Day, is alarming. The platforms’ content moderation decisions are often arbitrary and, when public officials are concerned, left up to the judgment of a few top executives. Their corporate desires to avoid accusations of bias and appear politically neutral, however admirable in principle, break down in an information environment in which the political parties do not share the same relationship to the truth and to democratic norms.

To prevent such a nightmare scenario across social media, technology’s biggest platforms need to create a clear, explicit framework for what qualifies as electoral misinformation and disinformation. They must determine exactly what they will not tolerate and what the penalties will be for violating those rules. Then they ought to make those rules public.

Even better: The tech companies could form a consortium to formalize these standards across platforms. For a template, they could look to the work of the Election Integrity Partnership, which built a framework for grading Big Tech’s election security policies and has determined “that few platforms have comprehensive policies on election-related content.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 28, 2020, 13:11 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here),

World Cases: 33,353,974, Deaths:1,003,105:
U.S. Cases: 7,321,465, Deaths: 209,454

 djt council to reopen america fox

washington post logoWashington Post, Already facing its worst crisis since 9/11, airline industry set to cut more than 35,000 jobs this week, Ian Duncan, Lori Aratani and Michael Laris, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). It’s another devastating blow for an industry facing a crisis analysts say is already far worse than it experienced after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and one that has already seen employment in air transportation decline by 100,000 jobs according to one measure.

 

More On Trump Tax Revelations

ny times logoNew York Times, Charting An Empire: A Timeline Of Trump’s Finances, Russ Buettner, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Keith Collins, Mike McIntire and Susanne Craig, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Tax records provide a detailed history of President Trump’s business career, revealing huge losses, looming financial threats and a large, contested refund from the I.R.S.

ny times logoNew York Times,18 Revelations From a Trove of Trump Tax Records, David Leonhardt, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The New York Times has obtained tax-return data for President Trump and his irs logocompanies that covers more than two decades. Mr. Trump has long refused to release this information, making him the first president in decades to hide basic details about his finances. His refusal has made his tax returns among the most sought-after documents in recent memory.

Among the key findings of The Times’s investigation: Mr. Trump paid no federal income taxes in 11 of 18 years that The Times examined. In 2017, after he became president, his tax bill was only $750.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Editor’s Note on the Trump Tax Investigation, Dean Baquet (New York Times executive editor, below right), Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Today we are publishing the results of an examination of decades of personal and corporate tax records for President Trump and his businesses in the United States and abroad. The records stretch from his days as a high-profile dean baquet 2018 wpNew York real estate investor through the beginning of his time in the White House.

A team of New York Times reporters has pored over this information to assemble the most comprehensive picture of the president’s finances and business dealings to date, and we will continue our reporting and publish additional articles about our findings in the weeks ahead. We are not making the records themselves public because we do not want to jeopardize our sources, who have taken enormous personal risks to help inform the public.

We are publishing this report because we believe citizens should understand as much as possible about their leaders and representatives — their priorities, their experiences and also their finances. Every president since the mid-1970s has made his tax information public. The tradition ensures that an official with the power to shake markets and change policy does not seek to benefit financially from his actions.

Mr. Trump, one of the wealthiest presidents in the nation’s history, has broken with that practice. As a candidate and as president, Mr. Trump has said he wanted to make his tax returns public, but he has never done so. In fact, he has fought relentlessly to hide them from public view and has falsely asserted that he could not release them because he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. More recently, Mr. Trump and the Justice Department have fought subpoenas from congressional and New York State investigators seeking his taxes and other financial records.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump used the U.S. tax code to his benefit in 3 ways, In these three cases, tax law experts say, David A. Fahrenthold and Joshua Partlow, Sept. 28, 2020. Trump’s company ventured into complex legal territory — areas in which other firms have faced penalties for stretching the rules too far.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported it had obtained nearly two decades’ worth of President Trump’s tax information. Since then, most public attention has focused on what the Times reported about Trump’s federal income tax payments: He paid just $750 for the year in 2016, and then another $750 for 2017.the Times story also revealed three arrangements in which Trump’s company used the U.S. tax code to its benefit — to lower Trump’s taxes, or to make the IRS refund tens of millions in taxes he had already paid.

In these three cases, tax law experts say, Trump’s company ventured into complex legal territory — areas in which other companies have faced penalties for stretching the rules too far. Both the Trump Organization and the IRS did not respond to requests for comment.

Here’s what we know, courtesy of the Times’s reporting.

Trump Siblings, from left, Robert Trump, Elizabeth Trump Grau, Fred Trump Jr., Donald Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry (Trump family photo).

Trump Siblings, from left, Robert Trump, Elizabeth Trump Grau, Fred Trump Jr., Donald Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry (Trump family photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump sought control of his elderly father’s estate and ignited an epic family fight, Michael Kranish, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Donald J. Trump was facing financial disaster in 1990 when he came up with an audacious plan to exert control of his father’s estate. Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry was recorded by her niece in January 2019 expressing outrage over her brother’s efforts to change the will. “Dad was in dementia,” Barry said.

Donald Trump was facing financial disaster in 1990 when he came up with an audacious plan to exert control of his father’s estate.

His creditors threatened to force him into personal bankruptcy, and his first wife, Ivana, wanted “a billion dollars” in a divorce settlement, Donald Trump said in a deposition. So he sent an accountant and a lawyer to see his father, Fred Trump Sr., who was told he needed to immediately sign a document changing the will according to his son’s wishes, according to depositions from family members.

djt rncIt was a fragile moment for the senior Trump, who was 85 years old and had built a real estate empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He would soon be diagnosed with cognitive problems, such as being unable to recall things he was told 30 minutes earlier or remember his birth date, according to his medical records, which were included in a related court case.

Now, those records and other sources of information about the episode obtained by The Washington Post reveal the extent of Fred Trump Sr.’s cognitive impairment and how Donald’s effort to change his father’s will tore apart the Trump family, which continues to reverberate today.

The recent release of a tell-all book by the president’s niece Mary L. Trump and the disclosure of secret recordings of her conversations with her aunt reflect the ongoing resentment of some family members toward Donald Trump’s attempt to change his father’s will.

With the election weeks away, the documents and recordings provide more fodder for Mary Trump’s continuing efforts to see her uncle defeated by Democrat Joe Biden, whom she has said she would do “everything in my power” to elect.

Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry was recorded by her niece in January 2019 expressing outrage over her brother’s efforts to change the will as their father’s mental capacity was declining. “Dad was in dementia,” Barry said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: FALLOUT, Bill Palmer, Sept. 28, 2020. What’s the fallout going to be from Trump’s tax returns? It’s not about how Trump’s idiot base responds to his financial fraud or the revelation that he’s secretly broke. It’s never been about his base. It’s about voters in the middle who don’t like Trump and are trying to decide whether to make the effort to go vote him out. Focus on them.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is still ranting today about Joe Biden take a drug test. Trump is projecting worse than ever. Just how much Adderall is he planning to snort before the debate?

During the primary race, Elizabeth Warren pointed out that Trump was going to prison if he lost the election, and a lot of pundits gave her grief for it. Those pundits should apologize. They knew Warren was correct. They just didn’t want her getting out ahead of the narrative. The media has always wanted to save the “Trump is going to prison” narrative for closer to election day.

How can Donald Trump steal and embezzle so much money, and still be flat broke? When you’re as deeply in debt as he is, everything you bring in goes right back out to make minimum loan payments and stave off bankruptcy for another day. Trump’s massive debts are a bottomless pit, and no matter how much money he throws into them, he still remains flat broke.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s taxes show why he is desperate to stay in office, Max Boot, Sept. 28, 2020. For years, Trump has said his taxes are 'under audit.' During the first presidential debate in 2016, Hillary Clinton speculated that Donald Trump was keeping his taxes secret because he didn’t want Americans to know that “maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is,” “maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be,” and maybe “he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

The New York Times just confirmed that Clinton was right — and reveals why President Trump has tried so hard to keep his taxes secret. It somehow managed to obtain Trump’s tax returns, which show that he is either a terrible businessman or a massive tax cheat — or possibly both. He managed to pay no federal income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — and only $750 in 2016 and 2017 — by claiming vast losses from his business empire. That $750 figure is a killer because it’s a number that middle-class Americans can understand. As a just-released Biden campaign ad points out, that’s far less than the taxes paid by the average teacher, nurse or firefighter.

The latest Times story neatly complements a previous Times scoop in 2018 which showed that, far from being a self-made man, young Trump received $413 million from his father — and squandered it in a series of failed deals. The new article picks up the story, showing that Trump received another windfall from “The Apprentice” and related deals — and then promptly squandered that, too. By July, the newspaper reports, the supposed billionaire had no more than $873,000 in securities left to sell.

The Times article supports the assumption that Trump ran for president in 2015 — a race he never expected to win — to revive his flagging fortunes. That is, in fact, what Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress last year: “Mr. Trump would often say this campaign was going to be the greatest infomercial in political history. . . . The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity.”

Once Trump unexpectedly won, the marketing opportunities only increased for the most unethical president in our history. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) just released a report showing that Trump has 3,400 conflicts of interest. He has profited from his presidency by making repeated visits to his own properties with his vast entourage in tow, while lobbyists, political groups and foreign governments have also paid to stay at his properties.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

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Trump 2016 Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, above left, is shown with Deputy Campaign Manager and Transition Director Rick Gates, a longtime lobbying colleague of Manafort's, in NBC News photos during federal prosecutions for their convictions (via jury for Manafort and plea bargain for Gates) in money laundering, income tax and bank fraud charges involving tens of millions of dollars from pro-Russian oligarchs in plots primarily orchestrated by Manafort, a Republican political operative for many years and former business partner of Trump advisor Roger Stone.

djt ivanka hands onTrump's daughter, Ivanka, is shown at right on stage at a 2016 Trump Campaign rally and below left in her younger years in a photo apparently designed and publicized to illustrate her devotion to her father.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump suggested naming daughter Ivanka as running mate in 2016, according to new book by Rick Gates, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Sept. 28, 2020. As Donald Trump’s top campaign aides began a discussion in June 2016 about who the presumptive Republican presidential nominee should select as his running mate, the candidate piped up with an idea.

“I think it should be Ivanka. What about Ivanka as my VP?” Trump asked the assembled group, according to a new book by his former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates set to be published Oct. 13.

donald trump ivanka bed kissTrump added: “She’s bright, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, and the people would love her!”

In Gates’s telling, Trump’s suggestion of naming to the ticket his then-34-year-old daughter — a fashion and real estate executive who had never held elected office — was no passing fancy. Instead, he brought up the idea repeatedly over the following weeks, trying to sell his campaign staff on the idea, insisting she would be embraced by the Republican base, Gates writes.

bill palmer

NBC News, Police seized 10 firearms from Brad Parscale, committed him for mental health care after apparent suicide attempt, Tom Winter and David K. Li, Sept. 28, 2020. President Donald Trump's former campaign chief didn't comply with an officer's command, prompting rough arrest, police said.

The wife of President Donald Trump's former campaign chief Brad Parscale feared he was suicidal and said she saw him load a gun before hearing "a loud bang" as she fled, police documents revealed on Monday.

Parscale was tackled to the ground by SWAT officers when he didn't obey commands and was taken into custody under state guidelines allowing for an involuntary mental illness commitment, Fort Lauderdale police reports showed.

Candice Parscale called police on Sunday afternoon, saying she and the prominent GOP political operative had "a verbal altercation" at their home on DeSota Drive in Fort Lauderdale, according to a report prepared by Officer Timothy Skaggs.

"Candace (sic) advised after a verbal altercation, Bradley manipulate his slide to the rear loading his firearm in front of her," Skaggs reported. "Candace immediately fled residence and stated she heard a loud bang shortly after."

Moments later, though, it was clear Brad Parscale was not injured. Skaggs also noted in his report that he saw several bruises on Candice Parscale's arm. She said she suffered those "a few days ago during a physical altercation with Bradley, which she did not report," according to Skaggs.

Police eventually spoke to Parscale over a landline telephone and talked him into walking out of the house, police said. But as he walked out, police yelled "get on the ground" five times, and he didn't comply, according to a report written by Sgt. Matthew Moceri.

Parscale is about 6-foot-6 and Moceri described him as "substantially larger than I am." "I initiated a double leg takedown", Moceri wrote. "I lowered my level and wrapped both arms around the subject's lower body while applying forward pressure to his mid section with my forehead."

Multiple police officers on the scene reported that Parscale smelled of alcohol.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Things just got a whole lot stranger, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 28, 2020. Last night the President of the United States’ tax returns surfaced and revealed that not only is he a tax fraudster, his entire financial life has been a lie. Shortly after that, the President of the United States’ recently demoted campaign manager [Brad Parscale, below left in file photos with Donald Trump] was placed on a psych hold after barricading himself in his home with a weapons cache.

bill palmer report logo headerWe have to be careful about making any presumptions as to whether there was any causality, or whether this was more happenstance. But either way, this is part of a larger pattern of things in the Trump World becoming stranger and more escalated as we approach election day.

We already have Donald Trump Junior behaving in such disturbing fashion that observers are debating whether he’s on drugs or having a mental breakdown. brad parscale djt CustomIt all just keeps getting more odd. And the surreal part is you just know it’s going to get even stranger as the Trump cartel continues to unravel.

Our job is to stay focused amid the increasing chaos. It’s clear by now that Donald Trump has no real idea how to save himself, and that most of his antics aren’t getting him anywhere. But even if his already-small chance of winning just became even smaller, it’s not zero. We have to work harder than ever on voter registration, phone banking, and volunteering, so we can run up the score and truly put Trump out of his misery.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump tax information revealed and former campaign manager suicide attempt all in one evening, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 28, 2020. The Donald Trump campaign hit two major landmines in one evening on September 27 when The New York Times revealed that it possessed 15 years wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallof Trump's tax returns and former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale threatened to commit suicide at his $2.4 million waterfront mansion located in the exclusive Seven Isles community of Fort Lauderdale. 

Prior to Parscale being demoted as Trump's 2020 campaign manager, his firm, Parscale Strategy LLC, took in some $16.9 million in fees from the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. Parscale critics began reporting how the campaign manager had gotten wealthy from the Trump campaign. In total, some $170 million is believed to have been funneled by the Trump campaign into Parscale's various firms, incluidng Parscale Strategy LLC, American Made Media LLC, and Parscale Digital LLC.

What does Parscale know about his and Trump's campaign financing that might have driven him to a suicide attempt? The answer is the illegal foreign sources of Trump's campaign donations.

Parscale obviously figured out that his windfall profits realized from Trump's dirty money were about to catch up with him with the disclosure of Trump's recent tax returns and the paths down which the information would lead. He is also likely acutely aware that Republican internal polling indicate a landslide victory for Joe Biden and a Democratic-controlled Congress.

 

U.S. Courts, Religion, Race, Democracy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Clarence Thomas should recuse himself if the Supreme Court has to decide the election, Colbert I. King, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump makes no bones about why he wants Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett sitting on the bench by Election Day. An eight-member Supreme Court, which exists now, risks the possibility of a 4-to-4 tie should a dispute on election results land in the lap of the high court. True, five of the justices — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Samuel A. Alito Jr., Brett M. Kavanaugh, Neil M. Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas — are on the conservative side, but Roberts has, on occasion, joined the three remaining liberal justices.

Trump is trusting that with Barrett, decisions are sure to land in his favor. Thus, Trump’s declaration: “I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.”

However, it’s not a given that a full court will be in place to decide election-related cases affecting the fates of Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Under the court’s recusal policy, a strong case can be made that Thomas should take no part in deciding cases that involve Biden.

This is where a demand for Thomas’s recusal comes in.

By any measure, Thomas’s confirmation hearing was one of the most acrimonious and polarizing congressional events of the 20th century. Thomas wrote in his memoir “My Grandfather’s Son” that he looks back at the process in “horror and disgust.” Thomas described the hearing in which he responded to Anita Hill’s sexual harassment accusations as “a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree.”

The chairman of that committee was Biden, whom Thomas characterizes in his book as a liar.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court nominee spoke at program founded to inspire a ‘distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law,’ Emma Brown and Jon Swaine, Sept. 28, 2020. Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, publicly grappled decades ago with the tension Catholic judges can face between their religious values and the law. She has since said that she would never bend the law to meet her Catholic faith.

But her role as a speaker at a training program for Christian law school students drew scrutiny three years ago when Trump nominated her to be a federal appellate judge. It may do so again now — as part of broader questioning about how she would balance faith and law — as she seeks confirmation to the nation’s high court.

Barrett was a paid speaker five times, starting in 2011, at the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, a summer program established to inspire a “distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law,” tax filings show. It was founded to show students “how God can use them as judges, law professors and practicing attorneys to help keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel in America.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Amy Coney Barrett and the GOP’s hypocrisy about religion, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). We already know that the ej dionne w open neckRepublican Party is trying to execute an election-year power grab that lays bare its hypocrisy and ruthlessness when it comes to the courts.

But even before President Trump announced Saturday that Judge Amy Coney Barrett would be the instrument of this judicial coup, the GOP added another sin to its list of abuses: The party wants to turn the confirmation process into a festival of double standards when it comes to religion.

To divert attention from Barrett’s views and their wanton flouting of historical norms, her Republican defenders offered dire warnings about a coming religious war. They insisted that anyone who expressed interest in how the 7th Circuit jurist’s Catholic faith or her membership in a fellowship called People of Praise might affect her view of the issues facing the court was guilty of “anti-Catholic bigotry,” as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) put it.

A small problem with all the Republican huffing and puffing: The GOP and its conservative loyalists assail the faiths of their political opponents all the time.

It wasn’t the American Civil Liberties Union or some other bastion of liberalism that questioned Joe Biden’s Catholic faith. No, it was a speaker at this year’s GOP convention, former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, who called Biden a Catholic “in name only” because of Biden’s support for abortion rights. A conservative group called CatholicVote is spending $9.7 million in Michigan, Pennsylvania and other battleground states attacking the devout Biden as an “existential threat” to the church.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. tells Iraq it’s planning to pull out of Baghdad embassy, Louisa Loveluck, Missy Ryan and John Hudson, Sept. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Iraqi officials say the decision caught them by surprise; they hope the U.S. will reconsider.

The United States has told the Iraqi government and its diplomatic partners that it's planning a full withdrawal from its embassy in Baghdad unless Iraq reins in attacks on personnel linked to the American presence there — a move that Iraqi officials said caught them by surprise.

“We hope the American administration will reconsider it,” Ahmed Mulla Talal, a spokesman for Prime Minister Mustafa ­al-Kadhimi, said Sunday. “There are outlaw groups that try to shake this relationship, and closing the embassy would send a negative message to them.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Kadhimi of the plans Saturday night, according to an official familiar with the matter. Two Western officials in Baghdad said their country’s diplomatic missions had been informed of the plan.

 

Sept. 27

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

More On U.S. Law, Courts, Democracy

 

World News

 

Media News

 

 

Top Stories

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New York Times, Exclusive: TRUMP’S TAXES SHOW CHRONIC LOSSES AND YEARS OF TAX AVOIDANCE, Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire, Sept. 27, 2020 (story amplified above in excerpts from print edition). Records irs logoObtained by The Times After Years of Secrecy.

  • The Times has obtained tax-return data for President Trump extending over more than two decades. It tells a story fundamentally different from the one he’s sold to the public.
  • Mr. Trump’s finances are under stress, beset by hundreds of millions in debt coming due and an I.R.S. audit that could cost him over $100 million.
  • He paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and nothing at all in 10 of the prior 15 years — largely because he lost so much money.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Facing possible defeat, Trump threatens the integrity of the election, Dan Balz, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). His relentless campaign against mail-in ballots seeds the ground for chaos or worse when votes are still being counted in the days after Nov. 3. Each week has brought evidence of the damage President Trump has done during his nearly four years in office. According to his own words, he is not finished. This past week brought a renewed warning of a harm he could yet inflict on the integrity of elections.

The president did more than simply refuse to pledge that he would facilitate a peaceful transfer of power if he loses to former vice president Joe Biden, though that in itself was a step no previous president has taken. In doing so, he escalated his ongoing attack on mail-in ballots, seeding the ground to contest the election as rigged or fraudulent if he is not the winner and to propel the country into chaos.

Perhaps what Trump said merely reflected the mind-set of a president who knows he is running behind in his bid for a second term, one more rhetorical flailing to somehow throw the opposition off balance and to distract from the real reasons for Biden’s lead in the polls. But this close to the election, anything Trump does to question the validity of the count should be regarded as serious and treated as such.

Republicans who normally stand by idle when the president says or does something outrageous pushed back against his words — though, notably, nearly all were careful neither to rebuke nor condemn the president personally. They simply pointed to a long history of peaceful transfers from one presidency to the next and stood up for the Constitution, which is the minimum expected of elected officials who have sworn an oath to defend that document.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden maintains lead over Trump as support from women fuels ex-vice president’s advantage, Post-ABC poll finds, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin, Sept. 27, 2020. After two political conventions, the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus, economic dislocation, more racial upheaval and a coming battle over a Supreme Court vacancy, the race for the White House remains stable, with former vice president Joe Biden holding a steady advantage over President Trump, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

joe biden 2020 button CustomBiden and vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) lead Trump and Vice President Pence by 53 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, statistically unchanged from the 12-point margin in a poll taken in August just before Democrats and Republicans held their conventions. Biden and Harris also have a 10-point advantage among likely voters, 54 percent to 44 percent.

Biden’s lead narrows to six points among likely voters (49 percent to 43 percent) and among registered voters (47 percent to 41 percent) when Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen and Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins are included as response options in the survey.

National polling reflects only the potential popular vote for president and is not a direct indicator of the state-by-state competition for electoral votes that determines the winner. Further complicating any comparison, the Libertarian candidate will be on all state ballots but the Green candidate will not.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Trump stoked more doubt on mail-in ballots and raised the prospect of Congress deciding a disputed election, Michael D. Shear and Michael Crowley, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump sought again on Saturday night to cast doubt on the integrity of the presidential election, telling supporters that the only way Democrats can win in Pennsylvania is to “cheat on the ballots” and raising the prospect that a disputed election could be decided by Congress.

djt pence yard sign logoPressing his baseless case that the election in November will be a “disaster,” Mr. Trump said at a rally just outside a hangar at the Harrisburg airport that he would have “an advantage” if Congress were to decide.

The comments, delivered in drizzling rain, were part of the president’s continuing effort to discredit the United States’ election process as he trails former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic rival.

“I don’t want to end up in the Supreme Court, and I don’t want to go back to Congress, even though we have an advantage if we go back to Congress. Does everyone understand that?” Mr. Trump told supporters. “I think it’s 26 to 22 or something.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Voters Believe Winner of Election Should Fill Court Vacancy, Poll Shows, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Sept. 27, 2020. A clear majority of voters believes the next president should fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll; Joe Biden retained a lead over President Trump, 49 to 41 percent.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosMore striking, the voters Mr. Trump and endangered Senate Republicans must reclaim to close the gap in the polls are even more opposed to a hasty pick: 62 percent of women, 63 percent of independents and 60 percent of college-educated white voters said they wanted the winner of the campaign to fill the seat.

washington post logoamy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoWashington Post, Amy Coney Barrett, a disciple of Justice Scalia, is poised to push the Supreme Court further right, Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg and Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). If Barrett is confirmed, her vote on cases involving health care, abortion, immigration, gun control and many other issues could prove decisive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats debate whether to engage — or withdraw — in Supreme Court fight, Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate minority is grappling with how much legitimacy to give to the GOP drive to rapidly confirm Trump’s expected nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, before the November election.

As Democratic senators begin mapping out how they will wield their limited procedural weapons in the fight over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, they are grappling with a central question: How much legitimacy do they give his candidate?

With little power to actually derail Trump’s pick, Democrats are coming under considerable pressure from their activist base to use every tactic at their disposal to not just throw sand in the gears of the confirmation fight, but to portray the consideration of expected nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a farce that shouldn’t even occur.

In a sense, they are playing the role of the GOP in 2016, when most Republicans outright ignored Merrick Garland — declining to meet with Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court pick as Democrats staged events, showed off the paperwork filed by Garland and even held a semi-mock confirmation hearing in an effort to move his nomination process along.

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Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump aide Brad Parscale hospitalized after barricading himself in his house, threatening suicide, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 27, 2020. bill palmerAbout two months ago, Donald Trump demoted his 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, due to poor campaign performance and a variety of questions about where all the campaign’s money was going. Now, according to a stunning report tonight from Local 10, the local ABC News affiliate in South Florida, Parscale, above left, has been hospitalized after barricading himself.

Local 10 is reporting that Brad Parscale’s wife called police and said that he’d locked himself in the house with a number of weapons and bill palmer report logo headerwas threatening to commit suicide. He was forcibly taken to the hospital under the Baker Act. We’re not quite sure what to make of this disturbing story. But it comes even as the Trump 2020 campaign is unraveling in a variety of ways.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: World Nears One Million Coronavirus Deaths as Hot Spots Keep Emerging, Staff reports, Sept. 27, 2020. The number of lives lost daily has been rising across the globe, and the U.S., Brazil, India and Mexico account for more than half of the total. Here’s the latest.

india flag mapAs the world moves toward another morbid threshold in the pandemic, a coronavirus death toll of one million, the countries where fatalities are increasing fastest remain spread out across the globe, with new hot spots constantly emerging.

The number of lives lost daily to the virus has been rising through most of August and September, reaching more than 5,000 in an average measured over seven days. As of Sunday morning, the global total stood at 993,600, according to a New York Times database.

On Saturday, India, the world’s second-most populous nation, continued to lead in daily virus-related deaths, with about 7,700 over the most recent seven-day period. The United States is second, with more than 5,000, Brazil third with more than 4,800, and Mexico fourth with nearly 3,000. Those four countries account for more than half of the world’s total deaths from the virus, according to the Times database.

New hot spots are also emerging in smaller countries like Israel, which led the world in new cases per capita over the past week.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 27, 2020, 13:11 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here),

World Cases: 33,105,611, Deaths: 999,455
U.S. Cases: 7,288,932, Deaths: 209,196

washington post logoWashington Post, Already facing its worst crisis since 9/11, airline industry set to cut more than 35,000 jobs this week, Ian Duncan, Lori Aratani and Michael Laris, Sept. 27, 2020. It’s another devastating blow for an industry facing a crisis analysts say is already far worse than it experienced after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and one that has already seen employment in air transportation decline by 100,000 jobs according to one measure.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida education commissioner orders Miami to open schools earlier than planned, Valerie Strauss, Sept. 27, 2020. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has ordered Miami-Dade County Public Schools to fully open its buildings five days a week by Oct. 5. That’s more than two weeks earlier than the system, the fourth largest in the country, had decided to do after a marathon 29-hour meeting last week.

In a letter sent to Perla Tabares Hantman, the school board president, and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Corcoran said he had “grave concerns” about the system’s decision to postpone the planned Oct. 5 opening of school buildings. The board voted Sept. 22 to open schools for some students on Oct. 14, with all students who opted to return to classrooms to be there by Oct. 21, giving the district time to put in place sufficient safety measures to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

washington post logoWashington Post,The 1918 pandemic killed more than 675,000 Americans, Bishop Sand, Sept. 27, 2020. Woodrow Wilson never made a single public statement about it.

 

More On Trump Tax Revelations

 

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bill palmer report logo headerPalmer Report, Donald Trump has complete meltdown on live national television after his tax returns surface, Bill Palmer, Sept. 27, 2020. This evening the New York Times published a lengthy exposé based on having obtained twenty years of his tax returns. For instance, Trump paid just $750 in 2016 and 2017, and prior to taking office he paid nothing at all in most years. Either Trump is the world’s worst businessman and he’s drowning in debt, or he lied on his tax returns.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is broke and facing criminal charges, Bill Palmer, Sept. 27, 2020. Now that the New York Times has revealed the ugly details of twenty years of Donald Trump’s tax returns, a number of things are quickly becoming clear. Trump is either the world’s worst failed businessman, or he’s been committing tax fraud, or more likely both.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s also more clear than ever why Donald Trump has been fighting so hard to keep his tax returns from the New York grand jury that subpoenaed them. If Trump is as broke as he claims, then he committed felony fraud by inflating his net worth to potential lenders. And if he isn’t as broke as he claims, then he’s going down for tax fraud.

Congressman Eric Swalwell summed up Donald Trump’s situation on Twitter like this: “He’s broke. And facing criminal charges. That’s why DonaldTrump is sabotaging the mail, welcoming foreign interference, and inciting violence to win an election. This is going to be a rocky ride — but civic participation and unity are our antidotes.”

It’s now more clear than ever that if Donald Trump loses the election, he’s going to prison for the rest of his life. All we have to do is vote him out in sufficient numbers, and his life is over.

 

U.S. Law, Race, Protests, Democracy

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This is not a drill. The Reichstag is burning, Dana Milbank, right, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). For five years, my colleagues and I have taken pains dana milbank Customto avoid Nazi comparisons. It is usually hyperbolic, and counterproductive, to label the right “fascists” in the way those on the right reflexively label the left “socialists.” But this is no longer a matter of name-calling.

With his repeated refusals this week to accept the peaceful transfer of power — the bedrock principle that has sustained American democracy for 228 years — President Trump has put the United States, in some ways, where Germany was in 1933, when Adolf Hitler used the suspicious burning of the German parliament to turn a democracy into a totalitarian state.

Overwrought, you say? Then ask Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a top authority on Nazism and Stalinism. “The Reichstag has been on a slow burn since June,” he told me. “The language Trump uses to talk about Black Lives Matter and the protests is very similar to the language Hitler used — that there’s some vague left-wing conspiracy based in the cities that is destroying the country.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Amy Coney Barrett and the New, Old Anti-Catholicism, Elizabeth Bruenig, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Critics of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee argue that pious Catholics are a problem for liberalism. They have a point.

In 2017, when Judge Barrett was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, she faced a tense confirmation hearing in which Senator Dianne Feinstein infamously remarked that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.” A mother of seven and a devoted Roman Catholic, Judge Barrett has continued to field concerns about whether she will be able or willing to resist the expectations of her church when it comes to cases involving relevant moral issues, and whether she will cater to the wishes of People of Praise, a mostly Catholic ecumenical organization with a distinctly traditional bent, of which she is a member.

The scrutiny focused on Judge Barrett’s beliefs has provoked allegations of old-fashioned anti-Catholicism on behalf of her Democratic critics.

But the animosity faced by Catholics in today’s America has little in common with its direct predecessor. Real sex-abuse scandals have replaced the imaginary ones circulated in the lurid tracts of yesteryear. White Catholics are no longer subject to the religious bigotry that once animated vicious rumors and, occasionally, violent attacks on Catholics and their places of learning and worship. Rather than regenerating a long-vanquished prejudice, Judge Barrett’s nomination has merely renewed attention to a fundamental conflict, centuries underway, between Catholicism and the American ethos.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s pick for high court could be seated before election day, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Judge Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be confirmed swiftly by the Republican-majority Senate to fill the vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

President Trump announced Saturday that he will nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, a choice that would lock a conservative majority on the high court and that could help turn out Republican voters in the election less than six weeks away.

Barrett, 48, would fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, preserving the court’s gender balance of three women and six men while potentially tipping its ideological balance for decades.

Trump introduced Barrett in a Rose Garden ceremony attended by a who’s who of Republicans and conservative activists, a reminder that shifting the Supreme Court to the ideological right has been a decades-long focus for Republicans.

Neither Trump nor Barrett wore face masks as recommended by public health officials to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, and few in the crowd did either. Guests were seated close together, rather than the recommended six feet apart, and hugged and kissed one another.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prayer march draws thousands to the Mall seeking healing for the nation, Michelle Boorstein and and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Thousands of Christians gathered on the Mall in Washington on Saturday, waving U.S. flags, kneeling in small prayer circles alongside monuments, singing and listening to speakers who called on the nation to come together and heal.

Two groups — one organized by New Jersey-based pastor and popular author Jonathan Cahn, the other led by Evangelist Franklin Graham — emphasized slightly different objectives but came with a shared focus central to many millions of Christian conservatives: repairing a country they say is in the midst of a spiritual crisis.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fifty-seven percent, BD Holly, Sept. 27, 2020. Fifty-seven percent. In US politics, that’s called a landslide. Except I’m not talking about an election — I’m talking about how many people think the election winner should take the late Justice Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court. The ABC News/Washington Post Poll is clear. This country doesn’t want Trump to choose the next justice unless absolutely necessary.

bill palmer report logo headerAnd it shouldn’t be surprising. Trump’s nomination, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, would be the fifth current Supreme Court justice nominated by a president who didn’t even win the popular vote. That’s frankly disgusting. The framers of the Constitution agreed on the electoral college to ensure smaller states would have a chance at having their voices heard, but this has become so warped that we’re quite literally having to live under the tyranny of the minority.

What’s worse is that Judge Barrett is deeply, fastidiously conservative. Her agenda isn’t a secret either. She’s written about how she believes Catholicism should affect a judge’s decision-making — something made all the more harrowing by the fact that she’s a member of a secretive Catholic fundamentalist group that’s been likened to a cult. On top of this, she has written about how she thinks stare decisis — which is a judicial principle that legal precedent should guide a court’s decision and is critical to keeping justice fair and consistent — is a “soft rule,” with constitutional cases being the “easiest to overrule.”

Taken together, Judge Barrett’s extremist beliefs and her lack of respect for the most basic principles of jurisprudence would position the Supreme Court’s 6-3 majority not just “to the right,” but “to the Bronze Age.” Again, fifty-seven percent of Americans want the winner of the presidential election to choose the next Supreme Court justice. That too was Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish. If the Senate confirms Judge Barrett, it would be a punch in the face of the American people and a torch to the monument of Justice Ginsburg’s incredible achievements.

Real Clear Politics, Bartiromo: Durham Report Will Not Be Released Before Election, Tim Hains, Sept. 27, 2020. Fox News Channel host Maria Bartiromo said that her sources are now saying that they no longer expect U.S. Attorney John Durham to release a report on possible wrongdoing in the intelligence community during the 2016 election before the 2020 election.

"It is unlikely that we will get a John Durham interim report or any indictments before the election. Now, just 37 days away, a debate has begun within the Department of Justice, as the timing of John Durham's criminal investigation conclusions. I'm being told by sources it is now too close to the election and could be seen as politically motivated," Bartiromo said on "Sunday Morning Futures."

She maintains that the investigation is "significant" and again insists that the Clinton Foundation is under investigation.

"Again, I believe based on my conversations with sources it is unlikely you'll hear any conclusions by John Durham by Nov. 3," she repeated.

 washington post logoWashington Post, A D.C. man who spent 25 years in prison always said he was innocent. His case was finally dismissed, Keith L. Alexander, Sept. 27, 2020. When Troy Burner was a teenager in the late 1980s, he worked as a radiology aide at George Washington University Hospital. He also occasionally peddled crack cocaine on D.C.’s streets.

The sporadic drug dealing, Burner said, put him under suspicion among D.C. police and made him an enemy of competing drug dealers. He said it also positioned him for a wrongful arrest and conviction in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Michael “Bate” Wilson when Burner was 17.

After nearly 25 years in prison, Burner gained his freedom in 2018. But he never stopped fighting to clear his name.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Rigsby weighed Burner’s petition for actual innocence and this spring reversed Burner’s conviction, saying it had been based on a “rickety” account from a purported witness who later said he’d made up the story. The judge stopped short of a full exoneration but concluded that it was “more likely than not” that Burner was innocent. Last month, prosecutors said they would not retry the case and dropped the charges.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, China Gives Unproven Covid-19 Vaccines to Thousands, With Risks Unknown, Sui-Lee Wee, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Drug company China Flagworkers, government officials and others have been injected. More will be soon, bewildering experts.

The world still lacks a proven coronavirus vaccine, but that has not stopped Chinese officials from trying to inoculate tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people outside the traditional testing process. Three vaccine candidates are being injected into workers whom the government considers essential, along with many others, including employees of the pharmaceutical firms themselves.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. criticism of European mission to Venezuela shows growing divide over Maduro, Anthony Faiola, Sept. 27, 2020. The Trump administration on Sunday accused the nicolas maduro customEuropean Union of undermining its efforts to isolate authoritarian Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, right, denouncing the bloc’s top diplomat for dispatching a mission to Caracas without consulting with Washington.

european union logo rectangleThe dispute suggested a growing divide across the Atlantic over how to handle Venezuela’s socialist government. The Europeans have tended to see Washington’s hard line position as harsh and ineffective. Washington has viewed Brussels as too willing to deal with Maduro.

“This will make relations with the E.U. bureaucracy more difficult,” Elliott Abrams, the U.S. special representative on Venezuela, told The Washington Post Sunday.

Brussels on Friday confirmed an E.U. mission had arrived in Caracas as part of an effort by the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, to secure “minimum democratic conditions” for upcoming legislative elections. The U.S.-backed opposition led by Juan Guaidó is boycotting the December vote, which it argues will be manipulated and used by Maduro to consolidate power. The U.S. has also called for a boycott.

U.N. investigators accuse Venezuelan government of ‘crimes against humanity’

The Europeans have said the elections as currently organized would not meet minimum democratic conditions. But they’ve been in talks with Maduro’s government and dissenting members of the opposition on a way forward.

 

Media News

washington post logotiktok logo square CustomWashington Post, TikTok push showcases ‘central planner’ Trump and his hands-on approach to world’s largest economy, David J. Lynch, Sept. 27, 2020. The whirl of presidential action reflects President Trump’s determination to command the $19 trillion U.S. economy with the same hands-on vigor he brought to his Manhattan real estate firm.

 

Sept. 26

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On U.S. Law, Courts, Democracy

 

World News

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Selects Amy Coney Barrett to Fill Ginsburg’s Seat on the Supreme Court, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Updated Sept. 26, 2020. President Trump has selected Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the favorite candidate of conservatives, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and will try amy coney barrett headshot notre dame phototo force Senate confirmation before Election Day in a move that would significantly alter the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court for years.

Mr. Trump plans to announce on Saturday that she is his choice, according to six people close to the process who asked not to be identified disclosing the decision in advance. As they often do, aides cautioned that Mr. Trump sometimes upends his own plans.

But he is not known to have interviewed any other candidates and came away from two days of meetings with Judge Barrett this week impressed with a jurist he was told would be a female Antonin Scalia, referring to the justice she once clerked for. On Friday night, Judge Barrett was photographed getting out of her car outside her home in South Bend, Ind.

The president’s political advisers hope the selection will energize his conservative political base in the thick of an election campaign in which he has for months been trailing former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger. But it could also rouse liberal voters afraid that her confirmation could spell the end of Roe v. Wade, the decision legalizing abortion, as well as other rulings popular with the political left and center.

The nomination will kick off an extraordinary scramble by Senate Republicans to confirm her for the court in the 38 days before the election on Nov. 3, a scenario unlike any in American history. While other justices have been approved in presidential election years, none has been voted on after July. Four years ago, Senate Republicans refused to even consider President Barack Obama’s nomination to replace Justice Scalia with Judge Merrick B. Garland, announced 237 days before Election Day, on the grounds that it should be left to whoever was chosen as the next president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Politics Live Update: Justice Ginsburg becomes first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, John Wagner, ruth bader ginsburg scotusSept. 25, 2020. Democratic nominee Joe Biden is paying his respects Friday to the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she becomes the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, while President Trump puts in a full day on the campaign trail with stops in Florida, Georgia and Virginia and a fundraiser at his hotel in Washington.

Meanwhile, controversy continues over Trump’s refusal to commit to the peaceful transition of power and his repeated attempts to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, even as he urges his own supporters to take advantage of absentee voting ahead of Election Day.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows lashed out at FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, a Trump appointee, for his assessment during congressional testimony that the United States has not experienced large-scale voter fraud by mail or other means.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s executive order goes completely off the rails, Ron Leshnower, Sept. 26, 2020. On Thursday in North Carolina, Donald Trump announced something surreal: he was signing an executive order to offer Americans something they already have and that he has been desperately trying to take away.

Trump’s order promises a “steadfast commitment to always protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions”—even while the Department of Justice is suing to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, the law that accomplishes this. While this announcement was both ridiculous and insulting, the other big headline from Trump’s speech has already blossomed into a full-blown scandal.

bill palmer report logo headerPromoting his latest snake oil known as the America First Healthcare Plan, Trump boasted that “33 million Medicare beneficiaries will soon receive a card in the mail containing $200 that they can use to help pay for prescription drugs.” The clueless fool was surely hoping that his pandering would win over seniors on Election Day. Instead, Trump’s brashness and ignorance about how government works threw a big question mark onto his plans.

Trump’s half-baked promise has an odd backstory. After months of difficult negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices were nearing success, they broke down after Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows insisted the companies pay to send $100 gift cards for all seniors. Even though Meadows seemed to promise that Trump’s name would not appear on the cards, the companies refused to go along, citing the political optics plus the fact it’s just a lame idea, according to a report from the New York Times.

Rather than shelve the plan and heed the industry’s advice, Trump (of course) chose to proceed and double down, promising seniors a $200 card courtesy of Uncle Sam. Apparently, Trump’s plan was to leave the details about the card’s legality and affordability to his surprised underlings, who have since been finding more blockades and hurdles than Trump could have imagined. These expensive cards (carrying a total value of $6.6 billion) may wind up getting paid out of Medicare’s quickly diminishing trust fund, which could result in even higher premiums for seniors, according to an analysis by Slate.

If this latest Trump boondoggle somehow manages to move forward, White House officials now admit most seniors wouldn’t get their money until after Election Day, according to reporting from Inside Health Policy. So, Trump now risks that seniors might rethink their vote if their assistance doesn’t arrive “soon,” as he promised. Americans deserve honest and thoughtful leaders whom they can trust. The Biden-Harris administration stands ready to deliver for the American people, and they deserve our enthusiastic votes on November 3.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, White House demand FDA justify tough standards for vaccine, raising concerns of political interference, Laurie McGinley, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Some worry the move is an attempt to speed a vaccine before Election Day, which the president has tied to his reelection prospects.

The White House’s involvement appears to go beyond the perfunctory review that agency officials had expected, and is likely to reinforce public concerns that a vaccine may be rushed to benefit the president’s reelection campaign. Polls show that the number of people who say they’re willing to take a coronavirus vaccine if it were available today has nosedived from 72 percent in May to 50 percent as of early this month, according to Pew Research Center, largely because of concerns that politics, rather than science, is driving the process.

Trump has repeatedly said a vaccine would be available by Election Day, or possibly sooner, worrying scientists that he might attempt to intervene in the review process. Companies will begin reporting safety and effectiveness data in coming weeks and months. And in conversations with some advisers, the president has directly tied the vaccine to his reelection chances, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals  (updated: Sept. 26, 2020, 13:14 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here):

World Cases: 32,807,816 , Deaths: 994,385
U.S. Cases: 7,245,925, Deaths: 208,483


U.S. Law, Race, Protests, Democracy

Amy Coney Barrett (2018 photo via Rachel Malehorn via Creative Commons and Wikimedia)

Judge Amy Coney Barrett (2018 photo via Rachel Malehorn via Creative Commons and Wikimedia)

The Guardian via Yahoo, Analysis: Amy Coney Barrett: spotlight falls on secretive Catholic group People of Praise, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Sept. 26, 2020. Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court, to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has drawn attention to a secretive Catholic “covenant community” called People of Praise that counts Barrett as a member and faces claims of adhering to a “highly authoritarian” structure.

The 48-year-old appellate court judge has said she is a “faithful Catholic” but that her religious beliefs would not “bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge”.

At the same time, the Louisiana native and Notre Dame Law graduate, a favorite among Trump’s evangelical Christian base, has said legal careers ought not to be seen as means of gaining satisfaction, prestige or money, but rather “as a means to the end of serving God”.

Interviews with experts who have studied charismatic Christian groups such as People of Praise, and with former members of the group, plus a review of the group’s own literature, reveal an organization that appears to dominate some members’ everyday lives, in which so-called “heads” – or spiritual advisers – make big life decisions, and in which members are expected to financially support one another.

Married women – such as Barrett – count their husbands as their “heads” and all members are expected to donate 5% of their income to the organization.

Some conservative and progressive activists have said any discussion of Barrett’s faith is inappropriate in the context of a Senate confirmation to assess her judicial qualifications, and potentially reflects anti-Catholic bigotry.

Other Catholic writers have said it is fair to scrutinize People of Praise because the group falls far outside mainstream Catholicism.

Barrett has not publicly discussed her affiliation but her connection was reported in multiple media accounts at the time of her confirmation to an appellate court in 2017.

Her picture appears in a May 2006 edition of People of Praise’s magazine, which documents her participation in a Leaders’ Conference for Women. Her father and her husband, Jesse Barrett, are also known members.

The group emerged out of the Catholic charismatic movement of the late 1960s, which blended Catholicism and Protestant Pentecostalism – Catholics and Protestants are both members – and adopted practices like speaking in tongues. The group’s literature shows communal living is also encouraged, at least among unmarried members, as is the sharing of finances between households.

A July 2007 “our money our selves” edition of People of Praise’s Vine & Branch magazine included an article about a 17-member group of women described as “single for the Lord” and living together in South Bend, Indiana. The women shared a “sisterhood budget”, which involved them pooling their paychecks while a “head of the sisterhood” determined, with the sisters’ input, how the money was spent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll: Winner of presidential election should choose next Supreme Court justice, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). A majority of Americans oppose efforts by President Trump and the Republican-led Senate to fill a Supreme Court vacancy before the presidential election, with most supporters of Democratic candidate Joe Biden saying the issue has raised the stakes of the election, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The Post-ABC poll, conducted Monday to Thursday, finds 38 percent of Americans say the replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week, should be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the current Senate, while 57 percent say it should be left to the winner of the presidential election and a Senate vote next year.

TalkingPoints Memo, Biden Compares Trump To Nazi Propaganda Leader, Zoë Richards, Sept. 26, 2020. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called out President Donald Trump’s penchant for spreading misinformation on Saturday, comparing Trump’s tendency to mislead to Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s minister of propaganda.

Biden made the Goebbels comparison when asked by MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle about Trump’s assertion that Biden is pushing a socialist agenda during an interview that aired Saturday.

“I’m not sure anybody that hadn’t already made up their mind they’re for Trump will believe it,” Biden said. “But who knows. He’s sort of like Goebbels. You say the lie long enough — keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it — it becomes common knowledge.”

Biden also appeared to dismiss Trump’s suggestion earlier this week that he may refuse to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the case of electoral defeat in November, calling it “a typical Trump distraction.”

“He’ll leave,” Biden said.

Biden had previously responded to Trump’s comments late Wednesday, by facetiously asking a reporter, “What country are we in?”– implying that the President’s remarks did not represent those of a leader committed to ruling by the democratic tradition established in the United States.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Trump Nominates Reactionary Bigot Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Sept. 26, 2020. She Is Bitter Foe of Affordable Care Act, webster tarpley twitterAdumbrating Genocide Against American People.

GOP hopes to start railroading of nominee on October 12, in time to start stripping 20 million of health care in November; welcome to government by cult; Trump wants a sectarian ideologue to validate his looming coup
Petition against Trump by 489 national security leaders for Biden includes generals and admirals from many service branches, as well as top civilian officials from wide array of factions, improving chances of blocking Trump coup plots; only Lincoln and FD have faced greater crises than 46; active duty US flag officers must reject illegal orders, and stand and fight for the constitution, not engage in craven gestures of resignation.

Trump’s “America First” executive orders for Obamacare replacement are cheap pre-election trick; he orders Azar to succeed where he himself and Hill GOP have failed; his endorsement of protection for pre-existing conditions is a pious wish with zero legal force; wording would let insurance companies sell policies at astronomical prices and call that protection; no concrete action to lower prescription drug prices; nothing on the obligation to issue policies or preserving ten essential medical benefits, contraception, yearly and lifetime spending limits, children on parents’ policies, and more; don’t be duped so late in the day.

Beware clerical fascism, where religious hierarchy plays key role in fascist regime, as in Austria before 1938 and later in Slovakia. Breaking: Russian military reportedly now in Belarus, threatening supply line to Baltic States; US Air Force Bolsters Defense of Central Europe with Astral Knight Drill from Germany to NATO front line states.

washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys draw smaller-than-expected crowd to Portland as city hopes for calm, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Abigail Hauslohner, Tim Craig, Scott Wilson and Griff Witte, Sept. 26, 2020. The far-right group had planned a rally of thousands, but drew hundreds. Counterprotesters had a larger gathering elsewhere, but the groups kept apart Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of members of the far-right group Proud Boys rallied at a public park here Saturday, venting threats and flashing weapons but failing to mobilize the show of strength that organizers had planned — and that Portland's leaders had feared.

The demonstration by the group — which has earned a reputation for politically motivated violence — was intended to bring adherents from across the nation to a city that has become a magnet for ideological brawls, some of them deadly.

Organizers said they expected as many as 10,000 people to turn out. Yet the actual crowd was far smaller, and the event in a grassy park near the Columbia River started breaking up after just 90 minutes — significantly less than the hours of rallying that were initially planned.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr is said to have told Trump about probe into discarded Pa. ballots that president cited as proof of widespread fraud, Amy Gardner, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr, right, personally told President Trump this week about an william barr new oinvestigation into nine discarded mail ballots in northeastern Pennsylvania that the president later touted as evidence of widespread election fraud, according to a person familiar with the conversation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal administration discussions.

The conversation came as Trump has fixated on the subject of voter fraud with aides, administration officials said, asking for information on the topic and updates from his campaign advisers and legal team about voting lawsuits. He has repeatedly lambasted voting by mail as susceptible to widespread fraud, despite evidence to the contrary.

The Justice Department made a public announcement about the Pennsylvania case Thursday after the president discussed it in a radio interview. The statement drew sharp criticism from voting-law experts, who questioned the timing and the details released, such as the fact that most of the ballots were cast for Trump.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, How Amazon Conquered Italy in the Pandemic, Adam Satariano and Emma Bubola, Sept. 26, 2020. The e-commerce giant had struggled to amazon logo smallgain a foothold in a society that prefers to shop in person, with cash, but now Italians are hooked on online shopping.

Amazon has been one of the biggest winners in the pandemic as people in its most established markets — the United States, Germany and Britain — have flocked to it to buy everything from toilet paper to board games. What has been less noticed is that people in countries that had traditionally resisted the e-commerce giant are now also falling into its grasp after retail stores shut down for months because of the coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Vatican intrigue, ousted cardinal breaks silence to deny embezzlement, Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.).  Angelo Becciu becomes one of the few cardinals in recent church history to renounce the rights of his position.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, At Pentagon, Fears Grow That Trump Will Pull Military Into Election Unrest, Jennifer Steinhauer and Helene Cooper, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Defense Department officials said top generals could resign if President Trump ordered the active-duty military to quell election protests.

President Trump gave officials no solace on Wednesday and Thursday when he again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power no matter who wins the election, and on Thursday, he doubled down by saying he was not sure the election could be “honest.” His hedging, along with his expressed desire in June to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to send active-duty troops onto American streets to quell protests over the killing of George Floyd, has incited deep anxiety among senior military and Defense Department leaders, who insist they will do all they can to keep the armed forces out of the elections.

“I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical U.S. military,” General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in written answers to questions from House lawmakers released last month. “In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law, U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. military. I foresee no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process.”

But that has not stopped an intensifying debate in the military about its role should a disputed election lead to civil unrest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump readies a debate onslaught on Biden and his family; Biden prepares to stay focused on pandemic, economy, Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump is gearing up to launch blistering personal attacks on Joe Biden and his family in the first presidential debate on Tuesday, while Biden is bracing for an onslaught and worried allies are warning the Democratic nominee not to lose his temper and lash out, according to people with knowledge of the strategies in both camps.

Trump has told associates he wants to talk specifically about his opponent’s son Hunter Biden and mused that the debates are when “people will finally realize Biden is just not there,” according to one adviser. The president is so eager to lay into his rival that he has called aides to test out various attacks, focusing on broadsides that cast Biden as a longtime Washington insider with a limited record of accomplishment, said another adviser, who like many interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe private talks.

Biden and his advisers are anticipating a venomous barrage, according to a person with knowledge of their thinking, and they are preparing to counter with an affirmative case for a Biden presidency. The Democrat wants to stay focused on how he would address the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s economic problems, which he blames Trump for worsening.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Obama backs Ossoff, Warnock U.S. Senate bids in Georgia, Greg Bluestein, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Former President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed Raphael Warnock’s U.S. Senate campaign, becoming the latest Democrat to rally behind the pastor’s challenge to U.S. Sen. Kelly democratic donkey logoLoeffler as pressure mounts on his rivals to drop out of the free-for-all race.

Obama also backed Jon Ossoff’s challenge to U.S. Sen. David Perdue and nine down-ticket Georgia candidates in competitive elections, including U.S. House candidates Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux and state House Minority Leader Bob Trammell.

raphael warnockThe development comes as Warnock, left, aims to consolidate Democrats behind his campaign - and his allies urge Matt Lieberman, another Democrat in the contest, to abandon his bid.

Lieberman, a former educator and entrepreneur, has flatly rejected talk of quitting and insists he has the same chance as Warnock in the November special election, which features 21 candidates who qualified for the race and no party primary to filter out nominees.

On Friday, Lieberman said Obama has endorsed “every DC-sponsored” Senate candidate. “No, you won’t be beholden to the bosses at all....," he said of Warnock on Twitter.

A series of polls released this week by the AJC and other outlets suggest Lieberman’s chances of seriously contesting the seat are dim. The polls show kelly loeffler o CustomWarnock bunched up with Loeffler, right, and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins with around 20% of the vote. Lieberman hovers around 10% and Ed Tarver, another Democrat, lags further behind.

Democrats are fretting because they fear that Lieberman’s presence in the contest will siphon just enough votes away from Warnock to allow the two Republicans to squeeze ahead, depriving the party of a shot in a January runoff between the top finishers.

Obama and Warnock have a long history, including a 2008 visit to the pastor’s famed Ebenezer Baptist Church where the two locked arms in prayer. More recently, Obama and Warnock shared the pulpit in July for the funeral of civil rights hero John Lewis, when the former president used his eulogy to press for an expansion of voting rights.

In a statement, Warnock said he would fight to preserve Obama’s policies if elected.

Palmer Report, Opinion: You’ll never guess which voters Donald Trump is losing ground with, Robert Harrington, Sept. 26, 2020. The one demographic you might have thought that would be safe for Donald Trump is white voters, particularly white male voters with limited education. It’s the demographic he panders to with dreary consistency. Yet recent polling across the board suggests Trump is losing traction among white voters, and he’s losing it where it counts, in critical battleground states.

bill palmer report logo headerThese are the white voters who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and indicated as recently as last year that they would vote for him again in 2020. Obviously plenty of white voters (even some white male voters with little education) detest Donald Trump and always have. But there’s now polling data to support the notion that he’s losing ground with what you might think of as the outer edges of his base, the truly rabid mistakers of “their” for “there.”

This may have something to do with the number 208,440. That’s the number of Americans who have died from COVID-19 this year, as I write this. The revelation that Donald Trump thinks of people in the military as losers and suckers certainly didn’t help. His taped message to Bob Woodward that he’s underplaying coronavirus also hurt him.

 

U.S. Media News

 ny times logoNew York Times, Alphabet Settles Shareholder Suits Over Sexual Harassment Claims, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Google’s parent company was hit with a wave of lawsuits after The New York Times reported that an accused executive had received a $90 million exit package.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has settled a series of shareholder lawsuits over its handling of sexual harassment claims, agreeing to greater oversight google logo customby its board of directors in future cases of sexual misconduct and committing to spend $310 million over the next decade on corporate diversity programs.

The settlement, filed on Friday in California Superior Court, also said employees would no longer be forced to settle disputes with Alphabet in private arbitration. Workers had demanded that change after details of sexual harassment cases at the company became public two years ago.

In addition, Alphabet said it would limit confidentiality restrictions when settling harassment and discrimination cases and ban workplace romances between managers and subordinates.

The Silicon Valley company was hit by a wave of shareholder lawsuits after The New York Times reported in 2018 that the board of directors had approved a $90 million exit package for a star executive, Andy Rubin, even after an investigation deemed a sexual harassment claim against him credible. Mr. Rubin has denied the claim and others against him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Four years ago, Trump survived ‘Access Hollywood’ — and a media myth of indestructibility was born, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 26, 2020. margaret sullivan 2015 photoBut in fact, scandals uncovered by journalists have slowly but surely taken a toll on the president.

Since then, there’s been one blockbuster scandal after another. The reports that his campaign had welcomed Russian interference in the election, the playing-up to authoritarian world leaders, the Ukraine “quid pro quo” that resulted in impeachment, the racist attack on four non-White congresswomen known as “The Squad,” and the deadly and deceptive mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration rescinded award for journalist who criticized Trump, then gave false explanation for decision, watchdog finds, John Hudson, Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Officials claimed she was given the award by “mistake,” but documents and interviews show discovery of her social media posts critical of Trump inspired the decision, the State Department inspector general found.

 

Media Matters, Opinion: The Supreme Court is way more important than right-wing media let on, John Whitehouse, Sept. 26, 2020. This week: What Fox News doesn't want people to know about a far right Supreme Court, how the media mishandled Trump's stunning refusal to commit to a peaceful transition, 200,000 are dead in the United States from the pandemic, CBS News runs with GOP spin, and more.

As expected, President Donald Trump officially nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Saturday evening. If you watched Fox News coverage of the nomination (and like I've said before, I don't recommend it), you've seen a lot of talk about Barrett's faith, intelligence, and personal life.

media matters logoWhat you don't see on Fox News is a lot of honest talk about the policy consequences of the Supreme Court with a 6-3 right-wing majority. The most they'll talk about is that Roe v. Wade is endangered (and that is an understatement).

Fox News is especially dismissing concerns that a Court with Barrett would invalidate the Affordable Care Act, including protections for pre-existing conditions. Barrett is on record praising late Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in a 2012 case that would have invalidated the entire law. But in the few moments discussing health care on air on Saturday, Fox personalities scoffed at the likelihood.

Others are not being as coy. Fox News host Mark Levin railed at the Affordable Care Act on Twitter. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) admitted to George Stephanopoulos that the Supreme Court possible striking down the ACA "shouldn't tarnish Judge Barrett."

The fact of the matter is that Trump promised to appoint far right judges who would dismantle popular provisions in the law and prevent further such laws. That's where the focus of this confirmation fight should be.

fox news logo SmallAlso: Fox News on Sunday morning hosted network contributor and noted bigot Robert Jeffress to complain about an alleged anti-Catholic bias regarding Judge Barrett, even as a majority of current Supreme Court justices are Catholic. Meanwhile, Jeffress has called Catholicism a "counterfeit religion," the product of a "Babylonian mystery religion," and a product of "the genius of Satan." Once again, the hypocrisy is the point.

A federal appeals court on Sunday stayed a lower court’s injunction that would have allowed mail ballots in Wisconsin to count if postmarked by Election Day and received up to six days later. The typical deadline for mail ballots to be received is 8 p.m. on Election Day.

The injunction, a victory for Democrats in a closely watched swing state, is on hold pending further review, according to the order issued Sunday afternoon by the Seventh Circuit. District Judge William Conley, who issued the injunction last week, had expressed fears that tens of thousands of voters could be disenfranchised.

“Election workers’ and voters’ experiences during Wisconsin’s primary election in April, which took place at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, have convinced the court that some, limited relief from statutory deadlines for mail-in registration and absentee voting is again necessary to avoid an untenable impingement on Wisconsin citizens’ right to vote,” Conley wrote in a 69-page opinion.

The Seventh Circuit’s judges include Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Pushing for Barrett’s swift appointment, which would cement a conservative majority, Trump has suggested the Supreme Court could play a decisive role in the presidential election.

The Seventh Circuit’s order was not signed and did not include an explanation or the number of judges who agreed.

Conley had also told the state to extend its online and mail-in voter registration deadline by one week, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 21. He said voters who requested but did not receive mail ballots must have the option of accessing replacement ballots online or via email between Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.

Conley had put his injunction extending ballot-counting time on hold for seven days to allow the other side time to appeal.

 

 

Sept. 25

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

Media News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attacks on election prompt fears of a constitutional crisis, Philip Rucker, Amy Gardner and Annie Linskey, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s continuing threats have prompted election and law enforcement authorities nationwide to prepare for an unprecedented clash.

President Trump reiterated Thursday that he may not honor the results should he lose reelection, reaffirming his extraordinary refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power and prompting election and law enforcement authorities nationwide to prepare for an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

Trump escalated his months-long campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election with comments Wednesday that, taken together and at face value, pose his most substantial threat yet to the nation’s history of free and fair elections.

In recent days, the president cast doubt on the integrity of vote totals. He said he might not accept the results if they show him losing to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. He said it was imperative to quickly fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because the nation’s high court could determine the winner of the election.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, GOP senators reject Trump’s assertion about transfer of power — with no direct criticism of the president, Paul Kane and Rachael Bade, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans, with almost no direct criticism of Trump’s statements, uniformly asserted that if Joe Biden wins the election, they will support a peaceful transition to the Democrat’s inauguration in January.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump expected to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg seat, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoSept. 25, 2020. Senate Republicans, kicking off a Supreme Court fight, plan to move the nomination quickly and Democrats have little chance to block the nominee, who would cement a conservative majority on the court for years.

Barrett is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and a favorite of conservatives.

washington post logoWashington Post, After years of promising his own health-care plan, Trump settles for rebranding rather than repealing Obamacare, Toluse Olorunnipa, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump capped his fruitless four-year journey to abolish and replace the Affordable Care Act by signing an executive order Thursday that aims to enshrine the law’s most popular feature while pivoting away from a broader effort to overhaul the nation’s health insurance system.

The order declares it is the policy of the United States for people with preexisting health conditions to be protected, avoiding the thorny details of how to ensure such protections without either leaving the ACA, or Obamacare, in place or crafting new comprehensive legislation.

Trump announced the move during a trip to North Carolina, outlining his “vision” for revamping parts of the nation’s health care. During the speech, which came shortly before a campaign swing to Florida, Trump barely veiled the political nature of his intent.

Washington Post, Virus’s unseen hot zone: The American farm, Laura Reiley and Beth Reinhard, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). As American growers harvested summer crops, the migration of seasonal farmworkers who were infected with the virus represented a growing health and humanitarian crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Pentagon, Fears Grow That Trump Will Pull Military Into Election Unrest, Jennifer Steinhauer and Helene Cooper, Sept. 25, 2020.  Defense Department officials said top generals could resign if President Trump ordered the active-duty military to quell election protests.

President Trump gave officials no solace on Wednesday and Thursday when he again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power no matter who wins the election, and on Thursday, he doubled down by saying he was not sure the election could be “honest.” His hedging, along with his expressed desire in June to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to send active-duty troops onto American streets to quell protests over the killing of George Floyd, has incited deep anxiety among senior military and Defense Department leaders, who insist they will do all they can to keep the armed forces out of the elections.

“I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical U.S. military,” General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in written answers to questions from House lawmakers released last month. “In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law, U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. military. I foresee no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process.”

But that has not stopped an intensifying debate in the military about its role should a disputed election lead to civil unrest.

washington post logoamy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoWashington Post, Trump expected to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg seat, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 25, 2020. Senate Republicans, kicking off a Supreme Court fight, plan to move the nomination quickly and Democrats have little chance to block the nominee, who would cement a conservative majority on the court for years. Barrett is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and a favorite of conservatives.

washington post logoWashington Post, Politics Live Update: Justice Ginsburg becomes first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, John Wagner, ruth bader ginsburg scotusSept. 25, 2020. Democratic nominee Joe Biden is paying his respects Friday to the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she becomes the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, while President Trump puts in a full day on the campaign trail with stops in Florida, Georgia and Virginia and a fundraiser at his hotel in Washington.

Meanwhile, controversy continues over Trump’s refusal to commit to the peaceful transition of power and his repeated attempts to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, even as he urges his own supporters to take advantage of absentee voting ahead of Election Day.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows lashed out at FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, a Trump appointee, for his assessment during congressional testimony that the United States has not experienced large-scale voter fraud by mail or other means.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals  (updated: Sept. 25, 2020, 11:44 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here):

World Cases: 32,457,992, Deaths: 988,523
U.S. Cases: 7,187,179 , Deaths: 207,555

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi abruptly shifts course, restarts relief push amid signs economy is straining, Erica Werner and Rachael Bade, Sept. 25, 2020 (print Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (Noel St. John) Feb. 27, 2017ed.). The move comes amid rising concern that Congress would not attempt to provide more relief until after the election despite rampant unemployment.

The new legislation would be significantly narrower in scope than the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in May. Pelosi (D-U.S. House logoCalif.), right, has more recently focused on an additional $2.2 trillion in aid — a figure Republicans say is still too high.

But in a meeting with House Democratic leaders Thursday she said the new bill would be around $2.4 trillion, because of urgent needs arising from restaurants and airlines.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Stalinist Approach to Science, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Bully and ignore the experts, and send in the paul krugmanquacks. Lately I’ve found myself thinking about Trofim Lysenko.

Who? Lysenko was a Soviet agronomist who decided that modern genetics was all wrong, indeed contrary to Marxist-Leninist principles. He even denied that genes existed, while insisting that long-discredited views about evolution were actually right. Real scientists marveled at his ignorance.

But Joseph Stalin liked him, so Lysenko’s views became official doctrine, and scientists who refused to endorse them were sent to labor camps or executed. Lysenkoism became the basis for much of the Soviet Union’s agricultural policy, eventually contributing to the disastrous famines of the 1930s.

Does all of this sound a bit familiar given recent events in America?

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: U.S. Jobless Claims Rose as Layoffs Continued, Staff reports, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The rise in new claims for state jobless benefits signaled continuing layoffs. Here’s the latest.

Applications for jobless benefits rose last week as employers continued to lay off workers six months after the coronavirus pandemic first rocked the U.S. economy.

About 825,000 Americans filed for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is up from 796,000 a week earlier, though it is far below the more than six million people a week who were filing for benefits during the peak period of layoffs in the spring. Those numbers do not reflect adjustments for seasonal fluctuations.

On an adjusted basis, last week’s total was 870,000, up from 866,000 the previous week.

In addition, 630,000 initial filings were recorded for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency federal program that covers freelancers, self-employed workers and others left out of the regular unemployment system. That program has been plagued by fraud and double-counting, and many economists say the data is unreliable.

By any measure, however, hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs each week, and millions more laid off earlier in the crisis are still relying on unemployed benefits to meet their basic expenses. Applications for benefits remain higher than at the peak of many past recessions, and after falling quickly in the spring, the number has declined only slowly in recent weeks.

Washingtonian Magazine, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Has Tested Positive for Covid-19, Daniella Byck, Sept. 25, 2020. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, left, a physician by training, and First Lady Pamela Northam have tested positive for covid-19, the ralph northam file headshotgovernor’s office announced today. The couple will quarantine at the Executive Mansion in Richmond for 10 days, as recommended by CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidelines.

The Northams received nasal swabs on Thursday after a member of their staff tested positive for the virus. While Pamela has mild symptoms, the governor is currently reporting no symptoms. Both the mansion and the Patrick Henry office building are closed this morning for cleaning. Northam will continue his gubernatorial duties from home.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

538.com, Analysis: Why Four Pivotal Swing States Likely Won’t Be Called On Election Night, Nathaniel Rakich, Sept. 25, 2020. The 2020 election is already underway in several states, but that doesn’t mean the rules aren’t still changing. (We’re tracking them all here.) In the past eight days alone, four important swing states have tentatively extended the deadline by which mail ballots must be received.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that ballots can arrive as late as Nov. 6 and still count as long as no evidence (e.g., a postmark) exists that they were mailed after Election Day (Nov. 3).
A state judge in Michigan decreed that ballots can be counted as long as they are postmarked by the day before the election (Nov. 2) and received by Nov. 17.
A federal judge ordered Wisconsin to count absentee ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 3 as long as they arrive by Nov. 9.
And North Carolina reached a tentative court settlement with plaintiffs that, among other things, would allow ballots to count as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3 and arrive by Nov. 12. (However, the settlement still needs to be approved by a judge before it officially goes into effect.)

Importantly, however, these changes aren’t set in stone; Republicans may continue to contest them in court. At the very least, GOP legislative leaders in Wisconsin have already appealed that decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Republicans say they plan to take the Pennsylvania decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If they stand, though, these rulings could be significant. First, they obviously make it easier to vote by mail — a more generous window for accepting ballots means fewer voters will be disenfranchised for mailing their ballots too late. In terms of the horse race, that’s likely to give Democrats a small boost in these states, since Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say they plan to vote by mail this year.

Second, these rulings increase the odds that media outlets won’t be able to declare a winner in these four states on election night. And given the pivotal role these states will play in the presidential election — there’s a 56 percent chance that one of them will decide the Electoral College, according to the FiveThirtyEight presidential forecast — this in turn increases the odds that we won’t know the winner of the presidential race for days after the fact.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The House seats most likely to flip in November, Amber Phillips, Sept. 25, 2020. Less than six weeks out from the election, House Republicans have a chance to pick up a handful of seats, but it’s not realistic for them to take back the majority from Democrats.

And there’s a possibility Democrats could add to their majority. Democrats are starting to see suburban districts across the nation become more competitive as President Trump threatens to be a liability for vulnerable Republicans. But there are a number of vulnerable Democrats who could lose simply because they won in such conservative districts last time, and Republicans see opportunity in Virginia and South Florida.

Here are the 10 competitive House seats most likely to flip parties, updated from our rankings in July. There are three on this list that haven’t been on it before. And we’re taking off one seat that was previously in our top five: Rep. Joe Cunningham (D) in South Carolina’s 1st District, where it looks like he’s consolidating enough support and money to be reelected, or at least stay out of the top 10.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump and McConnell are speeding the GOP to permanent minority status, Joe Scarborough, right, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The joe scarborough headshotRepublican Party is sealing its fate.

While President Trump refuses to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power, his vassals in the Senate are moving quickly to guarantee that Trump’s latest Supreme Court justice will be on the court in time to swing the results of any election challenge. GOP leaders, of course, have the constitutional right to jam through a vote, but any victory they secure in the coming confirmation fight will be Pyrrhic.

Washington insiders have long considered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to be a shameless and cynical operator. But the Kentucky Republican’s actions over the past four years have so radicalized the Supreme Court selection process that Democrats will surely respond to McConnell’s extreme partisanship once back in power.

During Trump’s presidency, “the world’s greatest deliberative body” has been reduced to a crude vote-counting chamber; this new legislative reality means Democrats would need only 50 senators and one president to pack the Supreme Court in 2021. Expect that to happen, since McConnell’s callous response to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death will speed the GOP toward a permanent minority status.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Less Than Six Weeks to Election Day, and Voting Rules Remain in Flux, Nick Corasaniti and Kenneth P. Vogel, Updated Sept. 25, 2020. The two parties are locked in fights over laws in many battleground states, creating uncertainty that is being fanned by President Trump.

With less than six weeks until Election Day, laws governing how Americans vote remain in flux in many battleground states, with the two parties locked in an intensive fight over the rules as President Trump continues to suggest he will challenge any outcome unfavorable to him.

djt biden smiles resizedThe combination of the pandemic, doubts about the capacity of the Postal Service to handle a flood of mail ballots and an aggressive push by Democrats to expand access to voting rights and counter Republican efforts to limit them has fueled litigation and legislative battles across the country that have not been resolved even as early voting has gotten underway.

The result is uncertainty that Mr. Trump is already seizing on in his extraordinary campaign to cast doubt on the election system and the result. In the latest of a string of remarks on the issue, the president refused on Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, igniting new concern about his commitment to the Constitution and drawing pushback on Thursday from prominent members of his party.

washington post logoWashington Post, Philadelphia election official warns ‘naked ballots’ may lead to tens of thousands of rejected ballots for November, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The top election official in Philadelphia is warning that a minor technicality in a new state Supreme Court ruling could cause as many as 100,000 mailed ballots to be rejected statewide in the November election, a potentially significant statistic for a state that President Trump won by about 44,000 votes in 2016.

Lisa Deeley, the Democratic chairwoman of Philadelphia’s election board, warned in a letter to lawmakers this week that the court’s requirement of an additional envelope for voters to mail back with their ballots could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in her city and many more statewide.

At issue is the use of “secrecy envelopes,” which are designed to protect the privacy of the voter. A voter returning an absentee ballot must insert the ballot into the secrecy envelope, and then insert that envelope into a larger envelope that carries the mailing address and postage.

For the state’s primary election, local election officials were allowed to accept ballots that were returned without the inner envelope — commonly referred to as “naked ballots” — to accommodate the surge of voters in Pennsylvania who cast absentee ballots for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But under last week’s court ruling, ballots sent back to election officials without the inner envelope will be rejected, with no opportunity for voters to rectify democratic donkey logothe problem to make sure their vote is counted.

“It’s just so unfair that we’re disenfranchising people that have done everything right,” Deeley said. “They applied for the mail-in ballot, they got the mail-in ballot, they voted by the mail-in ballot, they put it in an envelope, returned to us on time — and all because of a technicality, their vote isn’t going to count.”

More than 500,000 mail ballots were rejected in the primaries. That could make the difference in battleground states this fall.

Pennsylvania is one of roughly 16 states that require such an inner envelope, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures. But some states decided to waive that requirement for the general election, which they said would save time for election officials who anticipate processing a record number of mail-in ballots this fall.

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Wants You to Think You Can’t Get Rid of Him, Michelle Goldberg, right, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). His strongman threats are scary. But don’t forget that he’s weak.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Opinion: To what lengths will Trump go to serve his needs? Include murder, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 25, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2020. Taking into consideration what Donald Trump's business associates and members of his family have said about wayne madesen report logohim -- that Trump is vain, basically illiterate, coarse, misogynistic, racist, and power hungry -- that leaves one thing unsaid.

Based on Trump's record in the casino business in Atlantic City, a willingness to conspire to commit murder should be added to Trump's list of transgressions.

ny times logoNew York Times, How to Debate Someone Who Lies, Richard A. Friedman, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.).  Truth sandwiches, ridicule and other tactics for Joe Biden when he faces President Trump.

Donald TrumpWhen Joe Biden debates President Trump on Tuesday, he will have to figure out how to parry with an opponent who habitually lies and doesn’t play by the rules.

As a psychiatrist, I’d like to offer Mr. Biden some advice: Don’t waste your time fact-checking the president. If you attempt to counter every falsehood or distortion that Mr. Trump serves up, you will cede control of the debate. And, by trying to correct him, you will paradoxically strengthen the misinformation rather than undermine it. (Research shows that trying to correct a falsehood with truth can backfire by reinforcing the original lie. )

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC.com), Matt Lieberman urged to quit Georgia US Senate race, Patricia Murphy and Greg Bluestein, Sept. 25, 2020. Abrams, Jewish activists push Lieberman to cede to Warnock in Senate bid. Grassroots activists and high-level Democrats called for Matt Lieberman to abandon his U.S. Senate bid raphael warnockThursday and clear the way for Raphael Warnock, below at left, as polls show a tight race in the free-for-all contest.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder endorsed Warnock’s campaign to challenge U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, right, urging “those who care about the direction of Georgia and this nation” to rally behind his bid.

Stacey Abrams, arguably Warnock’s most influential advocate, said she was deeply disturbed by a Lieberman novel that critics say was shaped by racist kelly loeffler o Customtropes, and called for him to “search his conscience” and make way for Warnock.

“We need Matt Lieberman to understand he’s not called for this moment,” said Abrams, adding: “Dropping out of the race is not a possibility. But we’re asking for people to consolidate their support around Raphael Warnock.”

And a group of Atlanta Jewish community leaders is preparing to run an ad with the names of more than 300 local Democrats backing Warnock over Lieberman, a former principal of the Atlanta Jewish Academy.

“More than one Democratic candidate is running ... but only one has a chance of winning,” says the ad slated for the Atlanta Jewish Times, which was obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

joe lieberman oMatt Lieberman, an entrepreneur and son of former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, left, on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, became the first Democrat to enter the race for retiring Republican Johnny Isakson's seat.

“Matt is very well respected and widely known and we believe that he would be a terrific senator,” said Michael Rosenzweig, a leader of the group. “But we believe that he doesn’t have a realistic chance of winning this thing. He does have a chance of knocking Warnock out of the runoff, though, which will be very troubling.”

Lieberman, a former educator and entrepreneur, has flatly rejected talk of quitting the race and insists he has as much of a shot as Warnock in the November special election, which features 21 candidates on the same ballot with no party primary to filter out nominees.

democratic donkey logoA series of polls released this week by the AJC and other outlets suggest his chances of seriously contesting the seat are dim. Once, he ran neck-and-neck with Warnock, but now he’s hovering around 10% of the vote.

Warnock has increased his standing in the polls at Lieberman’s expense. The polls showed him roughly even with Loeffler and Republican US. Rep. Doug Collins at around 20%. Another Democrat, Ed Tarver, is further behind in the low single-digits.

Democrats are fretting because they fear that Lieberman’s presence in the contest will siphon just enough votes away from Warnock to allow the two Republicans to squeeze ahead, depriving Democrats of a shot in a January runoff between the top finishers.

Holder’s endorsement, meanwhile, comes as a blow to Tarver, who reported to the then-attorney general while he was a U.S. attorney for parts of east Georgia. In his statement to the AJC, Holder praised Warnock’s “integrity and passion” on the pulpit of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden just scored a big win, James Sullivan, Sept. 25, 2020. As his support is continuing to solidify in the polls, Joe Biden is still racking up a number of surprising endorsements. Earlier this week, nearly 500 former military and national security officials endorsed him for president, warning of joe biden 2020 button Customhow perilous another four years of Donald Trump would be for national security and stability. The endorsement was from people that largely don’t make endorsements or discuss their personal politics in the open, and have worked for both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations in the past.

bill palmer report logo headerBefore that, Scientific American, a publication that has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history, finally felt compelled to tell its readers that a Biden administration is the only guarantee that the United States will have leadership that cares about the current climate change crisis and will actively take measures to fight it. Now, the risk assessment firm, Moody’s Analytics, released an analysis of the economic plans proposed by both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and while they didn’t outright endorse Biden, they made it quite clear whose policies would benefit the economy the most.

Even though Donald Trump likes to boast about his economy and the GOP backs him up, Moody’s team of economists outright say that the worst case scenario for the economy would be if Republicans were to sweep the White House and Congress. Their model suggests that the economy wouldn’t return to full employment until at least the beginning of 2024 if such a scenario were to happen, and the risk is significantly higher because Trump would only double down on trade wars and immigration policies in a second term.

Slate, Opinion: The Jerk Who Gave Me a C+ in English Could Cost Democrats the Senate, Aviva Shen, Sept. 25, 2020. That jerk would be: notorious spoiler Joe Lieberman’s son. 

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

FiveThirtyEight, Analysis: How Amy Coney Barrett Could Change the Supreme Court, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, Sept. 25, 2020. Tomorrow will mark the start of amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photowhat could be one of the swiftest Supreme Court fights in modern history. On Saturday, just a week after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Trump is expected to announce his nominee for her replacement: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is currently serving on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The nomination battle over Barrett will be bitter. If she is confirmed — and right now, Republicans have the votes — her presence on the court will give the conservative wing a solid 6-3 majority, allowing the other conservative justices to bypass Chief Justice John Roberts. Or, put another way, Roberts will no longer be the court’s median. (He has cast several pivotal votes with the liberal justices over the years, often out of apparent concern for the court’s institutional legitimacy.)

Barrett’s appointment marks an enormous shift in the Supreme Court’s center of gravity. According to one estimate of her ideological leanings, Barrett will be the third-most conservative justice on the court, just to the left of Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and to the right of Trump’s two previous nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. That’s a best-case scenario for liberals, too. Several experts told me that based on Barrett’s previous rulings as a federal judge and writings as a law professor, she could end up to the right of Alito — or even Thomas.

But even in that third-place slot, Barrett replacing Ginsburg is one of the largest swings on the modern court since 1953.

That means the confirmation hearings, which are likely to start around October 12, will probably be extremely rancorous. But it’s doubtful that would stop the GOP from steaming ahead with a vote on Barrett’s nomination after only a few weeks of deliberation. An ambitious timeline like that seems very possible, since Senate Republicans currently have a solid majority willing to vote on Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court even before Barrett was named. And several Republicans, including Trump, have indicated that they want to make sure the vote happens before Election Day so that the new justice is seated in time to resolve any election-related disputes — potentially giving Trump’s new nominee enormous power over the result of the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Barbara Lagoa refused to recuse herself from Florida felons’ voting case, creating controversy, Aaron C. Davis and Ann E. barbara lagoaMarimow, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s potential Supreme Court pick, right, could face scrutiny for staying on — and becoming a key voice — in a federal court decision expected to limit voting by poor former inmates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court sides with House Democrats in challenge to Trump’s border wall spending, Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 25, 2020. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously backed Congress’s power of the purse and said House lawmakers could proceed with their lawsuit alleging it was illegal for President Trump to transfer the money for the wall.

A federal appeals court in Washington sided with House Democrats on Friday in their effort to block the Trump administration’s diversion of billions of dollars to build the president’s signature southern border wall.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously backed Congress’s power of the purse and said House lawmakers could proceed with their lawsuit alleging it was illegal for President Trump to transfer the money for the wall.

The Constitution gives Congress spending authority, the court said, and it “requires two keys to unlock the Treasury, and the House holds one of those keys. The Executive Branch has, in a word, snatched the House’s key out of its hands,” according to the opinion from Judge David B. Sentelle, who was joined by Judges Patricia A. Millett and Robert L. Wilkins. Sentelle was nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Millett and Wilkins were nominated by President Barack Obama.

House Democrats went to court claiming Trump violated the Constitution by ignoring congressional spending limits and diverting more than $6 billion allocated for other purposes to fund the wall at the border with Mexico. The administration invoked statutes it said allowed the president to repurpose appropriations.

The D.C. Circuit panel on Friday said the Trump administration had essentially cut the House out of the appropriations process “rendering for naught” its vote to withhold border wall funding. The judges also rejected the Justice Department’s argument that the House cannot go to court to protect its interests without consent of the Senate.

“The ironclad constitutional rule is that the Executive Branch cannot spend until both the House and the Senate say so,” according to Sentelle’s opinion. “Unlike the affirmative power to pass legislation, the House can wield its appropriations veto fully and effectively all by itself, without any coordination with or cooperation from the Senate.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I’m a former prosecutor. The charge in Breonna Taylor’s death is pathetically weak, Paul Butler, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). I would have charged all three officers with manslaughter. I think murder would be overcharging, because the officers did not have the intent to kill Taylor.

Still, if three gang members burst into an apartment, were met with gunfire by somebody in the home, and in response shot up the apartment complex and killed an innocent person, they would almost certainly be charged with homicide.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr is throwing things at the wall, Bill Palmer, Sept. 25, 2020. Even though the media keeps inexplicably hyping him as an immortal villain with a magic wand who can accomplish any evil thing he wants to, the reality is that Bill Barr strikes out most of the time. For instance, he tried and failed to intervene in the Flynn, Stone, Cohen, Lev, Igor, and Bannon cases. Now Barr’s Durham stunt has apparently failed as well.

bill palmer report logo headerThis has left Bill Barr in the position of having to throw something at the wall, if only to convince Donald Trump that he still has some kind william barr resized donald trumpof secret evil genius plan up his sleeve. But instead of rolling out one concrete con game, Barr, shown at right, is rolling out all kinds of piddly nonsense at once.

Take a look at this fascinating list assembled by Politico’s Kyle Cheney:

In the last 36 hours, DOJ has:

    • Declassified a doc GOP lawmakers sought about the Steele Dossier
    • Provided internal FBI messages to Flynn legal team
    • Released an interview with one of the Flynn case agents
    • Released questionable evidence of ballot irregularities in Pa.

To be clear, none of these things are anything. None of them will have any impact on the election. They’re all just smoke and mirrors. The fact that Barr is throwing so many “nothings” at the wall at once is a sign that even he knows none of this is going anywhere. Bill Barr has reached the point of desperation.

washington post logoWashington Post, President Trump’s niece sues him and other relatives, alleging they cheated her out of millions in inheritance, Shayna Jacobs, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Mary L. Trump, a niece of the president who authored a scathing bestseller documenting deep family dysfunction, has Mary L. Trump, below right, a vocal critic of her uncle, recently published a book alleging Trump family dysfunction.sued President Trump and two of his siblings alleging they defrauded her out of tens of millions decades ago by manipulating the value of properties and lying to her about the worth of her inheritance.

mary trumpThe lawsuit, filed Thursday in New York Supreme Court, accuses Mary Trump’s uncles, Donald and Robert, and aunt Maryanne Trump Barry, of pretending they would guard her assets — valuable pieces of the Trump family real estate empire — which she inherited after her father died, only to bully and take advantage of her during estate settlement negotiations. It alleges fraud, conspiracy and violations of fiduciary duties.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. At a briefing Thursday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany deflected a reporter’s question about the allegations, commenting instead on a secret recording the president’s estranged niece made of Maryanne Trump Barry in which the retired federal judge was heard insulting the president.

“The only fraud committee there,” McEnany said, “was Mary Trump recording one of her relatives, and she’s really discredited herself.”

Robert Trump died last month. The lawsuit names his estate, which was valued at $50 million, according to court records. An attorney handling Robert Trump’s estate and the estate’s proposed executor did not respond to requests for comment.

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washington post logojohn bolton room where cover CustomWashington Post, U.S. judge questions Bolton’s political motives as he battles White House lawsuit for book profits, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Attorneys for former Trump national security adviser John Bolton urged a federal judge Thursday to halt the government’s efforts to seize the proceeds from his memoir and accused White House aides of improperly trying to stall publication of the book because it reveals unflattering material about the president.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington, D.C., voiced doubt, saying Bolton attorneys were mounting their own “political diatribe” in alleging Trump aides took unprecedented steps and politicized a pre-publication review of Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened.

“Isn’t the question whether the information is classified or not?” Lamberth prodded Bolton’s defense. “You’ve engaged in that whole political diatribe, but it really has no place in what we’re arguing today.”

The oral argument came after a lawyer for the career government official who conducted the initial review for classified information in Bolton’s manuscript contended in a letter to the court that Trump aides had “commandeered” the process, then erroneously claimed the memoir contained classified information and failed to propose edits to facilitate publication.

On Thursday, the parties gathered for a video court hearing in the lawsuit brought by the Trump administration in June seeking to halt release of Bolton’s book, a blistering account of his 17 months as the president’s top security adviser. Among other disclosures, the book reports that Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help him win reelection, confirms that Trump attempted to use military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s son and says Trump expressed willingness to halt or obstruct criminal investigations as personal favors to authoritarian foreign leaders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of Proud Boys plan to rally in Portland, setting up another clash in a combustible city, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Sept. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Portland has seen intensifying demonstrations since the first Black Lives Matter marches after the death of George Floyd in May. On Saturday, political extremes are expected to clash again.

Thousands of members of the far-right Proud Boys plan to mass at a park here on Saturday afternoon, setting up another clash of liberal and conservative extremes in a city that has become the public front line for combustible — and deadly — political conflict.

The so-called Western chauvinist group espouses pro-Trump, police-friendly rhetoric, but its members have a reputation for sparking fights with the far left that devolve into mayhem. After four months of steady protests in this city, its choice to bring an armed, extremist crowd from all corners of the country to the Pacific Northwest again turns Portland into an ideological battlefield, a place where speech has crossed a dangerous line into violence.

President Trump has fanned the flames, saying that Portland and other Democratic cities condone lawlessness; he has ordered federal agents to take a stand against protesters and to make arrests, creating us-versus-them standoffs that appear bent on pitting the right against the left and characterizing it as good against evil.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia Freezes Navalny’s Assets as He Recovers From Poisoning, Anton Troianovski, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Aleksei A. Navalny was still in a medically induced coma in Berlin when a court in Russia froze his bank accounts and barred him from selling or mortgaging his apartment in Moscow.
The Russian authorities froze the assets of Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader poisoned last month, at the behest of a Kremlin-allied businessman known as “Putin’s chef,” Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman said on Thursday.

Mr. Navalny, President Vladimir V. Putin’s most prominent domestic opponent in Russia, was still in a medically induced coma in a hospital in Berlin when his assets were frozen.

A court barred Mr. Navalny from selling or mortgaging his apartment in southeastern Moscow, and his bank accounts have been frozen, Kira Yarmysh, the spokeswoman, said in a video posted to her Twitter account. The order was dated Aug. 27, a week after Mr. Navalny was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. But his lawyers learned of the court’s decision only recently, Ms. Yarmysh said.

The legal maneuver was brought on by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the catering magnate who is close to Mr. Putin and is known as “Putin’s chef.” In August, Mr. Prigozhin moved to collect damages that Mr. Navalny owed in a libel lawsuit from 2019 — and coyly pledged to pursue the debt as long as Mr. Navalny survived the poisoning.

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus is out of control in Syria, no matter what the government says, Sarah Dadouch, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.).  In an act of defiance, Syria's union of doctors announced last month that 61 physicians had died of the coronavirus in the span of just a few days.

The disclosure contradicted the Syrian government, which had said a day earlier it had registered exactly 60 deaths in the entire country since March, and represented an uncharacteristic challenge to a state known for its tight control of information and severe intolerance for alternative views.

The tally released by the Syrian Medical Association signaled that the outbreak was already widespread, because reported cases among medical personnel often indicate a far larger number of unreported cases in the general public. One Syrian medical student called the number of doctors who have died “terrifying.”

Since mid-August, the official count of all coronavirus infections has increased dramatically with 3,800 reported cases and about 180 deaths. But Syrians suspect the numbers are even higher.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Rat That Sniffs Out Land Mines Receives Award for Bravery, Anna Schaverien, Sept. 25, 2020. Magawa, a 5-year-old African giant pouched rat, was recognized with a prestigious honor for his work detecting mines and explosives in Cambodia.

The medal awarded on Friday lauded the “lifesaving bravery and devotion to duty” for work detecting land mines in Cambodia. Its recipient: a rat named Magawa.

Magawa is the first rat to receive the award — a gold medal bestowed by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British charity, that is often called the “animal’s George Cross” after an honor usually given to civilians that recognizes acts of bravery and heroism.

Not since the fictional Remy of the 2007 Disney-Pixar film “Ratatouille” has a rat done so much to challenge the public’s view of the animals as creatures more commonly seen scuttling through sewers and the subway: Magawa has discovered 39 land mines and 28 pieces of unexploded ordnance, and helped clear more than 1.5 million square feet of land over the past four years.

“Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women and children who are impacted by these land mines,” said Jan McLoughlin, the director general of the charity, which bestowed the award in an online ceremony. “Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”

More than five million land mines are thought to have been laid in Cambodia during the ousting of the Khmer Rouge and internal conflicts in the 1980s and 1990s. Parts of the country are also littered with unexploded ordnance dropped in United States airstrikes during the Vietnam War, a 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service found.

Since 1979, more than 64,000 people have been injured by land mines and other explosives in Cambodia, and more than 25,000 amputees have been recorded there, according to the HALO Trust, the world’s largest humanitarian land mine clearance charity.

Larger than the average rodent, Magawa, a 5-year-old African giant pouched rat, is part of the “Hero Rat” initiative run by the Belgian nonprofit APOPO, which works across South East Asia and Africa, training rats to save lives by detecting land mines and tuberculosis.

Magawa, the most successful rat to have taken part in the program, was trained to detect TNT, the chemical compound within explosives. The ability to sniff out TNT makes him much faster than any person in searching for land mines, as he can ignore scrap metal that would usually be picked up by a metal detector.

Media News

michael pack

Washington Post,washington post logoWashington Post, Head of government media agency flouts subpoena, angering Democrats and Republicans, Karoun Demirjianm, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The head of the government’s main international broadcasting agency flouted a subpoena for congressional testimony Thursday, angering both Democrats and Republicans already alarmed by his management tactics.

Michael Pack, chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America and similar institutions, was issued a subpoena by the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week after he reneged on a promise to appear before the panel citing unspecified “administrative proceedings,” according to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.)

Engel said Thursday that Pack (shown above in a file photo from a previous appearance) “manufactured this conflict to get out of being here today.”

Spokesmen for the U.S. Agency for Global Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

voice of america logoPack has been the subject of intense scrutiny and controversy that commenced before he was confirmed to his position less than four months ago. In his brief tenure, he has ousted the heads of VOA’s sister operations Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund, frozen spending, and refused to renew the visas of foreign journalists — a move he has defended as an effort to root out potential spies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Rewrite that list of debate topics, Chris Wallace. And put the climate crisis at No. 1, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 25, 2020 (print margaret sullivan 2015 photoed.). When the wildfires are burning, we must have our candidates address how the planet is heating up — and dispense with topics of partisan pandering.

The past few months should have forced even the staunchest climate-crisis deniers to yank their heads out of the warming sand.

The temperature in Death Valley hit 130 degrees, the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Drought-fueled wildfires in the West are still raging, sending smoke all the way to the East Coast after destroying millions of acres and thousands of buildings, and causing more than 25 deaths. And tropical storms, one after another, endlessly roiled the Atlantic.

Our planet is in serious, irrevocable trouble. There’s no bigger issue.

Which is why it’s flat-out wrong that Fox News’s Chris Wallace — and those who advised him — didn’t see fit to put climate change on his topic list for Tuesday’s first presidential debate.

Instead, as the veteran newsman picked the subjects that will occupy each 15-minute segment of the 90-minute debate from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, we got these: the candidates’ records, the Supreme Court, covid-19, the economy, “race and violence in our cities,” and election integrity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Karen McDougal’s defamation suit against Fox News is dismissed, Michael M. Grynbaum and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Updated Sept. 25, 2020.tucker carlson Fox News won a legal victory on Thursday after a federal judge dismissed a defamation suit brought against its host Tucker Carlson, right, by a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Donald J. Trump before he was president.

The suit, filed last year, stemmed from a 2018 episode of Mr. Carlson’s show in which he accused the model, Karen McDougal, of djt karen mcdougal blue dressextorting Mr. Trump. She sold the rights to her story of an affair to The National Enquirer in 2016, which did not publish the story, a transaction that involved Mr. Trump’s former longtime lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

fox news logo SmallMs. McDougal, shown at left, said Mr. Carlson’s remarks harmed her reputation, but Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil, of United States District Court in Manhattan, said the host’s comments were protected by the First Amendment.

“The statements are rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate, and, as such, are not actionable as defamation,” she wrote.

 

Sept. 24

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Law, Crime, Courts

 

World News

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 500 former senior military, civilian leaders sign letter backing Biden, Karen DeYoung, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Nearly 500 retired senior military officers, as well as former Cabinet secretaries, service chiefs and other officials, have signed an open letter in support of former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, saying that he has “the character, principles, wisdom and leadership necessary to address a world on fire.”

The letter, published Thursday morning by National Security Leaders for Biden, is the latest in a series of calls for President Trump’s defeat in the November election.

“We are former public servants who have devoted our careers, and in many cases risked our lives, for the United States,” it says. “We are generals, admirals, senior noncommissioned officers, ambassadors and senior civilian national security leaders. We are Republicans and Democrats, and Independents. We love our country.

“Unfortunately, we also fear for it.”

The letter has been signed by 489 people.

Not all of those Republicans who previously have broken ranks with Trump have called for Biden’s election, although the numbers are growing. Last month, more than 60 former national security officials who served in Republican administrations, including Trump’s, signed a statement calling him “unfit to serve as President.” Noting that some of them held different policy positions from Biden, they nonetheless called for his election, saying it was “imperative that we stop Trump’s assault on our nation’s values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy.”

bernie sanders des moines gage skidmore flickr aug 10 2019 Custom

CBS News logoCBS News, Bernie Sanders says Trump is ready "to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power," Grace Segers, Sept. 24, 2020.
Senator Bernie Sanders argued in an impassioned speech Thursday that President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power is a threat to American democracy.

"What I am going to talk about is something that, in my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be discussing," Sanders (shown in a Gage Skidmore file photo) said. "And that is the need to make certain that the president of the United States, if he loses this election, will abide by the will of the voters and leave office peacefully."

djt impeachment graphic"This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy – and democracy must win," Sanders said in an address at George Washington University. He referred to Mr. Trump as a "pathological liar" with "strong authoritarian tendencies," and accused him of being "prepared to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power."

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump declined to commit to a peaceful transition of power if Biden wins the election in November. Sanders also quoted Mr. Trump's remarks at the Republican National Convention last month, in which he declared that "the only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election."

"I think it is terribly important that we actually listen to, and take seriously, what Donald Trump is saying," Sanders said. "There is nothing in our Constitution or in our laws that give Donald Trump the privilege of deciding whether or not he will step aside if he loses. In the United States, the president does not determine who can or cannot vote and what ballots will be counted."

He went on to criticize Mr. Trump for continuing "to be obsessed with the belief that there is massive voter fraud in this country," even though instances of voter fraud are extremely rare. The president has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that mail-in voting leads to widespread voter fraud, even as he urges supporters to vote by mail in critical swing states like Florida.

"Trump's strategy to delegitimize this election and to stay in office if he loses is not complicated. Finding himself behind in many polls, he is attempting massive voter suppression," Sanders said. "He and his Republican colleagues are doing everything they can to make it harder and harder for people to vote. In addition, he is sowing the seeds of chaos, confusion and conspiracy theories by casting doubt on the integrity of this election and, if he loses, justifying why he should remain in office."

Sanders noted that this election will see an influx of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, and brought up a scenario under which Mr. Trump could claim victory on election night before all the mail-in ballots are counted.

He also worries that states controlled by Republican legislatures will ignore election results "because of false accusations of voter fraud," and predicted that if this happened, "the legislature itself will use its power to appoint electors pledged to vote for Trump, overriding the will of the people."

"And, in the midst of all of this, with the death of Justice Ginsburg, Trump is attempting to push through a Supreme Court Justice who may very well cast a vote in a case that will determine the outcome of this election," Sanders continued. There are enough Republican senators who have said they would vote to confirm Mr. Trump's nominee to the court before the election, despite Democrats' argument that the vacancy has opened so close to November 3 that it should be the winner of the election who selects the next justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump won’t commit to a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ if he loses, Colby Itkowitz, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump refused Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, asserting that if he doesn’t win, it will be because of fraudulent mail-in voting and not because more Americans voted against him.

djt handwave fileHis latest comments came after he has spent months making unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail is corrupt and will lead to a “rigged” election. In fact, states that have embraced universal mail voting have documented tiny rates of possible ballot fraud, data shows.

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster —” Trump (shown in a file photo) began when asked during a White House press briefing if he would ensure a peaceful transition.

“I understand that, but people are rioting; do you commit to making sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?” the reporter pressed, appearing to refer to incidents of violence that have broken out during some protests.

The president seems to be referring to, as he has for months now, the massive uptick in people voting by mail this fall rather than in person amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Trump continues to claim, with no evidence, that Democrats are supporting widespread mail-in voting not for public health reasons but to corrupt or commit fraud in the results.

Trump has previously been asked whether he would accept the results of the election if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins. Asked by Fox News’s Chris Wallace in July, Trump said, “I have to see. Look, you — I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time, either.”

ny times logoNew York Times, 2020 Election Live Updates: After Trump Refuses to Commit to Peaceful Transfer of Power, Republicans Stop Short of Rebuking Him, Staff reports, Sept. 24, 2020. Few Republicans called out President Trump by name in their responses to his remark. A Times/Siena College poll shows the president facing a stiff challenge from Joe Biden in Iowa, Georgia and Texas. Most Republicans have remained silent about President Trump’s refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

There was scant mention of Mr. Trump’s comments on the president’s favorite network, Fox News, on Wednesday, with the hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham focusing on other topics.

But in an interview on Fox on Thursday, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, used the outcry over Mr. Trump’s remarks to push for the quick confirmation of a conservative Supreme Court justice, arguing that the seat should be filled in case the nation’s highest court needed to rule on the outcome of the November election.

President Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power during a news conference on Wednesday. His comments about the transfer of power were only his latest provocation — of the day. Earlier Wednesday, he flatly predicted that the presidential election would end up in the Supreme Court and said that was why he wanted a full slate of justices, barely concealing his hope for a friendly majority on the court.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices, and I think the system’s going to go very quickly,” Mr. Trump said of the need for a quick confirmation process.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: Two officers shot, suspect in custody amid night of unrest in Louisville, Timothy Bella, Maria Sacchetti and Marisa Iati, Sept. 24, 2020. Daily Caller reporters arrested during Louisville protests; As many as 100 Louisville protesters arrested in overnight demonstrations, police say; What is ‘wanton endangerment’? 13 arrested in Seattle protests, where police say multiple officers were injured.

Two Louisville police officers were shot Wednesday evening, hours after a grand jury indicted a former city police detective on three charges of wanton endangerment in the March 13 shooting that resulted in the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor (shown above). The officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the interim police chief said, and a suspect is in custody.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion, Capitulating to the right won’t end the judicial wars, E.J. Dionne, right, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.).  Why do President Trump and the ej dionne w open neckRepublican majority in the Senate feel empowered to launch a right-wing judicial coup? They can do so because the mainstream media have largely accepted the false terms of the Supreme Court debate set by conservatives — and because progressives and moderates have utterly failed to overturn them.

As a result, we face a crisis moment. The Supreme Court could fall into the hands of activist reactionaries for a generation or more. Preventing a political minority from enjoying indefinite veto power over our democratically elected branches of government requires getting the facts and the history right. Let’s start.

Conservatives use Roe v. Wade as a decoy. Of course Roe will continue to matter. But conservatives have brilliantly used the abortion question to distract attention from the core of their activist agenda. It involves dismantling regulation, gutting civil rights laws, narrowing voting rights enforcement giving moneyed interests free rein in our politics, strengthening corporate power, weakening unions, undercutting antitrust laws — and, now, tearing apart the Affordable Care Act.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We’ve reached 200,000 deaths. Our response has gotten even worse than it was at 100,000, Leana S. Wen, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The United States has reached the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths from covid-19. We are in a much worse place than we were when we crossed the 100,000-death threshold in May.

Why? Start with the numbers. In late May, we had about 20,000 new infections per day. Now we are at double that, with around 40,000 new daily infections. This is a high baseline to have entering the fall and winter, when the combination of quarantine fatigue and cold weather could drive people to congregate indoors and substantially increase transmission.

In addition, restrictions keep getting lifted, even in states with surging infections. The nearly 2 million students returning for in-person instruction will surely lead to more outbreaks, as some college towns are already emerging as new coronavirus hot spots. In 27 states, the number of infections this week is higher than it was last week. In 14, the test positivity rate is in the double digits, which means the true infection rate is much higher.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals  (updated: Sept. 24, 2020, 12:53 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2totals here):

World Cases: 32,144,783, Deaths: 982,797
U.S. Cases: 7,141,539, Deaths: 206,616

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Seven months into the pandemic, Trump’s testing plan enters its second wave of failure, Dana Milbank, right, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). It has been seven months since the pandemic struck, and still the Trump national testing plan is testing little more than our patience.

dana milbank CustomIf we had a properly functioning federal government, we would have enough screening tests by now to send kids back to school in most places and to protect essential workers, residents of nursing homes, university students and workers in food processing plants and other high-risk settings. But instead of the nearly 200 million monthly tests we would need to do such things, we have under 30 million — about the same that we had in July.

Now the Trump administration is blocking federal aid to states that would give them the billions they need to boost screening — because Trump thinks this a giveaway to his political opponents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: U.S. Jobless Claims Rose as Layoffs Continued, Staff reports, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The rise in new claims for state jobless benefits signaled continuing layoffs. Here’s the latest.

Applications for jobless benefits rose last week as employers continued to lay off workers six months after the coronavirus pandemic first rocked the U.S. economy.

About 825,000 Americans filed for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That is up from 796,000 a week earlier, though it is far below the more than six million people a week who were filing for benefits during the peak period of layoffs in the spring. Those numbers do not reflect adjustments for seasonal fluctuations.

On an adjusted basis, last week’s total was 870,000, up from 866,000 the previous week.

In addition, 630,000 initial filings were recorded for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency federal program that covers freelancers, self-employed workers and others left out of the regular unemployment system. That program has been plagued by fraud and double-counting, and many economists say the data is unreliable.

By any measure, however, hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs each week, and millions more laid off earlier in the crisis are still relying on unemployed benefits to meet their basic expenses. Applications for benefits remain higher than at the peak of many past recessions, and after falling quickly in the spring, the number has declined only slowly in recent weeks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump attacks FDA plan for tougher standards on emergency vaccine approval as ‘political move,’ Amy Goldstein and Laurie McGinley, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The president warned he may reject the proposal, hours after the Food and Drug Administration chief told senators that a vaccine decision will be free of political interference.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Five Things Biden and His Allies Should Be Worried About, Thomas B. Edsall, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Interestingly, the suburban vote may not be one of them.

First, there are indications that Trump’s base of support — whites without college degrees — is more energized and committed to voting this year than key Democratic constituencies. And there is also evidence that polling does not reflect this.

Second, Latinos, who are key to the outcome in several crucial states — Arizona and Florida, for example — have shown less support for Biden than for past Democratic nominees. Many Hispanic voters seem resistant to any campaign that defines them broadly as “people of color.”

Third, absentee voting is expected to be higher among Democrats than Republicans, subjecting their ballots to a greater risk of rejection, a fate more common to mailed-in votes than to in-person voting.

Fourth, the generic Democratic-Republican vote (“Would you be more willing to vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate for Congress?”) through early July favored Democrats by more than 10 points, but has since narrowed to 6 points.

Fifth, the debates will test Biden’s ability to withstand three 90-minute battles against an opponent known for brutal personal attacks.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump looks to win over voters on health care after failing to deliver on promises, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s push is leading to a frenzied rollout of proposals as polls show his handling of the pandemic and health-care policy are two of his biggest obstacles to reelection. President Trump is pushing advisers to deliver health-care “wins” in the final weeks of the campaign, leading to a frenzied rollout of proposals as polls show the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and health-care policy are two of his biggest vulnerabilities in his reelection bid.

djt maga hatTrump is scheduled to deliver a speech Thursday in Charlotte, broadly outlining how he would approach health-care policy in a second term, though the speech is likely to be light on details. Instead, Trump will tout the administration’s efforts to lower drug prices, address surprise medical bills and improve health-care price transparency, according to two senior administration officials and an outside lobbyist familiar with the plans.

He is expected to mostly avoid speaking about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, something he has long promised to do but a position that is ­unpopular with voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Early voting turnout hits record numbers in Virginia, Laura Vozzella, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). More than 100,000 voters have cast ballots in person since early voting began Friday, and nearly 900,000 people have requested absentee ballots, state elections officials said.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Few Police Officers Who Cause Deaths Are Charged or Convicted, Shaila Dewan, Sept. 24, 2020. A wide gulf remains between the public perception of police violence and how it is treated in court.

Since Breonna Taylor was awakened in the night and shot to death by the police in her own home, Louisville has banned no-knock warrants. A police chief was fired, and so was an officer who was on the scene. But despite demands from across the country, no one was charged in Ms. Taylor’s death.

On Wednesday, the Kentucky attorney general announced far less serious charges of wanton endangerment against one of the officers involved in the raid, and none against the two who shot Ms. Taylor six times.

The lack of a murder or manslaughter indictment was an outrage to many — but not a surprise.

Few police officers are ever charged with murder or manslaughter when they cause a death in the line of duty, and only about a third of those officers are convicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ky. attorney general, a rising GOP star, faced toughest moment in political career, Marc Fisher, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Daniel Cameron, 34, patiently explained on national TV that his allegiance was to the law, not to his race or to emotions or to public sentiment.

ruth bader ginsburg high school

Ruth Bader, reared in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, NY, is shown above in her high school yearbook photo with a list of her activities before she attended Cornell University, from which she graduating in 1954 with a bachelor's degree. She then attended Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School. She married Martin Ginsburg, a contemporary at Columbia who became a longtime law professor, primarily at Georgetown Law Center before his death.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Power of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Imagination, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), Sept. 24, 2020. She was able to see a world where men linda greenhouse cover just a journalistand women would be treated equally.

What she had, in addition to passion, skill and a field marshal’s sense of strategy, was imagination.

She envisioned a world different from the one she had grown up in, a better world in which gender was no obstacle to women’s achievement, to their ability to dream big and to realize their aspirations. Then she set out to use the law to usher that world into existence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Politically Charged Inquiry Sought Details About Scrutiny of Clintons, Adam Goldman, William K. Rashbaum and Nicole Hong, Sept. 24, 2020. John Durham’s team has sought information about the F.B.I.’s handling of the Clinton Foundation investigation, raising questions about the scope of the prosecutor’s review.

From the beginning, John H. Durham’s inquiry into the Russia investigation has been politically charged. President Trump promoted it as certain to uncover a “deep state” plot against him, Attorney General William P. Barr rebuked the investigators under scrutiny, and he and Mr. Durham publicly second-guessed an john durham o portrait 2 croppedindependent inspector general and traveled the globe to chase down conspiracy theories.

It turns out that Mr. Durham, right, also focused attention on certain political enemies of Mr. Trump: the Clintons.

Mr. Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut assigned by Mr. Barr to review the Russia inquiry, has sought documents and interviews about how federal law enforcement officials handled an investigation around the same time into allegations of political corruption at the Clinton Foundation, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Durham’s team members have suggested to others that they are comparing the two investigations as well as examining whether investigators in the Russia inquiry flouted laws or policies. It was not clear whether Mr. Durham’s investigators were similarly looking for violations in the Clinton Foundation investigation, nor whether the comparison would be included or play a major role in the outcome of Mr. Durham’s inquiry.

william barr resized donald trumpPalmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump and Bill Barr are suddenly going after the Clinton Foundation, Bill Palmer, Sept. 24, 2020. Months ago, Attorney General Bill Barr ordered U.S. Attorney John Durham to criminally investigate the people who investigated Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, to see if anything could be found to suggest that Trump was somehow framed. Now, just forty days before the election, Barr is ordering Durham to investigate the Clinton Foundation of all things. So what’s going on here?

Consider the timing. At this late date, there is zero chance Durham will complete an investigation of the Clinton Foundation before the election. For that matter, the Clinton Foundation has been investigated to death over the years and has turned out to be clean as a whistle, meaning Durham wouldn’t find anything even if he had time to do so.

bill palmer report logo headerThe only reason for Barr to send Durham on this last minute goose chase is to appease Trump. And when you consider that we’re now entering the timeframe in which Barr probably told Trump he’d be getting results from Durham’s earlier probe, it’s not difficult to parse what happened here. Durham found nothing in his probe into the Trump-Russia investigation, and Barr is trying to avoid having to tell Trump the bad news by distracting him with the “good news” that Durham is now supposedly investigating the Clintons.

In other words, Bill Barr is continuing his pattern of playing Donald Trump for a fool, keeping up the illusion that he’s helping Trump in ways that he isn’t, and keeping an increasingly addled Trump sated enough not to ask any questions about why Barr’s antics have delivered such little results. After all, Barr has failed to achieve his goals with his meddling in the Flynn, Stone, Cohen, Bannon, Lev, Igor, and SDNY cases, and Barr is failing again with the Durham probe, so Barr has to do something to trick Trump into believing that Barr still has something up his sleeve.

The doomsday pundits will spin this new “investigation” of the Clinton Foundation as proof that Donald Trump has now seized absolute power, democracy is dead, the election has already been decided, Trump is going to magically win no matter what, and there’s no point in even bothering to vote. This is why these ratings-driven pundits are so harmful. The real story is, obviously, that Barr is out of ideas and he’s just trying to keep Trump sated. This Clinton Foundation

Palmer Report, Opinion: What A Waste, Shirley Kennedy, Sept. 24, 2020.  After all the hoopla and wasting people’s time and taxpayer dollars, Republican senators have revealed what we knew they would get from their investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden: Nothing. What a surprise.

bill palmer report logo headerThe Washington Post reported the senators call Hunter Biden’s position with Burisma “problematic” and “awkward” and claims that his position “interfered with efficient execution of policy” during the Obama administration. Hunter’s job did no such thing, or they would have produced documents or other materials that supported those claims.

Their biggest “complaint,” if you can call it that, is that Hunter (and other Biden relatives) “cashed in on Joe Biden’s vice presidency.” This is laughable, especially given the Trump administration’s blatant nepotism and wrongdoings.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, China is building vast new detention centers for Muslims in Xinjiang, Anna Fifield, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Some 60 prisonlike facilities have been built, even as Beijing claims Uighurs have “graduated” from reeducation camps.

China FlagThe Kashgar site is among dozens of prisonlike detention centers that Chinese authorities have built across the Xinjiang region, according to the Xinjiang Data Project, an initiative of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), despite Beijing’s claims that it is winding down its internationally denounced effort to “reeducate” the Uighur population after deeming the campaign a success.

A recent visit to Xinjiang by The Washington Post and evidence compiled by ASPI, a ­Canberra-based think tank, suggest international pressure and outrage have done little to slow China’s crackdown, which appears to be entering an ominous new phase.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Plans for "Trump Cuba" up in smoke and Trump retaliates, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 24, 2020. On wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSeptember 23, Donald Trump honored at a White House event the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, a group of aging right-wing Cuban-American mercenaries for the Central Intelligence Agency, who launched the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.

The Bay of Pigs veterans, who sought to overthrow Fidel Castro's government, served in Brigade 2506 and two other groups responsible for acts of terrorism inside and outside of Cuba after the invasion attempt: Alpha 66 and Omega 7.

Trump has said that he would have never entered into any business arrangements in Cuba until the island nation was "free." However, as the Miami Herald recently reported, the Trump Organization registered, as early as 2008, Cuban government trademarks for real estate, hotels, beauty contests, television programs, casinos, and golf courses in the nation.

As with anything, Trump's number one priority is Donald Trump and his business empire.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel’s Netanyahu brings his dirty laundry to Washington. Literally, John Hudson, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.).Most politicians go to great Benjamin Netanyahu smile Twitterlengths to conceal their dirty laundry. And then there’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right.

Over the years, the Israeli leader has developed a reputation among the staff at the U.S. president’s guesthouse for bringing special cargo on his trips to Washington: bags and suitcases full of dirty laundry, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The clothes are cleaned for the prime minister free of charge by the U.S. staff, a perk that is available to all foreign leaders but sparingly taken advantage of given the short stays of busy heads of state.

 

Media News

harold evans newsroom

ny times logoNew York Times, Harold Evans Dies at 92; Crusading Newspaperman With a Second Act, Robert D. McFadden, Sept. 24, 2020. In Britain, he helped redefine high-quality newspapers and challenged legal restrictions on the press. In America, he brought new scope and glitz to book publishing as the head of Random House.

harold evans hsHarold Evans, the crusading British newspaperman who was forced out as editor of The Times of London by Rupert Murdoch in 1982 and reinvented himself in the United States as a publisher, author and literary luminary, died on Wednesday night in New York City. He was 92.

harold  evans good times coverHis wife, the editor Tina Brown, confirmed his death in a statement. He is shown above in a London newsroom and at right in more recent years.

In Britain, he helped redefine high-quality newspapers and pushed back legal restrictions on the press. In the United States, he edited national magazines, introduced new scope and glitz to book publishing as the head of Random House, wrote history books and a best-selling memoir, and, with Ms. Brown, who edited Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, dazzled and upset the cognoscenti.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: Evans appeared on the weekly radio show, Washington Update, co-hosted by JIP Editor Andrew Kreig for seven years, to discuss his memoir, Good Times, Bad Times, in an hour-long interview.

Business Insider, Press freedom advocates are slamming Trump for glorifying violence against reporters, Sarah Al-Arshani, Sept. 24, 2020. Press freedom organizations say they're shocked, but not surprised, by Trump's remarks; They also warned that this sort of rhetoric is dangerous for reporters and the American people.

Press organizations have urged reporters to keep holding President Donald Trump accountable after he applauded physical aggression toward journalists covering his campaign.

"They grabbed a guy — 'I'm a reporter! I'm a reporter!' — 'Get out of here!' They threw him aside like a bag of popcorn. But honestly, when you watch the crap we've all had to take ... it's actually a beautiful sight," Trump said Tuesday, in reference to an MSNBC reporter who was hit by a rubber bullet while covering protests in Minnesota in May.

john donnellyJohn Donnelly, right, the chair of the press freedom team at the National Press Club, told Business Insider "a statement that glorifies violence against reporters is anathema to the American constitution."

Donnelly said that Trump's latest comments follow a long list of broadsides against journalists, which ultimately pose a threat to democracy itself.

"What he is doing is akin to what a Duterte or an Erdogan or a Putin might do," Donnelly added, referring to the president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte and the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"Not what you would expect from a president of the United States and not what we have seen from the president of the United States up to this point. So it is extremely concerning for reporters, but it is par for the course for this president," Donnelly said.

In its own statement, the Society of Professional Journalists said it was "appalled" by Trump's latest remarks applauding violence against the news media.
"Promoting physical contact against journalists who are just trying to do their jobs during a pandemic is sickening and frankly, un-American. The president of the United States should be above calling a journalist 'a little bag of popcorn' and calling a journalist's forceful removal 'a beautiful sight,'" the statement read.

Elisa Lees Muñoz, the executive director for the International Women's Media Foundation told Business Insider she was shocked but not surprised by Trump's comments.

She said Trump's remarks continue to put reporters at risk on the ground, and online.

According to the US Press Freedom Tracker, at least 201 journalists have been attacked so far this year. There have also been more than 800 reports of aggression against reporters during Black Lives Matter protests.

"We know that journalists are being physically harmed on the ground, but to have it be mocked, and praised was beyond the pale, even for this president and this administration," Muñoz said.

She added that some of Trump's rhetoric has even been adopted by leaders abroad who have used it as justification to attack reporters there, especially women.

"It's happened in the Philippines. It's happened in Mexico, and in Brazil," Muñoz said.

Donnelly said Trump's repeated use of the phrase "fake news" is meant to attack news organizations and the credibility of their reporting, he says what it amounts to is an attempt to deflect criticism and accountability.

"First of all, there is such a thing as actual fake news. It is misinformation often created by America's adversaries and spewed online," Donnelly said. "But when the president says fake news, he means news that doesn't serve his agenda or hurts him politically."

Donnelly urged the press to continue calling out Trump when necessary and to keep telling the truth.

"There's a temptation to say, 'Oh, there's Trump being Trump again,' and to just move on, but we have to call out every single time he does this as unacceptable because it is beyond the pale. He is attacking a pillar of our country."

washington post logoWashington Post, The company email promised bonuses. It was a hoax — and Tribune Publishing staff are furious, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The company has apologized for the "cruel" email intended to test its cyber defenses.

tribune publishing logoEmployees of the Tribune Publishing Company were momentarily thrilled Wednesday after they received a company email announcing that they were each getting a bonus of up to $10,000, to “thank you for your ongoing commitment to excellence.”

To see how big their bonus would be, they just had to click on a link that … well, that’s when they learned they had failed the test. And there was no bonus at all.

The entire charade was Tribune’s effort to test its collective defenses against Internet scams that tempt email recipients to click on a link that has the effect of interfering with computer systems or getting them to volunteer personal data. To bolster caution, many companies have taken to sending out these kinds of tests to their employees and taking note of how many fall for a scam.

alden global capital logoBut this particular fake enticement did not land well at Tribune, whose eight newspapers have endured furloughs and layoffs in recent years. “Fire everyone involved,” Baltimore Sun crime and courts reporter Justin Fenton wrote on Twitter.

Tribune Publishing has utilized furloughs, buyouts and pay cuts to help stay afloat during the pandemic, running into resistance from the union that represents Chicago Tribune employees, which suspected that the cuts stemmed from hedge fund shareholder Alden Global Management.

 

Sept. 23

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Media News

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Investigations, Scandals

 

More On U.S. Court Battle

 

U.S. Police, Race, Protests

 

Top Stories

The Atlantic, The Election That Could Break America, Barton Gellman, Sept. 23, 2020. There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars atlantic logoatlantic logo horizontaland lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.

If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him? (Excerpt continued below).

ny times logoNew York Times, With Court Prize in Sight, Republicans Unite Behind Trump Once Again, Nicholas Fandos, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The swift rally behind President Trump’s push to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat before the election reflected his lock on the party. But it also shows the political bargain that has been driving many Republicans: a quest to tilt the Supreme Court decisively.

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, left, said on Tuesday that he would back President Trump’s push to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice mitt romney wRuth Bader Ginsburg, cementing all but monolithic Republican support six weeks before the presidential election for confirming a new justice who would tilt the court decisively to the right.

Mr. Romney’s decision capped off an extraordinarily swift and enthusiastic rally by Republicans around Mr. Trump’s position that underscored his iron grip on the party four years into his presidency. But it also reflected the political bargain that has been driving Republicans for much of the past four years.

rnc logoRepublican senators have loyally stood behind the president at every turn, even as he trampled party principles, shattered institutional norms and made crass statements — all in the service of empowering their own party to install a generation of conservative judges in the nation’s federal courts.

Now, with the biggest prize of all in reach — a third seat further tipping the Supreme Court to the right — they are rushing to collect on their bet, even if it is the last thing they do before they lose their Senate majority, Mr. Trump loses the presidency, or both.

washington post logoWashington Post, Study shows virus mutating and potentially evolving amid rapid U.S. spread, Chris Mooney, Joel Achenbach and Joe Fox, Sept. 23, 2020.
The largest U.S. genetic study of the virus, conducted in Houston, shows one viral strain outdistancing all of its competitors, and many potentially important mutations.

vladimir putin djt g 20 2017

ny times logoNew York Times, C.I.A. Reasserts Putin Is Likely Directing Election Influence Efforts to Aid Trump, Julian E. Barnes and David E. Sanger, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is most likely continuing to approve and direct interference operations aimed at raising President Trump’s re-election chances, a recent C.I.A. analysis concluded, a signal that intelligence agencies continue to back their assessment of Russian activities despite the president’s attacks.

The assessment was disseminated in support of sanctions imposed this month on Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker who has spread information critical of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. It is consistent with intelligence officials’ warning to lawmakers in January that Russia was interfering on Mr. Trump’s behalf, a briefing that outraged Republicans and eventually helped oust Joseph Maguire from his post as acting director of national intelligence.

cia logoThe C.I.A. has moderate confidence in its analysis, a lower degree of certainty than its 2016 assessment of Mr. Putin’s preferences, in part because the intelligence community appears to lack intercepted communications or other direct evidence confirming his direction of Mr. Derkach’s efforts. Mr. Putin, a former intelligence agent, is careful not to use electronic devices.

According to people familiar with the matter, the new analysis was published ahead of the sanctions in the C.I.A. Worldwide Intelligence Review, a classified document that circulates to members of Congress and the Trump administration. The Washington Post earlier reported the assessment.

breonna taylor Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, One officer involved in Breonna Taylor shooting is charged but not for her death, Mark Berman, Marisa Iati, Abigail Hauslohner, Keith McMillan, Holly Bailey and Hannah Knowles, Sept. 23, 2020. Actions of officer who killed Taylor (shown above) ruled ‘justified,’

A grand jury in Jefferson County, Ky., has indicted a former Louisville police detective on three charges of wanton endangerment in the first degree in the March 13 shooting death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. Brett Hankison, one of three officers involved, was fired by the department in June, with a termination letter saying he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 times into Taylor’s apartment.

Taylor’s name became a rallying cry for policing overhauls and racial justice as the Black Lives Matter movement swept the United States this summer.

Armored personnel carriers moved into downtown Louisville to clear out protesters who shut down a main city thoroughfare late Wednesday afternoon.

Police declared it “an unlawful assembly” and moved in to make arrests. Sharpshooters stood atop several buildings keeping watch as several police helicopters circled overhead

The disturbance began when protesters moved a barricade to allow cars to enter the protest zone near Jefferson Square Park. The park has become the focal point of more than 100 days of protest related to the death of Breonna Taylor. Protesters, meanwhile, accused the police of ratcheting up the tension.

“This was a peaceful protest and the police are making it worse,” said Rica Martin, 39. She said the police were being overly aggressive and that she feared for the hours ahead. More coverage below.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ruth Bader Ginsburg eulogized as a ‘fighter’ while crowds gather to say goodbye at Supreme Court, Robert Barnes, Jessica Contrera and Samantha Schmidt,  Sept. 23, 2020. Dozens of her former law clerks lined the steps of the grand building to escort the casket of the second female justice for a private ceremony and an open-air viewing for the public.

ruth bader ginsburg scotusThe casket of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, right, arrived Wednesday morning at the Supreme Court, and dozens of her former black-clad law clerks lined the steps of the grand building where she built her reputation as a crusading litigator for women’s rights and then for nearly three decades as a justice.

Dispersed to home offices since the coronavirus pandemic closed the Supreme Court in March, the justices gathered indoors with Ginsburg’s family and close friends for a private ceremony in the Great Hall. Afterward, her casket will be moved to the portico for an open-air viewing.

The White House said President Trump will visit on Thursday. While in the recent past, justices have lain in repose for one day, the extraordinary services planned for Ginsburg recognize the importance of only the second woman to serve on the high court and one who, in her 80s, became something of a cultural icon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Latinos are disproportionately getting sick, dying of coronavirus, exacerbating historic inequalities, Arelis R. Hernández, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). More than 36,500 Latinos have died of the virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Washington Post.

The novel coronavirus is devastating Latino communities across the country, from California’s Imperial Valley to suburban Boston and Puerto Rico. Workers at Midwestern meatpacking plants and on construction sites in Florida are getting sick and dying of a virus that is exacerbating historic inequalities in communities where residents, many of whom are “essential” workers, struggle to access health care. The undocumented are largely invisible.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Rising coronavirus case numbers in many states spur warning of autumn surge, Joel Achenbach and Karin Brulliard, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Progress in slowing the march of the novel coronavirus has stalled in much of the United States, and the pathogen is spreading at dangerous rates in many states as autumn arrives and colder weather — traditionally congenial to viruses — begins to settle across the nation, public health data shows.

Organizations that track the virus, including The Washington Post, have logged recent increases in case numbers and test positivity rates — worrisome trends as the United States on Tuesday surpassed the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths. Hospitalizations and deaths remain lower nationally than at their midsummer peak, but those numbers always lag several weeks behind trends in new infections.

Twenty-seven states and Puerto Rico have shown an increase in the seven-day average of new confirmed cases since the final week of August, according to The Post’s analysis of public health data. Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah set record highs Monday for seven-day averages.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 23, 2020, 12:17 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 31,830,752, Deaths: 976,367
U.S. Cases: 7,098,367, Deaths: 205,495

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fauci finally loses his patience with Rand Paul, Aaron Blake, Sept. 23, 2020. Anthony S. Fauci has clashed repeatedly with his chief Senate critic. But Wednesday, he wasn't so diplomatic about it. Whenever Sen. Rand Paul and Anthony S. Fauci appear at the same hearing together, they are bound to clash. In May, they tangled over children’s susceptibility to the coronavirus. In June, Paul attacked Fauci for not being more optimistic about the coronavirus, saying that Fauci wasn’t the “end-all” and that he should be more humble about what he didn’t know.

Through it all, Fauci has been characteristically diplomatic. But on Wednesday, he seemed to reach his breaking point.

Paul (R-Ky.), as he often has, questioned the strict mitigation measures that states across the country had undertaken. He accused Fauci of being too laudatory of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), noting that Cuomo’s state experienced one of the worst outbreaks in the world.

“How can we possibly be jumping up and saying, ‘Oh, Governor Cuomo did a great job’?” Paul asked. “He had one of the worst death rates in the world.”

That outbreak, of course, was seeded very early on, before much of the more serious mitigation efforts began. And as Fauci rightly noted, the state now has one of the lowest test-positivity rates in the country.

Fauci shot back: “No, you misconstrued that, senator, and you’ve done that repetitively in the past. They got hit very badly. They’ve made some mistakes. Right now — if you look at what’s going on right now, the things that are going on in New York to get their test-positivity 1 percent or less is because they are looking at the guidelines that we have put together from the task force of the four or five things: of masks, social distancing, outdoors more than indoors, avoiding crowds and washing hands—”

Paul interrupted, positing that New York is actually in much better shape right now because it has attained some form of herd immunity. Fauci was again unimpressed.

“I challenge that,” he said. He asked for more time to respond, “because this happens with Senator Rand all the time.”

“You are not listening to what the director of the CDC [Robert Redfield] said,” Fauci added, “that in New York, it’s about 22 percent [that have tested positive]. If you believe 22 percent is herd immunity, I believe you’re alone in that.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: Johnson & Johnson in Final Trial Stage of What Could Be One-Shot Vaccine, Staff reports, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The experimental coronavirus vaccine may only require a single dose. In the Senate, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts will testify today. Johnson & Johnson johnson johnson logoplans to enroll 60,000 participants in its Phase 3 trials. Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top U.S. health officials are scheduled to testify to a Senate panel today.

Plastic face shields do little to reduce the spread of the virus, research suggests. While the face shields can block the spread of some large droplets, they are essentially incapable of capturing droplets five microns or smaller, according to simulations run by researchers on Fugaku, the Japanese supercomputer currently considered the world’s fastest.

 

Media News

Gothamist, NYU Warns Students After Professor Allegedly Declares Masks "Ineffective" In Slowing COVID Spread, Jen Chung, Sept. 23, 2020. Administrators at New York University, one of the few colleges in the area reopening for in-person learning, had to step in after one of its professors allegedly told his students that masks were not effective in mitigating the spread of coronavirus.

"It pains us to comment in any way on a faculty member’s comments, and we do so advisedly now; however, we do not feel we have a choice," school administrators said in an email reminding students that masks are required. "The matter is too important to your health and the health of those around you."

The comes after a student, Julia Jackson, wrote on Twitter that Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media, culture, and communication, recently told students that "wearing masks doesn't prevent the spread of COVID-19":

The email, sent on Monday, was addressed to Miller's students from NYU's Steinhardt School dean, Jack Knott, and Dr. Carlo Ciotoli, who leads the school's COVID-19 response.

It reads, "Amid reports that your professor, Mark Crispin Miller, has been saying that masks are ineffective in checking the spread of COVID-19, we refer to mark crispin millerthe most authoritative public health guidance, which recommends wearing a mask as an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The evidence backs it up. And we remind you that wearing a mask is required at NYU," with links to the CDC's website and NYU's mask guidance.

Miller, right, is known for his controversial views: He was included on a conservative watchlist of radical professors, for allegedly comparing President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, and has suggested the 9/11 attacks were an inside job (his departmental chair, at the time, said in 2017 that he was "entitled to his views").

On his website, Miller called his student's tweets "venomous" and insisted he never specifically told his class not to wear masks.

"Here’s the thread that prompted NYU to email my students, referring them to the CDC’s 'authoritative' position on face masks (that is, the one the CDC now takes, having said the opposite before April), and reaffirming NYU’s strict mask mandate (which I never urged the class to violate)," Miller writes. "I’ve been teaching propaganda (how to study it, not do it) for years now; and while there’s always disagreement, and resistance—both good things—I’ve never had anything like this happen."

Jackson, though, argued in her Twitter thread, that there's a public health emergency:

"The safety of the NYU community, as well as the New York City community, is our top priority," NYU spokesman John Beckman said in a statement to Gothamist. "Mask-wearing is a requirement at NYU for all students and faculty; we communicate it repeatedly to students and employees. Amid the reports about this online class, we have communicated directly with the students in it to remind them of the guidance from health authorities, the evidence supporting it, and that everyone on campus has to wear a mask and follow the other rules, such as maintaining social distancing and being tested regularly. We are pleased to report that the NYU community has embraced this guidance, and we have seen a high degree of compliance with our health rules."

Last week, an NYU dorm was put under lockdown after four students tested positive for the coronavirus. According to the school's COVID dashboard, for the seven-day period between September 12th and September 18th, there have been 53 new cases from almost 12,000 tests, for a positivity rate of 0.43%.

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

atlantic logoThe Atlantic, The Election That Could Break America, Barton Gellman, Sept. 23, 2020 (Continued from above). If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?

Dear Reader:

Sometimes, a story comes along that just can’t wait. That’s why we’ve decided to move up the online publication date for The Atlantic’s next cover story, by our staff writer Barton Gellman.

There is a pervasive and justifiable fear that Donald Trump will reject the election results if he loses to Joe Biden. But as Gellman documents in his authoritative and chilling story, the situation is far more dire than anyone, Biden included, might imagine. Gellman is a three-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, and one of the world’s finest investigative reporters. Given what he has learned, I wanted our readers to have access to his story, which will appear on the cover of our November issue, as soon as possible.

The Atlantic’s work would not be possible without the support of our subscribers. To help our journalists continue to report on today’s most urgent issues, please consider becoming This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Introduction by Jeffrey Goldberg, Editor in Chief, The Atlantic:

Excerpt:

Something has to give, and many things will, when the time comes for casting, canvassing, and certifying the ballots. Anything is possible, including a landslide that leaves no doubt on Election Night. But even if one side takes a commanding early lead, tabulation and litigation of the “overtime count”—millions of mail-in and provisional ballots—could keep the outcome unsettled for days or weeks.

If we are lucky, this fraught and dysfunctional election cycle will reach a conventional stopping point in time to meet crucial deadlines in December and January. The contest will be decided with sufficient authority that the losing candidate will be forced to yield. Collectively we will have made our choice—a messy one, no doubt, but clear enough to arm the president-elect with a mandate to govern.

djt rncAs a nation, we have never failed to clear that bar. But in this election year of plague and recession and catastrophized politics, the mechanisms of decision are at meaningful risk of breaking down. Close students of election law and procedure are warning that conditions are ripe for a constitutional crisis that would leave the nation without an authoritative result. We have no fail-safe against that calamity. Thus the blinking red lights.

“We could well see a protracted postelection struggle in the courts and the streets if the results are close,” says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at the UC Irvine School of Law and the author of a recent book called Election Meltdown. “The kind of election meltdown we could see would be much worse than 2000’s Bush v. Gore case.”

atlantic logo horizontalA lot of people, including Joe Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, have mis­conceived the nature of the threat. They frame it as a concern, unthinkable for presidents past, that Trump might refuse to vacate the Oval Office if he loses. They generally conclude, as Biden has, that in that event the proper authorities “will escort him from the White House with great dispatch.”

The worst case, however, is not that Trump rejects the election outcome. The worst case is that he uses his power to prevent a decisive outcome against him. If Trump sheds all restraint, and if his Republican allies play the parts he assigns them, he could obstruct the emergence of a legally unambiguous victory for Biden in the Electoral College and then in Congress. He could prevent the formation of consensus about whether there is any outcome at all. He could seize on that un­certainty to hold on to power.

Trump’s state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for postelection maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states. Ambiguities in the Constitution and logic bombs in the Electoral Count Act make it possible to extend the dispute all the way to Inauguration Day, which would bring the nation to a precipice.

The Twentieth Amendment is crystal clear that the president’s term in office “shall end” at noon on January 20, but two men could show up to be sworn in. One of them would arrive with all the tools and power of the presidency already in hand.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Day in Polls Analysis: Joe Biden Is Highly Competitive in Red States, Nate Cohn, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). We often focus on the djt biden smiles resizedbattleground states that decided the last election and seem likeliest to decide the next one. Today, we got polls from two states that Donald J. Trump won handily in 2016, and they’re an important reminder of the wide range of possibilities in this election.

An even race in Iowa and Georgia. We haven’t had much high-quality polling in either Iowa or Georgia recently, but we got one for each state Tuesday.

wayne madesen report logoWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Trump takes another shot at seniors: Medicare and Medigap costs increasing in 2021, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 23, 2020.
wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallNot content with referring to the 200,000 Americans who have perished from Covid-19 as "virtual nobodies," Donald Trump has a particularly damaging surprise in store for senior citizens. Trump's category of "nobodies," who he classed as "elderly people with heart problems and other problems," are going to see costly rises in Medicare and Medigap costs in 2021.

Once considered an essential component of Trump's base, senior citizens are flocking away in droves from Trump, particularly in key states with large numbers of retirees, including Florida, Arizona, and Texas.

After hinting to Social Security recipients that they may see little to no cost-of-living allowance (COLA) benefits increase next month, the Trump administration is raising Medicare Part B premiums, which are deducted from recipients' Social Security monthly payments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, Biden in tight races in Florida, Arizona, polls find, Scott Clement, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin, Sept. 23, 2020. President Trump won the two Sun Belt states in 2016, and they are crucial to his hopes for reelection in November. The Trump team knocks on doors. Biden’s supporters dial phones. Voters in North Carolina see two very different campaigns, each ri%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage#polls-show-biden-highly-competitive-in-red-states But a landslide and a close race are both imaginable. Here’s our analysis of recent polling, posted daily now through Election Day.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans have tried to use the Green Party to their advantage, Maggie Haberman, Danny Hakim and Nick Corasaniti, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The G.O.P. has sought to help Green Party candidates in previous election cycles to siphon votes from Democrats. This year is no different — but it hasn’t always worked.

Four years ago, the Green Party candidate played a significant role in several crucial battleground states, drawing a vote total in three of them — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that exceeded the margin between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton.

This year, the Republican Party has been trying to use the Green Party to its advantage again, if not always successfully.

howie hawkins 2010In Wisconsin, a G.O.P. elections commissioner and lawyers with ties to Republicans tried to aid attempts by Howie Hawkins, right, the current Green Party presidential candidate, to get on the ballot there, which were ultimately unsuccessful. In Montana, state regulators found that the Republican Party violated campaign finance laws as part of an effort to boost the Greens in five down-ballot races, including for senator and governor.

And in Western Pennsylvania, petitioners from Florida and California were brought in to gather signatures for Mr. Hawkins by an outside firm whose actions Mr. Hawkins and the party said they could not account for. Mr. Hawkins also did not make the ballot there.

gop upside down resized logo

Palmer Report, Opinion: What is even happening? Bill Palmer, Sept. 23, 2020. Last night Cindy McCain, right, the very Republican widow of the very Republican cindy mccain 2018Senator John McCain, left, emphatically endorsed Democratic candidate Joe Biden for President. This is a big deal, considering Arizona is in play, and how much influence the McCains have there.

john mccain 2009 wThe fact that this endorsement didn’t come as a surprise to anyone is a reminder of just how unprecedented and surreal 2020 has become.

Even as the McCain family stamp of approval was being placed on Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent, Trump spent last night ranting incoherently about protesters attacking people by throwing tuna fish at them. Not just any tuna fish, mind you. Trump was emphatic that these protesters are throwing Bumble Bee tuna fish. Last week Trump had them throwing soup.

Yet 2020 is the kind of year where the President of the United States routinely has mentally incompetent meltdowns about imaginary people throwing food at each other, and no one is surprised.

bill palmer report logo headerIn an election cycle that’s seen a deadly pandemic, a criminal coverup of the deadly pandemic, widespread civil unrest, economic collapse, widespread wildfires, and a sitting President who’s actively conspiring against the United States because he’s an asset of the Russian government, perhaps we’re no longer capable of being surprised. But at the least, it’s fair to ask what’s even happening, because it all just keeps getting stranger. 

 

U.S. Investigations, Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP senators’ report calls Hunter Biden’s board role with Ukraine firm ‘problematic,’ but fails to show how it changed U.S. policy, Karoun Demirjian, Tom Hamburger and Paul Sonne, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The report comes less than a week before President Trump faces former vice president Joe Biden in the first presidential debate.

A pair of Senate Republican committee chairmen released a report Wednesday arguing that Hunter Biden’s board position with a Ukrainian energy company was “awkward,” “problematic” and interfered with “efficient execution of policy” for the Obama administration, but failed to demonstrate that it changed the ukraine flagadministration’s policy toward Ukraine.

ron johnson oSenate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), right, and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) co-authored the report, which comes just weeks before the Nov. 3 election between President Trump and Joe Biden.

The GOP report concludes that “Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board was problematic and did interfere in the efficient execution of policy with respect to Ukraine,” while charging that he and other Biden relatives “cashed in on Joe Biden’s vice presidency.”

But at the same time, the report states that “the extent to which Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board affected U.S. policy toward Ukraine is not clear.”

hunter biden unshaven newHunter Biden, left, held a lucrative job on the board of the company while Joe Biden was vice president. At the time, Joe Biden and the Obama administration were seeking to root out corruption in Ukraine.

In a statement issued before the report’s release, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates accused Johnson of trying “to subsidize a foreign attack against the sovereignty of our elections with taxpayer dollars — an attack founded on a long-disproven, hardcore right-wing conspiracy theory that hinges on Sen. Johnson himself being corrupt and that the senator has now explicitly stated he is attempting to exploit to bail out Donald Trump’s reelection campaign.”

The investigation, which was launched last year, has been mired in controversy since the start, as Democrats accused Johnson and Grassley of running the probe to try to counter the House’s impeachment of Trump, who pressured Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens. The standoff took a darker turn this summer, when Democrats accused Johnson of laundering Russian disinformation through his probe — a charge Johnson and Grassley have vehemently rejected.

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP’s own star witness just blew up Trump’s ‘Hunterghazi’ smear, Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman, Sept. 23, 2020.  President Trump has spent over two years trying to “prove” that Joe Biden’s activities in Ukraine were corrupt. He and lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, below right, schemed over this for many months, with Trump ultimately trying to strong-arm the Ukrainian president into announcing an djt rudy giuliani Custominvestigation into those activities, which got Trump impeached even as the smears they manufactured crashed and burned.

Now Trump has been counting on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to validate these narratives, via an inquiry conducted by the Homeland Security committee, which Johnson chairs. The goal was to use the official sheen of a Senate probe — one also conducted with the Finance Committee — to manufacture the impression of wrongdoing on Biden’s part.

But as befits this cast of bumblers and incompetents, the star witness in the GOP’s own investigation has actually further undermined those smears.

burisma logoJohnson has now released his long-awaited (by Trump, anyway) report on his investigation. One of its big revelations is supposed to be that George Kent, a top State Department official, testified that he “raised concerns” inside the Obama administration about appearances of george kent oconflicts of interest surrounding the business activities of the then-vice president’s son Hunter.

But, while that itself is true, there’s a big problem here: Kent, shown at right, also gave the committee testimony that completely undermines the larger narrative that Trump and Republicans have tried to spin into political gold for over a year.

washington post logoWashington Post, In secret tapes, mine executives detail their sway over leaders from Juneau to the White House, Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Environmentalists posed as potential investors in a controversial Alaska gold mine and secretly recorded conversations with top executives who are trying to get federal approvals for the project.

A direct line to the White House, but routed through a third party to hide it from public view. Easy access to Alaska’s governor, as well as the state’s two U.S. senators. A successful push to unseat nine Republican state lawmakers who opposed their plan to build a massive gold and copper mine — the biggest in North America — near Bristol Bay in Alaska.

Those were some of the boasts made by two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group and made public Monday. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s heated campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its world-famous sockeye salmon fishery.

The conversations were secretly recorded over the past month and a half by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency. Posing as potential investors in the mine, EIA investigators conducted Zoom calls in which the mine’s sponsors detailed how they sought to curry favor with elected politicians from Juneau to Washington, D.C.

washington post logoWashington Post, Alaska mining executive resigns a day after being caught on tape boasting of his ties to GOP politicians, Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 23, 2020. 
Tom Collier, who stood to get a $12.4 million bonus if the Pebble Mine went ahead, resigned in the wake of secretly-recorded talks with environmentalists posing as potential investors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats seek investigation into Pentagon’s coronavirus fund after publication of Post article, Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torbati, Sept. pentagon dc skyline dod photo23, 2020 (print ed.). Pentagon used taxpayer money meant for masks and swabs to make jet engine parts, body armor. Congressional Democrats sharply criticized a Defense Department decision to repurpose a $1 billion coronavirus fund into an economic stimulus for defense contractors, a change the lawmakers say violated congressional intent.

Two lawmakers asked for an investigation and public hearings on the matter following a Washington Post article that revealed the change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Trump’s son Eric to meet with N.Y. attorney general’s office investigators by Oct. 7, Shayna Jacobs, Sept. 23, 2020. A state judge on Wednesday ordered Eric Trump to be deposed no later than Oct. 7 in the New York attorney general's examination of the Trump Organization's financial practices, rejecting a protest by President Trump's son, who has said he is too busy to meet with investigators until after November's election.

Letitia James 150x150The ruling was handed down by New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron after nearly two hours of arguments in a lawsuit brought by state investigators conducting the civil investigation (led by Attorney General Letitia James, right).

The president’s company is managed now by his two sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., both of whom have taken active roles in their father’s reelection efforts. An attorney for Eric Trump said during Wednesday’s hearing that the president’s son travels nearly seven days a week to make campaign-related appearances.

washington post logoWashington Post, Alaska mining executive resigns a day after being caught on tape boasting of his ties to GOP politicians, Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 23, 2020. 
Tom Collier, who stood to get a $12.4 million bonus if the Pebble Mine went ahead, resigned in the wake of secretly-recorded talks with environmentalists posing as potential investors.

NorthJersey.com, Former Bergen County Judge Andrew Napolitano faces second sexual assault claim, Svetlana Shkolnikova, Sept. 24, 2020. A second man has accused former Bergen County Judge and Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano of sexual assault, announcing in a court filing Wednesday that he intends to sue.

andrew napolitano by gage skidmore wJames Kruzelnick did not detail the alleged assault in a brief sworn declaration but said he had many interactions with Napolitano while working as a waiter at two restaurants in Sussex County in recent years. He claims Napolitano (shown in a photo by Gage Skidmore) would often request that Kruzelnick serve as his waiter.

“I too was sexually assaulted by Napolitano,” Kruzelnicks' declaration reads. “In the near future, I intend to file a lawsuit against Napolitano based on what he did to me.”

The new allegation was included in court documents filed by attorneys for Charles Corbishley, a South Carolina resident who sued Napolitano this month for allegedly forcing Corbishley to perform oral sex on him in Hackensack in the late 1980s. Corbishley stood in Napolitano’s court on arson and burglary charges at the time of the alleged assault and is seeking $10 million in damages.

Tom Clare, Napolitano’s attorney, denied Kruzelnick's claim. "The gratuitous inclusion of this copycat nonsense in a routine procedural filing is nothing more than a sad attempt to prop up Mr. Corbishley’s doomed lawsuit and the latest attempt by Mr. Corbishley and his lawyers to smear Judge Napolitano," Clare said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Another woman says the president assaulted her. Is anyone listening? Monica Hesse, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The number of President Trump’s accusers has grown since 2016. The attention paid to them has waned.

News articles from last week can tell you precisely where Amy Dorris was 23 years ago, on the day she claims Donald Trump forcibly kissed her and grabbed her breasts and buttocks. What she was wearing, even: There are photos of the former model in her casual top and belted jeans.

The articles can ascertain that she was indeed with the future president: He’s in the photographs, too, sitting next to her at the tennis tournament she attended with her boyfriend, putting his arm around her in a VIP box.

The articles include the kind of corroboration we’ve come to require of credible accusers: Dorris told her mother and friends about the incident years ago, before such an allegation would have had political consequences.

Does it have political consequences now?

Because it seems like the answer is no.

ny times logoNew York Times, Americans Have Lost $145 Million to Coronavirus Fraud, Christina Morales and Christine Hauser, Sept. 23, 2020. More than 200,000 complaints of scams and fraud have been filed so far this year, data from the Federal Trade Commission shows. Schemes related to the coronavirus peaked in the spring, and they focused on federal stimulus payments and other forms of financial relief, personal protective equipment, and unemployment and other government benefits, the commission reported.

The data was compiled by the commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, which provides law enforcement agencies and the public with information about rampant forms of fraud. The network has tracked about 206,000 reports of fraud, identity theft, spam telephone calls and other potential scams related to the coronavirus that were submitted to the F.T.C. from Jan. 1 through Sept. 22.

According to Monica Vaca, director of the F.T.C.’s division of consumer response and operations, what is breathtaking about the reports is that the problems encompass so many aspects of consumers’ lives.

 

More On U.S. Court Battle

washington post logoWashington Post, Partisan fight over Supreme Court could affect issues and image, Robert Barnes, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). If the bare-knuckles partisan supreme court buildingfight over the Supreme Court results in a triumphant President Trump adding a third justice to the bench, three areas seem especially ripe for change: abortion, gun control and religious liberty concerns important to the right.

But there’s another issue that might become a casualty: the court’s image, smudged as it may already be, as being above the nation’s political fray.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Special Hell of Trump’s Supreme Court Appointment, Frank Bruni, below right, Sept. 23, 2020 (print ed.). With a frank bruninonexistent mandate, he does extraordinary damage.

President Barack Obama appointed two Supreme Court justices: Sonia Sotomayor and then Elena Kagan. That was over two terms, both of which were secured with wide-margin victories in the popular vote as well as the Electoral College.

President George W. Bush also got just two Supreme Court justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, but again, over two terms. President Bill Clinton? Same. (He appointed Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.)

President George H.W. Bush got two (David Souter and Clarence Thomas) in one term. President Ronald Reagan got three (Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy) in two terms.

 

U.S. Race, Protests, Police

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, ‘Race and Violence in our Cities’? A topic for the first presidential debate draws criticism, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, Sept. 23, 2020. Moderator Chris Wallace’s framing of an issue tilts too heavily toward President Trump’s characterization, critics say.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Times investigation from August examined how Ms. Taylor landed in the middle of a deadly drug raid, Rukmini Callimachi, Aug. 30, 2020. Our documentary investigates recordings and police records to reveal a clearer picture of the raid.

An ex-boyfriend’s run-ins with the law entangled her even as she tried to move on. Interviews, documents and jailhouse recordings help explain how she landed in the middle of a deadly drug raid.

Breonna Taylor had just done four overnight shifts at the hospital where she worked as an emergency room technician. To let off some steam, she and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, planned a date night: dinner at a steakhouse, followed by a movie in bed.

Usually, they headed to his apartment, where he lived alone and she had left a toothbrush and a flat iron. But that night, they went to the small unit she shared with her younger sister, who was away on a trip. It was dark when the couple pulled into the parking lot, then closed the door to Apartment 4 behind them.

A Kentucky grand jury indicted one former Louisville officer in the Breonna Taylor case.

This was the year of big plans for the 26-year-old: Her home was brimming with the Post-it notes and envelopes on which she wrote her goals. She had just bought a new car. Next on the list: buying her own home. And trying to have a baby with Mr. Walker. They had already chosen a name.

She fell asleep next to him just after midnight on March 13, the movie still playing. “The last thing she said was, ‘Turn off the TV,’” he said in an interview.

From the parking lot, undercover officers surveilling Ms. Taylor’s apartment before a drug raid saw only the blue glow of the television.

When they punched in the door with a battering ram, Mr. Walker, fearing an intruder, reached for his gun and let off one shot, wounding an officer. He and another officer returned fire, while a third began blindly shooting through Ms. Taylor’s window and patio door. Bullets ripped through nearly every room in her apartment, then into two adjoining ones. They sliced through a soap dish, a chair and a table and shattered a sliding-glass door.

Ms. Taylor, struck five times, bled out on the floor.

Breonna Taylor has since become an icon, her silhouette a symbol of police violence and racial injustice. Michelle Obama and Kamala Harris spoke her name during their speeches at the Democratic convention. Oprah Winfrey ceded the cover of her magazine for the first time to feature the young Black woman, and paid for billboards with her image across Louisville. Beyoncé called for the three white officers who opened fire to be criminally charged. N.B.A. stars including LeBron James devoted postgame interviews to keeping her name in the news.

Nearly six months after Ms. Taylor’s killing, the story of what happened that night — and what came before and after — remains largely untold. Unlike the death of George Floyd, which was captured on video as a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck, Ms. Taylor’s final moments remain in shadow because no such footage exists.

But a clearer picture of Ms. Taylor’s death and life, of the person behind the cause, emerged from dozens of interviews with public officials and people who knew her, as well as a review of over 1,500 pages of police records, including evidence logs, transcripts of jailhouse recordings and surveillance photos. The Louisville Metro Police Department, citing a pending investigation, declined to answer simple questions about the case or make anyone available for interviews.

The daughter of a teenage mother and a man who has been incarcerated since she was a child, Ms. Taylor attended college, trained as an E.M.T. and hoped to become a nurse. But along the way, she developed a yearslong relationship with a twice-convicted drug dealer whose trail led the police to her door that fateful night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Allegations of racism have marked Trump’s term, becoming key issue as election nears, Greg Miller, Sept. 23, 2020. There is a substantial record of President Trump’s actions that have compounded the perceptions of racism created by his words. 

In unguarded moments with senior aides, President Trump has maintained that Black Americans have mainly themselves to blame in their struggle for equality, hindered more by lack of initiative than societal impediments, according to current and former U.S. officials.

After phone calls with Jewish lawmakers, Trump has muttered that Jews “are only in it for themselves” and “stick together” in an ethnic allegiance that exceeds other loyalties, officials said.

Trump’s private musings about Hispanics match the vitriol he has displayed in public, and his antipathy to Africa is so ingrained that when first lady Melania Trump planned a 2018 trip to that continent he railed that he “could never understand why she would want to go there.”

When challenged on these views by subordinates, Trump has invariably responded with indignation. “He would say, ‘No one loves Black people more than me,’ ” a former senior White House official said. The protests rang hollow because if the president were truly guided by such sentiments he “wouldn’t need to say it,” the official said. “You let your actions speak.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Wells Fargo CEO apologizes after disparaging Black talent pool, Hamza Shaban, Sept. 23, 2020. Wells Fargo’s chief executive apologized Wednesday for blaming the lack of Black employees at the bank on a “limited” talent pool.

“While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from,” Charlie Scharf said in a June company memo, Reuters reported Tuesday. The memo and similar statements by Scharf during a Zoom meeting exasperated some Black employees, according to the news service.

Scharf’s comments were pilloried online.

“Perhaps it’s the CEO of Wells Fargo who lacks the talent to recruit Black workers,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in a tweet.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “I know many highly talented Black lawyers who would have advised you against making such a statement.”

 

Sept. 22

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Supreme Court

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon used taxpayer money meant for masks and swabs to make jet engine parts and body armor, Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torbati, Sept. 22, 2020. Shortly after Congress passed the Cares Act, the Pentagon began directing pandemic-related money to defense contractors. 

andrew weissmann resized cnn

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Team Could Have Done More in Trump-Russia Inquiry, Insider Says, Charlie Savage, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). A new book by one of the special counsel’s top deputies, Andrew Weissmann (shown above), is the first inside account of the investigation.

The team led by Robert S. Mueller III, right, the special counsel, failed to do everything it could to determine what happened in the 2016 election, shying away robert mueller full face filefrom steps like subpoenaing President Trump and scrutinizing his finances out of fear that he would fire them, one of Mr. Mueller’s top lieutenants argued in a new book that serves as the first insider account of the inquiry.

“Had we used all available tools to uncover the truth, undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our efforts?” wrote the former prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, adding, “I know the hard answer to that simple question: We could have done andrew weissman covermore.”

Mr. Weissmann sharply criticized the president as “lawless” but also accused Mr. Mueller’s deputy, Aaron M. Zebley, of being overly cautious, according to an account in The Atlantic of the book, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation. Random House, which will publish the book next week, also provided an early copy to The New York Times on the condition that it not publish information from FBI logoits own access until after an embargo that lifts at 7 p.m. on Monday.

Previously a longtime lawyer at the F.B.I. for Mr. Mueller, who was the bureau’s director for 12 years, Mr. Weissmann ran one of three major units for the special counsel’s office: Team M, which prosecuted Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for numerous financial crimes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Could Be Investigated for Tax Fraud, D.A. Says for First Time, Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The assertion by the Manhattan district attorney is the most detailed disclosure about its effort to obtain eight years of President Trump’s tax returns.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which has been locked in a yearlong legal battle with President Trump over obtaining his tax returns, suggested for the first time in a court filing on Monday that it had grounds to investigate him and his businesses for tax fraud.

The filing by the office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., offered rare insight into the office’s investigation of the president and his business cyrus vance jrdealings, which began more than two years ago.

Mr. Vance, a Democrat, has never revealed the scope of his office’s criminal inquiry, citing grand jury secrecy. The investigation has been stalled by the fight over a subpoena that the office issued in August 2019 for eight years of the president’s tax returns.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump have said the subpoena should be blocked, calling it “wildly overbroad” and politically motivated. Mr. Vance responded to that argument in a carefully worded new filing that did not directly accuse Mr. Trump or any of his businesses or associates of wrongdoing and took pains to avoid disclosing details about the inquiry.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court updates: Romney Backs Moving Forward on Supreme Court Pick, Staff reports, Sept. 22, 2020. The move by Senator Mitt Romney all but assures that President Trump will have the votes to cement a conservative majority on the high court. Here’s the latest.

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said on Tuesday that he would support moving forward to fill the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all but assuring that President Trump has the votes he needs for an election-season confirmation to cement a conservative majority on the high court.

mitt romney wIn a statement Tuesday morning, Mr. Romney, left, echoed Republican leaders who have said that historical precedent supported filling the seat in an election year when the presidency and Senate were controlled by the same party.

“The Constitution gives the president the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees,” he said. “Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”

Mr. Romney, the 2012 presidential nominee who is one of the few Republicans who have been willing to criticize Mr. Trump, had been closely watched as a potential defector given his past breaks with the president, including when he voted to convict him in the impeachment trial and remove him from office.

But with the rest of his party quickly swinging into line, it had become clear that Mr. Romney’s opposition would not have been sufficient to block a swift march toward confirmation. Speaking with reporters, Mr. Romney indicated he would defer to party leaders on whether to try to hold a vote before Election Day or after, but said it was only fitting that Republicans have the chance to install a conservative on the nation’s highest court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump says he will announce Supreme Court pick by end of week after meeting with a top candidate for Ginsburg seat, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.).Jockeying over President Trump’s next Supreme Court pick ramped up Monday as the president pledged to unveil his candidate to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the end of the week and conservative groups began aligning behind a push to quickly confirm the eventual nominee.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoTrump continued to seek advice from senior White House officials, key Senate Republicans and conservative leaders about his Supreme Court choice, who if confirmed would cement a conservative majority on the court for years. The momentum appeared to grow behind Judge Amy Coney Barrett, right, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, who met with Trump at the White House on Monday, according to two people familiar with her visit.

She is a favorite of religious conservatives and is already battle-tested after going through a ferocious confirmation fight in 2017 for her seat on the appeals court. But Trump aides and allies continue to push other candidates, with Judge Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit considered the other top contender.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats largely powerless to stop GOP from confirming Trump’s court choice, Paul Kane and Rachael Bade, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.).  Senate Democrats and their liberal allies confronted the grim reality Monday that they have no path to blocking President Trump’s pending Supreme Court nomination other than a political pressure campaign that peels away a minimum of four GOP votes.

Deep into their sixth year in the minority, Democrats can use some procedural tactics that might briefly slow the confirmation process, but if at least 50 Republicans approve of Trump’s pick to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that nominee is certain to be seated.

Publicly, Democrats vowed to fight with every fiber in the Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings and on the Senate floor, as the liberal alliance of outside interest groups began planning how to mount a campaign that would try to turn Republicans against the nominee. But the process ahead leaves no room for error, and even a perfectly executed pressure campaign could still fall short.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Denial and Defiance: Trump and His Base Downplay the Virus, Adam Nagourney and Jeremy W. Peters, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). With resistance to face masks and scorn for science, President Trump and a sizable number of his supporters are pushing an alternate reality before the election.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 22, 2020, 14:44 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad),

World Cases: 31,550,717, Deaths: 970,529
U.S. Cases: 7,049,165, Deaths: 204,633

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates: U.S. surpasses 200,000 coronavirus deaths, Staff reports, Sept. 22, 2020. The coronavirus death toll in the United States surpassed 200,000 on Tuesday, marking another milestone of loss at a time when many have become numb to the ever-rising fatality count. The tally represents the upper boundary of a fatality range that President Trump in March said would signal that his administration had “done a very good job” of protecting Americans from the coronavirus.

The tally represents the upper boundary of a fatality range that President Trump in March said would signal that his administration had “done a very good job” of protecting Americans from the coronavirus.

But the number of deaths continues to grow, averaging more than 800 per day, as the country still lacks an approved treatment or a vaccine to combat the pandemic. A forecast released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington this month predicted that U.S. fatalities could reach 410,000 by the end of the year.

washington post logoWashington Post, NIH staffer to retire after he was exposed as the blogger behind anti-Fauci, anti-mask stories, Lenny Bernstein, Elahe Izadi and Jeremy Barr, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). A public-affairs specialist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will retire after revelations that he used a pseudonym online to savage the government response to the covid-19 pandemic — including the work of Anthony S. Fauci, who heads that agency, an NIAID spokeswoman said Monday.

William Crews told NIAID officials he will retire after the Daily Beast revealed he is also the managing editor of the conservative website RedState.com, where, under the pseudonym “streiff,” he has ridiculed the government’s activity against the coronavirus outbreak, according to the NIAID spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified because the matter involves personnel.

The spokeswoman, who confirmed the Daily Beast’s reporting that Crews is the pseudonymous writer, said the agency had learned of the matter Monday morning.

The Daily Beast reported that Crews, as “streiff,” has called Fauci a “mask nazi,” and implied that “government officials responsible for the pandemic response should be executed.” It’s unclear whether Crews had direct dealings on the job with Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease official and one of the leaders of the government’s response to the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC removes statement on airborne virus transmission, claiming website error, Tim Elfrink, Ben Guarino and Chris Mooney, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The agency had posted guidelines suggesting the virus can transmit over a distance larger than six feet and that indoor ventilation is key to protection against its spread.

On Monday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention edited its Web page describing how the novel coronavirus spreads, removing recently added language saying it was “possible” that it spreads via airborne transmission. It was the third major revision to CDC information or guidelines published since May.

cdc logo CustomThe agency had posted information Friday stating the virus can transmit over a distance beyond six feet, suggesting that indoor ventilation is key to protecting against a virus that has now killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

The CDC shifted its guidelines Friday, but the change was not widely noticed until a CNN report Sunday. Where the agency previously warned that the virus mostly spreads through large drops encountered at close range, on Friday, it had said “small particles, such as those in aerosols,” were a common vector.

But Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious disease, said the Friday update was posted in error. “Unfortunately an early draft of a revision went up without any technical review,” he said.

The edited Web page has removed all references to airborne spread, except for a disclaimer that recommendations based on this mode of transmission are under review. “We are returning to the earlier version and revisiting that process,” Butler said. “It was a failure of process at CDC.”

For months, scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the coronavirus is airborne, transmitted through tiny droplets called aerosols that linger in the air much longer than the larger globs that come from coughing or sneezing.

Experts who reviewed the CDC’s Friday post had said the language change had the power to shift policy and public behavior. Some suggested it should drive a major rethinking of public policy — particularly at a time when students in many areas are returning to indoor classrooms. Earlier story below:

washington post logoWashington Post, The CDC says coronavirus is airborne and spread by aerosols, warns of badly ventilated spaces, Tim Elfrink, Sept. 21, 2020. “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes),” the agency says.

cdc logo CustomFor months, scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the novel coronavirus is airborne, transmitted through tiny droplets called aerosols that linger in the air much longer than the larger globs that come from coughing or sneezing.

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. The CDC recently changed its official guidance to note that aerosols are “thought to be the main way the virus spreads” and to warn that badly ventilated indoor spaces are particularly dangerous.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Children Will Have to Wait for a Vaccine, Staff reports, Sept. 22, 2020.Clinical trials have not involved children, so vaccines for them may not arrive until the next school year. The British government is imposing new restrictions. Here’s the latest. 

 

U.S. Supreme Court

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Amy Coney Barrett’s judicial record should alarm liberals, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). When President Trump was down to ruth marcus twitter Customthe wire in naming a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, one of the strikes against federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett was her scanty judicial record.

Conservatives had learned a painful lesson with previous picks — Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter — who turned out to be more moderate than advertised. They had internalized the experience: No more stealth nominees. Candidates needed to have a lengthy enough judicial paper trail to be amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoconfident of how they would perform on the high court.

So Barrett, left, named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit just eight months earlier, lost out to Brett M. Kavanaugh — even though an examination of her academic writings strongly suggested that, at least on the issue most important to social conservatives, she would be solidly opposed to abortion rights and inclined, even eager, to reverse Roe v. Wade. As I wrote at the time, “while Barrett has the shortest judicial paper trail of the likely nominees, her academic writings are the equivalent of a flashing neon sign: I’ll do it.”

More than two years later, Barrett has amassed a judicial track record — nearly 100 written opinions, and many more votes on cases before her — to support that assessment. In her still relatively short time on the bench, Barrett has considered two abortion cases and ruled against abortion rights in both.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Supreme Court Pick May Need to Denounce Roe. Good, Michelle Goldberg, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Judicial nominees michelle goldberg thumbshould be honest about their stance on abortion. In a floor speech in July, Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, issued an ultimatum on future Supreme Court fights.

josh hawley missouri“I will vote only for those Supreme Court nominees who have explicitly acknowledged that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided,” said Hawley, shown at left. He would require on-the-record evidence that the next Republican nominee “understands Roe to be the travesty that it is.” Absent that, he said, “I will not support the nomination.”

The day after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, Hawley reiterated this commitment, and called on his fellow Republican senators to do the same.

Others on the religious right may impose a similar litmus test. Social conservatives felt betrayed when, in June, Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, wrote in a majority opinion that it’s illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to fire someone for being gay or transgender.

At this bleak moment for reproductive rights, this counts as good news. It might at last end the absurd charade that allows conservative Supreme Court nominees to obscure their opposition to legal abortion. Just over six weeks before the election, it should make clear to everyone what is at stake if Trump is allowed to replace Ginsburg.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Voting G.O.P. Means Voting Against Health Care, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has only raised the stakes.

If you or someone you care about are among the more than 50 million Americans suffering from pre-existing medical conditions, you should be aware that the stakes in this year’s election go beyond abstract things like, say, the survival of American democracy. They’re also personal. If Donald Trump is re-elected, you will lose the protection you’ve had since the Affordable Care Act went into effect almost seven years ago.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made this even more obvious. In fact, it’s now possible that coverage of pre-existing conditions will be stripped away even if Trump loses to Joe Biden, unless Democrats also take the Senate and are prepared to play serious hardball. But health care was always on the line.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, In Latest Legal Rebuke, Court Orders Postal Service to Prioritize Mail-In Voting, Luke Broadwater, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge in New York on Monday ordered the Postal Service to reverse operational changes that have slowed mail delivery in recent months and to prioritize election mail, the victor marrerolatest legal rebuke to Louis DeJoy’s management of the agency.

By Friday, Judge Victor Marrero, right, said in his ruling, the Postal Service must begin treating all election mail, including ballots, as first-class or priority mail; preapprove all overtime requested from Oct. 26 to Nov. 6, the peak times for election mail; and submit a plan to restore us mail logoon-time delivery of mail to its highest level this year.

The order came in response to a lawsuit that mail-in voters from six states brought against President Trump and Mr. DeJoy, the postmaster general. The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, sought to block cuts that Mr. DeJoy had put in place just months before the election in November.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s attack on Susan Collins should serve as a wake up call to every GOP Senator, Bill Palmer, Sept. 22, 2020. Just two years ago, Republican Senator Susan Collins threw away her reputation, her legacy, and her soul by confirming Brett Kavanaugh. She believed that by doing so, she’d ingratiate herself with Donald Trump and his base to the point that she’d get reelected no matter what.

bill palmer report logo headerNow Collins is losing her reelection bid by as much as twelve points, because as it turns out, people tend to have long memories when you put a mentally unstable perjurer and rapist on the Supreme Court. Over the weekend Collins made the desperate move of tepidly announcing her opposition to moving forward with the current Supreme Court nomination process. As a result of having helped out Trump last time, she’s now losing so badly that she has to lightly push back against him. For her trouble, Trump is now openly attacking her.

Susan CollinsTrump is insisting that voters “are not going to take it” and that they’re going to punish Susan Collins for daring to voice her opposition to moving forward with the nomination process. He’s insisting that she’s going to be “very badly hurt” by this. In other words, Trump is telling his supporters not to bother voting for Collins, right.

Donald Trump is obviously trying to make an example out of Susan Collins, in the hope of preventing any other Republican Senators from defecting. He’s trying to send the message that if they do, he’ll attack them.

But the message he’s really sending is that even when it comes to someone as corruptly loyal as Collins, he has no loyalty to offer in return. The other GOP Senators should take this as a clear signal that he’s not going to have their backs either, no matter what they do. Trump will be gone soon, and every Republican in office will have to answer for the Trump era. How many of them want to go down with him?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: GOP senators who play with fire with the Supreme Court will get scorched, Jennifer Rubin, Sept. 22, 2020. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), below at left, is going down a path that is overwhelmingly unpopular (more than 60 percent of voters and half of Republicans want to wait until after the election, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll). Other polling suggests the Supreme Court is now a bigger issue for Democrats than for Republicans.

Mitchell_McConnellTo make matters even more dicey, McConnell launches forward during a time of unprecedented mourning and adulation for a justice who was an icon and inspiration to millions of women. She will be the first woman in history to lie in state in the Capitol. Think how significant that is, both as a reflection of her historical importance and as a reminder that women before Ginsburg were locked out of the halls of power.

Seeing her replaced by someone devoted to ripping up Ginsburg’s legacy might be just the thing to send turnout among women and younger voters through the roof.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats, it’s time to get mad — and even, Eugene Robinson, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). This is a moment to get mad and to get even. The way to do that is to crush President Trump and pulverize the Republican Party in the coming election.

Trump has the power to name a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week. He says he will nominate a woman, surely an archconservative just raring to kill the Affordable Care Act and reverse Roe v. Wade. The GOP-led Senate has the power to confirm her. And because it can, we should expect that it will.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death brings new uncertainty to the battle over voting rights in 2020, Elise Viebeck and Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 22, 2020. The vacancy left by the Supreme Court justice comes at a critical point in a campaign already defined by hundreds of lawsuits over voting rules.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Bloomberg raises $16 million to allow former felons to vote in Florida, Michael Scherer, Sept. 22, 2020. The effort to help elect Democrat Joe Biden is targeted at convicted Black and Hispanic voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi, Mnuchin renew search for bipartisan deal to avert government shutdown, Erica Werner, Sept. 22, 2020. House vote set for Tuesday on short-term bill opposed by Republicans may be delayed as Democratic leader and Treasury secretary seek common ground. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin renewed efforts Tuesday to find a bipartisan deal to keep the government open past Sept. 30, a day after House Democrats unveiled a stopgap spending bill that Republicans opposed.

The House had been set to vote Tuesday afternoon on the Democrats’ short-term spending legislation, which would keep the government open through Dec. 11. But the measure excluded funding for a farm bailout program sought by Republicans and the Trump administration. The House vote was delayed as negotiations that broke down Friday night resumed.

Leaders in both parties expressed hopes of reaching an agreement. If Congress fails to pass a new spending bill before Sept. 30 at midnight, large portions of the government will begin to shut down. The bill also also must be signed by President Trump ahead of the shutdown deadline.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. targets Portland, New York and Seattle over protests, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration has released a list of cities that face possible federal aid cuts. A similar approach over immigration policies has been blocked by the courts. The Justice Department labeled the cities of Portland, Ore., New York and Seattle on Monday as jurisdictions “that have permitted violence and destruction of property,” targeting them for possible cuts in federal funding.

Justice Department log circularFollowing a memorandum that President Trump issued earlier this month, the Justice Department published a list of cities that the White House wants to get more aggressive on civil unrest in the wake of police shootings and killings.

“We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted,” Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement. “It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens.”

 

breonna taylor Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Louisville Prepares for Crucial Decision in Breonna Taylor Case, Richard A. Oppel Jr., Derrick Bryson Taylor and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Sept. 22, 2020. Fury over the killing of Ms. Taylor (shown above) by the police has been growing, driving tense demonstrations in Louisville, Ky., and elsewhere. A decision on whether to charge the officers involved may come soon.

The Louisville Metro Police Department is preparing for a possible announcement this week about whether criminal charges will be brought against the white officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker whose death in March was one of several police killings that drove demonstrations across the country this summer.

It is unclear if an announcement from the Kentucky attorney general, Daniel Cameron, who is investigating the case, will come this week, but Robert Schroeder, the city’s interim police chief, indicated on Tuesday that “rumors” made him believe that it might.

ny times logoNew York Times, James Levine Was Fired Over Sexual Misconduct, Then Was Paid $3.5 Million, James B. Stewart and Michael Cooper, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The terms of a settlement last summer between the Metropolitan Opera and the renowned conductor had not been previously disclosed.

Last summer, Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, convened the executive committee of the company’s board to announce the end of one of the highest-profile, messiest feuds in the Met’s nearly 140-year history. A bitter court battle had concluded between the company and the james levine 40 years coverconductor James Levine, right, who had shaped the Met’s artistic identity for more than four decades before his career was engulfed by allegations of sexual improprieties.

Mr. Gelb told the committee that the resolution was advantageous to the Met. But the settlement, whose terms have not been publicly disclosed until now, called for the company and its insurer to pay Mr. Levine $3.5 million, according to two people familiar with its terms.

The Met had fired Mr. Levine in 2018 after an internal investigation uncovered what the company called credible evidence of “sexually abusive and harassing conduct toward vulnerable artists in the early stages of their careers.” Rather than going quietly, Mr. Levine sued the company for breach of contract and defamation, seeking at least $5.8 million. The Met countersued, revealing lurid details of its investigation and claiming that Mr. Levine’s misconduct had violated his duties. It sought roughly the same amount.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. doubles down with new sanctions on Iran as many countries wait to see what happens next, Carol Morello and Karen DeYoung, Sept. 22, 2020 (print ed.). In a show of its resolve to crack down further on Iran, the Trump administration on Monday issued sanctions against more than two dozen people and entities involved in Tehran’s nuclear program, missile tests and trade in conventional weapons.

Among the targets of the new U.S. sanctions are the Iranian Defense Ministry and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whom the Trump administration accuses of collaborating with Iran to flout a U.N. arms embargo.

iran flag map“Our actions today are a warning that should be heard worldwide,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at the State Department, flanked by a high-powered array of senior administration officials. “No matter who you are, if you violate the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions.”

The new measures came a little more than a day after the administration declared the reimposition of international U.N. sanctions that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Except for a handful of allies, most nations say the United States has no legal standing to unilaterally put the sanctions back in place because it withdrew from the agreement in 2018.

The sanctions, announced by the Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce, were put in place under an executive order President Trump signed Monday aiming to deter conventional arms trade with Iran. A U.N. embargo on arms transfers expires next month, a deadline that prompted the United States in August to trigger a “snapback” clause in the agreement.

In answer to a question, Pompeo rejected the notion that it had been counterproductive to withdraw from the agreement.

 

Sept. 21

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

U.S. Supreme Court

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Civil Rights, Race, Religion

 

U.S. Media, Cultural News

 

More On U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

Bank Money Laundering Scandal

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Election live updates: Trump says he will name a Supreme Court nominee Friday or Saturday, John Wagner, Sept. 21, 2020. Trump says it’s a ‘good thing’ if he can win by spending less than Biden; Analysis: An extra Trump Supreme Court justice may help cement his environmental rollbacks; Biden returning to Wisconsin on Monday; Trump heading to Ohio for pair of campaign events.

djt hands up mouth open CustomPresident Trump said Monday that he would probably nominate a replacement for the late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday or Saturday, which he said would leave “plenty of time” for a Senate confirmation vote before Election Day.

With the drama over the court playing out in Washington, both Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are heading to battleground states on Monday.

The campaigning — Trump in Ohio and Biden in Wisconsin — comes after Biden gained a significant cash lead last month as a result of a record-breaking fundraising boost. He enters September with a staggering $466 million, compared to Trump’s $325 million.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden warns that a quick replacement of Ginsburg would ‘plunge us deeper into the abyss,’ Sean Sullivan, Matt Viser and Annie Linskey, Sept. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden on Sunday sought to derail a push by President Trump to swiftly install a new Supreme Court justice, making an unusually personal appeal to Senate Republicans to “cool the flames” and sidestepping calls from many in his own party for dramatic retaliatory measures such as expanding the size of the Supreme Court if Trump presses ahead.

joe biden 2020 button CustomSeeking to present himself as a president who would defuse the political and cultural battles engulfing the nomination process, Biden said that if he wins the November election he should be the one to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have vowed to quickly replace.

Speaking in Philadelphia, Biden issued an extraordinary appeal to his former Senate colleagues, pleading with moderate Republicans to oppose Trump and McConnell and saying the vacancy presents those senators with a moral test.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial (in series "Our Democracy in Peril'"): Under a lawless Trump, our system of checks and balances is being destroyed, Editorial Board, Sept. 21, 2020 (print ed.) (Part seven of a series of editorials on the damage President Trump has caused — and the danger he would pose in a second term.).

President Trump promised in 2016 that he would protect the Constitution’s “Article I, Article II, Article XII.” (There is no Article XII.) Instead, he has shown how fragile the constitutional order can be when a president does not respect the rule of law. He has not grown into the office; instead, he has learned how to more effectively abuse its powers. The damage of a second term might be irreparable.

djt old looking resized headshotA president’s core responsibility is to use the awesome power of his office fairly and with neutrality. Mr. Trump has shown that he has a different understanding: The law is a weapon with which to reward loyalists, punish enemies and frighten everyone else to fall in line.

His distortion of the criminal justice system began within months of his inauguration. When FBI Director James B. Comey tried to explain the proper relationship between the president and the FBI, Mr. Trump demanded loyalty and asked the FBI director to go easy on his former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Mr. Comey declined to promise the former or do the latter, and the president fired him.

The tumult that Mr. Comey’s dismissal elicited might have taught a lesson to a more sensible person: There is substance and expectation behind the presidential oath’s pledge to faithfully execute the laws. Mr. Trump did not learn that lesson. His pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, properly recused himself from the federal investigation into Russia’s attack on the 2016 U.S. presidential election — and any coordination with the Trump campaign — leading to the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. So Mr. Trump viciously attacked Mr. Sessions, and then fired him, too.

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Investigation: HSBC moved vast sums of dirty money after paying record laundering fine, Spencer spencer woodman resizedWoodman, right, Sept. 21, 2020. FinCEN Files probe reveals Europe’s biggest bank aided massive Ponzi scheme while on probation over ties to drug kingpins.

In March 2014, three men kidnapped Reynaldo Pacheco and bludgeoned his head with rocks, leaving the 44-year-old father of a young daughter dead in a creek bed in California’s Napa County. Local authorities determined that his murder was a consequence of an investment fraud that targeted low-income Latino and Asian immigrants around the world.

Like other victims of the World Capital Market scheme, or WCM, Pacheco energetically promoted the deal to relatives and acquaintances. When the Ponzi scheme collapsed, an unlucky investor decided to have him killed.

icij logoFour days before Pacheco was beaten to death, compliance officers at the global banking giant HSBC raised a warning about millions of dollars flowing into a big-dollar account in Hong Kong controlled by the scammers. It was at least the third in a series of so-called suspicious activity reports that the bank’s internal watchdogs had lodged about WCM over several months.

Yet HSBC continued to handle the Ponzi network’s massive flow of dirty money into — and out of — its accounts at the bank.

HSBC was profiting from an international criminal scheme even while on probation for having served murderous drug cartels and other criminals. HSBC had hsbc logoadmitted to U.S. prosecutors in 2012 that it had helped dirty money flow through its branches around the world, including at least $881 million controlled by the notorious Sinaloa cartel and other Mexican drug gangs.

A 16-month investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, BuzzFeed News and 108 other media partners has found that HSBC continued to provide banking services to alleged criminals, Ponzi schemers, shell companies tied to looted government funds and financial go-betweens for drug traffickers. Report continued below.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Former Robert Mueller aide admits the smoking gun in the Trump-Russia scandal was sitting right under his nose, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 21, bill palmer2020. One of the most utterly inexplicable storylines of the Trump era has been how a fierce and decorated prosecutor like Robert Mueller could spend the first year of his Trump-Russia probe going like gangbusters, busting Trump’s henchmen left and right, only to then spend the second year of the probe doing nothing and then giving up.

bill palmer report logo headerNow Mueller’s former right hand man Andrew Weissman is flat out admitting that Robert Mueller was ultimately afraid to do his job, for fear that Trump would fire him. This still doesn’t explain why Mueller, who took down John Gotti and Enron, would end up behaving like such a coward in the end. But Weissman is revealing some some key details about the failed Mueller probe, and they’re pretty damning for both Trump and Mueller.

For instance, Weissman is confirming that the same Trump Organization bank account that sent payments to Stormy Daniels was also used to receive Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)“payments linked to a Russian oligarch.” That’s a smoking gun which proves that Trump was being paid off by Kremlin interests. Mueller, left, had this information during his investigation, and chose to do nothing with it. This is an outrage and a betrayal that could only possibly be excused if Mueller indeed went senile during his probe, as some observers have come to suspect.

Despite this absolute travesty of justice, there may be a silver lining of sorts.

After initiating the investigation into the Stormy Daniels payoffs, Mueller ended up referring the case to the Feds at the SDNY, who ultimately brought charges against Michael Cohen over it. This suggests that SDNY has the banking records linking Donald Trump financially to the Kremlin, and that if Trump loses the election, it’ll all come to light. To be clear, this is entirely separate from the ongoing and very public New York state criminal investigation that’s already in the process of indicting Trump.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2

ny times logoNew York Times, What We Know About Coronavirus Cases in K-12 Schools So Far, Yuriria Avila, Weiyi Cai, Barbara Harvey, Juliette Love, Eleanor Lutz, Alex Leeds Matthews and Kate Taylor, Sept. 21, 2020. Thousands of cases have already been linked to schools this season. But a lack of reporting means that a national accounting remains out of reach.

Schools are not islands, and so it was inevitable that when students and teachers returned this fall to classrooms, coronavirus cases would follow them.

But more than a month after the first school districts welcomed students back for in-person instruction, it is nearly impossible to tally a precise figure of how many cases have been identified in schools.

There is no federal effort to monitor coronavirus cases in schools, and reporting by school districts is uneven. One independent effort has counted more than 21,000 cases this school year.

While some districts regularly disclose their active cases, others have cited privacy concerns to withhold information, a move that has frustrated parents, educators and public health experts trying to assess the risk of exposure in schools and the potential impact on the larger community. Eleven states do not publish information on school cases, leaving many of the nation’s students and parents in the dark.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 21, 2020, 13:00 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad),

World Cases: 31,280,720, Deaths: 965,672
U.S. Cases:     7,005,759, Deaths: 204,126

washington post logoWashington Post, The CDC says coronavirus is airborne and spread by aerosols, warns of badly ventilated spaces, Tim Elfrink, Sept. 21, 2020. “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet (for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes),” the agency says.

cdc logo CustomFor months, scientists and public health experts have warned of mounting evidence that the novel coronavirus is airborne, transmitted through tiny droplets called aerosols that linger in the air much longer than the larger globs that come from coughing or sneezing.

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees. The CDC recently changed its official guidance to note that aerosols are “thought to be the main way the virus spreads” and to warn that badly ventilated indoor spaces are particularly dangerous.

While the CDC has not called for any new action to address the airborne threat of a virus that has now killed nearly 200,000 Americans, experts said the change should help to shift policy and public behavior.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: Coronavirus Deaths Near 1 Million Globally and 200,000 in the U.S., Staff reports, Sept. 21, 2020. The staggering toll of the pandemic comes as at least 73 countries are seeing surges in newly detected cases.

The daily count of new U.S. cases is climbing again, fueling worries of a resurgence as universities and schools reopen and colder weather approaches; Coronavirus infections in Britain could reach 50,000 a day by next month if strict action is not taken, health officials said. Here’s the latest.

 

U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Biden blows up the notion RBG’s seat helps the right, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 21, 2020. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gave his most compelling speech of the campaign Sunday, blowing away the notion that the Republicans’ effort to jam through a confirmation to fill the seat held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in any fashion a plus for the right.

Rather, in a soberly delivered speech, Biden demonstrated why this newest wrinkle in the race serves as a boost to Democrats’ chances in winning the Senate majority and the White House — and ultimately reversing any damage two-faced Republicans would do in the meantime.

Biden accomplished several essential tasks.

First, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats earlier Sunday, he formulated that the open seat boils down to preserving the Affordable Care Act. “In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is before the Supreme Court trying to strip health-care coverage away from tens of millions of families. This took away the peace of mind of more than 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions,” Biden said. “If he succeeds, insurers could once again discriminate or drop coverage completely for people living with preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes, cancer and so many other problems.”

Second, he put the fight in simple terms of fairness. Republicans think they can make up rules and rewrite them for their benefit without regard to — indeed, despite — majority opinion. Bullying your way through fights with nonsensical blather to disguise your motives is antithetical to democracy. Biden stressed over and over again that voting is already underway, which means Trump is disenfranchising voters who want a say in the next justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans prepare to move quickly on Supreme Court opening, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, Sept. 21, 2020 (print ed.). GOP leaders said they were pressing ahead to seize a monumental chance to solidify the court’s rightward ideological shift by replacing Ginsburg us senate logowith a conservative jurist. Democratic leaders accused the Republicans of political opportunism and hypocrisy.

Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, said over the weekend that whoever is elected president in November should nominate Ginsburg’s replacement. But it would take four Republican senators joining with all 47 Democrats and independents who caucus with Democrats to block consideration of a Trump nominee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump brags to Woodward that he has ‘broken every record’ on appointing judges, Ashley Parker, Sept. 21, 2020 (print ed.). When bob woodward headshotPresident Trump sat down in the Oval Office with author Bob Woodward, right, for the first of 18 eventual interviews, the president brought up judicial appointments four times and even had a list of judicial appointment orders displayed, prop-like, on the Resolute Desk — “kind of like he was cherishing it,” Woodward recounted.

bob woodward rageNow, as Trump prepares to announce a nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday night at age 87, those interviews reveal a president animated about remaking the courts and working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to appoint conservative judges. Some of the conversations were chronicled in Woodward’s new book, “Rage,” while audio recordings of others were obtained by The Washington Post.

In a mid-December interview with Woodward, Trump boasted that he and McConnell “have broken every record” on judges, saying the issue is the majority leader’s top priority.

ny times logoNew York Times, To Conservatives, Barrett Has ‘Perfect Combination’ of Attributes, Elizabeth Dias and Adam Liptak, Updated Sept. 21, 2020. Judge Amy Coney Barrett is regarded as the leading contender to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barbara Lagoa rises on Trump’s Supreme Court list as allies emphasize Florida campaign edge, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Aaron C. Davis, Sept. 21, 2020. A broad cross-section of Florida Republicans, from acolytes of President Trump to former top aides to Jeb Bush, lined up over the barbara lagoaweekend behind Barbara Lagoa, propelling the federal judge and Miami-born daughter of Cuban exiles to the top of the shortlist of potential replacements for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The swift ascension of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judge to serious consideration by members of Trump’s team, along with Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit and several others, reflects the blunt political calculations informing the White House’s decision-making 45 days from an election that could turn on the outcome in Florida, which has never sent a justice to the nation’s highest court. The president, facing a tight race in the state, whose electoral college votes are seen as critical for his path to reelection, is intensifying his courtship of Hispanics, especially the heavily Republican Cuban American community in South Florida.

Advocates for Lagoa sent text messages and placed calls over the weekend to officials in the White House and the Justice Department, as well as prominent attorneys who have sway with Trump’s top aides, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions.

“She is a Cuban woman from Miami, and Florida is the most important state in the election,” said Jesse Panuccio, former acting associate attorney general in Trump’s Justice Department and a member of the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission, which vetted her before Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) named her to the state’s top court in January 2019.

Choosing Lagoa would represent a bid to refocus attention on a potential nominee’s personal story and political appeal rather than the legitimacy of the process.

ny times logoNew York Times, Law Firms Pay Supreme Court Clerks $400,000 Bonuses. What Are They Buying? Adam Liptak, Sept. 21, 2020. Inside information and influence with the clerks’ former bosses may figure in the transactions, a new study suggests.

Supreme Court justices make $265,600 a year. The chief justice gets $277,700.

Their law clerks do a lot better. After a year of service at the court, they are routinely offered signing bonuses of $400,000 from law firms, on top of healthy salaries of more than $200,000. What are the firms paying for? In a profession obsessed with shiny credentials, a Supreme Court clerkship glitters. Hiring former clerks burnishes the firms’ prestige, making them more attractive to clients.

Still, the former clerks are typically young lawyers just a couple of years out of law school, and the bonuses have a second and more problematic element, said Stephen Gillers, an expert on legal ethics at New York University. “They’re buying something else: a kind of inside information about how the court is thinking and how individual justices might be thinking,” he said.

The Supreme Court appears to recognize that this is a problem. Its rules impose a two-year ban barring former clerks from working on “any case pending before this court or in any case being considered for filing in this court.” (The rules also impose a permanent ban on working on “any case that was pending in this court during the employee’s tenure.”)

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, The Biden campaign and the Democratic party have $466 million in the bank, and a big financial edge on President Trump, Shane Democratic-Republican Campaign logosGoldmacher, Sept. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The former vice president and the Democrats were $187 million behind President Trump and the Republicans this spring. Now they are entering the final stretch of the campaign with a $141 million advantage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Fight Could Scramble Intense Battle for Senate, Carl Hulse, Updated Sept. 21, 2020. Republicans see benefits for candidates struggling in conservative states, but Democrats say the vacancy left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg sharpens their health care message and underscores Republican fealty to the president.

Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican in a tough fight to win the seat to which she was appointed in 2019, raced after Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Friday to declare that she would back President Trump in filling the Supreme Court seat just weeks before Americans went to the polls. And she wanted voters to know that she didn’t hesitate.

“As the first U.S. senator to call for a nomination, I look forward to supporting a strict constructionist who will protect the right to life, defend the Second Amendment, fight for religious freedom and safeguard our values,” Ms. Loeffler wrote in a fund-raising message sent to her supporters on Friday night.

Ms. Loeffler might have been the first endangered Republican to embrace Mr. Trump’s nomination in the hopes that it could bolster a struggling campaign — but she certainly wasn’t the last. Senators Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina quickly followed suit, in an indication of just how profoundly the coming Supreme Court confirmation fight could scramble an already intense battle for control of the Senate.

The intensifying struggle over replacing Justice Ginsburg has thrown a volatile new element into the already intense battle for the Senate, increasing uncertainty about the outcome. Though it is hard to predict exactly how the fight will play out in the dozen or so races that will determine who holds the Senate majority, both sides are intent on using the process to their advantage.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The one thing no one is talking about that could derail Mitch McConnell’s attempt to fill the Supreme Court seat, Bill Palmer, Sept. 21, 2020. The battle over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat is a complex one with a number of fast-moving parts and conflicting goals, even within the GOP Senate. And with the Democrats making unprecedented threats about expanding the court, Mitch McConnell is facing a complicated equation. Anyone who thinks they know for certain how it’s going to turn out is being wildly overconfident in their predictive abilities.

For instance, what if McConnell concludes that his best chance of retaining majority control over the Senate is to keep the seat open until after election day? He could try to ram through a nomination during the lame duck session. This would be an extraordinarily unpopular move, and if he loses the Senate majority anyway, the Democrats could simply expand the court in 2021. But here’s the thing about the lame duck period: by then, Donald Trump could have a very different agenda.

bill palmer report logo headerNew York already has a widely documented grand jury in the process of indicting Donald Trump on state charges for his financial crimes. If he loses the election, he’s going to end up being criminally charged and put on trial – and no president can pardon him on state charges. So if Trump loses, he’s going to spend the transition period scrambling to try to figure out how to negotiate a leniency deal, or otherwise get himself off the hook.

At that point Donald Trump would have his hands full trying to save his own life, and he would have zero remaining interest in trying to ram through an illegitimate Supreme Court nominee in the face of what would be fierce nationwide pushback. If Trump abandoned the nomination battle in favor of focusing on his own rapidly collapsing life, McConnell would have an even harder time pulling it off without him.

This is only one possible scenario, of course. But if Mitch McConnell thinks he can merely wait until the transition period and then pull a fast one, he has to consider that by that time, Donald Trump’s focus and interests could be entirely elsewhere.

 

Civil Rights, Race, Religion

The Rev. Robert Graetz, a civil rights pioneer, died Sunday. He is shown shown below left with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the cover of Graetz's 2007 memoir, A White Pastor's Message on Race and Reconciliation (2007). The introduction was by the late civil rights pioneer John Lewis, who died this summer after robert graetz resized martin luther king coverrepresenting in Georgia in Congress.

Here is the publisher's description: In 1955, when the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, author Bob Graetz was the young white pastor of a black Lutheran Church in Montgomery. His church and his home were in the black community and he and his wife among the few whites who supported the boycott. Their church and home were both bombed; their lives were threatened often. But Graetz never wavered, and his Montgomery experiences, recounted in rich detail here, shaped a long ministerial career that always emphasized equality and justice issues no matter where his call took him. In addition to Graetz’s boycott memoirs, this book includes provocative chapters on white privilege, black forgiveness, and the present-day challenges for human and civil rights.
Like King, he preached integration from the pulpit and told followers to trust in God and boycott segregated city buses in 1955.

"This was a movement of the church, the Christian church in the black community," he has described it on many occasions.

Montgomery Advertiser, Robert Graetz, minister who helped organize Montgomery Bus Boycott, dies at 92, Brian Lyman, Sept. 21, 2020. The Rev. Robert Graetz, whose support of the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott made him a target of segregationists and sparked a career dedicated to social justice, died Sunday, his daughter Meta Ellis said. He was 92.

Graetz had been in hospice care. Graetz, who ministered to the majority-Black Trinity Lutheran Evangelical Church, helped organize the early stages of the robert graetz jeannie graetz Rainier Ehrhardtboycott and helped drive people to and from work.

Graetz was the only white clergyman to support the boycott, and like other participants in the boycott, the reverend and his family persisted in the face of harassment, terrorism, and death threats that extended to their preschool children. Vandals poured sugar in their gas tank; slashed their tires and sprayed acid over their cars. White students on segregated school buses shouted "n---r lover" at Graetz and his wife, Jeannie (shown together in a photo for the Montgomery Advertiser by Rainier Ehrhardt), as they walked the street.

The family home was bombed twice, and while arrests were made, no one was ever convicted. Graetz often became emotional remembering the bombings in later years.

“People often said we had courage,” he said in 2001. “There were times when I was scared to death.”

 

U.S. Media, Cultural News

ny times logocnn logoNew York Times, Analysis: Jeff Zucker Helped Create Donald Trump. That Show May Be Ending, Ben Smith, Sept. 21, 2020 (print ed.). The coziness between the TV executive and Mr. Trump is a Frankenstein story for the cable news era. But then the monster got away, our columnist writes.

washington post logoWashington Post, TikTok says Oracle can review its source code, but deal won’t allow tech transfers, Eva Dou, Sept. 21, 2020. China's TikTok sought to tamp down domestic controversy over its deal with Oracle and Walmart, saying in a blog post Monday that there would be no technology transfer to Oracle, though the U.S. company would be able to check its software for safety.

tiktok logo square CustomThe statement by TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, reflected the awkward situation confronting TikTok as it navigates the same political pressures that U.S. companies have long faced in the China market. For years, U.S. firms have been the ones issuing the assurances that their Chinese partner couldn’t access their data except for safety checks.

“The current plan does not involve the transfer of any algorithms or technology,” ByteDance said in the post on its official WeChat account. “Oracle has the authority to check the source code of TikTok USA.”

The TikTok deal has been a vivid example of the Trump administration’s policy of reciprocity toward Chinese businesses. Supporters of the approach say it’s only fair to treat Chinese companies by the same standards to which U.S. companies are held in China. Critics say the United States should not stoop to the strong-arm negotiating tactics that it criticizes other governments for using.U.S. officials have followed Beijing’s playbook in demanding the viral-video app give the government a cut of the deal, and in applying eleventh-hour pressure in threatening to remove TikTok from U.S. app stores.

 

More On U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

Washington Press, Analysis: New York attorney general refuses to accept Eric Trump’s claims that he’s “too busy” to be deposed, Vinnie Longobardo, Sept. 21, 2020. Eric Trump’s attorneys argued in court that his “extreme travel schedule” campaigning for his father would prevent him from testifying anytime before the election in New York State’s civil investigation of the Trump Organization. The lawyers also claimed to want “to avoid the use of his deposition attendance for political purposes.”

Attorney General James had a decidedly different view of the situation than the Trump scion’s lawyers. “We won’t allow any entity or individual to dictate how our investigation will proceed or allow anyone to evade a lawful subpoena. No one is above the law, period,” James said in a statement responding to the attorney’s “Oh, he’s much too busy” excuse.

The younger Mr. Trump was originally scheduled for a voluntary interview with state officials to discuss the allegations that his family business lied about the value of its assets in order to get loans or tax benefits way back in July, but Attorney General James was forced to issue a subpoena for the slippery presidential offspring after Eric abruptly canceled that planned meeting.

The lawyers are trying to push the argument that most law-enforcement agencies should avoid taking any actions involving political figures during the 60 days before an election.

A New York State judge will have the final say on the matter at a hearing scheduled for next Wednesday in state court in Manhattan.

washington post logoWashington Post, White bar owner charged in fatal shooting of Black protester dies by suicide, attorneys say, Timothy Bella, Sept. 21, 2020. Jake Gardner, a White bar owner who was indicted last week in the fatal shooting of Black protester James Scurlock during a late-night Omaha demonstration in May, died by suicide on Sunday, his attorneys said at a news conference.

Attorney Stu Dornan said that Gardner, 38, had died “at his own hand” in Oregon on the same day he was scheduled to return to Omaha to turn himself in. Gardner faced four felony charges, including manslaughter, that were handed down by a special prosecutor last week.

The indictment came months after a county attorney initially agreed with Gardner that he had shot Scurlock, 22, in self-defense and declined to prosecute the bar owner. A grand jury thought otherwise, pointing to Gardner’s own words in text and Facebook messages as probable cause for an indictment .

“The grand jury indictment was a shock to him,” Dornan said Sunday. “He was really shook up.”
Gardner’s death marks yet another stunning turn in the tragic case. On the night of May 30, Scurlock and some of his friends joined thousands of demonstrators flooding the streets of Omaha five days after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests.

Surveillance footage released later by Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine showed Scurlock and his friends exchanging words with Gardner, a former Marine who had written on Facebook that he planned “to pull military-style firewatch” at his bar, the Hive. During an argument, Gardner flashed a gun in his waistband, saying to Scurlock and a friend, “Keep the f--- away from me,” according to cellphone footage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kentucky GOP lawmaker indicted on assault, accused of strangling woman with ethernet cable, Teo Armus, Sept. 21, 2020. As a freshman Kentucky legislator, state Rep. Robert S. Goforth (R) joined his colleagues to pass a bill that would make it easier to prosecute strangulation.

robert goforth resized kyLast week, that same bill — now a state law after it passed at the urging of domestic violence advocates — became a factor in his own case: A grand jury in Laurel County, Ky., on Friday indicted Goforth, a former candidate for governor, on one count of first-degree strangulation and one count of assault in the fourth degree, according to the Corbin Times-Tribune.

Earlier this year, a woman said Goforth, 44, strangled her with an ethernet cable to the point where she had trouble breathing and threatened to “hog tie” her, according to a police report reviewed by the newspaper.

The charges have renewed calls from local Democrats for Goforth, a staunch supporter of President Trump who had previously been accused of sexual assault, to resign from his seat. Neither he nor his attorney, Conrad Cessna, immediately responded to requests for comment from The Washington Post.

 

Money Laundering Probes

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Investigation: HSBC moved vast sums of dirty money after paying record laundering fine, Spencer spencer woodman resizedWoodman, right, Sept. 21, 2020. FinCEN Files probe reveals Europe’s biggest bank aided massive Ponzi scheme while on probation over ties to drug kingpins. (Continued from above.)

In March 2014, three men kidnapped Reynaldo Pacheco and bludgeoned his head with rocks, leaving the 44-year-old father of a young daughter dead in a creek bed in California’s Napa County. Local authorities determined that his murder was a consequence of an investment fraud that targeted low-income Latino and Asian immigrants around the world.

Like other victims of the World Capital Market scheme, or WCM, Pacheco energetically promoted the deal to relatives and acquaintances. When the Ponzi scheme collapsed, an unlucky investor decided to have him killed.

icij logoFour days before Pacheco was beaten to death, compliance officers at the global banking giant HSBC raised a warning about millions of dollars flowing into a big-dollar account in Hong Kong controlled by the scammers. It was at least the third in a series of so-called suspicious activity reports that the bank’s internal watchdogs had lodged about WCM over several months.

Yet HSBC continued to handle the Ponzi network’s massive flow of dirty money into — and out of — its accounts at the bank.

HSBC was profiting from an international criminal scheme even while on probation for having served murderous drug cartels and other criminals. HSBC had admitted to U.S. prosecutors in 2012 that it had helped dirty money flow through its branches around the world, including at least $881 million controlled by the notorious Sinaloa cartel and other Mexican drug gangs.

In a controversial decision, prosecutors declined to seek an indictment of the bank but instead allowed it to pay a $1.92 billion settlement and serve five years of probation during which its efforts to prevent money laundering would be monitored by a court-appointed watchdog. The court named a former top New York state financial crimes prosecutor, Michael Cherkasky.

hsbc logoA 16-month investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, BuzzFeed News and 108 other media partners has found that HSBC continued to provide banking services to alleged criminals, Ponzi schemers, shell companies tied to looted government funds and financial go-betweens for drug traffickers. This occurred even while the bank was on probation and under Cherkasky’s scrutiny.

The FinCEN Files investigation found that HSBC’s highly profitable branch in Hong Kong played a key role in keeping the dirty money flowing.

Although providing only a partial view of HSBC’s suspicious activity reports, the records show that between 2013 and 2017, HSBC’s U.S. compliance staff, who are charged with monitoring customer activity, filed reports lacking crucial customer information on 16 shell companies that had processed nearly $1.5 billion in more than 6,800 transactions through the bank’s Hong Kong operations alone. More than $900 million of that total involved shell companies linked to alleged criminal networks, according to an analysis by ICIJ and its media partners.

In a statement, HSBC defended changes the bank made under the monitorship. “Starting in 2012, HSBC embarked on a multi-year journey to overhaul its ability to combat financial crime,” said Heidi Ashley, a spokesperson for the bank. “HSBC is a much safer institution than it was in 2012.”

The bank told ICIJ that it increased its compliance staff from a few hundred members in 2012 to several thousand in 2017 and invested more than $1 billion in compliance initiatives since 2015. “Though we have made significant improvements in our financial crime compliance programme, we are continually seeking ways to improve,” the bank said in a statement.

The investigation is based on a review of dozens of leaked suspicious activity reports, or SARs, as well as interviews with more than a dozen former HSBC anti-money-laundering employees. Banks doing business in the United States submit the confidential reports to an intelligence office within the U.S. Treasury Department known as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN. Suspicious activity reports reflect concerns of watchdogs within banks and are not necessarily evidence of any criminal conduct or wrongdoing.

Leaked records show HSBC processed at least $31 million between 2014 and 2015 for companies later revealed to have moved stolen government funds from Brazil; and more than $292 million between 2010 and 2016 for a Panama-based organization branded by U.S. authorities as a major money launderer for drug cartels. The organization, Vida Panama, denies wrongdoing and is fighting the U.S. designation. The records show HSBC worked with a bank in Tiraspol, within Moldova’s breakaway territory of Transnistria, for four years after the U.S. Treasury Department issued a 2011 advisory warning of the risks of doing business with the Tiraspol bank.

  wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Administration threatens leakers of FINCEN SARs, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, Sept. 21, 2020. The Trump administration has threatened with criminal prosecution leakers of over 2,500 Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) filed by banks with the U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN). The SARs, covering the period 1999 to 2017, were published over the weekend by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The suspicious financial transactions total in excess of $2 trillion.

icij logoIn anticipation of the leak of the SARs, on September 1, the Treasury Department issued a statement warning of criminal prosecution of those involved in the leak: Treasury has indicated that it not only seeks to prosecute the leakers of the FINCEN files, but those who have the reports in their possession. That may include ICIJ, which has published the leaked reports on their website, and other media organizations. The eldest daughter of Attorney General William Barr, Mary Daly, is a senior official of FINCEN.

In January of this year, senior Treasury official Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards pleaded guilty to leaking SARs that dealt with Russian oligarchs' financial support to key officials of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, including convicted campaign manager Paul Manafort. Many of the leaked SARs involve transactions of shady businessmen in Trump's orbit who featured prominently in the Trump-Kushner global criminal syndicate list donald trump money palmer report Customcompiled by WMR in 2019.

The leaked SARs involve several oligarchs tied to the Trump family, the Trump Organization, and their associates. These include Oleg Deripaska and the brothers, Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, who are all close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash. 

wall street on parade cropped logo

Wall Sreet on Parade, Analysis: 3-Count Felon, JPMorgan Chase, Caught Laundering More Dirty Money, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, right, Sept. 21, 2020. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has once again managed to do what federal bank regulators refuse to do in the pam martens russ martensUnited States – come clean with the American people about our dirty Wall Street banks.

ICIJ dropped a bombshell investigative report yesterday about money laundering for criminals at some of the biggest banks on Wall Street, but you won’t find a peep about it on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal or New York Times’ print editions.

JPMorgan Chase has already pleaded guilty to three criminal felony counts brought by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2014. Two of those counts related to money laundering and failure to file suspicious activity reports on the business bank account it held for Bernie Madoff for decades. JPMorgan Chase actually told U.K. regulators that it suspected Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme but it failed to jp morgan chase logoshare those concerns with U.S. regulators, even though it was required under law to do so.

The third felony count brought by the U.S. Department of Justice came one year later, in 2015. It related to JPMorgan’s involvement in a bank cartel that was engaged in rigging foreign exchange trading.

The ICIJ investigation is based on secret documents leaked from FinCEN, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a unit of the U.S. Treasury. The documents “show that five global banks — JPMorgan, HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon — hsbc logokept profiting from powerful and dangerous players even after U.S. authorities fined these financial institutions for earlier failures to stem flows of dirty money.”

The report has much to say about JPMorgan Chase:

JPMorgan Chase was involved in moving illicit funds for the fugitive, Jho Low, involving the notorious looting of public funds in Malaysia. Jho Low has been accused by multiple jurisdictions of playing a key role in the embezzlement of more than $4.5 billion from a Malaysian economic development fund, 1MDB. JPMorgan Chase moved $1.2 billion in money for Jho Low from 2013 to 2016, according to the report.

paul manafort cnnThe ICIJ bombshell includes the charge that JPMorgan also “processed more than $50 million in payments over a decade, the records show, for Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump (shown at right in a 2016 file photo). The bank shuttled at least $6.9 million in Manafort transactions in the 14 months after he resigned from the campaign amid a swirl of money laundering and corruption allegations spawning from his work with a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.”

More troubling activity at JPMorgan Chase includes the following, according to ICIJ investigators:

“JPMorgan also moved money for companies and people tied to corruption scandals in Venezuela that have helped create one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. One in three Venezuelans is not getting enough to eat, the UN reported this year, and millions have fled the country.

“One of the Venezuelans who got help from JPMorgan was Alejandro ‘Piojo’ Isturiz, a former government official who has been charged by U.S. authorities as a player in an international money laundering scheme. Prosecutors allege that between 2011 and 2013 Isturiz and others solicited bribes to rig government energy contracts. The bank moved more than $63 million for companies linked to Isturiz and the money laundering scheme between 2012 and 2016, the FinCEN Files show…”

washington post logoWashington Post, Stocks cut losses after broad sell-off; Dow slides more than 500 points, Hamza Shaban and Hannah Denham, Sept. 21, 2020. Financials fell sharply after an explosive report alleging that several major banks knowingly facilitated suspicious transactions.

Stock markets fell sharply, then rebounded somewhat, Monday as rattled investors braced for further roadblocks in fiscal stimulus talks, took in disappointing developments on the coronavirus front and weighed the implications of an explosive news report on global banks.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 509 points, or 1.8 percent, to close at 27,147.70. At one point, the blue-chip index had tumbled as much as 912 points. The S&P 500 index also cut its losses, giving up more than 38 points, or 1.2 percent, to end at 3,281.06. The broad-based index had been off as much as 2.7 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite shed more than 14 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 10,778.80.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Botswana reveals the cause of a mass elephant die-off after months-long wait, Mqondisi Dube and Max Bearak, Sept. 21, 2020. Months after hundreds of elephants were found dead in a concentrated area near Botswana’s famed Okavango swamps, raising fears that they had been intentionally poisoned, the southern African country’s government said test results on samples collected from the carcasses pointed instead to a naturally occurring toxin called cyanobacteria.

The official death toll now stands at 330, with the fatalities taking place between late April and June. Botswana has the world’s largest population of elephants, around 130,000 in total. Their growing numbers have been lauded by conservationists and Botswana has become a mecca for tourists seeking to witness and photograph wildlife.

Popular sentiment in parts of the country has turned against elephants, however, as many blame them for destroying cropland. Botswana’s current president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, campaigned and won reelection partly on promises to keep elephants more in check, and his government has reintroduced a small number of elephant hunting licenses that were banned under his predecessor.

 

Sept. 20

Top Headlines

 

Virus Scandal Updates, Responses

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Morals, Education Policies

 

World News


Media News

 

 

Top Stories

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Ferocious political battle to fill Supreme Court vacancy has begun, Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump said Saturday that he will nominate a woman in the next week to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court, opening a ferocious political battle that could transform the nation’s highest court and alter the presidential election.

At a rally Saturday night in Fayetteville, N.C., Trump told supporters that he had not yet chosen a nominee, but “it will be a woman, a very talented, very President Donald Trump officialbrilliant woman.” The crowd chanted “Fill that seat!”

Even as flags were lowered to half-staff and mourners filled the plaza of the Supreme Court where Ginsburg served for 27 years as a liberal icon, the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) contemplated her successor.

As he was leaving the White House on Saturday evening, Trump said that an announcement could come within a week and that he prefers a Senate vote before the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Plans to Use the Pandemic to Frame Supreme Court Fight, Shane Goldmacher, Katie Glueck and Thomas Kaplan, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden will seek to link the Supreme Court vacancy created after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the coronavirus pandemic and the future of health care.

joe biden kamala harris campaign shotThe Biden campaign plans to chiefly focus on protecting the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

For months Joseph R. Biden Jr. has condemned President Trump as a failed steward of the nation’s well-being, relentlessly framing the 2020 election as a referendum on the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, confronted with a moment that many believe will upend the 2020 election — the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the prospect of a bitter Supreme Court confirmation battle — Mr. Biden’s campaign is sticking to what it believes is a winning strategy. Campaign aides said Saturday they would seek to link the court vacancy to the health emergency gripping the country and the future of health care in America.

djt biden smiles resizedWhile confirmation fights have long centered on hot-button cultural divides such as guns and especially abortion, the Biden campaign, at least at the start, plans to chiefly focus on protecting the Affordable Care Act and its popular guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Arguments in a seminal case that could determine the future of the health care law are set for a week after Election Day, with the administration supporting a Republican effort to overturn it. Mr. Biden will accuse the president, as he already has, of trying to eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions during a pandemic, aides said, with the stakes heightened by a Supreme Court now short one of the liberal justices who had previously voted to keep the law in place.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Ginsburg’s death crystallizes the choice in November as no other issue can, Dan Balz, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The issues that surround the vacancy encompass the broader culture war that divides red and blue America.

Roll Call, Supreme Court’s legitimacy at stake in wake of Ginsburg’s death, Todd Ruger, Sept. 20, 2020. Justices' actions could fuel calls to revamp the high court.

For a Supreme Court that seeks to defend the legitimacy of its rulings as rooted in the law and not political ideology, what unfolds over the next few months is poised to be a historic test of its reputation.

The Senate will hold a contentious confirmation vote to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a reliably conservative President Donald Trump appointee.

supreme court buildingThe appointee, who Trump says will be a woman announced this week, would deepen the court’s conservative tilt potentially with immediate consequences for divisive areas such as abortion, gun control and more.

A case set for argument Nov. 10, just days after the election, threatens the whole 2010 health care law known as Obamacare, which the court has upheld in previous challenges.

And the justices could be called on to decide the heated presidential election, where Trump already has challenged the integrity of the outcome if he loses to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

How the justices act in those situations — and how much the public retains confidence in them throughout — could wind up galvanizing calls from some Democratic lawmakers and their allies to change Senate rules to remake the high court in the coming years.

The Supreme Court plays a key role in the government because it makes many difficult decisions the political branches are unable to make, said Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center, a veteran litigator before the court.

The public accepts those Supreme Court decisions “because they view the court as something other than a purely political institution,” Smith said. “At the court, if it loses that completely, it will cease to function in the way it needs to.”

A move by Senate Republicans to confirm a third Trump appointee to the court in a presidential election year, when four years earlier they blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee ahead of the election, already drew calls for changes to the structure of the court such as additional justices or eliminating their lifetime tenure.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump attacks Lisa Murkowski after she officially comes out against filling Supreme Court seat, Bill Palmer, Sept. 20, 2020.  When Susan Collins announced yesterday that RBG’s seat should be filled by the winner of the election, Palmer Report pointed out that while Collins can’t be trusted, this isn’t about whether she can be trusted. Instead, it was an indicator that she expected additional Republican Senators to announce the same, and she was trying to preemptively take credit for it.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, Lisa Murkowski, right, released a statement today confirming that when she stated awhile back that any last minute vacancy shouldn’t be filled, she meant it. In response Donald Trump has begun attacking Murkowski on Twitter. This means we have two GOP lisa murkowski 2 blue dressd oSenators in opposition. If the number reaches four, the nomination process is dead.

Given his history, there’s a good chance Mitt Romney will also come out in opposition to filling the seat. But Romney likes to play things cautiously. Our guess is that he’s trying to convince some other GOP Senator to be the third, so he can be the fourth and deciding person to stand in opposition.

Even as the behind the scenes process plays out, Democrats and the House and Senate are now openly talking about expanding the Supreme Court next year if that’s what it takes to right this wrong. And of course you can put pressure on vulnerable GOP Senators by (politely) calling their offices and letting them know that you’ll focus heavily on defeating them in their reelection bids if they try to move forward with the nomination process. It’s not a matter of whether you can trust them, it’s a matter of whether you can make them understand that they could lose their careers over this.

washington post logoamy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoWashington Post, Who is Amy Coney Barrett, the judge at the top of Trump’s list? Colby Itkowitz, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). At the top of President Trump’s list to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, right, a jurist in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia who fulfills nearly all criteria on conservatives’ wish list.

At 48 years old, Barrett could hold the lifetime seat for several decades. Trump’s first two nominees to the nation’s highest court, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, are in their 50s. Trump’s justices will potentially represent one-third of the Supreme Court for generations.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 20, 2020, 13:45 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad),

World Cases: 31,042,181, Deaths: 962,415
U.S. Cases: 6,970,044, Deaths: 203,851

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, Live updates: As Cases Rise, U.K. Plans Tougher Fines for Rule Breakers, Staff reports, Sept. 20, 2020.  Serious breaches of restrictions in Britain could be punished with penalties of more than $10,000. Russia’s vaccine rollout is off to a slow start. The Australian city of Melbourne moved closer to an easing of virus regulations after recording only 14 new cases on Sunday. Here’s the latest.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoruth bader ginsburg scotusNew York Times, Analysis: Justice Ginsburg’s Death Upends the 2020 Race, Alexander Burns and Adam Nagourney, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Democrats warned Republicans to follow the precedent they set in 2016, when they refused to consider President Barack Obama’s choice for the court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: They couldn’t even wait until Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in her grave, Dana Milbank, below right, Sept. 20, 2020. I have never been as disgusted with our politics, and with my profession, as I was this weekend.

dana milbank CustomRuth Bader Ginsburg died Friday just before the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. She was not only one of the greatest jurists in our history, a pioneering defender of women and the oppressed, and one whose life story of love and perseverance inspired millions. She was also a Jew. You don’t have to be a Jew, or a believer, to see the symbolism — the loss of this great woman at the very moment that, in the Jewish tradition, God begins the renewal of the world — to know that there is powerful, spiritual meaning here that should call us all to reflection on the meaning of Ginsburg’s life.

Instead, some 80 minutes after her death was reported, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a man without a shred of decency and seemingly without a soul, announced his intent to replace her as fast as possible, before the next president is sworn in. (Even President Trump showed more humanity at first, citing the traditional Jewish expression for the dead, “May her memory be a blessing,” with a Trumpian flourish: “May her memory be a great and magnificent blessing to the world.”)

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Who Trump might nominate for the Supreme Court, Aaron Blake, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Given President Trump has already filled two vacancies — and released lists of potential nominees both in 2016 and earlier this month — we have a very good idea as to who is in play. That starts with the finalists who weren’t picked.

In 2017, when Neil M. Gorsuch was the pick, his fellow finalists were federal judges Thomas Hardiman, William H. Pryor Jr., Diane S. Sykes, Amul R. Thapar and Don R. Willett. Trump personally interviewed three of them: Hardiman, Pryor and Thapar.

In 2018, when Brett M. Kavanaugh was the pick, the finalists were a little less clear. But his top competitors were thought to be Hardiman and two other federal judges: Raymond Kethledge and Amy ­Coney Barrett.

The fact that Hardiman was in play both times would suggest he might be again. But given the finalists shifted so much from 2017 to 2018, it is possible that will be the case again. It also seems more likely the 2018 finalists would be in play today, given many of the 2017 finalists did not make the cut in 2018.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats See a Glimmer of Hope Over Supreme Court Fight in Arizona’s Senate Race, Hank Stephenson and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 20, 2020. If Mark Kelly wins a special election, he could end up casting a crucial vote on President Trump’s nominee.

Democrats have almost no power to stop a pre-election vote on President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, but they see a glimmer of hope in a bank-shot scenario if they capture a Senate seat in Arizona in the November election.

mark kelly senateIf Mark Kelly, right, the Democratic nominee, wins, he could be seated in the Senate as early as Nov. 30, six weeks before the other winners are sworn in, according to elections experts from both parties. Mr. Kelly currently leads Senator Martha McSally, a Republican, in the polls.

There are many ifs: If the Arizona results can be rapidly certified, and if Senate Republicans hold a confirmation vote in the postelection lame-duck session and if three Republicans defect, Mr. Kelly could cast the deciding vote to defeat Mr. Trump’s as-yet unnamed pick to the high court.

Such a scenario is possible (if not probable) because Ms. McSally, who was sworn in in 2019, was appointed, not elected. The Arizona Senate race this year is a special election, and under state law the winner can be seated pending a final review of the election results, known as a canvass, completed at the end of November.

 

U.S. Morals, Education Policies

 Giancarlo Granda (Reuters photo)

Giancarlo Granda (Reuters photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, The Falwells, the pool attendant and the double life that brought them all down, Michael E. Miller and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Sept. 18, 2020. Giancarlo Granda says Becki and Jerry Falwell preyed on him sexually. The evangelical couple says their young business partner tried to extort money from them.

For 2½ years, Giancarlo Granda had been telling his family about the generosity of his business partners. The wealthy couple from out of town had taken him under their wing, he said, rewarding the Miami pool attendant’s ambition with a stake in a multimillion-dollar real estate project. Now he wanted them to meet.

In a trendy Italian restaurant inside the South Beach property where he’d become a part owner, Granda introduced his parents and sister to his unlikely benefactors: Jerry and Becki Falwell.

Over wine and pasta, the president of Liberty University and his wife (shown below left) praised the square-jawed 22-year-old, saying he was like an adopted son, Granda and his sister recalled.

jerry falwell jr becki falwell“Oh my God. They’re so nice,” Granda’s mother said of the Falwells afterward. “They’re so charming.”

“You see?” Granda recalled replying. “They just want to help me out.”

But the dinner in 2014 was about more than making an introduction, Granda now claims, and he was far more than the Falwells’ friend.

Instead, Granda alleges he was in the middle of a years-long relationship with the Falwells in which he would have sex with Becki while Jerry watched and sometimes recorded. Becki acknowledges the affair with Granda, but she and Jerry both deny he was involved in any way.

“I never participated in this affair as he now falsely claims,” Jerry Falwell said in a statement. “Obviously, it was a very painful period of our lives, but we liberty university sealreconciled and love each other.”

Granda maintains that the intimate dinner — a photo of which Granda posted on Instagram on Nov. 14, 2014 — was part of an attempt to provide a cover story, as people began questioning the ties between the middle-aged evangelical couple and the handsome young college student.

Granda’s claims about the affair, which were first reported in detail by Reuters, were made the same day Falwell stepped down last month as president of Liberty, the prominent Christian university his televangelist father founded a half-century ago in Lynchburg, Va.

djt jerry falwell jr becki falwellAnd the relationship may have played a role in the political fortunes of President Trump. Falwell endorsed Trump in 2016, not long after his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said he helped the Falwells cover up compromising photos.

In interviews with The Washington Post, Falwell said his wife had a one- or two-year affair with Granda, who then tried to blackmail them.

“He is a liar and he’s an extortionist,” Falwell, 58, said of Granda.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Becki, 53, said.

But Granda, now 29, says the relationship went on for nearly seven years. Photos, emails, text messages and other documents he provided to The Post support that timeline. In a 2019 recording, Granda and the Falwells can be heard discussing a weekend they shared at a resort seven years earlier, and their fears that the getaway would become public. And screen grabs of a FaceTime conversation in early 2019 appear to show Becki topless and drinking wine while Jerry watched her talk to Granda.

Falwell’s statement Sunday to the Examiner said nothing about Granda’s account alleging that the evangelical leader had his own role in the affair, and Falwell didn’t address questions from Reuters about it. In the statement quoted by the Examiner, Falwell said that “Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved.”

News of the entanglement could pose a fresh threat to the influence of Jerry Falwell, a towering figure in the U.S. evangelical political movement. His 2016 endorsement of Donald Trump helped the twice-divorced New Yorker win the Republican nomination for president.

Falwell, 58, took an indefinite leave of absence earlier this month from Liberty University, the Christian school he has run since 2007. The leave, announced in a terse statement from the school’s board of trustees, came days after Falwell posted, then deleted, an Instagram photo of himself with his pants unzipped, standing with his arm around a young woman whose pants were also partly undone. Falwell later told a local radio station that the picture was meant as a good-natured joke.

Becki Falwell, 53, is a political figure in her own right. She served on the advisory board of the group Women for Trump, which advocates for the president’s reelection campaign. She also spoke as part of a panel with her husband and Donald Trump Jr. at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, the signature annual gathering of conservatives. Jerry Falwell and others refer to her as “the first lady of Liberty University.”

The university, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, was founded in 1971 by Falwell’s televangelist father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell. The younger Falwell took over in 2007. Today, the university boasts an online and on-campus enrollment that exceeds 100,000 students and holds those who attend to an exacting honor code. “Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University,” the code reads.

Related stories:

  • Washington Post, Post-Falwells, Liberty faces questions about faith, power, accountability, Susan Svrluga, Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Aug. 29, 2020. Jerry Fallwell Jr.'s departure leaves Liberty University at a turning point: Will the school continue its success as measured by assets and political clout? Or return to the religious priority of Jerry Falwell Sr.?

The Sun, Anti-pedophile subreddit used by QAnon fans is banned after moderator 'admits addiction to child porn & pre-teen girls,' Nicole Darfrah, Sept. 20, 2020. An anti-pedophile message board has been banned after one of its moderators confessed to being obsessed with child pornography.

The Reddit page called “PedoGate” – used by QAnon followers – was banned from the platform this week after a moderator called Benjamin posted his confession online.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, As U.S. Increases Pressure, Iran Adheres to Toned-Down Approach, Julian E. Barnes, David E. Sanger, Ronen Bergman and Lara Jakes, Sept. 19, 2020. The Trump administration has ramped up its criticism of Iran, but Tehran has chosen a path of restraint, intelligence showed.

iran flag mapIran’s supreme leader has blocked any large, direct retaliation to the United States, at least for now, allowing only cyberactivity to flourish, according to American and allied officials briefed on new intelligence reporting.

Iran also abandoned plans it had a year ago to deliver an election season surprise this fall, like an attack on Persian Gulf shipping or Middle Eastern oil production intended to shock global financial markets and hurt President Trump’s chances of re-election, according to American officials familiar with the intelligence.

Iran recalculated after the pandemic devastated the world economy, making any sort of attack on oil production ineffective. Iran also now believes that any strike beyond covert cyberattacks would benefit Mr. Trump, allowing him to rally his base and give the United States an opportunity for a military response, according to American, allied and Iranian officials.


Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Judge Temporarily Halts Trump’s WeChat Ban, Ana Swanson and David McCabe, Sept. 20, 2020. A federal judge has issued an injunction against President Trump’s executive order banning the Chinese social media app WeChat from carrying out commercial transactions in the United States after Sunday, presenting at least a temporary setback in the president’s efforts to block an app that he has labeled a national security threat.

wechat logoThe ruling, which came Sunday morning, will temporarily halt Mr. Trump’s efforts to bar WeChat, which is owned by the Chinese company Tencent Holdings, from operating in the United States. The Trump administration has said the app offers China a conduit to collect data on Americans and to censor the news and information shared by WeChat’s more than a billion monthly active users.

In her decision, Judge Laurel Beeler of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California said that she had chosen to grant the motion because the plaintiffs had raised serious questions about whether the order would harm First Amendment rights, and that it placed significant hardship on the plaintiffs.

The U.S. government could now appeal to the Ninth Circuit court to seek to overturn the stay.

The motion for a preliminary injunction was filed Aug. 27 by the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, a nonprofit group whose trustees include several prominent Chinese-American lawyers. The group says it has no connection to Tencent Holdings or any of its affiliates.

 

Julian Assange IndicterJulian Assange (Photo by The Indicter Magazine).

CraigMurrayBlog, Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 13, Craig Murray, right, Sept. 20, 2020. Friday gave us the most emotionally charged craig murray newermoments yet at the Assange hearing, showed that strange and sharp twists in the story are still arriving at the Old Bailey, and brought into sharp focus some questions about the handling and validity of evidence, which I will address in comment.

The first witness of the day was Nicky Hager, the veteran New Zealand investigative journalist. Hager’s co-authored book “Hit and Run” detailed a disastrous New Zealand SAS raid in Afghanistan, “Operation Burnham”, that achieved nothing but the deaths of civilians, including a child. Hager was the object of much calumny and insult, and even of police raids on his home, but in July an official government report found that all the major facts of his book were correct, and the New Zealand military had run dangerously out of control: “Ministers were not able to exercise the democratic control of the military. The military do not exist for their own purpose, they are meant to be controlled by their minister who is accountable to Parliament.”

Edward Fitzgerald took Hager through his evidence. Hager stated that journalists had a duty to serve the public, and that they could not do this without access to secret sources of classified information. This was even more necessary for the public good in time of war. Claims of harm are always made by governments against any such disclosures. It is always stated. Such claims had been frequently made against him throughout his career. No evidence had julian assange facts wikileaks Customever emerged to back up any of these claims that anybody had been harmed as a result of his journalism.

When Wikileaks had released the Afghan War Logs, they had been an invaluable source to journalists. They showed details of regular patrols, CIA financed local forces, aid and reconstruction ops, technical intelligence ops, special ops and psychological ops, among others. They had contributed much to his books on Afghanistan. Information marked as confidential is essential to public understanding of the war. He freqently used leaked material. You had to judge whether it was in the higher public interest to inform the public. Decisions of war and peace were of the very highest public interest. If the public were being misled about the conduct and course of the war, how could democratic choices be made?

United Kingdom flagEdward Fitzgerald then asked about the collateral murder video and what they revealed about the rules of engagement. Hager said that the Collateral Murder video had “the most profound effect throughout the world”. The publication of that video and the words “”Look at those dead bastards” had changed world opinion on the subject of civilian casualties. In fact the Rules of Engagement had been changed to put more emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties, as a direct result.

Historian, human rights activist and former UK ambassador Craign Murray has been covering the Assange extradition hearings in London. About Craig Murray.

 

Sept. 19

Top Headlines

 

Virus Scandal Updates, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Media, Intelligence

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Fires, Climate Change

 

U.S. Morals, Race Education Policies

 

Top Stories

 washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87, Robert Barnes and Michael A. Fletcher, Sept. 19, 2020. Second woman to serve on the high court was a role model for female lawyers; Leading the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc, Ginsburg was a legal pioneer who backed affirmative action and defended abortion rights.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, right, the second woman to serve on the high court and a legal pioneer for gender equality whose fierce ruth bader ginsburg scotusopinions as a justice made her a hero to the left, died Sept. 18 at her home in Washington. She was 87.

The death was announced in a statement by the U.S. Supreme Court. She had recently been treated for pancreatic cancer.

Born in Depression-era Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg excelled academically and went to the top of her law school class at a time when women were still called upon to justify taking a man’s place. She earned a reputation as the legal embodiment of the women’s liberation movement and as a widely admired role model for generations of female lawyers.

Working in the 1970s with the American Civil Liberties Union, Justice Ginsburg successfully argued a series of cases before the high court that strategically chipped away at the legal wall of gender discrimination, eventually causing it to topple. Later, as a member of the court’s liberal bloc, she was a reliable vote to enhance the rights of women, protect affirmative action and minority voting rights and defend a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

The Justice Integrity Project joins in mourning her passing and celebrating her achievements.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump signals swift nomination to replace Ginsburg as tributes continue to pour in, John Wagner and Derek Hawkins, Sept. 19, 2020.  President Trump signaled Saturday that he will move quickly to nominate a successor to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday night at age 87, as tributes continued to pour in for the liberal icon.

djt biden smiles resizedA fierce political battle is unfolding over her replacement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that a Trump nominee would get a vote in his Chamber, while leading Democrats, including the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, said consideration of a successor should not take place until the next president takes office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that a nominee from President Trump would get a vote in his chamber, while leading Democrats, including the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, said a vote should not take place until the next president takes office.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Saturday announced that he would support a Trump nominee to replace Ginsburg before the election, becoming the latest GOP senator to speak on why the Senate should move forward with a confirmation this election year when it didn’t in 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell vows Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will get a Senate vote, Seung Min Kim, Sept. 19, 2020. The Senate leader, who blocked former president Barack Obama’s nominee for much of 2016, is pressing ahead within weeks of the Nov. 3 election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has made judicial confirmations a hallmark of his legacy, is now confronting an extremely fraught Supreme Court fight that will challenge his pledge to leave no vacancy behind amid charges of hypocrisy and as his party’s control of the Senate hangs in the balance.

mitch mcconnellMcConnell (R-Ky.), left, who blocked President Barack Obama’s final nominee to the Supreme Court for the near entirety of 2016, said Friday that President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court will get a vote on the floor of the Senate, although he did not say when that vote would be held.

“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” McConnell said in a statement Friday following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He added: “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

In early 2016, McConnell said he would not give Merrick Garland, right, then chief judge of the federal appellate court based in Washington, D.C., his confirmation proceedings because, he argued, voters should get to decide through the merrick garlandpresidential election. He has repeatedly reversed his own standard and said he would fill a vacancy under Trump, even in an election year.

His intent to move ahead came despite Ginsburg’s dying wish. In a posthumous statement released to NPR, Ginsburg said: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

McConnell has rationalized his decision by saying the standards were different because the White House and the Senate were controlled by different parties in 2016, which is not the case this year.

But at least two GOP senators indicated in interviews before Ginsburg’s death that they would not support filling a Supreme Court vacancy so close to Election Day, pledging to uphold the standard crafted by McConnell that most Senate Republicans adhered to in 2016.

And in Arizona, where Democrat Mark Kelly has consistently been favored over incumbent GOP Sen. Martha McSally, the winner may be sworn into his or her term during the lame-duck session, altering the current 53-47 Republican control of the Senate if Kelly does prevail on Nov. 3.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A conservative replacement for Ginsburg could shift court to the right for generations, Robert Barnes, Sept. 19, 2020. For now, the Supreme Court has only eight members to confront potentially history-shaping issues resulting from one of the nation’s most contentious presidential elections.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Democratic Senator vows to expand the Supreme Court if Mitch McConnell fills Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, Bill Palmer, Sept. 19, 2020.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already publicly vowing to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat before the election – a reminder of just how soulless and corrupt he truly is. Senate Democrats have a number of ways of stalling and slowing such a nomination, and they’ll use everything they have, but as the minority party their available toolset is somewhat limited.

bill palmer report logo headerAs it turns out, the strongest leverage Senate Democrats have going for them is the fact that they could very well be in the majority just a few months from now, thus giving them all kinds of power to undo anything that Mitch McConnell might do in these final weeks. Democratic Senator Ed Markey, right, just tweeted this:

edward markey resized o“Mitch McConnell set the precedent. No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year. If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.”

So there you have it. Here’s a Senate Democrat openly vowing to pack the Supreme Court if McConnell goes through with his dire plan to fill RBG’s seat.

This is a big deal. Ed Markey is influential. We doubt he’d be tweeting something like this unless Chuck Schumer is at least tacitly on board with it. McConnell could face a tough decision about whether filling that seat now is worth the ugly consequences for him and his party in the new year.

OpEdNews, Opinion: If McConnell Packs the Court on behalf of Minority Rule, Dems must Expand and Reform it, Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan and commentator on the modern Middle East and South Asia), Sept. 19, 2020. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was asked what he would do if there was a vacancy on the Supreme Court in 2020.

He smirked like a mischievous turtle, and said unhesitatingly, "We'll fill it." By "we" he meant not the American people but the unrepresentative Republicans in the Senate. Russell Wheeler at Brookings points out that "the senators who confirmed Justices Clarence Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh represented less than half the population." They were also acting on behalf of a president, Trump, who lost the popular vote by a margin of 3 million.

The electoral college has given us minority rule in all three branches of government. It is likely one of the reasons we have so much unrest in our streets. McConnell deployed this dictatorship of the minority to block a vote on Obama appointee Merrick Garland, on the grounds that a new justice should not be confirmed in an election year.

McConnell will now break his own rule, which was arbitrary and idiosyncratic in any case, to advance a dictatorship of the minority.

Since I study global history, McConnell's behavior reminds me of dictators in the global South. For instance, Pakistani general Pervez Musharraf provoked a crisis in his country in 2007 by summarily firing 50 judges, including the Chief Justice, because they would not let him run for president. (He had not been out of uniform for the required two years).

As Wheeler notes, a lot of serious observers believe we need to go beyond restoring the will of the majority on the court and restructure it so that every vacancy is not a fight to the finish between the two parties. There has been a tendency to try to put young ideologues on, in hopes they'll have a 50-year reign. But that move deprives the court of the wisdom of older jurists and guarantees both inexperience and ideological blinkers on the court.

Another possibility is to put in term limits.

If the Democrats win both the presidency and the senate, they must do something about the dictatorship of the minority on the court, and they ought to come in prepared to introduce serious reform so that our laws reflect the will of our 330 million people rather than that of a few corrupt billionaires allied with hypocritical religious fundamentalists.

 

Virus Updates, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Reverses Testing Guidelines for People Without Covid-19 Symptoms, Apoorva Mandavilli, Updated Sept. 19, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reversed a controversial recommendation suggesting people who have had close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus do not need to get tested if they have no symptoms.

cdc logo CustomThe change comes after widespread criticism of the earlier guideline, as well as reporting from The New York Times that the recommendation came from political appointees in the Trump administration and skipped the agency’s usual rigorous scientific review.

The previous phrasing, which suggested asymptomatic people who have had close contact with an infected individual “do not necessarily need a test,” now clearly instructs them: “You need a test.”

Public health experts welcomed the change as consistent with research showing that people without symptoms can spread the virus to others.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 19, 2020, 13:10 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals),

World Cases: 30,740,255, Deaths: 957,293
U.S. Cases: 6,928,412, Deaths: 203,188

ny times logoNew York Times, How N.Y.C.’s Mayor Ignored Warnings and Mishandled Reopening Schools, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Jeffery C. Mays and Eliza Shapiro, Sept. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed the start of school for a second time, leading to an uproar among parents.

 

U.S. Law, Media, Intelligence

us dc federal courthouse Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Judges in D.C. threatened, harassed after high-profile, political legal battles, Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 19, 2020 (print ed.). After a recent court hearing in a high-profile, politically charged case, judges on the powerful federal appeals court in Washington received an onslaught of harassing, profane phone calls to their chambers. The angry calls from citizens unhappy with the views judges expressed during oral argument prompted some on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to remove their direct office phone numbers from the court’s website, two officials said.

The threats also hit home.

The animosity directed at judges is particularly persistent in Washington with legal battles over President Trump’s financial records and access to secret material from Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation.

District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, left, began receiving hundreds of calls, emails and letters in May after he refused to go along with the Justice emmet sullivan 2012Department’s unusual request to immediately drop the prosecution of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, below right. The vast majority of the messages, according to another official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the threats, were hostile. Many were laced with race-based profanity toward the judge, who is Black.

In August, a New York man was arrested after threatening to assault and murder a district court judge in Washington on or about May 14, when Sullivan put Flynn’s case on hold, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed this week in Washington.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014The indictment of Frank J. Caporusso does not name Sullivan. But the dates align with Sullivan’s actions in court. The threat came in a voice-mail message left on the targeted judge’s office line, according to a detention memo filed in court.

“We are professionals. We are trained military people. We will be on rooftops. You will not be safe,” the message said. “Back out of this bullshit before it’s too late, or we’ll start cutting down your staff.”

The Marshals Service is responsible for protecting about 2,700 federal judges nationwide, in addition to 30,300 prosecutors and court officials at more than 800 locations. Supreme Court justices have a separate police department in Washington.

In fiscal 2019, investigators reviewed more than a million derogatory social media posts. Deputies recorded about 4,500 “inappropriate” communications or threats directed a judges and other court officials, an increase of 40 percent from fiscal 2016.

It is a crime to threaten a federal judge, but not every nasty message or social media post is considered a threat and deputies must balance free speech considerations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Justice Ginsburg’s Judicial Legacy of Striking Dissents, Adam Liptak, right, Sept. 19, 2020 (print ed.). She was part of the Supreme adam liptakCourt’s 4-member liberal wing throughout her 27-year tenure and led it in her last decade.

There was a framed copy of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 on the wall of the chambers of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday. She counted the law among her proudest achievements, even as it illustrated her limited power. As part of the Supreme Court’s four-member liberal wing, she did her most memorable work in dissent.

The law was a reaction to her minority opinion in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the 2007 ruling that said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 imposed strict time limits for bringing workplace discrimination suits. She called on Congress to overturn the decision, and it did.

On the court, however, her notable victories were few. As she put it in a 2013 interview in her chambers, she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal opposition on what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.”

There were exceptions, of course. One of her favorite majority opinions, she often said, ruled that the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy violated the Equal Protection clause.

djt old looking resized headshot

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s lawyers have their hands full, Robert Harrington, rigtht, Sept. 19, 2020. Donald Trump’s lawyers are busy these days. While robert harringtnn portraitone team of Trump lawyers are working tirelessly in the Supreme Court to deny millions of Americans healthcare during a global pandemic, another team of Trump lawyers are trying to prevent E. Jean Carroll from getting Trump’s DNA in order to stop her from proving that Trump raped her.

Meanwhile another team of Trump lawyers are saying Trump “denies in the strongest possible terms” having sexually assaulted model Amy Dorris. Dorris recently alleged that Trump assaulted her outside the bathroom in Trump’s VIP box at the US Open tennis tournament in New York on 5 September, 1997. Like I said. Trump’s lawyers are busy.

Meanwhile, Olivia Troye, right, a former senior official on the White House coronavirus task force, recently said Trump called his own supporters “disgusting olivia troye resized2people” with whom he no longer had to shake hands thanks to the pandemic. “Maybe this COVID thing is a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with people, I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people,” Troy quoted Trump as saying. “Those ‘disgusting people’ are the same people that he claims to care about,” Troye added.

Meanwhile, having noticed that Joe Biden is gaining ground among Puerto Rican Florida voters, Trump just offered Puerto Rico an bill palmer report logo headerenormous multi-billion dollar bribe, excuse me, I meant “aid package.” This comes a whopping three years after the island was devastated by hurricane Maria. Trump, who is president of the United States last time I checked, blames the Democrats for the three year delay. When Maria hit, not only was Trump president, he had a Republican majority in the House and Senate, too.

Meanwhile, after calling American heroes who died in wars defending their country “losers” and “suckers,” Trump continues to ignore Vladimir Putin’s bounty on the heads of US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, as immigrant children separated from their parents are still being held in concentration camps across America, their mothers are undergoing forced hysterectomies in order to prevent them from having more.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to repudiate the need of Americans to wear masks. Despite the death of his friend and supporter Herman Cain, who contracted a lethal case of coronavirus at Trump’s Tulsa rally, Trump continues to conduct Nuremberg-style rallies. Participants at these rallies are encouraged to cram together indoors. Few wear masks. None are required to.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has announced that a coronavirus vaccine is “essentially ready.” A rollout of the vaccine will begin in October, Trump says. No such vaccine exists, of course. If a vaccine is possible, it won’t be ready, “essentially” or otherwise, for at least a year, probably more, possibly never. Trump is lying to the American people so they will vote for him in November. Many of his supporters are dumb enough to believe him.

Meanwhile, as 203,171 Americans lie dead from coronavirus as I write this, Trump continues to crow about how many lives he “saved” by placing a limited travel restriction on China. Back in January.

Meanwhile, Trump hate-tweets, watches television, golfs and does anything except work to alleviate the suffering caused by a disease that is claiming a thousand American lives a day.

ny times logoNew York Times, Four Louisiana Officers Charged in Death of Black Man With Mental Illness, Michael Levenson, Sept. 19, 2020. Prosecutors said a coroner had determined that Tommie McGlothen’s death in Shreveport in April was preventable because the officers should have known he needed medical treatment.

Four Louisiana police officers were indicted Friday on charges of negligent homicide and malfeasance after they used excessive force and a Taser to arrest a mentally ill Black man and then failed to give him medical attention, prosecutors said.

The officers with the Shreveport Police Department — Treona McCarter, Brian Ross, D’Marea Johnson and James LeClare — were charged in connection with the death on April 5 of Tommie Dale McGlothen Jr., 44, according to the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office.

The Caddo Parish coroner, Dr. Todd Thoma, determined that Mr. McGlothen’s death “was preventable” because the officers should have known he needed medical treatment, prosecutors said.

The police had three encounters with Mr. McGlothen on April 5, and in each of those he “exhibited signs he was a mental patient in need of medical treatment,” the district attorney’s office said. When the police were called for the third time, it was because Mr. McGlothen had blocked a driveway and followed a homeowner inside his house while mumbling incoherently and exhibiting signs of paranoia and emotional disturbance, the district attorney’s office said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Woman with HIV denied water, medication in Texas jail before dying of neglect, family says, Kim Bellware, Sept. 19, 2020. Within nine days of arriving in pretrial detention at the Bi-State Jail facility in Texarkana, Texas, in April 2019, Holly Barlow-Austin’s health started to deteriorate. Ten weeks later, the 46-year-old woman, who lived with HIV, was dead.

holly barlow austin family photo 2019A federal civil rights lawsuit filed this week against the for-profit jail alleges Barlow-Austin (shown in a 2019 family photo) died following 10 weeks of abuse and neglect during which she suffered inhumane conditions and “deliberate indifference” by jail staff that left her emaciated, blind and unable to walk.

According to the 56-page complaint filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, jail staffers ignored obvio us signs of Barlow-Austin’s worsening health, left her in a dirty cell littered with trash and denied her pleas for water during her final hours in detention.

Her last 48 hours [in custody] were tantamount to torture,” said Erik J. Heipt, the attorney representing Barlow-Austin’s estate and family members. When Barlow-Austin was finally taken to the emergency room on the night of June 10, 2019, she was immediately given an IV and a feeding tube.

“She was beyond saving by the time they took her to the hospital,” Heipt told the Washington Post Friday. “It wasn’t a situation where you could not think of it as essentially an in-custody death.”

The lawsuit names LaSalle Corrections, the for-profit company that runs the Bi-State Jail, as a defendant, along with Bowie County and individual jail staffers. Neither LaSalle Corrections nor Bowie County officials responded to requests for comment Friday.

When Barlow-Austin was taken into custody on a probation violation on April 5, 2019, she had been managing HIV and mental health issues with regular medication and had otherwise healthy vitals, according to the complaint. She was not given her full therapy of medication in the jail, and staff failed to follow up on an outstanding request for her health records for more than a month. Her conditioned worsened over the next several weeks into early June, when she was placed in a medical observation cell.

Heipt obtained video footage of Barlow-Austin’s final 48-hours in custody — which he said was unexpectedly delivered in 2,000 clips less than a minute long.

“The only way I was able to know, for example, that [Holly] only had three small cups of water during 48 hours is because I watched all 48 hours,” Heipt told The Post. “If you look at just the medical records provided by the company, LaSalle, you would have no idea of her blindness, inability to walk, difficulty even crawling or malnourished state.”

Nearly 50 clips viewed by The Post show an emaciated Barlow-Austin laying on a mat in her cell in distress, struggling to crawl, blindly feeling around her cell for food and water and knocking on the glass window in attempt to summon help. According to the lawsuit, Barlow-Austin had lost her vision by the time she was placed in observation; multiple video clips show her unable to locate boxes of food or cups of water placed in her cell.

“Holly is unrecognizable. It’s haunting,” her husband, Michael Glenn Austin, said through Heipt. “Losing her has left me heartbroken.”

washington post logoWashington Post, College newspaper reporters are the journalism heroes for the pandemic era, Elahe Izadi, Sept. 19, 2020. In New York, it was the Washington Square News that first reported a covid-19 outbreak in a college dorm. In Gainesville, Fla., the Alligator is the newspaper that has been painstakingly updating a map of local cases. And the Daily Gamecock alerted the public to the ways that University of South Carolina officials were withholding information about covid-19 clusters.

While the pandemic economy has devastated the local news business, there remains a cadre of small newspapers that are more energized than ever, producing essential work from the center of the nation’s newest coronavirus hot spots.

Those would be college newspapers, whose student journalists have been kept busy breaking news of campus outbreaks, pushing for transparency from administrators and publishing scathing editorials about controversial reopening plans.

Student-run newspapers have been reporting about the prevalence of covid-19 at fraternity and sorority houses, in campus residences halls and among student athletes. Professional media outlets have been crediting them for scoops, like the one at NYU. And student newspaper editorials taking school administrators to task for reopening plans — like Notre Dame’s the Observer’s front-page editorial titled “Don’t make us write obituaries" and the University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel’s f-bomb headline — have made national news.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logojoe biden 2020 button CustomNew York Times, Recent polls showed that voters preferred for Joe Biden to pick the next Supreme Court justice, Staff reports, Sept. 19, 2020. In surveys before Justice Ginsburg’s death, he led by a slightly wider margin on choosing the next justice than he did over all against President Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Can Mitch McConnell Be Stopped? Michelle Goldberg, below right, Sept. 19, 2020. If Republicans give Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat to some Federalist Society fanatic, Democrats should pack the court.

michelle goldberg thumbTwo years ago at The Atlantic Festival, Senator Lindsey Graham defended the Republican decision to block President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process is started, we’ll wait to the next election,” Graham said.

Now that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, only a month and a half before the 2020 election, the chance that the senator keeps his word seems infinitesimal. (He has already said that after Brett Kavanaugh, “the rules have changed.”)

Replacing a progressive icon on the Supreme Court with a hard-core reactionary — one who will overturn Roe v. Wade, decimate civil rights law and fully unshackle big business — is an existential matter for the right. It is both the culmination of decades of conservative activism and perhaps an insurance policy in case the 2020 election itself ends up being decided by the court, like Bush v. Gore.

The question now is whether Trump and McConnell can be stopped, and what Democrats should do if they aren’t.

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog urges probe of Trump donations tied to head of USPS, Aaron C. Davis, Sept. 18, 2020. In a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center said contributions made by relatives and employees of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy as recently as 2018 merit scrutiny.

us mail logoA pattern of campaign contributions by employees and relatives of Louis DeJoy before he became postmaster general indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to a Federal Election Commission complaint filed Thursday by a government watchdog group.

The filing by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center is the third complaint seeking a state or federal investigation since The Washington Post this month reported allegations that DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former North Carolina-based company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates.

DeJoy then defrayed the cost of those political contributions from 2003 to 2014 by boosting employee bonuses, two employees told The Post.

Although it can be permissible to encourage others to make donations, reimbursing them for those contributions is a violation of North Carolina and federal election laws. Known as a straw-donor scheme, the practice allows donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscures the true source of money used to influence elections.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, After Trump’s TikTok Ban, China Readies Blacklist of Foreign Companies, Keith Bradsher and Raymond Zhong, Sept. 19, 2020. Beijing issued rules that could allow it to halt exports, imports and investments by businesses accused of endangering national security.

tiktok logo square CustomThe plan for a blacklist, which was short on details and included no companies’ names, appeared to be retaliation for the Trump administration’s decision to ban the Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat from American app stores starting at midnight on Sunday.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington have intensified in recent months, accelerating a downward spiral in economic and diplomatic relations. The confrontation now encompasses the two countries’ policies on trade and technology, as well as on Taiwan, Hong Kong, human rights and other issues.

Many recent actions by the United States have prompted countermoves by China. The People’s Liberation Army sent 19 fighter jets and bombers into the Taiwan Strait on Saturday and 18 the previous day to protest a visit to the island democracy, which China claims as its territory, by a senior State Department official.

washington post logoWashington Post, China launches combat drills in Taiwan Strait, warns U.S. not to ‘play with fire,’ Gerry Shih, Sept. 18, 2020. The menacing tone from Beijing came as a senior U.S. official visited Taipei and as military tensions escalate in the flash point region.

Undersecretary of State Keith Krach was due to meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in the capital and a day after news emerged that the Trump administration sought to push forward a multibillion-dollar sale of advanced weapons to the self-ruled island to beef up its defenses against Beijing.

China flew two bombers and 16 fighters that crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said, adding that it responded by scrambling fighter jets and activating missile systems.

 

U.S. Fires, Climate Change

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Fires Scorch a Way of Life That Still Grows From the Trees, Jim Tankersley, Sept. 19, 2020. Oregon’s fate has always been intertwined with its forests. Now millions of trees are charred, and those who live from them face a future full of uncertainty.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rarefied air: Taking a healthy breath is now a luxury in California, Reed Albergotti, Sept. 18, 2020. Western wildfire smoke has blanketed the state, but its ill effects are not evenly distributed. Wealthier families can get away for a while, or at least hunker down in air-purified homes. 

 

U.S. Morals, Education, Race Policies

 

Sept. 18

Breaking News

Washington Post, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87; McConnell says Trump’s court pick will get Senate vote despite Ginsburg’s dying wish, Derek Hawkins, Darren Sands and Meryl Kornfield, Sept. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman on the high court in 1993 and legal pioneer for gender equality.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who refused to consider President Obama’s choice months before the 2016 election, said in a statement Friday hours after Ginsburg’s death: “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

ruth bader ginsburg scotusThe death of Ginsburg, right, sent shock waves through the country Friday, igniting debate about the future of the high court and President Trump’s role in choosing a successor to the 87-year-old jurist.

Ginsburg died in her home in Washington, where she was surrounded by family, the Supreme Court said in a statement announcing her death. The cause was complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, according to the court.

A trailblazer for gender equality, Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court and served there for more than 27 years.

She rose to the top of her class at Columbia Law School in the 1950s, helped battle gender discrimination as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1993, became the second woman on the high court. Her fierce opinions as a justice made her a hero to the left.

On the court, she became an iconic figure to a new wave of young feminists, and her regal image as the “Notorious RBG” graced T-shirts and coffee mugs. She also was the subject of a popular film documentary, RBG, in 2018.

Her death sets up what is all but certain to be a fierce political fight over whether Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate will decide her replacement.

The Justice Integrity Project joins in mourning her passing and celebrating her achievements.

 

Top Headlines

 

Virus Scandal Updates, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Media, Intelligence

 

U.S. Race, Education Policies

 

Wildfires, Climate Change, Science

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What’s at Stake in This Election? The American Democratic Experiment, Dan Coats (right, the director of national intelligence from 2017 to Dan Coats2019), Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Trump’s former director of national intelligence on how to firmly and unambiguously reassure all Americans that their votes will be counted.

The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond.

I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election. This commission would not circumvent existing electoral reporting systems or those that tabulate, evaluate or certify the results. But it would monitor those mechanisms and confirm for the public that the laws and regulations governing them have been scrupulously and expeditiously followed — or that violations have been exposed and dealt with — without political prejudice and without regard to political interests of either party.

Dan Coats was the director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019. He served as a U.S. senator from Indiana from 1989 to 1999 and again from 2010 to 2016. From 2001 to 2005 he was the U.S. ambassador to Germany. Currently, Mr. Coats is a senior adviser with the law firm King & Spalding.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Pence aide says she will vote for Biden because of Trump’s ‘flat-out disregard for human life’ during pandemic, Josh Dawsey, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic showed a “flat-out disregard for human life” because his “main concern was the economy and his reelection,” according to a senior adviser on the White House coronavirus task force who left the White House in August.

Olivia Troye,olivia troye resized2 right, who worked as homeland security, counterterrorism and coronavirus adviser to Vice President Pence for two years, said that the administration’s response cost lives and that she will vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden this fall because of her experience in the Trump White House.

“The president’s rhetoric and his own attacks against people in his administration trying to do the work, as well as the promulgation of false narratives and incorrect information of the virus have made this ongoing response a failure,” she said in an interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A devastating picture of Trump’s virus response — from a firsthand witness, Aaron Blake, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump faces reelection in about a month and half, with his coronavirus response dragging him down and a growing number of former aides and allies speaking out against him in extraordinary ways.

But none of them combines those two things like the latest person to speak out, which makes her easily one of the most significant witnesses to date.

Olivia Troye is Vice President Pence’s recently departed homeland security adviser, and as The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey reports, she’s stepping forward to make her case against Trump. She does so from a unique vantage point: She was involved in many of the White House’s internal discussions on the coronavirus pandemic.

Troye said she organized and participated in every meeting of the coronavirus task force, which her former boss chairs, between February and July. And her description of what she heard is as bleak as many critics of the pandemic response have suggested — if not bleaker.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge issues temporary injunction against USPS changes amid concerns about mail slowdowns, Elise Viebeck and Jacob Bogage, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The decision by a federal judge could cast the Postal Service into more tumult just as states have begun to send out mail ballots for the us mail logoNov. 3 election.

A federal judge in Washington state on Thursday granted a request from 14 states to temporarily block operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service that have been blamed for a slowdown in mail delivery, saying President Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are “involved in a politically motivated attack” on the agency that could disrupt the 2020 election.

stanley bastian 2015Stanley A. Bastian, left, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, said policies put in place under DeJoy “likely will slow down delivery of ballots” this fall, creating a “substantial possibility that many voters will be disenfranchised and the states may not be able to effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes.”

“The states have demonstrated that the defendants are involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service,” Bastian said in brief remarks after a two-and-a-half hour hearing in Yakima, Wash. “They have also demonstrated that this attack on the Postal Service is likely to irreparably harm the states’ ability to administer the 2020 general election.”


The ruling — the first major decision to come out of several lawsuits filed by states against the Postal Service — was a victory for Democratic state officials who view Trump’s persistent attacks on mail voting and DeJoy’s operational changes as part of a concerted effort to impede the vote on Nov. 3. Partisan tensions are running high as millions of Americans prepare to cast mail ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, and mail delays have heightened concerns that voters unfamiliar with the process will be disenfranchised.

louis dejoy CustomIn a written order released Thursday night, Bastian laid out more than a page of specific prohibitions on the Postal Service until a final judgment is reached in the case — restrictions that could broadly affect the agency’s services. He connected the USPS policies to Trump’s broadsides against mail voting, saying the actions amount to “voter disenfranchisement.”

“It is easy to conclude that the recent Postal Services’ changes is an intentional effort on the part the current Administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections,” he wrote.

Related stories:

washington post logoWashington Post, Whistleblower: Federal officials stockpiled munitions, sought ‘heat ray’ device before clearing park near White House, Marissa J. Lang, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Hours before law enforcement forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square in early June, federal officials began to stockpile ammunition and seek devices that could emit deafening sounds and make anyone within range feel like their skin is on fire, according to an Army National Guard major who was there.

adam demarco ap poolD.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. DeMarco, shown at right in an AP pool photo, told lawmakers that defense officials were searching for crowd control technology deemed too unpredictable to use in war zones and had authorized the transfer of about 7,000 rounds of ammunition to the D.C. Armory as protests against police use of force and racial injustice roiled Washington.

In sworn testimony, shared this week with The Washington Post, DeMarco provided his account as part of an ongoing investigation into law enforcement and military officers’ use of force against D.C. protesters.

DeMarco, who provided his account as a whistleblower, was the senior-most D.C. National Guard officer on the ground that day and served as a liaison between the National Guard and U.S. Park Police.

long rang acoustical deviceJust before noon on June 1, the Defense Department’s top military police officer in the Washington region sent an email to officers in the D.C. National Guard. It asked whether the unit had a Long Range Acoustic Device, also known as an LRAD (shown at left in a file photo), or a microwave-like weapon called the Active Denial System, which was designed by the military to make people feel like their skin is burning when in range of its invisible rays.

The technology, also called a “heat ray,” was developed to disperse large crowds in the early 2000s but was shelved amid concerns about its effectiveness, safety and the ethics of using it on human beings.

Pentagon officials were reluctant to use the device in Iraq. In late 2018, the New York Times reported, the Trump administration had weighed using the device on migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border — an idea shot down by Kirstjen Nielsen, then the Homeland Security secretary, citing humanitarian concerns.

He told lawmakers he felt compelled to come forward as a witness because he found the events at Lafayette Square “deeply disturbing.” His attorney, David Laufman, said DeMarco hopes lawmakers will continue to investigate the federal response.

He told lawmakers he felt compelled to come forward as a witness because he found the events at Lafayette Square “deeply disturbing.” His attorney, David Laufman, said DeMarco hopes lawmakers will continue to investigate the federal response.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes Green Party presidential ticket from ballot, clearing the way for mail ballots to be sent out, Amy Gardner, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Green Party presidential ticket from state ballots, allowing state and local election officials to resume preparations for Nov. 3 and begin mailing ballots to voters.

The court ruled that presidential contender Howie Hawkins, right, and his running mate, Angela Walker, did not qualify for the ballot because the party did not howie hawkins 2010submit signed filing papers in person, as required by state rules.

It’s the second such ruling in a week. On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found deficiencies in the Green Party’s ballot petition in that state, excluding the party from the ballot.

The decision is a blow to the third-party ticket and a win for Democrats, who worried that the Green Party could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in the key battleground state.

In Wisconsin, the Green Party effort to get on the ballot was boosted by help from some Republicans and a prominent law firm that does work for the GOP. In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court voted on a strict party line, with the court’s two Republicans partially dissenting, writing in a separate opinion that the Green Party ticket should have been given a chance to fix its paperwork.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules Green Party presidential ticket is ineligible for state ballot

In 2016, Donald Trump won both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by fewer votes than the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, collected in each state. This year, the Green Party has qualified for the ballot in more than two dozen states, including such battlegrounds as Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Maine, Minnesota and Texas.

djt pence yard sign logoThe Pennsylvania court’s decision came after it paused election preparations last week and blocked the secretary of state’s certification of the candidate list, rattling election officials who were ready to start mailing ballots to voters in response to a huge demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. Had the court ruled for the Green Party, officials would have had to scrap millions of ballots already printed and ready to be mailed out.

The Hawkins-Walker ticket was not the original slate that filed for candidacy in Pennsylvania; their names were substituted to replace Elizabeth Scroggin and Neal Gale. But the court found that the paperwork for the original slate was insufficient, requiring Hawkins and Walker to be disqualified. Specifically, the party failed to submit affidavits in person signed by Scroggin and Gale, according to the court.

“That defect was fatal to Scroggin’s nomination and, therefore, to Hawkins’ substitution,” the court ruled.

 

Virus Updates, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Testing Guidance Was Published Against Scientists’ Objections, Apoorva Mandavilli, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). A guideline saying people without Covid-19 symptoms didn’t need to get tested came from Trump administration officials and skipped a scientific review process.

cdc logo CustomA heavily criticized recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month about who should be tested for the coronavirus was not written by C.D.C. scientists and was posted to the agency’s website despite their serious objections, according to several people familiar with the matter as well as internal documents obtained by The New York Times.

The guidance said it was not necessary to test people without symptoms of Covid-19 even if they had been exposed to the virus. It came at a time when public health experts were pushing for more testing rather than less, and administration officials told The Times that the document was a C.D.C. product and had been revised with input from the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield.

But officials told The Times this week that the Department of Health and Human Services did the rewriting and then “dropped” it into the C.D.C.’s public website, flouting the agency’s strict scientific review process.

“That was a doc that came from the top down, from the H.H.S. and the task force,” said a federal official with knowledge of the matter, referring to the White House task force on the coronavirus. “That policy does not reflect what many people at the C.D.C. feel should be the policy.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: After Criticism, C.D.C. Reverses Guidelines About Testing People Who Were Exposed, Staff reports, Sept. 18, 2020. Other headlines: Israel becomes one of the few countries to impose a second nationwide lockdown; In the U.S., Joe Biden tries to focus the campaign on President Trump’s virus performance; Emails from two top Trump health officials show how they refused to accept C.D.C. science and sought to browbeat and silence agency staff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reversed a recommendation suggesting that people who have had close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus do not need to get tested if they have no symptoms.

The agency’s move comes after widespread criticism of the guideline, as well as reporting from The New York Times indicating that the recommendation came from political appointees in the Trump administration and skipped the agency’s usual rigorous scientific review. The Times reported Thursday that the guideline was posted on the C.D.C. website despite strenuous objections from its scientists.

The previous phrasing, which suggested asymptomatic people who have had close contact with an infected individual “do not necessarily need a test,” now clearly instructs them: “You need a test.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The coronavirus may increase the chance of premature births, studies suggest, Roni Caryn Rabin, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). New studies provide more evidence that pregnant women may get severe Covid-19 symptoms and have an increased risk of pregnancy loss.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: What Is It With Trump and Face Masks? Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). It’s not about freedom or culture. It’s cynical politics.

Believe it or not — and I know many people will refuse to believe it — right now New York City may be among the best places in America to avoid catching the coronavirus.

In New York State as a whole, the number of people dying daily from Covid-19 is only slightly higher than the number killed in traffic accidents. In New York City, only around 1 percent of tests for the coronavirus are coming up positive, compared with, for example, more than 12 percent in Florida.

In other words, we know what works. Which makes it both bizarre and frightening that Donald Trump has apparently decided to spend the final weeks of his re-election campaign deriding and discouraging mask-wearing and other anti-pandemic precautions.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump unmasked, Robert Harrington, Sept. 18, 2020. Fully 50% of all Americans refuse to wear a mask in some situations where mask use is highly recommended. As I write this, 202,213 Americans are dead from COVID-19. That is the price of political poison, and Americans are paying it.

Instead of being a scientific issue, coronavirus has now become, for many Americans, a political issue. The simple act of wearing a mask is an inducement to anger, even violence, for some. Store employees have been viciously assaulted — and even murdered —for requiring customers to wear a mask.

djt rncRobert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control, says that wearing a mask may even be more effective than a coronavirus vaccine, for the simple reason that a proposed vaccine might be only 70% effective, where universal mask use is 95% effective.

bill palmer report logo headerNot only that, but a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine advances the unproven but promising theory that universal face mask wearing might reduce the severity of the virus and ensure that a greater proportion of new infections are asymptomatic. Such a result could actually lead to individual immunity. Even if such immunity lasts no longer than a few months, it might be enough.

Thus, if you hope to make America well again, Donald Trump’s open contempt for mask-wearing isn’t just a huge impediment, it may render such a hope entirely futile. From the beginning Trump has weaponized this pandemic and transformed it from a crisis we are all in together to a political issue. His slavishly devoted base has been happy to take their toxic cue from him.

Such is the grave damage done by Donald Trump. His glowering relic of a base will continue to resent it if Trump is defeated, and a specimen of that resentment could be resistance to or outright defiance of statutes intended to protect Americans from the virus.

The end result is millions could die. Like the solution to global warming, the solution to coronavirus has now been neglected for so long that the only one that will work now must be radical.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump moves closer to Pelosi in economic aid talks, and House speaker must decide next move, Rachael Bade and Erica Werner, Sept. 18, 2020. Less than 50 days out from Election Day, the California Democrat and her most vulnerable members are at loggerheads over how to handle talks of pandemic relief.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 18, 2020, 13:12 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals),

World Cases: 30,395,717, Deaths: 951,306
U.S. Cases: 6,877,617, Deaths: 202,266

ny times logoNew York Times, Daily Distortions Analysis: Actually, a Chinese Virologist Didn’t Prove That Covid-19 Was Man-Made, Kevin Roose, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). This week, Tucker Carlson hosted a Chinese virologist named Dr. Li-Meng Yan on his Fox News show. Dr. Yan, who has made regular appearances in conservative media outlets this year, claimed to have “solid scientific evidence” that the novel coronavirus is “not from nature,” that it was created in a lab under a Chinese military program, and that it was spread intentionally outside China as part of a biowarfare plot.

fox news logo SmallBut none of Dr. Yan’s claims are justified by the scientific evidence. The vast majority of scientists who have studied the coronavirus agree that it originated naturally, and spread to humans from an animal species, such as a bat. And although scientists can’t rule out the possibility that the virus originated in a lab studying animals such as bats, it is vanishingly unlikely that it was genetically engineered and intentionally released.

Leading virologists and public health officials have disputed Dr. Yan’s claims about “suspicious” features of the virus that she claims indicate human engineering.

“The most straightforward explanation for the ‘suspicious’ genetic traits is natural recombination with other coronaviruses,” Alex Berezow, a microbiologist, wrote in an article for the American Council on Science and Health.

Still, Dr. Yan’s explosive claims quickly went viral on social media. A video clip of her Tucker Carlson show appearance has gotten two million views on YouTube, and nearly a million views on Facebook. Conservative influencers like Dennis Prager, Mike Huckabee and David J. Harris Jr. have also shared her claims.

On Wednesday, Facebook and Instagram began flagging posts from Mr. Carlson’s show about Dr. Yan’s claims, saying that they repeated information about the coronavirus “that multiple independent fact checkers say is false.”
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Twitter suspended Dr. Yan’s account on Wednesday, which provoked another round of viral posts, including accusations by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri that Twitter was “openly on the side of Beijing.”

world health organization logo Custom

Public health authorities, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have also noted that while the exact source of the virus is still unknown, the evidence strongly suggests a natural origin. “The sequences from U.S. patients are similar to the one that China initially posted, suggesting a likely single, recent emergence of this virus from an animal reservoir,” explained a post on the C.D.C.’s website.

In addition, a closer look at Dr. Yan’s study — which appeared on the open-access site Zenodo, and was not peer-reviewed — raises questions about her political motivations.

guo wen gui 2017The study’s first page lists support from the “Rule of Law Society & Rule of Law Foundation,” a pair of anti-China organizations spearheaded by Guo Wengui, left, the exiled Chinese billionaire, and Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, who was arrested last month on unrelated fraud charges. Neither organization has a history of sponsoring scientific research, and Mr. Guo and Mr. Bannon have spent months advancing baseless theories about the coronavirus’s origins.

The unproven theory that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab has become a popular talking point on the right. Mr. Trump and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, have advanced the theory, though U.S. intelligence agencies have not reached a conclusion on the issue.

Dr. Yan has become an increasingly popular guest on right-wing shows, and has made several appearances on Mr. Bannon’s “War Room” podcast this year, in which she echoed the points she made on Mr. Carlson’s show this week. In one July appearance, she claimed, without evidence, that the virus was engineered in a lab, and was “not from nature.”

 

U.S. Law, Media, Intelligence

washington post logotiktok logo square CustomWashington Post, Trump administration bans WeChat, TikTok from app stores beginning on Sunday, Jeanne Whalen, Sept. 18, 2020. The White House will take action to curb WeChat’s use beginning Sunday, and will give TikTok until Nov. 12 until further bans kick in. The move is expected to sharply raise tensions with Beijing.

The Trump administration said it is banning China’s TikTok and WeChat from mobile app stores beginning Sunday in an unprecedented move that will sharply raise tensions with Beijing.

The White House will take other action to curb WeChat’s use beginning Sunday and will give TikTok until Nov. 12 before further limitations kick in.

Western companies and bankers are still wrangling with TikTok’s owner, the White House and Chinese authorities to try to arrange a sale of some of TikTok’s business. TikTok has seen explosive growth in the United States, where its users number in the tens of millions.

wilbur ross headshot o“Today’s actions prove once again that President Trump will do everything in his power to guarantee our national security and protect Americans from the threats of the Chinese Communist Party,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, left, said in a statement. “At the President’s direction, we have taken significant action to combat China’s malicious collection of American citizens’ personal data, while promoting our national values, democratic rules-based norms, and aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws and regulations.”

After midnight as Sunday turns to Monday, anyone attempting to download TikTok or WeChat from the Apple or Google app stores in the U.S. won’t be able to do so, a senior Commerce official said Friday, requesting anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations. And anyone who already has the app on a phone won’t receive software updates or security patches, the official said.

The administration expects some users will find ways to continue using the apps, and it doesn’t intend to prosecute anyone for that, the official said. Its aim is to decrease use of the apps over time, the official said.

“We’re not going to haul some person using WeChat to communicate with persons overseas before a federal judge,” the official said.

On Sunday, the U.S. will also ban the provision of services that enable WeChat to be used for money transfers or mobile payments. That measure is likely to affect banks and other financial institutions that facilitate the payments.

Background: New York Times, Analysis: What Did TikTokers Do to Make Trump So Mad? James Henry, Jackie James, Rey Jarrell and Amelie Zilber, Sept. 14, 2020. Take it from these influential users: Everyone should be worried about what a ban on the popular app signifies.

There are roughly a hundred million Americans who regularly use TikTok, the social media app where you can create and share short videos on everything, from dancing to coding. But our government claims it’s dangerous since it’s owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company.

“President Trump said he will ban TikTok here in the United States, unless it is able to agree to a sale.” And this just in, the Trump administration is blocking all U.S. downloads of Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat starting this Sunday.

You may be thinking, who cares? But for us, TikTok is so much more than just another app.

Despite the fact that American intelligence found no evidence that TikTok was sharing data with the Chinese government, and TikTok claims it stores the data outside of China— We should keep a close eye on the company. But we should also be keeping an eye on all tech companies, including American ones.

Forcing a sale of the app is a show of power, but it doesn’t really protect your privacy.

This article and the video above have been updated to reflect news developments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Under a lawless Trump, our system of checks and balances is being destroyed, Editorial Board, Sept. 18, 2020. President Trump promised in 2016 that he would protect the Constitution’s “Article I, Article II, Article XII.” (There is no Article XII.) Instead, he has shown how fragile the constitutional order can be when a president does not respect the rule of law. He has not grown into the office; instead, he has learned how to more effectively abuse its powers. The damage of a second term might be irreparable.

DJT May 10, 2017

Donald Trump welcomes two top Russian foreign ministry officials to the White House for  2017 ceremony that only Russian media were permitted to attend (TASS Photo on May 10, 2017).

Politico, Wray says Russia engaged in 'very active efforts' to interfere in election, damage Biden, Kyle Cheney, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The FBI director also broke with Trump’s claim that antifa is a terrorist organization.

FBI logoFBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday described “very active efforts” by Russia to interfere in the 2020 election, primarily by working to damage former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Wray said Russians have been using social media, as well as “proxies, state media, online journals" and other vehicles to hurt Biden and what it views as anti-Russian factions in U.S. politics.

Wray’s assessment affirms the findings of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which last month described Russia’s efforts to damage Biden and specifically identified Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker who has met with President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as an agent of Russia’s influence operations.

Wray’s testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee affirmed that Russia is continuing to take an active role in the 2020 campaign with less than 50 days until Election Day. He offered no new specifics in the early-going of the hearing, but emphasized that the intelligence community has not seen evidence that Russia is reprising its 2016 attempt to target election infrastructure, such as voter databases.

In testimony to the Homeland Security Committee, Wray also diverged from Trump’s claim that “antifa” is a terrorist organization. Rather, Wray said antifa is “more of an ideology or a movement than an organization” and though there has been violence by some who self-identify as antifa, it has not appeared to be part of a central organization.

“Antifa is a real thing,” Wray said. “But it’s not an organization or a structure.”

julian assange facts wikileaks Customap logoAssociated Press, Assange lawyer says Trump offered deal to avoid extradition, Pam Pylas, Sept. 18, 2020. A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has told a London court that her client was indirectly offered a “win-win” deal by President Donald Trump that would see him avoid extradition to the U.S. if he revealed the source of a leak of documents from the Democratic Party before the 2016 election.

Assange, who didn't reveal the source of the leak of the Democratic National Committee emails, is fighting efforts by the U.S. to extradite him to face an array of charges related to his work at WikiLeaks.

jennifer robinsonJennifer Robinson (shown in a file photo), who has represented WikiLeaks for a decade, relayed to the court Friday via a written statement that her client had been made an offer at a meeting on Aug. 15, 2017, with former Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Trump associate Charles Johnson.

djt smiling fileIn her statement that was read out at London's Criminal Court, Robinson said the pair “wanted us to believe they were acting on behalf of the president” and that they had stated that Trump was “aware of and had approved of them coming to meet” with Assange to discuss the proposal. She also said the pair said they would have an audience with the president to discuss the matter on their return to Washington.

Robinson said that Rohrabacher had said he had come to London to talk to Assange at his then-refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy about “what might be necessary to get him out,” presenting him with a “win-win situation” that would allow him to leave the embassy and “get on with his life" without fear of being extradited to the U.S.

“The proposal put forward by Congressman Rohrabacher was that Assange identify the source for the 2016 election publications in return for some kind of pardon, assurance or agreement which would both benefit President Trump politically and prevent U.S. indictment and extradition," Robinson said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump regime admits in court that Julian Assange was offered pardon to cover up Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, Sept. 18, 2020.  Months ago, Julian Assange’s lawyers asserted that the Donald Trump regime used Kremlin puppet and former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher to offer Assange a pardon if he was willing to keep quiet about Russia’s role in the WikiLeaks-Trump-Russia election hacking scandal. Remarkably, the Trump regime is now admitting in court that this really happened.

The Trump regime is in the process of trying to have Assange extradited from the UK, where he’s currently being held, to the United States. Assange has been trying to block extradition by insisting that the improper pardon offer happened. Because Trump and Assange are both con artists who will say anything to try to save themselves, it was never entirely clear if this was a true story. But now that a witness from the pardon meeting has testified about it, the Trump regime has had no choice but to confess to it. So now what?

The Trump regime is now trying to fall back to the position that Rohrabacher made the pardon offer on Donald Trump’s behalf, but that Trump had no idea it was happening, and hadn’t signed off on any such deal. In other words, Trump is now throwing yet another longtime loyal ally under the bus in an effort to stop the bleeding.

If Donald Trump loses the election, the post-Trump DOJ could criminally prosecute Rohrabacher for obstruction of justice, as his pardon offer to Assange was in part an attempt at interfering with the then-ongoing federal investigation into the Trump-Russia election scandal. Rohrabacher could then cut a plea deal and provide proof that Donald Trump signed off on the deal.

We’ll see what happens down the road. But for now the big takeaway is that Donald Trump really is more interested in protecting the Kremlin’s interests than he is in protecting the United States, or even in protecting his own personal interests. Trump wasn’t even looking to get Julian Assange to cover up the fact that WikiLeaks hacked the DNC in order to alter the outcome of the 2016 election; Trump was only interested in coercing Assange into leaving Russia’s involvement out of it.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Barr is now the worst Attorney General of the U.S., trailing Palmer and Mitchell, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 18, 2020.  Trump wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAttorney General William Barr now ranks last among U.S. Attorneys General, placing behind Woodrow Wilson's extreme right-wing Attorney Genral A. Mitchell Palmer of "Palmer Raids" infamy and John Mitchell, Richard Nixon's Attorney General who helped cover up the Watergate scandal.

wayne madesen report logoOn September 16, Barr disgraced himself in comments made at an Arlington, Virginia event hosted by the conservative Christian Hillsdale College of Michigan. Barr, who may be the most political Attorney General in U.S. history, made several statements on the occasion of Constitution Day that rattled employees of the Justice Department and startled the public.

In addition to equating Covid-19 lockdowns with slavery, Barr also likened Justice Department career line prosecutors to Montessori preschoolers. He also accused Barack Obama administration officials, who began an investigation of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign for its links to Russian government and mob interests, of acting like the murderous Roman emperor Caligula.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: William Barr has gone too far before, but never this far, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr’s recent ruth marcus twitter Customcomments, in public and private, are so alarming, it’s hard to know where to begin. Barr has gone too far before, but never this far.

He compared pandemic restrictions to slavery. “You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest,” Barr said during a speech Wednesday night at Hillsdale College. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest william barr new ointrusion on civil liberties in American history.”

Barr, left, was discussing limitations on religious services during the pandemic, and there are legitimate questions about whether some restrictions on worship have gone too far. But the slavery comparison is beyond offensive. Slavery was evil. Pandemic rules are grounded in concerns for public health.

And even if the two phenomena were somehow legitimately considered along the same continuum, there is no way that the covid-19 lockdown could be accurately labeled “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.”

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

Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, center, with businessman Lev Parnas (top right) before the arrest of Parnas and his colleague Igor Fruman (top left) while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles International Airport.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani associate Parnas faces new criminal charges, Shayna Jacobs, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Lev Parnas is accused of defrauding investors in a fraud-protection company he founded — an entity used to pay Rudy Giuliani $500,000 to investigate Democrats.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Thursday filed new charges against Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump's personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, accusing the Soviet emigre of defrauding investors in a fraud-protection company he founded — an entity used to pay Giuliani $500,000 to investigate Democrats.

Parnas already faced charges of campaign finance fraud, for allegedly filtering political donations on behalf of foreign nationals via a shell organization. The superseding indictment filed Thursday in the Southern District of New York appears to move the case closer to Giuliani, who has been under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office here. The status of that probe is unknown.

rudy giuliani recentGiuliani, right, has said that there was nothing improper about the money he received while looking for information in Ukraine that may prove damaging to Trump’s political opponents, namely former vice president Joe Biden. Giuliani’s activities factored prominently in the president’s impeachment proceedings.

Parnas and another man, David Correia, are accused of using their company, Florida-based Fraud Guarantee, to cover personal expenses. The pair “made materially false representations concerning, among other things, how much money Parnas had contributed to the company and how much money the company had raised overall,” the new indictment says.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan telegraphed several months ago that additional counts were expected in the case.

Prosecutors say there are at least seven victims who believed they were financing Fraud Guarantee, a company that claimed to be in the business of fighting against corporate fraud.

 

U.S. Education, Race Policies, Practices

 Giancarlo Granda (Reuters photo)

Giancarlo Granda (Reuters photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, The Falwells, the pool attendant and the double life that brought them all down, Michael E. Miller and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Sept. 18, 2020.  Giancarlo Granda says Becki and Jerry Falwell preyed on him sexually. The evangelical couple says their young business partner tried to extort money from them.

For 2½ years, Giancarlo Granda had been telling his family about the generosity of his business partners. The wealthy couple from out of town had taken him under their wing, he said, rewarding the Miami pool attendant’s ambition with a stake in a multimillion-dollar real estate project. Now he wanted them to meet.

In a trendy Italian restaurant inside the South Beach property where he’d become a part owner, Granda introduced his parents and sister to his unlikely benefactors: Jerry and Becki Falwell.

Over wine and pasta, the president of Liberty University and his wife (shown below left) praised the square-jawed 22-year-old, saying he was like an adopted son, Granda and his sister recalled.

jerry falwell jr becki falwell“Oh my God. They’re so nice,” Granda’s mother said of the Falwells afterward. “They’re so charming.”

“You see?” Granda recalled replying. “They just want to help me out.”

But the dinner in 2014 was about more than making an introduction, Granda now claims, and he was far more than the Falwells’ friend.

Instead, Granda alleges he was in the middle of a years-long relationship with the Falwells in which he would have sex with Becki while Jerry watched and sometimes recorded. Becki acknowledges the affair with Granda, but she and Jerry both deny he was involved in any way.

“I never participated in this affair as he now falsely claims,” Jerry Falwell said in a statement. “Obviously, it was a very painful period of our lives, but we liberty university sealreconciled and love each other.”

Granda maintains that the intimate dinner — a photo of which Granda posted on Instagram on Nov. 14, 2014 — was part of an attempt to provide a cover story, as people began questioning the ties between the middle-aged evangelical couple and the handsome young college student.

Granda’s claims about the affair, which were first reported in detail by Reuters, were made the same day Falwell stepped down last month as president of Liberty, the prominent Christian university his televangelist father founded a half-century ago in Lynchburg, Va.

djt jerry falwell jr becki falwellAnd the relationship may have played a role in the political fortunes of President Trump. Falwell endorsed Trump in 2016, not long after his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said he helped the Falwells cover up compromising photos.

In interviews with The Washington Post, Falwell said his wife had a one- or two-year affair with Granda, who then tried to blackmail them.

“He is a liar and he’s an extortionist,” Falwell, 58, said of Granda.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Becki, 53, said.

But Granda, now 29, says the relationship went on for nearly seven years. Photos, emails, text messages and other documents he provided to The Post support that timeline. In a 2019 recording, Granda and the Falwells can be heard discussing a weekend they shared at a resort seven years earlier, and their fears that the getaway would become public. And screen grabs of a FaceTime conversation in early 2019 appear to show Becki topless and drinking wine while Jerry watched her talk to Granda.

Falwell’s statement Sunday to the Examiner said nothing about Granda’s account alleging that the evangelical leader had his own role in the affair, and Falwell didn’t address questions from Reuters about it. In the statement quoted by the Examiner, Falwell said that “Becki had an inappropriate personal relationship with this person, something in which I was not involved.”

News of the entanglement could pose a fresh threat to the influence of Jerry Falwell, a towering figure in the U.S. evangelical political movement. His 2016 endorsement of Donald Trump helped the twice-divorced New Yorker win the Republican nomination for president.

Falwell, 58, took an indefinite leave of absence earlier this month from Liberty University, the Christian school he has run since 2007. The leave, announced in a terse statement from the school’s board of trustees, came days after Falwell posted, then deleted, an Instagram photo of himself with his pants unzipped, standing with his arm around a young woman whose pants were also partly undone. Falwell later told a local radio station that the picture was meant as a good-natured joke.

Becki Falwell, 53, is a political figure in her own right. She served on the advisory board of the group Women for Trump, which advocates for the president’s reelection campaign. She also spoke as part of a panel with her husband and Donald Trump Jr. at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, the signature annual gathering of conservatives. Jerry Falwell and others refer to her as “the first lady of Liberty University.”

The university, based in Lynchburg, Virginia, was founded in 1971 by Falwell’s televangelist father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell. The younger Falwell took over in 2007. Today, the university boasts an online and on-campus enrollment that exceeds 100,000 students and holds those who attend to an exacting honor code. “Sexual relations outside of a biblically ordained marriage between a natural-born man and a natural-born woman are not permissible at Liberty University,” the code reads.

Related stories:

  • Washington Post, Post-Falwells, Liberty faces questions about faith, power, accountability, Susan Svrluga, Michelle Boorstein and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Aug. 29, 2020. Jerry Fallwell Jr.'s departure leaves Liberty University at a turning point: Will the school continue its success as measured by assets and political clout? Or return to the religious priority of Jerry Falwell Sr.?

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump alleges ‘left-wing indoctrination’ in schools, says he will create national commission to push more ‘pro-American’ history, Moriah Balingit and Laura Meckler, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.).

djt handwave filePresident Trump pressed his case Thursday that U.S. schools are indoctrinating children with a left-wing agenda hostile to the nation’s Founding Fathers, describing efforts to educate students about racism and slavery as an insult to the country’s lofty founding principles.

Trump, speaking before original copies of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, characterized demonstrations against racial injustice as “left-wing rioting and mayhem” that “are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long.”

The federal government has no power over the curriculum taught in local schools. Nonetheless, Trump said he would create a national commission to promote a “pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history,” which he said would encourage educators to teach students about the “miracle of American history.”

As he campaigns for reelection, Trump has repeatedly cast education that examines the nation’s failures as a betrayal, seeking to rally his base and tap into hostility toward protesters who have taken to the streets to denounce racial injustice and police brutality.

His argument casts any criticism of the United States, even of slavery, as unpatriotic. It stands in sharp contrast to American leaders such as President Barack Obama, who spoke more frankly of the nation’s shortcomings, painting it as a country constantly striving to perfect itself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Education Department launches investigation after Princeton’s president confronts ‘systemic racism’ on campus, Susan Svrluga, Sept. 18, 2020. The Education Department has launched an investigation into Princeton University, questioning whether the school is in compliance with federal anti-discrimination law.

princeton resized logoThe move, which follows a recent statement by the Ivy League institution’s president on efforts to combat racism on campus, was castigated by a national higher education association as an unwarranted, unprecedented and politically motivated intrusion into the private university.

Like many universities and other institutions across the country in a summer of racial reckoning, Princeton has been delving into its history and asking what changes it could make. The department’s letter comes at a politically fraught time, weeks before the election, when President Trump has moved to overhaul federal agencies’ racial sensitivity trainings and called for a “pro-American” curriculum in schools that “celebrates the truth about our nation’s great history.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Personal Commentary: Yes, I was hired because I was Black. But that’s not the only reason, Michelle Singletary, right, Sept. 18, 2020. In a michelle singletary10-part series, Michelle Singletary gets personal about common misconceptions involving race and inequality. Here, she examines the notion that affirmative action gives unqualified Black people an unfair advantage.

When I was first hired at The Washington Post, I found I had to repeatedly explain my qualifications to colleagues. So after one staff meeting, I went to the business editor, David Vise, and asked him directly whether he hired me because I was Black.

“Yes, I hired you because you are Black,” he said.

By then, I had eight years of full-time work experience, but I was still considered a young hire for the business section. Vise, who won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1990, had recruited me after hearing me speak on a panel about business beat reporting at the annual summer convention for the National Association of Black Journalists. Five months later, I was at The Post.

Vise invited me into his office to continue the conversation in private. He closed the door and gestured for me to take a seat on the couch. This was in 1992, and I was 29 years old.

 

Wildfires, Climate Change, Science

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Catastrophic flooding’ unfolding as Sally lumbers inland, Andrew Freedman, Jason Samenow and Matthew Cappucci, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). ‘Severe’ damage reported in coastal Alabama and Florida Panhandle as storm crawls inland; Hurricane Sally is yet another in a line of recent hurricanes to intensify right before landfall.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rarefied air: Taking a healthy breath is now a luxury in California, Reed Albergotti, Sept. 18, 2020. Western wildfire smoke has blanketed the state, but its ill effects are not evenly distributed. Wealthier families can get away for a while, or at least hunker down in air-purified homes. 

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: U.S. is sliding into autocracy under Trump, scholars say, Christopher Ingraham, Sept. 18, 2020. Academics who study how democracies die offered dire warnings about a second term for President Trump. The weakening of democratic values — a path that’s difficult to reverse — has accelerated, according to hundreds of indicators assessed each year

Three years into the Trump administration, American democracy has eroded to a point that more often than not leads to full-blown autocracy, according to a project that tracks the health of representative government in nations around the world.

The project, called V-Dem, or Varieties of Democracy, is an effort to precisely quantify global democracy at the country level based on hundreds indicators assessed annually by thousands of individual experts. It’s one of several ongoing projects by political scientists that have registered a weakening of democratic values in the United States in recent years.

V-Dem’s findings are bracing: The United States is undergoing “substantial autocratization” — defined as the loss of democratic traits — that has accelerated precipitously under President Trump. This is particularly alarming in light of what the group’s historic data show: Only 1 in 5 democracies that start down this path are able to reverse the damage before succumbing to full-blown autocracy.

“The United States is not unique” in its decline, said Staffan I. Lindberg, a political scientist at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg and a founding director of the project. “Everything we see in terms of decline on these indicators is exactly the pattern of decline” seen in other autocratizing nations, like Turkey and Hungary, both of which ceased to be classified as democracies in recent years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog urges probe of Trump donations tied to head of USPS, Aaron C. Davis, Sept. 18, 2020. In a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center said contributions made by relatives and employees of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy as recently as 2018 merit scrutiny.

us mail logoA pattern of campaign contributions by employees and relatives of Louis DeJoy before he became postmaster general indicates a possible effort to reimburse his associates for donations as recently as 2018, according to a Federal Election Commission complaint filed Thursday by a government watchdog group.

The filing by the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center is the third complaint seeking a state or federal investigation since The Washington Post this month reported allegations that DeJoy and his aides urged employees at New Breed Logistics, his former North Carolina-based company, to write checks and attend fundraisers on behalf of Republican candidates.

DeJoy then defrayed the cost of those political contributions from 2003 to 2014 by boosting employee bonuses, two employees told The Post.

Although it can be permissible to encourage others to make donations, reimbursing them for those contributions is a violation of North Carolina and federal election laws. Known as a straw-donor scheme, the practice allows donors to evade individual contribution limits and obscures the true source of money used to influence elections.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Secret Health Plan Is a Promise Voters Have Heard Before, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). On Tuesday night, President Trump told a town-hall-style meeting he had a health plan to replace the Affordable Care Act that’s “all ready,” a pitch he has delivered for four years.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Early Voting Begins in Four States, Staff reports, Sept. 18, 2020. Voters are casting ballots in Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota and Minnesota, where Joe Biden and President Trump will campaign today. Here’s the latest.

Roll Call, Deal reached ‘in principle’ on stopgap funding through Dec. 11, Jennifer Shutt and Paul M. Krawzak, Sept. 18, 2020. Agreement, which was still being written, would free up money for farm programs as well as school breakfasts and lunches.

House and Senate negotiators reached a tentative deal on stopgap funding legislation to tide over federal agencies through Dec. 11, according to aides in both chambers who weren’t authorized to speak for the record.

The continuing resolution, which was still being written, will contain the Commodity Credit Corporation funding anomaly sought by the Trump administration, enabling the agency to stay under its $30 billion borrowing cap and keep commodity and conservation payments flowing.

It will also extend an expiring program that enables low-income families with children who receive free and reduced-price school meals to receive food while schools are closed.

The “agreement in principle,” as aides described it, will not include an extension of redistricting-related census deadlines or added election security funding.

The CR needs to become law by Oct. 1 or a partial government shutdown would begin.

ny times logophil murphy o smile CustomNew York Times, Deal Reached in N.J. for ‘Millionaires Tax’ to Address Fiscal Crisis, Tracey Tully, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Gov. Philip Murphy, right, said the tax would help make up shortfalls caused by the pandemic, but Republicans warned it would lead to an exodus of wealthy residents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: For Trump, It’s Not the United States, It’s Red and Blue States, Peter Baker, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). A statement by President Trump this week was an insight into how he views the country as composed of parts that either are for him or against him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Biden Campaign Isn’t Door-Knocking. Don’t Freak Out, Michelle Goldberg, right, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Campaigning during a michelle goldberg thumbpandemic is an experiment for everyone.

Adam Barbanel-Fried is the director of Changing the Conversation Together, a group that does something called “deep canvassing” in Pennsylvania, targeting infrequent voters who lean Democratic. Walking the streets, Barbanel-Fried sees little sign of Joe Biden’s campaign, and that terrifies him.

But even if there were floods of Trump door-knockers, Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said Democrats need different tactics because they have different voters. “If you’re talking to Republican voters who don’t think coronavirus is real, they’re delighted to have you come knock on their door,” Wikler said. “If you’re talking to someone who’s limiting their children’s contact with grandparents to avoid spreading the disease, showing up unannounced in person would provoke people.”

Instead, the Biden team is relying on phone calls, postcards and texts as well as other forms of digital outreach. There’s a feature on the campaign app that will search your contacts to find everyone you know in swing states, and let you reach out to them with a click.

Strategic Culture Foundation via OpEdNews, Opinion: Trump's Caudillismo Support Among Wealthy Latin American Expatriates, Wayne Madsen, Sept. 18, 2020. The U.S. political class of pundits, pollsters, columnists, and endless cable news blathering talking heads are currently putting forth the notion that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is having a problem with support from the Hispanic community.

This argument is based on a disingenuously false premise that the Hispanic community is a political monolith that is gravitating, as it has in recent years, to Republican candidates. To be sure, there is a conservative base to the Hispanic vote among the mostly white European exiles in South Florida, who came to the United States to flee, along with their offshore bank accounts, socialist and progressive governments that came to power after overthrowing Central Intelligence Agency-nurtured dictatorships of "caudillos" in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

When Republicans talk of Donald Trump gaining support among Florida's Hispanic community, the are referring to the mostly white European exiles of Miami-Dade. These so-called "Hispanics," largely devoid of the indigenous native American or Afro-Caribbean ethnic roots of their socialism-supporting countrymen, support candidates like Trump because of their nostalgia for anti-democratic and fascist caudillos like Batista, Somoza, and Marcos Pe'rez Jime'nez of Venezuela.

What goes largely unreported by the U.S. "news"/infotainment complex is the overwhelming support that the Biden-Kamala Harris ticket has among South Florida's Caribbean community of Bahamians, Jamaicans, Haitians, and others from the English-, French-, and Creole-speaking Caribbean. Harris, whose father was Jamaican, has tapped into the wellspring of support from South Florida's and the Houston, Texas region's tightly-knit Caribbean communities.

Trump also has very little support among the Mexican-Americans of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California. They saw the Trump administration rip babies and youngsters from the arms of their asylum-seeking parents from southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The Southwest U.S. Hispanic community will never forget the photographs of babies and young children of the mestizo and Mayan migrants being forced to live in cages in concentration camps established in the southern border region of the United States.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, These countries crushed covid-19 — but are now reporting higher infection rates than the U.S., Michael Birnbaum, Ruth Eglash and James McAuley, Sept. 18, 2020. Israel, Spain and France all fought the coronavirus into abatement in the first months of the pandemic with tough measures that won international praise. But the three countries now share a painful distinction: their infection rates have shot past the United States, even though Americans never got the virus under control.

The experience of these three nations demonstrates the difficulty of keeping the virus at bay, experts and officials say, and how reopening too quickly and other missteps can undermine successful national policies. For countries with more chaotic approaches, such as the United States, the challenge may be even greater.

National Press Club, Statement On DOJ Decision Related To Al Jazeera Filing Under FARA, John Donnelly, Sept. 18, 2020. In response to the Justice Department’s Monday order for a U.S.-based affiliate of Al Jazeera to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), National Press Club President Michael Freedman and National Press Club Journalism Institute President Angela Greiling Keane released the following joint statement.

“We disagree with the U.S, Department of Justice (DOJ) decision to require AJ+ to file under FARA. This order effectively says the U.S. government views Al Jazeera to be a propaganda arm of the Qatari government rather than the independent news organizations that journalists all over the world know it to be, particularly though its coverage of the pro-Democracy Arab Spring movement of the past decade.

“Further, the timing of this FARA announcement the day before the UAE formally signed an agreement normalizing relations with Israel is of note. The UAE has made undercutting Al Jazeera’s journalism one of its priorities since it worked with Saudi Arabia in 2017 to impose a blockade on Qatar, which provides state funding to the news organization.

“We object to this mischaracterization of AJ+ which produces news videos and other content in multiple languages for digital distribution, as a foreign agent. We can only conclude that the Trump Administration is buckling to the demands of the UAE, which wants to suppress independent news gathering in the region – reporting that can expose the systemic inequality, corruption and incompetence of many of the region’s rulers

“While the Qatari government funds Al Jazeera, it does not control the network’s editorial decisions. Other prominent examples exist of international news outlets receiving foreign government funding, yet still being viewed as credible journalism organizations that do not have to file under FARA, These include: the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and AFP.

“FARA was developed during World War II to block Nazi propaganda from influencing Americans. It requires designated foreign entitites to reveal their sources of funding and to file regular public disclosures about their activity. The classification of Al Jazeera under FARA seems wholly political. The Trump Administration has close ties to UAE and Saudi Arabia even as the United States shares long-term strategic interests with Qatar exemplified by the Air Force’s reliance on the large air base at Al Udeid.

“Americans interest is in the growth and proliferation of independent media throughout the Middle East that can serve as a check on corrupt and unresponsive governments. Calling Al Jazeera a propaganda outlet instead of the independent news organization it is sends exactly the wrong message.”

 

Sept. 17

Top Headlines

 

Virus Scandal Updates, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Intelligence

 

Wildfires, Climate Change, Science

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, DeJoy’s Postal Service policies delayed 7 percent of nation’s first-class mail, Senate report says, Jacob Bogage, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The postmaster general suspended some cost-cutting maneuvers but not the moves experts say are behind the worst problems

us mail logoPostmaster General Louis DeJoy’s controversial midsummer operational directives delayed nearly 350 million pieces, or 7 percent, of the country’s first-class mail in the five weeks they were in effect, according to a new report published Wednesday by the Senate’s top Democrat in charge of postal oversight.

A month after taking charge of the U.S. Postal Service, DeJoy implemented stricter dispatch schedules on transport trucks that forced workers to leave mail behind and prohibited extra mail trips, leading to well-documented bottlenecks. Managers under him also cracked down on overtime, which postal workers commonly rely on to complete routes, though DeJoy has denied having a role in those cutbacks

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC director says coronavirus vaccines won’t be widely available till the middle of 2021, Amy Goldstein, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). It will take months after approval for a vaccine to help control the pandemic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield Robert Redfieldpredicted at Wednesday’s Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, right, predicted Wednesday that most of the American public will not have access to a vaccine against the novel coronavirus until late spring or summer of next year — contrary to President Trump’s assertions that the pandemic is nearly over.

us senate logoAt a Senate hearing on the government’s response to the pandemic, CDC director Robert Redfield adhered to President Trump’s oft-stated contention that a safe and effective vaccine will become available in November or December — perhaps just before the presidential election seven weeks away.

But Redfield said the vaccine will be provided first to people most vulnerable to covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, and supplies will increase over time, so Americans who are lower priority for the protection will be offered the shot more gradually. For it to be “fully available to the American public, so we begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life,” he said, “I think we are probably looking at late second cdc logo Customquarter, third quarter 2021.”

Though any individual vaccinated should benefit, he said, the progressive widening of its availability means there will be a time lag between when a vaccine is approved and when it could have a measurable effect in controlling the pandemic. That might be six to nine months after the day it is approved by federal drug regulators, Redfield predicted.

 

Virus Updates, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 17, 2020, 11:41 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2below),

  • World Cases: 30,075,249, Deaths: 945,837
  • U.S. Cases: 6,829,281, Deaths: 201,384

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Scientific Breakthroughs Don’t Care About Calendars,’ Biden Says, Sydney Ember, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., expressed concern that President Trump was trying to rush coronavirus vaccine approval for political gain.

joe biden kamala harris campaign shotWith deaths from the coronavirus nearing 200,000 in the United States, Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday assailed President Trump for playing politics with a potential coronavirus vaccine, saying he did not trust Mr. Trump to determine when a vaccine was ready for Americans.

“Let me be clear: I trust vaccines,” Mr. Biden said. “I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t either.”

Shortly after Mr. Biden’s speech in Wilmington, Del., Mr. Trump seemed to lend credence to the former vice president’s criticism by publicly rebuking the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for saying that widespread vaccination might not be possible until the middle of next year. Speaking during an evening briefing at the White House, the president also kept up an attack line against Mr. Biden, misleadingly accusing him of “promoting his anti-vaccine theories.”

In his speech, Mr. Biden thrust the issue of a coronavirus vaccine to center stage in the presidential race, expressing grave concern over the political pressure he said Mr. Trump was exerting over the government’s approval process and accusing him of trying to rush out a vaccine for electoral gain.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden questions whether vaccine approved by Trump would be safe, Sean Sullivan, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden on Wednesday expressed reservations about whether a coronavirus vaccine approved by the Trump administration would be safe, raising doubts about the president’s ability to put the health of Americans before politics.

joe biden oBiden said Americans should trust a coronavirus vaccine developed under the Trump administration only if the president gives “honest answers” to questions about its safety, effectiveness and equitable distribution. “I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Biden said. “And at this point, the American people can’t, either.”

Biden also raised the possibility of President Trump pressuring agency officials to sign off on a vaccine that scientists are not yet confident in, to gain an electoral advantage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Scorns His Own Scientists Over Virus Data, Peter Baker, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). A public scolding of the C.D.C. chief was only the latest but perhaps the starkest instance when the president has rejected not just the policy advice of his public health officials but the facts and information that they provided.

“I think he made a mistake when he said that,” President Trump told reporters on Wednesday during a news conference at the White House about Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s just incorrect information.”

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump on Wednesday rejected the professional scientific conclusions of his own government about the prospects for a widely available coronavirus vaccine and the effectiveness of masks in curbing the spread of the virus as the death toll in the United States from the disease neared 200,000.

In a remarkable display even for him, Mr. Trump publicly slapped down Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the president promised that a vaccine could be available in weeks and go “immediately” to the general public while diminishing the usefulness of masks despite evidence to the contrary.

The president’s comments put him at odds with the C.D.C., the world’s premier public health agency, over the course of a pandemic that he keeps insisting is “rounding the corner” to an end. Mr. Trump lashed out just hours after Dr. Redfield told a Senate committee that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year and that masks were so vital in fighting the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, that they may even more important than a vaccine.

ny times logoNew York Times, Weekly Unemployment Claims Fall, but Layoffs Continue, Nelson D. Schwartz, Sept. 17, 2020. New claims for state unemployment insurance fell last week, but layoffs continue to come at an extraordinarily high level by historical standards.

Initial claims for state benefits totaled 790,000 before adjusting for seasonal factors, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The weekly tally, down from 866,000 the previous week, is roughly four times what it was before the coronavirus pandemic shut down many businesses in March. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the total was 860,000, down from 893,000 the previous week.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global. “We’ve got a long way to go, and there’s still a risk of a double-dip recession.”

 The situation has been compounded by the failure of Congress to agree on new federal aid to the jobless.

A $600 weekly supplement established in March that had kept many families afloat expired at the end of July. The makeshift replacement mandated by President Trump last month has encountered processing delays in some states and has funds for only a few weeks.

“The labor market continues to heal from the viral recession, but unemployment remains extremely elevated and will remain a problem for at least a couple of years,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services. “Initial claims have been roughly flat since early August, suggesting that the pace of improvement in layoffs is slowing.”

New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an emergency federal program for freelance workers, independent contractors and others not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, totaled 659,000, the Labor Department reported.

Federal data suggests that the program now has more beneficiaries than regular unemployment insurance. But there is evidence that both overcounting and fraud may have contributed to a jump in claims.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: WHO calls for ‘consistent messaging’ by top officials after Trump contradicts CDC chief, Sept. 17, 2020. Abu Dhabi airport introduces mandatory wristbands for arrivals to enforce 14-day quarantine.

world health organization logo CustomPresident Trump on Wednesday tried to knock down a prediction by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield that novel coronavirus vaccines will not be widely available until the middle of next year. Trump reiterated his claim that a vaccine could be ready to start being administered as early as mid-October, which many experts, including scientists leading the vaccine effort, have said is very unlikely.

“It is important that we have consistent messaging from all levels” by top officials worldwide, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan said at a news briefing Thursday.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Intelligence

DJT May 10, 2017

Donald Trump welcomes two top Russian foreign ministry officials to the White House for  2017 ceremony that only Russian media were permitted to attend (TASS Photo on May 10, 2017).

Politico, Wray says Russia engaged in 'very active efforts' to interfere in election, damage Biden, Kyle Cheney, Sept. 17, 2020. The FBI director also broke with Trump’s claim that antifa is a terrorist organization.

FBI logoFBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday described “very active efforts” by Russia to interfere in the 2020 election, primarily by working to damage former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Wray said Russians have been using social media, as well as “proxies, state media, online journals" and other vehicles to hurt Biden and what it views as anti-Russian factions in U.S. politics.

Wray’s assessment affirms the findings of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which last month described Russia’s efforts to damage Biden and specifically identified Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker who has met with President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as an agent of Russia’s influence operations.

Wray’s testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee affirmed that Russia is continuing to take an active role in the 2020 campaign with less than 50 days until Election Day. He offered no new specifics in the early-going of the hearing, but emphasized that the intelligence community has not seen evidence that Russia is reprising its 2016 attempt to target election infrastructure, such as voter databases.

In testimony to the Homeland Security Committee, Wray also diverged from Trump’s claim that “antifa” is a terrorist organization. Rather, Wray said antifa is “more of an ideology or a movement than an organization” and though there has been violence by some who self-identify as antifa, it has not appeared to be part of a central organization.

“Antifa is a real thing,” Wray said. “But it’s not an organization or a structure.”

 us bureau of prisons logo

washington post logoWashington Post, More than half of all wrongful criminal convictions are caused by government misconduct, study finds, Tom Jackman, right, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The tom jackmanstudy also found that police and prosecutors are rarely disciplined for actions that lead to a wrongful conviction; Misconduct can be intentional or unintentional, but either way innocent people are found guilty.

When a prisoner is granted their freedom because they were wrongly convicted of a crime, the focus turns to the years — or decades — they spent behind bars, their feelings upon release and their hopes for the future. But a new study digs into the reasons people are wrongly convicted, and it has found that 54 percent of those defendants are victimized by official misconduct, with police involved in 34 percent of cases, prosecutors in 30 percent, and some cases involving both police and prosecutors.

The study by the National Registry of Exonerations reviewed 2,400 exonerations it has logged between 1989 and 2019, nearly 80 percent of which were for violent felonies. Of the 2,400, 93 innocent defendants were sentenced to death and later cleared before they were executed.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Barr sought to undermine the Church Committee investigation of the CIA, Wayne Madsen, below at left, Sept. 17, 2020. While william barr o 1992Left, serving in the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of Legislative Affairs from 1973 to 1977, Attorney General William Barr (shown in a 1980s photo at right, attempted to interfere with the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, otherwise known as the Church Committee.

The committee chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) revealed that the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies had systematically violated the U.S. Constitution with respect to civil liberties of U.S. citizens and conducted assassinations of foreign leaders.

CIA LogoOn May 20, 1976, Barr penned a memo attached to a draft CIA director's letter on requesting the Senate to lift the moratorium imposed by the Senate on the CIA on the destruction of CIA records.

Barr was involved in a CIA attempt to curtail the destruction of CIA documents spelled out in the bi-partisan Senate Resolution 21, in which the CIA was requested to "not destroy, remove from {its] possession or control, or otherwise dispose or permit the disposal of any records or documents which might have a bearing on the subjects under investigation."

william barr senate hearing cnn screengrab jan 15 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr’s attack on his own prosecutors is said to be fed by frustration with both sides of aisle, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Sept. 17, 2020. In a fiery speech Wednesday, Attorney General William P. Barr was partly trying to dampen expectations on the right that former high-level Obama officials will be charged with crimes, people close to him said.

Attorney General William P. Barr’s scalding criticism of some of his own Justice Department prosecutors grew in part from frustration with the accusation that he had improperly intervened in high-profile political cases, but those close to him insist it was also meant as a signal to those on the right calling for arrests of former officials whom President Trump dislikes.

In a speech Wednesday night to a conservative audience, Barr said some prosecutors were “headhunters,” and that career staff, rather than being best suited make decisions in sensitive cases, must defer to him, the nation’s top law enforcement official. He decried what he called the “criminalization of politics” and the lust among some pundits to criminally charge officials with whom they disagree.

Justice Department log circularCurrent and former Justice Department officials expressed a range of reactions to the speech, from outrage to mild disappointment to curiosity about whether the attorney general is trying to send a message about action in future cases. Some said Barr was attacking the institution he leads, seemingly ignoring that Trump, perhaps more than anyone, has pushed for charges against those he considers political foes.

But some people close to the attorney general said Barr’s speech was meant not just as a rejoinder to those on the left who have criticized his moves on cases involving Trump associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and longtime friend Roger Stone. Barr was also gingerly trying to temper conservatives’ hopes that, before Election Day, former senior officials once involved in investigating the president will be charged criminally, people familiar with the matter said.

Barr has tapped the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, John Durham, to review the FBI’s 2016 investigation into whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election. Trump and other conservatives have been hopeful that Durham will validate their long-held criticism of the Russia probe by bringing serious charges or leveling public allegations against top law enforcement and intelligence officials who worked in the Obama administration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Is How Bad It’s Gotten at the Justice Department, Neal K. Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer ( law professors at Georgetown), Sept. 17, 2020. Skeptics often ask what difference one person really can make by leaving. The answer is: a lot.

In his time as the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr has alienated many federal prosecutors. The latest appears to be Nora Dannehy, a longtime prosecutor who has resigned from the department, where she was part of a team looking into the Russia investigation.

We don’t know for sure exactly what happened; she isn’t talking, nor is Mr. Barr. But The Hartford Courant, which broke the story, reported that Ms. Dannehy’s colleagues said that she departed because of Mr. Barr’s politicization — in particular, because Mr. Barr is evidently eager to break drastically with past practice and issue an incomplete report intended to help President Trump in his re-election efforts.

Her resignation looks like part of an extremely troubling pattern. Earlier this year, highly respected prosecutors in the Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases dramatically resigned or withdrew. One of them testified to Congress that the Justice Department under Mr. Barr was treating Mr. Stone “differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president.” The Justice Department inspector general has opened an investigation.

When civil servants resign, skeptics often ask what difference one person really can make by leaving. The answer is simple: a lot. Ms. Dannehy’s departure isn’t just likely a major assertion of integrity by her; it’s also a big problem for Mr. Barr — and therefore for Mr. Trump.

The resignations are a forceful public signal that something is seriously awry with the Justice Department under Mr. Barr. A hallmark of the department, where both of us worked, is its tradition of political independence, forged over decades since its creation in 1870. Neither of us ever heard of career civil servants resigning because they believed the attorney general was acting politically. Never — and that’s even accounting for the department’s strong conservatives and liberals in its career ranks.

Mr. Barr’s bizarre project, headed by John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, was created to reinvestigate the investigators of Russian election interference and to cover ground already explored in detail by the department’s inspector general. Ms. Dennehy’s departure casts real doubt on Mr. Barr’s design to try to vindicate Mr. Trump’s narrative that he was targeted in 2016 by the “deep state.”

Ms. Dannehy poses a looming further threat to Mr. Barr. She didn’t just withdraw from the investigation; she resigned from the department entirely. That means Mr. Barr can’t muzzle her — and, in turn, she can warn Congress and the rest of us about what prompted such a dramatic move by a highly regarded career public servant who had previously managed to oversee the investigation into the politically fraught firings of seven U.S. attorneys in the George W. Bush administration.

She will have constraints like attorney-client privilege and classification. But that still leaves plenty of room to unmask Mr. Barr’s shenanigans. That should happen immediately in testimony before the House of Representatives. To lay bare Mr. Barr’s mischief is, in significant part, to defang it. This, not Mr. Durham’s unfinished report, is what needs to happen before the election.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitch McConnell vs Amy McGrath: the real deal with the Kentucky senate race and that new poll, Bill Palmer, Sept. 17, 2020. There is major news out of the Quinnipiac poll which shows that Susan Collins is losing her Maine reelection bid by twelve points, Lindsey Graham is tied in his South Carolina race, and Mitch McConnell is winning his Kentucky race by twelve points. Talk about a mixture of good and bad. So what’s really up with the Kentucky race?

bill palmer report logo headerFor one thing, this is the latest reminder that you always look at the polling averages when you can, and not just individual polls. For instance, the averages suggest that Collins is actually behind by a high single digit margin in Maine, not a double digit margin. The difficulty with the Kentucky race is the the polling is so sparse in the state, there is no polling average, and we have no way of knowing if Mitch McConnell really is twelve points ahead of Democratic candidate Amy McGrath (shown at right in file photos).

mitch mcconnell amy mcgrath resizedBut it does seem fairly clear that McConnell is ahead by some margin, and that brings us back to the cold hard reality of Kentucky politics. The Kentucky Senate race was always a long shot. McGrath and her former primary opponent Charles Booker would have faced equally difficult odds, so no, it’s not a matter of anything being wrong with our candidate. It’s simply that Kentucky is a deep red state, and McConnell has an endless supply of dirty Super PAC money for his campaign.

The more realistic way to beat Mitch McConnell is to win the overall Senate majority, which would relegate McConnell to the relatively powerless role of Senate Minority Leader. McConnell would then be reduced to complaining and squirming for a living, even as the Democratic Senate majority does what it wants.

That’s not to say that we should give up on the Kentucky Senate race. It’s just that it’s a long shot compared to a lot of the other Senate races going on around the country, all of which are equally important to seizing control of the Senate. So let’s all keep strongly supporting Amy McGrath, while also remembering that it’s just one of many important Senate races going on right now.

The Guardian, Donald Trump accused of sexual assault by former model Amy Dorris, Lucy Osborne, Sept. 17, 2020. Amy Dorris alleges Trump forced his tongue down her throat and groped her at 1997 US Open.

A former model has come forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her at the US Open tennis tournament more djt handwave filethan two decades ago, in an alleged incident that left her feeling “sick” and “violated.”

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Amy Dorris alleged that Trump accosted her outside the bathroom in his VIP box at the tournament in New York on 5 September 1997. Dorris, who was 24 at the time, accuses Trump of forcing his tongue down her throat, assaulting her all over her body and holding her in a grip she was unable to escape from.

“He just shoved his tongue down my throat and I was pushing him off. And then that’s when his grip became tighter and his hands were very gropey and all over my butt, my breasts, my back, everything. I was in his grip, and I couldn’t get out of it,” she said, adding: “I don’t know what you call that when you’re sticking your tongue just down someone’s throat. But I pushed it out with my teeth. I was pushing it. And I think I might have hurt his tongue.”

Via his lawyers, Trump denied in the strongest possible terms having ever harassed, abused or behaved improperly toward Dorris. Dorris, who lives in Florida, provided the Guardian with evidence to support her account of her encounters with Trump, including her ticket to the US Open and six photos showing her with the real estate magnate over several days in New York. Trump was 51 at the time and married to his second wife, Marla Maples.

 

Wildfires, Climate Change, Science

climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Hazardous smoke from wildfires continues to smother West Coast, Samantha Schmidt and Ian Livingston, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Several cities in Oregon reached their highest-ever-recorded air-quality index ratings during the past week.

Thick, hazardous smoke could continue to smother the West Coast for days, hindering firefighters battling dozens of deadly blazes that continue to scorch the region.

While a brief, long-awaited rain arrived along the Oregon coast on Tuesday, clearing up the skies in some parts of the state, officials warned that dangerous smoke will remain in the air through at least Thursday.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has extended an air-quality advisory through noon Thursday, as several cities in the state reached their highest-ever-recorded air-quality index ratings during the past week. The state already has seen a significant increase in emergency room visits for smoke-related respiratory conditions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s plan for managing forests won’t save us in a more flammable world, experts say, Sarah Kaplan and Juliet Eilperin, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The president proposes “forest management.” Scientists say no amount of managing will stop a new breed of wildfires.

But the country’s top fire science budget has been slashed - cuts that began in the last year of the Obama administration and have only accelerated under President Trump, who has twice tried unsuccessfully to eliminate it altogether. States, which are struggling under the coronavirus-induced economic crisis, have run short of funds for the scientific work.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Catastrophic flooding’ unfolding as Sally lumbers inland, Andrew Freedman, Jason Samenow and Matthew Cappucci, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). ‘Severe’ damage reported in coastal Alabama and Florida Panhandle as storm crawls inland; Hurricane Sally is yet another in a line of recent hurricanes to intensify right before landfall.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, 10 days of distraction for Trump after early warning of virus threat, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The president told Bob Woodward he hid the true risk of the novel coronavirus to avoid public panic, but a key 10-day period shows he spent relatively little time on preparing the nation for its arrival.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump’s most popular YouTube ad is a stew of manipulated video, Glenn Kessler and Meg Kelly, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s YouTube channel is a force of nature. There are more than 900 videos, with the top five all earning more than 12 million views. Joe Biden’s YouTube channel has far fewer videos — and viewers. His most popular video has only 3 million views.

The tone of the videos is much different, too. Biden’s most popular videos are generally positive; Trump’s are apocalyptic.

Then president’s most popular video at the moment, with more than 21.5 million views, is a jumbled stew of allegations about Biden and China. It mixes images of closed factories, quotes from Biden and misleading claims about Biden’s son Hunter and his involvement with a Chinese investment fund.

Trump is aggressively attacking Biden on China in part because the president is vulnerable for his lackadaisical approach to the coronavirus pandemic. For weeks in the early stages of the crisis, Trump repeated assurances that China had the virus under control — at a time when he was most concerned about keeping intact a trade deal with Beijing. (Former national security adviser John Bolton has alleged that Trump pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy enough products to ensure his reelection.)

So this ad tries to turn the tables, claiming that Biden is really in the pocket of the Chinese. But it makes its case with an astonishing collection of misleading, out-of-context clips — essentially a grand-slam-hat-trick of manipulated video.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump shattered his promise to ‘drain the swamp.’ The self-dealing would be epic in a second term, Editorial Board, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.).  “Drain the swamp” was a signature promise of Donald Trump’s first campaign: He would uproot corruption from the capital and install a government that served ordinary Americans, not the special interests.

That pledge has not merely gone unmet, like most of his campaign promises. It has been shattered by a president and an administration unprecedented and unapologetic in their mingling of public and private interests. In an unfettered second term, the self-dealing would be epic.

Mr. Trump promised to completely isolate himself from his businesses. “I may never see these places again,” he famously said during a rally in August 2016. “Because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf.”

The reality, as Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), points out, has proved to be “quite the opposite,’’ with his businesses “a constant presence in his presidency.” The president, who is exempt from government conflict-of-interest laws, refused to follow the practice of his predecessors in severing ties to his existing businesses or putting his assets in a blind trust. He retained ownership, ostensibly putting his two adult sons in charge while still enjoying the benefits of any profit.

And Mr. Trump, according to data compiled by the watchdog group, has spent one out of every three days he has been in office at one of his businesses, more than half of them at golf resorts. The trips have helped propel a stream of revenue to the Trump Organization from federal agencies and Republican campaign groups, according to Post reporters who ferreted out the fact that more than $900,000 in taxpayer money has been spent on rooms, resort fees, golf carts and other expenses. That total might not be complete because the Trump Organization won’t disclose what it has collected and the administration has not been forthcoming — in keeping with the president’s secrecy when it comes to such financial matters as his tax returns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s town hall on ABC was a mess. But it’s a good thing he was willing to do it, Karen Tumulty, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.).
As I was watching President Trump’s town hall Tuesday night on ABC, which was ably moderated by George Stephanopoulos and had the president answering questions from an audience of undecided voters in Pennsylvania, the whole thing struck me as a political train wreck.

There were some notable gaffes, such as when the president spoke of “herd mentality,” rather than “herd immunity,” as the ultimate solution to the covid-19 pandemic.

Some of his tangents — such as a disquisition on why he thought it was dangerous for waiters in restaurants to wear masks — were bizarre. And he spouted a familiar litany of falsehoods, which my colleague Glenn Kessler subsequently documented here.

But guess what? It was actually a healthy development for Trump to face skeptical voters on live television. He should do it more often. And presidents in the future should make it a practice as well. Our chief executives, and particularly this one, tend to live in a bubble of adulation and sycophancy.

huff post logoHuffPost, Betsy DeVos’s Former Chief Of Staff Joins Anti-Trump Group, Carla Herreria Russo, Sept. 17, 2020. Josh Venable joined REPAIR, a group of former and current Trump administration officials who oppose the president’s reelection.

The former chief of staff to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos joined an anti-Donald Trump group being led by former White House officials. Josh Venable, who worked for DeVos from 2017 to 2018, joined the Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (REPAIR) as an adviser, Politico reported Thursday.

miles taylor twitterREPAIR is made up of current and former administration officials, according to the group’s founders, Miles Taylor, right, and Elizabeth Neumann, who both previously served in the Department of Homeland Security.

The intention of REPAIR, which formed in late August, is to act as a “cleanup crew for the Republican Party,” Taylor told ABC News last month.

Taylor, a longtime Republican, served in the Department of Homeland Security from 2017 to 2019. Last month, he officially endorsed Joe Biden for president in an op-ed in The Washington Post. Neumann left her post as assistant secretary of counterterrorism and threat prevention in the Department of Homeland Security in April after three years.

Olivia Troye, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, is also a member of REPAIR, according to Politico. Troye was Pence’s homeland security, counterterrorism and coronavirus adviser and also served on the White House’s coronavirus task force.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI director heads to Congress amid partisan fights over election security, intelligence briefings, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 17, 2020.  Christopher Wray is scheduled to appear before the House Homeland Security Committee to testify about threats to the U.S. homeland.

Democracy Now!, Daniel Ellsberg Warns U.S. Press Freedom Under Attack in WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Extradition Case, Amy Goodman, Sept. 17, 2020. 
daniel ellsberg portraitLegendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg says Julian Assange’s extradition hearing in London could have far-reaching consequences for press freedoms.

The WikiLeaks founder faces an ever-evolving array of espionage and hacking charges related to the release of diplomatic cables that revealed war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange faces almost certain conviction, if extradited, and 175 years in prison.

“The American press has remained in kind of a state of denial for 40 years, really, since my case, that the Espionage Act has wording in it that could be aimed directly at them,” says Ellsberg, who testified in Assange’s defense at his extradition trial via video stream from the United States. “Now the American press is staring right down the barrel at the use of the Espionage Act against American journalists and publishers for doing journalism.”

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we turn now to the press freedom case unfolding in London, where Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of the WikiLeaks, is fighting extradition to the United States over an ever-evolving array of espionage and hacking charges. Assange faces almost certain conviction, if extradited here, and 175 years in prison. U.S. prosecutors allege he conspired with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who had been private in the U.S. Army, to illegally download hundreds of thousands of war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, along with a huge trove of classified cables from the U.S. State Department.

Experts have lined up to defend Assange, including the legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg, who testified Wednesday at the extradition via video stream from his home in California, in Berkeley. In 1971, Ellsberg was a high-level Pentagon analyst when he leaked a top-secret report on U.S. involvement in Vietnam that became known as the Pentagon Papers, which documented how officials had lied to the public about the war. Like Assange, Ellsberg provided the leaked documents to The New York Times. Also like Assange, Ellsberg was charged under the Espionage Act and could have spent the rest of his life behind bars, though a judge threw out his case when it was revealed that President Nixon had ordered criminal break-ins seeking damaging information on him. Dan Ellsberg joins us now from Berkeley.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Dan. We don’t have that much time, but talk about why you testified at the extradition hearing, asking that Julian Assange not be sent to the United States — though, we should say, he has basically been in captivity for almost eight years now, having gone into the Ecuadoran Embassy, where he got political refuge, but was there for years, before a new right-wing government in Ecuador revoked that political asylum status and the British authorities came in and ousted him and brought him to the Belmarsh prison, the high-security prison in Britain.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Yes, I’d like to focus, Amy, on the larger implications of this case, since we only have a minute or two. Really, the American press has remained in kind of a state of denial for 40 years, really, since my case, that the Espionage Act has wording in it that could be aimed directly at them, at the journalists and publishers, although, until this case, it hasn’t done so. So, now the American press is staring right down the barrel at the use of the Espionage Act against American journalists and publishers for doing journalism, for doing what they do best, at their best, every day, of getting information that the government doesn’t want known to the public because of their wrongdoing, their lies, their crimes, whatever — there’s a lot of those. And that’s what is mainly the secrecy system is intended to protect, indefinitely.

Now, it’s not only American journalists here, although the American First Amendment, the core of our form of government, I would say, is at stake at this right now and is being attacked. Actually, if Julian is extradited, as I say, as you said, it will lead to prosecution here, and probably conviction, and he will not be — he will be the first journalist and publisher, but not the last. New York Times probably won’t be the second, either; it might be the third or the fourth — and you, Amy, as well. So, everybody has a stake in this. Meanwhile, if Julian is extradited to the United States to face these charges for doing the journalism that he has, the charges that are made against him, no journalist in the world is safe from life imprisonment in the United States of America. So the stakes here are enormous. And for freedom of the press anywhere — ours is far from perfect, other places have less, a few have more — but the possibility of freedom of the press, and thus of democracy, is at stake all over the world in this. That sounds almost certainly like hyperbole, and it isn’t.

The prosecution proved yesterday that they’re basing a lot of the case, first of all, on — not so much with me, but with other witnesses — on the fact that Chelsea Manning was encouraged by Julian to give this information, and he actually asked for documents. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked for documents, as was quite proper for journalists. So that conspiracy is something that every source goes through with every journalist who uses sources.

On the question of what — the damage he has done, the government is seeking to focus on the fact that names, unredacted, were subject, in their minds — and quite understandably, plausibly — to danger in the countries where they were by being published. As I pointed out to the prosecutor, the way to stop that danger from occurring was to stop the publication of those names. And those were not names that either the media or WikiLeaks or Julian Assange wanted to put out. On the contrary, the media and the government was well aware — the media was participating — that they were making enormous efforts to redact from this mass of documents the names of anyone who might be put in a feeling of anxiety or danger or might be in real danger. And, second, they called on the government to supply those names that they could take out. It was in the government’s capability to prevent those people, not of all of whom they could get in touch with, from even being revealed at all, even being in a state of anxiety, and they chose not to do it. They have total responsibility for the anxiety, the fleeing of some of them from their countries — total responsibility, I would say, the government, since they could have prevented that and they chose not to. I can only infer that they preferred to reserve charges, these charges against Julian Assange, eventually, rather than to protect those people from the possible danger that they were put in.

 

Sept. 16

Top Headlines

 

Virus Scandal Updates, Responses

 

Wildfires, Climate Change, Science

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News


U.S. Law, Courts, Investigations 

 

Top Stories

 

djt profile balding big head palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, in town hall, says he wouldn’t have done anything differently on pandemic, Colby Itkowitz, Josh Dawsey, Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The president (shown in a file photo) blamed cities and states run by Democrats for any problems with the response to coronavirus, as well as for any crime or violence in the country.

President Trump faced tough questions from undecided voters during a wide-ranging town hall Tuesday night on ABC in which he was pressed to defend his responses to the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice protests and health care.

Trump often praised his own performance and said problems were the fault of others.

He said he would not do anything differently with regard to his response to the pandemic, despite nearly 200,000 Americans having died from the outbreak. He blamed China for the pandemic and said he saved many lives by “closing up the country.” His claim he could not have done more to slow the deadly virus has been rebutted by a number of epidemiologists.

washington post logobob woodward headshotWashington Post, Woodward: ‘Denial across the board’ in White House about severity of virus, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The Washington Post associate editor, right, who conducted 18 interviews with President Trump for his new book Rage, said the president is a “one-man band” who is going to do what he wants.

 Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Donald Trump

 Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Donald Trump

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Told Prosecutors to Consider Sedition Charges for Protest Violence, Katie Benner, Sept. 16, 2020. Attorney General William P. Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging rioters and others who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months with sedition, according to two people familiar with the call.

The highly unusual suggestion to charge people with insurrection against lawful authority alarmed some on the call, which included U.S. attorneys around the country, said the people, who spoke on the condition they not be named describing Mr. Barr’s comments because they feared retribution.

william barr new oThe attorney general, left, has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing some residents to establish a police-free protest zone near the city’s downtown for weeks this summer, according to two people briefed on those discussions.

The directives are in keeping with Mr. Barr’s approach to prosecute crimes as aggressively as possible in cities where protests have given way to violence. But in suggesting possible prosecution of Ms. Durkan, a Democrat, Mr. Barr also took aim at an elected official whom President Trump has repeatedly attacked.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: William Barr is worse as AG than Nazi Germany's first Justice Minister, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept.17, 2020. Attorney wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallGeneral William Barr is less independent of aspirant dictator Donald Trump than Nazi Germany's first Justice Minister, Franz Gurtner, was of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Barr has systematically turned the Justice Department into a political weapon designed to protect Trump from the Congress, the courts, and individual U.S. citizens exercising their rights under the Constitution. Barr has trashed the rule of law that has ensured that America's system of democracy has prevailed since the birth of constitutional government. 

wayne madesen report logoGurtner, who was a right-wing nationalist and no sweetheart, started his career as Bavaria's Minister of Justice in 1922. But Gurtner also, at times, tried to show his independence from the Nazi regime. For example, Gurtner attempted to curb the SA (Nazi Stormtroopers) and the SS in carrying out extrajudicial executions, the type which Barr recently authorized to be carried against [Oregon Black Lives Matter protester Michael] Reinoehl in Washington state.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just lost Michael Caputo, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2020. Donald Trump’s handpicked HHS spokesman Michael Caputo, right, has had arguably one of the most scandalous and disturbing weeks in presidential administration history – and in a michael caputoreminder of just how deranged the Trump administration is, there was no guarantee he’d even lose his job over it. But now Caputo is leaving the building.

After Caputo was caught altering CDC coronavirus reports, and caught calling for violence surrounding the election, and caught tweeting racist things prompting him to delete his account, and flat out admitted that he thought the shadows on his wall were out to get him, he let it be known yesterday that he was considering taking a medical leave of absence. Sure enough, that’s officially happened as of this afternoon. So now what?

bill palmer report logo headerIf Michael Caputo is as disturbed as he claims, we hope he gets professional help. But from a strictly political standpoint, what’s notable is that his leave of absence is for sixty days. That’s after election day. Caputo was supposed to play a key role in the election for Trump, by using his HHS position to put false pro-Trump information out there. Now he’s stepping off the stage for the rest of the election. Caputo was a rather ineffective henchman to begin with, but this means Trump has nonetheless lost yet another henchman. Trump is running out of people and he’s running out of time.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomCraig Murray Blog via Information Clearing House, Commentary: Assange Hearing Day 9, Craig Murray, right, craig murray uk ambassadorSept. 15, 2020. Things became not merely dramatic in the Assange courtroom today, but spiteful and nasty.

There were two real issues, the evidence and the procedure. On the evidence, there were stark details of the dreadful regime Assange will face in US jails if extradited. On the procedure, we saw behaviour from the prosecution QC that went well beyond normal cross examination and was a real attempt to denigrate and even humiliate the witness. I hope to prove that to you by a straightforward exposition of what happened today in court, after which I shall add further comment.

Today’s witness was Eric Lewis. A practicing US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge. He is former professor in law at Georgetown University, an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He is Chairman of Reprieve. He has represented high profile clients in national security and terrorism cases, including Seymour Hersh and Guantanamo Bay internees.

Trial coverage continued below under "Section U.S. Law, Courts, Investigations"

 

Virus Updates, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 16, 2020, 12:45 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2below),

  • World Cases: 29,769,977, Deaths: 940,045
  • U.S. Cases: 6,789,032, Deaths: 200,235

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s vectors of death, Robert Harrington, right, Sept. 16, 2020.  As far as we know, a grim statistic was passed Tuesday night. I robert harringtnn portraitsay “as far as we know” only out of a necessary excess of caution. We are unsure at this time how much the Trump administration is interfering with coronavirus death statistics. But as far as we know, 200,197 American have died of COVID-19, as I write this. It may be a lot more. In any case, that appalling number will probably triple and may even quintuple before Donald Trump finally leaves office (if we vote him out) at noon on 20 January, 2021.

This is the difference between being passively anti-science and being actively anti-science. Passive anti-science is for the common disavowal of the lazy who don’t want to think, and prefer to believe fairy tales about the earth’s origins and the causes of global climate change. Active anti-science is the deliberate participation in the destruction or concealment of scientific findings, as when Trump admitted to Bob Woodward on tape that he wanted to “play down” the deadly danger of coronavirus. Or as when Trump allows people to suffer and die for the sake of his Nuremberg-variety rallies, rallies he exploits to feed his sick and famished ego.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s little wonder then, that for the first time in its 175 year history, the venerable monthly magazine “Scientific American” has endorsed a political candidate. They have come out in favor of Joe Biden, saying, “The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science.”

As I say, this new species of Trump’s anti-science comes in the form of his Nuremberg-style rallies. With them Trump has, in a sense, out-Hitlered Hitler. He is now using his rallies not only as a means to deploy his lies and hateful propaganda, but as a deadly vector for coronavirus itself. It’s like Hitler combining Nuremberg and Auschwitz into a single event on a single night.

Once again, Trump conducted a rally on Sunday, the first since his infamous Tulsa rally, in an overcrowded Nevada venue without social distancing and where few masks were in evidence. Trump’s dismissal was typically Trumpian, when he said, “I’m on a stage and it’s very far away. And so I’m not at all concerned.” In an event where he breached Nevada’s fifty person limit and his own administration’s coronavirus guidelines, Trump, as usual, made it all about him.

You can expect more rallies from this murdering monster before the election is held. Win or lose you can expect more rallies after the election. Trump holds rallies for one reason and one reason alone, to gratify his limitless megalomania. He doesn’t care how many human lives it costs. His ego needs feeding and it’s the best way he knows how to feed it. It’s just another priority that he places well ahead of his job as president of the United States, along with golf, watching TV and tweeting. Trump has shot 200,000 people dead on Fifth Avenue, and we are forced to watch and do nothing. Meanwhile he loses not a single vote from his rabid, hateful base.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates, Big Ten Will Play Football in 2020, Reversing Decision, Staff Report, Sept. 16, 2020. The conference reversed course after saying it would not play until 2021. An experimental drug showed promise in newly infected coronavirus patients. Here’s the latest.

The Big Ten Conference said Wednesday that it would try to play football as soon as the weekend of Oct. 23, stepping back from its leadership’s decision just more than a month ago not to compete this fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The move by chancellors and presidents representing the Big Ten’s 14 universities will quell some of the pressure — from prominent coaches, parents, players, fans and even President Trump — faced by the first Power 5 league to drop plans for football in 2020. But it is also likely to provoke new outrage from those who will believe the league is prioritizing profits, entertainment and a measure of public relations peace over health and safety.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fewer in U.S. had insurance before pandemic struck, Census report shows, Amy Goldstein and Rachel Siegel, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Though the reasons are sharply debated, the new data signify that the first three years of President Trump’s tenure were a period of contracting health insurance coverage.

Health insurance became slightly more scarce in the United States last year, even before the coronavirus pandemic arrived and stole the jobs and health benefits of millions of Americans, according to federal data released Tuesday.

Nearly 30 million people in the country lacked coverage at some point during 2019, 1 million more than the previous year. Last year marked the third year in a row that the ranks of the uninsured swelled, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report regarded as the most solid depiction of the nation’s health insurance landscape.

Still, the report provided contrasting images of Americans’ financial well-being, also showing that the number of people living in poverty continued to decline in 2019. According to the Census figures, the official poverty rate fell to 10.5 last year, compared to 11.8 percent in 2018, marking the fifth consecutive annual decline in the national poverty rate. Meanwhile, median household income jumped to its highest recorded level. But poverty levels are expected to have worsened markedly this year as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy and millions of Americans lost their jobs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Most children killed by virus are minorities, CDC finds, William Wan, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). More than 75 percent of children dying from covid-19 are Hispanic, Black and American Indian, a finding that echoes disproportionate death rates among adults.

washington post logoWashington Post, Schumer calls on HHS Secretary Azar to resign, Staff reports, Sept. 15, 2020. Schumer’s remarks came after Michael michael caputoCaputo, right, a Trump appointee at HHS, accused government scientists of “sedition”; Europe Pivots Its Strategy, From All-Out War to Learning ‘How to Live With the Virus; Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House would not leave for the November elections without acting on an additional round of aid. Pakistani high schools and universities reopened for the first time in nearly six months.

alex azar hhs oSenate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, right, to resign, saying that HHS has “become subservient to the president’s daily whims” — and that Azar, the nation’s top health official, has been “almost entirely silent about the chaos and mismanagement in his own agency.” In a floor speech Tuesday, Schumer added: “We need a secretary of Health and Human Services who will look out for the American people, not President Trump’s political interests.”

Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary of health for public affairs, has apologized to Health Secretary Alex M. Axar II and Health and Human Services Department staff members for a Facebook outburst in which he accused the C.D.C. of harboring a “resistance unit.” He is considering a leave of absence to address physical health problems.

 

Wildfires, Climate Change, Science

climate change photo

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Sally strikes Gulf Coast as Category 2 storm, Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow, Sept. 16, 2020. ‘Severe’ damage reported in coastal Alabama and Florida Panhandle as storm crawls inland; Hurricane Sally is yet another in a line of recent hurricanes to intensify right before landfall.

ny times logoNew York Times, As West Coast States Burn, Leaders Plead for ‘All the Help We Can Get,’ Staff reports, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). At least 27 people have died in three states. Smoke haze reached as far as New York City.

The wildfires raging on the West Coast became an all but inescapable crisis around the country on Tuesday, with at least 27 people dead in three states, fires and evacuations starting in Idaho, milky smoke clouding the skies over Michigan and haze reaching as far as New York City.

In the states where the fires are burning worst — with more than five million acres charred so far in Oregon, California and Washington State — the authorities were trying to adapt to a disaster with no clear end in sight, under conditions deeply exacerbated climate change.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

cnn logoCNN, Voter after asking Trump question: I broke down and cried, Sept. 16, 2020. (6:30 min. video). Ellesia Blaque, who lives with the the chronic medical conditions sarcoidosis and neurosarcoidosis, asked President Donald Trump about his healthcare plan at an ABC town hall. She tells CNN's Brianna Keilar about the experience and how she reacted to Trump's answer.

 

susan page screenshot

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The cozy media-political cocktail circuit needs a cooling-off. Now is the perfect time, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 16, 2020 margaret sullivan 2015 photo(print ed.). From the perspective of the Washington women involved in “Girls’ Night Out,” the social gathering was friendly, professionally helpful, and harmless.

And they largely stayed out of the public eye — until last week when one such event went embarrassingly public.

seema verma officialThe 2018 party at the home of USA Today’s Washington bureau chief Susan Page (shown above in a screenshot) was thrown for two Trump administration honorees, one of them Seema Verma, left, who had been appointed administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

A congressional investigation into Verma’s use of taxpayer funds to hire public-relations consultants found that about $3,000 went to Republican consultant Pam Stevens for her work organizing this party. As it happens, Stevens has had a longtime role managing the “Girls’ Night Out” guest lists — sending out invitations and gathering RSVPs. But in this case, she was also working for Verma, paid to elevate the Trump appointee’s “brand.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Senate GOP’s efforts to boost Trump’s reelection hopes are too ham-handed to work, Paul Waldman, Sept. 16, 2020. The first ron johnson orule of media manipulation is not to announce that you’re trying to manipulate the media. Doing so changes how journalists will receive and characterize the information you’re giving them and ultimately reduce the chance that the public will be swayed by your scheme.

Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), right, and the other Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee don’t seem to understand that; in fact, Johnson keeps blurting out that his farcical investigations into Hunter Biden and the Obama administration are indeed for the purpose of damaging Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy.

FiveThirtyEight, Analysis: Trump Has Lost His Edge In TV Advertising, Nathaniel Rakich, Sept. 16, 2020. Biden and the Democrats are dominating in many swing states.

djt biden smiles resizedFor months, President Trump’s campaign boasted that its campaign operation was a “juggernaut” and compared it to the powerful Death Star. Nowhere was that more evident to the general public than on the television airwaves.

But the Republican Death Star stopped being fully armed and operational in late July — while Democrats began to step up their game. From July 29 through Sept. 14, Republican forces aired just 107,816 ads at an estimated cost of $71.5 million, while Democratic forces aired 183,341 ads for an estimated $107.1 million.

What happened in July? Trump appointed a new campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who was tasked with fixing the campaign’s cash flow problems and sudden fundraising woes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis of the day in polls, from now until Election Day, Nate Cohn, Sept. 16, 2020. A snapshot of current polling averages. Polling misses are normal, and can be even bigger than they have been in recent years.

49 days until Election Day: A strong day for Biden in the battlegrounds; A closer look at polls of Florida and Wisconsin.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump reaches deranged new low, tweets video with the N-word in it, Bill Palmer, Sept.16, 2020. Fresh off his disastrously vapid town hall on Tuesday night, Donald Trump decided to make things even worse. During a public appearance today, Joe Biden played a song from his iPhone. Someone doctored this video by inserting an entirely different song, and Trump made a point of tweeting the video.

bill palmer report logo headerThe lyrics of the song: “F— the police coming straight from the underground, a young n—-r got it bad ’cause I’m brown.” This is of course a classic song from the hip hop group NWA. But if Joe Biden had been playing this song today, it would have been a huge scandal – so djt hands up mouth open Customit’s a big deal that Trump is falsely accusing Biden of having played the song.

Moreover, by tweeting this doctored video, Donald Trump is tweeting the n-word, which should never be coming from the President of the United States – particularly this President of the United States. We suspect Twitter will slap Trump’s tweet with a “manipulated media” warning label, but you can find it here if it hasn’t already been taken down by the time you’re reading this.

washington post logoWashington Post, Andrew Gillum comes back to public life, starting by coming out as bisexual, Eugene Scott, Sept. 16, 2020. Former Florida gubernatorial andrew gillum ocandidate Andrew Gillum isn’t the first bisexual politician in the United States. But he is certainly the most prominent Black man to come out as such, and the way he came out earlier this week — as a way of reemerging in public life following a scandal that many viewed as the likely end of his political career — could make room for more people to do so, according to LGBT advocates.

Gillum came out as bisexual Monday during his first sit-down interview since March, when police found him inebriated and unconscious in a South Beach Miami hotel room with two men. (Drugs were found at the scene, though Gillum denies he used illegal substances and was not arrested.) That incident prompted Gillum to seek treatment and generated speculation that the former Tallahassee mayor and married father of three was gay.

The scandal seemed like it could be a sad crescendo to the promising political career of a man who came within a percentage point of being Florida’s first Black governor in 2018. And it is anything but clear what his path forward as a politician may be. But it’s significant that Gillum saw coming out so publicly as valuable.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel signs deal establishing formal ties with two Arab states at the White House, Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The agreement, called the Abraham Accord, lays the ground for diplomatic, economic and other ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

President Trump presided over a White House signing ceremony Tuesday of agreements establishing formal ties between Israel and two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, saying the accords would “change the course of history.”

With trumpet flourishes and speeches under the flags of all four nations, Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the UAE and Bahraini foreign ministers addressed an invited crowd seated in seasonably cool sunshine on the South Lawn.

The agreements mark the third and fourth Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel — and the first since Jordan took the step in 1994, following Egypt in 1979. Trump took full credit for setting the path and encouraging them to take it. A White House statement attributed the success to his “foreign policy vision and his acumen as a dealmaker.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: War Crime Risk Grows for U.S. Over Saudi Strikes in Yemen, Michael LaForgia and Edward Wong, Updated Sept. 16, 2020, 6 State Department officials have raised alarms about airstrikes that kill civilians. The Trump administration recently suppressed findings as it sold more weapons to Gulf nations.

The civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s disastrous air war over Yemen was steadily rising in 2016 when the State Department’s legal office in the Obama administration reached a startling conclusion: Top American officials could be charged with war crimes for approving bomb sales to the Saudis and their partners.

Four years later, more than a dozen current and former U.S. officials say the legal risks have only grown as President Trump has made selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Middle East nations a cornerstone of his foreign policy.

Yet rather than taking steps to address the legal issues, State Department leaders have gone to great lengths to conceal them. Even after a State Department inspector general investigation this year revealed that the department had failed to address the legal risks of selling bombs to the Saudis, agency officials ensured that details of the finding were put in a classified part of the public report released in August, and then so heavily redacted that lawmakers with security clearances could not see them.

The concerns will be the subject of a congressional hearing on Wednesday. House lawmakers are expected to question senior State Department officials, including the agency’s top lawyer and the assistant secretary overseeing weapons sales.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Louisville agrees to $12 million settlement with family of Breonna Taylor, Tim Craig and Marisa Iati, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). In addition to the cash payout, the settlement includes a number of changes in how local officers obtain and execute search warrants.

The city of Louisville announced on Tuesday a $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor and a number of changes in how local officers obtain and execute search warrants, among the largest payouts for a police killing in the nation’s history, according to a Taylor family attorney.

Louisville police killed Breonna Taylor, 26, while executing a “no-knock” search warrant at her apartment during a drug raid in March that uncovered no illegal substances and has become a driving symbol in the Black Lives Matter movement.

The settlement, which follows a wrongful-death lawsuit that Taylor’s family filed in May, requires police commanders to approve all search warrant applications that are submitted to a judge, said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Louisville police will also have to conduct extensive risk assessments before applying for a warrant.

washington post logoWashington Post, DHS says it won’t make officials available for questioning in House probe of Portland protests, Shane Harris, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The Department of Homeland Security has said it will not agree to a congressional panel’s request to interview official witnesses as part of an investigation of the department’s response to protests in Portland, Ore.

us dhs big eagle logo4The congressional investigation has been fueled by allegations from a top DHS official, who has accused the White House of trying to skew intelligence reports to match President Trump’s claims that far-left extremist groups are behind nationwide protests against police violence.

The House Intelligence Committee’s request to interview several DHS officials “will not be accommodated at this time,” Assistant Secretary Beth Spivey wrote to the committee chairman Monday, arguing that the committee had unreasonably broadened its scope after receiving a whistleblower complaint from Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of the department’s intelligence office.

Murphy has alleged that senior DHS officials, acting on orders from the White House, have tried to color intelligence reports in ways that favor Trump’s chad wolfcampaign rhetoric.

Murphy claimed in a complaint filed last week with the DHS inspector general that the department’s acting secretary, Chad Wolf, right, instructed him in May to stop reporting Russian interference in the election and to focus his office’s efforts on China and Iran, two countries Democratic lawmakers briefed on intelligence say are not engaged in the same aggressive attempts to influence the elections as Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Because of pandemic, Supreme Court will begin new term with teleconference arguments, Robert Barnes, Sept. 16, 2020. The justices, six of whom are at special risk because of age, have not held arguments in person since March.

Daily Beast, Epstein’s Former Chef Is Cooperating With Feds on Sex Ring Investigation, Kate Briquelet, Sept. 16, 2020. Lawyers for celebrity chef Adam Perry daily beast logoLang, who once served as Epstein’s personal chef, confirmed to The Daily Beast that he is cooperating with the investigation.

Virginia Roberts Giuffre clutched the letter as she traversed a California highway overlooking the Pacific Ocean. That February morning, she was en route to a Manhattan Beach home she hoped belonged to a celebrity chef she once knew.

A survivor of Jeffrey Epstein’s sex ring, Giuffre was on a cross-country mission to doorknock the financier’s former employees after his death. She hoped these acquaintances could be witnesses now, without fear of retribution from Epstein, and lend support to her court battle with Epstein’s onetime lawyer Alan Dershowitz, whom she accused of sexual abuse. (Dershowitz adamantly denies Giuffre’s claims.)

Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001Virginia Roberts, center, a onetime pool girl at Mar-a-Lago who was 17 at the time and now uses her married name of Giuffre, is shown in a photo at left with the U.K. royal Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell, a former Epstein girlfriend who is being held without bond pending trial on sex trafficking charges. 

On this particular day, Giuffre was looking for Adam Perry Lang, the chef and barbecue expert behind eponymous Hollywood steakhouse APL. Lang’s hot spot is backed by one of his besties, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, and Community actor Joel McHale. His résumé includes appearances on Kimmel’s show, nods from Oprah Winfrey, and a spot on the New York Times bestseller list for his book Serious Barbecue.

But to Giuffre, Lang was Epstein’s personal chef and someone she considered a friend. Lang sneaked pizza to her after Epstein — who controlled the diets of women he abused to keep them prepubescent-thin — fell asleep upstairs.

“Justice comes in many forms. In my case, justice is holding the various perpetrators that participated, enabled or looked the other way accountable,” said Giuffre’s letter to Lang, which she read aloud during a road trip with investigative reporter Tara Palmeri.

The moment is captured in Season Two of the podcast Broken: Seeking Justice, wherein Palmeri and Giuffre track down Epstein’s household staff who’ve long kept silent about the hedge funder’s activities in New York, Florida, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “I’m not here to ruin your life,” Giuffre read. “You have so much knowledge of the various people on the planes and his homes and anywhere you would have been with him. You truly can’t say you didn’t know or you can’t remember.”

“Adam, please don’t be an enabler,” she concluded. “Be a hero. Be a hero to me, Epstein’s victims, and the millions of children who are trafficked every day. I believe you are a good man. At least the Adam I know was. Prove me right.”

Lang’s attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, said the chef is cooperating with the New York prosecutors investigating Epstein’s sex ring. Lustberg also said he contacted Giuffre’s attorney in early March and offered Lang’s assistance, but a conversation has yet to be scheduled.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Bill Barr is going completely berserk, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2020. With just 47 days to go until the election, Attorney General Bill Barr is suddenly losing his marbles in rather startling fashion. He’s always been corrupt and villainous, and a recklessly inept henchman. But now there’s something else going on: Barr is frantic, rattled, barking mad.

bill palmer report logo headerIn the past 48 hours we’ve seen Bill Barr floating the notion of charging protesters with “sedition” – an almost hilariously impossible charge that he knows he would never get to stick – in a rather transparent attempt at scaring people into no longer protesting. But that’s just the start.

Barr also gave a laughable speech to the Department of Justice, comparing employees to “preschoolers” and yelling around about his “ultimate authority.” That’s right, Barr is so agitated right now that he’s running around like South Park’s Eric Cartman, demanding that they respect his authority. And instead of cowering to Barr, DOJ people are leaking the whole thing to the media in mocking fashion.

Bill Barr has never been any good at any of this. He failed to get the Michael Flynn case thrown out. He failed to keep Michael Cohen in prison. He failed to stop the arrests of Lev, Igor, and Steve Bannon. He failed to get Roger Stone’s sentence reduced. Barr is like evil Mr. Magoo. He’s never really had control of anything he’s trying to do. But now he’s suddenly going completely berserk in frantic fashion, suggesting that he knows it’s all totally slipping away from him.

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot)

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot above). Separate from his investment activities, Wohl has become known as a promoter of scandal allegations against perceived opponents of Donald Trump and other Republicans. On May 7, Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via Reason.com)2020, Reason Magazine published a column quoting Diana Andrade, shown below right in a photo with Wohl when she said they were dating, in a story headlined as follows: Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake FBI raid staged by right-wing activists dupes The Post, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). It appears that Jacob Wohl used photos of the event in Arlington to trick a reporter into believing that Wohl’s longtime associate Jack Burkman was being targeted by law enforcement officials.

american flag upside down distressA fake FBI raid staged Monday by a notorious right-wing activist and conspiracist turned into an embarrassment for The Washington Post, which briefly reported the faux-event as if it were the real deal.

The “raid” on a house in Arlington, Va., actually involved actors recruited by Jacob Wohl, who has a history of making false accusations and has orchestrated dubious events in an effort to smear perceived opponents of President Trump.

This time, Wohl recruited actors to pose as FBI agents, telling them they would be participating in a scene for a “TV pilot,” one of the actors involved told the Daily Beast. The actors donned FBI-style windbreakers and pretended they were raiding a house during early-morning hours.

FBI logoIt appears Wohl used photos of the event to trick a reporter into believing that Wohl’s longtime associate, Jack Burkman, was being targeted by law enforcement officials. The intended purpose of the deception was not clear.

In a story written by Metro reporter Rachel Weiner, The Post briefly reported Monday that a real FBI raid had taken place. The story was updated about two hours later to note that the raid was a fabrication and later taken down entirely with an editor’s note in its place saying it “was published because The Post failed to obtain appropriate confirmation.”

Burkman is longtime conservative lobbyist and recent conspiracist. Together with Wohl, a 22-year-old former hedge fund manager with a history of investment scandals, the pair have mounted several failed media stunts. Among others, the pair hosted a “news” conference in late 2018 to lay out alleged sexual assault claims against special counselor Robert Mueller; Mueller’s supposed accuser never materialized. They also tried in 2019 to paint then-Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as a sexual predator; that stunt blew up when the supposed accuser said the allegations were entirely made up and that he had been paid to make them.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomCraig Murray Blog via Information Clearing House, Commentary: Assange Hearing Day 9, Craig Murray, right, craig murray uk ambassadorSept. 15, 2020. Things became not merely dramatic in the Assange courtroom today, but spiteful and nasty.

There were two real issues, the evidence and the procedure. On the evidence, there were stark details of the dreadful regime Assange will face in US jails if extradited. On the procedure, we saw behaviour from the prosecution QC that went well beyond normal cross examination and was a real attempt to denigrate and even humiliate the witness. I hope to prove that to you by a straightforward exposition of what happened today in court, after which I shall add further comment.

Today’s witness was Eric Lewis. A practicing US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge. He is former professor in law at Georgetown University, an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He is Chairman of Reprieve. He has represented high profile clients in national security and terrorism cases, including Seymour Hersh and Guantanamo Bay internees.

Lewis had submitted five statements to the court, between October 2019 and August 2020, addressing the ever-changing indictments and charges brought by the prosecution. He was initially led through the permitted brief half-hour summary of his statements by defence QC Edward Fitzgerald. (I am told I am not currently allowed to publish the defence statements or links to them. I shall try to clarify this tomorrow.)

Eric Lewis testified that no publisher had ever been successfully prosecuted for publishing national security information in the USA. Following the Wikileaks publications including the diplomatic cables and the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Assange had not been prosecuted because the First Amendment was considered insuperable and because of the New York Times problem – there was no way just to prosecute Assange without prosecuting the New York Times for publishing the same material. The New York Times had successfully pleaded the First Amendment for its publication of the Pentagon Papers, which had been upheld in a landmark Supreme Court judgment.

Lewis here gave evidence that mirrored that already reported of Prof Feldstein, Trevor Timm and Prof Rogers, so I shall not repeat all of it. He said that credible sources had stated the Obama administration had decided not to prosecute Assange, notably Matthew Miller, a highly respected Justice Department figure who had been close to Attorney General Holder and would have been unlikely to brief the media without Holder’s knowledge and approval.

Eric Lewis then gave testimony on the change of policy towards prosecuting Assange from the Trump administration. Again this mostly mirrored the earlier witnesses. He added detail of Mike Pompeo stating the free speech argument for Wikileaks was “a perversion of what our great country stands for”, and claiming that the First Amendment did not apply to foreigners.

Attorney General Sessions had accordingly stated that it was “a priority for the Justice Department” to arrest Julian Assange. He had pressured prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia to bring a case. In December 2017 an arrest warrant had been issued, with the indictment to be filled in later. The first indictment of a single count had been launched in March 2018, its timing possibly dictated by a limitation deadline.

In May 2019 a new superseding indictment increased the counts from one to eighteen, seventeen of which related to espionage. This tougher stance followed the appointment of William Barr as Attorney General just four months previously. The plain intention of the first superseding indictment was to get round the New York Times problem by trying to differentiate Assange’s actions with Manning from those of other journalists. It showed that the Justice Department was very serious and very aggressive in acting on the statements of Trump administration officials. Barr was plainly acting at the behest of Trump. This represented a clear abuse of the criminal enforcement power of the state.

The prosecution of a publisher in this way was unprecedented. Yet the facts were the same in 2018 as they had been in 2012 and 13; there was no new evidence behind the decision to prosecute. Crucially, the affidavits of US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg present no legal basis for the taking of a different decision to that of 2013. There is no explanation of why the dossier was lying around with no action for five or six years.

The Trump administration had in fact taken a different political decision through the Presidential spokesperson Sarah Sanders who had boasted that only this administration had acted against Assange and “taken this process seriously.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC then turned to the question of probable sentencing and led Lewis through his evidence on this point. Eric Lewis confirmed that if Julian Assange were convicted he could very probably spend the rest of his life in prison. The charges had not been pleaded as one count, which it had been open to the prosecution to do. The judge would have discretion to sentence the counts either concurrently or consecutively. Under current sentencing guidelines, Assange’s sentence if convicted could range from “best case” 20 years to a maximum of 175 years. It was disingenuous of Gordon Kromberg to suggest a minimal sentence, given that Chelsea Manning had been sentenced to 35 years and the prosecution had requested 60.

It had been a government choice to charge the alleged offences as espionage. The history of espionage convictions in the USA had generally resulted in whole life sentences. 20 to 30 years had been lighter sentences for espionage. The multiple charges approach of the indictment showed a government intention to obtain a very lengthy sentence. Of course the final decision would lay with the judge, but it would be decades.

Edward Fitzgerald then led on to the question of detention conditions. On the question of remand, Gordon Kromberg had agreed that Julian Assange would be placed in the Alexandria City Jail, and there was a “risk” that he would be held there under Special Administrative Measures. In fact this was a near certainty. Assange faced serious charges related to national security, and had seen millions of items of classified information which the authorities would be concerned he might pass on to other prisoners. He would be subject to Special Administrative Measures both pre- and post-conviction.

After conviction Julian Assange would be held in the supermax prison ADX Florence, Colorado. There were at least four national security prisoners currently there in the H block. Under SAMS Assange would be kept in a small cell for 22 or 23 hours a day and not allowed to meet any other prisoners. He would be allowed out once a day for brief exercise or recreation excluded from other prisoners, but shackled.

Fitzgerald then led Lewis to the 2017 decision by the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, in which the evidence provided by the Wikileaks release of US war logs and diplomatic cables provided essential evidence. This had been denounced by Trump, John Bolton and Pompeo. The ICC prosecutor’s US visa had been cancelled to hinder his investigation. An Executive Order had been issued imposing financial sanctions and blocking the banking access of any non US national who assisted the ICC investigation into crimes alleged against any US citizen. This would affect Julian Assange.

Coverage continued in much greater detail on the Craig Murray Blog. Craig John Murray is a British former diplomat turned political activist, human rights campaigner, blogger and whistleblower. Between 2002 and 2004, he was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan during which time he exposed the violations of human rights in Uzbekistan by the Karimov administration.

 

Sept. 15

Wildfires, Climate Change, Science

Inside DC

Virus Scandal Updates, Responses

 U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

U.S. Law, Courts, Investigations 

More On Climate Change, Reactions

World News

Media News

 

Wildfires, Climate Change, Science

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Scorns Science as Fires Rage; Biden Calls Him ‘Climate Arsonist,’ Peter Baker, Lisa Friedman and Thomas Kaplan, Updated Sept. 15, 2020. President Trump, questioned by the governor of California on a visit there, attributed the crisis to poor forest management, not climate change.

djt biden smiles resizedWith wildfires raging across the West, climate change took center stage in the race for the White House on Monday as former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called President Trump a “climate arsonist” while the president said that “I don’t think science knows” what is actually happening.

A day of dueling appearances laid out the stark differences between the two candidates, an incumbent president who has long scorned climate change as a hoax and rolled back environmental regulations and a challenger who has called for an aggressive campaign to curb the greenhouse gases blamed for increasingly extreme weather.

Mr. Trump flew to California after weeks of public silence about the flames that have forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, wiped out communities and forests, burned millions of acres, shrouded the region in smoke and left at least 27 people dead. But even when confronted by California’s governor and other state officials, the president insisted on attributing the crisis solely to poor forest management, not climate change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Devastating fires inject climate change into the presidential campaign, Seung Min Kim and Brady Dennis, Sept. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden attacked President Trump on his environmental record while the president again shrugged off the science behind global warming.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden excoriated President Trump on Monday over his environmental record as wildfires continued to burn through much of the West and as the president used a trip to California to question the scientific consensus that climate change is a leading cause of the devastating blazes.

Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Del., that the “undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality” of global warming was playing out in the wildfires and hurricanes that have marked the end of summer, arguing it is a problem that “requires action, not denial.”

ny times logoNew York Times Sunday Magazine, How Climate Migration Will Reshape America, Abrahm Lustgarten | Photographs by Meridith Kohut, Sept. 15, 2020. Millions will be displaced in the coming decades by fires, hurricanes, extreme heat and rising seas. Where will they go?

washington post logoWashington Post, Two major Antarctic glaciers are tearing loose from their restraints, scientists say, Chris Mooney, Sept. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The loss of the enormous Thwaites glacier could trigger the broader collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to eventually raise sea levels by about 10 feet.

Located along the coast of the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica, the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers already contribute around 5 percent of global sea-level rise. The survival of Thwaites has been deemed so critical that the United States and Britain have launched a targeted multimillion-dollar research mission to the glacier. The loss of the glacier could trigger the broader collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which contains enough ice to eventually raise seas by about 10 feet.

The new findings, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, come from analysis of satellite images. They show that a naturally occurring buffer system that prevents the glaciers from flowing outward rapidly is breaking down, potentially unleashing far more ice into the sea in coming years

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Hurricane Sally begins prolonged assault on northern Gulf Coast with ‘historic’ flooding forecast, Staff reports, Sept. 15, 2020. The long-duration hurricane is expected to pound coastal Mississippi and Alabama and the Florida Panhandle into Thursday. Up to 30 inches of rain is possible.

Inside DC

washington post logomichael caputoWashington Post, Senior HHS official Michael Caputo warned of armed insurrection after election, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Lena H. Sun, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Michael Caputo, right, promoted conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event.

Michael Caputo, assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the coronavirus response, leveled the accusations and promoted other conspiracy theories in a Facebook Live event first reported by the New York Times. Caputo confirmed the authenticity of the video in comments he made to The Post.

“Since joining the administration my family and I have been continually threatened and in and out of criminal court dealing with harassment prosecutions,” Caputo said in a statement. “This weighs heavily on us and we deeply appreciate the friendship and support of President Trump as we address these matters and keep our children safe.”

Caputo’s comments come as Trump administration officials say they are seeking to build public support for a coronavirus vaccine but have faced a series of disappointing setbacks, most recently the release of audio in which the president admitted that he deliberately downplayed the virus when he knew it was “deadly.”

Trump installed Caputo in April after weighing whether to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar over a series of damaging stories about Trump’s handling of the pandemic, according to three current and former White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe behind-the-scenes discussions. Allies persuaded Trump to not make such a change amid a pandemic, but instead to bring in Caputo, the officials said. (Trump denied reports that he was considering firing Azar at the time.)

Almost immediately, Caputo began exerting control over officials’ public appearances and statements; by early summer, he had extended that scrutiny to scientists. He and an adviser have faced mounting criticism in recent days for interfering with the work of scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seeking to change, delay or kill weekly scientific reports they thought undermined Trump’s message that the pandemic is under control. Caputo has also sought to wield influence over when government scientists appear on television, telling officials that he approves such bookings.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump spokesman Michael Caputo plots his exit after going completely off deep end, Bill Palmer, Sept. 15, 2020. How fundamentally screwed up is the Donald Trump regime? After Trump spokesman Michael Caputo was caught trying to falsify CDC data, and publicly called for violence after the election, and deleted his Twitter account to try to bury a history of racist tirades, and admitted to believing that the shadows in his apartment were out to get him, Palmer Report still predicted there was only a 50-50 chance he’d end up having to resign.

bill palmer report logo headerNow it appears Caputo is trying to head off a potential forced resignation, by telling his staff that he’s looking at taking a medical leave, and apparently making sure his staff leaked to Politico that he’s looking at taking a medical leave. To be clear, these kinds of things don’t leak by accident; Caputo seems to be trying to pull the plug on the controversy before the Trump regime has to do it for him.

Mental health is an important matter, and not one to be scoffed at. But Caputo is now also insisting in this same Politico article that he’s not suffering from mental health issues, as others in the White House have been asserting. Yet he still wants to take a medical leave, so it’s far from clear what’s really going on here. If he truly needs help, we hope he gets it. But whatever is going on here, he’s not off the hook for trying to falsify CDC reports during a pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The G.O.P. Plot to Sabotage 2021, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans are already acting as if there’s no next paul krugmanyear. Nobody knows for sure who will win in November. Joe Biden holds the advantage right now, but between the vagaries of the Electoral College and whatever October surprises the Trumpists cook up — you know they’re coming — who knows?

One thing that’s clear, however, is that Republicans — not just Donald Trump, but his whole party — are acting as if there’s no tomorrow. And this means that if Biden does win, he will have to govern in the face of what amounts to nonstop policy sabotage from his political opponents.

To see what I mean about acting as if there’s no next year, consider the large (and illegal) indoor rally Trump held Sunday in Nevada.

bob woodward rageBefore the release of Bob Woodward’s new book, you might have argued that Trump doesn’t believe the science and didn’t realize that his event might well sicken and kill many people. But we now know that he’s well aware of the risks, and has been all along. He just doesn’t care.
Consider Trump’s weeks of silence and inaction on the wildfires ravaging Western states. It’s true that he won’t win California, Oregon or Washington. But he’s supposed to be the president of America, not just red states.

Furthermore, those states account for almost 19 percent of the U.S. economy; you might think that he’d care about the damage they’re suffering, which will spill over to the rest of the country. But he clearly doesn’t.

For me, however, the most striking demonstration of Republican refusal to think ahead is the fact that nothing has been done to alleviate either the suffering of unemployed Americans — who lost much of the benefits that were sustaining them at the end of July — or the looming fiscal crisis of state and local governments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump is trying to sabotage the election. Here’s why it won’t work, Dana Milbank, right, Sept. 15, 2020. President Trump has done dana milbank Customeverything in his power — and some things outside his power — to sabotage the election.

He has suggested postponing the election and holding a re-vote, warned baselessly about rampant fraud and pushed his supporters to vote twice. The big-time Trump donor now running the post office has impaired mail delivery and sent misinformation to voters about mail-in ballots.

But here’s the good news: It’s not going to work.

“While it’s critical we be clear-eyed about the problems and keep up the pressure to do better, there’s been too much alarmism,” Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice. “People have the impression that the election is not going to work and they’re going to have problems, which is absolutely not the case for the vast majority of Americans.”

The Brennan Center exists in part to sound the alarm about flaws in the voting system, so it’s worth noting that Weiser says “we’ve watched the election system improve before our eyes” — especially after a pandemic primary season characterized by closed polling places, long lines and chaos.

Among the encouraging signs:

Somewhere between 96 percent and 97 percent of votes cast in this election will have paper backup — assurance against fraud and interference — compared with only about 80 percent in 2016. If there’s a challenge to election results, there will be a paper trail to verify the outcome.

washington post logoWashington Post, He builds the wall: How a North Dakota businessman won $2 billion in Trump border contracts, Nick Miroff, Sept.15, 2020 (print ed.). Tommy Fisher turned his company into a federal contracting powerhouse after showcasing his techniques with private border wall projects on private land.

washington post logoWashington Post, Medicaid rolls swell amid the pandemic’s historic job losses, straining state budgets, Amy Goldstein, Sept.15, 2020 (print ed.). Nevada serves as a cautionary tale, with a 13.5 percent increase in enrollment. By the most recent count, the roster of Nevadans on Medicaid has climbed from fewer than 644,000 in February, the month before the state reported its first case of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, to about 731,000 through August.

That 13.5 percent increase places Nevada among at least three states, along with Kentucky and Minnesota, where the cadre of people on Medicaid has spiked that much, including families, like the Chapins, who have never before asked for government help. But increases are widespread: Caseloads had risen on average 8.4 percent through July in 30 states for which researchers have enrollment information. And in 14 states with enrollment data through August, the average is 10 percent.

Virus Updates, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Sept. 15, 2020, 12:48 GMT, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2below),

  • World Cases: 29,479,553, Deaths: 933,493
  • U.S. Cases: 6,750,105, Deaths: 199,052

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Defends Indoor Rally, but Aides Express Concern, Annie Karni, Sept. 15, 2020 (print ed.). “I’m on a stage, and it’s very far away,” President Trump said of the rally. His own campaign aides privately called the move political Russian roulette. President Trump and his campaign are defending his right to rally indoors, despite the private unease of aides who called it a game of political Russian roulette and growing concern that such gatherings could prolong the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m on a stage, and it’s very far away,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, after thousands of his supporters djt hands up mouth open Customgathered on Sunday night inside a manufacturing plant in a Las Vegas suburb, flouting a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

The president did not address health concerns about the rally attendees, a vast majority of whom did not wear masks or practice any social distancing. When it came to his own safety, he said, “I’m not at all concerned.”

The decision to hold a rally indoors, officials said, was something of a last resort for a campaign that had tried to procure five different outdoor locations. A Trump campaign official said they all faced pressure from state officials not to host the rally.

  nancy pelosi djt 2 older

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Bipartisan House Group Proposes a Compromise on Virus Aid, Staff reports, Sept. 15, 2020. Fifty centrist lawmakers hope to show Democratic and White House negotiators that there is enough common ground to forge a law. Here’s the latest.A bipartisan group of 50 centrist lawmakers plans on Tuesday to present a $1.5 trillion plan to prop up the coronavirus-ravaged economy, making a last-ditch effort to break a stalemate on stimulus talks before November’s elections.

U.S. House logoMembers of the group — which calls itself the House Problem Solvers Caucus — concede privately that their framework stands little chance of becoming law. But the decision to offer it up publicly reflects frustration among rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties at the failure by their leaders to agree to another round of pandemic aid, and a reluctance to return home weeks before Election Day without cementing such help.

The proposal includes measures that enjoy bipartisan support, like reviving the popular Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and direct checks of $1,200 or more for American taxpayers, as well as more contentious ones like new legal rights and protections for workers and their employers.

But the bulk of its proposed spending would fall somewhere in the middle of what Republicans and Democrats have championed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fewer in U.S. had insurance before pandemic struck, Census report shows, Amy Goldstein and Rachel Siegel, Sept. 15, 2020. Though the reasons are sharply debated, the new data signify that the first three years of President Trump’s tenure were a period of contracting health insurance coverage.

Health insurance became slightly more scarce in the United States last year, even before the coronavirus pandemic arrived and stole the jobs and health benefits of millions of Americans, according to federal data released Tuesday.

Nearly 30 million people in the country lacked coverage at some point during 2019, 1 million more than the previous year. Last year marked the third year in a row that the ranks of the uninsured swelled, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report regarded as the most solid depiction of the nation’s health insurance la