April 2021 News

 

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

 

Top Headlines

Former police officer Derek Chauvin was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs after the verdict on April 20, 2021, and will be sentenced in eight weeks (Photo via Court TV).

 

Walter 'Fritz' Mondale's Death, Legacy

 

U.S. Elections, Rights

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Chauvin Murder Verdict

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Prisons, Polic

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Media, Health News

 

Top Stories

Former police officer Derek Chauvin was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs after the verdict on April 20, 2021, and will be sentenced in eight weeks (Photo via Court TV).

Former police officer Derek Chauvin was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs after the verdict on April 20, 2021, and will be sentenced in eight weeks (Photo via Court TV).

ny times logoNew York Times, Derek Chauvin Verdict Brings a Rare Rebuke of Police Conduct, John Eligon, Tim Arango, Shaila Dewan and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 20, 2021. A former police officer who pressed his knee into George Floyd’s neck until well past Mr. Floyd’s final breath was found guilty of murder on Tuesday in a case that shook the nation’s conscience and drew millions into the streets for the largest racial justice protests in generations.

The verdict, which could send the former officer, Derek Chauvin, to prison for decades, was a rare rebuke of police violence, following case after case of officers going without charges or convictions after killing Black men, women and children.

At the center of it all was an excruciating video, taken by a teenage girl, that showed Mr. Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd, who was Black, for nine minutes and 29 seconds as Mr. Floyd pleaded for his life and bystanders tried to intervene. Mr. Floyd repeated “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times during the encounter.

A jury deliberated for just over 10 hours before pronouncing Mr. Chauvin guilty on all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The video, played on a horrifying loop for the past year, triggered more than calls for changes in policing. It stirred Americans of all races, in small towns and large cities, to gather for mass protests, chanting “Black lives matter” and challenging the country to finally have a true reckoning over race. Their demands reverberated within the walls of institutions that had long resisted change, from corporate America to Congress.

This week, over the course of two days, a racially diverse jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about 10 hours before pronouncing Mr. Chauvin guilty on all three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

President Biden praised the verdict in a nationwide address at the White House but called it a “too rare” step to deliver “basic accountability” for Black Americans.

“It was a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see,” Mr. Biden said. “For so many, it feels like it took all of that for the judicial system to deliver just basic accountability.”

Hours before the jury came back with a decision, Mr. Biden had taken the unusual step of weighing in, telling reporters that he was “praying” for the “right verdict.”

“This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,” he said.

After the verdict, Philonise Floyd, one of Mr. Floyd’s younger brothers, spoke at the Hilton hotel in downtown Minneapolis. “We are able to breathe again,” he said, holding back tears.

He drew a line from his brother back to Emmett Till, a Black child who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. “We ought to always understand that we have to march,” he said. “We will have to do this for life. We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle.”

Mr. Chauvin was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs and will be sentenced in eight weeks.Credit...Still image, via Court TV

ny times logoDerek Chauvin Is Guilty of Murder in George Floyd Death, Staff Reports, April 20, 2021. Ex-Officer May Face 40 Years in Killing That Spurred Protests.

Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The death of Mr. Floyd spurred the largest civil rights protests in decades.

Speaking after the verdict in a news conference with Minnesota’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, several members of the prosecution team that tried Derek Chauvin spoke directly of George Floyd. “He was somebody,” said Jerry Blackwell, the laywer who delivered the prosecution’s final words to the jury on Monday. “His life mattered.”

George Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, who testified in the trial, emphasized that the push for justice should not end with this verdict. “I know that he gave his life so that other people’s cases can get reopened,” Ms. Ross said outside of the building in Minneapolis where Derek Chauvin was convicted.

 george floyd derek chauvin Custom

George Floyd, above left, and former police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted of Floyd's murder on Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, What we know about the jurors who decided Derek Chauvin’s fate, Mark Berman and Holly Bailey, April 20, 2021 (updated from March 28). A White executive who has discussed privilege with her Black co-worker. A Black immigrant who watched a video of George Floyd’s death, then told his wife, “It could have been me.” A multiracial woman who sees police officers as humans who sometimes “make mistakes.”

These are some of the dozen jurors whol decided whether former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin broke the law when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while the Black man gasped, “I can’t breathe.”

Two weeks of jury selection in Chauvin’s murder trial recently whittled a pool of more than 300 potential jurors down to 12 with three alternates, one of whom is expected to be released Monday. There is one Black woman, two multiracial women, three White men, three Black men and six White women. Seven are under 40 years old.

Related stories:

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog nixed probes of Secret Service during Trump era, documents show, Carol D. Leonnig, April 20, 2021. Career staff in the agency had proposed investigations to scrutinize the handling of the George Floyd protests outside the White House in Lafayette Square and the spread of coronavirus in the ranks of agents.

secret service logoThe chief federal watchdog for the Secret Service blocked investigations proposed by career staff last year to scrutinize the agency’s handling of the George Floyd protests in Lafayette Square and the spread of the coronavirus in its ranks, according to documents and people with knowledge of his decisions.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)Both matters involved decisions by then-President Donald Trump that may have affected actions by the agency.

Joseph Cuffari, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, rejected his staff’s recommendation to investigate what role the Secret Service played in the forcible clearing of protesters from Lafayette Square on June 1, according to internal documents and two people familiar with his decision, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the discussions.

After the sudden charge by police on the largely peaceful protesters, the Secret Service was able to move Trump to a church at the edge of the park, where the White House staged a photo opportunity for the president.

Cuffari also sought to limit — and then the office ultimately shelved — a probe into whether the Secret Service flouted federal protocols put in place to detect and reduce the spread of the coronavirus within its workforce, according to the records.

Hundreds of Secret Service officers were either infected with the coronavirus or had to quarantine after potential exposure last year as Trump continued to travel and hold campaign events during the pandemic.

DHS investigators argued that both investigations were essential to their office’s duty to hold the department and the Secret Service accountable, according to the people.

joe biden black background resized serious file

 ny times logoNew York Times, A Global Tipping Point for Reining In Tech Has Arrived, Paul Mozur, Cecilia Kang, Adam Satariano and David McCabe, April 20, 2021. Never before have so many countries, including China, moved simultaneously to limit the power of a single industry with such urgency and breadth.

China fined the internet giant Alibaba a record $2.8 billion this month for anticompetitive practices, ordered an overhaul of its sister financial company and warned other technology firms to obey Beijing’s rules.

Now the European Commission plans to unveil far-reaching regulations to limit technologies powered by artificial intelligence.

amazon logo smallAnd in the United States, President Biden has stacked his administration with trustbusters who have taken aim at Amazon, Facebook and Google.

facebook logoAround the world, governments are moving simultaneously to limit the power of tech companies with an urgency and breadth that no single industry had experienced before. Their motivation varies. In the United States and Europe, it is concern that tech companies are stifling competition, spreading misinformation and eroding privacy; in Russia and elsewhere, it is to silence protest movements and tighten political control; in China, it is some of both.

While nations and tech firms have jockeyed for primacy for years, the latest actions have pushed the industry to a tipping point that could reshape how the global internet works and change the flows of digital data.

 

Walter 'Frtiz' Mondale's Death, Legacy

Presidential candidate Walter Mondale speaks to the AFSCME Pennsylvania Council 13 in Harrisburg for the Pennsylvania primary in 1984 (AFSCME photo via Wayne State University Library)..walter mondale wayne state university

Presidential candidate Walter Mondale, center, speaks to the AFSCME Pennsylvania Council 13 in Harrisburg for the Pennsylvania primary in 1984 (AFSCME photo via Wayne State University Library)..walter mondale wayne state university

ny times logoNew York Times, Walter Mondale, Ex-Vice President and Champion of Liberal Politics, Dies at 93, Steven R. Weisman, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). Walter F. Mondale, the former vice president and champion of liberal politics, activist government and civil rights who ran as the Democratic candidate for president in 1984, losing to President Ronald Reagan in a landslide, died on Monday at his home in Minneapolis. He was 93.

Kathy Tunheim, a spokeswoman for the family, announced the death. She did not specify a cause.

A son of a minister of modest means, Fritz Mondale, as he was widely known, led a rich public life that began in Minnesota under the tutelage of his state’s progressive pathfinder, Hubert H. Humphrey. He achieved his own historic firsts, especially with his selection of Representative Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York as his running mate in 1984, the first woman to seek the vice presidency on a major national ticket.

Under President Jimmy Carter, from 1977 to 1981, Mr. Mondale was the first vice president to serve as a genuine partner of a president, with full access to intelligence briefings, a weekly lunch with Mr. Carter, his own office near the president’s and his own staff integrated with Mr. Carter’s.

Throughout his career, Mr. Mondale advocated an assertive and interventionist role for the federal government, especially on behalf of the poor, minority groups and women.

“I’m a liberal or a progressive,” he said in an interview for this obituary in 2010. “I didn’t use the ‘liberal’ word much, because I thought it carried too much baggage. But my whole life, I worked on the idea that government can be an instrument for social progress. We need that progress. Fairness requires it."

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Mondale lost the presidency but permanently changed the office of vice presidency, Dan Balz, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). Under Carter, Walter Mondale turned the office from one of frustration and neglect into one with influence and power. Every vice president since has benefited.

In the aftermath of his defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential election, Walter F. Mondale offered a telling — and typically self-deprecating — observation of how he had contributed to the outcome. “While my opponent was handing out rose petals,” he told The Washington Post in the spring of 1985, “I was handing out coal.”

It was Mondale’s political misfortune to run against Reagan. After weathering a deep recession, Reagan sought reelection during a time of rising economic growth and personal popularity. As his most famous campaign ad claimed, it was “morning in America.” Mondale suffered the biggest electoral college loss of any candidate in history, losing 49 states and carrying only his home state of Minnesota — and that by only 4,000 votes. It was, as he would later recall, “a helluva shellacking.”

But that was hardly the summation of a rich life in politics and public service. Mondale’s legacy goes much deeper than that crushing defeat, most notably his contributions to the office of the vice presidency. Every vice president who has served since owes him a debt of gratitude for turning the role into something of value.

Mondale, who died Monday at age 93, was born in tiny Ceylon, Minn., near the Iowa border, and grew up in nearby — and also tiny — Elmore, Minn. His father was a Methodist minister; his mother taught piano. Mondale’s personality reflected his small-town upbringing and the Scandinavian reserve of his Norwegian heritage.

Politically, he was a product of the Midwestern progressivism embodied in the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. He was a young ally of Hubert H. Humphrey (who also served as vice president and who also lost a presidential race, to Richard M. Nixon in 1968), working on Humphrey’s campaign for Senate in 1948 and later running campaigns as a young lawyer. He was lucky enough to be in the right places as political opportunities presented themselves.

walter mondale farewell

Axios, Former Vice President Walter Mondale's last message, Orion Rummler and Margaret Talev, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). Former Vice President axios logoWalter Mondale (shown above in a personal photo) wrote a farewell letter to his staff, sent upon his death on Monday, thanking them for years working together.

Dear Team,

Well my time has come. I am eager to rejoin Joan and Eleanor. Before I Go I wanted to let you know how much you mean to me. Never has a public servant had a better group of people working at their side!

Together we have accomplished so much and I know you will keep up the good fight.

Joe in the White House certainly helps.

I always knew it would be okay if I arrived some place and was greeted by one of you!

My best to all of you!

Fritz

 

U.S. Elections, Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, A Dozen Megadonors Gave $3.4 Billion, One in Every 13 Dollars, Since 2009, Shane Goldmacher, April 20, 2021. A new study shows the role of the super rich in politics since the Supreme Court loosened restrictions on political spending more than a decade ago.

A dozen megadonors and their spouses contributed a combined $3.4 billion to federal candidates and political groups since 2009, accounting for nearly one out of every 13 dollars raised, according to a new report.

The report, produced by Issue One, a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics, shows the top 12 donors split equally between six Democrats and six Republicans. The list includes multiple Wall Street billionaires and investors, a Facebook co-founder, a shipping magnate and the heir to a family fortune dating back to the Gilded Age.

The study quantifies the intensifying concentration and increasing role of the super rich in American politics following the loosening of restrictions on political spending by the U.S. Supreme Court more than a decade ago.

“This is a stark illustration of our broken campaign finance system,” said Nick Penniman, the founder and chief executive of Issue One. “Today, a handful of megadonors wield outsized influence in our politics.” Mr. Penniman called on Congress “to pass sweeping reforms to create a democracy that works for everyone.”

The growing influence of multimillion-dollar megadonors has been accompanied by another, competing trend: a surge of small online donations to politicians of both parties. Those contributions — in $5, $10 and $25 increments — have given Democrats and Republicans an alternate source of money beyond the super rich.

Still, the study found that the top 100 ZIP codes for political giving in the United States, which hold less than 1 percent of the total population, accounted for roughly 20 percent of the $45 billion that federal candidates and political groups raised between January 2009 and December 2020. The study used data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiles figures from the Federal Election Commission.

Some of the top ZIP codes for giving weren’t even populated by any people at all; instead, they were primarily associated with skyscrapers and post office boxes that were used as business addresses by the wealthy.Live Updates:

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Senators Step Into Voting Rights Debate, Staff Reports, April 20, 2021. The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the fight over voting access. Among the witnesses was Stacey Abrams, who argued that Congress must take action to protect the rights of nonwhite voters.

Senate Democrats on Tuesday renewed their push for a national expansion of voting rights, summoning leaders from the battleground state of Georgia to help build a public case that Congress should intervene to lower state barriers to vote.

Senators on the Judiciary Committee began taking testimony from elected officials, academics and advocates at opposite ends of the partisan fight over voting that has erupted since the 2020 election. But the dominant witness was Stacey Abrams, the rising Democratic star who waged a battle against Georgia’s divisive new voting law and who has done as much as anyone to focus her party’s attention on the issue.

Ms. Abrams argued that the states like hers across the country are witnessing “a resurgence of Jim Crow-style voter suppression measures sweeping across state legislatures grounded in the ‘big lie’ about fraud and insecurity in the 2020 election,” referencing false claims of election fraud by former President Donald J. Trump.

“When the fundamental right to vote is left to the political ambitions and prejudices of state actors, ones who rely on suppression to maintain power, federal intercession stands as the appropriate remedy,” Ms. Abrams said.

While the hearing is not tied to any particular legislation, it comes as congressional Democrats seek to pass two significant voting bills. The first is a gigantic national elections overhaul, called House Resolution 1, that would force states to expand early voting and mail-in ballots, mandate automatic voter registration and neuter voter identification laws, among other measures. The second bill would restore a key enforcement provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that made it harder for states to target voters of color. It was struck down in 2013 by the Supreme Court.

Republicans fiercely oppose the first bill, which also includes a new public campaign financing system and a revamp of the Federal Election Commission, calling it an overreach designed to help Democrats consolidate power. They have argued that states like Georgia are simply acting to restore faith in their electoral systems.

One of their witnesses, Jan Jones, the Republican speaker pro tempore of the Georgia House, mounted an energetic defense of her state’s new election law, which she framed as a periodic update “making it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Val Demings rips Jim Jordan to pieces during House hearing, Bill Palmer,April 20, 2021. House Republicans continue to try val demings o Customto pretend they care about the police, even after they criminally incited a domestic terrorist attack against the United States Capitol that got a police officer murdered.

bill palmer report logo headerDemocratic Congresswoman Val Demings, right, a former police chief, let loose today. When insurrectionist thug Jim Jordan tried to cut her off, she ripped Jordan to pieces:

Val Demings tweeted this: “It’s interesting to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle support the police when it’s politically convenient to do so, but not when police officers who protect us every day here at the Capitol were fighting for their lives because of the Big Lie.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 132.3 million vaccinated, as of April 20, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 49.5 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 39.9 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 20, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 142,819,920, Deaths: 3,046,286
U.S. Cases:     32,475,043, Deaths:    581,542
India Cases:     15,321,089, Deaths:    180,550
Brazil Cases:    13,977,713, Deaths:    375,049

ny times logoNew York Times, With Universal Eligibility, a Fifth of Seniors Remain Unvaccinated, Danielle Ivory and Keith Collins, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). Older adults have been eligible for Covid-19 vaccines for months, but some still have not gotten a shot, and progress is uneven from state to state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Benefits of J.&J. Vaccine Outweigh Risks, E.U. Regulator Says, Staff Reports, April 20, 2021. Calling the blood clots “very rare,” the European Medicines Agency stopped short of recommending that Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine be pulled from use. But the regulator said a warning indicating a possible link to the clots should be added to the vaccine. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, India’s devastating outbreak is driving the global coronavirus surge, Joanna Slater, April 19, 2021 (video report). Those on the country’s front lines say the wave is worse than anything they have seen before. State Department to mark most countries at highest travel-warning level in response to pandemic
 

More On Chauvin Murder Verdictgeorge floyd derek chauvin

George Floyd, left, and an iconic photo of his arrest last year by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who restrained Floyd with handcuffs and a knee, resulting in Floyd's death.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Chauvin Trial and the History of Police Violence, Aidan Gardiner and Rebecca Halleck, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). A review of 19 deaths of Black Americans involving police officers shows that, despite public outrage, guilty verdicts are rare.

For many observers, the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death, has felt like the culmination of years of outrage and grief over police killings of Black people in America. Video of the arrest that led to Mr. Floyd’s death inspired demonstrations that touched every corner of the country last summer, with protesters demanding justice for Mr. Floyd.

The Times reviewed dozens of similar cases in which encounters between Black people and police ended fatally. Though many cases prompted public outrage, that did not always translate to criminal indictments. In some cases, police officers were shown to have responded lawfully. In others, charges were dropped or plea agreements were reached. Some have resulted in civil settlements. But very few have resulted in convictions at trial.

These cases offer valuable points of comparison about what issues — video evidence, drug use, whether the person who died was armed — proved decisive in each outcome and what consequences, if any, officers faced. Even as the trial has unfolded, several events, including the killing of Daunte Wright just a few miles from Minneapolis, have provided a grim reminder that Mr. Floyd’s death is one in a decades-long history of fatal encounters.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Protests Reached Every Corner of America: A Visual Timeline, Audra D. S. Burch, Weiyi Cai, Gabriel Gianordoli, Morrigan McCarthy and Jugal K. Patel, June 13, 2020. George Floyd’s death last summer sparked protests in all 50 states. See how the movement spread.

peter cahill

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge criticizes Rep. Waters’s comments about Chauvin trial, Paulina Villegas, April 20, 2021. The judge in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, shown above, on Monday admonished politicians for making what he called irresponsible and disrespectful comments about the case as jurors were sent to deliberate on a case that has already rattled the country.

Judge Peter A. Cahill’s comments were sparked by Rep. Maxine Waters’s (D-Calif.) remarks over the weekend during a rally at Brooklyn Center, Minn., where she said that if Chauvin was found not guilty in George Floyd’s death, protesters should stay on the streets, “get more active” and “get more confrontational.”

maxine waters cnnRepublicans have highlighted Waters’s comments as having the potential to lead to violence, but they have also faced accusations of hypocrisy over their lack of action over former president Donald Trump’s frequent inflammatory comments, or on members of their own party who have been accused of egging on violence.

The matter entered the courtroom after the jury left to begin its deliberations on Monday afternoon, following three weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses.

Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson moved for a mistrial, objecting, among other things, to Waters’s statements, which he argued had the effect of “threatening and intimidating the jury.” He added that the “pervasive” media coverage that the trial has received also could have influenced the 12 jurors — and two alternates — who will decide whether Chauvin is guilty of Floyd’s death.

Cahill conceded that Waters (shown at right in a file photo) “may have given” the defense grounds “on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”

He saved his harshest words for elected officials he said were speaking about the case “in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch.”

 

Derek Chauvin, right, with defense counsel Eric Nelson on Trial Day 14, April 15, 2021 (Photo via Court TV).

Eric J. Nelson, left, and his client Derek Chauvin during discussion of Chauvin’s decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify on Thursday, April 15, 2021, Trial day 14 (Still image via Court TV)

Daily Howler, Media Criticism: Mob and Town: Our press corps pretends to discuss a trial! Bob Somerby, April 20, 2021. The "he" in this case is the eugene robinson headshot CustomWashington Post's Gene Robinson, right. In recent weeks, he hasn't been able to stop writing a certain type of column about the ongoing Chauvin trial.

We refer to columns including factual claims like the one we highlight below. In this passage from his new column, Robinson is referring to yesterday's closing argument by prosecutor Steve Schleicher:

ROBINSON (4/20/21): [Schleicher] reminded jurors that the encounter began when a different officer—who also faces criminal charges—approached Floyd’s car with his gun aimed at Floyd’s face, which was obviously terrifying. Schleicher explained that Floyd was not resisting arrest but experiencing claustrophobic anxiety about being shoved into the patrol car. And he pointed out that when Chauvin and the other officers brought Floyd back out of the car, Floyd politely told them “thank you.

The highlighted passage is a misstatement of what Schleicher actually said. It's also a misstatement of what that "different officer" actually did.

The "different officer who also faces criminal charges" is Thomas Lane, who was literally in his first week on the job on the fateful day in question.

Lane, a rookie officer, was in his first week on the job! He'd responded to a call from Cup Foods about a counterfeit $20 bill. Later, things went badly downhill after Officer Chauvin arrived.

That said, Lane and his partner, J. Alexander Keung, were the first officers on the scene. Keung was also in his first week on the job.

(We have no idea why the MPD would assign two first-week rookies to patrol together. As far as we know, no one in the upper-end press corps has ever discussed this point.)

Lane was directed to the car where the late George Floyd had apparently fallen asleep. One of Floyd's two companions that day (Shawanda Hill) testified that they'd been unable to awaken Floyd so he could drive away before police arrived.

Now, Lane was approaching the car. But he didn't "approach Floyd’s car with his gun aimed at Floyd’s face," the exciting claim Robinson has falsely placed in Schleicher's mouth.

In fact, Lane didn't approach the car with his gun drawn at all! We find it hard to believe that Robinson, a celebrated Pulitzer winner, is unaware of that basic fact. We assume he simply preferred his exciting, prejudicial claim to an accurate statement of fact.

In fact, Lane knocked on the window of Floyd's car with his flashlight. The sequence was first described by the Washington Post's Holly Bailer all the way back in July 2020, when bodycam footage of these events was first released to the press by Judge Cahill.

We read the report on the day it appeared on the Post's front page. Stating the obvious, Robinson read it too:

BAILEY (7/16/20): [Lane's] body camera shows he twice tapped on the vehicle’s window with a flashlight. Floyd initially didn’t respond, but the second time, he looked over his shoulder and seemed startled to see Lane.

As Floyd started to open his door, Lane ordered him to stay in the car and drew his weapon. “Put your f---ing hands up right now!” he ordered, while aiming at him.

Floyd raised his hands and started to cry. He told Lane he had been shot by police before. Floyd then followed Lane’s order to place his hands on the wheel and leaned his forehead there, too, as he sobbed. Lane placed his gun back in the holster seconds later...

Why did Lane draw his weapon at all? If memory serves, Floyd—who seemed somewhat disoriented after being startled awake—may already have been failing to obey the command to let Lane see his hands.

At any rate, once Floyd placed his hands on the steering wheel, Lane put his gun back in its holster -- Unless you read Robinson's inexcusable column, in which case you've been told that he "approached Floyd’s car with his gun aimed at Floyd’s face, which was obviously terrifying."

We're sorry, but no—that isn't what happened.

Why would someone like Robinson present a claim of that type? Also, why would Robinson's unnamed editor allow the widely ballyhooed prize-winner to do that?

At this site, we've been writing about this type of behavior for roughly twenty-three years. In this case, we'll speak frankly about what Robinson is doing in that inexcusable passage:

He's trying to get a first-week cop locked up—thrown in jail. Chauvin's head won't be enough, given the fury of the stampede our upper-end "press corps" is on.
Robinson's columns on the trial have been replete with conduct of this type. We plan to review at least one earlier column before this week is done.

That said, let's go ahead and be perfectly clear about what Robinson was doing when he composed that phony account. He was running with a mob in the streets—the same kind of mob which used to run in the streets, but also in the backwoods, of his native South Carolina.

Make no mistake! Here in Our Town, we want to get Chauvin locked up, but we want those rookie cops too. Please don't say this assessment is wrong. This is exactly what our "journalists" have been doing, nor is this anything new.

It's what they did when they formed a mob to go after Candidate Gore, thus sending us into Iraq. It's what they did when they couldn't stop talking about the deeply troubling emails of Donald J. Trump's opponent, Candidate Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday, we watched the closing arguments in the Chauvin trial. Then we watched the punditry.

The punditry was the standard clownish disgrace. It would be comical if life and death weren't involved, along with the nation's future.

  fox upside down news

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News melts down after Derek Chauvin guilty verdict, Sheree McSpadden, April 20, 2021. Fox News had some interesting responses to Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict. Greg Gutfeld, co-host of The Five, drew groans from colleagues over his reaction, saying, “I’m glad he was found guilty … even if he wasn’t guilty of all the charges.” He added, with a smile, “My neighborhood was looted. I don’t ever want to go through that again.” Could he have been seriously telling the truth? I doubt it.

bill palmer report logo headerTucker Carlson focused on the fact that the city is still boarded up from the riots, and business owners are apparently still being held hostage by unseen rioters. He seemed sincerely disappointed. He asked his guest, a retired officer, who was going to want to be a cop now? His guest was positive there would still be good cop applicants, and went on to explain how the verdict was just, and police need more training, etc.

Carlson kept interrupting him, asking when are they going to enforce the law? Carlson finally just cut him off and went on to the next guest. She went on a diatribe denying there was systemic racism, and talking about the demoralization of police, none of whom are racist, of course. Carlson liked her. That was all I could take.

U.S. Politics, Media, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Political Sectarianism Is a Growing Threat to American Democracy, Nate Cohn, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). The country is increasingly split into camps that don’t just disagree on policy and politics — they see the other as alien, immoral, a threat

And in the United States, President Biden has stacked his administration with trustbusters who have taken aim at Amazon, Facebook and GoogleAround the world, governments are moving simultaneously to limit the power of tech companies with an urgency and breadth that no single industry had experienced before. Their motivation varies. In the United States and Europe, it is concern that tech companies are stifling competition, spreading misinformation and eroding privacy; in Russia and elsewhere, it is to silence protest movements and tighten political control; in China, it is some of both.

While nations and tech firms have jockeyed for primacy for years, the latest actions have pushed the industry to a tipping point that could reshape how the global internet works and change the flows of digital data.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What’s the Secret of Biden’s Success? Paul Krugman, paul krugmanright, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). The president’s party is finally comfortable in its own skin. Part of the answer, surely, is identity politics. Let’s be blunt here: The modern version of “only Nixon could go to China” may be “only an old white guy can sell a new New Deal.”

Another factor working in Biden’s favor is the closing of professional Republicans’ minds. Even before conspiracy theories took control, Republican politicians were living in a mental bubble; in many ways the modern G.O.P. is more like a cult than a normal political party. And at this point Republicans seem so deep in the cult that they’ve forgotten how to talk to outsiders. When they denounce every progressive idea as socialism, declare every center-left politician a Marxist, rant about “job creators” and insist on calling their rival the “Democrat Party,” they’re talking to themselves and persuading nobody.

Biden, then, benefits from having a nonthreatening persona and an opposition that has forgotten how to make persuasive policy arguments. But the popularity of Bidenomics also reflects the effectiveness of a party that is far more comfortable in its own skin than it was a dozen years ago.

Unlike Republicans, Democrats are members of a normal political party — basically a mildly center-left party that looks a lot like its counterparts across the free world. In the past, however, Democrats seemed afraid to embrace this identity.

One striking thing about the Obama years, in retrospect, was the deference of Democrats to people who didn’t share their goals. The Obama administration deferred to bankers who warned that anything populist-sounding would undermine confidence and to deficit scolds demanding fiscal austerity. It wasted months on a doomed effort to get Republican support for health reform.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden will hold a big climate summit this week to reestablish U.S. leadership. Not everyone may follow, Anne Gearan, Brady Dennis and Michael Birnbaum, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden will convene dozens of world leaders this week for a virtual climate change summit, marking not only an effort to restart the global push to address the rising threat but also the new president’s first grand gesture as a world leader.

Biden is using a two-day session opening Thursday — Earth Day — to put the United States back at the front of efforts to counter climate change after the retrenchment under President Donald Trump. More broadly, Biden seeks to trumpet that the United States has returned to the forefront of world affairs, from the environment to human rights to global security.

But it’s far from certain that other nations will follow suit if Biden pledges, as expected, that the United States will aim to significantly cut emissions, given the logistical and economic challenges of doing so. That makes the summit a political and diplomatic risk.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Prisons, Polic

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Yes, the House can vote on expanding the Supreme Court, Salvador Rizzo, April 20, 2021. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and other Democrats are sponsoring legislation to expand the Supreme Court from its current nine seats to 13 seats.

If the bill became law, President Biden immediately would be able to appoint four new associate justices, and those appointments could replace the court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority with a 7-to-6 liberal majority.

The plan, however, has not gotten much traction. Despite pressure from liberal activists to expand the court, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and top Senate Democrats say they have no plans to take up the bill. Biden has appointed a commission to study various Supreme Court restructuring proposals (among them, expanding the number of justices). Its report is due near the end of 2021.

Axne may have been thinking of the Senate’s “advice and consent,” or the power to approve or reject presidential nominees for judgeships and other positions, which the House does not have.

However, to change the composition of the Supreme Court requires legislation, meaning both chambers must vote on the text of the bill and send it to the president for his signature.

A representative for Axne noted that in a later interview with MSNBC, the congresswoman said she would wait for Biden’s commission to weigh in before taking any position. We couldn’t get an answer when we asked about her erroneous comments to Iowa Public Radio about the House’s “jurisdiction.”

“There has been a surprising degree of interest in expanding the size of the Court to include additional Justices,” law professors Daniel Epps and Ganesh Sitaraman wrote in the Yale Law Journal in 2019. “One of the virtues of this proposal is that it is almost certainly implementable by statute, as the size of the Supreme Court is not specified in the Constitution and has always been set by statute. Congress has changed the size of the Court at various times, sometimes for nakedly partisan reasons.”

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, The girl in the Kent State photo and the lifelong burden of being a national symbol, Patricia McCormick, April 20, 2021 (April 25 print ed.). In 1970, an image of a dead protester at Kent State became iconic. But what happened to the 14-year-old kneeling next to him?

Last May, when Mary Ann Vecchio watched the video of George Floyd’s dying moments, she felt herself plummet through time and space — to a day almost exactly 50 years earlier. On that afternoon in 1970, the world was just as riveted by an image that showed the life draining out of a young man on the ground, this one a black-and-white still photo. Mary Ann was at the center of that photo, her arms raised in anguish, begging for help.

That photo, of her kneeling over the body of Kent State University student Jeffrey Miller, is one of the most important images of the 20th century. Taken by student photographer John Filo, it captures Mary Ann’s raw grief and disbelief at the realization that the nation’s soldiers had just fired at its own children.

The Kent State Pietà, as it’s sometimes called, is one of those rare photos that fundamentally changed the way we see ourselves and the world around us. Like the image of the solitary protester standing in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square. Or the photo of Kim Phuc, the naked Vietnamese girl fleeing the napalm that has just incinerated her home. Or the image of Aylan Kurdi’s tiny, 3-year-old body facedown in the sand, he and his mother and brother having drowned while fleeing Syria.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Massacres threaten to engulf Darfur, as revenge is substituted for justice, Max Bearak, April 20, 2021. The past two years have seen a whirlwind of change in Sudan, but the country has not reckoned with the causes of the war. The past two years have seen a whirlwind of change in Sudan, where street protests led to the overthrow of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the dictator who presided over the wholesale burning and pillaging of Darfur in the 2000s, and ushered in a new government made up of former combatants that professed unity.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Nigerian students fearing the next mass kidnapping, there is only one defense — to run, Ismail Alfa and Danielle Nigerian FlagPaquette, April 20, 2021 (print ed.). By night, the boarding school teacher becomes a security guard. He wears a whistle around his neck in case gunmen jump the low-slung fence and break into dormitories where 300 boys sleep.

They know to run if they hear the shrill warning — straight to town, toward the police station. Knock on doors until someone hides you.

ny times logoNew York Times, President of Chad Is Killed as Soldiers Clash With Rebels, Mahamat Adamou and Ruth Maclean, April 20, 2021. President Idriss Déby of Chad died of wounds sustained in clashes between insurgents and government soldiers, the country’s armed forces said on Tuesday, one day after he had claimed victory in his re-election campaign.

A spokesman appeared on state television to inform the nation that Mr. Déby, who became feared by his own people over three decades of iron-fisted rule in Chad, was dead.

Mr. Déby had enjoyed the support of France and the United States because his military forces were seen as key to battling Islamist extremism in the central Sahel region. His contribution to the fight against groups like Boko Haram in neighboring Nigeria was viewed as critical in the broader effort to combat terrorism. He therefore received robust Western support despite accusations of human rights violations and crackdowns on the opposition during his rule.

There were many questions surrounding Mr. Déby’s death, including how exactly he was killed and what he was doing visiting an area where conflict was raging, if indeed he was.

The late president’s son, Mahamat Idriss Déby, will take over as the head of a new transitional military council that will rule for 18 months before new elections are held, the spokesman said. The government and national assembly were suspended, borders closed and a two-week mourning period announced.

ny times logoNew York Times, Super League Collapses as Premier League Soccer Teams Walk Away, Tariq Panja, April 20, 2021. The loss of England’s six biggest and richest teams was a death blow for a project that would have remade European soccer. “You are in or you are out,” the president of FIFA said to Super League clubs, as opposition to the league mounted.

Plans for a European soccer superleague collapsed on Tuesday as the project’s six Premier League clubs — half of the Super League’s founding members — announced or signaled that they were walking away from the plan.

The denouement was a spectacular implosion for a multibillion-dollar proposal that had prompted howls of outrage from nearly every corner of the sport since it was announced on Sunday, and the culmination of a frantic 48 hours of arguments, threats and intrigue at the highest levels of world soccer.

Manchester City, one of the six English teams that had signed up as founding members of the new Super League, was the first to confirm it was out, announcing in a one-sentence statement that it had begun the process of withdrawing from the project. Within hours, Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all signaled they, too, would withdraw.

Manchester United acknowledged that its fans had helped to change the club’s mind. “We have listened carefully to the reaction of our fans, the UK government and other key stakeholders,” the team said. Tottenham Hotspur expressed regret. Arsenal’s announcement came with an apology to its fans.

 

Media, Health News

washington post logoWashington Post, Dan Bongino isn’t just taking over where Rush Limbaugh left off — he’s building a conservative media universe, Manuel Roig-Franzia, April 20, 2021 One day in the waning months of the 2020 presidential campaign, Dan Bongino — a former Secret Service agent turned serial congressional candidate turned podcasting star — walked into the Oval Office for a sit-down with the president.

dan bonginoHe’d stood outside the locus of American power during his days on the protection detail for President Barack Obama, but he’d never entered for a personal meeting until Donald Trump was elected. The president, trailing in the polls and hapless in his response to the coronavirus, had invited him to discuss campaign strategy, Bongino recalled in an interview from his home in Stuart, Fla.

Bongino, right, was uniquely positioned to offer insights. In America’s siloed mediascape, he was barely a blip to liberals; on much of the political left, he was the powerhouse no one recognized. But in the separate universe of conservative media, he’d become a thing.

He was the fulminating, one-man conglomerate presiding over a mini-empire of words that included a booming website, a highly rated podcast, a regular Fox News gig, a Facebook page that routinely registered an astonishing slice of the top 10 shared posts, best-selling books, and a thriving YouTube channel. He was doing more than raging against Democrats and the mainstream media.

He was also setting in motion his grand aspiration to create a parallel digital economy in which the right wing builds its own digital infrastructure, separate from large tech companies he believes are anti-conservative, by acquiring its own “pipes” that ferry information on the Internet.

Bongino’s advice to Trump in the run-up to the 2020 election — one suggestion among a smattering he’d offered — was straightforward: seize the campaign narrative and the attention of the country by holding outdoor rallies at airports, where the threat of spreading the virus would be minimized.

“Whether I was the one person who suggested it to him that made him do it — I’m not going to say that,” says Bongino, a former New York police officer who speaks in the blunt, unvarnished, last-syllable-chopping tone of his Queens upbringing. “But I know I was one of the primary voices.”

Since the election, he’s become one of the more energetic promoters of dubious assertions about the 2020 presidential contest. Despite rulings by more than 80 judges, including Trump appointees, rejecting cases alleging fraud and election-law manipulation, he says that “the fact that the Supreme Court doesn’t want to hear a lot of these cases and provide clarity and give a definitive answer, I think is a controversy in and of itself.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Parler’s revamped app will be allowed back on Apple’s App Store, Rachel Lerman, April 20, 2021. Parler was booted from the App Store after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Apple told Parler last week that the proposed new version of its app with more stringent moderation policies would be approved when it relaunches.

parler logoApple will allow right-leaning social media app Parler back on its App Store provided the company makes changes to its moderation policies, the iPhone maker said after booting the app, which harbored content that glorified and encouraged the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

More than three months after the removal, Apple confirmed on Monday it would reinstate Parler in a letter sent to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.). Apple told Parler last week that the proposed new version of its app with more stringent moderation policies would be approved when it relaunches.

Parler said in a press release that it would relaunch the app next week. It also said that the Apple version of its app will prohibit some posts that will still appear on the Android app and on the website.

“We have worked to put in place systems that will better detect unlawful speech and allow users to filter content undesirable to them, while maintaining our strict prohibition against content moderation based on viewpoint,” Parler interim CEO Mark Meckler said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sleeping Too Little in Middle Age May Increase Dementia Risk, Study Finds, Pam Belluck, April 20, 2021. The research, tracking people from age 50 on, suggests those who sleep six hours or less a night are more likely to develop dementia in their late 70s.

 

April 19

Top Headlines 

 

Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol Riots

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

 

U.S. Politics, Media, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

Derek Chauvin, right, with defense counsel Eric Nelson on Trial Day 14, April 15, 2021 (Photo via Court TV).

Eric J. Nelson, left, and his client Derek Chauvin during discussion of Chauvin’s decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify on Thursday, April 15, 2021, Trial day 14 (Still image via Court TV).

washington post logoWashington Post, Chauvin Trial Live Updates: Jury deliberations begin, Holly Bailey, Abigail Hauslohner, Lateshia Beachum and Keith McMillan, April 19, 2021 ’The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin continued on April 19 with closing arguments and the beginning of jury deliberations. This stream contains graphic content.

The in-court portion of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the murder of George Floyd last May, wraps up Monday. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher delivers the closing argument for the state, followed by Chauvin defense attorney Eric Nelson, and then the prosecution’s rebuttal by Jerry Blackwell. Jury deliberations would begin afterward.

Latest: Prosecutors have urged the jury to ‘Believe your eyes.'

Throughout the trial, the prosecution has sought to convince the jury that what it sees on video — Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes — is murder. It brought in a wave of police and medical professionals and experts to testify that it was outside department training and abnormal. Nelson has attempted to paint Floyd as a man with a drug problem who needed to be brought under control by police force, and might have died from other causes.

Palmer Report, Opinion: QAnon has apparently infiltrated U.S. Special Forces, Robert Harrington, left, April 19, 2021. NBC News has infiltrated two private Facebook robert harringtnn portraitgroups dedicated exclusively to members of special operations forces. Disturbing trends have emerged from this investigation, including evidence that many group members support and promote certain radical political conspiracy theories, including QAnon dogma and the Big Lie that the election was stolen.

facebook logoRepublicanism is attractive to some people in the armed services because for decades Republicans have cultivated the tough guy image, despite the provable fact that they are cowards. If you need to open-carry an AR-15 in order to shop at Walmart then you’re a coward. If you need a rocket launcher to buy a sandwich at Subway then you’re a coward.

If you’re afraid of being called a snowflake because you openly weep for the less fortunate then you’re a coward. If you’re afraid that people of color have too many rights then you’re a coward. Just because Republicans have stolen the tough guy image doesn’t mean they’re tough guys. They’re not.

bill palmer report logo headerUnfortunately some members of the military’s special operations forces have fallen for this lie. Because of this they confuse conservatism with being tough. I hasten to add this is not true of all of them, or even most of them. Just enough of them to be worrying.

My best man at my first marriage was a Captain in Special Forces in Vietnam, for example, and he was an exemplary human being and a man of real strength and compassion. So I wish to emphasise that I am not excoriating all members of special forces specifically or the military in general.

But NBC has looked at two Facebook groups for special forces, “SF Brotherhood – PAC” and “US Special Forces Team Room.” These groups are largely political in nature and the forums shouldn’t be seen as necessarily reflective of the views of the special operations forces community as whole.

Department of Defense SealCollectively, the two Facebook groups have more than 5,000 members, with some belonging to both. By comparison, U.S. Special Operations Command has about 70,000 active personnel. Even so, some of the views and ideas posted to these groups are concerning.

For example, members of these groups often ridicule President Joe Biden by describing him as senile and weak and they compare him unfavourably to “stronger” leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin. They also refer to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a man of color, with derogatory terms like “bubba.”

Many of the posters are Trump supporters who believe the false narrative that there was widespread fraud in the 2020 election. One member said of law enforcement officers during the January 6 attack on the Capitol, “too bad they didn’t bother to defend the Constitution.”

djt maga hatFormer Green Beret Robert Wilson, who was counterterrorism director on the National Security Council during the Obama and Trump administrations, and who commanded the 3rd Special Forces Group, said members of the community “are radicalizing themselves online, just like many of these lone-wolf ISIS terrorists did.” As we have seen in recent years, home grown American terrorists are a much larger threat than terrorists from abroad.

These Facebook groups are strictly private and members are carefully vetted. Members are encouraged to speak their minds but to keep what is said inside the groups stringently confidential. Facebook does flag some members’ wilder ideas with warnings that they are fake news, such as the notion that the election was stolen or that the Deep State is running the government, but otherwise leaves them alone. They walk a very thin line between freedom of speech and an immediate threat to national security.

nasa helicopter

washington post logoWashington Post, NASA flies a helicopter on Mars; first time aircraft flown on another planet, Christian Davenport, April 19, 2021. Scientists say the successful test of the 4-pound helicopter (shown above in a NASA photo) could eventually help the space agency more quickly roam across Mars as it looks for signs of ancient life.

nasa logoNASA successfully flew its four-pound helicopter from the surface of Mars early Monday, the first powered flight of an aircraft on another planet, a feat NASA officials compared to the Wright brothers first flight in 1903.

At about 3:30 a.m., the twin, carbon-fiber rotor blades began spinning furiously, and the chopper, called Ingenuity, lifted off the surface of the Red Planet, reaching an altitude of about 10 feet, where it hovered, turned and landed softly in an autonomous flight that lasted just 30 seconds, the space agency said.

Inside the flight operations center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, engineers broke into applause when confirmation of the flight arrived, more than three hours after the flight, in a data burst that traveled 178 million miles from Mars to Earth.

 

Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol Riots

brian sicknick

NBC News logoNBC News, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes after riot, medical examiner says, Pete Williams, April 19, 2021. An autopsy revealed that Sicknick, above, who died hours after the Capitol riot, suffered two strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by a blood clot.

Washington's chief medical examiner has determined that U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died of natural causes the day following the riot on Jan. 6, after suffering two strokes.

The autopsy revealed that Sicknick suffered the strokes at the base of the brain stem caused by a blood clot, according to Chief Medical Examiner Francisco Diaz.

The formal finding was that the death was caused by "acute brainstem and cerebellar infarcts due to acute basilar artery thrombosis" and that the manner of death was "natural."

Diaz told the Washington Post in an interview that an autopsy found no evidence that Sicknick experienced an allergic reaction to chemical irritants. He also said there was no evidence of either external or internal injuries.

"All that transpired played a role in his condition," Diaz told the paper.

Capitol Police have said that Sicknick returned to his office after the riot, collapsed, and was taken to a hospital where he died about eight hours later.

The findings will make it difficult to charge any of the rioters with causing Sicknick's death, and no such charges have yet been filed. Two men, Julian Khater of Pennsylvania and George Tanios of West Virginia, were arrested in mid-March and accused of assaulting Sicknick with bear spray.

In a statement, the Capitol Police department says it accepts the findings. “But this does not change the fact Officer Brian Sicknick died in the Line of Duty, courageously defending Congress and the Capitol

Joseph-Biggs, left, and Ethan Nordean walk towards the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (Associated Press photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Joseph-Biggs, left, and Ethan Nordean walk towards the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (Associated Press photo by Carolyn Kaster).

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge jails two Proud Boys leaders pending trial tied to Capitol riot, Spencer S. Hsu, April 19, 2021. The ruling is a victory for U.S. prosecutors who say members of far-right groups conspired to thwart Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.

A federal judge on Monday jailed two Proud Boys leaders pending trial in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, handing a victory to U.S. prosecutors in a closely watched conspiracy case accusing the pair of planning to disrupt Congress and leading as many as 60 others to impede police that day.

U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly of Washington acknowledged that online organizers Ethan Nordean, 30, of Seattle and Joseph Randall Biggs, 37, of Ormond Beach, Fla., “lacked most of the usual markers of dangerousness” relied on by judges to detain other Jan. 6 defendants, saying that neither was armed, assaulted police or had a criminal record.

However, Kelly ruled, “these defendants are alleged by their leadership and planning to have facilitated political violence on January 6th, even if they themselves did not carry a weapon or strike a blow.”

Calling the factual allegations “gravely serious,” Kelly said in an unusual two-hour-long reading of his decision from the bench that both defendants are charged with “seeking to steal one of the crown jewels in our country . . . by interfering with the peaceful transfer of power.” Kelly added that nothing short of jail could assure that they did not mobilize others to violate the law or threaten public safety.

U.S. judge tests prosecutors’ claims that Proud Boys leaders planned Capitol breach

Kelly’s decision was a test for U.S. prosecutors’ allegations that members of the right-wing Proud Boys and Oath Keepers groups conspired in advance to disrupt Congress’s certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election win and did not simply join in spontaneous violence by a mob fueled by former president Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the election was stolen from him.

More than 40 members or associates of the two groups have been arrested and charged so far among the roughly 380 federally charged in the Capitol attack.

A three-judge U.S. appeals court panel raised the bar last month for detaining nonviolent Capitol defendants, requiring judges to specify why those detained posed a risk of dangerousness or if they “aided, conspired with, planned, or coordinated such actions.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Officials sound alarm on fake CDC cards that could be used to misrepresent vaccination status at school, work, Dan Diamond, April 19, 2021 (print ed.). Officials warn that falsified cards could endanger lives and undermine efforts to end the pandemic.

cdc logo CustomOne listing offered eBay customers an “Authentic CDC Vaccination Record Card” for $10.99. Another promised the same but for $9.49. A third was more oblique, offering a “Clear Pouch For CDC Vaccination Record Card” for $8.99, but customers instead received a blank vaccination card (and no pouch).All three listings were posted by the same eBay user, who goes by “asianjackson” — using an account registered to a man who works as a pharmacist in the Chicago area — and all were illegal, federal regulators say. The account sold more than 100 blank vaccination cards in the past two weeks, according to The Washington Post’s review of purchases linked to it.

The listings are a “perfect example” of burgeoning scams involving coronavirus vaccination cards that could undermine people’s safety, as well as the success of the nation’s largest mass vaccination effort, said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. Individuals might use them to misrepresent their vaccination status at school, work or in various living and travel situations, potentially exposing others to risk.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Half of American adults have received at least one vaccine dose, says CDC, Erin Cunningham, April 19, 2021.Just over half of all U.S. adults have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Sunday, an important milestone for a nation that has suffered the world’s highest death toll due to the pandemic.

Nearly 130 million people over age 18 — or 50.4 percent of the adult population — have been at least partially immunized with one coronavirus vaccine dose, according to CDC data. About 84 million adults have been fully vaccinated, meaning they completed vaccine regimens requiring two doses or received a single-dose vaccine.

The progress comes as some U.S. states are still grappling with virus surges and as new global coronavirus cases reach record highs. In other news:

  • Boris Johnson cancels trip to India amid fears of new variant in the country
  • New Oxford trial will reinfect healthy individuals with covid-19
  • Lockdown in India’s capital as top official warns that health-care system could “collapse”

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: All U.S. Adults Are Allowed Coronavirus Vaccine, Hitting Biden’s Goal, Staff Reports, April 19, 2021. The last states expanded eligibility on Monday, just before the deadline President Biden had set. What comes next: A push to fill all those slots.

washington post logoWashington Post, 132.3 million vaccinated, as of April 19, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 49.5 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 39.9 % of the total population. See about your state.

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

World Cases: 142,116,621, Deaths: 3,035,299
U.S. Cases:     32,406,753, Deaths:   581,068
India Cases:     15,061,919, Deaths:   178,793
Brazil Cases:    13,943,071, Deaths:   373,442

ny times logoNew York Times, With Universal Eligibility, a Fifth of Seniors Remain Unvaccinated, Danielle Ivory and Keith Collins, April 19, 2021. Older adults have been eligible for Covid-19 vaccines for months, but some still have not gotten a shot, and progress is uneven from state to state. 

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

   supreme court Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Supreme Court’s Increasingly Dim View of the News Media, Adam Liptak, right, April 19, 2021. A comprehensive look at references to adam liptakthe press in justices’ opinions revealed “a marked and previously undocumented uptick in negative depictions.”

Last month, in a dissent in a routine libel case, a prominent federal judge lashed out at the news media.

“Two of the three most influential papers (at least historically), The New York Times and The Washington Post, are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets,” wrote Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. “And the news section of The Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction.”

“Nearly all television — network and cable — is a Democratic Party trumpet,” he wrote. “Even the government-supported National Public Radio follows along.”

clarence thomas HRThe dissent endorsed a 2019 opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas, left, calling for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling that made it hard for public officials to win libel suits.

The negative views from the bench of the news media may not be outliers. A new study, to be published in The North Carolina Law Review, documents a broader trend at the Supreme Court. The study tracked every reference to the news media in the justices’ opinions since 1784 and found “a marked and previously undocumented uptick in negative depictions of the press by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The study was not limited to cases concerning First Amendment rights. It took account of “all references to the press in its journalistic role, to the performance of commonly understood press functions or to the right of press freedom.” Many of these references were in passing comments in decisions on matters as varied as antitrust or criminal law.

“A generation ago, the court actively taught the public that the press was a check on government, a trustworthy source of accurate coverage, an entity to be specially protected from regulation and an institution with specific constitutional freedoms,” wrote the study’s authors, RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor at the University of Utah, and Sonja R. West, a law professor at the University of Georgia. “Today, in contrast, it almost never speaks of the press, press freedom or press functions, and when it does, it is in an overwhelmingly less positive manner.”

Compare, for instance, Justice Hugo Black’s concurring opinion in 1971 in the Pentagon Papers case, allowing publication of a secret history of the Vietnam War, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s majority opinion in 2010 in the Citizens United campaign finance case.

Justice Black wrote that “The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the founding fathers saw so clearly.”

President Donald Trump officialThere may be many reasons for the shift documented in the study beyond a change in judicial attitudes. The news media may have become less trustworthy and more ideologically skewed. It has certainly become more various and harder to define. And it has been the subject of relentless attack from politicians, notably former President Donald J. Trump.

“Some shift might be expected,” Professor Jones said in an interview. “But the uniformity and degree of it was pretty staggering. On every meaningful measure we could come up with, the current court is significantly less positive about press-related matters.”

The study found that conservative justices have always been more apt to write negative things about the press. The new development is that liberal justices now have little good to say about it.

“The press, therefore, seems to be experiencing the double whammy of compounded negativity from the ideological group at the court that has been historically negative (the conservative justices) and a loss of positivity from the ideological group that has been historically positive (the liberal justices),” the study said. “Ideology is simply no longer predictive of positive treatment.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Police arrest Austin shooting suspect, a former sheriff’s detective they say killed 3, after a 20-hour manhunt, Brittany Shammas, April 19, 2021. The former law enforcement officer suspected of gunning down three people Sunday in Austin has been captured after a 20-hour manhunt, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities tracked down Stephen Nicholas Broderick, 41, an ex-detective at the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, early Monday after getting two 911 calls about a man walking along a road in the Austin suburb of Manor. He had a pistol in his waistband but was taken into custody without any further violence, the AP reported.

Broderick is accused of killing three people at an apartment complex in what authorities described as a “domestic situation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A new, racialized assault on abortion rights is headed to the Supreme Court, Melissa Murray (professor of law at New York University), April 19, 2021 (print ed.). A federal appeals court last week allowed an Ohio law to take effect that bars doctors from performing abortions on women who choose to end their pregnancies because the fetus has Down syndrome. The law presents a head-on challenge to the right to abortion that could soon land at the Supreme Court — this time interlaced with sensitive questions of race and eugenics.

Such intrusive “reason bans,” which have been enacted around the country, are controversial — and almost immediately challenged — because they prohibit abortion before fetal viability. Most courts have applied the Supreme Court’s long-standing precedents to strike down such bans.

But the 9-to-7 ruling, by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, found that “there is no absolute or per se right to an abortion based on the stage of the pregnancy.” That conclusion, at odds with the court’s decisions in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, directly conflicts with that of other federal appeals courts — raising the likelihood that the issue will soon be before the justices again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Colorado judge used the n-word and proclaimed that ‘all lives matter.' Now she’s resigning, Jaclyn Peiser, April 19, 2021. Cloaked and seated on her bench, Colorado District Judge Natalie T. Chase asked two Black court employees last May to explain the Black Lives Matter movement after overhearing them talk about protests in Denver over the death of George Floyd.

natalia chaseAfter hearing their explanation, Chase, who is White, said she thought the police involved in Floyd’s death should be investigated. But then she maintained that, in fact, “all lives matter.”

The incident was one of numerous claims of racist or unprofessional behavior raised against Chase, including another occasion where she used the n-word multiple times while talking to a Black colleague, court officials said.

On Friday, Chase agreed to resign after the Colorado Supreme Court censured her based on a report finding she had “undermined confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary by expressing [her] views about criminal justice, police brutality, race and racial bias, specifically while wearing [her] robe in court staff work areas and from the bench.”

NBC News logoNBC News, NFL star Deshaun Watson's legal team responds to sexual misconduct claims against him, Diana Dasrath and David K. Li, April 19, 2021. Star QB's defense team claims lawsuits by massage therapists are "misleading," "fraudulent" and "slanderous."

Attorneys for football star Deshaun Watson filed a response Monday to lawsuits making allegations of sexual misconduct, denying the claims based partly on the assertion that some of the women continued to work with Watson after they say he acted inappropriately toward them.

Twenty-two women have filed lawsuits against the standout Houston Texans quarterback, saying he forced sexual contact with them during massage sessions in 2020 or earlier this year.

"These lawsuits are replete with mischaracterizations of Mr. Watson's conduct," defense lawyer Rusty Hardin wrote in a response to one of the plaintiffs, Ashely Solis. "These range from being misleading, to fraudulent, to slanderous."

The plaintiffs had originally filed anonymously as Jane Doe, before courts said the women had to identify themselves for the lawsuits to go forward. Watson's attorneys said without the names, the quarterback would have had no chance to defend himself against their claims.

"At least five of the plaintiffs chose to work with Mr. Watson even after they claim he acted offensively and aggressively in prior sessions: Erica Chapman, Kaylan Hurrington, Rebecca Nagy, Toi Garner, and Chelcie Bell," Hardin said in the filing.

"This, of course, raises the question of why they would agree to follow-up therapy sessions when they claim their experiences made them feel like they 'wanted to vomit' and caused them to 'no longer accept massage clients, for fear of a repeat of this type of harassment.' ”

NBC News logoNBC News, Minn. lawmaker proposes revoking convicted protesters' student loans, food stamps, Allan Smith, April 19, 2021. The Republican state senator's legislation would bar those convicted of crimes at protests from state financial assistance.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Matt Gaetz knew this was coming, Bill Palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Matt Gaetz knew this was coming, Bill Palmer, April 19, 2021. Campaign finance reports dug up by NBC local news reveal that Congressman Matt Gaetz has been using campaign donations to pay for his legal bills in relation to the federal criminal investigation that’s breathing down his neck. This is a red flag, but it’s not surprising. Here’s the part that does stand out, though.

bill palmer report logo headerThough Matt Gaetz didn’t learn until the very end of 2020 that he was under federal criminal investigation, this same NBC report reveals that Gaetz began spending big bucks on legal bills back in July of 2020. In fact Gaetz started talking to lawyers immediately after his associate NBC News logoJoel Greenberg was criminally indicted.

This means that the minute Greenberg was arrested, Matt Gaetz knew he was going to end up being criminally investigated as well.

That doesn’t prove his guilt. But when your friend gets arrested for something and you immediately hire a lawyer under the presumption that your friend’s evidence trail is going to lead back to you, it’s not exactly a good look. Federal criminal investigations take forever to play out, but Gaetz was correct when he presumed nine months ago that this one would eventually catch up to him.

 

U.S. Politics, Media, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Political Sectarianism Is a Growing Threat to American Democracy, Nate Cohn, April 19, 2021. The country is increasingly split into camps that don’t just disagree on policy and politics — they see the other as alien, immoral, a threat.

ny times logoNew York Times, There’s a Booming Business in America’s Forests. Some Aren’t Happy About It., Gabriel Popkin, April 19, 2021. Photographs and Video by Erin Schaff, April 19, 2021. The fuel pellet industry is thriving. Supporters see it as a climate-friendly source of rural jobs. For others, it’s a polluter and destroyer of nature.

ny times logoTheHill.com, Guilfoyle named as national chair of Greitens' Senate campaign in Missouri, Max Greenwood, April 19, 2021. Kimberly Guilfoyle, right, the former Fox News host and Trump campaign adviser, will serve as the national chair of Eric Greitens’s Senate campaign, a move that suggests the disgraced former Missouri governor is deepening his ties to former President Trump’s orbit.

kimberly guilfoyle w 2018“Governor Greitens is a fighter who has stood with President Trump and has a proven record of advancing conservative, America First policies,” Guilfoyle, who is dating Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said in a statement issued through Greitens’s campaign on Monday.

“I am proud to join this team as the National Chair and look forward to championing Governor Greitens’ vision throughout Missouri and around the country.”

eric greitens oGreitens, who resigned as governor nearly three years ago after a scandal-ridden year and a half in office, is vying for the GOP nomination to replace retiring Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) next year.

While he has proved to be a divisive figure within Republican circles, Greitens has managed to rack up a series of endorsements from within Trump’s orbit, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

By bringing Guilfoyle into his campaign, Greitens is sending an unmistakable message that he is the candidate most closely aligned with Trump, who remains the most influential Republican in the country and commands the support of an ultra-conservative base of voters.

The GOP Senate primary in Missouri is shaping up to be a clear test of Trump’s political strength in his post-presidential life. Some republican elephant logoRepublicans inside and outside of Missouri are hoping to thwart Greitens’s chances of securing the GOP nomination next year, believing that he could cost Republicans a relatively safe Senate seat in 2022.

As governor, Greitens faced felony charges related to an alleged blackmail scheme in which he was accused of threatening to release nude photos of a women with whom he had an affair, as well as for allegations that he had improperly taken a donor list from a nonprofit he had founded to use in his gubernatorial campaign.

He resigned in June 2018 as GOP leaders in the state legislature met to consider whether to pursue his impeachment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rift between GOP, corporate America creates opening for Biden’s tax plan, Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey, April 19, 2021. The corporate world’s relatively muted reaction so far to significant tax hikes was until recently unthinkable and reflects major changes in U.S. politics.

The morning that President Biden introduced his jobs and infrastructure plan, senior White House officials briefed Goldman Sachs CEO David M. Solomon, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and four other chief executives of the country’s biggest banks about the measure.

White House officials in a 24-hour period also briefed powerful business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable about the proposal, while also planning outreach to thousands of small businesses. White House senior adviser Cedric L. Richmond and White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese were among the administration’s emissaries for the legislation.

The meetings were in part the result of an effort from the Biden administration to take advantage of the growing rift between corporate America and the Republican Party as they seek to sell the nation on more than $2 trillion in tax hikes.

Biden says he's open to compromise with Republicans on $2 trillion infrastructure plan

“We have prioritized business outreach; we think they have an important role to play and that their voice is important,” said Zach Butterworth, the White House’s director of private sector engagement. “They know we’re operating in good faith and that we’re proposing policies that are good for workers and good for business.”

The strategy is aimed at blunting the ferocity of business opposition to the tax hikes, likely the most controversial part of Biden’s jobs and infrastructure package. White House officials have argued to corporate executives that the tax hikes are necessary to fund large investments in public infrastructure that the business sector has long sought. But Democratic officials also recognize that their efforts risk bringing about a quick reconciliation between the GOP and business community, driving them together in opposition against a common foe.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The last gasp of the failed pro-Trump forces, Bill Palmer, right, April 19, 2021. During the previous four years, the concept I found the most difficult bill palmerto drive home to my fellow liberal activists was that we were in a metaphorical state of war against Trump and his treasonous allies.

Too many liberals spent those four years lamenting over each battle that we lost, while ignoring the numerous battles that we won, and insisting that Trump was magically “getting away with it all.” What too many in the Resistance completely failed to understand is that in war, both sides suffer unacceptable losses – and the winner is the side that’s still standing after the other side has fallen.

bill palmer report logo headerFast forward four years, and we’re still in a metaphorical state of war. Things are extraordinarily ugly, as they tend to be in the late stages of a war. But our side sure is winning the war, by a mile. We’ve already taken down the enemy leader, Donald Trump, who is now powerless and spends his time whining and fretting over his inevitable arrest. We’ve ousted Trump, Putin, and the white supremacists from the Executive Branch. We’re now using the Executive Branch to swiftly roll out a vaccine, get the economy back on track, and reverse the most horrific policies that Traitor Trump put in place while he was occupying the White House.

Yes, the pro-Trump forces are behaving more egregiously than ever. But that’s because they know they’ve lost this war. They’ve lost the 2020 election. They’ve lost Trump, who’s now in the weeds. Out of frustration they idiotically tried to invade the Capitol – an actual act of war – but this never had any chance of working capitol riot shamanfor them, and now it’s forced the media to finally begin accurately portraying pro-Trump forces as the terrorist extremists they’ve always been. And now hundreds of pro-Trump forces are being arrested for their roles in that idiotic attack. (See photo at right showing two rioters in the Capitol.)

Yes, the pro-Trump forces are dangerous. But that’s because they know they’ve lost, and because some of these extreme right-wingers are mentally unstable enough to want to go down in a minor blaze of imaginary glory. Don’t for one second mistake their loud resentment at losing as a sign that they’re somehow winning. They’re the ones who lost control of the government, and failed when they violently tried to take it back. They’re the ones who are now powerless. And after years of demanding that American leaders be locked up for imaginary reasons, they’re the ones being locked up for being traitors.

These are still very dangerous times. But now that we’re so thoroughly winning this metaphorical war, it’s more important than ever to keep in mind what winning actually looks like. Team America is now in control of things and is still holding things together, despite having suffered losses along the way. Team Trump is in shambles, in control of nothing, and in the process of losing everything.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House removes Betsy Weatherhead, scientist picked by Trump official, from research project on climate change, Jason Samenow, April 19, 2021. Weatherhead, chosen to steer the government’s National Climate Assessment, has been reassigned to the U.S. Geological Survey.

While broadly respected and considered mainstream, Weatherhead has historically placed great emphasis on communicating scientific uncertainty, which may have made her unpopular with Biden administration officials who wish to present an unnuanced portrayal of the threat of climate change.

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

Alex Jones, host and founder of the Texas-based Infowars show (file photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones’s Podcasting Hecklers Face Their Foil’s Downward Slide, Elizabeth Williamson, April 19, 2021 (print ed.). Dan Friesen and Jordan Holmes turned their Infowars-skewering podcast into a business. In the post-Trump era, they’re documenting Mr. Jones’s reckoning. Last year, Alex Jones supplied conspiratorial content to the leader of the free world. This month, he was shamed by a nun.

Mr. Friesen began Knowledge Fight in January 2017, at the start of Mr. Jones’s on-air love affair with President Donald J. Trump. The budding podcaster sold his plasma to help keep it afloat, but it grew during the Trump administration into a profitable enterprise. It now boasts more than 2,700 patrons on Patreon, a subscription-based funding site. Mr. Friesen declined to quantify his total listenership.

Knowledge Fight’s focus has shifted this post-Trump year to chronicling the ragged downward spiral of Mr. Jones, a conspiracist who has lost the plot.

twitter bird Custom“He is worth exploring in terms of better understanding the right wing, and how did we get here from there? How did we disrespect information and the conveying of information so much that we ended up where we are in 2021?” Mr. Friesen asked.

The removal of Mr. Jones from social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube has limited the availability of his archive. But through back-channel research, Mr. Friesen had captured and saved years’ worth of shows, allowing him to trace Mr. Jones’s career.

Mr. Jones was influenced by the John Birch Society and right-wing Cold Warriors, but conspiracy broadcasters of decades past were “boring men in public access TV studios dissecting the all-seeing eye on the back of a dollar bill,” said Jon Ronson, a journalist and filmmaker who has known Mr. Jones for youtube logo Custommore than two decades. “People were yearning for somebody who would be funny.”

In a world where truth was malleable and entertainment a premium, he said, “Alex was a star.”

“But it got darker. The money and the power got to him,” Mr. Ronson added. Infowars thrived on stoking hatred of Muslims, spinning conspiracy theories about staged mass shootings, promulgating lies about Democrats trafficking children and, lately, sowing anti-vaccination fabrications.

Mr. Friesen and Mr. Holmes decided to counter Mr. Jones’s version of entertainment with their own.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, A Cuba Without a Castro? A Country Steps Into the Unknown, Maria Abi-Habib and Ed Augustin, April 19, 2021. Raúl Castro is set to step down as head of Cuba’s Communist Party, leaving Cubans without a Castro to lead them for the first time in over 60 years.

When Raúl Castro announced last week that he was preparing to retire as Cuba’s top leader, he had a warning for a nation increasingly divided over the legacy of its Communist revolution: The choice at hand is continuity of the revolution’s ideals, or defeat.

Since 1959, when Raúl and his older brother, Fidel, led an insurgency against an American-backed dictator to victory, Cuba has been led by a Castro. Now, as Raúl — who is 89 and succeeded his older brother — steps down from the helm of the Communist Party, he leaves a country that is torn by the most brutal economic crisis in decades.

There is also a deep generational rift.

Many older Cubans remember the poverty and inequality they faced before the Castros, and remain loyal to the revolution despite decades of hardship. But younger generations, who grew up with the achievements of socialism, including access to education and health care, chafe at its limits. They are demanding less government control and more economic freedom.

ny times logoNew York Times, Navalny Is Transferred to Hospital From Prison, Andrew E. Kramer, April 19, 2021. Aleksei Navalny, the high-profile Russian opposition leader, has been on hunger strike for nearly three weeks. The U.S. has warned of “consequences” should he die.

 ny times logoNew York Times, After ‘Green Rush,’ Canada’s Legal Pot Suppliers Are Stumbling, Ian Austen, April 19, 2021 (print ed.). Most marijuana producers in Canada are still reporting staggering losses two and a half years after legalization.

The mayor of the largely rural community of South Huron, Ontario, was looking forward to an employment boom when a marijuana producer used its soaring stock value to buy an enormous greenhouse on the edge of the municipality’s largest town.

canadian flagBut before any of the 200 or so anticipated jobs in the greenhouse were filled — or before a single marijuana seed was even sown there — it became apparent that Canada was already growing far more marijuana than the market wanted.

After sitting idle for two years, the one-million-square-foot greenhouse was sold last year for about one-third of its original purchase price of 26 million Canadian dollars, or $20.75 million.

Exeter’s experience with the greenhouse — high hopes, followed by disappointment — mirrors the broader Canadian story with the business side of legal pot.

Analysts say one reason the sunny projections have failed to materialize is the tightly regulated distribution system introduced by Canada, which largely bans advertising and marketing. The halting roll out of stores in some provinces — particularly Ontario — is also a factor. Plus, surveys have suggested that many Canadians are simply not interested in adopting a new vice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Europe’s new ‘Super League’: More profit for soccer’s haves, less opportunity for have-nots, Steven Goff, April 19, 2021. Plan for a European soccer Super League panics fans, prompts emergency political statements.

There is no exact analogy to explain what has been proposed — and what has caused unprecedented turmoil — in European soccer the past two days. But for those more literate in insular American sports than trans-global affairs, consider this scenario: Duke, Kansas, UCLA and a dozen other pillars of college basketball decide they are tired of participating in the NCAA tournament with smaller programs.

These pedigreed programs drive business; fans want to watch them, not Utah State and Western Kentucky. So while they’ll consent to — and benefit from — continuing to play in tradition-rich conferences every weekend, they will form their own super league, play one another at home and on the road throughout the season, secure national TV slots and crown one of their select members as champions.

 

April 18

Top Headlines 

 

U.S. Trafficking, Shootings, Police

 

U.S. Court, Legal Overviews·

 

Pro-Trump Riots, Vote Suppression

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Make Tax-Dodging Companies Pay Their Fair Share, Editorial Board, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). The corporate income tax has been gutted. Raising rates and cracking down on evasion are sensible ways to come up with trillions of dollars.

American companies and companies that make money in the United States are not paying enough money in taxes. Even as profits have soared, tax payments have declined. Fifty-five of the nation’s largest corporations — including FedEx, Nike and the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland — paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2020, despite collectively reporting more than $40 billion in profits, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

irs logoThe federal government lets companies avoid taxes by shifting profits earned in the United States to countries with lower tax rates. Every year, American firms, especially in the technology and pharmaceutical sectors, brazenly pretend to earn billions of dollars in microstates like Barbados, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, which are more than happy to play along. Companies and countries both profit, at the expense of the United States.

American policymakers have rewarded this naked legerdemain with rounds of tax cuts, most recently in 2017, partly justified as necessary to induce companies not to cheat. The tax cuts have also been sold as magic fertilizer that will cause the economy to grow faster.

This laissez-faire policy has crammed money into the pockets of wealthy shareholders while depriving the government of needed revenue. But it has failed to deliver its advertised benefits. Allowing corporations to keep a larger share of their profits has not catalyzed corporate investment, nor has it showered Americans with trickle-down prosperity

In a welcome course correction, President Biden is proposing to increase corporate income taxation and to spend the money on infrastructure. His plan would raise the statutory tax rate on corporate income to 28 percent from 21 percent, still well below the pre-2017 level of 35 percent. The administration estimates it would raise $2.5 trillion over the next 15 years.

However, collecting more money is not as simple as ratcheting up the corporate tax rate.

In 2017 multinational corporations stashed 40 percent of their profits, or more than $700 billion, in tax havens like Luxembourg and Bermuda, according to research by economists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Copenhagen. Raising tax rates, in isolation, would encourage evasion. It would be like drawing water with a larger sieve.

The core of the Biden plan, therefore, is not the increase in the statutory rate. Rather, it’s a set of companion measures to tax the profits that American companies stash in other countries.

Under the plan, companies would be subject to a 21 percent tax on income reportedly earned in other countries, alongside the 28 percent tax on domestic profits. Companies would get credit for taxes paid to foreign governments; the United States would collect the rest. A company that reported $1 billion in earnings in a country with a 10 percent tax rate would pay $100 million in taxes in that country and an additional $110 million to the U.S. Treasury Department. This simple fix would sharply reduce the incentive to shift profits to low-tax countries.

 

U.S. Trafficking, Shootings, Police

The Circle of Hope Ranch and Boarding School in rural Missouri is now closed after abuse charges against its proprietors, Boyd and Stephanie Householder (Cedar County Republican photo).

The Circle of Hope Ranch and Boarding School in rural Missouri is now closed after criminal abuse charges against its proprietors, Boyd and Stephanie Householder (Cedar County Republican photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Will abuse charges at a boarding school finally push Missouri to regulate faith-based institutions? David Von Drehle, right, April 18, 2021 david von drehle twitter(print ed.). Adolescence is stormy for most young people, and for some it is a Category 5. Parents of struggling teenagers can find themselves at wit’s end — which is often located in rural Missouri.

For some parents of troubled girls, wit’s end has been the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in rural Cedar County, Mo. The year-round boarding school offered structure and discipline in a Christian environment, but that’s not what an investigation by the Missouri attorney general’s office found. Last month, the state filed more than 100 charges against the proprietors, Boyd and Stephanie Householder (shown at left in a family photo and below right in mug shots), for offenses including statutory boyd householder stephanie householder family photorape, sodomy and child neglect.

The accusations against Boyd Householder include beatings, restraints in stress positions, humiliations (one girl’s face was shoved in horse manure) and other abuse, according to court documents. Stephanie Householder, Boyd’s wife, is the subject of 22 of the charges. The Householders, who closed the school in August, have pleaded not guilty; their estranged daughter Amanda differs, telling the Kansas City Star she believes the charges “100 percent.”

Before founding Circle of Hope in 2006, Boyd Householder worked at nearby Agapé Boarding School, another professedly Christian institution serving parents at wit’s end. Agapé is the Greek word for a beautiful concept: unconditional love. But the attorney general’s investigation has grown to include allegations that a boyd household stephanie householder mugssimilar culture of abuse exists at that school; no charges have been filed.

Laura Bauer and Judy L. Thomas, two reporters at the Star, began last fall detailing the results of their examination of religiously themed boarding schools for troubled youths in rural Missouri. It is no accident, Bauer and Thomas explained, that Missouri is where so many parents arrive at wit’s end. The state permits zero — repeat, zero — regulation or oversight of boarding schools that claim to be religious. Such schools are not even required by Missouri to announce their existence to state or local authorities in charge of educational standards or child safety, the pair of reporters found.

“Even after [abuse] reports are substantiated” by law enforcement authorities, “the state still has no authority over the operation of the schools,” they wrote in December.

This is a loophole big enough to drive a church bus through. It’s of a piece with rhetoric in Republican circles that freedom of religion is under assault in one of the world’s most pluralistic nations. The exemption has made Missouri a magnet of the worst kind: At least seven boarding schools have relocated from other states to Missouri after being investigated or shut down for child abuse, the Star has reported.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Do We Let Corporations Profit From Rape Videos? Nicholas Kristof, below left, Video by Adam Westbrook and Lindsay Van Dyke, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). With help from Google and PayPal, XVideos lets people leer at the worst moment in a child’s life. This article contains descriptions of sexual assaults.

nicolas kristoffThis isn’t about pornography, but about rape and sexual abuse.

“I’ve no problem with consensual adults making porn,” says a Canadian student. “Who cares?”The problem is that many people in pornographic videos weren’t consenting adults. Like her.

google logo customJust after she turned 14, a man enticed her to engage in sexual play over Skype. He secretly recorded her. A clip, along with her full name, ended up on XVideos, the world’s most-visited pornography site. Google searches helped direct people to this illegal footage of child sexual abuse.

In a video above this column, she recounts how she begged XVideos to remove the clip. Instead, she says, the website hosted two more copies, so hundreds of thousands of people could leer at this most mortifying moment of her life, preserved forever as if in amber.

That happens all over the world: Women and girls, and men and boys, are sexually assaulted or secretly filmed, and then video is posted on a major website like XVideos that draws traffic through search engines. While the initial video assault may be brief, the attack on dignity becomes interminable.

“The shame I felt was overwhelming,” the Canadian student says.

youtube logo CustomI wrote in December about Pornhub, a Montreal-based website that pioneered access to free porn uploaded by anyone — so-called tube sites that are like YouTube for nudity and sex. Since that article, credit card companies have stopped working with Pornhub, the site has removed more than nine million videos, and the Canadian and United States governments have been cracking down on the company’s practices.

But as I noted at the time, the exploitation is rooted not in a single company but in an industry that operates with impunity, and punishing one corporation may simply benefit its rivals. That’s happening here. When Pornhub deleted videos, millions of outraged customers fled to its nemesis, XVideos, which has even fewer scruples.

Pierre Woodman, a veteran European pornographer, told me that while I may have damaged Pornhub financially, for XVideos “you are Santa Claus.”

That’s not a comfortable feeling, and it’s why we need to work to rein in an entire rogue industry — and for now, the behemoth is XVideos, bolstered by Google and other search engines.

brandon scott hole 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman in FedEx shooting used two legally purchased assault rifles, police say, Breanna Cooper, Lateshia Beachum and Joel Achenbach, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Officials said the shooter, Brandon Hole, above, purchased the rifles legally in July and September, not long after his mother reported fears that her son would attempt “suicide by cop.”

The 19-year-old gunman who fatally shot eight people at a FedEx plant Thursday used two legally purchased assault rifles, police said Saturday, raising new questions as many call for tighter restrictions on powerful firearms and more safeguards on who can own them.

fed ex logo resizedPolice said the shooter, a former employee at the facility, bought rifles legally last July and September — months after his mother said she feared her son would attempt “suicide by cop.” That led authorities to question Brandon Hole, temporarily detain him for mental health reasons and seize his shotgun. The gun was not returned, officials say.
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Yet Hole went on to obtain more firearms, despite Indiana’s red-flag law aimed at keeping such weapons out of the hands of potentially dangerous people. Under that law, a measure adopted and debated in many states, officials can confiscate someone’s weapon and then argue to a judge that the person should be prevented for some time from having a gun. Indianapolis police said Saturday night that they cannot say why Hole was not barred from purchasing the weapons under red-flag laws or whether authorities had pursued it.

The attack Hole carried out Thursday night — the sixth mass shooting in the United States in the past five weeks — has anguished communities that are once again calling for action to stop such violent assaults, which have targeted offices, stores, places of worship, movie theaters, nightclubs, colleges and grade schools.

“We have to act against gun violence,” said Rupal Thanawala, president of the Asian American Alliance in Indianapolis. “I cannot say why this happened, but these people will not come back. Everyone should have the right to feel safe at work, at school, at houses of worship. But, people don’t have that anymore.”

The victims of Thursday’s shooting ranged in age from 19 to 74, including a recent high school graduate with basketball talent and a 68-year-old Indian immigrant who loved long walks around his neighborhood. Four members of the Sikh community were killed. The massacre also hospitalized at least five people, with one in critical condition, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department

washington post logoWashington Post, Three dead and two injured after gunman opens fire at Wisconsin restaurant, suspect still at-large, Lateshia Beachum, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). The suspect is still at large, Kenosha Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

An early morning shooting at a Kenosha, Wis., restaurant and bar has left three people dead and two hospitalized with serious injuries, according to authorities.

The suspect, described as a six-foot tall Black male wearing a light-colored hooded sweatshirt, is still at large, Kenosha Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

Officials said they believe the shooting at Somes House Tavern was an isolated incident and the shooter poses no additional threat to the community.

Names and ages of the victims are still being determined, according to authorities.

There have been more than 150 mass shootings in the United States so far in 2021, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Latest massacres test gun-control advocates’ resolve, Toluse Olorunnipa and Marianna Sotomayor, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). The routine has become so predictable that some gun-control activists see the familiarity of tragedy as their biggest obstacle to achieving the change they’ve been seeking for the past decade.

 

U.S. Court, Legal Overviews·

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Seeing a threat to democracy in a conservative Supreme Court, Geoffrey R. Stone (right, professor and former dean, University geoffrey stoneof Chicago School of law), April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Ian Millhiser argues that the Supreme Court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority is skewing the law to benefit the Republican Party.

In The Agenda: How a Republican Supreme Court Is Reshaping America, Ian Millhiser examines the current makeup of the Supreme Court and how it is likely to affect our democracy. This question is especially important in light of the wave of Republican state legislation designed to undermine the voting rights of racial minorities and other supporters of the Democratic Party. At this pivotal moment, the core precepts of our democracy are once again at risk. Will the Supreme Court live up to its essential responsibility to protect our profound constitutional commitment to democracy and equality?

ian millhiser agenda coverIn this short and very accessible work, Millhiser focuses on four facets of the court’s current and future jurisprudence: the right to vote, the dismantling of the administrative state, religion and the right to sue. It is a bit surprising that Millhiser, a senior correspondent at Vox, does not address such issues as abortion rights, gay rights and affirmative action. Although he holds out little, if any, hope that the current Supreme Court will act appropriately with respect to those matters, he maintains that, in terms of our democracy, they are less important than the four issues on which he focuses.

The most discomforting of those is the right to vote, which, of course, lies at the very heart of our democracy. At the center of today’s crisis are the ever-more-aggressive efforts of Republican legislatures to find ways to effectively disenfranchise Democratic voters — and especially Black voters. In recent years, the Roberts court has often evaded its responsibilities in this realm. In Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, for example, the court in 2008 upheld an Indiana voter ID law that would clearly have a disproportionate effect on Black voters, even though there was no evidence that the law would meaningfully deter voter fraud.

Even more dramatically, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Roberts court in 2013 held unconstitutional Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required states and localities with a history of racial voter suppression to submit proposed changes to their election laws either to the Justice Department or to a federal court in Washington, which would not approve the changes if they had the purpose or effect of “abridging the right to vote on account of race or color.” The impact of this decision has been “profound.”

In Millhiser’s words, “many Republicans recognized immediately that they’d been given a gift,” and GOP legislators have acted quickly and aggressively to enact laws, especially in the South, that have had a significant role in preventing minority voters from exercising their most fundamental constitutional right. In light of the current makeup of the court, this trend toward allowing manipulation of the electoral process to benefit Republican candidates is likely, Millhiser predicts, to escalate. The new Georgia law on voting, which has generated a great deal of controversy, is an example of what Millhiser anticipates and fears.

Adding insult to injury, in Rucho v. Common Cause, decided in 2019, the Roberts court held that partisan gerrymandering is not unconstitutional, although it permits a state legislature to draw district lines in a way that ensures that the party in control will remain in control, even if its candidates statewide receive far less than 50 percent of the vote. As Millhiser notes, Republicans in the future “could gain a lock on the House of Representatives, not because they necessarily have the votes to win elections, but because the Supreme Court is likely to remove nearly all remaining safeguards against gerrymandering.”

The court’s actions on voting rights reflect only one part of its conservative activism. Millhiser explains that over the past decade the court has dismantled much of America’s campaign finance law; crippled the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion; created a religious exemption doctrine that permits a person or a company objecting to compliance with a law for religious reasons to deny the rights of employees and third parties; undermined the ability of public-sector unions to raise money; and halted President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, among other decisions in a similar vein. And, he notes, with “Republicans now controlling two-thirds of the seats on the Supreme Court, the Court could potentially sabotage any policy initiative pushed by President Joe Biden.”

 

Lisa Monaco, Biden nominee for Deputy Attorney General, briefs then-President Obama in the Oval Office on Sept. 16, 2013 (White House photo).

Lisa Monaco, Biden nominee for Deputy Attorney General, briefs then-President Obama in the Oval Office on Sept. 16, 2013 (White House photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Choice for Justice Dept.’s No. 2 Is Seen as a Consensus Builder, Katie Benner, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Lisa Monaco, a veteran of national security posts, is expected to be a key player in the administration’s push to combat domestic extremism.

Lisa Monaco was President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser when she was handed an intractable problem: Fix the administration’s ineffective response to the kidnappings of Americans by Islamic State fighters, which had prompted outcries from victims’ families, without changing the government’s refusal to make concessions to terrorists.

Ms. Monaco quickly instituted a change, according to Matthew Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. She mandated that the families, who had been kept in the dark about the government’s restrictions and had even faced threats of prosecution should they pay ransoms themselves, be brought into the fold. Most had lost faith in the government, and she sought them out to ensure that a new hostage policy was fair and credible.

Justice Department log circular“For the administration to realize it was not handling this right was a lot to Lisa’s credit,” said Diane Foley, whose son James Foley was the first American to be beheaded by the Islamic State in 2014. After Ms. Monaco’s team completed its review, the administration adopted a policy that included advising families of all their options and refraining from threats of prosecution. Mr. Obama acknowledged that the government should have treated them as “trusted partners.”

Now Ms. Monaco, 53, a veteran of national security roles, is poised to become the deputy attorney general — the Justice Department’s No. 2 official — where her ability to broker consensus on politically charged issues will quickly be tested. Among other matters, she is expected to be a key player in the Biden administration’s push to combat domestic extremism, embodied most publicly in the Justice Department’s investigation into the deadly Capitol attack on Jan. 6 by a pro-Trump mob.

Her experience with cyberissues will help give her office an influential voice as the Biden administration confronts threats from countries like Russia, which it penalized on Thursday for hacking American government agencies and companies and for interfering in the 2020 presidential election.

Ms. Monaco will also work closely with Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to rebuild trust in the Justice Department after it became a target of President Donald J. Trump and his allies.

Her résumé makes her uniquely suited to tackle the department’s biggest issues, which include not only domestic extremism but also foreign cyberattacks, a sensitive investigation into Mr. Biden’s son and an open special inquiry into the roots of the Russia investigation.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 131.2 million vaccinated, as of April 18, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 49.1 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 39.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 18, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 141,420,910, Deaths: 3,026,402
U.S. Cases:     32,361,280, Deaths:    580,756
India Cases:     14,788,109, Deaths:    177,168
Brazil Cases:    13,900,134, Deaths:    371,889

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: John Boehner on how Congress became ‘Crazytown,’ Kathy Kiely (Lee Hills chair in free press studies at the Missouri School of Journalism and member of the congressional Standing Committee of Correspondents), April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Most political memoirs these days are staid, buttoned-down affairs, written with an eye on a higher office or a place in history. Leave it to former House speaker John Boehner to drop the airbrush. “I was living in Crazytown,” Boehner writes of leading the House Republicans in the 2000s.

john boehner coverThe 71-year-old Ohio Republican’s autobiography, On the House, is already a talker, even before its publication. It’s got plenty of grist for Washington’s gossip mill — now-it-can-be-told tales and score-settling stories. More important, it’s an insider, as-it-happened account of a disturbing and still-unfinished chapter of American history.

Boehner’s more than three decades in public life coincide with his party’s rise to national majority status during the 1980s and ’90s — powered by Ronald Reagan’s takeover of one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and Newt Gingrich’s of the other — followed by its degeneration into a vehicle for White grievance that, as a clearly dismayed Boehner describes it in this unvarnished account, borders on the psychotic.

“I was living in Crazytown,” Boehner writes of his years leading the House Republicans in the 2000s. The House Republican Conference was “a clown car I was trying to drive.”

His party’s loss of the White House in 2008 only made things worse. “Every second of every day since Barack Obama became president, I was fighting one bats--- idea after another.”

There’s an odd and poignant disconnect between the book’s tone and its unsettling subtext. The voice is warm, engaging, occasionally profane — that of a guy who just plopped down on a bar stool next to you, fortified with a glass of his beloved merlot and an unfiltered Camel (both of which feature prominently in Boehner’s portrait on the cover of the book), to tell you about a bunch of interesting people, most of whom he genuinely likes, and an amazing career that he’s still pinching himself to make sure he really had.

It’s as if Boehner himself hasn’t quite processed the transformation of the sunny “morning in America” Republicans he joined in the 1980s into the dark conspiracy theorists who dog-whistled a mob to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The former speaker doesn’t equivocate when it comes to laying the blame for that. Donald Trump “incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons,” Boehner writes, adding, “It was especially sad to see some members of the House and Senate helping him.”

His assessments of other members of what he dubs “the Knucklehead caucus” are, if anything, more withering.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is the “head lunatic.” Two House conservatives turned senior Trump administration officials, Mick Mulvaney and Mark Meadows, get lumped under the sobriquet “jackass.” Former congressman Steve King (R-Iowa), a leader of the GOP’s anti-immigrant wing, is “an a--hole.” Former michele bachmann w 1representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), right, now the dean of the school of government at Regent University, was “a kook” (whom, Boehner confides, he nonetheless steered to the House Intelligence Committee to keep her off the tax-writing Ways and Means panel). The false “birther” theories fomented about Obama by Republicans and conservative talk show hosts were “truly nutty.”

Boehner’s disdain for the ideological purists who took over his party and eventually drove him to resign the speakership and his House seat in 2015 is not exactly breaking news: He called for Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 putsch and rehearsed many of his book’s themes in a lengthy 2017 Politico Magazine interview with Tim Alberta, now with the Atlantic. Still, having his excoriating assessments collected between hard covers makes for a powerful indictment, the more so because Boehner’s book vividly captures the growing horror of a bartender’s kid who evolved from a reflexive Democrat to a Reagan Republican to a tea party whipping boy.

Boehner describes one trip he made to New York to meet with “my longtime friend, Roger Ailes.” He says he pleaded with the then-head of Fox News “to put a leash on some of the crazies he was putting on the air.” In response, he says, Ailes stunned him by sharing a series of complex conspiracy theories involving Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the financier George Soros, and confiding that he had a “safe room” where the government couldn’t spy on him. “I walked out of the meeting in a daze,” Boehner writes.

Recalling his frantic efforts to round up enough Republicans to approve President George W. Bush’s emergency bailout bill in 2008, as the world teetered on the edge of financial collapse, Boehner says that too many of his colleagues “cared more about what Sean Hannity thought than the secretary of the Treasury.”

 axios logo2Axios, GOP pivot: Big business to small dollars, Lachlan Markay, April 18, 2021. Republican leaders turned to grassroots supporters and raked in sizable donations after corporations cut them off post-Jan. 6.

Why it matters: If those companies hoped to push the GOP toward the center, they may have done just the opposite by turning Republican lawmakers toward their most committed — and ideologically driven — supporters.

Mitchell_McConnellBy the numbers: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign committee didn’t get a single corporate PAC donation during the first quarter of the year, new reports show.

axios logoCompare that to Q1 2019, when the McConnell Senate Committee received $625,000 from 157 corporate PACs and trade associations.

Yet McConnell’s total haul this year was about $100,000 larger than the same period last cycle. The Kentuckian brought in more than $1.9 million — all from individual donors.

That included more than $700,000 from “unitemized” donations, or those under $200, compared to less than $200,000 in that classification during Q1 2019.

The same pattern is evident for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left. His campaign received nearly $2.2 million in contributions from January through March, Kevin McCarthycompared with under $1.7 million during the first quarter of 2019.

Like McConnell, McCarthy did it with next to no corporate support. The Californian got more than $300,000 from 66 companies and trade groups in Q1 2019.

This year, just two PACs — the National Federation of Independent Businesses and a trade group representing California beet growers — gave him a total of $2,800.

Small-dollar donations to McCarthy also spiked: he received nearly $1.4 million in unitemized donations, compared with under $190,000 during Q1 2019.

The big picture: January’s Capitol insurrection and subsequent fights over voting rights laws drove a wedge between corporate America and their traditional Republican allies.

Many businesses stopped giving while they reviewed their policies and lawmaker behavior, forcing lawmakers to look elsewhere.

While McConnell raked in individual donations, he also became the face of the GOP’s feud with corporate America. He warned of “serious consequences” for companies that use financial and political muscle to advance policy goals at odds with the GOP.

His fundraising appeals, meanwhile, plugged issues sure to resonate with the party’s grassroots, such as voter fraud, media bias and “cancel culture.”

Between the lines: It’s those sorts of issues — as well as public fealty to former President Donald Trump — that have produced some of the GOP’s biggest fundraising successes of late.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the Republican in charge of winning back the Senate is managing Trump — and his own ambitions, Mike DeBonis, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). When Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) handed former president Donald Trump the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s first-ever “Champion for Freedom Award” this month at Trump’s Palm Beach resort, it was a demonstration of Trump’s power inside the GOP, his importance to the party’s quest to win the Senate majority, and Scott’s own complicated role in between.

rick scottThe 68-year-old former businessman and two-term governor, right, rose to the key role of NRSC chairman just two years after winning a us senate logomassively expensive and razor-close race to join the Senate — and four years before a presidential race he is widely seen to be eyeing.

Just months into his tenure, Scott has undertaken a rapid effort to reorient the party committee toward small-dollar digital fundraising, hired some of Trump’s top campaign operatives, made a controversial decision not to support favored candidates in key primaries, and placed himself at the center of much of the group’s communications — to the point that some GOP operatives have privately snickered that NRSC now stands for the “National Rick Scott Committee.”

Scott has also assumed a role as an emissary from the Senate GOP leadership to Trump, who remains locked in a high-stakes feud with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Media

 djt wind jim watson afp getty

ny times logoNew York Times, One America News Network Stays True to Trump, Rachel Abrams, April 18, 2021. To go by much of the right-wing channel’s reporting, it is almost as if a transfer of power had never taken place. A recent OAN segment said there were “serious doubts about who’s actually president,” and another blamed “anti-Trump extremists” for the Capitol attack.

Months after the inauguration of President Biden, One America News Network, a right-wing cable news channel available in some 35 million households, has continued to broadcast segments questioning the validity of the 2020 presidential election.

“There’s still serious doubts about who’s actually president,” the OAN correspondent Pearson Sharp said in a March 28 report.

That segment was one in a spate of similar reports from a channel that has become a kind of Trump TV for the post-Trump age, an outlet whose reporting has aligned with the former president’s grievances at a time when he is barred from major social media platforms.

Some of OAN’s coverage has not had the full support of the staff. In interviews with 18 current and former OAN newsroom employees, 16 said the channel had broadcast reports that they considered misleading, inaccurate or untrue.

To go by much of OAN’s reporting, it is almost as if a transfer of power had never taken place. The channel did not broadcast live coverage of Mr. Biden’s swearing-in ceremony and Inaugural Address. Into April, news articles on the OAN website consistently referred to Donald J. Trump as “President Trump” and to President Biden as just “Joe Biden” or “Biden.” That practice is not followed by other news organizations, including the OAN competitor Newsmax, a conservative cable channel and news site.

OAN has also promoted the debunked theory that the rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 were left-wing agitators. Toward the end of a March 4 news segment that described the attack as the work of “antifa” and “anti-Trump extremists” — and referred to the president as “Beijing Biden” — Mr. Sharp said, “History will show it was the Democrats, and not the Republicans, who called for this violence.” Investigations have found no evidence that people who identify with antifa, a loose collective of antifascist activists, were involved in the Capitol riot.

Charles Herring, the president of Herring Networks, the company that owns OAN, defended the reports casting doubt on the election. “Based on our investigations, voter irregularities clearly took place in the November 2020 election,” he said. “The real question is to what extent.”

Herring Networks was founded by Mr. Herring’s father, the tech entrepreneur Robert Herring, who at age 79 runs OAN with Charles and another son, Robert Jr. About 150 employees work for the channel at its headquarters in San Diego.

Associated Press, Some Jan. 6 defendants try to use journalism as riot defense,

ap logoAssociated Press, Some Jan. 6 defendants try to use journalism as riot defense, Michael Kunzelman and Jacques Billeaud, April 17, 2021. The Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol in January created a trove of self-incriminating evidence, thoroughly documenting their actions and words in videos and social media posts. Now some of the camera-toting people in the crowd are claiming they were only there to record history as journalists, not to join a deadly insurrection.

It’s unlikely that any of the self-proclaimed journalists can mount a viable defense on the First Amendment’s free speech grounds, experts say. They face long odds if video captured them acting more like rioters than impartial observers. But as the internet has broadened and blurred the definition of a journalist, some appear intent on trying.

At least eight defendants charged in the Jan. 6 riot have identified themselves as a journalist or a documentary filmmaker, including three people arrested this month, according to an Associated Press review of court records in nearly 400 federal cases.

The insurrection led to the deaths of five people, including a police officer, and there were hundreds of injuries. Some rioters manhandled and menaced the reporters and photographers who are credentialed to cover Congress and were trying to cover the mayhem that day. A group of AP journalists had photographic equipment stolen and destroyed outside the building.

djt maga hatOne defendant, Shawn Witzemann, told authorities he was inside the Capitol during the riot as part of his work in livestreaming video at protests and has since argued that he was there as a journalist. That explanation did not sway the FBI. The plumber from Farmington, New Mexico, is charged with joining in demonstrating in the Capitol while Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory over Donald Trump.

“I seek truth. I speak to sources. I document. I provide commentary. It’s everything that a journalist is,” Witzemann told a New Mexico television station after his arrest April 6. He did not respond to a social media message and email from the AP.

Witzemann’s nightly news show is titled the “Armenian Council for Truth in Journalism” — satirically, his attorney says. On its YouTube page, which has just over 300 subscribers, the show says it “delivers irreverent and thought provoking commentary and analysis, on an eclectic range of subjects.”

Another defendant works for Infowars, the right-wing website operated by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Others have fringe platforms named “Political Trance Tribune,” “Insurgence USA,” “Thunderdome TV” and “Murder the Media News.”

But while the internet has given more people a platform to use their voice, the definition of a “journalist” is not that broad when put into practice in court, said Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, who used to practice media law as an attorney.

She said it is an easy case to make that Capitol riot defendants were not journalists because reporters and photographers must have credentials to work there. She said any defendant captured on video encouraging rioters cannot credibly claim to be a journalist.

“You are, at that point, an activist with a cellphone, and there were a lot of activists with copyrighted videos who sold them to news organizations,” Dalglish said. “That doesn’t make them journalists.”

Even credentialed reporters and news photographers are not immune from prosecution if they break a law on the job, said Jane Kirtley, who teaches media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota.

“It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card,” Kirtley said.

Samuel Montoya, an Infowars video editor, was arrested Tuesday in Texas on charges including impeding passage through the Capitol grounds. Montoya spoke on an Infowars show about witnessing a police officer shoot and kill a woman inside the Capitol.

Montoya also recorded and narrated a video while walking through the building, occasionally referring to himself as a journalist while wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.

“We’re gonna do whatever it takes to MAGA,” he said, according to the FBI.

Montoya told a judge on Wednesday that he works for Infowars and mentioned that Jones also was in Washington on Jan. 6. Jones has not been charged in the riot, but Montoya asked if returning to work or contacting his boss could violate his pretrial release conditions.

“I certainly understand what you’re asking because this was also a news event and you work in the news or information business, but this is a line that you’re going to have to be careful of on your own,” U.S. District Judge Susan Hightower said.

Far-right internet troll Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet, who was arrested less than two weeks after the riot, streamed live video that showed himself inside the Capitol and encouraging other protesters to stay. Investigators say Gionet also profanely called an officer an “oathbreaker” and chanted, “Whose house? Our house!”

Prosecutors dispute that Gionet is a journalist. His lawyer said the former BuzzFeed employee only went to Washington to film what happened.

“That is what he does. January 6th was no different,” defense attorney Zachary Thornley wrote in a court filing.

Another defendant, John Earle Sullivan, leads the protest organizing group “Insurgence USA” and identifies himself as an activist and journalist who films protests, the FBI said. Defense attorney Steven Kiersh challenged court-ordered restrictions on Sullivan’s use of the internet and social media.

Sullivan “is legitimately self-employed as a documentarian and it is oppressive to require that he not be allowed to continue his primary area of employment for an extended period of time,” Kiersh wrote in court papers, attaching receipts for work Sullivan has done for CNN and other news outlets.

Sullivan is accused of saying, “Let’s burn this (expletive) down,” after the mob breached a security barrier, entering the Capitol through a broken window and telling officers inside to back down.

Witzemann’s lawyer argued that prohibiting him from traveling outside New Mexico would violate his First Amendment rights as a freelance journalist. The charges against Witzemann include violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

After his arrest, Witzemann told KOB-TV that others had breached barricades outside the Capitol before he arrived.

“My only goal was to get right up to the front of the action, so to speak, to film it,” he said.

Other defendants identifying as journalists have been tied to an extremist group or movement by federal authorities.

Nicholas DeCarlo told the Los Angeles Times that he and another alleged rioter, Nicholas Ochs, are journalists. But the FBI said Ochs and DeCarlo are self-identified Proud Boys and content producers for an online forum called “Murder the Media News.”

Prosecutors say DeCarlo wrote “Murder The Media” on a door in the building. When authorities later searched DeCarlo’s home, they found a framed photo of DeCarlo and Ochs posing in front of the door with a thumbs-up

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s grip on GOP looms as support falters for independent probe of Capitol riot, Karoun Demirjian, April 18, 2021 (print ed.).Republicans are facing pressure to disavow that it was supporters of former president Donald Trump who attacked the U.S. Capitol.

Congress’s pursuit of an independent investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection is facing long odds, as bipartisan resolve to hold the perpetrators and instigators accountable erodes, and Republicans face sustained pressure to disavow that it was supporters of former president Donald Trump who attacked the U.S. djt maga hatCapitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced late last week that she had drafted a fresh proposal for an outside commission to examine what caused the deadly riot. But in a sign of how delicate the political climate has become, she has yet to share her recommendations with Republican leaders, who shot down her initial approach, labeling it too narrow in scope and too heavily weighted toward Democrats in composition.

“Compromise has been necessary,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to other Democrats, informing them she had begun to share her latest proposal with other Republicans in Congress. “It is my hope that we can reach agreement very soon.”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declined to comment on a proposal that the leader had not yet seen, adding that “hopefully the speaker has addressed our basic concerns of equal representation and subpoena authority.”

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Greene tries to distance herself from ‘America First Caucus’ document denounced as racist, Amy B Wang and Colby Itkowitz, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) described the document as “a staff level draft proposal from an outside group” and said she had not read it. However, she did not deny plans to start an “America First Caucus.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on Saturday tried to distance herself from a document published by Punchbowl News that purportedly outlined the goals of a new “America First Caucus” being formed by Greene and other hard-right GOP lawmakers. The document had received blowback from Democrats and some Republicans for promoting nativist policies and perpetuating the falsehood that there was widespread fraud and corruption in the 2020 election.

djt maga hatOn Saturday, Greene (R-Ga.) described the document as “a staff level draft proposal from an outside group” and claimed she had not read it. She blasted the media for “taking something out of context,” but did not specify to which policies in the document she objected.

However, Greene did not deny plans to start an “America First Caucus” and ended a lengthy Twitter thread by saying she supported former president Donald Trump’s “America First agenda.”

“America First policies will save this country for all of us, our children, and ultimately the world,” Greene tweeted. Trump’s “America First” agenda was characterized by a nationalist approach to issues such as immigration, trade and foreign policy. It was criticized by Democrats and some Republicans as sometimes backing xenophobic or racist policies.

paul gosarGreene and Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) are reportedly behind the new caucus, according to Punchbowl News. A spokeswoman for Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) told the Montgomery Advertiser Friday that the congressman had not yet joined the America First Caucus, disputing reports that he had signed on as an early member.

Raw Story via Salon, Matt Gaetz's dad may have called in favors to keep Florida lawmakers quiet on scandal, Tom Boggioni, April 18, 2021. Matt Gaetz's father, a longtime political power in the Florida Panhandle, reportedly working to dampen criticism.

In a deep dive into the influence the father of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., has had on his son's political rise, a Florida political operative claimed that "Papa Gaetz" was using his considerable political influence to tamp down criticism of his embattled son.

don gaetzAccording to Politico's Gary Fineout, it is no secret in Florida political circles that state Sen. Don Gaetz — known as "Papa Gaetz," right — has used his years lording over and wheeling and dealing in Panhandle politics, as well as his substantial wealth, to guide his son — referred to as "Baby Gaetz" — into the public eye and Congress.

"Matt Gaetz's political trail was not just preceded but heavily influenced by his father, a Republican multi-millionaire businessman who had a reputation for rhetorical flourishes and drag-out political fights. Don Gaetz all but paved his son's way into Florida's political world, and some suggest that his father's stature and influence is even helping his son as he faces a probe into potential sex trafficking," Fineout wrote.

According to a former lawmaker colleague of the elder Gaetz, the father of the Republican House member has always been a force in the community.

matt gaetz official"He was a force of nature," explained former state Senate President Joe Negron, with Fineout reporting, "And Don Gaetz found himself in plenty of battles — and still is today. Last year, he went after a former legislator who once fired his son and who was seeking local office. Don Gaetz clashed enough times with former Gov. Rick Scott — now a senator — that the GOP governor lined up opposition to Don Gaetz's bid to become president of the University of West Florida."

According to one Florida political insider, while Don Gaetz has kept mostly in the background — for the time being — as his son is investigated over sex trafficking accusations, he is working behind the scenes to assist his son, left.

"Don has a lot of power and friends in Florida politics," the political operative said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There are a lot of people who owe him favors. They are repaying those favors by staying silent about his son."

washington post logoWashington Post, The GOP’s big bulk book-buying machine is boosting Republicans on the bestseller lists, Paul Farhi, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s memoir and social critique, “Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage,” soared to the top of the bestseller lists when it was published last year. The book helped raise the former Navy SEAL’s profile and burnished his credentials as a rising star among freshman congressmen.

As it happens, Crenshaw and his publisher, Hachette Book Group, got a little help from the Texas Republican’s friends.

republican elephant logoThe National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect GOP candidates to Congress, spent nearly $400,000 on bulk purchases of the book. The organization acquired 25,500 copies through two online booksellers, enough to fuel “Fortitude’s” ascent up the bestseller lists. The NRCC said it gave away copies as incentives to donors, raising $1.5 million in the process.

The NRCC wasn’t the only outfit providing a big-bucks boost to conservative authors. Four party-affiliated organizations, including the Republican National Committee, collectively spent more than $1 million during the past election cycle mass-purchasing books written by GOP candidates, elected officials and personalities, according to Federal Election Commission expenditure reports. The purchases helped turn several volumes into bestsellers.

ted cruz beard palmerWhile there’s no prohibition on such second-party purchases, a new complaint alleges that another Texas Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz, left,crossed the line into illegal activity when he used campaign money to boost sales of his newest book.

A government watchdog organization, the Campaign Legal Center, filed complaints last week with the Federal Election Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee about the manner in which Cruz’s campaign aides went about bulk buying and promoting the senator's latest volume, “One Vote Away: How a Single Supreme Court Vote Can Change History,” published last fall.

The group said Cruz’s campaign committee effectively converted campaign contributions to Cruz’s personal enrichment, an illegal practice. It alleged Cruz’s staff did so by spending $154,000 of his supporters’ funds on copies of his book, and an additional $18,000 to promote it via Facebook ads reading “Buy my new book!” and “Order it here” over photos of Cruz. Both actions increased sales of “One Vote Away,” which in turn allegedly triggered illegal royalty payments to Cruz, the group said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Kash Patel rose from obscure Hill staffer to key operative in Trump’s battle with the intelligence community, David Ignatius, right, david ignatiusApril 18, 2021 (print ed.). In the Trump administration’s four-year battle with the intelligence community, a recurring character was a brash lawyer named Kashyap P. “Kash” Patel. He appeared so frequently, in so many incarnations, that he was almost a “Zelig” figure in President Donald Trump’s confrontation against what he imagined as the “deep state.”

Patel repeatedly pressed intelligence agencies to release secrets that, in his view, showed that the president was being persecuted unfairly by critics.

kash patel o croppedIronically, he is now facing Justice Department investigation for possible improper disclosure of classified information, according to two knowledgeable sources who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe. The sources said the investigation resulted from a complaint made this year by an intelligence agency, but wouldn’t provide additional details.

Patel, left, didn’t respond to text, email and voice mail messages, or a request to talk at his residence. A lawyer described as representing him also did not respond.

While other Trump staffers, most prominently adviser Stephen Miller, became near-household names, Patel, now 41, flew largely beneath the radar during the Trump administration. In the span of four years, he rose from an obscure Hill staffer to become one of the most powerful players in the national security apparatus. The saga of his battles with the intelligence bureaucracy shows how the last administration empowered its lieutenants to challenge what it saw as the deep state.

At the start of the Trump administration, Patel was senior counsel for Rep. Devin Nunes when the California Republican chaired the House Intelligence Committee in 2017 and 2018 and emerged as a leading critic of the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into the Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia. Patel then joined Trump’s National Security Council staff as senior director for counterterrorism. In 2020, he was a senior adviser to acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell and his successor, John Ratcliffe, helping lead their efforts to remove senior career intelligence officers.

 

World News

 

afghanistan map world

washington post logoWashington Post, Upcoming U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan stirs warnings about security, Missy Ryan, Shane Harris and Paul Sonne, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Current and former officials warn it will be far more difficult to head off threats to U.S. security from afar.

The military and intelligence agencies are racing to refine plans for countering extremist groups in Afghanistan following President Biden’s planned troop Department of Defense Sealwithdrawal, but current and former officials warn it will be far more difficult to head off threats to U.S. security from afar.Biden said the United States would reposition personnel and equipment once the Pentagon pulls its forces out of Afghanistan ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“We’ll not take our eye off the terrorist threat,” Biden said as he announced his decision, to end a war that is now America’s longest, a goal that has eluded earlier presidents.

Top Biden aides said the move, which came despite warnings from military and intelligence leaders that withdrawal could permit a diminished al-Qaeda to regroup, was necessary to comply with a 2020 withdrawal agreement President Donald Trump negotiated with the Taliban, and to allow the United States to focus on more pressing challenges, like China’s military rise.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: George W. Bush: Immigration is a defining asset of the United States. Here’s how to restore confidence in our system, George W. George W. Bush HRBush (the 43rd president of the United States, shown in a file photo from his presidency), April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Next week, I’m proud to publish a new collection of my paintings, entitled “Out of Many, One.” The book may not set the art world stirring — hopefully, the critics won’t call it “One Too Many.”

I set out to accomplish two things: to share some portraits of immigrants, each with a remarkable story I try to tell, and to humanize the debate on immigration and reform.

I hope that these faces, and the stories that accompany them, serve as a reminder that immigration isn’t just a part of our heritage. New Americans are just as much a force for good now, with their energy, idealism and love of country, as they have always been.

ICE logo

“Out of Many, One” is not a brief for any specific set of policies, which I leave to the political leaders of today. However, the book — along with the George W. Bush Presidential Center — does set forth principles for reform that can restore the people’s confidence in an immigration system that serves both our values and our interests.

One place to start is DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Americans who favor a path to citizenship for those brought here as children, known as "dreamers," are not advocating open borders. They just recognize that young men and women who grew up in the United States, and who never knew any other place as home, are fundamentally American. And they ought not be punished for choices made by their parents.

Another opportunity for agreement is the border. I have long said that we can be both a lawful and a welcoming nation at the same time. We need a secure and efficient border, and we should apply all the necessary resources — manpower, physical barriers, advanced technology, streamlined and efficient ports of entry, and a robust legal immigration system — to assure it.

Effective border management starts well beyond the border, so we must work with our neighbors to help them build freedom and opportunity so their citizens can thrive at home. We cannot rely on enforcement alone to prevent the untenable and so often heartbreaking scenes that come with large-scale migration.

We also need a modernized asylum system that provides humanitarian support and appropriate legal channels for refugees to pursue their cases in a timely manner. The rules for asylum should be reformed by Congress to guard against unmerited entry and reserve that vital status for its intended recipients.

Increased legal immigration, focused on employment and skills, is also a choice that both parties should be able to get behind.

As for the millions of undocumented men and women currently living in the United States, a grant of amnesty would be fundamentally unfair to those who came legally or are still waiting their turn to become citizens. But undocumented immigrants should be brought out of the shadows through a gradual process in which legal residency and citizenship must be earned, as for anyone else applying for the privilege. Requirements should include proof of work history, payment of a fine and back taxes, English proficiency and knowledge of U.S. history and civics, and a clean background check.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Aleksei Navalny Needs His Doctors, Editorial Board, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Vladimir Putin may be able to save his nemesis’ life. He must.

Aleksei Navalny’s wife, doctor and colleagues have sounded an anguished alarm that the incarcerated Kremlin critic’s health is rapidly deteriorating and his heart alexey navalny 2017could stop any minute. They and many other supporters of Mr. Navalny, right, are demanding that his doctors be immediately allowed to see and treat him.

The decision clearly rests with President Vladimir Putin of Russiaand he should promptly agree. It may well be that Mr. Putin would prefer to be rid of his mosteffective critic — Mr. Navalny’s current ordeal, it will be recalled, began when Kremlin goons tried to kill him with a military nerve agent, an attack he survived only narrowly.

Russian FlagBut Mr. Putin should understand that letting Mr. Navalny now perish in a labor camp would solidly confirm Mr. Putin as a “killer,” a characterization President Biden recently said he shares, and as a vengeful despot willing to go to any lengths against his critics. Mr. Putin has been around long enough to know how that would play abroad, and among Russians already showing fatigue with his increasingly authoritarian and open-ended rule.

On Saturday, more than 70 prominent international writers, artists and academics — including Benedict Cumberbatch, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Orhan Pamuk, Vanessa Redgrave, J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Tom Stoppard — signed an open letter, published in British, French, German and Italian newspapers, calling on Mr. Putin to ensure that Mr. Navalny is “immediately given the medical treatment and care that he urgently requires — and is entitled to under Russia law.”

The only “crime” for which Mr. Navalny is being hounded is his courageous campaign to expose corruption and venality in the Kremlin elites, in part through hard-hitting and sardonic videos deriding the “crooks and thieves” at the top. The latest of these videos, detailing an extraordinarily lavish palace allegedly built for Mr. Putin on the Black Sea, was released shortly after Mr. Navalny was arrested in January

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran state television names suspect in Natanz nuclear facility attack, Kareem Fahim, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Iranian state television on Saturday named a suspect in an attack earlier this week on a critical nuclear site and provided new purported details about the nature of the attack, saying it involved a "small" blast caused by an explosive device. The man reportedly fled the country.

Iran FlagIranian officials had previously said the April 11 attack at the Natanz nuclear site was the result of unspecified sabotage carried out by Israel that had caused a blackout and a fire that had damaged centrifuges. Israeli media outlets reported that the facility had been targeted by a cyberattack carried out by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. Israel has not commented on the allegations.

Natanz houses thousands of fast-spinning centrifuges, the machines at the core of the uranium enrichment process. Even a small disruption can harm delicate internal components, nuclear experts say.

reza karimiThis image from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting purportedly shows Reza Karimi, left, the alleged saboteur of the incident that damaged a centrifuge hall at the Natanz site.

The diplomatic fallout from the Natanz incident threatened to be as significant as any physical damage. Days later, Iran announced that it was increasing its uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity — a provocative, threefold increase over its previous enrichment levels. Iran’s announcement came in the midst of delicate negotiations in Vienna intended to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers and threatened to upend the talks.

Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and Tehran’s lead negotiator in Vienna, hinted Saturday at positive progress in the talks, saying “good discussions” had taken place at a joint meeting of the participants, according to Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency.

ny times logoNew York Times, After ‘Green Rush,’ Canada’s Legal Pot Suppliers Are Stumbling, Ian Austen, April 18, 2021. Most marijuana producers in Canada are still reporting staggering losses two and a half years after legalization.

The mayor of the largely rural community of South Huron, Ontario, was looking forward to an employment boom when a marijuana producer used its soaring stock value to buy an enormous greenhouse on the edge of the municipality’s largest town.

canadian flagBut before any of the 200 or so anticipated jobs in the greenhouse were filled — or before a single marijuana seed was even sown there — it became apparent that Canada was already growing far more marijuana than the market wanted.

After sitting idle for two years, the one-million-square-foot greenhouse was sold last year for about one-third of its original purchase price of 26 million Canadian dollars, or $20.75 million.

Exeter’s experience with the greenhouse — high hopes, followed by disappointment — mirrors the broader Canadian story with the business side of legal pot.

Analysts say one reason the sunny projections have failed to materialize is the tightly regulated distribution system introduced by Canada, which largely bans advertising and marketing. The halting roll out of stores in some provinces — particularly Ontario — is also a factor. Plus, surveys have suggested that many Canadians are simply not interested in adopting a new vice.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Broadway producer Scott Rudin steps aside amid accusations of abusive behavior, Peter Marks, April 18, 2021 (print ed.). Apologizing “for the pain [his] behavior caused” to colleagues, producer Scott Rudin — a titanic force on Broadway and in Hollywood — told The Washington Post on Saturday that he will “step back” from his Broadway ventures. He added that he was “taking steps that I should have taken years ago to address this behavior.”

scott rudin twitterRudin, 62 (shown on his Twitter photo), producer of such Broadway hits as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Book of Mormon” and Oscar winners including “No Country for Old Men,” was accused in an April 7 article by the Hollywood Reporter of “acts of intimidation” and humiliation against his employees, going back decades.

The story, in which several people described allegations that had circulated in the entertainment industry for years about Rudin’s bullying and rages, rocked the theater world. In one anecdote, he allegedly smashed a computer monitor on an assistant’s hand over an unsuccessful flight booking, sending the employee to the emergency room. He’s also accused of throwing objects at workers, including a stapler and a baked potato.

Demands for artists who work with Rudin to publicly repudiate him mounted on social media in the days after the report. The outrage culminated Wednesday with Tony-winning actress Karen Olivo declaring in an Instagram video that she would not be returning to the Broadway production of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” after the shutdown because she said “the silence about Scott Rudin” was “unacceptable.”

In his first public statement about the controversy, Rudin — who is not involved with “Moulin Rouge!” — acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations against him.

An exit by Rudin has potentially immense consequences for an industry that is short on visionary leaders.

 

April 17

Top Headlines

 

 Virus Victims, Responses

 

 U.S. Capitol Riot, Voting Rights, Civil Liberties

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Police Shootings, Violent Crime

 

World News

 

U.S. Religious, Media News

 

Top Storiesbrandon scott hole 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Indianapolis shooter, former FedEx worker, had gun seized by police, officials say, Mary Claire Molloy, Timothy Bella, Mark Berman and Griff Witte, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). The gunman who carried out a massacre at a FedEx sorting facility, killing eight people before shooting himself, was a 19-year-old former employee who had had a shotgun seized by authorities last year, Indianapolis police said Friday.

fed ex logo resizedThe shooting, which left seven injured, came during a shift break at the facility, and left bodies throughout the parking lot and inside the cavernous warehouse just after 11 p.m. Thursday.

Authorities said they were investigating what might have motivated the killer, whom they identified as Brandon Hole (shown above in a photo released by police). He appeared to have fired his rifle at “random,” officials said, and the entire attack lasted no more than a couple of minutes. For hours afterward, relatives of those who had been at work at FedEx waited to learn whether their loved ones had lived or died.

Authorities identified the victims as Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74. A family member gave a different age for Sekhon — 49 — and a different age and name spelling for Jasvinder Kaur, age 50.

At least four of those killed were members of the Sikh community in Indianapolis, according to the Sikh Coalition, a national advocacy group. Among them was Johal — a hard worker who took night shifts at the FedEx facility to support her family, including at least three grandchildren, according to Gurpreet Singh, the president of her temple.

ronna mcdaniel djt

washington post logoWashington Post, RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel comes under pressure to show more independence from Trump, Josh Dawsey, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). Amid the din of clanking glasses and cheering at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club on April 10, the former president ribbed Ronna McDaniel, the Republican Party chairwoman, about her relationship with the GOP’s potential 2024 White House contenders.

“She has to be neutral,” he said, before pausing and adding: “She’s supposed to be neutral.”

McDaniel interjected, yelling back to the stage: “I said you’re my president!” referring to her introduction of Trump earlier that night.

Since Trump left office, McDaniel has taken a hands-on approach to staying in Trump’s good graces — meeting with him privately at Mar-a-Lago, having the RNC spend more than $100,000 to hold the donor event at his club and regularly conferring with him, even after the deadly Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

rnc logoBut as the Republican National Committee prepares to meet next week in Dallas for its first gathering since Trump left the White House, McDaniel is under increasing pressure from some of the committee’s members to show more independence from the former president — particularly after his Saturday Mar-a-Lago speech, in which he slashed Republicans and called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a “dumb son of a bitch.”

While Trump maintains broad support throughout the party, some of the RNC’s 168 committee members want to see the party create at least a modicum of distance from Trump — or at least grapple with the fact the GOP lost the White House, Senate and House during his administration and reflect on how to improve its fortunes in 2022 and 2024, according to multiple party officials and committee members. Other members say they have been frustrated the GOP has not commissioned any wide review of what to do next, as the RNC did after Mitt Romney lost the White House in 2012.

“We’ve got to be clear-eyed about the last cycle,” said Henry Barbour, a national committeeman from Mississippi. “We lost."

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 129.5 million vaccinated, as of April 17, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 48.5 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 39 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 17, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 140,662,975, Deaths: 3,015,167
U.S. Cases:     32,308,557, Deaths:    579,951
India Cases:     14,526,609, Deaths:   175,673
Brazil Cases:    13,834,342, Deaths:    369,024

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrectionjon ryan schaffer

ny times logoNew York Times, A member of the Oath Keepers pleads guilty and will cooperate with prosecutors in the Jan. 6 riot inquiry, Alan Feuer and Katie Benner, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). A member of the Oath Keepers militia who was charged in connection with the riot at the Capitol pleaded guilty on Friday and agreed to cooperate with the government — potentially against other members of the far-right group.

The guilty plea by the Oath Keeper, Jon Ryan Schaffer, 53, of Indiana (shown above at center in a blue coat in a photo distributed by the FBI), was the first to be entered publicly by any of the more than 400 people who have been charged so far in the Jan. 6 riot. News of the plea emerged last week after secret documents in Mr. Schaffer’s case were briefly unsealed by accident on a federal court database.

Justice Department log circularMr. Schaffer’s cooperation with the government could prove instrumental in helping prosecutors pursue much broader conspiracy charges against 12 other members of the Oath Keepers who stand accused of the some of the most serious crimes in the sprawling investigation.

The Oath Keeper conspiracy case is one of two large cases in which prosecutors have charged rioters with hatching plans to commit violence at the Capitol as early as November. As part of the case, the authorities have said they are investigating Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 but did not appear to have entered the building.

The other large conspiracy case involves four leaders of the far-right nationalist group the Proud Boys who led a mob of about 100 members and supporters past police barricades at the Capitol.

Mr. Schaffer, who is also a guitarist and songwriter for the heavy-metal band Iced Earth, was initially charged on Jan. 16, in what amounted to a first wave of criminal complaints, and accused of carrying bear spray and engaging in “verbal altercations” with police officers at the Capitol. Photos from the riot show him wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt under a tactical vest and a baseball cap that read “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member.”

At a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, Mr. Schaffer pleaded guilty to two charges: obstruction of an official proceeding and entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon. Both are felonies and carry a combined total of up to 30 years in prison.

As part of Mr. Schaffer’s deal with the government, prosecutors have agreed to sponsor him for the Witness Protection Program.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The media’s horse-race narratives are covering up the big issue of voter suppression, Colbert I. King, right, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). The media is paying more attention to whether the president is winning or losing against Republican rivals.

colbert king twitterWhite nationalism is on the rise and worming itself into the Republican mainstream. The country is experiencing a “racial justice crisis,” as Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told a virtual Howard University audience this week.

Yet, that’s not what’s dominating the front pages or cable news shows. Instead, the Biden administration is being subjected to “horse race” reporting that pays more attention to whether the president is winning or losing against Republican rivals on a range of issues — infrastructure, gun control, climate change, withdrawal from Afghanistan, you name it — than to the substance and merit of the issues themselves.

One that looms large with those of us deeply concerned about the health of our democracy: the Republican voter suppression crusade that will diminish access to the ballot for people of color.

It is an existential threat to an essential right of U.S. citizenship — the freedom to vote in open elections.

Staring us in the face are 361 restrictive bills by mostly Republican state legislatures across the country that, at bottom, aim to curb voter participation. The supposed rationale for the open assault on voting rights is the baseless charge of voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election leveled by the defeated president, Donald Trump, and echoed by his flock of followers.

The real motivation, however, was the historic turnout for that election, and the color of so many of the folks who got off their sofas and on their feet to cast ballots for Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris. And who, in Georgia, went on to confound the pundits and flip the state — and the U.S. Senate — for the Democrats.

 

(Graphic above by Palmer Report)

Palmer Report, Opinion: The inside man in the January 6th Capitol attack, James Sullivan. April 17, 2021 (Graphic above by Palmer Report). While the horrific events of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol are still on the minds of many – Republicans are coming up with a whitewashed version of the events that happened that day – desperately trying to spin a failed right-wing coup as a mostly peaceful protest that didn’t cost the lives of five police officers.

bill palmer report logo headerOne reason for the desperate downplaying of the failed insurrection is that judges are beginning to hear the cases of the participants, and Republicans running for office in 2021 and 2022 are hoping that swing voters aren’t paying attention, the other is that the entire episode is likely to generate the wrong headlines for the GOP yet again – and already things are seeming much more horrific than we first thought.

Anyone paying close attention as the siege unfolded would have the suspicion that there was someone on the inside who was helping them – and it certainly appears that way with certain members of Congress inciting the insurrectionists as they tore through the Capitol.

Now, it’s been revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had reason to believe that an attack was imminent on January 6 and released a report that was not shared with the U.S. Capitol Police in time for them to prepare.

Far from just being some protest, the report detailed that violent extremists were expected to be in D.C. This makes the repeated refusal by the Trump administration to deploy the National Guard much more ominous. This is coming out just before Congress begins its own investigation of the attacks and we suspect it won’t be the last truth bomb we get before the investigation commences.

rachel powell fbi farrow

washington post logoWashington Post, Pa. woman charged in Capitol riot may face jail after allegedly flouting court order to wear mask, Spencer S. Hsu, April 17, 2021 (print ed.).  Rachel Marie Powell, accused of carrying a bullhorn and breaking a Capitol window, allegedly grew "evasive" when asked about wearing a see-through mask in a Facebook video.A federal judge on Friday ordered a Pennsylvania woman charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to show why she should not be jailed pending trial or held in contempt of court for allegedly flouting a requirement that she wear a mask when leaving her home while on bond.

Rachel Marie Powell, shown above in an FBI posted, a mother of eight who lives in Mercer County, Pa., just east of the state line and Youngstown, Ohio, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts including felony destruction of federal property and obstruction of a congressional proceeding after allegedly carrying an ice ax and large wooden pole into the Capitol.

FBI logoThe FBI previously alleged that Powell, wearing a pink hat and carrying a bullhorn, helped shatter a window with a battering ram and appeared to direct others at the scene.

Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell approved Powell’s conditional home release on Feb. 11 pending trial, subject to location monitoring and the mask requirement.

In an order Friday, a trial judge wrote that Powell appeared to respond evasively to a court compliance officer when asked about a video recently posted on social media apparently showing her at her workplace wearing “a see-through mesh mask” with holes big enough to see her nose and mouth through it.

In a report to the court, the officer said Powell “was evasive in answering” questions about the material of the mask and said she added that she “threw it away per her attorney’s advisement.”

A reconstruction shows how failures of planning and preparation left police at the Capitol severely disadvantaged on Jan. 6

“Defendant’s decision to appear in a video wearing a mask with holes in it mocks compliance with the Court’s Order,” U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote, adding that no reasonable person could think that it complied with a condition Howell imposed to ensure that the defendant “would not pose a risk to the health and safety of the community when she left her house.”’

Lamberth gave Powell 10 days to respond in writing why she should not be punished for violating bond conditions.

“The court does not take defendant’s willingness to flout the Court’s Order lightly,” said Lamberth, one of Howell’s predecessors as chief district judge. “Additionally, the Court is concerned with defense counsel’s apparent reaction to defendant’s non-compliance.” Lamberth directed Powell’s attorney to explain his alleged instruction to dispose of evidence.

In an email, Powell attorney Michael J. Engle of Philadelphia said, “I need to review the matter with my client and file a response with the Court. However, I can state with absolute certainty that the characterization of any legal advice I may have provided to my client is not accurate.”

Law & Crime first reported on April 9 that a video appearing to show Powell in a see-through mask was posted on the Facebook page of Mr. Bookman, a used-book store in Franklin, Pa., on March 31, before being taken down less than an hour after the reporter contacted the owners.

washington post logoWashington Post, House is set to vote on D.C. statehood Thursday, Meagan Flynn,  April 17, 2021 (print ed.). The bill to make the District of Columbia the 51st state is likely to pass the House but will face hurdles in the Senate.

A bill to make D.C. the nation’s 51st state will get a vote in the full House on Thursday, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said, fulfilling promises by House leadership to prioritize the legislation within President Biden’s first 100 days.

“I expect to bring #HR51 to the House Floor for a vote on Thursday, April 22 to grant #DCStatehood to the more than 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia,” Hoyer tweeted Friday. “The voice of every American citizen deserves to be heard — it’s past time that we make statehood a reality for DC.”

With at least 212 co-sponsors, House Democrats expect to pass the Washington, D.C. Admission Act for the second consecutive year. (The record reflects 216 co-sponsors, but three of them have joined the Biden administration and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, a Democrat from Florida, died this month.)

‘It’s not a local issue anymore: D.C. statehood moves from political fringe to center of the national Democratic agenda

After last year’s historic vote in the House, the statehood bill did not get a vote in the Senate, which was then under Republican control.

With Democrats now holding Vice President Harris’s tiebreaking vote in a split Senate, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has expressed his support for statehood and promised to bring the bill to the floor for a vote in that chamber for the first time.

Republicans uniformly oppose D.C. statehood, in part because it would probably add two Democrats to the Senate.

Forty-four of the Senate’s 50 Democrats have co-sponsored the bill. But because most bills need at least 60 votes to pass the Senate, statehood is unlikely to advance any further unless the rule changes.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden officials rescind Trump’s okay for Texas’s $100 billion-plus Medicaid plan, Dan Diamond, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). The decision was characterized as an effort to push state officials toward accepting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which would cover more low-income residents, two federal health officials said.

The Biden administration on Friday rescinded approval for changes to Texas’s Medicaid program granted by the Trump administration, saying that federal Medicaid officials “materially erred” by speeding approval for the state’s $100 billion-plus request in January.

The decision was characterized as an effort to push state officials toward accepting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which would cover more low-income residents, said two federal health officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Texas, which has more uninsured people than any other state, is one of 12 that have not expanded the program.

“[W]e are rescinding the approval issued on January 15, 2021,” because it did not go through the full federal rulemaking process, Liz Richter, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in a letter to Texas officials obtained by The Washington Post.

In its final week, the Trump administration told Texas officials that it had approved a 10-year extension for its Medicaid plan, which was set to expire in 2022. The waiver provides more than $11 billion in federal funding per year to the state, meaning that the Biden administration’s decision puts billions of dollars in federal funding to Texas at risk.

Health advocates had described that waiver as an effort to work around the federal Medicaid expansion by setting up alternate funding to help cover the costs of uninsured patients.

In a statement Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) slammed the Biden administration decision, saying it was “obstructing health-care access for vulnerable Texans and taking away crucial resources for rural hospitals in Texas. … With this action, the Biden administration is deliberately betraying Texans who depend on the resources made possible through the waiver.”

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden may keep refugee cap at Trump’s level, though final number will come next month, Sean Sullivan, Seung Min Kim and Tyler Pager, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). After several hours of blistering criticism from the president's allies and refugee advocates, the White House press secretary said the final refugee cap for this year would be announced by May 15.

President Biden on Friday all but abandoned a pledge to enable tens of thousands of refugees fleeing danger abroad to come to the United States this year, then abruptly backtracked after drawing a furious response from human rights advocates and fellow Democrats.

In a directive issued early Friday, the administration announced it would leave the cap on refugees at 15,000, the record-low ceiling set by President Donald Trump. But after hours of blistering criticism from allies, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reversed the announcement, issuing an unusual statement saying the order had been “the subject of some confusion.”

Psaki said that Biden would actually set the final cap — which sets the refugee allotment through the end of September — by May 15, and that while the White House expects it will be higher than Trump’s ceiling, it was “unlikely” to rise to the 62,500 that Biden had put forward with some fanfare in February.

Psaki said Biden could not keep that promise because the Trump administration had “decimated” the refugee program. But advocates dismissed that explanation as unpersuasive, saying the Biden team was more likely seeking to abandon the pledge amid concerns about the political criticism surrounding the current surge of migrants to the southern border.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the administration elected to leave in the place the shameful record low of its predecessor,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and chief executive of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a resettlement agency working with the government.

Biden’s new decree — known formally as an emergency presidential determination — did move away from Trump-era policies by changing the regional allocation of refugees. Under Trump’s directive, strict restrictions were placed on accepting refugees from certain African and majority-Muslim countries.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fact check: no, President Biden isn’t building Trump’s idiotic border wall, Ron Leshnower, April 17, 2021. These days, you often need toreadbeyond headlines to understand what’s truly going on. A case in point is a flurry of press coverage and editorials over the past couple of weeks with headlines suggesting that President Biden is having second thoughts about halting the construction of Trump’s racist border wall. The real story is a nothingburger that only shines a bighter spotlight on Trump’s signature failure.

bill palmer report logo headerThe confusion started when the Washington Times, a conservative publication, ran an “exclusive” on April 5 about a recent conversation between Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Immigration and Customs Alejandro MayorkasEnforcement (ICE) employees. Mayorkas, right, acknowledged that Biden has canceled the border emergency and halted Pentagon money for a border wall, but then added that it “leaves room to make decisions” on finishing some “gaps in the wall.”

This statement prompted an excited tweet the next day from Washington Times columnist Tim Young claiming to have exposed some massive hypocrisy. “**BREAKING** The Biden administration will resume BUILDING THE WALL that Trump started,” he wrote. “You know, the one they called racist, inhumane, etc.”In case there was any question, a few days later, the Biden administration released its discretionary funding request for FY 2022, allocating exactly $0 toward funding a border wall. Not only that, but the request cancelled all prior unused border wall funding as well. Biden did request $1.2 billion for border security and infrastructure, but every dollar goes toward measures that will effectively address the root causes of migration, according to a report from The Hill.

As for Mayorkas’ comment, he was referring to the notion that Trump’s boondoggle, despite all the bluster, has actually created new vulnerabilities at the border. Although the Department of Homeland Security is considering plugging some gaps, there is certainly no evidence that Biden is starting to take sips from Trump’s border wall Kool-Aid.

For the record, about 654 miles of fencing along the border already stood before Russia helped Trump ascend to the role of Xenophobe-in-Chief. Although Trump now likes to claim credit for completing 452 miles of new wall, the fact is that all but 80 miles of it involved merely replacing old barriers, according to BBC Reality Check.

After his inauguration, Biden wasted no time issuing a proclamation stating that “the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats. But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution.” As Biden nears his 100th day in office, his administration’s commitment to reversing Trump’s failed, racist legacy remains unwavering.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz runs and hides, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2021. In the Twitter universe, Matt Gaetz is combatively swinging away at everyone and everything, attacking the media outlets that are reporting on his scandal, and accusing everyone of being fake news. But in the real world, it turns out Gaetz is running and hiding.

bill palmer report logo headerMatt Gaetz is now avoiding his own congressional office and using the side door to enter the House chamber in the hope of hiding from reporters who are looking to ask him questions, according to a new report from CNN. This comes even as most (not all) House Republicans are actively trying to avoid being seen with him, and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy fumbles over questions about what he’s going to do to Gaetz.

This serves to underscore two points. First, Matt Gaetz’s scandal centers around alleged underage sex trafficking. It’s not some garden variety political controversy. It’s the kind of thing that no one wants to be associated with. Even House Republicans, who are increasingly proud of their corruption and depravity these days, have to be worried about being seen with Gaetz in case he ends up going down for it.

Second, Matt Gaetz is an inherently unlikable person who has spent his entire political career behaving like a clown and showing zero respect for the institutions of government. It’s not surprising to find out that most House members, including a whole lot of House Republicans, simply hate the guy and therefore aren’t inclined to stick their necks out to give him the benefit of the doubt.

 

U.S. Police Shootings, Crime

Adam Toledo, right  (Police body camera still shot via Chicago Civilian Office on Police Accountability).

Adam Toledo, right (Police body camera still shot via Chicago Civilian Office on Police Accountability).

ny times logoNew York Times, Video Released in Chicago Police’s Fatal Shooting of 13-Year-Old, Julie Bosman and Neil MacFarquhar, Updated April 16, 2021. Body camera footage showed an officer firing a single shot into the chest of the victim, Adam Toledo. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm before the body camera footage was made public. The victim, Adam Toledo, was one of the youngest people killed by the police in Illinois in years.

A shaky, fast-moving video released in Chicago on Thursday shows a police officer chasing a boy down a dark alleyway, yelling at him to stop. “Stop right now!” the officer screams while cursing, telling him to drop his gun. “Hands. Show me your hands. Drop it. Drop it.”

As the boy turns and lifts his hands, a single shot rings out and he collapses. The boy, Adam Toledo, was killed. He was 13.

Release of the officer’s body camera footage set off a fresh round of consternation over police conduct in Chicago, even as it stirred debate over what the images — grainy and graphic — actually showed. Activists announced protests against police abuse for downtown Chicago and Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm, even as she grew emotional as she talked about Adam’s death and her own pain in watching the video, calling it “excruciating.”

Adam, who lived in Chicago’s Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood on the city’s West Side, was one of the youngest people killed by the police in Illinois in years.

Graphic videos of deaths at the hands of police officers have repeatedly roiled the nation. The video’s release in Chicago comes as the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is underway and as another Minnesota officer, Kimberly A. Potter, was charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old motorist.

In the shooting in Chicago, which took place in the early-morning hours of March 29, officials have said that two officers were responding to reports of gunfire when they saw two people in an alley and started to chase them. Prosecutors have said that Adam was holding a gun when he ran down the alley as an officer called for him to stop and drop the weapon.

Adeena Weiss Ortiz, a lawyer representing the Toledo family, said at a news conference on Thursday that the video shows that Adam, who was Latino and a seventh grader at Gary Elementary School, was attempting to comply with the officer’s orders.

“He tossed the gun,” she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.’ He complied. He turned around.”

The key events took place in a matter of one second. In an analysis, The New York Times slowed down the police video, as well as another of the 21 videos released by the authorities.

As the officer, identified in police reports as Eric E. Stillman, 34, fires the single shot, Adam is raising his arms and appears to be empty-handed. In the moment before the shooting, The Times’s analysis shows, Adam can be seen holding what appears to be a gun behind his back, which he drops behind a wooden fence just before he raises his hands.

After firing the shot, Officer Stillman called for an ambulance, searched for the wound and began CPR with the help of another officer. “Stay with me,” he said to Adam more than once.

washington post logoWashington Post, Some news outlets balk at airing video of shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, Elahe Izadi, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). Police shooting of Toledo in Chicago leads to calls in the city for radical police reform.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Common Air Freshener Can Result in a High-Stakes Traffic Stop, Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 17, 2021. A majority of states have laws making it illegal to hang anything from a rearview mirror that obscures a driver’s view. But critics say the laws are often used as pretexts.

Daily Howler, Media Criticism: Today, it's the Washington Post: Why was Daunte Wright being arrested last Sunday? Bob Somerby, April 17, 2021. The answer to that is one of the things we can't be told in Our Town.On Thursday night, this is what we marks were told as the PBS NewsHour's Yamiche Alcindor, left, spoke with Brian Williams (below right):

yamiche alcindor lbj libraryALCINDOR (4/15/21): So the mother and family of Daunte Wright today said, Can you imagine what Dante was probably feeling as he had three officers surrounding him for what seemed like a minor infraction having to do with a warrant for marijuana, a business that brian williamspeople make money with all over the country? So I think there really needs to be a big conversation about that.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, a 20-year-old in a Buick that was a gift to him. Yamiche, you're so right.

Earth to the PBS NewsHour and to Brian Williams: Daunte Wright wasn't being arrested on the basis of "a minor infraction having to do with a warrant for marijuana." For background on this point, see yesterday's report.

It's amazing to think that this howling misstatement was made on Thursday evening's show. As we predicted yesterday, no correction was offered last night as Williams novelized his way through yet another program.

daily howler headlineHere in Our Town, we aren't allowed to know the facts about that attempted arrest. Our minders are committed to misinforming us the rubes about this point of Sacred Narrative.

Thursday night, things got so bad that we were told that the attempted arrest concerned marijuana! Last night, Brian let this ridiculous howler stand—and this morning, in the Washington Post, Our Town was treated to this:

CHRISTINE EMBA (4/17/21): This Sunday, as the trial paused, police in Brooklyn Center, Minn., (less than 10 miles from where Chauvin is on trial for the duarte wright resized facebookdeath of George Floyd) pulled over Daunte Wright (right) while he was driving, citing a traffic violation. Air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror, Wright told his mother. An expired tag, the police department said. Either way, not capital offenses. Wright attempted to get back into his car, and a police officer shot him to death. Allegedly, she mistook her gun for her Taser. She has, at least, resigned and been charged with manslaughter.

That was Christine Emba, in the Washington Post, advancing the scripted misimpression that the attempted arrest was about those demon air fresheners. Or an expired tag!

On what basis was that arrest attempted? Here in Our Town, an agreement exists among our elites—we rubes aren't allowed to know.

While we're at it, also take note of this: Wright broke away from the police officer who was trying to handcuff him. He then attempted to evade arrest (again). How does Emba describe that action?

Simple! According to Emba, the young man "attempted to get back into his car." It's the most innocent thing in the world!

Young people do many foolish things. Wright had done several foolish things in the past several years, at least two of which apparently involved the use of a gun. Also, the failure to show up for his court date concerning his use of a gun.

We aren't inclined to blame young people for doing foolish thigs. On the other hand, it's hard to be sufficiently amazed by the kinds of people who go on MSNBC, or who write in the Washington Post, and refuse to tell us rubes the truth about this important event.

We aren't inclined to blame young people for the unwise things they do. Having said that, let us also say this: Alcindor, Williams and Emba (and Emba's editors) are no longer young. We'll further explore this remarkable journalistic group conduct at the start of the week.

 

World News

joe biden black background resized serious file

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden hosts Japan’s Suga as first foreign leader at the White House, Anne Gearan and Simon Denyer, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden signaled a focus on Asia by making Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga his first in-person foreign guest. Biden pledged cooperation across a range of issues, including climate change and coronavirus vaccine distribution.

JapanPresident Biden was making a point as he welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House on Friday, using the first in-person visit by a foreign leader to emphasize that his administration sees Asia as its highest priority.

The coveted first invitation was intended to reward a strategic ally who was buffeted by transactional and sometimes capricious treatment under President Donald Trump, and to send a signal to China that Biden plans to firm up America’s Asian alliances. Biden plans to follow up with an invitation to South Korean President Moon Jae-in next month.

“There’s no substitute for face-to-face discussions,” Biden said as he and Suga held a news conference in the Rose Garden, Biden’s first such event.

Calling Suga “Yoshi,” Biden pledged cooperation across a range of issues, including climate change and coronavirus vaccine distribution.

 

U.S. Religious, Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Mormon sex therapist faces discipline and possible expulsion from the LDS Church, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). More than 200 health care professionals signed a letter saying they are concerned that withdrawing Helfer’s membership will create a culture of stigma and shame for clients seeking therapy.

Natasha Helfer, 49, who was raised by her parents in the LDS Church since she was 5 years old, has been a national face for mental health advocacy among Mormons. Nearly a decade ago, she wrote a blog post that caused waves across Mormonism where she declared masturbation is not a sin, and since then, she has attracted a wide audience especially among more progressive Mormons and ex-Mormons for her frankness around sex.

 

tribune publishing logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I’ve worked for two billionaires. Here’s my advice for rich people who want to buy a newspaper, Margaret Sullivan, right, April 17, 2021. margaret sullivan 2015 photoWithin a few days, we may know whether some of America’s great newspapers — the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, and several others — will be bought by a profit-sucking hedge fund or a group of apparently well-intentioned wealthy individuals.

Most of us who care about local journalism are pulling hard for the rich guys, who include a Maryland hotel magnate, Stewart Bainum Jr. and a Swiss billionaire, Hansjörg Wyss. They seem to have their heart in the right place.

“Maybe I’m naïve,” Wyss said recently, “but the combination of giving enough money to a professional staff to do the right things and putting quite a bit of money into digital will eventually make a very profitable newspaper.”

The hedge fund, Alden Global Capital, on the other hand, has never had much to say about their intention which in previous endeavors has amounted to stripping newspapers for parts. Some of the saddest stories in the decline of local journalism have come after Alden descends on a town.

I’m no billionaire and I’ve never owned anything more valuable than a house. But I can claim some expertise. For three decades I worked at the Buffalo News, then owned by one of the world’s perennially richest people, investor Warren Buffett. That includes the years I was the paper’s top editor and a corporate officer. (Buffett sold all of his papers last year to Lee Enterprises.)

And a few years before I came to work at The Washington Post in 2016, Jeff Bezos — now the world’s wealthiest person — paid $250 million for the struggling newspaper.

So here are my three best pieces of advice.

jerry falwell jr resized wife assistant

washington post logoWashington Post, Liberty University sues ex-president Jerry Falwell Jr., alleging breach of contract and cover-up of scandal, Nick Anderson, April 17, 2021 (print ed.). The evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg, Va., is seeking more than $10 million in damages from the man who led it for 13 years. The suit filed Thursday in Lynchburg Circuit Court marked another twist in the saga of Falwell’s messy departure last year from Liberty.

Falwell, in a statement Friday, said the suit is “full of lies and half truths” and pledged to fight it.In early August, Falwell was put on leave after he posted on social media a picture of himself holding a glass containing a dark liquid and standing with an unrelated pregnant woman (shown above). Both had their zippers partially down, and Falwell joked that the drink was “a prop only.”

jerry falwell jr becki falwellLater that month he agreed to resign after news reports emerged about a young man Falwell and his wife, Rebecca Falwell, right, had befriended who allegedly was sexually connected to the couple. Falwell has said that his wife, who also goes by Becki, had a brief affair with the man.

The Falwells, the pool attendant and the double life that brought them all down

Falwell, 58, filed a defamation suit against Liberty in October, alleging the school accepted without verifying what he called false statements made by the young man. He later dropped the lawsuit.

liberty university sealIn its lawsuit, Liberty contends that Falwell failed to return university-owned computers, devices and confidential information to Liberty and that he failed to disclose to the university alleged threats of extortion he had received in connection with potential personal scandals.

“Falwell Jr. … knew that matters of infidelity, immodesty, and acceptance of a loose lifestyle would stand in stark contrast to the conduct expected of leaders at Liberty,” the university’s suit said.

The university said in the suit that its agenda is “anchored in the principles of the ‘Liberty Way,’ ” and that it demands adherence to “Biblical standards of morality.”

The 38-page complaint alleges that Falwell deliberately sought to hide the affair. “Despite his clear duties as an executive and officer at Liberty, Falwell Jr. chose personal protection,” the suit alleged.

Further, the suit alleged: “Falwell Jr.'s actions in breaching the fiduciary duty he owed to Liberty were willful and wanton and disregarded the rights of Liberty.”

In a text message, Falwell pushed back against Liberty’s governing board.

“The Executive Committee of the Liberty University Board of Trustees has made yet another attempt to defame me and discredit my record,” Falwell wrote, “following a series of harsh and unnecessary actions against my children, Becki and me. Throughout all my years at the University, where we built a multi-billion-dollar enterprise that reaches Christians worldwide, I always abided by the requirements that applied to everyone on the University staff.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Tucker Carlson was panicking when Matt Gaetz implicated him, Bill Palmer, right, April 17, 2021. On Friday, we learned from Politico bill palmerthat the girl in the Matt Gaetz – Joel Greenberg scandal is now apparently working to take Matt Gaetz down. This should scare the crap out of Gaetz, for obvious reasons. But there’s now another angle Gaetz has to worry about.

bill palmer report logo headerThat same Politico report from last night also says that Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend is afraid she’ll be charged with obstruction of justice for failing to cooperate against Gaetz.

Notably, this dovetails with a story that Matt Gaetz told on-air on Fox News earlier this month. Gaetz claimed that the Feds were threatening to charge his ex-girlfriend with obstruction. He also claimed that he, his ex-girlfriend, Tucker Carlson, and Carlson’s wife all had dinner together tucker carlsontwo years ago. Carlson famously responded by insisting he has no idea what Gaetz was even talking about – and then Carlson called it the “weirdest” interview he’s ever done.

Here’s the thing. If the Feds really have been leaning on Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend to flip on him, and if the two of them really did have dinner with Tucker Carlson, right, then the Feds could indeed end up seeking an interview with Carlson about what was discussed during the dinner. This doesn’t incriminate Carlson, but it could make his life extremely difficult. No wonder Carlson was panicking; Gaetz pointed the Feds right at Carlson and his wife as potentially useful witnesses.

 

April 16

Top Headlines

 

 Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Police Shootings, Violent Crime

 

Russian-American Intrigues, Disputes

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Voting Rights, Civil Liberties

 

 Inside DC

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Police

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Another Massacre, This Time in Indianapolis, Brings Disbelief, Sarah Bahr, Mitch Smith and Campbell Robertson, April 16, 2021.The country grappled with yet another bloody rampage, this time at a FedEx warehouse, only weeks after mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder, Colo; The gunman, who left eight dead before killing himself, was identified as a 19-year-old who used to work there and who was already on law enforcement radar.

He appeared in the parking lot after dark — a hooded figure with a gun who immediately began spraying bullets in every direction.

fed ex logo resizedHe stepped into the FedEx warehouse, a place where he had once worked, and continued shooting, “firing into the open,” according to one witness.

He shouted unintelligibly as he fired off round after round, and then, before the police could even arrive, he had killed himself, leaving in his wake eight dead and at least seven wounded.

On Thursday night, in a terrifyingly quick spasm of violence, Indianapolis faced its third mass shooting since the start of the year. And a nation already weary from a pandemic grappled with yet another bloody rampage, only weeks after back-to-back mass shootings last month at spas in the Atlanta area and at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo.

“It is a national embarrassment, what’s going on,” President Biden said in a news conference on Friday, as he repeated his support for a ban on assault weapons. “And it’s not only these mass shootings that are occurring. Every single day, every single day, there’s a mass shooting in the United States if you count all those who are killed out on the streets of our cities and our rural areas. It’s a national embarrassment and must come to an end.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Imposes Tough Sanctions on Russia, Blaming It for Major Hack, Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger, Steven Erlanger and Andrew E. Kramer, April 16, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration announced sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for disinformation efforts and for carrying out U.S. election interference. Following years of wrist slaps under former President Trump, the new measures are designed to have a noticeable impact on the Russian economy.

In the broadest effort yet to give more teeth to financial sanctions — which in the past have failed to deter Russian activity — the sanctions are aimed at choking off lending to the Russian government.

American FlagIn an executive order, President Biden announced a series of additional steps — sanctions on 32 entities and individuals for disinformation efforts and for carrying out the Russian government’s interference in the 2020 presidential election. Ten Russian diplomats, most of them identified as intelligence operatives, were expelled from the Russian Embassy in Washington. The country also joined with European partners to sanction eight people and entities associated with Russia’s occupation in Crimea.

russian flag wavingThe announcement is the first time that the U.S. government had placed the blame for the “SolarWinds” hacking attack right at the Kremlin’s feet, saying it was masterminded by the SVR, one of the Russian intelligence agencies that was also involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee six years ago. The finding comports with the findings of private cybersecurity firms.

Widely anticipated, the sanctions come amid a large Russian military buildup on the borders of Ukraine and in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014.

They comprise what United States officials described as “seen and unseen” steps in response to the hacking, known as SolarWinds; to the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia offered bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan; and to Russia’s longstanding effort to interfere in U.S. elections on behalf of Donald J. Trump. The key to the sanctions’ effectiveness, officials concede, will be whether European and Asian allies go along with that ban, and whether the United States decides to seek to extend the sanctions by threatening to cut off financial institutions around the world that deal in those Russian bonds, much as it has Vladimir Putinenforced “secondary sanctions” against those who do business with Iran.

In a conversation with President Vladimir V. Putin, right, on Tuesday, Mr. Biden warned that the United States was going to act to protect its interests, but also raised the prospect of a summit meeting between the two leaders. It is unclear whether Russia will now feel the need to retaliate for the sanctions and expulsions. American officials are already alarmed by a troop buildup along the border of Ukraine and Russian naval activity in the Black Sea.

 

Derek Chauvin, right, with defense counsel Eric Nelson on Trial Day 14, April 15, 2021 (Photo via Court TV).

Eric J. Nelson and his client Derek Chauvin discussing Mr. Chauvin’s decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify on Thursday, April 15, 2021, Trial day 14 (Still image via Court TV).

ny times logoNew York Times, Chauvin Won’t Testify; ‘Evidence Is Now Complete’ as Both Sides Rest, Staff Reports, April 16, 2021 (print ed.). The judge told the jury to “plan for long and hope for short” deliberations. Closing arguments are expected Monday. Here’s the latest on the Derek Chauvin trial.

The prosecution and defense rested their cases on Thursday after Mr. Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd, invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Closing arguments begin on Monday.

Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a prosecution medical expert, returned to the stand on Thursday as a rebuttal witness for the state, providing the final testimony that jurors heard in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Dr. Tobin, a pulmonologist who testified last week, was brought back by prosecutors to offer a counter opinion to testimony given yesterday by Dr. David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner of Maryland. Dr. Flower said he believed that George Floyd died from a cardiac arrhythmia, which was caused by multiple factors including heart disease, drug use and possibly carbon monoxide poisoning.

For the first time in nearly three weeks of testimony, the former officer Derek Chauvin spoke in the courtroom. Nearing the end of the defense’s case, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, asked Mr. Chauvin whether he would like to testify in his own defense.

Mr. Nelson said he and Mr. Chauvin have had repeated conversations on the matter, including a “lengthy meeting” Wednesday night. Mr. Chauvin, who removed his mask to answer Mr. Nelson’s questions, chose to waive his right to testify.

 

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

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

Miami Herald, Appeals court upholds deal that silenced Epstein victims, Julie K. Brown, April 16, 2021 (print ed.). Appeals court upholds Jeffrey Epstein deal that minimizedmiami herald logopunishment, silenced victims.

How a Miami Herald investigation "Perversion of Justice" and the voices of four brave survivors, once silenced by the courts, helped to blow up Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart deal,  Brittany Peterson | Emily Michot (Video investigation).

In a landmark decision, a U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected the 12-year quest of a Jeffrey Epstein survivor to hold the government accountable for giving the infamous child predator a clandestine deal that essentially allowed him to get out of jail after a minimal sentence, and, according to recent lawsuits, continue to abuse girls and women.

Justice Department log circularThe 7-4 decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was split mostly along gender lines, with four female judges issuing a scathing rebuke of the majority’s interpretation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA). The decision, unless it is overturned on further appeal, could allow wealthy defendants to continue to arrange favorable plea deals from the government without any oversight or accountability, said an attorney who originally filed the challenge.

“The ruling is very disturbing. It sets up two systems of justice, one for wealthy defendants who can negotiate deals before charges are filed — and one for most criminal defendants, who don’t have the wealth and power to arrange those kinds of deals,’’ said the attorney, Paul Cassell.

The plaintiff, Courtney Wild, was 14 when she was first raped by Epstein at his Palm Beach mansion. Wild, now 33, has waged a one-woman crusade against the federal government on behalf of Epstein’s victims since the case was filed in 2008.

courtney wild

While underage, Courtney Wild was a victim of Jeffrey Epstein (Photo by Emily Michot / Miami Herald)

The court ruled that, because federal prosecutors never lodged criminal charges against Epstein — he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in state court in Palm Beach County — neither Wild nor any of Epstein’s victims has standing to successfully file such a challenge citing the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

perversion of justice miami herald logoCircuit Judge Kevin C. Newsom, in writing the majority’s opinion, said that while “we have the profoundest sympathy for Ms. Wild and others like her, who suffered unspeakable horror at Epstein’s hands, only to be left in the dark — and, so it seems, affirmatively misled by government attorneys,’’ the court nevertheless concludes that the CVRA doesn’t give crime victims the right to file a lawsuit or seek judicial enforcement of the law.

The CVRA, passed by Congress in 2004, enumerates certain rights that victims of crimes are entitled to during the criminal justice process. Among them: that victims have a right to confer with prosecutors about their case, that they should be treated with fairness and that they be given an opportunity to appear at sentencing.

Years later, Epstein's victims discuss the lasting impact of sexual abuse. Victims of Jeffery Epstein share the emotional toll that sexual abuse has taken on them — even years after the abuse occurred. Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown interviewed the young women, most speaking for the first time about Epstein. By Emily Michot | Julie K. Brown

Epstein signed a secret plea agreement with federal prosecutors in September 2007, agreeing to shift the case into state court. Despite the fact that a deal had jeffrey epstein sex offenderbeen negotiated and signed, federal authorities met with Wild in January 2008 and assured her that the investigation into Epstein was continuing. She didn’t learn about the deal until well after Epstein was sentenced and sent to the Palm Beach County jail, where he would serve just 13 months, most of it while on work release. He was let out for good in 2009.

Epstein’s deal was sealed by federal prosecutors at the behest of Epstein’s high-powered lawyers, who reasoned that if the victims found out, they might strenuously object and even convince the judge to derail the deal.

The Epstein case was detailed in a 2018 Miami Herald series, “Perversion of Justice,’’ that led federal prosecutors to take another look at the crime. Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges six months later in the Southern District of New York. One month after that, however, he was dead. The medical examiner ruled that he hanged himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

frank hull resized In her dissenting opinion, Senior Circuit Judge Frank Hull, right, skewered the majority’s “sense of sorrow,’’ over not being able to give Epstein’s victims justice. Noting that the decision would have far-reaching impact in other cases involving wealthy defendants, she said the ruling “leaves federal prosecutors free to engage in the secret plea deals and deception’’ before criminal charges are ever made public, resulting in “the travesty” that happened in the Epstein case.

She also noted that “the Department of Justice’s failure to discipline its own prosecutors heightens the importance of the CVRA’s private right alexander acosta labor oof action.’’

DOJ’s investigation found that prosecutors exercised “poor judgment,’’ but stopped short of recommending sanctions against prosecutors, including Alexander Acosta, the U.S. Attorney in Miami who approved the secret deal.

Acosta (left, later U.S. Labor Secretary under President Trump) declined to comment on the ruling.

“Most would-be defendants lack resources and usually have no counsel during this pre-charge period,’’ Hull pointed out, referring to the time before a defendant is formally charged with a crime. “Consequently, they do not have the pre-charge opportunity to negotiate the kind of extremely favorable deal that Epstein received.’’

virginia roberts giuffre nbc screenshot
Virginia Roberts was working at Mar-a-Lago at age 17 when she was recruited to be a masseuse to Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein. She was lured into a life of depravity and sexual abuse. (Story by Emily Michot | Julie K. Brown, photo via recent NBC screenshot).

Cassell suggested that the case would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, Wild continues to lobby Congress to pass the Courtney Wild Crime Victims’ Rights Reform Act, which would strengthen the law and close loopholes that federal prosecutors used to exploit the law and justify giving Epstein one of the most lenient plea deals for a serial sex offender in history.

His alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, was arrested in July and now faces sex trafficking charges in connection with Epstein’s crimes. Her trial is scheduled for July 2021.

Since Epstein’s arrest, several women have filed lawsuits claiming that they were sexually abused while Epstein was on work release and after he was released from jail.

Thus far, Epstein’s estate has paid out more than $67 million in damages to more than 175 victims who have come forward alleging they were abused by Epstein.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Retail Sales Jump and Jobless Claims Drop in New Signs of Recovery, Sydney Ember, April 16, 2021 (print ed.). Retail spending rose nearly 10 percent in March as relief payments hit bank accounts; Delta Air Lines lost $1.2 billion in the first quarter. Jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level of the pandemic, renewing confidence in a dynamic economic revival. Here’s the latest in business. Jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level of the pandemic and the latest data on retail sales blew past expectations, renewing confidence in a dynamic economic revival.

About 613,000 people filed first-time claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, a decrease of 153,000 from the previous week.

In addition, 132,000 filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 20,000 from the previous week.

Neither figure is seasonally adjusted. On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 576,000.

“We’re gaining momentum here, which is just unquestionable,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton. But she cautioned that the jobless claims levels, while good news, were still extraordinarily high compared to what they were before the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, 127.7 million vaccinated, as of April 16, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 47.8 of the eligible population,16 and older and 38.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 16, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 139,860,708, Deaths: 3,002,788
U.S. Cases:     32,226,766, Deaths:    579,008
India Cases:     14,291,917, Deaths:    174,335
Brazil Cases:   13,758,093, Deaths:     365,954

 

U.S. Police Shootings, Violent Crime

Adam Toledo, right  (Police body camera still shot via Chicago Civilian Office on Police Accountability).

Adam Toledo, right (Police body camera still shot via Chicago Civilian Office on Police Accountability).

ny times logoNew York Times, Video Released in Chicago Police’s Fatal Shooting of 13-Year-Old, Julie Bosman and Neil MacFarquhar, Updated April 16, 2021. Body camera footage showed an officer firing a single shot into the chest of the victim, Adam Toledo. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm before the body camera footage was made public. The victim, Adam Toledo, was one of the youngest people killed by the police in Illinois in years.

A shaky, fast-moving video released in Chicago on Thursday shows a police officer chasing a boy down a dark alleyway, yelling at him to stop. “Stop right now!” the officer screams while cursing, telling him to drop his gun. “Hands. Show me your hands. Drop it. Drop it.”

As the boy turns and lifts his hands, a single shot rings out and he collapses. The boy, Adam Toledo, was killed. He was 13.

Release of the officer’s body camera footage set off a fresh round of consternation over police conduct in Chicago, even as it stirred debate over what the images — grainy and graphic — actually showed. Activists announced protests against police abuse for downtown Chicago and Mayor Lori Lightfoot called for calm, even as she grew emotional as she talked about Adam’s death and her own pain in watching the video, calling it “excruciating.”

Adam, who lived in Chicago’s Little Village, a predominantly Latino neighborhood on the city’s West Side, was one of the youngest people killed by the police in Illinois in years.

Graphic videos of deaths at the hands of police officers have repeatedly roiled the nation. The video’s release in Chicago comes as the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is underway and as another Minnesota officer, Kimberly A. Potter, was charged in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old motorist.

In the shooting in Chicago, which took place in the early-morning hours of March 29, officials have said that two officers were responding to reports of gunfire when they saw two people in an alley and started to chase them. Prosecutors have said that Adam was holding a gun when he ran down the alley as an officer called for him to stop and drop the weapon.

Adeena Weiss Ortiz, a lawyer representing the Toledo family, said at a news conference on Thursday that the video shows that Adam, who was Latino and a seventh grader at Gary Elementary School, was attempting to comply with the officer’s orders.

“He tossed the gun,” she said. “If he had a gun, he tossed it. The officer said, ‘Show me your hands.’ He complied. He turned around.”

The key events took place in a matter of one second. In an analysis, The New York Times slowed down the police video, as well as another of the 21 videos released by the authorities.

As the officer, identified in police reports as Eric E. Stillman, 34, fires the single shot, Adam is raising his arms and appears to be empty-handed. In the moment before the shooting, The Times’s analysis shows, Adam can be seen holding what appears to be a gun behind his back, which he drops behind a wooden fence just before he raises his hands.

After firing the shot, Officer Stillman called for an ambulance, searched for the wound and began CPR with the help of another officer. “Stay with me,” he said to Adam more than once.

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know About the Police Shooting of Adam Toledo, Neil Vigdor, April 16, 2021. Prosecutors said Adam was holding a gun when he ran down an alley as an officer called for him to drop the weapon. He was shot as he put his hands up.

Here is what we know about the Adam Toledo case.

In the early-morning hours of March 29, two officers had been responding to reports of gunfire when they saw two people in an alley and started to chase them, officials said. Prosecutors have said that Adam was holding a gun when he ran down the alley as an officer called for him to stop and drop the weapon.

Who was the victim?

Adam, a seventh grader at Gary Elementary School, had been missing for several days before he finally returned home on the night of March 28, according to his mother, Elizabeth Toledo, who told reporters that she had even previously called the Chicago police to report him missing.

But that Sunday night, she would later tell reporters, she saw him go into the room he shared with his brother. The next day, he was gone. Ms. Toledo later heard from the police: Adam was dead.

The officer was identified in police reports as Eric E. Stillman, 34, who is white and whose lawyer said had been placed on administrative duties for 30 days.

The lawyer said that the shooting, while tragic, was justified given the nature of the threat.

“The police officer was put in this split-second situation where he has to make a decision,” said Timothy Grace, a lawyer at the firm of Grace & Thompson retained by the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago.

 brian williams

Daily Howler, Media Critique: Eddie Glaude Has a Better Idea! Bob Somerby, April 16, 2021. "Daunte Wright's murder," he says. Consider what Professor Glaude said on Brian Williams' program last night. (This came in the segment which followed the segment in which Yamiche Alcindor offered her absurd false claim about the marijuana.)

Glaude told Brian (shown above in a file photo) how hard it is to have to keep watching the tape of "Daunte Wright's murder." Does anybody really believe that what happened last Sunday was a "murder" in any conventional sense of the term?

daily howler headlineEvery pundit takes his or her turn striking a certain pose. They marvel at how hard it is to believe that Kim Potter could have mistaken her gun for her Taser. Others have made the same mistake in the past, but this won't affect the minuet the pundits take turns performing. Remember the definition of a contemporary columnist / pundit: Someone who has nothing to say and a contractual obligation to say it.

Eventually, along comes the Princeton guy, and he drops the M-bomb. Adapted to a more genteel framework, this is the way the mobs used to work in Glaude's native part of the country.

And a clown shall lead them: Brian Williams opened last evening's show in the normal way.He thanked the "three friends of the broadcast" who had agreed to serve as his opening pundit panel. Marketing / branding requirements satisfied, Brian threw to Yamiche Alcindor, one of his many friends. Alcindor works for the msnbc logo CustomPBS NewsHour. It's one of the most respected news orgs in Our Town. Previously, she'd shot up the chain at the New York Times, Our Town's smartest newspaper.

Moving beyond the question she'd been asked, Alcindor proceeded to state her view of the shooting death of Daunte Wright.

Seriously though, folks! To our surprise and to our lack of surprise, this is what Alcindor said:

ALCINDOR (4/15/21): Can you imagine what Dante was probably feeling as he had three officers surrounding him for what seemed like a minor infraction having to do with a warrant for marijuana, a business that people make money with all over the country? So I think there really needs to be a big conversation about that.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, a 20-year-old in a Buick that was a gift to him. Yamiche, you're so right.

"Yamiche, you're so right," the giant star said, immediately after she had issued her latest remarkable howler. In a word, say what? Last Sunday, Daunte Wright was being arrested on the basis of "a minor infraction having to do with a warrant for marijuana?"As Alcindor, left, and Williams spoke, the analysts came out of their chairs. Even they had never heard this misstatement before!

This morning, the analysts went to work fact-checking Alcindor's latest. As it turns out, the claim the NewsHour star advanced was so obscure that only one news org had previously fact-checked it—Agence France Presse (AFP), one of the world's major news orgs.

You can read the AFP Fact Check here. Below, you see the agency's bold-face summary of the bogus factual claim:

duarte wright resized facebookAFP FACT CHECK (4/15/21): Social media posts claim Daunte Wright (left), a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by police in Minnesota, was wanted for not paying a fine for marijuana possession. This is false; while there was a previous cannabis-related charge involving Wright, the warrant for his arrest was issued because he failed to appear in court over illegal possession of a weapon and fleeing the police.

Sad. The fact-check traces this inaccurate claim to a set of "social media posts" by unidentified people. Presumably, that's where Alcindor stumbled across, and decided to buy, the stupid, inaccurate claim.

"Yamiche, you're so right," her well-dressed host quickly said. In the process, he added some bathos to the melodrama being shoveled to us in Our Town.

Last evening's program was the fourth program during which the shooting death of Daunte Wright was discussed on Williams' hour-long program. That said, how does Williams perform his job? We ask you to understand this:On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, neither Williams nor anyone else ever reported the actual basis on which Wright was being arrested that day. No one reported that he was being arrested on a warrant related to the illegal possession of a gun and a previous flight from arrest.

fox news logo SmallThree straight nights had gone by; our spotless minds had been shielded from any such knowledge. (Over on Fox, viewers were being told.) Instead, Williams had merely said, on two of those nights, that police had tried to arrest Wright on an "outstanding misdemeanor warrant."

That was technically accurate as far as it went, but it hadn't gone very far. Now, on his fourth night discussing this case, the well-dressed corporate TV star took things down several levels:

yamiche alcindor lbj libraryAlcindor (shown at right in a file photo) gave a baldly inaccurate account of the basis for the attempted arrest. As she did, she almost seemed to recommend fleeing arrest — and in reply, the well-coiffed anchor could only offer this: "Yamiche, you're so right!"

In fact, Yamiche was stunningly wrong in her statement. Meanwhile, her appalling misstatement was helping to drive an ugly storyline. Because her claim was part of a swelling attempt to demonize police as a class on the basis of bogus claims; to try to get people thrown into jail on the basis of bogus claims; and in this case, even to seem to suggest that people like Wright should try to flee legitimate arrest.

It's hard to feel sufficient contempt for the conduct of someone like Williams in seconding such a misstatement. That said, to what extent are basic facts being withheld from the people who watch Williams' nightly program?

 

Russian-American Intrigues, Disputes

Palmer Report, Opinion: This was treason, Bill Palmer, right, April 16, 2021. Now that the U.S. government is finally confirming that Paul Manafort gave Trump’s internal bill palmerpolling data to the Kremlin, let’s connect the rest of the known dots in Trump-Russia campaign collusion.

Reuters long ago reported that Kremlin cutout Cambridge Analytica stole Facebook data from 50 million users and used it to micro target false Facebook ads in key swing states. The Kremlin surely gave the Trump campaign data to Cambridge Analytica for use in further micro targeting those ads.

bill palmer report logo headerIn other words, not only did the Trump campaign and the Kremlin collude in 2016, they criminally conspired to alter the outcome of the election. But it gets even worse, because of just how high up the ladder Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik were on their respective sides

.Are we to believe that Trump didn’t know his campaign chairman Manafort was doing this? Are we to believe Putin didn’t know his top spy facebook logoKilimnik was doing this? In other words, it wasn’t just the Trump campaign and the Kremlin conspiring. It was Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin personally conspiring together, through their reps.

Robert Mueller had this information, as evidenced by an early 2019 publicly available court filing. So Bill Barr, who went out of his way to suppress this evidence of a criminal plot, is a co-conspirator in this scandal.

President Biden’s crushing sanctions are about the most severely that Putin can be punished for now. No one knows where Kilimnik is these days (possibly dead). So the Russian end of this scandal is more or less settled. But no one on the U.S. side of this criminal scandal has been punished for it yet.

President Donald Trump officialDonald Trump will spend the rest of his life in a New York prison for financial crimes. But the Feds should still charge him for election fraud conspiracy as well. Manafort has already gone to prison for financial crimes, but he’s out now, and he must be hit with any charges that can get around his pardon. Bill Barr and his DOJ co-conspirators must also do hard time.

What Trump falsely claimed happened to him in 2020, is roughly what he actually did in 2016. Except Trump took the additional step of criminally conspiring with a foreign government to alter the election results in his favor. It’s clear cut treason. And if you need an act of war to justify treason charges, then the Russian hacking qualifies as an act of cyber war.

Dn’t try to tell me that Trump-Russia election collusion is just some conspiracy theory. The United States government not only directly confirmed it yesterday, it used it as justification for enacting crushing economic sanctions against Russia. So yeah, this is the real deal.

paul manafort mugAs outrageous as it is that Trump, Manafort (shown at left in a mug shot), and others have yet to be punished for this treasonous plot, it’s notable that the Biden administration was willing to publicly confirm today that the Trump-Russia election plot did happen. The Biden administration knows that putting this specific information out there will only fuel public demand for criminal prosecution. These sanctions could have been rolled out, and publicly justified, without needing to include the specific information about Manafort and Kilimnik. That feels intentional.

So perhaps this announcement was made as the first step in something bigger coming. President Biden has made clear that the Department of Justice, and no one else, will make any charging decisions with regard to Trump’s crimes. But it seems unlikely that the Biden administration would have made this announcement unless the DOJ has already signaled that such charges are coming. We’ll see.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia to expel 10 U.S. diplomats in response to Biden administration sanctions, Robyn Dixon, April 16, 2021. Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of Russia's Security Council on Friday as Moscow moved quickly to respond after U.S. sanctions and expulsions of diplomats, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russian FlagPeskov said a presidential aide informed U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan of Russia’s response, but added no further details. He said the Security Council meeting also focused on military development.

dmitry peskov“Nobody has canceled the principle of reciprocity in such matters, it is a fundamental principle,” Peskov, right, told reporters. “Yet again, everything will depend on the decision to be made by the head of state.”

His comments follow the U.S. announcement on Thursday that it would expel 10 Russian diplomats as well as place sanctions on 32 Russia-related individuals and companies accused of interfering in the 2020 presidential election, spreading disinformation and other harmful actions. U.S. officials claim most of the diplomats on the expulsion list are intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover.

Peskov said Putin and President Biden “saw eye to eye” on the need to de-escalate tensions in U.S.-Russia relations, but “our U.S. counterparts’ liking for sanctions remains unacceptable.”

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats Who Lost in Deep-Red Places Might Have Helped Biden, Isabella Grullón Paz, April 16, 2021. A study found a reverse coattails effect in 2020: Down-ballot candidates may have helped elect President Biden, rather than the other way around.

Ebony Carter faced an uphill climb when she decided to run for the Georgia State Senate last year. Her deeply Republican district south of Atlanta had not elected a Democrat since 2001, and a Democrat hadn’t even bothered campaigning for the seat since 2014.

dnc square logoState party officials told her that they no longer tried to compete for the seat because they didn’t think a Democrat could win it. That proved correct. Despite winning 40 percent of the vote, the most for a liberal in years, Ms. Carter lost.

But her run may have helped another candidate: Joseph R. Biden Jr.The president, who eked out a 12,000-vote victory in Georgia, received a small but potentially important boost from the state’s conservative areas if at least one local Democrat was running in a down-ballot race, according to a new study by Run for Something, an organization dedicated to recruiting and supporting liberal candidates. That finding extended even to the state’s reddest districts.

joe biden 2020 button CustomThe phenomenon appeared to hold nationally. Mr. Biden performed 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent better last year in conservative state legislative districts where Democrats put forward challengers than in districts where Republicans ran unopposed, the study found. The analysis was carried out using available precinct-level data in eight states — Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Kansas and New York — and controlling for factors like education to create a comparison between contested and uncontested districts.

The study showed a reverse coattails effect: It was lower-level candidates running in nearly hopeless situations — red districts that Democrats had traditionally considered no-win, low-to-no-investment territory — who helped the national or statewide figures atop the ballot, instead of down-ballot candidates benefiting from a popular national candidate of the same party.

“The whole theory behind it is that these candidates are supercharged organizers,” said Ross Morales Rocketto, a co-founder of Run for Something. “They are folks in their community having one-on-one conversations with voters in ways that statewide campaigns can’t do.”

The idea isn’t new, but it is the first time that a comprehensive study has been done on the possibility of such a reverse coattails effect, and it comes as the Democratic Party ramps up its strategizing for the midterm elections next year.

In 2005, when Howard Dean became the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he tried to institute a “50-state strategy” to build up party infrastructure and candidate recruitment at every level and in every state — even in solidly Republican districts. The hope was that if there was at least one Democrat running in every county, it would help the party build a larger base for future elections. Mr. Dean was met with skepticism from national strategists who believed in a more conventional method of focusing limited campaign resources on swing districts. After his tenure, the strategy fell out of favor.

What tends to derail any such 50-state, all-districts strategy are the limited resources that both parties have in any election, and the realpolitik considerations that inevitably lead them to pour disproportionate amounts of money into certain races seen as particularly important and winnable.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Andrew Yang Hasn’t Done the Math, Paul Krugman, right, April 16, 2021 (print ed.). Was his economic story too good to check? Will paul krugmanAndrew Yang, the current front-runner, become New York City’s next mayor? If he wins, would he be any good at the job? I have no idea, although I’m skeptical about the latter.

My guess is that the mayoral office needs an effective political brawler, not an intellectual, and Yang, left, who has never held office, owes his prominence largely to his reputation as a thought leader, someone with big ideas about economics and policy.

andrew yang twitterWhat I do know is that Yang’s big ideas are demonstrably wrong. Shouldn’t that be cause for concern?

Yang’s claim to fame is his argument that we’re facing social and economic crises because rapid automation is destroying good jobs and that the solution is universal basic income — a monthly check of $1,000 to every American adult. Many people find that argument persuasive, and one can imagine a world in which both Yang’s diagnosis and his prescription would be right.

But that’s not the world we’re living in now, and there’s little indication that it’s where we’re going any time soon.

Santa Fe New Mexican, Former campaign staffer who accused Lujan Grisham of abuse receives settlement, Daniel J. Chacón, Updated April 14, 2021. The Republican Governors Association pounced on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday following revelations of a settlement of at least $62,500 with a former campaign staffer who accused the first-term Democrat of grabbing his genitals.

The association, which already has put a target on the governor’s back as she seeks a second term in office, dubbed the settlement “a $62,500 crotch grab.”

michelle lujan grisham 2018 Custom“After years of vehement denial, Governor Lujan Grisham’s now revealed sexual harassment settlement certainly raises questions of why she tried to discredit her alleged victim,” association spokesman Will Reinert wrote in an email. “Where there is smoke there is usually fire, and Lujan Grisham just wrote a check for $62,500 worth of kindling.”

Actually, a series of checks.

According to campaign finance reports filed Monday with the Secretary of State’s Office, the governor’s campaign, New Mexicans for Michelle, made five monthly payments of $12,500 each between November and March to Buckley Beale LLP, an Atlanta-based law firm representing James Hallinan, who served as Lujan Grisham’s communications director during her candidacy for governor.

“Governor Lujan Grisham and Mr. Hallinan have resolved any differences or issues to their satisfaction. I am not able to provide any further information,” Rachel Berlin Benjamin, a senior partner at the firm, wrote in an email.

Hallinan, who did not return a message seeking comment, accused Lujan Grisham, right, of sexual assault during a routine campaign meeting in the months leading up to the 2018 general election.

democratic donkey logoHallinan, who first alluded to the alleged assault in a 2019 Christmas Day tweet, told The New Mexican in an interview that year Lujan Grisham had dumped water on his crotch and then touched his genitals. He described the incident as a “slap and grab” that haunted him daily.

“It’s eaten away at me every single day, all the time. And I’m not the only one, like I tweeted,” he said at the time. “They can try to defame me and say I’m horrible, that I’m this or that. No one is perfect, and they can criticize me all they want, but that doesn’t change what happened.”

The settlement involved Hallinan, the governor and her gubernatorial campaign, and Dominic Gabello, who worked as her campaign adviser and now works in the Governor’s Office.

Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, wrote in an email that “the state doesn’t have any comment as this is not official state business. Our office maintains there is no merit to the allegations.”

In a statement, campaign spokesman Jared Leopold said the agreement with Hallinan settles “numerous dubious and disputed potential claims made by Mr. Hallinan arising from his employment in 2018 with the campaign organization and his subsequent search for employment.”

In the 2019 interview with The New Mexican, Hallinan said he tried to leave Lujan Grisham’s campaign after the incident, but Gabello encouraged him not to go to the police and pressured him to stay on the campaign staff until the election.

“He pressured me on the phone later that night not to quit. I tried to quit,” Hallinan said. “And I wanted to talk and they didn’t want me to talk to law enforcement.”

Leopold also said the settlement agreement “fully resolves the disputed potential claims,” but he did not respond when asked if the total settlement was $62,500 or if future payments were planned.

“Governor Lujan Grisham, the campaign organization and Mr. Gabello strenuously deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan’s claims including his claims about difficulty finding or keeping work after the campaign,” he said in the statement. “They reached a settlement in order to avoid the continuing distraction and significant expense of possible litigation and allow them to concentrate on working for the people of New Mexico during this pandemic.”

Reinert, the Republican Governors Association spokesman, claimed the payments to Hallinan “certainly suggest that there must be some truth to the story” and wrote that Lujan Grisham “should publicly apologize to her victim for her behavior.”

While Leopold wouldn’t disclose whether the settlement exceeds $62,500, he called Reinert’s comments a Republican political attack that isn’t credible or true.

“There is no merit or truth to the claims,” he wrote.

In campaign finance reports, the payments were listed only as “legal expenses” to Buckley Beale LLP but didn’t state a purpose. The Republican Party of New Mexico tweeted that Lujan Grisham is “quietly paying off a former staffer” who accused her of grabbing his crotch after pouring a bottle of water on his genitals.

Alex Curtas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said the payments from campaign funds are a permissible expenditure under the Campaign Finance Act.

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Voting Rights, Civil Liberties

washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general says police order to hold back riot-control weapons compromised Capitol on Jan. 6, Karoun Demirjian, April 15, 2021.
An order to hold back heavier less-than-lethal weapons put Capitol Police at a significant disadvantage in protecting Congress from the violent right-wing riot on Jan. 6, the force’s inspector general told lawmakers Thursday, as he urged an overhaul of campus policing.

“It would be very difficult to say absolutely it would have turned the tide, but … it certainly would have helped us that day to enhance our ability to protect the Capitol,” Inspector General Michael Bolton told members of the House Administration Committee, in response to a question from its chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

Bolton said that an assistant deputy chief of police, whom he did not identify by name, gave the order not to use the heavier crowd-control weapons — such as stingballs and 40-mm launchers — out of concern that “they could potentially cause life-altering injury and/or death, if they were misused in any way.”

“The takeaway from that is, let’s provide the training to our officers so they are used appropriately,” Bolton continued, later adding: “Training deficiencies put officers … in a position not to succeed.”

 

Inside DC

matt gaetz ginger luckey twitter

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his fiance, Ginger Luckey, in a Facebook photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the Justice Dept. came to investigate Rep. Matt Gaetz, Matt Zapotosky and Michael Scherer, April 16, 2021 (print ed.). A stalking case against a Florida tax collector metastasized after officials arrested him and seized electronic records pointing to Gaetz, a prominent ally of Donald Trump.

This account of how the Justice Department’s investigation evolved from an examination of a local tax collector’s alleged misdeeds to a sprawling probe of sex and corruption involving a prominent Trump ally is based on interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the investigation or otherwise tied to Gaetz or Greenberg, as well as police reports and other public records. Many of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains politically sensitive.

Harlan Hill, a Gaetz spokesman, said in response to a request for comment, “Is the media just going to continue running the same — anonymously ‘sourced’ — stories every day, repackaged, in order to avoid admitting the obvious . . . that over the past two weeks they hyped charges and allegations that Rep. Gaetz has repeatedly denied and that there remains zero evidence of?”

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Police

Roll Call, Supreme Court expansion bill faces serious blocks across political spectrum, Todd Ruger, April 16, 2021 (print ed.). Democratic leaders want to wait on study by Biden commission.

Before a quartet of Democratic members of Congress could take to the steps of the Supreme Court on Thursday to tout a new bill that would expand the number of justices from nine to 13, leaders of their party were already deflating that effort.

“I have no plans to bring it to the floor,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the measure, pointing instead to a 36-member commission President Joe Biden announced last week to study Supreme Court expansion and other issues with the federal courts.

richard durbin h“I’m not ready to sign on yet,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, left, who also runs the Judiciary Committee. “I think this commission of Biden is the right move. Let’s think this through carefully. This is historic.”

edward markey resized oSo the first question to Sen. Edward J. Markey, right, at the Thursday news conference outside the high court was: “Where exactly do you go from here?”

The Massachusetts Democrat and the three others who introduced the bill — House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Rep. Mondaire Jones, both of New York, and Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson — defended the legislation’s introduction as necessary to start debate on the issue.

But they acknowledged the difficult road ahead. That includes changing longstanding rules in the Senate that allow the minority party to block legislation through the filibuster, since Republican senators are unlikely to vote for a bill that would flip the ideological balance of the court from a 6-3 conservative majority to a 7-6 liberal majority.

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, went on Fox Business before the Democratic news conference to say that the bill would mean the end of free speech, religious liberty and gun rights.

Markey acknowledged that the measure the legislation would not pass the Senate under current circumstances.

“Ultimately, we have to repeal the filibuster. And then we can move this legislation,” he said. “Clearly, we would want Republicans to vote with us, but if they are not willing to participate in that effort, then we can still do this on a … basis of 51 votes.”

jerry nadler smileNadler, right, and the other backers of the legislation said the Supreme Court itself would make the case for the bill with their Democratic colleagues.

“I believe that as events unfold, as the court comes down with decisions destructive to a woman’s right to choose, as they come down with decisions destructive to the climate, as they come down with decisions destructive of civil liberties, I believe that the speaker and others will come along,” Nadler said.

But Nadler wasn’t exactly forceful when asked if he would bring it up for a vote at the Judiciary Committee. “We’ll have to see where it fits in our schedule, but I anticipate it,” he said.

Johnson hinted that another reason for the bill might be to curtail some of the decisions Democrats oppose before they happen. “The court needs to know that the people are watching,” he said.

The threat of expanding the Supreme Court may be one reason the justices have taken a long time to decide what to do with a closely watched challenge to a Mississippi law that some see as an opportunity for the high court to erode the constitutional right to an abortion first established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

“There are few circumstances under which I can imagine Congress expanding the Court, but a big, clear reversal of Roe might be an exception,” tweeted Mary Mitchell_McConnellZiegler, a law professor at Florida State University who has published two books on the history of abortion in America.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, said the bill showed that the “left wants a sword dangling over the justices when they weigh the facts in every case.”

“The threats are the point. The hostage-taking is the point,” the Kentucky Republican said on the floor Thursday. “And responsible people across the political spectrum have an absolute duty to denounce this."

Justice Stephen G. Breyer indicated recently that the Supreme Court is indeed paying attention, when he used a speech at Harvard Law School to warn lawmakers that expanding the number of justices would erode public trust in its decisions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Do We Let Corporations Profit From Rape Videos? Nicholas Kristof, Video by Adam Westbrook and Lindsay Van Dyke, April 16, 2021 (for Sunday print ed.). With help from Google and PayPal, XVideos lets people leer at the worst moment in a child’s life. This article contains descriptions of sexual assaults.

This isn’t about pornography, but about rape and sexual abuse.

“I’ve no problem with consensual adults making porn,” says a Canadian student. “Who cares?”

The problem is that many people in pornographic videos weren’t consenting adults. Like her.

google logo customJust after she turned 14, a man enticed her to engage in sexual play over Skype. He secretly recorded her. A clip, along with her full name, ended up on XVideos, the world’s most-visited pornography site. Google searches helped direct people to this illegal footage of child sexual abuse.

In a video above this column, she recounts how she begged XVideos to remove the clip. Instead, she says, the website hosted two more copies, so hundreds of thousands of people could leer at this most mortifying moment of her life, preserved forever as if in amber.

That happens all over the world: Women and girls, and men and boys, are sexually assaulted or secretly filmed, and then video is posted on a major website like XVideos that draws traffic through search engines. While the initial video assault may be brief, the attack on dignity becomes interminable.

“The shame I felt was overwhelming,” the Canadian student says.

youtube logo CustomI wrote in December about Pornhub, a Montreal-based website that pioneered access to free porn uploaded by anyone — so-called tube sites that are like YouTube for nudity and sex. Since that article, credit card companies have stopped working with Pornhub, the site has removed more than nine million videos, and the Canadian and United States governments have been cracking down on the company’s practices.

But as I noted at the time, the exploitation is rooted not in a single company but in an industry that operates with impunity, and punishing one corporation may simply benefit its rivals. That’s happening here. When Pornhub deleted videos, millions of outraged customers fled to its nemesis, XVideos, which has even fewer scruples.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Raúl Castro says he will step down from Communist Party post, Anthony Faiola, April 16, 2021. Sixty-two years after a band of revolutionaries set Cuba down the path of confrontation with Washington, the last of the Castro brothers, towering figures of the Cold War, announced he will surrender official power.

cuba flag saving CustomThe anticipated exit of Raúl Castro, 89, has been a chronicle of a retirement foretold. Fidel Castro’s younger brother has hinted for a decade at an expiration date to his public life. On Friday, he said he would step down as first secretary of the Communist Party.

Raúl Castro will be remembered as the prose to his brother’s poetry, a less showy, more grounded figure who pushed for a communist state that often appears stuck in time to adapt to modern reality. His departure, which would come four and half years after the death of Fidel, brings an end to an era that has seen the Cuban system survive — if not thrive — through decades of tense standoffs with U.S. presidents from John F. Kennedy to Donald Trump.

 raul castro

National Security Archive, CIA Assassination Plot Targeted Cuba's Raul Castro, Edited by Peter Kornbluh, April 16, 2021.As Castro Retires on 60th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs, National Security Archive Posts Declassified Top Secret CIA Cables, Reports from 1960.

In the earliest known CIA assassination plot against leaders of the Cuban revolution, high agency officials offered the pilot of a plane carrying Raul Castro (shown above) from Prague to Havana “payment after successful completion of ten thousand dollars” to “incur risks in arranging accident” during the flight, according to formally TOP SECRET documents posted today by the National Security Archive.

The pilot, who the CIA had earlier recruited as an intelligence asset in Cuba, “asked for assurance that in event of his [own] death the U.S. would see that his two sons were given a college education.” “This assurance was given,” his CIA handler in Havana, William J. Murray, reported.

According to TOP SECRET cables between the CIA headquarters and the CIA Havana station, and debriefings Murray later provided on "questionable activities," the plot quickly evolved after the Cuban pilot, Jose Raul Martinez, advised Murray that he had been selected to fly a chartered Cubana Airlines plane to Prague to pick up Raul Castro and other high-ranking Cuban leaders on July 21, 1960. When Murray informed his superiors at Langley headquarters, as he later told the Rockefeller Commission on the CIA, “headquarters cabled back that it was considering the possibility of a fatal accident and asked whether the pilot would be interested.”

The cable, classified “TOP SECRET RYBAT OPERATIONAL IMMEDIATE” and signed by CIA Deputy Director of Plans Tracy Barnes, and J.C. King, the head of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere Division, informed Murray that “possible removal of top three leaders is receiving serious consideration at HQS” and asked if the pilot had “motivation sufficient to incur risks of arranging accident during return trip” from Prague. To provide sufficient motivation, Barnes and King offered $10,000, or “a reasonable demand in excess of that” as well as to arrange rescue facilities for the pilot after the “accident” took place.
Questionable Activities

Murray discussed the proposal with Martinez in a car as the pilot drove to the Havana airport to fly to Prague. “Subj willing to take calculated risk but limited to foll[owing] possibilities which can pass as accidental: A. engine burnout on take off to delay or harass trip. B. Vague possibility water ditching approx. 3 hours out from Cuba,” Murray reported to Langley after the meeting. “Subj rules out engine failure in flight due [to] imminent danger [of] fire and lack of opportunity to save any passengers or crew … Doubts ability perform real accident without endangering lives of all on board.”

After Martinez left for Prague, the Havana station received a second cable, signed by Tracy Barnes, that rescinded the assassination plot. “Do not pursue,” it stated. “Would like to drop matter.” By then, however, there was no way to reach the pilot. When he returned, Martinez reported to Murray that “he had no opportunity to arrange an accident such as we had discussed.”

This “accident plot” was obliquely described in the special Senate Committee report on Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, published 1976 after an investigation into CIA covert actions led by Senator Frank Church. The Church Committee report identified the plot as “the first action against the life of a Cuban leader sponsored by the CIA of which the Committee is aware” but withheld—or perhaps was denied—key details, including that the would-be assassin was a pilot and the “accident” would involve a civilian airliner. Nor did the Committee publish any of the documents on which its description was based.

The TOP SECRET documents were later declassified as part of the JFK Assassination Records Act and obtained by National Security Archive senior analyst John Prados for the Archive’s digital collection, CIA Covert Operations II: The Year of Intelligence, 1975.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran begins uranium enrichment at highest level yet as Vienna nuclear talks continue, Kareem Fahim, April 16, 2021. Iran's parliament speaker said Friday that Tehran has successfully enriched uranium to 60 percent purity, its highest level yet, in a move that the United States and its European allies warned would complicate efforts to revive a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

In a Twitter message, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said that at 12:40 a.m. Friday, “young and pious Iranian scientists were able to obtain a 60 percent uranium product.”

Iran Flag“I congratulate the brave people of Islamic Republic of Iran on this success,” he added. “The will of the Iranian people is miraculous and will thwart any conspiracy.”

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s nuclear energy agency, later confirmed that 60 percent enrichment was underway at the Natanz nuclear facility and cited an output of nine grams per hour, according to Iranian news agencies.

Iran’s government vowed earlier this week that it would increase enrichment from the current top level of 20 percent, in what officials cast as retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack days earlier on Natanz. The announcement seemed to add a new obstacle to multilateral negotiations underway in Vienna aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

In Washington, President Biden said Iran’s enrichment push is “contrary to the agreement,” but noted that U.S. and Iranian envoys remain “engaged in indirect discussions.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong sentences democracy activists to prison over peaceful protest, Shibani Mahtani and Theodora Yu, April 16, 2021. Some in the mostly elderly group received suspended sentences, but others were immediately jailed for a peaceful demonstration.

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection

ny times logoNew York Times, A member of the Oath Keepers pleads guilty and will cooperate with prosecutors in the Jan. 6 riot inquiry, Alan Feuer and Katie Benner, April 16, 2021. A member of the Oath Keepers militia who was charged in connection with the riot at the Capitol pleaded guilty on Friday and agreed to cooperate with the government — potentially against other members of the far-right group.

The guilty plea by the Oath Keeper, Jon Ryan Schaffer, 53, of Indiana, was the first to be entered publicly by any of the more than 400 people who have been charged so far in the Jan. 6 riot. News of the plea emerged last week after secret documents in Mr. Schaffer’s case were briefly unsealed by accident on a federal court database.

Justice Department log circularMr. Schaffer’s cooperation with the government could prove instrumental in helping prosecutors pursue much broader conspiracy charges against 12 other members of the Oath Keepers who stand accused of the some of the most serious crimes in the sprawling investigation.

The Oath Keeper conspiracy case is one of two large cases in which prosecutors have charged rioters with hatching plans to commit violence at the Capitol as early as November. As part of the case, the authorities have said they are investigating Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 but did not appear to have entered the building.

The other large conspiracy case involves four leaders of the far-right nationalist group the Proud Boys who led a mob of about 100 members and supporters past police barricades at the Capitol.

Mr. Schaffer, who is also a guitarist and songwriter for the heavy-metal band Iced Earth, was initially charged on Jan. 16, in what amounted to a first wave of criminal complaints, and accused of carrying bear spray and engaging in “verbal altercations” with police officers at the Capitol. Photos from the riot show him wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt under a tactical vest and a baseball cap that read “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member.”

At a hearing in Federal District Court in Washington, Mr. Schaffer pleaded guilty to two charges: obstruction of an official proceeding and entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon. Both are felonies and carry a combined total of up to 30 years in prison.

As part of Mr. Schaffer’s deal with the government, prosecutors have agreed to sponsor him for the Witness Protection Program.

roger stone djt palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you Roger Stone was going down, Bill Palmer, April 16, 2021.When Roger Stone was convicted of several felonies, only to receive a commutation and then a pardon from Donald Trump, some observers feared that Stone had “gotten away with it all.” But at the time, Palmer Report pointed out that Stone’s career criminal nature meant that sooner or later they’d end up nailing him on the things he wasn’t pardoned for. Sure enough, here we are.

bill palmer report logo headerThe Feds announced a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Roger Stone and his wife tonight for tax fraud. Given that Stone appeared to go broke during his criminal trial, this should put Stone into particularly dire financial straits. And given that the Feds are accusing Stone of having hidden money in bad faith, you have to wonder if this will be followed by criminal charges as well.

This comes on the same day that the first Oath Keeper cut a plea deal in relation to the January 6th Capitol attack. This is a big deal because Roger Stone’s bodyguard and driver during the attack – both of whom are also Oath Keepers – have been hit with conspiracy charges that seem destined to lead back toStone. So now that the Oath Keepers are flipping on each other, Stone’s Oath Keeper associates should end up flipping on him.

And of course Roger Stone has found himself in the middle of the Matt Gaetz – Joel Greenberg scandal, because of course he has. We’ll see whether or not he ends up charged in that scandal. But based on today’s developments alone, it’s more clear than ever that Stone is going down.

Roger Stone’s Trump-era pardon doesn’t help him with crimes that are unrelated to his pardon. Nor does it help him with crimes that he committed after he was pardoned. He was always going down in the end – and now Trump is no longer in a position to bail him out.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Justice Department sues Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally, alleging tax evasion, Katie Benner, April 16, 2021. Mr. Stone and his wife failed to pay almost $2 million in federal income taxes, the government said in its complaint, which also said they tried to hide their wealth in an investment entity.

The Justice Department filed a civil suit on Friday against Roger J. Stone, one of former President Donald J. Trump’s most visible allies, for failure to pay nearly $2 million in federal income taxes.

Justice Department log circularThe department said in its complaint, which also covered interest and other penalties, that the Treasury Department had notified Mr. Stone and his wife, Nydia Stone, that they had an unpaid tax liability, but that they had “failed and refused to pay.”

The chief counsel of the Internal Revenue Service authorized and requested the legal action, the complaint said.

Mr. Stone said in a statement on Friday evening that he and his wife worked to pay off their tax bill until the Russia investigation “financially destroyed” them, and that they are now “virtually bankrupt.”

He called the civil complaint “yet another example of the Democrats weaponizing the Justice Department.” He said he would fight the case, and he asked the public to support his legal defense fund.

Civil suits like the one filed against Mr. Stone are fairly routine, with the Justice Department filing a few hundred of them each year.

Mr. Stone is a longtime informal adviser and friend of Mr. Trump’s, a relationship that helped him avoid a 40-month prison term after he was found guilty of seven felony counts. The charges included lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstructing a House inquiry into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia’s efforts to upend the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump commuted Mr. Stone’s sentence last summer and pardoned him in late December. But the pardon did not protect Mr. Stone from future legal troubles, and presidential pardons have generally not been used in the United States to erase a debt to the I.R.S.

The lawsuit alleges that from 2007 to 2011, and again in 2018, Mr. Stone, his wife and their investment entities failed to pay income tax on properties they held.

It also says that the Stones used Drake Ventures, an investment entity controlled by their family, to try to hide their wealth.

“Drake Ventures exists as a vehicle to receive income that belongs to the Stones and pay their personal expenses,” the complaint says. “Recognizing Drake Ventures as a separate entity despite these facts would sanction the Stones’ attempts to evade their tax obligations and conceal their assets from collection by creditors.”

In 2018 and 2019, Mr. Stone fraudulently transferred a total of $1 million in assets to accounts held by Drake Ventures, according to the complaint.

The Stones are also accused of using Drake Ventures to pay associates, relatives and others without providing required tax forms.

After Mr. Stone was indicted in 2019 in connection with the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election interference, he and his wife created the Bertran Trust, the complaint said, and then used the trust to buy their house with their own assets in an attempt to hide it from the government.

The statute of limitations on tax crimes is generally 10 years from the date that a tax bill is assessed. But the lawsuit includes older tax infractions allegedly committed by the Stones because in May 2017, the couple began to negotiate a payment plan with the I.R.S., agreeing to pay $19,485 a month toward their unpaid taxes.

They made those payments from a Drake Ventures account, the government said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mike Pompeo’s life just became a lot more difficult, Bill Palmer, April 16, 2021. We’re not sure if failed Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a good publicist or what, but every time he delusionally floats the idea of running for some future office, major media outlets (on the left and right) always mike pompeo portraithype him as if he’s a viable candidate. Palmer Report has consistently pointed out that Pompeo isn’t running for anything, because while at the State Department he left a trail of corruption that was always going to catch up to him once Trump was gone.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, the State Department Inspector General has compiled a report confirming that Mike Pompeo corruptly violated every ethics rule in the book. This report alone will ensure that Pompeo never runs for any office – at least not successfully,as the report would be a goldmine of dirt for use by his opponents. But this may just be the beginning.

Now it’s up to the Department of Justice to decide whether the State Department IG report’s findings include a criminal level of corruption, and whether Mike Pompeo should be criminally charged for it. It’s notable that Pompeo already has his lawyer providing rebuttals to the report – and that Pompeo’s lawyer is trying to shift the blame to Pompeo’s wife. We’re guessing that won’t go over particularly well.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like the girl in the Matt Gaetz – Joel Greenberg scandal is now trying to take Matt Gaetz down, Bill Palmer, April 16, 2021. Earlier this week the news surfaced that indicted Florida politician Joel Greenberg flipped on his pal Matt Gaetz a long time ago. That was bad bill palmernews for Gaetz, given that Gaetz’s alleged crimes heavily overlap with the crimes that Greenberg has been charged with. Now it turns it’s even worse for Gaetz.

bill palmer report logo headerGreenberg has been indicted for having sex with a girl who was underage at the time. Gaetz allegedly later had sex with the same girl, and federal investigators are reportedly attempting to determine whether she was still underage at the time. Even if she was of age, sex trafficking statutes could still apply against Gaetz.

Now Politico is reporting that the girl – who is now a woman – apparently tried to get Matt Gaetz’s girlfriend to confide in her about Gaetz during a secretly recorded phone call. This suggests that the woman is working with the Feds to try to take Gaetz down.

The last thing Matt Gaetz needs is two witnesses working to take him down. Joel Greenberg’s credibility is likely shot due to the nature of the charges against him, meaning he’ll only be useful to the extent that he can provide evidence to corroborate his claims about Gaetz. But the unnamed woman could end up being infinitely more credible as a witness testifying against Gaetz at trial.

rachel powell fbi farrow

washington post logoWashington Post, Pa. woman charged in Capitol riot may face jail after allegedly flouting court order to wear mask, Spencer S. Hsu, April 16, 2021. Rachel Marie Powell, accused of carrying a bullhorn and breaking a Capitol window, allegedly grew "evasive" when asked about wearing a see-through mask in a Facebook video.A federal judge on Friday ordered a Pennsylvania woman charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to show why she should not be jailed pending trial or held in contempt of court for allegedly flouting a requirement that she wear a mask when leaving her home while on bond.

Rachel Marie Powell, shown above in an FBI posted, a mother of eight who lives in Mercer County, Pa., just east of the state line and Youngstown, Ohio, has pleaded not guilty to eight counts including felony destruction of federal property and obstruction of a congressional proceeding after allegedly carrying an ice ax and large wooden pole into the Capitol.

FBI logoThe FBI previously alleged that Powell, wearing a pink hat and carrying a bullhorn, helped shatter a window with a battering ram and appeared to direct others at the scene.

Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell approved Powell’s conditional home release on Feb. 11 pending trial, subject to location monitoring and the mask requirement.

In an order Friday, a trial judge wrote that Powell appeared to respond evasively to a court compliance officer when asked about a video recently posted on social media apparently showing her at her workplace wearing “a see-through mesh mask” with holes big enough to see her nose and mouth through it.

In a report to the court, the officer said Powell “was evasive in answering” questions about the material of the mask and said she added that she “threw it away per her attorney’s advisement.”

A reconstruction shows how failures of planning and preparation left police at the Capitol severely disadvantaged on Jan. 6

“Defendant’s decision to appear in a video wearing a mask with holes in it mocks compliance with the Court’s Order,” U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote, adding that no reasonable person could think that it complied with a condition Howell imposed to ensure that the defendant “would not pose a risk to the health and safety of the community when she left her house.”’

Lamberth gave Powell 10 days to respond in writing why she should not be punished for violating bond conditions.

“The court does not take defendant’s willingness to flout the Court’s Order lightly,” said Lamberth, one of Howell’s predecessors as chief district judge. “Additionally, the Court is concerned with defense counsel’s apparent reaction to defendant’s non-compliance.” Lamberth directed Powell’s attorney to explain his alleged instruction to dispose of evidence.

In an email, Powell attorney Michael J. Engle of Philadelphia said, “I need to review the matter with my client and file a response with the Court. However, I can state with absolute certainty that the characterization of any legal advice I may have provided to my client is not accurate.”

Law & Crime first reported on April 9 that a video appearing to show Powell in a see-through mask was posted on the Facebook page of Mr. Bookman, a used-book store in Franklin, Pa., on March 31, before being taken down less than an hour after the reporter contacted the owners.

 

Inside DC

washington post logoWashington Post, House is set to vote on D.C. statehood Thursday, Meagan Flynn, April 16, 2021. The bill to make the District of Columbia the 51st state is likely to pass the House but will face hurdles in the Senate.

A bill to make D.C. the nation’s 51st state will get a vote in the full House on Thursday, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said, fulfilling promises by House leadership to prioritize the legislation within President Biden’s first 100 days.

“I expect to bring #HR51 to the House Floor for a vote on Thursday, April 22 to grant #DCStatehood to the more than 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia,” Hoyer tweeted Friday. “The voice of every American citizen deserves to be heard — it’s past time that we make statehood a reality for DC.”

With at least 212 co-sponsors, House Democrats expect to pass the Washington, D.C. Admission Act for the second consecutive year. (The record reflects 216 co-sponsors, but three of them have joined the Biden administration and Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, a Democrat from Florida, died this month.)

‘It’s not a local issue anymore: D.C. statehood moves from political fringe to center of the national Democratic agenda

After last year’s historic vote in the House, the statehood bill did not get a vote in the Senate, which was then under Republican control.

With Democrats now holding Vice President Harris’s tiebreaking vote in a split Senate, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has expressed his support for statehood and promised to bring the bill to the floor for a vote in that chamber for the first time.

Republicans uniformly oppose D.C. statehood, in part because it would probably add two Democrats to the Senate.

Forty-four of the Senate’s 50 Democrats have co-sponsored the bill. But because most bills need at least 60 votes to pass the Senate, statehood is unlikely to advance any further unless the rule changes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden officials rescind Trump’s okay for Texas’s $100 billion-plus Medicaid plan, Dan Diamond, April 16, 2021. The decision was characterized as an effort to push state officials toward accepting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which would cover more low-income residents, two federal health officials said.

The Biden administration on Friday rescinded approval for changes to Texas’s Medicaid program granted by the Trump administration, saying that federal Medicaid officials “materially erred” by speeding approval for the state’s $100 billion-plus request in January.

The decision was characterized as an effort to push state officials toward accepting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which would cover more low-income residents, said two federal health officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Texas, which has more uninsured people than any other state, is one of 12 that have not expanded the program.

“[W]e are rescinding the approval issued on January 15, 2021,” because it did not go through the full federal rulemaking process, Liz Richter, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote in a letter to Texas officials obtained by The Washington Post.

In its final week, the Trump administration told Texas officials that it had approved a 10-year extension for its Medicaid plan, which was set to expire in 2022. The waiver provides more than $11 billion in federal funding per year to the state, meaning that the Biden administration’s decision puts billions of dollars in federal funding to Texas at risk.

Health advocates had described that waiver as an effort to work around the federal Medicaid expansion by setting up alternate funding to help cover the costs of uninsured patients.

In a statement Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) slammed the Biden administration decision, saying it was “obstructing health-care access for vulnerable Texans and taking away crucial resources for rural hospitals in Texas. … With this action, the Biden administration is deliberately betraying Texans who depend on the resources made possible through the waiver.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration removes Trump-era restrictions on fetal tissue research, Amy Goldstein, April 16, 2021. The National Institutes of Health on Friday removed restrictions that the Trump administration imposed on research using fetal tissue, allowing university researchers and government scientists freer rein to use material from elective abortions when studying diseases and possible treatments.

A brief update for outside scientists from the NIH director’s office said the Department of Health and Human Services was reversing a 2019 decision that had required applicants for federal grants and contracts involving fetal tissue to undergo an extra layer of review by an ethics advisory board.

In a separate notice emailed Friday, NIH told its internal scientific and clinical directors that it was lifting a Trump-era ban on using federal money to buy human fetal tissue for biomedical studies by government employees.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden may keep refugee cap at Trump’s level, though final number will come next month, Sean Sullivan, Seung Min Kim and Tyler Pager, April 16, 2021. After several hours of blistering criticism from the president's allies and refugee advocates, the White House press secretary said the final refugee cap for this year would be announced by May 15.

President Biden on Friday all but abandoned a pledge to enable tens of thousands of refugees fleeing danger abroad to come to the United States this year, then abruptly backtracked after drawing a furious response from human rights advocates and fellow Democrats.

In a directive issued early Friday, the administration announced it would leave the cap on refugees at 15,000, the record-low ceiling set by President Donald Trump. But after hours of blistering criticism from allies, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reversed the announcement, issuing an unusual statement saying the order had been “the subject of some confusion.”

Psaki said that Biden would actually set the final cap — which sets the refugee allotment through the end of September — by May 15, and that while the White House expects it will be higher than Trump’s ceiling, it was “unlikely” to rise to the 62,500 that Biden had put forward with some fanfare in February.

Psaki said Biden could not keep that promise because the Trump administration had “decimated” the refugee program. But advocates dismissed that explanation as unpersuasive, saying the Biden team was more likely seeking to abandon the pledge amid concerns about the political criticism surrounding the current surge of migrants to the southern border.

“It’s deeply disappointing that the administration elected to leave in the place the shameful record low of its predecessor,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and chief executive of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a resettlement agency working with the government.

Biden’s new decree — known formally as an emergency presidential determination — did move away from Trump-era policies by changing the regional allocation of refugees. Under Trump’s directive, strict restrictions were placed on accepting refugees from certain African and majority-Muslim countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fairfax County seeks to dismiss 400 convictions in cases brought by one officer, Tom Jackman, April 16, 2021. Jonathan Freitag resigned while under internal Fairfax police investigation in May 2020, then joined the Brevard County Sheriff's Office in Florida three months later. He was fired earlier this month.

 

April 15

Top Headlines

 

 Virus Victims, Responses

 
U.S. Capitol Riot, Voting Rights, Civil Liberties

 

World News

 

Inside DC

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Police

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. and Its Allies Look to Coordinated Withdrawal From Afghanistan, David E. Sanger, Steven Erlanger and Glenn Thrush, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden, frustrated in his efforts to end America’s “Forever War” a decade ago, announced on Wednesday a Sept. 11 deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years, a move that immediately triggered similar action among the country’s NATO allies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Chooses Mournful Words to End a Long Mission, Jennifer Szalai, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s rhetoric on Wednesday in announcing the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan was steeped in exasperation and grief. "No victory dance”: War veterans feel torn over the pullout.

It took 15 minutes for President Biden to announce the end to a forever war, standing at a lectern in the White House Treaty Room — the same place where George W. Bush had announced airstrikes on Afghanistan 20 years before, less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks. The symbolism of Biden’s choice of venue was as heavy as the two brocaded flags that stood behind him. Both presidents were speaking to a mourning public, but in very different circumstances.

The language each president used was telling, framing the war in his preferred terms and mirroring the mood of the republic. In beginning the war, Mr. Bush exuded a calm that in retrospect looks almost buoyant — channeling the confidence of a country that had outlasted its rival in the Cold War and could barely fathom a major setback to its enormous power. Biden’s speech was necessarily more chastened and straightforward in its rhetoric and its overall message.

Where Mr. Bush talked of fulfilling a mission, Mr. Biden talked about painstaking and unglamorous work. His tone was sober and somber. The only time he mentioned the word “peace” was in the context of “peace talks” — talks that the United States would not be a party to but would obligingly “support.” It was a notable turn. The word “peace” has long exerted an almost talismanic appeal for presidents; even Richard Nixon kept turning to the phrase “peace with honor” when he announced the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam in 1973.

But Mr. Biden’s speech wasn’t about peace because it wasn’t about victory, even if Mr. Biden suggested that the country’s “objective” and “goals” had been achieved with the killing of Osama Bin Laden 10 years ago and a “degraded” Qaeda presence in Afghanistan. Instead of “winning” or “losing,” what Mr. Biden was offering instead was a diversion of resources — from the maw of Afghanistan to other operations that would wend their way across the world. The metaphor he used for the diffusion of the terrorist threat was “metastasizing,” and the future he presented was not one of clashing armies but of “cyber threats.” Mr. Biden sounded like the physician who gravely informs you that the drastic surgery you had hoped would deliver you from your chronic condition simply wasn’t going to work.

“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting to get a different result,” Mr. Biden said. There was an exasperated cadence in his voice, an exasperation sharpened, not softened, by grieving — by a president who had lost a wife and a daughter nearly five decades before and his son Beau in 2015.

“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan,” Mr. Biden said. “Two Republicans. Two Democrats.” The bipartisan gesture was classic Biden, a suggestion that he was part of a lineage, but in his speech he also made it clear what made him different from the rest. “I am the first president in 40 years who knows what it means to have a child serving in a war zone,” Mr. Biden said. “Throughout this process, my North Star has been remembering what it was like when my late son, Beau, was deployed to Iraq.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. and Allies Plan Fight From Afar Once Troops Exit Afghanistan, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, April 15, 2021. Drones, long-range bombers and spy networks will be used in an effort to prevent Afghanistan from re-emerging as a terrorist base.

American troops are set to leave Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11, but the Pentagon, American spy agencies and Western allies are refining plans to deploy a less visible but still potent force in the region to prevent the country from again becoming a terrorist base.

Drawing on the hard lessons from President Barack Obama’s decision a decade ago to withdraw American troops from Iraq — allowing the rise of the Islamic State three years later — the Pentagon is discussing with allies where to reposition forces, possibly to neighboring Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, according to United States officials.

Attack planes aboard aircraft carriers and long-range bombers flying from land bases along the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and even in the United States could strike insurgent fighters spotted by armed surveillance drones.

But there are risks.

Afghan commandos who have been providing the bulk of intelligence on insurgent threats could disintegrate after the United States withdraws, leaving a large hole to fill.

Turkey, which has long had a direct relationship with Afghanistan in addition to its role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission there, is leaving troops behind who could help the C.I.A. collect intelligence on Qaeda cells, officials note.

Still, planners at the military’s Central Command in Tampa, Fla., and Joint Staff in Washington have been developing options to offset the loss of American combat boots on the ground, and President Biden said on Wednesday that the revised approach would keep Al Qaeda at bay

Derek Chauvin, right, with defense counsel Eric Nelson on Trial Day 14, April 15, 2021 (Photo via Court TV).

Eric J. Nelson and his client Derek Chauvin discussing Mr. Chauvin’s decision to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify on Thursday, April 15, 2021, Trial day 14 (Still image via Court TV).

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Chauvin Won’t Testify; ‘Evidence Is Now Complete’ as Both Sides Rest, Staff Reports, April 15, 2021. The judge told the jury to “plan for long and hope for short” deliberations. Closing arguments are expected Monday. Here’s the latest on the Derek Chauvin trial.

The prosecution and defense rested their cases on Thursday after Mr. Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd, invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. Closing arguments begin on Monday.

Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a prosecution medical expert, returned to the stand on Thursday as a rebuttal witness for the state, providing the final testimony that jurors heard in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Dr. Tobin, a pulmonologist who testified last week, was brought back by prosecutors to offer a counter opinion to testimony given yesterday by Dr. David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner of Maryland. Dr. Flower said he believed that George Floyd died from a cardiac arrhythmia, which was caused by multiple factors including heart disease, drug use and possibly carbon monoxide poisoning.

For the first time in nearly three weeks of testimony, the former officer Derek Chauvin spoke in the courtroom. Nearing the end of the defense’s case, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, asked Mr. Chauvin whether he would like to testify in his own defense.

Mr. Nelson said he and Mr. Chauvin have had repeated conversations on the matter, including a “lengthy meeting” Wednesday night. Mr. Chauvin, who removed his mask to answer Mr. Nelson’s questions, chose to waive his right to testify.

david fowler

ny times logoNew York Times, Derek Chauvin Trial: Medical Examiner Called by Defense Blames Floyd’s Heart for His Death, Staff reports, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Chauvin’s defense is trying to combat earlier testimony that George Floyd died from oxygen deprivation. The police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright on Sunday in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minn., has been charged with manslaughter. Shown above, defense expert Dr. David Fowler (photo via Court TV pool report).

ny times logoNew York Times, Minnesota Officer Who Killed Daunte Wright Will Be Charged With Manslaughter, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 15, 2021 (print ed.).  The white Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man (shown in a Facebook photo), after appearing to mistake her handgun for her Taser will be charged with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday, a prosecutor said, following three nights of protests over the killing.

duarte wright resized facebookThe charges against the officer, Kimberly A. Potter, come a day after she and the police chief both resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Hundreds of people have faced off with the police in Brooklyn Center each night since Mr. Wright’s death, and residents across the region are preparing for a verdict next week in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged with murdering George Floyd.

Pete Orput, the top prosecutor in Washington County, said in an email to The New York Times on Wednesday that the complaint would be filed later on Wednesday.

kimberly potter mugMs. Potter, 48, shown in a mug shot, had served on the force for 26 years and was training other officers when they pulled Mr. Wright’s car over on Sunday afternoon, saying he had an expired registration on his car and something hanging from his rearview mirror. When officers discovered that Mr. Wright had a warrant out for his arrest and tried to arrest him, he twisted away and got back into his car.

Ms. Potter warned him that she would Tase him and then shouted “Taser” three times before firing a bullet into his chest, killing him. “I just shot him,” Ms. Potter says in body-camera footage that was released this week.

The killing has brought hundreds of people to the Brooklyn Center Police Department each night, where they have been met by Minnesota National Guard members and State Patrol troopers who have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and other projectiles at the crowd. Some of the demonstrators have launched fireworks and thrown rocks and bottles of water at the police. Officers arrested 79 people on Tuesday night. Dozens of businesses in the region were broken into earlier in the week, but there were few reports of looting on Tuesday.

The local government in Brooklyn Center, a city of about 30,000 people, has also been in crisis. The City Council gave the mayor more authority in the wake of Mr. Wright’s death and the city manager, who had previously overseen the Police Department, was fired.

Daily Howler, Commentary: Air fresheners shouldn't have caused that arrest! Bob Somerby, April 15, 2021. Yesterday, it happened at Slate! In an interview about the duarte wright resized facebookshooting death of Daunte Wright, right, this exchange appeared:

QUESTION (4/14/21): The Brooklyn Center police have said Wright was accidentally shot and that the officer thought she had her Taser. How has that been received there?

ANSWER: She was on the force longer than Daunte was alive. So I don’t know how you mistake one for the other. But let’s go back even further. Let’s say she actually thought it was a Taser. Let’s, in some freakish, strange, upside-down, Stranger Things world—let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Why is she grabbing for that anyway? You’re out in suburban Minnesota. You’ll catch this man if you need to find him. There’s really nowhere to go. You got the license plates. The question is why did she feel the need to go for any weapon. For air fresheners? Why is that even the move? Regardless of what we think if it’s an accident or not, she shouldn’t have had her hand on anything, and you can see the look on the Black officer’s face afterwards in the bodycam. Like, “What the fuck are you doing?” I want to know what he thinks, without the protection of the blue line. So, no, I don’t believe her. I don’t think it was an accident. She’s a 26-year veteran who can’t tell the difference between a Taser and a gun? Then they shouldn’t be a police officer. She surely has no business being the president of the police union in Brooklyn Center either.

The names have been erased to protect the well intentioned. But there you see it, loud and clear. That's the kind of Damn Fool Stupid we're persistently sold in Our Town. More specifically, that's the kind of foolishness they're willing to publish at Slate.

Earth to Slate:

The officers weren't trying to arrest Wright because of his several air fresheners. They were trying to arrest him based on a series of events in which 1) he was accused of armed robbery (stealing $820 at gunpoint from a young woman), followed by 2) a second alleged gun offense in which he successfully fled from arrest, followed by 3) a failure to appear in court on that second gun offense charge, resulting in 4) a warrant for his arrest.

Through some chronology which hasn't been specified yet, those are the events which seem to have produced the attempt to arrest Wright. Once again, he attempted to flee, resulting in the apparent error which produced his death.

For the record, people who are 17-20 years old do lots of stupid things. By normal reckoning, (alleged) armed robbery involves a high level of same.

That said, Slate is the kind of publication which is actually willing to publish the "air fresheners" line. (For a second such report, see below.)

Our question: Can a major nation hope to survive in the modern world with a liberal world as dumb, incompetent and delusional as we have turned out to be?

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Retail Sales Jump and Jobless Claims Drop in New Signs of Recovery, Sydney Ember, April 15, 2021. Retail spending rose nearly 10 percent in March as relief payments hit bank accounts; Delta Air Lines lost $1.2 billion in the first quarter. Jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level of the pandemic, renewing confidence in a dynamic economic revival. Here’s the latest in business. Jobless claims fell last week to their lowest level of the pandemic and the latest data on retail sales blew past expectations, renewing confidence in a dynamic economic revival.

About 613,000 people filed first-time claims for state unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, a decrease of 153,000 from the previous week.

In addition, 132,000 filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits. That was a decline of 20,000 from the previous week.

Neither figure is seasonally adjusted. On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 576,000.

“We’re gaining momentum here, which is just unquestionable,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton. But she cautioned that the jobless claims levels, while good news, were still extraordinarily high compared to what they were before the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Johnson & Johnson ‘Pause’ Shakes Vaccination Campaigns Worldwide, Staff Reports, April 15, 2021. A panel asked for more time to assess a possible link between the coronavirus shots and a rare blood disorder. This could have painful consequences. Doctors said the recent pauses had heartened vaccine skeptics and made many others feel duped. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • With Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine on pause, the consequences could ripple worldwide.
  • Republicans remain more hesitant about getting a vaccine than Democrats.
  • Hong Kong opens vaccinations to 16-year-olds, and other news from around the world.
  • A top politician in Japan talked of canceling the Olympics. Then he walked it back.
  • Trudeau comes under fire as vaccine shortages hit Canadian clinics.
  • New coronavirus tests should still be able to detect variants, but health officials are vigilant.
  • As India logs 200,000 daily infections, a new exodus from cities has begun.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nearly half of Republicans say they don’t want a Covid vaccine, a big public health challenge, Giovanni Russonello, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). With Covid-19 vaccines now widely available, just over half of American adults have now received at least one shot, according to a Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.

But more than two in five Republicans said they would avoid getting vaccinated if possible, suggesting that President Biden has not succeeded in his effort to depoliticize the vaccines — and leaving open the question of whether the country will be able to achieve herd immunity without a stronger push from Republican leaders to bring their voters on board.

The results of the Monmouth poll lined up with those of a separate survey by Quinnipiac University, also released on Wednesday, that found 45 percent of Republicans saying they did not plan to get vaccinated.

Among Democrats, two-thirds have already received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Monmouth poll. Just over half that share of Republicans have done so (36 percent)

 washington post logoWashington Post, Underserved communities bear brunt of Johnson & Johnson pause, Isaac Stanley-Becker, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). Clinics offering the one-shot vaccine were canceled throughout the country, affecting students, shift workers, rural residents and other hard-to-reach groups.

johnson johnson logoMobile clinics serving a rural expanse north of Columbus, Ohio. A program sending paramedics to vaccinate homebound seniors in Chicago. And sites promising immunization at 34 public colleges and universities throughout New York.

Thousands of people can no longer rely on these initiatives, all casualties of Tuesday’s decision by federal health officials to recommend a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. The pause was initiated so experts could review data involving a severe type of blood clot found among six of the more than 7 million people who have received the vaccine in the United States, and so the federal government could advise clinicians about how to identify and treat the possible adverse reaction.

Because the single-shot option is favored for transient and hard-to-reach populations, the pause’s most immediate cost was exacted on those with the fewest other options. That includes students, rural residents and people involved in shift work, throwing a new hurdle in front of the Biden administration’s efforts to introduce greater equity into the nation’s vaccination campaign. The places best able to address the change were those with abundant vaccine supply, newly underscoring the uneven nature of the rollout.

washington post logoWashington Post, 125.8 million vaccinated, as of April 15, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 47.1 of the eligible population,16 and older and 37.9 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 15, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 139,026,577, Deaths: 2,989,139
U.S. Cases:     32,150,660, Deaths:    578,099
India Cases:    14,083,069, Deaths:    173,178
Brazil Cases:   13,677,564, Deaths:    362,180

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ron DeSantis caught trying to bury the evidence of his corrupt COVID vaccine rollout, Bill Palmer, right, April 15, 2021. During the course of the bill palmerpandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has proven several times over that he’s the most corrupt and harmful Governor in the nation. From his lies about COVID death totals, to his punishment of the researcher who blew the whistle, to his partisan rollout of the vaccine, the only real question has been whether his corrupt actions are going to end up getting him criminally indicted.

Sometimes the coverup ends up being what takes a corrupt politician down. So it’s notable that after Orange County, Florida dared to provide ABC News affiliate WFTV with some basic vaccine statistics, the DeSantis regime cut off Orange County’s access to the database in retaliation.

bill palmer report logo headerThis means that DeSantis, right, left an entire county without the necessary data to carry out its vaccination strategy, because he’s that afraid of the ron desantis omedia getting ahold of the evidence that he’s been rolling out the vaccine to regions and zip codes that voted for him in 2018.

It’s still not entirely clear whether it can be legally proven that Ron DeSantis’ corrupt vaccine rollout was criminal in nature. It may ultimately be easier to prove that DeSantis knowingly and criminally put lives in danger by cutting off a county’s vaccine data access. DeSantis is trying to use the Trump playbook to survive his scandals, but he’s too dumb to pull it off.

Of course we can’t sit back and simply presume that Ron DeSantis will end up criminally indicted for any of this. We must make a nationwide effort to ensure he loses reelection in Florida in 2022, so that his political career will end right then and there, before he can even try to set his sights on the 2024 presidential race.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The media knows much less than it thinks, Jennifer Rubin, April 15, 2021. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a form of cognitive bias in which we humans tend to believe we know far more than we think. The least-informed people are often the most certain because, as Cornell University psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger put it, “those with limited knowledge in a domain suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach mistaken conclusions and make regrettable errors, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.” Put differently: You do not know what you do not know.

The current media environment aggravates this dangerous tendency because media figures are supposed to have emphatic takes on everything immediately. Disastrous! Brilliant! Those are the responses that get clicks and eyeballs. It is a whole lot less sexy to say “We actually don’t have enough information to tell,” or even “It’s a close call.”

This plays out all the time in breaking-news situations, most recently with the pause in the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. People with zero expertise in public health, immunology or any other relevant body of knowledge pounced. “Dr. Fauci, the CDC and the FDA are all wrong!” Well maybe they are, but novices do not have most of the information needed to make an informed opinion.

 

U.S. Capitol Riot, Voting Rights, Civil Liberties

washington post logoWashington Post, Inspector general says police order to hold back riot-control weapons compromised Capitol on Jan. 6, Karoun Demirjian, April 15, 2021.
An order to hold back heavier less-than-lethal weapons put Capitol Police at a significant disadvantage in protecting Congress from the violent right-wing riot on Jan. 6, the force’s inspector general told lawmakers Thursday, as he urged an overhaul of campus policing.

“It would be very difficult to say absolutely it would have turned the tide, but … it certainly would have helped us that day to enhance our ability to protect the Capitol,” Inspector General Michael Bolton told members of the House Administration Committee, in response to a question from its chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

Bolton said that an assistant deputy chief of police, whom he did not identify by name, gave the order not to use the heavier crowd-control weapons — such as stingballs and 40-mm launchers — out of concern that “they could potentially cause life-altering injury and/or death, if they were misused in any way.”

“The takeaway from that is, let’s provide the training to our officers so they are used appropriately,” Bolton continued, later adding: “Training deficiencies put officers … in a position not to succeed.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Warren Buffett, Target, Netflix among firms, leaders opposing limits on voting rights, Todd C. Frankel and Jena McGregor, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). Hundreds of major companies and corporate executives signed a statement released today that opposes laws that restrict voting rights, the latest step in an Democratic-Republican Campaign logosescalating battle over election laws being debated nationwide.Hundreds of major companies and corporate leaders signed a statement released Wednesday that opposes laws that restrict voting rights, the latest step in an escalating battle over election laws being debated nationwide.

The letter included support from recognizable corporate names such as Target, Netflix, Bank of America, Facebook, Cisco, Twitter, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Mastercard, American Airlines, United Airlines and Vanguard, as well as prominent people such as investor microsoft logo CustomWarren Buffett, law firms and nonprofit organizations.

But the statement was also notable for the names that were missing, including Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola — two companies that earlier this month were among the first to oppose new voting rules in their home state of Georgia.

coca cola resized logoMore than 100 corporate executives hold call to discuss halting donations and investments to fight controversial voting bills

The statement and its signatories were listed under the banner, “We Stand for Democracy.” It was published Wednesday as an ad in The Washington Post, the New York Times and other major newspapers.

The current crop of voting measures is fueled by lingering animosity over the last presidential election, when baseless accusations of voter fraud resulted in Republican officials pushing for restrictive new laws.

The statement was discussed by corporate leaders last weekend, when more than 100 executives from major retailers, airlines and manufacturers gathered via Zoom to discuss further actions they might take against restrictive state voting bills, including halting donations to politicians who support them or delaying investments in states that pass these measures.

 

World News

 

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Warns Russia on Bounties, but Stops Short of Sanctions, Charlie Savage, April 15, 2021. The available evidence supporting a stunning C.I.A. assessment — which President Donald J. Trump’s inaction on prompted bipartisan uproar — remains less than definitive proof.

CIA LogoThe Biden administration warned the Kremlin on Thursday over the C.I.A.’s conclusion that Russia had covertly offered payments to militants to encourage more killings of American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, delivering the diplomatic admonition as it imposed sanctions on Moscow over its hacking and election interference.

But the administration stopped short of inflicting sanctions on any Russian officials over the suspected bounties, making clear that the available evidence about what happened — primarily what Afghan detainees told interrogators — continues to fall short of definitively proving the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia likely paid money to reward attacks.

Russian FlagThe intelligence community, a senior administration official told reporters, “assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019, and perhaps earlier, including through financial incentives and compensation.”

The New York Times first reported last summer the existence of the C.I.A.’s assessment and that the National Security Council had led an interagency process to develop a range of response options — but that months had passed and the Trump White House had failed to authorize any response, not even a diplomatic protest.

NSA Official LogoThe Times also reported that the available evidence behind that assessment centered on what detainees who were believed to be part of a criminal-militant network linked to the Taliban had told interrogators, along with suspicious travel patterns and financial transfers, and that the C.I.A. placed medium confidence in its conclusion.

But, it also reported, the National Security Agency — which is focused on electronic surveillance — placed lower confidence in the assessment, citing the lack of smoking-gun electronic intercepts. Analysts at two other agencies that were consulted, the National Counterterrorism Center and the Defense Intelligence Agency, were also said to split, with the former backing the C.I.A. and the latter the National Security Agency.

Former intelligence officials, including in testimony about the issue before Congress, have noted that it is rare in the murky world of intelligence to have courtroom levels of proof beyond a reasonable doubt about what an adversary is covertly doing.

The re-scrub of available evidence by President Biden’s administration had not uncovered anything new and significant enough to bring greater clarity to that muddied intelligence portrait, so the disagreement over confidence levels remained, an official familiar with internal deliberations said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s uranium enrichment has no ‘credible’ civilian purpose, European nations warn, Kareem Fahim and Michael Birnbaum, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). A group of European nations on Wednesday called Iran's plans to increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity "regrettable" and warned that enrichment at that level, using advanced centrifuges, had no "credible" civilian purpose.

The joint statement — by Germany, France and Britain, who are all signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers — also warned that Iran’s actions could complicate diplomatic efforts to revive the deal, which languished after the U.S. withdrew from the accord three years ago.

 

Inside DC

matt gaetz ginger luckey twitter

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his fiance, Ginger Luckey, in a Facebook photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the Justice Dept. came to investigate Rep. Matt Gaetz, Matt Zapotosky and Michael Scherer, April 15, 2021. A stalking case against a Florida tax collector metastasized after officials arrested him and seized electronic records pointing to Gaetz, a prominent ally of Donald Trump.

This account of how the Justice Department’s investigation evolved from an examination of a local tax collector’s alleged misdeeds to a sprawling probe of sex and corruption involving a prominent Trump ally is based on interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the investigation or otherwise tied to Gaetz or Greenberg, as well as police reports and other public records. Many of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains politically sensitive.

Harlan Hill, a Gaetz spokesman, said in response to a request for comment, “Is the media just going to continue running the same — anonymously ‘sourced’ — stories every day, repackaged, in order to avoid admitting the obvious . . . that over the past two weeks they hyped charges and allegations that Rep. Gaetz has repeatedly denied and that there remains zero evidence of?”

ny times logoNew York Times, Top intelligence officials told senators about threats to the United States, Julian E. Barnes, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. intelligence officials warned senators on Wednesday that China was increasingly challenging American interests, from conducting economic espionage to coercive behavior toward its neighbors in Asia.

The nation’s top intelligence officials faced a congressional panel on Wednesday for the first time in two years to discuss global threats faced by the United States, fielding questions on China, Russia, Iran and more.

Lawmakers said they would press the intelligence chiefs on China, Russia, Iran, as well as domestic extremism, cyberattacks and election interference. Senators are also likely to raise prospects for continued violence in Afghanistan now that President Biden has decided to pull out troops by September.

The intelligence community’s annual threat assessment report released ahead of the hearing emphasized the growing challenge of China and the continuing threat from Russia, though it acknowledged that both powers wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the United States.

“China is employing a comprehensive approach to demonstrate its growing strength and compel regional neighbors to acquiesce to Beijing’s preferences,” Avril B. Haines, the director of national intelligence, told senators.

The F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, also emphasized the threat from China. “We’re opening a new investigation into China every 10 hours,” he said of the bureau, “and I can assure the committee that’s not because our folks don’t have anything to do with their time.”

In his opening statement, Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who leads the committee, emphasized that the challenge was not from the Chinese people, and especially not with Asian-Americans, but Beijing’s communist government.

Ms. Haines was joined at the hearing by four other agency directors: Mr. Wray, William J. Burns of the C.I.A., Gen. Paul M. Nakasone of the National Security Agency and Lt. Gen. Scott D. Berrier of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Both Russia and China have been blamed for conducting cyberoperations that compromised broad swaths of the software supply chain. Lawmakers said they would press Ms. Haines and the other intelligence officials on the Russian hacking, which penetrated nine federal agencies, and another by China that compromised Microsoft Exchange servers. The Biden administration is expected to respond to the Russian hacking soon.

Ms. Haines said Russia uses hacks to sow discord and threaten America and its allies. “Russia is becoming increasingly adept at leveraging its technological prowess to develop asymmetric options in both the military and cyber spheres in order to give itself the ability to push back and force the United States to accommodate its interests,” she said.

Biden administration officials have emphasized that they want the intelligence agencies to take a wider view of threats, and the officials are expected to discuss the impacts of climate change on national security. The threats report linked surges in migration to both the pandemic and climate change.

Ms. Haines noted that another recent intelligence report on global trends highlighted how the pandemic and climate change, along with technological change, were testing “the resilience and adaptability” of society. The “looming disequilibrium,” she said, compels intelligence agencies to broaden their definition of national security.

politico Custom

Politico, Gensler confirmed as top Wall Street cop, bringing new era of tough scrutiny, Kellie Mejdrich, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). Gary Gensler will lead work on new federal regulations that would require companies to disclose their contributions and exposure to climate change.

gary genslerThe Senate confirmed Gensler, right, in a 53-45 vote. The MIT professor and former Goldman Sachs partner is returning to government after serving as a top regulator in the Obama administration, when he cracked down on big bank trading activities that fueled the 2008 global securities exchange commission sealfinancial crisis.

Gensler will lead work on sweeping new federal regulations that would require companies to disclose their contributions and exposure to climate change, which is poised to trigger a huge lobbying fight and is already stirring deep partisan tensions. The effort will be in focus next week when President Joe Biden holds an international climate summit.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why the Republicans are so afraid of Biden DOJ nominee Kristen Clarke, Sheree McSpadden, April 15, 2021. On Wednesday, I wrote an article about Kristen Clarke, President Biden’s nominee for the civil rights division of the DOJ, discussing a satirical op-ed she wrote while at Harvard. John Cornyn, right, had mistaken it to be a genuinely racist article, and made himself look a fool at her confirmation hearing. I have now learned Cornyn learned about it from none other than Tucker Carlson, right, on Fox News.

bill palmer report logo headerCarlson, along with Cornyn and other Republicans, have been on a mission to discredit and disqualify Clarke. She has been the subject of attack on Carlson’s show at least six times.On one episode, Carlson claimed Clarke was a purveyor of hate and had written a “shocking” letter to Harvard’s student newspaper promoting the genetic superiority of Black people. I have no doubt Carlson knew it was just a satirical op-ed.

Tucker also claimed she had been a member of the “Black Studies Association” in the ’90s, painting her as a “radical” Professor. She was was actually a student then and a member of the “Black Students’ Association.”

Tucker, right, further falsely accused her of being anti-Semitic, while she actually has done civil rights work for Jewish organizations, so a number of them quickly came to her defense, while accusing tucker carlsonCarlson of anti-Semitism and demanding Fox fire him. Carlson has even gone so far as to falsely attempt to paint her as a radical champion of cop-killers.

Why all this conservative hatred and fabricated attempts to take down a civil rights attorney heavily qualified for the position Biden nominated her for? Because she specializes in voting rights and has been very successful fighting for them, as well as being a math whiz very experienced with the latest in gerrymandering techniques.

I find it rather fitting and amusing that these goons are running scared of Clarke’s confirmation, but their baseless claims against this very accomplished and intelligent Black woman are not working this time

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

ny times logoNew York Times, A Former Alt-Right YouTuber Explains His Methods, Cade Metz, April 15, 2021 (audio story). Focus on conflict. Feed the algorithm. Make sure whatever you produce reinforces a narrative. Don’t worry if it’s true.

In 2018, a far-right activist, Tommy Robinson, posted a video to YouTube claiming he had been attacked by an African migrant in Rome.

The thumbnail image and eight-word title promoting the video indicated Mr. Robinson was assaulted by a Black man outside a train station. Then, in the video, Mr. Robinson punched the man in the jaw, dropping him to the ground.

youtube logo CustomThe video was viewed more than 2.8 million times, and it prompted news stories across the right-wing tabloids in Britain, where Mr. Robinson was rapidly gaining notoriety for his anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic views.

For Caolan Robertson — a filmmaker who worked for Mr. Robinson and helped create the video — it was an instructional moment. It showed the key ingredients needed to attract attention on YouTube and other social media services.

The video played into anti-immigrant sentiments in Britain and across Europe. It also focused squarely on conflict, cutting rapidly between shouts and shoves before showing Mr. Robinson’s punch. It also misrepresented what had actually happened.

“We would choose the most dramatic moment — or fake it and make it look more dramatic,” Mr. Robertson, 25, said in a recent interview. “We realized that if we wanted a future on YouTube, it had to be driven by confrontation. Every time we did that kind of thing, it would explode well beyond anything else.”

Mr. Robertson would go on to produce videos for a who’s who of right-wing YouTube personalities on both sides of the Atlantic, including Lauren Southern, StefanMolyneux and Alex Jones (shown above in a file photo).

The videos were tailored for the “echo chamber” that is often created by social media networks like YouTube. To keep you watching, YouTube serves up videos similar to those you have watched before. But the longer someone watches, the more extreme the videos can become.

“It can create these very radical people who are like gurus,” said Guillaume Chaslot, a former YouTube engineer who has been critical of the way the company’s algorithms pushed people to extreme content. “In terms of watch time, a guru is wonderful.”

Tech companies, regulators and individuals across the globe are struggling to understand and control the enormous power of YouTube and other social media services. In 2019, YouTube made “important changes to how we recommend videos and prevent the spread of misinformation and hateful content,” Farshad Shadloo, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement. It barred Mr. Molyneaux and Mr. Jones. But extreme videos continue to spread.

In time, Mr. Robertson said, he realized that the videos he worked on stoked dangerous hatred. And in 2019, at a conference in Britain run by a left-wing newspaper, The Byline Times, Mr. Robertson distanced himself from his work with the far right. His change of heart was met with some skepticism.

“He was presented as a prodigal son,” said Louise Raw, an antifascist activist who was onstage for Mr. Robertson’s mea culpa. “But he has not been held to account.”

Now, Mr. Robertson is detailing the ways he and his collaborators searched for confrontations to gain popularity on YouTube.

Efforts to contact Mr. Robinson were unsuccessful, and Mr. Jones did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Ms. Southern said she should not be described as a far-right activist, saying she is merely a conservative. She was not involved in “some horrible far-right grift that tried to deceive people into watching our content,” she added. “We were just doing what any other YouTuber does.”

Raw footage of the episode in Rome, provided by Mr. Robertson and reviewed by The New York Times, shows that the YouTube video was edited to give the false impression that Mr. Robinson was threatened. The full footage shows he was the aggressor.

When the man noticed he was being filmed from across the street, he approached the camera, and Mr. Robinson shoved him into an oncoming car. As the man protested, called Mr. Robinson crazy and told him to live his own life, Mr. Robinson escalated the argument.

“There’s one way this is going to go,” he told the man. “You’re going to end up knocked down unconscious.”

Over the more than two years he helped produce and publish videos for Mr. Robinson and others, Mr. Robertson learned how making clever edits and focusing on confrontation could help draw millions of views on YouTube and other services. He also learned how YouTube’s recommendation algorithm often nudged people toward extreme videos.

“It meant that we did more and more extreme videos,” Mr. Robertson said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Andrew Yang Hasn’t Done the Math, Paul Krugman, April 16, 2021 (print ed.). Was his economic story too good to check? Will Andrew Yang, the current front-runner, become New York City’s next mayor? If he wins, would he be any good at the job? I have no idea, although I’m skeptical about the latter.

My guess is that the mayoral office needs an effective political brawler, not an intellectual, and Yang, who has never held office, owes his prominence largely to his reputation as a thought leader, someone with big ideas about economics and policy.

What I do know is that Yang’s big ideas are demonstrably wrong. Shouldn’t that be cause for concern?

Yang’s claim to fame is his argument that we’re facing social and economic crises because rapid automation is destroying good jobs and that the solution is universal basic income — a monthly check of $1,000 to every American adult. Many people find that argument persuasive, and one can imagine a world in which both Yang’s diagnosis and his prescription would be right.

But that’s not the world we’re living in now, and there’s little indication that it’s where we’re going any time soon.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Police

Roll Call, Supreme Court expansion bill faces serious blocks across political spectrum, Todd Ruger, April 15, 2021. Democratic leaders want to wait on study by Biden commission.

Before a quartet of Democratic members of Congress could take to the steps of the Supreme Court on Thursday to tout a new bill that would expand the number of justices from nine to 13, leaders of their party were already deflating that effort.

“I have no plans to bring it to the floor,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the measure, pointing instead to a 36-member commission President Joe Biden announced last week to study Supreme Court expansion and other issues with the federal courts.

richard durbin h“I’m not ready to sign on yet,” said Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, left, who also runs the Judiciary Committee. “I think this commission of Biden is the right move. Let’s think this through carefully. This is historic.”

edward markey resized oSo the first question to Sen. Edward J. Markey, right, at the Thursday news conference outside the high court was: “Where exactly do you go from here?”

The Massachusetts Democrat and the three others who introduced the bill — House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and Rep. Mondaire Jones, both of New York, and Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson — defended the legislation’s introduction as necessary to start debate on the issue.

But they acknowledged the difficult road ahead. That includes changing longstanding rules in the Senate that allow the minority party to block legislation through the filibuster, since Republican senators are unlikely to vote for a bill that would flip the ideological balance of the court from a 6-3 conservative majority to a 7-6 liberal majority.

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, went on Fox Business before the Democratic news conference to say that the bill would mean the end of free speech, religious liberty and gun rights.

Markey acknowledged that the measure the legislation would not pass the Senate under current circumstances.

“Ultimately, we have to repeal the filibuster. And then we can move this legislation,” he said. “Clearly, we would want Republicans to vote with us, but if they are not willing to participate in that effort, then we can still do this on a … basis of 51 votes.”

jerry nadler smileNadler, right, and the other backers of the legislation said the Supreme Court itself would make the case for the bill with their Democratic colleagues.

“I believe that as events unfold, as the court comes down with decisions destructive to a woman’s right to choose, as they come down with decisions destructive to the climate, as they come down with decisions destructive of civil liberties, I believe that the speaker and others will come along,” Nadler said.

But Nadler wasn’t exactly forceful when asked if he would bring it up for a vote at the Judiciary Committee. “We’ll have to see where it fits in our schedule, but I anticipate it,” he said.

Johnson hinted that another reason for the bill might be to curtail some of the decisions Democrats oppose before they happen. “The court needs to know that the people are watching,” he said.

The threat of expanding the Supreme Court may be one reason the justices have taken a long time to decide what to do with a closely watched challenge to a Mississippi law that some see as an opportunity for the high court to erode the constitutional right to an abortion first established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

“There are few circumstances under which I can imagine Congress expanding the Court, but a big, clear reversal of Roe might be an exception,” tweeted Mary Mitchell_McConnellZiegler, a law professor at Florida State University who has published two books on the history of abortion in America.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, said the bill showed that the “left wants a sword dangling over the justices when they weigh the facts in every case.”

“The threats are the point. The hostage-taking is the point,” the Kentucky Republican said on the floor Thursday. “And responsible people across the political spectrum have an absolute duty to denounce this."

Justice Stephen G. Breyer indicated recently that the Supreme Court is indeed paying attention, when he used a speech at Harvard Law School to warn lawmakers that expanding the number of justices would erode public trust in its decisions.

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York prosecutors zero in on Donald Trump’s money trail, Bill Palmer April 15, 2021. Even as the federal criminal investigation into Matt Gaetz continues to dominate the headlines, the New York criminal investigation into Donald Trump is heating up behind the scenes. In fact the grand jury that’s in the process of criminally indicting Trump has zeroed in on the money trail.

bill palmer report logo headerEarlier this month the grand jury subpoenaed Trump Organization financial records that were in the possession of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg’s former daughter in law. She’s actively cooperating. It’s clear that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is looking to nail Allen Weisselberg and his son, in order to push them into flipping on Donald Trump, the Trump family, and the Trump Organization.

To that end, Jennifer Weisselberg is telling CBS News that the subpoena specifically included records related to the Trump-run ice skating rink in Central Park. It’s a “nearly all-cash” business, and once a week Barry Weisselberg would personally deliver the bags of cash to Allen Weisselberg.This stands out as suspicious because large amounts of cash would normally be transported by an armored truck or something similar. The fact that the Trump Organization’s CFO’s son was personally transporting the cash directly to the Trump Organization CFO reeks of either non-reported revenue or money laundering.

If Manhattan prosecutors can convince the Weisselberg father and son to conclude that they’re definitely going to get convicted on the most straightforward of financial charges, it’ll increase the odds that one or both of them will cut a plea deal against Donald Trump.

Michael Cohen has publicly stated that based on what he’s seen in his numerous interviews with Manhattan prosecutors, there is already more than enough evidence to take Trump down. But if the Weisselbergs flip on Trump, it’ll make it even more of a slam dunk case. It’s more clear than ever that Trump is going to prison in the end.

Springfield News-Leader, Missouri GOP state lawmaker Rick Roeber resigns amid allegations he abused his children, Austin Huguelet, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). A Kansas City-area lawmaker accused of sexually and physically abusing his children when they were younger submitted his resignation Tuesday as an investigation into his rick roeberbehavior neared completion.

Rep. Rick Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, right, did not mention the allegations against him or an ongoing probe by the House ethics committee in a letter to the state House clerk. Instead, he said he’s leaving because he and his fiancée are preparing to move out of state to be closer to their extended families, including his ailing mother.

republican elephant logoRoeber, who was elected to a two-year term in November, said he only ever wanted to serve a single year to pass a bill naming a highway after his late wife, Rep. Rebecca Roeber, who died in 2019, and help pass school choice bills.

He said that because both things seem to be moving along well, he’s done what he set out to do and can now leave.

In reality, neither of his priorities has received final approval in both chambers, and a bill that would honor his late wife has yet to pass the House.
Allegations against Roeber

Roeber’s announcement also came as fellow lawmakers investigating the allegations against him appeared close to publishing damaging conclusions.

For months, he has denied allegations he made sexual advances toward his adopted daughter when she was 9 years old and physically abused his son, as reported by the Kansas City Star, which interviewed his ex-wife and their three children.

After Republicans barred him from their caucus meetings in December, he said he looked to a reversal “once these allegations have been dismissed by the Ethics Committee.”

More:Children of Missouri Rep.-elect say he abused them, House leaders to investigate

But last week, GOP leaders, including the ethics committee chair, told the Jackson County prosecutor they had “information that needs to be forwarded to the proper authorities in your jurisdiction,” according to a report in the Missouri Independent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernard Madoff (1938–2021), Emily Langer, April 15, 2021 (print ed.). Ponzi scheme mastermind, reviled symbol of Wall Street greed dies at 82. Bernard L. Madoff, who died April 14 at 82, was the mastermind of perhaps the largest Ponzi scheme in history, a reviled symbol of Wall Street greed and, once, one of the most sought-after stockbrokers in high finance.

bernard madoff mug CustomFor years, “Bernie” Madoff (shown in a mugshot) was regarded as an investment sage. He had clients, homes and boats strewn about exclusive enclaves around the world. Leveraging the clout he had amassed as a legitimate trader, he lured — and eventually fleeced — thousands of investors who entrusted to him their retirement savings, their children’s college funds and their financial security.

His clients included Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and scores of retirees and other private individuals. Banks, hedge funds, universities and charities came to rely on his improbably reliable reported returns.

In reality, there were no such returns. For at least 16 years, and perhaps longer, Mr. Madoff ran a scam in which he paid existing investors with money from new clients.

 

April 14

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 
U.S. Voting Rights, Civil Liberties

 

More On Capitol Policeman's Funeral

 

Pro-Trump Insurrection, Gaetz Probes

 

More On Chauvin Trial, New MN Protests


World News

 

Inside DC

 

More U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Police

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. and Its Allies Look to Coordinated Withdrawal From Afghanistan, David E. Sanger, Steven Erlanger and Glenn Thrush, April 14, 2021. President Biden, frustrated in his efforts to end America’s “Forever War” a decade ago, will announce on Wednesday a Sept. 11 deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years, a move that immediately triggered similar action among the country’s NATO allies.

While a complete withdrawal has long been seen as inevitable, it is likely to lead to an expansion of the Taliban that could overwhelm the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, despite assurances by intelligence agencies that the withdrawal can be done without precipitating the kind of violent, entropic instability that led to the 2001 attacks on America.

In the hours leading up to Mr. Biden’s afternoon announcement at the White House, foreign and defense ministers met at NATO headquarters in Brussels to discuss “a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” as the American secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, told them on Wednesday.

The ministers, many of them attending the Wednesday meeting virtually, are expected to formally back the American withdrawal date in keeping with the alliance’s mantra “in together and out together.”

Of the 9,600 NATO troops officially in Afghanistan, about 2,500 of them are American, though that number can be as many as 1,000 higher. The second-largest contingent is from Germany, with some 1,300 troops.

In brief remarks Wednesday, Mr. Blinken limited those goals narrowly to antiterrorism, not mentioning the larger NATO efforts to liberate women, help girls to attend school and shift agriculture away from growing heroin poppies.

President Biden’s move to set a Sept. 11 deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years triggered similar action among NATO allies.
The withdrawal is likely to lead to a Taliban expansion that could overwhelm the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Here’s the latest news from Washington

washington post logoWashington Post, Slain Capitol Police officer William ‘Billy’ Evans lies in honor at Capitol, Meagan Flynn and Paul Duggan, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Evans was protecting members of Congress and others on Capitol Hill from a violent incursion on April 2 and died in the line of duty.

His children waited for him at the top of the East Capitol steps Tuesday, holding their mother’s hands as the military honor guard carried William “Billy” Evans’s coffin into the Capitol.

william evansAll rose in the Rotunda as the doors swung open, and President Biden and members of Congress put their hands on their hearts. The Capitol Police saluted, and the honor guard placed Evans upon a catafalque that once held the coffin of President Abraham Lincoln.

Feet away from Biden, in the front row, Evans’s son, Logan, 9, wore a police cap while clutching a teddy bear. His daughter, Abigail, 7, fiddled with a miniature Capitol souvenir toy.

“We are all shocked by the senselessness of this loss,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at the beginning of the congressional ceremony. “To Billy’s beloved children, Abigail and Logan, I want you to know we are forever indebted to your dad. We will remember his sacrifice, your sacrifice, forever.”

It was the second time in less than three months that mourners were gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to honor a fallen police officer. Evans, like Brian D. Sicknick before him, was protecting members of Congress and others on Capitol Hill from a violent incursion and died in the line of duty.

Evans, 41, was killed April 2 when he and another Capitol Police officer, standing in front of a steel barricade near the Russell Senate Office Building, were struck by a car whose driver intentionally rammed the barrier, authorities said. The other officer, Ken Shaver, survived, and the driver was fatally shot by police.

At the U.S. Capitol ceremony on April 13 honoring murdered Capitol Hill Police Officer William Evans, his daughter Abigail Evans, 7, shown at right, comforts her mother Shannon Terranova (Associated Press photo by Tom Williams via pool distribution).

At the U.S. Capitol ceremony on April 13 honoring murdered Capitol Hill Police Officer William Evans, his daughter Abigail Evans, 7, shown at right, comforts her mother Shannon Terranova (Associated Press photo by Tom Williams via pool distribution).

USA Today, A grieving daughter dropped her toy. A president gave it back, Savannah Behrmann and Michael Collins, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). President Joe Biden usa today logoand congressional leaders paid tribute Tuesday to U.S. Capitol Police Officer William "Billy" Evans during a solemn ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

Evans, an 18-year member of the force who served on the agency's First Responders Unit, died during an attack at the Capitol earlier this month. His body is lying in honor in the Rotunda, an unusual distinction for a private citizen.

Biden said Evans was defined "by his dignity, his decency his loyalty and his courage." The president said Evans reminded him of the kids he grew up with in Pennsylvania – never scared of a fight, unable to say no whenever he was needed.

"He was the one who always kept his word," Biden said. "If he said he'd be there, he'd be there."

As Biden spoke, members of Congress sat silently and stoically. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., rubbed his eyes at one point, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrung her hands.

Evans' flag-draped coffin arrived at the Capitol with a police escort shortly after 10:30 a.m. Dozens of uniformed officers lined both sides of the East Front steps as pallbearers carried the casket into the Rotunda, where it rested on a black-covered catafalque that once held Abraham Lincoln's coffin.

William Evan (as portrayed by a photo by Amr Alfiky via Getty Images)Evans' family – the mother of his two children, his son and daughter, and his mother – sat off to the side of the podium where congressional leadership and the president addressed the crowd.

Evans’ young children, Logan, 9, and Abigail, 7, held stuffed toys. Logan wore a police cap.

At one point, Abigail dropped a toy replica of the Capitol, prompting Biden, who was sitting closest to the family, to get up from his chair, walk over and pick it up, and hand it back to her (as portrayed by a photo by Amr Alfiky via Getty Images).

"We are all shocked by the senselessness of this loss," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who urged Evans' fellow officers to keep his memory alive.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Evans "a martyr for our democracy" and said he joined "the pantheon of heroes" who gave their lives to defend the Capitol, including officers killed during the Jan. 6 mob attack on the seat of the federal government.

ny times logoNew York Times, Minnesota Officer Who Killed Daunte Wright Will Be Charged With Manslaughter, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, April 14, 2021. The white Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man (shown in a Facebook photo), after appearing to mistake her handgun for her Taser will be charged with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday, a prosecutor said, following three nights of protests over the killing.

duarte wright resized facebookThe charges against the officer, Kimberly A. Potter, come a day after she and the police chief both resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Hundreds of people have faced off with the police in Brooklyn Center each night since Mr. Wright’s death, and residents across the region are preparing for a verdict next week in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged with murdering George Floyd.

Pete Orput, the top prosecutor in Washington County, said in an email to The New York Times on Wednesday that the complaint would be filed later on Wednesday.

kimberly potter mugMs. Potter, 48, shown in a mug shot, had served on the force for 26 years and was training other officers when they pulled Mr. Wright’s car over on Sunday afternoon, saying he had an expired registration on his car and something hanging from his rearview mirror. When officers discovered that Mr. Wright had a warrant out for his arrest and tried to arrest him, he twisted away and got back into his car.

Ms. Potter warned him that she would Tase him and then shouted “Taser” three times before firing a bullet into his chest, killing him. “I just shot him,” Ms. Potter says in body-camera footage that was released this week.

The killing has brought hundreds of people to the Brooklyn Center Police Department each night, where they have been met by Minnesota National Guard members and State Patrol troopers who have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and other projectiles at the crowd. Some of the demonstrators have launched fireworks and thrown rocks and bottles of water at the police. Officers arrested 79 people on Tuesday night. Dozens of businesses in the region were broken into earlier in the week, but there were few reports of looting on Tuesday.

The local government in Brooklyn Center, a city of about 30,000 people, has also been in crisis. The City Council gave the mayor more authority in the wake of Mr. Wright’s death and the city manager, who had previously overseen the Police Department, was fired.

david fowler

ny times logoNew York Times, Derek Chauvin Trial Live Updates: Medical Examiner Called by Defense Blames Floyd’s Heart for His Death, Staff reports, April 14, 2021. Mr. Chauvin’s defense is trying to combat earlier testimony that George Floyd died from oxygen deprivation. The police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright on Sunday in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minn., has been charged with manslaughter. Shown above, defense expert Dr. David Fowler (photo via Court TV pool report).

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran plans major jump in uranium enrichment after attack on facility, Kareem Fahim and Loveday Morris, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). The move puts Iran far closer to weapons-grade levels and comes after an attack on an enrichment facility that Iran blames on Israel. Talks to revive the nuclear deal with the United States were scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, a top official said Tuesday, far exceeding its current level, in a defiant move following an attack on one of its key nuclear sites, Iranian news agencies reported.

Iran FlagIran’s state-run Press TV quoted Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, as saying the country informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of plans to start 60 percent uranium enrichment.

The announcement puts Iran closer to weapons-grade levels of more than 90 percent enrichment and exceeds its current top level of 20 percent.

The move adds another major hurdle to negotiations to revive a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and six world powers.

Talks were set to reconvene in Vienna later this week between Tehran and the world powers, including the United States. Iran began breaching the accord after President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, reimposed the sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the agreement, and added more than 1,500 additional measures in what his administration called a “maximum pressure” campaign to cripple the Iranian economy.

Iran, in response, increased enriched uranium from the 3.67 percent purity stipulated by the deal to 20 percent

 

Virus Victims, Respons

fda logowashington post logoWashington Post, FDA, CDC urge pause in use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of blood clots, Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). The agencies said they are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine.

johnson johnson logoThe Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday they are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination.

washington post logoWashington Post, Underserved communities bear brunt of Johnson & Johnson pause, Isaac Stanley-Becker, April 14, 2021. Clinics offering the one-shot vaccine were canceled throughout the country, affecting students, shift workers, rural residents and other hard-to-reach groups.

Mobile clinics serving a rural expanse north of Columbus, Ohio. A program sending paramedics to vaccinate homebound seniors in Chicago. And sites promising immunization at 34 public colleges and universities throughout New York.

Thousands of people can no longer rely on these initiatives, all casualties of Tuesday’s decision by federal health officials to recommend a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. The pause was initiated so experts could review data involving a severe type of blood clot found among six of the more than 7 million people who have received the vaccine in the United States, and so the federal government could advise clinicians about how to identify and treat the possible adverse reaction.

Because the single-shot option is favored for transient and hard-to-reach populations, the pause’s most immediate cost was exacted on those with the fewest other options. That includes students, rural residents and people involved in shift work, throwing a new hurdle in front of the Biden administration’s efforts to introduce greater equity into the nation’s vaccination campaign. The places best able to address the change were those with abundant vaccine supply, newly underscoring the uneven nature of the rollout.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why the Johnson & Johnson pause should bolster confidence in vaccines, Leana S. Wen, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). The news may be disappointing, but it shows our health agencies are taking safety issues seriously.

Federal health officials made exactly the right decision. Any concerning safety signals should be investigated immediately. Even with an incidence of one in a million (there have been six cases of this clotting disorder out of nearly 7 million doses administered), the FDA and CDC made the right call to recommend this vaccine be put on hold. With so much scrutiny on vaccine safety, an abundance of caution bolsters public confidence.

 ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Will Allow Abortion Pills by Mail During the Pandemic, Pam Belluck, Updated April 14, 2021. The agency said it would stop enforcing a rule requiring women to get the first of two pills in person at a medical clinic or hospital.New York Times, George Floyd Case Highlights Debate Over Bias in the Science of Death, Critics say forensic pathology has been slow to acknowledge how bias may affect decisions such as whether to classify a death in police custody as a homicide.

washington post logoWashington Post, 122.3 million vaccinated, as of April 14, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 45.8 of the eligible population,16 and older and 36.8 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 14, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 138,199,138, Deaths: 2,975,571
U.S. Cases:     32,072,975, Deaths:   577,200
India Cases:     13,903,402, Deaths:   172,231
Brazil Cases:   13,601,566, Deaths:    358,718

CNN, 'I'm a prophet': Pastor discourages his congregation from taking vaccine, Ellen Reeve, April 14, 2021 (5:58 min. video). CNN's Elle Reeve reports on the misinformation and distrust that has contributed to many Evangelicals saying they won't get the coronavirus vaccine. 

U.S. Voting Rights, Civil Liberties

washington post logoWashington Post, Warren Buffett, Target, Netflix among firms, leaders opposing limits on voting rights, Todd C. Frankel and Jena McGregor, April 14, 2021. Hundreds of major companies and corporate executives signed a statement released today that opposes laws that restrict voting rights, the latest step in an Democratic-Republican Campaign logosescalating battle over election laws being debated nationwide.Hundreds of major companies and corporate leaders signed a statement released Wednesday that opposes laws that restrict voting rights, the latest step in an escalating battle over election laws being debated nationwide.

The letter included support from recognizable corporate names such as Target, Netflix, Bank of America, Facebook, Cisco, Twitter, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Mastercard, American Airlines, United Airlines and Vanguard, as well as prominent people such as investor microsoft logo CustomWarren Buffett, law firms and nonprofit organizations.

But the statement was also notable for the names that were missing, including Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola — two companies that earlier this month were among the first to oppose new voting rules in their home state of Georgia.

coca cola resized logoMore than 100 corporate executives hold call to discuss halting donations and investments to fight controversial voting bills

The statement and its signatories were listed under the banner, “We Stand for Democracy.” It was published Wednesday as an ad in The Washington Post, the New York Times and other major newspapers.

The current crop of voting measures is fueled by lingering animosity over the last presidential election, when baseless accusations of voter fraud resulted in Republican officials pushing for restrictive new laws.

The statement was discussed by corporate leaders last weekend, when more than 100 executives from major retailers, airlines and manufacturers gathered via Zoom to discuss further actions they might take against restrictive state voting bills, including halting donations to politicians who support them or delaying investments in states that pass these measures.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Weird Quirk Might Let Michigan Republicans Limit Voting Rights, Reid J. Epstein and Trip Gabriel, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). A rarely used option for a voter-driven petition could allow state Republicans to circumvent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s promised veto.

Plenty of twists and turns are looming as Michigan’s State Senate prepares to hold hearings on a package of voting bills beginning Wednesday. Unlike Georgia, Florida and Texas, which have also moved to limit voting access, Michigan has a Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who said last month she would veto gretchen whitmer o smile Customany bill imposing new restrictions. But unlike in other states with divided governments, Michigan’s Constitution offers Republicans a rarely used option for circumventing Ms. Whitmer’s veto.

Last month, the state’s Republican chairman told activists that he aimed to do just that — usher new voting restrictions into law using a voter-driven petition process that would bypass the governor’s veto pen.

In response, Michigan Democrats and voting rights activists are contemplating a competing petition drive, while also scrambling to round up corporate opposition to the bills; they are hoping to avoid a replay of what happened in Georgia, where the state’s leading businesses didn’t weigh in against new voting rules until after they were signed into law.

The maneuvering by both parties has turned Michigan into a test case of how states with divided government will deal with voting laws, and how Republicans in state legislatures are willing to use any administrative tool at their disposal to advance Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraud and pursue measures that could disenfranchise many voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump gutted Obama-era housing discrimination rules. Biden’s bringing them back, Tracy Jan, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). HUD submits rules to address systemic racism and housing discrimination Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, right, on Tuesday moved to reinstate fair housing regulations that had been gutted under President Donald Trump, in one of the most tangible steps that the Biden administration has taken thus far to address systemic racism.

Marcia Fudge oThe effort comes less than three months after President Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at increasing racial equity across the nation, including directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine and reverse actions taken by the Trump administration that undermined fair housing principles.

The Biden administration plans to reinstate a 2013 rule that codified a decades-old legal standard known as “disparate impact” as well as a 2015 rule requiring communities to identify and dismantle barriers to racial integration or risk losing federal funds, according to notices posted Tuesday morning by the Office of Management and Budget signaling that the rules have been accepted for review.

 

More On Capitol Policeman's Funeral

william evans cspan

Daily Mail Online, 'I know how you're feeling. I buried two of my children': Biden stops to comfort family at Rotunda service for slain Capitol cop William Evans -- and hands Challenge Coin to little boy wearing his dad's police hat, Emily Goodin, Updated April 14, 2021. President Joe Biden and Congressional leaders paid tribute to Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans Tuesday in the Rotunda Tuesday.

White House, Remarks by President Biden at a Congressional Tribute for U.S. Capitol Police Officer William Evans, Joseph R. Biden, April 13, 2021. "He was defined by his dignity, his decency, his loyalty, and his courage. And, Mom, that’s because of you and his Dad. That’s how it happened — not by accident..... Your son, your husband, your brother, your dad was a hero. And he’s part of you. It’s in your blood.

"My prayer for you is that moment when a smile comes before the tear, quicker than longer. Thank you."

Esquire, Commentary: Kindness Towards a Child Isn't the Highest Bar for an American President, But Here We Are, Charles P. Pierce, April 13, 2021. Joe Biden brought his gentle empathy to the memorial service for Capitol Police Officer Billy Evans. 

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Riot, Gaetz Probes

Daily Beast, Investigation: Matt Gaetz’s Wingman Paid Dozens of Young Women—and a 17-Year-Old, Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger, April 14, 2021.Venmo payment daily beast logorecords reveal a vast network of young women received money from Rep. Matt Gaetz’s associate, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg.

As new details emerge about Rep. Matt Gaetz’s role in an alleged sex ring, The Daily Beast has obtained several documents showing that the suspected ringleader of the group, Joel Greenberg, made more than 150 Venmo payments to dozens of young women, and to a girl who was 17 at the time.

The payment from Greenberg, an accused sex trafficker, to the 17-year-old took place in June 2017. It was for $300 and, according to the memo field, was for “Food.”

Greenberg’s relationship with Gaetz, and the money Greenberg paid to women, is a focal point for the Justice Department investigation into Gaetz. And the new documents obtained by The Daily Beast—containing years of online financial transactions—establish a clear pattern: Greenberg paid multiple young women (and at least one girl) hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars on Venmo in one transaction after another.

Nearly a year after Greenberg’s June 2017 payment, Gaetz Venmo’d Greenberg to “Hit up ___,” using a nickname for the teen. She was 18 years old by then, and as The Daily Beast reported, Greenberg described the payment as being for “School.”
At least 16 Venmo payments to 12 different women were listed as being for ‘School.’

It was one of at least 16 Venmo payments to 12 different women listed as being for “School.” Typically, the payments were for around $500, but also went higher than $1,000 in the transactions obtained by The Daily Beast.

Gaetz made only one previously unreported transaction in the newly obtained documents: a payment from the Florida congressman to the former Seminole County tax commissioner for $300 on November 1, 2018, with the love hotel emoji (“🏩”) in the memo field. The Daily Beast was unable to tie that transaction directly to any woman, but confirmed that Greenberg booked one night for that date at The Alfond Inn, a luxury hotel in Winter Park, Florida.

Greenberg—who was a close associate of Gaetz—now sits in jail after being indicted on 33 counts, including sex trafficking, conspiracy to bribe a public official, and stalking. The federal indictment claims Greenberg was “engaged in ‘sugar daddy’ relationships,” and he is said to be helping federal agents in their now-expanded investigation into the GOP congressman from the Florida panhandle.

“I'm sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, told reporters last week.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Two women try to defend Matt Gaetz, end up making things far worse for him, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2021. The Matt Gaetz scandal, in bill palmeraddition to being repulsive, it also just plain weird. It involves everything from Gaetz being dumb enough to allegedly send digital cash in exchange for sex, to Gaetz having a cartoon villain friend who’s flipped on him.

Now it turns out even the attempted defense of Matt Gaetz is getting weird. Two women are telling CNN that they attended sex and drug fueled parties with Gaetz and a bunch of other unnamed Florida Republican politicians. Bizarrely, they’re not doing this to rat him out; they say they’re doing this to defend him.

bill palmer report logo headerCNN says that the women came forward because they wanted to make clear that they didn’t see any sex trafficking or underage girls at theseparties. Even if this is true, it in no way exonerates Gaetz; it simply means that he didn’t engage in underage sex trafficking at those particular parties.

CNNWorse, these two women just helped to confirm that Matt Gaetz likes to attend parties with his fellow Florida Republican politicians where drugs republican elephant logolike ecstasy are passed around and sex is rampant. This opens the door for the Feds to investigate these parties, and potentially use drug charges to pressure party attendees to testify against Gaetz and the various other politicians in attendance.

When this all started, we predicted that Matt Gaetz would end up taking a bunch of other Florida Republicans down with him, due to the nature of how federal criminal investigations tend to spiral outward from their origin point, for as wide as the evidence will go. Now it’s starting to look like things are indeed on that path.

We’re also left to wonder if these two women came forward of their own volition, or if Matt Gaetz perhaps encouraged them to speak up and “defend” him like this. If Gaetz is indeed behind this, then he’s making an even bigger mess for himself than we thought.

politico CustomPolitico, Exclusive: New details shed light on Gaetz’s Bahamas trip, Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Federal agents executed a search warrant and seized the Florida congressman’s iPhone last winter.

The group took off for their Bahamas weekend getaway on three separate flights. Most of the passengers, which included at least five young women, flew out of Orlando on two separate private planes. Matt Gaetz flew commercial.

The details of that September 2018 trip are sparse, but they are critical to the allegations against Gaetz, the Florida congressman currently the subject of a federal sex-crimes investigation that is threatening his career.

Gaetz, who has not been charged, has consistently denied the two anonymous claims against him: that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and paid for sex.

Gaetz’s predicament as the subject of a serious investigation became clearer this winter when federal agents executed a search warrant and seized his iPhone, according to interviews with three people who were told of the matter by Gaetz, who changed his phone number in late December. Around that time, the sources said, federal agents also seized his former girlfriend’s phone before she went into work in the morning. She declined comment.

ron desantis oAt the time of the 2018 trip, Gaetz was a top adviser to Republican Ron DeSantis, right, who was running for governor, and went on to manage his transition team months later. DeSantis has long been a top Gaetz ally but declined to comment on his legal woes Monday when asked by reporters.

In the Bahamas, Gaetz was joined by two GOP allies: Halsey Beshears, then a state legislator, and Jason Pirozzolo, a hand surgeon and Republican fundraiser for DeSantis, according to three sources, including one who was part of the group.

Also among those on the trip: the former minor who is key to the investigation, whose presence on the trip was previously unreported. According to one of the women in the group who spoke on condition of anonymity, everyone on the trip was over the age of 18 — including the woman in question, who had turned 18 years old months before the trip, she said.

The woman was born in December 1999, according to a personal website, but POLITICO has been unable to confirm the woman’s official date of birth.

No one on the trip engaged in prostitution, the source said.

But questions surrounding the ages of some of the women surfaced immediately upon their return — three of them looked so young when they returned on Beshears’ private plane that U.S. Customs briefly stopped and questioned him, according to sources familiar with the trip, including a woman on the flight.

As the investigation intensified this winter, Beshears abruptly resigned as Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary, a post that made him the state’s top business regulator, noting he had contracted Covid-19. But he confided to two friends recently that he believes he’s the subject of the investigation, the friends told POLITICO.

Beshears refused comment and his lawyer did not return calls. Both the lawmaker and his former girlfriend declined to comment.

Some of the women on the Bahamas trip entered the orbit of Gaetz and Greenberg through the SeekingArrangement website — a dating website that connects women with so-called sugar daddies — according to interviews with friends and associates who know the two men, and Greenberg introduced him to young women he met on the site. Gaetz said he’s never been on the site.

Lawrence Walters, a First Amendment lawyer in Orlando who has represented sugar daddy websites and clients accused of prostitution, said prosecutions in such cases can be difficult.

“Every type of dating relationship has an exchange of value. It’s largely why law enforcement hasn’t wanted to weigh into these sugar daddy-type relationships area because of that tremendous grey area,” Walters said, noting the distinction between “dating and exchange of value in a relationship vs. all-out commercial prostitution. We don’t have a lot of court rulings on that. Prosecutors tend to focus on very clear cases so they don’t get into these issues. But if they wanted to pursue a sugar daddy-type relationship, dating relationship, there are very thorny personal, societal and constitutional issues they have to deal with.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Matt Gaetz is panicking, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2021. Matt Gaetz spent Tuesday feuding with CNN, even going so far as to insist bill palmerthat the cable news network is conspiring against him. This stuff may play well with Gaetz’s core support base. But then Tuesday night happened, and it was a reminder that this isn’t the kind of scandal that Gaetz can tweet his way out of.

First the New York Times reported last night that Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg actually flipped on him last year, likely meaning that the Feds are much further along in their criminal probe into Gaetz than previously expected. Then Politico reported late last night that the Feds seized Gaetz’s phone in December, right around the time he reportedly sought a blanket preemptive pardon from Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerTo be clear, the Feds would not have been able to obtain a warrant to seize Gaetz’s phone unless they already had some evidence connecting Gaetz to criminal activity. It’s not known what the Feds found on Gaetz’s phone. But this does mean that they likely already have all of Gaetz’s communications with everyone else involved in the scandal, including any women or girls, along with Gaetz’s financial records in apps matt gaetz officialsuch as Venmo.

If the reporting is true that Gaetz, right, sought a last minute pardon from Trump (they’ve both denied it in trickily worded statements), then it means that Gaetz has been expecting to end up indicted since his phone was seized. Federal criminal investigations move at a glacially slow pace in the name of building a comprehensive case that’s unbeatable at trial, but they get there eventually.

In other words, even a lunkhead like Gaetz knows that attacking CNN on Twitter isn’t going to save him. This is going to come down to the evidence against him at trial. Perhaps he’s simply behaving this way on Twitter to try to motivate his support base to fund his inevitable criminal defense. Even he knows that no one can tweet their way out of an indictment – at least now that Trump is no longer in power. Or maybe he’s just panicking because he’s cornered and doesn’t know what else to do.

 

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

ny times logoNew York Times, Indicted Gaetz Associate Is Said to Be Cooperating With Justice Dept., Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Joel Greenberg has been talking to federal investigators since last year about the conduct of Representative Matt Gaetz and others.

A former local official in Florida indicted in the Justice Department investigation that is also focused on Representative Matt Gaetz has been providing investigators with information since last year about an array of topics, including Mr. Gaetz’s activities, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Joel Greenberg, a onetime county tax collector, disclosed to investigators that he and Mr. Gaetz had encounters with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex, the people said. The Justice Department is investigating the involvement of the men with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments and whether the men had sex with a 17-year-old in violation of sex trafficking statutes, people familiar with the inquiry have said.

Mr. Greenberg, who is said to have met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances and introduced them to Mr. Gaetz, could provide investigators with firsthand accounts of their activities.

Mr. Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation, the people said. He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him — including fraud — could undermine his credibility as a witness.

Mr. Greenberg faces dozens of other counts including sex trafficking of a minor, stalking a political rival and corruption. He was first indicted in June. The Justice Department inquiry drew national attention in recent weeks when investigators’ focus on Mr. Gaetz, a high-profile supporter of President Donald J. Trump who knew Mr. Greenberg through Republican political circles in Florida, came to light.

Speculation about Mr. Greenberg’s cooperation began mounting last week, after his lawyer and a federal prosecutor both said in court that he was likely to plead guilty in the coming weeks. “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer, told reporters afterward.

The United States attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida is leading the investigation, which is examining not only whether Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Gaetz and others broke sex trafficking laws but also whether Mr. Gaetz paid for women over the age of 18 to travel with him to places like the Bahamas.

A Justice Department spokesman and a lawyer for Mr. Greenberg declined to comment.

A spokesman for Mr. Gaetz said he had done nothing wrong. “Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex,” said the spokesman, Harlan Hill, who suggested that Mr. Greenberg was “trying to ensnare innocent people in his troubles.”

Prosecutors often seek out cooperators in complex investigations where an insider’s account can help make their cases. Typically, the authorities meet with potential cooperators many times before formally agreeing to a plea deal to determine what information they have and whether they could serve as a witness against others.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ted Lieu drops the hammer on Matt Gaetz, Bill Palmer, April 14, 2021. Things just keep getting uglier for Matt Gaetz. We now know that the Feds obtained a search warrant and seized his phone. This means that the Feds must have already had significant evidence against him in order to obtain such a warrant.

bill palmer report logo headerEven as a few House Republicans are now vowing to take meek action against Matt Gaetz, it’s becoming clear that he should be removed from House committees now, as we can’t have a Congressman sitting on the House Judiciary Committee when a federal criminal probe is ted lieu 300x207running this deep into him.Congressman Ted Lieu, right, is dropping the hammer:

"It’s unlikely House Republicans will do anything any time soon. It may end up falling upon House Democrats to once again do the Republicans’ job for them, by holding a vote to remove Matt Gaetz from his committee assignments, just as they did with Marjorie Taylor Greene."

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Police Told to Hold Back on Riot Response on Jan. 6, Report Finds, Luke Broadwater, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Despite being tipped that “Congress itself is the target,” officers were ordered not to use crowd-control weapons, according to a scathing new report.

The Capitol Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, according to a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator.

In a 104-page report, the inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, criticized the way the Capitol Police prepared for and responded to the mob violence on Jan. 6. The report was reviewed by The New York Times and will be the subject of a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday.

Mr. Bolton found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians and that the police used defective protective equipment. He also found that the leaders ordered their Civil Disturbance Unit to refrain from using its most powerful crowd-control tools — like stun grenades — to put down the onslaught.

The report offers the most devastating account to date of the lapses and miscalculations around the most violent attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

Three days before the siege, a Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned of violence from supporters of President Donald J. Trump who believed his false claims that the election had been stolen. Some had even posted a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system on pro-Trump message boards.

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the threat assessment said, according to the inspector general’s report. “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

But on Jan. 5, the agency wrote in a plan for the protest that there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.” And the former chief of the Capitol Police has testified that the force had determined that the likelihood of violence was “improbable.”

Mr. Bolton concluded such intelligence breakdowns stemmed from dysfunction within the agency and called for “guidance that clearly documents channels for efficiently and effectively disseminating intelligence information to all of its personnel.”

That failure conspired with other lapses inside the Capitol Police force to create a dangerous situation on Jan. 6, according to his account. The agency’s Civil Disturbance Unit, which specializes in handling large groups of protesters, was not allowed to use some of its most powerful tools and techniques against the crowd, on the orders of supervisors

 

More On Chauvin Trial, New MN Protests

ny times logoNew York Times, Derek Chauvin Trial Live Updates: Medical Examiner Called by Defense Blames Floyd’s Heart for His Death, Staff Reports, April 14, 2021. Mr. Chauvin’s defense is trying to combat earlier testimony that George Floyd died from oxygen deprivation

ny times logoNew York Times, Chauvin Trial Live Takeways, Shaila Dewan and Tim Arango, April 14, 2021. The lawyer for the former officer Derek Chauvin began calling witnesses to the stand this week, including an associate of George Floyd’s who was in the car with him when the police arrived, and a Minneapolis Park Police officer on the scene. The defense is trying to build a case that Mr. Floyd was affected by drugs he had taken, and that the bystanders were a threat to the officers who pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground.

Here are some key moments from recent testimony.

  • Morries Hall, who was with George Floyd before his arrest, will not be compelled to take the stand. Morries Lester Hall, who was in a car with George Floyd outside of Cup Foods in Minneapolis moments before the police pulled Mr. Floyd out of the car and later pinned him to the ground for more than nine minutes, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was called to testify on Wednesday.
  • Mr. Hall’s lawyer, Adrienne Cousins, said testifying about his actions, or even about being in the vehicle with Mr. Floyd on May 25, could potentially incriminate him. “If he puts himself in that car, he exposes himself to possession charges,” Ms. Cousins said Wednesday, noting that drugs were found in the car in two searches.
  • Judge Peter A. Cahill granted Mr. Hall’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights, calling his reasoning valid. Judge Cahill had ordered Derek Chauvin’s lawyer to draft a narrow list of questions that Mr. Hall might be able to answer without incriminating himself. Like Tuesday’s questioning of Shawanda Hill, who was also in the car with Mr. Floyd when he was arrested, the defense had hoped to ask about Mr. Floyd’s demeanor and behavior right before the arrest to bolster its argument that a drug overdose caused his death.
  • But Ms. Cousins said even answering those questions had the potential to incriminate him, and Judge Cahill agreed. In her testimony, Mr. Floyd’s former girlfriend, Courteney Ross, said she and Mr. Floyd had purchased drugs from Mr. Hall in the past.
  • Barry Brodd, a former police officer and use-of-force expert, testified for the defense that Mr. Chauvin’s use of force against Mr. Floyd was justified — countering two weeks of prosecution witnesses who argued the opposite.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: George Floyd Case Highlights Debate Over Bias in the Science of Death, Critics say forensic pathology has been slow to acknowledge how bias may affect decisions such as whether to classify a death in police custody as a homicide.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Could an Officer Mistake a Gun for a Taser? Shawn Hubler and Jeremy White, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). The weapons look and feel different, and most forces have standard precautions and protocols to prevent the sort of mix-up that can be deadly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Brooklyn Center fires city manager, gives mayor control of the police department following police shooting, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). In the span of just a couple of hours Monday evening, a Minneapolis suburb appears to have fundamentally refashioned its leadership after a local police officer shot duarte wright resized facebookand killed an unarmed Black man, Daunte Wright, shown at right, during a traffic stop the day before.

Brooklyn Center, Minn., which erupted in protest Sunday as word of 20-year-old Wright’s death spread, now has a new city manager and — at least temporarily — a new de facto leader of the police department after a city council vote that granted the mayor “command authority” over the agency.

'The overhaul is likely to give Mayor Mike Elliott the power to fire the police chief and police officers, one legal expert told The Washington Post

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s uranium enrichment has no ‘credible’ civilian purpose, European nations warn, Kareem Fahim and Michael Birnbaum, April 14, 2021. A group of European nations on Wednesday called Iran's plans to increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity "regrettable" and warned that enrichment at that level, using advanced centrifuges, had no "credible" civilian purpose.

The joint statement — by Germany, France and Britain, who are all signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers — also warned that Iran’s actions could complicate diplomatic efforts to revive the deal, which languished after the U.S. withdrew from the accord three years ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Egypt seizes the Ever Given, saying its owners owe nearly $1 billion for Suez Canal traffic jam, Antonia Noori Farzan, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). A few weeks ago, Egypt was frantically trying to get the massive container ship Ever Given out of the Suez Canal.

Now, authorities are saying the vessel is not allowed to leave.

egypt flagIn the latest complication to the ill-fated voyage, Egypt has seized the Ever Given over its owners’ “failure to pay an amount of $900 million,” the state-run news outlet Ahram Gate reported. That amount represents the total compensation that Egypt says it is owed for the six-day blockage of the Suez Canal, including lost revenue from ships that ordinarily would have traveled through the canal during that time, as well as costs for damage to the crucial waterway and the equipment and labor deployed in the 144-hour scramble to free the ship.

Since it was dislodged from the narrow section of the canal where it ran aground in late March, blocking commerce worth billions of dollars, the Ever Given has been anchored in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, at the midpoint of the canal. Twenty-five crew members, all Indian nationals, remain stuck on board.

The ruling allowing Egypt to seize the Ever Given was issued by a court in Ismailia, a city on the west bank of the canal, according to the Ahram Gate website. The Suez Canal Authority, which made the request, noted that Egypt’s maritime trade laws allow the “precautionary seizure” of vessels that have outstanding debts, including failure to pay the costs from an accident.

“The vessel will remain here until investigations are complete and compensation is paid,” Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), told Egyptian state television last week, according to the Wall Street Journal. “The minute they agree to compensation, the vessel will be allowed to move.”

But the National Union of Seafarers in India argues that refusing to let the crew off the ship amounts to holding them for ransom. “If the SCA has suffered losses, they can sort it out with those involved with the ship,” Abdulgani Serang, the union’s general secretary, told the Times of India on Sunday.

 

Inside DC

ny times logoNew York Times, Top intelligence officials told senators about threats to the United States, Julian E. Barnes, April 14, 2021. U.S. intelligence officials warned senators on Wednesday that China was increasingly challenging American interests, from conducting economic espionage to coercive behavior toward its neighbors in Asia.

The nation’s top intelligence officials faced a congressional panel on Wednesday for the first time in two years to discuss global threats faced by the United States, fielding questions on China, Russia, Iran and more.

Lawmakers said they would press the intelligence chiefs on China, Russia, Iran, as well as domestic extremism, cyberattacks and election interference. Senators are also likely to raise prospects for continued violence in Afghanistan now that President Biden has decided to pull out troops by September.

The intelligence community’s annual threat assessment report released ahead of the hearing emphasized the growing challenge of China and the continuing threat from Russia, though it acknowledged that both powers wanted to avoid direct confrontation with the United States.

“China is employing a comprehensive approach to demonstrate its growing strength and compel regional neighbors to acquiesce to Beijing’s preferences,” Avril B. Haines, the director of national intelligence, told senators.

The F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, also emphasized the threat from China. “We’re opening a new investigation into China every 10 hours,” he said of the bureau, “and I can assure the committee that’s not because our folks don’t have anything to do with their time.”

In his opening statement, Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who leads the committee, emphasized that the challenge was not from the Chinese people, and especially not with Asian-Americans, but Beijing’s communist government.

Ms. Haines was joined at the hearing by four other agency directors: Mr. Wray, William J. Burns of the C.I.A., Gen. Paul M. Nakasone of the National Security Agency and Lt. Gen. Scott D. Berrier of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Both Russia and China have been blamed for conducting cyberoperations that compromised broad swaths of the software supply chain. Lawmakers said they would press Ms. Haines and the other intelligence officials on the Russian hacking, which penetrated nine federal agencies, and another by China that compromised Microsoft Exchange servers. The Biden administration is expected to respond to the Russian hacking soon.

Ms. Haines said Russia uses hacks to sow discord and threaten America and its allies. “Russia is becoming increasingly adept at leveraging its technological prowess to develop asymmetric options in both the military and cyber spheres in order to give itself the ability to push back and force the United States to accommodate its interests,” she said.

Biden administration officials have emphasized that they want the intelligence agencies to take a wider view of threats, and the officials are expected to discuss the impacts of climate change on national security. The threats report linked surges in migration to both the pandemic and climate change.

Ms. Haines noted that another recent intelligence report on global trends highlighted how the pandemic and climate change, along with technological change, were testing “the resilience and adaptability” of society. The “looming disequilibrium,” she said, compels intelligence agencies to broaden their definition of national security.

politico Custom

Politico, Gensler confirmed as top Wall Street cop, bringing new era of tough scrutiny, Kellie Mejdrich, April 14, 2021. Gary Gensler will lead work on new federal regulations that would require companies to disclose their contributions and exposure to climate change.

gary genslerThe Senate confirmed Gensler, right, in a 53-45 vote. The MIT professor and former Goldman Sachs partner is returning to government after serving as a top regulator in the Obama administration, when he cracked down on big bank trading activities that fueled the 2008 global financial crisis.

Gensler will lead work on sweeping new federal regulations that would require companies to disclose their contributions and exposure to climate change, which is poised to trigger a huge lobbying fight and is already stirring deep partisan tensions. The effort will be in focus next week when President Joe Biden holds an international climate summit.

politico CustomPolitico, Rep. Kevin Brady announces retirement, Brian Faler, April 14, 2021. Brady, right, first elected in 1996, represents a solidly Republican slice of the suburbs kevin brady o Customnorth of Houston. 

Rep. Kevin Brady, the ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, is retiring at the end of his term. He announced Wednesday that he’s leaving partly because Republicans’ internal term limit rules will force him to step down as the top Republican on the panel.

Brady has been his party’s point man on the committee for six years, where he was a chief architect of Republicans’ seminal 2017 tax cuts, the biggest overhaul of the code in a generation.

erika moritsugu

Erika Moritsugu. Photo courtesy: National Partnership for Women & Families

Axios, Biden names Erika Moritsugu as senior AAPI liaison, Oriana Gonzalez, April 14, 2021. President Biden has named Erika Moritsugu as deputy assistant to the president and Asian American and Pacific Islander senior liaison, the White House announced Wednesday.

axios logoDriving the news: The decision follows weeks of pressure from AAPI leaders to include more Asian American representation at the Cabinet level and in senior administration roles.

Last month, Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) threatened to oppose Biden's "non-diversity" nominees unless he made a commitment to appoint AAPI voices in senior executive branch positions.

Details: Moritsugu, the vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families, will be responsible for outreach to the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

tammy duckworth hWhat they're saying: "I applaud President Biden for swiftly addressing my concerns and creating a new senior-level AAPI liaison position at the White House," Duckworth, right, said in a statement Wednesday.

democratic donkey logo"I know first-hand that President Biden will benefit from her counsel, policy expertise and strong relationship-building skills, especially as his Administration seeks to make sure AAPI leaders are present at the highest levels of government."

Background: Moritsugu has previous experience in the federal government and on Capitol Hill, including serving as general counsel to Duckworth and as deputy legislative director to former Senator Danny Akaka (D-Hawaii), CBS News reports. She was also an assistant secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama administration.

 

 More U.S. Politics, Governance

politico CustomPolitico, Analysis: The end of the imperial governorship, Nick Niedzwiadek, April 14, 2021. Lawmakers across the country want to curtail the sweeping powers of state executives after the pandemic led governors to flex their muscles in historic new ways.

Andy Beshear KY One of the first things on the agenda this year for Kentucky Republicans was figuring out how to kneecap Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, right. They dropped legislation in January that placed new limits on the governor’s emergency executive powers, quickly passed the bill, overrode his veto and then fought him in court.

In the months that have followed, lawmakers across the country — from Maine to California, Oregon to Florida — have proposed and, in many cases, passed similar measures to curtail the sweeping powers bestowed on their state executives.

The tug-of-war between legislators and governors has the potential to shape the boundaries of gubernatorial authority for years to come and raises substantive questions of how much leeway the state leaders should have during prolonged crises.

Springfield News-Leader, Missouri GOP state lawmaker Rick Roeber resigns amid allegations he abused his children, Austin Huguelet, April 14, 2021. A Kansas City-area lawmaker accused of sexually and physically abusing his children when they were younger submitted his resignation Tuesday as an investigation into his rick roeberbehavior neared completion.

Rep. Rick Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, right, did not mention the allegations against him or an ongoing probe by the House ethics committee in a letter to the state House clerk. Instead, he said he’s leaving because he and his fiancée are preparing to move out of state to be closer to their extended families, including his ailing mother.

republican elephant logoRoeber, who was elected to a two-year term in November, said he only ever wanted to serve a single year to pass a bill naming a highway after his late wife, Rep. Rebecca Roeber, who died in 2019, and help pass school choice bills.

He said that because both things seem to be moving along well, he’s done what he set out to do and can now leave.

In reality, neither of his priorities has received final approval in both chambers, and a bill that would honor his late wife has yet to pass the House.
Allegations against Roeber

Roeber’s announcement also came as fellow lawmakers investigating the allegations against him appeared close to publishing damaging conclusions.

For months, he has denied allegations he made sexual advances toward his adopted daughter when she was 9 years old and physically abused his son, as reported by the Kansas City Star, which interviewed his ex-wife and their three children.

After Republicans barred him from their caucus meetings in December, he said he looked to a reversal “once these allegations have been dismissed by the Ethics Committee.”

More:Children of Missouri Rep.-elect say he abused them, House leaders to investigate

But last week, GOP leaders, including the ethics committee chair, told the Jackson County prosecutor they had “information that needs to be forwarded to the proper authorities in your jurisdiction,” according to a report in the Missouri Independent.

politico CustomPolitico, Dem pollsters acknowledge ‘major errors’ in 2020 polling, Steven Shepard, April 14, 2021. Five of the biggest Democratic firms have signed onto a joint statement that seeks to explain what went wrong in last year’s election.

In an unusual move, five of the party’s biggest polling firms have spent the past few months working together to explore what went wrong last year and how it can be fixed. It’s part of an effort to understand why — despite data showing Joe Biden well ahead of former President Donald Trump, and Democrats poised to increase their House majority — the party won the presidency, the Senate and House by extremely narrow margins.

“Twenty-twenty was an ‘Oh, s---' moment for all of us,” said one pollster involved in the effort, who was granted anonymity to discuss the process candidly. “And I think that we all kinda quickly came to the point that we need to set our egos aside. We need to get this right."

That’s about where the answers end. The collaboration’s first public statement acknowledges that their industry “saw major errors and failed to live up to our own expectations.” But the memo also underscores the limits of the polling autopsy, noting that “no consensus on a solution has emerged.”

According to Democrats involved with the internal review, Tuesday’s statement marks the beginning of a years-long process to examine why, since 2012, most major elections have tilted against the party, despite favorable polling data before the vote. Up and down the ballot, Democrats have been, more often than not, shell-shocked by defeats in races they thought to be competitive, or narrower-than-expected, victories in contests they thought they led comfortably.

Democrats are not alone in reviewing what went wrong last year. The polling industry is engaged in multiple reviews of its 2020 performance, including a forthcoming report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s task force that is expected to address the overestimation of Democrats’ performance, from the presidential race down to races for Congress and state offices.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Police

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernard Madoff (1938–2021), Emily Langer, April 14, 2021. Ponzi scheme mastermind, reviled symbol of Wall Street greed dies at 82. Bernard L. Madoff, who died April 14 at 82, was the mastermind of perhaps the largest Ponzi scheme in history, a reviled symbol of Wall Street greed and, once, one of the most sought-after stockbrokers in high finance.

bernard madoff mug CustomFor years, “Bernie” Madoff (shown in a mugshot) was regarded as an investment sage. He had clients, homes and boats strewn about exclusive enclaves around the world. Leveraging the clout he had amassed as a legitimate trader, he lured — and eventually fleeced — thousands of investors who entrusted to him their retirement savings, their children’s college funds and their financial security.

His clients included Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and scores of retirees and other private individuals. Banks, hedge funds, universities and charities came to rely on his improbably reliable reported returns.

In reality, there were no such returns. For at least 16 years, and perhaps longer, Mr. Madoff ran a scam in which he paid existing investors with money from new clients.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wall Street Is Donating to This D.A. Candidate. Is That a Problem? Jonah E. Bromwich, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Talia Farhadian Weinstein, who raised millions, would have jurisdiction over some financial crimes if she became Manhattan’s district attorney.

Even had she not raised more money than her rivals, Tali Farhadian Weinstein would be a formidable candidate in the nine-way race to become the Manhattan district attorney, perhaps the most high-profile local prosecutor’s office in the country.

She was a Rhodes scholar, has an elite legal résumé and is the only candidate who has worked for both the Justice Department and a city prosecutor’s office. And while most of the candidates are campaigning as reformers intent on reducing incarceration, Ms. Farhadian Weinstein, 45, has staked out a slightly more conservative position, expressing concerns about guns and gangs.

But what most sets Ms. Farhadian Weinstein apart from the field is her fund-raising. As of January, she had raised $2.2 million, far more than her competitors, hundreds of thousands of it from Wall Street, where her husband is a major hedge fund manager.

Her opponents, legal ethicists and good government advocates have raised questions about that support, pointing out that the Manhattan district attorney, by virtue of geography, has jurisdiction over a large number of financial crimes.

“It’s very difficult to see how a Manhattan D.A. candidate can accept really large and numerous donations from people who are involved in industries who could easily be the subject of that office’s attention,” said Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, a government reform group

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Bad news for journalists: The public doesn’t share our values. But there’s hope, Margaret Sullivan, right, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). Transparency? Accountability? margaret sullivan 2015 photoNot as popular as we think, says a new study.

The study, “A New Way of Looking at Trust in Media,” is from the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between API and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. It builds on research led by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt into the importance of moral values — such as fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity — in people’s lives.

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Bidder for Tribune Newspapers Is an Influential Liberal Donor, Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Robertson, April 14, 2021 (print ed.). The Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss helped build a sophisticated behind-the-scenes operation that attacked Republicans and promoted Democratic causes.

tribune publishing logoLong before he emerged as a potential champion of journalism with his bid for Tribune Publishing, the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss quietly created a sophisticated political operation to advance progressive policy initiatives and the Democrats who support them.

The organization, called The Hub Project, was started in 2015 by one of Mr. Wyss’s charitable organizations, the Wyss Foundation, partly to shape media coverage to help Democratic causes. It now has 60 employees, according to its website, including political organizers, researchers and communications specialists. Mr. Wyss and his charitable foundation are not mentioned on The Hub Project’s website, and his role in its creation has not been previously reported.

Information about his involvement came from interviews with five people with knowledge of The Hub Project, an internal memo from another liberal group that was obtained by The New York Times, and the appearance of The Hub Project’s business plan in a tranche of data made public by WikiLeaks. According to U.S. officials, the data was stolen by Russian intelligence from the emails of John Podesta, who has been an adviser to Mr. Wyss and was a top aide to the former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

alden global capital logoThe Hub Project’s activities include organizing paid advertising campaigns that criticized Republican congressional candidates in 2018, as well as a series of marches in 2017 that called on then-President Donald J. Trump to release his tax returns. As The Hub Project’s website notes, it also developed a podcast last year, “Made to Fail,” hosted by the former Obama administration official and current CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams, that was critical of conservative policies.

As a newspaper publisher, Mr. Wyss (pronounced Veese) would be in a role very different from that of a behind-the-scenes backer of progressive causes. If he succeeds in his bid for Tribune Publishing, a chain that includes The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and The Daily News, he could help shape news coverage for millions of readers.

In making this bid, Mr. Wyss teamed with Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a major donor to Democrats and the chairman of Choice Hotels, an international hotel chain. The pair emerged last week as the leading bidders after swooping in with an offer that was richer than an earlier bid from Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund that is Tribune’s largest shareholder.

Tribune had reached a nonbinding agreement with Alden in February, only to change course this month, when its special committee said the bid from Mr. Wyss, 85, and Mr. Bainum, 75, would lead to a “superior proposal.” Company shareholders are expected to approve a buyer this summer.

April 13

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

More On Chauvin Trial, New MN Protests


World News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Police

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

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Proof via Substack, Investigation: New Revelation on January 6 Golf Cart Use Points to White House Coordination of Insurrectionists' Transport, Seth Abramson, April 13, 2021. seth abramson headshotseth abramson proof logoThis story is long, complex, and almost too odd to believe, but every word of it is true.

Very few Americans who were in Washington on January 6—perhaps none—have as long and well-recorded a history with golf carts as then-president Donald Trump has.

The question now is: Did those golf carts drive 19 mph or Insurrection Day, or 14 mph? The answer to that question may determine how many members of the Secret Service deserve to be indicted for the events of January 6 before the FBI’s investigation is over.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Live Updates: Biden to Announce Full Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan by Sept. 11, Staff Report, April 13, 2021. Exit Date Is 20 Years After Attacks That Spurred Longest U.S. War

President Biden has decided to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 20 years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon launched the country into its longest war, United States officials said Tuesday.

The decision will keep more than 3,000 American troops on the ground in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 withdrawal deadline announced by the administration of former President Donald J. Trump.

Department of Defense SealBut it signals what Mr. Biden plans to present as a definitive end to America’s “Forever War.”

Administration officials said that since Mr. Biden was fixing a definite date on an American troop withdrawal, he hoped to avoid an increase in violence — which the Taliban have threatened if the United States kept troops beyond May 1.

The decision was reported earlier Tuesday by The Washington Post.

A new intelligence report released Tuesday offered a grim assessment of Afghanistan and the prospects for peace. American intelligence agencies assessed that a peace deal was unlikely in the next year, and that the Taliban would make battlefield gains.

“The Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support,” the report said.

Military and other officials who favored troops remaining in the country longer had used a similar classified intelligence assessment to argue for a slower drawdown, worried that an exit of American troops could trigger a wider civil war and an eventual return of terrorist groups.

The report released Tuesday did not contain an assessment of the likelihood of a return of Al Qaeda to Afghanistan, and some senior officials remain skeptical the Taliban would allow it. The report did say that Afghan government forces continued to hold major cities. But they have been “tied down in defensive missions and have struggled to hold recaptured territory.”

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III are in Europe this week and no doubt will be discussing Mr. Biden’s withdrawal plans with NATO allies.

Afghan officials are afraid that Mr. Biden’s decision to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline, as outlined in last year’s peace deal, would pressure Kabul’s government to release the roughly 7,000 Taliban prisoners the insurgent group has long asked to be freed.

Right now, those prisoners and the lifting of United Nations sanctions were some of the last leverage the United States had over the Taliban. The Afghan government has been staunchly opposed to any further prisoner release.

ny times logoNew York Times, Capitol Police Told to Hold Back on Riot Response on Jan. 6, Report Finds, Luke Broadwater, April 13, 2021. Despite being tipped that “Congress itself is the target,” officerswere ordered not to use crowd-control weapons, according to a scathing new report.

The Capitol Police had clearer advance warnings about the Jan. 6 attack than were previously known, including the potential for violence in which “Congress itself is the target.” But officers were instructed by their leaders not to use their most aggressive tactics to hold off the mob, according to a scathing new report by the agency’s internal investigator.

In a 104-page report, the inspector general, Michael A. Bolton, criticized the way the Capitol Police prepared for and responded to the mob violence on Jan. 6. The report was reviewed by The New York Times and will be the subject of a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday.

Mr. Bolton found that the agency’s leaders failed to adequately prepare despite explicit warnings that pro-Trump extremists posed a threat to law enforcement and civilians and that the police used defective protective equipment. He also found that the leaders ordered their Civil Disturbance Unit to refrain from using its most powerful crowd-control tools — like stun grenades — to put down the onslaught.

The report offers the most devastating account to date of the lapses and miscalculations around the most violent attack on the Capitol in two centuries.

Three days before the siege, a Capitol Police intelligence assessment warned of violence from supporters of President Donald J. Trump who believed his false claims that the election had been stolen. Some had even posted a map of the Capitol complex’s tunnel system on pro-Trump message boards.

“Unlike previous postelection protests, the targets of the pro-Trump supporters are not necessarily the counterprotesters as they were previously, but rather Congress itself is the target on the 6th,” the threat assessment said, according to the inspector general’s report. “Stop the Steal’s propensity to attract white supremacists, militia members, and others who actively promote violence may lead to a significantly dangerous situation for law enforcement and the general public alike.”

But on Jan. 5, the agency wrote in a plan for the protest that there were “no specific known threats related to the joint session of Congress.” And the former chief of the Capitol Police has testified that the force had determined that the likelihood of violence was “improbable.”

Mr. Bolton concluded such intelligence breakdowns stemmed from dysfunction within the agency and called for “guidance that clearly documents channels for efficiently and effectively disseminating intelligence information to all of its personnel.”

That failure conspired with other lapses inside the Capitol Police force to create a dangerous situation on Jan. 6, according to his account. The agency’s Civil Disturbance Unit, which specializes in handling large groups of protesters, was not allowed to use some of its most powerful tools and techniques against the crowd, on the orders of supervisors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Slain Capitol Police officer William ‘Billy’ Evans lies in honor at Capitol, Meagan Flynn and Paul Duggan, April 13, 2021. Evans was protecting members of Congress and others on Capitol Hill from a violent incursion on April 2 and died in the line of duty.

His children waited for him at the top of the East Capitol steps Tuesday, holding their mother’s hands as the military honor guard carried William “Billy” Evans’s coffin into the Capitol.

william evansAll rose in the Rotunda as the doors swung open, and President Biden and members of Congress put their hands on their hearts. The Capitol Police saluted, and the honor guard placed Evans upon a catafalque that once held the coffin of President Abraham Lincoln.

Feet away from Biden, in the front row, Evans’s son, Logan, 9, wore a police cap while clutching a teddy bear. His daughter, Abigail, 7, fiddled with a miniature Capitol souvenir toy.

“We are all shocked by the senselessness of this loss,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at the beginning of the congressional ceremony. “To Billy’s beloved children, Abigail and Logan, I want you to know we are forever indebted to your dad. We will remember his sacrifice, your sacrifice, forever.”

It was the second time in less than three months that mourners were gathered in the Capitol Rotunda to honor a fallen police officer. Evans, like Brian D. Sicknick before him, was protecting members of Congress and others on Capitol Hill from a violent incursion and died in the line of duty.

Evans, 41, was killed April 2 when he and another Capitol Police officer, standing in front of a steel barricade near the Russell Senate Office Building, were struck by a car whose driver intentionally rammed the barrier, authorities said. The other officer, Ken Shaver, survived, and the driver was fatally shot by police.

USA Today, A grieving daughter dropped her toy. A president gave it back, Savannah Behrmann and Michael Collins, April 13, 2021. President Joe Biden usa today logoandcongressional leaders paid tribute Tuesday to U.S. Capitol Police Officer William "Billy" Evans during a solemn ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

Evans, an 18-year member of the force who served on the agency's First Responders Unit, died during an attack at the Capitol earlier this month. His body is lying in honor in the Rotunda, an unusual distinction for a private citizen.

Biden said Evans was defined "by his dignity, his decency his loyalty and his courage." The president said Evans reminded him of the kids he grew up with in Pennsylvania – never scared of a fight, unable to say no whenever he was needed.

"He was the one who always kept his word," Biden said. "If he said he'd be there, he'd be there."

As Biden spoke, members of Congress sat silently and stoically. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., rubbed his eyes at one point, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrung her hands.

Evans' flag-draped coffin arrived at the Capitol with a police escort shortly after 10:30 a.m. Dozens of uniformed officers lined both sides of the East Front steps as pallbearers carried the casket into the Rotunda, where it rested on a black-covered catafalque that once held Abraham Lincoln's coffin.
President Joe Biden walks from the podium after speaking during a ceremony to honor slain U.S. Capitol Police Officer William "Billy" Evans as he lies in honor at the Capitol on Tuesday.

As his casket was carried in and placed, the Rotunda was silent. Biden stood with his hand over his heart. Some 50 police officers stood at attention.

Evans' family – the mother of his two children, his son and daughter, and his mother – sat off to the side of the podium where congressional leadership and the president addressed the crowd.

Evans’ young children, Logan, 9, and Abigail, 7, held stuffed toys. Logan wore a police cap.

At one point, Abigail dropped a toy replica of the Capitol, prompting Biden, who was sitting closest to the family, to get up from his chair, walk over and pick it up, and hand it back to her.

"We are all shocked by the senselessness of this loss," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who urged Evans' fellow officers to keep his memory alive.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Evans "a martyr for our democracy" and said he joined "the pantheon of heroes" who gave their lives to defend the Capitol, including officers killed during the Jan. 6 mob attack on the seat of the federal government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran plans major jump in uranium enrichment after attack on facility, Kareem Fahim and Loveday Morris, April 13, 2021. The move puts Iran far closer to weapons-grade levels and comes after an attack on an enrichment facility that Iran blames on Israel. Talks to revive the nuclear deal with the United States were scheduled to resume Wednesday.

Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, a top official said Tuesday, far exceeding its current level, in a defiant move following an attack on one of its key nuclear sites, Iranian news agencies reported.

Iran FlagIran’s state-run Press TV quoted Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, as saying the country informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of plans to start 60 percent uranium enrichment.

The announcement puts Iran closer to weapons-grade levels of more than 90 percent enrichment and exceeds its current top level of 20 percent.

The move adds another major hurdle to negotiations to revive a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and six world powers.

Talks were set to reconvene in Vienna later this week between Tehran and the world powers, including the United States. Iran began breaching the accord after President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, reimposed the sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the agreement, and added more than 1,500 additional measures in what his administration called a “maximum pressure” campaign to cripple the Iranian economy.

Iran, in response, increased enriched uranium from the 3.67 percent purity stipulated by the deal to 20 percent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Minnesota killing adds to the anger, and the stakes, as Chauvin trial nears its end, Griff Witte and Mark Berman, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). The shooting death by police of Daunte Wright added to fears of unrest after the verdict.

Long before a suburban police officer raised her gun and fired at 20-year-old Daunte Wright, Minneapolis was braced for a turbulent spring.

But the killing of Wright on Sunday — shot by a veteran officer who, the police chief said, had apparently intended to use her Taser — instantly added anger and combustibility in a region already on edge from the highest-stakes trial to date amid a mass movement against racially biased policing.

That trial hurtled toward its conclusion on Monday, with final arguments in the case against former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin expected next week, even as authorities were racing to stave off a second night of unrest after Wright’s death. Officials announced curfews, schools suspended in-person classes, professional sports teams canceled games and businesses boarded up after a first night that included peaceful protests — but also clashes between police and demonstrators, as well as looting of local businesses.

“This couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” said Mike Elliott, mayor of Brooklyn Center, the suburb 10 miles north of downtown Minneapolis where Sunday’s shooting took place. “We are collectively devastated.”

Apprehension over the potential fallout from the Chauvin verdict, which is likely to come this month, had already reached considerable heights. Minneapolis is still grappling with the chaos that erupted following the killing of George Floyd last year, and the city’s center is locked down because of the trial of Chauvin, who is accused of Floyd’s death. Local officials have said they are spending $1 million on security, bringing in waves of law enforcement and erecting fences topped with barbed wir

ny times logoNew York Times, Minnesota Officer Who Shot Daunte Wright Meant to Fire Taser, Chief Says, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Julie Bosman, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb. Officials called it an “accidental discharge.”

The police officer who killed a man in a Minneapolis suburb on Sunday did so accidentally, officials said Monday, releasing a graphic body-camera video that appeared to depict the officer shouting, “Taser!” before firing her gun.

“It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center Police Department said of the shooting on Sunday of Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop. “This appears to me, from what I viewed, and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr. Wright.”

The officer, who was not publicly identified, has been placed on administrative leave, officials said. Chief Gannon said that Mr. Wright had been initially pulled over because of an expired registration on the vehicle he was driving. The video showed a brief struggle between Mr. Wright and police officers before one of the officers fired her gun.

After the officer fired, she is heard on the video saying, “Holy shit. I just shot him.”

In the hours after the shooting on Sunday afternoon, protests, violence and looting broke out in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of 30,000 people north of Minneapolis. The shooting comes amid a national reckoning over police misconduct and the killings of Black people by the police; Mr. Wright was Black. City officials did not identify the race of the police officer.

“We will get to the bottom of this,” Mike Elliott, the mayor of Brooklyn Center, said at a news conference on Monday. “We will do all that is within our power to make sure that justice is done for Daunte Wright.”

Mr. Elliott called for the officer who shot Mr. Wright to be fired. “My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,” he said. “And so I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties.”

The Twin Cities region has been on edge for weeks, as the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who has been charged with murdering George Floyd, is underway in a Minneapolis courtroom less than 10 miles from where Mr. Wright was shot.

mohammad javad zarif iranian foreign minister meets chinese state councillor foreign minister wang yi may 13 2018 reuters

ny times logoNew York Times, Blaming Israel, Iran Vows Revenge for Blackout at Nuclear Site, Patrick Kingsley, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif (shown at left above in a 2018 file photo meeting China's foreign minister), vowed revenge against Israel on Monday morning, a day after a blackout at an Iranian nuclear enrichment site was attributed to an Israeli attack.

Mr. Zarif’s comments highlight the risk of escalation in a yearslong shadow war between Iran and Israel. They also threaten to overshadow efforts in Vienna to encourage Iran to reimpose limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of American sanctions.

Iran FlagIn a statement broadcast by Iranian state television, Mr. Zarif was quoted as saying: “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions.”

He added, “But we will take our revenge from the Zionists,” according to the broadcast.

Mr. Zarif’s reported comments followed a power failure on Sunday at the Natanz uranium enrichment site that Iranian officials attributed to Israeli sabotage. The Israeli government formally declined to comment on its involvement, but American and Israeli officials confirmed Israel Flagseparately to The New York Times that Israel had played a role. Israeli news outlets, citing intelligence sources, attributed the attack to the Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

Two officials briefed on the matter told The Times that the blackout was caused by an explosion that targeted the power supply for thousands of underground centrifuges that form the main Iranian enrichment program.

A spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Behrouz Kamalvandi, said on Monday that the blast had created a crater so big that he had fallen into it, injuring his head, back, leg and arm.

Palmer Report, Plot twist: Joel Greenberg secretly flipped on Matt Gaetz awhile ago, Bill Palmer, right, April 13, 2021. Last week indicted Florida politician Joel Greenberg’s attorney announced in court bill palmerthat Greenberg was planning to cut a plea deal against Matt Gaetz. Now, in a new plot twist, the New York Times says that Greenberg actually flipped on Gaetz last year. This is notable for a number of reasons.

First, it appears that federal investigators wanted Greenberg’s cooperation to remain a secret, or else Greenberg’s lawyer wouldn’t have been so coy about it in court last week. The lawyer didn’t actually lie, as the Times says that Greenberg has been cooperating since last year but hasn’t yet formally negotiated a plea deal.

bill palmer report logo headerSecond, this gives new context to how investigators found their way to Gaetz’s various alleged crimes, because now it turns out Greenberg was actively pointing investigators in the right direction.

Third, this means that Matt Gaetz could end up being indicted sooner than we would otherwise have expected. It’s a fool’s game to try to guess precisely when the Feds will indict anyone who’s under investigation, because the Feds tend to take their time and build an overwhelming case before indicting people. But while we were previously under the impression that the Feds would have to wait for Greenberg to cut his deal before he would give them the goods on Gaetz, it turns out the Feds have had Greenberg’s evidence against Gaetz for quite some time now.

Finally, this makes clear that the media is still succeeding in digging up the details of the Matt Gaetz scandal. Earlier today we pointed out that there hadn’t been any major breaks reported in the case for a few days. But now that lull appears to be over. Now we’ll see whether the evidence that Greenberg gave up on Gaetz ends up leaking out to the media, or whether we’ll have to wait for the seemingly inevitably Gaetz indictment to see all the evidence.

 

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

ny times logoNew York Times, Indicted Gaetz Associate Is Said to Be Cooperating With Justice Dept., Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, April 13, 2021. Joel Greenberg has been talking to federal investigators since last year about the conduct of Representative Matt Gaetz and others.

A former local official in Florida indicted in the Justice Department investigation that is also focused on Representative Matt Gaetz has been providing investigators with information since last year about an array of topics, including Mr. Gaetz’s activities, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Joel Greenberg, a onetime county tax collector, disclosed to investigators that he and Mr. Gaetz had encounters with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex, the people said. The Justice Department is investigating the involvement of the men with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments and whether the men had sex with a 17-year-old in violation of sex trafficking statutes, people familiar with the inquiry have said.

Mr. Greenberg, who is said to have met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances and introduced them to Mr. Gaetz, could provide investigators with firsthand accounts of their activities.

Mr. Greenberg began speaking with investigators once he realized that the government had overwhelming evidence against him and that his only path to leniency lay in cooperation, the people said. He has met several times with investigators to try to establish his trustworthiness, though the range of criminal charges against him — including fraud — could undermine his credibility as a witness.

Mr. Greenberg faces dozens of other counts including sex trafficking of a minor, stalking a political rival and corruption. He was first indicted in June. The Justice Department inquiry drew national attention in recent weeks when investigators’ focus on Mr. Gaetz, a high-profile supporter of President Donald J. Trump who knew Mr. Greenberg through Republican political circles in Florida, came to light.

Speculation about Mr. Greenberg’s cooperation began mounting last week, after his lawyer and a federal prosecutor both said in court that he was likely to plead guilty in the coming weeks. “I’m sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today,” Fritz Scheller, Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer, told reporters afterward.

The United States attorney’s office for the Middle District of Florida is leading the investigation, which is examining not only whether Mr. Greenberg, Mr. Gaetz and others broke sex trafficking laws but also whether Mr. Gaetz paid for women over the age of 18 to travel with him to places like the Bahamas.

A Justice Department spokesman and a lawyer for Mr. Greenberg declined to comment.

A spokesman for Mr. Gaetz said he had done nothing wrong. “Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex,” said the spokesman, Harlan Hill, who suggested that Mr. Greenberg was “trying to ensnare innocent people in his troubles.”

Prosecutors often seek out cooperators in complex investigations where an insider’s account can help make their cases. Typically, the authorities meet with potential cooperators many times before formally agreeing to a plea deal to determine what information they have and whether they could serve as a witness against others.

 

Virus Victims, Response

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Director Says Michigan Should Shut Down to Slow Outbreak, Staff reports, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). The agency’s director rebuffed efforts by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to secure extra vaccine doses. Here’s the latest pandemic news. The director’s remarks rebuff efforts by Michigan’s governor to secure an extra supply of vaccine doses in response the state’s worst-in-the-nation coronavirus surge. A new study bolstered the case that antibody treatments can protect against Covid-19. And Britain is reopening parts of its economy.

cdc logo CustomTwo worrisome variants make up over 70 percent of cases analyzed in N.Y.C., city officials say.The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday that Michigan needed to enact shutdown measures in response to its worst-in-the-nation surge of coronavirus infections, rebuffing efforts by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to secure an extra supply of vaccine doses.

michigan map“The answer is not necessarily to give vaccine,” the director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said at a White House news conference. “The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down, to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another, to test to the extent that we have available to contact trace.”

The comments put the Biden administration in direct contradiction with the governor, a strong ally of the president, who has recently resisted ordering more restrictive measures in her state after facing intense political blowback over previous moves to shut down businesses and schools. Last week, Ms. Whitmer, right, asked residents of the state to take more “personal responsibility” to slow the outbreak, a position that satisfied Republicans in the state who had been fierce critics of her handling of the pandemic.

gretchen whitmer o smile Custom“Policy change alone won’t change the tide,” Ms. Whitmer said on Friday, as she asked — but did not order — that the public take a two-week break from indoor dining, in-person high school and youth sports. “We need everyone to step up.”

During previous surges in Michigan, Ms. Whitmer shut down businesses and schools as she saw fit, drawing intense protest from Republicans in the state, who viewed her as an avatar of government overreach. The state still has a mask mandate in place and strict capacity limits on a number of activities.

Dr. Walensky, left, said on Monday that because it takes weeks for full protection for vaccines to kick in, the effects of sending extra vaccines to the Rochelle Walenskystate would take time and not be the most practical approach to containing spread. Someone is not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second dose of the vaccines made by Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or the single-dose shot made by Johnson & Johnson.

“I think if we tried to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work, to actually have the impact,” she said. “Similarly, we need that vaccine in other places. If we vaccinate today, we will have, you know, impact in six weeks, and we don’t know where the next place is going to be that is going to surge.”

Ms. Whitmer has pleaded with the White House to send extra doses, even as her state has used just 80 percent of those delivered so far, according data reported by the C.D.C. She said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the White House should reconsider its refusal to alter its distribution plan — based on population — so that localities that face flare-ups could get extra doses.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The C.D.C. director says Michigan needs to shut down, not get extra vaccine, to slow its virus outbreak.
  • Over 50,000 N.Y.C. public school students will return to classrooms, including in middle and high school.
  • New York ends requirement to quarantine for international travelers, but recommends they still do so.
  • The U.S. is nearing universal Covid-19 vaccine eligibility for adults.
  • England reopens shops and some pubs and restaurants after three months of lockdown.
  • As India rises to No. 2 in total infections, a huge Hindu pilgrimage risks becoming a superspreading event.
  • Graduation ceremonies will be allowed in New York this spring, with restrictions.
  • Study bolsters the case that antibody drugs can protect against Covid-19.
  • The C.D.C. director says Michigan needs to shut down, not get extra vaccine, to slow its virus outbreak.

washington post logoWashington Post, 122.3 million vaccinated, as of April 13, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 45.8 of the eligible population,16 and older and 36.8 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 13, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 137,340,422, Deaths: 2,961,423
U.S. Cases:     31,990,143, Deaths:    576,298
India Cases:    13,689,453, Deaths:     171,089
Brazil Cases:   13,521,409, Deaths:     355,031

fda logowashington post logoWashington Post, FDA, CDC urge pause in use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine after reports of blood clots, Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Y. Johnson, April 13, 2021. The agencies said they are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine.

johnson johnson logoThe Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday they are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred six to 13 days after vaccination.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

brian kemp signing slave plantation

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, center, signs drastic new voting restrictions into law, empowering the GOP-controlled legislatgure to decide close elections, flanked by fellow white Republicans, with a slave plantation portait in the background.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the corporate backlash to Georgia’s new voting law is shaping other fights around the country over access to the polls, Amy Gardner and Mike DeBonis, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). Behind closed doors, aides to Georgia’s top Republicans and its leading business interests spent the final days of March hashing out new voting legislation in an effort to quell a growing outcry that GOP lawmakers were pushing measures that would severely curtail access to the polls.

The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and representatives of major corporations, including Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, worked directly with legislative leaders and the office of Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to exclude some of the more controversial proposals, according to people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Republicans agreed to drop, for instance, language barring most Georgians from voting by mail and curtailing early voting on weekends. They even expanded early-voting hours in the final bill.

The hope of Republicans involved, according to a half-dozen people familiar with the process, was to pull off a delicate political balancing act: satisfying voters who believe former president Donald Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election because of rampant fraud — while heading off accusations of voter suppression from the left.

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Weird Quirk Might Let Michigan Republicans Limit Voting Rights, Reid J. Epstein and Trip Gabriel, April 13, 2021 A rarely used option for a voter-driven petition could allow state Republicans to circumvent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s promised veto.

Plenty of twists and turns are looming as Michigan’s State Senate prepares to hold hearings on a package of voting bills beginning Wednesday. Unlike Georgia, Florida and Texas, which have also moved to limit voting access, Michigan has a Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, who said last month she would veto gretchen whitmer o smile Customany bill imposing new restrictions. But unlike in other states with divided governments, Michigan’s Constitution offers Republicans a rarely used option for circumventing Ms. Whitmer’s veto.

Last month, the state’s Republican chairman told activists that he aimed to do just that — usher new voting restrictions into law using a voter-driven petition process that would bypass the governor’s veto pen.

In response, Michigan Democrats and voting rights activists are contemplating a competing petition drive, while also scrambling to round up corporate opposition to the bills; they are hoping to avoid a replay of what happened in Georgia, where the state’s leading businesses didn’t weigh in against new voting rules until after they were signed into law.

The maneuvering by both parties has turned Michigan into a test case of how states with divided government will deal with voting laws, and how Republicans in state legislatures are willing to use any administrative tool at their disposal to advance Mr. Trump’s false claims of fraud and pursue measures that could disenfranchise many voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden faces diverging pressure from Pelosi, Sanders on health care, Jeff Stein, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats are divided about how President Biden should further overhaul U.S. health insurance.

Nancy Pelosi The White House is facing diverging pressure from two powerful allies — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — over whether to use an upcoming spending package to strengthen the Affordable Care Act or expand Medicare eligibility.

Bernie SandersPelosi’s office is pushing the White House to make permanent a temporary expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies that were included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus legislation last month, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations.

Sanders, left, said in an interview that he is arguing for lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 55 or 60 and expanding the program for seniors so it covers dental, vision and hearing care.The contrasting visions for the next phase of President Biden’s legislative agenda reflect divisions within the Democratic Party about how Biden should further overhaul health insurance in the United States. Pelosi is looking to double down on the ACA, which has become more popular in recent years as it offers insurance subsidies to people well above the poverty line. Sanders, meanwhile, is looking for an opportunity to make progress on his longtime efforts to make government health insurance universal.

Either approach would offer more health insurance to lower-income Americans. But the choice facing Biden will allow him to decide whether he wants to continue the focus on the ACA, which operates largely through private insurers, or use political capital on a government-run program.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden insists he’s willing to negotiate with Republicans on infrastructure, Seung Min Kim and Tony Romm, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). The president hopes to whip up support for a package that could eclipse $2 trillion. A top GOP senator told the president in a private Oval Office meeting that it would be “almost impossible” to win over Republicans if the plan envisions boosting the corporate tax rate.

President Biden vowed Monday that the size and scope of his $2.25 trillion jobs plan — as well as how to pay for it — is up for negotiation, setting the stage for what is likely to be months of congressional wrangling on one of the White House’s chief legislative priorities.

us senate logoWhether a bipartisan deal ultimately materializes is far from clear, however, as a top GOP senator told Biden in a private Oval Office meeting Monday that it would be “almost impossible” to win over Republicans if the plan envisions boosting the corporate tax rate, as it currently does. There is also widespread private skepticism among congressional Republicans that the White House is genuinely open to a cross-party agreement that might significantly scale back Biden’s ambitions.

But the president, as well as White House officials, insisted that his overtures at bipartisanship were earnest and that he would not have been spending hours meeting with Republicans otherwise.

“I’m not big on window-dressing, as you’ve observed,” Biden said as he prepared to convene the meeting with lawmakers of both parties.

The session, which a White House official said was the first of several Biden will host this month, marked the informal beginning of months of arm-twisting and vote haggling on Capitol Hill to line up support behind the administration’s American Jobs Plan, a proposal that stretches beyond the traditional definitions of infrastructure.

kristen clarke

washington post logoWashington Post, Kristen Clarke faced abuse for taking on Trump. Now she’s poised to lead Justice Dept.’s civil rights team, David Nakamura, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). President Donald Trump was waging his baseless assault on the election results last fall when Kristen Clarke, above, head of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, opened her inbox to a stream of vicious threats over her efforts to fight back and protect the rights of voters.

Justice Department log circularOpenly misogynistic, littered with racial epithets, the messages were of the variety that seeks to debase and intimidate prominent minority women. “May you be found guilty by military tribunal and executed by hanging,” one email read.Clarke, who is Black, posted it on Twitter.

“Not deterred by those who harbor and espouse racism and hate,” she declared.

For Clarke, 46, the attacks were an ugly reminder that her rise to the highest ranks of civil rights advocacy offered no shield from hate and prejudice — and that her work on behalf of the disenfranchised is perhaps more crucial than ever at a time of rising white nationalism and an increasingly destructive culture war.

On Wednesday, Clarke will appear at a Senate confirmation hearing as President Biden’s nominee to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division. If confirmed, she would become the first Black woman to helm what former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. called the agency’s “crown jewel,” returning to the office where she began her professional career two decades earlier as a line attorney.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump gutted Obama-era housing discrimination rules. Biden’s bringing them back, Tracy Jan, April 13, 2021. HUD submits rules to address systemic racism and housing discrimination Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, right, on Tuesday moved to reinstate fair housing regulations that had been gutted under President Donald Trump, in one of the most tangible steps that the Biden administration has taken thus far to address systemic racism.

Marcia Fudge oThe effort comes less than three months after President Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at increasing racial equity across the nation, including directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to examine and reverse actions taken by the Trump administration that undermined fair housing principles.

The Biden administration plans to reinstate a 2013 rule that codified a decades-old legal standard known as “disparate impact” as well as a 2015 rule requiring communities to identify and dismantle barriers to racial integration or risk losing federal funds, according to notices posted Tuesday morning by the Office of Management and Budget signaling that the rules have been accepted for review.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Another tax break for rich Americans will go into effect, Allan Sloan, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). The Trump-era tax break for well-off older adults comes as President Biden aims to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans.

It involves a change in the numbers that determine how much in “required minimum distributions” people 72 and older have to take from their defined contribution retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s and 403(b)s. These RMDs, as they’re known, are federally taxable.

 

More On Chauvin Trial, New MN Protests

 philonise floyd court tv

washington post logoWashington Post, Brother recalls Floyd’s anguish over mother’s death as prosecution wraps up case in Chauvin trial, Holly Bailey, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). Prosecutors in the Derek Chauvin murder trial will formally rest their case Tuesday, after capping two weeks of intense and often excruciating testimony with an appearance Monday from George Floyd’s younger brother, who tearfully recalled their childhood in poverty and his brother’s anguish at their mother’s death.

Philonise Floyd, 39, shown above via Court TV's pool video, recounted growing up with George Floyd, whom he described as a father figure in a household where their single mother struggled to make ends meet. George made sure his younger siblings were dressed for school, were out the door on time and had eaten something — even though he “couldn’t cook.”

The younger Floyd, called to the stand as a “spark of life” witness to humanize George Floyd before a jury considering whether to punish the police officer charged with murder in his death, burst into tears when prosecutors displayed a photo of George and their mother.

Philonise Floyd said George was a “mama’s boy” and had been devastated by her death. He told the jury that the last time he saw his brother alive was at her funeral in May 2018. Floyd, who had moved to Minnesota in 2017, didn’t make it back to Texas before her passing. In a quiet, shaking voice, Philonise Floyd told the jury about seeing his brother crouched at her casket in grief.

  • Washington Post, Defense Lawyers Call Their First Witnesses in Derek Chauvin Trial, April 13, 2021. Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer is attempting to rebut the prosecution’s case by presenting evidence of George Floyd’s drug use and a prior arrest. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cardiologist testifies that Derek Chauvin’s acts caused George Floyd’s death, Meryl Kornfield, Abigail Hauslohner and Keith McMillan, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). As the Twin Cities area reels from the latest killing of a Black resident by a police officer, the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin resumed on Monday.

Cardiology expert Jonathan Rich testified that George Floyd showed no signs of heart problems, and that he did not die from a drug overdose. The defense for Chauvin, accused of killing Floyd after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes before he d

Frame by frame, Stoughton reviewed footage from the scene, testifying that when Floyd said “thank you” to police after they stopped forcing him into the police car, use of force was not necessary. He said it was “not appropriate” to restrain someone on the ground if that person is cooperating with the police.

Once Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck, Floyd uttered “I can’t breathe” 27 times until he was no longer able to talk, Stoughton said. At no point, from when the use of force began until Chauvin took his knee off Floyd’s neck, was the use of force reasonable, he testified.

“Someone who is passing out obviously does not present a threat,” he said.

During the cross-examination, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, asked about how reasonable officers could juggle distractions and other factors that are difficult to assess — alluding, as he had with other experts, to the fact that Stoughton was not in a dangerous situation when analyzing the body camera footage.

Nelson suggested that Chauvin had heightened concern about Floyd because other police officers had responded and they were “struggling.”

Stoughton said that was incorrect, pointing out that Floyd was in handcuffs when Chauvin responded to the scene.

washington post logoWashington Post, Officer who shot Daunte Wright meant to use Taser but fired gun, chief says, Kim Bellware, Andrea Salcedo, Sheila Regan, Jared Goyette and Meryl Kornfield, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). The suburban Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot a 20-year-old unarmed Black man during a traffic stop Sunday apparently meant to fire a Taser but instead made an “accidental discharge” from her gun, the police chief said Monday.

Less than 24 hours after an officer with the Brooklyn Center Police Department shot and killed Daunte Wright, Police Chief Tim Gannon played an unedited clip of police body camera video showing the fatal incident for the media and members of the community at a City Hall news conference.

The roughly one-minute video clip played by the police chief at a tense news conference starts with two male officers approaching Wright’s car — one on either side. After a brief conversation, the officer on the driver’s side takes Wright out of the car and begins to handcuff him. Wright begins to struggle and a third officer, a woman, approaches from behind to assist. As Wright struggles, the third officer is heard threatening to use a Taser on Wright.

In the chaotic seven seconds that follow, the female officer, who already has a weapon drawn, is heard yelling, “I’ll Tase you!” and then “Taser! Taser! Taser!” before firing.

Immediately after she is heard saying, “Holy s---, I shot him,” apparently realizing that she had fired her service weapon instead of her Taser.

Gannon described it as an “accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Brooklyn Center fires city manager, gives mayor control of the police department following police shooting, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). In the span of just a couple of hours Monday evening, a Minneapolis suburb appears to have fundamentally refashioned its leadership after a local police officer shot and killed an unarmed Black man during a traffic stop the day before.

Brooklyn Center, Minn., which erupted in protest Sunday as word of 20-year-old Daunte Wright’s death spread, now has a new city manager and — at least temporarily — a new de facto leader of the police department after a city council vote that granted the mayor “command authority” over the agency.

'The overhaul is likely to give Mayor Mike Elliott the power to fire the police chief and police officers, one legal expert told The Washington Post

 

World New

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. prepares for further talks with Iran as Tehran blames Israel for attack on nuclear facility, Karen DeYoung, Shira Rubin and Kareem Fahim, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. negotiators prepared to resume indirect talks with Iran this week in hopes that an attack on a key Iranian nuclear facility, widely attributed to Israel, would not derail the nascent effort at diplomacy.

Biden administration officials were quick to say the United States had nothing to do with the weekend incident, which caused a blackout that damaged centrifuges at the Natanz facility.

washington post logoalexey navalny 2017Washington Post, A weakened Navalny sees his wife in prison, leaving her worried about his weight loss and fatigue, Robyn Dixon, April 13, 2021. Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny (shown in a file photo) is so weakened from his hunger strike that he had to lie down several times when talking with his wife, Yulia, she said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Egypt seizes the Ever Given, saying its owners owe nearly $1 billion for Suez Canal traffic jam, Antonia Noori Farzan, April 13, 2021. A few weeks ago, Egypt was frantically trying to get the massive container ship Ever Given out of the Suez Canal.

Now, authorities are saying the vessel is not allowed to leave.

egypt flagIn the latest complication to the ill-fated voyage, Egypt has seized the Ever Given over its owners’ “failure to pay an amount of $900 million,” the state-run news outlet Ahram Gate reported. That amount represents the total compensation that Egypt says it is owed for the six-day blockage of the Suez Canal, including lost revenue from ships that ordinarily would have traveled through the canal during that time, as well as costs for damage to the crucial waterway and the equipment and labor deployed in the 144-hour scramble to free the ship.

Since it was dislodged from the narrow section of the canal where it ran aground in late March, blocking commerce worth billions of dollars, the Ever Given has been anchored in Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, at the midpoint of the canal. Twenty-five crew members, all Indian nationals, remain stuck on board.

The ruling allowing Egypt to seize the Ever Given was issued by a court in Ismailia, a city on the west bank of the canal, according to the Ahram Gate website. The Suez Canal Authority, which made the request, noted that Egypt’s maritime trade laws allow the “precautionary seizure” of vessels that have outstanding debts, including failure to pay the costs from an accident.

“The vessel will remain here until investigations are complete and compensation is paid,” Osama Rabie, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), told Egyptian state television last week, according to the Wall Street Journal. “The minute they agree to compensation, the vessel will be allowed to move.”

But the National Union of Seafarers in India argues that refusing to let the crew off the ship amounts to holding them for ransom. “If the SCA has suffered losses, they can sort it out with those involved with the ship,” Abdulgani Serang, the union’s general secretary, told the Times of India on Sunday.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Philippines’ drug war is putting more pregnant women behind bars. What happens to their children? Regine Cabato, April 13, 2021 (print ed.).The number of drug-related charges filed against women has soared, leading to overcrowded jails and hundreds of pregnant detainees. Some women tend to their children in dismal conditions, sometimes handcuffed to their hospital beds. Others surrender the child to family.

philippines flagRosemarie Santiago was four months pregnant when she walked into prison. She left more than a year later as a mother who had spent just one day with her child.

Santiago is among hundreds of young mothers who give birth while in government custody in the Philippines, where the poor can wait up to a decade for a trial. Some women tend to their children in dismal conditions, sometimes handcuffed to their hospital beds. Others, like Santiago, surrender the child to family.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Police

 ny times logoNew York Times, In Testimony for Defense, Witness Says Chauvin’s Force Was ‘Justified,’ April 13, 2021. The defense also presented body camera video from a previous arrest of George Floyd, part of its strategy to shift focus to his use of illicit drugs.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Men Arrested in 1996 Disappearance of Kristin Smart in California, Johnny Diaz, April 13, 2021. Ms. Smart was 19 and a college student in San Luis Obispo, Calif., when she vanished while walking to her dorm from an off-campus party.

Two men have been arrested in connection with the disappearance 25 years ago of the California college student Kristin Smart, the authorities said on Tuesday.

Paul Flores, who was the last person to see Ms. Smart on the day she disappeared in May 1996 and whom the authorities had declared in recent months to be a “prime suspect” in the case, was taken into custody at his home in San Pedro, Calif., on Tuesday, Ian Parkinson, the San Luis Obispo County sheriff, said at a news conference.

“This is where it all began, on the campus of Cal Poly,” Sheriff Parkinson said at the conference, adding, “this was the last place that Kristin Smart was seen alive.”

Mr. Flores was booked at the San Luis Obispo County jail on a murder charge, according to jail records. He is being held without bail, the sheriff said.

His father, Ruben Flores, was arrested at his home in Arroyo Grande, Calif., Sheriff Parkinson said. The Tribune of San Luis Obispo reported that sheriff’s deputies searched his home on Tuesday morning, drawing a crowd of onlookers. The sheriff said that the search warrants were sealed and that he could not discuss what evidence was found.

“We have not recovered Kristin,” he said. “We will continue to focus on finding her remains.”

Sheriff Parkinson said the case had been turned over to the district attorney’s office.

Harold Mesick, a lawyer for Ruben Flores, declined to comment on Tuesday but confirmed that his client had been arrested and charged with accessory after the fact. Ruben Flores, 80, was booked into the San Luis Obispo County jail on a $250,000 bond, according to jail records.

Paul Flores, 44, who was a Cal Poly student at the time, has denied being involved in her disappearance, but after previously describing him as a person of interest in their investigation, the Sheriff’s Office began to refer to him in recent months as a “prime suspect” in the case.

In March, the Sheriff’s Office said it had obtained a warrant to search for evidence at Ruben Flores’s residence, and they used cadaver dogs and ground-penetrating radar to canvass the property.

ny times logoNew York Times, Andrew Cuomo’s White-Knuckle Ride, Matt Flegenheimer, April 13, 2021. The New York governor, right, seems determined to prove that the instincts andrew cuomothat have gotten him into trouble can get him out of it, too.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Bond Girl’ Talk and Groping: Albany’s Toxic Culture for Women, Sydney Ember, J. David Goodman and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Updated April 13, 2021 (print ed.). With a new spotlight on sexual misconduct in New York’s capital, numerous women there described an enduring predatory and misogynistic environment.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Could an Officer Mistake a Gun for a Taser? Shawn Hubler and Jeremy White, April 13, 2021. The weapons look and feel different, and most forces have standard precautions and protocols to prevent the sort of mix-up that can be deadly.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The calm before the Matt Gaetz storm, Bill Palmer, right, April 13, 2021. After a couple weeks of nonstop headlines about the Matt Gaetz scandal, the new information coming out about it seems to have dried up a bit of late. Some folks out there will take this as a sign that the case against him has fallen apart, or that his scandal is going to be forgotten, or that – in the bill palmertired words of every fatalist out there – he’s “getting away with it all.”

But nothing works that way. Keep in mind that the federal criminal probe into Matt Gaetz has been going on in secret for months. What we witnessed on the outside of things was the media getting wind of the scandal, printing everything it could initially learn on the surface, and going a bit quiet while it digs deeper into the scandal and tries to learn more.

bill palmer report logo headerMeanwhile the Feds just made the big breakthrough they cared about, getting Gaetz’s associate Joel Greenberg to agree to cut a plea deal against him. So now the Feds will be tracking down all of the leads, evidence, and communications that Greenberg, right, gives them about Gaetz – and again, that kind of thing plays out behind joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorclosed doors, except when the media finds a way to get wind of certain developments.

So if the publicly visible trail on Matt Gaetz goes cold for a bit, whether it ends up being a few days or a few weeks, it’s absolutely not a sign that the whole thing has gone away and that Gaetz is off the hook. Federal criminal investigations simply don’t work like that.

If anything, this is the relative calm before the storm. The avenues the Feds are investigating in the Matt Gaetz scandal are as varied as they are explosive. In the end, this whole thing is likely going to end up being far uglier than it has been up to this point. Federal probes don’t just go away, simply because they’ve disappeared from the headlines for stretch.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wall Street Is Donating to This D.A. Candidate. Is That a Problem? Jonah E. Bromwich, April 13, 2021. Talia Farhadian Weinstein, who raised millions, would have jurisdiction over some financial crimes if she became Manhattan’s district attorney.

Even had she not raised more money than her rivals, Tali Farhadian Weinstein would be a formidable candidate in the nine-way race to become the Manhattan district attorney, perhaps the most high-profile local prosecutor’s office in the country.

She was a Rhodes scholar, has an elite legal résumé and is the only candidate who has worked for both the Justice Department and a city prosecutor’s office. And while most of the candidates are campaigning as reformers intent on reducing incarceration, Ms. Farhadian Weinstein, 45, has staked out a slightly more conservative position, expressing concerns about guns and gangs.

But what most sets Ms. Farhadian Weinstein apart from the field is her fund-raising. As of January, she had raised $2.2 million, far more than her competitors, hundreds of thousands of it from Wall Street, where her husband is a major hedge fund manager.

Her opponents, legal ethicists and good government advocates have raised questions about that support, pointing out that the Manhattan district attorney, by virtue of geography, has jurisdiction over a large number of financial crimes.

“It’s very difficult to see how a Manhattan D.A. candidate can accept really large and numerous donations from people who are involved in industries who could easily be the subject of that office’s attention,” said Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, a government reform group.

ny times logoNew York Times, A $1.2 Million Bank Error Buys a House, and an Arrest, Officials Say, Neil Vigdor, April 13, 2021. Kelyn Spadoni tried to keep a deposit that was off by five decimal places, according to the authorities, who said she was charged with fraud and fired from her job on the same day.

It was the type of windfall that investors pine for with every rally on Wall Street: $1,205,619.56 had inexplicably ended up in the brokerage account of a 911 dispatcher in Louisiana in February.

But the next day, when Charles Schwab tried to recover the money it had deposited in error into the account of Kelyn Spadoni, the authorities said, about a quarter of the funds were already gone. For about a month, the company said, calls, emails and text messages to Ms. Spadoni went unanswered.

washington post logoWashington Post, Knoxville student killed, officer injured after gunfire exchange at high school, officials say, Laura Meckler, Philip Bump, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). A high school student was fatally shot Monday after officials said he opened fire on police officers in the restroom of a school in Knoxville, Tenn., officials said.

An officer was injured in the exchange of gunfire, they said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the incident, said the Knoxville Police Department received a report of a person who was possibly armed with a gun inside a restroom at Austin-East Magnet High School. Upon arrival, officers located a person, later identified to be a student, in the restroom. Officials said the officers ordered the student out, but he refused to comply. As the officers entered the restroom, officials said, the student reportedly fired shots and struck an officer.

One officer returned fire, authorities said. The student was pronounced dead at the scene, officials said.

David Rausch, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said it was important to note that the student had not done anything with the firearm until the officers engaged with him. “This wasn’t a school shooting. This was an officer-involved shooting inside of a school,” Rausch told reporters. He said the two things were “much different.”

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Bidder for Tribune Newspapers Is an Influential Liberal Donor, Kenneth P. Vogel and Katie Robertson, April 13, 2021. The Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss helped build a sophisticated behind-the-scenes operation that attacked Republicans and promoted Democratic causes.

tribune publishing logoLong before he emerged as a potential champion of journalism with his bid for Tribune Publishing, the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss quietly created a sophisticated political operation to advance progressive policy initiatives and the Democrats who support them.

The organization, called The Hub Project, was started in 2015 by one of Mr. Wyss’s charitable organizations, the Wyss Foundation, partly to shape media coverage to help Democratic causes. It now has 60 employees, according to its website, including political organizers, researchers and communications specialists. Mr. Wyss and his charitable foundation are not mentioned on The Hub Project’s website, and his role in its creation has not been previously reported.

Information about his involvement came from interviews with five people with knowledge of The Hub Project, an internal memo from another liberal group that was obtained by The New York Times, and the appearance of The Hub Project’s business plan in a tranche of data made public by WikiLeaks. According to U.S. officials, the data was stolen by Russian intelligence from the emails of John Podesta, who has been an adviser to Mr. Wyss and was a top aide to the former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

alden global capital logoThe Hub Project’s activities include organizing paid advertising campaigns that criticized Republican congressional candidates in 2018, as well as a series of marches in 2017 that called on then-President Donald J. Trump to release his tax returns. As The Hub Project’s website notes, it also developed a podcast last year, “Made to Fail,” hosted by the former Obama administration official and current CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams, that was critical of conservative policies.

As a newspaper publisher, Mr. Wyss (pronounced Veese) would be in a role very different from that of a behind-the-scenes backer of progressive causes. If he succeeds in his bid for Tribune Publishing, a chain that includes The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and The Daily News, he could help shape news coverage for millions of readers.

In making this bid, Mr. Wyss teamed with Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a major donor to Democrats and the chairman of Choice Hotels, an international hotel chain. The pair emerged last week as the leading bidders after swooping in with an offer that was richer than an earlier bid from Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund that is Tribune’s largest shareholder.

Tribune had reached a nonbinding agreement with Alden in February, only to change course this month, when its special committee said the bid from Mr. Wyss, 85, and Mr. Bainum, 75, would lead to a “superior proposal.” Company shareholders are expected to approve a buyer this summer.

washington post logoWashington Post, BBC received 110,000 complaints over too much Prince Philip coverage — the most in its history, Antonia Noori Farzan, April 13, 2021. The BBC received a record-breaking number of complaints following its extensive coverage of Prince Philip’s death, with more than 110,000 people contacting the broadcaster to grumble over changes to scheduled programming and “excessive” reporting on his life and legacy.

bbc news logo2According to British media, the outpouring of criticism makes his death the most-complained-about event in the country’s television history, with the wave of backlash forcing the BBC to temporarily build a dedicated complaints page where people could object to the programming.

Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, husband to reigning British monarch Queen Elizabeth II “passed away peacefully” on Friday at Windsor Castle — where he had been staying amid the coronavirus pandemic. Following the news of his death, the BBC revised its schedule to make way for tributes, pulling popular television shows such as “Gardeners’ World” and postponing the “MasterChef” final.

The BBC defended its coverage, saying it was “proud of the role we play during moments of national significance,” but it did not disclose the precise number of complaints received. Official figures are expected to be published this week on the broadcaster’s biweekly complaint log

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How the Internet is empowering politicians, writers and porn stars at the expense of institutions, Philip Bump, April 13, 2021 (print ed.). When the Internet first reached significant scale, it facilitated the emergence of bespoke communities with shared interests, creating groups including people who, without the Internet, probably would never have discovered one another.

Not everyone can earn a living — much less a windfall — by setting up their own community. There’s some uncertain, emerging recipe for success, one that is different in different spheres. Success in campaign fundraising requires something different from success on Substack, though there is almost certainly some through-line of energy or passion.

The other component is that it necessarily erodes already wobbly institutions. Substack is encouraging writers to step away from existing outlets and become their own brands, giving up the benefits of working for a news outlet in favor of keeping more revenue for themselves.

In the political context, the situation differs in important ways. There, the diminished institution is the party. Few people will mourn a less powerful Republican Party or Democratic Party, but a scenario in which small donors forego giving to the party to give to candidates — often candidates who stand in defiance of the party — reduces the party’s ability to win elections more broadly. It also means candidates carrying the party label who are increasingly not beholden to the party itself.

April 12

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

World News

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Police

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at McConnell as he reiterates election falsehoods at Republican event, Josh Dawsey, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (below left) a “dumb son of a bitch” as he used a Saturday night speech to Republicans to blame him for not helping overturn the 2020 election and reiterated false assertions that he won the November contest.

rnc logoTrump (shown in a file photo), speaking to a Republican National Committee gathering at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., excoriated a number of Republicans even as he publicly called for party unity — focusing on those who voted to convict him in impeachment proceedings. But he saved his sharpest vitriol for the Kentucky Republican.

Mitchell_McConnell“If that were Schumer instead of this dumb son of a bitch Mitch McConnell they would never allow it to happen. They would have fought it,” he said of election certifying on Jan. 6, the day his supporters led an insurrection on the Capitol to block Joe Biden’s formal victory.

Trump spent much of the speech, with many senators in the room, lashing into his former ally in personal terms, often to cheers from the party’s top donors. He falsely claimed that he won the Senate election for McConnell in Kentucky and attacked his wife, Elaine Chao, who served as Trump’s transportation secretary.

elaine chao o“I hired his wife. Did he ever say thank you?” Trump said. He then mocked Chao, right, for resigning in response to the Jan. 6 events and Trump’s behavior that day.

“She suffered so greatly,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He later called McConnell a “stone cold loser.” A spokesman for McConnell could not immediately be reached.

The speech was light on his actual presidency, which some aides had wanted him to address, and delivered more of a familiar litany of grievances that seemed to animate the crowd. Many of his claims were false or misleading.

He did not directly address his 2024 plans — other than to express confidence about the Republican nominee winning — an attendee said, preferring instead to look back at the last election.

politico CustomPolitico, Republicans not pleased with Trump’s fiery Mar-a-Lago speech, Kelly Hooper, April 11, 2021. "We need unity," Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden in 2017. Trump’s verbal attacks come as the former president has reemerged into the world of GOP politics in recent days.

 axios logoAxios Sneak Peek, Biden's immigration tightrope, Alayna Treene and Stef Kight, April 12, 2021. The ACLU and migrant advocacy groups are fed up with President Biden for continuing some of the controversial immigration practices used by President Trump.

Why it matters: With the president approaching his 100th day in office, the situation at the southern border has become his administration's biggest problem and threatens the Democrats' chances in the pivotal 2022 midterms.

What we're hearing: Administration lawyers have been slow-walking negotiations with the American Civil Liberties Union, trying to get the group to hold off on a lawsuit that could dismiss Title 42, sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Trump enacted the controversial policy in March 2020, allowing officials to rapidly return people who illegally crossed the border back to Mexico, including asylum seekers.

While Biden ended Trump's hardline Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), his administration is expelling single adults and some families to Mexico without due process under Title 42. And the president has yet to reunite a single family separated under the Trump administration.

axios logoAxios, Scoop: Biden weighs Ken Salazar for ambassador to Mexico, Hans Nichols, April 12, 2021. The Biden administration is vetting Ken Salazar, a former senator and Interior secretary, to serve as U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: President Biden is close to publicly naming a slate of ambassadors. In considering a former Senate colleague for Mexico City, he's acknowledging the crisis on the border will require both diplomatic and political skills to solve.

Driving the news: Biden has started to call some of his potential ambassadors to offer them foreign postings, people familiar with the matter say.

The process is in its early stages, and not everyone who will end up getting an ambassadorship has been contacted, a person familiar with the matter told Axios.
"The president has not made the decision about the vast majority of his ambassadorial nominations," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

Go deeper: Salazar, who describes himself as a “12th-generation son of the Southwest,” was elected to the Senate in 2004 and resigned his seat to become President Obama's first Interior secretary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facing GOP opposition, Biden seeks to redefine bipartisanship, Ashley Parker, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). The president and his aides point to broad public support for many Democratic policies among voters in both parties, as well as Republican state officials.

To hear President Biden and his team tell it, a successful bipartisan bill need not attract a single Republican vote.

Biden pushed his $1.9 trillion covid relief bill through the Senate with the support of all 50 Democrats and nary a Republican, yet later declared it a resounding bipartisan triumph.

The president and his advisers have also signaled that, while they are planning robust outreach to Republican lawmakers, they are prepared to pass his infrastructure plan on the votes of Democrats alone — and call it a bipartisan victory.

“If you looked up ‘bipartisan’ in the dictionary, I think it would say support from Republicans and Democrats,” said Anita Dunn, a senior Biden adviser. “It doesn’t say the Republicans have to be in Congress.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Minnesota Officer Who Shot Daunte Wright Meant to Fire Taser, Chief Says, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Julie Bosman, April 12, 2021. Mr. Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot during a traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb. Officials called it an “accidental discharge.”

The police officer who killed a man in a Minneapolis suburb on Sunday did so accidentally, officials said Monday, releasing a graphic body-camera video that appeared to depict the officer shouting, “Taser!” before firing her gun.

“It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet,” Chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center Police Department said of the shooting on Sunday of Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop. “This appears to me, from what I viewed, and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr. Wright.”

The officer, who was not publicly identified, has been placed on administrative leave, officials said. Chief Gannon said that Mr. Wright had been initially pulled over because of an expired registration on the vehicle he was driving. The video showed a brief struggle between Mr. Wright and police officers before one of the officers fired her gun.

After the officer fired, she is heard on the video saying, “Holy shit. I just shot him.”

In the hours after the shooting on Sunday afternoon, protests, violence and looting broke out in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of 30,000 people north of Minneapolis. The shooting comes amid a national reckoning over police misconduct and the killings of Black people by the police; Mr. Wright was Black. City officials did not identify the race of the police officer.

“We will get to the bottom of this,” Mike Elliott, the mayor of Brooklyn Center, said at a news conference on Monday. “We will do all that is within our power to make sure that justice is done for Daunte Wright.”

Mr. Elliott called for the officer who shot Mr. Wright to be fired. “My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,” he said. “And so I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties.”

The Twin Cities region has been on edge for weeks, as the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who has been charged with murdering George Floyd, is underway in a Minneapolis courtroom less than 10 miles from where Mr. Wright was shot.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Blackout Hits Iran Nuclear Site in What Appears to Be Israeli Sabotage, Ronen Bergman, Rick Gladstone and Farnaz Fassihi, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). Intelligence officials said an explosion at a key nuclear site could prevent Iran from enriching uranium for months, and confirmed an Israeli role. The power outage injected new uncertainty into diplomatic efforts that began last week to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal repudiated by the Trump administration.

A power failure that appeared to have been caused by a deliberately planned explosion struck Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site on Sunday, in what Iranian officials called an act of sabotage that they suggested had been carried out by Israel.

Iran FlagThe blackout injected new uncertainty into diplomatic efforts that began last week to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal repudiated by the Trump administration.

Iran did not say precisely what had caused the blackout at the heavily fortified site, which has been a target of previous sabotage, and Israel publicly declined to confirm or deny any responsibility. But American and Israeli intelligence officials said there had been an Israeli role.

Two intelligence officials briefed on the damage said it had been caused by a large explosion that completely destroyed the independent — and heavily protected — internal power system that supplies the underground centrifuges that enrich uranium.

Israel FlagThe officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a classified Israeli operation, said that the explosion had dealt a severe blow to Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and that it could take at least nine months to restore Natanz’s production.

If so, Iran’s leverage in new talks sought by the Biden administration to restore the nuclear agreement could be significantly compromised. Iran has said it will take increasingly strong actions prohibited under the agreement until the sanctions imposed by President Donald J. Trump have been rescinded.

It was not immediately clear how much advance word — if any — the Biden administration received about the Natanz operation, which happened on the same morning that the American defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, was visiting Israel. But Israeli officials have made no secret of their unhappiness over Mr. Biden’s desire to revive the nuclear agreement that his predecessor renounced in 2018.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, described the blackout as an act of “nuclear terrorism” and said the international community must confront the threat

OpEdNews, Opinion: Israel Sabotages US Efforts to Reestablish Iran Treaty, Rob Kall, right, April 12, 2021. Such a bombing is an act of war. It doesn't get much rob kall newworse. Yet I was unable to find any reports of a response to the bombing by Joe Biden.

One has to ask, as a close US ally, did Israel check with, notify or coordinate with the US its intentions to bomb the facility?

Did Biden know? Did US ambassador to Israel Jonathan Shrier know? I don't think so.

benjamin netanyahu frownSo let's be clear. Benjamin Netanyahu, left, is a smart version of Donald Trump. An extreme right wing bigot who runs an apartheid regime buttressed and surviving only because of support from the most right wing, religious extremist groups. He is no friend of Democrats and he's barely tolerating Joe Biden. But this action is a serious betrayal of the relationship between Israel and the US. This is a stab in the back.

What I don't understand is why mainstream media White House reporters have not asked Biden to comment on this betrayal.

And why aren't the media characterizing the Mossad bombing as an act of war? Sadly, Joe Biden is both a war hawk and an Israel-firster. My guess is he will give Israel and Netanyahu a pass and make Iran swallow and live with the assault.

It shouldn't be that way. We don't need more acts of war, especially from supposed allies. It's time that the US stood up to Israel and made it clear that it can't get away with this kind of behavior. Netanyahu is trying to assemble a tenuous control of the government. It's time for Joe Biden to tell Israel that with this stab in the back, Netanyahu is not longer an acceptable partner and that things are changing.

Or maybe Biden did know about it and gave it the go-ahead, betraying whatever good will was developing between Iran and the US. The world is watching

 ny times logoNew York Times, Like the Tiger King Got Elected Tax Collector’: Inside the Case That Ensnared Matt Gaetz, Patricia Mazzei, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). Joel Greenberg, a onetime local official in Florida, is accused of an array of crimes, including bribery, stalking and corruption.

Long before the F.B.I. began to scrutinize a tax collector in Florida named Joel Greenberg — and long before his trail led them to Representative Matt Gaetz — he amassed an outlandish record in the mundane local public office he had turned into a personal fief of power.

Records and interviews detailed a litany of accusations: Mr. Greenberg strutted into work with a pistol on his hip in a state that does not allow guns to be openly carried. He spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to create no-show jobs for a relative and some of his groomsmen. He tried to talk his way out of a traffic ticket, asking a police officer for “professional courtesy.” He played police officer himself, putting a flashing light on his car to pull over a woman and accuse her of speeding. He published an anti-Muslim Facebook post. He solicited help to hack critics on the county commission.

Stalking a rival candidate got him arrested. Federal agents looking into the matter found at least five fake IDs in his wallet and backpack, and kept digging.

Their inquiry culminated in 33 federal charges against Mr. Greenberg, 36, including sex trafficking of a minor, bribery, fraud and stalking — and led to a mushrooming political scandal that burst into national news in recent days and ensnared Mr. Gaetz, who is a close ally of President Donald J. Trump, and other influential Florida Republicans, with the investigation continuing.

Though the sex trafficking charge against Mr. Greenberg and the ensuing Justice Department examination into Mr. Gaetz — including whether he had sex with the same 17-year-old girl — have received the most attention, the array of schemes that Mr. Greenberg is suspected of are broader and altogether show an astonishing disregard for the law by an elected official.

 

Virus Victims, Response

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexican migrant deaths in the U.S. have surged during the pandemic. Getting bodies home is a challenge, Kevin Sieff, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). Thousands of migrants have died of covid-19. Diplomats and loved ones are working to repatriate their remains.

mexico flag1For more than a year, Mexican consulates across the United States have catalogued the toll the coronavirus has taken on America’s migrant workforce, one desperate phone conversation at a time. Thousands of Mexicans in the United States, most of them undocumented immigrants deemed “essential workers” by state labor departments, have died of covid-19. By one measure, the community’s death rate soared by nearly 70 percent.Even in death, their immigration status haunted them. That’s where the Mexican diplomats came in: It was their job to repatriate the bodies of the pandemic dead.

It was a task that ended up consuming vast parts of the government. At one point, Mexico dispatched a military jet to retrieve hundreds of urns.

ICE logoBut more often, it was a quiet, sad exercise — unlike any the country’s diplomats were used to. A young consular officer in Florida, for example, boarded a flight to Mexico City with several urns as hand luggage. A veteran ambassador in California found herself trying to help bury one of her own employees.

And, sometimes, Mexican families grew tired of waiting for their government to act and took things into their own hands. Some started fundraisers to pay the $4,000 it normally costs to repatriate a body. Others smuggled coffins across the border themselves.

While millions of Americans are now getting vaccinated, undocumented migrants are still struggling to sign up for their own inoculations. In some cases that’s because pharmacies require IDs to make appointments. In others, it’s because the migrants worry that going to a vaccination site could lead to deportation. As a result, they’re still dying disproportionately of covid-19 — and the Mexican consulates are still receiving calls.

washington post logoWashington Post, 120.8 million vaccinated, as of April 12, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 45.2 of the eligible population,16 and older and 36.4 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 12, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 136,742,405, Deaths: 2,951,427
U.S. Cases:     31,920,778, Deaths:   575,831
Brazil Cases:   13,482,543, Deaths:   353,293

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden faces diverging pressure from Pelosi, Sanders on health care, Jeff Stein, April 12, 2021. Democrats are divided about how President Biden should further overhaul U.S. health insurance.

The White House is facing diverging pressure from two powerful allies — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — over whether to use an upcoming spending package to strengthen the Affordable Care Act or expand Medicare eligibility.

Pelosi’s office is pushing the White House to make permanent a temporary expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies that were included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus legislation last month, according to a senior Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations.

Sanders said in an interview that he is arguing for lowering the age of Medicare eligibility to 55 or 60 and expanding the program for seniors so it covers dental, vision and hearing care.

The contrasting visions for the next phase of President Biden’s legislative agenda reflect divisions within the Democratic Party about how Biden should further overhaul health insurance in the United States. Pelosi is looking to double down on the ACA, which has become more popular in recent years as it offers insurance subsidies to people well above the poverty line. Sanders, meanwhile, is looking for an opportunity to make progress on his longtime efforts to make government health insurance universal.

Either approach would offer more health insurance to lower-income Americans. But the choice facing Biden will allow him to decide whether he wants to continue the focus on the ACA, which operates largely through private insurers, or use political capital on a government-run program.

 

World News

myanmar map

ny times logoNew York Times, Death Toll Is Said to Pass 700 in Myanmar’s Crackdown on Protests, Richard C. Paddock, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). More than 80 people were killed on Friday in one city alone, a rights group said, as the military’s attacks on protesters showed no signs of slowing.

The Myanmar military’s bloody crackdown on the nationwide resistance to its rule showed no sign of easing on Sunday, with a human rights myanmar flaggroup reporting that the death toll across the country had passed 700.

The security forces killed 82 people in a single city on Friday, according to the group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been documenting the bloodshed since the military’s Feb. 1 coup. Soldiers used machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades to attack an organized group of protesters who had set up barricades to defend part of that city, Bago.

The military appears to be targeting centers of resistance around the country, using overwhelming power against largely untrained, poorly armed protesters. In Tamu, a town near the border with India, members of a local defense group similar to the one in Bago claimed to have killed some members of the security forces on Saturday after coming under attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Tell Us if He’s Dead’: Abductions and Torture Rattle Uganda, Abdi Latif Dahir, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). Hundreds have been detained after a bloody, contested election. The government of Yoweri Museveni appears intent on breaking the back of the opposition.

Armed men in white minivans without license plates picked up people off the streets or from their homes.

uganda map with ugandan flag printsThose snatched were taken to prisons, police stations and military barracks where they say they were hooded, drugged and beaten — some left to stand in cellars filled with water up to their chests.

The fear is still so palpable in the capital, Kampala, that many others have gone into hiding or left the country.

Three months after Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, won a sixth five-year term in office in the most fiercely contested election in years, his government appears to be intent on breaking the back of the political opposition. The president of Uganda, a strategically located country in East Africa, is a longtime U.S. military ally and major recipient of American aid.

His principal challenger, Bobi Wine, a magnetic musician-turned-lawmaker who galvanized youthful crowds of supporters, is now largely confined to his house in Kampala. Mr. Wine’s party said on Friday that 623 members, supporters and elected officials have been seized from the streets and arrested in recent weeks, many of them tortured.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Police

washington post logoWashington Post, California police fire officer who was a Proud Boy, saying they have no tolerance for ‘hate groups,’ Hannah Knowles, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). The officer, Rick Fitzgerald, rallied with the Proud Boys last November at a pro-Trump demonstration that devolved into violence — captured in video clips that resurfaced last month as online sleuths dug into Fitzgerald’s history. Announcing Fitzgerald’s termination on Friday, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said that he disapproves of “any police officer” affiliating themselves with violent or hateful groups.

“Such ideology, behavior and affiliations have no place in law enforcement and will not be tolerated within the ranks of the Fresno Police Department,” Balderrama said in a statement, without specifying exactly why Fitzgerald was ousted. “Public trust and accountability are paramount in our ability to fairly police this community.”

Police departments around the country are moving to root out officers with extremist ties, spurred by a pro-Trump mob’s rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Off-duty officers are charged in the insurrection. So are affiliates of the Proud Boys — a group that recently got a terrorist designation from the Canadian government and has a reputation for fomenting violence at political protests.

Fitzgerald says that he has been unfairly smeared after nearly two decades of good work on the police force. He said he rejects violence and racism. He also maintained he “never saw any sign of any kind of racism” during his year or so with the Proud Boys, though he said someone was once expelled from a chat after posting something “Nazi-related.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge killed by hit-and-run driver who was found with drugs after claiming to be Harry Potter, police say, Katie Shepherd, April 12, 2021. Bystanders watched Friday as a red two-door sedan “erratically” wove along an oceanside parkway in Boca Raton, Fla., police said. When traffic slowed, the car dodged to the side — and hopped up onto the sidewalk to get around.

That’s when the car hit a 75-year-old woman, killing her, and a 6-year-old boy, who was seriously injured.

This weekend, police identified the victim as Sandra J. Feuerstein — a longtime federal judge in the Eastern District of New York, the Palm Beach Post reported, who was most recently presiding over a headline-making case against a former New York police officer accused of orchestrating a hit on her husband.

Authorities arrested Nastasia Snape, 23, after she allegedly crashed again five miles away. First responders said she was disoriented and aggressive and claimed she was Harry Potter, according to a police affidavit. In her bag, police say, they found bottles labeled “THC cannabis” and a synthetic drug called “T salts,” which police noted is “commonly known to cause erratic” behavior.

Snape was charged with negligent vehicular manslaughter and two counts of hit-and-run, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office booking records.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tensions high in Minneapolis after police fatally shoot 20-year-old man after a traffic stop, Jared Goyette and Andrea Salcedo, April 12, 2021 (print ed.). Hours after the shooting of Daunte Wright, hundreds of protesters surrounded police headquarters and clashed with officers. The National Guard, deployed to the Twin Cities for the Derek Chauvin trial, later arrived to assist police.

The victim’s family identified him as 20-year-old Daunte Wright. Hours after the shooting, hundreds of protesters surrounded the police headquarters and clashed with officers in riot gear, who fired flash bangs and tear gas. The Minnesota National Guard, which is deployed to the Twin Cities for the Chauvin trial, later arrived to assist police as numerous businesses in the area were broken into.

Police said the shooting happened just before 2 p.m., when an officer stopped a car on a traffic violation and found the driver had an outstanding warrant. As police tried to arrest him, he got back into the car and an officer fired at him, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said in a news release.

The man drove for several blocks before striking another vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A female passenger suffered injuries not believed to be life-threatening and was transported to a hospital, police said.

Police have not identified the officer who fired or the victim. At a news conference early on Monday, authorities also declined to say whether the victim was armed, pending a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, ADL demands Fox News fire Tucker Carlson over anti-Semitic trope: ‘This has deadly significance,’ Jaclyn Peiser, April 12, 2021. Last week on Fox News, Tucker Carlson argued that immigration to the United States would “dilute the political power” of Americans in a segment that also referenced “white replacement theory” — a discriminatory trope, often weaponized by white nationalists, suggesting people of color are “replacing” White Americans.

tucker carlsonThe segment left the Anti-Defamation League urging Fox News to fire Carlson for his “open-ended endorsement of white supremacist ideology,” the first time the group has made such a demand, according to the Associated Press.

On Sunday, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive and national director of the ADL, repeated those demands on CNN, slamming Carlson for his remarks and condemning the network’s owners, the Murdoch family, for not immediately taking action.

fox news logo Small“I think we’ve really crossed a new threshold when a major news network dismisses this or pretends like it isn’t important,” Greenblatt told to CNN’s Brian Stelter. “This has deadly significance.” “Tucker has got to go,” he added.

The “great replacement theory” was popularized in 2012 by French writer Renaud Camus, who warned that Western countries face an impending White genocide. The phrase has evolved into a bogus notion that a cabal of elite Jews are plotting to replace White populations with immigrants, Muslims and people of color, according to the ADL.

The “theory” has been employed by far-right groups and mass killers. In 2017 hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members marched through the streets of Charlottesville, chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” The man responsible for the 2019 massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people at two mosques, cited the racist claim, as did the gunman who killed 20 people, seven of them Mexicans, at a Walmart in El Paso.

 

April 11

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

World News

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Police

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

mike pence djt side by side

Associated Press via USA Today, Investigation: ‘Clear the Capitol,’ Pence pleaded, timeline of riot shows, Lisa Mascaro, Ben Fox, Lolita C. Baldor, Updated April 11, usa today logo2021. From a secure room in the Capitol on Jan. 6, as rioters pummeled police and vandalized the building, Vice President Mike Pence tried to assert control. In an urgent phone call to the acting defense secretary, he issued a startling demand.

“Clear the Capitol,” Pence said.

Elsewhere in the building, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were making a similarly dire appeal to military leaders, asking the Army to deploy the National Guard.ap logo“We need help,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in desperation, more than an hour after the Senate chamber had been breached.

At the Pentagon, officials were discussing media reports that the mayhem was not confined to Washington and that other state capitals were facing similar violence in what had the makings of a national insurrection.

mark milley army chief of staff“We must establish order,” said Gen. Mark Milley, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a call with Pentagon leaders.

But order would not be restored for hours.These new details about the deadly riot are contained in a previously undisclosed document prepared by the Pentagon for internal use that was obtained by The Associated Press and vetted by current and former government officials.

american flag upside down distressThe timeline adds another layer of understanding about the state of fear and panic while the insurrection played out, and lays bare the inaction by then-President Donald Trump and how that void contributed to a slowed response by the military and law enforcement. It shows that the intelligence missteps, tactical errors and bureaucratic delays were eclipsed by the government’s failure to comprehend the scale and intensity of a violent uprising by its own citizens.

With Trump not engaged, it fell to Pentagon officials, a handful of senior White House aides, the leaders of Congress and the vice president holed up in a secure bunker to manage the chaos.

While the timeline helps to crystalize the frantic character of the crisis, the document, along with hours of sworn testimony, provides only an incomplete picture about how the insurrection could have advanced with such swift and lethal force, interrupting the congressional certification of Joe Biden as president and delaying the peaceful transfer of power, the hallmark of American democracy.

Lawmakers, protected to this day by National Guard troops, will hear from the inspector general of the Capitol Police this coming week.

“Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which is investigating the siege, said last month.

The timeline fills in some of those gaps.

At 4:08 p.m. on Jan. 6, as the rioters roamed the Capitol and after they had menacingly called out for Pelosi, D-Calif., and yelled for Pence to be hanged, the christopher miller official.jpgvice president was in a secure location, phoning Christopher Miller, left, the acting defense secretary, and demanding answers.

There had been a highly public rift between Trump and Pence, with Trump furious that his vice president refused to halt the Electoral College certification. Interfering with that process was an act that Pence considered unconstitutional. The Constitution makes clear that the vice president’s role in this joint session of Congress is largely ceremonial.

Pence’s call to Miller lasted only a minute. Pence said the Capitol was not secure and he asked military leaders for a deadline for securing the building, according to the document.

By this point it had already been two hours since the mob overwhelmed Capitol Police unprepared for an insurrection. Rioters broke into the building, seized the Senate and paraded to the House. In their path, they left destruction and debris. Dozens of officers were wounded, some gravely.

Just three days earlier, government leaders had talked about the use of the National Guard. On the afternoon of Jan. 3, as lawmakers were sworn in for the new session of Congress, Miller and Milley gathered with Cabinet members to discuss Jan. 6. They also met with Trump.

In that meeting at the White House, Trump approved the activation of the D.C. National Guard and also told the acting defense secretary to take whatever action needed as events unfolded, according to the information obtained by the AP.

The next day, Jan. 4, the defense officials spoke by phone with Cabinet members, including the acting attorney general, and finalized details of the Guard deployment.

The Guard’s role was limited to traffic intersections and checkpoints around the city, based in part on strict restrictions mandated by district officials. Miller also authorized Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to deploy, if needed, the D.C. Guard’s emergency reaction force stationed at Joint Base Andrews.

Palmer Report, Opinion: “Clear the Capitol” – Trump busted after military leaders defied Mike Pence’s direct request for help, Bill Palmer, right, April 10, 2021. Todaythe Associated Press bill palmerconfirmed in great detail what had already previously been vaguely reported elsewhere: Vice President Mike Pence directly called U.S. military leaders and instructed them to take control of the Capitol building during the January 6th attack, but they ignored him.

To be clear, the Vice President can’t give a formal order to the military; unless the President is unreachable or indisposed. But as a practical matter, U.S. military would never simply ignore an instruction from the Vice President, unless the President told them to ignore it.In other words, bill palmer report logo headerthis helps confirm that Donald Trump really did order U.S. military leaders to defy Mike Pence’s instructions to come rescue him – and only hours later did the military finally take action. This means that Trump actively worked to protect the insurrectionists inside the Capitol building, which makes him guilty of not just inciting the attack, but conspiring to commit it.

This scandal is just getting started, with hundreds of insurrectionists having been arrested, and some of them cutting plea deals, even as the low level leaders of the attack are now being hit with conspiracy charges. We expect these charges to continue to work their way all the way to the top of the hierarchy – meaning Donald Trump.

New Yorker, Commentary: The G.O.P.’s Matt Gaetz Problem, Amy Davidson Sorkin, April 11, 2021. It’s tempting to see the Gaetz affair as the last shudder of the era new yorker logoof Donald Trump, but the political culture that the two men represent won’t easily be swept away.

How did Representative Matt Gaetz get into so much trouble? There are so many allegations surrounding the Florida Republican and the carnival-like crowd of characters around him that it’s hard to know where to begin.

One place might be with a letter, signed by “a very concerned student” and sent, in the fall of 2019, to a private school in Florida, accusing a music teacher there of sexually abusing a child. A Facebook account supposedly belonging to “a very concerned teacher” made similar charges. According to federal prosecutors, the accusations were fiction, and the author of both was a man named Joel Greenberg. He was then the tax collector of Seminole County, and he regularly partied with Gaetz.

matt gaetz officialThe ensuing investigation uncovered a wide array of questionable and, prosecutors allege, illegal activities. Greenberg has been indicted on dozens of counts, from stalking the music teacher to perpetrating an embezzlement scheme involving cryptocurrency to the trafficking for sex of a girl who was younger than eighteen.

Investigators are reportedly focussing on whether Gaetz, left, paid a seventeen-year-old girl — perhaps the same girl — to travel across state lines for sex. A related question is whether he or Greenberg used various apps to pay women for sex. (Gaetz has denied the allegations; he also said that he was “not a monk, and certainly not a criminal.”) Last Thursday, prosecutors indicated that Greenberg would strike a plea deal. If he does, and if he coöperates, Gaetz should be a very concerned congressman.

It’s tempting to see the Gaetz affair as the last shudder of the era of Donald Trump, and, to an extent, that’s true. Gaetz was elected to the House in 2016, the year that Trump won the White House. The congressman became a Trump favorite; he appeared with the President at rallies and took his cues from him on social media and Fox News, both in tone and in targets. (As of last week, Trump had been relatively quiet about the investigation, but he denied a report that john boehner coverGaetz had asked him for a pardon.)

The G.O.P.’s Gaetz problem, though, is about more than just picking up the pieces of a failed Presidency. The political culture that Trump and Gaetz represent won’t easily be swept away, because, as much as Trump made its edges sharper, the contours were already in place.

John Boehner, the former Republican Speaker of the House, in an essay for Politico adapted from his new book (On the House, shown at right), describes how the 2010 election brought to Congress a cohort of Republicans whose priorities were “how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night,” and who were fixated on “conspiracies and crusades.”

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Greene’s fundraising haul alarms detractors, who warn she represents a dangerous side of American politics, Marianna Sotomayor, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). The fundraising by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has alarmed her detractors, who warn she represents a dangerous side of American djt maga hatpolitics bent of waging divisive battles over race and the changing demographics of the country.

Greene announced earlier this week that she raised a staggering $3.2 million during the first quarter of the year with more than 100,000 individual donations. Her campaign team adds that 98 percent of the donations were under $200.

ny times logoNew York Times, Young Migrants Crowd Shelters, Posing a Test for Biden, Michael D. Shear, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Eileen Sullivan, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s administration, facing a surge of migrants, is under intensifying pressure to expand its capacity to care for unaccompanied minors. The numbers are daunting: There could be more than 35,000 children to care for by June. The crisis has broad political and human ramifications.

ICE logoThe desperate plea landed this week in the email inboxes of employees in government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and NASA: Will you consider taking a four-month paid leave from your job to help care for migrant children in government-run shelters packed with new arrivals at the border?

The request to much of the federal work force came from the Department of Health and Human Services, which is at the heart of a frantic effort by the Biden administration to keep up with a surge in young people crossing the southwestern border hoping to reunite with relatives already in the United States.

The numbers are daunting. In March, border agents encountered nearly 19,000 children at the border — the largest number recorded in a single month — most of them fleeing poverty and violence in Central America. And the flow of migrant children is expected to only increase in coming weeks.

More than 20,000 children and teenagers are in the custody of a government system that is already at “103 percent of capacity,” including nearly 17,000 in shelters run by the health department, according to briefing materials from Operation Artemis, a response to the border crisis led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Government projections obtained by The New York Times show there could be more than 35,000 migrant children to be cared for by June — a prospect that one former senior health and human services official called “terrifying.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s remaining loyalists in the executive branch, Daniel Cotter, April 11, 2021. When Donald Trump was running for president, and during his tenure, he repeatedly discussed draining the swamp and the career politicians and swamp bottom feeders. Turns out, the king of grift and his hangers NBC News logoon are all of the same kind.

NBC News is reporting that unprecedented numbers of the incompetents sought to have permanent positions bestowed upon them before Trump left office. According to the report:

bill palmer report logo header“Fifty-eight Trump administration appointees sought conversion from Jan. 1, 2020, to Jan 20, 2021, according to the Office of Personnel Management documents. Of those, 31 conversions were approved, six were denied, 15 were returned or withdrawn, and six remained pending. During the corresponding period under former President Barack Obama — Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 20, 2017 — 46 appointees sought conversion, with 36 approved, six denied and four returned or withdrawn.”

Max Stier, CEO of Partnership for Public Services, noted that the post-election rejections made clear that the practice was not good, stating: “You can see in the number of non-approvals by OPM that there are a bunch of political appointees [who sought career jobs] that are clearly problematic. Why are these people only coming into these jobs only after the candidate who wanted them there has lost?”

Turns out, the Trumpsters are not much different than any other administration when it comes to trying to get cushy permanent jobs. The Trump team fed the swamp.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon’s win in Alabama is latest victory in power struggle between tech giants, workers, Nitasha Tiku, Eli Rosenberg, Jay Greene and Craig Timberg, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). Amazon’s defeat of a union organizing effort in Alabama on Friday was the latest setback for workers who have been clamoring to assert more control over the technology companies that depend on them — one that showed how Silicon Valley giants still have a major edge in determining where power resides in the modern economy.

amazon logo smallLabor advocates expressed dismay after a push to organize Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse was rejected by a surprisingly large margin of workers amid fierce opposition from the Seattle-based e-commerce giant. The advocates, who have complained for years about worker treatment at Amazon warehouses, came to see the Bessemer warehouse as a top prospect for gaining a foothold in one of America’s biggest and most powerful companies.

The defeat comes amid a series of clashes between the nation’s major technology companies and workers who say they are not reaping the rewards of the digital economy, at a time when the share prices of many tech giants have reached all time highs and created hundreds of billions of dollars in new wealth.

California voters approved a ballot initiative in November, Proposition 22, exempting Uber and Lyft from classifying millions of drivers as employees — in essence denying those gig workers a minimum wage and other benefits.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Liz Cheney on Matt Gaetz: ‘The Charges Certainly Are Sickening,’ Justin Baragona, April 11, 2021. ‘Not going to comment further.’

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), right, while trying to avoid giving any detailed comment on the Matt Gaetz teen sex scandal, still made sure to get her point across about liz cheney oone of her chief tormenters in the House. With Congress launching an ethics investigation into the Florida Republican, Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan asked if Cheney was ready yet to call for Gaetz’s resignation.

“As the mother of daughters, the charges certainly are sickening,” Cheney noted. “And as the speaker noted, there is an ethics investigation underway. There are also criminal investigations underway. And I’m not going to comment further on that publicly right now, Margaret.”

Asked whether she was surprised by the allegations, the Wyoming congresswoman repeated that she was “not going to comment further,” prompting the CBS anchor to reply that she wanted to give Cheney a chance to address the Gaetz story due to their personal history. “Thank you for the opportunity,” a smiling Cheney said, drawing laughter from Brennan.

Greenwald via Substack, Opinion: Due Process, Adult Sexual Morality and the Case of Rep. Matt Gaetz, Glenn Greenwald (author, columnist and attorney, shown below at right), April 11, 2021. The Florida Congressman glenn greenwald firstlookhas not been charged with any crimes. But the reaction to this case raises important questions of political, legal and cultural judgments.

That Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is a pedophile, a sex trafficker, and an abuser of women who forces them to prostitute themselves and use drugs with him is a widespread assumption in many media and political circles. That is true despite the rather significant fact that not only has he never been charged with (let alone convicted of) such crimes, but also no evidence has been publicly presented that any of it is true. He has also vehemently denied all of it. All or some of these accusations very well may be true and, one day — perhaps imminently — there will be ample publicly available evidence demonstrating this.

But that day has not yet arrived. As of now, we know very little beyond what The New York Times initially reported about all of this on March 30: that “people close to the investigation” told the paper that “a Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments.”

The article also said the DOJ “inquiry is also examining whether Mr. Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and whether she received anything of material value.” Both the NYT and, later, The Daily Beast, indicated the existence of financial transactions involving payments by Gaetz to his associate Joel Greenberg, currently charged with multiple felonies. The New York Times article made clear: “No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.” That is still true.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz has unhinged Twitter meltdown, Bocha Blue, April 11, 2021. Oh no! Matt Gaetz (Insurrection Party-Florida) has done it again. The self-proclaimed “warrior” cannot seem to stop tweeting. And his tweets are becoming increasingly ridiculous. At this point, it does appear Gaetz either likes all bill palmer report logo headerthe negative attention he’s been receiving or is even more of a moron than we all thought. I’d venture to guess both possibilities are correct.

So, first, Gaetz posted four words. “The truth will prevail!” This caused much amusement on Twitter. You see, people agreed with Gaetz! Only most of his followers see “the truth” a wee bit different than Gaetz does.

His replies were filled with amusing responses from memes of Gaetz in orange jumpsuits to polite inquiries about whether Gaetz planned to attend any school proms. These are most likely not the responses he wanted, but then again, he is Matt Gaetz, so it isn’t that surprising he did not anticipate the blowback.

But Gaetz was not done. In yet another idiotic tweet, Gaetz posted a picture of himself with his fiancee (yes, this person has a fiancee. She has my sympathies.) Gaetz captioned the pic “Rollin with my #RideOrDie.”

Sigh. This tweet was also a mistake. Does Gaetz not realize what this term means? I will take it straight from Wikipedia itself: “referring to a woman willing to support her partner and his risky lifestyle despite how this might endanger or harm her.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan President in ‘Desperate Situation’ as His Power Is Undermined, Adam Nossiter, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). Ashraf Ghani, shown in a 2018 photo below right, has few remaining allies, the Taliban are gaining militarily, and his international supporters are impatient with him and the stumbling peace process.

ashraf ghani 2018 croppedFrom most vantage points, Mr. Ghani — well qualified for his job and deeply credentialed, with Johns Hopkins, Berkeley, Columbia, the World Bank and the United Nations in his background — is thoroughly isolated. A serious author with a first-class intellect, he is dependent on the counsel of a handful, unwilling to even watch television news, those who know him say, and losing allies fast.

That spells trouble for a country where a hard-line Islamist insurgency has the upper hand militarily, where nearly half the population faces hunger at crisis levels, according to the United Nations, where the overwhelming balance of government money comes from abroad and where weak governance and widespread corruption are endemic.

Meanwhile, the Americans are preparing to pull out their last remaining troops, a prospect expected to lead to the medium-term collapse of the Afghan forces they now support.

“He is in a desperate situation,” said Rahmatullah Nabil, a former head of the country’s intelligence services. “We’re getting weaker. Security is weak, everything is getting weaker, and the Taliban are taking advantage.”

The United States has steadily distanced itself from Mr. Ghani, 71, and has frequently worked around him to deal with the Taliban and regional power brokers. Afghan warlords, potent centers of alternative power, openly condemn or flout him.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Police

washington post logoWashington Post, Overriding governor’s veto, Md. is first state to repeal police bill of rights, Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). Democratic lawmakers enacted a long-sought bill that creates a new discipline process and gives civilians a role in, but not control of, police misconduct probes. Other measures include a statewide use-of-force policy and a law the would make some complaints about police conduct available for public review.

washington post logoWashington Post, Military leaders are pressed anew on handling of sexual assault cases, Missy Ryan, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). Support for more systemic change, including removing prosecution decisions from the chain of command, appears to be growing as lawmakers express impatience with the military’s inability to curb an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault.

When senators summoned Pentagon leaders to answer for a rash of sexual assaults in the military in 2013, the assembled brass were undivided in their resistance to plans that would strip commanders of their power over prosecuting those crimes, warning the changes would undermine discipline in the ranks.

Eight years later, opposition from top military officials — even as they pledge “zero tolerance” for a problem that has defied decades of attempted reforms — remains unchanged.

What has changed is the politics surrounding the issue, with new signals from the White House, an increased focus on the military’s lack of high-level diversity and shifting societal views on sexual assault in the wake of the #MeToo movement

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Boogaloo’ extremists destroyed evidence in probe of officer’s murder, prosecutors say, Derek Hawkins, April 11, 2021 (print ed.).A federal grand jury indictment says members of the Grizzly Scouts tried to cover for one of their own.

Four members of an armed right-wing group linked to the anti-government “boogaloo” movement have been charged with conspiring to destroy evidence related to the fatal shooting of a Federal Protective Service officer and the wounding of another in Oakland, Calif., last May, prosecutors announced Friday.

A federal grand jury indictment says members of the Northern California-based Grizzly Scouts tried to cover for one of their own after he allegedly gunned down the officers, deleting chat histories that included a message reading, “Dudes i offed a fed.”

Jessie Alexander Rush, 29, Robert Jesus Blancas, 33, Simon Sage Ybarra, 23, and Kenny Matthew Miksch, 21, are accused of conspiracy to destroy records and destruction of records in official proceedings. Rush faces an additional count of obstruction of official proceedings, and Blancas is charged with an additional count of destruction of records in official proceedings.

Prosecutors said the men belonged to a Facebook group named “/K/alifornia Kommando” and would meet in person for firearms training and other activities. According to the indictment, the Facebook group’s description read, “they say the west won’t boog” — a phrase, prosecutors say, that refers to the boogaloo movement, a loose collection of anti-government extremists who agitate for civil war

ny times logoNew York Times, A man who boasted about being at the Capitol riot was charged with plotting to blow up an Amazon data center, Michael Levenson, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). Seth Aaron Pendley was arrested on Thursday and charged with plotting to blow up an Amazon data center in Virginia, prosecutors said.

A Texas man who boasted that he was at the United States Capitol when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building in January has been charged with plotting to blow up an Amazon data center in Virginia, the Justice Department said on Friday.

The man, Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, of Wichita Falls, was arrested on Thursday after he took what he believed were explosive devices from a bomb supplier but were in fact inert objects provided by an undercover F.B.I. agent in Fort Worth, prosecutors said.

He was charged with a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive, Prerak Shah, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement. If convicted, Mr. Pendley faces 20 years in prison.

Federal officials said they had begun investigating the plot after a concerned citizen contacted the F.B.I. on Jan. 8 about alarming statements posted on MyMilitia.com, a forum dedicated to organizing militia groups.

In late January, Mr. Pendley began using Signal, an encrypted messaging app, to communicate with another confidential source, prosecutors said. That source told the F.B.I. that Mr. Pendley had said he planned to use plastic explosives to bomb Amazon Web Services data centers, an attack that he hoped would “kill off about 70 percent of the internet.”

On March 31, the confidential source introduced Mr. Pendley to a person he claimed was his explosives supplier. In fact, the man was an undercover F.B.I. agent.

In recorded conversations, Mr. Pendley told the undercover agent that he believed the attack would destroy the web servers used by the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and other federal agencies, prosecutors said. Mr. Pendley said he hoped the bombing would anger “the oligarchy.”

On April 8, Mr. Pendley met with the undercover F.B.I. agent to pick up what he believed to be explosive devices but were in fact inert objects, prosecutors said. After the agent showed Mr. Pendley how to arm and detonate the devices, Mr. Pendley loaded them into his car, prosecutors said. He was then arrested by F.B.I. agents, prosecutors said.

The Justice Department said that investigators who had searched Mr. Pendley’s house had found hand-drawn maps, notes and flashcards relating to the planned attack as well as masks and wigs, a pistol that had been painted to look like a toy gun and a machete with “Dionysus” on the blade.

ny times logoNew York Times, Evidence Raises Questions About Police Killing of Antifa Activist, Mike Baker and Evan Hill, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). Investigators said that Michael Reinoehl probably opened fire before officers killed him last year. A review of documents raises doubts about that conclusion.

When a U.S. Marshals task force killed a self-described antifa activist in Washington State in September, the Trump administration applauded the removal of a “violent agitator” who was suspected of murder. Last week, local investigators concluded a monthslong homicide inquiry with the announcement that the activist, Michael Reinoehl, had most likely fired at authorities first, effectively justifying the shooting.

michael reinoehlBut a review of investigation documents obtained by The New York Times suggests that investigators for the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office discounted key pieces of contradicting evidence that indicate Mr. Reinoehl, right, may never have fired or pointed a gun.

While investigators found a spent bullet casing in the back seat of Mr. Reinoehl’s car, and pointed to that as evidence he probably fired his weapon, the handgun they recovered from Mr. Reinoehl had a full magazine, according to multiple photos compiled by Thurston County authorities showing Mr. Reinoehl’s handgun. The gun was found in his pocket.

The federally organized task force, made up primarily of local law enforcement officers from Washington, had been seeking to arrest Mr. Reinoehl for the Aug. 29 shooting death of a supporter of the far-right group Patriot Prayer during the summer’s raucous street protests over race and policing. The arrest operation quickly erupted into gunfire, and Mr. Reinoehl died in the street near his car in a residential neighborhood in Lacey, Wash.

The sheriff’s office in Thurston County, where the shooting occurred, was not part of the task force.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court-packing isn’t the right fix for our courts. Ending life tenure is, Editorial Board, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). The political likelihood of growing the court, not high to begin with, has shrunk considerably with Sen. Joe Manchin III’s (D-W.Va.) emphatic refusal to overturn the filibuster — without which court-expansion legislation probably can’t pass the Senate. Still, as a rallying cry on the left, the idea is not going away and thus is still worth scrutinizing. It would essentially respond to Republican politicization of the court with Democratic counter-politicization. That would be understandable, given GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s manipulation of the process to thwart consideration of President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016 — but the court itself could be collateral damage.

One apostle of the latter concern is Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who urged in a Harvard Law School lecture Tuesday that “those whose initial instincts may favor important structural change . . . such as forms of court-packing, think long and hard before they embody those changes in law.” Speaking for nearly two hours, and drawing on his long experience in the law, including nearly 27 years as a Democratic president’s liberal appointee on the high court, Justice Breyer, 82, noted that the court’s effectiveness hinges on its legitimacy, which hinges on the perception that “the court is guided by legal principle, not politics.” That perception would be eroded if one party changed the court’s long-standing nine-member size to further policy objectives.

The justices’ rulings obviously reflect their ideology and political preference, but not in a simple, deterministic way, Justice Breyer argued. He pointed out several cases in which the current GOP-dominated court had ruled contrary to President Donald Trump’s interests or to policies favored by Republicans generally.

Encouragingly, the broad mandate Mr. Biden has assigned the commission allows it to examine what is a valid area for potential Supreme Court reform: replacing life tenure, instituted in 1788, at a time of much shorter life expectancy, with an 18-year term. That would drain some of the intensity from Supreme Court politics by providing both parties with foreseeable, regular opportunities to nominate justices — thus lowering the stakes of each vacancy. It would allow presidents to nominate the most qualified justices, rather than looking for the youngest plausible nominees. Term limits should be high on Mr. Biden’s commission’s agenda

 

Virus Victims, Response

washington post logoWashington Post, 114.4 million vaccinated, as of April 11, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 42.8 of the eligible population,16 and older and 34.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 11, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 136,020,767, Deaths: 2,939,234
U.S. Cases:     31,869,980, Deaths:   575,593
Brazil Cases:   13,445,006, Deaths:   351,469

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘You Can’t Trust Anyone’: Russia’s Hidden Covid Toll Is an Open Secret, Anton Troianovski, April 11, 2021 (print ed.). The country’s official virus death toll is 102,649. But at least 300,000 more people died last year during the pandemic than were reported.

She burst into the hospital morgue and the bodies were everywhere, about a dozen of them in black bags on stretchers. She headed straight for the autopsy room, pleading with the guard in a black jacket: “Can I speak to the doctor who opened up my father?”

Olga Kagarlitskaya’s father had been hospitalized weeks earlier in a coronavirus ward. Now he was gone, cause of death: “viral pneumonia, unspecified.” Ms. Kagarlitskaya, recording the scene on her smartphone, wanted to know the truth. But the guard, hands in pockets, sent her away.

Russian FlagThere were thousands of similar cases across Russia last year, the government’s own statistics show. At least 300,000 more people died last year during the coronavirus pandemic than were reported in Russia’s most widely cited official statistics.

Not all of those deaths were necessarily from the virus. But they belie President Vladimir V. Putin’s contention that the country has managed the virus better than most. In reality, a New York Times analysis of mortality data shows deaths in Russia during the pandemic last year were 28 percent higher than normal — an increase in mortality greater than in the United States and most countries in Europe.

 

U.S. Media News

France 24, Top French publishing house asks would-be authors to stop sending manuscripts, Catherine Bennett, April 11, 2021.  Stop sending us your manuscripts! That’s the message that French publishing house Gallimard sent out to would-be authors in April, after receiving a deluge of submissions.

Gallimard, known for publishing Marcel Proust, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus, wrote politely on its website and on Twitter: “Given the exceptional circumstances, we ask you to defer sending your manuscripts. Take care of yourselves and happy reading.”

Successive Covid-19 lockdowns in France have given budding writers the time to finally work on that idea for a novel or to polish up an old manuscript languishing in a drawer. As a result, publishers are overwhelmed. Before the pandemic, Gallimard received around 30 manuscripts a day; now they receive around 50.

Gallimard isn’t the only French publisher facing an uptick in submissions. Publisher Seuil normally receives around 3,500 manuscripts a year. In the first three months of 2021, it had already received 1,200.

In addition to the mountain of submissions to wade through, the publishing industry is already facing a backlog. Bookshops in France were ordered to close during the country’s first March-May lockdown, and were only open for click-and-collect in the second October-December lockdown.

In February 2021 the government decided to class bookshops as "essential" services, authorising them to open amidst regional restrictions and during this month's third nationwide lockdown. But those breaks in the industry’s normal publishing schedule mean that many editors postponed some books’ publications, leaving the 2021 publishing calendar already full.

Véronique Cardi, director of publishing house JC Lattès, told France Culture that they’ve never been so prepared for France’s rentrée littéraire – the autumn period when publishing houses traditionally publish a wave of new releases. “Our authors have had the time to finish their manuscripts,” she explained. “And we’ve acquired a lot of new authors, people who took advantage of being in lockdown or under curfew to write."

Going the self-publishing route

If getting published has always been tricky, increased competition has made it even harder. Many writers are turning to self-publishing, bypassing the need for a publishing house.

Librinova, an agency that helps authors self-publish their books, published 40% more books in 2020 compared to the year before – and 90% more in April 2020 alone. The self-publishing platform Books on Demand also saw similar growth in France.

Proof via Substack, Opinion: The GOP Is Contemporary America's Foremost Cancel Culture, Seth Abramson, left, April 11, 2021. It's time for Americans of every seth abramson headshotpolitical persuasion to acknowledge that Donald Trump is the most powerful and vocal proponent of "cancel culture" in America.

One of the reasons I almost never use the phrase “cancel culture” is because, like the phrase “political correctness,” it was built in a focus group by high-priced Republican political consultants, intended for use—for cynical political gain—as a catch-all term to describe a universe of unrelated ideas and behaviors. If you love focus groups and the people paid six or seven figures to run them, by all means, embrace the phrase cancel culture the same way you would any other product you have been manipulated into purchasing but don’t really need.

seth abramson proof logoIndeed, “cancel culture” serves a similar function to the word “smurf” in the 1980s animated kid’s television series The Smurfs. It’s a linguistic chameleon that can do a variety of tasks, though in the case of the phrase "cancel culture" none of them are particularly important, unless you consider far-right virtue-signaling important.

A second reason I take a dim view of the phrase “cancel culture” is that, as a university professor of rhetoric, composition, and digital communications, I admit to being irked by the fact that the phrase doesn’t actually mean what its constituent words import. Just as conservatives call phenomena that are (a) unpopular, and (b) have nothing to do with politics “politically correct”—when in fact such cultural detritus is neither “political” nor generally received positively (i.e., as “correct”)—“cancel culture” is usually used to denote situations in which no one is being cancelled and no “culture(s)” are involved.

This said, something like “cancel culture” certainly could exist if the phenomenon so denominated involved:

• “Cancellation” in the conventional sense of that word, meaning a process with some finality to it, that puts one on the wrong end of a binary pejorative status; and
• a discrete, circumscribed “culture” with the capacity to execute a “cancellation” and do so permanently.

Conclusion

Trump is the reigning King of Cancel Culture because there is no discrete system or community in the U.S. as tightly controlled by a single person as the contemporary Republican Party is by Donald Trump.

djt hands up mouth open CustomWe’re reminded daily when we are sagely told by political commentators that Republicans “cannot” cross Trump—yes, the word “cannot” is used—even when, say, the lives of kids on the U.S.-Mexico border are at stake, or the lives of 32 million Americans doomed to experience COVID-19 because of Trump’s refusal to acknowledge it, or the lives of American soldiers are imperiled because Trump decided to nearly start a war with Iran in January of 2020 for no reason whatsoever.

In each instance, we were told that Trump had the power to cancel the personal, professional, and pecuniary lives of Republicans anywhere and everywhere in America who dissent from his deadly whims.

 

April 10

Top Headlines

 

Matt Gaetz Probes

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Police

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Deaths

 

Top Stories

mike pence djt side by side

Associated Press, Investigation: ‘Clear the Capitol,’ Pence pleaded, timeline of riot shows, Lisa Mascarfo, Ben Fox and Lolita C. Baldor, April 10, 2021. From a secure room in the Capitol on Jan. 6, as rioters pummeled police and vandalized the building, Vice President Mike Pence tried to assert control. In an urgent phone call to the acting defense secretary, he issued a startling demand.

ap logo“Clear the Capitol,” Pence said.

Elsewhere in the building, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were making a similarly dire appeal to military leaders, asking the Army to deploy the National Guard.

“We need help,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said in desperation, more than an hour after the Senate chamber had been breached.

At the Pentagon, officials were discussing media reports that the mayhem was not confined to Washington and that other state capitals were facing similar violence in what had the makings of a national insurrection.

mark milley army chief of staff“We must establish order,” said Gen. Mark Milley, right, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a call with Pentagon leaders.

But order would not be restored for hours.

These new details about the deadly riot are contained in a previously undisclosed document prepared by the Pentagon for internal use that was obtained by The Associated Press and vetted by current and former government officials.

The timeline adds another layer of understanding about the state of fear and panic while the insurrection played out, and lays bare the inaction by then-President Donald Trump and how that void contributed to a slowed response by the military and law enforcement. It shows that the intelligence missteps, tactical errors and bureaucratic delays were eclipsed by the government’s failure to comprehend the scale and intensity of a violent uprising by its own citizens.

With Trump not engaged, it fell to Pentagon officials, a handful of senior White House aides, the leaders of Congress and the vice president holed up in a secure bunker to manage the chaos.

While the timeline helps to crystalize the frantic character of the crisis, the document, along with hours of sworn testimony, provides only an incomplete picture about how the insurrection could have advanced with such swift and lethal force, interrupting the congressional certification of Joe Biden as president and delaying the peaceful transfer of power, the hallmark of American democracy.

Lawmakers, protected to this day by National Guard troops, will hear from the inspector general of the Capitol Police this coming week.

“Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chair of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which is investigating the siege, said last month.

The timeline fills in some of those gaps.

At 4:08 p.m. on Jan. 6, as the rioters roamed the Capitol and after they had menacingly called out for Pelosi, D-Calif., and yelled for Pence to be hanged, the christopher miller official.jpgvice president was in a secure location, phoning Christopher Miller, left, the acting defense secretary, and demanding answers.

There had been a highly public rift between Trump and Pence, with Trump furious that his vice president refused to halt the Electoral College certification. Interfering with that process was an act that Pence considered unconstitutional. The Constitution makes clear that the vice president’s role in this joint session of Congress is largely ceremonial.

Pence’s call to Miller lasted only a minute. Pence said the Capitol was not secure and he asked military leaders for a deadline for securing the building, according to the document.

By this point it had already been two hours since the mob overwhelmed Capitol Police unprepared for an insurrection. Rioters broke into the building, seized the Senate and paraded to the House. In their path, they left destruction and debris. Dozens of officers were wounded, some gravely.

Just three days earlier, government leaders had talked about the use of the National Guard. On the afternoon of Jan. 3, as lawmakers were sworn in for the new session of Congress, Miller and Milley gathered with Cabinet members to discuss Jan. 6. They also met with Trump.

In that meeting at the White House, Trump approved the activation of the D.C. National Guard and also told the acting defense secretary to take whatever action needed as events unfolded, according to the information obtained by the AP.

The next day, Jan. 4, the defense officials spoke by phone with Cabinet members, including the acting attorney general, and finalized details of the Guard deployment.

The Guard’s role was limited to traffic intersections and checkpoints around the city, based in part on strict restrictions mandated by district officials. Miller also authorized Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy to deploy, if needed, the D.C. Guard’s emergency reaction force stationed at Joint Base Andrews.

Palmer Report, Opinion: “Clear the Capitol” – Trump busted after military leaders defied Mike Pence’s direct request for help, Bill Palmer, right, April 10, 2021. Today bill palmer report logo headerthe Associated Press bill palmerconfirmed in great detail what had already previously been vaguely reported elsewhere: Vice President Mike Pence directly called U.S. military leaders and instructed them to take control of the Capitol building during the January 6th attack, but they ignored him.

To be clear, the Vice President can’t give a formal order to the military; unless the President is unreachable or indisposed. But as a practical matter, U.S. military would never simply ignore an instruction from the Vice President, unless the President told them to ignore it.ap logoIn other words, this helps confirm that Donald Trump really did order U.S. military leaders to defy Mike Pence’s instructions to come rescue him – and only hours later did the military finally take action. This means that Trump actively worked to protect the insurrectionists inside the Capitol building, which makes him guilty of not just inciting the attack, but conspiring to commit it.

This scandal is just getting started, with hundreds of insurrectionists having been arrested, and some of them cutting plea deals, even as the low level leaders of the attack are now being hit with conspiracy charges. We expect these charges to continue to work their way all the way to the top of the hierarchy – meaning Donald Trump.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Michigan’s Virus Cases Are Surging Again, Putting Governor Whitmer in a Bind, Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). Michigan has the nation’s highest recent infection rates with more than 7,000 new cases daily. But Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has avoided returning to lockdown, instead appealing to personal responsibility as residents grow weary of strict rules.

michigan mapOutbreaks are ripping through workplaces, restaurants, churches and family weddings. Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients. Officials are reporting more than 7,000 new infections each day, a sevenfold increase from late February. And Michigan is home to nine of the 10 metro areas with the country’s highest recent case rates.

gretchen whitmer o horizontal CustomDuring previous surges in Michigan, a resolute Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, left, shut down businesses and schools as she saw fit — over the din of both praise and protests. But this time, Ms. Whitmer has stopped far short of the sweeping shutdowns that made her a lightning rod.

“Policy change alone won’t change the tide,” Ms. Whitmer said on Friday, as she asked — but did not order — that the public take a two-week break from indoor dining, in-person high school and youth sports. “We need everyone to step up and to take personal responsibility here.”

It is a rare moment in the pandemic: a high-profile Democratic governor bucking the pleas of doctors and epidemiologists in her state and instead asking for voluntary actions from the public to control the virus’s spread. Restaurants and bars remain open at a reduced capacity, Detroit Tigers fans are back at the stadium and most schools have welcomed students into the classroom.

Ms. Whitmer’s new position reflects the shifting politics of the pandemic, shaped more by growing public impatience with restrictions and the hope offered by vaccines than by any reassessment among public health authorities of how best to contain the virus.

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Excruciating Impact the Coronavirus Had on U.S. Prisoners, Staff reporters (identified below), April 10, 2021 (print ed.). Since March 2020, The Times has tracked every known coronavirus case in every correctional setting in the nation. More than 2,700 inmates have died.

America’s prisons, jails and detention centers have been among the nation’s most dangerous places when it comes to infections from the coronavirus. Over the past year, more than 1,400 new inmate infections and seven deaths, on average, have been reported inside those facilities each day.

The cramped, often unsanitary settings of correctional institutions have been ideal for incubating and transmitting disease. Social distancing is not an option. Testing was not a priority inside prisons early in the pandemic. With little public pressure, political leaders have been slow to confront the spread.

The virus shot through many institutions, leaving inmates desperate for ways to avoid getting sick. At Pickaway Correctional Institution in Ohio, which housed about 1,900 inmates, they tried to turn bed sheets into tents to separate themselves; four in five inmates were infected anyway.

At an immigration detention center in Farmville, Va., nearly every detainee — 339 in all — was infected. And at the Fresno County Jail in California, where most inmates are held on charges for which they have not yet been convicted, more than 3,800 were sickened.

America’s prisons, jails and detention centers have been among the nation’s most dangerous places when it comes to infections from the coronavirus. Over the past year, more than 1,400 new inmate infections and seven deaths, on average, have been reported inside those facilities each day.

This article is by Eddie Burkhalter, Izzy Colón, Brendon Derr, Lazaro Gamio, Rebecca Griesbach, Ann Hinga Klein, Danya Issawi, K.B. Mensah, Derek M. Norman, Savannah Redl, Chloe Reynolds, Emily Schwing, Libby Seline, Rachel Sherman, Maura Turcotte and Timothy Williams

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New disclosures from a U.S. House of Representatives probe reveal how Trump Administration political operatives helped suppress findings from career health officials about the dangers of the coronovirus, thereby helping Trump and his team orchestrate misleading public announcements and imagry, such as the White House news conference last year shown above assembling top health officials (New York Times photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on coronavirus, Dan Diamond, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees was trying to blunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings and equip the president with alternate talking points, according to material obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the outbreak.

cdc logo CustomTrump appointees in the Health and Human Services department last year privately touted their efforts to block or alter scientists’ hhs logoreports on the coronavirus to more closely align with then-President Donald Trump’s more optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to newly released documents from congressional investigators.

The documents provide further insight into how senior Trump officials approached last year’s explosion of coronavirus cases in the United States. Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees were attempting toblunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings and equip the president with an alternate set of talking points.

Then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote to then-HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo, left, on Sept. 9, 2020, touting two examples of where he said officials at michael caputothe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had bowed to his pressure and changed language in their reports, according to an email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak.

Pointing to one change — where CDC leaders allegedly changed the opening sentence of a report about spread of the virus among younger people after Alexander pressured them — Alexander wrote to Caputo, calling it a “small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!”

In the same email, Alexander touted another example of a change to a weekly report from the CDC that he said the agency made in response to his demands. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR), which offer public updates on scientists’ findings, had been considered sacrosanct for decades and scott atlas resized untouchable by political appointees in the past.

Two days later, Alexander appealed to then-White House adviser Scott Atlas, right, to help him dispute an upcoming CDC report on coronavirus-related deaths among young Americans.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘You Can’t Trust Anyone’: Russia’s Hidden Covid Toll Is an Open Secret, Anton Troianovski, April 10, 2021. The country’s official virus death toll is 102,649. But at least 300,000 more people died last year during the pandemic than were reported.

She burst into the hospital morgue and the bodies were everywhere, about a dozen of them in black bags on stretchers. She headed straight for the autopsy room, pleading with the guard in a black jacket: “Can I speak to the doctor who opened up my father?”

Olga Kagarlitskaya’s father had been hospitalized weeks earlier in a coronavirus ward. Now he was gone, cause of death: “viral pneumonia, unspecified.” Ms. Kagarlitskaya, recording the scene on her smartphone, wanted to know the truth. But the guard, hands in pockets, sent her away.

There were thousands of similar cases across Russia last year, the government’s own statistics show. At least 300,000 more people died last year during the coronavirus pandemic than were reported in Russia’s most widely cited official statistics.

Not all of those deaths were necessarily from the virus. But they belie President Vladimir V. Putin’s contention that the country has managed the virus better than most. In reality, a New York Times analysis of mortality data shows deaths in Russia during the pandemic last year were 28 percent higher than normal — an increase in mortality greater than in the United States and most countries in Europe.

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The medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, declared George Floyd’s death a homicide in his autopsy (Screenshot from Court TV).

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Other Factors, Police Caused Floyd’s Death, Medical Examiner Says, Will Wright, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). While police restraint was the main cause of George Floyd’s death, drug use and heart disease were contributing factors, the medical examiner said.

One of the most anticipated witnesses of Derek Chavin’s trial, the Hennepin County medical examiner who performed the initial autopsy of George Floyd, testified on Friday that while police restraint was the main cause of Mr. Floyd’s death, drug use and heart disease were contributing factors.

The medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, declared Mr. Floyd’s death a homicide in his autopsy, but had made several statements leading up to the trial that could have complicated the arguments of the prosecution, particularly in relation to Mr. Floyd’s drug use. In all, his testimony maintained that Mr. Chauvin’s actions — pinning Mr. Floyd to the street for nine and a half minutes — were the primary causes of death.

Jurors also heard from Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist who helped train Dr. Baker. During her testimony, Dr. Thomas said she believed that Mr. Floyd died from a deprivation of oxygen caused by the restraint of Mr. Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murdering Mr. Floyd.

Though multiple contributing factors may have contributed to Mr. Floyd’s death, Dr. Baker said he believed that the primary cause of death was the same as he wrote in his initial autopsy: “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

In simpler terms, Dr. Baker said that Mr. Floyd would not have died were if not for the actions of Mr. Chauvin. Still, he said that the compounding factors, including heart disease, played a role as well.

Dr. Baker agreed with a statement from the defense that methamphetamine was hard on the heart; a toxicology report found methamphetamine and fentanyl in Mr. Floyd’s system, and pill fragments found at the scene contained the same drugs. Dr. Baker said he found no pill fragments in Mr. Floyd’s stomach.

 

Matt Gaetz Probes

Proof via Substack, Investigation: New Developments Inextricably Link Trump to Gaetz Case, Seth Abramson, April 10, 2021. Links between Trump and the ongoing seth abramson headshotfederal criminal investigations into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are now too many, too varied, too profound, and too bizarre to ignore.

Introduction: On December 19, 2020, Matt Gaetz thundered to a rabid crowd in West Palm Beach, Florida, “I’m a Donald Trump Republican!” Gaetz’s declaration followed hard upon his now-infamous pre-insurrection claim that “more bad behavior is what we need to advance the America First agenda”, as seth abramson proof logoRepublicans can’t “go back to losing politely.”

matt gaetz officialIncreasingly, it’s looking like Gaetz, left, got both his “bad behavior” and his commitment to Donald Trump over America ramped up much earlier than many realized.

The ties between the two men have been public for some time now, but what changed in just the last 48 hours is that the forty-fifth President of the United States is now connected to the ongoing federal criminal investigation into his chief congressional sycophant to a degree we hadn’t previously appreciated. This article runs through the startling new developments that confirm this—some of which you’ll only read about here at Proof.

Miami Herald, Gaetz tells Trump supporters he’s a champion of women, scoffs at ‘smears,’ Bianca Padró Ocasio, April10, 2021 (print ed.).On the same day the U.S. House Ethics Committee announced it was investigating his conduct, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz spoke to a conference of fierce supporters at the Trump National Doral resort, vowing he would fight allegations against him, which he claimed were part of a “deep state” smear campaign to silence him.

miami herald logo“The smears against me range from distortions of my personal life, to wild — and I mean, wild — conspiracy theories,” said the 38-year-old congressman from Northwest Florida. “I won’t be intimidated by a lying media, and I won’t be extorted by a former DOJ [Department of Justice] official and the crooks he is working with. The truth will prevail.”

Gaetz’s speech Friday evening at the “Save America Summit,” part of a four-day conference with a slate of right-wing speakers discussing topics like “election integrity,” was one of his first public appearances since The New York Times reported a week ago that Gaetz was being investigated by the FBI over an alleged sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, in exchange for payments.

Gaetz became entangled with the federal investigation, sources told the Times, as part of an inquiry into Seminole County’s former tax collector, Joel Greenberg, right, who was indicted last year on a slew of joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorfederal charges, including sex trafficking a minor and identity theft.

Gaetz, who has not been charged with a crime, has previously acknowledged there is an ongoing investigation but has repeatedly denied the allegations and claimed they are part of an extortion scheme against his family by a former Department of Justice official.

“I’m built for the battle, and I’m not going anywhere,” added Gaetz, who is a well-known conservative firebrand and close ally of former President Donald Trump.

The event was organized by Women for America First, the same group that held the now-infamous “Save America Rally” in Washington on Jan. 6. That rally preceded the march on the U.S. Capitol that ended with the death of five people, injuries to many others and saw hundreds of people breaching the building while Congress was in session. Among the issues the group advances is the baseless claim that there was widespread voter fraud and other irregularities during the 2020 election that led to an elaborate “steal.”
A self-described champion of women

During a 15-minute speech, Gaetz referenced the support he has received from friends, strangers, and political allies including Trump and Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan. He described himself as a champion of women, speaking at length about several women he’s hired and who became an essential part of his time in Congress — even when others advised him he was not doing the right thing.

“It’s just how I was raised,” Gaetz said. “I have seen the potential unlocked with so many brilliant, patriotic women that I have had the chance to work with.”

Many of the attendees at Friday’s event said they don’t believe the allegations against Gaetz are true, either because they don’t trust the stories or because they “just know,” and believe they’re part of a pattern to silence allies of Trump and other conservative voices in Congress. Monika Page, a 72-year-old attendee from Colorado, told the Miami Herald the news stories remind her of the sexual assault allegations that surfaced ahead of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“I do not believe what he’s been accused of. I believe that is just to discredit him, to try to get him to be quiet, which is not going to work,” said Page. “I’m totally behind Matt, I support him.”
Congressional investigation

ted deutch fl dem oMeanwhile, the investigation announced by the Ethics Committee, which is led by Broward Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, right, only has jurisdiction over sitting members of Congress, and the Committee can defer their investigation to the Department of Justice if criminal activity is suspected.

“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Matt Gaetz may have engaged in sexual misconduct and/or illicit drug use, shared inappropriate images or videos on the House floor, misused state identification records, converted campaign funds to personal use, and/or accepted a bribe, improper gratuity, or impermissible gift, in violation of House Rules, laws, or other standards of conduct,” the committee wrote in a release made public on Friday afternoon. “The Committee...has begun an investigation and will gather additional information regarding the allegations.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Who’s who in the Matt Gaetz scandal, Philip Bump, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). The scandal and allegations surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz continues to expand outward. On Thursday, the Daily Beast reported that Gaetz had sent money to his longtime ally Joel Greenberg, who then paid an equivalent amount to three young women. This allegation, intricate and problematic on its own, is simply another point on a wide galaxy of claims and counterclaims involving the congressman.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorTo facilitate your ability to track the story, we’ve highlighted key individuals related to the story, both elements of the apparent federal investigation of Gaetz (R-Fla.) and the investigation and activities of Greenberg, right, from which the Gaetz probe apparently originated. Names underlined below are described elsewhere in the glossary. (This excerpt shows only those A through G.)

Alford, Stephen. Alford is part of a group of men hoping to free former FBI agent Robert Levinson from captivity in Iran. As part of that effort, the group approached Matt Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, for funding, a request that the younger Gaetz later alleged was part of an extortion attempt. Alford had twice previously been convicted of fraud.

Ball, Luke. Ball was Matt Gaetz’s spokesman until his resignation last week.

Beshears, Halsey. Beshears is a former Republican state legislator and until his resignation in January for health reasons was member of the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. According to the New York Times, he was reportedly on a plane that flew from the Bahamas to Florida after a trip funded by Jason Pirozzolo and that also reportedly included Matt Gaetz and female escorts.

Beute, Brian. Beute is a teacher at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, Fla. In October 2019, he filed to run for tax collector of Seminole County, the position then held by Joel Greenberg. Shortly afterward, the school’s headmaster asked him about anonymous complaints alleging that he was a white supremacist and had acted inappropriately with a student. An investigation later allegedly identified Greenberg’s fingerprints on the envelopes in which the anonymous notes had arrived. This formed the basis of the first federal indictment against Greenberg.

Brodeur, Jason. Brodeur is an associate of Matt Gaetz’s who last year won election to the Florida state Senate as a Republican. The New York Times reported on Thursday that Gaetz and lobbyist Chris Dorworth had discussed finding a third-party candidate to run as well, potentially splitting the vote and facilitating Brodeur’s victory. A third-party candidate, Jestine Iannotti, did run.

Dorworth, Chris. A former member of the state legislature, Dorworth now works as a lobbyist with Ballard Partners. The New York Times reports that he and Matt Gaetz discussed finding a third-party candidate to run for the Florida state Senate, potentially boosting the chances of their ally Jason Brodeur. A third-party candidate, Jestine Iannotti ran and was supported by mailers sent to Democratic voters in the district.

Elmore, Erin. Elmore is a former contestant on “The Apprentice” and surrogate for Donald Trump who now works for the consulting firm Logan Circle Group, which is representing Matt Gaetz. On Thursday, Politico reported that she had threatened to sue its reporters for their coverage of Gaetz.

Eskamani, Anna. Eskamani is a Democratic member of the Florida House. Earlier this month, she shared an odd voice mail that Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg had left her on July 4, 2019. In it, Greenberg says that he and Gaetz were “just chatting about you and your lovely qualities,” at which point Gaetz chimes in, “We think you’re the future of the Democratic Party in Florida!”

don gaetzGaetz, Don. Don Gaetz, right, is a former Republican elected official in Florida and the father of Matt Gaetz. He made millions of dollars selling a chain of hospice facilities.

Gaetz, Matt. Gaetz, a Republican, was elected to represent Florida’s 1st Congressional District in 2016 and reelected in 2018 and 2020. Before serving in Congress, he served in the Florida legislature as his father, Don Gaetz, had previously. Matt Gaetz and Joel Greenberg have been friends for several years.

Greenberg, Joel. Greenberg was elected as tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., in 2016, defeating the incumbent, Ray Valdes. Greenberg ran on an anti-corruption platform. He served in the position until June of last year, when he resigned following his arrest on charges related to his allegedly attempting to smear Brian Beute, a potential political opponent. Other indictments followed, alleging that Greenberg had abused his office, falsified driver’s licenses, engaged in fraud, bribery and theft and, most seriously, engaged in sex trafficking of minors.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

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ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Creating Commission to Study Expanding the Supreme Court, Michael D. Shear and Carl Hulse, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). The White House is taking action after progressives pushed to add seats to the court to balance the conservative stamp put on it by former President Trump.

President Biden on Friday will order a 180-day study of adding seats to the Supreme Court, making good on a campaign-year promise to establish a bipartisan commission to examine the potentially explosive subjects of expanding the court or setting term limits for justices, White House officials said.

The president acted under pressure from activists pushing for more seats to alter the ideological balance of the court after President Donald J. Trump appointed three justices, including one to a seat that Republicans had blocked his predecessor, Barack Obama, from filling for almost a year.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoThe result is a court with a stronger conservative tilt, now 6 to 3, after the addition of Mr. Trump’s choices, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, right, who was confirmed to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just days before last year’s presidential election.

But while Mr. Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has asserted that the system of judicial nominations is “getting out of whack,” he has declined to say whether he supports altering the size of the court or making other changes — like imposing term limits — to the current system of lifetime appointments.

It is not clear that the commission established by Mr. Biden will by itself clarify his position. Under the White House order establishing it, the commission is not set to issue specific recommendations at the end of its study — an outcome that is likely to disappoint activists.

In his executive order on Friday, the president will create a 36-member commission charged with examining the history of the court, past changes to the process of nominating justices, and the potential consequences to altering the size of the nation’s highest court.

robert bauerThe panel will be led by Bob Bauer, left, who served as White House counsel for Mr. Obama, and Cristina Rodriguez, a Yale Law School professor who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel under Mr. Obama.

Progressives say that Republicans unfairly gained an advantage on the court by blocking Mr. Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland in 2016, and they see adding seats to the court, setting term limits or instituting other changes as a way to offset the power of any one president to influence its makeup. Conservatives have denounced the effort as “court-packing” similar to the failed effort by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.

The issue of whether to alter the size of the court, which has been set at nine members since just after the Civil War, is highly charged, particularly when Congress is almost evenly divided between the two parties. An attempt by Mr. Biden to increase the number of justices would require approval of Congress and would be met by fierce opposition.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz could take half of Florida down with him, Bill Palmer, right, April 10, 2021.When we heard the news that the Feds were investigating bill palmerwhether Matt Gaetz and a Florida lobbyist were conspiring to use a phantom third party candidate to rig a Florida State Senate election, the storyline sounded eerily familiar. After all, just three weeks ago, a Florida State Senator was arrested for using a phantom third party candidate to rig his own reelection.

It turns out these are two different stories, centered around 2020 State Senate elections in two different Florida districts. But here’s the thing. It may actually be worse that it’s two different districts, because what are the odds that it’s a coincidence? In fact Rachel Maddow revealed on her MSNBC show on Friday night that roughly a dozen Florida State Senate races in 2020 had third party candidates who got a lot of votes despite having no real presence in the race.

bill palmer report logo headerGaetz tweeted on Friday night that he wasn’t involved in any such thing. No surprise; he’s been denying everything. Interestingly, the guy that Gaetz, right, was allegedly conspiring with on this just lost his job at a pro-Trump lobbying firm. But it turns out the third party candidate in matt gaetz officialthat race portrayed herself as being a Black woman in her campaign flyers when she was actually white, and after the election was over, she packed up and moved to Sweden. So that’s ahem, suspicious.

Everyone in Florida knows that the Florida Republican Party is corrupt even by Republican standards. But nothing is done about it because, well, it’s Florida.The Governor, Ron DeSantis, is openly corrupt. Florida’s U.S. Senators are career criminal Rick Scott and infantile jackass Marco Rubio. So you don’t exactly expect accountability at the State Senate level.

But the thing about the Trump era is that the usual Republican suspects all took their corruption to an even more extreme level. The State Senator who got arrested last month was being cartoonishly corrupt, staging a third party candidate with the same name as his Democratic opponent. And now the Feds are investigating whether a U.S. Congressman was involved in rigging another Florida State Senate race, even as a double digit number of other suspicious Florida races in 2020 fit the same general profile as the two that are known to be under criminal investigation.

Is it possible that the criminal probe into Matt Gaetz, which started off as a probe into whether he likes underage girls, could end up becoming a wide scale federal criminal probe into felony election rigging in Florida? If this is as ugly as what’s being alleged, Gaetz could end up taking half of Florida down with him.

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ny times logoNew York Times, How a Defeated Trump Is Making a Muddle of the G.O.P., Jonathan Martin and Nicholas Fandos, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). Former President Trump’s instincts for red-meat political fights over governing have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for.Republican lawmakers are passing voting restrictions to pacify right-wing activists still gripped by former President Donald J. Trump’s lie that a largely favorable election was rigged against them. G.O.P. leaders are lashing out in Trumpian fashion at businesses, baseball and the news media to appeal to many of the same conservatives and voters. And debates over the size and scope of government have been overshadowed by the sort of culture war clashes that the tabloid king relished.

This is the party Mr. Trump has remade.

As G.O.P. leaders and donors gather for a party retreat in Palm Beach this weekend, with a side trip to Mar-a-Lago for a reception with Mr. Trump on Saturday night, the former president’s pervasive influence in Republican circles has revealed a party thoroughly animated by a defeated incumbent — a bizarre turn of events in American politics.

djt maga hatBarred from Twitter, quietly disdained by many Republican officials and reduced to receiving supplicants in his tropical exile in Florida, Mr. Trump has found ways to exert an almost gravitational hold on a leaderless party just three months after the assault on the Capitol that his critics hoped would marginalize the man and taint his legacy.

His preference for engaging in red-meat political fights rather than governing and policymaking have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for, even when it comes to business, which was once the business of Republicanism. Yet his single term has made it vividly clear what the far right stands against — and how it intends to go about waging its fights.

Having, quite literally, abandoned their traditional party platform last year to accommodate Mr. Trump, Republicans have organized themselves around opposition to the perceived excesses of the left and borrowed his scorched-earth tactics as they do battle. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats on G.O.P.-backed voting restrictions, only to backpedal after seeming to suggest he wanted corporations out of politics entirely.

rnc logoThey are doing relatively little to present counterarguments to President Biden on the coronavirus response, his expansive social welfare proposals or, with the important exception of immigration, most any policy issue. Instead, Republicans are attempting to shift the debate to issues that are more inspiring, and unifying, within their coalition and could help them tar Democrats.

So Republicans have embraced fights over seemingly small-bore issues to make a larger argument: By emphasizing the withdrawal from publication of a handful of racially insensitive Dr. Seuss books; the rights of transgender people; and the willingness of large institutions or corporations like Major League Baseball and Coca-Cola to side with Democrats on voting rights, the right is attempting to portray a nation in the grip of elites obsessed with identity politics.

It’s a strikingly different approach from the last time Democrats had full control of government, in 2009 and 2010, when conservatives harnessed the Great Recession to stoke anger about President Barack Obama and federal spending on their way to sweeping midterm gains. But Mr. Biden, a white political veteran, is not much of a foil for the party’s far-right base and is unlikely to grow more polarizing with the country at large.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Sense of Disappointment’ on the Left as Moderates Lead New York Mayor’s Race, Katie Glueck and Dana Rubinstein, April 10, 2021. Even as New York City has veered toward the left politically, two more-moderate candidates, Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, have shown the most strength.

Over the last year, New York politics have appeared to lurch ever leftward. First came the primary victories last summer in a series of House and state legislative races, then the legalization of recreational marijuana, and just this week, a state budget agreement that would raise taxes on the wealthy and create a $2.1 billion fund to aid undocumented workers.

But in the New York City mayor’s race, the two candidates who have most consistently shown strength are among the most moderate in the field.

andrew yang twitterThe sustained polling leads of Andrew Yang, right, followed often by Eric Adams have made some left-wing activists and leaders increasingly alarmed about the trajectory of the race, leaving them divided over how to use their considerable influence to shape its outcome before the June 22 primary.

“The mayoral field still reflects the leftward shift of many Democrats in the city, with many voters just beginning to tune into the race. Scott M. Stringer and Maya Wiley, two of the most progressive candidates in the race, are generally discussed as part of the field’s top tier, with the expected resources to be competitive through the end, and perhaps to break out in a meaningful way. Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive, has undeniably captured real grass-roots energy.

But for now, no one doubts that Mr. Yang, the former presidential candidate, and Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, are in especially strong positions, with Mr. Yang in particular consistently topping polls.

That emerged as a significant concern at a private meeting on Wednesday of representatives from several prominent left-wing organizations, including Our City, Democratic Socialists of America, Sunrise and other groups, according to two people familiar with the meeting. A consensus emerged that the left needed to mobilize urgently around the city elections, according to one of those people.

 

Virus Victims, Response

ny times logoNew York Times, In Mississippi, 73,000 Vaccine Slots and Few Takers, Andrew Jacobs, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). The good news: There are more shots available. The challenge is getting people to take them.When it comes to getting the coronavirus vaccine, Mississippi residents have an abundance of options. On Thursday, there were more than 73,000 slots to be had on the state’s scheduling website, up from 68,000 on Tuesday.

In some ways, the growing glut of appointments in Mississippi is something to celebrate: It reflects the mounting supplies that have prompted states across the country to open up eligibility to anyone over 16.

But public health experts say the pileup of unclaimed appointments in Mississippi exposes something more worrisome: the large number of people who are reluctant to get inoculated.

The hesitancy has national implications. Experts say between 70 percent to 90 percent of all Americans must be vaccinated for the country to reach herd djt maga hatimmunity, the point at which the virus can no longer spread through the population.

When it comes to rates of vaccination, Mississippi still has a way to go, with just a quarter of all residents having received at least one dose compared to the nationwide average of 33 percent, according to state data. Other southern states, among them Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia, have similarly low rates of vaccination.

A closer look at Mississippi’s demographics explains why hesitancy may be especially pronounced.The state reliably votes Republican, a group that remains highly skeptical of the coronavirus vaccine. Nearly half of all Republican men and 40 percent of Republicans over all have said they do not plan to get vaccinated, according to several recent surveys. Those figures have barely budged in the months since vaccines first became available. By contrast, just 4 percent of Democrats have said they will not get the vaccine.

Another factor in the state’s low vaccination rate may be Mississippi’s large Black community, which comprises 38 percent of the state’s population but accounts for 31 percent of the doses administered, according to state data. Vaccine hesitancy remains somewhat high among African-Americans, though the doubts and distrust — tied to longstanding neglect by the health care system and past government malfeasance like the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiments — have markedly declined in recent months.

According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation released last week, about 55 percent of Black adults said they had been vaccinated or planned to be soon, up 14 percentage points from February, a rate that approaches those of Hispanics, at 61 percent, and whites, at 64 percent.

A number of other heavily Republican states are also finding themselves with surfeits of doses. On Thursday, officials in Oklahoma, which has delivered at least one dose to 34 percent of its residents, announced they would open up eligibility to out-of-state residents, and in recent weeks, Republican governors in Ohio and Georgia voiced concern about the lackluster vaccine demand among their residents.

Tim Callaghan, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health and an expert on vaccine skepticism, said that more research was needed to divine the reasons behind Mississippi’s slackening vaccine demand but that states with large rural populations, Republican voters and African-Americans were likely to be the first to confront the problem. “If you’re looking to see vaccine hesitancy to emerge, it’s going to be in red states like Mississippi,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccine Passports Could Unlock World Travel and Cries of Discrimination, Mark Landler, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). Vaccine rollouts have a long-locked-down world dreaming of travel again. But they are also stirring debates about inequality, privacy and fraud.

For Aruba, a Caribbean idyll that has languished since the pandemic drove away its tourists, the concept of a “vaccine passport” is not just intriguing. It is a “lifeline,” said the prime minister, Evelyn Wever-Croes.

Aruba is already experimenting with a digital certificate that allows visitors from the United States who tested negative for the coronavirus to breeze through the airport and hit the beach without delay. Soon, it may be able to fast-track those who arrive with digital confirmation that they have been vaccinated.

“People don’t want to stand in line, especially with social distancing,” Ms. Wever-Croes said in an interview this week. “We need to be ready in order to make it hassle-free and seamless for the travelers.”

Vaccine passports are increasingly viewed as the key to unlocking the world after a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns — a few bytes of personal health data, encoded on a chip, that could put an end to suffocating restrictions and restore the freewheeling travel that is a hallmark of the age of globalization. From Britain to Israel, these passports are taking shape or already in use.

But they are also stirring complicated political and ethical debates about discrimination, inequality, privacy and fraud. And at a practical level, making them work seamlessly around the globe will be a formidable technical challenge

washington post logoWashington Post, 114.4 million vaccinated, as of April 10, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 42.8 of the eligible population,16 and older and 34.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 10, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 135,479,027, Deaths: 2,932,008
U.S. Cases:     31,805,165, Deaths:    574,891
Brazil Cases:   13,375,414, Deaths:    348,934

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Lifts Pandemic Restrictions on Prayer Meetings in Homes, Adam Liptak, April 10, 2021. The 5-4 ruling, which involved a California case, shows how the court has changed since Justice Amy Coney Barrett replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Supreme Court late Friday night lifted California’s restrictions on religious gatherings in private homes, saying they could not be enforced to bar prayer meetings, Bible study classes and the like. The court’s brief, unsigned order followed earlier ones striking down limits on attendance at houses of worship meant to combat the coronavirus.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s three liberal members in dissent.

The unsigned majority opinion expressed impatience with the federal appeals court in California, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, saying it had repeatedly disregarded the Supreme Court’s instructions. “This is the fifth time the court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s Covid restrictions on religious exercise,” the opinion said.

The majority said California had violated the Constitution by disfavoring prayer meetings. “California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise, permitting hair salons, retail stores, personal care services, movie theaters, private suites at sporting events and concerts and indoor restaurants,” the opinion said.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said the majority had compared in-home prayer meetings with the wrong kinds of activities.

“The First Amendment requires that a state treat religious conduct as well as the state treats comparable secular conduct,” Justice Kagan wrote. “Sometimes finding the right secular analogue may raise hard questions. But not today.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Police

ny times logoNew York Times, A Teacher Marched to the Capitol. When She Got Home, the Fight Began, Matthew Rosenberg, April 10, 2021. Kristine Hostetter was a beloved fourth-grade teacher. Then came the pandemic, the election and the Jan. 6 riot in Washington.Word got around when Kristine Hostetter was spotted at a public mask-burning at the San Clemente pier, and when she appeared in a video sitting onstage as her husband spoke at a QAnon convention. People talked when she angrily accosted a family wearing masks near a local surfing spot, her granddaughter in tow.

Even in San Clemente, a well-heeled redoubt of Southern California conservatism, Ms. Hostetter stood out for her vehement embrace of both the rebellion against Covid-19 restrictions and the stolen-election lies pushed by former President Donald J. Trump. This was, after all, a teacher so beloved that each summer parents jockeyed to get their children into her fourth-grade class.

But it was not until Ms. Hostetter’s husband posted a video of her marching down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol on Jan. 6 that her politics collided with an opposite force gaining momentum in San Clemente: a growing number of left-leaning parents and students who, in the wake of the civil-rights protests set off by the police killing of George Floyd, decided they would no longer countenance the right-wing tilt of their neighbors and the racism they said was commonplace.

That Ms. Hostetter herself had displayed no overt racism was beside the point — to them, her pro-Trump views seemed self-evidently laced with white supremacy. So she became their cause.

First, a student group organized a petition demanding the school district investigate whether Ms. Hostetter, 54, had taken part in the attack on the Capitol, and whether her politics had crept into her teaching. Then, when the district complied and suspended her, a group of parents put up a counter petition.

kristine hostetterEach petition attracted thousands of signatures, and San Clemente has spent the months since embroiled in the divisive politics of post-Trump America, wrestling with uncomfortable questions about the limits of free speech and whether Ms. Hostetter and those who share her views should be written off as conspiracy theorists and racists who have no place in public life, not to mention shaping young minds in a classroom.

It has not been a polite debate. Neighbors have taken to monitoring one another’s social media posts; some have infiltrated private Facebook groups to figure out who is with them and who is not — and they have the screenshots to prove it.

To Ms. Hostetter’s backers, the entire affair is being overblown by an intolerant mob of woke liberals who have no respect for the privacy of someone’s personal politics. Yet Ms. Hostetter’s politics, while personal, are hardly private, and to those who have lined up against her, she is inextricably linked to her husband, Alan, who last year emerged as a rising star in Southern California’s resurgent far right.

An Army veteran and former police chief of La Habra, Calif., Mr. Hostetter was known around San Clemente as a yoga guru — his specialty is “sound healing” with gongs, Tibetan bowls and Aboriginal didgeridoos — until the pandemic turned him into a self-declared “patriotic warrior.” He gave up yoga and founded the American Phoenix Project, which says it arose as a result of “the fear-based tyranny of 2020 caused by manipulative officials at the highest levels of our government.”

Debra Hunter (Photo by Heather Reed Sprague)Debra Hunter (Photo by Heather Reed Sprague)

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Who Coughed on Pier 1 Shopper’s Face Is Sentenced to 30 Days, Michael Levenson, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). A Florida woman who was seen in a widely watched video intentionally coughing on a shopper at a Pier 1 home-goods store last summer, as fears about the pandemic raged, was sentenced on Thursday to 30 days in jail, court records show.The woman, Debra Hunter, 53, had been charged with misdemeanor assault in June after she walked up and coughed on the shopper, Heather Sprague, who had been recording video of Ms. Hunter’s dispute with employees at the store, in Jacksonville.

Ms. Sprague said in court that she had started recording Ms. Hunter after watching her berate store employees for 15 minutes in an argument over an item that Ms. Hunter wanted to return.

Ms. Sprague said she had undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor 10 months earlier and was still undergoing treatment when Ms. Hunter saw that she was recording and made an obscene gesture.

“I think I’ll get real close to you and cough on you, then, how’s that?” Ms. Hunter says in the video as she approaches the cellphone and then coughs. Ms. Sprague, who said she was wearing a mask at the time, testified that Ms. Hunter had left spittle on her face.

“The defendant’s act of coughing in my face at the height of a pandemic was an act that was calculated to attack me at my weakest point, physically and psychologically,” Ms. Sprague told Judge James A. Ruth of Duval County Court, according to a recording of an online sentencing hearing that was posted by First Coast News. “I was stunned in the moment and increasingly fearful in the aftermath.”

After the encounter, Ms. Sprague said, she struggled to find a Covid test, as diagnostics were not widely available at the time, and ultimately tested negative.

The episode came during a period in the pandemic when the authorities were responding to heated confrontations across the country over masks and other precautions, with some of those disputes leading to criminal charges for people who spat or coughed on ride-share drivers, store employees and police officers. Retail workers also reported being subjected to verbal abuse — and even threats involving guns — for enforcing mask rules.

Ms. Hunter said she felt remorse and guilt from “one very poor decision” that had cost her three children nearly all of their friends and had made her feel like a pariah in her community. She said her children had been greatly affected by the hundreds of text messages, emails, phone calls, social media threats and even hand-delivered letters she had received after the video of her coughing on Ms. Sprague gained widespread attention.

Judge Ruth took issue with Ms. Hunter’s testimony, saying she had expressed more concern for her family than for Ms. Sprague.

“She talked about how it changed her world and, you know, she’s getting the nastygrams on Facebook and things of that nature, and they can’t go to the country club or wherever, and can’t play soccer,” he said. “I get that. But I’ve yet to see any expression — or a significant expression — on her regret about the impact it had on the victim in this case.”

In addition to 30 days in jail, Ms. Hunter was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine. Judge Ruth also ordered her to take an anger-management class and to undergo a mental-health evaluation and participate in follow-up treatment, if appropriate.

tiger woods car ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Tiger Woods Was Clearly Speeding, So Why Didn’t He Even Get a Ticket? Kevin Draper, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). Woods’s crash (with his car shown in the aftermath during removal from the scene) raised questions about how law enforcement officers treated his case.

To anybody who has ever received a speeding ticket, the resolution of the investigation into Tiger Woods’s car crash in February might seem odd.

tiger woods resizedDespite the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s determination that Woods, shown in a file photo, drove well above 80 miles per hour in a 45 m.p.h. zone, he was not given a ticket or charged with reckless driving. Law enforcement officers did not conduct field sobriety tests or obtain a search warrant for a blood test or toxicology report.

This week, at a news conference to announce the results of his department’s investigation, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his officers had conducted a thorough investigation and treated the famous golfer as they would anyone else.

“In order to issue a citation, you have something to indicate — an independent witness or an observation by a peace officer,” said James Powers, the captain of the Lomita Sheriff’s Station, which handled the investigation of Woods’s crash.

Had Woods been issued a citation based on the readings from the data recorder, Powers said and experts agreed, there was a good chance a judge would have thrown the case out.

Woods sustained severe injuries in the crash and ultimately, the Sheriff’s Department may simply believe it is not necessary to seek more punishment.

Woods did not hit another car, and nobody else was hurt. A speeding ticket would most likely have been thrown out, a reckless driving case may have been difficult to prove and there were no obvious signs that Woods was illegally impaired.

Under the circumstances, Woods’s sustaining devastating leg injuries that hold the possibility of ending his golf career is perhaps a worse punishment than being charged with a misdemeanor.

“I think that, based on the physical punishment he suffered, it is more of a case of ‘What’s the point in charging him?’” Carey said.

 

World News

  queen elizabeth prince philip

washington post logoWashington Post, Prince Philip 1921–2021; Royal consort to Queen Elizabeth II dies at 99, Adrian Higgins, April 10, 2021 (print ed.). Prince Philip ‘passed away peacefully’ at Windsor Castle, royal family says; World reacts.Prince Philip, the former naval officer destined to play a sometimes stumbling but steadfast supporting role as the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, died April 9. He was 99.

United Kingdom flagU.The death at Windsor Castle was announced by the royal family. He had recently been hospitalized while undergoing treatment for an infection and recovering after heart surgery.

When Prince Philip hit the world stage after World War II as then-Princess Elizabeth’s dashing suitor (shown above), he was seen as a tall, blond, athletic Viking who would breathe life into the fusty institution of the British monarchy.

They were married in 1947, and with Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, the couple came to embody a way forward for a shrinking world power experiencing postwar privation and the dismantling of its global empire. The attractive young queen and her dashing husband were regarded as glittering celebrities in the postwar age.

washington post logomyanmar flagWashington Post, China scrambles to lock down Myanmar border amid fears of covid and post-coup instability, Gerry Shih and Lyric Li, April 9, 2021. In a locked-down border city abutting Myanmar, Chinese authorities are springing into crisis mode to stamp out a spike in coronavirus cases and seal the porous frontier amid fears that refugees could be streaming in to escape fighting in post-coup Myanmar, bringing with them covid-19 and instability.

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal, Edmund Lee, April 10, 2021. A special team led by a high-level manager says wsj logoRupert Murdoch’s paper must evolve to survive. A rivalry between editor and publisher stands in the way.'

The Wall Street Journal is a rarity in 21st-century media: a newspaper that makes money. A lot of money. But at a time when the U.S. population is growing more racially diverse, older white men still make up the largest chunk of its readership, with retirees a close second.“The No. 1 reason we lose subscribers is they die,” goes a joke shared by some Journal editors.

rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone Now a special innovation team and a group of nearly 300 newsroom employees are pushing for drastic changes at the paper, which has been part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since 2007. He is shown in a 2011 photo by David Shankbone.

They say The Journal, often Mr. Murdoch’s first read of the day, must move away from subjects of interest to established business leaders and widen its scope if it wants to succeed in the years to come. The Journal of the future, they say, must pay more attention to social media trends and cover racial disparities in health care, for example, as aggressively as it pursues corporate mergers.

That argument has yet to convince executives in the top ranks of the company

 

U.S. Deaths

U.S. Attorney Gen. Ramsey Clark, left, whose father Tom Clark resigned a U.S. Supreme Court post to enable his appointment, greets President Lyndon Johnson at the White House.

U.S. Attorney Gen. Ramsey Clark, left, whose father Tom Clark resigned a U.S. Supreme Court post to enable his appointment, greets President Lyndon Johnson at the White House.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ramsey Clark, Attorney General and Rebel With a Cause, Dies at 93, Douglas Martin, April 10, 2021. Mr. Clark oversaw the drafting of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and went on to defend both the disadvantaged and the unpopular.

Ramsey Clark, who championed civil rights and liberties as attorney general in the Johnson administration, then devoted much of the rest of his life to defending unpopular causes and infamous people, including Saddam Hussein and others accused of war crimes, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.

In becoming the nation’s top law enforcement official, Mr. Clark was part of an extraordinary father-and-son trade-off in the federal halls of power. His appointment prompted his father, Justice Tom C. Clark, to resign from the United States Supreme Court to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest involving cases in which the federal government might come before that bench.

To fill Justice Clark’s seat, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.

  • New York Times, DMX, Top-Selling but Troubled Rapper, Dies at 50, April 10, 2021 (print ed.).

 

April 9

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Economy

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Probes Of Trump Associates

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts, Race, Immigration

 

U.S. Voting, Union Organizing

 

White House Appointments, Transition

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, In new book, John Boehner says today’s GOP is unrecognizable to traditional conservatives, Paul Kane, Colby Itkowitz and Aaron Blake, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). John Boehner in a new memoir derides today’s Republican Party as unrecognizable to traditional conservatives like himself, held hostage by both former president Donald Trump and by a conservative media echo chamber that is based on creating “chaos” for its own financial needs.

john boehner coverThe former House speaker said that he was happy to be away from Washington on Jan. 20, 2017, when Trump was sworn in as president and completed his hostile takeover of the party to which the Ohio Republican had dedicated decades of his life.“That was fine by me because I’m not sure I belonged to the Republican Party he created,” Boehner writes in On the House: A Washington Memoir, set to be released Tuesday.

In the epilogue, Boehner flatly states that he is glad to be out of elective politics given the party’s sharp distancing from its onetime heroes.

“I don’t even think I could get elected in today’s Republican Party anyway. I don’t think Ronald Reagan could either,” he writes in the book, a full copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

The memoir, coming 5 1/2 years after he left Congress, serves as a rollicking, foul-mouthed recounting of Boehner’s 25 years on Capitol Hill, as well as his thoughts on the past, present and future of the GOP. Although he never held office during the Trump years, Boehner republican elephant logosets the stage for how the Republican Party ended up with the former real estate developer turned reality TV star as its standard-bearer.

Originally finished well before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, as Congress certified President Biden’s victory, Boehner rewrote portions of the book djt hands up mouth open Customto forcefully blame Trump for what he called “a low point for our country” that left him on the verge of tears.“Trump incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the b------- he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November. He claimed voter fraud without any evidence,” Boehner writes.

He draws a direct line from anti-establishment lawmakers he dealt with last decade to Republicans in Congress who supported Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election: “The legislative terrorism that I’d witnessed as speaker had now encouraged actual terrorism.

 

allen west file

Allen West talks to the media on December 5, 2016, in New York City.

CNNCNN, K-File Investigation: Texas GOP chairman Allen West falsely says Texas could secede from the US: 'We could go back to being our own Republic,' Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, April 9, 2021. Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West falsely suggested that Texas could secede from the United States and become an independent country, a CNN KFile review of his comments in recent months shows.

In radio interviews after the 2020 presidential election, West suggested Texas could vote to again become a republic, as it was before joining the United States in 1845.

"This is something that was written into the Texas Constitution," the former congressman said in one late December radio broadcast. "Or it was promised to Texas when we became part of the United States of America-- that if we voted and decided, we could go back to being our own republic."

texas mapExperts, however, say that Texas cannot legally secede and leave the United States to become its own republic. The annexation resolution West is referring to stipulates that Texas could, in the future, choose to divide itself into five new states, not divide itself from the US and declare independence. West mistook the congressional annexation resolution that made Texas a state for the Texas constitution.

Texas does have a history of secession. In 1861, Texas voted in favor of secession and later left the Union to join the Confederate States of America, setting the stage for the American Civil War. After the Confederacy lost the war, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas had remained a state, despite joining the Confederate States of America in an act of rebellion for four years, and that any acts ratified by the Confederate-era state legislature were "absolutely null." Texas eventually rejoined the Union in 1870.

republican elephant logoIn the December broadcast, West added that he supported a bill that would soon be introduced in the Texas state house in January, which would create a nonbinding referendum election on whether Texans should secede.

The bill, which has little chance of passing, would allow for a vote on whether the state could form a committee to develop a long-term plan to secede.

"I do support the will of the people to be heard and allow the people to vote on this," said West in the same December interview. "But I will tell you my official position is that I want Texas to lead, not so much secede."

West's comments on secession come as he repeatedly and baselessly questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and pushed debunked claims of massive voting fraud, including the lie that Dominion Voting Software changed votes. Following President Joe Biden's election, West has claimed the US is in an "ideological Civil War" and agreed with a radio host who suggested that an actual civil war would be "worth it."

He argued Republican states can band together to nullify laws passed by Congress they don't believe are constitutional.

After the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election, West suggested that "perhaps law-abiding states should band together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution."

While West denied that he called for secession -- and accused his critics of advocating for secession -- he has left the door open to Texas secession beyond supporting a referendum election.

"Truthfully, I would rather Texas lead than secede -- if the moment does come when things have gone so bad -- but I don't think we're going to get to that point," he told an audience in January.

West said the US is in an 'ideological civil war'

Speaking on the Truth and Liberty broadcast on January 4 --two days before the Capitol insurrection which would leave five people dead--West said the US was already engaged in an "ideological civil war."

"I heard one person say, 'but man, this can cause us a civil war,'" the host, Andrew Wommack, argued. "And the other person says, 'well, we've already fought one. Was it worth it? Was it worth it to free the slaves? "Is it worth it to save our Constitution?' You can't judge what's right. Based on how other people are going to respond. You just have to do what's right. And face the consequences."

"No, you're, you're absolutely right," West responded. "And again, that is the mentality that the left has. The left is banking on the fact that they're afraid to do it. Because they, they know that we'll go into the streets and we'll do all of these different things. But again, we're already in an ideological civil war, whether you want it or not."

"When you look at what has happened out in Portland, guess what, they've been rioting, they've been tearing up neighborhoods," he added. "If you look at Inauguration Day of 2017, they were in Washington, DC burning up cars and rioting. We should have stopped it then. So either we stop it now, or it's going to be like a cancer that metastasizes, and eventually it'll kill the host."

In at least one interview in November, West pushed the baseless conspiracy that Dominion Voting Systems changed votes to ensure a Biden victory. Dominion Voting Systems denies this and has sued Fox News, Rudy Giuliani and attorney Sidney Powell for pushing falsehoods about voting fraud in the election.

"I think we're also going to finally get the evidence," West said when speaking on Dominion. "And the understanding is that there were states, there were votes that were, tampered with affected, shifted, changed, whatever you want to call it

West said that states don't need to follow laws they deem unconstitutional

In other interviews, West contended that states could choose not to follow executive orders or even federal laws they deem unconstitutional.

"I think it was North or South Dakota, this constitutional nullification," West said in February 2021. "Because we have to have state legislatures that say, look, if you are signing executive orders that are not constitutionally sound, we're not obligated. We're not going to follow these things. So we want you to go through the right process."

"We want you to establish laws, but even still, if there are laws that you're looking to implement...which would undermine our Second Amendment......would nationalize elections under the control of the federal government," he said. "We don't want those things to happen."

In March, the North Dakota State House passed a resolution saying the state would only follow laws they deemed constitutional. In February, the South Dakota House introduced a bill saying the state could nullify executive orders.

"I think that we do have that power within our hands, to just nullify a lot of these things," West added, saying Republican states could form together to nullify laws. "And that sends a powerful message back."

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Announces Action on Guns, Saying ‘This Is Just a Start,’  Staff Reports, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). In a plea to end the “epidemic” of gun violence, President Biden announced his administration’s first steps to curb it, while acknowledging their limits.

He said the Justice Department would propose a rule to stop the proliferation of so-called ghost guns, kits that allow guns to be assembled from pieces.
“Much more needs to be done,” he noted, pressing Congress to close background check loopholes and ban assault weapons. Here’s the latest on politics.Live
Biden Announces Action on Guns, Saying ‘This Is Just a Start’

In a plea to end the “epidemic” of gun violence, President Biden announced his administration’s first steps to curb it, while acknowledging their limits.
He said the Justice Department would propose a rule to stop the proliferation of so-called ghost guns, kits that allow guns to be assembled from pieces.
“Much more needs to be done,” he noted, pressing Congress to close background check loopholes and ban assault weapons. Here’s the latest on politics

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Live U.S. Political Updates: Biden’s First Budget Includes $1.52 Trillion in Domestic Spending, Jim Tankersley, April 9, 2021. The administration is proposing a 16 percent increase in federal spending on domestic priorities, including fighting climate change and reducing poverty. It shows President Biden’s willingness to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing problems.

The Biden administration is proposing a 16 percent increase in federal spending on domestic priorities including education, fighting climate change and reducing poverty as part of a $1.52 trillion funding request the White House is sending to Congress on Friday.

The request, which comes on top of President Biden’s plans to seek trillions of dollars in new infrastructure spending, is for the fiscal 2022 year, beginning in October. It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or spending on so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, all of which will be included in a formal budget request the White House will release later this spring.

But it lays out Mr. Biden’s priorities and shows his willingness to use the power — and purse-strings — of the federal government to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment by the government in the nation’s most pressing domestic problems.

The expansion includes a significant bump up in spending on education, including a $20 billion increase in funding to high-poverty schools, which the administration describes as the largest year-over-year increase to the Title I program since its inception under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The budget would also dramatically increase government spending to fight and adapt to climate change, calling for an additional $14 billion above what the federal government spent in fiscal 2021. That spending would be infused across nearly every federal agency, from environment and science offices to the Pentagon, Treasury and transportation departments.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which came under sustained attack during the Trump administration, would also get a significant boost, with the White House requesting $11.2 billion — a $2 billion increase from the previous year’s enacted level — including about $110 million just to restore the hundreds of employees who left the agency in recent years.

The budget also reflected the increasing sense of urgency within the Biden administration to deter migration to the southern border, including $1.2 billion toward investing in border security technology, such as sensors to detect illegal crossings and tools to improve entry ports. It is also notable for what it does not include: No new funding for border wall construction — a commitment Mr. Biden had made.

Shalanda D. Young, who was confirmed by the Senate last month to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden, Yellen and the War on Leprechauns, Paul Krugman, right, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). Bribing corporations with low taxes isn’t the way to paul krugmancreate jobs.

In the summer of 2016, Ireland’s Central Statistical Office reported something astonishing: The small nation’s gross domestic product had risen 26 percent in the previous year (a number that would later be revised upward). It would have been an amazing achievement if the growth had actually happened.

irs logoBut it hadn’t, as government officials acknowledged from the beginning. It was, instead, an illusion created by corporate tax games. At the time, I dubbed it “leprechaun economics,” a coinage that has stuck; luckily, the Irish have a sense of humor about themselves.

What really happened? Ireland is a tax haven, with a very low tax rate on corporate profits. This gives multinational corporations an incentive to create Irish subsidiaries, then use creative accounting to ensure that a large share of their reported global profits accrue to those subsidiaries.

For the most part the Biden administration’s Made in America Tax Plan is an effort to reclaim the revenue lost both as a result of profit-shifting and as a result of the Trump tax cut, in order to help pay for large-scale public investment

djt wind jim watson afp getty

  ny times logoNew York Times, How a Defeated Trump Is Making a Muddle of the G.O.P., Jonathan Martin and Nicholas Fandos, April 9, 2021. Former President Trump’s instincts for red-meat political fights over governing have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for.Republican lawmakers are passing voting restrictions to pacify right-wing activists still gripped by former President Donald J. Trump’s lie that a largely favorable election was rigged against them. G.O.P. leaders are lashing out in Trumpian fashion at businesses, baseball and the news media to appeal to many of the same conservatives and voters. And debates over the size and scope of government have been overshadowed by the sort of culture war clashes that the tabloid king relished.

This is the party Mr. Trump has remade.

As G.O.P. leaders and donors gather for a party retreat in Palm Beach this weekend, with a side trip to Mar-a-Lago for a reception with Mr. Trump on Saturday night, the former president’s pervasive influence in Republican circles has revealed a party thoroughly animated by a defeated incumbent — a bizarre turn of events in American politics.

djt maga hatBarred from Twitter, quietly disdained by many Republican officials and reduced to receiving supplicants in his tropical exile in Florida, Mr. Trump has found ways to exert an almost gravitational hold on a leaderless party just three months after the assault on the Capitol that his critics hoped would marginalize the man and taint his legacy.

His preference for engaging in red-meat political fights rather than governing and policymaking have left party leaders in a state of confusion over what they stand for, even when it comes to business, which was once the business of Republicanism. Yet his single term has made it vividly clear what the far right stands against — and how it intends to go about waging its fights.

Having, quite literally, abandoned their traditional party platform last year to accommodate Mr. Trump, Republicans have organized themselves around opposition to the perceived excesses of the left and borrowed his scorched-earth tactics as they do battle. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, excoriated businesses this week for siding with Democrats on G.O.P.-backed voting restrictions, only to backpedal after seeming to suggest he wanted orporations out of politics entirely.

rnc logoThey are doing relatively little to present counterarguments to President Biden on the coronavirus response, his expansive social welfare proposals or, with the important exception of immigration, most any policy issue. Instead, Republicans are attempting to shift the debate to issues that are more inspiring, and unifying, within their coalition and could help them tar Democrats.

So Republicans have embraced fights over seemingly small-bore issues to make a larger argument: By emphasizing the withdrawal from publication of a handful of racially insensitive Dr. Seuss books; the rights of transgender people; and the willingness of large institutions or corporations like Major League Baseball and Coca-Cola to side with Democrats on voting rights, the right is attempting to portray a nation in the grip of elites obsessed with identity politics.

It’s a strikingly different approach from the last time Democrats had full control of government, in 2009 and 2010, when conservatives harnessed the Great Recession to stoke anger about President Barack Obama and federal spending on their way to sweeping midterm gains. But Mr. Biden, a white political veteran, is not much of a foil for the party’s far-right base and is unlikely to grow more polarizing with the country at large.

washington post logoWashington Post, Border agents took more than 172,000 into custody in March, officials say, Nick Miroff, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). The total included 18,890 teens and children who arrived without parents, a record number that overwhelmed U.S. shelter capacity.

During the busiest month along the Mexico border in nearly two decades, U.S. authorities took 172,331 migrants into custody in March, according to enforcement statistics released Thursday that provide a stark measure of the challenges facing the Biden administration.

ICE logoThe total included 18,890 teens and children who arrived without parents, a record quantity that overwhelmed U.S. shelter capacity and produced crisis-level crowding inside government border tents. The March statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show the fastest-growing group were members of family units: 52,904 were taken into custody in March, up from 19,246 in February.

The increase last month was so large that it did not fit on the y-axis of the CBP chart that tracks changes in monthly enforcement data. The figures confirm preliminary data reported by The Washington Post and other news organizations last week.

President Biden last month described the surging numbers as consistent with historic seasonal trends, but the last time the U.S. Border Patrol made more arrests was March 2001.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: What the data shows us about the March surge and how migration has changed in the past 20 years

washington post logoWashington Post, $5 billion in stimulus funds to target homelessness as administration aims to get 130,000 people off streets, Tracy Jan, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge on Thursday unveiled nearly $5 billion in new grants to states and local governments across the country for rental assistance, the development of affordable housing and other services to help people experiencing or on the verge of homelessness.

marcia fudge oThe infusion of money to reduce homelessness, part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that President Biden signed in March, is the latest example of how the administration is using the American Rescue Plan to enact a sweeping anti-poverty agenda amid the pandemic.

“Let me be clear. These funds could not come at a more critical time," Fudge said.

The former Ohio congresswoman, right, appeared over Zoom with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

The grants, which must be spent by 2030, can also be used for non-congregate shelter, such as hotel and motel rooms, for people who are homeless. The money will be allocated through a Housing and Urban Development program designed to create affordable housing for low-income families.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tourists and looters descend on Bears Ears as Biden mulls protections, Joshua Partlow, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visits the Utah monument amid controversy over whether to restore boundaries shrunk by President Donald Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Northam to endorse McAuliffe in race for Democratic nomination for Va. governor, Gregory S. Schneider, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). A crowded, diverse field of Democrats is competing in the June 8 primary.

ralph northam file headshotThe endorsement by incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam, right, is a prize for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, below left, in the crowded and diverse field of contenders. Four other candidates are vying for the nomination in the June 8 primary election.

terry mcauliffe oThey include Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, only the second Black man elected statewide in Virginia; state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (Richmond) andformer delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (Prince William), both vying to be the first Black woman elected governor of any state; and Del. Lee J. Carter (Manassas), a self-proclaimed socialist.

“When Terry puts his mind to something, he’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen,” Northam said in a statement announcing the endorsement. “Virginians need and deserve Terry’s committed leadership as our next governor to continue to move us forward and build on the incredible progress Democrats have made over the past eight years.

 

Virus Victims, Response

ny times logoNew York Times, In Mississippi, 73,000 Vaccine Slots and Few Takers, Andrew Jacobs, April 9, 2021. The good news: There are more shots available. The challenge is getting people to take them.When it comes to getting the coronavirus vaccine, Mississippi residents have an abundance of options. On Thursday, there were more than 73,000 slots to be had on the state’s scheduling website, up from 68,000 on Tuesday.

In some ways, the growing glut of appointments in Mississippi is something to celebrate: It reflects the mounting supplies that have prompted states across the country to open up eligibility to anyone over 16.

But public health experts say the pileup of unclaimed appointments in Mississippi exposes something more worrisome: the large number of people who are reluctant to get inoculated.

The hesitancy has national implications. Experts say between 70 percent to 90 percent of all Americans must be vaccinated for the country to reach herd djt maga hatimmunity, the point at which the virus can no longer spread through the population.

When it comes to rates of vaccination, Mississippi still has a way to go, with just a quarter of all residents having received at least one dose compared to the nationwide average of 33 percent, according to state data. Other southern states, among them Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia, have similarly low rates of vaccination.

A closer look at Mississippi’s demographics explains why hesitancy may be especially pronounced.The state reliably votes Republican, a group that remains highly skeptical of the coronavirus vaccine. Nearly half of all Republican men and 40 percent of Republicans over all have said they do not plan to get vaccinated, according to several recent surveys. Those figures have barely budged in the months since vaccines first became available. By contrast, just 4 percent of Democrats have said they will not get the vaccine.

Another factor in the state’s low vaccination rate may be Mississippi’s large Black community, which comprises 38 percent of the state’s population but accounts for 31 percent of the doses administered, according to state data. Vaccine hesitancy remains somewhat high among African-Americans, though the doubts and distrust — tied to longstanding neglect by the health care system and past government malfeasance like the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiments — have markedly declined in recent months.

According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation released last week, about 55 percent of Black adults said they had been vaccinated or planned to be soon, up 14 percentage points from February, a rate that approaches those of Hispanics, at 61 percent, and whites, at 64 percent.

A number of other heavily Republican states are also finding themselves with surfeits of doses. On Thursday, officials in Oklahoma, which has delivered at least one dose to 34 percent of its residents, announced they would open up eligibility to out-of-state residents, and in recent weeks, Republican governors in Ohio and Georgia voiced concern about the lackluster vaccine demand among their residents.

Tim Callaghan, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health and an expert on vaccine skepticism, said that more research was needed to divine the reasons behind Mississippi’s slackening vaccine demand but that states with large rural populations, Republican voters and African-Americans were likely to be the first to confront the problem. “If you’re looking to see vaccine hesitancy to emerge, it’s going to be in red states like Mississippi,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Rise of Variants in Europe Shows How Dangerous the Virus Can Be, Staff Reports, April 9, 2021. Europe, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, has once again swelled with new cases.

  • Johnson & Johnson vaccine deliveries are about to take a big dip in the U.S.
  • France says those under 55 who got a first AstraZeneca shot should follow up with a different vaccine.
  • German lawmakers move to strengthen the government’s powers in the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccine Passports Could Unlock World Travel and Cries of Discrimination, Mark Landler, April 9, 2021. Vaccine rollouts have a long-locked-down world dreaming of travel again. But they are also stirring debates about inequality, privacy and fraud.

For Aruba, a Caribbean idyll that has languished since the pandemic drove away its tourists, the concept of a “vaccine passport” is not just intriguing. It is a “lifeline,” said the prime minister, Evelyn Wever-Croes.

Aruba is already experimenting with a digital certificate that allows visitors from the United States who tested negative for the coronavirus to breeze through the airport and hit the beach without delay. Soon, it may be able to fast-track those who arrive with digital confirmation that they have been vaccinated.

“People don’t want to stand in line, especially with social distancing,” Ms. Wever-Croes said in an interview this week. “We need to be ready in order to make it hassle-free and seamless for the travelers.”

Vaccine passports are increasingly viewed as the key to unlocking the world after a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns — a few bytes of personal health data, encoded on a chip, that could put an end to suffocating restrictions and restore the freewheeling travel that is a hallmark of the age of globalization. From Britain to Israel, these passports are taking shape or already in use.

But they are also stirring complicated political and ethical debates about discrimination, inequality, privacy and fraud. And at a practical level, making them work seamlessly around the globe will be a formidable technical challenge

washington post logoWashington Post, Brazil, India are now the worst-hit hot spots, with record cases and deaths, Erin Cunningham and Paulina Firozi, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). Iran’s total coronavirus cases top 2 million as it reports record number of new infections; Brazil’s Bolsonaro resists calls for lockdown as pandemic rages.

Public health experts are raising alarm over Brazil this week, as the pandemic-hit nation has reached several grim coronavirus milestones, including a record number of deaths and the possible spread of multiple more-contagious variants.

brazil flag wavingBrazilian authorities on Tuesday reported nearly 4,200 covid-19 deaths — the country’s highest daily death toll since the pandemic began. The raging outbreak has been fueled by the virulent P.1 variant, and now scientists there say they have identified Brazil’s first case involving a similar, more transmissible variant discovered in South Africa.

Because of the rising number of infections and deaths, officials in Brazil’s most-populous city, Sao Paulo, say they are now adding 600 new graves to municipal cemeteries each day.

washington post logoWashington Post, 114.4 million vaccinated, as of April 9, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 42.8 of the eligible population,16 and older and 34.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 9, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 134,694,667, Deaths: 2,918,426
U.S. Cases:     31,721,688, Deaths:    573,894
Brazil Cases:   13,286,324, Deaths:    345,287

 

Probes Of Trump Associate

sidney powell rudy giuliani

Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, right, and Rudy Giuliani failed to support with evidence their claims that last November's elections fraudulently named Democrat Joe Biden as the winner, with Trump's allies losing all of more than 60 lawsuits with that claim and failing to sustain it either in federal, state and local proceedings.

Palmer Report, Opinion: New trouble for Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, James Sullivan, April 9, 2021. Sidney Powell made a name for herself last year, in a rather unflattering way, as she mounted a challenge to Donald Trump’s election loss and made a series of truly insane claims about the 2020 election being stolen, like the election being rigged by a Venezuelan dictator who’s been dead since 2013.

After the votes were finally certified and Powell faced a massive $1.3 billion lawsuit against Dominion voting systems, she suddenly changed her tune and claimed that no reasonable person would actually take her nonsense seriously, so her comments couldn’t be considered defamatory.

bill palmer report logo headerNow, she’s facing a whole other world of problems – and might be wishing she had a better answer – or not made the outlandish claims in the first place. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is now using Powell’s preposterous argument to call for sanctions against her in court, michigan mapalong with three other attorneys, for filing frivolous lawsuits.

Unfortunately, Powell wants to have it both ways – even while gaslighting about the election being stolen, she claimed in February to have verifiable evidence to back up her claims against Dominion. She doesn’t want to be sued, but she doesn’t want to be disbarred either, a likely outcome for this particular situation.

It’s hardly a coincidence that we’re seeing more and more of Trump’s people bogged down with serious legal issues, right around the time he’s facing his own – and this will likely make it even harder for him to find a reputable legal team to face his own problems.

CNNCNN, Gaetz makes first public appearance since allegations broke, Anderson Cooper, April 9, 2021 (video report). Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) struck a defiant tone speaking at a Women for America First Summit held at former President Donald Trump's Miami golf resort in his first speech since the federal investigation into whether he broke sex trafficking laws became public.

C-SPAN, Representative Matt Gaetz Addresses "Save America Summit," April 9, 2021 (video report). On the same day the House Ethics Committee announced it was opening a probe into Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) following allegations of sex trafficking and other misconduct, Mr. Gaetz told attendees at the “Save America Summit” in Miami that he was “not going anywhere.” He called the allegations “distortions” of his personal life and “wild conspiracy theories,” promising “the truth will prevail.”

Daily Beast, Investigation: Gaetz Paid Accused Sex Trafficker, Who Then Venmo’d Teen, Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger, Updated April 9, 2021. When Joel daily beast logoGreenberg made his Venmo payments to three young women, he described the money as being for “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

In two late-night Venmo transactions in May 2018, Rep. Matt Gaetz sent his friend, the accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, $900. The next morning, over the course of eight minutes, Greenberg used the same app to send three young women varying sums of money. In total, the transactions amounted to $900.

The memo field for the first of Gaetz’s transactions to Greenberg was titled “Test.” In the second, the Florida GOP congressman wrote “hit up ___.” But instead of a blank, Gaetz wrote a nickname for one of the recipients. (The Daily Beast is not sharing that nickname because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.) When Greenberg then made his Venmo payments to these three young women, he described the money as being for “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

The Daily Beast examined these records as a scandal, rooted in a criminal case against Greenberg, engulfs Gaetz.

Gaetz and Greenberg are both connected through Venmo to this then 18-year-old woman—who now works in the porn industry, according to a friend of the girl’s.... Greenberg and Gaetz are also connected on Venmo to at least one other woman whom Greenberg paid with taxpayer funds using a government-issued credit card. Seminole County auditors flagged hundreds of those payments as “questioned or unaccounted for,” and in total found more than $300,000 in suspicious or unjustified expenses.... Gaetz and Greenberg share Venmo connections with at least two women who received payments from Greenberg, and both have professional relationships with each other.

“No one has any idea what he was doing. Zero,” Daniel J. O’Keefe, an accountant who conducted a forensic audit for Seminole County, told the Daily Beast. “The arrogance of these guys. They just felt they were above the law. I’ve never seen it this bad.” O‘Keefe said that, in particular, hotels, weekend expenses, unspecified high-dollar “consulting” fees, and cash advances Greenberg made to himself and others raised a red flag.

Vanity Fair, Commentary: Matt Gaetz Is Well and Truly F--ked, Bess Levin, April 9, 2021.Gaetz may officially be the dumbest congressman alive. Something that’s been made abundantly clear over the last few years is that there is no minimum IQ requirement to serve in Congress (or, obviously, the White House).

There are numerous examples of this to choose from, including but not limited to: Rep. Louie Gohmert, who suggested he caught COVID-19 from wearing a mask; Senator Ted Cruz, who thought no one would notice him on a commercial flight to Cancún amidst a Texas state of emergency; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who claimed the California wildfires were started by Jewish laser beams; and Senator Tommy Tuberville, who doesn’t know the three branches of government. On Thursday, though, a strong case was made for crowning Rep. Matt Gaetz the king of congressional morons, thanks to his decision to be as blatant as possible about allegedly paying women for sex.

Per the Daily Beast: Reporters Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger compared Greenberg’s Venmo transactions and credit card statements to Gaetz’s travel records and expenses, finding that “in some key places, the two timelines and circles of contact overlap.” As the Daily Beast reported the story, Gaetz’s previously public list of Venmo transactions mysteriously disappeared, though of course the company will have retained such records should a grand jury need to see them in the future.

 

 U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gaetz associate likely to strike plea deal with prosecutors in sex trafficking case, Barbara Liston and Matt Zapotosky, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). An associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) who had been charged with sex trafficking of a minor and was suspected of connecting the congressmen to women with whom he could have sex is in plea negotiations to resolve the allegations against him, according to his lawyer and a prosecutor on the case, a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz if the associate ultimately cooperates with prosecutors in a bid for leniency.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorJoel Greenberg, right, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., had first been charged last summer in a bare-bones indictment that prosecutors repeatedly superseded to add charges of sex trafficking of a minor, stealing from the tax office and even trying to use fraud to get covid-19 relief money while out on bond. In the course of the investigation into his conduct, people familiar with the matter have said, federal authorities came across evidence that Gaetz might have committed a crime and launched a separate investigation into him.

At a status conference in the case Thursday, federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told a judge he expected the case to end in a plea, though negotiations are ongoing. Fritz Scheller, an attorney for Greenberg, asked the judge to set a deadline of May 15 for the two sides to either reach a deal, or move toward a trial in the summer.

It was not immediately clear how far the negotiations had gotten, or to what extent a plea agreement would require Greenberg to cooperate with investigators. If matt gaetz officialprosecutors were to get Greenberg on their side as a cooperator, it is possible he could help bolster the case against Gaetz, a higher-profile target. A person who pleads guilty in a criminal case can often lessen their potential penalty by providing information that might be helpful to investigators in other matters.

Gaetz, left, known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, would boast to people in Florida politics that he met women joel greenberg wife two children facebook patriotthrough Greenberg, and he also showed them videos on his phone of naked or topless women on multiple occasions, including at parties with Greenberg, people familiar with the matter have said.

Greenberg, shown at right in a Facebook photo with his wife and children, had been a colorful political player in Seminole County, where he unseated a longtime incumbent in the race for tax collector, won a political battle to allow his deputies to carry guns on the job and flaunted his connections to prominent Republicans.

A 2019 photograph that Greenberg posted on Twitter shows him with Gaetz at the White House. He also posted a picture in 2017 of him with Gaetz and Roger Stone, another well-known Trump political ally.

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.

ny times logoNew York Times, Another aide to Matt Gaetz is said to have quit amid an intensifying Justice Department investigation, Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz quit amid a widening Justice Department inquiry. A second senior aide to Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, abruptly quit in recent days as the congressman tries to fend off a Justice Department sex trafficking investigation and mounting public scrutiny, according to three people familiar with the decision.

The aide, Devin Murphy, resigned as Mr. Gaetz’s legislative director on Friday. He told associates that he was interested in writing bills, not working at TMZ — equating the work that Mr. Gaetz’s aides were now handling to the tabloid publication, according to one of the people, who all asked not to be identified discussing a sensitive personnel matter.

His departure last week came hours after Mr. Gaetz’s communications director, Luke Ball, also resigned. They were among the most senior members of the congressman’s staff in Washington and their exits suggest that even as he vows to remain in the House, Mr. Gaetz may be facing a hollowing-out of his support team.

Mr. Murphy, who had worked for Mr. Gaetz since he came to Congress in 2017, declined to comment on Thursday, but his LinkedIn page recorded that he left his position this month. The congressman’s office also declined to comment. One of the people who confirmed Mr. Murphy’s departure said the parting had not been contentious.

Mr. Gaetz faced another setback on Thursday when lawyers for the government and a key ally ensnared in the scandal, Joel Greenberg, said in court that he was likely to plead guilty, indicating he could cooperate with investigators. The Justice Department is scrutinizing whether Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Gaetz ran afoul of federal sex trafficking laws by paying women for sex and having sex with a 17-year-old girl in exchange for something of value.

With few outside allies coming to his defense, Mr. Gaetz’s office issued a statement on Thursday from women who work for him extolling his respect for them. It was signed simply “The Women of the Office of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz,” without any named signatories.

“Congressman Gaetz has always been a principled and morally grounded leader,” it said. “At no time has any one of us experienced or witnessed anything less than the utmost professionalism and respect. No hint of impropriety. No ounce of untruthfulness.”

Citing media reports about the Justice Department inquiry, the statement said the women “uniformly reject these allegations as false.”

chris doworth left matt gaetz joel greenberg resized facebookClick Orlando / WKMG (Orlando, FL), Longtime associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz leaves position at lobbying firm, Mike DeForest, April 9, 2021. Chris Dorworth’s biography and photo have been removed from the Ballard Partners website.

Chris Dorworth, at left in the photo, a former Florida state legislator and longtime associate of Congressman Matt Gaetz, at center, abruptly departed his position at a lobbying firm Friday night.

Dorworth joined Ballard Partners in 2012 after losing his seat in the Florida House of Representatives in an upset election that deprived the Lake Mary Republican of serving as the next House Speaker.

“The current political climate is nasty, and I told Brian I don’t think its fair for the recent media storm to take away from their missions,” Dorworth wrote on Twitter Friday night, presumably referring to the lobbying firm’s president, Brian Ballard.

Dorworth’s biography and photo have been removed from the Ballard Partners website.

The voicemail on Dorworth’s cellphone was full when News 6 attempted to contact him for comment late Friday, and he did not immediately respond to a message on social media. Ballard Partners’ Orlando office was closed and could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dorworth served in the Florida legislature alongside Gaetz and has remained close, social media posts suggest.

Gaetz, Dorworth and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, at right in photo, posed for a photograph together outside the White House in June of 2019.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Adam Kinzinger stomps on Matt Gaetz, Bill Palmer, April 8, 2021. If the Republican Party were still functioning on any level, it would have called on Congressman Matt Gaetz to resign last week, so it could argue to voters in the middle that it took swift action against him. Instead the House Republican leadership has spent the past week hemming and hawing and trying to pretend Gaetz didn’t exist. Now that the details of the scandal have gotten even uglier, the GOP has missed its opportunity to score any points.

bill palmer report logo headerBut even as the Republican leadership continues to act like none of this is happening, House Republican Adam Kinzinger is now calling for adam kinzinger headshotMatt Gaetz to resign. Kinzinger is notable in that he also voted to impeach Trump, and has taken other stands against his party.

We’re not surprised that Kinzinger, right, is doing this; he appears to have decided awhile ago that he’s just going to do whatever he wants, and he doesn’t care what Republican leadership thinks of him. But it’s truly embarrassing for the Republican Party that Kinzinger is calling for Matt Gaetz’s ouster before anyone in the Republican leadership is.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manhattan district attorney seizes evidence from Trump executive’s former daughter-in-law, Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has become a key focus of the criminal probe into Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

Investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, acting on a grand jury subpoena, took possession of financial records Thursday morning from the apartment of Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of a top Trump Organization officer.

allen weisselberg croppedJennifer Weisselberg was married to Barry Weisselberg — the son of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, right, — from 2004 to 2018. She has previously said that she had seven boxes of financial records from both her ex-husband and his father, some of which were obtained through divorce litigation. On Thursday, she loaded three boxes and a laptop computer onto a valet cart and wheeled them from her building to a black Jeep with dark-tinted windows that was waiting outside.

In Trump probe, Manhattan district attorney puts pressure on his longtime chief financial officer

The move by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. appears to be the latest sign that Allen Weisselberg, the company’s highest-ranking corporate officer who is not a member of the Trump family, is a key focus of the ongoing criminal probe into former president Donald Trump’s financial dealings.

The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, ordered Jennifer Weisselberg to produce all of the records she possesses for her ex-husband’s bank accounts and credit cards plus his statements of net worth and tax filings. Barry Weisselberg is a Trump Organization employee and manages an ice rink for the company in Manhattan’s Central Park. The subpoena asks specifically for records related to the Trump Organization and Wollman Rink.

“My knowledge of the documents and my voice connect the flow of money from various banks and from personal finances that bleed directly into the Trump Organization,” she said in an interview Thursday. Investigators, she added, now have her ex-husband’s 2019 and 2020 statements of net worth, his tax returns and copies of Wollman Rink checks from private events that she claims were deposited incorrectly.

She has said previously that the documents that were in her possession showed transactions in bank accounts controlled by Barry and Allen Weisselberg jointly.

Manhattan prosecutor hires forensic accounting experts as Trump criminal probe escalates

Vance (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) — running parallel investigations — have inquired about whether Allen Weisselberg or his son received untaxed benefits from the Trump Organization. Jennifer Weisselberg has previously said, for example, that her family received free use of Trump Organization apartments in Manhattan. Tax experts say that, in some instances, free housing must be counted as “income” for tax purposes. Jennifer Weisselberg has said it was not in this case.

“Jennifer is committed to cooperating with prosecutors, and turning over any documents in her possession that might be helpful,” said Duncan Levin, an attorney for Jennifer Weisselberg. A former prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, Levin has also represented Harvey Weinstein and Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman. “At this point,” he added, “she’s given them everything they’ve asked for. But we’re continuing to review documents, and may have supplemental documents to give” later.

 

More On U.S. Voting, Union Organizing

washington post logoWashington Post, Video shows Texas GOP official seeking ‘army’ of volunteers to monitor polls in mostly Black and Hispanic Houston precincts, Teo Armus and Derek Hawkins, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). In a leaked video of a recent presentation, a man who identifies himself as a GOP official in Harris County, Tex., says the party needs 10,000 Republicans for an “election integrity brigade” in Houston.

republican elephant logoThen he pulls up a map of the area’s voting precincts and points to Houston’s dense, racially diverse urban core, saying the party specifically needed volunteers with “the confidence and courage to come down here,” adding, “this is where the fraud is occurring.”

texas mapThe official cites widespread vote fraud, which has not been documented in Texas, as driving the need for an “army” of poll watchers to monitor voters at every precinct in the county.

Now the government accountability group Common Cause Texas — which published the footage Thursday — is raising the alarm that such an effort could instead serve to intimidate and suppress voters in metro Houston.

“It’s very clear that we’re talking about recruiting people from the predominantly Anglo parts of town to go to Black and Brown neighborhoods,” Anthony Gutierrez, the group’s executive director, told The Washington Post.

“This is a role that’s supposed to do nothing but stand at a poll site and observe,” he added. So “why is he suggesting someone needs to be ‘courageous’?” Gutierrez asked.

 

Eric Lipman

Eric Lipman, general counsel for the Florida Elections Commission and a Republican, speaks during a 2019 meeting of the board. His mugshot did not appear in the Sheriff’s Office’s daily booking report because of a Sunshine Law exemption involving certain current or former state agency investigators and employees.

Tallahassee Democrat, Florida Elections Commission general counsel arrested on child porn charges, Jeff Burlew, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). The top lawyer for the Florida commission that investigates and prosecutes election law violations is facing charges of possession of child pornography.

Eric M. Lipman, general counsel for the Florida Elections Commission, was arrested Wednesday on 11 counts of the crime. He was taken to the Leon County Detention Center and later released.

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office announced his arrest Wednesday but did not mention his occupation and would not confirm it when asked, citing Sunshine Law exemptions. However, Tim Vaccaro, executive director of the commission, acknowledged the arrest in an email to the Tallahassee Democrat.

"The commission is fully cooperating with law enforcement’s investigation," Vaccaro said. "The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending further information."

The Sheriff’s Office’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force got a tip Feb. 24 from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children about child pornography that was transmitted through a Yahoo email account, according to court records.

That touched off a six-week investigation, culminating in the execution of a search warrant Wednesday at his home on Benchmark Trace. Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations assisted deputies at the scene, seizing personal and work computers and his iPhone.

Investigators obtained 19 files allegedly sent by Lipman’s email account and confirmed that each one contained child sexual abuse material, according to the arrest report.

They also found a number of internet searches on his work laptop involving child sexual abuse, pedophiles and children between the ages of 3 and 5, the report says.

Lipman, 59, agreed to speak with detectives, saying he understood his right to remain silent.

“Lipman confirmed the suspect email account belonged to him at the time of the incident, but refused to answer any further questions related to the email, or anything else related to the search warrant related material,” the report says.

He was put in double handcuffs and taken to the county jail. Leon County Judge Augustus Aikens placed him on pretrial release Thursday during his first court appearance.

Aikens ordered him to keep away from places where minors gather and to stay off the internet other than for matters involving work or his criminal case.

Lipman, a 59-year old Boston native well-known in Tallahassee legal circles, began working for the commission in 2001 as assistant general counsel, according to his online bio, which was later scrubbed from the agency's website. He earns $85,444 a year.

Before that, he worked as a senior attorney with the Florida Department of Children and Families in Leon, Wakulla and Franklin counties.

He also served as an officer with the Capital Soccer Association, a nonprofit soccer league for boys and girls ages 4 to 17, according to Florida corporate filings.

Lipman earned his law degree at the University of Miami School of Law and was admitted to the Nevada bar in 1991 and the Florida Bar in 1992. The Florida Bar confirmed it opened a case against Lipman following his arrest.

ny times logobrian kemp 2019 CustomNew York Times, How Brian Kemp Is Rebounding Against Trump’s Wrath, Lisa Lerer and Reid J. Epstein, April 8, 2021. Gov. Brian Kemp, right, resisted Donald Trump’s demand to overturn Georgia’s election results. He’s embraced the new voting bill as a way to rebuild his standing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Union appears headed to defeat in Amazon vote in Alabama, Jay Greene, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). With a partial count showing a 2-to-1 margin against the union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union denounced Amazon’s tactics and signaled it would move to overturn the results.The union trying to organize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., sounded a pessimistic note Thursday as a partial tally showed votes against the union with an early and widening lead.

With about half the 3,215 ballots counted, no votes hit 1,100 while yes votes totaled 463. The count was scheduled to resume on Friday.

“Our system is broken,” Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement Thursday night that seemed to anticipate defeat. “Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign” — a reference to the National Labor Relations Board, which is overseeing the vote.

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts, Race, Immigration

martin tobin court tv via ap pool

Dr. Martin Tobin (Court TV trial pool photo distributed by the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Expert testifies that Floyd died from ‘low level of oxygen’ caused by restraint, Timothy Bella and Abigail Hauslohner, April 9, 2021. The trial of Derek Chauvin continues Friday after an expert on the respiratory system testified that George Floyd died from “a low level of oxygen” and that the pressure from Chauvin’s knee on the 46-year-old’s neck would have killed any person in good health.

Dr. Martin Tobin, a Chicago-area pulmonologist and critical-care doctor who specializes in the science of breathing, told prosecutors Thursday that Chauvin, then a Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for the “vast majority of the time” on May 25.

He characterized Chauvin’s knee as being on Floyd’s neck “the vast majority of the time.”

“One second, he’s alive, and one second, he’s no longer,” Tobin said as he narrated a clip of a bystander’s video zoomed in to show Floyd’s face pressed into the asphalt, while the then-police officer’s knee pressed unrelentingly on his neck as Floyd slowly stopped moving. “That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”

Floyd’s airways were 85 percent restricted, Tobin said, thus making breathing “at some stage unsustainable.”

Chauvin’s defense maintains its argument that Floyd died of a combination of heart disease, drugs and high blood pressure.

In related trial news:

  • Andrew Baker, the chief medical examiner in Hennepin County who performed the autopsy on Floyd, was expected to testify Friday.
  • Bill Smock, an emergency medicine physician and police surgeon for the Louisville Metro Police Department, said Thursday that Floyd died of a lack of oxygen, emphatically denying that there was evidence of a heart attack or a controversial condition called “excited delirium.”
  • Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist who did lab work for Floyd’s case at the request of the Hennepin County medical examiner, testified that Floyd’s blood had a fraction of the fentanyl and methamphetamine levels found on average in the blood of drivers under the influence who did not die.

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Billions for Undocumented Workers Signal New York’s Progressive Shift, Annie Correal and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, April 9, 2021 (print ed.). The $2.1 billion fund, which could help people excluded from other pandemic relief, ignited a battle among state lawmakers before it was approved.

When the coronavirus arrived in New York City a year ago, it hit enclaves of undocumented immigrants with a fury, killing thousands and wiping out the service and construction jobs that kept many families afloat.

Lifelines like unemployment insurance and federal stimulus checks were out of reach because undocumented people are ineligible for most government aid. Instead, they have relied on food pantries, lenient landlords and loans from friends.

But after a sweeping move by lawmakers this week, New York will now offer one-time payments of up to $15,600 to undocumented immigrants who lost work during the pandemic. The effort — a $2.1 billion fund in the state budget — is by far the biggest of its kind in the country and a sign of the state’s shift toward policies championed by progressive Democrats.

“I’ve met neighbors who have not been able to pay rent, or put food on the table, or been able to provide their children with a laptop when a public school has not been able to provide one,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, a Democrat from Queens and lead proponent of the fund.

The excluded workers fund, part of the state’s new $212 billion budget deal that was reached on Tuesday, was one of the most contentious points of debate during negotiations, which dragged on past the April 1 deadline.

Republicans instantly criticized the measure as out of touch at a time when many other New Yorkers were still struggling, while some Democrats from swing districts upstate and on Long Island said privately that a publicly funded rescue program for people who are not in the country legally could be wielded as a cudgel against them in future elections.

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ny times logoNew York Times, White House Border Coordinator to Step Down, Michael D. Shear, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Katie Rogers, April 9, 2021. Roberta S. Jacobson’s departure comes amid the administration’s efforts to reduce the flow of immigration from Central America.

Roberta S. Jacobson, the former ambassador to Mexico whom President Biden chose as his “border czar” on the National Security Council, will step down at the end of the month, she said on Friday, even as the administration struggles to confront a surge of migrants at the nation’s southwestern border.

Ms. Jacobson, who had been described as one of the Biden administration’s key players in dealing with the governments in the Northern Triangle area of Central America, praised what she called Mr. Biden’s efforts to repair and recast the nation’s immigration system after four years under President Donald J. Trump.

“They continue to drive toward the architecture that the president has laid out: an immigration system that is humane, orderly and safe,” she said in a brief interview. “I leave optimistically. The policy direction is so clearly right for our country.”

Ms. Jacobson said that her appointment as a special assistant to the president and as the border coordinator in the White House was always intended to last for only about 100 days — a period that will expire at the end of April, when she intends to leave government.

The timing of her departure is nonetheless striking, coming in the middle of the administration’s efforts to reduce the flow of immigration from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Ms. Jacobson had been charged with leading that effort when her appointment was announced this year.

Republican critics say that Mr. Biden’s decision to quickly reverse many of the harshest Trump-era immigration policies in his first days in office has encouraged a new wave of migration from Central America, including families and children traveling to the border alone.

Biden administration officials, including Ms. Jacobson, have argued that the increased flow of migration needs to be addressed at its source: primarily in Central American countries where violence, war, poverty, gangs and natural disasters are forcing people to flee their homes for refuge in the United States.

 

White House Appointments, Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, April 9, 2021. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has joe biden kamala harris campaign shotpromised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

In making his selections Biden is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

 

World News

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, As Locusts Swarmed East Africa, This Tech Helped Squash Them, Rachel Nuwer, Updated April 9, 2021. A hastily formed crowdsourcing operation to contain the insects in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia could help manage climate-related disasters everywhere.

In 2020, billions of the insects descended on East African countries that had not seen locusts in decades, fueled by unusual weather connected to climate change. Kenya had last dealt with a plague of this scale more than 70 years ago; Ethiopia and Somalia, more than 30 years ago. Nineteen million farmers and herders across these three countries, which bore the brunt of the damage, saw their livelihoods severely affected.

“People were operating in the dark, running around with their heads cut off in a panic,” said Keith Cressman, a senior locust forecasting officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (F.A.O.). “They hadn’t faced something of this magnitude since the early 1950s.”

But as bad as 2020’s swarms were, they and their offspring could have caused much worse damage. While the weather has helped slow the insects’ reproduction, the success, Mr. Cressman said, has primarily resulted from a technology-driven anti-locust operation that hastily formed in the chaotic months following the insects’ arrival to East Africa. This groundbreaking approach proved so effective at clamping down on the winged invaders in some places that some experts say it could transform management of other natural disasters around the world.

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