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. 

 

April 30

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

  

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

Top Stories 

Indian leader Narendra Modi (File photo)

Indian leader Narendra Modi (File photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Announces Restrictions on Travel From India, Live Updates, Staff Reports, April 30, 2021. The Biden administration said the restrictions, which came on the advice of the C.D.C., would go into effect next week.

India is facing a devastating virus outbreak that claims over 3,000 lives daily, with hospitals short on beds and people desperate for oxygen. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, In India’s devastating coronavirus surge, anger at prime minister grows, Joanna Slater and Niha Masih, April 30, 2021 (print ed.). As he surveyed the thousands of people gathered at an election rally in eastern India on April 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared jubilant. “Everywhere I look, as far as I can see, there are crowds,” he said, his arms spread wide. “You have done an extraordinary thing.”

At the time, India was recording more than 200,000 coronavirus cases a day. In the western state of Maharashtra, oxygen was running short, and people were dying at home because of a shortage of hospital beds. In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, crematoriums were being overwhelmed by the dead.

Those scenes were just a prelude to the devastation now unfolding in India. It is recording more infections daily than any other country since the start of the pandemic. Hospitals are turning away severely ill patients, and their relatives are frantically searching for medical oxygen.

Coronavirus has crushed India's health system. Patients are on their own.

For Modi, the most powerful Indian prime minister in five decades, it is a moment of reckoning. He is facing what appears to be the country’s biggest crisis since independence, a calamity that is challenging his vision of a proud, self-reliant nation. Modi’s own lapses and missteps are an increasing source of anger. As coronavirus cases skyrocketed, Modi continued to hold huge election rallies and declined to cancel a Hindu religious festival that drew millions to the banks of the Ganges River, despite pleas from health experts

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani pathetically begged FBI agents to investigate Hunter Biden when they raided his home, Bill Palmer, April 30, 2021. If you’ve been wondering what Rudy Giuliani did when the FBI showed up at his door with a search warrant and began seizing all of his electronic devices, now you have your answer. Rudy himself has inexplicably revealed just how pathetically, andbill palmer report logo headerderangedly, he behaved when the Feds showed up.

Rudy Giuliani appeared on Tucker Carlson’s white supremacist hour on Fox News and spilled the beans on himself. Rudy said that when the Feds entered his apartment and began taking his devices, he begged them to take Hunter Biden’s hard drives as well.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Faith, Freedom, Fear: Rural America’s Covid Vaccine Skeptics, Jan Hoffman / Photographs by Erin Schaff, April 30, 2021. Resistance is widespread in white, Republican communities. But it’s far more complicated than just a partisan divide, “So have you gotten the vaccine yet?”

The question, a friendly greeting to Betty Smith, the pastor’s wife, lingered in the air as the four church women sat down for their regular Tuesday coffee and conversation at Ingle’s Market.

Mrs. Smith hesitated, sensing a chilly blast of judgment from a never-mask, never-vax companion. She fumbled through a non-reply.

Recalling the moment later, she sighed, “We were there to get to know each other better but the first thing on the table was the Covid vaccine.”

The subject makes her husband, the Rev. David Smith, even more uncomfortable. “Honestly, I wish people wouldn’t ask,” he said, chatting after Wednesday night prayer at Tusculum Baptist Church. “I think it’s none of their business. And it’s just dividing people.”

As the beautiful Appalachian spring unfurls across northeastern Tennessee, the Covid-19 vaccine is tearing apart friends, families, congregations, colleagues. “It’s a muddy mess,” said Meredith Shrader, a physician assistant, who runs an events venue with her husband, another pastor, and who notes that the choice has become about much more than health care. “Which voice do you listen to?”

Communities like Greeneville and its surroundings — rural, overwhelmingly Republican, deeply Christian, 95 percent white — are on the radar of President Biden and American health officials, as efforts to vaccinate most of the U.S. population enters a critical phase. These are the places where polls show resistance to the vaccine is most entrenched. While campaigns aimed at convincing Black and Latino urban communities to set aside their vaccine mistrust have made striking gains, towns like these will also have to be convinced if the country is to achieve widespread immunity.

But a week here in Greene County reveals a more nuanced, layered hesitancy than surveys suggest. People say that politics isn’t the leading driver of their vaccine attitudes. The most common reason for their apprehension is fear — that the vaccine was developed in haste, that long-term side effects are unknown. Their decisions are also entangled in a web of views about bodily autonomy, science and authority, plus a powerful regional, somewhat romanticized self-image: We don’t like outsiders messing in our business.

According to state health department statistics, 31 percent of the vaccine-eligible population in Greene County has gotten at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, still below Tennessee overall, which has one of the lowest rates in the country, and far below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national tally of 55 percent. While many older residents have been inoculated, now that eligibility is open to all adults, vaccination sites are almost desolate.

Still, conversations here show that for many people, resistance is not firm. Roiled by internet fallacies, many hunger for straightforward information from people they trust. Others have practical needs, like paid time off to recover from side effects, which the Biden administration has urged employers to offer, or the opportunity to get the shot from their own doctor.

What’s also lacking is a groundswell that might encourage the hesitant to make the leap: Many people who have gotten vaccinated are remaining tight-lipped.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. aid arrives in India as vaccine shortages hinder response, Erin Cunningham, April 30, 2021.  Emergency medical aid from the United States and other nations began arriving in India on Friday as the South Asian country’s crushing coronavirus outbreak continued to spiral and vaccinations in multiple regions ground to a halt because of dwindling supplies.

A U.S. Air Force transport plane carrying oxygen cylinders, N95 masks and rapid diagnostic tests landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on Friday morning, the first of several shipments that the White House pledged to help India combat the pandemic.

Chinese state media said the first batch of 25,000 oxygen concentrators pledged by Beijing to India also arrived Friday, the Associated Press reported.

“Just as India came to our aid early in the pandemic, the U.S. is committed to working urgently to provide assistance to India in its time of need,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday on Twitter.

India’s Health Ministry on Friday reported another record number of new cases, logging 386,452 infections over the previous 24 hours.

washington post logoWashington Post, 144.9 million vaccinated, as of April 30, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 54.2 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 43.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 30, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 151,250,369, Deaths: 3,182,157
U.S. Cases:     33,044,068, Deaths:     589,207
India Cases:    18,762,976, Deaths:     208,330
Brazil Cases:   14,592,886, Deaths:     401,417 

ny times logoNew York Times, The Many Ways Colleges Are Handling Covid-Complicated Graduations, Rukmini Callimachi, April 30, 2021. With vaccinations on the rise, many universities are planning in-person commencements, sowing frustration on campuses sticking to online ones.

Her first reaction after receiving the email from the University of Tampa announcing that commencement would be conducted online was to cry. Across Florida, larger colleges were announcing plans for in-person graduations — so why not hers?

Then 22-year-old Allison Clark dried her tears and turned to Instagram, asking: If Tampa hosted an in-person graduation, would they attend?

When 80 percent of the respondents said “Yes,” she and two classmates created a GoFundMe and started selling tickets. They were quickly overwhelmed as classmates and their parents pitched in more than $25,000 — significantly more than the $12,000 price tag for the convention center they are renting for their self-funded graduation, now scheduled for next week.

There will not be too many do-it-yourself graduations, but across the country, parents and graduates will confront commencements in May that are as atypical, modified and sometimes contentious as the past school year has been. 

WJLA-TV (Washington, DC), Pentagon says no to parking permit for Rolling To Remember, Scott Taylor, April 30 2021. The U.S. Department of Defense has denied a parking permit to the American Veterans or AmVets to stage a rallying point at the Pentagon ending a 32-year-old tradition on Memorial Day weekend for Rolling To Remember.

Now AmVets will try and secure RFK Stadium as an alternative staging area.

AmVets Executive Director Joe Chenelly tells the 7 News I-Team he received a call from the Pentagon Friday afternoon saying "A gentleman at the Pentagon told me that after careful consideration, our permit application was denied. He said considerations involved the continued spread of COVID-19 in the region and the nature of our event being that we are proposing a large gathering for an extended period of time."

The Pentagon released a statement Friday night that read:

Unfortunately, the department has disapproved AMVETS permit request. The department took into careful consideration all aspects of AMVETS request, to include the current Health Protection Condition status on the Pentagon Reservation; substantial community transmission of COVID-19 in Arlington County, Virginia; number of Americans fully vaccinated across the nation; nature of this event with its decreased ability to maintain physical distance; and large crowds in one location for an extended period of time. This event draws national attention and participation; therefore the risk of exposure from participants from other communities extends well beyond the National Capital Region.

If COVID-19 conditions permit, the department would gladly consider supporting a future event request from AMVETS, potentially as soon as this Labor Day weekend.

The department looks forward to supporting future events with AMVETS, and as always, we appreciate AMVETS' support of our veterans, their families, and their communities, including promoting better awareness of veterans' issues, as well as AMVETS continued support for our missing-in-action service members.

For almost a year the organizers of Rolling To Remember have been waiting for the Pentagon to sign off on a parking permit for a Memorial Day weekend event that will bring in thousands of veterans and their motorcycles to the District.

Two weeks ago, the 7News I-Team reported the U.S. Defense Department was holding up what seems to be a simple decision to allow or deny thousands of military veterans to use its parking lot for a staging area for Rolling To Remember.

It’s the same parking lot the huge event has been using for the past 32 years.

AmVets is in charge of the event and happens to be a Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization, representing the interests of 20 million veterans.

"We have not heard from the Pentagon from the day you called them the first time," said Joe Chenelly the National Executive Director of AmVets. "That's been a few weeks now.

The Pentagon continues to decline the I-Team’s request for an on-camera interview. It did admit it revoked a parking permit for AmVets after approving it in March.

The Pentagon's denial comes on the heels of the Smithsonian announcing last week that it will reopen eight of its facilities to the public in May, starting with the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly on Wednesday, May 5.

Additional museums and the National Zoo will open Friday, May 14, and Friday, May 21. Also on Friday, the United States Holocaust Museum announced that it plans to reopen on Monday, May 17 with reduced visitation, required face coverings, temperature checks, social distancing, and other safety measures.

I-Team Reporter Scott Taylor asked: "These military vets are coming to Washington, D.C. regardless if the Pentagon participates or not, correct?"

"You are absolutely right," said Chenelly. "We are seeing it on websites and social media all over the place. Much smaller groups. They're planning their own smaller rallying points and they're coming in."

Which means a potential traffic nightmare for the District. Multiple staging areas all over the DMV before thousands of veterans on motorcycles head over to the National Mall.

AmVets says it has a plan B and is working to move its main staging area to RFK Stadium instead of the Pentagon.

"It's very disappointing and for our members," said Chenelly. "There's been shock and deep disappointment expressed to us."

Sources tell 7News someone very high up at the Pentagon doesn't like the optics of this event during a pandemic. AmVets tell the I-Team the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Mayor’s Office is working with it to help make Rolling To Remember a success.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: The false and misleading claims Biden made during his first 100 days in office, Glenn Kessler, Adrian Blanco and Tyler Remmel, April 30, 2021 (print ed.). After four years of a presidency that swamped Americans with a gusher of false and misleading claims, the Joe Biden era has offered a return to a more typical pattern when it comes to a commander in chief and his relationship with the facts — one that features frequent spin and obfuscation or exaggeration, with the occasional canard.

Among the most notable falsehoods of President Biden’s first 100 days in office was his claim — which he made three times — that Georgia’s controversial Republican-backed election law had shortened voting hours.

The claim was one of two uttered by Biden to earn the Fact Checker’s “Four Pinocchio” rating, reserved for whoppers — the other being his wildly off-base statement, borrowed from the campaign, that federal contracts “awarded directly to foreign companies” rose by 30 percent under President Donald Trump.

More typical for Biden, when he uttered a false statement, was some subtle truth-stretching.

He spun that if Congress passed his infrastructure plan, “the economy” would create 19 million additional jobs; only 2.7 million of those jobs could be attributed to the proposal itself. He asserted that as vice president he helped craft an $800 billion strategy to help Central America; it was $750 million.

Through April 26, Biden has made 67 false or misleading statements, according to a Washington Post Fact Checker analysis of every speech, interview, tweet or public statement made by the president. That compares to 511 such statements in Trump’s first 100 days.

The Biden era has offered a return to a more typical pattern — one that features frequent spin and obfuscation or exaggeration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s quest for a new normal: Can he restore calm and still make progress? Marc Fisher, April 30, 2021 (print ed.). If President Donald Trump was bombastic, President Biden is soft-spoken, almost demure. If Trump was impulsive, Biden is deliberate. Still, the nation’s political dynamics remain largely unchanged, as do its primary problems.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

Law&Crime, Judge Rules Jared Kushner’s Apartment Company Repeatedly Broke Consumer Laws With ‘Widespread and Numerous’ Violations, Jerry Lambe, April 30, 2021. A Maryland judge ruled that an apartment company co-owned by former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner violated consumer protection laws by charging improper fees to tenants, engaging in debt collection without the requisite licenses, and misstating the condition of its apartments, The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday evening.

Administrative Law Judge Emily Daneker issued a 252-page decision classifying violations by the company JK2 and its successor Westminster Management as “widespread and numerous.”

ared and his brother Joshua Kushner each own a 50-percent stake in JK2, per legal filings obtained by The Sun.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed in 2019 by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. Frosh opened an investigation into the company and its partners after tenants filed a lawsuit alleging they were being charged inappropriate fees and ProPublica and The Baltimore Sun reported on rental practices that experts said were unlawful.

Law&Crime, Police Suspect Human Smuggling After Finding More Than 90 People Inside Houston Home. They Fear Some Have COVID-19, Jerry Lambe, April 30, 2021. Law enforcement officers in Texas discovered more than 90 people inside a Houston house that investigators currently believe is part of a human smuggling operation.

Edwards said that of the 91 people inside the home, about five were women and the rest were men. There were no children found inside the home, with the youngest inhabitant probably being in their “early 20s,” he added.

Law&Crime, Michigan State University Dumps Football Recruit Charged with Sexual Extortion of Juvenile Girl, Alberto Luperon, April 30, 2021. An 18-year-old in North Port, Florida is facing criminal charges that he sexually extorted a girl. Steffan Lamar Johnson has also lost out on a college football career.

The events unfolded after police say the father of a juvenile girl told them Johnson threatened his daughter. The girl rejected the defendant’s advances, and the defendant is alleged to have responded by saying he would post video of the girl performing a sex act on him. Both victim and suspect were minors at the time of the video, police said.

 

April 29

Top Headlines  

  

U. S. Insurrections, Domestic Terrorists

 

Biden Address To Congress

 

Virus Victims, Responses

  

U.S. Politics, Governance  

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

World News

Israel FlagNew York Times, Dozens Dead in Stampede at Religious Celebration in Israel

 

 

Top Stories

joe biden congressional speach resized 4 28 21

President Biden delivered his first address to Congress on April 28, with the historic background of two women in the traditional leadership for such addresses: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at right, the host, and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden pitches ambitious investment and tax plans as he recasts role of government, John Wagner, Eugene Scott, Colby Itkowitz, Reis Thebault, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Biden frequently went off script in Washington’s most choreographed event.

‘America is on the move again,’ president tells nation in speech; Biden urges Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by anniversary of Floyd’s death next month; Biden calls to ‘end democratic donkey logoour exhausting war over immigration;’ Photos: The scene at President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress.

President Biden on Wednesday pitched his ambitious, trillion-dollar-plus investment and tax plans as he recast the role of government in American lives. He promoted his agenda in a prime-time address to the nation and a slimmed-down joint session of Congress as the pandemic imposed health restrictions in the House chamber with smaller number of lawmakers.

In the Republican response to the president’s speech, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will credit the Trump administration and the GOP for coronavirus vaccines and the economic rebound, insisting that Biden is reaping the benefits. “This administration inherited a tide that had already turned,” Scott will say, according to excerpts of his speech.

Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, center, former President Trump, left, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky (file photos). 

Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, center, former President Trump, left, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky (file photos).  

ny times logoNew York Times, Firing of U.S. Ambassador Is at Center of Giuliani Investigation, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Kenneth P. Vogel, April 29, 2021. Prosecutors want to scrutinize Rudolph W. Giuliani’s communications with Ukrainian officials about the ouster of the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch.

rudy giulianiTwo years ago, Rudolph W. Giuliani finally got one thing he had been seeking in Ukraine: The Trump administration removed the U.S. ambassador there, a woman Mr. Giuliani, right, believed had been obstructing his efforts to dig up dirt on the Biden family.

It was a Pyrrhic victory. Mr. Giuliani’s push to oust the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, not only became a focus of President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment trial, but it has now landed Mr. Giuliani in the cross hairs of a federal criminal investigation into whether he broke lobbying laws, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The long-running inquiry reached a turning point this week when F.B.I. agents seized telephones and computers from Mr. Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan, the people said. At least one of the warrants was seeking evidence related to Ms. Yovanovitch and her role as ambassador, the people said.

In particular, the federal authorities were expected to scour the electronic devices for communications between Mr. Giuliani and Trump administration officials about the ambassador before she was recalled in April 2019, one of the people added.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Investigators Search Rudy Giuliani’s Apartment and Office, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Prosecutors obtained the search warrants as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Giuliani broke lobbying laws as President Trump’s personal lawyer. The search warrants mark a major turning point in the long-running investigation against Rudy Giuliani.Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early Wednesday at the home and office of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became President Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, stepping up a criminal investigation into Mr. Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

Justice Department log circularThe investigators seized Mr. Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the people said.

The execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president. It was a major development in the long-running investigation into Mr. Giuliani and a remarkable moment in his long arc as a public figure.

As mayor, Mr. Giuliani won national recognition for steering New York through the dark days after the Sept. 11 attacks, and earlier in his career, he led the same U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that is investigating him now, earning a reputation as a hard-charging prosecutor who took on organized crime and corrupt politicians.
In recent years, however, his image has been tarred by his effort to help Mr. Trump to dig up dirt in Ukraine on President Biden’s son and Mr. Trump’s repeated attempts in court to overturn the results of the 2020 election with baseless claims of widespread fraud.

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer prosecutors’s questions, except those regarding Mr. Giuliani’s privileged communications with the former president.

“What they did today was legal thuggery,” Mr. Costello said. “Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States.”

The federal authorities have largely focused on whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the time were helping Mr. Giuliani search for damaging information on Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including Mr. Biden, who was then a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

F.B.I. agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning at the Washington-area home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Mr. Giuliani who had dealings with several Ukrainians involved in the hunt for information on the Bidens, according to people with knowledge of that warrant. The warrant was for her cellphone.

Ms. Toensing, a former Justice Department official, has also represented Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch under indictment in the United States whose help Mr. Giuliani sought.

The investigation of Mr. Giuliani grew out of a case against two Soviet-born men who aided his mission in Ukraine to unearth damaging information about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of an energy company there. Prosecutors charged the men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and two others with unrelated crimes in 2019, and a trial is scheduled for October.

Prosecutors have examined, among other things, Mr. Giuliani’s potential business dealings in Ukraine and his role in pushing the Trump administration to oust the American ambassador to the country, a subject of testimony at Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial.

ahmaud arbery

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspects in Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges, Katie Benner, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). The charges are tied to the death of Mr. Arbery, above, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year.

Justice Department log circularThree Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while georgia mapjogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

The deadly encounter helped fuel nationwide racial justice protests last year, and the charges are the most significant hate crimes prosecution so far by the Biden administration, which has made civil rights protections a major priority.

The suspects — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51 — were each charged with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race and with one count of attempted kidnapping.

The charges are tied to the death of Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year.

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.

Daily Beast, Bombshell Note: Gaetz Paid for Sex With Minor, Wingman Says, Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger, April 29, 2021. The Daily Beast has obtained a confession letter that Joel Greenberg wrote after asking Roger Stone to help him obtain a pardon.

A confession letter written by Joel Greenberg in the final months of the Trump presidency claims that he and close associate Rep. Matt Gaetz paid for sex with multiple daily beast logowomen—as well as a girl who was 17 at the time.

“On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg wrote in reference to the 17-year-old. “From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”

djt march 2020 CustomThe letter, which The Daily Beast recently obtained, was written after Greenberg asked Roger Stone to help him secure a pardon from then-President Donald Trump.

In late 2020, Greenberg was out of jail and in communication with Stone. A series of private messages between the two—also recently obtained by The Daily Beast—shows a number of exchanges between Greenberg and Stone conducted over the encrypted messaging app Signal, with communications set to disappear. However, Greenberg appears to have taken screenshots of a number of their conversations.

“If I get you $250k in Bitcoin would that help or is this not a financial matter,” Greenberg wrote to Stone.

“I understand all of this and have taken it into consideration,” Stone replied. “I will know more in the next 24 hours I cannot push too hard because of the nonsense surrounding pardons.”

“I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident,” Stone wrote to Greenberg on Jan. 13.

In a text message to The Daily Beast, Stone said that Greenberg had tried to hire him to assist with a pardon but he denied asking for or receiving payment or interceding on his behalf. He did, however, confirm he had Greenberg prepare “a document explaining his prosecution.”

They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage.

— Message from Joel Greenberg to Roger Stone

In the private text messages, Greenberg described his activities with Gaetz, repeatedly referring to the congressman by his initials, “MG,” or as “Matt.”

FBI logo“My lawyers that I fired, know the whole story about MG’s involvement,” Greenberg wrote to Stone on Dec. 21. “They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage.”

As part of the effort to obtain a pardon, Greenberg wrote multiple drafts of his confession letter. The Daily Beast obtained two typed versions and an earlier handwritten one. Certified forensic document examiner and handwriting expert Wendy Carlson compared the letter to writing samples obtained through two public records requests. She said it was her professional expert opinion that the person who authored a 2019 financial disclosure for Joel Greenberg, as well as Greenberg’s 2020 board of elections form, was the same as the author of the letter.

“The person who authored the forms has been identified as the person who authored the letter,” Carlson said.

In those letters, Greenberg detailed his relationship with Gaetz. He confessed to paying young women for sex. And he claimed that he, Gaetz, and others had sex with a minor they believed to be 19 at the time. Greenberg said he learned she was underage on Sept. 4, 2017 from “an anonymous tip” and quickly contacted Gaetz.

“Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote. “He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.”

Justice Department log circularGreenberg continued in the handwritten draft that he “confronted” the then-17-year-old and explained to her “how serious of a situation this was, how many people she put in danger.”

“She apologized and recognized that by lying about her age, she endangered many people,” he continued. “There was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”

But after she reached the age of legal consent in Florida, Greenberg reestablished contact.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, about five months after her 18th birthday, Gaetz, left, sent Greenberg $900 in two Venmo transactions—one titled “Test” and the other titled “hit up ___.” The blank, however, was a nickname for this girl, and Greenberg paid matt gaetz o Customher and two other women a total of $900 about six hours later.

In his confession letter, Greenberg also admitted he facilitated Gaetz’s interaction with college students—and paid them on his behalf.

“All of the girls were in college or post college and it was not uncommon for either myself or the Congressman to help anyone [sic] of these girls financially, whether it was a car payment, a flight home to see their family or something as simple as helping pay a speeding ticket,” Greenberg wrote.

A partial record of Greenberg’s Venmo and Cash App transactions suggests that payments were usually for a lot more than “gas money.” The Daily Beast identified more than 150 Venmo payments from Greenberg to women, as well as more than 70 additional payments on the Cash App, that were generally between $300 and $500—though some exceeded $1,000. The Daily Beast also talked to 12 of the more than 40 different women who received money, and they all said they understood Greenberg was paying them at least in part for sex.

Greenberg, a disgraced local politician in Florida, currently faces a sweeping 33-count indictment that ranges from stalking to sex trafficking. In March, The New York Times revealed that the initial investigation into the Seminole County tax official expanded as agents looked into his role in arranging paid sexual encounters for his friend, Matt Gaetz.

Federal prosecutors have not criminally charged Gaetz—or even publicly confirmed the expansion of their probe. While Gaetz acknowledges the existence of the investigation, he denies having sex with an underage teen. But at some point, Greenberg began to cooperate with investigators, a development his lawyer has suggested poses a serious problem for Gaetz.

That defense lawyer, Fritz Scheller, declined to comment on this story, citing attorney-client privilege.

Gaetz’s office did not respond. However, Logan Circle Group, an outside public relations firm Gaetz has hired, sent the following statement:

“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17 year old as an adult. We are now one month after your outlet and others first reported such lies, and no one has gone on record to directly accuse him of either. Politico, however, has reported Mr. Greenberg threatening to make false accusations against others, which seems noteworthy for your story and in fact sounds like the entirety of your story. Congressman Gaetz has had no role in advocating for or against a pardon for Greenberg and doubts such a pardon was ever even considered.”

The Politico article does not say Greenberg was threatening to make false accusations against others, but does say that an associate claimed Greenberg had warned friends that “everyone is going to need a lawyer.”

In the final months of the Trump presidency, Greenberg and Stone exchanged several texts about a pardon over the encrypted messaging app Signal. While images show that the pair frequently set messages to automatically delete, Greenberg regularly took screenshots of their communications.

Stone, who received a presidential commutation in July but at the time had not yet been pardoned, communicated with Greenberg for months about his desire for a pardon.

The messages show that in November, the pair discussed putting together a “document,” which later took the form of a confession letter and background missive about all the ways in which Greenberg had been loyal to Trump. In their early conversations, Greenberg told Stone that the letter was “about 8-10 pages” and asked if it should be shortened.

“No,” Stone replied, “use as much space as you need to tell the story fully but be certain to include your leader ship [sic] for Trump prominently.”

Greenberg almost immediately responded that he had “killed” himself for Trump. “And I’ve killed my self [sic] for Matt,” he said.

 

roger stone headshot

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone caught allegedly seeking $250,000 bribe to get Trump to pardon Matt Gaetz pal Joel Greenberg, Bill Palmer, right, April 29, 2021. This evening the Daily Beast broke the bill palmerbombshell that Joel Greenberg wrote a letter confessing that he and Matt Gaetz both had sex with an underage girl. If Greenberg’s claims can be substantiated, then Gaetz will go to prison for sure. But it turns out Gaetz may not be the only one.

bill palmer report logo headerTwo weeks ago it was reported that Roger Stone, shown above, was hanging out with Greenberg and Gaetz, at Greenberg’s hotel, during the weekend that Greenberg allegedly paid for sex with an underage girl. Then a week ago it was reported that Gaetz paid Stone $5,000 in nonsensical consulting fees, which was a red flag given that Stone is apparently a material witness in the case against Gaetz.Now the Daily Beast is reporting that in late 2020, Joel Greenberg offered Roger Stone $250,000 to convince Donald Trump to pardon Greenberg and Gaetz. Stone replied that “I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident.” Greenberg committed a crime by offering to pay for a pardon, and Stone committed a crime by acknowledging that he wanted to get paid if he was able to make the pardon happen.

Roger Stone is claiming that the $250,000 was a legal retainer, and that he declined it. But Stone isn’t a lawyer, so this was obviously not a retainer, and the text messages show that Stone made clear that he wanted the money.

Will Stone now claim that he was merely joking, or that his text messages have been fabricated by someone on the other end? This just keeps getting uglier for him.

 

 U. S. Insurrections, Domestic Terrorism 

ali akbar alexander stop the steal

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Did Convicted Felon, Violent Insurrectionist, and Stop the Steal Leader Ali Alexander Say His Group "Owns" the GOP State Legislature in Arizona—Which seth abramson headshotNow Holds All Maricopa County Ballots? Seth Abramson, left, April 29, 2021. It's a desperately important question, now that Republican legislators in Arizona have hired a highly dubious Florida outfit to search for "voter fraud" in the 2020 election.

It's a desperately important question, now that Republican legislators in Arizona have hired a highly dubious Florida outfit to search for "voter fraud" in the 2020 election.

seth abramson proof logoWhat’s happening in Arizona right now is genuinely scary. You can read all about it from the Associated Press here. The question you may have, one you’re done reading, is whether the Arizona legislature—at least its Republican components—is “owned” by an insurrectionist criminal enterprise (Stop the Steal) now under the leadership of Ali Alexander, an unscrupulous radical Trumpist who’s currently hiding from the FBI.

{Note: Proof previously covered this pressing state-level issue in this recent article.}

You’d want to know all this as a way of determining whether 2020 ballots in a critical battleground state are currently in the possession of individuals committed to Trump’s “Big Lie”—and finding “voter fraud” in Arizona even if it doesn’t exist. The purpose of doing so? According to former crack addict, current insurrectionist, and longtime Stop the Steal mega-donor Michael Lindell, their chief goal is to reinstall Donald Trump in the White House by August of 2021 and destroy Joe Biden’s administration entirely.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

charles herbster djt resized facebook

 seth abramson headshotProof via Substack, Investigation/ Commentary: Insurrectionist Nebraska Gubernatorial Candidate and Future Federal Witness Charles W. Herbster, Flanked By Former Trump Campaign Managers, Publicly Swears Fealty to Trump, Seth Abramson, left, April 29, 2021. Trump dispatched his chief propagandists to Nebraska—with the result that the ex-POTUS has extracted a seth abramson proof logopublic loyalty oath from a man who could testify against him in a federal criminal prosecution.

Has the most infamous witness tamperer in U.S. political history—Donald Trump—just struck again? It certainly looks that way.

Put bluntly, why else would both Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager and his 2020 presidential campaign manager now be barnstorming Nebraska with an obscure Republican gubernatorial candidate, Charles Herbster, shown at right above, more than a year before the GOP primary there?

washington post logoWashington Post, In Whitmer kidnapping plot, extremists also wanted to blow up a bridge, feds say, Jaclyn Peiser, April 29, 2021.  Last September, as two would-be kidnappers made their way to the vacation home of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), right, for nighttime surveillance, the pair made a pit stop at a nearby highway bridge, according to prosecutors.

gretchen whitmer o smile CustomThen the two members of an extremist anti-government group, Adam Fox and Barry Croft, allegedly looked for the optimal spot to “mount an explosive charge” underneath — all so they could blow the bridge up to stall police trying to reach Whitmer’s home.

The kidnapping plot never came to fruition, as Fox, 40, Croft, 45, and other extremist group members were arrested and charged in October. Now, the pair and one other defendant, Daniel Harris, 23, face new charges, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and federal firearm violations, in the newly detailed scheme to explode the bridge.

“The defendants engaged in domestic terrorism,” said an indictment filed on Wednesday after a grand jury in the Western District of Michigan court added the new charges.

Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Federal prosecutors rarely distinguish violence or threats from extremists in the United States as domestic terrorism because there is technically no federal domestic terrorism law. But after the insurrection on Jan. 6, and amid a rise in threats from right-wing extremists and white supremacist groups, the Justice Department has signaled a new push toward battling domestic terrorism. 

brian sicknick

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors release video of rioters spraying Officer Sicknick in Capitol attack, Spencer S. Hsu, Aaron C. Davis, Dalton Bennett, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Sarah Cahlan, April 29, 2021. The video has been played in federal court at hearings for men charged with assaulting Sicknick, above, by spraying a chemical irritant.

Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of W.Va. are charged with assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to impede or injure an officer and other related counts. Neither man is charged in Sicknick’s death, which the D.C. medical examiner’s office concluded was the result of strokes.

The videos show the moments when Sicknick was sprayed and capture him trying to wash his eyes after being hit.Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani’s insurance, Bill Palmer, right, April 29, 2021. Back when the Feds appeared to be aggressively closing in on Rudy Giuliani a year and a half ago, he was asked during a TV bill palmerinterview if he was afraid that Donald Trump would leave him twisting in the wind. Giuliani responded that he had “insurance” in case that happened. Sure enough, the criminal case against Giuliani never did close in on him – until now.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing. Rudy never sought a pardon before Trump left office, and now Trump can’t help him (if there were a “secret” pardon in place all this time, there’s no way it would hold up legally). So Rudy is simply screwed. If he still has insurance against Trump, can it possibly still be worth anything? It’s not as if Rudy can use it to blackmail Trump into pardoning him or making the DOJ case go away.

But Rudy may still have one way to use his “insurance” if he does indeed have such a thing. Rudy’s only way out of this mess is to cut a plea deal against everyone else involved, including Donald Trump. In such case Trump would be tempted to use whatever dirt he has on Rudy to try to blackmail Rudy into not flipping on him. In turn, if Rudy has even uglier dirt on Trump, he could use it to get Trump to back off from blackmailing him.

One way or the other, this is likely to get ugly between Giuliani and Trump. Giuliani will end up with a de facto life sentence in prison unless he flips on Trump. These two men will likely end up playing a game of chicken with each other ahead of any such deal, and they could end up leaking portions of the dirt they have on each other, in the hope of getting the other to back down.

1100 Pennsylvania Ave., Investigative Commentary: Conspiracy theorist confab returning to Doral, Zach Everson, April 29, 2021. Trump pardon recipients Flynn and D’Souza headlining AMPFest 2021; previous renewals featured Proud Boys leader, fake video of Trump shooting reporters

A conference that in the past has featured anti-vaxxers, Qanon promoters, and top officials in the Trump Administration is returning to one of former President Donald J. Trump’s properties.

Earlier this month, the pro-Trump American Priority announced its AMPFest would return to Trump Doral in October, where it was held in 2019 and 2020. Featured speakers so far include Trump pardon recipients former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and conservative auteur Dinesh D’Souza.

Tickets to AMPFest21 cost $450 to $3,500, while rooms at Doral start at an $209 a night. The Trump Spa also is offering AMPFest21 attendees $20 off all spa services of 60 minutes or longer. Sponsorship levels run from $12,500 to $60,000. Trump’s share of the revenue at Doral in 2020 declined 42 percent compared with 2019 according to his financial disclosures

The 2020 edition of AMPFest featured appearances by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), the freshly pardoned Roger Stone, and Proud Boys chair Enrique Tarrio. 2019 highlights included former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a fake video of Trump shooting up his critics and members of the media (as reported by Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman for The New York Times), and attendees chanting for “war!” (as Alice Wilder reported for ProPublica and WNYC’s Trump, Inc.).

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump supporter found guilty of threatening to kill members of Congress after Jan. 6 insurrection, Shayna Jacobs, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Brendan Hunt, an enthusiastic Trump supporter who called for killing members of Congress days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, was found guilty Wednesday of making a death threat against elected officials.

It took the jury in his case about three hours to reach a verdict, finding that comments Hunt, right, made in a disturbing video posted online two days after the U.S. Capitol riot amounted to a genuine threat to murder elected officials in Washington.

He faces up to 10 years in prison.

brendan huntThe jury also concluded that menacing social media posts Hunt made in 2020 — including one directed at Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), then the Senate minority leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — did not rise to the level of criminality.

Trial opens for Trump supporter accused of threatening Democrats in case tied to Jan. 6 insurrection

Hunt, 37, was charged with one count of making a threat to assault and murder a United States official. He was arrested Jan. 19, a day before President Biden’s inauguration, after the FBI received a tip about his video, titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS: Slaughter them all.” The clip had been posted on BitChute, a hosting site popular with far-right conservatives, after the deadly riot in Washington.

The case centered on several disturbing social media posts and uploads that Hunt’s lawyers said were removed from the Internet before his arrest. The defense also argued that the elected officials he targeted were not aware of his comments at the time.

Hunt did not participate in the Capitol riot, nor did he contact their offices or tag the lawmakers’ social media accounts in any of his controversial posts, according to testimony and evidence.

“The fact that they didn’t see any of those posts because he aimed it at them, because he sent it to them, that’s reason to doubt,” Hunt’s attorney Leticia Olivera argued in summations.

Trump supporter argues alleged death threats against leading Democrats were fueled by pandemic boredom

Hunt’s prosecution in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn has been seen as a test of how far violent speech can go before it crosses a line into criminality. His lawyers argued that his comments, made from his Queens home, were constitutionally protected and that, while offensive, they were not legitimate threats.

Prosecutors said at the trial that Hunt’s remarks were specific. He offered detailed descriptions of how he wanted to end the lives of the people he claimed were complicit in “stealing” the election from former president Donald Trump. To support the case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn offered evidence that appeared to illustrate Hunt’s deeply rooted racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic beliefs.

Hunt took the witness stand in his defense Tuesday, telling the jury he was not to be taken seriously when he talked about gunning down elected officials. In his testimony, he said his comments were in line with “this sort of rhetoric going on at the time” on the Internet.

 

Biden Address To Congress

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Top 5 takeaways from Biden’s American Families Plan, Heather Long, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Biden has an ambitious plan that would greatly expand the U.S. government’s role in daily life. It will be tough to pass — and make the changes permanent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tim Scott seeks to balance role as dealmaker on policing and critic of Biden agenda in GOP response, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). When Sen. Tim Scott delivers Tim Scottthe GOP response to President Biden’s first address to Congress on Wednesday night, he will again find himself trying to manage a tricky political balancing act.

republican elephant logoAs the Senate’s only Black Republican, Scott (S.C.) loyally defended Donald Trump’s policies while speaking out against some of his most egregious statements. For the past year, he has led the difficult task of negotiating police reform legislation with Democrats. Now, with the GOP still reckoning with its path back to power and its approach to race, he has been tapped by party leaders to make the case against a popular new president.

A decade into his congressional career, the 55-year-old raised by a single mother in a poor suburb of Charleston has become a figure of considerable respect and power inside the Senate, where he has stayed above many of the nasty internal fights racking the post-Trump GOP.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden’s big bet: That he can remake economy with no bad side effects, Heather Long, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). With the American Families Plan and others, Biden gambles that he can improve lives without unleashing years of inflation, slower growth and less incentive to work

President Biden, fresh off a victory on a large stimulus package, is pitching another $4 trillion in spending to make bold investments in the nation’s physical infrastructure and human capital in an effort that he says will spur growth, create a more equitable economy and make the United States more competitive with China — without any negative side effects.

It’s an experiment that hasn’t been tested in the modern U.S. economy. This year and next, forecasters are predicting a burst in hiring and growth that will rapidly heal most financial wounds from the pandemic. But how Biden’s big tax and spending proposals would affect the economic recovery for years to come is much debated.

 washington post logoWashington Post, White House proposes $1.8 trillion package of education, safety-net programs, Jeff Stein, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Laura Meckler and Caroline Kitchener, April 28, 2021. Universal preschool and free community college are among the initiatives that would be paid for by tax increases and IRS changes, but the plan faces strong resistance from Republicans.

joe biden oThe White House on Wednesday unveiled a $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan aimed at dramatically expanding access to education and safety-net programs for families, the latest effort by President Biden to try to turn some of his campaign promises into new policy.

The package cannot be implemented without congressional approval, and many Republicans have offered a cool reception to the scope of tax increases and spending that Biden has tried to advance. But the White House’s new “American Families Plan” provides Congress with details of the president’s domestic agenda, setting down markers for negotiations later this year.

Biden’s plan proposes a suite of domestic policies that would collectively represent a marked change in how Americans interact with the federal government.

  • Washington Post, What’s in the spending plan

  

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, After a Year of Loss, South America Suffers Worst Death Tolls Yet, Julie Turkewitz and Mitra Taj ,April 29, 2021. As vaccinations mount in wealthy countries, the crisis in Latin America — and in South America in particular — is taking an alarming turn for the worse.

Latin America accounted for 35 percent of global coronavirus deaths last week, despite having just 8 percent of the population, according to Times data.
The recent surge could potentially threaten the progress made well beyond the region’s borders. In the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, the mayor is warning residents to brace for “the worst two weeks of our lives.”

Uruguay, once lauded as a model for keeping the coronavirus under control, now has one of the highest death rates in the world, while the grim daily tallies of the dead have hit records in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru in recent days.

Even Venezuela, where the authoritarian government is notorious for hiding health statistics and any suggestion of disarray, says that coronavirus deaths are up 86 percent since January.

As vaccinations mount in some of the world’s wealthiest countries and people cautiously envision life after the pandemic, the crisis in Latin America — and in South America in particular — is taking an alarming turn for the worse, potentially threatening the progress made well beyond its borders

washington post logoWashington Post, 142.7 million vaccinated, as of April 29, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 53.4 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 43 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 29, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 149,438,606, Deaths: 3,151,867
U.S. Cases:     32,927,091, Deaths:     587,384
India Cases:    17,997,267, Deaths:     201,187
Brazil Cases:   14,446,541, Deaths:     395,324

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden delivered on vaccines. Now the hard part — getting people to get them, Annie Linskey, April 29, 2021. Americans’ vaccine hesitancy and desperate needs overseas are posing greater challenges. President Biden offered voters a singular promise when he campaigned for the White House: He would do a better job on the coronavirus pandemic than Donald Trump.

Accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in August, he pledged that “the first step I will take will be to get control of the virus that’s ruined so many lives.” Declaring victory three months later, he said, “I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.”

Now, 100 days into his presidency, Biden can point to a host of figures showing that he has kept his promise, from plunging death rates to soaring vaccination numbers. But the hard part may be just beginning, as the mission switches from churning out vaccines to getting people to actually get them — especially the reluctant, the remote and the disadvantaged.

washington post logoWashington Post, The CDC changed its mask guidance for vaccinated Americans. Other countries are taking different approaches, Claire Parker, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). With some countries rapidly inoculating their populations against the coronavirus, and pandemic fatigue deepening, a common question has reverberated around the world: When can the masks come off?

In the United States, fully vaccinated individuals can now leave their masks behind when walking, jogging, biking or dining with friends outdoors, federal officials said Tuesday. Ditching a mask at small cdc logo Customoutdoor gatherings is also deemed safe, but the CDC still recommends masks for indoor activities.

More than 52 percent of eligible people in the United States have received at least one shot, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance followed calls from public health experts to relax mask mandates outdoors, where transmission is less likely. But officials warned that crowded outdoor events — like sporting events and concerts — are still dangerous, so both vaccinated and unvaccinated attendees should keep their masks on.

Studies show that wearing masks is one of the most effective ways to reduce coronavirus transmission. Some public health experts argue that societal immunity isn’t yet high enough to take them off — particularly since vaccines are not 100 percent effective and questions remain about whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus. Some experts suggest that wearing a mask even if vaccinated can send a powerful signal to unvaccinated individuals — such as children — to do the same.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccine Skepticism Is Rooted in Beliefs, Not Ignorance, Sabrina Tavernise, April 29, 2021. Identifying the psychological traits behind skepticism may help officials convince the sizable minority of Americans who don’t want a coronavirus vaccine.

For years, scientists and doctors have treated vaccine skepticism as a knowledge problem. If patients were hesitant to get vaccinated, the thinking went, they simply needed more information.

But as public health officials now work to convince Americans to get Covid-19 vaccines as quickly as possible, new social science research suggests that a set of deeply held beliefs is at the heart of many people’s resistance, complicating efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

About a third of American adults are still resisting vaccines. Polling shows that Republicans make up a substantial part of that group. But political polarization is only part of the story.

In recent years, epidemiologists have teamed up with social psychologists to look more deeply into the “why” behind vaccine hesitancy. They wanted to find out whether there was anything that vaccine skeptics had in common, in order to better understand how to persuade them.

They borrowed a concept from social psychology — the idea that a small set of moral intuitions forms the foundations upon which complex moral worldviews are constructed — and applied it to their study of vaccine skepticism.

What they discovered was a clear set of psychological traits offering a new lens through which to understand skepticism — and potentially new tools for public health officials scrambling to try to persuade people to get vaccinated.

Skeptics were much more likely than nonskeptics to have a highly developed sensitivity for liberty — the rights of individuals — and to have less deference to those in positions of power.

Skeptics were also twice as likely to care a lot about the “purity” of their bodies and their minds. They disapprove of things they consider disgusting, and the mind-set defies neat categorization: It could be religious — halal or kosher — or entirely secular, like people who care deeply about toxins in foods or in the environment.

Scientists have found similar patterns among skeptics in Australia and Israel, and in a broad sample of vaccine-hesitant people in 24 countries in 2018.

“At the root are these moral intuitions — these gut feelings — and they are very strong,” said Jeff Huntsinger, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago who studies emotion and decision-making and collaborated with Dr. Omer’s team. “It’s very hard to override them with facts and information. You can’t reason with them in that way.”

These qualities tend to predominate among conservatives but they are present among liberals too. They are also present among people with no politics at all.

Conspiratorial thinking is another predictor of vaccine hesitancy, according to the 2018 study. Conspiracy theories can be comforting, a way to get one’s bearings during rapid change in the culture or the economy, by providing narratives that bring order. They are finding fertile ground because of a decades-long decline in trust in government, and a sharp rise in inequality that has led to a sense, among many Americans, that the government is no longer working on their behalf.

 

Jobs, Governance, Politics

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Helping Families Will Help Create Jobs, Paul Krugman, April 29, 2021. Parents in other rich countries can take paid work because they have affordable child care. In the U.S. such care is prohibitively expensive.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Economy Rebounds as Pain Caused by Pandemic Eases, Staff reports, April 29, 2021. The country’s G.D.P. grew 1.6 percent in the first quarter, a 6.4 percent annual rate, on its way to returning to pre-pandemic levels by summer.

The economy shook off some lingering effects of the pandemic as spending grew, bolstered by stimulus and an easing of restrictions.

Looking ahead, economists said they expected to see even better numbers this quarter.

“It’s good news, but the better news is coming,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “There’s nothing in this report that makes me think the economy won’t grow at a gangbusters pace in the second and third quarter.”

The expansion last quarter was spurred by stimulus checks, he said, which quickly translated into purchases of durable goods like cars and household appliances.

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida G.O.P. Passes Voting Limits in Broad Elections Bill, Patricia Mazzei and Nick Corasaniti, April 29, 2021. The election overhaul bill in one of America’s most critical battlegrounds adds to a national Republican push to reduce voting access.

Republicans in the Florida Legislature passed an election overhaul bill on Thursday that is set to usher in a host of voting restrictions in one of the most critical battleground states in the country, adding to the national push by G.O.P. state lawmakers to reduce voting access.

The bill makes Florida the first major swing state won by former President Donald J. Trump to pass significant voting limits and reflects Republicans’ determination to reshape electoral systems even in states where they have been ascendant. Mr. Trump carried the state last year by more than three percentage points, other Republicans also performed strongly, and the party raised new hopes of its ability to appeal to Latino voters.

But Republicans in Florida argued that its elections needed to be more secure, despite the fact that voting unfolded smoothly in 2020 and arguments by Democrats and voting rights experts that some of the new measures would disproportionately affect voters of color. Now the state is on the verge of weakening key parts of an extensive voting infrastructure that was slowly constructed after the state’s chaotic 2000 election and was rapidly enlarged last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new bill would limit the use of drop boxes; add more identification requirements for those requesting absentee ballots; require voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, rather than receive them automatically through an absentee voting list; limit who could collect and drop off ballots; and further empower partisan observers during the ballot-counting process. The legislation would also expand a current rule that prohibits outside groups from providing items “with the intent to influence” voters within a 150-foot radius of a polling location.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden, in Georgia to Promote Economic Agenda, Visits Carter, Jim Tankersley, April 29, 2021.  A day after his first address to Congress and set to mark his 100th day in office, President Biden met with former President Carter. President Biden visited former President Jimmy Carter, an old friend, as he traveled to Georgia on Thursday to pitch his $4 trillion economic agenda.

A day after using his first address to Congress to urge swift passage of his plans to spend heavily on infrastructure, child care, paid leave and other efforts meant to bolster economic competitiveness, Mr. Biden held a drive-in car rally in Duluth, Ga., for his 100th day in office.

The president promoted the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill he signed into law in March and pitched the two-part plan for longer-term investments in the economy that he has rolled out over the past two weeks. His audience included people in about 315 cars. His remarks were briefly interrupted by protesters calling on him to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mr. Biden thanked Georgia voters for electing Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who tipped the balance of the chamber to Democrats in January and enabled him to pass a far more ambitious economic rescue package after taking office than what would most likely have been possible with a divided Congress.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats break with White House to push Medicare expansion, Tony Romm and Seung Min Kim, April 29, 2021. Early pledges from party lawmakers to include the expansion as part of President Biden’s families plan threatened to create more political tension around a package that is already facing no shortage of it.

Roughly 100 House and Senate Democrats led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) publicly had encouraged Biden in recent days to include the overhaul as part of his latest package, known as the “American Families Plan,” which proposes major investments in the country’s safety net programs. Yet Biden opted only to propose additional subsidies for Americans who purchase their health insurance, disappointing many lawmakers who still otherwise support the White House’s blueprint

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Republicans view 2017 tax law the way Democrats view Obamacare: As a signature achievement they will fight to keep, Paul Kane, April 29, 2021. Republicans have taken an aggressive approach to President Biden’s plans to finance his roughly $6 trillion agenda: Don’t mess with their 2017 tax cuts.

roger wicker twitterEven before Biden formally unveiled his plans, Republicans sent a message that they consider the 2017 law that slashed personal and corporate tax rates as a sacrosanct measure that they’ve no intention of gutting.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) explained this ethos in unusually blunt fashion when he returned to the Capitol on April 12 after Biden met with a small bipartisan group of lawmakers involved in infrastructure issues, telling the group he was targeting the very taxes that Republicans slashed four years ago.

“Clearly there are parts of his program that are non-starters for Republicans. The pay-for, I view the pay-for as a problem,” Wicker told reporters in the Capitol after that meeting. “I view the 2017 tax bill as one of my signature achievements in my entire career.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking Biden appointees, Harry Stevens and Madison Walls, April 29, 2021. President Biden’s transition has been slower than previous ones. We are tracking 789 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • omb logo management and budget seal Custom372 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 48 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 86 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 38 have been confirmed by the Senate.
  • Additionally, we have identified 245 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, A Sharp Divide at the Supreme Court Over a One-Letter Word, Adam Liptak,  April 29, 2021. In an immigration ruling that scrambled the usual alliances, the justices differed over the significance of the article “a.”The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government must comply strictly with a requirement that immigrants receive detailed notices about their deportation hearings.

The 6-to-3 decision featured unusual alliances, with the three conservative justices most committed to interpreting statutes according to their plain words — Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — joining the court’s three-member liberal wing to form a majority.

The case concerned a 1996 federal law that allows immigrants subject to deportation to apply to stay in the country if they meet various criteria, including that they had been continuously present for at least 10 years. The law stops that time from accruing once immigrants receive “a notice to appear” for a deportation hearing listing various kinds of information, including the nature of the proceeding and when and where it will take place.

The question in the case was whether the government had to provide all of the information at once or could do so piecemeal. Justice Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said the statute’s use of the article “a” in “a notice to appear” was crucial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Declines Immediate Release of Video in North Carolina Shooting, Richard Fausset and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Andrew Brown Jr. was killed last week by sheriff’s deputies. The ruling delays for at least 30 days the release of the footage in the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed last week by the county sheriff’s deputies.
A North Carolina judge on Wednesday declined to immediately release the body-camera footage in the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr., agreeing with a prosecutor to delay its public dissemination for at least 30 days.

The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and lawyers for a group of media outlets, including The New York Times, petitioned Judge Jeff Foster to release the videos in a hearing that came after days of demands by protesters and elected officials to make the footage public.

Judge Foster denied the release altogether to the media outlets, saying they did not have legal standing to request the videos, but ruled that the authorities must show the footage to Mr. Brown’s adult son, Khalil Ferebee, and his immediate family within one degree of kinship, plus one lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of North Carolina. The authorities must do so within 10 days.

In arguments before Judge Foster, the local prosecutor, Robert Andrew Womble, said the body-camera footage shows that Mr. Brown struck deputies with his car while trying to escape and that deputies did not begin firing until after that moment.

Members of Mr. Brown’s family, plus one of the family’s lawyers, were shown 20 seconds of redacted footage on Monday. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, the lawyer, said the footage showed Mr. Brown sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when deputies began shooting.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Inside the ‘Cult-Like’ Camp Where Women Had to Hug Abusers, Pilar Melendez, April 29, 2021. Multiple women have come forward to say famed psychic Edgar Cayce’s long-running summer camp in Virginia was a hotbed for pedophilia.

Daily Beast, Women Who ‘Found’ Lady Gaga’s Bulldogs Arrested Along With Alleged Dognappers, Blake Montgomery, April 29, 2021. The dognappers have been charged with robbery and attempted murder for shooting the singer’s dog walker.

daily beast logoThe people who allegedly stole Lady Gaga’s two French Bulldogs in February and opened fire on her dog walker have been arrested.

The woman who dropped the Frenchies off in an alley just days after their disappearance was also arrested, with footage of the pooches’ return becoming key evidence. Police had advised the pop star not to pay the $500,000 reward she had advertised for Gustav and Koji’s repatriation.

TMZ first reported the news, and the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to The Daily Beast that five people were arrested in total.

On February 24, as Lady Gaga, real name Stefani Germanotta, was in Italy working on a film, multiple people pulled up beside her dog walker Ryan Fischer, told him to give up the pooches, and, when he would not, shot him several times.

Fischer spent weeks in the hospital but has since been discharged with a good prognosis. French Bulldogs have become a hot commodity in recent years, with a single pup fetching up to $10,000.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Navalny’s Network Crumbling Under Kremlin Pressure, Anton Troianovski, April 29, 2021. Associates of Aleksei A. Navalny, right, said they were shutting down their nationwide network of regional offices on Thursday even as the imprisoned Russian opposition leader vowed, in an online court appearance, to keep fighting the “emperor with no clothes” in the Kremlin.

alexey navalny 2017Disbanding Mr. Navalny’s 40 regional offices became inevitable in recent weeks, an aide to Mr. Navalny said, amid the Kremlin’s latest efforts to stifle political dissent, adding that some of the offices may continue to operate as independent entities. Prosecutors are seeking to have Mr. Navalny’s movement declared an extremist organization. A Moscow court this week Russian Flagordered Mr. Navalny’s groups to halt all public activity, including participating in political campaigns or referendums pending a final ruling in the extremism case.

“Alas, we must be honest: it’s impossible to work under these conditions,” the aide to Mr. Navalny, Leonid Volkov, said in a YouTube video, warning that continuing to operate would expose supporters of the opposition leader to criminal prosecution. “We are officially disbanding the network of Navalny offices.”

The demise of Mr. Navalny’s network of regional offices — from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to Vladivostok on the Pacific — represents the end of an era in Russian politics, when the opposition leader had controlled the country’s most formidable nationwide political infrastructure dedicated to toppling President Vladimir V. Putin.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dozens Dead in Stampede at Religious Celebration in Israel, Isabel Kershner and Eric Nagourney, April 29, 2021. An estimated 100,000 people had gathered to celebrate the holiday Lag b’Omer. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “terrible disaster.”

Israel FlagA stampede at a mountainside religious celebration in Israel that drew tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews has left dozens dead and scores more injured.

By some estimates, about 100,000 people were crammed together late Thursday to celebrate a holiday on Mount Meron in northern Israel, despite warnings from the authorities about the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

The deadly crush began after some revelers started fleeing the scene. The Magen David Adom ambulance service later reported that 103 people had been injured.

As dawn broke in Israel, the newspapers Haaretz and The Times of Israel were reporting that at least 44 people had been killed. Haaretz said more than 50 others had been injured and that 20 of them were in critical condition. A video said to have been taken right before the stampede showed a mass of people in ecstatic celebration, moving almost as one to the music.

The pilgrimage was held despite warnings from Israeli health officials that it could become a Covid-19 superspreader event. That is what appears to have happened in India this month when a vast Hindu celebration was permitted to take place.

April 28

Top Headlines  

 

 Biden Address To Congress

  

U.S. Political Probes, Commentaries

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance  

 

U.S. Capitol Insurrection, Riot

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

joe biden congressional speach resized 4 28 21

President Biden delivered his first address to Congress on April 28, with the historic background of two women in the traditional leadership for such addresses: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at right, the host, and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden pitches ambitious investment and tax plans as he recasts role of government, John Wagner, Eugene Scott, Colby Itkowitz, Reis Thebault, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan, April 28, 2021. Biden frequently went off script in Washington’s most choreographed event.

‘America is on the move again,’ president tells nation in speech; Biden urges Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by anniversary of Floyd’s death next month; Biden calls to ‘end democratic donkey logoour exhausting war over immigration;’ Photos: The scene at President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress.

President Biden on Wednesday pitched his ambitious, trillion-dollar-plus investment and tax plans as he recast the role of government in American lives. He promoted his agenda in a prime-time address to the nation and a slimmed-down joint session of Congress as the pandemic imposed health restrictions in the House chamber with smaller number of lawmakers.

In the Republican response to the president’s speech, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will credit the Trump administration and the GOP for coronavirus vaccines and the economic rebound, insisting that Biden is reaping the benefits. “This administration inherited a tide that had already turned,” Scott will say, according to excerpts of his speech.

Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, center, former President Trump, left, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky (file photos). 

Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, center, former President Trump, left, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky (file photos). 

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Investigators Search Rudy Giuliani’s Apartment and Office, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, April 28, 2021. Prosecutors obtained the search warrants as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Giuliani broke lobbying laws as President Trump’s personal lawyer. The search warrants mark a major turning point in the long-running investigation against Rudy Giuliani.Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early Wednesday at the home and office of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became President Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, stepping up a criminal investigation into Mr. Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

Justice Department log circularThe investigators seized Mr. Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the people said.

The execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president. It was a major development in the long-running investigation into Mr. Giuliani and a remarkable moment in his long arc as a public figure.

As mayor, Mr. Giuliani won national recognition for steering New York through the dark days after the Sept. 11 attacks, and earlier in his career, he led the same U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that is investigating him now, earning a reputation as a hard-charging prosecutor who took on organized crime and corrupt politicians.
In recent years, however, his image has been tarred by his effort to help Mr. Trump to dig up dirt in Ukraine on President Biden’s son and Mr. Trump’s repeated attempts in court to overturn the results of the 2020 election with baseless claims of widespread fraud.

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer prosecutors’s questions, except those regarding Mr. Giuliani’s privileged communications with the former president.

“What they did today was legal thuggery,” Mr. Costello said. “Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States.”

The federal authorities have largely focused on whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the time were helping Mr. Giuliani search for damaging information on Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including Mr. Biden, who was then a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

F.B.I. agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning at the Washington-area home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Mr. Giuliani who had dealings with several Ukrainians involved in the hunt for information on the Bidens, according to people with knowledge of that warrant. The warrant was for her cellphone.

Ms. Toensing, a former Justice Department official, has also represented Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch under indictment in the United States whose help Mr. Giuliani sought.

The investigation of Mr. Giuliani grew out of a case against two Soviet-born men who aided his mission in Ukraine to unearth damaging information about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of an energy company there. Prosecutors charged the men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and two others with unrelated crimes in 2019, and a trial is scheduled for October.

Prosecutors have examined, among other things, Mr. Giuliani’s potential business dealings in Ukraine and his role in pushing the Trump administration to oust the American ambassador to the country, a subject of testimony at Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Feds raid Rudy Giuliani’s home – and Donald Trump should be quaking in his boots, Bill Palmer, right, April 28, 2021. This morning the Feds raided Rudy Giuliani’s home in New York bill palmerCity and seized pretty much everything. They didn’t arrest him, but it’s now clear that that’s coming. This is not only bad news for Rudy, it’s bad news for Donald Trump.

Federal criminal investigations tend to take a very long time even when they remain active. But based on how the case against Rudy was reportedly heating up about a year and a half ago, only for nothing to happen since, it’s now clear that the case was on pause until Trump was gone – and now it’s back in action with a vengeance.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s not clear if the case was on pause because the Feds wanted to wait until after Trump was out of position to pardon Giuliani, or if Bill Barr forced the Feds to put the case on ice. Either way, the New York Times says today’s raid is part of the same dirty foreign money case that the Feds have been building against Rudy since at least 2019.

Here’s the thing about today’s raid. The Feds would already need to have really damning evidence in hand against Giuliani in order to obtain this kind of search and seizure warrant. In other words, they’ve already got him nailed. In fact the Feds have likely already obtained external copies of much of Rudy’s electronic communications that were seized today; this is partially about seeing if he’s tried to destroy that evidence on this end, and whether they can nail him for obstruction, which is an way easy to force him to realize he needs to cut a deal.

rudy giuliani recentSo now Rudy Giuliani, right, whose home has just been raided, whose devices have just been seized, and who ostensibly has just enough lawyer marbles left to know that he’s headed to prison, has to make a decision whether to cut a deal against Trump. Giuliani is 76 years old and in visibly worsening cognitive health; if he goes to prison for any length of time it’ll be a de facto life sentence. His only chance of not going to prison is if he helps send Trump to prison.

Here’s another thing to consider. If Merrick Garland’s DOJ has decided to reactivate the criminal case against Rudy Giuliani, then it’s surely decided to actively pursue criminal cases against all of the Trump era henchmen. This comes shortly after the DOJ filed a multimillion dollar suit against Roger Stone. Are we supposed to believe that the DOJ is now pursuing all of Trump’s henchmen, but not pursuing Trump? It’s time for Trump to be quaking in his boots. This is in addition to the widely documented criminal cases against Trump in New York and Georgia.ahmaud arbery

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspects in Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges, Katie Benner, April 28, 2021. The charges are tied to the death of Mr. Arbery, above, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year.

Justice Department log circularThree Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while georgia mapjogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

The deadly encounter helped fuel nationwide racial justice protests last year, and the charges are the most significant hate crimes prosecution so far by the Biden administration, which has made civil rights protections a major priority.

The suspects — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51 — were each charged with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race and with one count of attempted kidnapping.

The charges are tied to the death of Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump supporter found guilty of threatening to kill members of Congress after Jan. 6 insurrection, Shayna Jacobs, April 28, 2021. Brendan Hunt, an enthusiastic Trump supporter who called for killing members of Congress days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, was found guilty Wednesday of making a death threat against elected officials.

It took the jury in his case about three hours to reach a verdict, finding that comments Hunt, right, made in a disturbing video posted online two days after the U.S. Capitol riot amounted to a genuine threat to murder elected officials in Washington.

He faces up to 10 years in prison.

brendan huntThe jury also concluded that menacing social media posts Hunt made in 2020 — including one directed at Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), then the Senate minority leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — did not rise to the level of criminality.

Trial opens for Trump supporter accused of threatening Democrats in case tied to Jan. 6 insurrection

Hunt, 37, was charged with one count of making a threat to assault and murder a United States official. He was arrested Jan. 19, a day before President Biden’s inauguration, after the FBI received a tip about his video, titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS: Slaughter them all.” The clip had been posted on BitChute, a hosting site popular with far-right conservatives, after the deadly riot in Washington.

The case centered on several disturbing social media posts and uploads that Hunt’s lawyers said were removed from the Internet before his arrest. The defense also argued that the elected officials he targeted were not aware of his comments at the time.

Hunt did not participate in the Capitol riot, nor did he contact their offices or tag the lawmakers’ social media accounts in any of his controversial posts, according to testimony and evidence.

“The fact that they didn’t see any of those posts because he aimed it at them, because he sent it to them, that’s reason to doubt,” Hunt’s attorney Leticia Olivera argued in summations.

Trump supporter argues alleged death threats against leading Democrats were fueled by pandemic boredom

Hunt’s prosecution in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn has been seen as a test of how far violent speech can go before it crosses a line into criminality. His lawyers argued that his comments, made from his Queens home, were constitutionally protected and that, while offensive, they were not legitimate threats.

Prosecutors said at the trial that Hunt’s remarks were specific. He offered detailed descriptions of how he wanted to end the lives of the people he claimed were complicit in “stealing” the election from former president Donald Trump. To support the case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn offered evidence that appeared to illustrate Hunt’s deeply rooted racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic beliefs.

Hunt took the witness stand in his defense Tuesday, telling the jury he was not to be taken seriously when he talked about gunning down elected officials. In his testimony, he said his comments were in line with “this sort of rhetoric going on at the time” on the Internet.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a candidate, Biden promised ‘results, not a revolution.’ Then covid changed everything, Ashley Parker, April 28, 2021 (print ed.).By the time Joe Biden ascended to the presidency, he was prepared to fundamentally overhaul the role of government in a nation battered by the coronavirus, racial inequity, economic woes and climate change.

By the time Biden ascended to the presidency, he had refashioned himself as a transformational leader — a president prepared to fundamentally overhaul the role of government in society on behalf of the nation’s working men and women.

The pandemic — which had killed half a million Americans by the beginning of his second month in office — provided an organizing principle for Biden’s presidency and a clear mission for him to manage. But the coronavirus also exposed deep-seated inequalities, from systemic racism to a fragile middle class, just one illness or missed paycheck away from free-fall.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Politics Live Updates: Biden To Address Congress, Staff Reports, April 28, 2021. President Biden, who will cross 100 days in office this week, will use his speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night to issue an urgent call for action as America recovers from a devastating pandemic.

On Biden’s agenda: unveiling plans for a vast expansion of the country’s child care system. A sparse audience in a locked-down Capitol will listen to Biden’s address.

ny times logoNew York Times, Officials Fear Spread of Virus as Migrants Go Untested at U.S. Border, Frances Robles and Miriam Jordan, April 28, 2021. The Border Patrol says it lacks the means to test people at crowded processing stations.

More than 170,000 migrants crossed the border in March — many coming from countries still grappling with high infection rates — but the Border Patrol is conducting no testing for the coronavirus during the several days that the newly arrived migrants are in U.S. custody except in cases where migrants show obvious symptoms

washington post logoWashington Post, India reports more than 360,000 covid-19 cases, a new global record, Erin Cunningham, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). In some cities, makeshift crematoriums have been erected to cope with the growing number of dead. Over the past week alone, according to official figures, more than 2,000 infected people have died in India every day.

India on Wednesday reported another record number of coronavirus cases and deaths, nudging its official covid-19 death toll past 200,000 as the virus coursed through urban centers and out into rural areas, leaving broken families and communities in its wake.

india flag mapIn a new global record, Indian authorities logged 360,960 infections in a 24-hour period, bringing the total number of cases to more than 17.9 million. India also reported 3,293 deaths, even as experts warned that many virus fatalities were going uncounted.

world health organization logo CustomCoronavirus has crushed India’s health system. Patients are on their own. India is driving a worldwide surge in cases, accounting for 38 percent of infections recorded in the seven-day period ending April 25, the World Health Organization said.

The global impact of the crisis has spurred some nations to step in and offer support, including President Biden who earlier this week pledged vaccine materials, therapeutics and oxygen-related supplies.

 

Biden Address To Congres

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Top 5 takeaways from Biden’s American Families Plan, Heather Long, April 28, 2021. Biden has an ambitious plan that would greatly expand the U.S. government’s role in daily life. It will be tough to pass — and make the changes permanent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tim Scott seeks to balance role as dealmaker on policing and critic of Biden agenda in GOP response, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, April 28, 2021. When Sen. Tim Scott delivers Tim Scottthe GOP response to President Biden’s first address to Congress on Wednesday night, he will again find himself trying to manage a tricky political balancing act.

republican elephant logoAs the Senate’s only Black Republican, Scott (S.C.) loyally defended Donald Trump’s policies while speaking out against some of his most egregious statements. For the past year, he has led the difficult task of negotiating police reform legislation with Democrats. Now, with the GOP still reckoning with its path back to power and its approach to race, he has been tapped by party leaders to make the case against a popular new president.

A decade into his congressional career, the 55-year-old raised by a single mother in a poor suburb of Charleston has become a figure of considerable respect and power inside the Senate, where he has stayed above many of the nasty internal fights racking the post-Trump GOP.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden’s big bet: That he can remake economy with no bad side effects, Heather Long, April 28, 2021. With the American Families Plan and others, Biden gambles that he can improve lives without unleashing years of inflation, slower growth and less incentive to work

President Biden, fresh off a victory on a large stimulus package, is pitching another $4 trillion in spending to make bold investments in the nation’s physical infrastructure and human capital in an effort that he says will spur growth, create a more equitable economy and make the United States more competitive with China — without any negative side effects.

It’s an experiment that hasn’t been tested in the modern U.S. economy. This year and next, forecasters are predicting a burst in hiring and growth that will rapidly heal most financial wounds from the pandemic. But how Biden’s big tax and spending proposals would affect the economic recovery for years to come is much debated.

 washington post logoWashington Post, White House proposes $1.8 trillion package of education, safety-net programs, Jeff Stein, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Laura Meckler and Caroline Kitchener, April 28, 2021. Universal preschool and free community college are among the initiatives that would be paid for by tax increases and IRS changes, but the plan faces strong resistance from Republicans.

joe biden oThe White House on Wednesday unveiled a $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan aimed at dramatically expanding access to education and safety-net programs for families, the latest effort by President Biden to try to turn some of his campaign promises into new policy.

The package cannot be implemented without congressional approval, and many Republicans have offered a cool reception to the scope of tax increases and spending that Biden has tried to advance. But the White House’s new “American Families Plan” provides Congress with details of the president’s domestic agenda, setting down markers for negotiations later this year.

Biden’s plan proposes a suite of domestic policies that would collectively represent a marked change in how Americans interact with the federal government.

  • Washington Post, What’s in the spending plan

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Seeks $80 Billion to Beef Up I.R.S. Audits of High-Earners, Jim Tankersley, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Administration officials believe the expected tax evasion crackdown could raise $700 billion over a decade to offset President Biden’s “American Families Plan.”President Biden, in an effort to pay for his ambitious economic agenda, is expected to propose giving the Internal Revenue Service an extra $80 billion and more authority over the next 10 years to help crack down on tax evasion by high-earners and large corporations, according to two people familiar with the plan.

The additional money and enforcement power will accompany new disclosure requirements for people who own businesses that are not organized as corporations and for other irs logowealthy people who could be hiding income from the government.

The Biden administration will portray those efforts — coupled with new taxes it is proposing on corporations and the rich — as a way to level the tax playing field between typical American workers and very high-earners who employ sophisticated efforts to minimize or avoid taxation.

Mr. Biden plans to use money raised by the effort to help pay for the cost of his “American Families Plan,” which he will detail before addressing a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. 

  

U.S. Political Probes, Commentaries

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Are Said to Have Sought Aggressive Approach to Capitol Riot Inquiry, Katie Benner, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Their proposal was quashed amid concerns that it would violate First Amendment protections, people briefed on the plan said.

In the weeks after the deadly Capitol riot on Jan. 6, federal prosecutors in Washington devised a broad plan to root out possible conspirators, according to two people briefed on it: pull together the names of an array of people who may have known the assailants, and investigate them for ties to the attack.

Justice Department log circularThose lists, the prosecutors proposed, could include organizers of the rally where President Donald J. Trump spoke just before the assault, anyone who helped pay for rioters to travel to Washington and any member of the far-right extremist groups that were represented in the crowd that day.

Two of the prosecutors — trial lawyers leading the riot inquiry — presented the plan to the F.B.I. in late February, along with a document of about 25 pages that laid out the strategy with an eye toward uncovering possible conspiracies between the attackers and others, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an active investigation.The aggressive plan was in keeping with the Justice Department’s public vow to charge those who participated in the attack on the Capitol. But F.B.I. officials balked, citing concerns that the plan appeared to suggest investigating people without any evidence that they had committed crimes and that it violated bureau policy and First Amendment protections. It is not against the law to join organizations, including extremist groups, nor to participate in a protest or fund travel to a rally.

 F.B.I. officials expressed their concerns to officials in the main Justice Department in Washington, who ultimately quashed the plan.

Still, the decision by top F.B.I. and Justice Department officials to overrule task force prosecutors came at a crucial time for the high-profile, sprawling investigation as the public and Biden administration officials were demanding accountability for the riot and a push to combat domestic extremism.

Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the F.B.I. declined to comment.

The proposal also shows the balancing act that the newly confirmed leaders of the Justice Department face as they seek to counter domestic extremism and prevent terrorism without violating Americans’ civil liberties. The F.B.I. has previously faced criticism for its response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, aspects of which were condemned as an assault on civil liberties, and its Cointelpro campaign in the 1950s and 1960s to spy on civil rights leaders and others.

merrick garlandAttorney General Merrick B. Garland, right, said last week that even when he led the investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing during an earlier stint at the Justice Department, investigators were cognizant that they needed to ensure that Americans’ civil liberties were protected.

“We promised that we would find the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice and that we would do so in a way that honored the Constitution,” Mr. Garland said.

F.B.I. officials have emphasized the bureau’s efforts to stay within its limits when investigating protected activity. While preventing terrorism in the United States is a priority, “no investigation can be opened based solely on First Amendment protected activity,” Michael McGarrity, then the head of the F.B.I.’s counterterrorism division, said in House testimony in 2019.

The bureau relies in large part on its vast network of informants, who provide tips and intelligence that can be used to open an investigation, current and former members of the F.B.I.’s Joint Terrorism Task Force said. But agents cannot investigate people simply because they are members of groups that espouse violent, racist or antigovernment ideologies.

Prosecutors in Washington ran up against that constraint as they sought to identify and track down people who had participated in the Jan. 6 attack. They were also investigating whether the assault was more than a spontaneous riot that broke out after an emotionally charged rally that was capped by Mr. Trump’s exhortations to his supporters to challenge Congress’s certification that afternoon of the election.

By February, some of the prosecutors began to express frustrations that they were being stymied by top Justice Department officials who were overseeing the inquiry in the weeks before Mr. Garland and other Biden appointees were sworn in.

The prosecutors had wanted to know more about who had been talking to Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, a militia whose members have figured prominently in conspiracy cases charged by the government in connection with the attack.

In a message on the Oath Keepers’ website, Mr. Rhodes had urged members to come to Washington and “stand tall in support” of Mr. Trump. He was also part of an operation to provide security to Mr. Trump’s close associates, including Roger J. Stone Jr., who spoke at the rally that day.

Prosecutors wanted to obtain a search warrant for Mr. Rhodes. For years, militias like the Oath Keepers and far-right nationalist groups like the Proud Boys had managed to largely evade F.B.I. scrutiny, as their protests and other public activities stayed within the bounds of the law.

But with members of such groups at the Capitol on Jan. 6, some prosecutors expressed hope that they now had cause to investigate their associates and their leaders.

But the law does not prohibit urging people to attend a protest or to support a politician, even if the statements are provocative; and investigators did not find evidence that Mr. Rhodes had helped arrange anything more than bodyguards for the speakers.

Justice Department officials, including Michael R. Sherwin, an official who was overseeing the Jan. 6 inquiry at the time, denied prosecutors’ request to seek a search warrant for Mr. Rhodes, according to two people briefed on the deliberations. They concluded that the prosecutors lacked probable cause to do so without violating his civil liberties and rights.

washington post logoWashington Post, A New York Post story about Kamala Harris triggered conservative outrage. Almost all of it was wrong. Now the reporter has resigned, Paul Farhi, April 28, 2021 (print ed.).  A longtime New York Post reporter said she has resigned after being “ordered” to write a false story that claimed undocumented minors were being welcomed to the United States with copies of a children’s book written by Vice President Harris, right.

kamala harris debate june 27 2019 file“The Kamala Harris story — an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against — was my breaking point,” Laura Italiano tweeted Tuesday afternoon, several hours after her viral article about the books had been deleted from the Post’s website and replaced with corrected versions.

Italiano, who has written for the Post since the 1990s, according to news archives, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Since the Post published the story on its front page Saturday, the conservative mediascape has been in an uproar over the supposed distribution of Harris’s 2019 book, “Superheroes Are Everywhere,” at migrant shelters. A slew of prominent Republicans expressed outrage over the possibility that taxpayers were funding the program. Even the White House press secretary was grilled about it.

And then on Tuesday, in a one-sentence note at the bottom of the original online article, the Post acknowledged that almost none of it was true.

Editor’s note: The original version of this article said migrant kids were getting Harris’ book in a welcome kit, but has been updated to note that only one known copy of the book was given to a child,” it read in full.

In fact, it’s not even clear whether a child actually received that single copy of the book, which was photographed by Reuters on a vacant bed at a shelter in Long Beach, Calif., last week. It was one of many items, including toys and clothing, donated by residents in a citywide drive, Long Beach officials said. No government funds were used to purchase the items, according to a city spokeswoman.

Italiano originally reported on Friday that “unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach, Calif.,” would be given a copy of the book “in their welcome kits.” Her story attributed this claim to the Reuters photo, and the Post spun it into an all-caps pun for the front page of its print edition: “KAM ON IN.”

A follow-up story by a different New York Post reporter on Monday reported that “thousands” of copies were being given to the children, and that White House press secretary Jen Psaki had “no answers” when asked whether Harris was profiting from the purported giveaways.

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker debunked the stories early Tuesday morning, and several hours later the stories disappeared from the New York Post’s website without explanation.

Edited versions of the stories reappeared a couple hours later on the New York Post’s site. The headline on the original digital story — “Kamala isn’t at the southern border — but migrant kids are getting Veep’s book” — was rewritten as: “Kamala isn’t at the southern border — but at least one migrant kid got Veep’s book.”

A follow-up story that falsely claimed “migrant children have been given copies” of the book retained that line as of Tuesday afternoon, even after the correction note was added.

The New York Post’s representatives, including digital editor Michelle Gotthelf, did not respond to requests for comment. The correction came too late to prevent a chain of misinformation on conservative news outlets and social media, stemming from the original report.

A Fox News story published online over the weekend was corrected Tuesday to note that only one donated book was known to exist. But it still alleged that “the inclusion of the book raises questions over who is providing funding for the welcome packs.” (It was the second high-profile correction for Fox News in about 24 hours. On Monday, the network walked back a false report that President rupert murdoch newBiden intended to restrict consumption of red meat.)

A Fox spokeswoman did not provide an initial comment about the children’s book story. The network is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, right, who also controls the New York Post.

Conservative lawmakers and GOP party officials also made hay out of the children’s book story in the four days it remained online and uncorrected. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio both blasted it. (Cotton later deleted his tweet.) And Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted: “After learning officials are handing out Kamala Harris’ book to migrants in facilities at the border, it’s worth asking . . . Was Harris paid for these books? Is she profiting from Biden’s border crisis?

ny times logoNew York Times, How Gavin Newsom Landed in a California Jam, Shawn Hubler and Jennifer Medina, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). The campaign to recall the state’s governor shows that even a one-party stronghold like California can be rocked by the nation’s political polarization.

For all the controversies and Covid-19 crises that now have Gov. Gavin Newsom of California facing a historic recall election, it was a pair of prosaic events on Nov. 6 — a court hearing and a dinner — that led to the current political instability that will grip the state for months to come.

That Friday morning, a Sacramento Superior Court judge gave a small cadre of conservative Republicans four additional months to gather signatures for a petition to recall Mr. Newsom. The state felt the governor had such a compelling case that its lawyers did not even show up for oral arguments against the recall proponents, who said Mr. Newsom’s pandemic restrictions had “severely inhibited” their ability to collect the nearly 1.5 million signatures required.

Then, that night, Mr. Newsom and his wife celebrated the birthday of Jason Kinney, a Sacramento lobbyist and longtime friend and adviser. The governor had recently urged residents to stay home amid fears of a holiday-season virus outbreak — but there he was in Napa Valley, schmoozing maskless at the French Laundry restaurant. Photographs of him mingling set off a fury up and down the state.

 

scott stringer campaign resized

ny times logoNew York Times, Scott Stringer, New York Mayoral Candidate, Is Accused of Sexual Assault, Dana Rubinstein, Jeffery C. Mays and Katie Glueck, April 28, 2021. Jean Kim said Mr. Stringer (shown above in a campaign photo) assaulted her when she was an unpaid intern on his campaign 20 years ago and warned her not to tell anyone. He denied the allegation.

A woman who said she worked as an unpaid intern on a 2001 election campaign for Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller who is now running for mayor, has accused him of sexually assaulting her 20 years ago.The woman, Jean Kim, now a political lobbyist, said at a news conference on Wednesday that Mr. Stringer, without her consent, “repeatedly groped me, put his hands on my thighs and between my legs and demanded to know why I would not have sex with him.”

She said that Mr. Stringer warned her not to tell anyone about his advances, some of which she said took place during taxi rides.

Mr. Stringer, through his campaign press secretary, Tyrone Stevens, said on Wednesday that he and Ms. Kim had an “on-and-off romantic relationship.” But he denied the crux of her allegations on Tuesday evening, saying they were “untrue and do not reflect my interactions with anyone, including any woman or member of my staff.”

Mr. Stringer was expected to hold a news conference later on Wednesday.

Ms. Kim said Mr. Stringer, who was then a state assemblyman running for New York City public advocate, had offered to make her the first Asian Democratic Party district leader on the Upper West Side, with one proviso.

“You would have to prove yourself to me,” she recalled Mr. Stringer saying.

Ms. Kim said she did not come forward earlier because she was “fearful of his vindictive nature and that he would retaliate against me and destroy my career in politics.” Her lawyer said that Ms. Kim faced less of a risk now that she was transitioning away from political work.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, 142.7 million vaccinated, as of April 28, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 53.4 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 43 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 28, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 149,438,606, Deaths: 3,151,867
U.S. Cases:     32,927,091, Deaths:     587,384
India Cases:    17,997,267, Deaths:     201,187
Brazil Cases:   14,446,541, Deaths:     395,324

washington post logoWashington Post, The CDC changed its mask guidance for vaccinated Americans. Other countries are taking different approaches, Claire Parker, April 28, 2021. With some countries rapidly inoculating their populations against the coronavirus, and pandemic fatigue deepening, a common question has reverberated around the world: When can the masks come off?

In the United States, fully vaccinated individuals can now leave their masks behind when walking, jogging, biking or dining with friends outdoors, federal officials said Tuesday. Ditching a mask at small cdc logo Customoutdoor gatherings is also deemed safe, but the CDC still recommends masks for indoor activities.

More than 52 percent of eligible people in the United States have received at least one shot, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance followed calls from public health experts to relax mask mandates outdoors, where transmission is less likely. But officials warned that crowded outdoor events — like sporting events and concerts — are still dangerous, so both vaccinated and unvaccinated attendees should keep their masks on.

Studies show that wearing masks is one of the most effective ways to reduce coronavirus transmission. Some public health experts argue that societal immunity isn’t yet high enough to take them off — particularly since vaccines are not 100 percent effective and questions remain about whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus. Some experts suggest that wearing a mask even if vaccinated can send a powerful signal to unvaccinated individuals — such as children — to do the same.

washington post logoWashington Post, West Virginia is offering an incentive to get vaccinated: Money, William Wan and Paulina Firozi, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Gov. Jim Justice (R) came up with a plan to give a $100 savings bond to every person between the ages of 16 to 35 — one of the demographics most resistant to vaccination — who gets the shot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Miami private school says teachers who get coronavirus vaccine aren’t welcome, citing debunked misinformation, Katie Shepherd, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Last week, leaders at the Centner Academy, a Miami private school, sent teachers an email with a stark warning: Skip the coronavirus vaccines or else you’re not welcome in the classroom.

“We cannot allow recently vaccinated people to be near our students until more information is known,” the school’s co-founder Leila Centner said in a letter first reported on by the New York Times.

Centner cited debunked misinformation to justify the policy, suggesting that “reports have surfaced recently of non-vaccinated people being negatively impacted by interacting with people who have been vaccinated,” despite medical consensus that the coronavirus vaccines effectively prevent serious infections and carry few risks.

The school’s decision alarmed public health experts and demonstrated the pervasive reach of misinformation about the vaccines, which have now been given to at least 141 million people in the United States. A dozen state attorneys general last month demanded that Facebook and Twitter do more to enforce policies against vaccine misinformation.

The Centner Academy is in Miami’s swanky Design District, known for art galleries, shopping and architecture. Tuition starts at $15,160 for part-time preschoolers and runs up to $29,850 for its middle school students.

In her letter to teachers last week and a second note sent to parents on Monday, the school’s co-founder alluded to misinformation about the vaccines’ impact on fertility and menstruation in women and girls and inaccurately suggested that vaccinated individuals “may be transmitting something” to unvaccinated people. Experts agree that vaccinated people cannot “shed” the vaccines and spread their effects to unvaccinated individuals.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

aaron von ehlinger

Idaho Rep. Aaron von Elhlinger, show above in a campaign photo, has been accused of raping an intern, age 19 (Idaho Statesman photo).

Associated Press via ABC News, Idaho lawmaker accused of rape was warned about his behavior, Rebecca Boone, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). An Idaho lawmaker facing rape allegations from a 19-year-old intern was ap logopreviously warned against hitting on women who work at the Statehouse after his colleagues heard complaints from other staffers, according to documents gathered by the Legislature’s ethics committee and obtained by The Associated Press.

The investigation into Lewiston Republican Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s conduct began in March when a 19-year-old legislative intern told a supervisor that the 38-year-old lawmaker raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner at a restaurant.

The Boise Police Department has a criminal investigation underway, and the Legislature’s Ethics Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Wednesday to determine if the lawmaker “engaged in conduct unbecoming a representative which is detrimental to the integrity of the House.” The Associated Press obtained the investigatory documents on Monday via a public records request.

republican elephant logoaaron von ehlinger oVon Ehlinger, left, has denied the allegations and maintains the sexual encounter was consensual. He has not responded to requests for comment from the Associated Press, but according to the documents he told the ethics committee that he was surprised by the complaint and that he was falsely accused.

“I take my my service seriously, both to my Country and to my State and the idea that I would be out doing something like this is um, preposterous,” he told the committee according to a transcript of the interview. “And it disgusts me to even be accused of it.”

The ethics committee documents include text messages, letters and transcriptions of interviews the committee did with von Ehlinger, his colleagues, other Statehouse staffers and the young intern who made the rape report. Several of those interviewed testified that they had grown concerned about von Ehlinger’s behavior after hearing that he had flirted with staffers or otherwise made women who worked at the Statehouse uncomfortable.

One staffer asked a supervisor for help after she said von Ehlinger made her feel uncomfortable and asked her on a date. That situation was resolved with an email from the staffer who told the lawmaker that she was married and not comfortable being alone with him, according to the documents.

In another instance, a lobbyist reported that von Ehlinger followed her around and made her feel uncomfortable during events outside the Statehouse, and that at one event she was worried he might have even rifled through her purse in an attempt to find her home address.

During his testimony, von Ehlinger told the committee that he had previously asked out another woman who works on the Capitol grounds.

At various times, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke and House Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Megan Blanksma were alerted to the complaints, according to the documents. Blanksma was concerned enough that she asked a colleague to warn von Ehlinger that he needed to remain strictly professional and avoid any behavior that could be perceived as flirtatious.

Von Ehlinger did not seem receptive to the warning, Blanksma told the committee.

“I hate to attribute, you know, any particular attitude to him but, it was, he was defensive when he came upstairs and I don't know that he appreciated the effort or the spirit in which the suggestion was made," Blanksma said. “I felt that he was pushing back on me even suggesting that path forward.”

Von Ehlinger told the committee that despite the warning, he still thought it was appropriate to ask staffers out on dates because he believed if the individual had a problem with it, they would let him know, “and that the matter would be closed.”

The 19-year-old intern told the committee that von Ehlinger brought her back to his apartment instead of to her car after dinner because he said he had to pick up something first. When they were inside, she said he physically carried her to the bedroom and at one point he was kneeling on her with his knees on top of her shoulders.

She said she told von Ehlinger she didn’t want to have sexual contact and at one point lied and said she wasn’t on birth control in hopes that he would be dissuaded. She said the lawmaker ignored her, forcing her to have oral sex.

The documents also include transcripts of a call between the intern and von Ehlinger, in which she confronted him and said he forced her to perform oral sex.

“Like I told you I didn't wanna do that. I said I was was uncomfortable,” she told von Ehlinger during the call.

Von Ehlinger countered that he thought she was enjoying the physical interaction, but said he now has regrets.

“I um clearly made you feel uncomfortable,” he said, according to the transcript. “And um, I didn't know that at the time, but I do now. And that's why I'm, uh, like seriously remorseful about it.”

The intern told the ethics committee that the investigation had been overwhelming, but that she would do what she needed to in order to support the process. “And that's what I'm doing. I'm doing my job,” she said. “ ... I'm doing my best to hold my integrity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Shift Could Be Coming in How Military Law Addresses Sexual Assault, Jennifer Steinhauer, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has fought for years to remove commanders from deciding assault cases. Now, more colleagues and a Pentagon panel agree.

After decades of failing to curb sexual assault in the armed forces, lawmakers and Pentagon leaders are poised to make major changes in military laws that many experts have long argued stand in the way of justice.

kirsten gillibrand oA bill championed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, right, Democrat of New York, would remove military commanders from a role in prosecuting service members for sexual assault and has gained support from scores of key members of Congress. Among them is Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa and a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel, who said her joni ernst oown experience with assault and her daughter’s stories from West Point helped shift her views on the issue.

“I have been torn,” Ms. Ernst, left, said in an interview. “On the one hand, I was a commander in the National Guard and know how important that role is. But also, as a sexual assault survivor, I know we have to do more. I never really wanted to take this out of chain of command, but we are not seeing a difference.”

Ms. Ernst’s nod on a new bipartisan measure is likely to attract several other key lawmakers, whose combined support could usher in the biggest change to military rules since the repeal of the ban on service by gays and lesbians in 2010. Other senators — many of whom voted against the measure in the past — said in interviews that they had waited long enough for the military to solve the problem and agreed that Congress should step in.

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logous census bureauWashington Post, Lower-than-expected state populations stoke concerns about the 2020 Census, Tara Bahrampour, Kate Rabinowitz and Ted Mellnik, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Some states and civic organizations are reeling from unexpected results, wondering whether differences between projections and findings might be an indicator of problems with the count.

Among the surprises were lower-than-expected population counts in Texas, Florida, and Arizona, which led to those states ending up with fewer House representatives than projected. And D.C., which had been projected to surpass the 700,000 population line, failed to hit that mark, growing by 14.6 percent instead of 18.4 percent over the past decade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden donors, former aides expected for first slate of ambassadorships, Tyler Pager and Anne Gearan, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). The list of potential diplomats includes Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to vow to tackle immigration in address to Congress while signaling openness to a targeted deal, Marianna Sotomayor, April 28, 2021 (print ed.) President Biden will recommit himself to overhauling the immigration system, including protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

colin kahl proof

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s Pentagon policy nominee confirmed along party lines, after heated partisan battle, Karoun Demirjian, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate confirmed Colin Kahl, shown above, as the Pentagon’s policy chief on Tuesday on a party-line vote, after a long and contentious dispute over his history of support for the Iran nuclear deal and his pointed public comments about the GOP.A showdown on the floor was narrowly avoided only after two Republican senators were called out of town on family emergencies, giving Democrats an easy 49 to 45 vote to confirm Kahl in the evenly split chamber.

Department of Defense SealLast week, Vice President Harris had to cast a tiebreaking vote to free Kahl’s nomination from the Senate Armed Services Committee, after weeks of politically charged deadlock surrounding his nomination.

Kahl, who served as a national security adviser to President Biden when Biden was vice president, has faced pointed blowback about his online persona since being selected to assume one of the most influential leadership positions at the Defense Department. Republicans objected to past tweets in which he wrote that the GOP exhibited a “death-cult fealty to Trump” and that Republicans had chosen to “debase themselves at the alter of Trump” as “the party of ethnic cleansing.”

In his confirmation hearing last month, Kahl apologized for his language, saying he had been “disrespectful” but would be more diplomatic and bipartisan if confirmed to the job.

Republicans did not accept the apology.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking Biden appointees, Harry Stevens and Madison Walls, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s transition has been slower than previous ones. We are tracking 789 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • omb logo management and budget seal Custom372 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 48 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 86 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 38 have been confirmed by the Senate.
  • Additionally, we have identified 245 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

 

U.S. Capitol Insurrection, Riot

capitol richard barnett jim lo scalzo epa efe rex shutterstock

washington post logoWashington Post, Man photographed with foot on desk in Pelosi’s office released from jail pending trial in Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Spencer S. Hsu, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). A federal judge Tuesday ordered the release from jail pending trial of a man who was photographed with his foot on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, citing an appeals court decision making it harder to detain riot defendants not accused of violence.

Richard Barnett, 60, of Gravette, Ark., shown above in Pelosi's office, had been denied bond and jailed for nearly four months on charges including obstructing Congress, violent entry into the Capitol while armed with a stun gun and stealing a piece of government mail that he later displayed to media outlets.

Barnett also left a note that prosecutors said included an apparently misspelled expletive and read, “Hey Nancy, Bigo was here, b----,” though his defense disagrees about what the final word was.

Barnett was arrested on Jan. 8, and Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington, D.C., upheld his detention on Jan. 28, after he called himself a nationalist prepared for violent death and tried to get rid of his phone, clothes and guns anticipating investigators.

On March 26, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in a case with similar circumstances in favor of a mother and son accused of bringing a stun gun into the Capitol during the riot. Like Barnett, the pair were not accused of other violence and challenged their pretrial detention.

The appeals court panel required judges to spell out the specific future danger posed by otherwise nonviolent defendants or those not involved in planning or coordinating events, saying but for the mob’s presence that day, such people “seemingly would have posed little threat.”

After Barnett filed a new motion for bond, his trial judge said at a hearing Tuesday there did not seem to be “a whole lot of daylight” between the two cases.

Man who posed at Pelosi desk said in Facebook post that he is prepared for violent death

U.S. District Judge Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper warned Barnett against drawing the wrong impression about how the judge might handle sentencing if Barnett pleads guilty or is convicted at trial.

“The notion that the events of Jan. 6 were a legitimate or excusable social protest against ruling elites or worse yet a reaction to some people in society feeling that they have been unfairly scapegoated for racism is, in a word, absurd,” Cooper said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump supporter argues alleged death threats against leading Democrats were fueled by pandemic boredom, Shayna Jacobs, April 28, 2021 (print ed.).A fervent supporter of former president Donald Trump on trial on charges of making death threats to prominent elected Democrats before and shortly after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol insisted Tuesday that his statements on social media and in private messages were not to be taken seriously.

brendan huntBrendan Hunt, right, blamed his comments on pandemic-induced boredom and depression when he took the witness stand to testify in his own defense in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn and was confronted by prosecutors with violent, racist and antisemitic statements that he argued did not reflect his beliefs.

Hunt’s case is seen as a test of how far violent speech can go before it is a crime and is no longer constitutionally protected as free speech. Hunt did not participate in the riot at the Capitol building, but he is one of hundreds of people charged by the Justice Department in response to the attack by Trump supporters.

Hunt was arrested Jan. 19 after a tipster called the FBI about one of his videos. He faces up to a decade in prison if convicted of making threats to assault and murder a United States official.

The 37-year-old Fordham University graduate, a onetime actor and amateur documentarian, said he was “lonely” and “isolated in my apartment” during quarantine and turned to frequent marijuana and alcohol use. Hunt, who had an administrative job in the New York state court system before his arrest, had been mostly working from home, according to his testimony.

Evidence in Trump supporter’s trial suggests he espoused Nazi ideals

Hunt said he was obsessively following news reports and “masking that frustration with a lot of drinking and smoking” when he demanded in a video that “patriots . . . put some bullets” in the heads of members of Congress, according to testimony.

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, When communities try to hold police accountable, law enforcement fights back, Nicole Dungca and Jenn Abelson, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Attempts by civilian oversight groups to hold law enforcement officials accountable are often an exercise in failure and frustration. Police say citizens are well-meaning but ill-equipped to judge officers.

The struggle in New Mexico’s largest city illustrates the challenge of asking civilians to check police powers. Police nationwide have frequently defied efforts to impose civilian oversight and, in turn, undermined the ability of communities to hold law enforcement accountable, according to a Washington Post review of audits, misconduct complaints, emails, lawsuits and interviews with dozens of current and former officials.

More than 160 municipalities and counties have implemented some form of civilian oversight through review boards, inspectors general and independent monitors. Another 130 localities are trying to do so, according to officials from the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, or NACOLE, though this represents a fraction of roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.

The issue has gained new traction as part of the push to overhaul policing in the United States after the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both unarmed and Black. Their deaths last year sparked massive demonstrations and reignited long-held skepticism about law enforcement’s treatment of Black people and its tolerance for misconduct.

David and Leila Centner identify themselves as “health freedom advocates,” and their school has posted guidance to help parents file for exemptions to state-required vaccinations. In late January, they invited Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent anti-vaccine advocate, to speak at the school.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Declines Immediate Release of Video in North Carolina Shooting, Richard Fausset and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, April 28, 2021. Andrew Brown Jr. was killed last week by sheriff’s deputies. The ruling delays for at least 30 days the release of the footage in the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed last week by the county sheriff’s deputies.
A North Carolina judge on Wednesday declined to immediately release the body-camera footage in the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr., agreeing with a prosecutor to delay its public dissemination for at least 30 days.

The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and lawyers for a group of media outlets, including The New York Times, petitioned Judge Jeff Foster to release the videos in a hearing that came after days of demands by protesters and elected officials to make the footage public.

Judge Foster denied the release altogether to the media outlets, saying they did not have legal standing to request the videos, but ruled that the authorities must show the footage to Mr. Brown’s adult son, Khalil Ferebee, and his immediate family within one degree of kinship, plus one lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of North Carolina. The authorities must do so within 10 days.

In arguments before Judge Foster, the local prosecutor, Robert Andrew Womble, said the body-camera footage shows that Mr. Brown struck deputies with his car while trying to escape and that deputies did not begin firing until after that moment.

Members of Mr. Brown’s family, plus one of the family’s lawyers, were shown 20 seconds of redacted footage on Monday. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, the lawyer, said the footage showed Mr. Brown sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when deputies began shooting.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion (WMR), Opinion: Killer cops as accelerationists; Cyber Ninjas a Florida shyster operation; at 67, Wayne Madsen, left, April 28, 2021. There is a growing suspicion that the recent wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallspate of police officer killings of African-Americans and Hispanics may represent a coordinated effort by far-right "accelerationists" to bring about a race-based civil war in the United States.

Accelerationists, including cops, have carried out attacks on African-Americans and Hispanics mainly because they believed former President Donald Trump had their backs because he wayne madesen report logoshares their goals. Even though Trump is out of power, his supporters are likely to increase acts if acceleration in pursuit of a race war.

Such desperation is currently seen in Maricopa County, Arizona, where a little-known Florida company, Cyber Ninjas of Sarasota, Florida, is carrying out a pathetically-incompetent "audit" of the 2020 ballots cast in the general election. In pursuit of non-existent voting "fraud," Cyber Ninjas has permitted cast ballots to be marked up by "auditors" with blue and black ink, thus corrupting the ballots. The so-called "audit" is being conducted by far-right Republican hacks and conspiracy kooks. The only principal officer of Cyber Ninjas is Douglas Logan of Sarasota, a leader of Trump's "Stop the Steal" brigade of social malcontents and political dullards.

ny times logoNew York Times, California Man Dies After Officers Pin Him to Ground for 5 Minutes, Will Wright, Updated April 28, 2021. Mario Arenales Gonzalez died a day before a former officer was convicted of murdering George Floyd. Body camera footage was released on Tuesday.

Body camera footage was released on Tuesday of a 26-year-old man who died in police custody after officers in Alameda County, Calif., pinned him facedown on the ground for five minutes.

The footage from the Alameda Police Department shows the man, Mario Arenales Gonzalez, becoming unresponsive while in handcuffs and police officers quickly beginning chest compressions.

Mr. Gonzalez died on April 19, one day before Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of murdering George Floyd by restraining him for nine minutes and 29 seconds, holding him to the pavement with his knee long after Mr. Floyd had become unresponsive.

An initial police report from Alameda, south of Oakland, said that “a physical altercation ensued” when officers tried to detain Mr. Gonzalez and that “at that time, the man had a medical emergency.” The report said Mr. Gonzalez had died in a hospital later that day.

ny times logoNew York Times, North Carolina Deputies Shot Brown Five Times, Private Autopsy Shows, Richard Fausset, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). The fatal shot was to the back of Andrew Brown Jr.’s head, lawyers for his family said. Cries are growing for local authorities to release body camera footage.

Lawyers for the family of Andrew Brown Jr., who was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in coastal North Carolina last week, said on Tuesday that a private autopsy paid for by Mr. Brown’s family showed that he was hit by five bullets and killed by a shot to the back of the head.

The results of the autopsy, which the lawyers described in a news conference, came as the F.B.I. announced that it was opening a civil rights investigation into the April 21 shooting, and as Gov. Roy Cooper called for a special prosecutor to take over a case that currently rests with the local district attorney.

It also came amid simmering tension in Elizabeth City, a majority-Black city of about 18,000 people. Residents have been peacefully protesting in the streets since the death of Mr. Brown, who was Black, demanding that body camera footage from the shooting be released to the public. On Tuesday, the city and surrounding Pasquotank County, both already under self-imposed states of emergency, established curfews from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Obama official accused of stealing from charter school network he founded, Shayna Jacobs, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). A senior White House adviser under President Barack Obama was charged Tuesday with stealing more than $200,000 from the network of public charter schools that he founded nearly two decades ago. Prosecutors said he used the money to pad his bank account to receive an interest rate reduction on his mortgage.

Seth Andrew, 42, who launched Democracy Prep Public School in 2005, was charged with wire fraud and making false statements to a bank for allegedly redirecting funds that belonged to the school system to his own account to help get a favorable rate on a residential mortgage for a $2.4 million property in Manhattan.

Federal prosecutors said that Andrew closed a pair of escrow accounts belonging to the school network in March 2019, more than two years after he cut ties with Democracy Prep. He put the funds into a personal account he held with the bank he was seeking a mortgage from, enabling him to benefit from a promotion that gave him a lower interest rate, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: CNN stays silent on Rick Santorum’s comments about Native American culture, Erik Wemple, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Ignorance lives in close proximity to racism. “We birthed a nation from nothing,” said former senator Rick Santorum at an April 23 Young America’s Foundation event. “I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans, but candidly there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

CNNIn this instance, the rhetorical atrocity was almost too easy to dismantle. “To correct the record, what European colonizers found in the Americas were thousands of complex, sophisticated, and sovereign Tribal Nations, each with millennia of distinct cultural, spiritual and technological development,” wrote Fawn Sharp, president of the National Council of American Indians. “Over millennia, they bred, cultivated and showed the world how to utilize such plants as cotton, rubber, chocolate, corn, potatoes, tomatoes and tobacco. Imagine the history of the United States without the economic contributions of cotton and tobacco alone. It’s inconceivable.” Other such denunciations have cropped up since news of the comments rick santorum by gage skidmore 2surfaced on Monday.

Rick Santorum, shown at right in a Gage Skidmore photo, isn’t just a former senator, though; he’s a CNN contributor, meaning that he gets paid to appear on the network and comment on the news. The Erik Wemple Blog, accordingly, asked CNN whether it had any comment on the situation. A while later, we received a note from a private PR firm: ”It was referred to me that you were inquiring regarding a statement from former Senator Rick Santorum regarding a recent speech he gave to the Young America’s Foundation. Please attribute the following to former Senator Santorum: ‘I had no intention of minimizing or in any way devaluing Native American culture.’”

Intent surely matters in situations such as this one; so do apologies, and Santorum’s statement stops short of that. As for his employer, CNN itself didn’t provide the Erik Wemple Blog with a comment on the situation. Perhaps the network thinks it can stay silent because the offending remarks took place in a non-CNN venue. If that’s the excuse, we’re not buying. In signing Santorum as a CNN contributor, the network associates itself with his remarks whether they appear on the network, Twitter or any other public platforms. Had a Fox News contributor made similar remarks in a non-Fox News setting, you can be sure CNN would have a thing or 20 to say about it

 

April 27

Top Headlines 

 

U.S. Political Probes, Commentaries

  

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

 

U.S. Census, Economy, Jobs

 

U.S. Media

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Which States Will Gain or Lose Seats in the Next Congress, Weiyi Cai and Reid J. Epstein, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). Texas and Florida will get more House representatives. California and New York will lose slots. Here’s how the 2020 census redistributes political power.

us census bureauThe new census numbers are in, and they show an America continuing its long population shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West, a trend that will shape Congress for the next decade.

The country’s old center of political power — the industrial belt stretching from New York to Illinois — is once again losing seats in Congress while Sun Belt states such as Florida, North Carolina and Texas will gain them. California will lose a seat for the first time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to hear a major case on carrying guns outside the home, Robert Barnes, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). The court announced it will hear a new gun-control case in the term that begins in October, accepting a National Rifle Association-backed challenge that asks to make it easier to carry a weapon outside the home.

nra logo CustomThe Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear a major new gun control case next term, accepting a National Rifle Association-backed challenge that asks the court to declare there is a constitutional right to carry a weapon outside the home.

The court will hear the challenge to a century-old New York gun control law in the term that begins in October. It is considering a law that requires those who seek a permit to carry a concealed weapon show a special need for self-defense. It is similar to laws in Maryland, Massachusetts and elsewhere that the court in the past has declined to review.

Supreme Court passes up challenges pressed by gun rights groups

But the court’s new conservative majority has signaled it is more receptive to Second Amendment challenges. Several justices have said they are anxious to explore gun rights first acknowledged by the court in 2008, when it ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that individuals have the right to gun ownership for self-defense in their homes.

 ny times logoNew York Times,  A Billion Shots Have Been Given, but Global Virus Cases Keep Rising, Staff Reports, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). A worldwide coronavirus surge driven by the devastation in India is breaking records even as vaccinations steadily ramp up in wealthy countries. The European Union filed a lawsuit against the drugmaker AstraZeneca over missed deliveries of its vaccine. Here’s the latest pandemic news.

A global coronavirus surge that is driven by the devastation in India continues to break daily records and run rampant in much of the world, even as vaccinations steadily ramp up in wealthy countries and more than one billion shots have now been given globally.

world health organization logo CustomOn Sunday, the world’s seven-day average of new cases hit 774,404, according to a New York Times database. That is a jump of 15 percent from two weeks earlier, and higher than the peak average of 740,390 during the last global surge in January.

india flag mapMany Indians are frustrated that their country, the world’s largest producer of vaccines, is so behind in its own inoculation campaign. Fewer than 10 percent of Indians have received even one dose, and just 1.6 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database — even though India is producing two vaccines on its own soil.

Despite the number of shots given around the world — more than one billion, according to a New York Times tracker — far from enough of the world’s estimated population of nearly eight billion have been vaccinated to slow the virus’s steady spread.

And vaccinations have been highly concentrated in wealthy nations: 82 percent of shots worldwide have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to data compiled by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.

 

U.S. Political Probes, Commentaries

Talking Points Memo, Cheney: Addressing Capitol Attack ‘Matters Hugely To The Survival Of Our Country,’ Zoë Richards, April 27, 2021. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on Monday pushed back on ongoing calls from Republicans to expand the scope of a proposed commission aimed at investigating the events of Jan. 6, suggesting that an effort to do so could undermine the gravity of the political violence that ensued when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

liz cheney o“If we minimize what happened on Jan. 6th and if we appease it, then we will be in a situation where every election cycle, you could potentially have another constitutional crisis,” Cheney, right, said in a Politico interview after the GOP kicked off its annual policy retreat in Florida. “If you get into a situation where we don’t guarantee a peaceful transfer of power, we won’t have learned the lessons of Jan. 6.”

“And you can’t bury our head in the sand,” she added. “It matters hugely to the survival of the country.”

The comments come after Cheney had broken publicly with McCarthy during a press conference earlier on Monday, suggesting the Capitol attack was “unprecedented in our history,” and urging for a tight scope for a proposed commission investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last week reportedly made a bid to continue negotiations over the Jan. 6 commission by offering an even number of Republican and Democratic members and equal subpoena power.The two parties still diverge sharply on the scope of the commission — with a majority of Republicans including McCarthy insisting the commission should also examine violence that disrupted racial justice protests last summer and groups like Black Lives Matter.

Kevin McCarthyHouse Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), left, meanwhile has also continued to defend former President Donald Trump’s response to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Former President Trump was absent from the retreat on Monday, sparking criticism from some lawmakers questioning why the ex-president had not been not extended an invitation. republican elephant logoCheney has also pushed back on efforts by Trump loyalists in the House who appear eager to reinforce his influence over the party.

“I think right now, the Republican Party is headed by Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy in the House. I think our elected leaders, you know, are the ones who are in charge of the Republican party,” Cheney told reporters on Monday. “And I think as we look at ’22 and ’24, we’re very much going to be focused on substance and on the issues.”

Earlier this month, Trump teased endorsing an opponent to challenge Cheney’s reelection in 2022, suggesting he would “make an Endorsement soon.

ny times logoNew York Times, Homeland Security Will Assess How It Identifies Extremism in Its Ranks, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). The department will conduct an internal review as part of a larger effort to combat extremist ideology in the federal government.

The task of identifying extremists throughout the United States, and specifically in government agencies, has come to the top of President Biden’s agenda since Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol. Many of the rioters were found to be members of extremist groups.

us dhs big eagle logo4“We recognize that domestic violent extremism and the ideology, the extremist ideologies that spew it, are prevalent,” said Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. “We have a responsibility, given what we do, to ensure that that pernicious influence does not exist in our department.”

The review comes shortly after the Pentagon completed a 60-day “stand down” to address extremism after a number of veterans were found to have taken part in the Capitol riot. The Biden administration is assessing whether other agencies will have similar inquiries as part of a broader review started this year to assess how the federal government combats domestic extremist threats.

Related investigative story headlines published April 26, with excerpts below under April 26 dateline:

seth abramson headshotProof via Substack, Investigation: Trump's Pre-Insurrection War Room Revealed, Seth Abramson, left, April 26, 202. It turns out it wasn't a room, but a house with a private entrance—indeed the priciest real estate of its kind in Washington. And those who entered it on January 5 are lying about what happened there.

seth abramson proof logoOn January 26, 2021, Proof broke the story of a secret Insurrection Eve conclave at Trump International Hotel in Washington. It was an event at which every component of Trump’s inner circle—from family to legal advisers to administration officials to multiple U.S. senators—met to discuss Team Trump’s plan for overturning a certified democratic election on January 6. Proof followed up this report with over a dozen more articles on the subject (see the Proof archive) between late January and early April 2021.

capitol riot jan 6 reuters photo by leah mills

Police officers stand guard as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., Jan 6, 2021 (Reuters photo by Leah Millis).

  • Reuters, Investigation: Before Jan. 6, FBI collected information from at least 4 Proud Boys, Aram Roston, April 26, 2021. Among the far-right groups whose members are suspected of planning the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are the Proud Boys. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s director told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he “absolutely” wished the agency had penetrated the group beforehand, or knew its plans.
  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigation: Increasing calls for Matt Gaetz to submit to Nestor paternity test, Wayne Madsen, left, April 26, 2021.There are increasing calls from quarters in Niceville, Florida -- the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallhometown of First District U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) -- for the scandal-plagued congressman to submit to a paternity test.
  • Gaetz's relationship with 19-year old Nestor Galban has been murky, at best.
  • More is known about Nestor's background from Gaetz's tweets than from any official documentation. On September 30, 2020, Gaetz tweeted, "Today is the happiest day of my life, and we’ve come a long way since this 2012 photo. [right] My son Nestor is America’s newest Citizen! Congratulations Nestor. You will make one Great American. So proud of you!!!" The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Gaetz with then-12-year old Nestor. No U.S. citizenship papers were disclosed by Gaetz proving that Nestor was granted U.S. citizenship in 2020.
  • Gaetz claims that he is not actually a blood relative of Nestor, but that he unofficially adopted Nestor at the age of 12 when Nestor's Cuban mother died of cancer in Cuba. Gaetz revealed that he had been dating Nestor's sister, Maisbel Mendez, now 33, before he "adopted" Nestor. Gaetz was dressed as Santa Claus in a photo taken with then-13-year odd Nestor.  During Nestor's teen years, Gaetz was careful to only refer to Nestor as a "local student" and his "helper." Gaetz did not refrain from having his photo taken with Nestor during the time period when the boy was only referred to as Gaetz's "helper." Curiously, Gaetz omitted Maisbel from a tweeted photo of him and Nestor. 
  • Private investigators in Niceville, Tallahassee, and Washington, DC are aggressively pursuing leads that suggest that Gaetz is actually Nestor's biological father.
  • So why would Gaetz resist admitting that Nestor is his son? By making such a disclosure, Gaetz would also be admitting that at the age of 19, he committed the crime of having sex with an underage girl in 2001.

 

roger stone friends

Republican political operative Roger Stone, in suspenders at center, flashes a "white power" hand-signal along with members of what has been described as his protective detail in the above file photo via Facebook.

  • Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone is playing a dangerous game, Bill Palmer, right, April 26, 2021. There is a popular Twitter account called “Patriot Takes” that does the thankless job of cataloguing the most deranged and egregious Parler posts, which is a good way of keeping track of these insurrectionists. Stone apparently doesn’t like this, and so he made a Parler post threatening to murder Patriot Takes. Specifically, Stone threatened to send Patriot Takes to “Meet St. Peter” – which is an obvious reference to what happens when you die – meaning that this really is a murder threat. Is it likely that Stone is going to track down and murder the person running the Patriot Takes account? No. But murder threats are still a crime. 

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, 141 million vaccinated, as of April 27, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 52.7 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 42.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 27, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 148,590,427, Deaths: 3,136,669
U.S. Cases:     32,875,045, Deaths:     586,611
India Cases:      7,636,307, Deaths:     197,894
Brazil Cases:   14,370,456, Deaths:     392,204

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘How did that happen?’: Tiny but growing number of Americans catch covid even after being vaccinated, Steven Findlay, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). Public health officials have said breakthrough infections are expected, as manufacturers have warned that the vaccines are not 100 percent protective.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Send Virus-Ravaged India Materials for Vaccines, Katie Rogers and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration, under pressure to help with a surge raging out of control, will also supply therapeutics, test kits, ventilators and protective gear.

The Biden administration, under increasing pressure to address a devastating surge of the coronavirus in India, said on Sunday that it had partially lifted a ban on the export of raw materials for vaccines and would also supply India with therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and personal protective gear.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement on Sunday.

astrazeneca logoThe announcement, an abrupt shift for the administration, came after Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, held a call earlier in the day with Ajit Doval, his counterpart in India, and as the Indian government reported more than 349,000 new infections, a world record for a single day. Ms. Horne said the United States had “identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine,” the Indian-produced version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The situation in India is dire. The country is witnessing perhaps the worst crisis any nation has suffered since the pandemic began, with hospitals overflowing and desperate people dying in line waiting to see doctors — and mounting evidence that the actual death toll is far higher than officially reported. Officials say they are running desperately low on supplies, including oxygen and protective gear, as a deadly new variant is thought to be behind a rise in cases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Miami private school says teachers who get coronavirus vaccine aren’t welcome, citing debunked misinformation, Katie Shepherd, April 27, 2021. Last week, leaders at the Centner Academy, a Miami private school, sent teachers an email with a stark warning: Skip the coronavirus vaccines or else you’re not welcome in the classroom.

“We cannot allow recently vaccinated people to be near our students until more information is known,” the school’s co-founder Leila Centner said in a letter first reported on by the New York Times.

Centner cited debunked misinformation to justify the policy, suggesting that “reports have surfaced recently of non-vaccinated people being negatively impacted by interacting with people who have been vaccinated,” despite medical consensus that the coronavirus vaccines effectively prevent serious infections and carry few risks.

The school’s decision alarmed public health experts and demonstrated the pervasive reach of misinformation about the vaccines, which have now been given to at least 141 million people in the United States. A dozen state attorneys general last month demanded that Facebook and Twitter do more to enforce policies against vaccine misinformation.

The Centner Academy is in Miami’s swanky Design District, known for art galleries, shopping and architecture. Tuition starts at $15,160 for part-time preschoolers and runs up to $29,850 for its middle school students.

In her letter to teachers last week and a second note sent to parents on Monday, the school’s co-founder alluded to misinformation about the vaccines’ impact on fertility and menstruation in women and girls and inaccurately suggested that vaccinated individuals “may be transmitting something” to unvaccinated people. Experts agree that vaccinated people cannot “shed” the vaccines and spread their effects to unvaccinated individuals.

ny times logoNew York Times, Millions Are Skipping Their Second Doses of Covid Vaccines, Rebecca Robbins, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). Updated April 26, 2021. Nearly 8 percent of those who got initial Pfizer or Moderna shots missed their second doses. State officials want to prevent the numbers from rising.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Biden should force broadcasters, satellite, and cable to run vaccine and voting rights PSAs, Wayne Madsen, left, April 27, 2021. The way for the Biden wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalladministration to force the Fox Television Network, cable television's Fox News and Fox Business News, and satellite/cable outlets One America News (OAN) and Newsmax to run vaccination and voting rights public service announcements (PSAs) is to threaten broadcast licenses for Fox stations and access to leased public rights-of-way/easement cable runs for satellite-to-cable outlets.

PSAs have been part of America's info-sphere since the days of radio. Before and during World War II, the War Advertising Council, now the Ad Council, used PSAs to urge Americans to franklin d rooseveltinvest in war bonds.

The Biden administration should be no less bold than President Franklin D. Roosevelt, right, in using the power of the forced PSA. Such an aggressive use of PSAs will interfere with the constant flow of far-fox news logo Smallright conspiratorial hokum emanating from the television outlets run by Fox's Rupert Murdoch, OAN's Robert "Red" Herring, and Newsmax's Chris Ruddy. 

Countering such lunacy from the far-right with PSAs will not stop those who refuse to adhere to public health requests by federal, state, and local authorities. However, it would offer correct medical information to those befuddled with non-professional advice and false information from far-right TV hucksters and hoaxers.

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Court

ABC News / KTRK-TV (Houston), International panel call on lawmakers to dismantle police, Cory McGinnis, April 27, 2021. Traffic stops and excessive use of force against Black people are being reported as "common precursors" to police killings, a new report shows.

On Tuesday, the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence in the United States released its final report of its investigations into police violence across the country.

The commission selected 44 cases of police violence from 33 different cities, including Houston. The panel met via Zoom after weeks of live hearings involving cases of Black people killed by police as well as months of review of relevant documents.

The commission found that traffic stops are a common precursor to police killings and uses of excessive force against Black people. They also found a pattern of police destructing or manipulating evidence in cases of involving people of color.

"The only weapon that they had was the color of their skin," said a panel member.

Commissioners also mentioned how these patterns of violence and mistreatment ultimately breaks up Black families and Black communities.

The guest speakers featured on the Zoom call included families touched by police violence, including the mother of Eric Garner and the brother of George Floyd. The commissioners are now calling on lawmakers and President Joe Biden to step in. Visit the group's website for the full list of the committee's findings. 

washington post logoWashington Post, When communities try to hold police accountable, law enforcement fights back, Nicole Dungca and Jenn Abelson, April 27, 2021. Attempts by civilian oversight groups to hold law enforcement officials accountable are often an exercise in failure and frustration. Police say citizens are well-meaning but ill-equipped to judge officers.

The struggle in New Mexico’s largest city illustrates the challenge of asking civilians to check police powers. Police nationwide have frequently defied efforts to impose civilian oversight and, in turn, undermined the ability of communities to hold law enforcement accountable, according to a Washington Post review of audits, misconduct complaints, emails, lawsuits and interviews with dozens of current and former officials.

More than 160 municipalities and counties have implemented some form of civilian oversight through review boards, inspectors general and independent monitors. Another 130 localities are trying to do so, according to officials from the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, or NACOLE, though this represents a fraction of roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.

The issue has gained new traction as part of the push to overhaul policing in the United States after the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, both unarmed and Black. Their deaths last year sparked massive demonstrations and reignited long-held skepticism about law enforcement’s treatment of Black people and its tolerance for misconduct.

David and Leila Centner identify themselves as “health freedom advocates,” and their school has posted guidance to help parents file for exemptions to state-required vaccinations. In late January, they invited Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent anti-vaccine advocate, to speak at the school.

Daily Beast, Secret Court Reveals: FBI Hunted for Domestic Terrorists Without a Warrant, Spencer Ackerman, April 27, 2021. A secret court warned the FBI in 2018 about warrantless searches. But the bureau still went looking for “racially motivated violent extremists” in NSA troves without a court order.

daily beast logoThe FBI, without any court order, sifted through the National Security Agency’s massive troves of foreign communications for information on American “racially motivated violent extremists,” a newly declassified order from the secret surveillance court details.

Even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court warned the FBI in 2018 that its warrant-free queries, known as backdoor searches, were constitutionally alarming, the bureau still conducted queries relevant to criminal investigations about, among other things “domestic terrorism involving racially motivated violent extremists.” The court’s Judge James E. Boasberg found what he referred to as “apparent widespread violations of the querying standard.”

FBI logoThat’s the euphemistic term the bureau tends to use to denote white supremacist violence. On one occasion, an FBI analyst ran a multi-search-term “batch query” on Americans “in connection with predicated criminal investigations relating to domestic terrorism” that returned 33 foreign surveillance results.

“The FBI continues to perform warrantless searches through the NSA’s most sensitive databases for routine criminal investigations.”

And not only domestic terror. The FISA Court recounts government acknowledgment that at least 40 FBI searches through the NSA’s warrantlessly collected data involved “health care fraud, transnational organized crime, violent gangs” and “public corruption and bribery.”

On at least one occasion, around May 2020, an FBI analyst looked through the foreign NSA troves “to vet [a] potential source in [a] predicated criminal investigation relating to public corruption.” Seven FBI field offices were implicated in “these and a number of similar violations,” according to a November 18, 2020 FISA Court opinion declassified on Monday and signed by Boasberg.

In other words, the FBI continues to perform warrantless searches through the NSA’s most sensitive databases—the ones the NSA is not required to get warrants before filling with communications information—for routine criminal investigations that are supposed to require warrants.Mother Jones, Investigation: In Sworn Testimony in Inauguration Scandal Case, Donald Trump Jr. Made Apparently False Statements, David Corn, April 27, 2021 (3:16 min. video). On February 11, Donald Trump Jr. sat in front of his computer for a video deposition. He swore to tell the truth. But documents and a video obtained by Mother Jones—and recent legal filings—indicate that his testimony on key points was not accurate.

The matter at hand was a lawsuit filed in 2020 against Donald Trump’s inauguration committee and the Trump Organization by Karl Racine, the attorney general of Washington, DC. The suit claims that the inauguration committee misused charitable funds to enrich the Trump family.

As the attorney general put it, the lawsuit “alleges that the Inaugural Committee, a nonprofit corporation, coordinated with the Trump family to grossly overpay for event space in the Trump International Hotel. Although the Inaugural Committee was aware that it was paying far above market rates, it never considered less expensive alternatives, and even paid for space on days when it did not hold events. The Committee also improperly used non-profit funds to throw a private party [at the Trump Hotel] for the Trump family costing several hundred thousand dollars.” In short, the attorney general has accused the Trump clan and its company of major grifting, and he is looking to recover the amounts paid to the Trump Hotel so he can direct those funds to real charitable purposes.

As part of the case, Racine has taken depositions from Tom Barrack, the investor and Donald Trump pal who chaired the inauguration committee; Rick Gates, the committee’s former deputy chair, who subsequently pleaded guilty to two charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation; and two of Trump’s adult children: Donald Jr. and Ivanka. Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a top producer for the inauguration committee, was deposed as a lead witness cooperating with the investigation. Racine has also collected internal emails and material from the committee, its officials, and others who worked on the inauguration.

During his deposition, Trump Jr. frequently replied, “I don’t recall,” and he downplayed his involvement in preparation for his father’s inauguration in January 2017. In several exchanges, he made statements that are contradicted by documents or the recollections of others and that appear to be false.

One of the clearest instances of Trump Jr. not testifying accurately came when he was asked about Winston Wolkoff. As the lawsuit notes, during the organization of the inauguration, Winston Wolkoff, then a close friend of Melania Trump, had raised concerns with the president-elect, Ivanka Trump, and Gates about the prices the Trump Hotel was charging the inauguration committee for events to be held there. This included a written warning to Ivanka Trump and Gates that Trump’s hotel was trying to charge the committee twice the market rate for event space. (Gates ignored the warning, the lawsuit notes, and the committee struck a contract with the Trump Hotel for $1.03 million, an amount the lawsuit says was far above the hotel’s own pricing guidelines.)

During his deposition, Trump Jr. was asked about Winston Wolkoff: “Do you know her?” He replied, “I know of her. I think I’ve met her, but I don’t know her. If she was in this room I’m not sure I would recognize her.” He added, “I had no involvement with her.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The indictments of two men connected to an alleged neo-Nazi terror cell in Georgia shines light on the reach of the group known as the Base, Staff Report, April 27, 2021. The recent indictments of two more men connected to an alleged neo-Nazi terror cell in Floyd County shine new light on the reach of the group known as the Base.

Duncan Christopher Trimmell, 23 of Austin, Texas, and Brandon Gregory Ashley, 21 of Hayden, Alabama, face charges of animal cruelty related to the alleged theft and ritual beheading of a ram or goat on Halloween 2019, according to an indictment handed down by a Floyd County grand jury earlier this month.

The charges, first reported by the Rome News-Tribune, reveal more of the web of what authorities describe as a criminal gang whose members planned to kill a Bartow County couple they suspected of being anti-fascist activists. Group members were arrested as part of a undercover investigation by state and federal law enforcement before they could carry out the plot.

Trimmell and Ashley join six other men believed to have come to an isolated property in the Silver Creek community south of Rome where an undercover law enforcement officer said they shot guns, took drugs and planned for a race war as part of a white supremacist group known as the Base.

According to court records, one aspect of those meetings was the killing of an animal alternately described in court records as a ram or a goat. The animal was allegedly stolen from a nearby property and killed in what was described as a "ritual sacrifice."

Joanna Mendelson, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism, said the new indictments show the Base's long reach, drawing members from across the nation and even from other countries.

"As this case further develops it sheds a very bright light of how this group that had a substantial presence in the virtual spaces engaged in real-world action, bringing individuals from the far corners of our country together," she said.

In January 2020, three Georgia residents were arrested in the alleged conspiracy: Michael Helterbrand, 26, of Dalton; Jacob Kaderli, 20, of Dacula; and Luke Austin Lane, 22, whose Silver Creek residence prosecutors say was used as the locale for the meeting.

Along with the animal cruelty charges, Helterbrand, Kaderli and Lane face charges of conspiracy to commit arson, home invasion and murder, and violations to the state's anti-gang laws.

In addition, Patrik Mathews, William Garfield Bilbrough IV, Brian Mark Lemley Jr., also accused members of the Base, were indicted on charges related to the killing of the ram. Those charges are in addition to federal firearms charges they face in Maryland. Mathews Bilbrough and Lemley hail from Maryland, but Mathews was a member of the Canadian military and was in the United States illegally.

Helterbrand, Kaderli and Lane have been held in jail for more than a year without bond but were only formally indicted last month, thanks to judicial delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lane's most recent motion for bond was rejected by Floyd County Superior Court Judge John Neidrach in a March 30 order.

Authorities contend the suspects in the alleged murder plot continue to have contact with white supremacists while in jail. At Lane's bond hearing last month, Assistant DA Johnson said Lane has been in contact with far-right figures while in jail, including Dalton Woodward, a Georgia resident who was expelled from the National Guard after the AJC reported his membership in a pagan sect known for attracting white supremacists.

The Georgia suspects have also been featured on the website of the Global Minority Initiative, a group that encourages supporters to send money and cards of support to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in prison. Attorneys for Lane and Kaderli said their clients are not soliciting that kind of support.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to consider Guantánamo Bay terrorism suspect’s request to learn more about his CIA-sponsored torture, Robert Barnes, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). The prisoner is Abu Zubaida, once a prized capture whose torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been extensively documented. But the government has invoked the “state secrets” privilege to oppose his efforts CIA Logofor additional information about foreign intelligence officials who partnered with the CIA in detention facilities abroad.

The government already has declassified vast amounts of information about Abu Zubaida, whose birth name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein and whose closeness to Osama bin Laden, the deceased founder of al-Qaeda, is now questioned.

But he and his attorney have asked for more disclosure and to question two CIA contractors, James Mitchell and John Jessen, about the interrogations. Abu Zubaida wants the information because he has intervened, through his attorneys, in a Polish investigation of the CIA’s conduct in that country, where he was once held.

His request was opposed by then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, who said the disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause serious, and in many instances, exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security.”

washington post logoJustice Department log circularWashington Post, Justice Dept. to investigate Louisville police practices amid scrutiny of Breonna Taylor’s fatal shooting, David Nakamura, April 27, 2021 (print ed.).  Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday that the Justice Department will open a civil investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department, 13 months after the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose killing was among the flash points that sparked mass social justice protests across the nation last summer.

 

 U.S. Census, Economy, Jobs

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. population grew at the second-slowest pace in history, census reveals, Tara Bahrampour, Harry Stevens and Adrian Blanco, April 27, 2021. The United States’ population growth slowed in the past 10 years to its lowest rate since the 1930s, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

us census bureauThe first numbers to come out of the 2020 Census show the U.S. population on April 1, 2020 — Census Day — was 331.5 million people, an increase of just 7.4 percent between 2010 and 2020. It is the second-slowest rate of expansion since the government began taking a census in 1790. In the 1930s, the decade with the slowest population growth, the rate was 7.3 percent.

washington post logoWashington Post, New census numbers shift political power south to Republican strongholds, Michael Scherer, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). Political power in the United States will continue to shift south this decade, as historically Democratic states that border the Great Lakes give up congressional seats and electoral votes to regions where Republicans currently enjoy a political advantage, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Texas, Florida and North Carolina, three states that voted twice for President Donald Trump, are set to gain a combined four additional seats in Congress in 2023 because of population growth, granting them collectively as many new votes in the electoral college for the next presidential election as Democratic-leaning Hawaii has in total.

At the same time, four northern states with Democratic governors that President Biden won in 2020 — Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York — will each lose a single congressional seat. Ohio, a nearby Republican-leaning state, will also lose a seat in Congress.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Three takeaways from the new census data, Aaron Blake, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). All told, seven districts will move from one state to another, based upon population shifts. Here are the basics on which states gained and lost.

If there was one surprise in the announcement Monday, it was that we didn’t see bigger shifts. We expected as many as 10 seats to migrate from one state to another, but in the end it was just seven

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll: A quarter of women say they are financially worse off a year into pandemic, Heather Long and Emily Guskin, April 27, 2021. A Post-ABC News poll underscores the ongoing struggles women and people of color face as they deal far more with job loss, caring for children and rising food and rent prices.

washington post logofederal reserve system CustomWashington Post | ProPublica, The Fed helped fuel a stock market boom that benefited wealthy Americans — and left behind everyone else, Allan Sloan and Cezary Podkul, April 27, 2021. Low-interest policies helped stabilize the economy, but they also set off a multitrillion-dollar run-up in markets, which overwhelmingly benefited the richest 10 percent of Americans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to raise hourly minimum wage to $15 for federal contractors in new executive order, Eli Rosenberg and Tyler Pager, April 27, 2021. White House officials believe this will boost the pay of hundreds of thousands of workers by the time it goes into effect in 2022.

President Biden plans to sign an executive order Tuesday that will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all federal contractors by 2022, while eliminating a lower minimum wage for tipped contractors.

The move will bring the minimum wage for contractors up from the current $10.95, under rules set during the Obama administration.

The current minimum wage for federal contractors who are tipped is $7.65 an hour. That will be phased out by 2024 under the new directive. The $15 wage will be mandatory in new contracts by the end of March 2022.

Senior administration officials briefed on the plan said they estimated that hundreds of thousands of workers who do contract work for the federal government — including cleaning staff, maintenance workers, nursing assistants in veteran care facilities, cafeteria and food workers, and laborers — would see wage increases as a result of the policy change.

 

U.S. Media

Palmer Report, Opinion: Tucker Carlson has on-air meltdown, tells viewers to call the police and falsely report imaginary crimes, Bill Palmer, right, April 27, 2021. Over the weekend Palmer Report wrote that bill palmereven though the media is portraying Tucker Carlson as an unstoppably invincible villain, his own increasingly unhinged and frazzled behavior suggests that he’s actually melting under the spotlight. Sure enough, we’re now seeing more evidence of that.

bill palmer report logo headerTucker Carlson is now promoting the view that parents who have their kids wear masks are abusing their children. This is a derangedly insane opinion on Carlson’s part, but the First Amendment says he gets to say it. Here’s the trouble, though. Carlson is also urging his viewers to call the police when they see kids wearing masks, and report their parents for child abuse.

It’s a crime to call the police and falsely report a crime that you know didn’t happen. So now Tucker Carlson has crossed over into encouraging his viewers to commit crimes, which is arguably a crime on his part. This is whacked out, even for him. If Carlson were enjoying the additional attention he’s now receiving, he’d know how to milk it to build his brand. Instead he’s doing the kinds of things that his critics can use against him in terms of chasing his remaining advertisers away. Carlson is in a self sabotaging panic.

Daily Beast, NY Post Pulls Down Debunked Claim That Kamala Harris’ Book Was Given to Migrant Kids, Justin Baragona, April 27, 2021. The New York Post on Tuesday quietly removed two of its articles falsely claiming that federal officials gave Vice President Kamala Harris’ 2019 children’s book to young kids held at migrant shelters.

daily beast logoThe baseless story spread far and wide in the right-wing media ecosphere over the weekend and was amplified by high-profile Republicans. The Post confirmed to The Daily Beast that they had removed the stories and, after the publication of this story, both were put back online with editor’s notes.

Last week, the Post, which is owned by Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, published a report claiming Harris’ book Superheroes Are Everywhere was included in “welcome kits” distributed by federal officials to unaccompanied minors at a shelter in Long Beach, California.

(“The original version of this article said migrant kids were getting Harris’ book in a welcome kit, but has been updated to note that only one known copy of the book was given to a child,” read the editor’s note affixed to the article, which was republished online following this article’s publication.)

As the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, the since-removed New York Post article did not include any attribution to back its reporting. Instead, it appears the claim was solely based on a single photograph of one copy of Harris’ book propped up against a backpack. (That didn’t stop Fox News, however, from publishing a similar article the following day, attributing the claim to “photographs show.”)

In what WaPo described as a “bad game of telephone,” prominent Republicans then boosted the story on social media and it eventually made its way into the White House press briefing room as Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked press secretary Jen Psaki about the claims, citing the since-deleted New York Post article. Psaki, for her part, said she was unaware of the story and would have to look into it.

The Washington Post additionally spoke with a Long Beach city spokesman who said there was merely a single copy of Superheroes Are Everywhere donated by a community member as part of a citywide book and toy drive for the migrant children. “The book you reference is one of hundreds of books that have already been donated. The book was not purchased by HHS or the City,” the spokesman noted.

Elsewhere in the Murdoch media empire, and despite acknowledging that the story had already been debunked on Tuesday morning, the hosts of Fox & Friends continued pushing the bogus claim about the veep’s book.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fresh off election falsehoods, Republicans serve up a whopper about Biden, Ashley Parker, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). By the time President Biden’s aides gathered for their morning meeting on Monday, the juicy whopper of a mistruth making its way around the conservative ecosphere — that Biden’s climate plan would significantly limit America’s hamburger consumption — had officially entered mainstream public discourse.

Biden’s team looked for an opportunity to quickly debunk the falsehood. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain retweeted a CNN fact check titled, “No, Biden is not trying to force Americans to eat less red meat,” while several press aides tweeted a photo of a grinning Biden flipping burgers at a 2019 Iowa steak fry, along with the caption, “White House to the fact-challenged: where’s the beef?”

To White House aides, the wholly fictional Biden-will-ban-hamburgers story line was in part an amusing flare-up perpetuated by Republicans who have struggled to find ways to successfully attack the president. They joked privately that White House press secretary Jen Psaki should start her daily press briefing by eating a burger

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration’s original cap of about 62,500 refugees is still on table, Sean Sullivan, April 27, 2021 (print ed.). The White House is again considering setting the number of refugees who can enter the United States through September at about 62,500, according to three people familiar with the deliberations, under pressure from immigrant rights groups furious about President Biden’s recent retreat from that target.

Less than two weeks after White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden intends to announce a new cap for the fiscal year by May 15, but signaled that his original target was no longer realistic, people inside and outside the White House suddenly sound hopeful about landing at or near the number the Biden administration announced with some fanfare in February

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why The New York Times Is Retiring the Term ‘Op-Ed,’ Kathleen Kingsbury (NY Times Opinion editor), April 27, 2021 (print ed.). The first Op-Ed page in The New York Times greeted the world on Sept. 21, 1970. It was so named because it appeared opposite the editorial page and not (as many still believe) because it would offer views contrary to the paper’s. Inevitably, it would do that, too, since its founders were putting out a welcome mat for ideas and arguments from many points on the political, social and cultural spectrums from outside the walls of The Times — to stimulate thought and provoke discussion of public problems.

That important mission remains the same. But it’s time to change the name. The reason is simple: In the digital world, in which millions of Times readers absorb the paper’s journalism online, there is no geographical “Op-Ed,” just as there is no geographical “Ed” for Op-Ed to be opposite to. It is a relic of an older age and an older print newspaper design.

So now, at age 50, the designation will be retired. Editorials will still be called editorials, but the articles written by outside writers will be known as “Guest Essays,” a title that will appear prominently above the headline.

“Op-Ed” has had a great run. It became a standard for the rest of our industry, and enormously popular among readers and contributors alike. It’s hard now to recall that the original editors were actually nervous at its inception and worried whether anyone would be moved to contribute. But as an essay marking the page’s 20th birthday observed, “It was as if the Gray Lady had hit the dance floor.” Contributions poured in, and by its 40th, nearly 15,000 Op-Ed pages had been printed.

The impulses that made Op-Ed successful from the get-go are still in play. One is the allure of clashing opinions well expressed. Or in the words of John B. Oakes, a long-ago predecessor of mine who drove the creation of Op-Ed, “Diversity of opinion is the lifeblood of democracy. … The minute we begin to insist that everyone think the same way we think, our democratic way of life is in danger.”

That remains true, at a critical moment when the geography of the public square is being contested. In many ways, that square is more representative. Everyone has an outlet, from Facebook to Substack to Twitter. That is to be welcomed, even if the volume of voices is sometimes overwhelming. What is disappearing, though, are spaces where voices can be heard and respected, where ideas can linger a while, be given serious consideration, interrogated and then flourish or perish.

To champion thoughtful discussion, Times Opinion insists on a set of principles. We enforce rules for grammar and style. We demand certain standards of cogent argument, logical thought and compelling rhetoric. We require transparency about the identities of writers and their motives.

At the same time, we are not an unthinking assembly line or disinterested referees: We want not only individual essays to have intention, but also the collective report itself to have intention. We like the people we invite to write essays for us to sometimes be surprised by the offer. We like to experience the same surprise when we read submissions from voices who are new to us, on topics we may not yet understand. And we have our thumb on our scale in the name of progress, fairness and shared humanity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Breaking Point: How Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook Became Foes, Mike Isaac and Jack Nicas,  April 27, 2021 (print ed.). The chief executives of Facebook and Apple have opposing visions for the future of the internet. Their differences are set to escalate this week.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Cook’s opposing positions have exploded into an all-out war. On Monday, Apple released a new privacy feature that requires iPhone owners to explicitly choose whether to let apps like Facebook track them across other apps.

One of the secrets of digital advertising is that companies like Facebook follow people’s online habits as they click on other programs, like Spotify and Amazon, on smartphones. That data helps advertisers pinpoint users’ interests and better target finely tuned ads. Now, many people are expected to say no to that tracking, delivering a blow to online advertising — and Facebook’s $70 billion business.

At the center of the fight are the two C.E.O.s. Their differences have long been evident. Mr. Cook, 60, is a polished executive who rose through Apple’s ranks by constructing efficient supply chains. Mr. Zuckerberg, 36, is a Harvard dropout who built a social-media empire with an anything-goes stance toward free speech.

Those contrasts have widened with their deeply divergent visions for the digital future. Mr. Cook wants people to pay a premium — often to Apple — for a safer, more private version of the internet. It is a strategy that keeps Apple firmly in control. But Mr. Zuckerberg champions an “open” internet where services like Facebook are effectively free. In that scenario, advertisers foot the bill.

 

April 26

Top Headlines 

 

U.S. Political Probes, Commentaries

  

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance  

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

 Media News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Which States Will Gain or Lose Seats in the Next Congress, Weiyi Cai and Reid J. Epstein, April 26, 2021. Texas and Florida will get more House representatives. California and New York will lose slots. Here’s how the 2020 census redistributes political power.

The new census numbers are in, and they show an America continuing its long population shift from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and West, a trend that will shape Congress for the next decade.

The country’s old center of political power — the industrial belt stretching from New York to Illinois — is once again losing seats in Congress while Sun Belt states such as Florida, North Carolina and Texas will gain them. California will lose a seat for the first time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to hear a major case on carrying guns outside the home, Robert Barnes, April 26, 2021.  The court announced it will hear a new gun-control case in the term that begins in October, accepting a National Rifle Association-backed challenge that asks to make it easier to carry a weapon outside the home.

nra logo CustomThe Supreme Court announced Monday it will hear a major new gun control case next term, accepting a National Rifle Association-backed challenge that asks the court to declare there is a constitutional right to carry a weapon outside the home.

The court will hear the challenge to a century-old New York gun control law in the term that begins in October. It is considering a law that requires those who seek a permit to carry a concealed weapon show a special need for self-defense. It is similar to laws in Maryland, Massachusetts and elsewhere that the court in the past has declined to review.

Supreme Court passes up challenges pressed by gun rights groups

But the court’s new conservative majority has signaled it is more receptive to Second Amendment challenges. Several justices have said they are anxious to explore gun rights first acknowledged by the court in 2008, when it ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that individuals have the right to gun ownership for self-defense in their homes.

  ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: A Billion Shots Have Been Given, but Global Virus Cases Keep Rising, Staff Reports, April 26, 2021. A worldwide coronavirus surge driven by the devastation in India is breaking records even as vaccinations steadily ramp up in wealthy countries. The European Union filed a lawsuit against the drugmaker AstraZeneca over missed deliveries of its vaccine. Here’s the latest pandemic news.

A global coronavirus surge that is driven by the devastation in India continues to break daily records and run rampant in much of the world, even as vaccinations steadily ramp up in wealthy countries and more than one billion shots have now been given globally.

world health organization logo CustomOn Sunday, the world’s seven-day average of new cases hit 774,404, according to a New York Times database. That is a jump of 15 percent from two weeks earlier, and higher than the peak average of 740,390 during the last global surge in January.

Many Indians are frustrated that their country, the world’s largest producer of vaccines, is so behind in its own inoculation campaign. Fewer than 10 percent of Indians have received even one dose, and just 1.6 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database — even though India is producing two vaccines on its own soil.

Despite the number of shots given around the world — more than one billion, according to a New York Times tracker — far from enough of the world’s estimated population of nearly eight billion have been vaccinated to slow the virus’s steady spread.

And vaccinations have been highly concentrated in wealthy nations: 82 percent of shots worldwide have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries, according to data compiled by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. Only 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, India sets another daily covid case record; U.S. pledges help, Claire Parker, Paul Schemm and Sean Sullivan, April 26, 2021 (print ed.). Officials said Sunday there had been 349,691 new cases in the last 24 hours — another global record. There were also 2,767 reported deaths.

The Biden administration, under growing pressure to offer more assistance to India as it struggles to contain a devastating coronavirus outbreak, promised Sunday to provide new aid, including the india flag mapmaterials for making vaccines.The pledge came hours after Indian authorities announced another global record in new daily cases Sunday, and the most covid-19 deaths the country has suffered in a 24-hour period.

The National Security Council said the United States would provide vaccine materials, drugs, test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment, and was “pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis.”

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” President Biden tweeted Sunday.

 

U.S. Political Probes, Commentaries

seth abramson headshotProof via Substack, Investigation: Trump's Pre-Insurrection War Room Revealed, Seth Abramson, left, April 26, 202. It turns out it wasn't a room, but a house with a private entrance—indeed the priciest real estate of its kind in Washington. And those who entered it on January 5 are lying about what happened there.

seth abramson proof logoOn January 26, 2021, Proof broke the story of a secret Insurrection Eve conclave at Trump International Hotel in Washington. It was an event at which every component of Trump’s inner circle—from family to legal advisers to administration officials to multiple U.S. senators—met to discuss Team Trump’s plan for overturning a certified democratic election on January 6. Proof followed up this report with over a dozen more articles on the subject (see the Proof archive) between late January and early April 2021.

On January 29, 2021, the Washington Post—which had interviewed this author about his research on Trump three weeks earlier—reported that it had reached out to both the House impeachment managers and the Trump family about the January 5 meeting at Trump International Hotel. At the time, both the managers and Donald Trump were preparing for the historic second impeachment trial of the former president. The Post confirmed that the managers were “investigating a gathering of Trump’s allies and family members at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. the evening before the insurrection at the Capitol”, treating “the gathering [as being] of ‘medium’ interest.”

Since January 29, Proof has established that both the Trump family and Trump family allies lied repeatedly to the Washington Post about the January 5 meeting—raising new suspicion about what actually happened at Trump International Hotel on that day.

This article exposes the lies told to Washington’s paper-of-record by Trump’s team, and goes inside the space we now know hosted Trump’s pre-insurrection war council.

 ______

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

capitol riot jan 6 reuters photo by leah mills

Police officers stand guard as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., Jan 6, 2021 (Reuters photo by Leah Millis).

Reuters, Investigation: Before Jan. 6, FBI collected information from at least 4 Proud Boys, Aram Roston, April 26, 2021. Among the far-right groups whose members are suspected of planning the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol are the Proud Boys. In March, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s director told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he “absolutely” wished the agency had penetrated the group beforehand, or knew its plans.

christopher wray o“I do not consider what happened on January 6th to be an acceptable result,” Director Christopher Wray, right, said. “We are focused very, very hard on how can we get better sources, better information, better analysis.”

The FBI had deeper insight into the group than Wray disclosed, however.

Bureau agents maintained connections with key Proud Boys leaders starting as early as 2019, a Reuters examination has found. At least four Proud Boys have provided information to the FBI, Reuters learned. Often these leaders were sharing intelligence about Antifa, a loose movement of left-wing activists opposed by former President Donald Trump and right-wing media.

FBI logoThe connections between the Proud Boys and the FBI do not mean the agency had thoroughly penetrated the far-right group. But some law enforcement veterans say the ties show the agency could have done more to prepare for the deadly Jan. 6 uprising, which sought to overturn the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president.

“This was a group committing violence in public and promoting themselves as a violent group,” said Mike German, a former FBI agent who investigated domestic terrorism. German previously has criticized the bureau over what he says was a failure to focus on the Proud Boys ahead of Jan. 6. Told of the findings of this story, German said: “It’s hard to understand how the FBI could have had a relationship with four individuals in the Proud Boys and didn’t understand the nature of the threat to the Capitol.”

The FBI declined to answer written questions for this story or to comment on the four Proud Boy connections detailed here. An FBI official said Wray’s Senate testimony reinforced “the need to detect and deter acts of violence.”

Reuters interviewed two Proud Boys members who spoke on the condition of anonymity about some members’ interactions with the FBI. Reuters also interviewed Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, examined court records and interviewed sources close to the federal investigation.

The reporting showed:

- One Proud Boy left the group in December after telling other members he was cooperating with the FBI by providing information about Antifa, say Tarrio and two other Proud Boy sources. The former member, whom Reuters was unable to identify, insisted to group leaders that he had not revealed information about the Proud Boys, these people say.

- A second Proud Boy leader bragged in 2019 about sharing information with the FBI about Antifa, according to private chats leaked on social media. The chats’ authenticity was confirmed by a source familiar with the Proud Boys and the Jan. 6 case, as well as by the Proud Boy leader’s lawyer.

- A third Proud Boy leader, Joseph Biggs, who was indicted and charged with conspiracy in the January attack, has said in court papers he reported information to the FBI about Antifa for months. Reuters spoke to Biggs two days before the riot. In that interview, he said he had specific plans for Jan. 6, but declined to disclose them. But, he volunteered to Reuters in that call, he was willing to tell his FBI contact of his plans for the coming rally, if asked. Reuters wasn’t able to determine whether such a contact took place.

- The fourth Proud Boy, Tarrio, previously had worked as a cooperating witness, sometimes undercover, for the FBI and local authorities in South Florida two years before the far-right group was formed, as Reuters reported in January. Tarrio told Reuters he continued intermittently to talk to the FBI, though he insists he never spoke about the inner workings of the Proud Boys. Instead, he said, he provided information about Antifa and about marching plans. Tarrio also spoke to the FBI in October, he said, when the Proud Boys were briefly accused of threatening Democratic voters via email. The Department of Homeland Security later alleged that Iran had “spoofed” Proud Boys email addresses, in a strange effort to disrupt the election. Iran denied it.

wayne madesen report logoWayne Madsen Report, Investigation: Increasing calls for Matt Gaetz to submit to Nestor paternity test, Wayne Madsen, left, April 26, 2021.There are increasing calls from quarters in Niceville, Florida -- the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallhometown of First District U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) -- for the scandal-plagued congressman to submit to a paternity test.

Gaetz's relationship with 19-year old Nestor Galban has been murky, at best.

More is known about Nestor's background from Gaetz's tweets than from any official documentation. On September 30, 2020, Gaetz tweeted, "Today is the happiest day of my life, and we’ve come a long way since this 2012 photo. [right] My son Nestor is America’s newest Citizen! Congratulations Nestor. You will make one Great American. So proud of you!!!" The tweet was accompanied by a photo of Gaetz with then-12-year old Nestor. No U.S. citizenship papers were disclosed by Gaetz proving that Nestor was granted U.S. citizenship in 2020.

Gaetz claims that he is not actually a blood relative of Nestor, but that he unofficially adopted Nestor at the age of 12 when Nestor's Cuban mother died of cancer in Cuba. Gaetz revealed that he had been dating Nestor's sister, Maisbel Mendez, now 33, before he "adopted" Nestor. Gaetz was dressed as Santa Claus in a photo taken with then-13-year odd Nestor.  During Nestor's teen years, Gaetz was careful to only refer to Nestor as a "local student" and his "helper." Gaetz did not refrain from having his photo taken with Nestor during the time period when the boy was only referred to as Gaetz's "helper." Curiously, Gaetz omitted Maisbel from a tweeted photo of him and Nestor. 

Private investigators in Niceville, Tallahassee, and Washington, DC are aggressively pursuing leads that suggest that Gaetz is actually Nestor's biological father.

So why would Gaetz resist admitting that Nestor is his son? By making such a disclosure, Gaetz would also be admitting that at the age of 19, he committed the crime of having sex with an underage girl in 2001.

 

emergent biosolutions logo

 washington post logoWashington Post, CEO of vaccine maker sold $10 million in stock before company ruined J&J doses, Jon Swaine, April 26, 2021 (print ed.). The chief of Emergent BioSolutions made the sales by exercising stock options weeks before the company’s share price tumbled.

johnson johnson logoThe stock price of government contractor Emergent BioSolutions has fallen sharply since the disclosure at the end of March that production problems at the firm’s plant in Baltimore had ruined 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine. Since then, AstraZeneca moved production of its own vaccine out of the facility, and Emergen temporarily halted new production there altogether.

Those developments came after Emergent’s stock price had tumbled on Feb. 19, following the company’s published financial results. Emergent stock has fallen since mid-February to about $62 a share from $125 a share, or just more than 50 percent.

But the decline has had less of an impact than it might have on the personal finances of Emergent’s chief executive, Robert G. Kramer, who sold more than $10 million worth of his stock in the company in January and early February, securities filings show. Based on the market price, the stocks that Kramer sold would now fetch about $5.5 million.

The transactions were Kramer’s first substantive sales of Emergent stock since April 2016, according to a review of securities filings by The Washington Post.

Those 2016 sales by Kramer, along with sales by other Emergent executives around the same time, were the subject of a lawsuit brought by investors who alleged that executives offloaded stocks after making misleading claims about the scale of an upcoming order from the government for an anthrax vaccine. When the order turned out to be smaller than analysts anticipated, the share price fell. Emergent denied the allegations, but the parties later agreed to a settlement in which Emergent paid the investors $6.5 million.

 

roger stone friends

Republican political operative Roger Stone, in suspenders at center, flashes a "white power" hand-signal along with members of what has been described as his protective detail in the above file photo via Facebook.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone is playing a dangerous game, Bill Palmer, right, April 26, 2021. Roger Stone is certainly not “getting away with it all.” The two Oath Keepers he hired for the Capitol bill palmerinsurrection have been charged with felony conspiracy, opening the door to potential conspiracy charges against Stone as well. And even if that falls through, the DOJ is already going after Stone for tax fraud. He’ll (eventually) be brought to justice one way or the other. But in the meantime, there’s a problem.

bill palmer report logo headerStone has long been banned from every major social media platform, because he likes to make violent threats. Stone is still posting on the bottom feeding alt-right social media networks such as Parler. There is a popular Twitter account called “Patriot Takes” that does the thankless job of cataloguing the most deranged and egregious Parler posts, which is a good way of keeping track of these insurrectionists.

Stone apparently doesn’t like this, and so he made a Parler post threatening to murder Patriot Takes.

Specifically, Stone threatened to send Patriot Takes to “Meet St. Peter” – which is an obvious reference to what happens when you die – meaning that this really is a murder threat. Is it likely that Stone is going to track down and murder the person running the Patriot Takes account? No. But murder threats are still a crime.

parler logoYet Roger Stone is still, for now, a free man. I’m not necessarily saying the DOJ should rush out and arrest Stone tomorrow over a Parler post, before it’s even finished a criminal case against him for the Capitol attack. But Stone’s lack of being arrested does give the appearance that he’s going to get away with it all. Moreover, it gives the appearance anyone can make a murder threat online and just get away with it.

Maybe it’s coincidence that the day after Roger Stone made waves by threatening to murder Patriot Takes, I received two specific threats of violence from two bottom feeders on my own social media accounts. But it sure felt like maybe it wasn’t coincidence. As a society, we’re supposed to draw the line at threatening to murder each other. Twitter and Facebook have gone a good job of drawing this line. It’s notable that Parler was just re-added to the App Store last week, under the promise that it would police this kind of violent content. That doesn’t appear to be happening, or Stone wouldn’t still have an account.

In any case, Roger Stone is going to face legal justice in the end. His pardon was never going to protect him for long, because he was always going to commit even more crimes after his pardon, which don’t get covered.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Michigan’s Covid-19 Wards Are Filling Up With Younger Patients, Mitch Smith and Sarah Mervosh, April 26, 2021 (print ed.). Even as vaccines roll out, more younger people in Michigan are being hospitalized than at any other point in the pandemic. A more contagious variant is spreading, but experts also point to other factors for the changing demographics, including the loosening of restrictions.

michigan mapAcross Michigan, which is experiencing by far the country’s most dangerous outbreak, more younger people are being admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus than at any other time in the pandemic. Michigan hospitals are now admitting about twice as many coronavirus patients in their 30s and 40s as they were during the fall peak, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

The shifting demographics come as a majority of Michigan residents age 65 or older have been fully vaccinated, greatly reducing the risk to the most vulnerable.

But the vaccinations of older people do not explain rising hospitalizations among people younger than 60, including those in their 20s and 30s. Public health experts say the outbreak — driven by the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus, which is more contagious and more severe — is spreading rapidly in younger age groups. And across the state, doctors and nurses are increasingly reporting a concerning trend: Younger patients are coming in more often with serious cases of Covid-19.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Millions Are Skipping Their Second Doses of Covid Vaccines, Rebecca Robbins, Updated April 26, 2021. Nearly 8 percent of those who got initial Pfizer or Moderna shots missed their second doses. State officials want to prevent the numbers from rising.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Send Virus-Ravaged India Materials for Vaccines, Katie Rogers and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Updated April 26, 2021. The Biden administration, under pressure to help with a surge raging out of control, will also supply therapeutics, test kits, ventilators and protective gear.

The Biden administration, under increasing pressure to address a devastating surge of the coronavirus in India, said on Sunday that it had partially lifted a ban on the export of raw materials for vaccines and would also supply India with therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and personal protective gear.

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” Emily Horne, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement on Sunday.

astrazeneca logoThe announcement, an abrupt shift for the administration, came after Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, held a call earlier in the day with Ajit Doval, his counterpart in India, and as the Indian government reported more than 349,000 new infections, a world record for a single day. Ms. Horne said the United States had “identified sources of specific raw material urgently required for Indian manufacture of the Covishield vaccine,” the Indian-produced version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The situation in India is dire. The country is witnessing perhaps the worst crisis any nation has suffered since the pandemic began, with hospitals overflowing and desperate people dying in line waiting to see doctors — and mounting evidence that the actual death toll is far higher than officially reported. Officials say they are running desperately low on supplies, including oxygen and protective gear, as a deadly new variant is thought to be behind a rise in cases.

Washington Post, U.S. to share up to 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses around world, Tyler Pager, April 26, 2021. The move comes as global coronavirus cases spike. The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, will be sent to other countries once it clears federal safety reviews. The White House is expected to make the announcement astrazeneca logoMonday afternoon.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration, will be sent to other countries once it clears federal safety reviews. The White House is expected to make the announcement on Monday afternoon.

As vaccine supply begins to outweigh demand in the United States, the country is entering the next frontier in the fight against coronavirus: the need to vaccinate the global population against the virus and to decide what role it should play in that effort. China and Russia have actively shared vaccines with neighboring countries and the developing world, raising concerns about the country’s rivals making inroads amid waning American influence abroad

washington post logoWashington Post, India orders Twitter to remove tweets critical of government’s coronavirus response, Antonia Noori Farzan, April 26, 2021. As hospitals in India run out of oxygen and the country narendra modi 2014continues to set alarming records for confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, officials have ordered Twitter to take down social media posts critical of the government’s pandemic response.

At least 52 tweets from prominent figures, including opposition politicians, journalists and filmmakers, have been censored, according to the Lumen Database, a Harvard University initiative that tracks takedown requests. Although some of the posts in question contain potentially misleading information, others simply document the scale of India’s disastrous outbreak or express frustration with the country’s leaders.

One of the blocked posts, by an opposition party leader, said that people in India would “never forgive” Prime Minister Narenda Modi, right, for “for underplaying the corona situation in the country and letting so many people die due to mismanagement.” Another, from a Reuters photographer, contained images of grieving mourners, packed hospitals and a busy cremation site. Additional censored posts decried shortages of coronavirus tests, showed patients being treated in makeshift tents or called for Modi’s resignation.

washington post logoWashington Post, 141 million vaccinated, as of April 26, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 52.7 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 42.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 26, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 147,884,279, Deaths: 3,124,698
U.S. Cases:     32,824,389, Deaths:     586,152
India Cases:    17,313,163, Deaths:     195,123
Brazil Cases:   14,340,787, Deaths:     390,925

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Apples to apples, the Senate GOP infrastructure proposal is smaller than it appears, Glenn Kessler, April 26, 2021 (print ed.). Reporters were quick to cite a headline number without noting the Biden and Senate GOP plans have different budget baselines.

The headlines were almost all universally the same — some variation of “GOP Counters Biden With $568 Billion Infrastructure Plan.” Just about every news report suggested that the headline-number offered for the Senate Republican plan was comparable to President Biden’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan.

shelley moore capito cnnLong ago, The Fact Checker used to be a federal budget reporter. From experience, we learned that the numbers announced at news conferences often needed to be scrubbed carefully. A reference by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), left, to “baseline-plus” made our ears perk up a bit.

republican elephant logoThat’s because the battle lines are often drawn over the baseline. Usually, the baseline records what would happen if nothing is changed and current policies remain the same. But when you are comparing two proposals, you have to make sure they are operating off the same baseline. Otherwise, ordinary Americans can get the wrong impression.

In an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Capito said: “We really narrowed the focus on infrastructure to really look at physical infrastructure, roads, bridges, rail, airports, water systems. The president’s bill, the $2.2 trillion, goes far afield from that. So, where I think the first starting point we need to have is, let’s do an apples-to-apples comparison of the physical infrastructure, core infrastructure of his plan with how it matches up with what we have put forward.”

Challenge taken. Here’s what we came up with.

Axios, GOP-led effort to recall Gavin Newsom reaches signature threshold, Shawna Chen, April 26, 2021. The Republican-led campaign to recall California Gov. Newsom reached the number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, state officials announced Monday.

axios logoWhy it matters: Newsom, right, could face a statewide vote by the end of year, which would mark the second time a sitting governor has had to face a recall election in the state's history.

How it happened: The recall campaign delivered over 1,495,709 verified voters signatures, or about 12% of all ballots cast in the last election for governor, according to a tally from Secretary of State Shirley Weber.

gavin newsom oCounty elections officials will verify signatures and report final numbers on Thursday. Voters will have 30 days to request that officials remove their names from the petitions.

Weber will issue an official certification to confirm if the number of votes still qualifies. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis would then call an election within 60 to 80 days after certification.

Voters would determine whether or not to recall Newsom, as well as his replacement if he is removed from office.

Only 40% of California voters support the effort to recall Newsom, according to a recent poll, but "the success of the recall campaign in gathering enough valid signatures for a special election delivers a blow to Newsom," Los Angeles Times writes.

The big picture: Newsom won his position by the largest vote margin in modern history, per the Times. But his response to the pandemic led to widespread backlash. Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have publicly supported Newsom, blaming the recall campaign on Republican politicians and pro-Trump, anti-mask and anti-vaccine extremists.

Caitlyn Jenner, a longtime Republican, officially filed to run for governor to replace Newsom on Friday. The last time California voters recalled a governor from office was in 2003, when the state replaced Democratic Gov. Gray Davis with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Corporations just don’t get it. A reckoning is coming, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 26, 2021. Corporations have talked a good game when it comes to civic responsibility. And yet jennifer rubin new headshotwhen the Biden administration proposes a modest increase in corporate taxes to 28 percent, these same corporate leaders warn about dire economic consequences. If only the 2017 tax cuts had resulted in long-term growth and narrowing of the gap between CEO and average worker compensation, they might have a leg to stand on.

When Georgia passes a bill, motivated by false claims of voter fraud, to make access to the polls more difficult, corporations have to be dragged by threats of boycott to issue bland platitudes in support of democracy. After promising to end donations to politicians who voted to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, some corporations quietly reneged and resumed their donations to those same Republicans.

It should come as no surprise then that average Americans are ready to curb the excesses of corporate greed.

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courtbrandi levy aclu photo

 Brandi Levy poses for a portrait provided by the ACLU outside of Mahanoy Area High School. Levy is now 18 and in college, where she studies accounting. (Danna Singer)

washington post logoWashington Post, A cheerleader’s Snapchat rant leads to ‘momentous’ Supreme Court case on student speech, Robert Barnes, April 26, 2021 (print ed.). The high school cheerleader relegated to the JV squad for another year responded with a fleeting fit of frustration: a photo of her upraised middle finger and another word that begins with F.

“F--- school, f--- softball, f--- cheer, f--- everything,” 14-year-old Brandi Levy typed into Snapchat one spring Saturday. Like all “snaps” posted to a Snapchat “story,” this one sent to about 250 “friends” was to disappear within 24 hours, before everyone returned to Pennsylvania’s Mahanoy Area High School on Monday.

Instead, an adolescent outburst and the adult reaction to it have arrived at the Supreme Court, where the case could determine how the First Amendment’s protection of free speech applies to the off-campus activities of the nation’s 50 million public school students.

“This is the most momentous case in more than five decades involving student speech,” said Justin Driver, a Yale law professor and author of “The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind.”

“Much of the speech from students is off-campus and increasingly online,” Driver said. “When I talk to school administrators, they consistently tell me that off-campus speech bedevils them, and the lower courts desperately need some guidance in this area.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to consider Guantánamo Bay terrorism suspect’s request to learn more about his CIA-sponsored torture, Robert Barnes, April 26, 2021. The prisoner is Abu Zubaida, once a prized capture whose torture after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been extensively documented. But the government has invoked the “state secrets” privilege to oppose his efforts for additional information about foreign intelligence officials who partnered with the CIA in detention facilities abroad.

The government already has declassified vast amounts of information about Abu Zubaida, whose birth name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein and whose closeness to Osama bin Laden, the deceased founder of al-Qaeda, is now questioned.

CIA LogoBut he and his attorney have asked for more disclosure and to question two CIA contractors, James Mitchell and John Jessen, about the interrogations. Abu Zubaida wants the information because he has intervened, through his attorneys, in a Polish investigation of the CIA’s conduct in that country, where he was once held.

His request was opposed by then-CIA director Mike Pompeo, who said the disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause serious, and in many instances, exceptionally grave damage to U.S. national security.”

washington post logoJustice Department log circularWashington Post, Justice Dept. to investigate Louisville police practices amid scrutiny of Breonna Taylor’s fatal shooting, David Nakamura, April 26, 2021.Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday that the Justice Department will open a civil investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department, 13 months after the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman whose killing was among the flash points that sparked mass social justice protests across the nation last summer.

Idaho Statesman, Idaho lawmaker accused of rape was warned about his behavior, Hayat Norimine, April 26, 2021. An Idaho lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct was warned in the past about his behavior toward women and told to stop, documents released to the Idaho Statesman on Monday afternoon show.

Documents related to the ethics complaint against Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, right, a Lewiston Republican, show that a House leader directed another lawmaker to talk to von Ehlinger about his behavior aaron von ehlinger otoward women who worked at the Idaho Capitol.

The Ethics and House Policy Committee will hold a Wednesday hearing on a complaint of “inappropriate sexual conduct” by von Ehlinger after a 19-year-old legislative staffer accused him of forcing her into oral sex, according to documents released by the Idaho House of Representatives. The committee unanimously ruled there was “probable cause” after a month-long investigation. Von Ehlinger denied the allegation and said the sexual contact was consensual, according to ethics committee documents.

Newly released documents also provide more detail into the accusation. According to a Boise Police Department report, the accuser told “her supervisor that she had been raped” by von Ehlinger. The accuser described to ethics committee members that he had put himself on top of her with his groin in her face despite her having said “no.”

“I feel like you kind of used me,” she told von Ehlinger in a text message, and reiterated to him that she had told him “no.” She told him she hadn’t slept in days.

Boise Police said it’s investigating the allegation.

The definition of rape in Idaho code includes forced oral penetration. The Idaho Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, which is representing the accuser, declined to comment Monday night.
Blanksma ‘uncomfortable’ after being confronted by von Ehlinger

House Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, directed Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, to speak to von Ehlinger after a lobbyist told her that von Ehlinger made her uncomfortable at a reception. Holtzclaw also has faced sexual harassment allegations in the past.

The woman told Blanksma that she “tried several times to move away. He continued to follow,” according to a transcript in the ethics committee documents. The woman said she believed von Ehlinger also followed her to the bathroom, Blanksma told the committee. Blanksma said she is keeping the woman anonymous upon her request.

james holtzclawHoltzclaw, left, told the committee that he took von Ehlinger out to lunch and advised him not to flirt with or date anyone in the Capitol. After the lunch, Blanksma told the committee that von Ehlinger confronted her about setting it up.

“He was defensive when he came upstairs, and I don’t know that he appreciated the effort or the spirit in which the suggestion was made,” Blanksma said.

He demanded to know more about the accusation, Blanksma said, and made her uncomfortable. Von Ehlinger asked her whether the complaint involved “some sort of touching incident,” and began to talk about a staff member. Blanksma said it caught her off guard.

Blanksma said she tries to keep fellow Republicans “all out of trouble,” she told the committee. She said she told him that she was trying to help him.

“He made a comment about, well, you know, he was single, tall, blond, good-looking guy and, you know, sometimes people take things the wrong way,” Blanksma said.

When asked about the power differential between von Ehlinger and the woman who spoke to her, Blanksma said she is a lobbyist “who relies on representative votes to make a living.”

Von Ehlinger told the committee he had “no idea” he was going against any policy.

republican elephant logo“I’ll tell you, if there was a House rule or a law against it, I guarantee all of you that I would have never engaged this person at all,” von Ehlinger told the committee.

In another instance, von Ehlinger asked a House clerk out to dinner, according to documents. She later emailed him to tell him she was married and felt uncomfortable spending time alone.

Carrie Maulin, House chief clerk, told the ethics committee that she was concerned about the “power differential” between von Ehlinger and the staffer, who told Maulin she felt uncomfortable speaking to him in person. The new members had also just had their “respectful workplace” training, Maulin said.

When asked about an “unspoken” understanding that there’s a hierarchy with representatives and staffers, Holtzclaw told the ethics committee that he believed it would be inappropriate to date staff members in the Legislature. Holtzclaw didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.

“You should not date anyone in this sphere of who we are, who we work with,” Holtzclaw told the committee, according to the transcript. “Anyone in this building is off-limits.”

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why The New York Times Is Retiring the Term ‘Op-Ed,’ Kathleen Kingsbury (NY Times Opinion editor), April 26, 2021. The first Op-Ed page in The New York Times greeted the world on Sept. 21, 1970. It was so named because it appeared opposite the editorial page and not (as many still believe) because it would offer views contrary to the paper’s. Inevitably, it would do that, too, since its founders were putting out a welcome mat for ideas and arguments from many points on the political, social and cultural spectrums from outside the walls of The Times — to stimulate thought and provoke discussion of public problems.

That important mission remains the same. But it’s time to change the name. The reason is simple: In the digital world, in which millions of Times readers absorb the paper’s journalism online, there is no geographical “Op-Ed,” just as there is no geographical “Ed” for Op-Ed to be opposite to. It is a relic of an older age and an older print newspaper design.

So now, at age 50, the designation will be retired. Editorials will still be called editorials, but the articles written by outside writers will be known as “Guest Essays,” a title that will appear prominently above the headline.

“Op-Ed” has had a great run. It became a standard for the rest of our industry, and enormously popular among readers and contributors alike. It’s hard now to recall that the original editors were actually nervous at its inception and worried whether anyone would be moved to contribute. But as an essay marking the page’s 20th birthday observed, “It was as if the Gray Lady had hit the dance floor.” Contributions poured in, and by its 40th, nearly 15,000 Op-Ed pages had been printed.

The impulses that made Op-Ed successful from the get-go are still in play. One is the allure of clashing opinions well expressed. Or in the words of John B. Oakes, a long-ago predecessor of mine who drove the creation of Op-Ed, “Diversity of opinion is the lifeblood of democracy. … The minute we begin to insist that everyone think the same way we think, our democratic way of life is in danger.”

That remains true, at a critical moment when the geography of the public square is being contested. In many ways, that square is more representative. Everyone has an outlet, from Facebook to Substack to Twitter. That is to be welcomed, even if the volume of voices is sometimes overwhelming. What is disappearing, though, are spaces where voices can be heard and respected, where ideas can linger a while, be given serious consideration, interrogated and then flourish or perish.

To champion thoughtful discussion, Times Opinion insists on a set of principles. We enforce rules for grammar and style. We demand certain standards of cogent argument, logical thought and compelling rhetoric. We require transparency about the identities of writers and their motives.

At the same time, we are not an unthinking assembly line or disinterested referees: We want not only individual essays to have intention, but also the collective report itself to have intention. We like the people we invite to write essays for us to sometimes be surprised by the offer. We like to experience the same surprise when we read submissions from voices who are new to us, on topics we may not yet understand. And we have our thumb on our scale in the name of progress, fairness and shared humanity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Commentary: Is an Activist’s Pricey House News? Facebook Alone Decides, Ben Smith, April 26, 2021. A Look at Facebook’s House Rules: The New York Post has complained that Facebook is blocking and downplaying its stories. But the platform doesn’t pay any special deference to journalists.

On Wednesday, I learned a new way to get a news article erased from much of the internet.

If the article shows your home or apartment, says what city you’re in and you don’t like it, you can complain to Facebook. Facebook will then ensure that nobody can share the article on its giant platform and, as a bonus, block you from sending it to anyone in Facebook Messenger.

I learned this rule from a cheerfully intense senior Facebook lawyer. The lawyer, who was supplied by Facebook’s public relations department on the condition she could speak only anonymously to discuss a specific case, was trying to explain why the service had expunged a meanspirited New York Post article about a Black Lives Matter activist’s real estate purchases.

“The policy is superclear!” the lawyer told me over a Zoom call from her bright home office. But, she added, “I totally get why it sounds kind of crazy in this case.”

The policy sounds crazy because it could apply to dozens, if not hundreds, of news articles every day — indeed, to a staple of reporting for generations that has included Michael Bloomberg’s expansion of his townhouse in 2009 and the comings and goings of the Hamptons elites. Alex Rodriguez doesn’t like a story that includes a photo of him and his former fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, smiling in front of his house? Delete it. Donald Trump is annoyed about a story that includes a photo of him outside his suite at Mar-a-Lago? Gone. Facebook’s hands, the lawyer told me, are tied by its own policies.

Presumably, the only reason this doesn’t happen constantly is because nobody knows about the policy. But now you do!

I learned about this policy while trying to understand a rarely discussed front in Facebook’s rolling standoff with journalism: In cases of difficult news judgment, who decides what counts as news? Will Facebook defer to publishers’ decisions on, for instance, which celebrity’s home purchase is worth covering? Or will Facebook delete a publisher’s link just as quickly as it deletes an individual’s post that it has decided violated its rules?

The answer, the lawyer told me, is simple: Facebook alone decides. In the parts of its policy that are devoted to privacy and safety, Facebook doesn’t pay any special deference to journalists and believes its “policy” team is better suited to make decisions. Facebook alone will balance competing values like newsworthiness against privacy, or the old print belief in transparency against the digital aversion to “doxxing” — that is, publishing people’s identifying information against their will. And in the standoff with The Post this month, all you can do is choose your fighter: Mark Zuckerberg or Rupert Murdoch.

washington post logoWashington Post, SNL announced Elon Musk as a host. The disgust on Twitter may be just what the show is after, Travis M. Andrews, April 26, 2021 (print ed.). It’s difficult to imagine the creative elon musk 2015orces behind SNL were surprised by the reactions [to Musk, right]. There’s a fair argument to be made that said backlash was the intention.

For years now, the show has relied on atypical celebrity guest stars, stunt cameos and unusual hosts to help bolster ratings. Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump hosted in 2015, drawing more than 9 million viewers — the highest ratings the show had seen in years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Donald Trump makes his debut in National Portrait Gallery’s presidents exhibition, Peggy McGlone, April 26, 2021. A photograph of former president Donald Trump by Pari Dukovic has been installed in the America’s Presidents exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which reopens to visitors May 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Oscars Ratings Plummet, With Fewer Than 10 Million Tuning In, Brooks Barnes and John Koblin, April 26, 2021. Sunday night’s pandemic-restricted telecast drew 58 percent fewer viewers than last year’s record low. For the film industry, which was already fighting to hold its place at the center of American culture, the Nielsen ratings for Sunday night’s 93rd Academy Awards came as a body blow: About 9.85 million people watched the telecast, a 58 percent plunge from last year’s record low.

Among adults 18 to 49, the demographic that many advertisers pay a premium to reach, the Oscars suffered an even steeper 64 percent decline, according to preliminary data from Nielsen released on Monday. Nielsen’s final numbers are expected on Tuesday and will include out-of-home viewing and some streaming statistics.Opinion:

ny times logoNew York Times, Breaking Point: How Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook Became Foes, Mike Isaac and Jack Nicas, April 26, 2021. The chief executives of Facebook and Apple have opposing visions for the future of the internet. Their differences are set to escalate this week.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Cook’s opposing positions have exploded into an all-out war. On Monday, Apple released a new privacy feature that requires iPhone owners to explicitly choose whether to let apps like Facebook track them across other apps.

One of the secrets of digital advertising is that companies like Facebook follow people’s online habits as they click on other programs, like Spotify and Amazon, on smartphones. That data helps advertisers pinpoint users’ interests and better target finely tuned ads. Now, many people are expected to say no to that tracking, delivering a blow to online advertising — and Facebook’s $70 billion business.

At the center of the fight are the two C.E.O.s. Their differences have long been evident. Mr. Cook, 60, is a polished executive who rose through Apple’s ranks by constructing efficient supply chains. Mr. Zuckerberg, 36, is a Harvard dropout who built a social-media empire with an anything-goes stance toward free speech.

Those contrasts have widened with their deeply divergent visions for the digital future. Mr. Cook wants people to pay a premium — often to Apple — for a safer, more private version of the internet. It is a strategy that keeps Apple firmly in control. But Mr. Zuckerberg champions an “open” internet where services like Facebook are effectively free. In that scenario, advertisers foot the bill.

 

World News

washington post logoindonesia flagWashington Post, Indonesian submarine wreckage found, all 53 crew members dead, officials say, Adi Renaldi and Claire Parker, April 26, 2021 (print ed.). Indonesia has found the wreckage of a navy submarine missing since Wednesday and declared all 53 of its crew members dead, the country’s military chief announced Sunday.

 

April 25

Top Headlines 

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News

 

U.S. Politics, Governance  

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Court

 

U.S. Media, Security, Commentary

 

Top Stories

 joe biden signs resized relief bill

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll: Americans give Biden mostly positive marks for first 100 days, Dan Balz, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, April 25, 2021. President Biden and his major initiatives win majority support, but voters are skeptical about his handling of immigration at the southern border, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

President Biden nears the end of his first 100 days in office with a slight majority of Americans approving of his performance and supporting his major policy initiatives, but his approval rating is lower than any recent past presidents except Donald Trump, with potential warning signs ahead about his governing strategy, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Overall, 52 percent of adults say they approve of the job Biden is doing, compared with 42 percent who disapprove. At this point in his presidency four years ago, Trump’s rating was nearly the reverse, with approval at 42 percent and disapproval at 53 percent. Overall, 34 percent of Americans say they strongly approve of Biden’s performance, compared with 35 percent who strongly disapprove.

Biden receives the highest marks for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with 64 percent of adults — including 33 percent of Republicans — giving him positive ratings. His approval rating for his handling of the economy stands at 52 percent. But 53 percent say they disapprove of the way he has dealt with the immigration situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, a problem that has vexed his administration for much of its first months.

washington post logoWashington Post, India sets another daily covid case record; U.S. pledges help, Claire Parker, Paul Schemm and Sean Sullivan, Officials said Sunday there had been 349,691 new cases in the last 24 hours — another global record. There were also 2,767 reported deaths.

The Biden administration, under growing pressure to offer more assistance to India as it struggles to contain a devastating coronavirus outbreak, promised Sunday to provide new aid, including the india flag mapmaterials for making vaccines.

The pledge came hours after Indian authorities announced another global record in new daily cases Sunday, and the most covid-19 deaths the country has suffered in a 24-hour period.

The National Security Council said the United States would provide vaccine materials, drugs, test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment, and was “pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis.”

“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need,” President Biden tweeted Sunday.

washington post logoWashington Post, India ‘shaken’ by new coronavirus surge, says prime minister, urging everyone to get vaccinated, Paul Schemm, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). Officials said Sunday there had been 349,691 new cases in the last 24 hours — another global record. There were also 2,767 reported deaths.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, on Sunday urged citizens to all get vaccinated as a devastating new wave of infections threatens to overwhelm the nation’s health services amid reports of record narendra modi 2014numbers of deaths and new cases.

During his monthly radio address, Modi told people not to fall prey to rumors about the vaccines and only consult credible sources.

“Covid is testing our patience and capacity to bear pain,” he said. “After successful tackling the first wave, the nation’s morale was high. However this storm has shaken the nation.”Inside a Delhi hospital, oxygen runs fatally short as covid cases mount

India weathered a major surge in coronavirus infections last September, approaching almost 100,000 new infections a day, but then it dropped off dramatically leading many to think the virus had been beaten.

Starting in March, however, the number of new cases has grown exponentially and topped 300,000 for the past four days. On Sunday it was announced that there had been 349,691 new cases in the last 24 hours — another global record. There were also 2,767 reported deaths, the highest for India.
\
Experts caution, however, that the figures are all an undercount in this vast nation of more than 1.3 billion.

The recent surge has been attributed to a degree of complacency as people and officials assumed the virus had been beaten, lifted restrictions and returned to old habits, as well as the emergence of new more virulent variants.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed support India and said the United States was looking for ways to help the country.

  • Washington Post, Inside a Delhi hospital, oxygen runs fatally short as covid cases mount, April 25, 2021 (print ed.).
  • ted wheeler djt

    Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is shown at left in a file photo from last year, when President Trump denounced him repeatedly for allowing authorities to coddle violent "Antiifa" protesters.

    washington post logoWashington Post, Portland mayor urges residents to ‘unmask’ rioters after weeks of violence, Paulina Villegas, April 25, 2021. “Our job is to unmask them, arrest them and prosecute them,” Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) said, asking the public to contact the police and provide them with information about the rioters.

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., asked residents for help Friday in putting an end to violent protests that have erupted in recent weeks — and periodically since last summer — and urged the public to stand together and “take the city back.”“They want to burn, they want to bash, they want to intimidate, they want to assault,” Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) said Friday after announcing that the city would extend its state of emergency through Monday after a string of demonstrations that have resulted in several businesses being vandalized and public buildings defaced.

    “Our job is to unmask them, arrest them and prosecute them,” he said, asking the public to contact the police and provide them with information about the rioters, write down their license plate numbers or film them when they commit acts of vandalism.

    Wheeler asked for residents’ cooperation, which he underlined should be nonconfrontational, ahead of a march planned for Friday night that was announced on social media as an “autonomous demonstration.”

    The march began around 9 p.m. in northwest Portland, with around 75 people mostly dressed in black, and was declared a riot by the police soon after protesters began blocking streets, breaking windows of a Starbucks and writing graffiti on a restaurant and a bus shelter, according to a police statement.

    A small group of participants also pushed their way into a restaurant.

    Officers arrested two people, both 29, and charged them with criminal mischief in the first degree.

    The police said they had found a flier with the instructions: “bloc up, be water, no megaphones, no streamers.” Such words had been included on fliers on previous nights when people “armed with weapons used to cause damage, wearing helmets, body armor, and gas masks” had committed “crimes such as criminal mischief, arson and assault,” the police said in a statement before the march.

    The fact that the flier discouraged live-streaming led the police to think the participants intended to commit crimes and wanted to avoid video evidence that could be used to identify and arrest them, the statement added.

    Ahead of the march, Wheeler also instructed police to intervene and stop “the self-described anarchist mob” from engaging in “criminal destruction” as he underscored the need for the community to stand together.

    “Our community needs to resume their lives, people need to go back to work, employers need to be able to reopen,” Wheeler said, adding that he supported “all police tactics” needed, including the controversial “kettling” maneuver, which is to surround, box in and contain a crowd by blocking off exit points and then making arrests.

    The mayor also commended Black and Black Lives Matter leaders who have spoken against the violence.

    In the same video conference, Chris Davis, deputy chief of the Portland Bureau of Police, said the community is tired of “pointless violence” and added that they are seeing the same people join these demonstrations, with several of them having been arrested more than once for crimes ranging from disorderly conduct to arson and even attempted murder.

    Friday’s unrest was the latest in a recent string of violent incidents in the city.

    Last Monday, a group of about 80 people protested outside a police precinct and smashed windows at Blazers Boys & Girls Club across the street, causing thousands of dollars of damage to the nonprofit organization that serves neighborhood youths.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Republicans Targeting Voting Access Find Their Bull’s-Eye: Cities, Nick Corasaniti, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). In Houston, election officials found creative ways to help people vote in a pandemic. Record turnout resulted. The G.O.P. is taking aim at those measures.

Twenty-four-hour voting was one of a host of options Harris County introduced to help residents cast ballots, along with drive-through voting and proactively mailing out ballot applications. The new alternatives, tailored to a diverse work force struggling amid a pandemic in Texas’ largest county, helped increase turnout by nearly 10 percent compared with 2016; nearly 70 percent of registered texas mapvoters cast ballots, and a task force found that there was no evidence of any fraud.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosYet Republicans are pushing measures through the State Legislature that would take aim at the very process that produced such a large turnout. Two omnibus bills, including one that the House is likely to take up in the coming week, are seeking to roll back virtually every expansion the county put in place for 2020.

The bills would make Texas one of the hardest states in the country to cast a ballot in. And they are a prime example of a Republican-led effort to roll back voting access in Democrat-rich cities and populous regions like Atlanta and Arizona’s Maricopa County, while having far less of an impact on voting in rural areas that tend to lean Republican.

Bills in several states are, in effect, creating a two-pronged approach to urban and rural areas that raises questions about the disparate treatment of cities and the large number of voters of color who live in them and is helping fuel opposition from corporations that are based in or have work forces in those places.

In Texas, Republicans have taken the rare tack of outlining restrictions that would apply only to counties with population of more than one million, targeting the booming and increasingly diverse metropolitan areas of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.

 

phil waldron

Above: Phil Waldron, Giuliani associate and self-described cyber-security expert.

Proof via Substack, Investigative commentary: Giuliani Associate and Apparent January 5 Trump War Council Attendee May Audit 2020 Election Ballots in New Hampshire, Seth Abramson, left, April 25, 2021. seth abramson headshotThe prospect of an apparent insurrectionist plotter handling actual 2020 presidential election ballots in an effort to throw fuel on Trump's domestic insurgency is terrifying.

After the 2020 election, retired army colonel Phil Waldron went to Pennsylvania to tell Republican legislators that the Commonwealth might have had as many as 1.2 million “altered”—thus seth abramson proof logofraudulent—ballots in the 2020 presidential election. Waldron had not reviewed any of the ballots in Pennsylvania.

In Arizona, Waldron arrived, again alongside Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani—who remains under federal criminal investigation by the FBI and DOJ for a laundry-list of major federal crimes—to tell Republican legislators that the state may have had well over 100,000 fraudulent ballots. Waldron displayed an anonymous email as evidence of a supposed Pima County plot to inject 35,000 fraudulent ballots into the election. He couldn’t or wouldn’t say who had authored the email.

 

Virus Victims, Response

ny times logoNew York Times, Michigan’s Covid-19 Wards Are Filling Up With Younger Patients, Mitch Smith and Sarah Mervosh, April 25, 2021. Even as vaccines roll out, more younger people in Michigan are being hospitalized than at any other point in the pandemic. A more contagious variant is spreading, but experts also point to other factors for the changing demographics, including the loosening of restrictions.

Across Michigan, which is experiencing by far the country’s most dangerous outbreak, more younger people are being admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus than at any other time in the pandemic. Michigan hospitals are now admitting about twice as many coronavirus patients in their 30s and 40s as they were during the fall peak, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

The shifting demographics come as a majority of Michigan residents age 65 or older have been fully vaccinated, greatly reducing the risk to the most vulnerable.

But the vaccinations of older people do not explain rising hospitalizations among people younger than 60, including those in their 20s and 30s. Public health experts say the outbreak — driven by the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus, which is more contagious and more severe — is spreading rapidly in younger age groups. And across the state, doctors and nurses are increasingly reporting a concerning trend: Younger patients are coming in more often with serious cases of Covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, 140.6 million vaccinated, as of April 25, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 52.4 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 42.2 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 25, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 147,176,044, Deaths: 3,115,316
U.S. Cases:     32,789,653, Deaths:     585,880
India Cases:    16,960,172, Deaths:     192,311
Brazil Cases:   14,308,215, Deaths:     389,609

washington post logoWashington Post, Those who got covid between vaccine doses urge caution: ‘We were so close,’ Fenit Nirappil and Dan Keating, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). The cases are a reminder that vaccines need time to offer full protection and virus is still circulating widely

 

World News

armenian genocide ambassador photo 1918 book brigham young university photo

 The U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire included this photo of dead Armenians on a road in his 1918 book recounting the horrors he witnessed. (Brigham Young University)

 washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis,The Past, Rediscovered: The Armenian ‘genocide’: This is what happened in 1915, Gillian Brockell, April 25, 2021 (print ed.).Biden recognized the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide. Here’s what that means.

The word genocide was coined in 1944 by a Polish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin, who lost 49 members of his Jewish family in the Holocaust.

Flag of TurkeyBut it wasn’t the Nazis who first got him thinking about how to stop the intentional destruction of national, ethnic or religious groups. Decades earlier, when he was in college, he heard about the assassination of Talaat Pasha, one of the main organizers of the deportation and mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, by an Armenian man who hadsurvived it. The subsequent trial of the assassin opened his eyes to the suffering of the Armenian people.

“At that moment,” Lemkin wrote later in his autobiography, “my worries about the murder of the innocent became more meaningful to me. I didn’t know all the answers, but I felt that a law against this type of racial or religious murder must be adopted by the world.”

The Ottoman Empire killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians during World War I. On Saturday, President Biden called it “genocide,” making him the first president to do so since Ronald Reagan. It’s a move that could further strain relations with U.S. ally Turkey.

washington post logoWashington Post, Death toll in Baghdad hospital fire climbs to 82, says Iraq government, Louisa Loveluck, Updated: April 25, 2021. At least 82 people were killed in the fire which ripped through a Baghdad coronavirus ward, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said Sunday, sparking anger and frustration over the state of the country’s buckling health system.

Another 110 people were wounded in the blaze at Baghdad’s Ibn al-Khatib hospital late Saturday, a ministry official told Iraqi state media.

Iraq is in the worst phase of its coronavirus pandemic, averaging around 8,000 new cases daily as the health system struggles to cope. The country’s human rights commission said that 28 of the patients killed in Saturday’s fire had been on life support when the smoke and flames reached their ward.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s speech to Congress will be historic in more ways than one, Matt Viser, April 25, 2021 (print ed.).  The president has witnessed more speeches to a joint session of Congress than just about anyone. He’ll give one on Wednesday amid a pandemic.

For eight years, Joe Biden was a fixture at President Barack Obama’s addresses inside the House chamber, a near-constant part of the tableau. He winked. He pointed. He gripped the House speaker’s arm. He smiled, and he clapped with gusto.

Nancy Pelosi For 36 years before that, he often sat in the audience with his Senate colleagues. He twice gave a portion of the Democratic response to President Ronald Reagan.

kamala harris portraitAs one of the nation’s longest-serving politicians he has witnessed more speeches to a joint session of Congress than just about anyone.Next week, he will give one.

He will have a historic backdrop: Two women, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and Vice President Harris, right, for the first time will be in the immediate frame of the president — something Biden is planning to note at the beginning of his speech.

In a different historic marker, both will be wearing masks as part of the coronavirus protocols in the chamber.

Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power
By Susan Page
Twelve. 438 pp. $32.50

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Nancy Pelosi: A study in power, Jill Filipovic (journalist, lawyer and the author of "OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind)"), April 25, 2021 (print ed.). Nancy Pelosi is one of the most polarizing women in America, and one of the least understood.

In right-wing media, she’s a caricature of a shrill and villainous San Francisco liberal, and her name alone is a wildly effective fundraising tool for Republicans. Leftists and the most progressive Democrats portray her as a moderate capitulator, the kind of political leftover that members of the Squad — a new cast of young, progressive women in Congress — came to disrupt and overtake. And even the Democrats who love her often treat her as more of a mascot than a real person: She’s meme-ified as a would-be savior from Trumpism in her red coat and black sunglasses, or going viral in suffragist white as the ultimate troll for condescendingly clapping at the former president’s State of the Union.

Pelosi the person, though, remains an opaque figure, in large part because she seems to like it that way. She is assiduously on-message. She may trade on her family’s political connections, but she doesn’t run on her personal life. She likes to win and cares less about taking credit.

That makes her a challenging figure for the public to understand and certainly a difficult one to profile. In her hefty biography, Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power, USA Today susan page screenshotWashington bureau chief Susan Page, left, takes a shot at cracking Pelosi’s hard exterior. Instead of offering an intimate look at Pelosi’s true self or even her motivations, Page approaches the speaker as a study in power. The result is a biography that doesn’t plumb the depths of Pelosi’s soul but does fully reckon with her as a history-changing force — it’s a kind of Great Woman biography in the style usually reserved for great men.

The juicier stuff comes at a faster clip in the second half of the book, as Pelosi becomes a foil to Donald Trump and finds herself simultaneously challenged by the Squad. 

Members of the Squad, Page wryly notes, eventually came around to a “political realism that sounded something like, well, Nancy Pelosi.”

Ultimately, Page doesn’t quite break into Pelosi’s inner world, and she doesn’t quite get into what, exactly, about Pelosi inspires such vitriol on the right and the far left alike.

But in many ways, the focus on external professional displays — what Page calls Pelosi’s “lessons of power: Weave, whip count” — makes for a more honest and interesting read than any attempt at biography-as-psychodrama. Pelosi is a wheeler and dealer, a savvy and results-oriented operator who cares more about getting things done than getting it perfect (or taking the credit); she’s less an idealist than a practical broker who considers calling someone “operational” the highest of praise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s $1.8 trillion ‘families plan’ would reshape taxes, spending, Jeff Stein, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). The plan — which devotes funds to child care, prekindergarten, family leave and tuition-free community college — will test the Democrats’ majority and the GOP’s willingness to stand in the way.

joe biden oThe White House is preparing to unveil a roughly $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan this coming week that includes many of President Biden’s campaign promises but also reflects the daunting challenges facing the administration as it tries to transform the U.S. economy.

The “American Families Plan,” set to be released ahead of the president’s joint address to Congress on Wednesday, calls for devoting hundreds of billions of dollars to national child care, prekindergarten, paid family leave and tuition-free community college, among other domestic priorities. It will be at least partially funded by about a half-dozen tax hikes on high-income Americans and investors, proposed changes that are already provoking fierce opposition in Congress and on Wall Street.

White House officials spent much of the past week making refinements to the plan, showing the enormous pressure they are under to include or discard key items as they attempt to satisfy a range of competing voices.

washington post logoWashington Post, A churning Golden State on the eve of new population numbers, Scott Wilson, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). As the U.S. Census Bureau prepares to release its first batch of population data next week, California is bracing for the first time to lose one of its 53 congressional seats. The data will probably show that California’s population grew 6.5 percent over the last decade, slightly below the national average. The state has reported a net loss of nearly half a million people in the last two years alone.

But the more detailed data to be released in the coming months will show that California’s out-of-state exodus is overshadowed by the churning movement of people within its borders, now remaking once-rural communities such as this one.

washington post logoWashington Post, Troy Carter wins House special election in Louisiana, David Weigel, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). Louisiana state Sen. Troy Carter won a special election Saturday to replace White House adviser Cedric L. Richmond in Congress, defeating a challenger backed by much of the Democratic Party’s left and expanding the party’s narrow majority in the House.

troy carter smileCarter, right, held a steady lead as votes were counted in a runoff with state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, a former chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party. The Associated Press projected Carter as the victor less than three hours after polls closed.

Carter will take office once the election is certified, giving Democrats 219 seats in the House, with three more Democratic vacancies to be filled by special elections this year. Richmond, who represented the district for a decade, endorsed Carter as his successor as he left office. A primary last month pushed Carter into a runoff with Carter Peterson, who had tried to consolidate liberal votes by emphasizing her support for the Green New Deal.

It was a bitter end to a battle for the state’s only safely Democratic seat, drawn by Republicans to link majority-Black Baton Rouge to majority-Black New Orleans.

Carter won 36 percent of the vote in the March 20 all-party primary, to 23 percent for Carter Peterson and just 17 percent for every Republican candidate combined. Carter, who represents a district near New Orleans, ran strongest in suburban precincts just outside the city and pitched himself as a liberal who could work with Republicans.

“I’ve seen bad legislation pass because people like the author, and I’ve seen good legislation fail because they don’t they don’t like the author,” Carter said in an interview during the primary, noting that he’d known House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) for decades. “I’m a proud Democrat, and I wear it on my sleeve but also recognize that we have to work together.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Six Months Later, Arizona Republicans Are Recounting the Vote, Michael Wines, April 25, 2021. An audit in Arizona’s most populous county, meant to mollify angry Trump voters, is being criticized as a partisan exercise more than a fact-finding one.

It seemed so simple back in December.

republican elephant logoResponding to angry voters who echoed former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, Arizona Republicans promised a detailed review of the vote that showed Mr. Trump to have been the first Republican presidential nominee to lose the state since 1996. “We hold an audit,” State Senator Eddie Farnsworth said at a Judiciary Committee hearing. “And then we can put this to rest.”

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosBut when a parade of flatbed trucks last week hauled boxes of voting equipment and 78 pallets containing the 2.1 million ballots of Arizona’s largest county to a decrepit local coliseum, it kicked off a seat-of-the-pants audit process that seemed more likely to amplify Republican grievances than to put them to rest.

Almost half a year after the election Mr. Trump lost, the promised audit has become a snipe hunt for skulduggery that has spanned a court battle, death threats and calls to arrest the elected leadership of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.

The head of Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm that Republican senators hired to oversee the audit, has embraced Mr. Trump’s baseless theories of election theft and has suggested, contrary to available evidence, that Mr. Trump actually won Arizona by 200,000 votes. The pro-Trump cable channel One America News Network has started a fund-raiser to finance the venture and has been oan logonamed one of the nonpartisan observers that will keep the audit on the straight and narrow.

In fact, three previous reviews showed no sign of significant fraud or any reason to doubt President Biden’s victory. But the senators now plan to recount — by hand — all 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County, two-thirds of the entire vote statewide.

Critics in both parties charge that an effort that began as a way to placate angry Trump voters has become a political embarrassment and another blow to the once-inviolable democratic norm that losers and winners alike honor the results of elections.

“You know the dog that caught the car?” said Steve Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the Republican-dominated Maricopa Board of Supervisors. “The dog doesn’t know what to do with it.”After a brief pause on Friday ordered by a state court judge, the audit continues without clarity on who will do the counting, what it will cost and who will pay for the process, which is expected to last into mid-May. The One America network is livestreaming it, and Mr. Trump is cheering from the sidelines.

In an email statement on Saturday, he praised the “brave American Patriots” behind the effort and demanded that Gov. Doug Ducey, a frequent target of his displeasure, dispatch the state police or National Guard for their protection.

Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, a Democrat, was less enthused.

“My concern grows deeper by the hour,” she said in an email on Friday. “It is clear that no one involved in this process knows what they are doing, and they are making it up as they go along.”

The Senate president, Karen Fann, said in December that the audit had no hidden agenda and could not change the settled election results in Arizona, regardless of what it showed.

“A lot of our constituents have a lot of questions about how the voting, the electoral system works, the security of it, the validity of it,” she said, and so the senators needed experts to examine voting processes and determine “what else could we do to verify the votes were correct and accurate.”
Other state legislatures have looked into bogus claims of election fraud. But the Arizona audit, driven in part by conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines, is in a league of its own. Experts say it underscores the sharp rightward shift of the Legislature and the state Republican Party even as the state edges toward the political center.

“I get why they’re doing it, because half of the G.O.P. believes there was widespread fraud,” said Mike Noble, a Phoenix pollster who got his start in Republican politics. “The only problem is, a majority of the electorate doesn’t believe there was widespread fraud.

“The longer they push this,” he said, “the more they’re alienating people in the middle.”

In Arizona, the state party is headed by Kelli Ward, a former state senator who has rejected Mr. Biden’s victory and supports the audit. Under her leadership, the party in January censured Mr. Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain for being insufficiently loyal to Mr. Trump.

ted cruz beard

washington post logoWashington Post, Cruz maintains ties to right-wing group despite its extremist messaging, Beth Reinhard and Neena Satija, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). A review of True Texas Project’s activities and social media shows that Sen. Ted Cruz has continued to embrace the group, even as its nativist rhetoric and divisive tactics alienated other elected officials.

On Aug. 4, 2019, the day after a gunman who had posted a hateful diatribe against Hispanics fatally shot 23 people at an El Paso Walmart, a leader of a tea party group in Texas said on Facebook: “You’re not going to demographically replace a once proud, strong people without getting blow-back.”

djt maga hatHis wife, the founder of the group, in the Fort Worth suburbs of Tarrant County, added in a comment: “I don’t condone the actions, but I certainly understand where they came from.”

Ten days later, amid a brewing backlash over the comments by Fred and Julie McCarty, the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party posted an undated testimonial from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) wishing the group a happy 10th anniversary as it rebranded itself as True Texas Project.

“Thank you for the incredible work you do,” Cruz said, in the only on-camera endorsement from an elected official posted on the group’s Facebook and YouTube pages to mark the occasion. “Julie, Fred, thank you for your passion

washington post logoWashington Post, Why your state might lose or gain clout in Congress after the census is released, Harry Stevens, Tara Bahrampour and Ted Mellnik, April 25, 2021. Rhode Island is likely to draw the short straw in the once-a-decade reshuffling of U.S. House seats.

Rhode Island, now the most overrepresented state in the U.S. House, is likely about to become the most underrepresented. In the next two weeks, the government will release state populations from the 2020 Census, and estimates suggest Rhode Islanders will lose one of their two seats in the chamber.

This is congressional reapportionment, the once-a-decade reshuffling of the 435 House seats among the states to adjust for population changes. Some states will gain clout, while others will lose. Even after the changes, House members from some states will still represent a starkly different number of people than others.

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Court

david fowler

washington post logoWashington Post, Md. officials to review cases handled by ex-chief medical examiner who testified in Derek Chauvin’s defense, Emily Davies and Ovetta Wiggins, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). Top Maryland officials are launching an investigation of all deaths in police custody that were overseen by the state’s former chief medical examiner, shown above, who testified in Derek Chauvin’s defense, the Maryland attorney general and governor’s offices announced Friday.

Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, said the office has been in internal discussions about launching a probe for the past couple of weeks and recently reached out to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office about how to proceed.

David Fowler, who was Maryland’s chief medical examiner from 2002 to 2019, served as a key witness for Chauvin, whose high-profile trial ended this week with a jury convicting the former Minneapolis officer of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Fowler broke with the Hennepin County medical examiner, among others, to classify Floyd’s killing as “undetermined” and not a homicide. Floyd was seen in viral video gasping for breath while pinned under Chauvin’s knee. Fowler testified that the primary cause of Floyd’s death was cardiac arrhythmia during police restraint due to underlying heart disease. He also said that Floyd’s drug use and exposure to carbon monoxide from the police car contributed to his death.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks at an Atlanta Wendy’s wants his job back as he awaits murder trial, Lateshia Beachum, April 25, 2021 (print ed.).A former Atlanta police officer facing a charge of felony murder in the shooting of Rayshard Brooks last year wants to be reinstated.

Garrett Rolfe and his attorney, Lance LoRusso, argued before Atlanta’s civil service board on Thursday that Rolfe wasn’t given a fair amount of time to defend himself against his firing, which happened just a day after the June 12, 2020, shooting that resulted in the death of the 27-year-old Black man.

Brooks was shot by officers after they responded to calls about a man asleep in a car at a Wendy’s drive-through. The young father of four had initially cooperated, but when officers tried to arrest him, a scuffle ensued. Widely circulated video showed Brooks pointing a Taser at officers.

ny times logoNew York Times, MacKenzie Scott Gave Away Billions. The Scam Artists Followed, Nicholas Kulish, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). Over the course of 2020, Ms. Scott announced gifts totaling nearly $6 billion. Her unconventional model of giving was widely praised for its speed and directness. But some of the seeming advantages — no large, established foundation, headquarters, public website or indeed any way to reach her or her representatives — are exactly what made her ripe for impersonation by scammers.

 

U.S. Media, Security, Commentary

ny times logoNew York Times, The Slander Industry: Who Profits from Destroying Reputations Online? Aaron Krolik and Kashmir Hill, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). I wanted to slander someone. My colleague Kashmir Hill and I were trying to learn who is responsible for — and profiting from — the growing ecosystem of websites whose primary purpose is destroying reputations. So I wrote a nasty post. About myself.

It started with a nasty post. Soon we discovered a secret hidden behind a smokescreen of fake companies and false identities.

At first glance, the websites appear amateurish. They have names like BadGirlReports.date, BustedCheaters.com and WorstHomeWrecker.com. Photos are badly cropped. Grammar and spelling are afterthoughts. They are clunky and text-heavy, as if they’re intended to be read by machines, not humans.

But do not underestimate their power. When someone attacks you on these so-called gripe sites, the results can be devastating. Earlier this year, we wrote about a woman in Toronto who poisoned the reputations of dozens of her perceived enemies by posting lies about them.

To assess the slander’s impact, we wrote a software program to download every post from a dozen of the most active complaint sites: more than 150,000 posts about some 47,000 people. Then we set up a web crawler that searched Google and Bing for thousands of the people who had been attacked.

For about one-third of the people, the nasty posts appeared on the first pages of their results. For more than half, the gripe sites showed up at the top of their image results.

Sometimes search engines go a step further than simply listing links; they display what they consider the most relevant phrases about whatever you’re searching for.

One woman in Ohio was the subject of so many negative posts that Bing declared in bold at the top of her search results that she “is a liar and a cheater” — the same way it states that Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States. For roughly 500 of the 6,000 people we searched for, Google suggested adding the phrase “cheater” to a search of their names.

The unverified claims are on obscure, ridiculous-looking sites, but search engines give them a veneer of credibility. Posts from Cheaterboard.com appear in Google results alongside Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles — or, in my case, articles in The New York Times.

That would be bad enough for people whose reputations have been savaged. But the problem is all the worse because it’s so hard to fix. And that is largely because of the secret, symbiotic relationship between those facilitating slander and those getting paid to remove it

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Minutes before Trump left office, millions of the Pentagon’s dormant IP addresses sprang to life, Craig Timberg and Paul Sonne, April 25, 2021 (print ed.). Why was an obscure Florida company managing a huge swath of the Internet? The shift is the handiwork of an elite Pentagon unit that reports directly to the secretary of defense.

While the world was distracted with President Donald Trump leaving office on Jan. 20, an obscure Florida company discreetly announced to the world’s computer networks a startling development: It now was managing a huge unused swath of the Internet that, for several decades, had been owned by the U.S. military.

What happened next was stranger still.

Department of Defense SealThe company, Global Resource Systems LLC, kept adding to its zone of control. Soon it had claimed 56 million IP addresses owned by the Pentagon. Three months later, the total was nearly 175 million. That’s almost 6 percent of a coveted traditional section of Internet real estate — called IPv4 — where such large chunks are worth billions of dollars on the open market.

The entities controlling the largest swaths of the Internet generally are telecommunications giants whose names are familiar: AT&T, China Telecom, Verizon. But now at the top of the list was Global Resource Systems — a company founded only in September that has no publicly reported federal contracts and no obvious public-facing website.

As listed in records, the company’s address in Plantation, Fla., outside Fort Lauderdale, is a shared workspace in an office building that doesn’t show Global Resource Systems on its lobby directory. A receptionist at the shared workspace said Friday that she could provide no information about the company and asked a reporter to leave. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

The only announcement of Global Resources Systems’ management of Pentagon addresses happened in the obscure world of Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) — the messaging system that tells Internet companies how to route traffic across the world. There, messages began to arrive telling network administrators that IP addresses assigned to the Pentagon but long dormant could now accept traffic — but it should be routed to Global Resource Systems.

Network administrators began speculating about perhaps the most dramatic shift in IP address space allotment since BGP was introduced in the 1980s.

An answer, of sorts, came Friday.

The change is the handiwork of an elite Pentagon unit known as the Defense Digital Service, which reports directly to the secretary of defense. The DDS bills itself as a “SWAT team of nerds” tasked with solving emergency problems for the department and conducting experimental work to make big technological leaps for the military.

What is clear, however, is the Global Resource Systems announcements directed a fire hose of Internet traffic toward the Defense Department addresses. Madory said his monitoring showed the broad movements of Internet traffic began immediately after the IP addresses were announced Jan. 20.

The data may provide information about how malicious actors operate online and could reveal exploitable weaknesses in computer systems. In addition, several Chinese companies use network numbering systems that resemble the U.S. military’s IP addresses in their internal systems, Madory said. By announcing the address space through Global Resource Systems, that could cause some of that information to be routed to systems controlled by the U.S. military.

National Public Radio Morning Edition, Bob Fass, Free-Form Radio Pioneer, Dies At 87, Jon Kalish, April 25, 2021. Bob Fass, who hosted the influential New York City radio show Radio Unnameable for more than 50 years, died on Saturday in North Carolina at age 87. His death was confirmed by his wife Lynn.

His late night show introduced dozens of major folk artists and served as a megaphone for the emerging 1960s counterculture.

npr logoAt the height of its popularity, Radio Unnameable ran five hours and aired five nights a week. Fass left New York in 2019 and continued to do the show from his home in North Carolina, though it was on just one night a week for three hours. But Fass continued to begin each broadcast with his signature greeting, "Good morning, cabal!"

The cabal, as he called it, was comprised of his countercultural "conspirators" who opposed the Vietnam War and marched for civil rights. And his show on WBAI-FM, the listener-supported Pacifica Radio station in New York, served as their broadcast meetinghouse.

"Bob Fass more or less invented what we call live radio," said Larry Josephson, one of the other WBAI live radio personalities who followed in Fass' footsteps. "No structure, no script, all improvised. And there was nothing like Bob's program on the radio at the time."

Fass' genius was mixing records, tapes, live musicians and phone callers. He pioneered the art of putting several callers on the air at the same time. Often his programs spilled into in-person events. 

Among the great folk and blues artists to play live on Fass' radio show were Joni Mitchell, Odetta, Carly Simon, Taj Mahal, The Incredible String Band, Moondog, The Holy Modal Rounders, Phil Ochs, and Bob Dylan, who joked around and took listener calls on one show in 1966.

 

April 24

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

 

U.S. Media, Security, Commentary

 

World News

   

 Top Stories

 ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Republicans Targeting Voting Access Find Their Bull’s-Eye: Cities, Nick Corasaniti, April 24, 2021 In Houston, election officials found creative ways to help people vote in a pandemic. Record turnout resulted. The G.O.P. is taking aim at those measures.

Twenty-four-hour voting was one of a host of options Harris County introduced to help residents cast ballots, along with drive-through voting and proactively mailing out ballot applications. The new alternatives, tailored to a diverse work force struggling amid a pandemic in Texas’ largest county, helped increase turnout by nearly 10 percent compared with 2016; nearly 70 percent of registered texas mapvoters cast ballots, and a task force found that there was no evidence of any fraud.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosYet Republicans are pushing measures through the State Legislature that would take aim at the very process that produced such a large turnout. Two omnibus bills, including one that the House is likely to take up in the coming week, are seeking to roll back virtually every expansion the county put in place for 2020.

The bills would make Texas one of the hardest states in the country to cast a ballot in. And they are a prime example of a Republican-led effort to roll back voting access in Democrat-rich cities and populous regions like Atlanta and Arizona’s Maricopa County, while having far less of an impact on voting in rural areas that tend to lean Republican.

Bills in several states are, in effect, creating a two-pronged approach to urban and rural areas that raises questions about the disparate treatment of cities and the large number of voters of color who live in them and is helping fuel opposition from corporations that are based in or have work forces in those places.

In Texas, Republicans have taken the rare tack of outlining restrictions that would apply only to counties with population of more than one million, targeting the booming and increasingly diverse metropolitan areas of Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Women for America First Is a Domestic Extremist Group with Domestic Terrorists in Its Ranks, Seth Abramson, April 24, 2021. Damning new evidence raises substantial questions about how and why the January 6 insurrection unfolded the way it did—and what role a little-discussed group played.

Despite a growing mountain of evidence that at least 20 key figures in the events of January 6 were women—including Trump advisers Kimberly Guilfoyle, Katrina Pierson, and Hannah Salem; Trump family members Lara Trump and Ivanka Trum —the FBI has thus far appeared to focus exclusively on the insurrectionists’ “boots on the ground,” with the effect that (Jessica Watkins and Connie Meggs excepted) women tied to the events of January 6 have been ignored.

 

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Enlists Business World in Effort Against Climate Change, Coral Davenport, April 24, 2021 (print ed.). After making a bold promise to cut emissions, President Biden will close out his virtual climate summit with discussions on how to keep it. Business leaders including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg will take center stage on Day 2. Here’s the latest, with live video of the meeting.

After President Biden kicked off the first day of his climate change summit by declaring that the United States would cut its global warming emissions at least in half by the end of the decade, Day 2 of the virtual gathering on Friday will in large part focus on what it would take for America to meet that target.

pete buttigieg mayor south bend inIn short, it would take a substantial overhaul of current domestic policies, according to energy experts, who argue that the country would need to virtually eliminate its use of coal for electricity and jennifer granholm twitter1replace millions of gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles.

So it is no surprise that the scheduled speakers on Friday include Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, left, and Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm, right, — each of whom head up cabinet agencies that will be critical in pushing through efforts by the executive branch to get the nation closer to those benchmarks.

Mr. Buttigieg is likely to highlight his agency’s plans to reinstate tough fuel economy standards on passenger vehicles, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse pollution. After the Trump administration rolled back those standards last year, domestic tailpipe pollution of greenhouse gases was projected to soar. Mr. Buttigieg, working jointly with the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to propose new regulations by July that would tamp down that pollution and force automakers to invest heavily in building and selling electric vehicles.

washington post logoWashington Post, Most Americans support greater scrutiny of police, poll finds, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, April 23, 2021 Atop a series of law enforcement killings in recent years, George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed appear to have shaken Americans’ confidence in police.

Six in 10 Americans say the country should do more to hold police accountable for mistreatment of Black people, far outpacing concerns about those measures interfering with how law enforcement does its job, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The nationwide survey also finds that concerns over treatment of Black Americans and other minorities by the criminal justice system ― which spiked last summer amid national protests after George Floyd’s killing ― have eased slightly since then. But those concerns remain at the highest point in previous surveys dating back to 1988.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Sunday through Wednesday, a period that overlaps with Tuesday’s conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin on three charges, including murder, in Floyd’s killing. While the event has the potential to shift attitudes, the poll found no significant differences between respondents interviewed before and after the verdict’s announcement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate committee to take up Biden judicial nominees in preview of potential Supreme Court fight, Ann E. Marimow and Paul Kane, April 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate Judiciary Committee will take its first look next week at President Biden’s initial batch of judicial nominees in what could serve as a preview of the next battle over the Supreme Court, with many Democrats hoping to soon have a vacancy on the high court that can be filled by a young, liberal justice.

ketanji brown jacksonDemocratic lawmakers are moving quickly to review Biden’s nominees to take advantage of their slim majority in the Senate and begin to remake the courts with judges from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. All five nominees under consideration next Wednesday are people of color, including two Black women nominated to federal appeals courts in Washington and Chicago, and us senate logoa former New Jersey prosecutor who would be the nation’s first Muslim American to serve on a federal trial court. In contrast, President Donald Trump’s picks were mostly white men.

The hearing featuring Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is up for the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, could be a preview of what she would face if she is eventually nominated for a potential vacancy on the Supreme Court.

richard blumenthal portraitMany senators are keeping an eye across the street, awaiting word whether Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 82, will step down . Democrats have not overtly pressured the court’s oldest justice to retire, but privately they are hopeful he will step aside for a younger liberal while the party retains a majority — one that could disappear in the 2022 midterms or through an untimely illness that relegates them to minority status.

“Justice Breyer has been a great justice and he recognizes, I am sure, the political reality of our having control of the Senate now. But elections always have risks, so hopefully he’s aware of that risk and he sees it accordingly,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), right, a Judiciary Committee member, said in an interview this week.

Biden’s first slate of judicial nominees aims to quickly boost diversity in federal courts

While discussions have been muted, Blumenthal said the president and Senate Democrats need to be ready to move as swiftly as Republicans did to fill openings at all levels of the judiciary. Trump, working with then Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), installed more than 200 judges, including three Supreme Court justices.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The fading GOP establishment moves to support Liz Cheney as Trump attacks, McCarthy keeps his distance, Paul Kane, April 24, 2021. Instead of becoming the first female Republican House speaker — a more difficult task now that she has so many internal enemies — Liz Cheney’s legacy might be defined by her success or failure in steering the party back to its conservative foundation.

liz cheney oFollowing her vote to impeach Donald Trump, Rep. Liz Cheney, right, has received a groundswell of financial support from the most powerful figures in traditional GOP politics and republican elephant logothe corporate world.

Inside her nearly $1.6 million haul in three months, Cheney (R-Wyo.) secured financial backing from dozens of alumni of both Bush administrations, including a couple of Cabinet members and, not surprisingly, her parents, Richard and Lynne Cheney. More than 10 current and former members of the House cut checks to her campaign, including former speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and a handful of other Republicans who voted to impeach the former president during the Jan. 13 vote.

Five GOP senators donated to Cheney, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

 

Virus Victims, Response

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. lifts pause on use of J&J coronavirus vaccine, Lena H. Sun and Carolyn Y. Johnson,  April 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will come with a warning about a risk of rare blood clots in recipients. The move by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, which means vaccinations could resume as early as Saturday, followed a review by a CDC advisory panel.

cdc logo CustomFederal health officials lifted a temporary pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine Friday night after an extensive safety review by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

johnson johnson logoThe officials said the benefits of the single-shot vaccine far outweighed the risks from a rare and severe type of blood clot.

The decision to lift the pause allows state and local officials to resume giving the vaccine they have available on shelves, CDC officials said. The CDC and FDA will publish education and communication materials and updated patient fact sheets by early next week.

The agencies had paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week because of reports of six cases of blood clots among the millions of people who had received the vaccine in the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, 138.6 million vaccinated, as of April 24, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 51.9 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 41.8 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 24, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 146,347,752, Deaths: 3,102,346
U.S. Cases:     32,735,704, Deaths:     585,075
India Cases:    16,610,481, Deaths:     189,549
Brazil Cases:   14,238,110, Deaths:     386,623

ny times logoNew York Times, Puerto Rico Just Had Its ‘Worst Moment’ for Covid-19, Edmy Ayala and Patricia Mazzei, April 24, 2021 (print ed.). The island has experienced explosive growth in coronavirus cases, fueled by business reopenings, Easter and tourists on spring break.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccines Made at Troubled U.S. Plant Were Shipped to Canada and Mexico, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Chris Hamby, April 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration said it did not know of problems at the Emergent factory when it approved the shipments. The company says the doses were safe.

canadian flagThe Biden administration said Friday that it did not know that a Baltimore factory had discarded millions of possibly contaminated doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine when President Biden last month released the company to ship vaccines manufactured there to Mexico and Canada.

astrazeneca logoCanadian and Mexican officials said on Friday that they had assurances from AstraZeneca that the millions of doses they received were safe. Some of the doses have been distributed to the public in both countries, the officials said.

Biden administration officials said they had not vouched for the quality of the AstraZeneca vaccine doses made at the Baltimore plant, leaving the decision on whether to use them to the company and the Canadians and Mexicans themselves.

The administration, however, did inform the two countries of another episode of possible contamination, involving a similar vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson, that occurred more recently at the same Baltimore plant.

 

U.S. Politics, Governancted cruz beard

washington post logoWashington Post, Cruz maintains ties to right-wing group despite its extremist messaging, Beth Reinhard and Neena Satija, April 24, 2021. A review of True Texas Project’s activities and social media shows that Sen. Ted Cruz has continued to embrace the group, even as its nativist rhetoric and divisive tactics alienated other elected officials.

On Aug. 4, 2019, the day after a gunman who had posted a hateful diatribe against Hispanics fatally shot 23 people at an El Paso Walmart, a leader of a tea party group in Texas said on Facebook: “You’re not going to demographically replace a once proud, strong people without getting blow-back.”

djt maga hatHis wife, the founder of the group, in the Fort Worth suburbs of Tarrant County, added in a comment: “I don’t condone the actions, but I certainly understand where they came from.”

Ten days later, amid a brewing backlash over the comments by Fred and Julie McCarty, the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party posted an undated testimonial from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) wishing the group a happy 10th anniversary as it rebranded itself as True Texas Project.

“Thank you for the incredible work you do,” Cruz said, in the only on-camera endorsement from an elected official posted on the group’s Facebook and YouTube pages to mark the occasion. “Julie, Fred, thank you for your passion

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Immigration

david fowler

washington post logoWashington Post, Md. officials to review cases handled by ex-chief medical examiner who testified in Derek Chauvin’s defense, Emily Davies and Ovetta Wiggins, April 24, 2021.Top Maryland officials are launching an investigation of all deaths in police custody that were overseen by the state’s former chief medical examiner, shown above, who testified in Derek Chauvin’s defense, the Maryland attorney general and governor’s offices announced Friday.

Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, said the office has been in internal discussions about launching a probe for the past couple of weeks and recently reached out to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office about how to proceed.

David Fowler, who was Maryland’s chief medical examiner from 2002 to 2019, served as a key witness for Chauvin, whose high-profile trial ended this week with a jury convicting the former Minneapolis officer of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Fowler broke with the Hennepin County medical examiner, among others, to classify Floyd’s killing as “undetermined” and not a homicide. Floyd was seen in viral video gasping for breath while pinned under Chauvin’s knee. Fowler testified that the primary cause of Floyd’s death was cardiac arrhythmia during police restraint due to underlying heart disease. He also said that Floyd’s drug use and exposure to carbon monoxide from the police car contributed to his death.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We shouldn’t have been surprised at the Chauvin verdict, Colbert I. King, right, April 24, 2021 (print ed.). I was glad that former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek colbert king twitterChauvin was found guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd. But my reaction was also unsettling. Feelings of relief, thanksgiving and, yes, surprise should not have entered my mind.

That gruesome video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes was all the evidence needed for a conviction. The prosecution’s case was airtight. A jury verdict of anything less than second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter would have been a gross travesty of justice.

So why tears of joy? Prayers of gratitude? Sighs too deep for tears?

Because the simple truth is that in a country that elected Donald Trump as president, injustice is possible. And bad things can and do happen, especially when race is involved.

ICE logowashington post logoWashington Post, Border crossings leveling off but remain near 20-year high, Nick Miroff, April 24, 2021 (print ed.). Preliminary data for the month of April showed that a slight drop in unaccompanied minors and families has been offset by an uptick in adults attempting to evade capture.

President Biden has struggled during his first 100 days to contend with a historic surge in illegal crossings that has galvanized his opponents and frustrated members of his own party. If his administration can find a silver lining in the data through the first three weeks of April, it is that migration has not continued to increase as the same steep rate recorded in February and March.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Biden administration changed its story on refugee admissions 6 times in 3 weeks, JM Rieger, April 24, 2021 (print ed.). As President Biden reversed himself this month on a campaign promise to significantly increase the number of refugees admitted into the country, his administration repeatedly contradicted itself as it tried to explain the policy shift (which it later claimed wasn’t a “change in policy”).

ny times logoNew York Times, MacKenzie Scott Gave Away Billions. The Scam Artists Followed, Nicholas Kulish, April 24, 2021. Over the course of 2020, Ms. Scott announced gifts totaling nearly $6 billion. Her unconventional model of giving was widely praised for its speed and directness. But some of the seeming advantages — no large, established foundation, headquarters, public website or indeed any way to reach her or her representatives — are exactly what made her ripe for impersonation by scammers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ghislaine Maxwell pleads not guilty to sex-trafficking charges, making first court appearance since arrest, Shayna Jacobs and Devlin Barrett, April 24, 2021 (print ed.).Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime companion of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, pleaded not guilty Friday to sex-trafficking charges, appearing in Manhattan federal court for the first time since her arrest last summer on allegations she recruited and groomed young girls for Epstein to abuse.

Maxwell, 59, was shackled at the ankles and wore loosefitting blue jail scrubs, her hair grayer and longer than in her first appearance via video feed last year. She appears to have lost a significant amount of weight as well.

 

U.S. Media, Security, Commentary

Palmer Report, Opinion: Danger! Damage! How punditry goes off the rails, and how to filter out the doomsday nonsense you’re hearing, Bill Palmer, right, April 24, 2021. If you ever feel like running a statistical bill palmerexperiment, spend the day watching your favorite cable news network, and count the number of times you hear words like “danger” or “damage” used. Some cable news hosts and pundits are far better than others, but the one thing they all have in common is that no matter what’s happening in the news, they’ll find a way to tell you that it’s bad for your side – with the implication that you’d better stay tuned in or else your side will lose everything.

bill palmer report logo headerI only point this out because we’re now coming upon a number of crucial developments in politics and for the nation, and it’ll be important that we all accurately understand what these developments mean. Naturally, your favorite cable news channels are largely spinning these developments as “dangerous” and causing “damage,” because those are the concepts that keep you tuned in.

This is a dangerous punditry trend that’s been around since long before the Trump era. But because the Trump era was so fraught, it gave pundits even more motivation to spin things even more negatively than they actually were. 

This comes even as Trump leaked to the media yesterday that he’s considering spending the summer in New Jersey instead of Florida. This story probably has lot to do with finding golf-friendly weather, and little to do with anything else. But some liberal pundits are already spinning this as part of some kind of secret evil genius plan which Trump will use to magically make a comeback in 2024. Liberal pundits always seem to think that Trump has a secret evil genius plan in play at any given time, but after all these years we’ve never seen it emerge.

The reality is that we don’t know precisely how some of these narratives are going to play out. All we can do is look at the totality of the available evidence, put it within a broader political context, and try to figure out the most logically likely outcomes, all while doing what we can to get the truth out there.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Minutes before Trump left office, millions of the Pentagon’s dormant IP addresses sprang to life, Craig Timberg and Paul Sonne, April 24, 2021. Why was an obscure Florida company managing a huge swath of the Internet? The shift is the handiwork of an elite Pentagon unit that reports directly to the secretary of defense.

While the world was distracted with President Donald Trump leaving office on Jan. 20, an obscure Florida company discreetly announced to the world’s computer networks a startling development: It now was managing a huge unused swath of the Internet that, for several decades, had been owned by the U.S. military.

What happened next was stranger still.

Department of Defense SealThe company, Global Resource Systems LLC, kept adding to its zone of control. Soon it had claimed 56 million IP addresses owned by the Pentagon. Three months later, the total was nearly 175 million. That’s almost 6 percent of a coveted traditional section of Internet real estate — called IPv4 — where such large chunks are worth billions of dollars on the open market.

The entities controlling the largest swaths of the Internet generally are telecommunications giants whose names are familiar: AT&T, China Telecom, Verizon. But now at the top of the list was Global Resource Systems — a company founded only in September that has no publicly reported federal contracts and no obvious public-facing website.

As listed in records, the company’s address in Plantation, Fla., outside Fort Lauderdale, is a shared workspace in an office building that doesn’t show Global Resource Systems on its lobby directory. A receptionist at the shared workspace said Friday that she could provide no information about the company and asked a reporter to leave. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

The only announcement of Global Resources Systems’ management of Pentagon addresses happened in the obscure world of Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) — the messaging system that tells Internet companies how to route traffic across the world. There, messages began to arrive telling network administrators that IP addresses assigned to the Pentagon but long dormant could now accept traffic — but it should be routed to Global Resource Systems.

Network administrators began speculating about perhaps the most dramatic shift in IP address space allotment since BGP was introduced in the 1980s.

An answer, of sorts, came Friday.

The change is the handiwork of an elite Pentagon unit known as the Defense Digital Service, which reports directly to the secretary of defense. The DDS bills itself as a “SWAT team of nerds” tasked with solving emergency problems for the department and conducting experimental work to make big technological leaps for the military.

What is clear, however, is the Global Resource Systems announcements directed a fire hose of Internet traffic toward the Defense Department addresses. Madory said his monitoring showed the broad movements of Internet traffic began immediately after the IP addresses were announced Jan. 20.

The data may provide information about how malicious actors operate online and could reveal exploitable weaknesses in computer systems. In addition, several Chinese companies use network numbering systems that resemble the U.S. military’s IP addresses in their internal systems, Madory said. By announcing the address space through Global Resource Systems, that could cause some of that information to be routed to systems controlled by the U.S. military

 

 World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Navalny signals end to prison hunger strike after access to civilian doctors, Isabelle Khurshudyan, April 24, 2021 (print ed.). A post on Alexei Navalny’s Instagram account, which is maintained by allies, said the hunger strike was over after 24 days.

 

April 23

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Prisons, Police

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

 World News

 

Top Stories

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Live Updates: Biden Commits the U.S. to Halving Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030, Lisa Friedman, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden declared America “has resolved to take action” on climate change and called on world leaders to accelerate their own plans. Mr. Biden’s target calls for a rapid decline of fossil fuel use in virtually every economic sector, setting up a partisan fight over achieving it. The leaders of China and India made no new commitments. Watch live here.

President Biden on Thursday declared America “has resolved to take action” on climate change and called on world leaders to significantly accelerate their own plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk a disastrous collective failure to stop catastrophic climate change.

In a show of renewed commitment after four years of the Trump administration’s unvarnished climate denial, Mr. Biden formally pledged that the United States would cut its emissions at least in half from 2005 levels by 2030. Barely three months into Mr. Biden’s presidency, the contrast with his science-denying predecessor, Donald J. Trump, could not have been more striking.

“The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable and the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Mr. Biden said.

While the summit is an international one, Mr. Biden’s speech was also aimed at a domestic audience, focusing not just on America’s obligation to help cut its global emissions but on the jobs he believes are available in greening the U.S. economy.

“The countries that take decisive actions now” to tackle climate change, Mr. Biden said, “will be the ones that reap the clean energy benefits of the boom that’s coming.”

But one of Mr. Biden’s biggest political obstacles is international: Republicans say the United States should not be asked to sacrifice if the world’s largest emitters will swallow U.S. efforts in their pollution.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: For Biden’s Plan to Succeed, America Would Need Big Changes, Brad Plumer, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). Hitting President Biden’s targets could require a rapid shift to electric vehicles, the expansion of forests and new carbon-capture technology.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Biden Enlists Business World in Effort Against Climate Change, Coral Davenport, April 23, 2021. After making a bold promise to cut emissions, President Biden will close out his virtual climate summit with discussions on how to keep it. Business leaders including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg will take center stage on Day 2. Here’s the latest, with live video of the meeting.

After President Biden kicked off the first day of his climate change summit by declaring that the United States would cut its global warming emissions at least in half by the end of the decade, Day 2 of the virtual gathering on Friday will in large part focus on what it would take for America to meet that target.

pete buttigieg mayor south bend inIn short, it would take a substantial overhaul of current domestic policies, according to energy experts, who argue that the country would need to virtually eliminate its use of coal for electricity and jennifer granholm twitter1replace millions of gasoline-powered cars with electric vehicles.

So it is no surprise that the scheduled speakers on Friday include Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, left, and Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm, right, — each of whom head up cabinet agencies that will be critical in pushing through efforts by the executive branch to get the nation closer to those benchmarks.

Mr. Buttigieg is likely to highlight his agency’s plans to reinstate tough fuel economy standards on passenger vehicles, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse pollution. After the Trump administration rolled back those standards last year, domestic tailpipe pollution of greenhouse gases was projected to soar. Mr. Buttigieg, working jointly with the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to propose new regulations by July that would tamp down that pollution and force automakers to invest heavily in building and selling electric vehicles.

washington post logoWashington Post, As the voting-rights fight moves to Texas, defiant Republicans test the resolve of corporations that oppose restrictions, Amy Gardner, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). As the battle over a new Georgia law imposing identification requirements for mail ballots and other voting limits raged texas mapthis month, Republicans in Texas knew they would be next — and acted quickly to try to head off the swelling number of corporations that had begun to scrutinize even more restrictive proposals being considered there and around the country.

Greg Abbott CustomGov. Greg Abbott, left, angrily declined to throw the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opener, accusing Major League Baseball, which had announced plans to pull its All-Star Game from Atlanta, of buying into a “false narrative” about Georgia’s new law. The next day, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded to an early trickle of corporate statements denouncing the proposals under consideration in Austin, calling the critics, including Texas-based American Airlines and Dell Technologies, “a nest of liars.”

“Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy,” Patrick said in a separate statement.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Most Americans support greater scrutiny of police, poll finds, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, April 23, 2021 Atop a series of law enforcement killings in recent years, George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed appear to have shaken Americans’ confidence in police.

Six in 10 Americans say the country should do more to hold police accountable for mistreatment of Black people, far outpacing concerns about those measures interfering with how law enforcement does its job, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The nationwide survey also finds that concerns over treatment of Black Americans and other minorities by the criminal justice system ― which spiked last summer amid national protests after George Floyd’s killing ― have eased slightly since then. But those concerns remain at the highest point in previous surveys dating back to 1988.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Sunday through Wednesday, a period that overlaps with Tuesday’s conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin on three charges, including murder, in Floyd’s killing. While the event has the potential to shift attitudes, the poll found no significant differences between respondents interviewed before and after the verdict’s announcement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate committee to take up Biden judicial nominees in preview of potential Supreme Court fight, Ann E. Marimow and Paul Kane, April 23, 2021. The Senate Judiciary Committee will take its first look next week at President Biden’s initial batch of judicial nominees in what could serve as a preview of the next battle over the Supreme Court, with many Democrats hoping to soon have a vacancy on the high court that can be filled by a young, liberal justice.

ketanji brown jacksonDemocratic lawmakers are moving quickly to review Biden’s nominees to take advantage of their slim majority in the Senate and begin to remake the courts with judges from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. All five nominees under consideration next Wednesday are people of color, including two Black women nominated to federal appeals courts in Washington and Chicago, and us senate logoa former New Jersey prosecutor who would be the nation’s first Muslim American to serve on a federal trial court. In contrast, President Donald Trump’s picks were mostly white men.

The hearing featuring Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is up for the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, could be a preview of what she would face if she is eventually nominated for a potential vacancy on the Supreme Court.

richard blumenthal portraitMany senators are keeping an eye across the street, awaiting word whether Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 82, will step down . Democrats have not overtly pressured the court’s oldest justice to retire, but privately they are hopeful he will step aside for a younger liberal while the party retains a majority — one that could disappear in the 2022 midterms or through an untimely illness that relegates them to minority status.

“Justice Breyer has been a great justice and he recognizes, I am sure, the political reality of our having control of the Senate now. But elections always have risks, so hopefully he’s aware of that risk and he sees it accordingly,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), right, a Judiciary Committee member, said in an interview this week.

Biden’s first slate of judicial nominees aims to quickly boost diversity in federal courts

While discussions have been muted, Blumenthal said the president and Senate Democrats need to be ready to move as swiftly as Republicans did to fill openings at all levels of the judiciary. Trump, working with then Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), installed more than 200 judges, including three Supreme Court justices.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, India Scrambles to Supply Oxygen as Covid-19 Patients Gasp for Breath, Emily Schmall, April 23, 2021. The country’s Supreme Court ordered the government to come up with a national oxygen distribution plan as coronavirus cases continue to climb. India had over 330,000 new cases in 24 hours, the health ministry said Friday, the second consecutive day it has set a global record for daily infections.

india flag mapIndian hospitals and government leaders scrambled for supplies of oxygen and other emergency aid on Friday, as the country reported another record number of new coronavirus infections and a rising death toll that has strained the country’s resources.

India recorded more than 330,000 new cases in 24 hours, the health ministry said on Friday, the second consecutive day that the country has set a global record for daily infections. The reported death toll on Friday was more than 2,200, also a new high for the country.

About half of the cases in Delhi, the capital city of more than 20 million people, are testing positive for a more contagious variant of the virus, first detected last year in India, that is afflicting younger people, said a health ministry official, Sujeet Singh.

It is unclear to what extent the variant is driving the surge in cases around the country, with large gatherings of unmasked people and widespread neglect of preventive measures also suspected.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ravaged by Covid, Brazil Faces a Hunger Epidemic, Ernesto Londoño and Flávia Milhorance, Photographs by Victor Moriyama, April 23, 2021. Tens of millions of Brazilians are facing hunger or food insecurity as the country’s Covid-19 crisis drags on, killing thousands of people every day.

brazil flag wavingRail-thin teenagers hold placards at traffic stops with the word for hunger — fome — in large print. Children, many of whom have been out of school for over a year, beg for food outside supermarkets and restaurants. Entire families huddle in flimsy encampments on sidewalks, asking for baby formula, crackers, anything.

jair bolsonaro brazilA year into the pandemic, millions of Brazilians are going hungry.

The scenes, which have proliferated in the last months on Brazil’s streets, are stark evidence that President Jair Bolsonaro’s bet that he could protect the country’s economy by resisting public health policies intended to curb the virus has failed.

From the start of the outbreak, Brazil’s president, right, has been skeptical of the disease’s impact, and scorned the guidance of health experts, arguing that the economic damage wrought by the lockdowns, business closures and mobility restrictions they recommended would be a bigger threat than the pandemic to the country’s weak economy.

That trade-off led to one of the world’s highest death tolls, but also foundered in its goal — to keep the country afloat.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. lifts pause on use of J&J coronavirus vaccine, Lena H. Sun and Carolyn Y. Johnson,  April 23, 2021. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will come with a warning about a risk of rare blood clots in recipients. The move by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, which means vaccinations could resume as early as Saturday, followed a review by a CDC advisory panel.

cdc logo CustomFederal health officials lifted a temporary pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine Friday night after an extensive safety review by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

johnson johnson logoThe officials said the benefits of the single-shot vaccine far outweighed the risks from a rare and severe type of blood clot.

The decision to lift the pause allows state and local officials to resume giving the vaccine they have available on shelves, CDC officials said. The CDC and FDA will publish education and communication materials and updated patient fact sheets by early next week.

The agencies had paused use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week because of reports of six cases of blood clots among the millions of people who had received the vaccine in the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, 137.2 million vaccinated, as of April 23, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 51.4 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 41.3 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 23, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 145,463,353, Deaths: 3,088,359
U.S. Cases:     32,669,121, Deaths:    584,226
India Cases:    16,263,695, Deaths:    186,928
Brazil Cases:   14,172,139, Deaths:    383,757

 washington post logocdc logo CustomWashington Post, CDC advisers reconvene to weigh next steps on J&J vaccine after rare, serious blood clots, Lena H. Sun, April 23, 2021. If the United States lifts the pause on the vaccine's use with a warning added to the label, the position would be similar to one taken by Europe’s drug regulator.

  

U.S. Courts, Prisons, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Limits on Life Terms for Youths, Adam Liptak, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). The court, which has for years been cutting back on harsh punishments for juvenile offenders, changed course in a 6-to-3 decision.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that judges need not determine that juvenile offenders are beyond hope of rehabilitation before sentencing them to die in prison. The decision, concerning a teenager who killed his grandfather, appeared to signal the end of a trend that had limited the availability of severe punishments for youths who commit crimes before they turn 18.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 ruling, said it was enough that the sentencing judge exercised discretion rather than automatically imposing a sentence of life without parole.

“In a case involving an individual who was under 18 when he or she committed a homicide,” he wrote, “a state’s discretionary sentencing system is both constitutionally necessary and constitutionally sufficient.”

No specific finding concerning the defendant’s maturity or capacity for change was required, he wrote.

 The ruling drew a caustic dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who accused the majority of gutting two major precedents.

Over the past 16 years, the court, often led by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, methodically limited the availability of the harshest penalties for crimes committed by juveniles, first by striking down the juvenile death penalty and then by restricting sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

But Justice Kennedy retired in 2018, and the court, now dominated by six conservative members, does not seem to have enthusiasm for continuing his project.

Thursday’s decision, Jones v. Mississippi, No. 18-1259, concerned Brett Jones, who had recently turned 15 in 2004 when his grandfather discovered his girlfriend in his room. The two men argued and fought, and the youth, who had been making a sandwich, stabbed his grandfather eight times, killing him.

In 2005, Mr. Jones was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, then the mandatory penalty under state law. That same year, the Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons that the death penalty for juvenile offenders was unconstitutional.

In 2012, in Miller v. Alabama, the court extended the logic of the Roper decision to ban mandatory life-without-parole sentences like the one imposed on Mr. Jones. The decision repeatedly criticized mandatory sentences, suggesting that only ones in which judges could take account of the defendant’s age were permissible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Manhattan subway bomber sentenced to life in prison for 2017 attack inspired by ISIS, Shayna Jacobs, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). Akayed Ullah, 31, right, wanted to kill as akayed ullahmany Americans as possible, officials said, but would-be victims ­were spared because his explosive device malfunctioned. One person sustained a shrapnel wound, and two other victims were left with hearing damage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Evidence in Trump supporter’s trial suggests he espoused Nazi ideals, Shayna Jacobs, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). Brendan Hunt’s case, believed to be the first tied to the Jan. 6 insurrection, is seen as a test of how far free speech can go before it violates constitutional protections.

An impassioned supporter of former president Donald Trump, on trial for allegedly advocating the "slaughter" of influential Democrats after the U.S. Capitol riot, also espoused Nazi ideology and suggested to his father that Trump should override the election results and declare the United States a dictatorship as Adolf Hitler did in Germany generations ago, according to evidence presented by brendan huntfederal authorities in a Brooklyn courtroom Thursday.

Brendan Hunt, shown at right, that evidence suggests, was fixated on extremist ideas and conspiracy theories — including that Democrats falsely portrayed covid-19 as a deadly epidemic to gain political advantage over Trump — when on Jan. 8 he posted a video titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS: Slaughter them all.”

Hunt’s trial is believed to be the first related to the insurrection since the Justice Department opened its sweeping investigation into the attack and the domestic-extremist threats suspected of fueling the bid by hundreds of Trump supporters to prevent Congress from counting the electoral college votes affirming his defeat.

robert chapman

washington post logoWashington Post, He boasted on Bumble about storming Capitol, feds say. His would-be date turned him in: ‘We are not a match,’ Katie Shepherd, April 23, 2021 (print ed.).One week after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Robert Chapman sent a message to a prospective love interest on the dating app Bumble to brag that he had taken part.

“I did storm the capitol,” he said, according to court documents. “I made it all the way to Statuary Hall.”

His potential date wrote back: “We are not a match.” Then, the Bumble user contacted the police.

Thanks to the tip, Chapman was arrested by the FBI on Thursday and charged with trespassing at the U.S. Capitol and disrupting official government operations by allegedly participating in the deadly riot. Chapman (shown above in a photo provided by him and later the FBI) had also bragged on Facebook about being in the insurrection, the FBI said — and even changed his profile picture to a selfie in the riot.

The Carmel, N.Y., resident is one of hundreds facing criminal charges for forcing their way into the Capitol as part of a pro-Trump mob intending to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results.

He’s not the first accused of talking about his participation in the riot on a dating app. A little more than a week after the insurrection, apps including Bumble, Tinder and Match began banning users who shared images from the riot. Some online sleuths also swiped through the apps looking for people who said they had stormed the Capitol, documented the incriminating admissions and photos, and then forwarded the evidence to the FBI

 

More On Climate Change Summit

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Getting Real About Coal and Climate, Paul Krugman, right, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). A document from the United Mine Workers offers reason to hope. “Change is coming, whether paul krugmanwe seek it or not.” So declares a remarkable document titled “Preserving Coal Country,” released Monday by the United Mine Workers of America, in which the union — which at its peak represented half a million workers — accepts the reality that coal isn’t coming back. Instead, it argues, the goal should be “a true energy transition that will enhance opportunities for miners, their families and their communities.”

It’s good to see this kind of realism. Remember, back in 2016 Donald Trump promised that he would restore coal to its former greatness, reopening shuttered mines — and voters in coal country believed him. Many of them probably still imagine that something like that is possible.

The union, however, understands that it isn’t. What killed the mines wasn’t a “war on coal”; it was technological progress, first in the extraction of natural gas, then in solar and wind power. Generating electricity from coal would be economically unviable even if we didn’t have to worry about climate change.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: If the U.S. Leads on Climate, Will Other Countries Follow? David Leonhardt, right, April 23, 2021. As a matter of fact, yes. When I was last in China, in 2019, I met an entrepreneur david leonhardt thumbnamed Gao Jifan, who told me a story that I’ve been reflecting on during President Biden’s climate summit this week.

Back in the 1990s, Gao received a letter from an old friend who was living in the United States. The letter included a photo clipped from a newspaper, showing President Bill Clinton as he announced a plan to outfit one million homes with solar power.

China Flag“It was like a light bulb,” Gao recalled, as we were sitting in his office in Changzhou, about 100 miles northwest of Shanghai. Clinton’s initiative caused Gao — a chemist by training — to think that he should start a company to meet the coming demand for solar equipment. That company, Trina Solar, has since made Gao a billionaire.

For the inspiration, Gao is grateful to the U.S. But he is also befuddled by the American approach to climate change.

“There is really conflicting policy,” he said. He rattled off the names of recent presidents — Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump — and moved his hand back and forth, to describe the sharp policy changes from one to the next. Those changes, he added, had hurt the solar industry and other clean-energy efforts: If the U.S. took a more consistent approach, the global struggle to slow climate change would be easier.

After making a bold promise to cut emissions, President Biden will close out his virtual climate summit with discussions on how to keep it. Business leaders including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg will take center stage on Day 2. Here’s the latest, with live video of the meeting.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats pass D.C. statehood, launching bill into uncharted territory, Meagan Flynn, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). For the second time in history, the House passed legislation Thursday to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state, bolstering momentum for a once-illusory goal that has become a pivotal tenet of the Democratic Party’s voting rights platform.

eleanor holmes nortonDemocrats unanimously approved Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act, describing it as a bid to restore equal citizenship to the residents of the nation’s capital and rectify a historic injustice.

democratic donkey logoNorton (D-D.C.) told colleagues before the 216-to-208 party-line vote that they had a “moral obligation” to pass the bill. “This Congress, with Democrats controlling the House, the Senate and the White House, D.C. statehood is within reach for the first time in history,” she said.

The bill, symbolically titled H.R. 51, now heads to the Senate, where proponents hope to break new ground — including a first-ever hearing in that chamber. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pledged Tuesday that “we will try to work a path to get [statehood] done,” and the White House asked Congress in a policy statement to pass the legislation as swiftly as possible.

But the political odds remain formidable, with the Senate filibuster requiring the support of 60 senators to advance legislation. Republicans, who hold 50 seats, have branded the bill as a Democratic power grab because it would create two Senate seats for the deep-blue city. Not even all Senate Democrats have backed the bill as the clock ticks toward the 2022 midterm election.

Still, the unprecedented support from Democrats nationwide, including in the White House, has energized supporters.

“We have a moment before us that has never existed for the statehood movement,” said Josh Burch, co-founder of Neighbors United for DC Statehood. “We can pat ourselves on the back and celebrate the House vote, and we should. But really that needs to be short-lived, because we have a lot of work to make this a reality in the next year and a half.”

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

The House passed the statehood bill for the first time last year, also without any Republican votes. Since then, sustained racial justice demonstrations and a broad focus on voting rights in the aftermath of the 2020 election have elevated the cause. Bringing their advocacy as far as Arizona and Alaska, groups such as 51 for 51 and Indivisible have described a city of second-class citizens, a plurality of whom are Black, living in the nation’s capital without any say in the nation’s laws. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate GOP unveils $568 billion counterproposal on infrastructure, Tony Romm and Jeff Stein, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). The package is significantly smaller than President Biden’s republican elephant logoroughly $2 trillion blueprint and doesn’t raise the corporate tax rate.Senate Republicans on Thursday offered an early counterproposal in the nascent Washington debate over improving the country’s aging infrastructure, endorsing roughly $568 billion in us senate logonew spending that could be financed through higher fees on some drivers.

The package marked a significant departure from the roughly $2 trillion blueprint put forward by President Biden in the past month. The GOP plan drew sharp criticism from some congressional Democrats, who said it was too small, illustrating the persistent gaps between the parties over the nation’s infrastructure needs and the means by which the government should pay to address them.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House signals cool reception to Senate Republicans’ calls to trade spending cuts for debt ceiling increase, Tony Romm, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans issued their aspirational policy stance on Wednesday after largely backing away from deficit worries during the Trump administration.

The White House on Thursday signaled little appetite for Senate Republicans’ early insistence that Congress should couple an increase in the country’s debt ceiling with corresponding spending cuts, hoping to ward off a major political showdown entering the summer.

A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said President Biden “fully expects that Congress will meet its obligations as it did on a bipartisan basis three times during the Trump Administration and amend the debt limit law as needed.”

The early warning comes a day after Senate Republicans gathered to adopt their conference’s guiding rules for this session of Congress. Unanimously, the GOP members agreed to a nonbinding yet symbolic statement that they would not raise the debt ceiling unless lawmakers also cut by a similar amount or made other structural changes to government programs.

rick scott blue shirt fileSenate Republicans agreed to stake the position at the request of Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), left, who regularly has joined other Republicans in blasting Biden and his Democratic allies for seeking major spending increases, including as part of $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

The debt ceiling is the amount of money the U.S. government can borrow to finance its obligations. Congress suspended the limit through June 2021, at which point lawmakers must vote to suspend it again or raise the amount — or eventually risk an unprecedented default that would carry catastrophic consequences for the global economy.

Under Trump, Republican lawmakers did not demand spending cuts as they raised the debt ceiling several times, even as the former president shelled out massive sums to fund his priorities, including the military. But the GOP historically has sought to use the debt as leverage in political fights against Democrats, at one point putting the country at risk of default under former president Barack Obama to secure a decade of caps on domestic spending.  

ICE logo

Roll Call, Texas wants migrant kids expelled or detained in new suit, Suzanne Monyak, April 23, 2021. The state teamed with Stephen Miller's group in legal challenge against the Biden administration's immigration policies.

Texas teamed up with a group created by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller to launch its latest attack against the Biden administration’s immigration policies, asking a federal court to require all migrants at the border to be turned away or detained, including children arriving alone.

The new lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenges the administration’s decision to exempt unaccompanied children from a public health directive called Title 42. First issued at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the directive allows border officers to rapidly “expel” migrants who cross the border without first considering their claims for protection.

The Biden administration has kept in place that order, but decided against applying it to children who arrive without their parents. The federal government has also been limited in its ability to expel families with young children under the order by Mexico’s refusal to accept them.

Texas claims that certain migrants not expelled under the order must be detained — at least for 14 days — if they may have a “communicable disease of public health significance.” Instead, the government is quickly releasing most families picked up at the border, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

The Biden administration’s decision against using Title 42 on all migrants “results in the release of aliens into Texas — threatening the health and safety of all Texans,” the state claims. Texas also alleges the increase in migrants to the U.S. will force the state to incur “significant health care and related economic costs.”

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden, the World Needs Your Help to End the Pandemic, Michelle Goldberg, right, April 23, 2021. The president should keep his promise on vaccine patents. Last July, during the michelle goldberg thumbpresidential campaign, Joe Biden promised the universal health care advocate Ady Barkan that he wouldn’t let intellectual property laws stand in the way of worldwide access to coronavirus vaccines.

“The World Health Organization is leading an unprecedented global effort to promote international cooperation in the search for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines,” said Barkan. “But Donald Trump has refused to join that effort, cutting America off from the rest of the world. If the U.S. discovers a vaccine first, will you commit to sharing that technology with other countries, and will you ensure there are no patents to stand in the way of other countries and companies mass-producing those lifesaving vaccines?”

Biden was unequivocal. “It lacks any human dignity, what we’re doing,” he said of Trump’s vaccine isolationism. “So the answer is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. And it’s not only a good thing to do, it’s overwhelmingly in our interest to do.”

Yet now that Biden is in power, his perception of our interest doesn’t seem quite so clear. Last year, India and South Africa requested a waiver from World Trade Organization rules governing intellectual property for technology dealing with the pandemic. Dozens of mostly developing countries have since joined them. A handful of rich nations, including the United States, oppose the waiver, but there’s a widespread belief that if America changes its position, other countries will follow. Much of the world is waiting to see what Biden does.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and a vaccine expert, isn’t against lifting the waiver, but thinks intellectual property isn’t the most important barrier to expanding vaccine access.

“It is an issue, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of the list,” he said. “Even if you were to liberalize all the patent restrictions completely tomorrow, it wouldn’t make a difference for this pandemic, I don’t think. And the reason is because the biggest problem is the technical know-how.” He argues that giving countries the formula for the vaccines won’t be enough if there isn’t a work force trained to make them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Navalny signals end to prison hunger strike after access to civilian doctors, Isabelle Khurshudyan, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). A post on Alexei Navalny’s Instagram account, which is maintained by allies, said the hunger strike was over after 24 days.

washington post logoWashington Post, Indonesian submarine missing with 53 aboard will run out of oxygen by Saturday, authorities say, Jennifer Hassan, Siobhán O'Grady and Antonia Noori Farzan, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). The submarine was conducting a training exercise when it disappeared in the waters north of Bali, an Indonesian island, early Wednesday. Rescuers found an oil spill while searching for the vessel, which could have been a signal from the crew or an indication of equipment failure.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Inside Story of How the Super League Fell Apart, Tariq Panja and Rory Smith, April 23, 2021 (print ed.). Frantic phone calls, secret meetings and high-stakes threats: Here’s how the billion-dollar soccer league was born, and then collapsed, in less than a week.

 

Media News, Commentary

Daily Howler, Opinion: Methods of misinforming the public!  Bob Somerby, April 23, 2021. In search of division and fear: We watched snatches of CNN for four hours last evening. We started with Wolf Blitzer in the 6 P.M. Eastern hour and continued along from there. It's very hard to find the words to describe what we saw.

On the one hand, what we saw was grossly "irresponsible." But what we saw on CNN went several light-years past that.

daily howler headlineIn fairness, we only watched Anderson Cooper for a matter of moments. When he affected the familiar low voice designed to tell us how much he cares, we quickly flipped away and ventured over to to Fox.

At that destination, Tucker Carlson spent his first ten minutes playing tape of lunatic statements people have made on MSNBC in the past few days.

Eventually, we hope to post examples of those statements. For today, we want to start with something we saw on CNN last evening during the 7 P.M. hour.

Last night, as we watched OutFront, we saw a model of the way people can get misinformed. Beyond that, we saw a model of the way people can get very scared.

By now, the official Storyline is strongly in place. Everyone knows what it is. For the record, it's hardy surprising to hear that someone was shot and killed by police officers on the day after the Chauvin verdict.

CNNA CNN viewer might have gotten the impression that that fact was surprising. For better or worse, it isn't surprising. It doesn't even come close.

For better or worse, here are the facts. CNN, which works from emotion and human interest, rarely bothers reporting such facts:

Over the course of the past seven years, roughly three people per day have been shot and killed by police officers across the United States. We refer to the data compiled by the Washington Post's award-winning, but declining, Fatal Force web site.

At present, corporate entities like CNN are pursuing their corporate profits by discussing only one class of decedents in these fatal shootings. This is astoundingly incompetent and irresponsible journalistic behavior. But in the course of this corporate behavior, a lot of people are left extremely fearful—and may become extremely underinformed.

According to the Fatal Force site, eight people have been shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota so far this year. Below, we're going to say their names. Among those eight names, you've heard exactly one:

You've heard the name of one decedent. That one decedent was "black." According to Fatal Force (and a bit of further research), the other seven were all "white." You haven't been told about them.

Last year, only eight people were shot and killed throughout the course of the year. None of these names has ever been mentioned by CNN at all: According to Fatal Force, only the late Dolal Idd was "black." The other seven decedents were all "white."

The Coopers, the Cuomos, the Burnetts and the Blitzers are all sunk in the sin of this game. We could barely believe the conduct we saw last night, over and over again.

Put another way, CNN is an entertainment / propaganda / profit-seeking entity. It's barely a news org at all.

ny times logoNew York Times, West Point Scraps Second-Chance Program After Major Cheating Scandal, Ed Shanahan, April 16, 2021. Some graduates criticized the program as too lenient after the U.S. Military Academy disclosed its biggest academic scandal in decades.

Responding to its worst academic scandal in decades, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point will scrap a program that provided a second chance to cadets who violated the honor code that is central to its mission, officials said on Friday.

The program, which the academy adopted in 2015, was sharply criticized by some West Point graduates in December after officials disclosed that 73 cadets had been accused of cheating on a calculus exam last spring.

The program’s critics said it reflected an approach that was too lenient for dealing with infractions of West Point’s honor code — “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do” — like the ones at issue in the cheating scandal.

On Friday, West Point officials said in a statement that the program had “not met its intended purpose” of increasing the self-reporting of honor code violations and reducing cadets’ tolerance for them. As a result, the statement said, being expelled will now be “a potential punishment for any honor violation.”

 

April 22

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Investigations

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Prisons, Police

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

  

 World News

 

U.S. Media News 

 

Top Stories

joe biden black background resized serious file

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Climate Summit Updates: Biden convenes world leaders to tackle climate change, John Wagner, April 22, 2021. Xi reiterates China’s pledge to ‘peak’ emissions by 2030, go carbon neutral before 2060; U.N. chief: ‘We are at the verge of the abyss’; Boris Johnson says combating climate change not just about ‘bunny hugging.’

President Biden called combating climate change “a moral imperative” as he convened a two-day virtual summit of dozens of world leaders with the aim of putting the United States back at the forefront of the global issue after a retrenchment under President Donald Trump.

“This is a moral imperative, an economic imperative, a moment of peril but also a moment of extraordinary possibilities,” Biden said from the boris johnson tieWhite House. “Time is short, but I believe we can do this.”

Participants in the summit were expected to include Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among many others.

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Live Updates: Biden Commits the U.S. to Halving Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030, Lisa Friedman, April 22, 2021. President Biden declared America “has resolved to take action” on climate change and called on world leaders to accelerate their own plans. Mr. Biden’s target calls for a rapid decline of fossil fuel use in virtually every economic sector, setting up a partisan fight over achieving it. The leaders of China and India made no new commitments. Watch live here.

President Biden on Thursday declared America “has resolved to take action” on climate change and called on world leaders to significantly accelerate their own plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk a disastrous collective failure to stop catastrophic climate change.

In a show of renewed commitment after four years of the Trump administration’s unvarnished climate denial, Mr. Biden formally pledged that the United States would cut its emissions at least in half from 2005 levels by 2030. Barely three months into Mr. Biden’s presidency, the contrast with his science-denying predecessor, Donald J. Trump, could not have been more striking.

“The signs are unmistakable, the science is undeniable and the cost of inaction keeps mounting,” Mr. Biden said.

While the summit is an international one, Mr. Biden’s speech was also aimed at a domestic audience, focusing not just on America’s obligation to help cut its global emissions but on the jobs he believes are available in greening the U.S. economy.

“The countries that take decisive actions now” to tackle climate change, Mr. Biden said, “will be the ones that reap the clean energy benefits of the boom that’s coming.”

But one of Mr. Biden’s biggest political obstacles is international: Republicans say the United States should not be asked to sacrifice if the world’s largest emitters will swallow U.S. efforts in their pollution.

ny times logoNew York Times, The U.S. Has a New Climate Goal. How Does It Stack Up Globally? Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, Updated April 22, 2021. President Biden’s pledge to cut emissions at least 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 is one of the more aggressive targets among advanced economies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Change Could Cut World Economy by $23 Trillion in 2050, Christopher Flavelle, April 22, 2021. Rising temperatures are likely to reduce global wealth as crop yields fall and rising seas consume cities, a major insurance company warned.

The effects of climate change can be expected to shave 11 percent to 14 percent off global economic output by 2050 compared with growth levels without climate change, according to a report from Swiss Re, one of the world’s largest providers of insurance to other insurance companies. That amounts to as much as $23 trillion in reduced annual global economic output worldwide as a result of climate change.

Some Asian nations could have one-third less wealth than would otherwise be the case, the company said. “Our analysis shows the potential costs that economies could face should governments fail to act more decisively on climate,” said Patrick Saner, who is in charge of global macroeconomic forecasts for Swiss Re

washington post logoWashington Post, As the voting-rights fight moves to Texas, defiant Republicans test the resolve of corporations that oppose restrictions, Amy Gardner, April 22, 2021. As the battle over a new Georgia law imposing identification requirements for mail ballots and other voting limits raged texas mapthis month, Republicans in Texas knew they would be next — and acted quickly to try to head off the swelling number of corporations that had begun to scrutinize even more restrictive proposals being considered there and around the country.

Greg Abbott CustomGov. Greg Abbott, left, angrily declined to throw the first pitch at the Texas Rangers’ home opener, accusing Major League Baseball, which had announced plans to pull its All-Star Game from Atlanta, of buying into a “false narrative” about Georgia’s new law. The next day, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded to an early trickle of corporate statements denouncing the proposals under consideration in Austin, calling the critics, including Texas-based American Airlines and Dell Technologies, “a nest of liars.”

“Texans are fed up with corporations that don’t share our values trying to dictate public policy,” Patrick said in a separate statement

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. sees unprecedented drop in vaccinations over past week, Dan Keating, Fenit Nirappil and Isaac Stanley-Becker, April 22, 2021 (print ed.). Vaccinations declined 11 percent, the most significant downturn in the seven-day average since February storms.

Daily coronavirus vaccinations have slowed significantly for the first time since February, a sign that demand is slipping even though every American adult is now eligible for the shots.

About 3 million Americans are getting vaccinated daily, an 11 percent decrease in the seven-day average of daily shots administered over the past week. The unprecedented drop is rivaled only by a brief falloff that occurred in February, when winter storms forced the closure of vaccination sites and delayed shipments nationwide.

The downturn hits as half of all eligible Americans have received at least one vaccine dose. And it coincided with the pause last week of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is under review by a panel of experts following a handful of cases of severe blood clotting.

Softening demand also appears to be a factor: Scores of counties from Iowa to Texas have begun to decline vaccine shipments, highlighting issues of hesitancy and barriers to health care that may hamper efforts to reach the levels of protection needed to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

Officials say they need to ramp up efforts to vaccinate hard-to-reach groups such as rural residents and homebound seniors, answer pointed questions from people leery of side effects and convince young people who don’t fear the virus that they, too, benefit from getting vaccinated.

“This will be much more of an intense ground game where we have to focus on smaller events more tailored to address the needs and concerns of focused communities who have different sensitivities and different needs,” said Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

President Biden on Wednesday sought to remove one significant barrier to shots, promising tax credits for employers that give their workers paid time off to receive and recover from inoculations.

“The time is now to open up a new phase of this historic vaccination effort,” Biden said. “To put it simply, if you’ve been waiting for your turn, wait no longer.”

washington post logoWashington Post, India announces the most daily new infections in history of the pandemic with nearly 315,000, Erin Cunningham, April 22, india flag map2021. India on Thursday recorded the world’s highest number of new coronavirus infections in a 24-hour period since the beginning of the pandemic, reporting a staggering 314,835 cases, as a surge tears through communities and inundates the nation’s hospital infrastructure.

The single-day case count surpasses a previous record set by the United States, when more than 313,000 infections were reported on Jan. 8, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

The massive outbreak in India has been blamed on more contagious variants of the virus, as well as an early relaxation of restrictions and a slow-moving vaccination campaign. In other news:

  • E.U. is considering ‘all options’ in battle with AstraZeneca over vaccine shortfalls
  • China says it has administered 200 million coronavirus vaccine doses
  • Virginia’s largest school district envisions a pre-pandemic normal fall — as much as possibl

 

More On Virus Victims, Response

washington post logoWashington Post, 547,000 Americans filed jobless claims, a new pandemic low, Taylor Telford, April 22, 2021 The lower-than-expected tally fueled hopes that the economy was rebounding as vaccinations picked up and stimulus continued to reach U.S. households.

Americans filed 547,000 first-time unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, hitting a pandemic low for the second week in a row as the recovery gains steam.

us labor department logoLast week’s surprise report, which recorded 586,000 revised initial claims, coupled with news that March retail sales had notched one of the largest jumps on record, fueled hopes that the economy was rebounding as vaccinations picked up and stimulus continued to hit American bank accounts.

Last week, an additional 133,319 Americans filed claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for gig and self-employed workers.

Poverty rose to 11.7 percent in March, its highest level of the pandemic, according to research from the University of Chicago and University of Notre Dame, as Americans awaited the next round of stimulus relief. Children, non-minorities and women were hit the hardest by the spike, researchers said.

fda logo

johnson johnson logowashington post logoWashington Post, FDA finds multiple failings at Baltimore plant that ruined 15 million J&J vaccine doses, Christopher Rowland, April 22, 2021 (print ed.). Vaccine production at the Emergent BioSolutions plant was shut down earlier this month after 15 million doses of raw Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine were contaminated by ingredients from AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

washington post logoWashington Post, 135.8 million vaccinated, as of April 22, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 50.8 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 40.9 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 22, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 144,588,553, Deaths: 3,075,018
U.S. Cases:     32,602,051, Deaths:   583,330
India Cases:     15,930,965, Deaths:   184,672
Brazil Cases:    14,122,795, Deaths:   381,687

 

U.S. Investigations

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Noted Insurrectionist to Seek Purple State Governorship, Seth Abramson, April 22, 2021. Charles Herbster attended Team Trump's Insurrection Eve "war council" at Trump International Hotel, then lied about it to the media. Now he seeks executive power.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation suppressed by Trump administration uncovers obstacles to Puerto Rico hurricane aid, Tracy Jan and Lisa Rein, April 22, 2021. A watchdog report uncovers bureaucratic hurdles the administration erected for the island to receive aid after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The Trump administration put up bureaucratic obstacles that stalled approximately $20 billion in hurricane relief for Puerto Rico and then obstructed an investigation into the holdup, according to an inspector general report obtained by The Washington Post.

Congress requested the investigation into the delays to recovery aid for Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 left residents of the U.S. territory without power and clean water for months. But, the report said, former Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson and another former HUD official declined to be interviewed by investigators during the course of the 2019 examination.

Access to HUD information was delayed or denied on several occasions. Several former senior administration officials in the Office of Management and Budget refused to provide requested information about decision-making related to the Puerto Rico relief funds.

Project On Government Oversight (POGO), Pulling Punches: Trump-Appointed Watchdog Suppresses White House-related Probes, Nick Swellerbach and Adam Zagorin, April 22, 2021. POGO just released an investigation this week into the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) top watchdog and it’s already making waves.

pogo logo squareAs highlighted in the Washington Post, POGO revealed that in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election, the inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security killed two investigations regarding the Secret Service before they could even begin.

After police murdered George Floyd last summer, then-President Donald Trump walked through Lafayette Square, where he staged a photo op in response to Black Lives Matter protests. To dispel the protestors, law enforcement used chemical agents and rubber pellet grenades, despite having cleared the square many times before without the use of force. secret service logoAnd now, it seems the investigation into this excessive use of force was stopped. Read POGO’s investigation to learn about who stopped this investigation in its tracks.

us dhs big eagle logo4That same inspector general of DHS later chose not to investigate the Secret Service’s COVID-19 policy despite dozens of agents’ contracting the virus after accompanying Trump and then-VicePresident Mike Pence to campaign events in August 2020. Why pause an investigation that was meant to preserve the health of agents dedicated to protecting the highest office in the country? An internal agency document says the pause was to “narrow the scope” of the investigation.

The question we’re asking: How nonpartisan can an inspector general be if he paused two investigations that would be politically unfavorable to a president during an election year?

Moments like these are the reason we have inspectors general: the public relies on them to be impartial watchdogs protecting the integrity of government and the interests of the public. And POGO’s own director of public policy, Liz Hempowicz testified on this issue in Congress this week. POGO is pushing for Congress to enact legislation to increase IG independence from political actors so that these watchdogs can do their jobs in a nonpartisan way—driven by facts; not someone’s political agenda.

Read our investigation to learn more.

Danielle Brian, POGO Executive Director

___________________ 

In the months leading up to the 2020 election, the Department of Homeland Security’s top watchdog, appointed by then-President Donald Trump, quashed a pair of investigations involving the Secret Service that had been recommended by the agency’s career staff, according to multiple federal sources and records reviewed by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

One of the inquiries would have scrutinized the Secret Service’s controversial use of force in and around Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square last June against people protesting the killing of George seth abramson proof logoFloyd. The aggressive removal of demonstrators by the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies led to injuries, which immediately preceded Trump’s photo op at a church across the square where he brandished a Bible upside down.

A second proposed inquiry would have examined Secret Service policies for handling the threat of COVID-19 to agents protecting high-level officials including the president.
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As a result of Inspector General Joseph Cuffari’s decision not to probe the chaotic Lafayette Square episode, a variety of unanswered questions remain surrounding the Secret Service’s adherence to its own use-of-force and related policies. Because Cuffari blocked the proposed review, it’s unclear if a full picture will ever emerge of who was in charge or what happened inside the Secret Service’s Joint Operation Center, which normally plays a key coordination role when protestors are cleared from Lafayette Square and its environs.

While not the aim of the probe, an investigation could have shed light on a central point that remains in dispute: Trump administration officials have contended that clearing protestors just coincidentally happened right before the photo op. Many critics find that implausible.

Yet the Secret Service was deeply involved in both events. Moreover, the White House staffer who organized Trump’s photo op was top Secret Service official Anthony Ornato who, in a reportedly unprecedented arrangement, was on leave at the time to serve as White House deputy chief of staff for operations. It remains unclear whether Ornato’s role in the events of Lafayette Square ever came under scrutiny. (Ornato has since returned to the Secret Service, where he now directs the agency’s training efforts.)

Ornato also coordinated campaign logistics for Trump, then-Vice President Mike Pence, and others at political events, some of which became COVID-19 super-spreaders, infecting agents and others. Cuffari’s sidelining of his agency’s proposed review of Secret Service COVID-19 policies avoided any potential examination of his role and why so many agents, not to mention Trump, contracted the illness. At one point, more than 130 agents, or about 10% of the agency’s core security personnel, were ordered to isolate or quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the Washington Post, which first reported the extent of the spread.

A Secret Service spokesperson would not comment to POGO, other than to say that the agency has been following all Centers for Disease Control and other appropriate protocols.

An investigation would also likely have examined Secret Service protocols last October when Trump, presumably still contagious with COVID-19, ignored medical advice and rode around waving to supporters from a presidential SUV as Secret Service agents were sealed inside with him.

“Any potential criticism of the administration or the White House likely was a factor in Cuffari’s decisions and helped determine what work the agency would and would not be permitted to take on,” said a federal official in the government oversight community familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, White House signals cool reception to Senate Republicans’ calls to trade spending cuts for debt ceiling increase, Tony Romm, April 22, 2021. Senate Republicans issued their aspirational policy stance on Wednesday after largely backing away from deficit worries during the Trump administration.

The White House on Thursday signaled little appetite for Senate Republicans’ early insistence that Congress should couple an increase in the country’s debt ceiling with corresponding spending cuts, hoping to ward off a major political showdown entering the summer.

A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said President Biden “fully expects that Congress will meet its obligations as it did on a bipartisan basis three times during the Trump Administration and amend the debt limit law as needed.”

The early warning comes a day after Senate Republicans gathered to adopt their conference’s guiding rules for this session of Congress. Unanimously, the GOP members agreed to a nonbinding yet symbolic statement that they would not raise the debt ceiling unless lawmakers also cut by a similar amount or made other structural changes to government programs.

rick scott blue shirt fileSenate Republicans agreed to stake the position at the request of Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), left, who regularly has joined other Republicans in blasting Biden and his Democratic allies for seeking major spending increases, including as part of $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

The debt ceiling is the amount of money the U.S. government can borrow to finance its obligations. Congress suspended the limit through June 2021, at which point lawmakers must vote to suspend it again or raise the amount — or eventually risk an unprecedented default that would carry catastrophic consequences for the global economy.

Under Trump, Republican lawmakers did not demand spending cuts as they raised the debt ceiling several times, even as the former president shelled out massive sums to fund his priorities, including the military. But the GOP historically has sought to use the debt as leverage in political fights against Democrats, at one point putting the country at risk of default under former president Barack Obama to secure a decade of caps on domestic spending.

washington post logous mail logoWashington Post, Biden nominated three people to fix USPS. Here’s how the Postal Service’s leadership works, Jacob Bogage, April 22, 2021 (print ed.). Confirmation hearings beginning this week could shift the balance of power on the governing board that oversees Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. President Biden’s three nominees for the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board face their confirmation hearing Thursday before a Senate committee. Here’s what you need to know about the hearing, and what the Postal Service’s bipartisan governing board means for your mail.

washington post logoWashington Post, In confirmation hearing, Nelson backs Trump’s 2024 goal for return to moon, Christian Davenport and Cat Zakrzewski, Jacob Bogage Former senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.),bill nelson right, President Biden’s pick to be NASA administrator, said the ambitious moon program transcends politics and “has to be continued, regardless of who’s in the majority, of who’s in the presidency.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, Cybersecurity Analysis: The Biden administration faces a new wave of hacks compromising dozens of government agencies, Aaron Schaffer, April 22, 2021 (print ed.). The attack from a sophisticated China-linked group is ongoing, according to a private firm working with the federal government.

omb logo management and budget seal CustomA sophisticated China-linked hacking group infiltrated dozens of U.S. government agencies, defense contractors, financial institutions and other critical sectors, according to a private firm working with the federal government. The intrusions are ongoing, FireEye said, and exploit weaknesses in popular Pulse Secure virtual private networks.

At least a dozen U.S. government agencies have or recently had contracts for the software, according to a Washington Post review. The Department of Homeland Security has ordered government agencies to report back by Friday on their use of the software and whether they were breached.

The hack is just the latest in a string of high-profile software breaches hitting victims in the United States.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden picks a NOAA chief, looking to end the agency’s long stretch without a leader, Christopher Flavelle, April 22, 2021 President Biden said he would nominate Rick Spinrad, a professor of oceanography at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

President Biden on Thursday announced he would nominate Rick Spinrad, a professor of oceanography at Oregon State University, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the country’s premier climate science agency.

The announcement potentially marks a new chapter for NOAA, which was at times a source of tension for former President Donald J. Trump, who publicly sparred with the agency’s scientists and was unable to get any of his nominees to lead it confirmed by the Senate. NOAA has been without a Senate-confirmed leader for the longest period since it was created in 1970.

In 2019, Mick Mulvaney, who was Mr. Trump’s acting White House chief of staff at the time, pushed NOAA to disavow statements by its weather forecasters that contradicted what the president had said about the path of Hurricane Dorian. Last year, the administration removed NOAA’s chief scientist from his role and installed people who questioned the science of climate change in senior roles at the agency.

Dr. Spinrad is a former chief scientist at NOAA, where he also led the agency’s research office and the National Ocean Service. The timing of Mr. Biden’s announcement was notable — on Earth Day amid a two-day climate summit in which he committed the United States to cutting emissions by half by the end of the decade.

 

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration sidelined experts in writing car pollution rules, watchdog finds, Dino Grandoni, April 22, 2021 (print ed.). The EPA inspector general’s report may give the Biden administration more reason to tighten mileage and greenhouse gas standards for new cars as part of a broader effort to phase out internal-combustion engines and slash emissions.

The Trump administration sidelined career staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency when weakening pollution rules for new passenger vehicles, according to a federal watchdog report.

The EPA’s inspector general found top political leaders at the agency failed to properly document and consider the concerns of staff experts while unwinding standards for tailpipe emissions set under President Barack Obama.

The report, released Tuesday, may provide fresh fodder for the Biden administration to tighten mileage and greenhouse gas standards for new automobiles as part of a broader effort to phase out internal-combustion engines and drastically cut the nation’s climate-warming emissions.

President Biden’s team is in the midst of negotiations with carmakers, autoworkers and environmentalists for new pollution standards for new vehicles, aiming to protect factory jobs and cut emissions. The industry wants generous government incentives for producing cleaner cars, while labor leaders want to stave off job losses during the transition to electric vehicles.
The Trump administration sidelined career staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency when weakening pollution rules for new passenger vehicles, according to a federal watchdog report.

The EPA’s inspector general found top political leaders at the agency failed to properly document and consider the concerns of staff experts while unwinding standards for tailpipe emissions set under President Barack Obama.

The report, released Tuesday, may provide fresh fodder for the Biden administration to tighten mileage and greenhouse gas standards for new automobiles as part of a broader effort to phase out internal-combustion engines and drastically cut the nation’s climate-warming emissions.

President Biden’s team is in the midst of negotiations with carmakers, autoworkers and environmentalists for new pollution standards for new vehicles, aiming to protect factory jobs and cut emissions. The industry wants generous government incentives for producing cleaner cars, while labor leaders want to stave off job losses during the transition to electric vehicles

djt hands up mouth open CustomKOB 4, City of Albuquerque refers Trump campaign bill to collection agency, Joy Wang, April 22, 2021. The city is seeking approximately $200,000 following the president's rally in Rio Rancho in 2019. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said the bill covers security costs that stem from the former president staying in a downtown Albuquerque hotel overnight.

The security cost include blocking off parts of downtown, paying police officers overtime and covering the paid time off expenses of city workers who had to stay home.

 

U.S. Courts, Prisons, Crime

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washington post logoWashington Post, Inmates sent home amid pandemic may have to return under Trump-era policy, Justin Wm. Moyer and Neena Satija, April 22, 2021 (print ed.). Thousands of federal inmates serving their sentences at home under supervision during the coronavirus pandemic might have to return to prison when the pandemic ends, according to a Justice Department memo issued during the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Advocates and dozens of lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to rescind the memo, which affects some 4,500 inmates who last year were allowed to finish their sentences under home confinement. The Federal Bureau of Prisons sent them home under authority it was granted by Congress to help curb the spread of the coronavirus in federal prisons.

The inmates transferred to home confinement — all of whom were deemed “low risk” by BOP officials, and many of whom are elderly and in poor health — left prison last spring as the coronavirus tore through the federal prison system, eventually killing 233 inmates and four staff members, according to agency figures.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in an email that President Biden “is committed to reducing incarceration and helping people to reenter society,” but referred questions about the memo to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Gwen Levi, 75, is one of the inmates trying to stay out of federal prison. She was sent to home confinement in June after serving 16 years of a 24-year sentence for conspiracy to sell at least one kilogram of heroin. She lives in Baltimore with her 94-year-old mother and volunteers at prisoner advocacy organizations, hoping to get a paying job if one comes along.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday, BOP Director Michael Carvajal said it’s unlikely any of the 4,500 people in home confinement due to the pandemic will return to prison soon because Biden extended a national coronavirus emergency. However, when the emergency ends, Congress “didn’t specify what to do with them,” he said.

Of 152,000 people in Bureau of Prisons custody, about 138,000 are serving time in institutions with prisonlike restrictions. That leaves the federal prison population at its lowest level in two decades.

nancy pelosi chuck schumer cropped jan 8 2019 screengrab

ny times logoNew York Times, He Said to ‘Kill Your Senators’ in an Online Video. Now He’s on Trial, Nicole Hong, April 22, 2021 (print ed.). The trial of Brendan Hunt, an avid Trump backer and New York City resident, will be one of the justice system’s first attempts to grapple with the events of Jan. 6.

Two days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, a 37-year-old man living in New York City posted a video online entitled “KILL YOUR SENATORS.”

brendan huntThe man, Brendan Hunt, right, was not in Washington on Jan. 6. But in the 88-second video, he said that “we need to go back to the U.S. Capitol” ahead of President Biden’s inauguration and “slaughter” members of Congress, according to the criminal complaint.

“If anybody has a gun, give me it,” he said. “I’ll go there myself and shoot them and kill them.”

Now, the question of whether the video and three other social media posts by Mr. Hunt crossed the line from free speech into illegal threats is at the heart of a federal trial starting this week in Brooklyn

This is the first federal trial in the country that will force jurors to grapple deeply with the events of Jan. 6, diving headfirst into the national debate about how much the government should police violent rhetoric in the wake of the Capitol attack.

Justice Department log circularMr. Hunt became part of the Capitol breach’s sprawling aftermath as law enforcement officials not only arrested hundreds of rioters who stormed the Capitol but also charged people with making online threats around the attack. As officials in Washington consider new ways to combat violent extremism, including a possible domestic terrorism statute, Mr. Hunt’s trial could be a bellwether of how the authorities balance the pursuit of serious threats with constitutional protections for political speech.

“These types of threats are particularly dangerous when made in a charged political environment that has already led to the overrunning of the United States Capitol and the interruption, for the first time in United States history, of the certification of a presidential election,” federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said in a court filing last month.

Mr. Hunt faces one count of threatening to murder members of Congress, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. In December, Mr. Hunt posted on Facebook urging a “public execution” of prominent Democratic politicians, including the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Chuck Schumer, according to prosecutors (shown above).

Mr. Hunt’s lawyers have described the case as a groundbreaking prosecution, arguing that the government was trying to criminalize Mr. Hunt’s political opinions. Mr. Hunt had no weapons, no plans to carry out violence and no affiliations with organized groups, his lawyers said. He was ranting into the vast internet void, they argue, with no expectation that anyone would act on his words.

“Seen in context, the posts are more consistent with intoxication than insurrection,” his lawyers wrote.

Jan Rostal, a federal defender for Mr. Hunt, said in a statement that the First Amendment encouraged political debate “in the town square, not in secret, so bad ideas can get tested.”

Prosecutors will show that Mr. Hunt, a fervent supporter of Mr. Trump, was furious about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and believed members of Congress were “traitors” for supporting an election result that he viewed as illegitimate.

In the video that Mr. Hunt shared two days after the Capitol riot, he used references that are known to white supremacists, prosecutors said. The video was posted on BitChute, a platform with less restrictive moderation policies than YouTube, which has cracked down on the spread of hate speech and conspiracy theories.

In a court filing, Mr. Hunt’s lawyers said he removed the video within two days of posting it. It was a “fellow conservative” who saw the video on BitChute and alerted the F.B.I., they wrote.

In December, Mr. Hunt wrote on Facebook describing Mr. Schumer, Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez as the sort of “high value targets” that Mr. Trump’s supporters should shoot, prosecutors said. “They really need to be put down,” he wrote, according to the complaint. “These commies will see death before they see us surrender!”

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Limits on Life Terms for Youths, Adam Liptak, April 22, 2021. The court, which has for years been cutting back on harsh punishments for juvenile offenders, changed course in a 6-to-3 decision.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that judges need not determine that juvenile offenders are beyond hope of rehabilitation before sentencing them to die in prison. The decision, concerning a teenager who killed his grandfather, appeared to signal the end of a trend that had limited the availability of severe punishments for youths who commit crimes before they turn 18.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, writing for the majority in the 6-to-3 ruling, said it was enough that the sentencing judge exercised discretion rather than automatically imposing a sentence of life without parole.

“In a case involving an individual who was under 18 when he or she committed a homicide,” he wrote, “a state’s discretionary sentencing system is both constitutionally necessary and constitutionally sufficient.”

No specific finding concerning the defendant’s maturity or capacity for change was required, he wrote.

 The ruling drew a caustic dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who accused the majority of gutting two major precedents.

Over the past 16 years, the court, often led by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, methodically limited the availability of the harshest penalties for crimes committed by juveniles, first by striking down the juvenile death penalty and then by restricting sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

But Justice Kennedy retired in 2018, and the court, now dominated by six conservative members, does not seem to have enthusiasm for continuing his project.

Thursday’s decision, Jones v. Mississippi, No. 18-1259, concerned Brett Jones, who had recently turned 15 in 2004 when his grandfather discovered his girlfriend in his room. The two men argued and fought, and the youth, who had been making a sandwich, stabbed his grandfather eight times, killing him.

In 2005, Mr. Jones was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, then the mandatory penalty under state law. That same year, the Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons that the death penalty for juvenile offenders was unconstitutional.

In 2012, in Miller v. Alabama, the court extended the logic of the Roper decision to ban mandatory life-without-parole sentences like the one imposed on Mr. Jones. The decision repeatedly criticized mandatory sentences, suggesting that only ones in which judges could take account of the defendant’s age were permissibl

ny times logoNew York Times, Manhattan to Stop Prosecuting Prostitution, Part of Nationwide Shift, Jonah E. Bromwich, Updated April 22, 2021. The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., moved to dismiss thousands of cases dating back decades, amid a growing movement to change the criminal justice system’s approach to prostitution.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office announced Wednesday that it would no longer prosecute prostitution and unlicensed massage, putting the weight of one of the most high-profile law enforcement offices in the United States behind the growing movement to change the criminal justice system’s approach to sex work.

The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., asked a judge on Wednesday morning to dismiss 914 open cases involving prostitution and unlicensed massage, along with 5,080 cases in which the charge was loitering for the purposes of prostitution.

The law that made the latter charge a crime, which had become known as the “walking while trans” law, was repealed by New York State in February.

The announcement represents a substantive shift in the Manhattan district attorney’s approach to prostitution. Many of the cases Mr. Vance moved to dismiss dated to the 1970s and 1980s, when New York waged a war against prostitution in an effort to clean up its image as a center of iniquity and vice.

“Over the last decade we’ve learned from those with lived experience, and from our own experience on the ground: Criminally prosecuting prostitution does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers,” Mr. Vance said in a statement.

The office will continue to prosecute other crimes related to prostitution, including patronizing sex workers, promoting prostitution and sex trafficking, and said that its policy would not stop it from bringing other charges that stem from prostitution-related arrests.

That means, in effect, that the office will continue to prosecute pimps and sex traffickers, as well as people who pay for sex, continuing to fight those who exploit or otherwise profit from prostitution without punishing the people who for decades have borne the brunt of law enforcement’s attention.

Manhattan will join Baltimore, Philadelphia and other jurisdictions that have declined to prosecute sex workers. Brooklyn also does not prosecute people arrested for prostitution, but instead refers them to social services before they are compelled to appear in court — unless the district attorney’s office there is unable to reach them.

The Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, in January moved to dismiss hundreds of open cases related to prostitution and loitering, and said that he would eventually ask that more than a thousand be dismissed. The Queens and Bronx district attorneys followed in March, moving to dismiss hundreds of prostitution-related cases.

ny times logolinda greenhouse cover just a journalistNew York Times, Opinion: Uncomfortable Timing for a Supreme Court Gun Fight, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), April 22, 2021. The justices contemplate expanding arms rights in the wake of mass shootings.

Once again, the country is awash in gun violence. And once again, the justices have to decide whether to inject the Supreme Court into the middle of the gun debate. Will the first of those two sentences inform the second?

That’s really the question now, it seems to me. There is little doubt that the necessary four votes exist to add a Second Amendment case to the docket for decision, and there are plenty of candidates to choose from. One case under active consideration challenges New York State’s restriction on carrying a concealed gun outside the home. The justices have taken it up at their private conference twice this month and are scheduled to do so again on Friday.

A case from New Jersey raising the same challenge to a similar constraint was filed at the court on April 2. There are other Second Amendment cases in the pipeline, propelled toward the court in the expectation that Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s arrival has finally tipped the balance toward action on the gun rights agenda.

Thinking about that prospect in light of the banner headline that ran across the front page of The Times on Saturday — “In Indianapolis, 3rd Massacre in 3 Months — brought to mind a lecture that William Rehnquist, 15 years into his Supreme Court tenure as an associate justice and on the eve of becoming chief justice, gave in 1986 at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He later published it in the school’s law review under the title “Constitutional Law and Public Opinion.”

For the vast majority of people in the country, Heller changed nothing as a practical matter; it constitutionalized a right that gun owners already enjoyed under state and local laws.

Whether the Second Amendment also protects a right to walk down the street, or onto a college campus, or into a supermarket, a warehouse, a State Capitol, or a 12-year-old’s birthday party carrying a gun are questions that District of Columbia v. Heller (5-4 2008 decision) did not answer. The current court can answer those questions in the affirmative if it so chooses. It has the votes. We will soon see whether it has the discipline and common sense to stay its hand.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden is preparing to declare that atrocities against Armenians in World War I were genocide, Lara Jakes, April 22, 2021 (print ed.). The designation for the World War I-era killings would further fray U.S. relations with Turkey, but it is a risk the president appears willing to take to further human rights, officials said.

Flag of TurkeyMore than a century after the Ottoman Empire’s killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenian civilians, President Biden is preparing to declare that the atrocities were an act of genocide, according to officials familiar with the internal debate. The action would signal that the American commitment to human rights outweighs the risk of further fraying the U.S. alliance with Turkey

Mr. Biden is expected to announce the symbolic designation on Saturday, the 106th anniversary of the beginning of what historians call a yearslong and systematic death march that the predecessors of modern Turkey started during World War I. He would be the first sitting American president to do so, although Ronald Reagan made a glancing reference to the Armenian genocide in a 1981 written statement about the Holocaust, and both the House and the Senate approved measures in 2019 to make its recognition a formal matter of U.S. foreign policy.

At least 29 other countries have taken similar steps — mostly in Europe and the Americas, but also Russia and Syria, Turkey’s political adversaries.

A U.S. official with knowledge of the administration’s discussions said Mr. Biden had decided to issue the declaration, and others across the government and in foreign embassies said it was widely expected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Indonesian submarine missing with 53 aboard will run out of oxygen by Saturday, authorities say, Jennifer Hassan, Siobhán O'Grady and Antonia Noori Farzan, April 22, 2021. The submarine was conducting a training exercise when it disappeared in the waters north of Bali, an Indonesian island, early Wednesday. Rescuers found an oil spill while searching for the vessel, which could have been a signal from the crew or an indication of equipment failure.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Inside Story of How the Super League Fell Apart, Tariq Panja and Rory Smith, April 22, 2021. Frantic phone calls, secret meetings and high-stakes threats: Here’s how the billion-dollar soccer league was born, and then collapsed, in less than a week.

 

U.S. Media News

blake bailey roth cover

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Assault Allegations Against Biographer Halt Shipping of His Roth Book, Alexandra Alter and Rachel Abrams, Updated April 22, 2021. The publisher W.W. Norton, citing the accusations against the author, Blake Bailey, shown above left adjoining the cover of his new book, said it would stop promoting his new book on the novelist Philip Roth.

Earlier this month, the biographer Blake Bailey was approaching what seemed like the apex of his literary career. Reviews of his highly anticipated Philip Roth biography appeared before the book came out, with major stories in magazines and literary publications. It landed on the New York Times best-seller list this week.

Now, allegations against Mr. Bailey, 57, have emerged, including claims that he sexually assaulted two women, one as recently as 2015, and that he behaved inappropriately toward middle school students when he was a teacher in the 1990s.

His publisher, W.W. Norton, took swift and unusual action: It said on Wednesday that it had stopped shipments and promotion of his book. “These allegations are serious,” it said in a statement. “In light of them, we have decided to pause the shipping and promotion of ‘Philip Roth: The Biography’ pending any further information that may emerge.”

Norton, which initially printed 50,000 copies of the title, has stopped a 10,000-copy second printing that was scheduled to arrive in early May. It has also halted advertising and media outreach, and events that Norton arranged to promote the book are being canceled. The pullback from the publisher came just days after Mr. Bailey’s literary agency, The Story Factory, said it had dropped him as a client.

In an email Wednesday night, Mr. Bailey denied the allegations, calling them “categorically false and libelous.” A lawyer for Mr. Bailey, Billy Gibbens, said in an email that his client “disagrees with Norton’s decision to stop promoting his book.” Some of the allegations were reported earlier by The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate and The Los Angeles Times.

 

April 21

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Chauvin Murder Verdict

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Prisons, Police

 

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 21, 2021 (print ed.). 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

 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, Cities nationwide braced for unrest. Instead, they got a celebration, Griff Witte, Joyce Koh, Kim Bellware and Silvia Foster-Frau, April 21, 2021 (print ed.). Across America, communities had prepared for the worst. They had put up barriers and called in reinforcements. They had boarded up windows and declared emergencies. They were bracing for Derek Chauvin to be acquitted of George Floyd’s murder, for the inevitable protests that would follow, for the strife and conflict and destruction of last year to be replayed this spring.

That’s certainly what B.J. Wilder was ready for. The Minneapolis resident had been disappointed too many times, seen justice deferred or denied all too often, particularly for Black Americans. His city, he said, felt like “a powder keg.”

But when the decision came, he and the others who had gathered outside the Cup Foods store, where Floyd was killed, got something unexpected. As the guilty verdicts on all three counts of murder and manslaughter were announced to the crowd, there were tears of joy, hugs and cheers. Instead of anger and betrayal, Wilder experienced relief, and even some hope.

washington post logoWashington Post, What’s next for Chauvin and the other officers tied to George Floyd’s death? Timothy Bella, April 21, 2021. All eyes turn to Derek Chauvin’s sentencing, where he faces up to 40 years in prison, as well as the trials in August for three other former Minneapolis police officers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. to investigate Minneapolis police practices, Garland says, David Nakamura, April 21, 2021. merrick garlandAttorney General Merrick Garland, right, on Wednesday announced a sweeping Justice Department probe into the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department, elevating the federal government’s role a day after officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

Justice Department log circularDuring remarks at Justice Department headquarters, Garland said the civil investigation would determine whether “Minneapolis police engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.”

The Trump administration had opened a federal civil rights investigation in the case days after Floyd, a Black man, died last May after Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes while he was prone on his stomach. Garland said in a statement late Tuesday that criminal probe is ongoing.

Related stories:

washington post logoWashington Post, Watchdog nixed probes of Secret Service during Trump era, documents show, Carol D. Leonnig, April 21, 2021 (print ed.). 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.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 134.4 million vaccinated, as of April 21, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 50.3 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 40.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 21, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 143,695,698, Deaths: 3,061,098
U.S. Cases:    32,538,342, Deaths:     582,499
India Cases:    15,616,130, Deaths:    182,570
Brazil Cases:   14,050,885, Deaths:    378,530


 

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.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rare murder conviction of ex-officer sends message on police violence, Holly Bailey, April 21, 2021 (print ed.). Derek Chauvin verdict comes nearly a year after video spurred nationwide protests. Jurors found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, in the death of George Floyd.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: By bearing witness — and hitting ‘record’ — 17-year-old Darnella Frazier may have changed the world, Margaret Sullivan, right, April 21, 2021 (print ed.). Her motivations margaret sullivan 2015 photowere simple enough. You could even call them pure.

It wasn’t right,” said Darnella Frazier, who was 17 last year when she saw George Floyd pinned under a Minneapolis police officer’s knee. She said that to the jury last month as she testified in the murder trial of that former officer, Derek Chauvin.

No, Darnella, it wasn’t right, a Hennepin County jury agreed on Tuesday, finding Chauvin guilty of second- and third-degree murder as well as second-degree manslaughter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson claims protests intimidated jury into guilty verdict, Tim Elfrink, April 21, 2021. “The jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial came to a unanimous and unequivocal verdict this afternoon: ‘Please don’t hurt us,’” the Fox News host said.

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, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration sidelined experts in writing car pollution rules, watchdog finds, Dino Grandoni, April 21, 2021. The EPA inspector general’s report may give the Biden administration more reason to tighten mileage and greenhouse gas standards for new cars as part of a broader effort to phase out internal-combustion engines and slash emissions.

The Trump administration sidelined career staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency when weakening pollution rules for new passenger vehicles, according to a federal watchdog report.

The EPA’s inspector general found top political leaders at the agency failed to properly document and consider the concerns of staff experts while unwinding standards for tailpipe emissions set under President Barack Obama.

The report, released Tuesday, may provide fresh fodder for the Biden administration to tighten mileage and greenhouse gas standards for new automobiles as part of a broader effort to phase out internal-combustion engines and drastically cut the nation’s climate-warming emissions.

President Biden’s team is in the midst of negotiations with carmakers, autoworkers and environmentalists for new pollution standards for new vehicles, aiming to protect factory jobs and cut emissions. The industry wants generous government incentives for producing cleaner cars, while labor leaders want to stave off job losses during the transition to electric vehicles.
The Trump administration sidelined career staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency when weakening pollution rules for new passenger vehicles, according to a federal watchdog report.

The EPA’s inspector general found top political leaders at the agency failed to properly document and consider the concerns of staff experts while unwinding standards for tailpipe emissions set under President Barack Obama.

The report, released Tuesday, may provide fresh fodder for the Biden administration to tighten mileage and greenhouse gas standards for new automobiles as part of a broader effort to phase out internal-combustion engines and drastically cut the nation’s climate-warming emissions.

President Biden’s team is in the midst of negotiations with carmakers, autoworkers and environmentalists for new pollution standards for new vehicles, aiming to protect factory jobs and cut emissions. The industry wants generous government incentives for producing cleaner cars, while labor leaders want to stave off job losses during the transition to electric vehicles

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Republicans who challenged election results rake in campaign cash, as individual donations boom, Tory Newmyer and Anu Narayanswamy, April 21, 2021. Despite corporate bans, a Washington Post analysis shows that at least a third of the 147 Republicans who challenged the election, raised more campaign money compared to the same period in 2019.

republican elephant logoCorporations that pledged to cut off Republican lawmakers who opposed certifying the presidential election largely made good on the commitment, removing a key source of financial support for the party in the first three months of the year.

But at least a third of those 147 Republicans nevertheless raised more campaign money compared with the same period in 2019, boosting their collections from individual donors to make up the difference, a Washington Post analysis of federal election records shows.

A handful of congressional Republicans — the most outspoken supporters of groundless election-related claims that helped inspire the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol — shattered their fundraising performances from two years earlier.

 ny times logoNew York Times, A Dozen Megadonors Gave $3.4 Billion, One in Every 13 Dollars, Since 2009, Shane Goldmacher, April 21, 2021 (print ed). 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.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Marjorie Taylor Greene and the implosion of the America First Caucus, Aaron Blake, April 21, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Greene is now completely distancing herself from the effort and blaming staff. Here’s why that’s implausible. 

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.

washington post logous mail logoWashington Post, Biden nominated three people to fix USPS. Here’s how the Postal Service’s leadership works, Jacob Bogage, April 21, 2021. Confirmation hearings beginning this week could shift the balance of power on the governing board that oversees Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. President Biden’s three nominees for the U.S. Postal Service’s governing board face their confirmation hearing Thursday before a Senate committee. Here’s what you need to know about the hearing, and what the Postal Service’s bipartisan governing board means for your mail

ny times logoNew York Times, Politics Live Updates: Biden Nominates Stacey Dixon as No. 2 U.S. Intelligence Official, Staff reports, April 21, 2021. If confirmed, Ms. Dixon would be the nation’s highest-ranking Black woman in an intelligence position. Here’s the latest from Washington.

  • Biden picks technology expert and first Black woman to be the No. 2 U.S. intelligence official.
  • The House passes legislation to limit the president’s ability to impose travel bans.
  • Senate Democrats, joined by Lisa Murkowski, confirm Vanita Gupta for a top Justice Dept. job.
  • Biden will pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half by 2030.
  • Senate Republicans agree to keep a symbolic ban on earmarks, but may use them anyway.
  • As Biden calls for quick action, major obstacles remain to passing a policing overhaul through Congress.
  • Biden wants to change a Trump tax break that may not have helped poor areas as promised.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Cybersecurity Analysis: The Biden administration faces a new wave of hacks compromising dozens of government agencies, Aaron Schaffer, April 21, 2021. The attack from a sophisticated China-linked group is ongoing, according to a private firm working with the federal government.

omb logo management and budget seal CustomA sophisticated China-linked hacking group infiltrated dozens of U.S. government agencies, defense contractors, financial institutions and other critical sectors, according to a private firm working with the federal government. The intrusions are ongoing, FireEye said, and exploit weaknesses in popular Pulse Secure virtual private networks.

At least a dozen U.S. government agencies have or recently had contracts for the software, according to a Washington Post review. The Department of Homeland Security has ordered government agencies to report back by Friday on their use of the software and whether they were breached.

The hack is just the latest in a string of high-profile software breaches hitting victims in the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Two stats show why Republicans are so fixated on suppressing the vote, Jennifer Rubin, right, April 21, 2021. Why are Republicans so willing to incur the wrath of civil rights jennifer rubin new headshotgroups, to risk alienating college-educated voters and to alienate big business by engaging in flagrant voter suppression? Two statistics provide clarity.

The first comes from TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm that has compiled information on more than 98 percent of those who cast ballots last year from individual voter files. The firm finds: “Non-college educated whites dropped from 53.8% of the electorate in 2016 to 49.2% in 2020.” Moreover, “Nationally, total turnout increased by 12% relative to 2016, turnout among [Asian American and Pacific Islander] voters surged by 43% and Latino turnout increased by almost a third of all votes cast.” (While the disgraced former president may have done better among Hispanics in some states than he did in 2016, overall, he still lost 65 percent of these voters.).

Republicans’ “solution” is to keep these voters at a fever pitch, sell them on fear and resentment, and to try to maximize their share of the electorate by making it harder for everyone else to vote — especially non-Whites and low-income Americans.

The second statistic behind the Republicans’ collective panic attack has to do with their solid core of supporters: White evangelical Christians. As I pointed out last month, Gallup finds that the percentage of those attending any religious institution has dropped below 50 percent, the first time in 80 years of its surveys. Churches are losing younger Americans at a remarkable rate:

Palmer Report, Donald Trump is terrified of what’s about to happen to him, TR Kenneth, April 21, 2021. Trump is finally coming out of hiding at Mar-A-Lago and it’s not pretty. In an exclusive interview with Hannity, he rambled on about how his staff kept inquiring about his ties to Russia which, of course, made him look guilty as hell. Then he took the opportunity to wax enthusiastic about how well he got along with Putin. Finally, he also hinted at his run in 2024.

This is significant, because if he can show he’s a Presidential candidate, it’s obvious he believes it will offer him some kind of bargaining power for delay or immunity from prosecution. It won’t work. New York won’t care, nor will the Treasury Department and the DOJ. If you look closely at Trump’s eyes during the interview, the one thing that jumps out besides his lack of personal grooming, is the fact that he looks terrified.

bill palmer report logo headerHe looked this way in the “Rusher” interview with Lester Holt. Every time Russia gets mentioned he has this frightened look in his eyes. The worry is palpable. The thing we can’t figure out is if he’s afraid of the US DOJ, Putin, or the Russian mob. We suspect it’s all three.

The Republican Party just wants to win at all costs, even to the point of ignoring election interference from a hostile foreign power. Now George W. Bush has piped up about Republicans turning nativist, which is strangely ironic given Republicans’ lack of conscience in dealing with Russia. The question we’ve all got to ask is why they want America First when they’re willing to sell it down the river to Putin

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz caught paying off Roger Stone, Bill Palmer, April 21, 2021. For weeks it’s been clear that Matt Gaetz is trying to save himself by using the Trump playbook. Of course the Trump playbook is a failure, and it’s left Donald Trump defeated, irrelevant, and sitting at home waiting to be criminally indicted. Yet Gaetz has persisted in trying to bombastically blow up the federal criminal investigation into him, instead of mounting a legal defense.

bill palmer report logo headerNow it turns out Matt Gaetz has gone so far as to pay off longtime Trump henchman Roger Stone. According to Media Matters, Gaetz paid $5,000 in campaign money to Stone’s consulting firm, and then Stone went out and publicly defended Gaetz to right wing propaganda outlets. This could get ugly for a couple reasons.

First, using campaign money to pay for anything like this is always iffy – and politicians tend to go down for campaign finance violations more than anything else (see former Congressman Duncan Hunter). This comes weeks after major news outlets reported that the Feds are already investigating whether Gaetz used campaign funds to pay the women and/or underage girls he was having sex with.

Second, Roger Stone is involved in the Matt Gaetz – Joel Greenberg scandal, to the point that he was seen partying with Gaetz and Greenberg at Greenberg’s hotel during the same weekend in which Greenberg allegedly paid a woman for sex. Even if Stone isn’t incriminated in the Gaetz-Greenberg scandal, he’s certainly a material witness – and now Gaetz is giving him a $5,000 payoff? In campaign funds, no less.

We’ll see where this goes. But this is exactly the kind of dumb panic move that a dummy like Matt Gaetz would make. And now the Feds have yet another angle for following the money when it comes to unraveling Gaetz. If the Feds can demonstrate that Gaetz paid Stone in exchange for not cooperating with the investigation, they’ll both go down for it.

 

U.S. Courts, Prisons, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says Chauvin verdict offers a chance at police reform, Matt Viser, April 21, 2021 (print ed.).l A president who never marched for civil rights and who admittedly wore a suit jacket rather than the flak jackets or tie-dyed shirts of 1960s protesters is now in a unique role at a unique moment in history. President Biden addressed the nation Tuesday after the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial returned a guilty verdict on all charges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio police fatally shoot Black teenage girl just before Chauvin verdict, Randy Ludlow, Hannah Knowles, Reis Thebault and Teo Armus, April 21, 2021. The shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black teenager, struck a raw nerve as Derek Chauvin was convicted for the murder of George Floyd. “This stuff just never ends,” a neighbor said.

The fatal shooting of a Black teenager by Columbus police on Tuesday stoked grief and anger just as the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was being celebrated as a sign of long-elusive accountability for law enforcement.

Police said at a late news conference on Tuesday that the girl had threatened two others with a knife before the shooting, playing segments of body camera video that showed the victim lunging toward someone in a driveway before an officer fired four shots. A knife is visible in the driveway next to the girl as police perform CPR on her.

“We know, based on this footage, the officer took action to protect another young girl in our community,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther (D) said at the news conference. “But a family is grieving tonight, and this young 15-year-old girl will never be coming home

 

World News

idriss deby reuters

ny times logoNew York Times, President of Chad Is Killed as Soldiers Clash With Rebels, Mahamat Adamou and Ruth Maclean, April 21, 2021 (print ed). President Idriss Déby of Chad, shown above in a Reuters photo, 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 21, 2021 (print ed).  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.

vladimir putin hand up palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin warns world: Anyone who threatens Russia ‘will regret it,’ Isabelle Khurshudyan, April 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin, shown above in a file photo, issued a warning during his annual address to the government that anyone in the international community who threatens Russia "will regret it like they've never regretted anything before."

Yet it was domestically where the government was being challenged Wednesday, with the opposition calling for mass protests across the country in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The last time such demonstrations took place in January and February, 11,000 people were jailed.

Rallies in Russia's Far East regions kicked off as Putin's speech began in Moscow. Turnouts were modest, but the biggest crowds are expected to be in Moscow and St. Petersburg later in the evening.

Although Putin devoted the majority of his speech, akin to U.S. presidents' State of the Union address, to promising a better life for Russians facing economic hardships, his veiled threats to the West come amid tense relations with Moscow: Russia's military buildup along the Ukrainian border has been widely criticized and it's embroiled in a diplomatic feud with the Czech Republic after authorities there said Russian agents were responsible for a 2014 ammunition depot explosion.

 

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 21, 2021 (print ed). 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.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Sleeping Too Little in Middle Age May Increase Dementia Risk, Study Finds, Pam Belluck, April 21, 2021 (print ed). 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 20

Top Headlines

 

Walter 'Fritz' Mondale's Death, Legacy

 

U.S. Elections, Rights

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Chauvin Murder Verdict

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Prisons, Police

 

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 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.

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, 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.

daily howler headline(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.

Washington Monthly, Is Facebook Buying Off The New York Times? Dan Froomkin, April 19, 2021. Under the cover of launching a little-known feature, the social media giant has been funneling money to America’s biggest news organizations—and hanging the rest of the press out to dry.

Over the past two decades, as Big Tech has boomed, news organizations have been going bust. Between 2004 and 2019, one in every four U.S. newspapers shut down, and almost all the rest cut staff, for a total of 36,000 jobs lost between 2008 and 2019 alone. Local newspapers have been particularly devastated, making it ever more difficult for people to know what is happening in their communities.

Many factors contributed to this economic collapse, but none more so than the cornering of the digital advertising market by the duopoly of Facebook and Google. Facebook’s threat to a free press — and, by extension, to democracy — is especially pernicious. The social media company is financially asphyxiating the news industry even as it gives oxygen to conspiracy theories and lies. As a result of its many roles in degrading our democracy, it faces mounting scrutiny by politicians and regulators.

facebook logoFacebook has responded to the negative attention by creating a highly sophisticated public relations effort, which includes becoming the number one corporate spender on federal lobbying and engaging in a massive advertising blitz aimed at the D.C. policy audience. Less well known, and potentially far more dangerous, is a secretive, multimillion-dollar-a-year payout scheme aimed at the most influential news outlets in America. Under the cover of launching a feature called Facebook News, Facebook has been funneling money to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Bloomberg, and other select paid partners since late 2019.

Participating in Facebook News doesn’t appear to deliver many new readers to outlets; the feature is very difficult to find, and it is not integrated into individuals’ newsfeeds. What Facebook News does deliver — though to only a handful of high-profile news organizations of its choosing—is serious amounts of cash. The exact terms of these deals remain secret, because Facebook insisted on nondisclosure and the news organizations agreed. The Wall Street Journal reported that the agreements were worth as much as $3 million a year, and a Facebook spokesperson told me that number is “not too far off at all.” But in at least one instance, the numbers are evidently much larger. In an interview last month, former New York Times CEO Mark Thompson said the Times is getting “far, far more” than $3 million a year — “very much so.”

Facebook has responded to negative attention by creating a highly sophisticated public relations effort, which includes becoming the number one corporate spender on federal lobbying and engaging in a massive advertising blitz aimed at the D.C. policy audience.

For The New York Times, whose net income was $100 million in 2020, getting “far, far more” than $3 million a year with essentially no associated cost is significant. And once news outlets take any amount of money from Facebook, it becomes difficult for them to let it go, notes Mathew Ingram, chief digital writer for the Columbia Journalism Review. “It creates a hole in your balance sheet. You’re kind of beholden to them.” It’s not exactly payola, Ingram told me, searching for the right metaphor. Nor is it a protection racket. “It’s like you’re a kept person,” he said. “You’re Facebook’s mistress.”

There’s no evidence that the deal directly affects coverage in either the news or editorial departments. Before the Facebook News deal, the Times famously published an op-ed titled “It’s Time to Break Up Facebook,” by Chris Hughes, a cofounder of Facebook turned critic. And since the deal, columns from Tim Wu and Kara Swisher, among others, have been similarly critical. In December, the editorial board welcomed a lawsuit calling for Facebook to be broken up.

And Facebook and Google money is, admittedly, all over journalism already. Virtually every major media nonprofit receives direct or indirect funding from Silicon Valley, including this one. When the Monthly gets grants from do-good organizations like NewsMatch, some of the funds originate with Facebook.

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.

Kennedys and King, Book Review: A Slice of Time: Review of Josiah Thompson’s Last Second in Dallas, Milicent Cranor, April 20, 2021. Milicent Cranor, right, determines that, despite its flaws, "Last Second in milicent cranorDallas" is a stimulating book about an eternal puzzle concerning the confounding details of this monumental murder. Josiah Thompson’s book is rich in detail and a lot of it is factual and not well-known.

If you take a moment in time and slice it down the middle, all kinds of things may come tumbling out — even state secrets.

Moments on films of the Kennedy assassination are sliced into about 18 frames per second. In his latest book, Last Second in Dallas, Josiah Thompson focuses on one of those seconds, during which time, he says, and I agree, the president’s head exploded as it was hit by multiple bullets.

To the mainstream media, Thompson has always been a credible source, so it’s a wonderful thing that, in his latest book, this credible source promotes — without reservation — the concept of josiah thompson last second coverconspiracy in the assassination.

The strongest proof described in the book is the famous Dictabelt tape, a recording of what a motorcycle policeman’s stuck-open microphone picked up — the sounds of five separate shots. Some were fired in such rapid succession that more than one shooter had to have been involved. And not all came from the same direction.

To me, it’s inconceivable that gunfire would not have been recorded under the circumstances described. So, it seems significant that apparently no recording exists of only three shots — the government-approved number.

Thompson attempts to correlate these sounds with specific frames of the Abraham Zapruder film of the event. In gruesome color stills, he points out what he believes is evidence of an additional shot.

You may or may not agree with his conclusions, but it doesn’t matter. You should have no trouble correlating — however loosely — these additional shots with what bystanders said they heard, what they saw, and when. Below is a small collection of their observations, selected for their relevance to the tape. I find them fascinating.

Milicent Cranor is currently a senior editor at whowhatwhy.org. She has been a creative editor at E.P. Dutton (fiction, non fiction); comedy ghostwriter; co-author of numerous peer-reviewed articles for medical journals; editor of consequential legal and scientific documents; former member, American Mensa Society. 

 

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, 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, 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

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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

 

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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

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U.S. Police Shootings, Violent Crime

 

Russian-American Intrigues, Disputes

 

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