May 2021 News

 JIPLogo


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

 

May 31

Top Headlines 

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Crime, Guns, Courts, Race

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Tex. Democrats block restrictive voting bill by walking off floor, Amy Gardner, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). Texas Democrats staged a dramatic walkout in the state House late Sunday night to block passage of a restrictive voting bill that would have been one of the most stringent in the nation, forcing Republicans to abruptly adjourn without taking a vote on the measure.

texas mapThe surprise move came after impassioned late-night debate and procedural objections about the GOP-backed legislation, which would have made it harder to vote by mail, empowered partisan poll watchers and made it easier to overturn election results. Republicans faced a midnight deadline to approve the measure.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) tweeted that he would add the bill to a special session he plans to call later this year to address legislative redistricting. “Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session,” he wrote.

But it was an unmistakable defeat for the governor and fellow Republicans, who had crafted one of the most far-reaching voting bills in the country — pushing restrictions championed by former president Donald Trump, who has falsely claimed that his defeat in the 2020 election was tainted by fraud.

The exodus from the floor came after Chris Turner, the House Democratic chairman, sent instructions to colleagues at 10:35 p.m. Central time instructing them to exit the House, according to an image shared with The Washington Post.

“Members, take your key and leave the chamber discreetly,” Turner wrote, referring to the key that locks the voting mechanism on their desks. “Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building.”

naftali bennett benjamin netanyahu

washington post logoWashington Post, Israeli opposition parties reach agreement to oust Netanyahu, Shira Rubin, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). After more than 12 years as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has been struggling to hold onto power after four inconclusive elections in the past two years while facing a corruption trial. Now a diverse coalition is kick-starting a process to end the political stalemate.

A diverse coalition of Israeli opposition parties said Sunday that they have the votes to form a unity government to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (above right), Israel’s longest-serving leader and its dominant political figure for more than a decade.

Under their agreement, reached after weeks of negotiations spearheaded by centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, former Netanyahu defense minister and ally Naftali Bennett, above left, will lead a power-sharing government.

Israel Flag“We could go to fifth elections, sixth elections, until our home falls upon us, or we could stop the madness and take responsibility,” Bennett said in a televised statement Sunday evening. “Today, I would like to announce that I intend to join my friend Yair Lapid in forming a unity government.”

Netanyahu has been struggling to hold onto power after four inconclusive elections in the past two years while facing an ongoing corruption trial. Bennett is one of several former loyalists who have flirted with joining the so-called change coalition, a collection of parties that span the political spectrum but share a desire to end Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure.

Their announcement follows the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip this month, which some analysts speculated would help bolster the embattled Netanyahu. At the outset of the fighting, Bennett, a former Netanyahu protege who had been poised to join a unity government with Lapid, said the military operation, which killed more than 250 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, had ended his interest in joining with the anti-Netanyahu coalition, which has the support of left-leaning and Arab parties

Actor James Stewart, at right, as a freshman congressman in an iconic scene from the film

Actor James Stewart, at right, as a freshman congressman in an iconic scene from the film "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."

WMR's Hollywood, Memorial Weekend Commentary: Those who actually fought in combat, Wayne Madsen, left, May 30-31, 2021. Movies depicting war have featured actors whose film careers were buoyed by wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalltheir being typecast as the heroic warfighter. John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Randolph Scott, and Robert Mitchum all spring to mind. While none of these actors had any actual combat experience -- Wayne, Scott, and Mitchum not serving in the military for various reasons and Reagan consigned to the back lot at Warner Brothers making training films while an Army Reservist -- others saw actual wartime combat.

wayne madesen report logoJimmy Stewart flew his B-24 on several bombing missions over Germany in World War II. In 1944, Stewart's plane was hit by German anti-aircraft fire but he managed to fly his B-24 back to England with the plane breaking apart upon landing but with his crew unscathed. Stewart was promoted to colonel in 1945....

There are many other Hollywood actors and actresses who served in combat during wartime situations in Korea, Vietnam, and other theaters. The next time some cowardly draft dodger like Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani or lily-livered avoiders of military service like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul criticize the "liberal elite" of Hollywood, they should be reminded that many of Hollywood's greatest served in uniform while they hid behind fake medical conditions or claims of being "too busy" for military service.

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Insurrection Update #2, Seth Abramson, left, May 30-31, 2021. A comprehensive review of recent developments in Donald Trump's rebellion against the people of the seth abramson graphicUnited States and their democratically elected federal government.

seth abramson proof logo“Insurrection Update” is an ongoing series at Proof. You can find an archive of entries in the series here. The series curates the most significant news in the ongoing insurrection led by former president Donald Trump.

A link to all ongoing federal criminal cases relating to the insurrection can be found here.

May 30: At a QAnon conference in Dallas (see “May 29” entry, below), former Trump legal adviser Sidney Powell falsely declares that “Trump can simply be reinstated” as president — and Joe Biden summarily “told to move out of the White House” — once the fraudulent “audits” of the 2020 presidential election being run by GOP partisans in several battleground states reveal that Trump really “won” last year’s general election. Meanwhile, in an even more shocking statement, former Trump National Security Advisor and current top Trump political adviser Michael Flynn tells the crowd of QAnon-inspired insurrectionists that there “should” be a violent military coup of the Joe Biden administration right now, just as there’s a violent military coup happening in Myanmar at the moment.

May 30: After Nashville’s HatWRKS makes headlines for selling Holocaust-style Star of David patches reading “Not Vaccinated” — a nod to anti-Semitic insurrectionist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who says that city masking ordinances are the same as being sent at gunpoint to a concentration camp via cattle car and then gassed to death on arrival — a citizen journalist reviewing HatWRKS’ social media accounts finds the store’s owner is an avowed insurrectionist who was at the Capitol on January 6. Companies are now pulling their hats from HatWRKS, including, notably, Stetson.

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Four more indicted in alleged Jan. 6 Oath Keepers conspiracy to obstruct election vote in Congress, Spencer S. Hsu, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). Four more Oath Keepers associates have been indicted and three were arrested in Florida in recent days in the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, bringing the number of co-defendants charged in the largest conspiracy case from that day to 16, court records show.

Joseph Hackett, 51, of Sarasota, Fla., Jason Dolan, 44, of Wellington, Fla., and William Isaacs, 21, of Kissimmee, Fla., each face multiple counts in an indictment handed up Wednesday and unsealed Sunday in Washington. The three appeared Thursday before U.S. magistrates in Tampa, West Palm Beach and Orlando.

The name of a fourth defendant not known to be in custody was redacted.

U.S. prosecutors have criminally charged at least 19 alleged Oath Keepers or associates in the Capitol riots, including Jon Ryan Schaffer, an Indiana rock musician who is the only defendant known to have pleaded guilty.

Prosecutors say the Oath Keepers, a loose network of groups founded in 2009 that includes some self-styled citizen militias, target law enforcement and military members for recruitment with an apocalyptic vision of the U.S. government careening toward totalitarianism. Its members have provided security to some conservative politicians and causes in recent years.

The four new defendants are charged with conspiring to obstruct Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 presidential election in joint session on Jan. 6. They are accused of forcing entry through the Capitol’s East Rotunda doors after marching single-file up the steps wearing camouflaged combat uniforms, tactical vests with plates, helmets, eye protection and Oath Keepers insignia.

Prosecutors alleged members of the group were in contact with Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes — usually identified as “Person One” by the government in court documents — and organized by charged co-defendants, including Ohio militia founder and bar owner Jessica Watkins, 38; former Navy intelligence officer Thomas E. Caldwell, 65, of Berryville, Va.; and Florida car dealer Kelly Meggs, 52.

Rhodes has not been charged and is not accused of wrongdoing.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Nashville hat shop apologizes after advertising anti-vaccine yellow Star of David badges, Lateshia Beachum, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). A Nashville hat store is facing backlash after announcing on social media that it was selling yellow patches similar to the Star of David with the words “NOT VACCINATED,” sparking widespread condemnation, a protest and severed business ties.

Iconic hat company Stetson announced Saturday that it will stop selling its merchandise at HatWRKS, the company at the center of the controversy. Goorin Bros., another prominent hat company, also announced its distribution with HatWRKS would end immediately.

“Stetson condemns antisemitism and discrimination of any kind,” the company said in a statement. “As a result of the offensive content and opinions shared by HatWRKS in Nashville, Stetson and our distribution partners will cease the sale of all Stetson products.”

The incident, which came after a Republican congresswoman compared the House’s mask rules to the Nazis’ oppression of Jews, is the latest flare-up over vaccines in the United States and follows a recent spate of anti-Jewish attacks connected to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Instagram post advertising the badges has since been deleted by the company, but not after many people, including descendants of Holocaust victims, weighed in on the matter.

Gigi Gaskins, who is listed as HatWRKS’s owner in public records, apologized Saturday on Instagram for the merchandise resembling the badges the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.

“In NO WAY did i intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people,” she wrote. “My hope was to share my genuine concern & fear, and to do all that i can to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.”

Previously, Gaskins had said people should be “outraged by tyranny” in the world and blamed her detractors for not understanding what is happening around them. In another post, she alluded to concerns about coronavirus restrictions and stated that she was a “target of the mob.”

Protesters gathered outside the store Saturday with a large sign that read, “No Nazis in Nashville.” Others sang that they didn’t want the hats or the hate.

“To me, it’s willful ignorance,” Roger Abramson, an attorney, told WSMV. “The information is out there. People are willfully ignoring facts, information and history because it doesn’t fit what they want to believe or it doesn’t fit some narrative they have.”

  • Washington Post, Anarchists and an increase in crime hijack Portland’s social justice movement, Scott Wilson

Daily Beast, Commentary: Michael Flynn Calls for Myanmar-Style Coup in the U.S., Tracy Connor, May 31, 2021. Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn—now firmly entrenched in the lunatic fringe—told a QAnon conference this weekend that he supports a violent military coup in the U.S.

daily beast logoVideo from the Dallas confab posted on social media shows Flynn was asked by an audience member “why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?”

As the audience of conspiracy theorists cheered, Flynn responded: “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.” Myanmar’s military in February seized control of the country, detaining leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint, claiming their election was fraudulent. The junta has since killed 800 people in a brutal crackdown. Flynn’s public support for an American version had critics on social media calling for the former Army general to be court-martialed.

Here is the video of former national security advisor Michael Flynn saying that he thinks a coup like the coup in Myanmar should happen in the US. pic.twitter.com/7mGYjfXg18
— Mamie 😌 (@MC_Hyperbole) May 30, 2021

Palmer Report, Opinion: Michael Flynn may have finally given the Feds a way to work around his pardon and put him in prison, Bill Palmer, May 30, 2021. Of all the last-minute pardons that Donald Trumphanded out to his cronies, the one he gave to Michael Flynn was the broadest and most legally competently worded – which tells you whom Trump feared the most. Flynn now appears to Michael Flynn Harvard 2014believe he’s above the law, but he may have just blown it for himself.

During a particularly deranged far right event this weekend, Michael Flynn, right, said that there was “no reason” why a coup shouldn’t happen in the United States. He then added for emphasis: “It should happen here."

bill palmer report logo headerMake no mistake: this is not only a direct call to violence, it’s a direct call for the violent overthrow of the United States government. Given Michael Flynn’s status as a retired U.S. Military General, and the role he helped play in inciting the January 6th Capitol attack, Flynn’s words this weekend have to be seen as a felony.

Pardons don’t cover crimes that are committed after the pardon was issued. We’ve already been waiting to see if the ongoing DOJ investigation into the Capitol attack ends up taking Flynn down. But now that Flynn is openly and specifically calling for another violent insurrection against the United States, the Feds have a clear path for taking him down. He won’t be able to argue that his words prior to January 6th were taken out of context or misunderstood, given that he just called for another insurrection. The sooner Flynn is arrested, the better.

rosanne boyland

ny times logoNew York Times, Death of QAnon Follower at Capitol Leaves a Wake of Pain, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Evan Hill, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). Rosanne Boyland (shown above) had never voted before 2020, but she fell prey to dark conspiracy theories, family members said. She died on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and they are still not sure why.

For months, Rosanne Boyland had been worrying her family with bizarre notions she had picked up on the internet: The actor Tom Hanks might be dead, she said. A national furniture chain was trafficking children. Many prominent Democrats were pedophiles.

Then, early in January, she texted her older sister that she was heading to Washington with a friend to support President Donald J. Trump and protest what was happening in the country. “I’m going to dc,” she wrote. “I dont know all the deets yet.”

Ms. Boyland, 34, was one of five people who never made it home from the Jan. 6 protest, which erupted in violence when hundreds of people stormed into the Capitol. Her death has left her family grappling to understand how Ms. Boyland, who they say had never voted before 2020, wound up waving a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag amid a crowd of fanatic supporters of the former president before walking up the steps of the Capitol to her death.

Their frustration deepened further this week when Republicans in the Senate blocked an effort to establish an independent commission to look into the origins and the handling of the attack on the Capitol.

“Why anyone would NOT want to find out what happened, even just to prevent it from happening again, is beyond me,” Ms. Boyland’s older sister, Lonna Cave, said in a text message after the vote.

Rosanne Boyland fell prey to dark conspiracy theories, family members said. She died at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and they are still not sure why.
\
For months before the rally, Ms. Boyland had bombarded her friends and relatives with messages and links to long videos about the fantastical theories she had come to accept as fact. Many of the false claims spilled from QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory movement that rose in popularity over the course of his presidency and promoted the idea that many Democrats and celebrities are part of a global pedophile ring — a theory that 15 percent of Americans believe, according to one poll this week. Many of its supporters falsely believed that President Biden had stolen the election, and some attended Mr. Trump’s rally on Jan. 6.

Ms. Boyland’s sudden fixation so alarmed her family members and friends that some of them asked her to stop talking to them about politics — or just to stop talking altogether.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitch McConnell may have bitten off more than he can chew, Brutal Publicist, May 31, 2021. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has made a callous calculation that the impact of Republicans’ stonewalling the Jan. 6 Commission will be long forgotten by the time the 2022 midterm elections come around, and that the vote is less dangerous to their reelection chances than an investigation that continually reminds voters through the election just how complicit various Republicans were in planning, inciting, stoking, and prolonging the insurrection that threatened the lives of Senators and Members of Congress, as well as Vice President Mike Pence.

bill palmer report logo headerDemocrats must prove McConnell wrong, by delivering his worst nightmare — a thorough investigation by the House into the Insurrection that publicly reveals all of the information McConnell is trying to cover up, along with a parallel campaign to pound home the fact that Republican Senators tried to stymie such an investigation.

For good measure, Democrats should continue to circulate on social media and on TV an endless loop of McConnell’s floor speech right after he voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial, when McConnell declared that:

"January 6th was a disgrace. American citizens attacked their own government," McConnell said. "They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of domestic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chatted about murdering the Vice President. They did this because they’d been fed wild, falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry. He lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty. . . . There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.”

Using McConnell’s own words to amplify what he now seeks to hide will be delicious, but the icing on the cake is that it will infuriate Trump and set him off against McConnell once again. The two deserve each other, and let’s hope neither survives their political death match

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

Associated Press via HuffPost, Florida Data Scientist Rebekah Jones Granted Whistleblower Status, Staff Report, May 30, 2021. Jones accused state health officials of pressuring her to manipulate ap logoCOVID-19 numbers. State officials said she was fired for communicating with the media.

A former Florida Department of Health employee has received whistleblower status a year after being fired for repeatedly violating the agency’s policy about communicating with the media.

rebekah jonesThe employee, Rebekah Jones, left, had raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data after being ousted as the data’s curator. State officials said she was fired for insubordination after being reprimanded several times, according to state records.

The Miami Herald reported that the Office of the Inspector General told her attorneys on Friday that “the information disclosed does meet the criteria for whistleblower status as described by ... Florida statutes.”

Jones, who helped build the state’s online presentation of its COVID-19 data, received national attention a year ago when she sowed doubt about the information being reported by the state when Florida was an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. She suggested that Health Department managers wanted her to manipulate information to paint a rosier picture and that she pushed back.

A letter from Inspector General Michael J. Bennett, the Herald reported, said Jones’ complaint demonstrates “reasonable cause to suspect that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor has violated any federal, state or local law, rule or regulation.”

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 167.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 31, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 59.9 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 50.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 31, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 171,095,267, Deaths: 3,558,160
U.S. Cases:     34,043,068, Deaths:    609,544
India Cases:    28,047,534, Deaths:    329,127
Brazil Cases:   16,515,120, Deaths:    462,092

washington post logoWashington Post, 117 staffers sue over Houston hospital’s vaccine mandate, saying they don’t want to be ‘guinea pigs,’ Derek Hawkins, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). The lawsuit could test whether employers can require vaccinations as the country navigates out of a pandemic that has killed nearly 600,000 people in the U.S.

A group of 117 unvaccinated staffers from Houston Methodist Hospital filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to avoid the hospital’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, saying it’s unlawful for bosses to require the shots.

djt maga hatThe staffers join a growing list of employees challenging compulsory immunizations at businesses, colleges and other workplaces essential to the country’s reopening. Vaccine mandates have faced mounting resistance from anti-vaccination groups and some Republican politicians, even as health officials promote the proven safety of the vaccines and millions of Americans line up to get the shots every week.

The lawsuit against Houston Methodist was filed by Jared Woodfill, a Houston-area attorney and conservative activist. It appears to mirror a legal strategy used by a New York-based law firm, Siri & Glimstad, that is closely aligned with one of the country’s biggest anti-vaccination organizations but unaffiliated with the Houston litigation.

The complaint, filed in state court, says Houston Methodist’s vaccine mandate violates a set of medical ethics standards known as the Nuremberg Code, which was designed to prevent experimentation on human subjects without consent. The code was created after World War II in response to the medical atrocities Nazis committed against prisoners in concentration camps.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: As U.S. Air Travel Surges, So Do Mask Disputes, Staff Reports, May 31, 2021. Air travel is hitting a pandemic peak, but more passengers are resisting mask mandates on flights. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • Forecasters in India predict dismal economic numbers.
  • Malaysia reverses course, locking down for two weeks as virus cases surge.
  • The pandemic was a breakout moment for the cannabis industry.

ny times logoNew York Times, On the Covid Front Lines, When Not Getting Belly Rubs, Hannah Beech, May 31, 2021. In Thailand and around the world, dogs are being trained to sniff out the coronavirus in people. So far, the results have been impressive.The hope is that dogs can be deployed in crowded public spaces, like stadiums or transportation hubs, to identify people carrying the virus. Their skills are being developed in Thailand, France, Britain, Chile, Australia, Belgium and Germany, among other countries. They have patrolled airports in Finland, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, and private co

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Hack exposed government’s light-touch oversight of pipeline security, Ellen Nakashima, Lori Aratani and Douglas MacMillan, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). The Transportation Security Administration is reversing its hands-off approach to overseeing pipeline cybersecurity in the wake of the devastating ransomware attack on critical U.S. infrastructure.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: My father’s words are being distorted by those who oppose D.C. statehood, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, right, (a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and eldest child kathleen kennedy townsendof the late U.S. senator and attorney general Robert F. Kennedy, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). Our family is always flattered when my father, Robert Kennedy, is referenced in current public debates … if theresult reflects his essential values.

In the recent wrangling over D.C. statehood, however, his 1963 testimony before the House subcommittee on the District has been misleadingly cited to support the notion that only a constitutional amendment can make Washington, D.C., our 51st state. Sen. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), whom I admire, pointed to that testimony as a central factor in his opposition to statehood; several Republicans, including Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.)and Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.)have made similar claims.

I have watched this invocation with dismay, and I feel compelled to respond.

Axios Sneak Peek, Scoop — Biden eyes two Ambassadors Kennedy, Alayna Treene and Hans Nichols, May 30, 2021. President Biden is considering naming two Kennedys to represent him abroad: Caroline Kennedy is in line to be U.S. ambassador to Australia, and Vicki Kennedy is on his radar for Western Europe, people familiar with the matter tell Axios' Hans Nichols.

axios logoWhy it matters: With JFK's daughter and the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Biden would be reaching outside of his pool of core campaign donors. He'd also be putting a spotlight back on America's most famous political dynasty — and honoring a late friend and mentor.

Flashback: Biden, who shares the family's Irish Catholic heritage, delivered a eulogy in 2009 for Ted, with whom he served in the Senate for 36 years.

He has described Kennedy as a "big brother," and felt a debt of gratitude for Kennedy's defense of his honor amid the plagiarism controversy in Biden's 1988 presidential bid.

Details: Vicki, an attorney at Greenberg Traurig and a gun control advocate, got to know Biden through her husband.

Caroline served as President Obama’s second ambassador to Japan and is well versed in the issues in the Asia-Pacific region, where the AP first reported she could be heading.
australian flag wavingThe White House declined to comment. People close to the process stressed that nothing is final until the White House sends a formal announcement.

Driving the news: Biden was scheduled to make several formal offers to candidates over the holiday weekend, ahead of announcing his first slate of ambassadors as soon as this week.

On Friday, he announced Rufus Gifford as his choice to be chief of protocol at the State Department. Administration officials have been vigorous in vetting the first group of political ambassadors, hoping to avoid negative headlines.

rahm emanuel wThe intrigue: In addition to political allies like former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, right, and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden will likely reward longtime friends and aides, in lieu of several donors who raised millions of dollars over Zoom from his campaign. In other news:

Axios, Scoop: Biden considers shift toward deterrence. President Biden is considering the return of an immigration policy that allows the U.S. government to more quickly deport families who illegally cross the border from Mexico, people familiar with the internal discussions tell Axios' Stef Kight.

Why it matters: Resuming the practice of so-called expedited removals for families could be a divisive move among some Democrats. It would shift the administration toward a more deterrence-based approach, used to varying degrees by the past four presidents and embraced especially by the Trump administration.

Driving the news: A review of the expedited removal process by the Department of Homeland Security is due this week, in keeping with an executive order signed by Biden in February.

 ron desantis uncredited Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ron DeSantis seems determined to lose reelection, Bill Palmer, May 31, 2021. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (above) seems more determined than ever to work from the Trump bill palmerplaybook. There are two problems with this. First, the Trump playbook is so faulty, it cost Donald Trump reelection, ruined his life, and has set him up for criminal indictment. The second problem is that DeSantis is too much of an idiot to even understand how the Trump playbook works.

Take, for instance, Ron DeSantis’ belief that pandering to anti-vaxxers is his ticket to political stardom. For one thing, as the rising vaccination numbers show, anti-vaxxers are too small a minority – even in Florida – to determine the outcome of an election. Worse, DeSantis isn’t merely pandering to them in symbolic ways. He’s tanking Florida’s economy in the process.

bill palmer report logo headerDeSantis is so married to the idea of forcing businesses in Florida to give priority to anti-vaxxers, he’s even trying to force the cruise lines to let unvaccinated people come aboard. This is despite the fact that, even as the pandemic winds down in the United States, cruise ships are one of the most dangerous remaining places possible for an outbreak.

Accordingly, the cruise lines are fighting DeSantis in court. It’s not entirely clear who will win the legal battle. But either way DeSantis will lose the political battle. If he wins in court, he’ll be seen as responsible for dangerously unsafe cruise line conditions, or he’ll be seen as responsible for the cruise lines pulling out of Florida altogether. If he loses in court, he’ll look like an impotent idiot who doesn’t have the muscle to carry out his evil plans.

In reality, all Ron DeSantis is doing is handing a persuasive talking point to his 2022 Democratic opponent, who can now argue that DeSantis’ extremist views are bad for Florida’s tourism-based economy. DeSantis is vulnerable, and if he loses reelection in Florida in 2022, we won’t have to worry about him in the presidential race in 2024.

MailOnline US, Revealed: 90s Tarzan star Joe Lara, his Christian diet guru wife Gwen and five other members of controversial church 'were en route to MAGA rally featuring Roger Stone' when plane crashed and killed all seven onboard, Emily Crane and Adam Schrader, May 31, 2021. Tarzan actor Joe Lara, his Christian diet guru wife Gwen Shamblin Lara and five other members of their controversial gwen shamblin lara husband joe laraRemnant Fellowship Church in Tennessee may have been en route to a Florida MAGA rally when their small plane crashed and killed them all.

The seven people on board were killed when the Cessna C501, which is registered to Joe and Gwen, crashed into a a lake in Smyrna, 25 miles southeast of Nashville, shortly after take-off on Saturday morning.

The Remnant Fellowship Church on Sunday night confirmed the deaths of Joe and Gwen Lara; Gwen's son-in-law Brandon Hannah; and church leaders David and Jennifer Martin and Jonathan and Jessica Walters.

Rescue workers are in the process of retrieving human remains and parts of the plane wreckage found so far at the Percy Priest Lake crash site.

Authorities say the plane was bound for Palm Beach International Airport.

Kimberly Fletcher, a Trump supporter who was scheduled to speak at a MAGA rally near Palm Beach on Sunday, has since revealed that one of the event's sponsors was on board the plane when it crashed. Fletcher did not specify which of the seven people on board was the person who helped sponsor the rally

According to Federal Election Commission data, Gwen Shamblin Lara last year donated at least $3,000 to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee and the Trump 2020 campaign.

'I am heartbroken. I am in Florida at for an event I'm speaking at tomorrow. One of the sponsors was flying in on a private plane with some friends,' Fletcher wrote in a Facebook post with a link to a news article about the plane crash.

The rally, which was held at the Martin County Fairgrounds, included speeches from Trump ally Roger Stone, according to an advertisement for the event.

Rutherford County Fire and Rescue Captain John Ingle said recovery operations were ongoing at the lake and would continue throughout Monday. The Cessna C501 had left Smyrna Rutherford County Airport before it slammed into the water at 10.53am on Saturday shortly after take-off, officials said.

The plane is registered to the Laras. Joe Lara played Tarzan in the 1989 film Tarzan in Manhattan and short-lived 1990s' TV series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures - through their company JL&GL Productions LP.

The plane, built in 1982, is a fixed-wing plane with two engines and eight seats, according to the website Flight Aware.

In a statement late Sunday, the church confirmed the deaths of the seven members.

'The seven Remnant Fellowship leaders lost May 29, 2021 were some of the finest and most loving people that you would ever come across. During this horrible tragedy, our church would greatly appreciate prayers,' the statement read.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. supporters of a tougher line on Israel split over tactics and message, Sean Sullivan, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). The Democrats and activists who successfully pressured party leaders to be democratic donkey logotougher on Israel during its recent conflict with Hamas are now fracturing over how to move forward, with sharp disagreements over demands and tone that could threaten their ability to keep shaping the debate.

Israel FlagSome favor restricting aid to Israel or blocking arms sales, while others favor more controversial steps such as boycotts and sanctions. Many embrace a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestinian territories as separate countries, but the sole Palestinian American in Congress is partial to a single state.

While some of these Democrats say they need to make it clearer when criticizing Israel that they also accept its right to exist and defend itself, others are unapologetic about using unvarnished rhetoric.

washington post logoWashington Post, Remains of 215 Indigenous children discovered at former Canadian residential school site, Amanda Coletta, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). A mass grave containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children, including some as young as 3, has been found on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia, a grim finding from one of the darkest chapters of Canadian history and one that an Indigenous leader called “an unthinkable loss.”

canadian flagChief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc said in a news release Thursday evening that the “stark truth” was unearthed last weekend with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist who surveyed the site of what was once the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

From 1883 to 1996, nearly 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families, often by force, and sent to the government-funded, church-run schools in an attempt to assimilate them. There, many faced neglect and physical and sexual abuse. Speaking Indigenous languages and practicing their traditions were forbidden.

 

U.S. Crime, Guns, Courts, Race

Daily Beast, Cops Release Chilling Footage of Three Suspects in Miami-Dade Mass Shooting, Alaina Demopoulos, May 31, 2021. In harrowing security footage released Monday by Miami-Dade Police, the gunmen who opened fire at a birthday party for a local rapper, killing at least two people, can be seen exiting a car with guns and running toward the event venue.

daily beast logoThe footage later shows the masked men running back into their white SUV. Another 22 people were injured in the early Sunday morning mayhem at El Mula Banquet Hall, which cops have described as a “targeted act of violence,” according to local news reports.

Police said in a press conference that people inside of the party “returned fire” with the perpetrators.

The shooters fled the scene and remain at large; Crime Stoppers is offering a $30,000 reward and the businessman Marcus Lemonis pledged $100,000 for tips that lead to an arrest. An officer told the Miami Herald they “[plan] to staff any other parties around town with off-duty cops” in search of leads.

#BREAKING — Miami Dade Police release video of mass shooter suspects exiting car with guns. pic.twitter.com/wvcUU3uS38
— Parker Branton (@ParkerBranton) May 31, 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Anarchists and an increase in crime hijack Portland’s social justice movement, Scott Wilson, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). After months of social-justice activism that made Portland a vivid, sometimes violent focal point for a nation debating the same issues around police accountability and reform, the movement here has splintered into bickering groups, at odds over tactics, goals and an overall direction for how to make the city safer, with the police force still at the debate’s bitter center.

The sharpening conflict between rising violent crime and efforts to reduce the size of police departments has played out across the American West throughout this pandemic year. Now cities such as Portland, considered among the most ambitious in moving to reshape its police force, have retrenched. So have Oakland, Calif.; Berkeley, Calif.; Los Angeles and several other influential cities on the issue.

The nightly confrontations with police and federal agents deployed here by President Donald Trump have been replaced by a kind of generational hopelessness, a tenuous sense of security across an under-policed city and a return to an old-school style of gun violence reminiscent of a tit-for-tat cycle of deadly reprisals, almost always among young men of color. Through April, the police reported 348 shootings, more than double those recorded over the first four months of last year.

A city of about 650,000 people, Portland has long experienced the push and pull of its stridently felt politics. By many measures, particularly on social issues such as marijuana legalization, the environment and gay rights, the city has been at the vanguard.

But there has also been a historical strain of violent independence in some of its residents, a trait that has helped small groups of self-described anarchists overwhelm the year-old push for police reform and social justice.

ted wheeler djtFrom the assessments of the White mayor, Ted Wheeler (shown at left following a dispute with then-President Trump), and the Black police chief, Chuck Lovell, this smaller faction comprises mostly White, middle-class students and others, who have made places such as churches, public libraries, small Black-owned businesses and a Boys & Girls Club the confounding targets of their vandalism.

On Tuesday, police declared a riot when one of two groups that had gathered to mark the anniversary of Floyd’s murder broke windows, set fires and threw objects at police. Five people were arrested; all were White.

Portland’s once-vibrant downtown, the heart of a world-class food scene, is still marred by boarded-up windows and closed businesses, the aftermath of a year of pandemic and fear of random assault and vandalism often committed under the name of the police reform movement.

“So these perpetrators, my guess, were coming of age, were in elementary and middle school right around the Great Recession,” said Brian Renauer, director of the Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute at Portland State. “Now they’re in their early to mid-20s. So what we’re seeing is the outgrowth of a breakdown in the family, in the economy, in those neighborhoods they came out of, if this is very much a homegrown phenomenon.”

The rising gun violence, and for a time the downtown demonstrations, have stressed the police department and put it largely on its back foot, a response unit rather than a force with resources to prevent crime. As one measure, police response time to emergency calls has more than doubled over the past eight years, to more than 40 minutes of wait-time before a call is even fielded by emergency dispatchers.

“Police are bailing,” Henning said. “We are losing our best, most experienced officers left and right, and calls for service are increasing every year.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 2 dead, more than 20 injured in shooting at Miami-area concert, police say, Timothy Bella, May 31, 2021 (print ed.) Two people were killed and more than 20 injured after gunmen with assault rifles and handguns began “shooting indiscriminately into a crowd” at a concert in the Miami area early Sunday, police said.

The shooting unfolded after 12:30 a.m. at El Mula Banquet Hall in Hialeah, Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez III, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said in a morning news conference. Ramirez said three people approached the venue, which was being rented out for a concert, in a white Nissan Pathfinder and began shooting in what he described as a “targeted and cowardly act of gun violence.” The gunmen then fled the scene, police added.

nra logo CustomTwo people were declared dead at the scene. More than 20 victims with injuries were taken to hospitals, with at least one person in critical condition, police said in a news release. Authorities estimated that 20 to 25 people were shot.

No arrests have been made as of early Sunday, and no suspects have been identified. Investigators have urged those in the community with any knowledge about the gunmen and their whereabouts to come forward.

“These are cold blooded murderers that shot indiscriminately into a crowd and we will seek justice,” Ramirez tweeted. “My deepest condolences to the family of the victims.” The names of the victims have not been made public.

The shooting comes amid several gun massacres in the country in recent months, including the Wednesday attack by a public transit worker who fatally shot nine people at a light-rail facility in San Jose before killing himself. Sunday’s shooting is the second significant gun attack in the area over Memorial Day weekend. One person was killed and seven were injured in a Friday night shooting.

Oklahoma City scene of devastation in its once-prosperous African-American Greenwood section burned during a white mob's massacre of residents in 1921 (Oklahoma Historical Society Photo).

Oklahoma City scene of devastation in its once-prosperous African-American Greenwood section burned during a white mob's massacre of residents in 1921 (Oklahoma Historical Society Photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, TV Critic's Notebook: Telling the Story of the Tulsa Massacre, Mike Hale, May 31, 2021 (print ed.). An array of TV documentaries mark the centennial of one of America’s deadliest outbreaks of racist violence. 

The Tulsa race massacre of June 1, 1921, has gone from virtually unknown to emblematic with impressive speed, propelled by the national reckoning with racism and specifically with sanctioned violence against Black Americans. That awareness is reflected in the spate of new television documentaries on the occasion of the massacre’s 100th anniversary.

“Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre” (Sunday on History), “Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street” (Monday on CNN) and “Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten” (Monday on PBS) tell overlapping stories of the horrific day when a white mob stormed through the prosperous Greenwood District of Tulsa, Okla. Triggered by a confrontation between white men planning a lynching and Black men intent on stopping it, the 16-hour spasm of violence left 100 to 300 people dead and most of Greenwood, including more than 1,250 houses, burned to the ground.

All three sketch the history of Black settlement in Oklahoma, where more than 40 Black towns existed in the early 20th century, and the singular success of Greenwood. Each carries the story into the present, covering the excavations carried out in 2020 looking for mass graves of massacre victims. Certain scenes and interview subjects are uniformly present: the historian Hannibal Johnson; “The Bobby Eaton Show” on KBOB 89.9 FM; the Rev. Dr. Robert Turner giving a tour of the basement of the Vernon A.M.E. Church, the only part that survived the conflagration.

But each has its own style and emphasis, its own approach to the unthinkable material. The PBS film is journalistic, built around the reporting of The Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown, who appears onscreen, and narrated by NPR’s Michel Martin. It spends a little less time on the past and more on the continuing issues of race in Tulsa, including educational disparities and the protests following the police killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man, in 2016. In the nature of the contemporary newspaper feature, it’s a touch sanctimonious. It ends with Johnson, looking uncomfortable, delivering a nominally hopeful sound bite: “We’re not there yet, we’re working on it.”

  

May 30

Top Headlines 

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Crime, Guns, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Media, Religious News

 

Top Storiesnaftali bennett benjamin netanyahu

washington post logoWashington Post, Israeli opposition parties reach agreement to oust Netanyahu, Shira Rubin, May 30, 2021. After more than 12 years as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has been struggling to hold onto power after four inconclusive elections in the past two years while facing a corruption trial. Now a diverse coalition is kick-starting a process to end the political stalemate.

A diverse coalition of Israeli opposition parties said Sunday that they have the votes to form a unity government to unseat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (above right), Israel’s longest-serving leader and its dominant political figure for more than a decade.

Under their agreement, reached after weeks of negotiations spearheaded by centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, former Netanyahu defense minister and ally Naftali Bennett, above left, will lead a power-sharing government.

Israel Flag“We could go to fifth elections, sixth elections, until our home falls upon us, or we could stop the madness and take responsibility,” Bennett said in a televised statement Sunday evening. “Today, I would like to announce that I intend to join my friend Yair Lapid in forming a unity government.”

Netanyahu has been struggling to hold onto power after four inconclusive elections in the past two years while facing an ongoing corruption trial. Bennett is one of several former loyalists who have flirted with joining the so-called change coalition, a collection of parties that span the political spectrum but share a desire to end Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure.

Their announcement follows the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip this month, which some analysts speculated would help bolster the embattled Netanyahu. At the outset of the fighting, Bennett, a former Netanyahu protege who had been poised to join a unity government with Lapid, said the military operation, which killed more than 250 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, had ended his interest in joining with the anti-Netanyahu coalition, which has the support of left-leaning and Arab parties.

washington post logoWashington Post, 2 dead, more than 20 injured in shooting at Miami-area concert, police say, Timothy Bella, May 30, 2021 Two people were killed and more than 20 injured after gunmen with assault rifles and handguns began “shooting indiscriminately into a crowd” at a concert in the Miami area early Sunday, police said.

The shooting unfolded after 12:30 a.m. at El Mula Banquet Hall in Hialeah, Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez III, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, said in a morning news conference. Ramirez said three people approached the venue, which was being rented out for a concert, in a white Nissan Pathfinder and began shooting in what he described as a “targeted and cowardly act of gun violence.” The gunmen then fled the scene, police added.

nra logo CustomTwo people were declared dead at the scene. More than 20 victims with injuries were taken to hospitals, with at least one person in critical condition, police said in a news release. Authorities estimated that 20 to 25 people were shot.

No arrests have been made as of early Sunday, and no suspects have been identified. Investigators have urged those in the community with any knowledge about the gunmen and their whereabouts to come forward.

“These are cold blooded murderers that shot indiscriminately into a crowd and we will seek justice,” Ramirez tweeted. “My deepest condolences to the family of the victims.” The names of the victims have not been made public.

The shooting comes amid several gun massacres in the country in recent months, including the Wednesday attack by a public transit worker who fatally shot nine people at a light-rail facility in San Jose before killing himself. Sunday’s shooting is the second significant gun attack in the area over Memorial Day weekend. One person was killed and seven were injured in a Friday night shooting.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tex. GOP finalizes bill that would enact stiff voting restrictions, make it easier to overturn election results, Amy Gardner, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). The Texas legislature on Saturday texas mapmoved closer to enacting dozens of new restrictions on the voting process, as Republican lawmakers reached a deal that imposes a raft of hurdles on casting ballots by mail and enhances civil and criminal penalties for election administrators, voters and those seeking to assist them.

The measure would make it illegal for election officials to send out unsolicited mail ballot applications, empower partisan poll watchers and ban practices such as drop boxes and drive-through voting that were popularized in heavily Democratic Harris County last year, according to a final draft distributed by legislative staff to voting right advocates Saturday morning.

In a last-minute addition, language was inserted in the bill making it easier to overturn an election, no longer requiring evidence that fraud actually altered an outcome of a race — but rather only that enough ballots were illegally cast that could have made a difference.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: GOP push to revisit 2020 has worrisome implications for future elections, Dan Balz, right, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans say audits and new voting laws are aimed at dan balzassuring election integrity; the result could be just the opposite.Donald Trump’s “big lie” has spawned a movement that under the guise of assuring election integrity threatens to do the opposite, potentially affecting the election process with questionable challenges that could block or delay the certification of results and undermine an essential pillar of democratic governance.

Trump’s refusal to accept the 2020 results has kept alive the fiction that the election was stolen or the process was deeply corrupted. That fiction — fueled by conspiracy theories — has encouraged members of his party, elected officials and ordinary citizens, to take steps to address this; these actions could lead to worse outcomes in the future.

For some Americans, the 2020 election isn’t over, as unsubstantiated claims of fraud or widespread irregularities prompt continuing efforts to reexamine ballots and voting machines

ny times logoNew York Times, As G.O.P. Blocks Inquiry, Questions on Jan. 6 Attack May Go Unanswered, Luke Broadwater, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans united in large numbers against a panel to investigate the Capitol riot, moving to shift an unwelcome spotlight away from former President Trump. The result is that key details about a shocking act of domestic extremism against the federal government are likely to remain shrouded in mystery.

In blocking the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Republicans in Congress have all but closed off the possibility of a full and impartial accounting for one of republican elephant logothe most serious assaults on American democracy in history, leaving unanswered critical questions with broad implications for politics, security and public trust.

Fearing political damage from any sustained scrutiny of the attack, Republicans united in large numbers against the inquiry, moving to shift an unwelcome spotlight away from former President Donald J. Trump, his election lies that fueled the attack, and the complicity of many G.O.P. lawmakers in amplifying his false claims of widespread voter fraud.

The result is that key details about a shocking act of domestic extremism against the United States government are likely to remain shrouded in mystery, and anything new that may be revealed about the assault at the Capitol will most likely be viewed through a partisan lens, with a substantial proportion of the country rejecting the reality of what transpired.

The public may never know precisely what Mr. Trump and members of his administration did or said as a throng of his supporters stormed the Capitol while Congress met to formalize President Biden’s victory, threatening the lives of lawmakers and the vice president. The full story may never be revealed of why security officials were so unprepared for the breach of the building, supposedly one of the most secure in the nation, despite ample warnings of potential violence. The extent of the role of Republican lawmakers closely allied with Mr. Trump in planning the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that spiraled into a brutal onslaught may remain unexplored

 

Actor James Stewart, at right, as a freshman congressman in an iconic scene from the film

Actor James Stewart, at right, as a freshman congressman in an iconic scene from the film "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."

WMR's Hollywood, Memorial Weekend Commentary: Those who actually fought in combat, Wayne Madsen, left, May 30, 2021. Movies depicting war have featured actors whose film careers were buoyed by wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalltheir being typecast as the heroic warfighter. John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Randolph Scott, and Robert Mitchum all spring to mind. While none of these actors had any actual combat experience -- Wayne, Scott, and Mitchum not serving in the military for various reasons and Reagan consigned to the back lot at Warner Brothers making training films while an Army Reservist -- others saw actual wartime combat.

wayne madesen report logoJimmy Stewart flew his B-24 on several bombing missions over Germany in World War II. In 1944, Stewart's plane was hit by German anti-aircraft fire but he managed to fly his B-24 back to England with the plane breaking apart upon landing but with his crew unscathed. Stewart was promoted to colonel in 1945.

....

There are many other Hollywood actors and actresses who served in combat during wartime situations in Korea, Vietnam, and other theaters. The next time some cowardly draft dodger like Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani or lily-livered avoiders of military service like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul criticize the "liberal elite" of Hollywood, they should be reminded that many of Hollywood's greatest served in uniform while they hid behind fake medical conditions or claims of being "too busy" for military service.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Senate Democrats have found a way to pass HR1 voting rights reform after all, Bill Palmer, right, May 29, 2021. From the start of the 2021 session, Palmer Report has pointed bill palmerout that Joe Manchin has merely been posturing when it comes to the filibuster, and that he was merely waiting until he had cover before finally “reluctantly” coming out in support of exempting important legislation from the filibuster. Sure enough, that now appears to be playing out in real time.

To understand this, you first have to understand that the Democrats were hoping the Republicans would be stupid enough to kill the bipartisan 1/6 commission – which is what ended up happening yesterday. This now gives the Democrats cover to appoint a 1/6 select committee, which will give them more investigative power, while hitting the Republicans for blocking bipartisanship.

bill palmer report logo headerIt also gave Joe Manchin cover to come out swinging at Senate Republicans for abusing the filibuster in such unpopular and unpatriotic fashion – which is what Manchin did yesterday. Now, even as Manchin is finally ranting and raving about how obstructionist Senate Republicans are, Chuck Schumer has suddenly scheduled a vote on the HR1/S1 voting rights reform act for next month. This likely isn’t coincidence.

Although a number of liberal Twitter pundits love taking inaccurate cheap shots at Chuck Schumer, he’s actually quite savvy at this stuff. It’s difficult to imagine that he’d bring something as important as HR1 to a vote this soon, unless he now has the votes. Keep in mind that the next election isn’t until 2022, meaning there’s absolutely no hurry to pass HR1. If the votes weren’t there yet, Schumer would keep waiting to hold the vote.

At the same time, we know that there certainly aren’t ten Republican Senators willing to vote in favor of HR1, because it would make it harder for them to cheat in their own reelection campaigns (Lisa Murkowski, who will face a far right primary challenger in 2022, might be the only exception who could be swayed to vote for it).

So if there are only fifty (or fifty-one) votes for HR1, then Schumer must know that Manchin is finally ready to exempt HR1 from the filibuster. There’s really no other plausible explanation. It makes sense. Manchin needs HR1 to pass in order to have a fair shot in his own reelection bid in Republican-controlled West Virginia. Now that Senate Republicans have abused the filibuster in such embarrassing fashion, he has the cover he needs to argue that he had no choice but to take this next step. And if Murkowski is on board, Manchin will nominally have the “bipartisan” cover he’s been seeking.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

Associated Press via HuffPost, Florida Data Scientist Rebekah Jones Granted Whistleblower Status, Staff Report, May 30, 2021. Jones accused state health officials of pressuring her to manipulate ap logoCOVID-19 numbers. State officials said she was fired for communicating with the media.

A former Florida Department of Health employee has received whistleblower status a year after being fired for repeatedly violating the agency’s policy about communicating with the media.

rebekah jonesThe employee, Rebekah Jones, left, had raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data after being ousted as the data’s curator. State officials said she was fired for insubordination after being reprimanded several times, according to state records.

The Miami Herald reported that the Office of the Inspector General told her attorneys on Friday that “the information disclosed does meet the criteria for whistleblower status as described by ... Florida statutes.”

Jones, who helped build the state’s online presentation of its COVID-19 data, received national attention a year ago when she sowed doubt about the information being reported by the state when Florida was an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic. She suggested that Health Department managers wanted her to manipulate information to paint a rosier picture and that she pushed back.

A letter from Inspector General Michael J. Bennett, the Herald reported, said Jones’ complaint demonstrates “reasonable cause to suspect that an employee or agent of an agency or independent contractor has violated any federal, state or local law, rule or regulation.”

washington post logoworld health organization logo CustomWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump-era work on ‘lab leak’ theory led to Biden’s surprising order to probe coronavirus origins, Shane Harris and Yasmeen Abutaleb, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). In the spring of 2020, as the coronavirus ripped through U.S. cities on its way to claiming more than 592,000 American lives, a group of senior U.S. national security officials warily eyed a laboratory in Wuhan, China

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 167.2 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 30, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 59.7 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 50.3 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 30, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 170,691,288, Deaths: 3,550,115
U.S. Cases:     34,035,318, Deaths:    609,421
India Cases:     27,894,800, Deaths:   325,998
Brazil Cases:    16,471,600, Deaths:   461,142

washington post logoWashington Post, This concert ticket costs $18 — or $1,000 if you’re not vaccinated, Hannah Knowles, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). The promoter says he’s offering a discount. The governor’s office says he’s violating Florida rules.

ron desantis oThis spring, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), right, issued an executive order forbidding businesses from making their patrons prove that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. He also signed into law a bill to give the ban more teeth, threatening violators with fines in the thousands of dollars.

One Florida concert promoter thinks he has a workaround: offer $18 tickets to anyone who is vaccinated and charge $999.99 for everyone else.

“I’m not denying entry to anyone,” said Paul Williams. “I’m just offering a discount.”

The governor’s office says the unorthodox pricing violates Florida’s rules: “Charging higher ticket prices for individuals who do not furnish proof of vaccination unfairly discriminates against people who have enumerated rights under Florida law,” said Christina Pushaw, press secretary for the governor’s office, in an email to The Washington Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, 117 staffers sue over Houston hospital’s vaccine mandate, saying they don’t want to be ‘guinea pigs,’ Derek Hawkins, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). The lawsuit could test whether employers can require vaccinations as the country navigates out of a pandemic that has killed nearly 600,000 people in the U.S.

A group of 117 unvaccinated staffers from Houston Methodist Hospital filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to avoid the hospital’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, saying it’s unlawful for bosses to require the shots.

The staffers join a growing list of employees challenging compulsory immunizations at businesses, colleges and other workplaces essential to the country’s reopening. Vaccine mandates have faced mounting resistance from anti-vaccination groups and some Republican politicians, even as health officials promote the proven safety of the vaccines and millions of Americans line up to get the shots every week.

The lawsuit against Houston Methodist was filed by Jared Woodfill, a Houston-area attorney and conservative activist. It appears to mirror a legal strategy used by a New York-based law firm, Siri & Glimstad, that is closely aligned with one of the country’s biggest anti-vaccination organizations but unaffiliated with the Houston litigation.

The complaint, filed in state court, says Houston Methodist’s vaccine mandate violates a set of medical ethics standards known as the Nuremberg Code, which was designed to prevent experimentation on human subjects without consent. The code was created after World War II in response to the medical atrocities Nazis committed against prisoners in concentration camps.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

Axios Sneak Peek, Scoop — Biden eyes two Ambassadors Kennedy, Alayna Treene and Hans Nichols, May 30, 2021. President Biden is considering naming two Kennedys to represent him abroad: Caroline Kennedy is in line to be U.S. ambassador to Australia, and Vicki Kennedy is on his radar for Western Europe, people familiar with the matter tell Axios' Hans Nichols.

axios logoWhy it matters: With JFK's daughter and the widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Biden would be reaching outside of his pool of core campaign donors. He'd also be putting a spotlight back on America's most famous political dynasty — and honoring a late friend and mentor.

Flashback: Biden, who shares the family's Irish Catholic heritage, delivered a eulogy in 2009 for Ted, with whom he served in the Senate for 36 years.

He has described Kennedy as a "big brother," and felt a debt of gratitude for Kennedy's defense of his honor amid the plagiarism controversy in Biden's 1988 presidential bid.

Details: Vicki, an attorney at Greenberg Traurig and a gun control advocate, got to know Biden through her husband.

Caroline served as President Obama’s second ambassador to Japan and is well versed in the issues in the Asia-Pacific region, where the AP first reported she could be heading.
australian flag wavingThe White House declined to comment. People close to the process stressed that nothing is final until the White House sends a formal announcement.

Driving the news: Biden was scheduled to make several formal offers to candidates over the holiday weekend, ahead of announcing his first slate of ambassadors as soon as this week.

On Friday, he announced Rufus Gifford as his choice to be chief of protocol at the State Department. Administration officials have been vigorous in vetting the first group of political ambassadors, hoping to avoid negative headlines.

rahm emanuel wThe intrigue: In addition to political allies like former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, right, and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden will likely reward longtime friends and aides, in lieu of several donors who raised millions of dollars over Zoom from his campaign. In other news:

Axios, Scoop: Biden considers shift toward deterrence. President Biden is considering the return of an immigration policy that allows the U.S. government to more quickly deport families who illegally cross the border from Mexico, people familiar with the internal discussions tell Axios' Stef Kight.

Why it matters: Resuming the practice of so-called expedited removals for families could be a divisive move among some Democrats. It would shift the administration toward a more deterrence-based approach, used to varying degrees by the past four presidents and embraced especially by the Trump administration.

Driving the news: A review of the expedited removal process by the Department of Homeland Security is due this week, in keeping with an executive order signed by Biden in February.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a negotiator, Biden leaves GOP senators unsure how far he will go, Seung Min Kim, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). Exactly what President Biden agreed to in an Oval Office meeting this month has become a key factor in the talks between Republican senators and the White House over a massive infrastructure package. The Oval Office session also provides insight into the negotiating style of the president.

At one point during the Oval Office negotiating session, it seemed President Biden and a half-dozen GOP senators chasing an infrastructure deal had landed on a workable figure: $1 trillion.

That number was dramatically scaled back from the White House’s initial $2.3 trillion vision for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, yet still far higher than the Senate Republicans’ opening bid. Some of the GOP senators in the room were unsure how they would reach the $1 trillion mark.

Then Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) asked Biden: Would it matter if that spending were spread out over five years, or eight? The president indicated to the senators that it wouldn’t.

The Republicans — some of whom had taken chocolate chip cookies, wrapped in a presidential seal, for the road — left the Oval Office believing that Biden would be satisfied with a framework that would spend $1 trillion over eight years and that it could include existing spending plans.
Advertisement

“I have had opportunities and dealings with him over the years, and he’s a straight shooter,” said Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), one of the six negotiators representing Senate Republicans with the White House. “If he gives you his commitment, you can count on it.”

What precisely Biden agreed to in the Oval Office has become a key factor in the ongoing negotiations between GOP senators and the White House, which it appears will continue beyond Memorial Day despite wide gulfs between the two sides concerning what to spend money on and how to pay for it.

Republicans were so taken aback by the $1.7 trillion counteroffer put forward by White House last week, a figure much higher than what they thought they had agreed to and one that included several provisions that GOP senators made clear were off the table for them, such as $400 billion for long-term care.

washington post logoWashington Post, Postal Service raises stamp prices, sends layoff notices as part of restructuring plan, Jacob Bogage, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). The postmaster general’s plan calls for additional price increases on package products and slower mail service.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service is raising rates on letters, magazines and marketing missives by as much as 6.9 percent this summer, sending the cost of a first-class stamp from 55 to 58 louis dejoy Customcents, as it leans into an expansive restructuring plan that codifies slower mail delivery and streamlines agency operations.

The rate structure announced Friday is the latest installment of the plan of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’ (shown at left) to erase a projected $160 billon in liabilities over the next decade.

The agency has struggled for the better part of a year with inconsistent delivery service and soaring package volumes that have gridlocked its processing network. The Postal Service’s on-time delivery scores have not topped 90 percent since July 2020.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. supporters of a tougher line on Israel split over tactics and message, Sean Sullivan, May 30, 2021. The Democrats and activists who successfully pressured party leaders to be democratic donkey logotougher on Israel during its recent conflict with Hamas are now fracturing over how to move forward, with sharp disagreements over demands and tone that could threaten their ability to keep shaping the debate.

Israel FlagSome favor restricting aid to Israel or blocking arms sales, while others favor more controversial steps such as boycotts and sanctions. Many embrace a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestinian territories as separate countries, but the sole Palestinian American in Congress is partial to a single state.

While some of these Democrats say they need to make it clearer when criticizing Israel that they also accept its right to exist and defend itself, others are unapologetic about using unvarnished rhetoric.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran-backed militias turn to drone attacks, alarming U.S. forces in Iraq, Louisa Loveluck and John Hudson, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). In place of rockets, militiamen have turned at times to small, fixed-wing drones that fly too low to be picked up by defensive systems, military officials and diplomats said. An official with the U.S.-led coalition described the evolving drone threat as the military mission’s biggest concern in Iraq.

U.S. military officials in Iraq have grown increasingly alarmed over attacks by Iran-backed militias using drones to evade detection systems around military bases and diplomatic facilities.

In place of rockets, militiamen have turned at times to small, fixed-wing drones that fly too low to be picked up by defensive systems, military officials and diplomats say. An official with the U.S.-led coalition described the evolving drone threat as the military mission’s biggest concern in Iraq.

In April, a drone strike targeted a CIA hangar inside the airport complex in the northern city of Irbil, according to officials familiar with the matter. The drone’s flight was tracked to within 10 miles of the site, but its path was then lost as it moved into a civilian flight path, the coalition official said. The drone’s remains were partially recovered, and preliminary analysis suggested it was made in Iran, a coalition official said. The attack deeply concerned White House and Pentagon officials because of the covert nature of the facility and the sophistication of the strike.
Advertisement

Although no one was harmed in the strike, it prompted a long night of deliberations over how to respond, according to Western officials. Some U.S. officials advocated serious consideration of a military response, including the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, said two people familiar with the matter. The Biden administration ultimately decided against taking military action.

washington post logoWashington Post, Remains of 215 Indigenous children discovered at former Canadian residential school site, Amanda Coletta, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). A mass grave containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children, including some as young as 3, has been found on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia, a grim finding from one of the darkest chapters of Canadian history and one that an Indigenous leader called “an unthinkable loss.”

canadian flagChief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc said in a news release Thursday evening that the “stark truth” was unearthed last weekend with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist who surveyed the site of what was once the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

From 1883 to 1996, nearly 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families, often by force, and sent to the government-funded, church-run schools in an attempt to assimilate them. There, many faced neglect and physical and sexual abuse. Speaking Indigenous languages and practicing their traditions were forbidden.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson weds Carrie Symonds Johnson in a wedding at 10 Downing Street on May 29, 2021 (Downing Street photo).

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson weds Carrie Symonds Johnson in a wedding at the prime minister's historic home at 10 Downing Street on May 29, 2021 (Downing Street photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Boris Johnson says ‘I do’ in private wedding that outfoxes Britain’s media, Karla Adam, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). British Prime Minister Boris Johnson married his fiancee Carrie Symonds in a secret ceremony at Westminster Cathedral, the first time a British leader has married in office in 199 years.

United Kingdom flagJohnson, 56, and Symonds, 33, said “I do” at London’s main Roman Catholic church in central London on Saturday afternoon in front of a small group of family and friends.

The bride and groom appear to have outfoxed the British media with their top secret nuptials. The Sun newspaper recently reported that the couple sent “save-the-date” cards to guests, telling them they would “celebrate their wedding” on July 30, 2022.

 

U.S. Crime, Guns, Courts, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Pandemic Fuels Surge in U.S. Gun Sales ‘Unlike Anything We’ve Ever Seen,’ Sabrina Tavernis, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). Preliminary research data show that about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners. Sales usually spike around elections, but the sheer volume is notable.

It was another week with another horrific mass shooting. In cities across the country, gun homicides were climbing. Democrats and Republicans argued over the causes. President Biden said enough.

But beneath the timeworn political cycle on guns in the United States, the country’s appetite for firearms has only been increasing, with more being bought by more Americans than ever before.

nra logo CustomWhile gun sales have been climbing for decades — they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes — Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked.

In March last year, federal background checks, a rough proxy for purchases, topped one million in a week for the first time since the government began tracking them in 1998. And the buying continued, through the protests in the summer and the election in the fall, until a week this spring broke the record with 1.2 million background checks.

“There was a surge in purchasing unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, a gun researcher at the University of California, Davis. “Usually it slows down. But this just kept going.”

Not only were people who already had guns buying more, but people who had never owned one were buying them too. New preliminary data from Northeastern University and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center show that about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners. And the data, which has not been previously released, showed that new owners were less likely than usual to be male and white. Half were women, a fifth were Black and a fifth were Hispanic.

In all, the data found that 39 percent of American households own guns. That is up from 32 percent in 2016, according to the General Social Survey, a public opinion poll conducted by a research center at the University of Chicago. Researchers said it was too early to tell whether the uptick represents a reversal from the past 20 years, in which ownership was basically flat.

ny times logoNew York Times, TV Critic's Notebook: Telling the Story of the Tulsa Massacre, Mike Hale, May 30, 2021. An array of TV documentaries mark the centennial of one of America’s deadliest outbreaks of racist violence. 

The Tulsa race massacre of June 1, 1921, has gone from virtually unknown to emblematic with impressive speed, propelled by the national reckoning with racism and specifically with sanctioned violence against Black Americans. That awareness is reflected in the spate of new television documentaries on the occasion of the massacre’s 100th anniversary.

“Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre” (Sunday on History), “Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street” (Monday on CNN) and “Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten” (Monday on PBS) tell overlapping stories of the horrific day when a white mob stormed through the prosperous Greenwood District of Tulsa, Okla. Triggered by a confrontation between white men planning a lynching and Black men intent on stopping it, the 16-hour spasm of violence left 100 to 300 people dead and most of Greenwood, including more than 1,250 houses, burned to the ground.

All three sketch the history of Black settlement in Oklahoma, where more than 40 Black towns existed in the early 20th century, and the singular success of Greenwood. Each carries the story into the present, covering the excavations carried out in 2020 looking for mass graves of massacre victims. Certain scenes and interview subjects are uniformly present: the historian Hannibal Johnson; “The Bobby Eaton Show” on KBOB 89.9 FM; the Rev. Dr. Robert Turner giving a tour of the basement of the Vernon A.M.E. Church, the only part that survived the conflagration.

But each has its own style and emphasis, its own approach to the unthinkable material. The PBS film is journalistic, built around the reporting of The Washington Post’s DeNeen L. Brown, who appears onscreen, and narrated by NPR’s Michel Martin. It spends a little less time on the past and more on the continuing issues of race in Tulsa, including educational disparities and the protests following the police killing of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black man, in 2016. In the nature of the contemporary newspaper feature, it’s a touch sanctimonious. It ends with Johnson, looking uncomfortable, delivering a nominally hopeful sound bite: “We’re not there yet, we’re working on it.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fact check: would a Special Counsel or Special Prosecutor save the Capitol attack investigation? Bill Palmer, right, May 30, 2021 Now that Senate Republicans have killed what would bill palmerhave been a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th Capitol attack, numerous people online are calling for a Special Counsel or Special Prosecutor to be put in charge of the investigation. But is this even really a thing in this instance? Let’s fact check this.

bill palmer report logo headerThe people calling for a Special Counsel are doing so based on a number of false presumptions and widespread confusion. For instance, they mistakenly think that the congressional probe into the Capitol attack is dead, when in reality it’ll merely be run by the select committee that Speaker Pelosi is about to appoint. They also appear to be unaware that a Special Counsel handles criminal investigations, whereas congressional investigations are by definition not criminal investigations.In addition, those calling for a Special Counsel appear to be unaware that the DOJ is already running a full scale criminal investigation into the Capitol attack, as evidenced by the hundreds of arrests that have already taken place. They’re also unaware that a Special Counsel is only appointed when the DOJ has some kind of internal conflict of interest that would prevent it from being able to run the U.S. House logoinvestigation itself. And they seem to mistakenly think that a Special Counsel has magical powers that the DOJ doesn’t have, which is not the case.

So no, a Special Counsel is not going to take the place of the congressional probe, both because that’s not what a Special Counsel is, and because there is still going to be a congressional probe. And no, a Special Counsel is not going to take the place of the DOJ criminal probe, unless some unexpected internal conflict of interest arrives. Nor would a Special Counsel change anything about how the Capitol attack investigation is going to play out.

Part of the confusion here is that the media is doing far too little to make the public aware that a 1/6 select committee is just around the corner, and that the DOJ’s ongoing prosecution of the Capitol attackers is by default also a criminal investigation into those who incited the attack.

 

U.S. Media, Religious News

Sun U.S., Doomed Flight: Gwen Shamblin Lara among ‘7 passengers presumed dead’ in Tennessee plane wreck after diet guru’s private jet crashes, Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore, Updated: May 30 2021. Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin Lara is among seven passengers "presumed dead" after her private jet crashed into a Tennessee lake, reports say.

gwen shamblin lara husband joe laraOfficials released the names of all seven people they believe were aboard the small plane when the plane crashed into the water in Smyrna on Saturday morning.

"All indications are that a total of seven people were on board," a release from Rutherford County officials said. All are presumed dead, the statement said.

The victims are believed to be Lara, her husband Joe Lara (shown together at right in a file photo), Jennifer J. Martin, David L. Martin, Jessica Walters, Jonathan Walters, and Brandon Hannah, according to the statement.

Shamblin Lara founded the Remnant Fellowship Church in 1999 and is the author of The Weigh Down Diet.

The Federal Aviation Administration told WTVF that the plane departed from the Smyrna Rutherford County Airport just before 11am before crashing into Percy Priest Lake. It was reportedly bound for Palm Beach International Airport.

Shamblin Lara's daughter, Elizabeth Hannah, reportedly sent out a text message to Remnant church members asking for prayers. Hannah also said that the Laras were on the plane with other church leaders: the Martins, the Walters, and her own husband, Brandon. 

"More information to come, but be in prayer -- and be at peace," Hannah's message continues. "GOD IS IN CONTROL, and we will not stop moving forward with WHAT GOD WANTS with this church."

Shamblin Lara's website describes her as a "pioneer of faith-based weight loss." She published a post to her blog on Saturday morning, apparently before the plane departed, where she wrote that, "God does not want us to worry about the food's content."

"Jesus taught us that it is not the food that defiles us, but rather the attitudes and thoughts that we have in our hearts and in our minds that will corrupt and destroy us," the blog says

An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen
Peter L.W. Osnos
Platform 
389 pp. $25.95

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Dispatch from the front lines of war and publishing, Steven V. Roberts, May 30, 2021. Peter L.W. Osnos was a reporter and editor at the Washington Post for 18 years before becoming a book publisher, and the title of this memoir is accurate.

He did have An Especially Good View of many historical events, and so did his parents, Józef and Marta. They were Polish Jews who escaped the Holocaust by fleeing eastward through Romania and on to India, where Peter was born in October 1943. Four months later his parents emigrated to America and eventually settled on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Osnos’s father flourished in the booming new business of air conditioning, and by the early 1950s his parents were building a lakefront vacation home in New Jersey. But their Old World origins, he writes, still shaped his outlook: “Too often in memoirs, the protagonist takes pride in being ‘an outsider,’ ” he writes. “I really was. I came of age in a world completely different from that of the first half of my parents’ lives.”

While he was an undergraduate at Brandeis, a trip to Mississippi in 1962 accelerated his trajectory. Journalists are often outsiders, professional observers rather than participants, and Osnos wrote about the rural poverty and systemic segregation he’d witnessed for the school paper. “Nothing in my life up to that point had made so deep an impression on me,” he recalls.

Less than three years later he was headed for Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and by the fall of 1970 The Post had sent him to Vietnam. His Russian background served him well, and he eventually worked on four books with Natan Sharansky, the noted Soviet dissident, but it was not always an easy relationship. Osnos recalls a moment when he was suggesting cuts in one of Sharansky’s manuscripts: “He refused, and finally declared: ‘The KGB couldn’t break me, and you won’t either.’ ”

The editor faced an equally thorny problem when he worked with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter on a book about combining “social responsibility with a healthy lifestyle.” The former president and his wife had very different work habits, and Osnos had to broker a Camp David-like peace treaty between them. Carter, notes Osnos, “even wrote somewhere that an editor came down from New York and saved their marriage.”

After leaving Random House, Osnos went on to found PublicAffairs, a small but successful publishing venture that produced an “instant book” version of the Starr report detailing Bill Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. The New York Times quoted him saying, “I didn’t know when we chose Public­Affairs for this company’s name that we literally meant public affairs, but that’s the way it worked out.”

This book has many flaws, and Osnos admits that. A “friendly” literary agent warned him that his old friends in the publishing world might not be interested in his project, and he wrote on the website Medium last fall, “I realized that I couldn’t stand the prospect of being put up for auction, let alone outright rejections.” So he created a company, called Platform, to publish this book — the first and only volume it has produced so far.

One problem is endemic to books of this sort. Many Washington luminaries think their memoirs are worth writing, and reading, but they’re often wrong. I think of these as “Dinner With Dean” books, in which the author — with a healthy measure of self-satisfaction — describes meals he (and occasionally she) shared with the noteworthy and notorious, as in “Then I had dinner with Dean Acheson.” (My reference to Acheson, secretary of state under Harry Truman, serves to date me, but the point is still valid.) Osnos falls frequently into this trope, describing for instance a dinner in Leningrad attended by the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and the novelist David Cornwell, who used the pen name John le Carré. “There is a photograph of us all at the table,” he gushes. “What a night!”

More serious is the lack of compelling insights into the people and events described here. Yes, Osnos had a good view of history in the making. But what did it all mean? Of his college years, which spanned the Kennedy presidency, the author writes, “Having the Kennedys coming into the White House made the era seem glamorous, especially in contrast to the Eisenhower years.” Okay, but I am Osnos’s age, and there is a great deal more to be said about John Kennedy’s impact on our generation’s value systems and career choices.

Writing about his Vietnam War experience, he reflects: “Did these near-death experiences have any lasting impact on us? I really have no idea.” The young journalists who covered Vietnam changed the entire relationship between working reporters and government officials, making it far more skeptical and less cozy, a tectonic shift that led to The Post’s courageous coverage of Watergate a few years later. Osnos has little to say on the matter. One editor warned him that his memoir had to tell readers “why they should bother.” He never really answers her question.

Reviewer Steven V. Roberts, who teaches journalism and politics at George Washington University, spent 25 years reporting for the New York Times.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It was already tough to fight disinformation. Then UFO news came along, Charlie Warzel (a journalist who writes “Galaxy Brain,” a newsletter about technology, media and politics), May 29, 2021. It’s a weird time to be alive.

Covid cases in the United States are declining, but vaccination rates are stalling, too. In places such as India, the pandemic rages almost unabated. Parody cryptocurrencies and meme stocks, driven by billionaire tweets and Reddit threads, have flummoxed Wall Street and minted and destroyed fortunes by the second. Hackers hijacked regional pipelines, causing a gas shortage and demanding a crypto ransom. The government is reexamining previously dismissed coronavirus origin theories.

Then, of course, there are UFOs. The sci-fi fliers have gone from fringe conspiracy theory to legitimate matter of national security in just months. Even former president Barack Obama has admitted the existence of recordings of flying objects that experts cannot explain.

Put together, these disorienting events can create precisely the sense of confusion that disinformation researchers, fact-checkers and swaths of the mainstream media try to bulwark against. Lately, the task feels increasingly difficult as many of the world’s biggest real-life stories are complex and constantly evolving topics, where today’s fantastical theory could become tomorrow’s truth. Perhaps the best answer for now is to slow down and learn to live in a bit of uncertainty.

May 29

Top Headlines 

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

World News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Pelosi should appoint a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot, Editorial Board, May 29, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Republicans’ fatal blow must not be the end of the Jan. 6 investigation.Once former president Donald Trump ordered Republican leaders in Congress on May 18 to block an independent commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6, the fate of the panel was sealed. On Friday, 35 Senate Republicans, including Mr. McConnell (Ky.), delivered the fatal blow by upholding a filibuster. But that must not be the end of efforts to get to the bottom of the most serious attack on U.S. democracy since the Civil War.

Having tried bipartisanship on an issue of such critical importance, Democrats must now undertake their own investigation. Just as President Biden used reconciliation to enact covid-19 relief in the face of GOP obstruction, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should use her authority to appoint a select committee to investigate what happened on Jan. 6.

Such a committee, used in the past to examine such issues as the response to Hurricane Katrina, would have its drawbacks. It would be composed of members of Congress and not experts. Mr. McCarthy would likely use his appointments to lard the committee with members intent not on getting at the truth but protecting Mr. Trump. And it might be more difficult for the public to accept its conclusions. But Friday’s vote — in which Republicans prevented the commission bill from even coming to the floor for debate — leaves Democrats with little alternative. The country needs answers to such questions as what led to and who was responsible for the attack on Congress, and why there was a delay in getting reinforcements to the Capitol to help besieged police officers.

These are the people who have bought into Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and who share at least some of the unhinged theories that fuel the QAnon movement.

ny times logoNew York Times, As G.O.P. Blocks Inquiry, Questions on Jan. 6 Attack May Go Unanswered, Luke Broadwater, May 29, 2021. Republicans united in large numbers against a panel to investigate the Capitol riot, moving to shift an unwelcome spotlight away from former President Trump. The result is that key details about a shocking act of domestic extremism against the federal government are likely to remain shrouded in mystery.

In blocking the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Republicans in Congress have all but closed off the possibility of a full and impartial accounting for one of the most serious assaults on American democracy in history, leaving unanswered critical questions with broad implications for politics, security and public trust.

Fearing political damage from any sustained scrutiny of the attack, Republicans united in large numbers against the inquiry, moving to shift an unwelcome spotlight away from former President Donald J. Trump, his election lies that fueled the attack, and the complicity of many G.O.P. lawmakers in amplifying his false claims of widespread voter fraud.

The result is that key details about a shocking act of domestic extremism against the United States government are likely to remain shrouded in mystery, and anything new that may be revealed about the assault at the Capitol will most likely be viewed through a partisan lens, with a substantial proportion of the country rejecting the reality of what transpired.

The public may never know precisely what Mr. Trump and members of his administration did or said as a throng of his supporters stormed the Capitol while Congress met to formalize President Biden’s victory, threatening the lives of lawmakers and the vice president. The full story may never be revealed of why security officials were so unprepared for the breach of the building, supposedly one of the most secure in the nation, despite ample warnings of potential violence. The extent of the role of Republican lawmakers closely allied with Mr. Trump in planning the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that spiraled into a brutal onslaught may remain unexplored

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The really scary reason Republicans don’t want to face the truth about Jan. 6, Karen Tumulty, May 29, 2021 (print ed). An astonishing number of Americans apparently think violent uprising is the way to save the country.

thomas caldwell

Law &Crime, ‘2 If By Sea’: Oath Keepers Messages Shed New Light on Alleged Plot to Storm D.C. With Guns by Way of Potomac, Adam Klasfeld, May 28, 2021. Prosecutors quote Oath Keepers member shouting this in a YouTube video, where he gestures toward the Capitol.

Hours before Senate Republicans killed an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6th siege, federal prosecutors disclosed communications about how Oath Keepers allegedly plotted to storm Washington, D.C. with guns by boat by way of the Potomac River.

thomas caldwellThose discussions became public in a filing seeking to maintain the strict pretrial release conditions of Oath Keepers member Thomas Caldwell (shown above and in his mug photo), whom prosecutors allege organized a group of militia members on “standby with guns in a hotel across the river.” In the brief, prosecutors also alleged that a message from the militia’s leader described a “worst case scenario” where former President Donald Trump “calls us up as part of the militia to to assist him inside DC.”

Pulling a line from one of the immortal verses of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the extremist group’s Florida chapter leader Kelly Meggs allegedly imagined the militia members as the modern day equivalent of their American colonial forebears.

“1 if by land,” Meggs allegedly wrote in an encrypted message on the group’s Signal channel, quoting Longfellow’s 1861 poem “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

“North side of Lincoln Memorial,” Meggs’s message continued, according to the government. “2 if by sea[,] Corner of west basin and Ohio is a water transport landing !!”

The alleged Oath Keepers plot to ferry heavy weapons across the Potomac River on a boat was previously reported by the New York Times in February, but prosecutors first made new evidence supporting that claim public on the day Trump’s Republican Party blocked independent scrutiny into the attack.

According to the government’s eight-page brief, the 65-year-old Caldwell allegedly answered Meggs’s call by asking a member of another militia group about procuring a boat for their so-called “quick reaction force,” or QRF.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Senate Democrats have found a way to pass HR1 voting rights reform after all, Bill Palmer, right, May 29, 2021. From the start of the 2021 session, Palmer Report has pointed bill palmerout that Joe Manchin has merely been posturing when it comes to the filibuster, and that he was merely waiting until he had cover before finally “reluctantly” coming out in support of exempting important legislation from the filibuster. Sure enough, that now appears to be playing out in real time.

To understand this, you first have to understand that the Democrats were hoping the Republicans would be stupid enough to kill the bipartisan 1/6 commission – which is what ended up happening yesterday. This now gives the Democrats cover to appoint a 1/6 select committee, which will give them more investigative power, while hitting the Republicans for blocking bipartisanship.

bill palmer report logo headerIt also gave Joe Manchin cover to come out swinging at Senate Republicans for abusing the filibuster in such unpopular and unpatriotic fashion – which is what Manchin did yesterday. Now, even as Manchin is finally ranting and raving about how obstructionist Senate Republicans are, Chuck Schumer has suddenly scheduled a vote on the HR1/S1 voting rights reform act for next month. This likely isn’t coincidence.

Although a number of liberal Twitter pundits love taking inaccurate cheap shots at Chuck Schumer, he’s actually quite savvy at this stuff. It’s difficult to imagine that he’d bring something as important as HR1 to a vote this soon, unless he now has the votes. Keep in mind that the next election isn’t until 2022, meaning there’s absolutely no hurry to pass HR1. If the votes weren’t there yet, Schumer would keep waiting to hold the vote.

At the same time, we know that there certainly aren’t ten Republican Senators willing to vote in favor of HR1, because it would make it harder for them to cheat in their own reelection campaigns (Lisa Murkowski, who will face a far right primary challenger in 2022, might be the only exception who could be swayed to vote for it).

So if there are only fifty (or fifty-one) votes for HR1, then Schumer must know that Manchin is finally ready to exempt HR1 from the filibuster. There’s really no other plausible explanation. It makes sense. Manchin needs HR1 to pass in order to have a fair shot in his own reelection bid in Republican-controlled West Virginia. Now that Senate Republicans have abused the filibuster in such embarrassing fashion, he has the cover he needs to argue that he had no choice but to take this next step. And if Murkowski is on board, Manchin will nominally have the “bipartisan” cover he’s been seeking.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. asks judge to toss lawsuit against Trump, Barr for violent clearing of Lafayette Square, Spencer S. Hsu, May 28, 2021. Lawyers argue U.S. officials and police are immune for steps taken to secure a president’s movements.

Lawyers for the Justice Department urged a federal judge on Friday to dismiss lawsuits against former president Donald Trump, former attorney general William P. Barr and other officials for last June’s violent clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square by U.S. military and police.

Trump and other U.S. officials are immune from civil lawsuits over police actions taken to protect a president and to secure his movements, government lawyers said of the actions taken ahead of a photo op of Trump holding a Bible in front of the historic St. John’s Church. A crowd of more than 1,000 largely peaceful demonstrators were protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis before the park was cleared.

A year to the week after Floyd’s death, Justice Department lawyers argued that the lawsuits should also be tossed because last November’s presidential election made future violations unlikely. The government said the square has been reopened, and President Biden’s administration does not share Trump’s stated hostility toward Floyd and the racial justice movement.

Roll Call, Staffers say denying the reality that Capitol workers, staffers and lawmakers experienced firsthand on Jan. 6 feels more personal than partisan disagreements about policy

Roll Call, Staffers say denying the reality that Capitol workers, staffers and lawmakers experienced firsthand on Jan. 6 feels more personal than partisan disagreements about policy, Katherine Tully-McManus, May 27, 2021. A congressional staffer froze recently when elevator doors opened and there stood a member of the House who has downplayed the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Some congressional employees are shaken by what they see as the whitewashing of the attack, and the denials have reignited lingering trauma. One House employee who works in the Capitol building and heard the rioters banging on their office door said seeing the lawmakers try to erase the destruction is jarring.

Thirteen staffers interviewed by CQ Roll Call, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about their mental health and how they are coping, point to comments like those from Rep. Andrew Clyde.

Despite helping barricade the House chamber from rioters, the Georgia Republican downplayed the events of Jan. 6 at a hearing earlier this month as “acts of vandalism” and said the rioters were “orderly” and looked like “a normal tourist visit.”

Five people died in the attack, including a police officer. Two officers died by suicide after the violence. Some officers have brain injuries; one lost an eye.

“When I see those members in the hallway or the basement, I think to myself that they wouldn’t care if I was dead,” one staffer told CQ Roll Call.

Staffers from both sides of the aisle told CQ Roll Call that denying the reality that Capitol workers, staffers and lawmakers themselves experienced firsthand feels more personal than partisan disagreements about policy. Security concerns weigh heavily.

ny times logoNew York Times, The D.N.C. Didn’t Get Hacked in 2020. Here’s Why, Nicole Perlroth, May 29, 2021. A devastating email breach of the D.N.C. roiled Democrats in the final months of 2016. An unassuming security official made it his mission to prevent a recurrence.

As the country learns more about a broad Russian hijacking of American federal agencies and private companies and now another Russian hack, which was revealed on Thursday, it can look to the Democratic National Committee for a more positive development in the effort to prevent cyberattacks: Unlike four years ago, the committee did not get hacked in 2020.

dnc square logoIt’s worth remembering the D.N.C.’s outsized role in Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, when a spearphishing email roiled the Democratic Party in the final months of the campaign.

That March, Russian hackers broke into the personal email account of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, unlocking a decade’s worth of emails, before dribbling them out to the public with glee. The D.N.C. chairwoman, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, right, resigned after emails appeared to show her favoring Mrs. Clinton over Debbie Wasserman-ShultzSenator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

A simultaneous Russian hack of the D.N.C.’s sister organization, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, tainted congressional candidates with accusations of scandal in a dozen other races.

By the time Donald J. Trump was in the White House in January 2017, “The D.N.C.’s house was ablaze,” Sam Cornale, the committee’s executive director, said in an interview this week.

That month, Bob Lord, an unassuming, bespectacled chief security officer at Yahoo, was still mopping up the largest Russian hacks in history: a 2013 breach of more than three billion Yahoo accounts and a second breach in 2014 of 500 million Yahoo accounts.

Mr. Lord, who discovered the breaches when he took over the job, helped the Federal Bureau of Investigation identify the assailants. A courtroom sketch of Karim Baratov, one of the hackers in the Yahoo case, still hangs on his wall.

Mr. Lord left the team Yahoo affectionately calls “The Paranoids,” took a six-figure pay cut and headed to Washington in January 2017 to become the D.N.C.’s first chief information security officer. The way he saw it, the D.N.C.’s 2016 breach wasn’t so much a cybersecurity issue as it was a problem of workflow and corporate culture. Mr. Podesta’s aide, for instance, had asked a staff member to vet whether the infamous Russian spearphishing email was safe, and the aide responded that the email was “legitimate.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 166.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 29, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 59.4 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 50.1 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 29, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 170,217,299, Deaths: 3,539,727
U.S. Cases:     34,022,764, Deaths:    608,961
India Cases:    27,729,247, Deaths:    322,512
Brazil Cases:  16,392,657, Deaths:     459,171 

washington post logoWashington Post, Vietnam detects highly contagious new coronavirus variant as infections surge, Katerina Ang, May 29, 2021. Variant is a mix of coronavirus strains first detected in the United Kingdom and India, country’s health minister says.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Postal Service raises stamp prices, sends layoff notices as part of restructuring plan, Jacob Bogage, May 29, 2021.  The postmaster general’s plan calls for additional price increases on package products and slower mail service.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service is raising rates on letters, magazines and marketing missives by as much as 6.9 percent this summer, sending the cost of a first-class stamp from 55 to 58 louis dejoy Customcents, as it leans into an expansive restructuring plan that codifies slower mail delivery and streamlines agency operations.

The rate structure announced Friday is the latest installment of the plan of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’ (shown at left) to erase a projected $160 billon in liabilities over the next decade.

The agency has struggled for the better part of a year with inconsistent delivery service and soaring package volumes that have gridlocked its processing network. The Postal Service’s on-time delivery scores have not topped 90 percent since July 2020.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran-backed militias turn to drone attacks, alarming U.S. forces in Iraq, Louisa Loveluck and John Hudson, May 29, 2021. In place of rockets, militiamen have turned at times to small, fixed-wing drones that fly too low to be picked up by defensive systems, military officials and diplomats said. An official with the U.S.-led coalition described the evolving drone threat as the military mission’s biggest concern in Iraq.

U.S. military officials in Iraq have grown increasingly alarmed over attacks by Iran-backed militias using drones to evade detection systems around military bases and diplomatic facilities.

In place of rockets, militiamen have turned at times to small, fixed-wing drones that fly too low to be picked up by defensive systems, military officials and diplomats say. An official with the U.S.-led coalition described the evolving drone threat as the military mission’s biggest concern in Iraq.

In April, a drone strike targeted a CIA hangar inside the airport complex in the northern city of Irbil, according to officials familiar with the matter. The drone’s flight was tracked to within 10 miles of the site, but its path was then lost as it moved into a civilian flight path, the coalition official said. The drone’s remains were partially recovered, and preliminary analysis suggested it was made in Iran, a coalition official said. The attack deeply concerned White House and Pentagon officials because of the covert nature of the facility and the sophistication of the strike.
Advertisement

Although no one was harmed in the strike, it prompted a long night of deliberations over how to respond, according to Western officials. Some U.S. officials advocated serious consideration of a military response, including the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, said two people familiar with the matter. The Biden administration ultimately decided against taking military action.

washington post logoWashington Post, Remains of 215 Indigenous children discovered at former Canadian residential school site, Amanda Coletta, May 29, 2021. A mass grave containing the remains of 215 Indigenous children, including some as young as 3, has been found on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia, a grim finding from one of the darkest chapters of Canadian history and one that an Indigenous leader called “an unthinkable loss.”

canadian flagChief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc said in a news release Thursday evening that the “stark truth” was unearthed last weekend with the help of a ground-penetrating radar specialist who surveyed the site of what was once the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

From 1883 to 1996, nearly 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families, often by force, and sent to the government-funded, church-run schools in an attempt to assimilate them. There, many faced neglect and physical and sexual abuse. Speaking Indigenous languages and practicing their traditions were forbidden.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

Palmer Report, Opinion: Merrick Garland comes out swinging, Shirley Kennedy, May 29, 2021. Not only are the differences in the White House like night and day, but the same can be said for Merrick Garland’s Justice Department.

Some questioned why President Biden would choose Merrick Garland for the position, given that he has spent the last several years on the bench, but that is becoming clearer every day. As a judge, bill palmer report logo headerMerrick Garland was touted for his fairness and modest rulings. He did not lean too far left, nor did he lean too far right. That was the reason President Obama chose him for the Supreme Court. Had Garland made it to the highest bench in the land, we would not have him as attorney general now. No matter how much we may be disappointed by things in life, those things happen for a reason. In this case, Garland is already proving that he belongs in the role of attorney general.

merrick garlandWhen Garland, right, announced the DOJ investigation into pattern and practice in policing in Minneapolis, he did so with genuine depth of feeling. Shortly thereafter, he announced a similar inquiry into the death of Breonna Taylor. As Politico reported, these moves wipe out the old practice put in place by the last administration restricting these types of investigations, which they claimed “were bad for officer morale.” What about the morale of the families left behind by their loved ones’ deaths? Those feelings apparently do not count for black and brown people. Garland has no intention of following their lead.

After announcing his pattern and practice investigations, Garland took another step that many did not expect. He filed criminal charges against the three white men who gunned down Ahmaud Arbery for federal hate crimes and civil rights violations. Immediately after that announcement, the DOJ announced criminal indictments for federal civil rights crimes against Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane in the death of George Floyd. Finally, it appears that people will get justice when officers or racists think they can behave any way they like when the victim is a black man. Garland’s DOJ is showing them differently.

According to Politico, senior staff attorneys had been teeing up these investigations in anticipation of Garland’s appointment. Several DOJ officials who spoke with Politico anonymously said that given the speed at which these investigations and charges came, the work might have even begun under the prior administration. They knew the Trump administration would never pursue these charges, but they had them ready to go, just in case. They made the correct bet, as Garland has jumped all over them.

Given the current racial climate in the country, we are fortunate to have Merrick Garland leading the Department of Justice. Unlike both Barr and Sessions, Garland is proving himself to be the attorney general of the people not of the presidency. Both former attorneys general fought fiercely to stall any investigations into police, regardless of what they had done. Garland is the opposite. The people deserve police who protect the safety of all citizens, and Garland will ensure that happens.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real odds that Donald Trump is criminally indicted, Bill Palmer, right, May 29, 2021. At least one gambling site is now offering 50-50 betting odds on whether Donald Trump ends up bill palmerbeing criminally indicted. The odds on these kinds of betting sites are not a measure of the odds of something actually happening, but are instead a measure of whether the people wagering money on this kind of thing have any clue what’s happening in politics. For instance, even after Trump lost the 2020 election, the betting odds on these sites still gave him a slight chance of somehow winning.

bill palmer report logo headerSo if nothing else it’s notable that even those who place monetary wages on politics have figured out that there’s a realistic chance Trump will be criminally indicted. Still, these 50-50 betting odds are a joke. In fact they’re basically free money, because the Manhattan DA would only have empaneled this kind of special grand jury if he intends to ask it to indict Donald Trump, and when a prosecutor asks for an indictment, grand juries end up agreeing to it about 99% of the time.

So the actual real world odds of Trump being indicted are about 99%. No really, 99%. That’s the going rate when a criminal investigation reaches this stage. This is endgame stuff. Trump’s indictment is basically a formality. If the investigation had come up short and an indictment weren’t going to happen, the investigation would have died at this point instead of being sent to a grand jury for indictment.

The only way you could reduce Donald Trump’s 99% odds of being criminally indicted is if you expect him to die of natural causes before the indictment can come down. Given his visibly poor health, that’s not entirely out of the question. But the indictment will come down sometime in the second half of 2021. So unless you expect Trump to croak from health problems this year, that’s not a factor.

There are a million pessimistic and defeatist rationales out there for why Donald Trump will somehow magically avoid being criminally indicted, but none of them hold an ounce of water. Trump will be indicted. We’re at the point where that’s basically ensured.

Conviction at trial is a different conversation. But there’s a reason why Trump is being targeted for the kinds of straightforward financial crimes that essentially always result in conviction: it’s so prosecutors won’t have to worry about whether the trial jury is also willing to convict him on the more qualitative charges. In any case, for now, it’s enough to know that his odds of being indicted and arrested are literally 99%. It’s the latest reminder that the odds listed on political betting sites rarely have any correlation to what’s actually going on on politics.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This Capitol attacker is a complete idiot, Sheree McSpadden, May 29, 2021. Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Falkville, Alabama, a 71-year old Army veteran, was charged with bringing five loaded firearms and 11 molotov cocktails with napalm-like qualities to the Capitol on Jan. 6th. New court filings Monday alleged he approached Sen. Ted Cruz’s Washington home and office weeks earlier to discuss “election fraud” and previously joined an armed-citizen camp at the Texas border.

bill palmer report logo headerCoffman has pleaded not guilty, but a judge ordered his continued detention without bail, citing evidence he had potential plans to coordinate with others, was intent on disrupting Congress, and was prepared and had the desire and ability for political violence. He possessed some of the deadliest unregistered firearms and explosives on Jan. 6th., but was arrested before the mob assault began due to a lucky break when weapons were spotted in his truck. More weapons and other evidence were found at Coffman’s home, and the court has ruled him to be a public danger and flight risk.

Cruz should count his lucky stars he wasn’t available when Coffman gave up looking for him and called Cruz’s office on December 11th, and was arrested Jan. 6th. Cruz’s staff said he “did not seem threatening” but seemed “unbalanced” and “not 100% there,” deeming his comments “odd enough to record.”

Retrumplicans should think twice about what they’re putting out into the world and who they are attracting, since they obviously don’t care about democracy or the danger they’re causing for everyone else.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, When plagiarism was reported to Voice of America, managers delayed action for months, Paul Farhi, May 29, 2021 (print ed.). Last summer, a Voice of America staffer noticed something odd in the radio scripts that a Paris-based freelancer was submitting to editors at the international broadcast service: They were flawless. Despite the fact that the native French speaker stumbled in his second language, his text rendered complicated details in crisp, precise English.

voice of america logoSuspicious, Jason Patinkin started looking more deeply — and found that phrases, sentences and even multiple paragraphs in freelancer Nicolas Pinault’s stories matched those published by other news organizations word for word.

But when Patinkin began sounding the alarm about plagiarism, supervisors at Voice of America took several months before acting on what he had found.

The reaction within VOA was much the same when another staff journalist raised a separate set of plagiarism allegations early last year. Ayen Bior alerted senior officials that scripts submitted by Deirdre Murray-McIntosh, the executive producer of a TV news program Bior co-hosted, used long passages from various websites without credit. The scripts were used in episodes of “Our Voices,” a public affairs and culture program VOA broadcasts to countries in Africa.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It was already tough to fight disinformation. Then UFO news came along, Charlie Warzel (a journalist who writes “Galaxy Brain,” a newsletter about technology, media and politics), May 29, 2021. It’s a weird time to be alive.

Covid cases in the United States are declining, but vaccination rates are stalling, too. In places such as India, the pandemic rages almost unabated. Parody cryptocurrencies and meme stocks, driven by billionaire tweets and Reddit threads, have flummoxed Wall Street and minted and destroyed fortunes by the second. Hackers hijacked regional pipelines, causing a gas shortage and demanding a crypto ransom. The government is reexamining previously dismissed coronavirus origin theories.

Then, of course, there are UFOs. The sci-fi fliers have gone from fringe conspiracy theory to legitimate matter of national security in just months. Even former president Barack Obama has admitted the existence of recordings of flying objects that experts cannot explain.

Put together, these disorienting events can create precisely the sense of confusion that disinformation researchers, fact-checkers and swaths of the mainstream media try to bulwark against. Lately, the task feels increasingly difficult as many of the world’s biggest real-life stories are complex and constantly evolving topics, where today’s fantastical theory could become tomorrow’s truth. Perhaps the best answer for now is to slow down and learn to live in a bit of uncertaint

 

May 28

Top Headlines 

 

U.S. Fair Election, Anti-Insurrection Fights

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

World News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

President-elect Joe Biden (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s Budget Would Push Federal Spending and Debt to Record Highs, Jim Tankersley, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden will propose a $6 trillion budget on Friday that would take the United States to its highest sustained levels of federal spending since World War II, while running deficits above $1.3 trillion throughout the next decade.

Documents obtained by The New York Times show that Mr. Biden’s first budget request as president calls for the federal government to spend $6 trillion in the 2022 fiscal year, and for total spending to rise to $8.2 trillion by 2031. The growth is driven by Mr. Biden’s two-part agenda to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and substantially expand the social safety net, contained in his American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, along with other planned increases in discretionary spending.

The proposal shows the sweep of Mr. Biden’s ambitions to wield government power to help more Americans attain the comforts of a middle-class life and to lift U.S. industry to better compete globally in an economy the administration believes will be dominated by a race to reduce energy emissions and combat climate change.

Mr. Biden’s plan to fund his agenda by raising taxes on corporations and high earners would begin to shrink budget deficits in the 2030s. Administration officials have said the jobs and families plans would be fully offset by tax increases over the course of 15 years, which the budget request backs up.

In the meantime, the United States would run significant deficits as it borrows money to finance his plans. Under Mr. Biden’s proposal, the federal budget deficit would hit $1.8 trillion in 2022, even as the economy rebounds from the pandemic recession to grow at what the administration predicts would be its fastest annual pace since the early 1980s. It would recede slightly in the following years before growing again to nearly $1.6 trillion by 2031.

Total debt held by the public would more than exceed the annual value of economic output, rising to 117 percent of the size of the economy in 2031. By 2024, debt as a share of the economy would rise to its highest level in American history, eclipsing its World War II-era record.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Economy Is Spinning Its Wheels, and About to Take Off, Paul Krugman, right, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The business news these days is full of anxiety. Raw material prices paul krugmanare soaring! Businesses can’t find workers! It’s the 1970s all over again!

Chill out, everyone. 

OK, there are some real issues involving current events that need discussing — and some of the continuing discussions, shockingly, involve serious debates among serious people. How much are closed schools and lack of child care keeping mothers out of the paid labor force? Are enhanced unemployment benefits making workers reluctant to take low-paying jobs?

Most of the scare headlines right now, however, reflect what you’d expect to see in an economy that’s trying to go from 0 to 60 in seconds flat.

At the beginning of this year, the United States was still very much in the depths of the pandemic. Daily deaths were higher than ever, with Covid-19 taking more than 3,500 lives in the country every day. Parts of the economy that depend on close physical contact were largely frozen: According to the restaurant booking service OpenTable.com, there were about 60 percent fewer seated diners than there had been during the comparable period prepandemic.

Then came an extraordinarily successful vaccination campaign. Deaths have plunged more than 85 percent and are still dropping. As fear recedes, the economy is surging, in what may end up being the fastest recovery ever. 

Why would anyone imagine us able to achieve that kind of sudden acceleration without leaving a few skid marks, and maybe even burning some rubber?

ny times logoNew York Times, At Long Last, a New Rail Tunnel Under the Hudson River Can Be Built, Patrick McGeehan, May 28, 2021. For five years, the plan to build a second pair of rail tunnels between New York City and New Jersey has been deemed one of the most critical infrastructure projects in the country.

But it needed a green light from federal officials.

transportation dept logoOn Friday, after years of delays during the Trump administration, that approval officially arrived from the new administration in Washington. Now, the $11.6 billion needed for the tunnel project could come from the giant infrastructure bill that Republican and Democratic lawmakers are wrangling over on Capitol Hill.

“We’re now where we should have been four years ago,” said Steven M. Cohen, co-chairman of the Gateway Program Development Corporation, the agency overseeing the project. “All of this has been in suspended animation for four years for no reason other than politics and games.”

The Biden administration has indicated its support for the project and the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, has acknowledged its importance to the economy of the region and the nation. “This is a big step for the Northeast, and for the entire country, as these tunnels connect so many people, jobs and businesses,” Mr. Buttigieg said in a statement announcing the approval.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Appears to Carry Out Hack Through System Used by U.S. Aid Agency, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, May 28, 2021. Hackers linked to Russia’s main intelligence agency surreptitiously seized an email system used by the State Department’s international aid agency to burrow into the computer networks of human rights groups and other organizations of the sort that have been critical of President Vladimir V. Putin, Microsoft Corporation disclosed on Thursday.

Vladimir PutinDiscovery of the breach comes only three weeks before President Biden is scheduled to meet Mr. Putin, right, in Geneva, and at a moment of increased tension between the two nations — in part because of a series of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks emanating from Russia.

The newly disclosed attack was also particularly bold: By breaching the systems of a supplier used by the federal government, the hackers sent out genuine-looking emails to microsoft logo Custommore than 3,000 accounts across more than 150 organizations that regularly receive communications from the United States Agency for International Development. Those emails went out as recently as this week, and Microsoft said it believes the attacks are ongoing.

The email was implanted with code that would give the hackers unlimited access to the computer systems of the recipients, from “stealing data to infecting other computers on a network,” Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president, wrote on Thursday night.

San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose shooting latest updates: Suspect had two semiautomatic weapons, sheriff says, Vanessa Arredondo, Aidin Vaziri, Lauren Hernández, Michael Cabanatuan, Shwanika Narayan, and Tal Kopan, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). A shooting Wednesday morning at a light-rail yard near downtown San Jose left nine people dead, including the gunman. Here’s what is known so far:

• The shooting was first reported at 6:34 a.m. at a Valley Transportation Authority control center at 101 W. Younger Ave., with multiple 911 calls.

• Nine VTA employees, including the alleged shooter, Samuel J. Cassidy, 57, are dead. Multiple people are injured.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said Thursday morning that Samuel James Cassidy, the alleged gunman who killed nine people at the Valley Transportation railyard Wednesday morning, had two semiautomatic handguns and 11 magazines. According to news reports, Smith said the guns appeared to be legal. When authorities confronted Cassidy after the shooting, he killed himself, she said. The sheriff added that detectives are reviewing Cassidy’s emails and texts to try to determine a motive, and that so far, Cassidy had left “no written documents found that I’m aware of.”

 

U.S. Fair Election, Anti-Insurrection Fights

gladys sicknick center harry dunn former rep barbara comstock tom williams cq roll

Gladys Sicknick, center, mother of late Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, Officer Harry Dunn and former Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., address the media Thursday before a meeting with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to urge Republican senators to support a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Roll Call, Republican senators torpedo Jan. 6 commission, Chris Marquette, May 28, 2021. Some senators didn't have an answer for what they would need to see in order to vote for the measure. Republican senators on Friday drowned the hopes of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, gathering enough members of their own conference to block legislation to establish the panel.

Though it received overall majority support in the chamber, the procedural vote, a cloture vote on a motion to proceed, to the legislation fell short of the 60 votes needed, 54-35. Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Rob Portman of Ohio were the only Republicans who voted to end debate on whether to take up the legislation.

The vote, which had been expected on Thursday, was delayed after some Republican senators, including Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, consumed floor time that brought the chamber to a painfully slow cadence and culminated at around 3 a.m. Friday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he struck an agreement that ensured the commission vote would happen “in the light of day” and not in the early morning hours.

brian sicknick

washington post logoWashington Post, Sicknick’s family and officers on duty Jan. 6 plead with GOP senators to back investigation, Felicia Sonmez, Karoun Demirjian and Peter Hermann, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The mother and partner of the late Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick personally lobbied Republican senators Thursday to support an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Two other officers who responded that day and protected members of Congress also pleaded with GOP lawmakers to support a probe into the failed insurrection and the events surrounding it.

“If January 6th didn’t happen, Brian would still be here. Plain and simple,” U.S. Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn said Thursday morning as the group began a long day of lobbying senators ahead of a possible vote.

Gladys Sicknick, the late officer’s mother, and Sandra Garza, his companion of 11 years, are leading the lobbying effort, which comes as the legislation for an independent commission faces near-unanimous Republican opposition, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The face-to-face meetings involving Sicknick’s family, police officers and Republican senators highlighted a stark choice for GOP lawmakers: either stand with former president Donald Trump, who opposes the commission, or with members of law enforcement.

Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes a day after he confronted rioters at the insurrection, the District’s chief medical examiner ruled last month. In early February, Sicknick, who grew up in New Jersey, was honored at the U.S. Capitol. His remains were interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Nearly 140 officers were assaulted during the failed insurrection as they faced rioters armed with ax handles, bats, metal batons, wooden poles, hockey sticks and other weapons, authorities said.

The House last week passed legislation that would form an independent commission to investigate the attack. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday began the process of setting up a Senate vote on the bill, which could come as early as Thursday evening.

But the legislation’s prospects in the Senate remain dim. Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to join them in supporting the measure for it to pass. McConnell has voiced opposition to the commission, dismissing it Thursday as “extraneous” and arguing that it would not shed light on the events of Jan. 6.

“I do not believe the additional, extraneous ‘commission’ that Democratic leaders want would uncover crucial new facts or promote healing,” McConnell said in floor remarks. “Frankly, I do not believe it is even designed to.”

Several Republican lawmakers have also sought in recent days to play down the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack, comparing the violent mob to “tourists,” railing against law enforcement for seeking to arrest them and questioning how anyone could be sure the rioters were supporters of Trump.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: An unsettling similarity between the German Nazi Party and the current U.S. Republican Party, Wayne Madsen, left, May 28, 2021. One major unsettling similarity between the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallNazi Party of Adolf Hitler and the Republican Party of Donald Trump is that both would resist an independent investigation of the attacks on the respective legislatures of the two nations: the February 27, 1933 Reichstag Fire in Berlin and the January 6, 2021 storming by Trump loyalists of the U.S. Capitol complex.

republican elephant logoHitler and his Nazis falsely claimed the Reichstag arson was carried out by a mentally deranged Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe, who was allegedly aided by German Communists.

In the case of the U.S. Capitol attack, several far-right Republicans have claimed the attack was actually carried out by members of "antifa" (an acronym for "anti-fascist") and Black Lives Matter (BLM). Using Nazi propaganda from 1933, some Republicans also falsely claim that BLM is a "communist" organization.

At the post-war Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals, German Army General Franz Halder testified that he heard Hermann Göring boast about setting the fire at the Reichstag himself.

 

capitol mob

Pro-Trump rioters and insurrectionists, including the so-called "Q-Anon Shama dressed in fur at center, are shown after storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and threatening lawmakers unless they overturned November elections and reinstalled Trump for four more years. That followed Trump's repeated claims via social media that he had won re-election and was being deprived of the right to rule because of fraud that was never prove in more than 60 lawsuits by Trump and his allies.

Palmer Report, Opinion: When Capitol insurrectionist thugs plead insanity, Robert Harrington, right, May 27, 2021. In 1998 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I won’t drag you through tales of the therapies, robert harringtnn portraitmedications, hospitalisation, diets, Napoleonic highs and Lilliputian lows I’ve tried and endured since. I will say I’ve learned to live in a kind of armed truce with my mental illness. Let’s just further say that diet and exercise are vastly underrated and criminally under-utilized in the world of the treatment of mental health disorders and leave it at that.

One in five humans on our overburdened planet suffer from some kind of mental illness. Most of us don’t talk about it much because there isn’t much to say. Unless it’s a disorder of the obvious kind, such as schizophrenia for example, our conditions remain largely invisible and we are content to let them stay that way.

I can’t speak for the rest of the mentally ill but some of us in the manic-depressive club share a little secret: we wouldn’t change it for the world. We like our mountain top highs and put up with our cavernous lows as part of the price of entry. But one thing I guarantee none of us would do. We wouldn’t use bipolar disorder as an excuse to attack our own country.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s tempting to call the January 6th rioters crazy. It’s one of the many adjectives most of us have used, including me. But when they use it themselves as an excuse to betray democracy, I’m afraid I’m going to have to speak up on behalf of my brother and sister sufferers of actual mental disease and call, if you’ll pardon the expression, bullshit. They are, in fact spoiled, privileged little assholes who chose to follow a hateful, toxic bigot and were dumb enough to believe he’d stick his neck out for them if they got into trouble.

Take Jacob Chansley, for example. You all know who he is. He’s the so-called QAnon Shaman, the idiot with the Buffalo Bill outfit and quasi Native American paint job. Almost four months to the day after his first court appearance his lawyer is now asking the judge for a psychological examination. That’s right, he’s going to try the not guilty by reason of insanity argument.

republican elephant logoPart of the problem, I will admit, is semantic. We have become so accustomed to characterizing people on the rightwing with terms that are also traditionally used to describe mental disorders that a lot of confusion has resulted. 

But it’s unlikely that any of the January 6th rioters will get away with an insanity plea. Why? Because they have no history of mental disorders. Mental stupidity, to be sure. But not mental illness. It is part of the banality of evil that people who would attack their own country live and work among us. We occasionally exchange pleasantries with them. They’re seemingly normal human beings with corrupt souls.

But even more to the point, we of the 20% who suffer from mental illness are not them. While it is unquestionably true that some of the mentally ill among us are evil, they are not evil because of mental illness. They are evil because they’re jerks. It’s an important distinction to make, and I can’t make it enough.

Some of the Capitol rioters are going to try the insanity plea in the coming months, and they are hoping that no one deciding their fates will notice that which we of the 20% know so well. Mental illness doesn’t cause treason. Evil causes treason. And mental illness and evil are not the same thing.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Have you no decency left, Republican Senator? Shirley Kennedy, May 28, 2021. Republicans have had every opportunity to stand up and be counted as useful members of society. bill palmer report logo headerSo far, they have failed miserably. They had an opportunity to show the level of humanity they possess, if any, when they met with the mother of Brian Sicknick, who died as a result of the January 6 insurrection.

Gladys Sicknick was joined by Brian’s long-time girlfriend and another officer who was injured that day, Michael Fanone. Hopefully, they can appeal to any shred of human decency that Republicans might have left.

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Prosecutors Are Investigating Ukrainians for Meddling in 2020 Election, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, Kenneth P. Vogel and Nicole Hong, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The criminal inquiry includes looking at whether Ukrainian officials funneled misleading information about President Biden through Rudolph Giuliani. The previously unreported investigation underscores the federal government’s aggressive approach toward rooting out foreign interference in elections.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have been investigating whether several Ukrainian officials helped orchestrate a wide-ranging plan to meddle in the 2020 presidential campaign, including using Rudolph W. Giuliani to spread their misleading claims about President Biden and tilt the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The criminal investigation, which began during the final months of the Trump administration and has not been previously reported, underscores the federal government’s increasingly aggressive approach toward rooting out foreign interference in American electoral politics. Much of that effort is focused on Russian intelligence, which has suspected ties to at least one of the Ukrainians now under investigation.

The investigation is unfolding separately from a long-running federal inquiry in Manhattan that is aimed at Mr. Giuliani. While the two investigations have a similar cast of characters and overlap in some ways, Mr. Giuliani is not a subject of the Brooklyn investigation, the people said.

Instead, the Brooklyn prosecutors, along with the F.B.I., are focused on current and former Ukrainian officials suspected of trying to influence the election by spreading unsubstantiated claims of corruption about Mr. Biden through a number of channels, including Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer at the time. It is unclear whether the Brooklyn prosecutors will ultimately charge any of the Ukrainians.

At one point in the investigation, the authorities examined a trip Mr. Giuliani took to Europe in December 2019, when he met with several Ukrainians, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing inquiry.

andrii derkachAt least one of the current and former officials Mr. Giuliani met, a Ukrainian member of parliament named Andriy Derkach, left, is now a focus of the Brooklyn investigation, the people said.

The trip was the culmination of a yearlong effort by Mr. Giuliani, with support from Mr. Trump, to undermine Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign. The effort proceeded primarily on two parallel tracks: collecting information from Ukraine to attack Mr. Biden’s diplomatic efforts there as vice president, and pressing Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr. Biden and other Trump critics.

The effort ultimately backfired, leading to Mr. Trump’s first impeachment.

Amid the impeachment proceedings, U.S. intelligence officials warned Mr. Trump that Mr. Derkach was seeking to use Mr. Giuliani to spread disinformation. Mr. Giuliani, who has said he did not receive a similar warning at the time, continued to vouch for the authenticity of information he received, even after Mr. Trump’s Treasury Department imposed sanctions against Mr. Derkach for election interference, and accused him of being “an active Russian agent.”

ny times logoNew York Times, QAnon Now as Popular in U.S. as Some Major Religions, Poll Suggests, Giovanni Russonello, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). Fifteen percent of Americans believe that “patriots may have to resort to violence” to restore the country’s rightful order, the poll indicated.

As hopes fade for a bipartisan inquiry into the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, it’s increasingly clear that the Republican base remains in thrall to the web of untruths spun by Donald J. Trump — and perhaps even more outlandish lies, beyond those of the former president’s making.

A federal judge warned in an opinion yesterday that Mr. Trump’s insistence on the “big lie” — that the November election was stolen from him — still posed a serious threat. Presiding over the case of a man accused of storming Congress on Jan. 6, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court in Washington wrote: “The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away. Six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near-daily fulminations of the former president.”

But it’s not just the notion that the election was stolen that has caught on with the former president’s supporters. QAnon, an outlandish and ever-evolving conspiracy theory spread by some of Mr. Trump’s most ardent followers, has significant traction with a segment of the public — particularly Republicans and Americans who consume news from far-right sources.

Those are the findings of a poll released today by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core, which found that 15 percent of Americans say they think that the levers of power are controlled by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles, a core belief of QAnon supporters. The same share said it was true that “American patriots may have to resort to violence” to depose the pedophiles and restore the country’s rightful order.

And fully 20 percent of respondents said that they thought a biblical-scale storm would soon sweep away these evil elites and “restore the rightful leaders.”

“These are words I never thought I would write into a poll question, or have the need to, but here we are,” Robby Jones, the founder of P.R.R.I., said in an interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Election-deniers are running for a key role in swing states. It could lead to a scary 2024, Editorial Board, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). Imagine how the 2020 election might brad raffenspergerhave gone if, instead of principled Republican Brad Raffensperger, right, running Georgia’s voting system, a pro-Trump conspiracy theorist had been the state’s secretary of state, receiving calls from former president Donald Trump asking to find enough votes to overturn the results.

Or if, as Mr. Trump pressured Michigan’s canvassers to refuse to certify President Biden’s win in that state, that state’s chief elections officer had helped drum up rather than tamp down the former president’s bogus fraud allegations.

These what-ifs might become the nation’s reality in 2024, with Republican election-deniers running for secretary of state in several swing states

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

Dr. Deborah Birx speaks at a White House press conference in the spring of 2020 as then President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci look on.

Dr. Deborah Birx speaks at a White House press conference in the spring of 2020 as then President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci look on.

OpEdNews, Analysis: COVID-19, China, the CDC, and Trumpist Politics/Policies, Dr. Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS (right, with bio at bottom), May 28, 2021. I wrote frequently on this subject in 2020, as oenearthlogoDonald Trump stephen jonasappeared to be fumbling the ball-of-control.

But then I came to the conclusion that what he was doing/not doing was all part of a plan, to the degree that Trump ever plans for anything, like, let us say, dealing with his upcoming probable indictment[s] in New York City and/or State, other than by a) screaming about how he is being persecuted politically and otherwise (poor baby); b) creating his WMD --- Weapons of Mass Distraction; and c) figuring out who else he can blame/finger/get-to-go-to-prison for him (see Manafort, Cohen, and etc.).

As I said back in March of 2020:

"Apparently the COVID-19 virus broke out publicly in epidemic form in China sometime in early January 2020. At least its existence became public at that time. Given the power of the US international intelligence services various authorities in the United States likely knew of it before then. And that knowledge ought to have made it to the desk of the Director of National Intelligence, and then to the desk of the President. However, nothing much happened in the U.S. in terms of a response until about a month later. At the same time, there was significant international spread, to countries such as South Korea, which, for example, undertook a swift and massive response to the threat.

"However, while both China and South Korea were responding vigorously to the rapidly expanding epidemic, as is well-known the U.S. President was telling his people and the world that there was nothing much to worry about. This in the face of the fact that various infectious disease/epidemic experts outside the government were sounding the alarm very loudly, both about the possible extent of the epidemic and the likely major deficiencies in the U.S. response to it were it to occur here.

For example, in a Jan. 28, 2020 article entitled "Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic," from the American Enterprise Institute of all places, published in the Wall Street Journal (.aei.org/op-eds/act-now-to-prevent-an-american- epidemic/) of all places, Luciana Borio and Scott Gottlieb said:

" 'The novel coronavirus now epidemic in China has features that may make it very difficult to control. If public-health authorities don't interrupt the spread soon, the virus could infect many thousands more around the globe, disrupt air travel, overwhelm health-care systems, and, worst of all, claim more lives. The good news: There's still an opening to prevent a grim outcome.' [Emphasis added.]"

In January of 2020 Joe Biden himself published a warning both about the oncoming epi/pandemic and dealing how ill-equipped Trump and his people were to deal with it.

Of course Trump didn't follow the control-the-pandemic road (although if he had done, as I said in March 2020 in the title of the column of mine from which I quoted just above: "An Ounce of Prevention --- and Trump Could Have Been on a Glide-path the Re-election"). It did take me some time to figure out what, in my view anyway, what was Trump's plan for winning the November election (the only thing he ever cared about during 2020 --- hardly an original observation[!]). In the end, after considering a variety of alternatives, I decided that it was to create chaos (as I said in my Oct. 8, 2020 column entitled "Trump, COVID-19, the Election, and Planned Chaos").

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2And so, in the meantime he set about doing just that, with a variety of measures. The cause was the "China virus" or the "Kung Flu." And claimed, and does to this day with a generous assist from Hannity (over and over again) that he stopped it by his early "China ban" (except that his version was not that early and was certainly quite leaky). In fact, the "Ban" was described as "closing the barn door after the horse has gone" [which is as original to me as anything Trump did to effectively deal with COVID-19 was original to him --- which of course wasn't much]). And we all know what Trump did and didn't do deal with COVID-19 in the U.S., which eventually led to cases/disease numbers considerably out of proportion to those that occurred in any other advanced capitalist nation.

So where did the virus come from?

As is quite well known, the pandemic originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Since the beginning of the outbreak, most scientists believed that there was some kind of animal (bats, maybe) to human transmission. A few thought that it came from the Virology Lab in Wuhan, through an accidental release. However, based on the evidence available at the time, that hypothesis was widely dismissed, but now --- using science --- oh my, Sean and Tucker (who haven't the foggiest notion of what science is) --- science does change its mind, and changes minds-attuned-to-science, over time, --- it is thought that that hypothesis has enough validity to be further examined. And so, the sudden uproar from the Trumpites.

world health organization logo Custom"See it's the dastardly Chinese and their dastardly cohorts in the World Health Organization, who are covering up for them." (You know, those dastardly WHO docs [non-white, of course] who offered the U.S. a rapid accurate, cheap COVID-19 test right at the beginning of the outbreak at the end of January, 2020, which the Trumpites turned down in favor of a CDC test which, as it happens, the CDC couldn't get going for a month [and then of course the Turmpites refused to set up a national testing program of any kind. But that's another story, which can be followed above in the "did" and "didn't do" references.]) Of course, the Chinese continue to deny that such a story has any validity.

So of course too, the Trumpites are now yelling and screaming once again about the "China flu" and the intentional release or leak or what have you, and "the President [Trump] was right all along," it was just the 'fake news' that was out to get him, and the WHO, and Biden, and, and, and, anybody or agency other than Trump and the Trumpites, who as it happened, to repeat, just happened to have had no national program even for testing, allowed the PPE shortages, who "let the Governors do it" especially the Right-wing ones neglecting the that, for some reason or another, viruses just don't recognize State boundaries), kept telling us that it was going to be over by --- Easter, Memorial Day (Pence), July 4, "the Fall" [just in time for the elections, of course] and so on and so forth.

And so now, as Trump prepares for another Presidential run (he continues to want to use politics to try to stay out of jail just as much as Bibi does), he is unloading once again one of the Six Magic Tricks by which he has lived his life, a WMD: Weapon of Mass Distraction.

Not that where SARS-V-2 virus initially came from --- bats, other animal, accidental or intentional release from a lab --- would make one whit of difference in how the virus got into the atmosphere and ultimately spread in the U.S. once it got here, and what effect it has had on difference our whole society since it did get here. Whether it came from a bat or a lab or somewhere else, a) it has caused, b) is still causing, untold misery around the globe, and the Trump Program for dealing with it was a disaster (as reviewed above).

cdc logo CustomWhich brings us to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colloquially known as "The CDC" (without the "P"). Ah yes, the perfect villain, as Michael Lewis tell us in his new book "The Premonition: A Pandemic Story." It wasn't Trump so much; it was all the CDC's fault. You know, all those "government scientists" who don't know what they are doing --- except of course for the career CDC officer Nancy Messonier, who did get it right, early, who did speak out and of course was severely shut up by Trump and her the Trump appointed bosses. (And of course, Messonier wasn't by herself as an experienced scientist within the agency. But Lewis just conveniently ignores them. By Lewis, she doesn't count.) And so, we have Lewis' big conclusion that is being trumpeted everywhere: Trump was just "a comorbidity" in the pandemic that has killed so many U.S. It was all the CDC' fault. Oh really?

Let's just take a quick look at what Trump and the Trumpites did --- to the CDC on which Lewis puts so much of the blame. Over time they cut its budget by about a third. They functionally closed the pandemic-preparedness office that Pres. Obama had created in the White House, presumably because it had Obama's name on it (and after all, Kenya is the source of many infectious diseases, is it not?)

Robert RedfieldThey chose as the new Director one Dr. Robert Redfield, left, who a) had no experience running a large organization (which the CDC is), b) was a well-known Christian Rightist (probably his leading qualification for the Trumpsters for whom Lewis is apologizing), and c) was (believe it or not) dumped off Reagan's very tardily-appointed AIDS task force for proposing that the single most important deborah birx profile palmer Customintervention for dealing the HIV/AIDS epidemic was abstinence. Then there was, also from the outside, the now-infamous Dr. Debra Birx, right, also prominent on the Trump Team as an original member (even though it must be said in all fairness she was in a very difficult position and did try to inject science into the Trump Tank without success, of course for which hanging-on to try to do the right thing she has paid dearly in terms of her reputation), who was largely side-lined.

Then for a period of time we had Little Scotty Atlas, the neuroradiologist who thought that "herd immunity" (that is when enough people in the population are immune to the disease so that the virus doesn't have "enough spots to land") was to be achieved by enough people are getting sick and dying, rather than understanding that its true historical meaning goes back to herds of cows and BCG immunization against tuberculosis in France, to be achieved in the COVID-19 pandemics by, duh, widespread immunization. Further, it wasn't the CDC that was pushing hydroxychloroquine. It wasn't the CDC that was recommending the internal (!!!) application of ultra-violet light and the injection of disinfectant. It was the CDC that had no way to push back against the Trumpites' no-mask message.

This is what Trump gave us. Trump was much more than "co-morbid." For the U.S., Trump was the engine of the pandemic (as were his would-be-Trumps in Brazil, the United Kingdom [for a time], and India [other than the Communist-led State of Kerala]).

No, Mr. Lewis. It is not the CDC that was at fault. It was Trump's version of the CDC that was at fault. We can see this clearly now, as the Biden Administration, with a major role being played by a professionally-led CDC, is rapidly bringing the pandemic under control --- to the extent that that can be done, of course, with the constant opposition of so many Republican government officials and politicians (did anyone say Marjorie Taylor Greene, McCarthy’s Fascist-out-in-front?) False stories about how the CDC "made things worse" can only politically inhibit, in a major way, how the CDC can now, finally, help make things better.

Editor's note: This column was originally published here by OpEdNews, which also published extensive links for reference purposes as well as a reader comment section.

-----------------------

Steven Jonas, right, MD, MPH, MS, is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on stephen jonasOpEdNews.com as a “Trusted Author,” he is a contributor to BuzzFlash.com; Reader Supported News/Writing for Godot; and From The G-Man. His own political website, stevenjonaspolitics.com, will eventually be an archive of the close to 1000 political columns he has published since 2004. Now officially retired from the sport, he was also a career triathlete (36 seasons, 256 multi-sport races).

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

joanne lipmann andrew ross sorkin

CNBC, Why not all hybrid employees will be treated equally, co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin interviews Joanne Lipman, author of this week's Time Magazine cover story, May 27, 2021. (3:27 min. video). cnbc logoAs employees head back to the office, some may choose to continue to work remotely. In her latest article for Time Magazine, Lipman, a Yale University lecturer and CNBC contributor, argues that not all hybrid employees will be treated equally.

time logo ogTime Magazine, The Pandemic Revealed How Much We Hate Our Jobs, Joanne Lipmann, May 27, 2021. Now We Have a Chance to Reinvent Work. Until last March, Kari and Britt Altizer of Richmond, Va., put in long hours at work, she in life insurance sales and he as a restaurant manager, to support their young family. Their lives were frenetic, their schedules controlled by their jobsToday, both have quit their old jobs and made a sharp pivot: they opened a landscaping business together.

As the post-pandemic great reopening unfolds, millions of others are also reassessing their relationship to their jobs

washington post logoWashington Post, The unseen covid-19 risk for unvaccinated people, Dan Keating and Leslie Shapiro, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The country’s declining covid-19 case rates present an unrealistically optimistic perspective for half of the nation — the half that is still not vaccinated.

As more people receive vaccines, covid-19 cases are occurring mostly in the increasingly narrow slice of the unprotected population. So The Washington Post adjusted its case, death and hospitalization rates to account for that — and found that in some places, the virus continues to rage among those who haven’t received a shot.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. scientists expand efforts to determine when booster shots will be needed, Carolyn Y. Johnson, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The relief of being vaccinated against the coronavirus is being replaced by a new worry: Is immunity a ticking clock? Should they plan a family wedding this fall? Will everyone need booster shots? When?

U.S. scientists are expanding efforts to evaluate when fully vaccinated people will need booster shots — and, if so, whether people can switch brands — in the latest chapter of the global quest to stop the pandemic.

For people eager to put the health crisis behind them, the relief of being vaccinated is being replaced by a new worry. Is immunity a ticking clock? Should they plan a family wedding this fall? Will everyone need booster shots? When? Are people locked into the same brand or vaccine technology for their next shot?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The U.S. May Never Hit the Herd Immunity Threshold. That’s OK, Erin A. Mordecai, Mallory J. Harris and Marc Lipsitch, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). Americans may not need to achieve that goal in order to escape the Covid-19 pandemic.

Half of Americans have now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and with children ages 12 to 15 now eligible for immunizations, the United States appears to be getting the coronavirus pandemic under control. But despite the tremendous progress, it’s still not clear that the nation will ever truly reach the herd immunity threshold — the point at which enough people in a population are immune to a pathogen to limit its spread.

More important, we may not need to achieve that goal in order to escape the pandemic.

Last year many scientists suggested the herd immunity threshold would be reached when 60 to 70 percent of the population was immune, either because of vaccination or exposure to the virus. Scientists have now revised this number upward, to at least 80 percent. But there is no single, universal herd immunity threshold. The number depends on the transmissibility of a disease, its variants and the characteristics of the population it’s invading.

Dr. Mordecai is an assistant professor of biology at Stanford University. Ms. Harris is a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, where she studies infectious disease. Dr. Lipsitch is a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

washington post logoWashington Post, China pushes back against Biden for raising pressure on coronavirus origins, Katerina Ang and Erin Cunningham, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline announce Phase 3 trials for new coronavirus vaccine candidate

  • Beijing slams Biden’s call for harder look into origins of coronavirus
  • Olympic Games could create an ‘Olympic strain,’ warns head of Japan Doctors Union

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 165.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 28, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 58.9 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 49.7 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 28, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 169,710,788, Deaths: 3,527,082
U.S. Cases:     33,999,680, Deaths:     607,726
India Cases:     27,555,457, Deaths:    318,895
Brazil Cases:   16,342,162, Deaths:     456,753

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘No vaccine!’: Woman arrested for allegedly driving through vaccination site, nearly hitting workers, Timothy Bella, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). As a coronavirus vaccination tent was set up in the hope of inoculating more residents in Maryville, Tenn., sheriff’s deputies working at the site this week saw an SUV speeding their way — and the person behind the wheel wasn’t slowing for a shot.

Instead, Virginia Christine Lewis Brown was protesting the vaccine by driving her Chrysler Pacifica “at a high rate of speed” through a vaccine tent in a mall parking lot, police said.

“No vaccine!” she yelled Monday as she plowed through the tent, according to witness accounts to sheriff’s deputies.

Brown, 36, was arrested for driving through a vaccination tent and “placing the lives of seven workers in danger,” the Blount County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday. She’s been charged with seven counts of felony reckless endangerment. Tennessee attorneys claim each count carries penalties that include a possible prison sentence of 1 to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logojoe biden twitterWashington Post, Biden touts his economic plans in visit to Ohio, Matt Viser, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden made an optimistic case for pumping trillions of dollars into the economy, arguing that it was beginning to stabilize. He implored Republicans to end their opposition to raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and he mocked those who voted against the covid-19 relief bill but nonetheless have touted elements of it that are popular in their districts.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats make new demand on infrastructure bill as Biden strains to lure Republicans, Tony Romm, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The new message threatens to add to the steep task facing members of Congress and the White House at a time when they’re already struggling to strike a deal on hundreds of billions of dollars in public works spending

ny times logoNew York Times, At Naval Academy Graduation, Harris to Focus on ‘Fragile’ World, Katie Rogers, May 28, 2021. Vice President Kamala Harris, the school’s first female commencement speaker, is kamala harris portraitexpected Friday to address some of the White House’s most urgent challenges.

The vice president’s speech is expected to focus on some of the Biden administration’s most urgent challenges, like the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and a host of increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats.

“The global pandemic has launched us into a new era. It has forever impacted our world,” Ms. Harris is expected to say, according to prepared remarks shared with The New York Times. “If we weren’t clear before, we know now: Our world is interconnected. Our world is interdependent. Our world is fragile.”

The vice president’s speech at the Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Md., will be her first to focus on the military, and it comes as the Biden administration is accelerating its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, well ahead of the deadline President Biden set in April: Sept. 11.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Blinken heads to Central America as relations with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala fray, Karen DeYoung, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration wants to stem the flow of migrants from the three countries, but leaders in the region are bristling at U.S. allegations of corruption.

antony blinken o newSecretary of State Antony Blinken plans to travel next week to Central America, where administration hopes of stemming the flow of undocumented migrants to the United States through economic assistance and democracy promotion have run into early roadblocks.

Blinken, right,  will attend a meeting in Costa Rica of the Central American Integration System, or SICA, a regional organization including seven Central American countries plus the Dominican Republic.

The administration has been at odds with the governments of the three Northern Triangle states — El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — that are the source of a substantial proportion of the migrants trying to enter the United States. Those countries are the targeted recipients of President Biden’s four-year, $4 billion commitment to help address the “root causes” of migration.

Sending money to Central America, however, has become increasingly complicated. Early last week, Congress released a State Department-compiled list of 16 current and former senior politicians from the three Northern Triangle states that it has found to be corrupt or involved in narcotics trafficking. The list included the chief of cabinet to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and current and former Honduran and Guatemalan lawmakers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe’s Dilemma: Take In ISIS Families or Leave Them in Syria? Elian Peltier and Constant Méheut, May 28, 2021. Many European countries have balked at allowing the return of people linked to ISIS, yet some, like Belgium and Finland, are now heeding the advice of security experts and rights groups who say that repatriations are the safest option.

Two years after the Islamic State lost its last territorial foothold in Syria, more than 200 women from 11 European countries and their 650 children are living in two Syrian camps, Al Hol and Roj, according to figures compiled by Thomas Renard, a researcher at the Egmont Institute, a Brussels-based think tank.

Although the Europeans represent a small fraction of the 60,000 people being held in the camps, who are mostly Iraqis and Syrians, European governments are facing increasing pressure to bring the adults back to face trial amid an argument that the countries’ inaction violates their commitment to human rights.

Bellingcat, Commentary: US Soldiers Expose Nuclear Weapons Secrets Via Flashcard Apps, Foeke Postma, May 28, 2021. For US soldiers tasked with the custody of nuclear weapons in Europe, the stakes are high. Security protocols are lengthy, detailed and need to be known by heart. To simplify this process, some service members have been using publicly visible flashcard learning apps — inadvertently revealing a multitude of sensitive security protocols about US nuclear weapons and the bases at which they are stored.

While the presence of US nuclear weapons in Europe has long been detailed by various leaked documents, photos and statements by retired officials, their specific locations are officially still a secret with governments neither confirming nor denying their presence.

As many campaigners and parliamentarians in some European nations see it, this ambiguity has often hampered open and democratic debate about the rights and wrongs of hosting nuclear weapons.

However, the flashcards studied by soldiers tasked with guarding these devices reveal not just the bases, but even identify the exact shelters with “hot” vaults that likely contain nuclear weapons.

They also detail intricate security details and protocols such as the positions of cameras, the frequency of patrols around the vaults, secret duress words that signal when a guard is being threatened and the unique identifiers that a restricted area badge needs to have.

Experts approached by Bellingcat said that these findings represented serious breaches of security protocols and raised renewed questions about US nuclear weapons deployment in Europe.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. asks judge to toss lawsuit against Trump, Barr for violent clearing of Lafayette Square, Spencer S. Hsu, May 28, 2021. Lawyers argue U.S. officials and police are immune for steps taken to secure a president’s movements.

Lawyers for the Justice Department urged a federal judge on Friday to dismiss lawsuits against former president Donald Trump, former attorney general William P. Barr and other officials for last June’s violent clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square by U.S. military and police.

Trump and other U.S. officials are immune from civil lawsuits over police actions taken to protect a president and to secure his movements, government lawyers said of the actions taken ahead of a photo op of Trump holding a Bible in front of the historic St. John’s Church. A crowd of more than 1,000 largely peaceful demonstrators were protesting the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis before the park was cleared.

A year to the week after Floyd’s death, Justice Department lawyers argued that the lawsuits should also be tossed because last November’s presidential election made future violations unlikely. The government said the square has been reopened, and President Biden’s administration does not share Trump’s stated hostility toward Floyd and the racial justice movement.

chad perkins missouri recropped house

Missouri House Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Dist. 40, above, represents parts of Ralls, Monroe, Lincoln, and Pike counties. He was elected to his first two-year term in November 2020 and lives in Bowling Green. 

St. Louis Today, Report alleges Missouri lawmaker had sex with teen when he was a cop, Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup, May 27, 2021.A Missouri lawmaker allegedly used his position as a cop to receive a “sexual favor” from an intoxicated teenage girl in 2015 and his boss, the Pike County sheriff, is accused of attempting to obstruct a probe as the deputy ran for a seat in the Legislature last year, the Post-Dispatch has learned.

According to a report obtained from Frankford Police Chief Josh Baker in response to an open records request, state Rep. Chad Perkins, a Bowling Green Republican, allegedly accepted “sexual favors from a teenage girl while on duty” as a police officer.

The report said the Pike County prosecutor, as well as state and federal investigators have been alerted to the allegations. The speaker of the Missouri House, Rep. Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, also has been notified of the incident.

republican elephant logoThe speaker forwarded the information to the House Ethics Committee.

In an April 19 memo that was attached to the report, Baker writes to Vescovo, and officials working for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the attorney general’s office and the Peace Officer Standards & Training Program.

“I implore your offices to investigate this ongoing criminal activity,” he said.

Perkins, 42, is a freshman lawmaker who was elected to the northeast Missouri House seat in 2020. He represents parts of Ralls, Monroe, Lincoln, and Pike counties.

Perkins said his relationship with the 19-year-old was consensual and the controversy is the product of a local political feud over his decision to not publicly endorse Baker’s wife in her bid for Pike County assessor in the 2020 election.

“There is no victim. There’s nothing to that. It was just political sour grapes because I wouldn’t help his wife out,” Perkins said.

Among the bills Perkins supported this year is one heading to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk that says a law enforcement officer who engages in sexual conduct with a detainee or prisoner who is in the custody of such officer shall be guilty of a class E felony.

The legislation was designed to curtail police officers from using their power as law enforcement officers to gain sexual favors from people under their control.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: When it comes to knowing U.S. history, we should all be ‘woke,’ Michael Gerson, right, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). In the evangelical Christian tradition, you generally know when michael gerson file photoyou’ve been “saved” or “converted.” It comes in a rush of spiritual relief. A burden feels lifted.

But how does one know if he or she has become “woke”? How does one respond to this altar call and accept this baptism?

It’s a question that came to mind as I read The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States, by Walter Johnson, a history professor at Harvard University. I grew up in St. Louis, in a placid, White, middle-class suburb. At school, I was inflicted with classes in Missouri history that emphasized the role of the region in the exploration and settlement of the American West. I visited the Museum of Westward Expansion in the base of the Gateway Arch, which glorified the sacrifices of American pioneers.
Advertisement

The Broken Heart of America is a strong antidote to such lessons.

In this telling, St. Louis was “the juncture of empire and anti-Blackness” and “the morning star of U.S. imperialism.” It was the military base of operations for the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from the Upper Midwest. It was the home of vicious lynch mobs and racial redlining. “Beneath all the change,” Johnson argues, “an insistent racial capitalist cleansing — forced migrations and racial removal, reservations and segregated neighborhoods, genocidal wars, police violence and mass incarceration — is evident in the history of the city at the heart of American history.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: To reform our police, we have to reform our prosecutors, Mary F. Moriarty, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). Mary F. Moriarty was a public defender in Hennepin County, Minn., for 31 years, including six years as chief public defender.

The brutal treatment and death of Ronald Greene in police custody in Monroe, La., perfectly illustrates why our police departments can’t be reformed until our prosecutors’ offices are reformed.

ronald greene 2Watching the video this month of Louisiana troopers punching, shocking and dragging the pleading and handcuffed Greene, right, face down across pavement made me wonder just how often Black people died at the hands of police in this country without loved ones ever getting hold of the evidence they need to counter a false official narrative. At least, I thought, here, Greene’s family had that evidence in the form of damning body-camera video.

Except they nearly didn’t. The video I was watching was two years old — from May 2019 — because the state police in Louisiana withheld the footage until the Associated Press obtained leaked video and released it.

Incentives matter. Prosecutors are the most powerful entity in the criminal legal system because it doesn’t matter what cases police bring to them — they still decide whether to charge an individual with a crime. Because prosecutors represent the people, not the police and not any individual, they are supposed to focus on doing the right and just thing. Unfortunately, too many prosecutors simply want to “win” — i.e., get a conviction — and this often puts them in the position of trying to justify bad or even unlawful behavior by police.

washington post logoWashington Post, Video shows a woman punching a Southwest flight attendant in the face, knocking out teeth: ‘It was all bad,’ Andrea Salcedo, May 28, 2021. When a Southwest Airlines flight attendant asked a passenger in the last row to prepare for landing on Sunday, the woman leaped to her feet, video shows.

Then Vyvianna Quinonez, 28, punched the flight attendant’s face, video captured by another passenger and obtained by the Sacramento Bee shows. Eventually, another passenger jumped in to stop the attack. The incident is the latest case of a passenger attacking a crew member midair, a trend that has escalated during the pandemic as airline staffers are charged with enforcing mask-wearing during flights.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Perspective: Emily Wilder’s firing is a story of bad faith, not bad tweets. Newsrooms must do better, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The AP should have guided a young reporter through a crisis — not caved to a right-wing mob.

  • Washington Post, Associated Press tells staff it made mistakes in firing of Wilder

washington post logoWashington Post, When plagiarism was reported to Voice of America, managers delayed action for months, Paul Farhi, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). Last summer, a Voice of America staffer noticed something odd in the radio scripts that a Paris-based freelancer was submitting to editors at the international broadcast service: They were flawless. Despite the fact that the native French speaker stumbled in his second language, his text rendered complicated details in crisp, precise English.

voice of america logoSuspicious, Jason Patinkin started looking more deeply — and found that phrases, sentences and even multiple paragraphs in freelancer Nicolas Pinault’s stories matched those published by other news organizations word for word.

But when Patinkin began sounding the alarm about plagiarism, supervisors at Voice of America took several months before acting on what he had found.

The reaction within VOA was much the same when another staff journalist raised a separate set of plagiarism allegations early last year. Ayen Bior alerted senior officials that scripts submitted by Deirdre Murray-McIntosh, the executive producer of a TV news program Bior co-hosted, used long passages from various websites without credit. The scripts were used in episodes of “Our Voices,” a public affairs and culture program VOA broadcasts to countries in Africa.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Emily Wilder’s firing is a story of bad faith, not bad tweets. Newsrooms must do better, Margaret Sullivan, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The AP should have guided a young reporter through a crisis — not caved to a right-wing mob.

  • Washington Post, Associated Press tells staff it made mistakes in firing of Wilder

washington post logoWashington Post, When plagiarism was reported to Voice of America, managers delayed action for months, Paul Farhi, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). Last summer, a Voice of America staffer noticed something odd in the radio scripts that a Paris-based freelancer was submitting to editors at the international broadcast service: They were flawless. Despite the fact that the native French speaker stumbled in his second language, his text rendered complicated details in crisp, precise English.

Suspicious, Jason Patinkin started looking more deeply — and found that phrases, sentences and even multiple paragraphs in freelancer Nicolas Pinault’s stories matched those published by other news organizations word for word.

But when Patinkin began sounding the alarm about plagiarism, supervisors at Voice of America took several months before acting on what he had found.

The reaction within VOA was much the same when another staff journalist raised a separate set of plagiarism allegations early last year. Ayen Bior alerted senior officials that scripts submitted by Deirdre Murray-McIntosh, the executive producer of a TV news program Bior co-hosted, used long passages from various websites without credit. The scripts were used in episodes of “Our Voices,” a public affairs and culture program VOA broadcasts to countries in Africa.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz gets desperate, Bill Palmer, May 28, 2021 The disgraced tabloid the New York Post now says that Matt Gaetz is seriously considering running for President in 2024. This is in spite of the fact that the cooperation of his best friend and ex-girlfriend means that Gaetz will very likely be serving a long term prison sentence by 2024.

bill palmer report logo headerBut Gaetz must have seen the silly chatter about Trump running for President from prison, and figured he might as well float the notion as well.

Of course this isn’t really about trying to get elected President in 2024 for either of them. This is about trying the desperate ploy of semi-launching an imaginary 2024 campaign in 2021, in the hope that this somehow magically keeps them from ending up in prison.

We can only hope that the media and the pundit class resist the temptation to pretend that the likes of Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz could actually be viable candidates in 2024.

 

May 27

Top Headlines 

 

U.S. Fair Election, Anti-Insurrection Fights

 

 Virus Victims, Responses 

 

 U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

World News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, HHS chief calls for follow-up probe on origin of pandemic, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Erin Cunningham, Shane Harris and Ben Guarino, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). The theory that the coronavirus came from a lab in Wuhan, China, has gained traction amid criticism of an international probe and reports that several workers there were ill in November 2019 — weeks before the virus was officially identified.

Xavier Becerra twitterThe United States’ top health official called Tuesday for a swift follow-up investigation into the coronavirus’s origins amid renewed questions about whether the virus jumped from an animal host into humans in a naturally occurring event or escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, right, told an annual ministerial meeting of the World Health Organization that international experts should be given “the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.”

  • Analysis: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible
  • Moderna says teens receiving its vaccine developed a protective immune shiel

washington post logoWashington Post, 9 killed in shooting at San Jose, Calif., rail yard. The gunman is also dead, Brittany Shammas, Derek Hawkins and Faiz Siddiqu, May 27, 2021 (print ed., updated). Nine people were killed when a man opened fire Wednesday morning at a Valley Transportation Authority light-rail maintenance yard in San Jose.

The suspect is also dead, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Russell Davis said during a news conference. He said he would “not go into details about cause of death at this point.” Authorities have not publicly identified the shooter but said he was a VTA employee.

One official said the gunman apparently set his home on fire before going to the rail-yard facility and opening fire. Authorities believe there may be explosive devices at the VTA site; the sheriff’s office bomb squad remains on scene “trying to clear out every room and every crevice,” Davis said.

“This is a horrific day for our city,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told reporters. “And it’s a tragic day for the VTA family. And our heart pains for the families and the co-workers, because we know that so many are feeling deeply this loss of their loved ones and their friends.”

 

U.S. Fair Election, Anti-Insurrection Fights

brian sicknick

Politico, Mother of deceased Capitol Police officer presses GOP senators to back Jan. 6 commission, Melanie Zanona and Nicholas Wu, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). The mother of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick and another D.C. police officer injured on the job during the Capitol riot will meet with GOP senators on Thursday to push them to support a proposed bipartisan commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6 — a measure Republicans are poised to block.

Among the Republican senators who agreed to meet with the group, according to a source with knowledge of the schedule: Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Susan Collins (Maine), Roger Marshall (Kansas), John Barrasso (Wyo.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Mike Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).

A measure to set up the commission passed the House last week with the support of every single Democrat and 35 Republicans. But that legislation is on shaky ground in the Senate, where 10 Republicans would need to get on board in order to circumvent a filibuster. So far, only a few GOP lawmakers — including Romney, Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have signaled support for the proposal. Even then, they want to see changes made.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Mitch McConnell finally admits that he puts party before country, Dana Milbank, right, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). It has long been obvious that Mitch McConnell puts party before country, but this week he actually admitted it.

dana milbank CustomThe Senate minority leader told Republican colleagues that they should oppose the creation of a Jan. 6 commission, no matter how it is structured, because it “could hurt the party’smidterm election message,” as Politico’s Burgess Everett reported.

And so, as early as Thursday, McConnell, left, will use the filibuster to thwart a bipartisan effort to prevent further attacks on the U.S. government by domestic terrorists — because he thinks Mitchell_McConnellit’s good politics for Republicans.

“That is extremely frustrating and disturbing,” Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), the Democrat working hardest to protect the minority’s filibuster rights, told reporters. “There’s a time when you rise above [politics], and I’m hoping that this would be the time that he would do that. I guess, from what I am hearing, he hasn’t.”

Manchin has every right to be disturbed. But he shouldn’t be surprised.

McConnell, asked this month about the ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from GOP leadership, and whether he was concerned that many Republicans believe Donald Trump’s election lie, replied, twice: “One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” True to his word, McConnell has blocked everything — even if it means undercutting Republican negotiators

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Republicans adopt fascist government platform, Wayne Madsen, left, May 27, 2021. Across the United States, the Republican Party, through bills passed in state wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalllegislatures and signed by GOP governors, is adopting one of the central platforms of fascism, namely, the elimination of the powers of state officials, including Secretaries of State, katie hobbsGovernors, and others.

The Republican-led legislature in Arizona voted to strip Democratic Secretary of State Katy Hobbs of her powers to ensure the integrity of elections in the state. A group of Donald Trump supporters called We the People AZ Alliance are concurrently trying to recall Hobbs, right,.

A combination of Trump supporters and anti-public health activists in California have collected enough signatures to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.

washington post logomichigan mapWashington Post, Michigan’s top election official and Dominion Voting Systems warn counties about the risks of vote audits by outside groups, Amy Gardner, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). The cautions, detailed in separate letters this month, come amid a growing campaign by former president Donald Trump and his supporters to pressure officials to review the 2020 results.

Vice, Gun Church That Worships With AR-15s Bought a 40-Acre Compound in Texas for Its ‘Patriots,’ Tess Owen, May 27, 2021. The Rod of Iron Ministries has become more militant since leader Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon attended the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

A religious sect known for worshipping with AR-15s and its MAGA politics has purchased a sprawling, 40-acre compound in central Texas, which it hopes will offer a safe-haven for “patriots” from what they believe is an imminent war brought by the “deep state,” VICE News has learned.

The property, located in the small community of Thornton, 40 miles from Waco, was listed at just under $1 million. It’s been dubbed “Liberty Rock'' by its new owners, the Sanctuary Church aka Rod of Iron Ministries, led by Pastor Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon. Members of the congregation often refer to him as “King.”

While Moon’s congregation, estimated to number in the hundreds, is relatively fringe, it’s a direct descendant of the much larger Unification Church, founded by his father, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah and accused cult leader whose adoring followers became known to outsiders as “Moonies.”

The younger Moon, who set up shop in 2017 in Newfoundland, Pennsylvania, follows the doctrine of his late father—with a twist. Moon says he was inspired by a biblical passage in the Book of Revelation that talked about Jesus using a “rod of iron” to protect himself and others. He concluded this was a reference to AR-15s, and integrated high-powered firearms into regular church services, including wedding ceremonies. He founded the church with the support of his brother, Kook-jin “Justin” Moon, the CEO of Kahr Arms, a gun manufacturing company headquartered nearby.

From its beginning, the church wholeheartedly embraced former President Donald Trump and incorporated Trumpian culture war and conspiracies into its rhetoric. Moon told VICE News in late 2019 that he believed God was working through Trump to rid the world of “political satanism” (for example, the “deep state” and “the swamp”) and restore Eden. Through his gun-centric, MAGA-friendly outlook, Moon has been able to establish some fringe political alliances. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon spoke at a recent event hosted by the church. Pennsylvania state senator and “Stop the Steal” organizer Doug Mastriano was also recently billed as a special guest at another church event.

As Moon’s church has expanded, bought additional property, and incorporated in at least two more states (Delaware and Florida), his teachings and rhetoric have grown even more radical and militaristic. His sermons contain a wide range of topics, from the weather, to why he hates ski resorts (too many “leftist lunatics”), to how to prepare for the coming “false flag” deep-state war.

The new property, known locally as “Running Branch Camp and Marina,” came equipped with a general store, fishing equipment, an industrial kitchen, RV hook-ups, cabins, and camping sites.

The purpose of the property, according to a GoFundMe seeking $21,000 for renovations, is to “expand God’s Kingdom to the Western and Southern regions of the United States.”

After renovations, the church hopes that Liberty Rock will be “home to over 100 sites that will serve our community and Patriots from Texas and around the country.” The Rod of Iron Instagram account features photos from the site, including their ribbon-cutting and blessing ceremony, held on April 20. At least one family from the church appears to be living there full-time while renovations are going on.

Roll Call, Staffers say denying the reality that Capitol workers, staffers and lawmakers experienced firsthand on Jan. 6 feels more personal than partisan disagreements about policy, Katherine Tully-McManus, May 27, 2021. A congressional staffer froze recently when elevator doors opened and there stood a member of the House who has downplayed the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Some congressional employees are shaken by what they see as the whitewashing of the attack, and the denials have reignited lingering trauma. One House employee who works in the Capitol U.S. House logobuilding and heard the rioters banging on their office door said seeing the lawmakers try to erase the destruction is jarring.

Thirteen staffers interviewed by CQ Roll Call, who were granted anonymity to speak candidly about their mental health and how they are coping, point to comments like those from Rep. Andrew Clyde.

Despite helping barricade the House chamber from rioters, the Georgia Republican downplayed the events of Jan. 6 at a hearing earlier this month as “acts of vandalism” and said the rioters were “orderly” and looked like “a normal tourist visit.”

Five people died in the attack, including a police officer. Two officers died by suicide after the violence. Some officers have brain injuries; one lost an eye.

“When I see those members in the hallway or the basement, I think to myself that they wouldn’t care if I was dead,” one staffer told CQ Roll Call.

Staffers from both sides of the aisle told CQ Roll Call that denying the reality that Capitol workers, staffers and lawmakers themselves experienced firsthand feels more personal than partisan disagreements about policy. Security concerns weigh heavily.

 

capitol mob

Pro-Trump rioters and insurrectionists, including the so-called "Q-Anon Shama dressed in fur at center, are shown after storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and threatening lawmakers unless they overturned November elections and reinstalled Trump for four more years. That followed Trump's repeated claims via social media that he had won re-election and was being deprived of the right to rule because of fraud that was never prove in more than 60 lawsuits by Trump and his allies.

Palmer Report, Opinion: When Capitol insurrectionist thugs plead insanity, Robert Harrington, May 27, 2021. In 1998 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I won’t drag you through tales of the therapies, medications, hospitalisation, diets, Napoleonic highs and Lilliputian lows I’ve tried and endured since. I will say I’ve learned to live in a kind of armed truce with my mental illness. Let’s just further say that diet and exercise are vastly underrated and criminally under-utilized in the world of the treatment of mental health disorders and leave it at that.

One in five humans on our overburdened planet suffer from some kind of mental illness. Most of us don’t talk about it much because there isn’t much to say. Unless it’s a disorder of the obvious kind, such as schizophrenia for example, our conditions remain largely invisible and we are content to let them stay that way.

I can’t speak for the rest of the mentally ill but some of us in the manic-depressive club share a little secret: we wouldn’t change it for the world. We like our mountain top highs and put up with our cavernous lows as part of the price of entry. But one thing I guarantee none of us would do. We wouldn’t use bipolar disorder as an excuse to attack our own country.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s tempting to call the January 6th rioters crazy. It’s one of the many adjectives most of us have used, including me. But when they use it themselves as an excuse to betray democracy, I’m afraid I’m going to have to speak up on behalf of my brother and sister sufferers of actual mental disease and call, if you’ll pardon the expression, bullshit. They are, in fact spoiled, privileged little assholes who chose to follow a hateful, toxic bigot and were dumb enough to believe he’d stick his neck out for them if they got into trouble.

Take Jacob Chansley, for example. You all know who he is. He’s the so-called QAnon Shaman, the idiot with the Buffalo Bill outfit and quasi Native American paint job. Almost four months to the day after his first court appearance his lawyer is now asking the judge for a psychological examination. That’s right, he’s going to try the not guilty by reason of insanity argument.

Part of the problem, I will admit, is semantic. We have become so accustomed to characterizing people on the rightwing with terms that are also traditionally used to describe mental disorders that a lot of confusion has resulted. 

But it’s unlikely that any of the January 6th rioters will get away with an insanity plea. Why? Because they have no history of mental disorders. Mental stupidity, to be sure. But not mental illness. It is part of the banality of evil that people who would attack their own country live and work among us. We occasionally exchange pleasantries with them. They’re seemingly normal human beings with corrupt souls.

But even more to the point, we of the 20% who suffer from mental illness are not them. While it is unquestionably true that some of the mentally ill among us are evil, they are not evil because of mental illness. They are evil because they’re jerks. It’s an important distinction to make, and I can’t make it enough.

Some of the Capitol rioters are going to try the insanity plea in the coming months, and they are hoping that no one deciding their fates will notice that which we of the 20% know so well. Mental illness doesn’t cause treason. Evil causes treason. And mental illness and evil are not the same thing.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Resistance to vaccine mandates is building. A powerful nationwide network is helping, Isaac Stanley-Becker, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). The Informed Consent Action Network, a Texas-based nonprofit founded by a former daytime TV producer, campaigns against requiring vaccines based on debunked or unsubstantiated claims.

The Americans lodging complaints against coronavirus vaccine mandates are a diverse lot — a sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina, nursing home employees in Wisconsin and students at the largest university in New Jersey.

But their resistance is woven together by a common thread: the involvement of a law firm closely tied to the anti-vaccine movement.

Attorneys from Siri & Glimstad — a New York firm that has done millions of dollars of legal work for one of the nation’s foremost anti-vaccination groups — are co-counsel in a case against the Durham County Sheriff’s Office. They’ve sent warning letters to officials in Rock County, Wis., as well as to the president of Rutgers University and other schools.

The legal salvos show that a groundswell against compulsory immunization is being coordinated, at least in part, from a law office on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan. And they offer a window into a wide-ranging and well-resourced effort to contest vaccine requirements in workplaces and other settings critical to the country’s reopening — a dispute with sweeping implications for public health, state authority and individual rights.

washington post logoWashington Post, Influencers say they were offered money to discredit Pfizer vaccine. In France, some suspect Russia, Jennifer Hassan and Rick Noack, May 27, 2021 (print ed.).They say they were approached online and asked to tell their large followings that the Pfizer vaccine is dangerous and has sparked more deaths than the one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: China pushes back against Biden for raising pressure on coronavirus origins, Katerina Ang and Erin Cunningham, May 27, 2021. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline announce Phase 3 trials for new coronavirus vaccine candidate

  • Beijing slams Biden’s call for harder look into origins of coronavirus
  • Olympic Games could create an ‘Olympic strain,’ warns head of Japan Doctors Union

ny times logoNew York Times, Death Toll in India Far Exceeds Official Figures, a Times Analysis Shows, Staff Reports, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). Estimates informed by more than a dozen experts’ research range from very bad to catastrophic. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

  • india flag mapThe E.U. could seek billions in penalties if AstraZeneca doesn’t deliver vaccine doses.
  • Despite gains against the virus, the C.D.C. director says unvaccinated people remain at risk.
  • Will the Tokyo Olympics happen? Public health experts say it’s time to rethink.
  • Puerto Rico, recovering from a spring surge, lifted a curfew that was in effect throughout the pandemic.
  • William Shakespeare, the first man in Britain to receive an approved Covid vaccine, dies at 81

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 165.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 27, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 58.9 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 49.7 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 27, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 169,155,986, Deaths: 3,514,138
U.S. Cases:      33,971,207, Deaths:   606,179
India Cases:     27,369,093, Deaths:   315,263
Brazil Cases:      6,275,440, Deaths:   454,623

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans want mini-Trumps in 2022? Democrats would be delighted, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 27, 2021. jennifer rubin new headshotDespite the fact that the disgraced former president has national approval ratings in the 30s while his puppet in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), has a 12 percent favorable rating, 85 percent of Republicans prefer candidates that mostly agree with Donald Trump, according to Quinnipiac’s latest poll. Moreover, Democrats have a nine-point advantage in the generic congressional poll for 2022.

If this carries forward to 2022, Republicans will be selecting mini-Trumps who — presumably — also believe in the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, think the Jan. 6 insurrectionists were tourists or antifa, oppose President Biden’s popular economic rescue plan, obsess over ludicrous cultural memes that have nothing to do with governing and seek to make it more difficult to vote.

How might that play in congressional seats that swung from Democrat to Republican in 2020 (e.g., California’s 39th and 48th districts, or Florida’s 27th)? The candidates who tried to keep their distance from Trump may fall prey to MAGA Republicans in the primaries. And Republicans who sold themselves as moderates but ran toward the MAGA crowd (e.g., voting against the Jan. 6 commission) may discover voters are dismayed that they joined the MAGA cult. 

Moreover, the radicalization of the GOP has alerted Democratic voters to the real possibility that if Republicans take the House majority, they may not allow a rightfully elected Democratic president to take office in January 2025. It’s easy to imagine the ads featuring McCarthy and Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga., shown above in a campaign photo), Jim Jordan (Ohio), and Matt Gaetz (Fla.): Would you trust these people with 2024 election?

washington post logoWashington Post, John W. Warner (1927-2021): Senator from Virginia who became a force on military affairs dies at 94, Donald P. Baker, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). John W. Warner, the five-term U.S. senator from Virginia who helped plan the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations, played a central role in military affairs and gained respect on both sides of the aisle for his diligence, consensus-building and independence, has died in Alexandria, Va., at 94.

john warnerBecause of his willingness to buck his increasingly conservative party (see story below from 2018), Mr. Warner, right, became the Republican whom many Virginia independents and Democrats respected and voted for.

By the time he retired in 2009, Mr. Warner held the second-longest tenure of a Virginia senator.As a former secretary of the Navy and, in later years, one of only a handful of World War II veterans in the Senate, his opinions on military matters carried considerable weight. His consensus-building on a number of critical issues led him to be known as one of the Senate’s more influential members.

_________

Farquier Times (VA), Former Sen. John Warner, longtime dean of Virginia's GOP, says he supports Cockburn, Jill Palermo, Oct. 31, 2018. Former Sen. John Warner, who spent 30 years representing Virginia as a Republican, is lending his support to Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat and former investigative journalist vying to represent the 5th District in the U.S. House. Warner endorsed Sen. Tim Kaine, also a Democrat, in his race against GOP nominee Corey Stewart. 

“I’m going to tell this gang, I’m still a Republican,” the elder Warner said in an interview. “You can’t take that away from me. But you’ve got to have the courage to do what’s right for the country and what’s right for your state.” 

American System Radio, Biden demands Senate pass jobs and infrastructure bill, Webster G. Tarpley, right, May 27, 2021. In rousing Cleveland speech, Biden demands Senate pass jobs and infrastructure bill, webster tarpley 2007citing need to attain full employment to drive up wages and secure workplace dignity for workers, especially women;

President repeats commitment to 28% tax rate for corporations, Buy American pledge, and $15 per hour federal minimum wage; singles out greedy executives obsessed with stock buybacks; his evocation of inflection point evokes FDR’s rendez-vous with destiny!

New jobless claims fall to lowest level since start of pandemic, new Covid cases fall by half in May.

TheHill.com, Oklahoma AG resigns following news of divorce, alleged affair, Celine Castronuovo, May 26, 2021. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) on Wednesday announced his intent to resign days after filing for divorce from his wife amid reports of an extramarital affair.

In a statement from his office shared with The Hill, Hunter said his resignation, effective June 1, comes as “certain personal matters that are becoming public will become a distraction for this office.”

“The office of attorney general is one of the most important positions in state government,” he said. “I cannot allow a personal issue to overshadow the vital work the attorneys, agents and support staff do on behalf of Oklahomans.”

While the state attorney general’s statement did not specifically detail the personal matter that prompted him to resign, Hunter filed for divorce from his wife in Oklahoma County District Court Friday.

Cheryl Hunter, who had been married to Mike Hunter for 39 years, said in a statement to The Oklahoman, "I am heartbroken and my priorities are to take care of my sons, my daughter-in-law, my grandson and my parents."

The Oklahoman reported that it had submitted questions to the attorney general Tuesday evening about an alleged extramarital affair that it had confirmed through sources familiar with the matter. The sources said that the alleged affair was with a state employee who did not work in the attorney general’s office.

Hunter was appointed to the state attorney general role in 2017 to fill the term of Scott Pruitt, who had left to serve as Environmental Protection Agency administrator under the Trump administration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s crunch time for Biden, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden and his party are facing their first big moment of truth: How much can they get done, ej dionne w open neckand does it matter whether they get Republican support along the way?

The second question irritates many Democrats, since it’s clear that some of their most important objectives, especially guaranteeing the right to vote, will never win enough Republican votes to overcome a Senate filibuster.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to test Republicans by bringing up, as early as Thursday, a House bill that would create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Even Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the most outspoken Democratic defenders of the filibuster, are impatient with GOP opposition to the inquiry. If Republicans kill the commission, they will only hasten filibuster reform.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 commission remains long shot in Senate, even as Collins pitches last-ditch compromise, Karoun Demirjian, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), seen as one of the Senate’s most moderate Republicans, offered an amendment to the legislation intended to address complaints from her GOP colleagues about the proposed commission to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Democrats make new demand on infrastructure bill as Biden strains to lure Republicans, Tony Romm, May 27, 2021 The new message threatens to add to the steep task facing members of Congress and the White House at a time when they’re already struggling to strike a deal on hundreds of billions of dollars in public works spending.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden could face tough choices if infrastructure deal emerges, Jeff Stein and Tony Romm, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). If centrists strike an agreement, the president would probably have to pick between forgoing key proposals for climate and elder care and rejecting a bipartisan deal that aides have sought as a political triumph

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Belarus Plane Crisis Tightens Lukashenko’s Awkward Embrace of Putin, Anton Troianovski, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). When Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the eccentric and brutal leader of Belarus, forced down a European passenger jet on Sunday to arrest a dissident, he ushered in a new and even more brittle phase in one of the post-Soviet region’s most convoluted and consequential relationships: the one between Mr. Lukashenko and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

alexander lukashenko resized 2019The two are increasingly leaning on each other in the face of conflict with the West, but they have sharply diverging interests. Mr. Lukashenko, left, who has ruled for 26 years, relies on his iron grip on his country to assure his survival.

Mr. Putin wants to expand Russian influence in Belarus, undermining Mr. Lukashenko’s authority in the process.

Now, with a summit meeting with President Biden looming in June, Mr. Putin faces a choice over how much political capital to expend to continue supporting Mr. Lukashenko, whose commandeering of the Ryanair plane has complicated the Kremlin’s efforts to smooth relations with the West. Russian officials and pro-Kremlin news outlets have taken Mr. Lukashenko’s side in the furor, but Mr. Lukashenko’s leading Belarusian opponents believe that the Kremlin’s support is only skin deep.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump tried to end Spygate probe of NFL’s Patriots with bribe, late senator’s son alleges, Timothy Bella, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). Donald Trump allegedly attempted to stop a congressional probe of the Spygate case involving the New England Patriots by offering a bribe to then-Sen. Arlen Specter, right, the late senator’s son claimed Wednesday.

arlen specternfl logoAn ESPN report detailed how Trump, nearly a decade before he became president, allegedly acted on behalf of Patriots owner Robert Kraft when he met with Specter in 2008 to offer him “a lot of money in Palm Beach” if the then-Republican senator from Pennsylvania dropped his investigation into the team.

Shanin Specter, the senator’s son, said to ESPN that Trump intervened in the probe, while Charles Robbins, the senator’s longtime communications aide, told The Washington Post that he surmised Trump to be the person who offered Arlen Specter the bribe.

espn logoIn a Wednesday email to The Post, Shanin Specter confirmed that his father, who died in 2012, explicitly indicated to him that Trump had attempted to bribe the senator, then the ranking Republican of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in exchange for dropping the investigation of the Patriots illegally filming an opponent’s hand signals.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Public Deserves to See This Legal Memo About Donald Trump, Neal K. Katyal, right, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden Justice Department appears to be making a serious mistake by trying to keep secret a Trump-era document about former Attorney General William P. Barr’s decision to clear his boss, former President Donald Trump, of obstructing justice.

neal katyal oThe American people have a right to see the memo. Then they can decide whether Mr. Barr used his power as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer as a shield to protect the president.

This month, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington ordered it released. Were this an ordinary criminal case, her order would represent a remarkable intrusion into prosecutorial secrecy, and I would have appealed when I was acting solicitor general.

But the document is anything but ordinary. It concerns attempts at the highest levels of government to shield the attorney general’s boss from criminal liability. It is, in essence, the people’s memo, and with its appeal, the Justice Department is attempting to hide it from public scrutiny.

Faced with a Freedom of Information Act request from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to release the document, Judge Jackson engaged in a thorough review of the material. Her conclusion was startling: Mr. Barr was “disingenuous.” And the affidavits the Justice Department used to justify withholding the materials “are so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence.”

As an institutionalist, I believe the long-term interests of the Justice Department generally do not swing from one administration to the next. My tenure in the Obama administration running the Solicitor General’s office, which decides for the federal government whether it will appeal judicial orders, was devoted to that principle.

So it’s understandable how the Justice Department reached its decision in this case. We generally don’t want prosecutors to have their internal analysis released to the public, for fear of undermining ongoing law enforcement investigations and for chilling frank advice and discussion. That is, I suspect, why the Justice Department authorized the appeal. It doesn’t want the Freedom of Information Act to be used as a weapon to undermine prosecutors.

But in this case, absent additional information, that rationale seems wrong. The appearance, if not the reality, of what Mr. Barr did to the Justice Department cannot be ignored: He used his mighty prosecution powers to protect the Trump administration and its friends, including the president.

That is what Judge Jackson’s opinion, in the end, was all about. After reading a full set of documents related to the memo, she said: “So why did the attorney general’s advisers, at his request, create a memorandum that evaluated the prosecutorial merits of the facts amassed by the special counsel? Lifting the curtain reveals the answer to that too: getting a jump on public relations.”

These shenanigans came after Mr. Barr was revealed to have written a memo for Mr. Trump while a private citizen, a long document that concluded that, yes, you guessed it, the president was not guilty of obstruction of justice.

The Justice Department is the one cabinet agency that has a value in its name — “justice.” Its iconography — a blindfolded Lady Justice — underscores the idea that everyone has to play by the same rules. Mr. Barr appears to have desecrated that cardinal principle. The public has a right to know what he and his Justice Department lawyers did and why they did it.

We already had one by-the-book official, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, try to apply regular principles to a deeply abnormal presidency, and we witnessed the result: a distorted impeachment and the nullification of potential criminal charges.

The problem for the new Justice Department is: What does it do now? Should it depart from ordinary rules because the last administration did so? If it doesn’t appeal Judge Jackson’s decision, isn’t the department allowing a precedent to be set that private litigants can ask for and get all sorts of prosecutorial materials?

No. Good surgeons don’t always operate, and good appeals lawyers don’t always appeal. Here, Justice Department lawyers could have safeguarded the department’s interests by saying they disagreed with the decision, but because it was a trial court decision, it was not precedential for other cases and not appropriate to appeal.

Mr. Katyal is a professor at Georgetown Law School, was an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and is a co-author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump. 

cy vance resized djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: An indictment of Trump is anything but certain, Philip Allen Lacovara and John S. Martin,  May 27, 2021 (print ed.). Those who are hoping to see former president Dald Trump indicted may well be disappointed. Signs are piling up that the investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., above right, has taken a serious turn, but there are reasons for caution about whether Trump himself will be indicted, much less convicted.

Vance may have documents suggesting that financial fraud occurred within the Trump Organization, but the crucial question is whether the district attorney can show that Trump himself was party to any alleged fraud. Even Trump’s signature on documents employed in a fraud might not be sufficient to show knowledge of the fraud itself.

The cold reality of the jury system itself could be a critical factor in the decision regarding a Trump indictment. A criminal conviction requires a unanimous guilty verdict. For practical reasons as well as the interests of justice, prosecutors ordinarily will not seek an indictment unless they are satisfied both that they have evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that there is a substantial probability that all 12 jurors will agree to convict.

All of this may give Vance pause. Even in New York City there are plenty of Trump fans — his support rose from 18.2 percent in 2016 to 22.6 percent in 2020. Even in Manhattan, the source of any eventual jury pool, 1 out of 8 voters wanted Trump reelected. A skilled defense attorney would be able to use the jury selection process with confidence that at least one or two jurors would be sympathetic toward Trump.

Trump supporters are overwhelmingly inclined to accept his version of events, even when they fly in the face of documented, objective reality. Even if Vance believes there is sufficient evidence to show that Trump is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he would face two unenviable alternatives: decline to indict, because it is unlikely that a jury containing Trump supporters would convict; or indict, so that a trial lays out for the public a record of Trump’s conduct, even if conviction is unlikely.

Philip Allen Lacovara, a former president of the D.C. Bar, served as counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor. John S. Martin is a former U.S. attorney and former U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York.

 

Actor Danny Masterson is shown at left with defense attorney Thomas Mesereau during this 2020 arraignment on multiple rape charges.

Actor Danny Masterson is shown at left with defense attorney Thomas Mesereau during this 2020 arraignment on multiple rape charges.

Los Angeles Times, Scientology’s secrets spill into open in Danny Masterson rape case, James Queally, Matthew Ormseth, May 27, 2021. The Church of Scientology works hard to keep its inner workings out of the public eye.

It has hired private detectives to keep tabs on straying members, and experts say its lawyers vigorously defend against legal incursions, arguing to judges that Scientology’s beliefs are not courtroom fodder.

But at a hearing last week in the rape case against actor Danny Masterson, church officials were unable to stop their practices from being debated in open court.

Three women took the stand to recount sexual assaults allegedly committed by the celebrity Scientologist, and each told similar stories of how church officials tried to stop them from reporting Masterson to police.

One woman testified that a church official instructed her to write a statement showing she would “take responsibility” for a 2001 assault, in which she alleges Masterson raped her while she was unconscious.

Another woman, who was born into Scientology and planned to report Masterson to police in 2004, a year after she said he raped her at his Hollywood mansion, recounted how a Scientology attorney showed up at her family’s home. The lawyer, according to the woman, warned that she would be expelled from the church if she went to authorities.

“We’re going to work out how you can not lose your daughter,” the attorney told the woman’s father, according to her testimony.

The focus on Scientology during the preliminary hearing, which stretched over four days and included lengthy discussions of internal church texts and doctrine, wasn’t lost on Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo.

In ruling that there was sufficient evidence against Masterson to allow the case to proceed toward trial, Olmedo concluded that Scientology has “an expressly written doctrine” that “not only discourages, but prohibits” its members from reporting one another to law enforcement. The policy explained why several of the women did not report Masterson’s alleged crimes to the police for more than a decade, the judge found.

It was a type of public dissection that is unusual for the insular, enigmatic institution. The church, which counts a number of high-profile actors among its parishioners and operates a “Celebrity Centre” in the heart of Hollywood, has long been accused of going to extraordinary lengths to keep criminal allegations and other claims of wrongdoing in-house, experts said.

“The activities of Scientology have been so much a part of the evidence that’s being put forth as to why these women were not immediately going to law enforcement ... that it’s sort of brought the dirty laundry out into public view, which is exactly what Scientology does not want to have happen,” said Mike Rinder, the church’s former top spokesman, who left the faith in 2007.

In statements to The Times, the church denied it has a policy that dissuades members from reporting crimes, despite repeated references to Scientology texts during the hearing that appeared to include the directive. Karin Pouw, the church’s top spokeswoman, said Olmedo’s comments were “flat-out wrong” and dismissed the allegations against Masterson as “nothing more than a money shakedown” by women who are also engaged in a civil suit against him.

The women, Pouw claimed without evidence, are parroting comments made by Leah Remini, an actress who became an outspoken critic of Scientology after breaking with it in 2013. Rinder is a co-executive producer with Remini of an A&E series about Scientology.
Church of Scientology leader's father struggles to escape the religion

“Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land, including the reporting of crimes. This is blatantly clear in the documents we understand were put before the Court — and many others,” Pouw wrote, repeatedly noting the church is not a party in the criminal case. “The Court either did not read them in full or ignored them. It should have done neither. Interpretation of Church doctrine by the courts is prohibited and the ruling is evidence of why.”

The case against Masterson, who starred in the 2000s sitcom “That ’70s Show,” is a relatively rare example of a Scientologist facing criminal charges based on accusations from other church members, Rinder said.

The church’s doctrine generally dismisses government institutions like courts as invalid and directs members to deal with complaints internally, said Rinder, who described himself as having worked closely with L. Ron Hubbard, the late science fiction author who founded the church. Knowing that contacting law enforcement can lead to excommunication and being cut off from family and friends who remain in the church, members often remain silent, according to Rinder and testimony delivered in court last week.

The case against Masterson, Rinder added, is also unusual for the outsize role the inner workings and rules of Scientology played at the preliminary hearing — a likely preview of what is to come if the case goes to trial. For the most part, Rinder said, cases involving the church have played out in civil court, where lawyers for Scientology have largely been successful in convincing judges that its practices are irrelevant.

“Scientology had managed to persuade courts … that you can’t inquire into our religious practices and beliefs and have managed to dissuade much discussion about Scientology,” Rinder said.

Murder suspect Alan Lee Phillips, center, shown in a file photo, is shown with his alleged 1982 victims Annette Schnee, left, and Barbara Jo

Murder suspect Alan Lee Phillips, center, shown in a file photo, is shown with his alleged 1982 victims Annette Schnee, left, and Barbara Jo "Bobbi" Oberholtzer.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Rescued in Colorado Mountain Pass Is Accused in 1982 Murders, Maria Cramer, May 27, 2021. Alan Lee Phillips was rescued from a snowdrift in 1982 after he signaled SOS with his headlights. The police now say he became trapped on the road after killing two women.

On a January night in 1982, Alan Lee Phillips was found shivering in his pickup, stuck in a snowdrift on a treacherous mountain pass in central Colorado.

A rescue worker tracked him down after Mr. Phillips, then 30, used his headlights to blink the Morse code signal for SOS and caught the attention of a passenger on a plane flying overhead. Asked what he had been thinking, taking such a dangerous road in subzero temperatures, Mr. Phillips, looking dazed, said he was coming back from a bar, according to the police.

“You find out how lonely it is really quick,” Mr. Phillips later said, according to a newspaper article from the time. “I thought about walking to a ski area nearby, and went about 200 yards and thought, ‘No way.’ It was too cold.”

Nearly 40 years later, the police now say they know where Mr. Phillips was really coming from that night, and what might have caused him to take the perilous route. The authorities say he had just shot two young women and left them to die near the mountain town of Breckenridge.

“It was his own stupidity that got him up there, because the pass is not passable in the wintertime,” said Sergeant Wendy Kipple of the Park County Sheriff’s Office. “I don’t know what he was thinking, other than he was trying to run away from a crime he had just committed.”

Mr. Phillips, now 70, was charged in February with first-degree murder, assault and kidnapping in the killings of Annette Schnee and Barbara Jo Oberholtzer after DNA evidence linked him to their deaths.

Mr. Phillips, a semiretired mechanic living in Clear Creek County, west of Denver, has been held in the Park County Jail since his arrest. He is being represented by a lawyer with the state’s public defender’s office, which did not respond to requests for comment.

 chad perkins missouri recropped house

Missouri House Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Dist. 40, above, represents parts of Ralls, Monroe, Lincoln, and Pike counties. He was elected to his first two-year term in November 2020 and lives in Bowling Green. 

St. Louis Today, Report alleges Missouri lawmaker had sex with teen when he was a cop, Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup, May 27, 2021.A Missouri lawmaker allegedly used his position as a cop to receive a “sexual favor” from an intoxicated teenage girl in 2015 and his boss, the Pike County sheriff, is accused of attempting to obstruct a probe as the deputy ran for a seat in the Legislature last year, the Post-Dispatch has learned.

According to a report obtained from Frankford Police Chief Josh Baker in response to an open records request, state Rep. Chad Perkins, a Bowling Green Republican, allegedly accepted “sexual favors from a teenage girl while on duty” as a police officer.

The report said the Pike County prosecutor, as well as state and federal investigators have been alerted to the allegations. The speaker of the Missouri House, Rep. Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, also has been notified of the incident.

The speaker forwarded the information to the House Ethics Committee.

In an April 19 memo that was attached to the report, Baker writes to Vescovo, and officials working for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the attorney general’s office and the Peace Officer Standards & Training Program.

“I implore your offices to investigate this ongoing criminal activity,” he said.

Perkins, 42, is a freshman lawmaker who was elected to the northeast Missouri House seat in 2020. He represents parts of Ralls, Monroe, Lincoln, and Pike counties.

Perkins said his relationship with the 19-year-old was consensual and the controversy is the product of a local political feud over his decision to not publicly endorse Baker’s wife in her bid for Pike County assessor in the 2020 election.

“There is no victim. There’s nothing to that. It was just political sour grapes because I wouldn’t help his wife out,” Perkins said.

Among the bills Perkins supported this year is one heading to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk that says a law enforcement officer who engages in sexual conduct with a detainee or prisoner who is in the custody of such officer shall be guilty of a class E felony.

The legislation was designed to curtail police officers from using their power as law enforcement officers to gain sexual favors from people under their control.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM, Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). The deal will give the e-commerce giant access to the James Bond franchise as it seeks to bolster its Prime membership offering.

amazon logo smallIn the ultimate symbol of one Hollywood era ending and another beginning, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home to James Bond, “Thelma & Louise” and Rocky, finally found a buyer willing to pay retail: Amazon.The e-commerce giant said on Wednesday that it would acquire the 97-year-old film and television studio for $8.45 billion — or about 40 percent more than other prospective buyers, including Apple and Comcast, thought MGM was worth.

The studio, which had been shopped around for months, was once home to “more stars than the heavens,” as Louis B. Mayer liked to brag. But its vast production lot and pre-1986 film library were sold off decades ago. (Sony Pictures now occupies the lot, and Warner Bros. owns classic MGM films like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Gone With the Wind.”)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We need to put science at the center of the UFO question, Ravi Kopparapu and Jacob Haqq-Misra, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). Ravi Kopparapu is a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Jacob Haqq-Misra is a research scientist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.

With a government report due in June on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) and a recent “60 Minutes” story on U.S. Navy pilots’ sightings and videos of mysterious images, prominent people in politics, the military and national intelligence are finally asking: What are we looking at?

It’s the wrong question — or, at least, it’s premature.

Before we get to what these mysterious phenomena are, we need to be asking how we can figure out what they are. This is where scientists, notably absent from the current UAP conversation, come in.

For too long, the scientific study of unidentified flying objects and aerial phenomena — UFOs and UAPs, in the shorthand — has been taboo. A big driver of that taboo is the vacuum of knowledge that is being filled by unscientific claims thanks to a lack of scientific investigation.

 From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Raises Heat on Twitter, Google and Facebook in Online Crackdown, Adam Satariano and Oleg Matsnev, May 27, 2021 (print ed.). The country’s campaign is part of a global wave of actions by governments that are testing how far they can go to control online speech.

twitter bird CustomRussia is increasingly pressuring Google, Twitter and Facebook to fall in line with Kremlin internet crackdown orders or risk restrictions inside the country, as more governments around the world challenge the companies’ principles on online freedom.

Russia’s internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, recently ramped up its demands for the Silicon Valley companies to remove online content that it deems illegal or restore pro-Kremlin material that had been blocked. The warnings have come at least weekly since services from Facebook, Twitter and Google were used as tools for anti-Kremlin protests in January. If the companies do not comply, the regulator has said, they face fines or access to their products may be throttled.

The latest clashes flared up this week, when Roskomnadzor told Google on Monday to block thousands of unspecified pieces of illegal content or it would slow access to the company’s services. On facebook logoTuesday, a Russian court fined Google 6 million rubles, or about $81,000, for not taking down another piece of content.

On Wednesday, the government ordered Facebook and Twitter to store all data on Russian users within the country by July 1 or face fines. In March, the authorities had made it harder for google logo custompeople to see and send posts on Twitter after the company did not take down content that the government considered illegal. Twitter has since removed roughly 6,000 posts to comply with the orders, according to Roskomnadzor. The regulator has threatened similar penalties against Facebook.

 

May 26

Top Headlines 

 

U.S. Claims of Sports, Academic Fraud

 

More On Attacks On U.S. Democracy

 

World News

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

cy vance resized djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor in Trump criminal probe convenes grand jury, Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). The move by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., above right, suggests his investigation of the former president’s business has entered an advanced stage after more than two years.

Manhattan's district attorney has convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former president Donald Trump, other executives at his company or the business itself should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, according to two people familiar with the development.

The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months. It is likely to hear several matters — not just the Trump case ­— during the duration of its term, which is longer than a traditional New York state grand-jury assignment, these people said. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Generally, special grand juries such as this one are convened to participate in long-term matters rather than to hear evidence of crimes charged routinely.

The move indicates that District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It suggests, too, that Vance believes he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump then by someone potentially close to him or by his company.

Vance’s investigation is expansive, according to people familiar the probe and public disclosures made during related litigation. His investigators are scrutinizing Trump’s business practices before he was president, including whether the value of specific properties in the Trump Organization’s real estate portfolio were manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies, and if any tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation.

The district attorney also is examining the compensation provided to top Trump Organization executives, people familiar with the matter have said.  

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s the thing that’s being glossed over about Donald Trump’s indictment, Bill Palmer, right, May 26, 2021. The part that’s still being glossed over is that the Manhattan DA criminal bill palmerinvestigation into Trump has been going since late 2019. This isn’t some new probe coming out of nowhere. This is the final stage of a long running process that the media largely ignored until yesterday.

The DA has already empaneled at least one grand jury in the case against Trump, to subpoena Trump’s tax returns. This new grand jury is solely for endgame indictments. The criminal case has already been built and is ready to go.

In fact the 2019 subpoena of Trump’s tax returns proved that the Manhattan criminal case has been serious for quite some time. The media heavily covered the resulting supreme court battle over Trump’s returns, but largely sidestepped the underlying criminal case against Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerSo why is this “endgame” grand jury empaneled for the next six months? It’ll likely indict Weisselberg, below at right, first, push him to flip and testify against Trump, and so on. And Trump will likely be indicted on numerous charges. Each one is a separate presentation to the grand jury.

allen weisselberg croppedWhat are the odds the DA will ask the grand jury to indict Trump? 100%. He wouldn’t have empaneled a special grand jury if he were only looking to indict underlings. What are the odds the grand jury will agree to indict him? 99%, given how the process usually goes.

So we’re looking at a near-certain Trump indictment sometime in the second half of 2021, followed by trial sometime in 2022. We’ll see if the media starts claiming Trump’s downfall will somehow magically make him viable in 2024. If so, it’ll just be fictional hype for ratings.

In any case, since people are asking how CNN can be reporting tonight that this “new” criminal probe is an “advanced stage,” the answer is that it’s not remotely new. It’s an 18 month probe nearing the finish line. Just as Palmer Report spent the past 18 months documenting.

 

 

state dept map logo Smallny times logoNew York Times, Seeking to Restore Palestinian Links, Blinken Risks Friction With Israel, Lara Jakes and Isabel Kershner, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s diplomatic outreach toward the Palestinians was a sharp turnabout from the policies of former President Trump. His efforts and a White House pledge to help finance rebuilding in the Gaza Strip could anger Israel, the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East.

America’s top diplomat came to the seat of the Palestinian government on Tuesday with promises of additional aid, a reopened consulate in Jerusalem and a broad sympathetic pledge to rebuild ties that had been severed by the previous administration in favor of Israel.

antony blinken oWith the raw emotion of deaths and wreckage from an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas militants still fresh in the minds of both Israelis and Palestinians, the actions by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, represented, in tone at least, an attempted revival of America’s former role as a more neutral mediator in the Middle East’s most protracted conflict.

It amounted to a sharp turnabout from the policies of former President Donald J. Trump, who had made no secret of siding with Israel by closing a political channel with the Palestinian Authority and cutting off humanitarian assistance to millions of Palestinians.

But it also carries big risks. The Biden administration says it will help finance an enormous reconstruction effort in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, a militant group considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and many other countries.

Rebuilding ties with the Palestinians also risks angering Israel, the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East, whose leaders are already anxious about the Biden administration’s attempts to rejoin a nuclear agreement with Iran. Israel has long opposed and worked to undermine a deal.

At nearly every stop on a daylong series of meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Mr. Blinken emphasized the tragic deaths of civilians — including children — in the cross-border hostilities between Hamas and Israel that ended in a fragile cease-fire late last week

ny times logoNew York Times, On Anniversary, George Floyd’s Death Is a Memorial and a Call to Action, Tim Arango and Andrés R. Martínez, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). The crowds that gathered across the country reflected on what has changed, and what has not, since Mr. Floyd was murdered by a police officer.

In a year when activists have pushed for police reform, they worry that not enough attention has been paid to the systemic inequities of American life.

It was a day of reflection, of remembrance, a time to lay flowers and say prayers, to celebrate Black culture with art and music and food, and to recall the life of a man whose death, one year ago, shook the country and forced it to confront its painful legacy of racism and police brutality.

In Minneapolis on Tuesday, as people gathered to mark the anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd, there was space for it all: the trauma and the grief; some celebration, over a murder conviction of a police officer; and a measure of hope, too, that in death Mr. Floyd, a Black man, had nudged America toward more racial equality.

Mr. Floyd’s death has “really highlighted for so many people in the country the problems of police brutality and the need to defend the humanity of Black and brown people,” said Debby Pope, a Chicago teacher who came on Tuesday to George Floyd Square, where Mr. Floyd was killed.

“Of course, it’s solemn because we are remembering a brutal murder,” she said. “But it’s also a cause for celebration because on the ashes of tragedy the community has built something really beautiful.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Accelerates Withdrawal From Afghanistan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). American troops are set to be out by early to mid-July, well ahead of President Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline, even as big issues remain unresolved.

United States troops and their NATO allies intend to be out of Afghanistan by early to mid-July, well ahead of President Biden’s Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline, military officials said, in what has turned into an accelerated ending to America’s longest war.

But the race to the exits, which has picked up steam as planeloads of equipment and troops are flown out of the country, leaves the United States grappling with huge unresolved issues that officials had thought they would have more time to figure out.

The Pentagon still has not determined how it will combat terrorist threats like Al Qaeda from afar after American troops leave. Nor have top Defense Department officials secured agreement from allies about repositioning American troops in other nearby countries. And administration officials are still grappling with the thorny question of whether American warplanes — most likely armed Reaper drones — will provide air support to Afghan forces to help prevent the country’s cities from falling to the Taliban.

washington post logoWashington Post, 8 killed in shooting at San Jose, Calif., rail yard. The gunman is also dead, Brittany Shammas, Derek Hawkins and Faiz Siddiqu, May 26, 2021. Eight people were killed when a man opened fire Wednesday morning at a Valley Transportation Authority light-rail maintenance yard in San Jose.

The suspect is also dead, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Russell Davis said during a news conference. He said he would “not go into details about cause of death at this point.” Authorities have not publicly identified the shooter but said he was a VTA employee.

One official said the gunman apparently set his home on fire before going to the rail-yard facility and opening fire. Authorities believe there may be explosive devices at the VTA site; the sheriff’s office bomb squad remains on scene “trying to clear out every room and every crevice,” Davis said.

“This is a horrific day for our city,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo told reporters. “And it’s a tragic day for the VTA family. And our heart pains for the families and the co-workers, because we know that so many are feeling deeply this loss of their loved ones and their friends.”

 

U.S. Claims of Sports, Academic Fraud

robert kraft djt

Donald Trump and Boston Patriots owner Robert Kraft, right, are shown in a file photo.

ESPN, Investigation: Senator's son: Trump tried to stop Spygate probe, Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham, May 26, 2021. In the spring of 2008, the NFL was in crisis. A hard-charging United States senator from Pennsylvania named Arlen Specter had launched an investigation into the Spygate scandal. He tried to determine how many games the New England Patriots' illegal videotaping operation of arlen specteropposing coaches' signals had helped the team win and learn why the NFL, under the orders of commissioner Roger Goodell, had destroyed all evidence of the cheating.

By May, Specter -- right, a former Philadelphia district attorney and a lifelong Eagles fan -- was so angry at the "stonewalling" of his inquiry by the league and the Patriots that he called for an independent investigator, similar to the Mitchell investigation of steroid use in professional baseball. League executives and coaches might be forced to testify under espn logooath. The prospect sent the league, and its new commissioner, into panic. "If it ever got to an investigation," Goodell said at one point, "it would be terrible for the league."

The NFL tried to combat the Specter inquiry with public statements from teams that were the primary victims of New England's spying saying the league had done its due diligence. It wasn't working.

But there was one man, a mutual friend of Specter and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who believed that he could make the investigation go away. He was a famous businessman and reality television star who routinely threw money at politicians to try to curry favor, whether it worked or not. He had been a generous political patron of Specter's for two decades.

One day in early 2008, Specter had dinner with the man in Palm Beach at his palatial club, not far from Kraft's Florida home. A phone call followed. The friend offered Specter what the senator felt was tantamount to a bribe: "If you laid off the Patriots, there'd be a lot of money in Palm Beach."

In October 2017, an ESPN reporter visited the University of Pittsburgh's Archives & Special Collections, housed in a five-story brick building in a neighborhood of warehouses and auto repair shops. nfl logoFor two days, the reporter sifted through Sen. Arlen Specter's letters, speeches, memos, notes and calendars, accumulated across a half-century career in public life, searching for evidence identifying the friend who had offered cash if the senator would shut down his pesky Spygate inquiry.Two autumns earlier, the reporter had received a tip about the mutual friend's name. At the time, the man had just launched an outside and underdog campaign for president. But the tip was hard to confirm.

Among Specter's papers, the reporter found a few clues but nothing conclusive. Before and after the visit to Pittsburgh, the reporter made more than a dozen calls to confidants of Specter, who died in October 2012 of complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but had failed to turn up anything definitive. Another ESPN reporter visited Washington, D.C., meeting with Specter's former staffers at fashionable Beltway gossip venues BLT Steak and Off the Record. Nothing conclusive turned up.

But recently and unexpectedly, there's been movement in the quest. Follow-up conversations with the people closest to Arlen Specter -- his oldest son, Shanin, a Philadelphia personal injury and medical malpractice attorney, and Charles Robbins, Specter's trusted longtime communications aide and the ghostwriter of two Specter memoirs -- revealed this: The man who dangled campaign cash if Specter were to drop the Spygate inquiry was none other than Donald J. Trump.

robert kraft twitterNot only that: Trump had told Specter he was acting on behalf of Robert Kraft.Kraft, shown in a Twitter photo at right, and Trump, both responding to ESPN through spokespeople, denied involvement in any effort to influence Specter's investigation.

"This is completely false," said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump. "We have no idea what you're talking about." Miller declined to answer a series of follow-up questions. A Patriots spokesman said Kraft "never asked Donald Trump to talk to Arlen Specter on his behalf."

"Mr. Kraft is not aware of any involvement of Trump on this topic and he did not have any other engagement with Specter or his staff," the spokesman said via email.

Sen. Arlen Specter, shown speaking during a 2008 news conference on Spygate, took on the investigation in part because he wondered whether the Patriots had cheated to beat his beloved Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX in February 2005.

The alleged Spygate connections among Arlen Specter, Donald Trump and Robert Kraft came up almost by accident. On July 1, 2010, Specter sat down with Robbins for one of their tape-recorded discussions to prepare for the writing of Specter's third and final book, a memoir titled "Life Among the Cannibals." Only six weeks earlier, Specter, who famously switched parties from Republican to Democratic, had lost a hard-fought Democratic primary to Congressman Joe Sestak. The defeat effectively ended Specter's five-term tenure in the U.S. Senate.

ny times logoNew York Times Sunday Magazine, Investigation: The Native Scholar Who Wasn’t, Sarah Viren, Updated May 26, 2021. More than a decade ago, a prominent academic was exposed for having faked her Cherokee ancestry. Why has her career continued to thrive?

A Harvard graduate with long brown hair and pale skin, Andrea Smith began to make a name for herself in the early 1990s when she and her younger sister, Justine, moved to Chicago and started a local chapter of Women of All Red Nations, an activist organization that grew out of the American Indian Movement of the 1960s and ’70s. (Neither sister responded to multiple requests for comment for this article.)

Although the sisters stayed in Chicago for only a few years, they made an impression: They helped organize a protest of the Columbus Day Parade and flew in Native activists to speak at community gatherings. And they also, says Katie Jones, a Cherokee woman who protested and organized alongside them, called out Native activists they thought weren’t “legit.”

 

More On Attacks On U.S. Democracy

WhoWhatWhy, Investigation: Israeli Angle to White House ‘Deep State’ Plot, Russ Baker and Matt Harvey, May 25, 2021. A viral, disturbing New York Times article about a pro-Donald Trump plot against a member of his own administration left out the most important element of all: the role of shadowy operatives in the pro-Israel right wing — operatives from the very same insider “deep state” from which Trump constantly promised to save America.

whowhatwhy logoFirst, the background: The May 13 article — headlined “Activists and Ex-Spy Said to Have Plotted to Discredit Trump ‘Enemies’ in Government” — outlines a sting operation launched in 2017 against Gen. H.R. McMaster, then Trump’s national security advisor.

McMaster, right, brought in to bring discipline to a chaotic White House staff, was growing frustrated with the president. Over dinner at a Washington, DC, restaurant, McMaster reportedly labeled Trump “an idiot” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner.” One of those present, Safra Catz, CEO of the tech giant Oracle and a member of Trump’s transition team, called Trump’s counsel to complain about McMaster’s remarks.

According to the Times, a group of right-wing operatives then mounted a dirty-tricks campaign to provoke McMaster into repeating hostile remarks about Trump for a hidden camera. The aim of such footage was to force McMaster out — and to validate the president’s obsession, a popular MAGA meme, that a “deep state” composed of government insiders, Pentagon brass, and ultra-rich liberals was conspiring to block his project to “drain the swamp.”

At the heart of the reportedly failed scheme were at least two women hired to lure McMaster into a “honey trap.”

Although McMaster is said to have resigned on his own, the effort was a tightly-run spy operation that the paper revealed utilized operatives from the self-styled journalistic entity Project Veritas, which has a long history of using hidden cameras and allegedly selective editing techniques to highlight a range of liberal sins, from anti-conservative bias to low morals. Targets have included Planned Parenthood, the anti-poverty group ACORN, and CNN. (Notes the article, “Although several Project Veritas personnel were involved in the [McMaster] plot, it is unclear whether the group directed it.”)

In reply to an inquiry from WhoWhatWhy, Project Veritas stated that the organization was not involved and had no information on the matter but did not respond to a particular question as to whether erik princeany of its personnel were involved.

The cast of characters was said to include Richard Seddon — a former British spy and longtime ally of Erik Prince, left, the mercenary and private-espionage-business billionaire. Prince is the brother of Trump’s education secretary, the Amway heiress Betsy DeVos.

Reportedly, even before Trump was elected, a training camp had been established at Prince’s Wyoming ranch for various sting operations. (One such intrigue resulted in a Project Veritas video that embodied DeVos’s famous hostility to public education by purporting to show teachers union reps talking tough about bending the rules to protect their own.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Man charged with bringing molotov cocktails to Capitol has militia ties, contacted Cruz’s office, court says, Spencer S. Hsu, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). Lonnie Coffman attended an armed-citizens camp in Brownsville, Tex., and kept papers about the Southwest Desert Militia, prosecutors said.

An Alabama man charged with bringing five loaded firearms and 11 molotov cocktails with napalm-like properties to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 approached Sen. Ted Cruz’s Washington home and office weeks earlier to discuss “election fraud” and previously joined an armed-citizen camp at the Texas border, new court filings alleged Monday.

The new U.S. allegations came in a federal judge’s ruling ordering the continued detention of Lonnie Leroy Coffman, of Falkville, Ala., citing evidence that he had potential plans to coordinate with others and was prepared for political violence.

The 71-year-old Army veteran is awaiting trial on charges of possessing some of the deadliest unregistered weapons and explosives on the day of the riots that breached the Capitol, led to assaults on nearly 140 police officers and forced the evacuation of Congress.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why the Capitol Riot Inquiries Leave Room for a Broader Commission, Alan Feuer and Nicholas Fandos, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans have argued that the existing Justice Department and congressional investigations will address the assault. But they have strict limits.

As the Senate moves this week toward voting on the creation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Republicans have raised a series of arguments against it. They have objected to the inquiry’s scope, its length and even the process for hiring its staff.

But last week, announcing that he too would oppose the plan, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, made another argument: He claimed that the commission was redundant, noting that the Justice Department and congressional committees are already looking into the assault.

“It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could lay on top of the existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” Mr. McConnell said.

What he failed to mention was that the criminal investigation into the riot, despite being one of the largest in American history, was narrowly bounded by federal law and would not — indeed could not — seek the answers to several crucial questions about Jan. 6. The same can be said about the major congressional effort to investigate the assault, a tightly focused inquiry into the broad government response to the violence that day.

Here is what the current investigations can and cannot do, and what an independent commission might bring to the table.

The political roots of Jan. 6

One of the complexities about the Capitol attack is the inextricable link between criminal activity and legal behavior protected by the First Amendment. After all, the riot took place after — and was in part incited by — rallies led by figures including President Donald J. Trump, his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and his onetime adviser Roger J. Stone Jr.

In the early days of the Justice Department’s investigation, there were scattered signs that prosecutors were looking for information about some political activists who organized protests that preceded the attack.

In January, for example, the F.B.I. searched the homes of two men from Southern California, Alan Hostetter and Russell Taylor, who appeared with Mr. Stone on Jan. 5 at an election protest event outside the Supreme Court. Mr. Stone himself also came under scrutiny at one point, prosecutors said, as the authorities examined communications between him and right-wing extremists who breached the building.

But those efforts have not resulted in any charges, and there is no public evidence that prosecutors are still investigating the political roots of Jan. 6. One challenge is the tools they have at their disposal, like search warrants, which require proof that a crime may have been committed. An independent commission, armed with subpoena power, could more easily compel testimony from political operatives who may have knowledge about Jan. 6, even if they did not clearly break the law.

“Criminal investigators are only supposed to investigate crimes,” said Joel Hirschhorn, a veteran defense lawyer who has represented several clients charged in political riots. “But a commission is better suited and better able to look at the political reasons behind Jan. 6.”

As many as 500 rioters may face charges in connection with the Capitol attack, prosecutors have said. Many questions will eventually be answered: How did all of those people get to Washington on Jan. 6? What exactly did they do on the grounds of the Capitol? And what happened once they went back to their homes?

But one important question, crucial to understanding the events of that day, is not likely to be answered — at least not by the government — even in the hundreds of cases. And that is why those charged with crimes took part in storming the Capitol.

While the issue of motive is a staple of police procedurals on TV, it is less important at actual trials in real-life courtrooms. Defense lawyers may decide to discuss their clients’ motives with the judge at a sentencing hearing in an effort to reduce potential penalties, but prosecutors in their public statements are much more likely to stick to the facts of who did what when rather than delving into why they might have done it.

“In criminal prosecutions, the issue is generally one of behavior inferred by circumstance and corroborated by evidence like documents, emails and cooperating witnesses,” Mr. Hirschhorn said. “Motive is never really an issue when the government is trying to make its case at a trial and prove guilt or innocence. It’s just not relevant.”
The big picture

Even though prosecutors have charged an unprecedented number of people in the riot, that does not mean they are looking at the big picture — exactly what a commission would be asked to do. Indeed, at the urging of judges and under pressure from defense lawyers, investigators in the inquiry have taken pains to treat each of the 450 or so people charged so far as individual defendants.

“The job of a prosecutor is to prosecute the cases directly in front of them, not to zoom way out and give their views on the totality of the events in question,” said Alan Rozenshtein, a former Justice Department official who now teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School. “It would go against their training to just start freestyling in a courtroom about the broad state of American democracy.”

Even if prosecutors did want to provide a panoramic view of Jan. 6, they would not have much of an opportunity, Mr. Rozenshtein said. Many, if not most, of the Capitol defendants are likely to plead guilty in the weeks to come and avoid a trial where their stories would be told in full.

“With so many plea agreements,” Mr. Rozenshtein said, “there will never be a complete exploration of the facts and issues with witnesses and evidence.”
Congress is investigating, but only narrowly

When Republican senators say that Congress is already studying Jan. 6, they usually have one particular inquiry in mind: a joint investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees.

That investigation is no small undertaking. It is bipartisan — a rarity in today’s Congress — and together, the two committees have oversight jurisdiction to look at the Capitol Police, the Defense Department and the broad government response to the violence. They plan to release a modest report about their findings and recommendations to secure Congress in early June.

But the scope of their work is tightly focused on questions of security and policing, rather than on what fueled the mob in the first place, what role Mr. Trump may have played and how the government coordinated its actions. The congressional investigators have also given themselves about only four months, meaning they will necessarily leave behind valuable information, and the dozen or so staff members involved in the investigation are also responsible for maintaining the committees’ regular work at the same time.

“There’s plenty more work to be done, and the more folks that are engaged in it, the better,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and one of the committee chairmen leading the inquiry. “They’re going to have more time and staff resources, and a commitment to do a real deep dive.”

Across the Capitol, House committees are taking a more scattershot approach, looking separately at domestic terrorism, the Capitol Police and intelligence failures. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that she could authorize a more comprehensive investigation, including the formation of a select committee, should the push for an independent commission collapse.
Government watchdogs are also at work.

Decades ago, Congress created a slew of independent inspectors general and embedded them in executive departments across the government as a kind of fail-safe against efforts to cover up wrongdoing or institutional failings. A handful have confirmed they are conducting investigations related to Jan. 6, but they are also taking narrow approaches, circumscribed by their jurisdictions.

At the Pentagon, the inspector general is taking a deep dive into two crucial outstanding questions about the riot: when the White House and Congress called for backup military support and why it took so long to arrive.

The Justice Department’s inspector general is looking at what federal law enforcement knew in advance of the attack as it collected intelligence about possible threats, and whether that information was properly communicated to those who could have prevented it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nevada GOP thrown into turmoil after avowed Proud Boys member said he participated in censure vote of state official, Michael Scherer, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). The internal tumult is the latest example of how the Republican Party has been roiled by ex-president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

The leaders of the Nevada Republican Party are facing an internal revolt after an avowed Proud Boys member said he was invited with friends to cast the deciding votes last month in the censure of a state official who concluded that the 2020 election in the state was not tainted by fraud.

republican elephant logoIn the past week, the Nevada Senate GOP caucus and the chairmen of the two largest Republican county organizations have called for an audit of an April state party vote to uncover who cast ballots as seated party members and proxies for a resolution against Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R).

The Republican state chairman Michael McDonald, a close ally of former president Donald Trump, has so far declined to release those details, other Republican officials said. “We need to find out who attended, who paid for them to attend, and what impact they had on this censuring of Barbara,” state Sen. Carrie Buck (R) said in an interview. If the claims of the self-described Proud Boys member are true, she said “of course the current leadership of the state [party] should resign.”

washington post logomichigan mapWashington Post, Michigan’s top election official and Dominion Voting Systems warn counties about the risks of vote audits by outside groups, Amy Gardner, May 26, 2021.The cautions, detailed in separate letters this month, come amid a growing campaign by former president Donald Trump and his supporters to pressure officials to review the 2020 results.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Mideast Conflict Is Blowing Up the Region and the Democratic Party, Thomas L. Friedman, right, May 26, 2021. Lord knows, I sympathize with President Biden’s desire to avoid getting dragged into mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas made something crystal clear to me: Unless we preserve at least the potential tom friedman twitterof a two-state solution, the one-state reality that would emerge in its place won’t just blow up Israel, the West Bank and Gaza; it could very well blow up the Democratic Party and every Jewish organization and synagogue in America.

Yes, that’s what I learned last week.

I don’t expect Biden to summon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Camp David. As long as both are in power, no serious compromise is possible. But it is vital that Biden urgently take steps to re-energize the possibility of a two-state solution and give it at least some concrete diplomatic manifestation on the ground.

Because without that horizon — without any viable hope of separating Israelis and Palestinians into two states for two peoples — the only outcome left will be one state in which the Israeli majority dominates and Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank will be systematically deprived of equal rights so that Israel can preserve its Jewish character.

If that happens, the charge that Israel has become an apartheid-like entity will resonate and gain traction far and wide. The Democratic Party will be fractured. A rising chorus of progressives — who increasingly portray the Israeli army’s treatment of Palestinians as equivalent to the Minneapolis Police Department’s treatment of Black people or to the treatment by colonial powers of Indigenous peoples — will insist on distancing the United States from Israel and, maybe, even lead to bans on arms sales.

Meanwhile, centrist Democrats will push back that these progressives are incredibly naïve, that they have no clue how many two-state peace plans the Palestinians have already rejected — which decimated the Israeli peace camp — and that none of their causes, from women’s rights to L.G.B.T.Q. rights to religious pluralism, would last a minute on the Hamas-run campus of the Islamic University of Gaza.

As the past two weeks demonstrated, every Jewish organization and synagogue in America will be heatedly divided over this question: Are you willing to defend a one-state Israel that is not even pretending to be a democracy anymore, a one-state Israel whose leaders prefer to rely on the uncritical support of evangelicals than the critical support of Jews?

ny times logoNew York Times, Belarus Plane Crisis Tightens Lukashenko’s Awkward Embrace of Putin, Anton Troianovski, May 26, 2021. When Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the eccentric and brutal leader of Belarus, forced down a European passenger jet on Sunday to arrest a dissident, he ushered in a new and even more brittle phase in one of the post-Soviet region’s most convoluted and consequential relationships: the one between Mr. Lukashenko and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

alexander lukashenko resized 2019The two are increasingly leaning on each other in the face of conflict with the West, but they have sharply diverging interests. Mr. Lukashenko, left, who has ruled for 26 years, relies on his iron grip on his country to assure his survival.

Mr. Putin wants to expand Russian influence in Belarus, undermining Mr. Lukashenko’s authority in the process.

Now, with a summit meeting with President Biden looming in June, Mr. Putin faces a choice over how much political capital to expend to continue supporting Mr. Lukashenko, whose commandeering of the Ryanair plane has complicated the Kremlin’s efforts to smooth relations with the West. Russian officials and pro-Kremlin news outlets have taken Mr. Lukashenko’s side in the furor, but Mr. Lukashenko’s leading Belarusian opponents believe that the Kremlin’s support is only skin deep.

washington post logoWashington Post, American journalist is detained by Myanmar regime while trying to leave country, Shibani Mahtani, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). Myanmar’s military junta detained an American journalist on Monday as he was trying to leave the country, the man’s employer said, as the regime steps up a crackdown that has already forced many media workers to flee.

Danny Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine, was seized at Yangon International Airport as he tried to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur and was taken to Insein Prison, the myanmar flagcompany said in a statement late Monday. The prison is notorious for its poor conditions and has been used by Myanmar’s military government to hold scores of political prisoners.

Fenster, 37, is the fourth foreign journalist detained in Myanmar since the military seized power in a coup in February, deposing the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military government routinely publishes lists of “wanted” journalists, accusing them of affecting “state stability,” and has detained more than 70 journalists in total, according to media watchdogs.

Some 4,000 other people have been detained by the authorities in recent months, according to human rights advocates, as the junta has escalated a crackdown on those resisting the coup.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Resistance to vaccine mandates is building. A powerful nationwide network is helping, Isaac Stanley-Becker, May 26, 2021. The Informed Consent Action Network, a Texas-based nonprofit founded by a former daytime TV producer, campaigns against requiring vaccines based on debunked or unsubstantiated claims.

The Americans lodging complaints against coronavirus vaccine mandates are a diverse lot — a sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina, nursing home employees in Wisconsin and students at the largest university in New Jersey.

But their resistance is woven together by a common thread: the involvement of a law firm closely tied to the anti-vaccine movement.

Attorneys from Siri & Glimstad — a New York firm that has done millions of dollars of legal work for one of the nation’s foremost anti-vaccination groups — are co-counsel in a case against the Durham County Sheriff’s Office. They’ve sent warning letters to officials in Rock County, Wis., as well as to the president of Rutgers University and other schools.

The legal salvos show that a groundswell against compulsory immunization is being coordinated, at least in part, from a law office on Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan. And they offer a window into a wide-ranging and well-resourced effort to contest vaccine requirements in workplaces and other settings critical to the country’s reopening — a dispute with sweeping implications for public health, state authority and individual rights.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Death Toll in India Far Exceeds Official Figures, a Times Analysis Shows, Staff Reports, May 26, 2021. Estimates informed by more than a dozen experts’ research range from very bad to catastrophic. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

  • india flag mapThe E.U. could seek billions in penalties if AstraZeneca doesn’t deliver vaccine doses.
  • Despite gains against the virus, the C.D.C. director says unvaccinated people remain at risk.
  • Will the Tokyo Olympics happen? Public health experts say it’s time to rethink.
  • Puerto Rico, recovering from a spring surge, lifted a curfew that was in effect throughout the pandemic.
  • William Shakespeare, the first man in Britain to receive an approved Covid vaccine, dies at 81.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Tokyo Olympics Barrel Ahead, Chorus of Critics Adds Voices, Andrew Keh, Updated May 26, 2021. Public health specialists suggested the Games’ safety plans put athletes and others at risk, and an Olympic partner called for cancellation.

Organizers last week declared they had entered what they coined “operational delivery mode” for the Summer Games, another clear signal that they will plow ahead toward the opening ceremony, scheduled for July 23 in Tokyo, regardless of the state of the coronavirus pandemic.

It remains clear, too, that their optimism will be accompanied every step of the way by a stream of strident naysayers, worried experts and inauspicious omens.

washington post logoWashington Post, HHS chief calls for follow-up probe on origin of pandemic, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Erin Cunningham, Shane Harris and Ben Guarino, May 26, 2021.The theory that the coronavirus came from a lab in Wuhan, China, has gained traction amid criticism of an international probe and reports that several workers there were ill in November 2019 — weeks before the virus was officially identified.

The United States’ top health official called Tuesday for a swift follow-up investigation into the coronavirus’s origins amid renewed questions about whether the virus jumped from an animal host into humans in a naturally occurring event or escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.

Xavier Becerra twitterHealth and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, right, told an annual ministerial meeting of the World Health Organization that international experts should be given “the independence to fully assess the source of the virus and the early days of the outbreak.”

  • Analysis: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible
  • Moderna says teens receiving its vaccine developed a protective immune shield

ny times logoNew York Times,  Moderna Says Its Vaccine Is Effective for 12- to 17-Year-Olds, Staff Reports, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). The drugmaker said its Covid-19 vaccine was powerfully effective in moderna logoadolescents. It plans to apply for F.D.A. authorization. Federal regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month for 12- to 15-year-olds. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • A variant first detected in India is spreading fast in Britain, highlighting the dangers of faltering global vaccinations.
  • Alabama’s governor signs a bill banning vaccine passports in the state.
  • Children with Covid inflammatory syndrome may overcome their most serious symptoms.
  • As the Tokyo Olympics near, the U.S. warns against travel to Japan, and other news from around the world.
  • An Indian couple is under investigation over a chartered flight linked to their wedding.
  • Veterinary offices go upscale to care for pets (and their owners).
  • The Caribbean, united by tourism, is divided by Covid.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 164.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 26, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 58.7 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 49.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 26, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 168,582,231, Deaths: 3,501,443
U.S. Cases:     33,947,189, Deaths:    605,208
India Cases:    27,157,795, Deaths:    311,421
Brazil Cases:   16,195,981, Deaths:    452,224 

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Will Not Investigate Mild Infections in Vaccinated Americans, Roni Caryn Rabin, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). At least 10,000 vaccinated people were infected with the coronavirus through the end of April. Now the agency has stopped pursuing the mildest cases.

Julie Cohn was fully vaccinated when she went to cheer at her 12-year-old son’s basketball game in March. Midway through the match, he asked to remove his mask because he was getting so hot. She thought little of it.

Three days later, he had a sore throat. He tested positive for the coronavirus, as did his younger brother a few days later. Ms. Cohn cared for them, thinking she was protected, but she woke up with what seemed like a head cold on March 28. The next day, she, too, tested positive.

No vaccine provides perfect protection, and so-called breakthrough infections after coronavirus vaccination are rare and unlikely to lead to serious illness. Federal health officials have told fully vaccinated people they no longer need to wear masks or maintain social distance because they are protected, nor do they need to be tested or quarantine after an exposure, unless they develop symptoms.

Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped investigating breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people unless they become so sick that they are hospitalized or die.

Earlier this year, the agency was monitoring all cases. Through the end of April, when some 101 million Americans had been vaccinated, the C.D.C. had received 10,262 reports of breakthrough infections from 46 states and territories, a number that was very likely “a substantial undercount,” according to a C.D.C. report issued on Tuesday.

Genomic sequencing could be done on only 555, or about 5 percent, of the reported breakthrough cases. Over half of them involved so-called variants of concern, including the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants.

 

 U.S. Politics, Governance

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, ICE enforcement drops sharply as agency refocuses its mission, Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti, May 26, 2021 (print ed.).The Biden administration has placed Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officers on a leash so tight that some say their work is being functionally abolished.

Under new Biden administration rules curtailing immigration enforcement, ICE carried out fewer than 3,000 deportations last month, the lowest level on record. The agency’s 6,000 officers currently average one arrest every two months.

ICE under President Biden is an agency on probation. The new administration has rejected calls from some Democrats to eliminate the agency entirely, but Biden has placed ICE deportation officers on a leash so tight that some say their work is being functionally abolished.
Advertisement

The immigrant advocacy groups and lawyers who wield significant influence in the Biden White House are pushing to eliminate more detention facilities and reduce deportations even further, despite a 20-year high in illegal border crossings.

The Biden administration is preparing to release its first Department of Homeland Security budget request this week, and immigrant advocates want deep cuts to ICE. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced plans last week to shutter two ICE detention centers, but in an interview he said he does not want to reduce ICE staffing or funding. He wants to reorient ICE, not shrink it, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas is poised to allow people to carry handguns without license, training or background check, Meryl Kornfield, May 26, 2021 (print ed.).Texas is a step closer to allowing residents texas mapto carry handguns openly in public without a permit or training, becoming the most populous state in the United States to do so.

Despite criticism from gun-control groups and law enforcement leaders, the state’s Republican-led legislature approved a bill late Monday night that drops one of the state’s last major gun restrictions, sending the measure to Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has said he intends to sign it.

“The strongest Second Amendment legislation in Texas history,” Abbott tweeted days before the bill was passed. “Let’s get it to my desk for signing.”

Abbott’s office did not respond to a question about when he intends to sign it into law or queries regarding the concerns raised by critics, who fear the measure could lead to an increase in gun violence. Gun-control groups have pointed to the state’s recent history of mass shootings, including those at an El Paso Walmart, a Houston-area high school and a movie theater in Odessa.

washington post logoWashington Post, John W. Warner (1927-2021): Senator from Virginia who became a force on military affairs dies at 94, Donald P. Baker, May 26, 2021. John W. Warner, the five-term U.S. senator from Virginia who helped plan the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations, played a central role in military affairs and gained respect on both sides of the aisle for his diligence, consensus-building and independence, has died in Alexandria, Va., at 94.

john warnerBecause of his willingness to buck his increasingly conservative party (see story below from 2018), Mr. Warner, right, became the Republican whom many Virginia independents and Democrats respected and voted for.

By the time he retired in 2009, Mr. Warner held the second-longest tenure of a Virginia senator.As a former secretary of the Navy and, in later years, one of only a handful of World War II veterans in the Senate, his opinions on military matters carried considerable weight. His consensus-building on a number of critical issues led him to be known as one of the Senate’s more influential members.

_________

Farquier Times (VA), Former Sen. John Warner, longtime dean of Virginia's GOP, says he supports Cockburn, Jill Palermo, Oct. 31, 2018. Former Sen. John Warner, who spent 30 years representing Virginia as a Republican, is lending his support to Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat and former investigative journalist vying to represent the 5th District in the U.S. House. Warner endorsed Sen. Tim Kaine, also a Democrat, in his race against GOP nominee Corey Stewart. 

“I’m going to tell this gang, I’m still a Republican,” the elder Warner said in an interview. “You can’t take that away from me. But you’ve got to have the courage to do what’s right for the country and what’s right for your state.” 

TheHill.com, Oklahoma AG resigns following news of divorce, alleged affair, Celine Castronuovo, May 26, 2021. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) on Wednesday announced his intent to resign days after filing for divorce from his wife amid reports of an extramarital affair.

In a statement from his office shared with The Hill, Hunter said his resignation, effective June 1, comes as “certain personal matters that are becoming public will become a distraction for this office.”

“The office of attorney general is one of the most important positions in state government,” he said. “I cannot allow a personal issue to overshadow the vital work the attorneys, agents and support staff do on behalf of Oklahomans.”

While the state attorney general’s statement did not specifically detail the personal matter that prompted him to resign, Hunter filed for divorce from his wife in Oklahoma County District Court Friday.

Cheryl Hunter, who had been married to Mike Hunter for 39 years, said in a statement to The Oklahoman, "I am heartbroken and my priorities are to take care of my sons, my daughter-in-law, my grandson and my parents."

The Oklahoman reported that it had submitted questions to the attorney general Tuesday evening about an alleged extramarital affair that it had confirmed through sources familiar with the matter. The sources said that the alleged affair was with a state employee who did not work in the attorney general’s office.

Hunter was appointed to the state attorney general role in 2017 to fill the term of Scott Pruitt, who had left to serve as Environmental Protection Agency administrator under the Trump administration.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is Wokeness ‘Kryptonite for Democrats’? Thomas B. Edsall, May 26, 2021. Republicans sure seem to think so. They are not alone. The conflict within the Democratic Party and among progressives gets played out on at least two levels.

At one level, it is a dispute over ground rules. Can a professor quote literature or historic documents that use taboo words? What rights should be granted to a person accused of sexual harassment? Are there issues or subjects that should not be explored in an academic setting?

On another level, though, it is a conflict over practical politics. Do specific policies governing speech and sexual behavior win or lose voter support? Are there policies that attract criticism from the opposition party that will stick? Are certain policies so controversial that they divert attention from the opposition’s liabilities?

washington post logoWashington Post, Rejecting precedent and Trump, Biden ousts members of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, Peggy McGlone, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). Commission chairman Justin Shubow and three others were told to resign or be terminated. Shubow said the commissioners were targeted for their views on classical architecture.

Having ousted four Trump-appointed members of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, President Biden announced Tuesday that he will replace them with four people who bring “a diversity of background and experience, as well as a range of aesthetic viewpoints.”

Architect Peter Cook, Howard University professor of architecture Hazel Ruth Edwards, Andrew Mellon Foundation program officer Justin Garrett Moore and architect Billie Tsien will join the seven-member commission, an independent agency responsible for guiding the design of the capital city, including renovations of historic homes and the look and scale of government buildings, museums and memorials.

“President Biden is proud to nominate this extremely qualified and well-respected group of professionals to the Commission on Fine Arts,” a White House official said Tuesday. The appointments do not require Senate confirmation.
Advertisement

On Monday, the Biden administration sent letters to architect Steven Spandle, landscape architect Perry Guillot, sculptor Chas Fagan and commission chairman Justin Shubow asking for their resignations by 6 p.m. that day or they would face termination. Fagan is the only one who resigned, according to Shubow.

Spandle, Guillot and Fagan were appointed in January to four-year terms by President Donald Trump and made the CFA all White and all male. Shubow, who is president of the National Civic Art Society, was appointed to the board in October 2018. He was elected chairman in January. The commission’s new chairman will be voted on by its seven members; the next meeting is June 17.

Shubow called the move unprecedented in the commission’s 110-year history and said the commissioners were targeted for their views on classical architecture.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The graphic video of Ronald Greene’s death shows — again — the urgent need for police reform, Editorial Board, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). Relatives of Ronald Greene said authorities initially told them he died on impact after he failed to pull over for a traffic violation, was chased by Louisiana state troopers and crashed his vehicle into a tree shortly after midnight on May 10, 2019.

ronald greene 2A one-page statement later issued by police said he was taken into custody after struggling with troopers, became unresponsive and died on the way to the hospital. We now know, thanks to body-cam footage obtained by the Associated Press, that there is far more — horrifyingly more — to the story of how this 49-year-old Black man died. And once again, troubling questions are raised about the conduct, character and credibility of police that underscore the need for reform.

“Okay, okay. I’m sorry. I’m scared. Officer, I’m scared, I’m your brother, I’m scared,” Greene, right, can be heard telling the White troopers as he is subjected to agonizing and brutalizing treatment. He was repeatedly jolted with a stun gun, wrestled to the ground, put in a chokehold, punched in the face and dragged by shackles on his ankles as he lay on the ground.

He was left unattended, handcuffed and prone for several minutes — a practice that use-of-force experts deem as dangerous. According to the autopsy, he died due to “cocaine induced agitated delirium complicated by motor vehicle collision, physical struggle, inflicted head injury, and restraint.”

But no manner of death was specified and, according to the AP, police withheld basic documents from the coroner. “Does not add up” was the judgment of the emergency room doctor who questioned the initial account that Greene had died on impact as result of a car crash.

 

Steve Bannon at a 2013 Tea Party Rally (Photo via C-SPAN)

Steve Bannon at a 2013 Tea Party Rally (Photo via C-SPAN)

washington post logoWashington Post, Steve Bannon’s fraud case dismissed after months of haggling over Trump pardon, Shayna Jacobs, May 26, 2021 (print ed.). A federal judge on Monday formally dismissed the fraud case against Stephen K. Bannon, the conservative provocateur and ex-adviser to President Donald Trump, ending months of litigation over how the court system should handle his pardon while related criminal cases remain unresolved.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, citing examples of other cases being dismissed following a presidential reprieve, granted Bannon’s application — saying in a seven-page ruling that Trump’s pardon was valid and that “dismissal of the Indictment is the proper course.”

Bannon was charged with fraud last year alongside three others in what prosecutors described as a massive fundraising scam targeting the donors of a private campaign to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Bannon was accused of pocketing more than $1 million from his involvement with “We Build the Wall” while representing to the organization’s backers that all of the money was being used for construction.

“The judge clearly reached the right result,” Bannon’s attorney Robert Costello said in a statement. “An unconditional pardon should always result in the dismissal of the indictment. Finality should result in finality.”

Steve Bannon is battling federal prosecutors who won’t dismiss his case after Trump’s pardon

It is unclear if the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which brought the case, intends to appeal the judge’s ruling. A spokesperson declined to comment.

Trump pardoned Bannon in late-January as one of his last acts as president. Costello argued that dismissing a case outright after a presidential pardon was common practice, and he had urged Torres to follow the lead of federal judges in New York and elsewhere who cleared cases from the docket formally after a defendant was granted clemency.

In one court filing, Bannon’s legal team cited several post-pardon dismissals including that of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who admitted he lied to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Public Deserves to See This Legal Memo About Donald Trump, Neal K. Katyal, right, May 26, 2021. The Biden Justice Department appears to be making a serious mistake by trying to keep secret a Trump-era document about former Attorney General William P. Barr’s decision to clear his boss, former President Donald Trump, of obstructing justice.

neal katyal oThe American people have a right to see the memo. Then they can decide whether Mr. Barr used his power as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer as a shield to protect the president.

This month, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington ordered it released. Were this an ordinary criminal case, her order would represent a remarkable intrusion into prosecutorial secrecy, and I would have appealed when I was acting solicitor general.

But the document is anything but ordinary. It concerns attempts at the highest levels of government to shield the attorney general’s boss from criminal liability. It is, in essence, the people’s memo, and with its appeal, the Justice Department is attempting to hide it from public scrutiny.

Faced with a Freedom of Information Act request from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to release the document, Judge Jackson engaged in a thorough review of the material. Her conclusion was startling: Mr. Barr was “disingenuous.” And the affidavits the Justice Department used to justify withholding the materials “are so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence.”

As an institutionalist, I believe the long-term interests of the Justice Department generally do not swing from one administration to the next. My tenure in the Obama administration running the Solicitor General’s office, which decides for the federal government whether it will appeal judicial orders, was devoted to that principle.

So it’s understandable how the Justice Department reached its decision in this case. We generally don’t want prosecutors to have their internal analysis released to the public, for fear of undermining ongoing law enforcement investigations and for chilling frank advice and discussion. That is, I suspect, why the Justice Department authorized the appeal. It doesn’t want the Freedom of Information Act to be used as a weapon to undermine prosecutors.

But in this case, absent additional information, that rationale seems wrong. The appearance, if not the reality, of what Mr. Barr did to the Justice Department cannot be ignored: He used his mighty prosecution powers to protect the Trump administration and its friends, including the president.

That is what Judge Jackson’s opinion, in the end, was all about. After reading a full set of documents related to the memo, she said: “So why did the attorney general’s advisers, at his request, create a memorandum that evaluated the prosecutorial merits of the facts amassed by the special counsel? Lifting the curtain reveals the answer to that too: getting a jump on public relations.”

These shenanigans came after Mr. Barr was revealed to have written a memo for Mr. Trump while a private citizen, a long document that concluded that, yes, you guessed it, the president was not guilty of obstruction of justice.

The Justice Department is the one cabinet agency that has a value in its name — “justice.” Its iconography — a blindfolded Lady Justice — underscores the idea that everyone has to play by the same rules. Mr. Barr appears to have desecrated that cardinal principle. The public has a right to know what he and his Justice Department lawyers did and why they did it.

We already had one by-the-book official, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, try to apply regular principles to a deeply abnormal presidency, and we witnessed the result: a distorted impeachment and the nullification of potential criminal charges.

The problem for the new Justice Department is: What does it do now? Should it depart from ordinary rules because the last administration did so? If it doesn’t appeal Judge Jackson’s decision, isn’t the department allowing a precedent to be set that private litigants can ask for and get all sorts of prosecutorial materials?

No. Good surgeons don’t always operate, and good appeals lawyers don’t always appeal. Here, Justice Department lawyers could have safeguarded the department’s interests by saying they disagreed with the decision, but because it was a trial court decision, it was not precedential for other cases and not appropriate to appeal.

Mr. Katyal is a professor at Georgetown Law School, was an acting solicitor general in the Obama administration and is a co-author of “Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM, Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling May 26, 2021. The deal will give the e-commerce giant access to the James Bond franchise as it seeks to bolster its Prime membership offering.

amazon logo smallIn the ultimate symbol of one Hollywood era ending and another beginning, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home to James Bond, “Thelma & Louise” and Rocky, finally found a buyer willing to pay retail: Amazon.The e-commerce giant said on Wednesday that it would acquire the 97-year-old film and television studio for $8.45 billion — or about 40 percent more than other prospective buyers, including Apple and Comcast, thought MGM was worth.

The studio, which had been shopped around for months, was once home to “more stars than the heavens,” as Louis B. Mayer liked to brag. But its vast production lot and pre-1986 film library were sold off decades ago. (Sony Pictures now occupies the lot, and Warner Bros. owns classic MGM films like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Gone With the Wind.”)

 

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Raises Heat on Twitter, Google and Facebook in Online Crackdown, Adam Satariano and Oleg Matsnev, May 26, 2021. The country’s campaign is part of a global wave of actions by governments that are testing how far they can go to control online speech.

twitter bird CustomRussia is increasingly pressuring Google, Twitter and Facebook to fall in line with Kremlin internet crackdown orders or risk restrictions inside the country, as more governments around the world challenge the companies’ principles on online freedom.

Russia’s internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, recently ramped up its demands for the Silicon Valley companies to remove online content that it deems illegal or restore pro-Kremlin material that had been blocked. The warnings have come at least weekly since services from Facebook, Twitter and Google were used as tools for anti-Kremlin protests in January. If the companies do not comply, the regulator has said, they face fines or access to their products may be throttled.

The latest clashes flared up this week, when Roskomnadzor told Google on Monday to block thousands of unspecified pieces of illegal content or it would slow access to the company’s services. On facebook logoTuesday, a Russian court fined Google 6 million rubles, or about $81,000, for not taking down another piece of content.

On Wednesday, the government ordered Facebook and Twitter to store all data on Russian users within the country by July 1 or face fines. In March, the authorities had made it harder for google logo custompeople to see and send posts on Twitter after the company did not take down content that the government considered illegal. Twitter has since removed roughly 6,000 posts to comply with the orders, according to Roskomnadzor. The regulator has threatened similar penalties against Facebook.

 

May 25

Top Headlines 

 

More On Attacks On U.S. Democracy

 

World News

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

 U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

cy vance resized djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor in Trump criminal probe convenes grand jury, Shayna Jacobs and David A. Fahrenthold, May 25, 2021. The move by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., above right, suggests his investigation of the former president’s business has entered an advanced stage after more than two years.

Manhattan's district attorney has convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former president Donald Trump, other executives at his company or the business itself should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, according to two people familiar with the development.

The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months. It is likely to hear several matters — not just the Trump case ­— during the duration of its term, which is longer than a traditional New York state grand-jury assignment, these people said. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. Generally, special grand juries such as this one are convened to participate in long-term matters rather than to hear evidence of crimes charged routinely.

The move indicates that District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It suggests, too, that Vance believes he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump then by someone potentially close to him or by his company.

Vance’s investigation is expansive, according to people familiar the probe and public disclosures made during related litigation. His investigators are scrutinizing Trump’s business practices before he was president, including whether the value of specific properties in the Trump Organization’s real estate portfolio were manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies, and if any tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation.

The district attorney also is examining the compensation provided to top Trump Organization executives, people familiar with the matter have said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Steve Bannon’s fraud case dismissed after months of haggling over Trump pardon, Shayna Jacobs, May 25, 2021. A federal judge on Monday formally dismissed the fraud case against Stephen K. Bannon, the conservative provocateur and ex-adviser to President Donald Trump, ending months of litigation over how the court system should handle his pardon while related criminal cases remain unresolved.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, citing examples of other cases being dismissed following a presidential reprieve, granted Bannon’s application — saying in a seven-page ruling that Trump’s pardon was valid and that “dismissal of the Indictment is the proper course.”

Bannon was charged with fraud last year alongside three others in what prosecutors described as a massive fundraising scam targeting the donors of a private campaign to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Bannon was accused of pocketing more than $1 million from his involvement with “We Build the Wall” while representing to the organization’s backers that all of the money was being used for construction.

“The judge clearly reached the right result,” Bannon’s attorney Robert Costello said in a statement. “An unconditional pardon should always result in the dismissal of the indictment. Finality should result in finality.”

Steve Bannon is battling federal prosecutors who won’t dismiss his case after Trump’s pardon

It is unclear if the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which brought the case, intends to appeal the judge’s ruling. A spokesperson declined to comment.

Trump pardoned Bannon in late-January as one of his last acts as president. Costello argued that dismissing a case outright after a presidential pardon was common practice, and he had urged Torres to follow the lead of federal judges in New York and elsewhere who cleared cases from the docket formally after a defendant was granted clemency.

In one court filing, Bannon’s legal team cited several post-pardon dismissals including that of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser who admitted he lied to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Melinda Gates, left, and Bill Gates (2019 photo by Elaine Thompson of the Associated Press).

Melinda Gates, left, and then-husband Bill Gates (2019 photo by Elaine Thompson of the Associated Press).

Unz Review, Investigation: The Cover-Up Continues: the Truth About Bill Gates, Microsoft, and Jeffrey Epstein, Whitney Webb, below right, May 25, 2021. While more revelations about the Bill Gates–Jeffrey Epstein relationship have begun trickling out following the Gates’s divorce announcement, the strong evidence pointing to their relationship beginning decades prior to 2011 continues to be covered whitney webb newer smileup by the media—not necessarily to protect Bill but to protect Microsoft.

In early May, the announcement that Bill and Melinda Gates would be divorcing after twenty-seven years of marriage shocked both those that praise and those that loathe the “philanthropic” power couple.

Less than a week after the initial announcement of the divorce, on May 7, the Daily Beast reported that Melinda Gates had allegedly been “deeply troubled” by Bill Gates’s relationship with child sex trafficker and intelligence asset Jeffrey Epstein. The report suggested that Melinda was a major reason for her husband’s decision to distance himself from Epstein around 2014 because of her discomfort with Epstein after they both met him in 2013. That previously unreported meeting had taken place at Epstein’s mansion on New York’s Upper East Side.

The Daily Beast also revealed that the details of the Gates’s divorce had been decided several weeks prior to the official announcement. Then, on May 9, the Wall Street Journal published a report suggesting that the plans for divorce went back even farther, with Melinda having consulted divorce lawyers in 2019. Allegedly, that consultation was made after details of Bill Gates’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein had gained considerable mainstream media attention, including from the New York Times.

While mainstream media outlets apparently agree that Jeffrey Epstein was a likely factor in the Gates’s recently announced split up, what these same outlets refuse to cover is the real extent of the Bill Gates–Jeffrey Epstein relationship. Indeed, the mainstream narrative holds that Gates’s ties to Epstein began in 2011, despite the evidence pointing to their relationship beginning decades earlier.This blanket refusal to honestly report on the Gates-Epstein ties likely is due to Gates’s outsized role in current events, both in terms of global health policy as it relates to COVID-19 and in his being a major promoter and funder of controversial technocratic “solutions” to a slew of societal problems.

What is more likely, however, is that the nature of the relationship between Gates and Epstein before 2011 is even more scandalous than what transpired later, and it may have major implications not just for Gates but for Microsoft as a company and for some of its former top executives.

microsoft logo CustomThis particular cover-up is part of an obvious tendency of mainstream media to ignore the clear influence that both Epstein and members of the Maxwell family wielded—and, arguably, continue to wield—in Silicon Valley. Indeed, the individuals who founded tech giants such as Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla, and Amazon all have connections with Jeffrey Epstein, some closer than others.

This investigation is adapted from my upcoming book One Nation Under Blackmail, which will be released early next year and will include a more complete investigation into Epstein’s ties to Silicon Valley, scientific academia, and intelligence agencies.

The Evening Standard Mystery

In 2001, perhaps the most important article ever written about Jeffrey Epstein was published. The article, which focused mainly on Ghislaine Maxwell’s and Epstein’s relationship with Prince Andrew, was published on January 22, 2001, in London’s Evening Standard. The article, written by Nigel Rosser, was never retracted and was published well before Epstein’s first arrest and the onset of his public notoriety. It has, nevertheless, since been removed from the Evening Standard’s website and can now only be found on professional newspaper databases. I made a PDF of that article and several other scrubbed Epstein-related articles publicly available in October 2019.

The full article here can also be accessed here: Download

Key statements made in the article make it clear why it was removed from the internet, apparently in the wake of Epstein’s first arrest in Florida. Rosser introduces Epstein as “an immensely powerful New York property developer and financier,” a nod to Epstein’s past in the New York real estate market. Later in the article, he notes that Epstein “once claimed to have worked for the CIA although he now denies it,” one of several likely reasons why the article was removed from the internet well before Epstein’s second arrest in 2019.

prince andrew jeff epstein news syndication CustomMuch of the article notes the closeness of Epstein and Maxwell to Prince Andrew (shown at left with Epstein, right) and suggests that both wielded considerable influence over the prince, largely due to Maxwell’s role as his “social fixer.” It states that Maxwell was “manipulating” the prince and that “the whole Andrew thing is probably being done for Epstein.”

One line stands out, however, as the first major clue toward demystifying the true origin the of the Gates-Epstein relationship. Soon after Rosser introduces Epstein in the article, he states that Epstein “has made many millions out of his business links with the likes of Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Ohio billionaire Leslie Wexner, whose trust he runs.”

Both Wexner’s and Trump’s relationships with Epstein prior to 2001 are well known and date back to 1985 and 1987, respectively. Mainstream media, however, continue to report that Gates and Epstein first met in 2011 and have declined to follow the leads laid out by Nigel Rosser. I am personally aware of this withholding of information to a degree as a BBC reporter contacted me in 2019 for details about this 2001 Evening Standard article, which I provided. To date, the BBC has never reported on the contents bbc news logo2of that article. Notably, the BBC has received millions in funding for years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Not only was Rosser’s article never retracted, but neither Gates, Trump, nor Wexner disputed the claims made in the article at the time, which was well before Epstein became notorious. In addition, given that Gates is named alongside two known close Epstein associates at the time—Donald Trump and Leslie Wexner—it further suggests that Gates’s ties to Epstein prior to 2001 were considerable enough to warrant his mention alongside these two other men.

.....

The ties of Epstein and the Maxwells to Silicon Valley, not just to Microsoft, are part of a broader attempt to cover up the strong intelligence component in the origin of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies. Much effort has been invested in creating a public perception that these companies are strictly private entities despite their deep, long-standing ties to the intelligence agencies and militaries of the United States and Israel. 

The true breadth of the Epstein scandal will never be covered by mainstream media because so many news outlets are owned by these same Silicon Valley oligarchs or depend on Silicon Valley for online reader engagement.

Perhaps the biggest reason why the military/intelligence origins and links to the current Silicon Valley oligarchy will never be honestly examined, however, is that those very entities are now working with breakneck speed to usher in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which would make artificial intelligence, automation, mass electronic surveillance, and transhumanism central to human society. One of the architects of this “revolution,” Klaus Schwab, said earlier this year that rebuilding and maintaining trust with the public was critical to that project.

However, were the true nature of Silicon Valley, including its significant ties to serial child rapist and sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein and his network, to emerge, the public’s trust would be significantly eroded, thus threatening what the global oligarchy views as a project critical to its survival.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Anniversary, George Floyd’s Death Is a Memorial and a Call to Action, Tim Arango and Andrés R. Martínez, May 25, 2021. The crowds that gathered across the country reflected on what has changed, and what has not, since Mr. Floyd was murdered by a police officer.

In a year when activists have pushed for police reform, they worry that not enough attention has been paid to the systemic inequities of American life.

It was a day of reflection, of remembrance, a time to lay flowers and say prayers, to celebrate Black culture with art and music and food, and to recall the life of a man whose death, one year ago, shook the country and forced it to confront its painful legacy of racism and police brutality.

In Minneapolis on Tuesday, as people gathered to mark the anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd, there was space for it all: the trauma and the grief; some celebration, over a murder conviction of a police officer; and a measure of hope, too, that in death Mr. Floyd, a Black man, had nudged America toward more racial equality.

Mr. Floyd’s death has “really highlighted for so many people in the country the problems of police brutality and the need to defend the humanity of Black and brown people,” said Debby Pope, a Chicago teacher who came on Tuesday to George Floyd Square, where Mr. Floyd was killed.

“Of course, it’s solemn because we are remembering a brutal murder,” she said. “But it’s also a cause for celebration because on the ashes of tragedy the community has built something really beautiful.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Accelerates Withdrawal From Afghanistan, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, May 25, 2021. American troops are set to be out by early to mid-July, well ahead of President Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline, even as big issues remain unresolved.

United States troops and their NATO allies intend to be out of Afghanistan by early to mid-July, well ahead of President Biden’s Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline, military officials said, in what has turned into an accelerated ending to America’s longest war.

But the race to the exits, which has picked up steam as planeloads of equipment and troops are flown out of the country, leaves the United States grappling with huge unresolved issues that officials had thought they would have more time to figure out.

The Pentagon still has not determined how it will combat terrorist threats like Al Qaeda from afar after American troops leave. Nor have top Defense Department officials secured agreement from allies about repositioning American troops in other nearby countries. And administration officials are still grappling with the thorny question of whether American warplanes — most likely armed Reaper drones — will provide air support to Afghan forces to help prevent the country’s cities from falling to the Taliban.

Axios, Biden ready to name Eric Garcetti ambassador to India, Hans Nichols, May 25, 2021. President Biden is ready to nominate Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as his ambassador to India, sending a trusted political ally to the world's biggest democracy, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Driving the news: Biden is planning to name his first slate of political ambassadors as soon as next week, rewarding political allies like Garcetti, as well as big-dollar donors, many of whom covet postings in elegant European capitals.

axios logoThe White House is still finishing the vetting process for potential ambassadors, including Garcetti, whose office called an Axios report earlier this month that he was being considered for an ambassadorship "speculative."

When the vetting process is complete, Biden is expected to formally send more than a dozen names to the Senate to begin the confirmation process for his first batch of political ambassadors.

Garcetti, who served as the co-chair of Biden's presidential campaign, was initially considered for the Cabinet. However, his chances diminished after a sexual harassment lawsuit against one of his former aides, Rick Jacobs, received national attention after journalist Yashar Ali reported about his own experience with Jacobs.

Between the lines: Biden has already called some applicants to offer them the country where he wants them to serve.

Those one-on-one calls speak to the premium Biden places on personal relationships in his diplomatic worldview. They're also a reminder that ambassadors are directly answerable to the president.
“The ambassador doesn’t work for the State Department,” said former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who also served as U.S. ambassador to China. “He or she works for the president of the United States.”

The intrigue: Some donors are privately complaining that the White House’s entire ambassador process has been too protracted and too opaque, as they grouse and gossip about who might receive what.

Other donors have been informed that they are unlikely to serve in Biden’s first term and have, at least, the certainty of rejection. The president began reviewing names of potential ambassadors in March, and officials are putting a premium on diversity in assembling the first batch that he'll send to the Senate.

What we are hearing:

  • Tom Nides, a former deputy secretary of State, is in line for Israel, as Axios first reported.
  • Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator and Interior secretary, is preparing to go to Mexico.
  • Mark Gittenstein, an international lawyer who was President Obama's first ambassador to Romania, will end up in Brussels as the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

 

More On Attacks On U.S. Democracy

WhoWhatWhy, Investigation: Israeli Angle to White House ‘Deep State’ Plot, Russ Baker and Matt Harvey, May 25, 2021. A viral, disturbing New York Times article about a pro-Donald Trump plot against a member of his own administration left out the most important element of all: the role of shadowy operatives in the pro-Israel right wing — operatives from the very same insider “deep state” from which Trump constantly promised to save America.

whowhatwhy logoFirst, the background: The May 13 article — headlined “Activists and Ex-Spy Said to Have Plotted to Discredit Trump ‘Enemies’ in Government” — outlines a sting operation launched in 2017 against Gen. H.R. McMaster, then Trump’s national security advisor.

McMaster, right, brought in to bring discipline to a chaotic White House staff, was growing frustrated with the president. Over dinner at a Washington, DC, restaurant, McMaster reportedly labeled Trump “an idiot” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner.” One of those present, Safra Catz, CEO of the tech giant Oracle and a member of Trump’s transition team, called Trump’s counsel to complain about McMaster’s remarks.

According to the Times, a group of right-wing operatives then mounted a dirty-tricks campaign to provoke McMaster into repeating hostile remarks about Trump for a hidden camera. The aim of such footage was to force McMaster out — and to validate the president’s obsession, a popular MAGA meme, that a “deep state” composed of government insiders, Pentagon brass, and ultra-rich liberals was conspiring to block his project to “drain the swamp.”

At the heart of the reportedly failed scheme were at least two women hired to lure McMaster into a “honey trap.”

Although McMaster is said to have resigned on his own, the effort was a tightly-run spy operation that the paper revealed utilized operatives from the self-styled journalistic entity Project Veritas, which has a long history of using hidden cameras and allegedly selective editing techniques to highlight a range of liberal sins, from anti-conservative bias to low morals. Targets have included Planned Parenthood, the anti-poverty group ACORN, and CNN. (Notes the article, “Although several Project Veritas personnel were involved in the [McMaster] plot, it is unclear whether the group directed it.”)

In reply to an inquiry from WhoWhatWhy, Project Veritas stated that the organization was not involved and had no information on the matter but did not respond to a particular question as to whether erik princeany of its personnel were involved.

The cast of characters was said to include Richard Seddon — a former British spy and longtime ally of Erik Prince, left, the mercenary and private-espionage-business billionaire. Prince is the brother of Trump’s education secretary, the Amway heiress Betsy DeVos.

Reportedly, even before Trump was elected, a training camp had been established at Prince’s Wyoming ranch for various sting operations. (One such intrigue resulted in a Project Veritas video that embodied DeVos’s famous hostility to public education by purporting to show teachers union reps talking tough about bending the rules to protect their own.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Banality of Democratic Collapse, Paul Krugman, right, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). America’s democratic experiment may well be nearing its end. That’s not hyperbole; it’s paul krugmanobvious to anyone following the political scene. Republicans might take power legitimately; they might win through pervasive voter suppression; G.O.P. legislators might simply refuse to certify Democratic electoral votes and declare Donald Trump or his political heir the winner. However it plays out, the G.O.P. will try to ensure a permanent lock on power and do all it can to suppress dissent.

But how did we get here? We read every day about the rage of the Republican base, which overwhelmingly believes, based on nothing, that the 2020 election was stolen, and extremists in Congress, who insist that being required to wear a face mask is the equivalent of the Holocaust.

I’d argue, however, that focusing on the insanity can hinder our understanding of how all of this became possible. Conspiracy theorizing is hardly a new thing in our national life; Richard Hofstadter wrote “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” back in 1964. White rage has been a powerful force at least since the civil rights movement.

What’s different this time is the acquiescence of Republican elites. The Big Lie about the election didn’t well up from the grass roots — it was promoted from above, initially by Trump himself, but what’s crucial is that almost no prominent Republican politicians have been willing to contradict his claims and many have rushed to back them up.

Or to put it another way, the fundamental problem lies less with the crazies than with the careerists; not with the madness of Marjorie Taylor Greene, but with the spinelessness of Kevin McCarthy.

And this spinelessness has deep institutional roots.

Political scientists have long noted that our two major political parties are very different in their underlying structures. The Democrats are a coalition of interest groups — labor unions, environmentalists, L.G.B.T.Q. activists and more. The Republican Party is the vehicle of a cohesive, monolithic movement. This is often described as an ideological movement, although given the twists and turns of recent years — the sudden embrace of protectionism, the attacks on “woke” corporations — the ideology of movement conservatism seems less obvious than its will to power.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Man charged with bringing molotov cocktails to Capitol has militia ties, contacted Cruz’s office, court says, Spencer S. Hsu, May 25, 2021. Lonnie Coffman attended an armed-citizens camp in Brownsville, Tex., and kept papers about the Southwest Desert Militia, prosecutors said.

An Alabama man charged with bringing five loaded firearms and 11 molotov cocktails with napalm-like properties to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 approached Sen. Ted Cruz’s Washington home and office weeks earlier to discuss “election fraud” and previously joined an armed-citizen camp at the Texas border, new court filings alleged Monday.

The new U.S. allegations came in a federal judge’s ruling ordering the continued detention of Lonnie Leroy Coffman, of Falkville, Ala., citing evidence that he had potential plans to coordinate with others and was prepared for political violence.

The 71-year-old Army veteran is awaiting trial on charges of possessing some of the deadliest unregistered weapons and explosives on the day of the riots that breached the Capitol, led to assaults on nearly 140 police officers and forced the evacuation of Congress.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Manchin and Sinema Implore Republicans to Support Jan. 6 Commission, May 25, 2021.Fearing a filibuster fight, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema made a push for the inquiry into the Capitol riot. The maneuvering by the moderate Democrats amounted to a long-shot effort to salvage what may be the best chance at a full, bipartisan accounting for the attack on the Capitol and a stunning series of security failures around it.  Here’s the latest in politics.

  • Blinken meets with Abbas and Netanyahu amid effort to secure a lasting cease-fire.
  • The Justice Dept. will fight to keep secret most of a Barr-era memo on whether Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry.
  • Even as Floyd’s family meets with Biden, police reform legislation languishes.
  • American troops are expected to be out of Afghanistan by July, even as unresolved issues linger.
  • Greene repeatedly compares vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany, drawing rebukes from her own party.
  • The White House is backing plans to open up the California coast to wind farms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why the Capitol Riot Inquiries Leave Room for a Broader Commission, Alan Feuer and Nicholas Fandos, May 25, 2021. Republicans have argued that the existing Justice Department and congressional investigations will address the assault. But they have strict limits.

As the Senate moves this week toward voting on the creation of a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Republicans have raised a series of arguments against it. They have objected to the inquiry’s scope, its length and even the process for hiring its staff.

But last week, announcing that he too would oppose the plan, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, made another argument: He claimed that the commission was redundant, noting that the Justice Department and congressional committees are already looking into the assault.

“It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could lay on top of the existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” Mr. McConnell said.

What he failed to mention was that the criminal investigation into the riot, despite being one of the largest in American history, was narrowly bounded by federal law and would not — indeed could not — seek the answers to several crucial questions about Jan. 6. The same can be said about the major congressional effort to investigate the assault, a tightly focused inquiry into the broad government response to the violence that day.

Here is what the current investigations can and cannot do, and what an independent commission might bring to the table.

The political roots of Jan. 6

One of the complexities about the Capitol attack is the inextricable link between criminal activity and legal behavior protected by the First Amendment. After all, the riot took place after — and was in part incited by — rallies led by figures including President Donald J. Trump, his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and his onetime adviser Roger J. Stone Jr.

In the early days of the Justice Department’s investigation, there were scattered signs that prosecutors were looking for information about some political activists who organized protests that preceded the attack.

In January, for example, the F.B.I. searched the homes of two men from Southern California, Alan Hostetter and Russell Taylor, who appeared with Mr. Stone on Jan. 5 at an election protest event outside the Supreme Court. Mr. Stone himself also came under scrutiny at one point, prosecutors said, as the authorities examined communications between him and right-wing extremists who breached the building.

But those efforts have not resulted in any charges, and there is no public evidence that prosecutors are still investigating the political roots of Jan. 6. One challenge is the tools they have at their disposal, like search warrants, which require proof that a crime may have been committed. An independent commission, armed with subpoena power, could more easily compel testimony from political operatives who may have knowledge about Jan. 6, even if they did not clearly break the law.

“Criminal investigators are only supposed to investigate crimes,” said Joel Hirschhorn, a veteran defense lawyer who has represented several clients charged in political riots. “But a commission is better suited and better able to look at the political reasons behind Jan. 6.”

As many as 500 rioters may face charges in connection with the Capitol attack, prosecutors have said. Many questions will eventually be answered: How did all of those people get to Washington on Jan. 6? What exactly did they do on the grounds of the Capitol? And what happened once they went back to their homes?

But one important question, crucial to understanding the events of that day, is not likely to be answered — at least not by the government — even in the hundreds of cases. And that is why those charged with crimes took part in storming the Capitol.

While the issue of motive is a staple of police procedurals on TV, it is less important at actual trials in real-life courtrooms. Defense lawyers may decide to discuss their clients’ motives with the judge at a sentencing hearing in an effort to reduce potential penalties, but prosecutors in their public statements are much more likely to stick to the facts of who did what when rather than delving into why they might have done it.

“In criminal prosecutions, the issue is generally one of behavior inferred by circumstance and corroborated by evidence like documents, emails and cooperating witnesses,” Mr. Hirschhorn said. “Motive is never really an issue when the government is trying to make its case at a trial and prove guilt or innocence. It’s just not relevant.”
The big picture

Even though prosecutors have charged an unprecedented number of people in the riot, that does not mean they are looking at the big picture — exactly what a commission would be asked to do. Indeed, at the urging of judges and under pressure from defense lawyers, investigators in the inquiry have taken pains to treat each of the 450 or so people charged so far as individual defendants.

“The job of a prosecutor is to prosecute the cases directly in front of them, not to zoom way out and give their views on the totality of the events in question,” said Alan Rozenshtein, a former Justice Department official who now teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School. “It would go against their training to just start freestyling in a courtroom about the broad state of American democracy.”

Even if prosecutors did want to provide a panoramic view of Jan. 6, they would not have much of an opportunity, Mr. Rozenshtein said. Many, if not most, of the Capitol defendants are likely to plead guilty in the weeks to come and avoid a trial where their stories would be told in full.

“With so many plea agreements,” Mr. Rozenshtein said, “there will never be a complete exploration of the facts and issues with witnesses and evidence.”
Congress is investigating, but only narrowly

When Republican senators say that Congress is already studying Jan. 6, they usually have one particular inquiry in mind: a joint investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Rules Committees.

That investigation is no small undertaking. It is bipartisan — a rarity in today’s Congress — and together, the two committees have oversight jurisdiction to look at the Capitol Police, the Defense Department and the broad government response to the violence. They plan to release a modest report about their findings and recommendations to secure Congress in early June.

But the scope of their work is tightly focused on questions of security and policing, rather than on what fueled the mob in the first place, what role Mr. Trump may have played and how the government coordinated its actions. The congressional investigators have also given themselves about only four months, meaning they will necessarily leave behind valuable information, and the dozen or so staff members involved in the investigation are also responsible for maintaining the committees’ regular work at the same time.

“There’s plenty more work to be done, and the more folks that are engaged in it, the better,” said Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and one of the committee chairmen leading the inquiry. “They’re going to have more time and staff resources, and a commitment to do a real deep dive.”

Across the Capitol, House committees are taking a more scattershot approach, looking separately at domestic terrorism, the Capitol Police and intelligence failures. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that she could authorize a more comprehensive investigation, including the formation of a select committee, should the push for an independent commission collapse.
Government watchdogs are also at work.

Decades ago, Congress created a slew of independent inspectors general and embedded them in executive departments across the government as a kind of fail-safe against efforts to cover up wrongdoing or institutional failings. A handful have confirmed they are conducting investigations related to Jan. 6, but they are also taking narrow approaches, circumscribed by their jurisdictions.

At the Pentagon, the inspector general is taking a deep dive into two crucial outstanding questions about the riot: when the White House and Congress called for backup military support and why it took so long to arrive.

The Justice Department’s inspector general is looking at what federal law enforcement knew in advance of the attack as it collected intelligence about possible threats, and whether that information was properly communicated to those who could have prevented it.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ted Cruz is running scared, Sheree McSpadden, May 25, 2021. Ted Cruz is fighting President Biden’s nomination of Kristen Clarke to head the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, lying that she’s anti-police. This is just more evidence that Trumplicans are scared of her experience and qualifications, especially relating to voting rights.

bill palmer report logo headerHer nomination deadlocked in the Senate Judiciary Committee due to a tied vote, 11-11, along party lines. This means Chuck Schumer will need to bring a discharge position to the floor to pull the nomination out of committee for consideration by the full Senate.

Her position is expected to play a critical role in efforts to reform police practices and enforce voting rights laws, but I personally believe, as most likely does everyone else, that it is Clarke’s 5-star-rated experience as a voting rights attorney, as well as her math whiz status and cutting-edge gerrymandering experience, that have Republicans running scared. With her skills and knowledge, we may well be able to win voting rights wars against Republicans in Court, as well as pull some sly legislation out of a hat, so of course they are blocking her confirmation, as well as delaying it as long as possible.

kristen clarkeClarke, right, frequently made headlines due to her smart and eloquent testimony at her confirmation hearings, despite often facing rude and crude, and even racist questioning by Republicans, attacking her record same as they did another woman DOJ nominee of color, Vanita Gupta. But they’ve already managed to delay Clarke’s confirmation over a month since her hearing. She is heavily qualified for the position and has experience working in the DOJ in the past.

Yet Ted Cruz has decried her as a “radical” and Republicans have falsely painted her as an advocate for defunding police. John Cornyn tried to get her with a “gotcha” question painting her as a racist, totally embarrassing himself for referencing a satirical paper she had written while at Harvard.

 djt impeachment graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, Key impeachment witness who accused Trump of quid pro quo sues Pompeo, U.S. for $1.8 million, John Hudson, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, right, is suing former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and the U.S. government for $1.8 million to compensate for legal fees incurred during the 2019 House impeachment probe.

gordon sondland oThe suit, filed Monday in federal court in the District of Columbia, alleges that Pompeo reneged on his promise that the State Department would cover the fees after Sondland delivered bombshell testimony accusing Trump and his aides of pressuring the government of Ukraine to investigate then presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for military aid.

state dept map logo SmallSondland, a Portland hotel magnate appointed by Trump to serve as ambassador, became a key witness of the impeachment probe because of his firsthand knowledge of conversations with Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani and senior Ukrainian officials — as well as his punchy answers, affable demeanor and colorful language.

The allegations in the suit also offer new details on Sondland’s rapid devolution from Trump insider to political outcast in the span of days.

mike pompeo portraitThe complaint alleges that Pompeo, left, told Sondland that government lawyers would not be made available to represent him but that if he hired his own counsel, his attorney fees would be covered by the U.S. government. Top aides to Pompeo also acknowledged this commitment, the suit alleges, but “everything changed” after Sondland delivered his testimony alleging a “quid pro quo” and then refused to resign despite a request from one of Pompeo’s most trusted aides, Ulrich Brechbuhl.

“Ambassador Sondland confirmed he would not resign because he did not do anything improper. After that, everything changed. Ambassador Sondland did not receive his attorneys’ fees, notwithstanding the promises from the State Department that the attorneys’ fees would be paid,” the suit alleges.Sondland is demanding that the U.S. government cover the fees or Pompeo pay out of his own pocket.

The suit argues that Pompeo’s actions as secretary of state should not be subject to governmental immunity because the promise “was self-serving, made entirely for personal reasons for his own political survival in the hopes that Ambassador Sondland would not implicate him or others by his testimony.”

In the past year, Sondland’s businesses empire, including several hotels in Portland, was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which decimated tourism across the country. Before being tapped by Trump for the ambassador position, Sondland donated $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. releases part of memo on not charging Trump in Russia probe, Devlin Barrett, May 25, 2021. The internal memo was the subject of a judge’s opinion that sharply criticized then-Attorney General William Barr’s handling of the Robert Mueller investigation.

The Justice Department late Monday night released part of a key internal document used in 2019 to justify not charging President Donald Trump with obstruction, but also signaled it would fight a judge’s effort to make the entire document public.

robert mueller full face fileThe filing comes after a federal judge excoriated former U.S. attorney general William P. Barr — and the Justice Department more broadly — for their explanations of how and why it decided not to pursue a criminal case against Trump over possible obstruction of the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, right.

The Justice Department filing is likely to both fuel and frustrate Trump’s biggest critics, particularly Democrats who have long argued that Barr stage-managed an exoneration of Trump after Mueller submitted a 448-page report into his findings about his investigation into whether the 2016 Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the election, and whether Trump tried to obstruct that investigation.

The central document at issue is a March 2019 memo written by two senior Justice Department officials arguing that aside from important constitutional reasons not to accuse the president of a crime, the evidence gathered by Mueller did not rise to the level of a prosecutable case, even if Trump were not president.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a scathing opinion saying that she had read the memo and that it showed that Barr was disingenuous when he cited the document as key to his conclusion that Trump had not broken the law.

She also accused department lawyers of misleading her about the internal discussions that surrounded the memo and ordered the memo be released, though she gave the government several weeks to decide whether to appeal.

As that deadline neared, the government filed papers seeking both to appeal the ruling and to appease the court by offering a partially unredacted version of the document — making the first two pages public, while filing an appeal to try to keep the other half-dozen pages secret.

Justice Department log circular“In retrospect, the government acknowledges that its briefs could have been clearer, and it deeply regrets the confusion that caused. But the government’s counsel and declarants did not intend to mislead the Court,” the Justice Department lawyers wrote in asking the judge to keep the rest of the document under seal while they appeal her ruling.

The parts of the memo released Monday night offer a deeper glimpse into why the judge was angry — and indicate that the decision not to accuse Trump of a crime had been the subject of previous conversations among Justice Department leaders.

The memo written by Steven A. Engel, then the head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), and Edward O’Callaghan, then a senior department official closely involved in supervising the Mueller investigation, was addressed to Barr, then the U.S. attorney general.

For decades, Justice Department policy has held that sitting presidents could not be charged with a crime. But the memo went beyond that constitutional position, arguing “certain of the conduct examined by the Special Counsel could not, as a matter of law, support an obstruction charge under the circumstances. Accordingly, were there no constitutional barrier, we would recommend, under the Principles of Federal Prosecution, that you decline to commence such a prosecution.”

The memo also argued that the Justice Department should make a decision whether Trump broke the law — even though Mueller had very carefully avoided answering that question, citing Justice Department policy against charging a sitting president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Why is the Justice Department withholding most of its Trump memo? Aaron Blake, May 25, 2021. The memo is just 10 pages. What else is in it?  The case deals with a prior administration for which the current one has little regard.

But the Justice Department also has its prerogatives to protect.

Producing the memo would mean setting aside its desire to keep such processes private and could set a bad precedent. But fighting its release could mean protecting the former president whom many Democrats have accused of criminal acts — and a previous Justice Department which many Democrats argued was complicit.

On Monday night, the Justice Department tried to split the difference. It released a brief section of the memo but signaled it will indeed continue to fight its full release.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the DOJ is appealing the Bill Barr memo, Bill Palmer, right, 11:43 pm EDT, May 24, 2021. The DOJ has announced that it’s appealing the release of the “Barr memo,” bill palmerwhich incriminates both Donald Trump and Bill Barr on felony obstruction of justice. This is setting off a whole new round of doomsday hysteria among the “all hope is lost” crowd, but as usual, these types are ignoring the facts.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst of all, the DOJ is only appealing the release of part of the Barr memo; it’s signing off on the release of the rest of the memo. This alone proves that the DOJ isn’t trying to protect Bill Barr from his crimes, or anything like that. So we can stop with the wacky conspiracy theories about how Merrick Garland is secretly on Team Trump, or whatever silliness the most absurd of liberal pundits are cooking up tonight.

Second, the judge in the case has already made clear that the Barr memo will be released. The only reason for the DOJ to appeal even part of the memo’s release is because the DOJ wants to be overruled by the judge, so it can be seen as having merely followed the court’s orders, so it can’t be accused of actively trying to target Bill Barr.

The bottom line is that this appeal by the DOJ probably isn’t a big deal, and won’t change the outcome. But that won’t stop the doomsday pundits and the “all hope is lost” crowd from having a field day with it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Commerce Dept. security unit became counter-intelligence-like operation, Shawn Boburg, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). An obscure security unit tasked with protecting the Commerce Department’s officials and facilities has evolved into something more akin to a counterintelligence operation that collected information on hundreds of people inside and outside the department, a Washington Post examination found.

The Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) covertly searched employees’ offices at night, ran broad keyword searches of their emails trying to surface signs of foreign influence and scoured Americans’ social media for critical comments about the census, according to documents and interviews with five former investigators.

In one instance, the unit opened a case on a 68-year-old retiree in Florida who tweeted that the census, which is run by the Commerce Department, would be manipulated “to benefit the Trump Party!” records show.

commerce dept logoIn another example, the unit searched Commerce servers for particular Chinese words, documents show. The search resulted in the monitoring of many Asian American employees over benign correspondence, according to two former investigators.

The office “has been allowed to operate far outside the bounds of federal law enforcement norms and has created an environment of paranoia and retaliation at the Department,” John Costello, a former deputy assistant secretary of intelligence and security at Commerce in the Trump administration, said in a statement for this story.

ITMS “rests on questionable legal authority and has suffered from poor management and lack of sufficient legal and managerial oversight for much of its existence,” Costello said.

Concerns have long simmered internally about the Commerce unit, which was led for more than a decade by career supervisor George D. Lee. Wilbur Ross, secretary of wilbur ross headshot ocommerce under Donald Trump, is shown below at left.The unit’s tactics appear as if “someone watched too many ‘Mission Impossible’ movies,” said Bruce Ridlen, a former supervisor.

Investigators lodged complaints with supervisors, and the department’s internal watchdog launched multiple inquiries, documents show. In an internal memo laying out his concerns about the unit, Costello described an inspector general’s investigation that he said had found it had no legal authority to conduct criminal investigations.

Incoming Commerce leaders from the Biden administration ordered ITMS to pause all criminal investigations on March 10, and on May 13 ordered the suspension of all activities after preliminary results of an ongoing review, according to a statement issued by department spokeswoman Brittany Caplin.

Roll Call, Senate confirms Clarke to lead DOJ Civil Rights Division, Todd Ruger and Katherine Tully-McManus, May 25, 2021. She will be the first Black woman to run the division. The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Kristen Clarke, right, as the first Black woman to run the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department, where she is expected to take an aggressive stance on issues such as discriminatory voting rights and policing.

kristen clarkeThe 51-48 vote fell mostly along party lines.

As with some other nominees, Senate Democrats needed to take an additional procedural step to overcome Republican objections and advance the nomination from the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate voted 51-48 earlier Tuesday to move to a final vote on her nomination.

The vote comes one year after the death of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer sparked unrest across the country last summer, timing that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday called “particularly poignant and appropriate.”

While legislation to change policing practices after Floyd's death has stalled in Congress — though there are ongoing efforts to find a bipartisan bill — Clarke and the Civil Rights Division can take quicker and more direct action.

The Justice Department opened a civil investigation last month into the Minneapolis Police Department after the murder conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin, and opened a similar probe in Louisville, Ky.

The Civil Rights Division can launch those kind of “pattern or practice” investigations that look for unconstitutional policing and use consent decrees to force changes, as well as investigate and enforce discriminatory voting laws under the Voting Rights Act.

Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, said that the Civil Rights Division under the Trump administration had prohibited the use of such consent decrees, did not bring challenges to discriminatory voting laws and rescinded guidance that strengthened protections for transgender students.

“Now we have an opportunity for a course correction in the Civil Rights Division by confirming a proven civil rights leader to head that division,” Durbin said on the Senate floor.

Clarke worked as a trial attorney in the division’s criminal and voting sections during the George W. Bush administration. She was a co-director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s voting rights group, helped establish New York’s initiative to defend religious rights of workers and most recently was the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Durbin said.

She will take the job as 47 states consider hundreds of proposed laws that voting rights advocates say would make it harder to vote. Georgia’s new election law, called SB 202, has become a flashpoint in the broader discussion about how states run elections and whether the true goal of new laws is to ensure fair elections or enact barriers for minority voters

washington post logoWashington Post, Nevada GOP thrown into turmoil after avowed Proud Boys member said he participated in censure vote of state official, Michael Scherer, May 25, 2021. The internal tumult is the latest example of how the Republican Party has been roiled by ex-president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

The leaders of the Nevada Republican Party are facing an internal revolt after an avowed Proud Boys member said he was invited with friends to cast the deciding votes last month in the censure of a state official who concluded that the 2020 election in the state was not tainted by fraud.

republican elephant logoIn the past week, the Nevada Senate GOP caucus and the chairmen of the two largest Republican county organizations have called for an audit of an April state party vote to uncover who cast ballots as seated party members and proxies for a resolution against Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske (R).

The Republican state chairman Michael McDonald, a close ally of former president Donald Trump, has so far declined to release those details, other Republican officials said. “We need to find out who attended, who paid for them to attend, and what impact they had on this censuring of Barbara,” state Sen. Carrie Buck (R) said in an interview. If the claims of the self-described Proud Boys member are true, she said “of course the current leadership of the state [party] should resign.”

 

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. agrees to impose sanctions on Belarus, bars E.U. airlines from country’s airspace, after authorities forced down a Ryanair jet, David L. Stern and Elahe Izadi, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). European leaders on Monday agreed to impose sectoral sanctions on Belarus and to bar European Union airlines from flying over the country’s airspace, dealing a potentially crushing blow to the economy, a day after Belarusian authorities forced down a civilian jet and pulled off a dissident journalist.

european union logo rectangleThe measures, backed by all 27 E.U. leaders, were an unusually fast and powerful response to the brazen move by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who on Sunday sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to snatch a Ryanair plane out of the sky as it was flying from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, and arrest one of its passengers, Roman Protasevich, the founder of an opposition media outlet. Protasevich faces 12 years or more in prison.

E.U. leaders meeting for a prescheduled summit in Brussels asked the bloc’s foreign policy team to draw up a list of targeted economic sanctions to impose “without delay," and said the country’s national airline would be barred from flying over or landing in E.U. territory. Officials involved in forcing down the plane will also face personal sanctions.

The Belarusian power play set a fearsome precedent for journalists and political dissidents, who must now worry about flying through the airspace of repressive regimes, even if they are moving from one free capital to another.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who is Roman Protasevich, the dissident journalist arrested in Belarus? May 25, 2021 (print ed.). The 26-year-old edited Nexta, the alternative news platform that provided crucial crowdsourced information during protests last year against the government of strongman Alexander Lukashenko. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Aung San Suu Kyi Makes First Court Appearance Since Coup, Hannah Beech, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). The leader of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government is facing a raft of charges. If she is found guilty, she could be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

For the first time since Myanmar’s military locked her up in a pre-dawn raid as part of its coup on Feb. 1, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government, was seen in person on Monday when she sat briefly at a court hearing.

aung san suu kyi 2011 myanmar The short appearance at a special court in Naypyidaw, the Southeast Asian country’s capital, was also the first time that most of her legal team had caught a glimpse of their famous client. They have been defending her against a raft of criminal charges that the United Nations and foreign governments say are clearly politically motivated. Most of the country’s elected leadership has been jailed.

myanmar flagIn a 30-minute meeting with her lawyers before the hearing, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who had previously appeared by video link, seemed healthy and resolute, if unclear about just how Myanmar had changed since the coup, a member of her legal team said. Since the putsch, the military has imposed a reign of terror, isolating the country once more from the international community.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, shown in a 2011 photo, was determined to defend the integrity of her political party, the National League for Democracy, or N.L.D., her lawyers said.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that the N.L.D. is the party of the people, and the party will exist as long as the people exist,” Daw Min Min Soe, a member of her legal team, said.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent the better part of two decades locked up by Myanmar’s generals for her campaign for democracy, has been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies, breaching coronavirus regulations and contravening the Official Secrets Act, among other crimes. Military-linked forces have also accused her of accepting bags of cash and 25 pounds of gold, although she has not been formally charged on those counts.

If she is found guilty of the charges — and Myanmar’s courts have a record of delivering guilty verdicts in political cases — Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, could be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

Although Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was initially held at her villa in Naypyidaw, she was moved to an undisclosed location a week later, blindfolded while in transit, her lawyer said.

“She doesn’t know where she is living now,” Ms. Min Min Soe said. “She doesn’t know anything about what is happening outside.

washington post logoWashington Post, American journalist is detained by Myanmar regime while trying to leave country, Shibani Mahtani, May 25, 2021. Myanmar’s military junta detained an American journalist on Monday as he was trying to leave the country, the man’s employer said, as the regime steps up a crackdown that has already forced many media workers to flee.

Danny Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine, was seized at Yangon International Airport as he tried to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur and was taken to Insein Prison, the company said in a statement late Monday. The prison is notorious for its poor conditions and has been used by Myanmar’s military government to hold scores of political prisoners.

Fenster, 37, is the fourth foreign journalist detained in Myanmar since the military seized power in a coup in February, deposing the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military government routinely publishes lists of “wanted” journalists, accusing them of affecting “state stability,” and has detained more than 70 journalists in total, according to media watchdogs.

Some 4,000 other people have been detained by the authorities in recent months, according to human rights advocates, as the junta has escalated a crackdown on those resisting the coup.

 ny times logoIran FlagNew York Times, Iran Extends Agreement With Nuclear Agency, Averting Crisis, Michael Crowley and Farnaz Fassihi, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). Tehran agreed to give the International Atomic Energy Agency continued access to cameras at its nuclear sites while it negotiates with the United States over the ruptured 2015 deal.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Moderna Says Its Vaccine Is Effective for 12- to 17-Year-Olds, Staff Reports, May 25, 2021. The drugmaker said its Covid-19 vaccine was powerfully effective in moderna logoadolescents. It plans to apply for F.D.A. authorization. Federal regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month for 12- to 15-year-olds. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • A variant first detected in India is spreading fast in Britain, highlighting the dangers of faltering global vaccinations.
  • Alabama’s governor signs a bill banning vaccine passports in the state.
  • Children with Covid inflammatory syndrome may overcome their most serious symptoms.
  • As the Tokyo Olympics near, the U.S. warns against travel to Japan, and other news from around the world.
  • An Indian couple is under investigation over a chartered flight linked to their wedding.
  • Veterinary offices go upscale to care for pets (and their owners).
  • The Caribbean, united by tourism, is divided by Covid.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 164.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 25, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 58.7 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 49.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 25, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 168,059,040, Deaths: 3,489,057
U.S. Cases:      33,922,937, Deaths:    604,416
India Cases:     26,948,874, Deaths:    307,249
Brazil Cases:    16,121,136, Deaths:    450,026

Washington Post, The unseen covid-19 risk for unvaccinated people, Dan Keating and Leslie Shapiro, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). With the adjustment for vaccination, the national death rate is roughly the same as it was two months ago, while the adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge.washington post logo

As more people receive vaccines, covid-19 cases are occurring mostly in the increasingly narrow slice of the unprotected population. So The Washington Post adjusted its case, death and hospitalization rates to account for that — and found that in some places, the virus continues to rage among those who haven’t received a shot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The right is dwelling on slanderous myths about the origins of covid-19, Michael Gerson, right, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). The universe of MAGA politics and media regularly defies Darwin. It michael gerson file photois an environment in which the least-fit ideas tend to thrive.

Such is the case with its treatment of the origins of the coronavirus.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has heavily implied that the National Institutes of Health collaborated with Chinese scientists to engineer a supervirus that somehow got released in Wuhan, China. And Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, as is typical, turned an implied lie into a vile slander. “More than any other single living American,” Carlson has charged, “Tony Fauci is responsible for the covid-19 pandemic.”

The prosecutors of this charge have credibility problems. Paul has a history of playing down the pandemic, dismissing the importance of masks, putting his Senate colleagues at risk of deadly infection and refusing to take the coronavirus vaccine. If more Americans had followed Paul’s covid example, far fewer of them would still be breathing. Carlson, meanwhile, has set himself the task of distracting attention from President Donald Trump’s lethal bungling of the United States' initial pandemic response. In both cases, political need is the father of scurrilous blame shifting.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration moves toward making the pandemic work-from-home experiment permanent for many federal workers, Lisa Rein, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). The change would represent a massive cultural shift for the country’s largest employer, which has historically lagged behind the private sector when it comes to telework options.

As the Biden administration contemplates how to return the massive federal workforce to the office, government officials are moving to make a pandemic experiment permanent by allowing more employees than ever to work from home — a sweeping cultural change that would have been unthinkable a year ago.

The shift across the government, whose details are still being finalized, comes after the risk-averse federal bureaucracy had fallen behind private companies when it came to embracing telework — a posture driven by a perception that employees would slack off unless they were tethered to their office cubicles. That position hardened during the Trump administration, which dialed back work-from-home programs that had slowly expanded during the Obama era.

But the coronavirus crisis — and a new president eager to rebuild the trust of federal workers who had been attacked by former president Donald Trump as “the swamp” — has convinced the country’s largest employer that in many departments, employees can serve the public just as well from home, officials said.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Rejecting precedent and Trump, Biden ousts members of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, Peggy McGlone, May 25, 2021. Commission chairman Justin Shubow and three others were told to resign or be terminated. Shubow said the commissioners were targeted for their views on classical architecture.

Having ousted four Trump-appointed members of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, President Biden announced Tuesday that he will replace them with four people who bring “a diversity of background and experience, as well as a range of aesthetic viewpoints.”

Architect Peter Cook, Howard University professor of architecture Hazel Ruth Edwards, Andrew Mellon Foundation program officer Justin Garrett Moore and architect Billie Tsien will join the seven-member commission, an independent agency responsible for guiding the design of the capital city, including renovations of historic homes and the look and scale of government buildings, museums and memorials.

“President Biden is proud to nominate this extremely qualified and well-respected group of professionals to the Commission on Fine Arts,” a White House official said Tuesday. The appointments do not require Senate confirmation.
Advertisement

On Monday, the Biden administration sent letters to architect Steven Spandle, landscape architect Perry Guillot, sculptor Chas Fagan and commission chairman Justin Shubow asking for their resignations by 6 p.m. that day or they would face termination. Fagan is the only one who resigned, according to Shubow.

Spandle, Guillot and Fagan were appointed in January to four-year terms by President Donald Trump and made the CFA all White and all male. Shubow, who is president of the National Civic Art Society, was appointed to the board in October 2018. He was elected chairman in January. The commission’s new chairman will be voted on by its seven members; the next meeting is June 17.

Shubow called the move unprecedented in the commission’s 110-year history and said the commissioners were targeted for their views on classical architecture.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas governor to sign law preventing the defunding of police, setting up another clash with cities, Paulina Villegas, May 25, 2021 (print ed.).Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed Monday to sign a bill that will thwart efforts by cities to reduce or reallocate police budgets, the latest of a string of actions he has taken to restrain local authorities.

Greg Abbott Customtexas mapAbbott, left, took to Twitter on Sunday night to weigh in on a shooting in the capital, Austin, arguing that the police were “incapable” of responding swiftly due to recent budget cuts.

“This is what defunding the police looks like,” the Republican governor wrote.

“Texas won’t tolerate this. We’re about to pass a law — that I will sign — that will prevent cities from defunding police,” he added.

The governor responded to a tweet by Austin Police Association President Kenneth Casaday, who wrote Sunday that it took 16 minutes for Austin police officers to arrive on the scene after a 911 call for an incident in which a man was shot in the head, according to local media reports.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Attacks on Jews Over Israel Are a Gift to the Right, Michelle Goldberg, right, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). Violence between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East is often accompanied by spikes in anti-Semitic activity in the United States, but what’s happened over the last week or so has been different.

michelle goldberg thumbIn Los Angeles, for example, a caravan waving Palestinian flags stopped near a sushi restaurant in West Hollywood, where men got out and attacked diners sitting outside. A witness recalled them asking, “Who’s Jewish?” In New York, a 29-year-old Jewish man on his way to a pro-Israel rally was beaten and pepper-sprayed by a group of men hurling anti-Semitic slurs. In southern Florida, men in an S.U.V. reportedly pelted a visiting Jewish family with garbage and shouted: “Free Palestine” and “We’re going to rape your daughter. We’re going to rape your wife.”

These apparent hate crimes are, first and foremost, a catastrophe for Jewish people in the United States, who’ve just endured four years of spiking anti-Semitism that started around the time Republicans nominated Donald Trump in 2016. “It feels like it’s a new front opening up against the American Jewish community,” said Greenblatt.

But this violence also threatens to undermine progress that’s been made in getting American politicians to take Palestinian rights more seriously. Right-wing Zionists and anti-Semitic anti-Zionists have something fundamental in common: Both conflate the Jewish people with the Israeli state. Israel’s government and its American allies benefit when they can shut down criticism of the country as anti-Semitic.

Many progressives, particularly progressive Jews, have worked hard to break this automatic identification and to open up space in the Democratic Party to denounce Israel’s entrenched occupation and human rights abuses. This wave of anti-Semitic violence will increase the difficulty of that work. The Zionist right claims that to assail Israel is to assail all Jews. Those who terrorize Jews out of rage at Israel seem to make their point for them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gillibrand teams up with Hawley on a measure to combat sexual assault in the military, Jennifer Steinhauer, May 25, 2021. The lawmakers are on opposite ends of nearly all things kirsten gillibrand opolitical, but they are working together on a bill designed to improve the military’s response to sexual assault.

One of the most interesting new alliances in the Senate these days is between Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, right, Democrat of New York, and Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, who have been working together on the Senate Armed Services Committee on possible solutions to sexual assault in the military.

josh hawley missouriMr. Hawley, left, has repeatedly praised Ms. Gillibrand for her work on the issue culminating in bipartisan legislation to change the way those crimes are handled. Ms. Gillibrand has often sought out Mr. Hawley, a first-term lawmaker and vocal supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, directly for such work, even though the two are on opposite ends of nearly all things political.

The two are planning on Tuesday to introduce a bill designed to improve one of the military’s sexual assault response coordinators, which came under scrutiny after the killing of a soldier at Fort Hood, and an ensuing report that showed many members of the coordination team lacked training to help victims of assault.

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you Ron DeSantis would crash and burn like this, Bill Palmer, right, May 25, 2021. Most of the mainstream media has spent all of 2021 painting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis bill palmeras somehow being an inevitable frontrunner for president in 2024. But given that DeSantis (below at right) only has mediocre numbers in Florida, and he’s an idiot who’s in over his head, and his fate is closely tied to Donald Trump’s plummeting fortunes, DeSantis is in real danger of not even surviving reelection in 2022.

bill palmer report logo headerEven as we wait for the 2022 Florida race for Governor to shape up, Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential pipe dream already appears to be bursting. He’s dropped an astounding thirteen points in one new poll. It’s not difficult to figure out why.

ron desantis oWhenever the mainstream media pushes a Republican out front early on in an election cycle and labels them a rising star or the future of the party, it usually ends up hurting that Republican. The resulting attention brings increased scrutiny with it. 

Being pushed front and center by the mainstream media only helps a Republican candidate if 1) it’s someone who knows how to hold the spotlight without getting burned by it, or 2) it’s someone who gets pushed out front so late in an election cycle, there isn’t time for the scrutiny to kick in.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to meet with George Floyd’s family on the first anniversary of his death, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., May 25, 2021. An unfulfilled promise looms over the meeting as progress on police reform has stagnated, including legislation bearing Floyd’s name that Biden had hoped would be law on the anniversary of his death

washington post logoWashington Post, Former St. Paul police officer who beat Black man while dog mauled him gets six years in prison, Paulina Villegas, May 24, 2021 (print ed.). A federal court judge on Friday sentenced a former St. Paul, Minn., police officer to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation for beating an unarmed Black man who was mistaken for a suspect nearly five years ago.

brett palkowitsch dog k 9 foundationA federal jury in 2019 convicted former St. Paul officer Brett Palkowitsch of using excessive force against an unarmed civilian after he brutally kicked and severely injured Frank Amal Baker and let a police dog maul him.

In June 2016, Palkowitsch and other police officers responded to a call about a large street fight in St. Paul, where dispatchers said an “unidentified black male with dreadlocks and a white t-shirt” was seen carrying a gun.

After arriving at the scene, Palkowitsch and another officer found no evidence of a street fight but noticed a man who they said matched the suspect’s description, sitting in his car talking on a cellphone. One of the officers told Baker to get out of the car, as the police dog barked loudly at him, according to a criminal complaint.

frank baker andrew noel photoSeconds later, the officer released the dog, which knocked Baker to the ground and started mauling his leg. While Baker, shown at left, was on the ground screaming in pain, Palkowitsch kicked Baker in the torso continuously, breaking seven ribs and causing his lungs to collapse, according to a Department of Justice statement.

According to court records, Palkowitsch testified he “firmly believed” the person on the ground matching the description was in fact the person who was seen with a weapon and that he had “acted under the assumption” that the person being bitten by the dog had a weapon on him.The police found no gun at the scene and no evidence that Baker, a 52-year-old grandfather who lived in the neighborhood, had been involved in any fight, the statement said.

In a court hearing Friday, the former officer waived the right to appeal his conviction and offered a tearful apology for his actions to Baker and to other members of the St. Paul Police Department, several of whom testified against Palkowitsch during the 2019 trial.

“I hope that today gives you a little bit of closure, but I know for the rest of your life it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. For the rest of my life, it’s something that I’m going to have to live with as well. But from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry,” Palkowitsch said, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

Baker, who is now 57, sued the city of St. Paul in 2017 and settled the lawsuit for a record $2 million.

ny times logoNew York Times, Chicago Priest to Be Reinstated After Inquiry Finds Proof of Sex Abuse Lacking, Azi Paybarah, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). There is “insufficient reason to suspect” that the Rev. Michael Pfleger is guilty, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced, The Rev. Michael Pfleger, an influential Roman Catholic priest who temporarily stepped aside from his parish on the South Side of Chicago in January after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor more than 40 years ago, will be reinstated after an internal investigation found “insufficient reason to suspect” he was guilty, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced on Monday.

In a letter to the Faith Community of St. Sabina, the parish where Father Pfleger is assigned, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said that the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board and its Office of Child Abuse Investigation and Review, as well as outside investigators, had “conducted a thorough review of the allegations.”

“The Review Board has concluded that there is insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations,” the cardinal wrote. He said he accepted the decision and would reinstate Father Pfleger to his position as senior pastor at the church beginning June 5.

Father Pfleger, who did not return a telephone message left at his church or an email sent on Monday evening, wrote on Facebook that he was “overjoyed” by the decision to reinstate him after having been removed “because of False Accusations.”

A separate investigation by the Chicago Police Department is continuing. “It is still an open and active investigation,” Steve Rusanov, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement.

The inquiry into Father Pfleger was announced on Jan. 5., after the archdiocese received an allegation that he sexually abused a minor more than 40 years ago. “Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false,” Cardinal Cupich wrote at the time. “Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed.

 

U.S. Media News

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Calling William Safire! The English language is in trouble, Wayne Madsen, May 25, 2021. This editor may not have agreed with my old friend, the late New York Times columnist William Safire, on many an issue, but as a leading etymologist, Safire knew his business about the English language. And the world needs him now more than ever.

 

May 24

Top Headlines 

 

World News

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Media 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

  

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

  

Top Stories

Proof via Substack, Major New Revelations About Donald Trump's January 5 Pre-Insurrection War Council (Part III), Seth Abramson, left, May 23-24, 2021. Introduction to Part III: The most chilling sentence seth abramson graphicinAli Alexander’s chilling January 13 interview with the chillingly named Church Militant of Michigan is this one: “We [Stop the Steal] own all of [the government of] Arizona except katie hobbsfor the Secretary of State [Katie Hobbs, right].

”In the interview, Alexander credits one man with ensuring that Stop the Steal could take over Arizona’s government: Arizona state representative and Oath Keeper Mark Finchem, the man Trump praised in Georgia on January 4 as a “great political leader.”

As Oath Keepers like Finchem get arrested by the dozens, and Finchem’s presence at the Capitol in a golf cart becomes national news, and Finchem faces the possibility of a state ethics investigation and there is a steady drumbeat of calls for his resignation or expulsion from not just Arizona Democrats but even journalists, it is becoming harder and harder for Finchem to find reliable allies in Phoenix.

A notable exception is a fellow Arizona Republican state representative who is, like Finchem, a self-described Oath Keeper: Wendy Rogers. Rogers, who spent January 6 at a massive Stop the Steal rally in Phoenix, watched with glee on January 4 as the President of the United States name-checked her friend Mark Finchem.

seth abramson proof logoProof via Substack, Major New Revelations About Donald Trump's January 5 Pre-Insurrection War Council (Part II), Seth Abramson, left, May 23-24, 2021. Introduction to Part II: The mystery of the strange conclave at Trump's private residence at Trump International Hotel is unraveling — revealing new evidence about the Oath Keepers, U.S. senators likely in attendance, and more.

These are Parts II and III of a three-part exposé on the pre-insurrection war council held on January 5, 2021, at Donald Trump’s private residence in Trump International Hotel in Washington. Proof via Substack, Major New Revelations About Donald Trump's January 5 Pre-Insurrection War Council (Part I), Seth Abramson.

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).

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Be wary of the 6th of January -- a coup by any other name, Wayne Madsen, left, May 24, 2021. The right-wing coup continues as a "rolling putsch." wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallEven without a congressionally-mandated January 6 Commission, we are slowly learning more about the premeditated attempt by Donald Trump and members of his administration and key support groups to overthrow the government of the United States on January 6, 2021.

wayne madesen report logoThanks to Washington Metropolitan Police memos hacked into and released by a ransomware group and a disclosure by an aide to Representative Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), it is now known that the Boogaloo Bois and members of the Qanon cult were planning on attacking other targets in Washington, DC on and after January 6 -- and that among these targets was the FBI Headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Alex Ferro, an aide to Gimenez, reported to both the FBI and US Capitol Police that he overheard one Trump supporter, who was dressed in military-type tactical gear, talking about seizing control of the FBI Building on Pennsylvania Avenue on the morning of January 6.

franklin d rooseveltRepublican leaders in the Congress are adamantly opposed to a January 6 Commission with the power to subpoena those with direct knowledge of what is beginning to look like a pre-planned "rolling coup" that extended from prior to January 6 through January 20.

The January coup attempt by Trump loyalists came the closest to an overthrow of the government since the aborted 1933 right-wing "Wall Street bankers" coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, right. That plot was disclosed by retired Marine Corps General Smedley Butler.

 djt impeachment graphic

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Key impeachment witness who accused Trump of quid pro quo sues Pompeo, U.S. for $1.8 million, John Hudson, May 24, 2021. President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, right, is suing former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and the U.S. government for $1.8 million to compensate for legal fees incurred during the 2019 House impeachment probe.

gordon sondland oThe suit, filed Monday in federal court in the District of Columbia, alleges that Pompeo reneged on his promise that the State Department would cover the fees after Sondland delivered bombshell testimony accusing Trump and his aides of pressuring the government of Ukraine to investigate then presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for military aid.

Sondland, a Portland hotel magnate appointed by Trump to serve as ambassador, became a key witness of the impeachment probe because of his firsthand knowledge of conversations with Trump, his attorney Rudy Giuliani and senior Ukrainian officials — as well as his punchy answers, affable demeanor and colorful language.

The allegations in the suit also offer new details on Sondland’s rapid devolution from Trump insider to political outcast in the span of days.

mike pompeo portraitThe complaint alleges that Pompeo, left, told Sondland that government lawyers would not be made available to represent him but that if he hired his own counsel, his attorney fees would be covered by the U.S. government. Top aides to Pompeo also acknowledged this commitment, the suit alleges, but “everything changed” after Sondland delivered his testimony alleging a “quid pro quo” and then refused to resign despite a request from one of Pompeo’s most trusted aides, Ulrich Brechbuhl.

“Ambassador Sondland confirmed he would not resign because he did not do anything improper. After that, everything changed. Ambassador Sondland did not receive his attorneys’ fees, notwithstanding the promises from the State Department that the attorneys’ fees would be paid,” the suit alleges.Sondland is demanding that the U.S. government cover the fees or Pompeo pay out of his own pocket. The suit argues that Pompeo’s actions as secretary of state should not be subject to governmental immunity because the promise “was self-serving, made entirely for personal reasons for his own political survival in the hopes that Ambassador Sondland would not implicate him or others by his testimony.”

In the past year, Sondland’s businesses empire, including several hotels in Portland, was badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which decimated tourism across the country. Before being tapped by Trump for the ambassador position, Sondland donated $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers worry the toxic mood on Capitol Hill will follow them home, Marianna Sotomayor and Paul Kane, May 24, 2021 (print ed.). House members head out of Washington for three weeks, anger at each other is turning into fear of what could await them back home.

Tensions among lawmakers have been running high since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and have only increased in recent weeks. The two parties are clashing over how to investigate what transpired that day and whether, or how, to ease precautions put in place to keep members and staff safe during the pandemic.

U.S. House logoThe tenor of the debate has been highly personal, with Democrats expressing a sense of distrust toward their Republican colleagues with regard to their personal safety and health, while many GOP members are accusing Democrats of using the tragedies of the attack and the pandemic to score political points.

Now, several Democrats said they are concerned that the toxic political culture on Capitol Hill could greet them back home as their communities open up, with the pandemic waning and vaccination rates rising, and there is pressure to hold more in-person events.

“Obviously we’re going to return to more outward-facing live, in-person things and I’m thrilled about that. I want to do that,” said Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.). “I think we’re going to have to be very cautious. I think there’s going to have to be some ramped-up security. Hopefully it’s going to be low key, I don’t want people to feel like they’re walking into an armed event, but I imagine doing a lot of events in parks, in the daytime, staffers and local police are around.”

Bitter anger over Jan. 6 riots lingers in the House, prompting a week of tense standoff and legislative stalemate

Several Democratic members have privately expressed their concerns to leadership about security back home as threats have risen, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the conversations. Some of these Democrats said they have paid out of their own pocket to increase security at their district offices or install security systems in their homes out of an abundance of caution.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Aung San Suu Kyi Makes First Court Appearance Since Coup, Hannah Beech, May 24, 2021 The leader of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government is facing a raft of charges. If she is found guilty, she could be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

For the first time since Myanmar’s military locked her up in a pre-dawn raid as part of its coup on Feb. 1, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government, was seen in person on Monday when she sat briefly at a court hearing.

aung san suu kyi 2011 myanmar The short appearance at a special court in Naypyidaw, the Southeast Asian country’s capital, was also the first time that most of her legal team had caught a glimpse of their famous client. They have been defending her against a raft of criminal charges that the United Nations and foreign governments say are clearly politically motivated. Most of the country’s elected leadership has been jailed.

myanmar flagIn a 30-minute meeting with her lawyers before the hearing, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who had previously appeared by video link, seemed healthy and resolute, if unclear about just how Myanmar had changed since the coup, a member of her legal team said. Since the putsch, the military has imposed a reign of terror, isolating the country once more from the international community.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, shown in a 2011 photo, was determined to defend the integrity of her political party, the National League for Democracy, or N.L.D., her lawyers said.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that the N.L.D. is the party of the people, and the party will exist as long as the people exist,” Daw Min Min Soe, a member of her legal team, said.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent the better part of two decades locked up by Myanmar’s generals for her campaign for democracy, has been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies, breaching coronavirus regulations and contravening the Official Secrets Act, among other crimes. Military-linked forces have also accused her of accepting bags of cash and 25 pounds of gold, although she has not been formally charged on those counts.

If she is found guilty of the charges — and Myanmar’s courts have a record of delivering guilty verdicts in political cases — Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, could be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

Although Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was initially held at her villa in Naypyidaw, she was moved to an undisclosed location a week later, blindfolded while in transit, her lawyer said.

“She doesn’t know where she is living now,” Ms. Min Min Soe said. “She doesn’t know anything about what is happening outside.

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. agrees to impose sanctions on Belarus, bars E.U. airlines from country’s airspace, after authorities forced down a Ryanair jet, David L. Stern and Elahe Izadi, May 24, 2021. European leaders on Monday agreed to impose sectoral sanctions on Belarus and to bar European Union airlines from flying over the country’s airspace, dealing a potentially crushing blow to the economy, a day after Belarusian authorities forced down a civilian jet and pulled off a dissident journalist.

european union logo rectangleThe measures, backed by all 27 E.U. leaders, were an unusually fast and powerful response to the brazen move by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who on Sunday sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to snatch a Ryanair plane out of the sky as it was flying from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, and arrest one of its passengers, Roman Protasevich, the founder of an opposition media outlet. Protasevich faces 12 years or more in prison.

E.U. leaders meeting for a prescheduled summit in Brussels asked the bloc’s foreign policy team to draw up a list of targeted economic sanctions to impose “without delay," and said the country’s national airline would be barred from flying over or landing in E.U. territory. Officials involved in forcing down the plane will also face personal sanctions.

The Belarusian power play set a fearsome precedent for journalists and political dissidents, who must now worry about flying through the airspace of repressive regimes, even if they are moving from one free capital to another.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who is Roman Protasevich, the dissident journalist arrested in Belarus? May 24, 2021.The 26-year-old edited Nexta, the alternative news platform that provided crucial crowdsourced information during protests last year against the government of strongman Alexander Lukashenko. 

washington post logoFlag of TurkeyWashington Post, A mobster’s online confessions are shaking Erdogan’s government, Kareem Fahim, May 24, 2021. Turkey is riveted.Sedat Peker’s videos have become a sensation, earning millions of views. The deluge of dirt has set off a crisis for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and even calls for the resignation of the interior minister.

ny times logoNew York Times, Before Rage Flared, a Push to Make Israel’s Mixed Towns More Jewish, Isabel Kershner, May 24, 2021 (print ed.). Recent violence has focused attention on a movement of religious nationalists seeking to strengthen the Jewish presence in areas with large Arab populations.

For decades, hard-line Israeli nationalists have sought to shift the demographics of the occupied West Bank by building Jewish settlements, undermining the prospect of a two-state solution to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

washington post logoWashington Post, British Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson critically injured after London shooting, Jennifer Hassan, May 24, 2021. A  British Black Lives Matter activist is fighting for her life after being shot in the head during the early hours of Sunday morning. Sasha Johnson, a 27-year-old mother, is in critical condition after the incident, which comes amid “numerous death threats,” United Kingdom flagaccording to a statement from the political party she is affiliated with.

Police did not name Johnson but confirmed a woman was shot in the London borough of Southwark at around 3 a.m. Sunday “in the vicinity of a house where a party was taking place.” 

Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Johnson’s friend Imarn Ayton, said she did not think the activist was the intended target, saying she believed instead that the incident was linked to a disagreement between “rival gangs.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 163.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 24, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 58.5 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 49.4 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 24, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 167,591,800, Deaths: 3,479,829
U.S. Cases:     33,896,660, Deaths:    604,087
India Cases:    26,752,447, Deaths:    303,751
Brazil Cases:   16,083,573, Deaths:    449,185 

 Washington Post, The unseen covid-19 risk for unvaccinated people, Dan Keating and Leslie Shapiro, May 24, 2021. With the adjustment for vaccination, the national death rate is roughly the same as it was two months ago, while the adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge.washington post logo

As more people receive vaccines, covid-19 cases are occurring mostly in the increasingly narrow slice of the unprotected population. So The Washington Post adjusted its case, death and hospitalization rates to account for that — and found that in some places, the virus continues to rage among those who haven’t received a shot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration moves toward making the pandemic work-from-home experiment permanent for many federal workers, Lisa Rein, May 24, 2021. The change would represent a massive cultural shift for the country’s largest employer, which has historically lagged behind the private sector when it comes to telework options.

As the Biden administration contemplates how to return the massive federal workforce to the office, government officials are moving to make a pandemic experiment permanent by allowing more employees than ever to work from home — a sweeping cultural change that would have been unthinkable a year ago.

The shift across the government, whose details are still being finalized, comes after the risk-averse federal bureaucracy had fallen behind private companies when it came to embracing telework — a posture driven by a perception that employees would slack off unless they were tethered to their office cubicles. That position hardened during the Trump administration, which dialed back work-from-home programs that had slowly expanded during the Obama era.

But the coronavirus crisis — and a new president eager to rebuild the trust of federal workers who had been attacked by former president Donald Trump as “the swamp” — has convinced the country’s largest employer that in many departments, employees can serve the public just as well from home, officials said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccinations in Northeast Lead U.S., While the South Lags, Staff Reports, May 24, 2021 (print ed.). In much of New England, more than 60 percent of residents are at least partly vaccinated. It’s a different story in the South. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

The low rate in the South worries Thomas A. LaVeist, an expert on health equity and dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans.

“You have the carrot and stick,” he said. “I’m beginning to think that the stick is the more likely scenario.”

Dr. LaVeist said the incentive that would work fastest for adults would be mandates by employers, who are uniquely positioned to require large numbers of Americans who otherwise would not receive a vaccination to do so because their employment depends on it. The federal government has issued guidance that says employers can require workers to get a Covid-19 vaccine and bar them from the workplace if they refuse.

Dr. Murthy cited a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found 28 percent of those who were employed said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if they were given time off to receive and recover from the vaccine. Another 20 percent said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if their shot was administered at their workplace. The survey looked at those who are unvaccinated, but who wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible

Dr. LaVeist and other experts, however, say the biggest hurdle among the vaccine hesitant is anxiety over possible side effects. “How was it possible to deploy the vaccine so quickly? If more people understand that, then more people will take the vaccine,” Dr. LaVeist said. “Corners were not cut.”

A recent New York Times report from Greene County, a rural area in northeastern Tennessee, revealed the most common reason for vaccine apprehension was fear that the vaccine was developed in haste and that long-term side effects were unknown. Their decisions are also entangled in a web of views about autonomy, science and authority, as well as a powerful regional, somewhat romanticized self-image: We don’t like outsiders messing in our business.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, How UFO sightings went from joke to national security worry in Washington, Michael S. Rosenwald, May 24, 2021 (print  ed.). In 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid called his colleagues Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye to a specially secured room in the Capitol where highly classified information was discussed.

Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, and Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, controlled funding for supersecret Pentagon operations. Reid wanted to put an idea on their radar, one that needed to be kept hush-hush not just for national security but because it was, as Reid’s aides told him, kind of crazy.

He wanted the Pentagon to investigate UFOs.

“Everyone told me this would cause me nothing but trouble,” said Reid, a Democrat who represented Nevada, home of the military’s top-secret Area 51 test site, a central attraction of sorts for UFO hunters. “But I wasn’t afraid of it. And I guess time has proven me right.”

That’s because official Washington is swirling with chatter — among top senators, Pentagon insiders, and even former CIA directors — about UFOs. What was once a ticket to the political loony bin has leaped off Hollywood screens and out of science-fiction novels and into the national conversation. There are even new government abbreviations.

For some Navy pilots, UFO sightings were an ordinary event: ‘Every day for at least a couple years’

“This used to be a career-ending kind of thing,” said John Podesta, who generally kept his interest in UFOs to himself when he was President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. “You didn’t want to get caught talking about it because you’d be accused of walking out of an ‘X-Files’ episode.”

Last summer, the Defense Department issued a news release with the following headline: “Establishment of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force.” The mission of the UAPTF “is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security,” according to the Pentagon.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: It’s the Media’s ‘Mean-Too’ Moment. Stop Yelling and Go to Human Resources, Ben Smith, May 24, 2021 (print ed). In public radio, there is either an epidemic of bullying or an epidemic of whining, depending on whom you ask.

For 20 years, the WNYC radio show “On The Media” has been the sort of place where the hosts’ on-air repartee makes it a fun listen, while their off-air screaming matches send producers diving for cover.

But times are changing.

During a meeting last June, a producer suggested that the show, which was hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, do a segment on whether the media’s coverage of climate change had overlooked minorities. After an extended back and forth, Mr. Garfield got sick of his staff pushing back, dismissed the story with a barnyard epithet, and eventually yelled that he was “tired of being accused of not being woke enough,” two people in the meeting recalled.

Someone complained to human resources about that incident and two others during which Mr. Garfield screamed at producers. Mr. Garfield was told by management that if it happened again, he could be fired.

Then this spring, Mr. Garfield suffered a shoulder injury. During a virtual meeting with his colleagues, he said he needed surgery sooner than planned. He said he then faced 15 minutes of what he viewed as “bullying” from Ms. Gladstone and their executive producer, and which they viewed as him bullying them, according to a spokeswoman.

Eventually, Ms. Gladstone accused Mr. Garfield of “bathing in self-pity,” he recalled. He swore at her and slammed his computer shut, he said, calling the incident “an appalling abuse of an employee’s health prerogatives.” WNYC fired him for violating its anti-bullying policy, and he is starting a newsletter on Substack on Monday.

When I started trying to figure out what was going on inside America’s biggest and angstiest public radio station for this week’s column, I thought it would be a straightforward story about changing newsroom norms, where nobody — not even on-air talent — is allowed to yell. This is media’s “mean-too” moment, as one skeptical tabloid hack put it to me, embodied by the exposés of the producer Scott Rudin.

That is, in fact, part of the story. WNYC’s human resources department seems to have its hands full with complaints and counter-complaints of bullying, including those against two prominent women who joined WNYC from sharp-elbowed commercial newsrooms.

On Sunday, the company’s labor union filed a formal complaint against the station’s editor in chief, Audrey Cooper, with the National Labor Relations Board, for reportedly waging a “coordinated and aggressive campaign” against her internal critics. Meanwhile, H.R. is conducting an investigation of one of WNYC’s biggest stars, “The Takeaway” host Tanzina Vega, over complaints from her producers.

Even by the standards of our fraught media moment, public radio — and the parts of the podcast industry that emerged from it — has been beset by seemingly constant clashes that can be difficult for outsiders to make sense of.

The reasons are partly structural. Audio production makes literal many of the inequalities that journalists complain about: Increasingly diverse teams of young producers labor anonymously in soundproof rooms to make a single host, traditionally a white guy, though that is changing, look good. (It’s sort of like TV, but with less camera-ready people and without a fat salary to make up for the indignities.) And radio stations filled with idealists who view themselves as working for the public good are often led by people whose greatest skill is raising millions of dollars from affluent donors.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

joe manchin smile palmer

Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you this was the game Joe Manchin was playing, Bill Palmer, right, May 24, 2021. Months ago, Palmer Report predicted that Senator Joe Manchin (shown above) wouldn’t end up being bill palmeran obstructionist in the end. We took some heat for this when Manchin then began stomping his feet and acting like he was going to block the entire Democratic Senate agenda. But people like Manchin aren’t mustache twirling villains trying to randomly create chaos; this kind of positioning is nearly always about trying to get something out of it for themselves.

That’s why we also predicted that Manchin would spend several months insisting on bipartisan legislation – knowing he’d never get it – so he would then have an excuse to turn around and act shocked and outraged at the Republicans, thus leaving him with no choice but to move on to next steps for getting things passed.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, now that Senate Republicans are predictably refusing to support something as patriotic at a 1/6 commission, Manchin is loudly letting it be known that he’s “outraged” at them. Now that the Republicans have made such a dastardly move, Manchin is finally getting his excuse to say that the Republicans have indeed left him with no choice. This is of course what he wanted all along, so when he runs for reelection in his deeply red state of West Virginia in 2022, he can argue to moderate voters that he tried every way possible to work with Republicans before doing what he had to do.

Here’s where things will likely go next. The Democrats would rather have a select 1/6 committee instead of a bipartisan 1/6 commission anyway, so Manchin will simply let Senate Republicans kill the 1/6 commission with a filibuster. This will be an extraordinarily costly filibuster for them, as they’ll be handing the Democrats a strong argument for 2022 that the Republicans were all complicit in the Capitol attack and tried to cover it up.

After the filibuster, the Democrats will appoint their own 1/6 committee and run the investigation they want. At that point Joe Manchin will have the excuse he needs to start making filibuster exemptions, or to support expanding reconciliation rules, or whatever it is that he’s been planning all along for once the Republicans finally filibustered something in a way that gave him the excuse he was looking for.

This process will continue to play out slowly, both because Manchin thinks that dragging it out benefits him, because there’s no real hurry for the Democrats anyway. The infrastructure package is already set to pass through reconciliation. Other matters, such as HR1 voting rights reform, don’t need to pass until sometime next year, as the next election isn’t until November 2022.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Arkansas Is a Test Case for a Post-Trump Republican Party, Jonathan Martin, May 24, 2021. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown above when she was President Trump's press secretary) seems likely to bring the Trump brand to Arkansas politics in a big way. But the state is a testing ground for different possible futures for the party.For decades, Arkansas punched above its weight in politics and business.

In the 1990s, it was home to the president and the world’s wealthiest family. In the 2000s, three onetime Arkansans ran for president. A decade later, the state claimed its sixth company on the Fortune 500 list.

But Arkansas may be entering its most consequential period yet, as a test case for the future of the Republican Party.Having undergone a lightning-quick transformation in the last decade from Democratic dominance to Republican rule, how closely the state clings to former President Donald J. Trump and his style of politics will offer insights about the party he still dominates.

Arkansas represents the full spectrum of today’s G.O.P.

There are Trump devotees fully behind his false claims of a stolen election and his brand of grievance-oriented politics. That faction is now led by the former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the daughter of Mike Huckabee, the state’s onetime governor. More ideological, and less Trump-centric, conservatives include Senator Tom Cotton.

And then there are pre-Trump Republicans, like Gov. Asa Hutchinson, hoping against hope the moment will pass and they can return the party to its Reaganite roots. Finally, some Republicans are so appalled by Trumpism, they have left or are considering leaving the party.

Perhaps most significant, each of these factions are bunched together in a state powered by a handful of corporations that are increasingly uneasy with the culture-war politics that define Trump Republicanism. In a meeting of Walmart’s Arkansas-based executives last month, a number of officials cited state measures limiting transgender rights to express concern about how such bills could hamper their ability to recruit a diverse work force, according to a business leader familiar with the discussion.

“They’ve got to recruit people to this state, and this makes it harder for them,” said Mr. Hutchinson, alluding to transgender measures that he opposed in this year’s legislative session. “And there’s many in the base of the party that just don’t care,” he said. “They would rather fight the cultural war and pay the price in terms of growth.”

In the next year and a half, Ms. Sanders will road-test Trumpism in state politics as she runs for governor in a state the former president carried by 27 points last year. She will initially face a longtime friend and former aide to her father, the state’s Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who unsuccessfully pleaded with Mr. Trump not to endorse Ms. Sanders.

Then, if Ms. Sanders prevails, she may prompt a long-shot challenge in the general election from a Republican-turned-independent who left the party in disgust with Mr. Trump, and just happens to be Mr. Hutchinson’s nephew.

At the same time, Mr. Cotton and Mr. Hutchinson will be circling one another, perhaps in Iowa as often as in Arkansas, as they both eye 2024 presidential bids with very different bets about the future of the party.

“There will be a lot of complicated relationships,” State Senator Jonathan Dismang, an influential lawmaker, said with maximum delicacy.

For many veterans of Arkansas politics, the intra-Republican competition is a full-circle moment, reflecting the state’s rapid shift from an overwhelmingly Democratic state to an overwhelmingly Republican one. This period is also eerily familiar to an earlier era when it was Democrats like then-Governor Bill Clinton and former Senators Dale Bumpers and David Pryor who were vying for supremacy. What’s different about today is how much politics in a small, mostly rural state at the intersection of the Deep South, Midwest and Southwest is shaped by a figure who has almost certainly never let the phrase “Woo Pig Sooie” slip from his lips.

“Arkansas Republicanism is defined by President Trump right now,” said Trent Garner, a south Arkansas state lawmaker who defeated one of the remaining rural white Democrats when Mr. Trump was first elected.

If there was any doubt about that after Mr. Trump’s romp in the state last year, it was erased in February when Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin abruptly pulled out of the 2022 governor’s race. A longtime political operative and former House member, Mr. Griffin had been collecting chits for what many here assumed was an inevitable run for the state’s top job after returning home from Congress in 2014 to serve as lieutenant governor.

Axios Sneak Peek, Liz Cheney won't fight GOP push to restrict voting, interview by Jonathan Swan for an episode of "Axios on HBO," May 23, 2021. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told Jonathan Swan  that she won't support Democrats in their fight against the GOP's push for more restrictive voting laws — a sign that she'll be no hero to the resistance.

liz cheney headshot resizedWhy it matters: Ten days after losing her House Republican post, Cheney is trying to put former President Trump's Big Lie about the election in a silo. She doesn't accept the larger context: Republicans spent years fertilizing the soil for voters to believe that voter fraud is rampant.

axios logoSpeaking on Friday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Cheney disputed any linkage between Trump’s false claims about 2020 and the current flurry of GOP efforts at the state level to pass new restrictions.

"I will never understand the resistance, for example, to voter ID," she said. "There's a big difference between that and a president of the United States who loses an election after he tried to steal the election and refuses to concede."

But she said Trump supporters' refusal to accept President Biden's victory "is really dangerous."

"I think about 2000," she said. "I think about sitting on the inaugural platform in January of 2001 watching Al Gore. ... I'm sure he didn't think he had lost. We had fought this politically very, very intense battle. And he conceded. He did the right thing for this nation."
"And that is one of the big differences between that and what we're dealing with now and the danger of Donald Trump today."

Palmer Report, Chuck Schumer is playing this exactly right, Bill Palmer, May 24, 2021 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer takes a lot of crap from a lot of liberal pundits, but they never can seem to spell out their supposed beef with him. It usually comes down to their insistence that there’s a magic wand out there for immediately making the entire Democratic Party agenda happen, and that Schumer is weak because he’s not waving that magic wand.

bill palmer report logo headerBut back in the real world, Schumer is actually quite savvy. He got the COVID relief package passed with just fifty votes. He got the Senate parliamentarian to agree to additional reconciliation bills, which means President Biden’s infrastructure package will pass with fifty votes once the Republicans finally admit they’re not going to cooperate on it.

Schumer is also doing something else: he’s helping ensure that when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi inevitably appoints a select committee to investigate the Capitol attack, she’ll be able to compellingly argue that the Democrats tried to work with the Republicans on this, and that the Republicans simply refused.

To that end, Chuck Schumer is reportedly about to force a Senate vote on the bipartisan 1/6 commission. To be clear, this vote is intended to fail. Unless a number of Senate Republicans change their minds at the last minute, they’ll end up filibustering against the commission, painting themselves as unpatriotic and guilty in the process. Then Pelosi will appoint the committee she was going to appoint anyway, and Schumer will have helped her by forcing Senate Republicans to very loudly adopt a villain stance against investigating the Capitol attack at all.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here comes Donald Trump’s week from hell, Bill Palmer, May 24, 2021. Donald Trump will almost certainly not be indicted or arrested this week. By all accounts the criminal justice process isn’t there yet. But this week is set to be particularly ugly for him on the criminal justice front, for a couple reasons.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, suffice it to say that New York Attorney General Tish James has revealed the criminal component of her investigation into the Trump Organization for a reason. The Manhattan District Attorney criminal investigation into Donald Trump has been in front of a grand jury for about a year and a half, and there would be little reason for her to pile on right now unless it’s very near the indictment stage.

letitia james o headshotJames, right,  is also revealing her long running criminal probe into Allen Weisselberg for a reason: this is the part where prosecutors make abundantly clear to top underlings that it’s their very last chance to flip before going down with the ship. Weisselberg will flip soon or the case against Donald Trump will move on without him. In fact, if Weisselberg doesn’t flip, Trump will likely be indicted sooner, because prosecutors won’t have to work through Weisselberg’s testimony and evidence before indicting Trump; they’ll just roll with what they’ve got.

So what’s the second reason that this week is going to be terrible for Donald Trump? The media has finally decided to properly cover the fact that Trump is under criminal investigation. This means we’re about to see leaks, whistleblowers, new revelations, you name it. The coverage will just keep getting uglier for him until he does get indicted.

When Donald Trump lost the election, Palmer Report said that the only truly relevant remaining storyline surrounding him would be his downfall at the hands of the law.

Sure enough, this is now starting to become clear. There’s not going to be a magic comeback in 2024. His fatally low favorability rating isn’t going to turn itself around. He’s not going to become relevant again, except as a defendant. Trump has been waiting to finally start getting big headlines again. Unfortunately for him, the headlines are about the destruction of his life. This week will be brutal for him. Future weeks will be even worse for him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former St. Paul police officer who beat Black man while dog mauled him gets six years in prison, Paulina Villegas, May 24, 2021 (print ed.). A federal court judge on Friday sentenced a former St. Paul, Minn., police officer to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation for beating an unarmed Black man who was mistaken for a suspect nearly five years ago.

brett palkowitsch dog k 9 foundationA federal jury in 2019 convicted former St. Paul officer Brett Palkowitsch of using excessive force against an unarmed civilian after he brutally kicked and severely injured Frank Amal Baker and let a police dog maul him.

In June 2016, Palkowitsch and other police officers responded to a call about a large street fight in St. Paul, where dispatchers said an “unidentified black male with dreadlocks and a white t-shirt” was seen carrying a gun.

After arriving at the scene, Palkowitsch and another officer found no evidence of a street fight but noticed a man who they said matched the suspect’s description, sitting in his car talking on a cellphone. One of the officers told Baker to get out of the car, as the police dog barked loudly at him, according to a criminal complaint.

frank baker andrew noel photoSeconds later, the officer released the dog, which knocked Baker to the ground and started mauling his leg. While Baker, shown at left, was on the ground screaming in pain, Palkowitsch kicked Baker in the torso continuously, breaking seven ribs and causing his lungs to collapse, according to a Department of Justice statement.

According to court records, Palkowitsch testified he “firmly believed” the person on the ground matching the description was in fact the person who was seen with a weapon and that he had “acted under the assumption” that the person being bitten by the dog had a weapon on him.The police found no gun at the scene and no evidence that Baker, a 52-year-old grandfather who lived in the neighborhood, had been involved in any fight, the statement said.

In a court hearing Friday, the former officer waived the right to appeal his conviction and offered a tearful apology for his actions to Baker and to other members of the St. Paul Police Department, several of whom testified against Palkowitsch during the 2019 trial.

“I hope that today gives you a little bit of closure, but I know for the rest of your life it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. For the rest of my life, it’s something that I’m going to have to live with as well. But from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry,” Palkowitsch said, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

Baker, who is now 57, sued the city of St. Paul in 2017 and settled the lawsuit for a record $2 million.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fairfax County teacher pleads guilty to taking thousands of lewd images of students, Justin Jouvenal, May 24, 2021. A former Herndon High School teacher accused of taking inappropriate photos of dozens of students and possessing thousands of images of child pornography and other lewd material pleaded guilty to multiple charges in Fairfax County Circuit Court on Monday.

Raphael Schklowsky, 38, of Reston, admitted his guilt on nine counts as part of a deal with Fairfax County prosecutors. Schklowsky faces up to 37 years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 3 but probably will get a far shorter sentence.

Schklowsky, who taught drama and directed school plays, surreptitiously snapped photos up skirts and down blouses with his iPhone in the school between May 2017 and June 2018, prosecutors said. Police also said he planted a small camera in a dressing room to capture video of students as they changed.

The case is one of a number in recent years that show how voyeurs armed with cellphone technology, ever-smaller cameras and even drones have been able to capture troves of inappropriate images of people.

Authorities said a search of Schklowsky’s phone and electronic devices turned up about 8,000 lewd images. Investigators said they were able to identify 10 victims, but the identity of many others could not be determined from the images. Schklowsky was arrested in April 2019.

Schklowsky’s activities at the school went undetected until an au pair living in his home discovered a small camera placed in a vent in her bedroom and reported Schklowsky to authorities, a prosecutor said.

Schklowsky pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of child pornography, five counts of unlawful filming of a minor and two counts of unlawful filming of an adult

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The campaign for D.C. statehood just got a big boost, Greg Sargent, right, May 24, 2021. One of the most nettlesome objections to extending congressional representation to the residents of Washington, D.C., is that it requires a constitutional amendment. Many Republicans say this, which is hardly surprising. But it’s also the position of Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), whose greg sargentopposition could doom the effort.

Now, however, several dozen leading constitutional law experts are weighing in with a new letter that seeks to demolish this argument once and for all, making the case that granting D.C. statehood is absolutely within Congress’ constitutional authority. This should give the cause a big boost at a critical moment.

“Congress should not avoid exercising its express constitutional authority to admit the Commonwealth into the Union,” states the letter, which is signed by Harvard’s Laurence Tribe and Georgetown’s Caroline Fredrickson, among many others.

The dispute captures a raw, ugly truth about this moment: The window to correct serious structural flaws and imbalances in our system is very small. This requires Democrats to find the spine to make arguments outside their comfort zone, and act on them. If not, that window could slam shut.

The House passed legislation to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state and to grant its more than 700,000 residents full representation in Congress. 

The argument that D.C. statehood is unconstitutional begins with the fact that D.C. is the seat of the federal government. Thus, D.C. supposedly must remain under federal jurisdiction and Congress cannot make it a state.

The Constitution directs that “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union.” As the experts’ letter puts it: “Every state admitted into the Union since the Constitution was adopted has been admitted by congressional action.”

That objection is dealt with in the D.C. statehood bill that the House passed in April, the D.C. Admission Act, which is before the Senate. It defines the nation’s capital to include the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court and other federal buildings, leaving these under federal sovereignty, while making the rest of D.C. a state.

In this sense, the bill would not technically make D.C. a state. It would make the non-federal part into a new state, called Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass. This is what’s meant by the shorthand “D.C. statehood.”

But opponents make another objection: They say the 23rd Amendment precludes D.C. statehood. That 1961 amendment deals with D.C.’s non-state status by empowering Congress to grant D.C.’s residents the number of presidential electors that it would enjoy if it were a state, though not more than the least populous state does. Congress passed a law enforcing that amendment.

Because of this, opponents claim, D.C. statehood would improperly leave the small area housing the federal government with presidential electors, while also granting electors to the new state.

Thus, opponents say, Congress can’t grant D.C. statehood without repealing the 23rd Amendment, which requires another amendment. Manchin has endorsed this view.

One of the key goals of the constitutional law experts’ letter is to challenge this argument.

First, the letter notes that the new D.C. statehood bill already deals with the problem. It repeals the congressional action that awarded D.C. those electors under the 23rd Amendment. As the letter argues, the 23rd Amendment did not require Congress to pass the law awarding those electors in the manner it did; it simply empowered Congress to do so.

Congress can thus repeal it. If it did, the seat of government would no longer get any electors. The rest of D.C. would become a state, and its 700,000 residents would get electors and congressional representation.

Second, the letter notes that Congress has another way to handle the problem. As the letter argues, Congress could simply require that the electors for the seat of government (which would not be a state) must go to the winner of the electoral college vote, rendering those electors meaningless.

The contention that a constitutional amendment is required to admit the Commonwealth is incorrect. The D.C. Admission Act calls for a proper exercise of Congress’ express authority under the Constitution to admit new states, a power that it has exercised 37 other times since the Constitution was adopted.

The letter argues that the courts likely won’t even hear a legal challenge to this, since it’s a “paradigmatic political question.

 

May 23

Top Headlines 

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

U.S. Media

 

More On Pro-Trump Riot, Election Lies

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

  

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

  

 World News 

 

Top Stories

  

joe biden signs resized relief bill

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s big agenda is imperiled as his priorities stall in Congress and a debt fight looms, Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats are eager for legislative wins ahead of 2022 midterms, but progress has been elusive on immigration, infrastructure and policing.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn his first formal address to Congress last month, President Biden (shown above in a file photo) implored lawmakers to act expeditiously on an ambitious to-do listOn expanding access to voting, Biden pushed for legislation to be sent for his signature “right away.” On immigration, he urged Republicans and Democrats to at least “argue over it” and “debate it,” but mostly, “let’s act.”

Biden told Congress that he wants to sign legislation overhauling controversial policing practices by May 25, the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. And while he pledged to do everything us senate logoin his power to counteract the rash of gun violence, Biden added: “It’s time for Congress to act as well.”

Yet the burst of legislating that characterized the first few months of the Biden administration — from the signing of $1.9 trillion in coronavirus relief into law to swift passage of several Democratic priorities in the House — has slowed dramatically.

The White House’s hopes for meaningful policy achievements hinge on a handful of critical ongoing negotiations, centered mainly in the Senate, and each of those is now struggling to move forward.

ny times logoNew York Times, Defying Critics, Biden and the Fed Insist the Economic Recovery Is on Track, Jim Tankersley and Jeanna Smialek, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Confidence from the White House runs counter to warnings from Republicans, some investors and even a few liberal economists.

McDonald’s, Chipotle and Amazon are all raising pay as companies try to fill jobs faster than they can find workers. Airplane tickets and hotel rooms are becoming more expensive as demand rebounds thanks to newly widespread vaccinations. Supply shortages are making it tougher to buy a house or a new car.

Republicans look at the economy and see a political liability for the Biden administration. Inflation is taking off, they warn, and worker shortages are threatening the viability of long-suffering small businesses.

President Biden and his advisers assess the same set of conditions and reach a vastly different conclusion. The dislocations that are causing prices to rise quickly are likely to be temporary, they say. And while both the speed of the economic snapback and the power it has conferred on workers have come as something of a surprise, White House economic officials see a lot to like in the evolving trends.

That disconnect in views could shift as the reopening proceeds and it becomes clearer how the economy is doing. But the disagreement is already helping shape the political debate over Mr. Biden’s infrastructure and jobs proposals, which would inject another $4 trillion into the economy, offset by tax increases on corporations and high earners.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications, Damien Cave, Emma Bubola and Choe Sang-Hun, May 23, 2021 (print ed.) All over the globe, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history.

Fewer babies’ cries. More abandoned homes. Toward the middle of this century, as deaths start to exceed births, changes will come that are hard to fathom.

Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. It may also require a reconceptualization of family and nation. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 or older. Imagine governments laying out huge bonuses for immigrants and mothers with lots of children. Imagine a gig economy filled with grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Life Spans Doubled in 100 Years. Science Wasn’t the Only Reason, Steven Johnson, Updated May 2, 2021 (print ed.). Breakthroughs like antibiotics often get credit for humanity’s astonishing rise in life expectancy. But the real story is far more complicated.

  

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 163.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of May 23, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 58.3 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 49.2 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 23, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 167,114,353, Deaths: 3,470,267
U.S. Cases:     33,882,333, Deaths:    603,876
India Cases:    26,530,132, Deaths:    299,296
Brazil Cases:   16,047,439, Deaths:    448,291

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Vaccinations in Northeast Lead U.S., While the South Lags, Staff Reports, May 23, 2021. In much of New England, more than 60 percent of residents are at least partly vaccinated. It’s a different story in the South. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

The low rate in the South worries Thomas A. LaVeist, an expert on health equity and dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans.

“You have the carrot and stick,” he said. “I’m beginning to think that the stick is the more likely scenario.”

Dr. LaVeist said the incentive that would work fastest for adults would be mandates by employers, who are uniquely positioned to require large numbers of Americans who otherwise would not receive a vaccination to do so because their employment depends on it. The federal government has issued guidance that says employers can require workers to get a Covid-19 vaccine and bar them from the workplace if they refuse.

Dr. Murthy cited a Kaiser Family Foundation survey that found 28 percent of those who were employed said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if they were given time off to receive and recover from the vaccine. Another 20 percent said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if their shot was administered at their workplace. The survey looked at those who are unvaccinated, but who wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible

Dr. LaVeist and other experts, however, say the biggest hurdle among the vaccine hesitant is anxiety over possible side effects. “How was it possible to deploy the vaccine so quickly? If more people understand that, then more people will take the vaccine,” Dr. LaVeist said. “Corners were not cut.”

A recent New York Times report from Greene County, a rural area in northeastern Tennessee, revealed the most common reason for vaccine apprehension was fear that the vaccine was developed in haste and that long-term side effects were unknown. Their decisions are also entangled in a web of views about autonomy, science and authority, as well as a powerful regional, somewhat romanticized self-image: We don’t like outsiders messing in our business.

washington post logoWashington Post, Leaders of rich nations acknowledge vaccine inequities at health summit but offer little to rapidly close gap, Chico Harlan and Emily Rauhala, May 23, 2021 (print ed.).At a virtual summit in which some statements were prerecorded, leaders took turns offering sometimes-conflicting ideas for expanding vaccine access, and countries announced a drip-drip of largely unilateral and not-entirely-new moves. 

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is sliding toward online irrelevance. His new blog isn’t helping, Drew Harwell and Josh Dawsey, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Aides said the former president’s online empire would “redefine the game.” But his vaunted blog gets fewer visitors than Petfinder and recipe site Delish.

On the Internet, former president Donald Trump is sliding toward something he has fought his entire life: irrelevance.

Online talk about him has plunged to a five-year low. He’s banned or ignored on pretty much every major social media venue. In the last week, Trump’s website — including his new blog, fundraising page and online storefront ­— attracted fewer estimated visitors than the pet-adoption service Petfinder and the recipe site Delish.

djt hands up mouth open CustomTrump is still by far the Republican Party’s biggest star, and conservative lawmakers and provocateurs are now loudly sparring over the importance of loyalty to him ahead of the 2022 midterm elections or a potential second Trump presidential run. Many of the party’s potential 2024 candidates say they will not run if he does, and many of the party’s luminaries have traveled to Florida to meet with him.

But Trump’s continued influence isn’t translating into a bigger online audience, according to a Washington Post review of data from four online-analytics firms. Social engagement around Trump — a measure of likes, reactions, comments or shares on content about him across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest — has nosedived 95 percent since January, to its lowest level since 2016.

Trump’s biggest attempt yet to recapture America’s attention has severely underwhelmed the Internet — and even his own advisers. His “From the Desk of Donald Trump” blog, which he and his team have promoted heavily in TV interviews and social media posts, has in the last week been shared to Facebook on average fewer than 2,000 times a day — a staggering drop from last year, when his Facebook page fielded tens of millions of comments, shares and other interactions every week, according to data from the social media analytics firm BuzzSumo and the Facebook-owned content-tracking tool CrowdTangle.

 

djt as chosen one

Wayne Madsen Report's Hollywood, Film Commentary: Screen treatment of mind control cults, Wayne Madsen, left, May 23, 2021. Hardly an American has not been touched, in some way, by a close relative wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallor longtime friend joining the cult of Donald Trump while also advocating against coronavirus public health measures such as the wearing of masks or getting vaccinated against the deadly virus.

Hollywood has amply dealt with the plague of cults in a number of films, including comedies. Big and small screen offerings include the three aspects inherent with any cult: a lavishly worshiped and adored leader; use of threats and coercion to convince others to join the cult; and pyramidal financial, sexual, or psychological exploitation of cult members.

Hollywood's first major treatment of cults was with 1934's "The Black Cat," which starred horror film staples Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. The leader of a group of Satan-worshipers, Karloff, plans to sacrifice a woman but to her rescue comes none other than Lugosi, famed more for his perennial roles as Count Dracula rather than a movie hero.

In 1943's "The Seventh Victim," which starred Jean Brooks and Kim Hunter, focused its plot on a Greenwich Village-based Satanic cult. Appearing in a minor role was Hugh Beaumont, better known to later television audiences as Ward Cleaver, the father in "Leave it to Beaver."

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘A business they had no business being in’: Analysts say AT&T’s ill-fated media play cost it both time and money, David J. Lynch, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Shareholders are likely to feel the pinch next year as the dividend drops.

AT&T today is a less valuable, more heavily indebted company than it was in 2016 when it announced plans to acquire Time Warner and create a media-communications colossus that would dazzle att logoconsumers and shower investors with riches.

Instead of the “perfect match” that AT&T’s chief executive promised at the time, investors got an ill-fated hookup between two corporate giants that failed to navigate an era of converging technologies and disruptive business models.

Now AT&T’s leadership is back with a new plan: unwinding the deal it once touted as “the model that wins over time.” The company said last week it would spin off its WarnerMedia unit in a complex $43 billion deal that unites it with Discovery Inc. in a new publicly-traded entity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review: Do Whistle-Blowers Damage National Security? Justin Vogt, May 21, 2021. One morning in December 1965, the C.I.A. station chief in Montevideo, Uruguay, went to the city’s Police Headquarters to tell security officials about a disinformation campaign the Americans were planning in their country. Like the rest of Latin America, Uruguay was a Cold War battleground, and Washington was eager to discredit a left-wing insurrection — in this case, by concocting rumors that Soviet agents had infiltrated Uruguayan labor unions. Accompanying the C.I.A. chief was a 30-year-old case officer named Philip Agee, who was helping coordinate the plot.

philip agee 1977As the Uruguayans reviewed the C.I.A.’s plans, a soccer match played on the radio. Soon, however, a different noise intruded. “I began to hear a strange low sound which, as it gradually became louder, I recognized as the moan of a human voice,” Agee later wrote. At first, he thought it was a street vendor outside. But the sound persisted, and it became clear that it was coming from the room above.

“The moaning grew in intensity, turning into screams,” Agee wrote. “By then I knew we were listening to someone being tortured.” Agee was already harboring moral qualms about his work, and to his horror, he suspected — correctly, he soon learned — that the voice belonged to a Communist operative whose name Agee himself had supplied to the Uruguayans. “All I wanted to do was get away from the voice,” he recalled.

Agee  (shown at right in a 1977 photo) did get away — far away. He left the Central Intelligence Agency in 1968, and seven years later launched an unprecedented assault on the agency by publishing a book, Inside the Company, that revealed the names of more than 400 C.I.A. officers, agents, informants and assets. The book created a crisis for the American intelligence community; with its personnel compromised and its sources and methods exposed, the C.I.A. had to dismantle many of its Latin American operations.

CIA LogoThe history of United States intelligence features many leakers, whistle-blowers and even a few traitors. But no one had ever done anything like this before — and, to this day, no one else has.

Agee became a celebrity of sorts. His book wrapped its revelations inside a withering critique of American foreign policy, and leftists around the world hailed Agee as a hero. The C.I.A., he wrote, was “nothing more than the secret police of American capitalism, plugging up leaks in the political dam night and day so that shareholders of U.S. companies operating in poor countries can continue enjoying the rip-off.”

He was repudiating more than just the C.I.A.; his real target was “the American project writ large,” as Jonathan Stevenson, the managing editor of Survival, argues in A Drop of Treason, his new biography of Agee. “He was part of the opposition, but he was no longer loyal,” Stevenson says.

Stevenson’s book seeks to unravel the mix of personal and ideological motives that drove Agee.

“His detractors might say he just got mildly disenchanted with C.I.A. work; tried to take the quiet, nontreasonous way out; got frustrated; was seduced by a couple of lefty women; felt the allure of dissident celebrity; and only then became a real dissenter,” Stevenson writes. He rejects that view and casts Agee as “a figure of profound ambivalence and considerable subtlety.” That portrait, however, is undermined by the rigor of the portrayal. The book is remarkably well researched and treats complex issues with admirable clarity. But Stevenson so thoroughly documents Agee’s shallowness and self-regard that his nuanced assessment ultimately seems too charitable.

There is little doubt that Agee grew disgusted with Washington’s hypocritical backing of authoritarian governments. And it is true that Agee took a huge risk without much promise of personal profit. (Some evidence suggests that the C.I.A. at one point plotted to assassinate him.) But his decision to expose the agency came two years after he had ceased working there, during which he grew increasingly bitter owing to a messy divorce and a failed business venture. Moreover, he worked on his tell-all memoir while living in Havana and maintaining contacts with Cuban intelligence officials; Stevenson concurs with other historians who have concluded that Agee became, in essence, a Cuban asset — which, given the nature of the Castro regime, undercut his pose as a principled defender of liberty.

The C.I.A. recovered quickly from the damage Agee had inflicted. He was never charged with a crime because, strange as it may seem, it was not clearly illegal to reveal the identities of intelligence officers when he did so. After a brief period of notoriety, he faded from view, carrying out a peripatetic life on the fringes of international leftism, nursing various grudges. By the time he died, in 2008, he was largely forgotten. Ultimately, despite Stevenson’s efforts to raise the stakes, Agee’s story seems less about moral risk-taking or the wages of dissent than about what might be called the banality of betrayal.

Still, if the book falls short in some ways as biography, it delivers as history. It offers a vivid snapshot of America in the mid-1970s, when the collapse of institutional authority after the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal was followed not by revolution or reformation but by exhaustion and decadence. As Stevenson writes: “The fierce and euphoric idealism that had arisen in the 1960s was giving way to doubt and paranoia, a kind of creeping corporate co-optation and, ultimately, downbeat social lassitude and introverted resignation.” Agee wanted his actions to be seen through the prism of the earlier moment. He was late to the party, however, and to the extent that his revelations had an impact, it was less to hinder American power than to feed the nihilism that took hold in the country.

 

More On Pro-Trump Riot, Election Lies

Proof via Substack Major New Revelations About Donald Trump's January 5 Pre-Insurrection War Council (Part I), Seth Abramson, right, May 22-23, 2021. The mystery of the strange conclave at Trump's private seth abramson graphicresidence at Trump International Hotel is unraveling — revealing new evidence about the Oath Keepers, U.S. senators likely in attendance, and more.

Introductseth abramson proof logoion: The mystery of which three Unites States senators attended Donald Trump’s secret pre-insurrection war council has remained only one-third resolved for months, with only Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville admitting—after being forced to do so by reporting at Proof—that he attended, though his confession included a passel of new lies about the event, anyway.

The other two U.S. senators present at the war council alongside Trump family members, aides, and advisers at Trump’s “private residence” in Trump International Hotel have remained a mystery, and (inexplicably) one that U.S. media thus far has made no effort to unravel.

This is Part I of a three-part exposé on the pre-insurrection war council held on January 5, 2021, at Donald Trump’s private residence in Trump International Hotel in Washington. Part II of the series can be found at this link. Part III will be published at Proof very shortly

washington post logoWashington Post, In echo of Arizona, Georgia state judge orders Fulton County to allow local voters to inspect mailed ballots cast last fall, Amy Gardner, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). A Georgia state judge on Friday ordered Fulton County to allow a group of local voters to inspect all 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 election in response to a lawsuit alleging that officials accepted thousands of counterfeit ballots.

The decision marks the latest instance of a local government being forced to undergo a third-party inspection of its election practices amid baseless accusations promoted by President Donald Trump that fraud flipped the 2020 contest for President Biden.

georgia map 2The inspection in Fulton County, home to Atlanta, is likely to proceed differently than an audit underway in Maricopa County, Ariz., where Republican state senators ordered county election officials to hand over equipment and ballots to a private company called Cyber Ninjas for examination. That process has come under widespread criticism for lacking security measures and failing to follow the rigorous practices of government recounts. On Thursday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) urged local officials to toss their machines after the audit is complete because their security is now in doubt.

In Georgia, Superior Court Judge Brian Amero ruled on Friday that the nine plaintiffs and their experts could examine copies of the ballots but never touch the originals, which will remain in the possession of Fulton election officials. Further details of how the inspection will proceed are expected next week, said one of the plaintiffs, Garland Favorito.

The order for the new ballot inspection comes after Georgia officials did three separate audits of the vote last year, including a hand recount, which produced no evidence of widespread fraud.

Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robb Pitts said it was “outrageous” that the county “continues to be a target of those who cannot accept the results from last year’s election.”

“The fact remains that Fulton County safely and securely carried out an election in the midst of a public health pandemic,” Pitts said in a statement. “It’s a shame to see that the ‘Big Lie’ lives on and could cost the hardworking taxpayers of this county.”

democratic donkey logoA spokesman for Pitts said he plans to meet with the Fulton County attorney to “review all legal options” to block “this waste of taxpayer resources.”

Fulton County is one of numerous communities where local residents have recently pushed to revisit the 2020 election results, echoing Trump’s false claims of fraud.

Inspired by Arizona recount, Trump loyalists push to revisit election results in communities around the country

In this case, filed in December, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that counterfeit balloting occurred in the county. The judge’s ruling Friday was part of the suit’s discovery process and allows the plaintiffs to examine the ballots for evidence of their claim.

Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said the lawsuit is another attempt to sow doubt about the 2020 election results — and raise “lots of money” in the process. She suggested that the examination would be used to try to justify more voting restrictions in the state after the GOP-majority legislature passed a sweeping voting law earlier this spring.

 

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Greene slammed for comparing House covid restrictions to the Holocaust, Amy B Wang, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) right, decried the comparison as "evil liz cheney olunacy," while many called on Greene (shown above in a fund-raising promot) to retract her comments and apologize.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), is being widely lambasted for comparing the continuing coronavirus restrictions in the U.S. Capitol to what Jewish people suffered during the Holocaust.

In a recent appearance on Real America’s Voice network’s “The Water Cooler with David Brody,” a conservative show, Greene complained about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent decision to keep a mask mandate on the House floor over concerns that many Republican lawmakers might not be vaccinated.

“This woman is mentally ill,” Greene said, referring to Pelosi (D-Calif.). “You know, we can look back in a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens — so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany and this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”
Advertisement

Greene was erroneously referring to the yellow Star of David that most Jews under Nazi rule were ordered to wear. Earlier in the podcast, Brody balked at Pelosi’s recent suggestion that unvaccinated GOP lawmakers who didn’t want to wear a mask should vote in a separate gallery off the House floor.

“I think she’s talking segregation,” Brody said. “That’s right. I said it.”

A clip of Greene’s interview shared by CNN’s Jake Tapper Friday night went viral on social media. Tapper also noted that Brody nodded along to Greene’s response and did not challenge her on the Holocaust comparison.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Marjorie Taylor Greene just handed the Democrats a huge gift, Bill Palmer, right, May 23, 2021. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s rhetoric is offensive, harmful, and dangerous. We’d all be better bill palmeroff if she were gone from politics. But since the House Republicans refuse to help us expel her, let’s at least use her to win the midterms.

Don’t you see? Greene is a huge gift to us. All we have to do is use her horribleness against every House Republican who’s running for re-election in a moderate district in 2022.

bill palmer report logo headerThe media keeps spinning Greene as spelling doom for the Democrats, but they can never say why. That’s because it’s not true. In every district where Greene helps the republicans in 2022, they were going to win anyway. Greene hurts the republicans in numerous moderate districts.

Greene is probably good for handing three to five moderate House districts to the Democrats in 2022. That could decide majority control right there. Throw in the upcoming indictment of Matt Gaetz, and it’s about to be Christmas morning for the Democrats.

The republicans just got done proving this strategy works, when they used fictionalized exaggerated versions of The Squad to win moderate House districts In 2022 the Democrats just have to use the real versions of Greene and Gaetz to win moderate House districts.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I watched the GOP’s Arizona election audit. It was worse than you think, Jennifer Morrell (Jennifer Morrell, a former local election official and national expert on post-election audits, is a partner at The Elections Group), May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Cyber Ninjas is hunting for bamboo fibers and cheese dust.

When Arizona’s secretary of state asked me if I would serve as an observer of the Arizona Senate’s audit of Maricopa County’s ballots, I expected to see some unusual things. Post-election audits and arizona maprecounts are almost always conducted under the authority of local election officials, who have years of knowledge and experience. The idea of a government handing over control of ballots to an outside group, as the state Senate did when hiring a Florida contractor with no elections experience, was bizarre. This firm, Cyber Ninjas, insisted that it would recount and examine all 2.1 million ballots cast in the county in the 2020 general election.

So I figured it would be unconventional. But it was so much worse than that. In more than a decade working on elections, audits and recounts across the country, I’ve never seen one this mismanaged.

I counted votes in Michigan. There’s no way to commit fraud.

djt maga hatI arrived at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum on the morning of May 4. Security was conspicuously high: At three stations, guards checked my ID and my letter from the secretary of state. No bags were permitted on the floor, and I had to surrender my phone, laptop and smartwatch. I was allowed a yellow legal pad and red pen to take notes, and provided with a pink T-shirt to wear so I would be immediately identifiable.

The audit observers hired by Cyber Ninjas, in orange T-shirts, followed me wherever I went and reported random things about me they found suspicious, like that my foot had crossed the tape perimeter separating the work and observation areas. Several times someone asked to test my pen, to ensure it really had red ink. Once, they even demanded that I empty my pockets, in which I carried that pen and a pair of reading glasses. I was allowed to ask only procedural questions of the Cyber Ninjas attorney; I couldn’t talk to anyone else performing the work. The atmosphere was tense.

Audits are supposed to make our elections more secure and transparent — to strengthen the public’s trust in our democratic process. Maricopa County is known for having some of the best election practices in the country: Officials had already undertaken a hand-count audit and a forensic audit of their 2020 ballots and found no evidence of fraud. Now a group with no expertise, improvising procedures as it goes, is sowing doubt about the result of a well-run election.

This is not an audit, and I don’t see how this can have a good outcome.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

Axios Sneak Peek, Liz Cheney won't fight GOP push to restrict voting, interview by Jonathan Swan for an episode of "Axios on HBO," May 23, 2021. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told Jonathan Swan  that she won't support Democrats in their fight against the GOP's push for more restrictive voting laws — a sign that she'll be no hero to the resistance.

Why it matters: Ten days after losing her House Republican post, Cheney is trying to put former President Trump's Big Lie about the election in a silo. She doesn't accept the larger context: Republicans spent years fertilizing the soil for voters to believe that voter fraud is rampant.

axios logoSpeaking on Friday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Cheney disputed any linkage between Trump’s false claims about 2020 and the current flurry of GOP efforts at the state level to pass new restrictions.

"I will never understand the resistance, for example, to voter ID," she said. "There's a big difference between that and a president of the United States who loses an election after he tried to steal the election and refuses to concede."

But she said Trump supporters' refusal to accept President Biden's victory "is really dangerous."

"I think about 2000," she said. "I think about sitting on the inaugural platform in January of 2001 watching Al Gore. ... I'm sure he didn't think he had lost. We had fought this politically very, very intense battle. And he conceded. He did the right thing for this nation."
"And that is one of the big differences between that and what we're dealing with now and the danger of Donald Trump today."

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Republicans are coming for your money again, Sheree McSpadden, May 23, 2021. The 152-member House Republican Study Committee (HRSC) has released its 2022 alternative fiscal budget. It shows the GOP is having difficulty moving away from its entitlement-cutting mindset or squaring it with its newer populist faction.

As usual, the GOP would rather cut and paste something together rather than do any real work. The HRSC Budget is essentially an update of former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s 2008 “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which is libertarian-inspired. It seeks to balance the budget through spending cuts alone (meaning no changes ever to Trump’s 2017 tax cuts — mostly for the rich and corporations, so they would never pay their fair share). This results in radical reductions of all federal expenditures, most notably Social Security and Medicare.

bill palmer report logo headerFor example, the age to receive Medicare and full SS benefits would go up to 69, keeping aging Americans in the work force much longer than most want or may even be able to do. Also, those who work the longest and pay into Social Security the most would receive the biggest cuts in benefits.

Medicare would be totally transformed into an optional “fed plan” or private insurance, with most retirees paying more for healthcare, cutting SS benefits even further. Cuts in Medicaid and Obamacare would be worse.

January’s EPPC-YouGov poll shows 67% of Trump voters want SS benefits to stay the same — even if payroll taxes must increase. The GOP apparently ignored this, just doesn’t care what voters want, and/or figures they can get by lying about it until it’s too late.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Move to Limit a Grass-Roots Tradition of Direct Democracy, Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Through ballot initiatives, voters in red states have defied legislators’ wishes and produced liberal outcomes. Republicans want to make the practice harder.

In 2008, deep-blue California banned same-sex marriage. In 2018, steadfastly conservative Arkansas and Missouri increased their minimum wage. And last year, Republican-controlled Arizona and Montana legalized recreational marijuana.

These moves were all the product of ballot initiatives, a century-old fixture of American democracy that allows voters to bypass their legislatures to enact new laws, often with results that defy the desires of the state’s elected representatives. While they have been a tool of both parties in the past, Democrats have been particularly successful in recent years at using ballot initiatives to advance their agenda in conservative states where they have few other avenues.

republican elephant logoBut this year, Republican-led legislatures in Florida, Idaho, South Dakota and other states have passed laws limiting the use of the practice, one piece of a broader G.O.P. attempt to lock in political control for years to come, along with new laws to restrict voting access and the partisan redrawing of congressional districts that will take place in the coming months.

So far in 2021, Republicans have introduced 144 bills to restrict the ballot initiative processes in 32 states, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a liberal group that tracks and assists citizen-driven referendums. Of those bills, 19 have been signed into law by nine Republican governors. In three states, Republican lawmakers have asked voters to approve ballot initiatives that in fact limit their own right to bring and pass future ballot initiatives.

“They have implemented web after web of technicalities and hurdles that make it really hard for community-based groups to qualify for the ballot and counter why ballot initiatives were created in the first place,” said Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, the executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. “This is directly connected to every attack we’ve seen on our democracy.”

In recent years, Democrats have leveraged ballot initiatives to bypass Republican-controlled legislatures, enacting laws in red states that raised the minimum wage, legalized marijuana, expanded Medicaid, introduced nonpartisan redistricting and no-excuse absentee voting, and restored voting rights to people with felony convictions.

 ny times logoNew York Times, It’s Crunch Time, and Biden’s Climate Gambit Faces Steep Hurdles, Lisa Friedman, Updated May 23, 2021. President Biden wants to require power companies to replace fossil fuels with clean energy. It’s a popular idea, but its path in Congress is perilous.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Madison Cawthorn has a whole new scandal, Ron Leshnower, May 23, 2021. A month after Joe Biden was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, his wife and baby daughter were killed and his sons seriously injured in a car accident. Last year, Biden revealed that this horrific tragedy made him contemplate drinking and even suicide. Rather than head down any of those dark paths, Biden went to work for the American people, and nearly a half-century later was elected President of the United States with the largest number of votes in American history.

madison cawthorn cropped oMadison Cawthorn, right, by contrast, is a Republican who was elected to represent North Carolina’s 11th congressional district in 2020. Recently, he got married, calling it “the greatest honor privilege, and adventure of my life.” Though far from a tragedy, Cawthorn’s new marriage is his odd excuse for ignoring his congressional duties and taking his role as an elected public servant too casually.

bill palmer report logo headerAccording to new data from Quorum, Cawthorn missed a whopping 16.2% of House votes, beating all other freshman House members in the 117th Congress and joining his Republican colleagues in the top five, as reported by Axios. By contrast, the House Democratic freshman with the most missed votes is Rep. Jamaal Bowman, whose absenteeism stands at a mere 2.82%.

Cawthorn has made it clear that his honeymoon is what he proudly blames for his inadequate voting record. In an interview with David Brody of Real America’s Voice News on Friday, Cawthorn claimed he was “doing the only thing that I find more important than my service here in Congress, and that’s my service as a husband.”

Cawthorn then took a wild spin off the rails by insisting the Axios report “shows how exactly the Democrats feel about the nuclear family in America right now.” He added he was “happy” to miss all those votes because “every single vote that came up was Democrat garbage.”

Cawthorn conveniently forgot the part about how pandemic procedures, passed months before he was elected, allow House members to vote by proxy. Cawthorn could have designated another lawmaker to cast his votes while he was away enjoying his honeymoon. Instead, Cawthorn preferred to shirk his responsibilities while looking to score some cheap points with the insurrectionist crowd.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

ny times logoNew York Times, America’s Prisons Have Lower Vaccination Rates, Ann Hinga Klein and Maura Turcotte, May 23, 2021 (print ed.).  Many prisoners and even guards are refusing vaccinations, creating potential hot spots for the virus. Here’s the latest on the pandemic. Vaccinations in many American prisons, jails and detention centers are lagging far behind the United States as a whole, prompting public health officials to worry that these settings will remain fertile ground for frequent, fast-spreading coronavirus outbreaks for a long time to come.

Nationally, more than 60 percent of people 18 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine so far. But only about 40 percent of federal prison inmates, and half of those in the largest state prison systems, have done so. And in immigration detention centers, the figure is just 20 percent.

With the overall pace of vaccinations slowing in the United States — down to about 1.88 million doses a day on average, according to federal data — the Biden administration has been stepping up efforts to win over the hesitant and reach people in underserved and vulnerable communities and those facing access issues.

Over the course of the pandemic, prison inmates have been more than three times as likely as other Americans to become infected with the virus, according to a New York Times database. The virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population, the data shows, and at least 2,700 have died in custody.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: End the Court Doctrine That Enables Police Brutality, Editorial Board: May 23, 2021 (print ed.). The courts created qualified immunity for police. Reform means getting rid of it.

Qualified immunity arose out of an 1871 civil rights law that made government officials, including police officers, financially liable for violating a person’s constitutional rights. In a series of rulings starting in the late 1960s, the Supreme Court decided that an officer is immune from liability unless it can be shown that he or she broke “clearly established” law in the process. The burden is on the plaintiff to make this showing, and the bar is absurdly high: If no other court has previously ruled in a case involving an essentially identical set of facts, the law is determined to be not “clearly established.”

Examples of courts splitting hairs to give a pass to even egregious misconduct abound: the prison guard who pepper-sprayed an inmate in the face “for no reason at all”; the officer who fired at a nonthreatening dog and missed, accidentally hitting a 10-year-old child lying nearby on the ground; the officers who stole $225,000 in cash and rare coins while executing a search warrant; the officer who shot a 14-year-old boy after he had dropped a BB gun and raised his hands.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former St. Paul police officer who beat Black man while dog mauled him gets six years in prison, Paulina Villegas, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). A federal court judge on Friday sentenced a former St. Paul, Minn., police officer to six years in prison after a jury found him guilty of a civil rights violation for beating an unarmed Black man who was mistaken for a suspect nearly five years ago.

brett palkowitsch dog k 9 foundationA federal jury in 2019 convicted former St. Paul officer Brett Palkowitsch of using excessive force against an unarmed civilian after he brutally kicked and severely injured Frank Amal Baker and let a police dog maul him.

In June 2016, Palkowitsch and other police officers responded to a call about a large street fight in St. Paul, where dispatchers said an “unidentified black male with dreadlocks and a white t-shirt” was seen carrying a gun.

After arriving at the scene, Palkowitsch and another officer found no evidence of a street fight but noticed a man who they said matched the suspect’s description, sitting in his car talking on a cellphone. One of the officers told Baker to get out of the car, as the police dog barked loudly at him, according to a criminal complaint.

frank baker andrew noel photoSeconds later, the officer released the dog, which knocked Baker to the ground and started mauling his leg. While Baker, shown at left, was on the ground screaming in pain, Palkowitsch kicked Baker in the torso continuously, breaking seven ribs and causing his lungs to collapse, according to a Department of Justice statement.

According to court records, Palkowitsch testified he “firmly believed” the person on the ground matching the description was in fact the person who was seen with a weapon and that he had “acted under the assumption” that the person being bitten by the dog had a weapon on him.The police found no gun at the scene and no evidence that Baker, a 52-year-old grandfather who lived in the neighborhood, had been involved in any fight, the statement said.

In a court hearing Friday, the former officer waived the right to appeal his conviction and offered a tearful apology for his actions to Baker and to other members of the St. Paul Police Department, several of whom testified against Palkowitsch during the 2019 trial.

“I hope that today gives you a little bit of closure, but I know for the rest of your life it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. For the rest of my life, it’s something that I’m going to have to live with as well. But from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry,” Palkowitsch said, according to Minnesota Public Radio News.

Baker, who is now 57, sued the city of St. Paul in 2017 and settled the lawsuit for a record $2 million.

washington post logoFBI logoWashington Post, FBI analyst accused of taking documents on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda and keeping them for years, Derek Hawkins, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). The grand jury indictment charges Kendra Kingsbury with two counts of gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, How Black Lives Matter changed the U.S. debate on the Mideast, Sean Sullivan and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., May 23, 2021 (print ed.). The group has shifted the Democrats’ lens on a range of issues, from the environment to the economy. Now it’s doing the same on global matters — pressing the Democratic Party to adopt a dramatically different approach to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Black Lives Matter activists recently took to the streets of Indianapolis to protest for Palestinians. In Congress, a lawmaker who cut her teeth as a Black Lives Matter organizer and who has compared her clashes with police to those faced by Palestinians tweeted Friday, “A cease-fire ends the bombardment — not the violence.”

And during the height of the recent Gaza hostilities, the official Black Lives Matter organization called for “Palestinian liberation,” six years after the group’s early leaders took a trip to the Middle East that planted the seeds for the current alliance.

Black Lives Matter, which has grown into a potent political force amid a national reckoning on race, has responded forcefully to the violence in the Mideast to extend its reach into foreign policy, pressing the Democratic Party to adopt a dramatically different approach to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

washington post logoWashington Post, Members of military charged in Jan. 6 riot are still in uniform — for now, Alex Horton, May 23, 2021 (print ed.)Within days of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, some people who participated were fired from their jobs when images showing them storming the building appeared online. But the process is playing out differently for service members charged in the riot.

Within days of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, some people who participated were fired from their jobs when images showing them storming the building appeared online.

But the process is playing out differently for service members charged in the riot.

Commanders are waiting for legal proceedings at the Justice Department before they make administrative decisions for charged troops, defense officials have said.

At least five service members face federal charges for allegedly participating: an active-duty Marine Corps officer who was arrested last week, two part-time soldiers in the Army Reserve and two in the National Guard.

Their charges include assaulting federal police, violent entry and disorderly conduct at the Capitol.

“The harm is against the civilian government. The civilian government should be prosecuting it,” said Rachel E. VanLandingham, a former Air Force lawyer and president of the National Institute of Military Justice, a nonprofit focused on military law issues.

Daily Beast, Trump Saved Paul Manafort — but Not His Townhouse or Banker, Michael Daly, May 22, 2021. First the feds took it. Now the bank is foreclosing on it. And the guy who pushed through the daily beast logomortgage is about to go on trial.

After the one-term president pardoned his one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort for tax and bank fraud, the undoing of justice included the snipping of a government padlock on the front gate of a brownstone at 377 Union St. in Brooklyn and the removal of a sign in the door that read:

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Battle Strengthens Netanyahu, but the Price Is High, Roger Cohen, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). The fighting with Hamas may benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu politically in the short term, yet it leaves his underlying problems unresolved.

Before the latest violence erupted, leaving more than 230 Palestinians dead and over a dozen people in Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s situation appeared precarious. It seemed less so after the 11-day battle with Hamas that ended with a cease-fire early Friday.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterThis is the prime minister’s long-established mode of operation: exploit crisis to assert his centrality and inflict just enough pain on Hamas to deter another eruption for a few years, but not enough pain to change fundamentally a status quo that leaves the Palestinians divided between Gaza and the West Bank, steadily weaker, and stateless.

In early May, talks on a national unity coalition that would have ousted Mr. Netanyahu, right, were advancing. Now that idea, which might have led to an Israeli Arab party entering government for the first time, may be buried in the rubble.

Three days after Hamas began firing rockets from Gaza, Naftali Bennett, the right-wing former defense minister who was a linchpin of the alternative coalition plan, declared, “A government of change with the planned makeup will not be able to cope.” In a crisis that quickly set Jew against Arab within Israel, he could not join a government backed by an Islamist Arab party. Only one person, it was clear, could cope: Bibi, as Mr. Netanyahu is widely known.

The prime minister has put enormous energy and considerable ruthlessness into crafting this image of indispensability, weaving it deep into the Israeli subconscious. His is the baritone that soothes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gaza struggles with twin health crises of war injuries and feared coronavirus surge, Steve Hendrix and Hazem Balousha, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Gazans and international aid agencies raced to head off overlapping medical crises Saturday as hospitals already overrun with injuries from the 11-day bombardment by Israel struggled to treat a surge in coronavirus cases from packed shelters.

palestinian flagTens of thousands of people crowded into underground chambers, community centers and other places across Gaza seeking to avoid the Israeli airstrikes, creating opportunities for the virus to spread.

At the same time, the attacks left more than 1,900 people injured across Gaza before a cease-fire took effect Friday, according to health officials here. At least 248 people in Gaza and 12 in Israel were killed in the waves of Israeli strikes and the rocket attacks from Gaza.

“It has become a double burden during these 12 days,” said Abdel-Latif al-Hajj, a physician and director of international cooperation for Gaza’s Health Ministry. “We are facing many more covid-19 cases and mass casualties at the same time.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Who will rebuild the Gaza Strip? And what obstacles stand in the way? Antonia Noori Farzan, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Aid groups anticipate that repairing the damage of the past 11 days could take decades under the current conditions.

Gaza Strip residents took to the streets in celebration Friday — or to let out a sigh of relief — as a cease-fire with Israel brought an end to 11 days of bombardment. In Israel, too, there was hope the truce would stick and end rocket barrages from Gaza.

But the task ahead for Gaza is far more daunting. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed in the latest conflict with Israel. Also damaged: Gaza’s water and power infrastructure.

Here’s what the recovery efforts will entail — and the hurdles that have complicated rebuilding in the past.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rio police were told to limit favela raids during the pandemic. They’re still killing hundreds of people, Terrence McCoy, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). Twenty-eight people died in this month's raid of Jacarezinho, a densely populated favela of 36,000 people.

In June 2020, the Brazilian supreme court ordered Rio de Janeiro police to drastically restrict police raids that had come to resemble engagements of war. Police, encouraged by right-wing politicians who had won elections by calling for harsher tactics against criminal gangs, had in recent years sent armored cars, snipers and bulletproof helicopters into the favelas — and killed an astonishing number of people. In a state with a population of 16 million, police fatally shot 1,814 people in 2019 alone, according to government statistics, 80 percent more than police killed that year in all of the United States.

At the request of The Washington Post, the Brazilian research institution Network of Security Observatories analyzed the explanations Rio police have given to justify the operations. The analysis did not explain the surge in raids. Many of the justifications police have used since the order are the same as those from before: to repress drug trafficking and execute arrest warrants.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration grants protected status to thousands of Haitian migrants, Nick Miroff, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). The decision was a win for immigrant activists and advocacy groups that have criticized the Biden administration for deporting Haitians during a period of heightened instability.

The Biden administration will grant a form of provisional residency known as temporary protected status to tens of thousands of Haitian migrants living in the United States without legal status, the Department of Homeland Security announced Saturday, citing worsening conditions in the Caribbean nation.

Haitians granted protected status will be exempted from deportation for 18 months. At that point, the Biden administration could choose to renew the designation.

“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

“After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home,” he said.

washington post logo

ukraine flagWashington Post, Life on Ukraine’s front line: Abandoned homes, trenches and fear of conflict without end, Serhiy Morgunov and Robyn Dixon, May 23, 2021 (print ed.). In places such as Berdianske, the recent spike in tensions also underscored an uneasy limbo: part of Ukraine but increasingly feeling Russia's presence and pressures. Among the Kremlin's apparent goals is greater control over the Sea of Azov, which is bordered by Russia and Ukraine but effectively under Moscow's grip.

ny times logoNew York Times, Belarus Forces Down Plane Carrying Dissident and Seizes Him, Ivan Nechepurenko and Anton Troianovski, May 23, 2021. President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus sent a fighter jet to make a plane land in order to arrest Roman Protasevich, a prominent opposition journalist. The move, underscoring Mr. Lukashenko’s willingness to go to extreme lengths to repress dissent, was condemned by European officials as a “state hijacking.”

 

May 22

Top Headlines 

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

U.S. Media

 

More On Pro-Trump Riot, Election Lies

 

 World News 

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. falls below 30,000 daily Coronavirus cases, Lenny Bernstein and Joel Achenbach, May 22, 2021. The pandemic map is speckled with hot spots, but the bulk of the landscape has turned green, for “low or moderate” viral burden. For the first time in 11 months, the daily average of new coronavirus infections in the United States has fallen below 30,000 amid continuing signs that most communities across the nation are emerging from the worst of the pandemic.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2The seven-day average dipped to 27,815 on Friday, the lowest since June 22 and less than a tenth of the infection rate during the winter surge, according to state health department data compiled by The Washington Post.

The pandemic map remains speckled with hot spots, including parts of the Deep South, the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest. At the local level, progress against the contagion has not been uniform as some communities struggle with inequities in vaccine distribution and in the health impacts of the virus.

But the vast bulk of the American landscape has turned pale green, the color-code for “low or moderate” viral burden, in a Covid-19 Community Profile Report released this week by the Biden administration. The report showed 694 counties still have “high” levels of transmission, less than half as many as in mid-April.

ny times logoNew York Times, W.H.O. Says Covid Deaths Could Be Double or Triple the Official Numbers, Staff Reports, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Some six to eight million people may have died from the virus or related world health organization logo Customcauses, the organization said, a figure far higher than the official toll. Patients in Africa with severe Covid-19 are more likely to die, research found. Get the latest on the pandemic.

  • Virus deaths are probably two to three times more than official records, the W.H.O. says.
  • Patients in Africa with severe Covid are more likely to die, research finds.
  • Japan approves the Moderna and AstraZeneca shots, hoping to speed up vaccinations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why both Israel and Hamas can claim victory in ceasefire, Erin Cunningham and Antonia Noori Farzan, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Hits on Gaza weapons facilities mean that Israel can claim to have achieved its goals, even though Hamas remains in control there.

The 11-day conflict left more than 240 Gazans and 12 residents of Israel dead, according to local officials, and much of Gaza in shambles.

In Gaza, the toll of the fourth such conflict since 2009 was devastating and the destruction vast. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 258 buildings in Gaza were completely destroyed in the fighting. Everything from health-care facilities to water and sanitation infrastructure to power lines also suffered damage from the strikes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel-Gaza Conflict: As fragile cease-fire holds, eyes turn to suffering in Gaza and Netanyahu’s political future, Shira Rubin, Michael E. Miller and Steve Hendrix, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Gaza faces dire humanitarian situation. Both Israel and Hamas claimed success after the cease-fire, but hard-right Israeli politicians lambasted the agreement ending 11 days of violence, and Hamas warned “our hands are on the trigger and we will continue to grow the capabilities of this resistance.”

As a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants held into Friday afternoon, attention shifted from the 11-day conflict to the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, expected political fallout for Israel’s embattled prime minister, and a lasting Palestinian civil unrest movement that on Friday threatened to reemerge around a holy site in Jerusalem.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “riots” broke out Friday afternoon, following prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque, involving hundreds of Palestinians who “threw rocks and petrol bombs at police officers.” He said they were then dispersed by Israeli police. Similar flare-ups around the sacred compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, known as the Temple Mount by Jews and as the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims, triggered the Israel-Hamas conflict 12 days ago.

The development in Jerusalem came as international leaders including President Biden welcomed news of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Biden, along with other world leaders, pledged support for reconstruction in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes aimed at Hamas have damaged electricity and water systems, according to aid agencies. Gaza’s fishing zone has remained closed since May 9, according to the Israeli army.

Both Israel and Hamas claimed success after the cease-fire.

Proof via Substack Major New Revelations About Donald Trump's January 5 Pre-Insurrection War Council (Part I), Seth Abramson, right, May 22, 2021. The mystery of the strange conclave at Trump's private seth abramson graphicresidence at Trump International Hotel is unraveling — revealing new evidence about the Oath Keepers, U.S. senators likely in attendance, and more.

Introductseth abramson proof logoion: The mystery of which three Unites States senators attended Donald Trump’s secret pre-insurrection war council has remained only one-third resolved for months, with only Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville admitting—after being forced to do so by reporting at Proof—that he attended, though his confession included a passel of new lies about the event, anyway.

The other two U.S. senators present at the war council alongside Trump family members, aides, and advisers at Trump’s “private residence” in Trump International Hotel have remained a mystery, and (inexplicably) one that U.S. media thus far has made no effort to unravel.

This is Part I of a three-part exposé on the pre-insurrection war council held on January 5, 2021, at Donald Trump’s private residence in Trump International Hotel in Washington. Part II of the series can be found at this link. Part III will be published at Proof very shortly. 

  

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid Killed His Father. Then Came $1 Million in Medical Bills, Sarah Kliff, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Insurers and Congress wrote rules to protect coronavirus patients, but the bills came anyway, leaving some mired in debt.

One coronavirus survivor manages her medical bills in color-coded folders: green, red and tan for different types of documents. A man whose father died of the virus last fall uses an Excel spreadsheet to organize the outstanding debts. It has 457 rows, one for each of his father’s bills, totaling over $1 million.

These are people who are facing the financial version of long-haul Covid: They’ve found their lives and finances upended by medical bills resulting from a bout with the virus.

Their desks and coffee tables have stacks of billing documents. They are fluent in the jargon of coronavirus medical coding, after hundreds of hours of phone calls discussing the charges with hospitals, doctors and insurers.

“People think there is some relief program for medical bills for coronavirus patients,” said Jennifer Miller, a psychologist near Milwaukee who is working with a lawyer to challenge thousands in outstanding debt from two emergency room visits last year. “It just doesn’t exist.”

Americans with other serious illnesses regularly face exorbitant and confusing bills after treatment, but things were supposed to be different for coronavirus patients. Many large health plans wrote special rules, waiving co-payments and deductibles for coronavirus hospitalizations. When doctors and hospitals accepted bailout funds, Congress barred them from “balance-billing” patients — the practice of seeking additional payment beyond what the insurer has paid.

Interviews with more than a dozen patients suggest those efforts have fallen short. Some with private insurance are bearing the costs of their coronavirus treatments, and the bills can stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 162.5 million vaccinated, as of May 22, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 58 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 48.9 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 22, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 166,558,610, Deaths: 3,459,928
U.S. Cases:     33,862,398, Deaths:     603,408
India Cases:    26,289,290, Deaths:     295,525
Brazil Cases:   15,976,156, Deaths:     446,527

 

U.S. Media News

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is sliding toward online irrelevance. His new blog isn’t helping, Drew Harwell and Josh Dawsey, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Aides said the former president’s online empire would “redefine the game.” But his vaunted blog gets fewer visitors than Petfinder and recipe site Delish.

On the Internet, former president Donald Trump is sliding toward something he has fought his entire life: irrelevance.

Online talk about him has plunged to a five-year low. He’s banned or ignored on pretty much every major social media venue. In the last week, Trump’s website — including his new blog, fundraising page and online storefront ­— attracted fewer estimated visitors than the pet-adoption service Petfinder and the recipe site Delish.

djt hands up mouth open CustomTrump is still by far the Republican Party’s biggest star, and conservative lawmakers and provocateurs are now loudly sparring over the importance of loyalty to him ahead of the 2022 midterm elections or a potential second Trump presidential run. Many of the party’s potential 2024 candidates say they will not run if he does, and many of the party’s luminaries have traveled to Florida to meet with him.

But Trump’s continued influence isn’t translating into a bigger online audience, according to a Washington Post review of data from four online-analytics firms. Social engagement around Trump — a measure of likes, reactions, comments or shares on content about him across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Pinterest — has nosedived 95 percent since January, to its lowest level since 2016.

Trump’s biggest attempt yet to recapture America’s attention has severely underwhelmed the Internet — and even his own advisers. His “From the Desk of Donald Trump” blog, which he and his team have promoted heavily in TV interviews and social media posts, has in the last week been shared to Facebook on average fewer than 2,000 times a day — a staggering drop from last year, when his Facebook page fielded tens of millions of comments, shares and other interactions every week, according to data from the social media analytics firm BuzzSumo and the Facebook-owned content-tracking tool CrowdTangle.

  tribune publishing logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Tribune shareholders vote to sell legendary chain of newspapers to hedge fund, Elahe Izadi and Sarah Ellison, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). It appears to mark the defeat of a year-long effort by the newspapers’ journalists, concerned about Alden Global Capital’s cost-cutting practices, to find wealthy local buyers instead.

Shareholders of Tribune Publishing Company and its storied newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune, voted Friday to sell the company to a hedge fund with a reputation for slashing staff and deep cost-cutting.

alden global capital logoThe company’s shareholders approved the sale valued at around $630 million Friday in a vote that appears to bring Tribune’s nine daily newspapers under the ownership of Alden Global Capital.

Representatives for Tribune’s board did not immediately return The Post’s inquiry Friday, but Alden confirmed its purchase in a statement after several Tribune journalists, who own Tribune shares and attended Friday’s meeting, immediately shared the outcome of Friday’s vote. Maryland businessman Stewart Bainum Jr., who attempted to put together a competing offer for Tribune, also put out a statement acknowledging Alden’s victory.

A purchase by Alden would represent the defeat of a year-long public campaign waged by Tribune news staffers to find an alternate buyer. They had pleaded for well-heeled local investors to buy their newspapers instead, casting Alden’s takeover as an apocalyptic outcome for journalism in their communities.

Alden has become one of the country’s largest newspaper operators, owning around 200 titles including the Boston Herald, Mercury News and Los Angeles Daily News. The hedge fund has been buying newspapers since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and has since cut jobs in many newsrooms and sold off real estate assets to establish higher-than-average profit margins.

The sale is also the latest chapter in the tumultuous history of Tribune, whose properties also include the Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant and Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.

Advertising revenue in the newspaper industry peaked in 2005, and the overall decline since then has put tremendous pressure on all newspaper proprietors. But Tribune publications have had a particularly tortured relationship with their owners, ever since an ill-fated leveraged buyout by real estate developer Sam Zell took the company private in 2007. He burdened the company with $13 billion in debt that forced the company into what was then the largest media bankruptcy in history.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Greenwald may have quit the Intercept, but he can’t quit feud, Paul Farhi, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Firebrand journalist Glenn Greenwald has turned to Twitter and Fox News to blast the publication he co-founded and left behind.

It all ended badly last October when Glenn Greenwald, the pugnacious, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, quit the investigative news site he had co-founded six years earlier. Greenwald left the Intercept with a parting shot, publicly accusing the publication of “censoring” an article he wrote about media silence surrounding allegations of corruption by then-candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The Intercept’s editors fired back, counter-accusing Greenwald of trying to pass off a factually suspect piece.

And that should have been that. Greenwald went on to write a popular and lucrative newsletter. He was his own man, no more meddlesome editors to please.

Except he wasn’t finished with his old shop.

In recent days, Greenwald has renewed his feud with the Intercept, engaging in an increasingly bitter war of words. On Twitter and on Fox News, where Greenwald appears frequently, he has accused the publication of exposing private citizens to online harassment through two articles. One was a lengthy exposé of the “Riot Squad,” a group of conservative journalists who shoot video of violent episodes at BLM protests; the second analyzed hacked data about users of Gab, a social media platform favored by white supremacists and other extremists.

“This is repulsive,” Greenwald tweeted to his 1.6 million Twitter followers about the Gab story. He added an expletive to describe his former workplace.

Greenwald’s ex-colleagues at the Intercept say that he has lied about their work. Worse, they say, his attacks have helped stir an angry and dangerous reaction in right-wing circles, leading to harassment of some of the publication’s journalists — the very thing Greenwald accused the Intercept of inciting. In the wake of Greenwald’s criticism, the author of the Gab story was threatened and “doxed,” meaning his personal information was exposed online. It prompted the publication to assign a security detail to him and his wife.

Staffers suggest Greenwald, 54, is motivated by more than just psychic payback for his acrimonious divorce from the Intercept seven months ago. They say he is cynically fomenting controversy to attract subscribers to his online newsletter.

“I feel like Glenn has lost his moral compass and his grip on reality,” Betsy Reed, the Intercept’s editor in chief, said in an interview. “He’s done a good job of torching his journalistic reputation. He’s a huge bully.” (The Intercept has stood by its reporting).

Greenwald denies any motivation other than fairness. “They’ve been irresponsible,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Brazil. “They should be called on it.”

During an appearance last week on Laura Ingraham’s Fox program, Greenwald claimed that the Intercept had made the videographers targets of protesters by “dragging their faces into the light.” The story’s author, Robert Mackey, responded on Twitter that this was a curious charge to make, given that the videographers themselves appear semi-regularly on Fox and other conservative outlets to promote their work — and indeed preceded Greenwald on Ingraham’s show.

Perhaps most disturbing to his former colleagues is the personal nature of some of Greenwald’s comments. He disparaged Mackey by tweeting that he had “tried to depict himself as some battle-hardened reporter because he ‘live-blogged’ the Arab Spring from his ucouch.” He included an emoji of a smiley face spouting tears of laughter.

Mackey replied that Greenwald himself had recruited him to the Intercept from the New York Times.

Greenwald also went after the author of the Gab article, Micah Lee, tweeting that Lee was perusing the hacked data on Gab users with the intent to expose them “if they had the wrong ideology.” Over a photo of Lee, he wrote, “The Intercept took this person trained to do computer work and now lets him pretend to be a journalist.”

Greenwald’s criticism of Lee was especially surprising because of the long and fruitful collaboration between the two men. Lee managed the massive databases of leaked information that were the basis of Greenwald’s two career-making stories — his Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program for the Guardian in 2013 and his revelations of widespread judicial and political corruption in Brazil for the Intercept in 2019.

In a tweet last week, Lee called those two projects Greenwald’s only “real journalism” in several years. “Everything else has been supporting the American fascist movement dressed up as ‘media criticism,’ ” he wrote.

 

More On Pro-Trump Riot, Election Lies

washington post logoWashington Post, In echo of Arizona, Georgia state judge orders Fulton County to allow local voters to inspect mailed ballots cast last fall, Amy Gardner, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). A Georgia state judge on Friday ordered Fulton County to allow a group of local voters to inspect all 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 election in response to a lawsuit alleging that officials accepted thousands of counterfeit ballots.

The decision marks the latest instance of a local government being forced to undergo a third-party inspection of its election practices amid baseless accusations promoted by President Donald Trump that fraud flipped the 2020 contest for President Biden.

georgia map 2The inspection in Fulton County, home to Atlanta, is likely to proceed differently than an audit underway in Maricopa County, Ariz., where Republican state senators ordered county election officials to hand over equipment and ballots to a private company called Cyber Ninjas for examination. That process has come under widespread criticism for lacking security measures and failing to follow the rigorous practices of government recounts. On Thursday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) urged local officials to toss their machines after the audit is complete because their security is now in doubt.

In Georgia, Superior Court Judge Brian Amero ruled on Friday that the nine plaintiffs and their experts could examine copies of the ballots but never touch the originals, which will remain in the possession of Fulton election officials. Further details of how the inspection will proceed are expected next week, said one of the plaintiffs, Garland Favorito.

The order for the new ballot inspection comes after Georgia officials did three separate audits of the vote last year, including a hand recount, which produced no evidence of widespread fraud.

Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robb Pitts said it was “outrageous” that the county “continues to be a target of those who cannot accept the results from last year’s election.”

“The fact remains that Fulton County safely and securely carried out an election in the midst of a public health pandemic,” Pitts said in a statement. “It’s a shame to see that the ‘Big Lie’ lives on and could cost the hardworking taxpayers of this county.”
Advertisement

A spokesman for Pitts said he plans to meet with the Fulton County attorney to “review all legal options” to block “this waste of taxpayer resources.”

Fulton County is one of numerous communities where local residents have recently pushed to revisit the 2020 election results, echoing Trump’s false claims of fraud.

Inspired by Arizona recount, Trump loyalists push to revisit election results in communities around the country

In this case, filed in December, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that counterfeit balloting occurred in the county. The judge’s ruling Friday was part of the suit’s discovery process and allows the plaintiffs to examine the ballots for evidence of their claim.

Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said the lawsuit is another attempt to sow doubt about the 2020 election results — and raise “lots of money” in the process. She suggested that the examination would be used to try to justify more voting restrictions in the state after the GOP-majority legislature passed a sweeping voting law earlier this spring.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Move to Limit a Grass-Roots Tradition of Direct Democracy, Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti, May 22, 2021. Through ballot initiatives, voters in red states have defied legislators’ wishes and produced liberal outcomes. Republicans want to make the practice harder.

In 2008, deep-blue California banned same-sex marriage. In 2018, steadfastly conservative Arkansas and Missouri increased their minimum wage. And last year, Republican-controlled Arizona and Montana legalized recreational marijuana.

These moves were all the product of ballot initiatives, a century-old fixture of American democracy that allows voters to bypass their legislatures to enact new laws, often with results that defy the desires of the state’s elected representatives. While they have been a tool of both parties in the past, Democrats have been particularly successful in recent years at using ballot initiatives to advance their agenda in conservative states where they have few other avenues.

But this year, Republican-led legislatures in Florida, Idaho, South Dakota and other states have passed laws limiting the use of the practice, one piece of a broader G.O.P. attempt to lock in political control for years to come, along with new laws to restrict voting access and the partisan redrawing of congressional districts that will take place in the coming months.

So far in 2021, Republicans have introduced 144 bills to restrict the ballot initiative processes in 32 states, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a liberal group that tracks and assists citizen-driven referendums. Of those bills, 19 have been signed into law by nine Republican governors. In three states, Republican lawmakers have asked voters to approve ballot initiatives that in fact limit their own right to bring and pass future ballot initiatives.

“They have implemented web after web of technicalities and hurdles that make it really hard for community-based groups to qualify for the ballot and counter why ballot initiatives were created in the first place,” said Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, the executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. “This is directly connected to every attack we’ve seen on our democracy.”

In recent years, Democrats have leveraged ballot initiatives to bypass Republican-controlled legislatures, enacting laws in red states that raised the minimum wage, legalized marijuana, expanded Medicaid, introduced nonpartisan redistricting and no-excuse absentee voting, and restored voting rights to people with felony convictions.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP challenger to Cheney says he impregnated 14-year-old when he was 18: ‘It’s like the Romeo and Juliet story,’ Timothy Bella, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Wyoming state Sen.Anthony Bouchard, a Republican who has announced his intention to challenge Rep. Liz Cheney (R) for her House seat, acknowledged Thursday that he had impregnated a 14-year-old and had liz cheney oa relationship with her when he was 18, comparing the teen intimacy to Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.”

Bouchard, right, first acknowledged that he impregnated a girl when he was 18 in a Facebook Live video, but did not initially disclose her age. He confirmed to the Casper Star-Tribune that the girl was14 and the couple, who were both living in Florida, later married when she was 15 and he was 19.anthony bouchard“So, bottom line, it’s a story when I was young, two teenagers, girl gets pregnant. You’ve heard those stories before,” he said in the Facebook Live video. “She was a little younger than me, so it’s like the Romeo and Juliet story.”

An 18-year-old having sex with a 14-year-old is considered statutory rape in most states. His actions would have been illegal under current Florida state law. It’s not clear what Florida’s laws were at the time as Bouchard did not specify the year the girl was impregnated. In cases where a pregnancy was involved, Florida law at the time allowed for people to marry at any age with a judge’s approval and consent from a parent.

republican elephant logoBouchard did not immediately return a request for comment Friday. He noted in his Facebook video that there was “pressure to abort a baby,” but claimed he and the girl, who has not been publicly identified, wouldn’t allow it.

“And there was pressure to have her banished from their family. Just pressure. Pressure to go hide somewhere,” he said on Facebook. “And the only thing I could see as the right thing to do was to get married and take care of him.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Everyday Misery of Life Under Israeli Occupation, David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon, May 22, 2021. The looming eviction of six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem set off a round of protests that helped ignite the latest war.

Demolished homes, divided families and sudden flareups of violence are daily indignities for millions of Palestinians.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Battle Strengthens Netanyahu, but the Price Is High, Roger Cohen, May 22, 2021. The fighting with Hamas may benefit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu politically in the short term, yet it leaves his underlying problems unresolved.

Before the latest violence erupted, leaving more than 230 Palestinians dead and over a dozen people in Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s situation appeared precarious. It seemed less so after the 11-day battle with Hamas that ended with a cease-fire early Friday.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterThis is the prime minister’s long-established mode of operation: exploit crisis to assert his centrality and inflict just enough pain on Hamas to deter another eruption for a few years, but not enough pain to change fundamentally a status quo that leaves the Palestinians divided between Gaza and the West Bank, steadily weaker, and stateless.

In early May, talks on a national unity coalition that would have ousted Mr. Netanyahu, right, were advancing. Now that idea, which might have led to an Israeli Arab party entering government for the first time, may be buried in the rubble.

Three days after Hamas began firing rockets from Gaza, Naftali Bennett, the right-wing former defense minister who was a linchpin of the alternative coalition plan, declared, “A government of change with the planned makeup will not be able to cope.” In a crisis that quickly set Jew against Arab within Israel, he could not join a government backed by an Islamist Arab party. Only one person, it was clear, could cope: Bibi, as Mr. Netanyahu is widely known.

The prime minister has put enormous energy and considerable ruthlessness into crafting this image of indispensability, weaving it deep into the Israeli subconscious. His is the baritone that soothes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Meets With South Korea’s President, Staff Reports, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Bringing North Korea “back to the pack of dialogue” is one of President Moon Jae-in’s goals for his meeting with President Biden. Here’s the latest in politics.

South Korea FlagPresident Moon Jae-in of South Korea has said that one goal for his meeting with President Biden is bringing North Korea “back on the path of dialogue.” A Biden administration official says the United States will be at the forefront of efforts to help rebuild Gaza.

moon jae in 2017 10 01President Biden met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, left, at the White House on Friday afternoon, the second in-person visit of a world leader during his presidency after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan in April.Mr. Moon, who has said denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a “matter of survival” for his country, said this month that one goal for his meeting with Mr. Biden is bringing North Korea “back on the path of dialogue.”

North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and its stockpile of fuel have roughly doubled in the past four years, a steady rise that proceeded even as President Donald J. Trump held high-drama meetings with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. In size, experts say, the North’s stockpile of nuclear arms is fast approaching those of India, Pakistan and Israel — relatively small members of the club who are seen as deploying about a hundred or so weapons, whereas the big players have thousands.

Privately, officials in the Biden administration admit they harbor no illusions that North Korea will ever give up the entirety of its program. Yet, like his predecessors, Mr. Biden has made the decision not to officially acknowledge the North as a nuclear state, aides say.

Any official acknowledgment that the North Korean arsenal is here to stay would revive the long-simmering debates about whether U.S. allies like South Korea and Japan can depend on the American nuclear umbrella — essentially a security net for countries that do not have nuclear weapons of their own.

prince harry interview may 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Prince Harry tells Oprah Winfrey of his excessive drinking and drug use — and says the royal family made him ‘suffer’ as a child, William Booth, May 22, 2021 (print ed.).Britain's Prince Harry (shown above) revealed more of his mental suffering — and anger at his father, the heir to the throne — in a series of interviews with his production partner, Oprah Winfrey, saying he spent years drinking excessively and taking drugs to numb the pain of his mother's death and to calm his anxiety over performing royal duties.

The deeply personal narrative by the runaway prince is being rolled out in several episodes of a new documentary series, “The Me You Can’t See,” that the prince is co-creating with Winfrey for the streaming service Apple TV Plus. The series deploys celebrities — Harry, singer Lady Gaga, actress Glenn Close, basketball star DeMar DeRozan — to both de-stigmatize mental illness and draw more eyeballs.

Harry described his years from age 28 to 32 as “a nightmare time in my life,” when he suffered from sweat-soaked panic attacks and severe anxiety.

“I was just all over the place mentally,” Harry said, noting that he would consume a week’s worth of alcohol in a single Friday or Saturday night.

He did not say exactly how much he drank or what drugs he took, nor whether he should be considered an alcoholic or addict. Britain’s National Health Service says “men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis,” which is six pints of lager or a bottle and a half of wine.

“I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling,” said the 36-year-old prince, now married to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, an American actress, and living in a seaside mansion in Southern California with their son, Archie — and another baby on the way.

princess diana martin bashir 1995 headshotHarry blamed his trauma on the death of his mother, Princess Diana (shown in a 1995 interview), in a high-speed car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997 and the stress of living the royal life, which he earlier compared to being an animal in a zoo, to be put on display and gawked at by the monarch’s subjects.

He directed some of his anger, again, at his father, claiming that Prince Charles made him “suffer” as a child. He also said his family never spoke of Diana’s death.

“My father used to say to me when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, ‘Well, it was like that for me, so it’s going to be like that for you,’ ” Harry said.

One of his most traumatic moments as a child, Harry said, was when he followed his mother’s horse-drawn casket in a public funeral cortege at age 12, passing throngs of onlookers, many of them openly sobbing — and staring at him.

“The thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses’ hoofs going along the Mall,” Harry told Winfrey.

“It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me. [I was] showing one-tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing: This was my mum — you never even met her,” he said.

It is worth remembering that — in contrast to the interview with Winfrey that aired on CBS in March — these interviews are not traditional journalism. Harry is co-creator and co-executive producer with Winfrey of the Apple TV series, and as such would have control of the questions, staging and editing. He is both subject and director.

Harry is also being paid for his product. The amount is unknown.

In 2019, the prince’s spokesperson said he would donate money from the series to mental health charities. But on Friday, a spokesperson declined to answer questions about the current financial arrangements and what profit Harry might take from the series.

Harry and Meghan’s website separates the nonprofit work of their Archewell Foundation from their media production deals. And Harry has acknowledged doing least some of those deals — with Netflix and Spotify — to make money, to support his family and pay for their security, after he was cut off financially from the royals.

In the Apple show, Harry said that even today, being in London prompts fight-or-flight emotions. He returned briefly in April for the funeral of his grandfather, Prince Philip.
Advertisement

“London is a trigger, unfortunately, because of what happened to my mum, and because of what I experienced and what I saw,” he said.

The interviews are awfully intimate — perhaps too much for some.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says he won’t allow Justice Dept. to seize journalists’ phone, email records, Matt Zapotosky and Anne Gearan, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). The president’s declaration follows disclosures this month that under the Trump administration, federal law enforcement secretly obtained reporters’ data.

President Biden on Friday declared that he would not allow his Justice Department to seize journalists’ phone or email records, calling the practice “simply wrong.”

At the White House, a reporter asked Biden about federal law enforcement taking such records and whether the president would “prevent your Justice Department from doing that.” Biden joked with the reporter, then grew serious, saying: “Absolutely, positively it’s wrong. It’s simply, simply wrong.”

“So you won’t let your Justice Department do that?” the reported asked.

“I will not let that happen,” the president responded.

Biden’s declaration follows recent disclosures that during the Trump administration, the Justice Department secretly sought the records of four journalists, three for their work at The Washington Post and one for her reporting at CNN.

Trump Justice Department secretly obtained CNN correspondent’s phone, email records

Media organizations and free-press advocates decried the moves, asking whether the Justice Department had followed its own policies and noting that such tactics have a chilling effect on journalists’ ability to uncover essential information about the government. Two Democratic lawmakers — Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.) — wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to stop using the tactic. But until the president’s assertion Friday, his administration had not renounced the practice.

ny times logoNew York Times, America’s Prisons Have Lower Vaccination Rates, Ann Hinga Klein and Maura Turcotte, May 22, 2021. Many prisoners and even guards are refusing vaccinations, creating potential hot spots for the virus. Here’s the latest on the pandemic. Vaccinations in many American prisons, jails and detention centers are lagging far behind the United States as a whole, prompting public health officials to worry that these settings will remain fertile ground for frequent, fast-spreading coronavirus outbreaks for a long time to come.

Nationally, more than 60 percent of people 18 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine so far. But only about 40 percent of federal prison inmates, and half of those in the largest state prison systems, have done so. And in immigration detention centers, the figure is just 20 percent.

With the overall pace of vaccinations slowing in the United States — down to about 1.88 million doses a day on average, according to federal data — the Biden administration has been stepping up efforts to win over the hesitant and reach people in underserved and vulnerable communities and those facing access issues.

Over the course of the pandemic, prison inmates have been more than three times as likely as other Americans to become infected with the virus, according to a New York Times database. The virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population, the data shows, and at least 2,700 have died in custody.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats’ very real nightmare scenarios on Stephen Breyer, Aaron Blake, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). The effort to get the 82-year-old Supreme Court justice to retire has been muted — as if Democrats have time to sort things out. They might not.

Thanks to coincidences and some bare-knuckle politics by GOP leaders, Democrats are staring down the most conservative Supreme Court in decades. And this past week, they got a reminder about how pivotal that could be. The court decided to take up a key abortion case that conservatives hope the newly 6-3 conservative court could use to unravel Roe v. Wade.

Democrats’ response has been somewhat muted: They’ve begun work on President Biden’s court reform commission, while some have re-upped an effort to pack the Supreme Court with more justices.

But this is misguided — and not just because packing the court is somewhere between wishful thinking and a pipe dream. It’s also because the most pressing and realistically crucial question about the future of the court is the future of Justice Stephen G. Breyer. And time is more of the essence than many seem to appreciate.

democratic donkey logoThere is an effort to get Breyer, 82, to step aside in the name of allowing a Democratic president and a Democratic-controlled Senate to replace him before the 2022 elections. (At that point, the 50-50 Senate could rather easily revert to GOP control.) Many on the left defended Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg against calls for her to step down when Barack Obama and a Democratic Senate could have replaced her. That didn’t exactly turn out well.

But the Breyer effort is in no danger of overcompensating for that. And that’s especially remarkable given how eminently possible it is that Democrats won’t even have another year and a half to replace him.

University of Colorado law professor Paul F. Campos noted in a March New York Times op-ed that seats switch from one party to another between elections more often than you might think.

 

anthony michael peace

Tampa Bay Times, Hillsborough teacher dead after arrest in child predator sting, Jack Evans, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). A county spokesperson confirmed the death of Anthony Micheal Peace, 37, shown above in a mug shot, who was released from jail Thursday after being arrested May 19 on felony charges of unlawful use of a two-way communications device, use of computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts, and five counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor.

He died after being released from jail May 20, a county spokesperson said.

Associated Press, Epstein guards to skirt jail time in deal with prosecutors, Michael Balsamo, May 22, 2021. The two Bureau of Prisons workers tasked with guarding Jeffrey Epstein the night he killed ap logohimself in a New York jail have admitted they falsified records, but they will skirt any time behind bars under a deal with federal prosecutors, authorities said Friday.

The prison workers, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, were accused of sleeping and browsing the internet instead of monitoring Epstein, right, the night he took his own life in August 2019.

They were charged with lying on prison records to make it seem as though they had made required checks on the financier before he was found in his cell. New York City’s medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide.

jeffrey epstein sex offenderAs part of the deal with prosecutors, they will enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department and will serve no time behind bars, according to a letter from federal prosecutors that was filed in court papers Friday. Noel and Thomas would instead be subjected to supervised release, would be required to complete 100 hours of community service and would be required to fully cooperate with an ongoing probe by the Justice Department’s inspector general, it says.

Justice Department log circularThe two have “admitted that they ‘willfully and knowingly completed materially false count and round slips regarding required counts and rounds’” in the housing unit where Epstein was being held, the letter says.

The deal would need to be approved by a judge, which could happen as soon as next week. Attorneys for the guards did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has been a vocal critic of the Justice Department’s handling of Epstein’s case, called the deal “unacceptable” and said the public deserves to see a report detailing the prison agency’s failures.

“One hundred hours of community service is a joke — this isn’t traffic court,” Sasse said in a statement. “The leader of an international child sex trafficking ring escaped justice, his co-conspirators had their secrets go to the grave with him, and these guards are going to be picking up trash on the side of the road.”

Prosecutors alleged that Noel and Thomas sat at their desks just 15 feet from Epstein’s cell, shopped online for furniture and motorcycles, and walked around the unit’s common area instead of making required rounds every 30 minutes.

During one two-hour period, both appeared to have been asleep, according to the indictment filed against them.

Both officers who were guarding Epstein were working overtime because of staffing shortages. One of the guards, who did not primarily work as a correctional officer, was working a fifth straight day of overtime. The other guard was working mandatory overtime, meaning a second eight-hour shift of the day.

   

May 21

Top Headlines 

 

 World News 

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

More On Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Probes

 

More On U.S. Abortion Politics, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

 U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Media News

  

Trump Watch

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel-Gaza Conflict: As fragile cease-fire holds, eyes turn to suffering in Gaza and Netanyahu’s political future, Shira Rubin, Michael E. Miller and Steve Hendrix, May 21, 2021 Gaza faces dire humanitarian situation. Both Israel and Hamas claimed success after the cease-fire, but hard-right Israeli politicians lambasted the agreement ending 11 days of violence, and Hamas warned “our hands are on the trigger and we will continue to grow the capabilities of this resistance.”

As a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants held into Friday afternoon, attention shifted from the 11-day conflict to the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, expected political fallout for Israel’s embattled prime minister, and a lasting Palestinian civil unrest movement that on Friday threatened to reemerge around a holy site in Jerusalem.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said “riots” broke out Friday afternoon, following prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque, involving hundreds of Palestinians who “threw rocks and petrol bombs at police officers.” He said they were then dispersed by Israeli police. Similar flare-ups around the sacred compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, known as the Temple Mount by Jews and as the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims, triggered the Israel-Hamas conflict 12 days ago.

The development in Jerusalem came as international leaders including President Biden welcomed news of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Biden, along with other world leaders, pledged support for reconstruction in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes aimed at Hamas have damaged electricity and water systems, according to aid agencies. Gaza’s fishing zone has remained closed since May 9, according to the Israeli army.

Both Israel and Hamas claimed success after the cease-fire.

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel and Hamas Agree to Cease-Fire in Gaza Conflict, Staff Report, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). Deal to Take Effect Soon, After More Than 10 Days of Fighting. The news comes after intensive mediation by several nations amid growing international pressure to stop the fighting. Since May 10, Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has fired rockets into Israel, and Israel has bombed targets in Gaza. Here’s the latest.

The cease-fire would take effect on Friday morning, officials on both sides said, after 11 days of fighting.

A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas took effect early Friday morning, hours after both sides agreed to halt more than 10 days of fighting that had claimed hundreds of lives.

The truce, mediated by Egypt

Israel FlagA senior Hamas official based in Qatar confirmed in a telephone interview that the group had agreed to a cease-fire mediated by Egypt, beginning at 2 a.m. on Friday, 7 p.m. Thursday in the Eastern United States. The Egyptian government confirmed the timing of the truce.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterIn Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that his security cabinet had voted unanimously to accept the Egyptian proposal, but cautioned “that the reality on the ground will determine the continuation of the campaign.”

In a broadcast address from the White House, President Biden lamented “the tragic deaths of so many civilians, including children,” and lauded Israeli and Egyptian officials. Noting that he had spoken with Mr. Netanyahu six times during the crisis, he said, “I commend him for the decision to bring the current hostilities to a close in less than 11 days.”

He vowed to marshal international resource to rebuild Gaza, adding, “we will do this in full partnership with the Palestinian Authority — not Hamas, the Authority — in a manner that does not permit Hamas to restock its arsenal.”

Since May 10, Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has fired rockets into Israel, and Israel has bombed targets in Gaza. Sirens sounded in Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip in the minutes after the Israeli announcement, indicating that militants were continuing to fire rockets.

There has been intensive mediation between Hamas and Israel, which do not talk to each other directly, by several nations amid growing international pressure to stop the fighting, and both sides have said this week that they were open to a cease-fire.

The Israeli aerial and artillery campaign has killed more than 230 people in Gaza, many of them civilians, and badly damaged the impoverished territory’s infrastructure, including the fresh water and sewer systems, the electrical grid, hospitals, schools and roads. The primary target has been Hamas’s extensive network of tunnels for moving fighters and munitions, and Israel has also sought to kill Hamas leaders and fighters.

More than 4,000 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since May 10, killing 12 people, mostly civilians.

Diplomats from Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations have mediated between the two sides. Hamas has never recognized Israel’s existence, and Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

The cease-fire announcement also followed behind-the-scenes pressure from the Biden administration. The United States has no contact with Hamas, which it and the European Union also consider a terrorist group, but the administration has nevertheless played an important role in efforts to end the conflict.

Hamas and Israel have been engaged in some form of conflict since the Palestinian group was founded in the 1980s. This particular round of military action began as Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem in response to several police raids on the Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, and the planned evictions of several Palestinian families from their homes in the city.

Even if the fighting pauses, its underlying causes remain: the battle over land rights in Jerusalem and the West Bank, religious tensions in the Old City of Jerusalem and the absence of a peace process to resolve the conflict. Gaza remains under a punishing blockade by Israel and Egypt.

ny times logoNew York Times, W.H.O. Says Covid Deaths Could Be Double or Triple the Official Numbers, Staff Reports, May 21, 2021. Some six to eight million people may have died from the virus or related world health organization logo Customcauses, the organization said, a figure far higher than the official toll. Patients in Africa with severe Covid-19 are more likely to die, research found. Get the latest on the pandemic.

  • Virus deaths are probably two to three times more than official records, the W.H.O. says.
  • Patients in Africa with severe Covid are more likely to die, research finds.
  • Japan approves the Moderna and AstraZeneca shots, hoping to speed up vaccinations.
  • A new canine coronavirus was detected in a pneumonia patient, study says.
  • Argentina orders a nine-day lockdown as Covid-19 cases, and deaths, mount.
  • Los Angeles shifts its vaccine approach: Don’t come to us, we’ll come to you.
  • ‘Get your shot for a shot to win,’ Maryland’s governor tells residents.
  • Indoors? Outdoors? Masks? Swimming? Experts weigh in on activities for children.
  • Italy’s vaccine drive runs up against a sacred institution: summer vacation

 tribune publishing logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Tribune shareholders vote to sell legendary chain of newspapers to hedge fund, Elahe Izadi and Sarah Ellison, May 21, 2021. It appears to mark the defeat of a year-long effort by the newspapers’ journalists, concerned about Alden Global Capital’s cost-cutting practices, to find wealthy local buyers instead.

Shareholders of Tribune Publishing Company and its storied newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune, voted Friday to sell the company to a hedge fund with a reputation for slashing staff and deep cost-cutting.

alden global capital logoThe company’s shareholders approved the sale valued at around $630 million Friday in a vote that appears to bring Tribune’s nine daily newspapers under the ownership of Alden Global Capital.

Representatives for Tribune’s board did not immediately return The Post’s inquiry Friday, but Alden confirmed its purchase in a statement after several Tribune journalists, who own Tribune shares and attended Friday’s meeting, immediately shared the outcome of Friday’s vote. Maryland businessman Stewart Bainum Jr., who attempted to put together a competing offer for Tribune, also put out a statement acknowledging Alden’s victory.

A purchase by Alden would represent the defeat of a year-long public campaign waged by Tribune news staffers to find an alternate buyer. They had pleaded for well-heeled local investors to buy their newspapers instead, casting Alden’s takeover as an apocalyptic outcome for journalism in their communities.

Alden has become one of the country’s largest newspaper operators, owning around 200 titles including the Boston Herald, Mercury News and Los Angeles Daily News. The hedge fund has been buying newspapers since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and has since cut jobs in many newsrooms and sold off real estate assets to establish higher-than-average profit margins.

The sale is also the latest chapter in the tumultuous history of Tribune, whose properties also include the Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant and Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.

Advertising revenue in the newspaper industry peaked in 2005, and the overall decline since then has put tremendous pressure on all newspaper proprietors. But Tribune publications have had a particularly tortured relationship with their owners, ever since an ill-fated leveraged buyout by real estate developer Sam Zell took the company private in 2007. He burdened the company with $13 billion in debt that forced the company into what was then the largest media bankruptcy in history.

usda logo horizontal Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, USDA to start payouts, debt forgiveness for 13,000 Black, Hispanic and other minority farmers in June, Laura Reiley, May 21, 2021. White farmers, banking groups and legislators argue that the relief is a form of reverse discrimination and could hurt lenders.

Up to 13,000 Black and other minority farmers could start to see thousands of dollars in loan forgiveness beginning in June, as a part of the federal stimulus package that aimed to help disadvantaged farmers but has been delayed for months.

Some $4 billion of the American Rescue Plan Act was allocated for debt relief for disadvantaged farmers of color to remedy centuries of government discrimination. Black farmers had accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture of dragging its feet on the program, because, so far, no money has gone out the door.

However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency announced on Friday that notices to disadvantaged farmers are going out, explaining that the debt relief money is now available, and that the agency expects to start paying the Farm Service Agency direct loans in early June.
Advertisement

Civil rights activists have said the debt relief program represents a big step toward righting a wrong after a century of mistreatment of farmers of color by the government and others. Meanwhile, White farmers and some lawmakers have criticized the program, calling it a form of reverse racism, and banks have warned it would financially harm lending institutions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Treasury targets tax cheats, cryptocurrency in plan to raise $700 billion, Jeff Stein, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). Beefing up IRS enforcement may prove politically easier than raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations and could be a key source of revenue for the Biden administration’s spending plans.

The Treasury Department on Thursday announced a plan to raise an additional $700 billion through new tax compliance measures, a potentially key source of revenue for the Biden administration’s multitrillion-dollar spending proposals.

irs logoIn a 22-page report, Treasury officials identified a number of policies to increase enforcement aimed at closing the “tax gap” between what taxpayers owe to the federal government and what they actually pay. These include increased reporting requirements, new tools for auditors, massively increasing the Internal Revenue Service’s budget, and new rules on cryptocurrency, among other measures.

charles rettigSome of the changes — such as billions of dollars in additional spending at the IRS — would require congressional approval, and many Republicans have long tried to shrink the agency. But the White House said the proposed investments would pay off by allowing the agency to collect the taxes that are due.
Advertisement

Treasury’s Office of Tax Analysis estimated that the changes could bring in an additional $700 billion in tax collections over the next decade, as well as $1.6 trillion in the decade after that. Treasury said Thursday that the current tax gap is about $600 billion per year, although IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, left, recently said the number could exceed $1 trillion.

Even partly closing that gulf could go a long way toward paying for President Biden’s spending proposals, which include trillions of dollars for infrastructure, child care, manufacturing and other domestic spending priorities

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Technobabble, Libertarian Derp and Bitcoin, Paul Krugman, right, May 20, 2021. A number of readers have asked me to weigh in on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, whose paul krugmanfluctuations have dominated a lot of market news. Would I please comment on what it’s all about, and what’s going on?

The story so far:

Bitcoin, the first and biggest cryptocurrency, was introduced in 2009. It uses an encryption key, similar to those used in hard-to-break codes — hence the “crypto” — to establish chains of ownership in tokens that entitle their current holders to … well, ownership of those tokens. And nowadays we use Bitcoin to buy houses and cars, pay our bills, make business investments, and more.

Oh, wait. We don’t do any of those things.

Twelve years on, cryptocurrencies play almost no role in normal economic activity. Almost the only time we hear about them being used as a means of payment — as opposed to speculative trading — is in association with illegal activity, like money laundering or the Bitcoin ransom Colonial Pipeline paid to hackers who shut it down.

Twelve years is an eon in information technology time. Venmo, which I can use to share restaurant bills, buy fresh fruit at sidewalk kiosks, and much more, was also introduced in 2009. Apple unveiled its first-generation iPad in 2010. Zoom came into use in 2012. 

If normal, law-abiding people don’t use cryptocurrency, it’s not for lack of effort on the part of crypto boosters. Many highly paid person-hours have been spent trying to find the killer app, the thing that will finally get the masses using Bitcoin, Ethereum or some other brand daily.

But I’ve been in numerous meetings with enthusiasts for cryptocurrency and/or blockchain, the concept that underlies it. In such meetings I and others always ask, as politely as we can: “What problem does this technology solve? What does it do that other, much cheaper and easier-to-use technologies can’t do just as well or better?” I still haven’t heard a clear answer.

Yet investors continue to pay huge sums for digital tokens. The values of major cryptocurrencies fluctuate wildly — Bitcoin fell 30 percent Wednesday morning, then made up most of the losses that afternoon. Their collective value has, however, at times exceeded $2 trillion, more than half the value of all the intellectual property owned by U.S. business.

Why are people willing to pay large sums for assets that don’t seem to do anything? The answer, obviously, is that the prices of these assets keep going up, so that early investors made a lot of money, and their success keeps drawing in new investors.

washington post logoWashington Post, After backing Assad, Iran and Russia compete for influence and spoils of war, Sarah Dadouch, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). As the fighting winds down across much of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad's two main backers, Iran and Russia, have been competing for influence and the spoils of war.

bashar assad damascus 8 20 17 sanaBoth countries have promoted their respective languages, Farsi and Russian, for instruction in Syrian schools. Both have signed contracts to construct flour mills amid a dire shortage of bread. Both are building power plants.

Syria FlagAnd both have been vying for contracts in oil extraction, phosphate mining and port construction worth many millions of dollars, according to Jihad Yazigi, the head of the Syria Report, a leading business newsletter. “They are targeting the same sectors, although they haven’t had the same success,” he said.

Russian companies have traditionally prevailed in these contested sectors, for instance winning five oil contracts between 2013 and 2020, though Iran succeeded last year in landing the first Syrian oil contract of its own. In the spring of 2019, Syria announced it was planning to lease the Tartus port to Russia and turn over the container terminal at the Latakia port to Iran, but the latter contract later fell through.

Syria had also initially promised Iran a contract for phosphate mining but then changed direction and awarded it in 2018 to a Russian company, which is set to receive 70 percent of revenue from extracted phosphate over the course of 50 years, Yazigi said.

Russia is seeking to help Syria rebuild bridges with the wider Arab world, most of which views Iran with suspicion. Russia also backs a U.N.-facilitated constitutional committee assigned with rewriting the constitution, and the Kremlin has been pushing for presidential and parliamentary elections since 2015 — one year after elections were held, and six years earlier than the constitution requires.

Iran’s strategic interests seem to be focused in large part on controlling a land corridor that stretches from Syria’s eastern border with Iraq all the way to the Mediterranean. This corridor would allow Iran to far more easily supply its ally Hezbollah in Lebanon with weapons and other materiel.

princess diana martin bashir 1995

washington post logoWashington Post, BBC reporter used ‘deceitful behaviour’ to secure 1995 Princess Diana interview, investigation concludes, William Booth, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). It was the biggest "get" of its day, when a young and mostly unknown BBC journalist named Martin Bashir got a jaw-dropping interview in 1995 with Princess Diana, who sensationally confessed to her misery in her marriage to Prince Charles, saying it led to her bulimia, self-harm and the couple's extramarital affairs.

Now, all these years later, an independent investigation released Thursday concludes that Bashir (shown above with her) used fake documents and “deceitful behaviour” in engineering a crucial meeting that led to the interview, viewed at the time as a journalistic triumph, winning 23 million viewers in Britain alone and a shelf lined with awards.

bbc news logo2Diana’s son Prince William said Bashir’s deceits “substantially influenced” what his mother said in the interview about Charles and the palace.

“The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others,” William said in a statement Thursday, unusual for its intensity.

“It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her,” he said.

The interview created a false narrative and should never be aired again, the prince said.

BBC Chairman Richard Sharp said Thursday that the organization “unreservedly accepted” the report’s findings, which showed “unacceptable failures.” Management should have made more effort “to get to the bottom of what happened” during its own internal probe in 1996.

Former BBC director general John Birt branded Bashir, a former star, “a rogue reporter” and called the report “shocking.” He added that “it is a matter of the greatest regret that it has taken 25 years for the full truth to emerge.”

princess diana martin bashir 1995 headshotBashir last week retired from the BBC at age 58, citing health reasons.

The BBC said it will now return all awards the interview won and that it has written “personal apologies” to Diana’s sons, William and Harry, to Charles and to Diana’s brother.

The six-month inquiry, done at the behest of the BBC and carried out by former British Supreme Court judge John Dyson, is scathing in its conclusions, not only about Bashir’s sketchy tactics, but the BBC’s failure to uphold its gold-plated reputation.

The former judge found that Bashir carried out a sophisticated ruse and lied to his bosses about it, and that the BBC, having been alerted to his behavior, mostly papered over it and sought to evade scrutiny on the topic.

Dyson concludes that Bashir tricked Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, into introducing the journalist to the troubled princess, shown above left. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Meets With South Korea’s President, Staff Reports, May 21, 2021. Bringing North Korea “back to the pack of dialogue” is one of President Moon Jae-in’s goals for his meeting with President Biden. Here’s the latest in politics.

South Korea FlagPresident Moon Jae-in of South Korea has said that one goal for his meeting with President Biden is bringing North Korea “back on the path of dialogue.” A Biden administration official says the United States will be at the forefront of efforts to help rebuild Gaza.

moon jae in 2017 10 01President Biden met with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, left, at the White House on Friday afternoon, the second in-person visit of a world leader during his presidency after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan in April.Mr. Moon, who has said denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a “matter of survival” for his country, said this month that one goal for his meeting with Mr. Biden is bringing North Korea “back on the path of dialogue.”

North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and its stockpile of fuel have roughly doubled in the past four years, a steady rise that proceeded even as President Donald J. Trump held high-drama meetings with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. In size, experts say, the North’s stockpile of nuclear arms is fast approaching those of India, Pakistan and Israel — relatively small members of the club who are seen as deploying about a hundred or so weapons, whereas the big players have thousands.

Privately, officials in the Biden administration admit they harbor no illusions that North Korea will ever give up the entirety of its program. Yet, like his predecessors, Mr. Biden has made the decision not to officially acknowledge the North as a nuclear state, aides say.

Any official acknowledgment that the North Korean arsenal is here to stay would revive the long-simmering debates about whether U.S. allies like South Korea and Japan can depend on the American nuclear umbrella — essentially a security net for countries that do not have nuclear weapons of their own

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden vowed to ‘follow the science’ but left many out with mask guidance, Annie Linskey, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Lena H. Sun and Tyler Pager, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). Local and state health departments, labor unions, governors and other public officials were caught off guard by the sudden announcement.

President Biden repeats the phrase frequently. “We follow the science,” he pledged on a visit to the National Institutes of Health. “Follow the science,” he told staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This administration will follow the science,” he said during a White House event announcing the 50 millionth vaccine shot delivered to an American.

cdc logo CustomA week ago, the president did just that — strolling to the Rose Garden to trumpet new guidance from the CDC that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks or socially distance in most instances.

But in following that scientific advice, the administration left out nearly everyone else — local and state health departments, labor unions, governors and numerous other public officials, many of whom were caught off guard by one of the most significant developments of the coronavirus pandemic.

And in Biden’s rush to share the mask news with little context or discussion, some White House insiders, Biden allies and public health experts worry that the administration may have inadvertently encouraged millions of unvaccinated Americans to stop wearing masks.

“This guidance may be quite appropriate as individual guidance, but it is not appropriate as guidance for community action,” said Tom Frieden, who was the CDC director under President Barack Obama.

“There was no urgency to change the mask guidance. That should have been done in a more planful way,” Frieden continued, adding: “I haven’t said that on the record before.”

Zeke Emanuel, a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, who was on Biden’s transition task force, was similarly critical.

“It wasn’t well done,” Emanuel said. “Slowing this down would have been the prudent thing to improve the communication and ensure that all the considerations that were needed on such a momentous decision were in fact taken into account, and that the administration had answers for the very, very obvious potential scenarios.”

The impact of the new guidance has been swift and far-reaching. At least 17 states dropped or pulled back their mask mandates for fully vaccinated people since May 13, according to a tally by AARP, and others are planning to implement changes in coming days. Mandates were dropped in places such as Connecticut and Vermont, which lead the country in vaccination rates, but also in states such as Nevada, where about a third of the population is fully vaccinated.

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid Killed His Father. Then Came $1 Million in Medical Bills, Sarah Kliff, May 21, 2021. Insurers and Congress wrote rules to protect coronavirus patients, but the bills came anyway, leaving some mired in debt.

One coronavirus survivor manages her medical bills in color-coded folders: green, red and tan for different types of documents. A man whose father died of the virus last fall uses an Excel spreadsheet to organize the outstanding debts. It has 457 rows, one for each of his father’s bills, totaling over $1 million.

These are people who are facing the financial version of long-haul Covid: They’ve found their lives and finances upended by medical bills resulting from a bout with the virus.

Their desks and coffee tables have stacks of billing documents. They are fluent in the jargon of coronavirus medical coding, after hundreds of hours of phone calls discussing the charges with hospitals, doctors and insurers.

“People think there is some relief program for medical bills for coronavirus patients,” said Jennifer Miller, a psychologist near Milwaukee who is working with a lawyer to challenge thousands in outstanding debt from two emergency room visits last year. “It just doesn’t exist.”

Americans with other serious illnesses regularly face exorbitant and confusing bills after treatment, but things were supposed to be different for coronavirus patients. Many large health plans wrote special rules, waiving co-payments and deductibles for coronavirus hospitalizations. When doctors and hospitals accepted bailout funds, Congress barred them from “balance-billing” patients — the practice of seeking additional payment beyond what the insurer has paid.

Interviews with more than a dozen patients suggest those efforts have fallen short. Some with private insurance are bearing the costs of their coronavirus treatments, and the bills can stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Activities Can Unvaccinated Children Do? Advice From 828 Experts, Claire Cain Miller, Margot Sanger-Katz and Kevin Quealy, May 21, 2021. This phase of the pandemic, when adults can be vaccinated but young children cannot, is confusing for many families.

Children 12 to 17 are now eligible to get vaccinated. Here’s what we know about giving Covid shots to kids.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jobless claims set new pandemic low as GOP-led states move to slash unemployment benefits, Taylor Telford, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). Some 444,000 Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department reported. At this time last year, that number ballooned past 2.3 million. 

Some 444,000 Americans filed first-time unemployment claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, chalking up another pandemic low as the labor market continues to recover and a cluster of state lawmakers threaten to slash benefits.

That’s down 34,000 from the previous week’s upwardly revised level, marking the third consecutive weekly decline in initial unemployment claims. Georgia, Kentucky, Texas, Michigan and Alabama saw some of the biggest drop-offs in filings. New Jersey, Washington and Oklahoma were among the only states with spikes in claims greater than 1,000.

At this time last year, weekly unemployment claims ballooned past 2.3 million. Now, claims are at their lowest level since mid-March 2020.

The report comes as a wave of 22 Republican-led states say they will opt out of expanded unemployment benefits, which they argue are preventing people from returning to the labor market. The temporary $300 weekly benefit was slated to expire in September, but states such as Texas, Arizona and Ohio plan to cut it off in June.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 161.3 million vaccinated, as of May 21, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 57.4 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 48.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 21, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 165,860,973, Deaths: 3,444,989
U.S. Cases:     33,833,181, Deaths:     602,616
India Cases:    26,031,991, Deaths:     291,365
Brazil Cases:   15,898,558, Deaths:     444,391

 

More On Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Probes

washington post logoWashington Post, Several Republicans who oppose Jan. 6 commission are potential witnesses about Trump’s conduct that day, Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). Their testimony could answer questions about former president Donald Trump’s state of mind that day, how responsive he was to pleas for help and whether he blocked or delayed his administration’s response.

Their testimony could answer questions about Trump’s state of mind that day, how responsive he was to pleas for help and whether he blocked or delayed his administration’s response.

But if Republican leaders are successful in sinking the bill, their accounts of that day may never come to light.

Jamie Gorelick, a former member of the bipartisan commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said it was “exceedingly unusual” for potential witnesses to be the ones deciding whether there should be a commission.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The threat of violence now infuses GOP politics. We should all be afraid, Michael Gerson, right, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). American politics is being conducted under the threat of michael gerson file photoviolence.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has a talent for constructive bluntness, describes a political atmosphere within the GOP heavy with fear. “If you look at the vote to impeach,” she said recently, “there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives.” The events of Jan. 6 have only intensified the alarm. When Donald Trump insists he is “still the rightful president,” Cheney wrote in an op-ed for The Post, he “repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6.” And there’s good reason, Cheney argued, “to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again.”

Sometimes political events force us to step back in awe, or horror, or both. The (former) third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives has accused a former president of her party of employing the threat of violence as a tool of intimidation. And election officials around the country — Republican and Democratic — can attest to the results: Death threats. Racist harassment. Armed protesters at their homes.

From one perspective, this is not new. Trump has made a point of encouraging violence against protesters at his rallies (“knock the crap out of them”), excusing violence by his supporters (people "with tremendous passion and love for their country”) and generally acting like a two-bit mob boss. He publicly supported Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with homicide in the killing of two people in Kenosha, Wis. (Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty.) He embraced Mark and Patricia McCloskey for brandishing guns at peaceful marchers in St. Louis. He deployed federal security forces to break heads in Lafayette Square.

If Trump has a political philosophy, one of its main tenets is toxic masculinity — the use of menace and swagger to cover his mental and moral impotence. And the mini-Trumps have taken their master’s lead. When Trump operative Stephen K. Bannon proposed that Anthony S. Fauci should be beheaded, when Trump ally Joseph diGenova said a federal cybersecurity official should be “taken out at dawn and shot,” when Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani urged Trump supporters to engage in “trial by combat,” all of this was more than paunchy, pathetic, aging White men talking smack they could never back up. It exemplified a type of politics where cruelty is the evidence of commitment, brutality is the measure of loyalty and violence is equated with power.

This approach to politics is disturbing at any time. But now it has fastened itself upon an object, a project. Rather than trying to win future elections by attracting new voters, Trump Republicans wish to reshape the electoral system to produce more favorable results. Instead of using the 2020 presidential loss as a guide for additional outreach, Trump Republicans want to ensure they can claim and enforce a victory in 2024 with essentially the same vote total as 2020 — probably the high-water mark of the Trump coalition.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Tim Ryan blasts GOP opponents of Jan. 6 commission: ‘What else has to happen in this country?’ Katie Shepherd, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). As it became clear on Wednesday that Republican leaders will battle to prevent an independent commission on the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, one Democrat’s frustration boiled over on the House floor.

tim ryan o 2010In a fiery speech, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), right, laid into the majority of Republicans who voted against taking a deeper look at how the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol came about.

“We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship,” Ryan said, raising his voice.

“What else has to happen in this country?” he continued. “This is a slap in the face to every rank-and-file cop in the United States.” The assault on the Capitol resulted in the deaths of five people, and 140 police officers were injured.

The striking moment swiftly went viral, with one clip gaining more than 3 million views by early Thursday, as a chorus of Democrats — and a few anti-Trump conservatives — joined Ryan in criticizing the GOP for not uniting behind the probe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona secretary of state says Maricopa County should replace millions of dollars worth of voting equipment because of GOP-backed recount, Rosalind S. Helderman, May 21, 2021 (print ed.).  'Where does this end?': Arizona is still auditing its 2020 election results.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), right, the state’s chief elections officer, advised Maricopa County Thursday that it should replace all voting machines that were turned over to a private contractor for an audit of the 2020 presidential election, citing “grave concerns regarding the security and integrity” of the machines that make them unusable for future elections.

katie hobbsHobbs’ guidance, outlined in a letter to county officials, is the latest fallout from a review of the election ordered by Republicans in the Arizona state Senate, who used a subpoena to order the county to turn over voting machines and nearly 2.1 million ballots to reexamine last fall’s vote.

The chief executive of the private company hired to conduct the audit has echoed false allegations that the election was stolen, and the process has been widely criticized by election experts as insecure and unprofessional.

Millions of dollars worth of Maricopa’s voting equipment used in the 2020 election — including nine tabulating machines used at a central counting facility and 385 precinct-based tabulators — were removed from a county facility and placed in the custody of Florida-based company Cyber Ninjas at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the review in late April.

In her letter, Hobbs wrote that after the machines were handed over to the Senate and Cyber Ninjas, “it is unclear what, if any procedures were in place or followed to ensure physical security and proper chain of custody.” She noted that no election official or observer was allowed to remain with the machines while Cyber Ninjas and its subcontractors examined them.
Image without a caption

“The lack of physical security and transparency means we cannot be certain who accessed the voting equipment and what might have been done to them,” she wrote, advising that the county “should acquire new machines to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County going forward.”

Megan Gilbertson, a spokeswoman for the county elections department, said in a statement that the department was “working with our attorneys on next steps, costs and what will be needed to ensure only certified equipment is used in Maricopa County.”

“We will not use any of the returned tabulation equipment unless the county, state and vendor are confident that there is no malicious hardware or software installed on the devices,” she said.

A spokesman for Senate President Karen Fann (R) did not immediately respond to a request, nor did a spokesman for the audit.

The warning from Hobbs comes as election officials around the country contend with calls by Donald Trump supporters to launch their own Arizona-style reviews of the vote tallies in their communities.

Inspired by Arizona recount, Trump loyalists push to revisit election results in communities around the country.

Hobbs wrote that she did not make the costly recommendation lightly, but said she had consulted with experts, including at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, who agreed it was the right move.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys member who allegedly shouted about taking the Capitol before breach is arrested, Spencer S. Hsu, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. authorities have arrested three more alleged associates of two right-wing groups in the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, including one who allegedly shouted, “Let’s take the f---ing Capitol!” an hour before the assault while marching with a large group of Proud Boys around the building.

Charging papers identified Daniel Lyons Scott, 28, of Bradenton, Fla., as the Proud Boys member nicknamed “Milkshake,” who after allegedly yelling about taking the Capitol was admonished, “Let’s not f---ing yell that, okay?” by a Proud Boys leader on a video live-streamed by the group that day. In the same moments, court documents allege, accused leader Ethan Nordean was recorded saying, “It was Milkshake, man, you know . . . idiot!”

Nordean and three other Proud Boys seen near him that day have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to obstruct police and the joint session of Congress to confirm the 2020 election results.

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Trump-Brazil Plot to Steal 2020 Election Appears to Have Been "Plan B" After Failure of Trump-Ukraine Collusion, Seth Abramson, May 20, 2021. A picture is emerging of how Trump and his top allies sought to use manufactured evidence from South America to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election.

seth abramson proof logoUnbeknownst to most news consumers in America, the two reports on Trump-Brazil collusion at Proof—both relating to the January 6 insurrection—produced an ongoing congressional inquiry in Brazil, and substantial coverage in the Brazilian press on the Bolsonaro government’s possible involvement in Donald Trump’s ongoing domestic insurgency.

A new investigative report emanating from the coverage of the scandal in Brazil now inflects our understanding of it substantially, as it helps position the de facto Brazilian ambassador on January 6 at the heart of a plot to steal a U.S. election.

The story behind this new report begins—as do so many stories of Donald Trump’s clandestine activities in South America—not in Brazil but its neighbor to the north, Venezuela.

 

U.S. Abortion Politics, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Case Throws Abortion Into 2022 Election Picture, Carl Hulse and Lisa Lerer, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). Supporters and opponents of abortion rights say a major ruling just before the midterm elections could upend political calculations for the two parties.

Motivated in part by a belief that the Supreme Court will give them new latitude to restrict access, Republican-dominated states continue to adopt strict new legislation, with Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signing into law on Wednesday a prohibition on abortions after as early as six weeks. The law, sure to face legal challenges, is one of more than 60 new state-level restrictions enacted this year, with texas mapmany more pending.

With the Supreme Court ruling likely to come next year — less than six months before midterm elections that will determine control of Congress and the future of President Biden’s agenda — the court’s expanded conservative majority has injected new volatility into an already turbulent political atmosphere, leaving both parties to game out the potential consequences.

Republicans had already shown that they intended to take aim at Democrats over social issues, and abortion will only amplify the culture wars.

Nearly all agree that the latest fight over Roe, which has been building for years, is certain to have significant political repercussions. Conservative voters are traditionally more energized than liberals about the abortion debate, and for many of them it has been the single issue spurring voter turnout.

But Democrats, likely to be on the defensive given their current hold on the White House and Congress, say a ruling broadly restricting abortion rights by a court whose ideological makeup has been altered by three Trump-era appointees could backfire on Republicans and galvanize women.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Sends Republicans New Infrastructure Offer, but a Gulf Remains, Jim Tankersley and Nicholas Fandos, May 21, 2021. President Biden’s $1.7 trillion proposal cuts $500 billion from his initial plan, but it does little to resolve questions of how to offset the spending. 

The Biden administration sent Senate Republicans an offer on Friday for a bipartisan infrastructure agreement that sliced more than $500 billion off the president’s initial proposal, a move that White House officials hoped would jump-start the talks but that Republicans swiftly rejected.

The lack of progress emboldened liberals in Congress to call anew for Mr. Biden to abandon his hopes of forging a compromise with a Republican conference that has denounced his $4 trillion economic agenda as too expensive and insufficiently targeted. They urged the president instead to begin an attempt to move his plans on a party-line vote through the same process that produced his economic stimulus legislation this year.

Mr. Biden has said repeatedly that he wants to move his infrastructure plans with bipartisan support, which key centrist Democrats in the Senate have also demanded. But the president has insisted that Republicans spend far more than they have indicated they are willing to.

He also says that the bill must contain a wide-ranging definition of “infrastructure” that includes investments in fighting climate change and providing home health care, which Republicans have called overly expansive.

The sides remain far apart. Mr. Biden’s latest offer is for $1.7 trillion in spending, a drop of more than $500 billion from his initial proposal. It includes building or repairing roads, bridges, water pipes, broadband internet, the power grid and a national network of electric vehicle charging stations, along with investing in home care for older and disabled Americans.

Republicans have countered with a $568 billion plan, though many Democrats consider that offer even smaller because it includes extensions of some federal infrastructure spending at expected levels. In a memo on Friday to Republicans, obtained by The New York Times, Biden administration officials assessed the Republican offer as no more than $225 billion “above current levels Congress has traditionally funded.”

washington post logoWashington Post, In echo of Arizona, Georgia state judge orders Fulton County to allow local voters to inspect mailed ballots cast last fall, Amy Gardner, May 21, 2021. A Georgia state judge on Friday ordered Fulton County to allow a group of local voters to inspect all 147,000 mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 election in response to a lawsuit alleging that officials accepted thousands of counterfeit ballots.

The decision marks the latest instance of a local government being forced to undergo a third-party inspection of its election practices amid baseless accusations promoted by President Donald Trump that fraud flipped the 2020 contest for President Biden.

georgia map 2The inspection in Fulton County, home to Atlanta, is likely to proceed differently than an audit underway in Maricopa County, Ariz., where Republican state senators ordered county election officials to hand over equipment and ballots to a private company called Cyber Ninjas for examination. That process has come under widespread criticism for lacking security measures and failing to follow the rigorous practices of government recounts. On Thursday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) urged local officials to toss their machines after the audit is complete because their security is now in doubt.

In Georgia, Superior Court Judge Brian Amero ruled on Friday that the nine plaintiffs and their experts could examine copies of the ballots but never touch the originals, which will remain in the possession of Fulton election officials. Further details of how the inspection will proceed are expected next week, said one of the plaintiffs, Garland Favorito.

The order for the new ballot inspection comes after Georgia officials did three separate audits of the vote last year, including a hand recount, which produced no evidence of widespread fraud.

Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robb Pitts said it was “outrageous” that the county “continues to be a target of those who cannot accept the results from last year’s election.”

“The fact remains that Fulton County safely and securely carried out an election in the midst of a public health pandemic,” Pitts said in a statement. “It’s a shame to see that the ‘Big Lie’ lives on and could cost the hardworking taxpayers of this county.”
Advertisement

A spokesman for Pitts said he plans to meet with the Fulton County attorney to “review all legal options” to block “this waste of taxpayer resources.”

Fulton County is one of numerous communities where local residents have recently pushed to revisit the 2020 election results, echoing Trump’s false claims of fraud.

Inspired by Arizona recount, Trump loyalists push to revisit election results in communities around the country

In this case, filed in December, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that counterfeit balloting occurred in the county. The judge’s ruling Friday was part of the suit’s discovery process and allows the plaintiffs to examine the ballots for evidence of their claim.

Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said the lawsuit is another attempt to sow doubt about the 2020 election results — and raise “lots of money” in the process. She suggested that the examination would be used to try to justify more voting restrictions in the state after the GOP-majority legislature passed a sweeping voting law earlier this spring.

 washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, As GOP-run states slash jobless aid, the Biden administration finds it has few options to stop them, Tony Romm and Eli Rosenberg, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). With a federal intervention now unlikely, jobless Americans in 22 states including Arizona, Ohio and Texas are set to see their payments fall by $300 each week — or be wiped out entirely — as GOP governors try to force people back to work in response to a potential national labor shortage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Five rural counties in liberal Oregon vote in favor of leaving state for more conservative Idaho, Derek Hawkins, May 21, 2021 (print ed.).Five rural counties in Oregon voted this week to press forward with a plan to leave the state and merge with neighboring Idaho, the latest move in a long-shot campaign by conservatives who say they’re fed up with Oregon’s left-leaning politics.

Voters in Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman counties — sparsely populated areas in the state’s eastern half — approved ballot measures Tuesday requiring local officials to consider redrawing the border to make them Idahoans.

Behind the push is a nonprofit called Citizens for Greater Idaho that argues the predominantly Republican parts of Oregon would be better served if Idaho incorporated them. The group’s president, Mike McCarter, says the expanded state he envisions would become the country’s third-largest in terms of landmass.

The votes in favor of the idea reflect a deepening of divisions between the state’s urban and rural populations that has become more pronounced in recent years. Democrats in the state have flocked to densely populated counties in the west, while Republicans have expanded their majorities in the east.New York Times,

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Ted Cruz insulted a ‘woke, emasculated’ U.S. Army ad. Angry veterans fired back, Katie Shepherd, May 21, 2021. Sen. Ted Cruz's jab did not sit well with many critics, including many former service members, veterans groups and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who is a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel.

ted cruz oThe first half of the TikTok video shows a muscular Russian man with a shaved head doing push-ups, jumping out of a plane, and staring down the scope of a rifle. The second half shows a brightly animated U.S. Army ad telling the true story of Cpl. Emma Malonelord, a soldier who enlisted after being raised by two mothers in California and graduating at the top of her high school class.

The U.S. Army said its ad showcases the “the deeply emotional and diverse” backgrounds of its soldiers. But to Sen. Ted Cruz, who retweeted the TikTok on Thursday, the contrast with Russia’s campaign instead made American soldiers “into pansies.”

The United States Army's animated ad focused on soldier diversity drew condemnation from some conservative lawmakers in May. (GoArmy)

“Holy crap,” Cruz said in his viral tweet. “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea …”

His jab did not sit well with critics, including many former service members, veterans groups and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who is a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race 

matt gaetz ginger luckey reagan portrait facebook

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-1st District), is shown in a photo distributed via Facebook with Ginger Luckey, described as his fiancee. 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend has officially flipped on him, Bill Palmer, right, May 21, 2021 There had been rumblings for the past week that it might be coming, and now here it is. Matt bill palmerGaetz’s ex-girlfriend has now flipped on him, according to CNN, and is cooperating with the Feds in their criminal investigation into whether Gaetz participated in underage sex trafficking and other crimes. This is a big deal for a few reasons.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, it gives the Feds an additional cooperating witness on top of Joel Greenberg, who earlier this week formally cut a cooperating plea deal of his own. The Feds apparently considered the ex-girlfriend’s cooperation so paramount, they previously threatened to charge her with obstruction of justice if she didn’t cooperate.

Second, awhile back Matt Gaetz went on the air and claimed that he and his ex-girlfriend had dinner with Tucker Carlson and his wife, causing Carlson to panic and claim he had no idea what was going on. By all accounts, this same ex-girlfriend is the one who just flipped on Gaetz. So whatever she knows about that dinner with Gaetz and Carlson, the Feds are about to know all about it.

CNN, Matt Gaetz's ex-girlfriend to cooperate with federal authorities in sex trafficking investigation, Paula Reid, David Shortell and Gloria Borger, May 21, 2021. Federal authorities investigating alleged sex trafficking by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz have secured the cooperation of the congressman's ex-girlfriend, according to people familiar with the matter.

The woman, a former Capitol Hill staffer, is seen as a critical witness, as she has been linked to Gaetz as far back as the summer of 2017, a period of time that has emerged as a key window of scrutiny for investigators. She can also help investigators understand the relevance of hundreds of transactions they have obtained records of, including those involving alleged payments for sex, the sources said.

CNNNews of the woman's willingness to talk, which has not been previously reported, comes just days after the Justice Department formally entered into a plea agreement with Joel Greenberg, a one-time close friend of Gaetz whose entanglement with young women first drew the congressman onto investigators' radar.

CNN reported last week that investigators were pressing for the woman's cooperation. The sources would not say whether she had reached a formal cooperation agreement.

Information from Greenberg in the lead-up to his plea agreement has already helped investigators further their scrutiny of the congressman. As he worked towards a plea deal with federal prosecutors in recent months, Greenberg told investigators that Gaetz and at least two other men had sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl, CNN has learned. Gaetz has repeatedly denied he ever had sex with a minor or paid for sex.

"Congressman Gaetz doesn't seem to be named nor referenced in Mr. Greenberg's plea," said Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill. "Congressman Gaetz has never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex. Mr. Greenberg has now pleaded guilty to falsely accusing someone else of sex with a minor. That person was innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz."
Justice Department spokesman Joshua Stueve declined to comment to CNN. The ex-girlfriend's lawyer Timothy Jansen also declined to comment.

Greenberg plea agreement

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorThat allegation by Greenberg, right, described to CNN by multiple people familiar with the matter, is referenced briefly in an 86-page plea agreement that a federal judge accepted on Monday and is now at the center of the ongoing investigation into Gaetz. But prosecutors did not include any names in the court filing.

According to the plea agreement, Greenberg had sex with the girl "at least seven times when she was a minor" and "introduced the Minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts with the Minor" in central Florida.

Greenberg's cooperation on the subject is a primary reason that 27 of the 33 charges he had been facing were wiped away. The extent to which he backs it up will have an impact on his final prison sentence. But already, a Gaetz associate, one of the men accused by Greenberg, has denied the allegation in a meeting with federal prosecutors, the associate told CNN.

Gaetz and his representatives have attacked Greenberg's credibility in recent days, pointing to the fact that Greenberg admitted in his plea agreement to falsely accusing someone of having sex with a minor.

"If the government is brave enough to call Joel Greenberg as a witness, [Marc] Mukasey and [Isabelle] Kirshner are champing at the bit to take him on," a person close to Gaetz's defense team said, referring to the congressman's two high-profile attorneys.

"We're ready for a fair fight on the facts and the law. Anywhere. Anytime. But the steady stream of leaks by anonymous sources undermines the integrity of this process. It is simply and unequivocally improper," the attorneys said in a statement to CNN.

Asked earlier this week about Greenberg's readiness to potentially testify against Gaetz, Fritz Scheller, Greenberg's defense attorney, said, "Mr. Greenberg has pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement and has certain requirements and obligations on him and he intends to honor that."

As part of his plea agreement, Greenberg is required to cooperate fully with the federal government in other ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

Gaetz, who has not been charged with a crime, is also under investigation over allegations of prostitution and public corruption, CNN has reported. He has long denied having sex with the 17-year-old in public statements and interviews.

Gaetz associate meets with federal investigators

The Gaetz associate who met with the Justice Department earlier this month told CNN that investigators spent the bulk of the meeting asking questions about the congressmen and parties with young women, including the 17-year-old. Investigators appeared to be focused on encounters that took place in the summer of 2017, the associate said.

The associate, who was one of the men Greenberg told investigators had engaged in a sex act with the 17-year-old, denied to investigators that he had ever met the woman or had sexual contact with her in 2017, he told CNN. He also says he provided them with an independently administered polygraph exam that he had taken days before the meeting.

Details of the associate's meeting with investigators and the polygraph exam were first reported by Politico.

He shared with CNN details of his contact with investigators on the condition his name not be used.

Gaetz probe includes scrutiny of potential public corruption tied to medical marijuana industry

Investigators also briefly asked questions about possible influence peddling revolving around the medical marijuana industry and a 2020 Florida Senate race in which a third-party candidate ran as a spoiler, the associate added.

The associate said his meeting with investigators followed a December 2020 subpoena that requested communications and payments between him and Gaetz, Greenberg, and another man, from January 2016 to the present.

The subpoena indicated a grand jury was investigating allegations "involving commercial sex acts with adult and minor women, as well as obstruction of justice," the associate said.

There are new signs of investigative activity too, after sources had recently told CNN the FBI was mostly done gathering evidence.

One person familiar with the matter said that federal investigators have sought information from new witnesses as recently as this month, including communications and payments from a group of men that included Gaetz and Greenberg.

washington post logoWashington Post, Body-cam video shows Louisiana troopers stunned, hit and dragged Black man before his death, Hannah Knowles, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). At first, police told loved ones that Ronald Greene died in a car accident — plowing into a tree late one night in 2019 after blowing past a traffic stop, according to a lawsuit filed by the man’s family.

Video told a different story, and a familiar one to critics of a state police force plagued by allegations of excessive force against drivers of color.

Body camera footage now published by the Associated Press — withheld for two years by authorities — captures Greene wailing and saying “I’m sorry!” as Louisiana state troopers violently arrest him, deploying what the AP identifies as a stun gun after the Black man appears to raise his hands inside his car. Officers later punch Greene in the face, drag him briefly by his shackled ankles and leave him to moan alone while handcuffed for more than nine minutes, according to the AP.

washington post logoWashington Post, Authorities seize 68 big cats from ‘Tiger King’ couple who allegedly abused animals, threatened federal official, Timothy Bella, May 21, 2021 (print ed.).About 70 big cats were seized by authorities this week from an Oklahoma animal park owned by a couple featured in the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” who are accused of abusing and mistreating the animals and threatening a federal official, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Authorities said they recovered 68 big cats, including tigers, lions and ligers, and a jaguar owned by Jeffrey and Lauren Lowe at Tiger King Park in Thackerville, Okla.

The seizure comes as the Lowes, who operated the facility formerly run by imprisoned “Tiger King” star Joe Exotic, are accused of inhumane treatment and ongoing violations of the Endangered Species Act. The Justice Department filed a civil complaint against the couple last year for allegedly exhibiting the big cats without a license and jeopardizing the health of their animals. Authorities’ recovery of the animals this week is part of a court-approved agreement to help resolve the complaint.

 

U.S. Media News

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What We Believe About U.F.O.s, Harry Reid, below right, (former Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015 and Democratic U.S. senator representing Nevada), May 21, 2021. We still don’t know what they are — but we may be close to finding out. This personal reflection is part of a series called The Big Ideas, in which writers respond to a single question: What do we believe?

harry reid oOne day in 1996, I received a call from George Knapp, an investigative reporter at KLAS-TV, the CBS affiliate in Las Vegas, and a friend of mine. “Harry,” he said, “there’s something you have to attend.” He invited me to an upcoming conference that would focus on what the U.S. government generally refers to as “unidentified aerial phenomena,” but what most other people simply call U.F.O.s, a subject Mr. Knapp had, and still has, a particular interest in.

A large conference room at the event was filled with academics, interested members of the public and, yes, a few oddballs. I was very impressed with the academics, who spoke of unidentified aerial phenomena in the language of science, discussing the issue in terms of technological advancement and national security. I was hooked.

Over the following years, as I became increasingly interested in U.F.O.s — in part through my conversations with former astronaut John Glenn, a fellow senator with a similar curiosity — my staff warned me not to be seen to engage on the topic. “Stay the hell away from this,” they said. I politely ignored them. I was inquisitive and, like Senator Glenn, I thought it was an issue that demanded attention, and I was in a position to act.

And act I did.

In 2007, while serving as Senate majority leader, I worked with Senators Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, and Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, to secure $22 million in funding for what would become known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. This clandestine Pentagon operation investigated reports of U.F.O.s and other related phenomena, including U.F.O. encounters involving American military personnel. Some videos and photographs documenting these astonishing encounters have since been made public, reigniting America’s longtime fascination with U.F.O.s.

Though the Pentagon program I helped create no longer exists, the government has continued to study U.F.O.s, most recently through a new program known as the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force.

I’ve always been fascinated by things I don’t understand — by the mysterious and the unexplained — and I believe this fascination comes in part from growing up in rural Nevada. I’m from a tiny town about 50 miles south of Las Vegas called Searchlight, in the high desert, with a population today of about 300. The house I was raised in was built out of railroad ties, and I learned to swim in the town’s only pool, which happened to be located at a brothel. Prostitution had overtaken mining as the leading business in Searchlight, and there were many houses of ill repute.

Fortunately, there was also the big, beautiful sky, and the wonders it contained. People who live in rural America, away from the light pollution of the major cities, can gaze at the night sky and see the marvel of the Milky Way and more. In Searchlight, I spent many evenings in my youth lying on an old mattress gazing up at the endless, starry heavens. It was a rare night I didn’t see a shooting star. The shimmering expanse filled my eyes and sparked my imagination.

It has always troubled me that I have no background in science. We didn’t have a science teacher in my elementary school, and there were limited courses available when I got to high school. But despite my lack of scientific knowledge, or perhaps because of it, I have long been deeply inquisitive. Why does the sun stay hot? I wondered. Why doesn’t it cool down at the end of the day? As a young man I may not have found the answers, but I never stopped asking questions. As Albert Einstein once said, “Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Years later, when I entered public life, I was as curious as ever. As a Democratic senator from Nevada, I visited Area 51, the top-secret Air Force testing site in southern Nevada long associated with U.F.O.-related conspiracy theories. What I saw fascinated me, though much of it must remain classified. During one visit I traveled a short distance to the facility that housed the Air Force’s secret new stealth fighters. For security reasons the pilots could fly them only at night — under the same Nevada stars I had gazed upon as a boy.

Though Area 51 was developed decades ago, during the height of the Cold War, its existence wasn’t publicly acknowledged by the U.S. government until 2013. To do so earlier would have been detrimental to our security as a nation, given that our government constantly balances the competing priorities of secrecy and transparency in a democracy.

Until recently, many military pilots feared the possibility of retribution for reporting sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena. But I believed that an unofficial taboo regarding the frank discussion of encounters could harm our national security and stymie opportunities for technical advancement. Which is why, along with Senators Stevens and Inouye, I helped create that secret Pentagon program in 2007. We wanted to take a close, scientific look at the technological implications of reported U.F.O. encounters.

I believe that there is information uncovered by the government’s covert investigations into unidentified aerial phenomena that can be disclosed to the public without harming our national security. The American people deserve to know more — and hopefully they will soon, with the release of a comprehensive government report requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the military’s encounters with U.F.O.s. (The report is due in June, though it may be delayed.)

What have I personally learned from official investigations into unidentified aerial phenomena so far? The truth, disappointing as it may be, is that there’s still a great deal we don’t understand. It’s unclear whether the U.F.O.s we have encountered could have been built by foreign adversaries, whether our pilots’ visual perception during some encounters was somehow distorted, or whether we truly have credible evidence of extraterrestrial visitations. There may be other, as yet unknown explanations for some of these strange sightings.

Regardless, I believe it’s crucial to lead with the science when studying U.F.O.s. Focusing on little green men or conspiracy theories won’t get us far. Of course, whatever the science tells us, some portion of the public will continue to believe in the reality of otherworldly U.F.O.s as a matter of faith. Ultimately, the U.F.O. debate can be broken down into a sincere belief in science versus a sincere belief in extraterrestrials. I side with science.

Let me be clear: I have never intended to prove that life beyond Earth exists. But if science proves that it does, I have no problem with that. Because the more I learn, the more I realize that there’s still so much I don’t know.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook won’t take down ad Rep. Ilhan Omar’s office says could lead to harassment and death threats, Cat Zakrzewski and Tony Romm, May 21, 2021 (print ed.). The dispute marks the latest eruption between Facebook and Democrats, who say the company has been too hands-off when it comes to hate speech and viral falsehoods.

Facebook has refused to remove a widely viewed attack ad that links Rep. Ilhan Omar to Hamas, even after her aides told the tech giant the message is inaccurate, hateful and threatened to subject her to death threats.

ilhan omar oThe controversy could further inflame tensions between Facebook and Democratic lawmakers, who say the social-media company has failed to police its platform against known, viral falsehoods and refused to heed their cries about the real-world consequences of online speech.

facebook logoThe Minnesota Democrat’s office first reached out to Facebook on Tuesday after viewing ads from the pro-Israeli lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In one of the ads, Omar’s face is superimposed onto Hamas rockets, with text that claims: “When Israel targets Hamas, Rep. Omar calls it an act of terrorism.”

The ad distorted Omar’s tweet from earlier this week, in which she said that Israeli airstrikes killing civilians in Gaza, not Hamas specifically, were an act of terrorism.

Omar’s office warned the company that similar images of her face with Hamas attacks have directly inspired death threats against her. Her aides told Facebook in emails later viewed by The Washington Post that it “peddles both hate speech and misinformation.”

A day of back-and-forth followed, after Facebook initially could not find the ad — then spent hours reviewing it — only to determine it did not violate company policies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chris Cuomo took part in strategy calls advising his brother, the New York governor, on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations, Josh Dawsey and Sarah Ellison, May 21, 2021 (print ed.).  In a statement, CNN acknowledged that the anchor engaged in conversations with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his staff, saying that his participation was “inappropriate” and that he will not take part in such discussions in the future.

andrew cuomocnn logoCNN anchor Chris Cuomo advised his brother, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, right, and senior members of the governor’s staff on how to respond to sexual harassment allegations made earlier this year by women who had worked with the governor, according to four people familiar with the discussions.

Cuomo, one of the network’s top stars, joined a series of conference calls that included the Democratic governor’s top aide, his communications team, lawyers and a number of outside advisers, according to the people familiar with the conversations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private sessions.

The calls occurred earlier this year, when a growing number of claims that Andrew Cuomo made inappropriate comments or touched women without their permission had escalated into a political crisis for the three-term governor.

 

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason Donald Trump abandoned Mar-a-Lago, Bill Palmer, right, May 21, 2021.Just a week or two ago, numerous media pundits were pushing the silly false ratings-driven bill palmernarrative that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis could somehow magically block Donald Trump from being extradited to New York. But now that Trump has packed up and relocated to New Jersey anyway, the pundits have abandoned the fictional narrative that remaining in Florida was somehow going to keep him from being arrested.

The thing is, this now raises the question of why he went to New Jersey. It almost certainly has nothing to do with his inevitable arrest. Federal law and court ruling make clear that there’s no such thing as blocking extradition across state lines. So wherever Trump is in the U.S. at the time New York indicts him, he’ll be arrested and shipped back to New York, and that’ll be that. But why leave Mar-a-Lago?

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing about South Florida: it’s highly seasonal. A whole crop of seasonal residents called “snowbirds” pack up and head to South Florida for the winter months, and then head back to the northeast for the summer. Local businesses tend to plan around these seasons.

Mar-a-Lago is no different. Plenty of its members are surely snowbirds who simply aren’t in town during the summer months. So with Mar-a-Lago shutting down for the summer anyway, it makes more sense from a cost standpoint for Trump to relocate to a property that’s booming this time of year, such as his golf property in New Jersey.

That’s not the most exciting or controversial explanation, but it’s the most logically sound one, if a mundane one. There are a couple important takeaways, however. Given that Trump is now bragging about having finally secured his first bank loan in quite awhile, it’s clear that he’s in a tight financial spot. Even if he wanted to remain at Mar-a-Lago while it’s closed to members for the summer, he probably couldn’t afford to. Second, it’s clear that even Trump understands that being located in one state and not another state isn’t going to magically save him from being extradited to New York once he’s indicted.

washington post logoWashington Post, Since leaving office, Trump has charged Secret Service more than $40,000 to use space at Mar-a-Lago, David A. Fahrenthold and Josh Dawsey, May 21, 2021 (print ed.).Former president Donald Trump charged the Secret Service more than $40,000 this spring for rooms that Trump’s own protective detail used while guarding him at his Mar-a-Lago Club, according to federal spending records.

The records show that Trump’s club charged the Secret Service $396.15 every night starting Jan. 20, the day he left the White House and moved full-time into his Palm Beach, Fla., club.

Receipts: Charges to Secret Service from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club

Those charges, ultimately paid by taxpayers, continued until at least April 30, the spending records show, for a total of $40,011.15. The charges were for a single room used as a workspace by Secret Service agents, according to one person familiar with the payments.

The Secret Service released spending records up to April 30. Trump stayed at Mar-a-Lago more than a week beyond that before moving to his Bedminster, N.J., club for the summer. It was unclear whether he continued to charge the Secret Service into May.

 

May 20

Top Headlines 

 

 World News 

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

  

More On Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Probes

 

More On U.S. Abortion Politics, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Governance 

 

 U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

capitol riot shutterstock capitol

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Special Investigative Report and Commentary: The failed bloody fascist coup of 2021, Wayne Madsen, May 19-20, 2021. Had the coup plotters of January 6, 2021 been wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsuccessful, today the United States would have been under the rule of dictator Donald Trump. The traitorous retired General Michael Flynn would be Vice President and be granted by Trump with unlimited powers to order arrests, seize private property, and rule states and cities by decree. Political purges of the armed forces, state and local governments, the courts, and corporations would be de rigueur.

Because it is now known that the director of the U.S. Secret Service tolerated the politicization of his agency under Trump to the point that agents, including those who are sworn to protect the President, Vice President, and other designated "protectees," became full-blown MAGA-hatted racists and far-right partisans.

wayne madesen report logoFor example, in December 2019, Trump appointed Deputy Assistant Director of the Secret Service Anthony Ornato [left], a anthony ornatocareer civil service member, to the political post of Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, a position that entailed Ornato assisting in Trump's re-election. Secret Service Director James Murray raised no objections to Ornato being tapped for such a political position.

Murray continues to remain in his job under President Biden. And, as if that is not enough of a reason for concern, Ornato is back at the Secret Service as Assistant Director in the Office of Training.

Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig has published a book on the Secret Service, titled Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, that delves into the right-wing radicalization of the Secret Service.

It now appears that some key members of the Secret Service were either in on the plot by Trump, Flynn, and others to overthrow the government on January 6 or were quiescent in withholding intelligence on the scope of the coup plan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump loyalists push to revisit 2020 election results around the country, Amy Gardner and Rosalind S. Helderman, May 20, 2021 (print ed.). The most prominent example is in Arizona’s Maricopa County, but the ramifications of former president Donald Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible farther afield. 

At a public meeting last week in Cheboygan County, Mich., a lawyer from Detroit told county commissioners that the voting machines they used in 2020 could “flip” votes and throw an election. She offered to send in a “forensic team,” at no charge to the county, to inspect ballots and scanners.

republican elephant logoIn Windham, N.H., supporters of former president Donald Trump showed up to a town meeting this month chanting “Stop the Steal!” and demanding that officials choose their preferred auditor to scrutinize a 400-vote discrepancy in a state representative race.

And at a board of supervisors meeting May 4 in San Luis Obispo County, on California’s Central Coast, scores of residents questioned whether election machines had properly counted their votes, with many demanding a “forensic audit.”

The ramifications of Trump’s ceaseless attacks on the 2020 election are increasingly visible throughout the country: In emails, phone calls and public meetings, his supporters are questioning how their elections are administered and pressing public officials to revisit the vote count — wrongly insisting that Trump won the presidential race.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Tim Ryan blasts GOP opponents of Jan. 6 commission: ‘What else has to happen in this country?’ Katie Shepherd, May 20, 2021. As it became clear on Wednesday that Republican leaders will battle to prevent an independent commission on the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, one Democrat’s frustration boiled over on the House floor.

tim ryan o 2010In a fiery speech, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), right, laid into the majority of Republicans who voted against taking a deeper look at how the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol came about.

“We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship,” Ryan said, raising his voice.

“What else has to happen in this country?” he continued. “This is a slap in the face to every rank-and-file cop in the United States.” The assault on the Capitol resulted in the deaths of five people, and 140 police officers were injured.

The striking moment swiftly went viral, with one clip gaining more than 3 million views by early Thursday, as a chorus of Democrats — and a few anti-Trump conservatives — joined Ryan in criticizing the GOP for not uniting behind the probe.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Texas governor signs bill to ban abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, Timothy Bel, May 20, 2021 (print ed.). By banning abortion after the six-week mark, many women in Texas who are not even aware they are pregnant will not be allowed to get the procedure performed in the state.

Greg Abbott CustomTexas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), right, on Wednesday signed legislation banning abortions in the state as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, a measure slammed by critics as one of the strictest and most extreme measures in the nation and hailed by antiabortion supporters as a landmark achievement.

The Texas bill known as S.B. 8, described as a “heartbeat ban” abortion measure, prohibits the procedure the moment a fetal heartbeat has been detected. By banning abortion after the six-week mark, many women in Texas who are not even aware they are pregnant will not be allowed to get the procedure done in the state. The bill, which goes into effect Sept. 1, does not include exceptions for women impregnated as a result of rape or incest, but offers a provision for medical emergencies.

Abbott, who had publicly offered his support of the bill, celebrated what he deemed a victory for Texans while surrounded by Republicans gathered to watch him sign the proposal in Austin: “The heartbeat bill is now law in the Lone Star State.”

 

World News

washington post logoIsrael FlagWashington Post, Few signs of ‘imminent’ cease-fire as Israeli airstrikes, Hamas rockets continue, Michael E. Miller and Steve Hendrix, May 20, 2021. Israeli warplanes again pounded Gaza overnight and Hamas rocket barrages struck at least two cities in southern Israel despite increasing international pressure on both parties and reports that a cease-fire was “imminent.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Bernie Sanders to introduce resolution of disapproval on arms sale to Israel, Jacqueline Alemany, May 20, 2021. The action comes as Biden calls for a ‘significant de-escalation of hostilities’ between Israel and Hamas.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), below, is preparing to introduce a resolution on Thursday disapproving of the U.S. sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, according to a draft obtained by The Bernie SandersWashington Post.

The resolution aims to halt the planned sale to Israel by the Biden administration of JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and Small Diameter Bombs, as the worst hostilities in years continue between Israel and Hamas. The resolution needs only a simple majority to pass the Senate; but if it were to be vetoed by President Joe Biden, it would need a two-thirds majority in both chambers to take effect.

“At a moment when U.S.-made bombs are devastating Gaza, and killing women and children, we cannot simply let another huge arms sale go through without even a congressional debate," Sanders said in a statement to The Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu rebuffs Biden’s call to wind down attacks, Loveday Morris, Michael E. Miller and Shira Rubin, May 20, 2021 (print ed.). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the operation would not stop until Israel achieves its military objectives. The president had told Netanyahu he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” according to the White House.

President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, on a phone call Wednesday that he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” according to the White House, in the most assertive language used publicly by the administration since Israel and Hamas began exchanging rocket fire 10 days ago.

Benjamin Netanyahu smile TwitterIn response, Netanyahu said, as he has in past statements, that the operation will not stop until Israel achieves its military objectives.

“I especially appreciate the support of US President Joe Biden, for the right to self-defense for the State of Israel,” tweeted Netanyahu. “I am determined to continue this operation until its goal is achieved, to restore peace and security to you, the citizens of Israel.”

Biden’s urging came amid mounting international demands for a cease-fire. Here’s what to know:

  • The Palestinian death toll in Gaza rose to 227, including at least 64 children, local health officials said Wednesday. In the West Bank, at least 19 Palestinians have been killed since Friday, officials there said.
  • The death toll in Israel stood at 12, including two children, after police said two Thai workers were killed Tuesday by rockets fired from Gaza.
  • Biden’s call for de-escalation came a day after he faced protests over his administration’s handling of the conflict during a visit to a Ford auto plant in Dearborn, Mich., the heart of the state’s Arab American community.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that “after more than a week of hostilities, it has become even more apparent that a cease-fire is necessary.”
  • The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations challenged the Biden administration to show results from its diplomatic efforts after the United States continued to block U.N. Security Council action on grounds it would interfere with attempts to negotiate a cease-fire.
  • Tel Aviv was long known as ‘the Bubble’ for its distance from war. This time is different.
  • So far, Israeli forces have destroyed more than 60 miles of underground tunnels, struck 80 rocket launchers and killed at least 130 militants, a senior Israeli military officer said Wednesday. The officer gave an initial assessment on the condition of anonymity, according to military protocol.

ny times logoIsrael FlagNew York Times, Mob Violence Against Palestinians in Israel Is Fueled by WhatsApp Groups, Sheera Frenkel, May 20, 2021 (print ed.). Jewish extremists have formed more than 100 new groups on the Facebook-owned encrypted messaging app in recent days to target attacks. President Biden reportedly sharpened his tone with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in private.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden increasingly at odds with Democrats over Israel, Sean Sullivan and Anne Gearan, May 20, 2021 (print ed.).The president has been reluctant to follow a shift by some others in his party toward a tougher stance on Israel, a disconnect highlighted by his visit Tuesday to a region that is home to many Arab Americans.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: New Cases in Nursing Homes Fall Dramatically After Vaccinations, Staff Reports, May 20, 2021 (print ed.).  A new study said the use of vaccinations also appeared to protect residents who did not get the immunization. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • More than 100 million Johnson and Johnson doses are on hold as U.S. regulators inspect them. Europe will open to vaccinated visitors. India reported the highest known daily death toll.
  • Oregon will require businesses to verify vaccination status if they let customers go maskless.New
  • N.Y.C.’s reopening begins, a longed for milestone playing out in messy ways in a big city.New
  • More than 100 million J.&J. doses are on hold as U.S. regulators inspect them, an executive testifies.New
  • Here’s what the new rules in New York mean as the state reopens.
  • A vaccine maker in India signals it won’t export doses before year’s end, slowing aid to the world’s poorest.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 160.2 million vaccinated, as of May 20, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 57.2 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 48.2 % of the total population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 20, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 165,617,501, Deaths: 3,433,373
U.S. Cases:     33,802,324, Deaths:     601,949
India Cases:      5,772,440, Deaths:     287,156
Brazil Cases    15,815,191, Deaths:    441,864

Palmer Report, Opinion: Greg Abbott makes major boneheaded move, Sheree McSpadden, May 19, 2021. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has made yet another bonehead move in the “politics” of face masks. He recently signed an executive order banning face mask requirements by any government entity or at any government facility, including schools. Anyone who tries to impose such a mandate will be fined up to $1,000.

There are some exemptions, including state-supported living centers, government-owned or operated hospitals, Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities, Texas Juvenile Justice Department bill palmer report logo headerfacilities, and county and municipal jails — in other words, any place where if someone actually contracted Covid, the cause could easily be traced back to Abbott’s bonehead executive order.

This is just more craziness by Abbott to ‘own the libs’ and appease his crazy supporters who have made Covid, mask-wearing and/or other safety precautions a political issue or believed it conspiratorial from the start, thanks in large part to the former guy, his cronies and so-called ‘experts.’

 

 More On Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Riot, Probes

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Trump-Brazil Plot to Steal 2020 Election Appears to Have Been "Plan B" After Failure of Trump-Ukraine Collusion, Seth Abramson, May 20, 2021. A picture is emerging of how Trump and his top allies sought to use manufactured evidence from South America to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election.

seth abramson proof logoUnbeknownst to most news consumers in America, the two reports on Trump-Brazil collusion at Proof—both relating to the January 6 insurrection—produced an ongoing congressional inquiry in Brazil, and substantial coverage in the Brazilian press on the Bolsonaro government’s possible involvement in Donald Trump’s ongoing domestic insurgency.

A new investigative report emanating from the coverage of the scandal in Brazil now inflects our understanding of it substantially, as it helps position the de facto Brazilian ambassador on January 6 at the heart of a plot to steal a U.S. election.

The story behind this new report begins—as do so many stories of Donald Trump’s clandestine activities in South America—not in Brazil but its neighbor to the north, Venezuela.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell comes out against Jan. 6 commission, imperiling its chances of becoming law, Mike DeBonis, May 20, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said mitch mcconnell palmer CustomWednesday that he will oppose legislation to create a commission tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — a signal that the legislation will not have the votes to get through the Senate.

“After careful consideration. I’ve made the decision to oppose the House Democrats slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the 6th,” he said on the Senate floor.

McConnell, shown at right in a file photo, shared his views earlier this morning with his colleagues at a Republican senators’ breakfast hosted by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is helping to lead a Senate investigation into the events of Jan. 6 and has vocally opposed a commission, according to a Republican aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private discussions.

Roll Call, House passes Jan. 6 commission bill but legislation faces Senate hurdles, Chris Marquette, May 20, 2021 (print ed.). The House voted 252-175 Wednesday to create a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by pro-Trump rioters, garnering minimal Republican support in what is a bleak harbinger for the measure's chances in the evenly divided Senate.

Just hours before the House vote, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he opposed the bill, calling the measure "a slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the sixth."

The Kentucky Republican's opposition, while not surprising, will make it difficult for Senate Democrats to get the 60 votes needed to move the bill along in that chamber.

But House the vote, in which 35 Republicans voted with Democrats and against their party leadership, was another public sign of bitter fractures within the GOP over former President Donald Trump.

All 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January for inciting the insurrection, including former conference chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming who was ousted from leadership by the party last week, voted to support the commission.

Iadam kinzinger twitterllinois Republican Adam Kinzinger, right, one of those 10 Republicans who has also blasted GOP leaders for removing Cheney, called the commission "the right thing to do."

"We need answers,” Kinzinger said. Asked what he thinks of Republican leadership’s opposition to the commission, he said, “I think it’s nuts.”

House GOP leadership on Tuesday recommended a "no" vote on the commission legislation, a bipartisan compromise between Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and ranking member John Katko, R-N.Y.

Katko, who worked in federal law enforcement for 20 years, said just prior to the vote that he and Thompson modeled their bill on the 9/11 commission, which he said made the country “infinitely safer” following the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

“I ask my colleagues to consider the fact that this commission is built to work and it will be depoliticized and it will get the results we need,” Katko added.

Thompson told reporters Wednesday that the committee kept both Republican and Democratic leadership informed since the beginning of negotiations and made suggested changes to the bill.

Still, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy argued the scope was too narrow and that it would duplicate other ongoing congressional investigations. Kinzinger said Katko was able to negotiate a fairer deal and Republican leadership “moved the goal post.”

“You’ll have to ask Trump why anything happens nowadays in the party,” Kinzinger added.

Thompson alluded to the same. "It's unfortunate that the minority leader has, at the last moment, raised issues that basically we had gone past and there was no issue on his part," Thompson said. "But I guess that's politics."

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Republicans oppose measure condemning Atlanta spa shootings, Tia Mitchell, May 20, 2021 (print ed.).  All eight Republicans who represent Georgia in the U.S. House voted against a resolution condemning the Atlanta spa shootings.

The 244-180 vote included every House Democrat plus several dozen Republicans. The resolution’s text includes the names and biographical details about the eight victims of the March 16 attack plus language “reaffirming the House of Representatives’ commitment to combating hate, bigotry, and violence against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.”

republican elephant logoFive of Georgia’s six House Democrats voted in favor of the measure; U.S. Rep. David Scott was not present for the vote.

None of the Georgia Republicans could be immediately reached for comment.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux hosted a delegation of lawmakers 12 days after shootings, and they visited each of the three Asian spas that were targeted. Bourdeaux, a Democrat from Suwanee, said the resolution would send a message to the loved ones of the eight victims, including six women of Asian descent.

“It is a step in the right direction, but only a step,” she said. “America is and has always been a nation of immigrants, a fact that deserves to be celebrated.”

The vote on the resolution comes a day after the House passed anti-hate crimes legislation, which is now ready to be signed into law by President Joe Biden. The COVID 19 Hate Crimes Act gained momentum after the spa shootings.

Six of the eight Georgia Republicans in the House voted against the hate-crimes measure.

David Warmus, circled, was arrested May 18 after bragging about his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. (Courtesy: Justice Department)

Daniel Warmus, circled, was arrested May 18 after bragging about his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. (Courtesy: Justice Department).

washington post logoWashington Post, He bragged at the dentist’s office about attending the Capitol riot, feds say. Another patient turned him in, Timothy Bella, May 20, 2021 (print ed.). Daniel Warmus was arrested Tuesday in Buffalo for his role in the Capitol riot, the Justice Department announced, after someone “overheard Warmus talking about his experience.”Less than a week after the failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, a patient at a dentist’s office in western New York couldn’t believe what was being said nearby. During a routine checkup on Jan. 12, a patient listened in as an alleged rioter who was getting his teeth cleaned bragged about his breach of the building, according to federal authorities.

Daniel Warmus, of Alden, N.Y., talked of smoking marijuana inside the Capitol and refusing a police officer’s order to leave the building, and even proudly played a video from Jan. 6, a federal complaint states.

After the patient “overheard Warmus talking about his experience while at a dentist’s office,” the person, who authorities said wished to remain anonymous, alerted the FBI and passed along Warmus’s phone number and home address. That mundane trip to the dentist’s office led to an investigation that concluded this week with Warmus, 37, in police custody.

 

More On U.S. Abortion Politics, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Free Ride May Soon Be Over for Anti-Abortion Politicians, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), May 20, 2021. Do I think the court will use this case to permit states to ban abortion entirely? No, not directly and not this soon; there’s no need for the new majority, handpicked for that very purpose, to go that far this fast. The question the court linda greenhouse cover just a journalisthas agreed to answer, as framed by the state’s petition, “Whether all previability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional,” suggests but doesn’t require an all-or-nothing response.

However, as President Biden might say, here’s the deal: Viability has been the essential firewall protecting the right to abortion. As the law of abortion currently stands, states can require onerous waiting periods, misleading “informed consent” scripts, needless ultrasound exams — anything to make abortion as burdensome, expensive and stigmatizing as possible.

But what a state can’t do at the end of the day is actually prevent a woman with the resources and will to get to one of the diminishing number of providers (the clinic that sued to block the Mississippi law is the only one in that state) from terminating her pregnancy.

Once the viability firewall is breached, it’s hard to see what limiting principle the new majority might invoke even if so inclined. Ninety percent of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. What’s the difference between 15 weeks and 13, or 11, or 10? Mississippi offers as a limiting principle the claim that at 15 weeks a fetus is “likely capable of conscious pain perception.” But as a compilation of peer-reviewed medical articles published in 2015 by FactCheck.org concluded, scientific evidence is lacking even for the more common assertion that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at 20 weeks.

Limiting principles usually matter a great deal at the Supreme Court, and it’s common during oral argument for justices to demand that lawyers articulate one. The justices need to know: “If we buy what you’re trying to sell us, exactly what are we buying? What’s the next case in line after yours?”

On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a “heartbeat” bill that bans abortion as early as six weeks’ gestation. Not to be outdone, voters in Lubbock, Texas, population 260,000, earlier this month declared the city an abortion-free zone, leading Planned Parenthood, which operates the city’s sole abortion clinic within 300 miles, to file a lawsuit to stop the ordinance from going into effect.

Compared to those measures, Mississippi’s 15-week ban may look almost moderate, and a Supreme Court decision upholding only the Mississippi law may be greeted in some prochoice corners with relief. That would reflect a serious misunderstanding.

If there is any good news to salvage from the court’s announcement this week, it is this: the free ride that anti-abortion politicians have enjoyed may be coming to a crashing end.

Ever since the 2010 election ushered new Republican majorities into state legislatures, politicians there have been able to impose increasingly severe abortion restrictions without consequence, knowing that the lower courts would enjoin the laws before they took effect and save the people’s representatives from having to own their actions.

Last fall, in each of four nationwide polls, including one conducted for Fox News, more than 60 percent of registered or likely voters said they did not want the Supreme Court to overturn “Roe v. Wade.” I put the case in quotes because that’s how the pollsters asked the question; although Roe obviously carries strong symbolic meaning, the 1973 decision is in many respects no longer the law.

For the cynical game they have played with those lives, politicians have not paid a price. Now perhaps they will. Of course, women themselves will pay a heavy price as this new reality sorts itself out, particularly women with low incomes who now make up the majority of abortion patients.

And there’s another price to be paid as justices in the new majority turn to the mission they were selected for. The currency isn’t votes, but something even more important and harder to win back: the institutional legitimacy of the Supreme Court of the United States.

There’s no free ride for the court either.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans might just be clueless, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 20, 2021. Thirty-five House Republicans on Wednesday embarrassed their minority leader, Kevin McCarthy jennifer rubin new headshot(Calif.), in defying his wishes and voting in favor of a Jan. 6 commission. Did he even bother to check just how many votes he would lose before pledging loyalty to the Mar-a-Lago leader of the GOP? Or is it possible that McCarthy, who already seems to be measuring the drapes in the speaker’s office, has no idea what he is doing?

djt maga hatAfter all, McCarthy, in attempting to corral opposition to the commission, achieved two things: He showed that a significant chunk of his caucus would not go along, but he also forced the other 80 percent to show that they are puppets controlled by the disgraced former presidentThis follows other brilliant strategies, such as handing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) a giant megaphone to decry McCarthy’s Trump-dependency; leading a unanimous vote against the overwhelmingly popular American Rescue Plan; and declaring a red line against raising taxes on [billion-dollar] corporations (55 of which paid no federal income taxes last year).

None of these make sense if the aim is to secure working-class voters and win back some of the women, suburbanites, college-educated, Asian American and young voters that the party lost in November.Republicans’ support for eviscerating Roe v. Wade does not help them with any of these groups, nor does their resistance to police reform and their blatant attempts to suppress the vote.

Opposing free community college is not going to win them plaudits among younger voters, just as blathering on about a “stolen” election goes over like a lead balloon among more educated voters. And in the self-destructive category, few things can top the Republican proposal to pay for an infrastructure bill with a gas tax instead of corporate taxes when the party is trying to win back suburbanites, who often must commute by car.In case Republicans had not noticed, several of the groups they are busy offending with stunts such as opposition to the Jan. 6 commission and preference for corporate tax scofflaws are the same people turning out in larger numbers than ever before.

TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm, reports that the youth vote, which remains strongly Democratic, increased in 2020 while “voters age 40-49 and 50-64 dropped by a significant margin.” Meanwhile, the groups Republicans aim to appeal to (at the expense of growing segments of the electorate) are declining. 

The instinct for many is to assume a basic level of competence among Republicans. But that flies in the face of evidence. Remember: They are pledging undying loyalty to the guy who lost them the House, Senate and White House. Their dastardly plots, as infuriating as they might be, are not necessarily working in their favor. Just because, for example, they are creating barriers to voting does not mean that they will improve their chances in 2022. The opposite might be true.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, As GOP-run states slash jobless aid, the Biden administration finds it has few options to stop them, Tony Romm and Eli Rosenberg, May 20, 2021. With a federal intervention now unlikely, jobless Americans in 22 states including Arizona, Ohio and Texas are set to see their payments fall by $300 each week — or be wiped out entirely — as GOP governors try to force people back to work in response to a potential national labor shortage.  

washington post logoWashington Post, Senators reach deal to overhaul Postal Service finances, Jacob Bogage, May 20, 2021 (print ed.).  An identical version of the legislation is advancing in the House, where it is said to have enough support to pass. A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday to lift significant financial burdens off the ailing U.S. Postal Service while tightening accountability requirements for mail delivery, a major stride for an agency that has tussled with its balance sheet and reputation for the better part of a year.

us mail logoThe bill, identical to a version that has advanced in the House, would repeal $5 billion a year in mandatory retiree health-care expenses and require future postal retirees to enroll in Medicare. Advocates say the measures would save the agency $30 billion over the next decade.

The bill would also see the Postal Service develop a public online mail delivery performance dashboard where customers could view the agency’s on-time delivery metrics by Zip code each week.

Pushed by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who lead the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee, the legislation has enough bipartisan co-sponsors to give it a pathway to passage in the bitterly divided chamber.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mich. judge dismisses lawsuit seeking new audit of Antrim County vote, one of last remaining 2020 legal challenges, Rosalind S. Helderman, May 20, 2021 (print ed.).  A Michigan judge on Tuesday rejected an effort to force a new audit of the 2020 election results in a county that has been central to false claims promoted by former president Donald Trump and his supporters that the election was stolen.

Michigan Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer dismissed a case brought by a voter in rural Antrim County who had argued that “material fraud or error” had taken place in the election and that he was entitled to a new audit of the results under state law.

michigan mapThe case was one of the last challenges to the November election results still pending in the nation’s courts. Its dismissal comes as Trump and his supporters have been pushing to conduct audits around the country in hopes of uncovering issues they say willsupport Trump’s baseless claims that he defeated President Biden.

Trump issued a statement last week referring to the case as “the major Michigan Election Fraud case” and highlighting a new filing from the plaintiffs that argued votes had been switched from Trump to Biden. “The number of votes is MASSIVE and determinative. This will prove true in numerous other States,” Trump said.

But Elsenheimer ruled that a statewide post-election audit conducted by Michigan’s secretary of state’s office that concluded in March — which found the election had been conducted fairly and accurately — was sufficient to satisfy a state law that allows voters to request audits.

Because of that, he said, the suit was moot, and he granted a motion to dismiss sought by Michigan’s secretary of state and the clerk of Antrim County.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race, Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Colorado officers violently arrested woman, 73, with dementia, and then mocked her. Now they face charges, Andrea Salcedo, May 20, 2021. It took officer Austin Hopp less than 30 seconds from the moment he stepped out of his squad car to violently pin Karen Garner, a 73-year-old grandmother of nine, to the ground.

Moments later, the Loveland, Colo., officer handcuffed Garner and pushed her against the hood of his patrol car — her arm audibly popping — as his colleague Daria Jalali assisted him in the June arrest.

That interaction recorded by Hopp’s body camera left Garner with a dislocated shoulder and a fractured arm, her family said. She later spent hours inside a booking cell without receiving any medical care while officers mocked her arrest.

On Wednesday, nearly a year later, Colorado authorities charged both officers with multiple counts in connection with Garner’s arrest, according to affidavits filed in Larimer County District Court. Both officers previously resigned from the department.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Texas family hunted for a teen vandal. Instead, they killed an innocent neighbor, police said, Tim Elfrink, May 20, 2021. Nineteen-year-old Joe Argueta and his family were fed up. They believed a friend of the teenager’s ex-girlfriend had been vandalizing their house and cars, so they came up with a plan to “take care of it,” according to a police report reviewed by KTRK.

Then they waited, watching for the vandal’s dark-colored Dodge Charger to roll through their suburban enclave west of Houston. On Monday, police said, they saw their chance.

Argueta and his mother, father and uncle hopped into two cars, sped into the street, and blocked the car’s path. Then Joe Argueta, 19, allegedly chased the car on foot as it tried to escape, firing a gun repeatedly.

One of those shots killed the driver. But it wasn’t the teenage vandal the family had been looking for, police said: It was Eddie Clark, 29, an innocent neighbor driving to his home around the corner

Palmer Report, Opinion: “Donald Trump is going to flip on all of them,” Bill Palmer, May 20, 2021. Just how ugly is the New York Attorney General’s criminal investigation for the Trump family? Legal experts are now advising them to each get separate lawyers, because their interests in the criminal case may be incompatible. In other words, they’re going to be pitted against each other by prosecutors, and pressured to flip on each other.

bill palmer report logo headerWe don’t know if any of Donald Trump’s kids will have the resolve to flip on him in order to try to keep themselves out of prison. But we do know that Donald Trump has a long and consistent habit of throwing everyone under the bus to try to save himself, and this time around it should be no different.

Appearing on the Joy Reid show on Wednesday night, Michael Cohen said “I think Donald Trump is going to flip on all of them,” meaning all of his family members. Cohen predicted that Donald Trump will try to flip on Don Jr, Eric, and Ivanka, all of whom face potential criminal liability via the Trump Organization. Cohen even quipped that Donald Trump will be looking to flip on his wife Melania, even though there’s no indication that she’s under criminal investigation.

The bottom line is that this is about to get profoundly ugly for a number of people named Trump. And even if Donald Trump does try to flip on his family members in a last ditch effort to save himself, it’s important to note that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has a long running criminal investigation into Donald Trump in particular – and he can’t make those charges go away.

TheHill.com, Chicago mayor sparks backlash after limiting media interviews to people of color, Thomas Moore, May 19, 2021. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) is drawing scrutiny and pushback from local journalists after deciding to grant one-on-one media interviews only to people of color to cover her two-year anniversary in office.

lori lightfoot twitter CustomThe restrictions on who could interview the mayor garnered national attention after Mary Ann Ahern, a political reporter for NBC 5 Chicago, tweeted about the move on Tuesday.

“Absolutely, they told me only Black and brown journalists are getting one-on-one interviews,” Ahern, who is white and has served as a political reporter at the NBC station since 2006, told The Hill.

In a public statement on Wednesday, Lightfoot, right, confirmed she was “exclusively providing one-on-one interviews with journalists of color.”

“I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trail in 2018 by the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps, and yes, the City Hall press corps specifically,” Lightfoot wrote.

The mayor defended her move earlier Wednesday on Twitter, saying she was “being intentional about prioritizing media requests from POC reporters on the occasion of the two-year anniversary.”

Ahern said she was first told of the policy by Lightfoot’s communications director Kate LeFurgy on Tuesday.

“[LeFurgy] said three out of six reporters covering City Hall are people of color and not a single one is a woman of color, while white reporters get the vast majority of access all year long,” Ahern said.

The NBC Chicago reporter said in addition to the obvious racial implications, media outlets are the ones who get to decide who does or does not cover the mayor’s office. “I think it’s outrageous for an elected official to choose who will ask questions,” Ahern said. “And it’s even more outrageous when it’s based on the color of their skin.”

Other reporters have also publicly criticized the policy, with one Chicago Tribune journalist turning down a scheduled interview in protest. “I am a Latino reporter @chicagotribune whose interview request was granted for today,” tweeted the Tribune's City Hall reporter Gregory Pratt.

“However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled. Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them,” Pratt added.

I am a Latino reporter @chicagotribune whose interview request was granted for today. However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled. Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.
— Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) May 19, 2021

Tampa Bay Tribune, 1,200 graves are missing in Tampa. How did they disappear? Paul Guzzo, May 19 2021. College Hill Cemetery had sections for Cuban and Black burials from the 1880s through 1930s. That land is now the Italian Club Cemetery’s parking lot.  Lewis would like the Italian Club, who owns the cemetery, to pay for ground penetrating radar, at the Italian Club Cemetery located in College Hill in Tampa.

Three newspaper articles reported on the death of Bessie Williams in 1918, but none focused on the Black woman’s life. There was no mention of her age, survivors or funeral services.

Instead, the stories detailed how clients of the laundry woman could retrieve their garments.

“They cared more about clothes,” said Yvette Lewis, head of the Hillsborough County NAACP. “Because of the color of her skin, they didn’t respect her in life. And they didn’t respect her in death.”

On a February afternoon, Lewis walked the Italian Club Cemetery’s grass lot at 2520 E. 24th Ave. and wondered if Williams’ body was there. Is it under the land used for parking? Is it under a portion that has a mausoleum for Italians?

Records reviewed by the Tampa Bay Times indicate more than 1,200 people — mostly pioneering Black residents of Tampa, some historic figures — might have been buried in the land now devoid of headstones. Nearly all, including Williams, are missing.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. Five erased or lost cemeteries have so far been discovered throughout Tampa Bay over the last few years. Four were for Black people, one was mostly for Black burials. The searches were inspired by Times investigations into the whereabouts of the historic burial grounds, starting with Zion Cemetery in 2019.
Related: Read the Tampa Bay Times reporting on lost and erased Black cemeteries

A historic marker at the Italian Club Cemetery begins like this: “L’Unione Italiana, founded in 1894 in Ybor City, institutionalized the Italian funeral in Tampa when in 1896 it purchased this property from the prominent African-American Armwood family and dedicated it as a cemetery.”

But records show the Italian Club did not own cemetery land until 1908 when it bought a sliver of what today makes up the social club’s 5-acre burial ground. And it did not purchase the land from the Armwoods.

That East Tampa land was once six burial sections — spanning that parking lot to the border shared with the Centro Espanol Cemetery — that made up College Hill Cemetery. The Italian Club pieced those together. What were once sections for Black and Cuban burials, confirmed by maps dating to the 1880s, are now covered over by cars or concrete.

Despite the evidence, the Italian Club has not expressed interest in unravelling the mystery, has not acknowledged that its history is incorrect and would not say if it believes forefathers played a role in the erasure of Black and Cuban graves. 

 

U.S. Media News

Press Run via Substack, Opinion: Now Politico's just making stuff up, Eric Boehlert, May 20, 2021.

Vice President Kamala Harris isn’t acknowledging her Asian heritage!

Those were two breathless dispatches Politico posted this week, as the Beltway insider outlet did its best to gin up drama surrounding the Democratic administration. Apparently still longing from the non-stop news cycle of the Trump era and the relentless controversies and scandals that came with it, Politico has decided that during the No Drama Biden era the best strategy is to just make stuff up and post it as news.

In both gotcha articles it became abundantly clear that Biden is not being trashed by Democrats regarding the Middle East. And Harris is not being widely criticized for downplaying her Indian roots. Both premises are fabrications. How do we know? Because neither article contained evidence to back up the click-bait headlines.

This is indefensible journalism, as Politico eagerly does the GOP’s bidding by trying to create controversies where none exist. The daily is hardly alone in this regard. The New York Times recently promoted a long article about Biden’s “short fuse” and “quick temper” in a piece that included no quotes or evidence of Biden’s “short fuse” and “quick temper.” But Politico does seem to be particularly aggressive in concocting unsupported storylines during the Biden era. And Politico is doing it with weighty topics that should not be used as ways to manufacture news.

The deadly, unfolding humanitarian disaster in the Middle East, where the Israeli military and Hamas continue to wage urban warfare with a mounting death toll, should not be used as the backdrop for a false, unsupported story, like Politico’s “‘I’m Troubled By It’: Dems Trash Biden’s Handling of Israeli Strikes in Gaza,” from May 15.

It’s clear Politico wanted to tell a damning story about how the Biden White House was under siege at home politically, as Democrats lined up to denounce the president’s handling of the Middle East crisis. If true, that would be a huge story. But the Politico claim was entirely bogus. 

 

May 19

Top Headlines

 

World News

 

Virus Victims, Responses