July 2021 News

 

 JIPLogo

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

 

July 28

Top Headlines

Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, previously a combat veteran, tears up during testimony on July 27, 2021 (Associated Press pool photo).Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, previously a combat veteran, tears up during House testimony on July 27, 2021 (Associated Press pool photo).

 

transportation dept logoBreaking News: U.S. Infrastructure

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

 U.S. Law, Crime

 

More On Trump Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Crime

 

World News

 

2020 Olympics

 

Top Stories 

sworn capitol officers gty ps 210727 1627395009035 hpMain 16x9 992

 From left, Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, Officer Michael Fanone of the D.C. Metropolitan Police, Officer Daniel Hodges of the D.C. Metropolitan Police and Private First Class Harry Dunn of the U.S. Capitol Police are sworn in to testify before the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on U.S. Capitol on July 27, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘You will die on your knees’: D.C. officer recalls being pinned, John Wagner, Kim Bellware, Karoun Demirjian, Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany and Mariana Alfaro, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). New video footage shows how D.C. police officer lost consciousness from insurrectionist’s violence; Rep. Murphy recalls being in proximity to officer pinned between rioters and Capitol door frame; ‘I guess it is America,’ Capitol Police officer says of racist abuse that Black officers faced.

Four police officers are delivering emotional testimony Tuesday about the physical and verbal abuse they endured defending the Capitol on Jan. 6 from a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump, as a House select committee holds its first hearing on the insurrection.

In an opening statement, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the panel’s chairman, pledged not to give ground to “the big lie” — Trump’s claim to have won the 2020 election — that he said propelled the attack. Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), one of two Republicans appointed to the panel by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said no member of Congress should “whitewash what happened that day.”

  capitol ties

A heavily disguised man invades the U.S. Capitol as part of the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" protest carrying plastic "ties," which are normally used by law enforcers to bind the wrists of suspects but which are used also by terrorists to subdue hostage victims.

bennie thompson horizontal

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The select committee is already exceeding all expectations, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 28, 2021. Rarely does a congressional hearing manage to avoid grandstanding, uncover jennifer rubin new headshotnew and compelling evidence and exceed expectations. The Jan. 6 select committee managed to do all three.

Indeed, the surprises kept coming on Monday. The sincere and spontaneous emotional reactions from Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and law enforcement officers stood as a rebuke to the cynicism of Republicans who continue to lie about the insurrection. It also rebuffed the media, which too often dabbles in bothsidesism, even to this day.

Kinzinger could barely get through his tribute to the officers’ bravery. “You guys won," he said tearfully. “You guys held. Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We are defined by how we come back from bad days.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has pulled no punches concerning the insurrection, was even more emphatic in skewering her own party. “On Jan. 6 and in the days thereafter, almost all members of my party recognized the events of that day for what they actually were," she said. She added, “No member of Congress should now attempt to defend the indefensible, obstruct this investigation or attempt to whitewash what happened that day.” It’s no wonder she gives Republican toadies the shakes, especially when she warns that failure to hold all those involved responsible would allow the cancer on our democracy to go unchecked. As she put it: “We must know what happened here at the Capitol. We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House. Every phone call. Every conversation. Every meeting leading up to, during, and after the attack.”
Advertisement

The use of clear language — Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) spoke of “fascist traitors” while D.C. Police officer Daniel Hodges referred to “terrorists” — was a refreshing departure from mealy-mouth descriptions that obscure the violence and the ideology of the insurrectionists. It was critical to hear the granular description of that day, especially as it helps to expose the galling dishonesty and appalling bad of Republicans.

In particular, the thoughtfulness, constitutional sophistication and love of democracy that the four police officers displayed during their testimonies should serve as a model for the country:

Hodges explained “there is no moving on without accountability.”

Capitol Police officer Harry Dunn asked, “Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are being lauded as courageous heroes. And while I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard?” He remarked that when a hit man goes to jail, so too should the person who hired him. That sentiment should resonate with the Justice Department as it considers investigating and indicting those who enabled the insurrection. Asked whether what he witnessed was America, he candidly replied, “I guess it is America. It shouldn’t be, but I guess that’s the way that things are."
D.C. Police officer Michael Fanone called the indifference shown to his colleagues by Republican members of Congress “disgraceful.”

The officers’ description of the racism and viciousness that insurrectionists directed toward police officers was a proper corrective following efforts to paint the crowd as peaceful. So, too, was Kinzinger’s moral clarity that debunked attempts by Republicans to create a false equivalence between the violence on Jan. 6 and largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. “There’s a difference between crimes, even grave crimes and a coup," Kinzinger said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s judgment in refusing to seat two Republicans bent on making a mockery of the committee proved wise. For 2½ hours, serious questions engendered serious answers. In place of flat-out lies or attempts to blame the victims of the attack for not being prepared, the hearing provided a poignant, precise account of the events of Jan. 6. It clarified who was defending democracy and who was seeking to destroy it. Without the antics of unhinged MAGA Republicans on the committee, a coherent narrative emerged.

Finally, if the Justice Department harbored any doubt that it should investigate whether there was any involvement in the attack by lawmakers or whether the former president’s incitement of the mob rose to the level of criminality, that vanished on Monday. The officers pleaded with the committee to find anyone who “collaborated” or spurred the attack. They are not willing to let bygones be bygones. None of us should. The Justice Department should follow the facts and indict anyone found to be criminally liable for the violent insurrection.

Palmer Report, Opinion: January 6th Committee gets off to a roaring start, Shirley Kennedy, July 28, 2021. Testimony before the select committee began, and it was heartbreaking. The four testifying officers emphasized why this incident needs to be thoroughly investigated. Live coverage of the opening testimony was carried by several outlets.

Sergeant Aquilino Gonell placed blame squarely at the feet of former “president” Donald Trump. He discussed the lack of support the Capitol police received from the White House: “What he was doing, instead of sending the military, instead of sending support or telling his people, his supporters, to stop this nonsense, he begged them to continue fighting.” Trump caused this violence and sat on his hands, gleefully watching because it was all about him. All four officers were still visibly shaken.

bill palmer report logo headerOfficer Michael Fanone was extremely passionate, pounding the table as he spoke. What bothers Fanone the most is not that he almost died but the fact that Republicans continue pretending January 6 never happened. He told the committee: “I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room.” As Officer Fanone said, this is disgraceful. How do Republicans sleep as night espousing their nonsense to the public? How can they claim to represent anyone when all they do is lie and obfuscate? Every one of them should be driven out of office, except for Cheney and Kinzinger, whose raw emotions were visible as he spoke.

The officers who came to the aid of Congressmembers suffered at the hands of these thugs, and Officer Harry Dunn shared that for the first time while in uniform, he was called the “n” word. These are Trump’s people. Make no mistake about that. These crude, violent, vile people are who Trump said he “loves,” and they are the ones whose votes are being courted by other Republicans. They should be ashamed to associate themselves with them, but their desire for power is far too great. They could care less what these people did and what many of them will do in the future. It is doubtful that they have enough feeling to understand Adam Kinzinger’s words ripping into them, but that is exactly what he did.

Kinzinger discussed the importance of self-governance and the truth, which is owed to the American people. He said that is why he agreed to serve on the committee; he also wants the truth and “to get the facts out there, free of conspiracy.” Kinzinger further voiced his shame that his fellow Republicans have turned the incident into a partisan fight, when it is nothing of the sort. It is a fight for the truth and a fight for our democracy.

Republicans showed their indifference by refusing to help Democrats form a bipartisan committee to hold these hearings. Now, Kevin McCarthy thinks it is a joke, referring to Cheney and Kinzinger as “Pelosi Republicans.” Laugh while you can, Kevin. You and those like you are a disgrace to this country. Officer Daniel Hodges told the committee: “This was a fight we could not afford to lose.” We must let his words drive us into the battle for our democracy, which we also cannot afford to lose.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: As Jan. 6 hearings begin, Republicans side with the terrorists, Dana Milbank, right, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). The select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol held its first hearing Tuesday, and Republican lawmakers took the occasion to demand justice — for the terrorists who took up dana milbank Customarms against the U.S. government on that terrible day.

Six Republican members of the House, escorted by a man in a giant Trump costume bearing the message “TRUMP WON,” marched on the Justice Department Tuesday afternoon to speak up for those they called “political prisoners” awaiting trial for their roles in the insurrection.

“These are not unruly or dangerous, violent criminals,” Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.) proclaimed at a news conference outside DOJ headquarters. “These are political prisoners who are now being persecuted and bearing the pain of unjust suffering.”

The half-dozen lawmakers, including Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, made explicit what has become more obvious by the day: Republicans stand with those who attempted a violent coup on Jan. 6. And it’s not just the wingnuts. House Republican leaders held a news conference before the hearing, blaming Jan. 6 not on seditionists but on Capitol Police and, particularly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

elise stefanik cbs 2020 wwnyWith the Capitol Dome behind her, Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), left, the House Republican conference chair, proclaimed: “The American people deserve to know the truth: that Nancy Pelosi bears responsibility, as speaker of the House, for the tragedy that occurred on Jan. 6.” Stefanik charged that Pelosi “doesn’t want a fair or bipartisan investigation.”

Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, one of the saboteurs House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy had tried to place on the select committee, announced that Capitol Police “weren’t trained” adequately and that “Nancy Pelosi is ultimately responsible.”

Steve ScaliseThe Republican whip, Steve Scalise (La.), right, repeatedly accused Pelosi of a “coverup” about Jan. 6. And Rep. Troy Nehls (Tex.) denounced fellow Republicans Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), for serving on the select committee. “Those Pelosi Republicans aren’t interested in the truth,” he alleged. “We’re interested in the truth.”

Right. Seven of the eight Republicans standing there had voted down an independent, bipartisan commission negotiated by the top Republican on the House Homeland Security commission. And now they claim Pelosi is the one blocking a fair, bipartisan investigation? All this while faulting the Capitol Police, who at that very moment shielded them with a ring of officers, barriers, vehicles and a canine unit.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Politics Live Updates: Key Republicans Say They Are Ready to Advance Infrastructure Measure,  Staff Reports, July 28, 2021. The announcement, after weeks of negotiations, suggested the Senate could move forward soon on a bipartisan bill, a crucial piece of President Biden’s agenda. The bill would pump the largest infusion of federal money in more than a decade into the nation’s aging public works system. Here’s the latest in politics.

  • The announcement, after weeks of negotiations, suggested the Senate could move forward soon on a bipartisan bill.
  • Biden to sign an executive order aimed at protecting critical American infrastructure from cyberattacks.

 

Breaking News: U.S. Infrastructure

washington post logoWashington Post, Bipartisan infrastructure pact clears key Senate vote after breakthrough in talks, Tony Romm, July 28, 2021. Measure has White House support. Portman, Sinema say all significant disagreements have been resolved around roughly $1 trillion package.

transportation dept logoSenate Democrats and Republicans banded together on Wednesday to advance a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve the country’s aging infrastructure, overcoming months of political deadlock on one of President Biden’s signature economic policy priorities.

The day of breakthroughs began with news of a deal, as a bipartisan bloc of 10 negotiators coalesced around a package to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections. The announcement from some of the group’s leaders, including Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), capped off a series of frenetic talks that nearly collapsed amid behind-the-scenes battles about the new spending and how to pay for it.

With that once-elusive agreement finally in hand, the Senate hours later then took its first formal legislative step. Lawmakers voted 67-32 to put themselves on track to begin debating infrastructure reform this week, clearing the first of many hurdles toward adopting a proposal that the White House has described as historic.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, New CDC mask guidance could upend economy, return-to-work plans, David J. Lynch and Abha Bhattarai, July 28, 2021. Corporate chief executives are growing worried about bringing workers back into crowded offices, with some privately discussing mandatory vaccination. The federal government’s abrupt about-face on the need for indoor mask-wearing is clouding prospects for Americans to return to the office in large numbers, raising fears that the ultra-infectious delta variant could threaten the economic recovery.

What just weeks ago seemed like a smooth return to pre-pandemic life suddenly felt shaky on Tuesday following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s call for vaccinated individuals to resume indoor mask-wearing in high-risk areas.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Republicans refuse to follow new mask mandate, leading Pelosi to call McCarthy a ‘moron,’ Marianna Sotomayor and John Wagner, l Many House Republicans refused to wear masks on the House floor during a series of morning votes, before they called for the chamber to adjourn as GOP members rebuffed attempts by staff to get them to put on a mask.

Nancy Pelosi House Republicans on Wednesday angrily criticized a new order from the Capitol Hill physician to wear masks inside the Capitol due to the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, leading Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, to call House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy a “moron” over his argument that the decision was not based on science.

republican elephant logoMany House Republicans refused to wear masks on the House floor during a series of morning votes, before they called for the chamber to adjourn as GOP members rebuffed attempts by staff to get them to put on a mask.

“This is some serious nanny-state stuff that will only breed resentment. No kidding,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) said on the floor, complaining that the House should be focusing on border security. He added: “This institution is a sham. We should adjourn and shut the place down.”

When Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) entered the chamber, a Democratic staff member handed her a mask. Boebert grabbed it and dropped it on the floor, according to people familiar with the interaction, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record. The congresswoman’s office said she slid it back across the table to the staffer.

lauren boebertBoebert, right, is among the most outspoken Republicans against mask requirements, arguing that they are a sign of authoritarianism rather than an attempt to prevent the spread of a disease that has killed more than 611,000 Americans.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) joined Republicans in deriding the new mask mandate despite concerns from public health officials that the delta variant poses a renewed threat to the public, particularly because of the refusal of many people in areas represented by Republicans to get vaccinated.

Asked Wednesday morning by NBC News about McCarthy’s comment, Pelosi responded: “He’s such a moron.” A survey of all 535 members of Congress by CNN found that in May, 100 percent of Democrats from both chambers were fully vaccinated, while 44.8 percent of House Republicans and 92 percent of Republican senators said the same. Democrats say the lag in vaccinations among conservatives has been holding them back in easing restrictions on Capitol Hill.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mask mandates are coming back, including in Vegas. Tourists aren’t happy, Bryan Pietsch, July 28, 2021. Nevada reinstalled a statewide mask mandate within hours of a CDC announcement that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in public in high-transmission areas.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Reversal, C.D.C. to Recommend Some Vaccinated People Wear Masks Indoors, Staff report, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). The agency is expected to reverse course on a decision made two months ago, saying that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in certain areas of the country. Details are expected later today. The change follows surges in areas with low vaccination rates and reports of breakthrough infections with the Delta variant.

Reversing a decision made just two months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to recommend on Tuesday that people vaccinated for the coronavirus resume wearing masks indoors in certain areas of the country.

cdc logo CustomThe change follows reports of rising breakthrough infections with the Delta variant of the virus in people who were fully immunized, and case surges in regions with low vaccination rates. The vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of infection with the virus, including those involving the Delta variant.

But the new guidance, the details of which are expected later Tuesday, would mark a sharp turnabout from the agency’s position since May that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor spaces.

As recently as last week, an agency spokesman said that the C.D.C. had no plans to change its guidance, unless there were a significant change in the science. Federal officials met on Sunday night to review new evidence that may have prompted the reversal, CNN reported on Tuesday.

“I think that’s great,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. Based on what scientists are learning about the Delta variant’s ability to cause breakthrough infections, she said, “this is a move in the right direction.”

  • As worries mount over the Delta variant, the U.S. retains travel bans and weighs tougher steps.
  • A program to aid the economy brings Mexican workers into San Diego for vaccinations.
  • New virus cases are falling in the U.K., baffling scientists.
  • U.S. students ended the pandemic school year 4 to 5 months behind, a new report finds.
  • As virus cases rise, another contagion spreads among the vaccinated: anger.
  • Lockdowns ease in parts of Australia, but Sydney’s outbreak swells.
  • Against the odds, tiny Bhutan rolls out a second round of mass vaccinations.
  • Outside the Olympic bubble, Tokyo sets a new daily record in coronavirus cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Cases Rise, a New Feeling Spreads Among the Vaccinated: Anger, Roni Caryn Rabin, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). The rising sentiment is contributing to support for more coercive measures, such as vaccine mandates. But experts warn that a tougher stance may backfire.

As coronavirus cases resurge across the country, many inoculated Americans are losing patience with vaccine holdouts who, they say, are neglecting a civic duty or clinging to conspiracy theories and misinformation even as new patients arrive in emergency rooms and the nation renews mask advisories.

The country seemed to be exiting the pandemic; barely a month ago, a sense of celebration was palpable. Now many of the vaccinated fear for their unvaccinated children and worry that they are at risk themselves for breakthrough infections. Rising case rates are upending plans for school and workplace reopenings, and threatening another wave of infections that may overwhelm hospitals in many communities.

“It’s like the sun has come up in the morning and everyone is arguing about it,” said Jim Taylor, 66, a retired civil servant in Baton Rouge, La., a state in which fewer than half of adults are fully vaccinated.

“The virus is here and it’s killing people, and we have a time-tested way to stop it — and we won’t do it. It’s an outrage.”

The rising sentiment is contributing to support for more coercive measures. Scientists, business leaders and government officials are calling for vaccine mandates — if not by the federal government, then by local jurisdictions, schools, employers and businesses.

“I’ve become angrier as time has gone on,” said Doug Robertson, 39, a teacher who lives outside Portland, Ore., and has three children too young to be vaccinated, including a toddler with a serious health condition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden plans to require federal workers to be vaccinated or undergo repeated tests, Eli Rosenberg and Tyler Pager, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). New directive, planned for Thursday, comes as the White House tries to arrest the delta variant’s spread The plan is part of a change in tack by the White House in recent days as the delta variant has spread markedly through parts of the United States, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Evangelical pastor tells churchgoers to ditch their masks: ‘Don’t believe this delta variant nonsense,’ Jaclyn Peiser, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Since the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Greg Locke, the pastor at a Nashville-area church, has repeatedly called covid a hoax, undermined emergency mandates and refused to comply with guidance from public health officials.

This week, Locke took his defiance a step further, making a sharp warning regarding mask-wearing.

If “you start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave,” Locke, 45, told scores of Global Vision Bible Church parishioners during his sermon on Sunday. His statement was followed by cheers and applause.

“I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church,” he added.

Locke’s fiery five-minute diatribe, in which he also denied the existence of the delta variant, comes as vaccination rates in his home state slow and infection rates climb. So far, about 44 percent of Tennesseans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Washington Post’s vaccine tracker, making it among the states with the lowest rate. The state recently reported that 98 percent of people who died of covid and 97 percent of covid hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.

Locke’s evangelical church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., about 20 miles east of downtown Nashville, has grown during the pandemic, CNN reported. The pastor’s controversial commentary on covid and the 2020 presidential election has attracted far-right churchgoers.

During a sermon last month, Locke called President Biden a fraud and “a sex trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel,” a reference to QAnon, an extremist ideology based on false claims.

He h+as also falsely claimed the pandemic is “fake,” the death count is “manipulated,” and the vaccine is a “dangerous scam.”

And the pastor has preached misinformation about the vaccine, including falsely claiming it’s made of “aborted fetal tissue.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 189.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 288 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 163.6 million people fully vaccinated.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 27, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 196,155,146, Deaths: 4,196,619
U.S. Cases:     35,353,923, Deaths:    627,351
India Cases:     31,484,605, Deaths:    422,054
Brazil Cases:    19,749,073, Deaths:    551,906

More On Trump Capitol Riot, Insurrection

Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, previously a combat veteran, tears up during testimony on July 27, 2021 (Associated Press pool photo).Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, previously a combat veteran, tears up during testimony on July 27, 2021 (Associated Press pool photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘A Hit Man Sent Them’: Capitol Officers Recount the Horrors of Jan. 6, Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). At the first hearing of the House panel investigating the Capitol riot, an officer begged lawmakers to uncover the full extent of former President Trump’s role.

One officer described how rioters attempted to gouge out his eye and called him a traitor as they sought to invade the Capitol.

Another told of being smashed in a doorway and nearly crushed amid a “medieval” battle with a pro-Trump mob as he heard guttural screams of pain from fellow officers.

A third said he was beaten unconscious and stunned repeatedly with a Taser as he pleaded with his assailants, “I have kids.”

A fourth relayed how he was called a racist slur over and over again by intruders wearing “Make America Great Again” garb.

“All of them — all of them were telling us, ‘Trump sent us,’” Aquilino A. Gonell, a U.S. Capitol Police sergeant, said on Tuesday as he tearfully recounted the horrors of defending Congress on Jan. 6, testifying at the first hearing of a House select committee to investigate the attack.

One by one, in excruciating detail, Sergeant Gonell and three other officers who faced off with the hordes that broke into the Capitol told Congress of the brutal violence, racism and hostility they suffered as a throng of angry rioters, acting in the name of President Donald J. Trump, beat, crushed and shocked them.

thomas webster dc police

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Respected N.Y.P.D. Officer Became the Accused Capitol Riot #EyeGouger, Michael Wilson, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Thomas Webster, above in red vest, once was part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s security detail. As he awaits trial, the retired cop is on the other side of the law.

The F.B.I. agents showed Thomas Webster a wanted flier with a picture taken during the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. In the photograph, a middle-aged man is shouting angrily across a metal barricade with a pole in his raised right hand.

“That’s a picture of you, right, Mr. Webster?” an agent asked, according to a transcript of the interview.

He was a former New York City police officer, a decorated member of the force who once worked as an instructor at the firing range and with a detail that protected the mayor at public appearances and at Gracie Mansion. But on this afternoon in February, sitting across from two agents in an interrogation room in Lower Manhattan, he found himself on the other side of the law.

He looked at the picture. “Yeah,” he said, and tried to explain how it all began.

“I kept on saying to myself, ‘All right, Tom, this is your first protest’ — I’ve never been to one before,” he told the agents. “I said, ‘Stay behind the freakin’ barrier, don’t threaten anyone and keep the flagpole away from everyone.’”

This plan would not last long — not more than a minute or two. Mr. Webster, in fact, quickly did the opposite, prosecutors said — starting a brawl that stood out, even amid the many hours of video from that day. Then he drove back home, to his wife and three children and his landscaping business in Florida, N.Y.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Declines to Defend Trump Ally in Lawsuit Over Jan. 6 Riot, Katie Benner, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). The move could mean that the Justice Department is also unlikely to defend former President Donald J. Trump in the case.

The Justice Department declined on Tuesday to defend a congressional ally of former President Donald J. Trump in a lawsuit accusing them both of inciting supporters at a rally in the hours before the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.

Law enforcement officials determined that Representative Mo Brooks, Republican of Alabama, was acting outside the scope of his duties in an incendiary speech just before the attack, according to a court filing. Mr. Brooks had asked the department to certify that he was acting as a government employee during the rally; had it agreed to defend him, he would have been dismissed from the lawsuit and the United States substituted as a defendant.

“The record indicates that Brooks’s appearance at the Jan. 6 rally was campaign activity, and it is no part of the business of the United States to pick sides among candidates in federal elections,” the Justice Department wrote.

“Members of Congress are subject to a host of restrictions that carefully distinguish between their official functions, on the one hand, and campaign functions, on the other.”

The Justice Department’s decision shows it is likely to also decline to provide legal protection for Mr. Trump in the lawsuit. Legal experts have closely watched the case because the Biden Justice Department has continued to fight for granting immunity to Mr. Trump in a 2019 defamation lawsuit where he denied allegations that he raped the writer E. Jean Carroll and said she accused him to get attention.

Such a substitution provides broad protections for government officials and is generally reserved for government employees sued over actions that stem from their work. In the Carroll case, the department cited other defamation lawsuits as precedent.

The Brooks decision also ran counter to the Justice Department’s longstanding broad view of actions taken in the scope of a federal employee’s employment, which has served to make it harder to use the courts to hold government employees accountable for wrongdoing.

Roll Call, GOP ‘holds’ threaten quick action on supplemental spending bill, Jennifer Shutt, July 28, 2021. Funds included for National Guard deployments, Afghan relocation. A $2.1 billion emergency spending bill to bolster Capitol Hill security, reimburse the National Guard and relocate Afghans who helped the U.S. government during two decades of war in that country stalled Wednesday after several Senate Republicans put holds on the bill.

Senate Appropriations ranking member Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., said as many as seven lawmakers have objections to the $1.1 billion the legislation would provide to help relocate Afghans to ensure their safety as U.S. troops withdraw.

“I believe we have an obligation to the Afghan people who are our allies, who helped us. We know what’s going to happen to a lot of those people,” Shelby said, adding that it would be “shameful” not to help those Afghans now.

The package would provide $521 million to reimburse the National Guard for the cost of activating troops from throughout the country to protect the Capitol for months following the Jan. 6 attack.

The U.S. Capitol Police would receive $70 million for salaries, equipment and other expenses related to the insurrection by pro-Trump rioters. And the Architect of the Capitol would get $300 million to bolster windows and doors throughout the complex and to install new security cameras.

The bill would also appropriate $42.1 million to the Architect of the Capitol, the Sergeant at Arms and the Capitol Police to assist the agencies with COVID-19.

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Gone, but the Media’s Misinformation Challenge Is Still Here, Marc Tracy, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Should news outlets contextualize false claims made by powerful people? Or ignore them completely? There is no consensus in the industry, but its thinking continues to evolve.

In American life, truth is now contested. And while this has profoundly affected the country’s politics, and so much else, it has raised unique challenges for one group in particular: journalists.

After all, the high-profile Republicans who are obfuscating the events of Jan. 6 are undeniably newsworthy. Ms. Stefanik is the third-ranking House Republican; Mr. Johnson may seek re-election in a pivotal Senate race; polls indicate that Mr. Trump would be the commanding front-runner if he seeks the Republican presidential nomination in three years.

Their political influence would normally demand coverage. Yet journalists will never feel comfortable publishing anything they know to be false. Social media has also raised the stakes of airing misleading statements, even in the service of conveying the news. If a lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on, then maybe the act of printing a falsehood and debunking it in the next sentence is just giving the falsehood a head start.

Mainstream outlets have tried to square this circle by contextualizing problematic quotes and allegations. But this is difficult to do well, and it may be impossible to strike the exactly correct balance.

Justice Integrity Project, Whistleblower Summit This Week Highlights 50 Years of the Pentagon Papers and Investigative Journalism, Andrew Kreig, Updated July 28, 2021. The annual Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival this week continues to empower whistleblowers and advocates and encourages others to stand for truth. Film presentations began July 23 and the panel program begins Sunday with the program extending to Aug. 1.

The event presents more than 50 film screenings and panel presentations over ten days.

The films focus on whistleblowing, free speech/press freedom, civil and human rights, or social justice themes. Check out Film Festival Flix to see the titles, which are also listed below.

daniel ellsberg umassThis year's keynote speaker on July 30 will be former U.S. Department of Defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, thereby marking the 50th year anniversary of his courageous release of what are now known as "The Pentagon Papers" disclosing scandalous aspects of the Pentagon's secret operations during the then-raging Vietnam War.

Ellsberg, shown at left in a photo by the University of Massachusetts, which now houses his collected papers, made disclosures first via the New York Times and later via other news organizations that risked federal prosecution, as mike gravel offical photoendured by Ellsberg. The late U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), right, who died last month, helped publicize the revelations by reading excerpts on the Senate floor.

This year's Summit and Festival includes more than 30 documentary films and shorts, plus special segments. The segments include sessions led by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), a co-host of the event, and the Government Accountability Project and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), both long-time partners at the Summit. A day-long segment on July 30 by the National Whistleblower Center, another major partner, features prominent U.S. elected and appointed officials regarded as welcoming to whistleblowers and their causes.

This year's expanded Pillar Award ceremony recognizes notable civil and human rights champions among  politicians, community activists and journalists — including documentary filmmakers.

The main organizers of the event are former ACORN whistleblowers Michael McCray and Marcel Reid, who were both honored earlier this year by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners at the world's largest anti-fraud conference. The two were among the "ACORN 8" activists who helped expose gross corruption and self-dealing in the inner circle of leadership at the community activist organization ACORN.

The Summit is organized in collaboration with such longtime partners as the Pacifica Foundation.

  • Click here for schedule and ticket information for the sessions. Please note that this is a corrected link, https://filmfestivalflix.com/Whistleblower/Purchase-Tickets/%20, from one previously published here. The panels may all be accessed for free, with film views purchased either individually or with a full-conference pass for $150. To access the panels, register and then locate the panels section at the top of the next page. Click on your preferred panel. Registration is for functionality and security purposes. So, you have to be registered and logged into your Film Festival Flix (FFF) account to activate the Zoom links. Here is a short video that informs you how to create a Film Festival Flix account if you have a problem: https://vimeo.com/578502564

Our Justice Integrity Project, a member of the Summit host committee for a half dozen years, opened the panel segment at noon EDT on Sunday, July 25, with a major panel on Watergate that featured former Washington Post editor Barry Sussman and two critics of the Post's coverage, authors Jim Hougan and John O'Connor.

The session title is Pentagon Papers and Watergate Revelations After Five Decades: What’s the Rest of the Story? The session remains available for viewing after its start time, like all Summit sessions.

barry sussmanSussman, right, was Washington Post city editor when DC police arrested burglars for breaking into a suite of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office and residential complex in Washington, DC. Sussman was soon named special Watergate editor, helping direct the coverage that won a Pulitzer grand prize for the newspaper. In 1974, he authored The Great Cover-up: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, a best-seller and widely praised account whose fifth edition will be published at the end of this year with an update focused on the enduring lessons for today of the abuses of presidential power that the scandal uncovered.

This panel is rare because critics such as Hougan and O'Connor of the Post's coverage almost never appear alongside the most noted Watergate-era journalists or officials.

Hougan, former Washington editor of Harper's Magazine, and O'Connor, a prominent San Francisco attorney who represented the late former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, are at jim hougan photo2the forefront of such criticism, which tends to focus on the role of the CIA and on other elements of the scandal that critics regard as under-reported by major news organizations.

In 1984, Hougan, shown at left, authored Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA. By then, he had authored two previous books, with one focused on private spies affecting American civic and government operations. In Secret Agenda, he reported that "accounts of the break-in have been deliberately falsified by a CIA cover story" and that "The President was spied upon by his own intelligence agents." He reported also, CIA Logo"False evidence was planted for the FBI to find...Sexual espionage and not election politics was at the heart of it all."

Hougan's book is one of a score or so volumes since then illuminating such themes. Another pioneering effort was Silent Coup by the late Len Colodny and his co-author Robert Gettlin in 1991 (republished in 2015). These books included accounts by CIA-affiliated burglary participants such as G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord, and accounts by whistleblowers and historians. One multi-year research project by USA Today DC Enterprise Editor Ray Locker, who as a Tampa-based reporter had met Colodny, resulted in Nixon's Gamble (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Haig's Coup: How Richard Nixon's Closest Aide Forced Him From Office (University of Nebraska Press, 2019). Both Gettlin, now retired from a career in journalism and as an executive in a federal inspector general's office, and Locker have spoken at previous Whistleblower Summit conferences.

In O'Connor's Postgate published in 2019, he argued that famed Washington Post reporter and editor Bob Woodward and his powerful allies within the news and publishing industries "betrayed" Woodward's' source Mark Felt, who became O'Connor's client beginning in 2005 after O'Connor confirmed that the aging and memory-impaired former FBI executive had been "Deep Throat."

O'Connor, left, argues that John OConnor headshot high resWoodward and his allies have sought to diminish Felt through malicious tactics to preserve what O'Connor describes as "historically significant misrepresentations woven throughout the Post's Watergate journalism."

The 64-minute panel was organized and moderated by this editor (Andrew Kreig), a former newspaper reporter during the 1970s and more recently director of the Justice Integrity Project, and, among other civic volunteer efforts, a member of the Colodny Collection Board of Advisors at Texas A & M University. The advisory board includes the university's liberal arts college dean, Dr. Jerry Jones, among the 24 author, historian and other research members. The collection houses some 500 tape-recorded interviews by Colodny len colodny croppedand his co-author Gettlin of key figures in the scandal and its follow-ups.

Colodny died last month in Florida after working exhaustively for many years to help new researchers, including this editor and the university. Colodny and the university have been digitizing the research to make the materials more widely available, including via the site Watergate.com.

Shown below at the bottom of an appendix is additional information on this panel's participants, their credentials and their views.

More generally, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) published on Friday a lengthy account of the program, including a special focus on its own SPJ panel presentation July 27. That panel describes new government restrictions on reporters' access to newsmaking officials and public records. The SPJ account, a listing of the films being shown and other event details are provided on a runover-page below.

The film program began on July 23 and continues through the weekend before the opening plenary session July 26. The schedule is here. Each film will be available at the scheduled release time and date, and available for viewing also 72 hours after its release window.

 

U.S. Law, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Maryland man charged with threatening Anthony S. Fauci, Emily Davies, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Prosecutors allege that Thomas Patrick Connally Jr., 56, also threatened Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

A 56-year-old man from Maryland has been charged with threatening to harm Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

The criminal complaint, made public Tuesday, accused Thomas Patrick Connally Jr. of sending emails detailing the ways in which the leading health experts and their families would die.

“You and your entire family will be dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire,” he allegedly wrote in one of several emails to Fauci, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland.

The profanity-laced emails allegedly revealed ardent disapproval of “mandatory vaccines,” though the government has not imposed any such mandate. He also accused Fauci of engaging in an “HIV scam,” according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint.

Fauci’s security is stepped up as he receives threats

The investigation grew out of a government response last year to an increasing number of threats directed at Fauci, with the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general’s office vetting the threats. The charge landed in court as the federal government is under pressure by some to curb the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus with more-stringent mask and vaccine mandates and by others to maintain what they view as the freedoms necessary to live as they please.

 

daniel hale bob hayes photo

 “I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public that it keeps us safe… I began to speak out, believing my participation in the drone program to have been deeply wrong”

-- Whistleblower Daniel Hale, who was sentenced July 27, after pleading guilty to violating the Espionage Act by leaking classified information about the U.S. targeted drone assassination program. (Source: Bob Hayes/handout)

washington post logoWashington Post, Daniel Hale, who leaked information on U.S. drone warfare, sentenced to 45 months in prison, Rachel Weiner, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). In 2013, Daniel Hale was at an antiwar conference in D.C. when a man recounted that two family members had been killed in a U.S. drone strike. The Yemeni man, through tears, said his relatives had been trying to encourage young men to leave al-Qaeda.

Hale realized he had watched the fatal attack from a base in Afghanistan. At the time, he and his colleagues in Air Force intelligence viewed it as a success. Now he was horrified.

It was such experiences, Hale told a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday, that led him to leak classified information about drone warfare to a reporter after leaving the military.

“I believe that it is wrong to kill, but it is especially wrong to kill the defenseless,” he said in court. He said he shared what “was necessary to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.”

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady sentenced Hale, 33, of Nashville, to 45 months in prison for violating the Espionage Act, saying his disclosure of documents went beyond his “courageous and principled” stance on drones.

“You are not being prosecuted for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people,” O’Grady said. “You could have been a whistleblower … without taking any of these documents.”

Hale’s attorneys and advocates argued that the disclosures provided a valuable public service. The documents included a report finding that reliance on deadly attacks was undermining intelligence gathering. During one five-month stretch of an operation in Afghanistan, the documents revealed, nearly 90 percent of the people killed were not the intended targets.

Hale also disclosed the criteria for placing a person on the terrorism watch list, information that Muslim civil rights lawyers said in a letter to the court had helped them challenge the constitutionality of that system.

“I believe he only spoke out for humanitarian and educational purposes,” journalist Sonia Kennebeck told the court in a letter. She featured Hale in a 2016 documentary about drone warfare.

Prosecutors countered that Hale had put Americans at risk to boost his own ego. They noted that he began taking classified information to his home only a few weeks into a job at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2014, not long after swearing to preserve the government’s secrets.

“Hale did not in any way contribute to the public debate about how we fight wars,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said in court. “All he did was endanger the people who are doing the fighting.”

Friends and family members said military service was an awkward fit for Hale, who suffered from mental health issues throughout his life. His attorney said he joined the Air Force to escape an abusive atmosphere in a poor, fundamentalist home.

“Recently, someone asked me to tell them a happy memory I have with Daniel,” his sister wrote to the court. “Sadly, this was not an easy task.”

But Hale tested well and was steered into signals intelligence. He went to Afghanistan in 2012. When he left the following year, he said, he already had deep misgivings about the work he had done. He recalled in a letter to the judge learning after one drone strike on a car that a small child had been killed and another seriously injured. He wondered whether any of the other strikes he had helped carry out had killed innocent civilians deemed “enemy combatants” by virtue of being male and of military age.

“You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job,” he said in court Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Faces Murder Charge After Man Who Was Shaken as Baby Dies at 35, Neil Vigdor, July 28, 2021. Terry McKirchy was arrested after a grand jury indicted her in the death of Benjamin Dowling, who was disabled after his parents left him in her care.

A former babysitter who served a few months in jail for shaking a 5-month-old boy so forcefully 37 years ago that he suffered permanent brain damage now faces a possible life sentence after his death from those injuries in 2019, at age 35, the authorities said.

Terry McKirchy, 59, who now lives in Texas, was arrested again on July 2 after a grand jury in Broward County, Fla., indicted her on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Benjamin Dowling, prosecutors said this week.

 

U.S. Governance, Law, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden is traveling to Pennsylvania to promote U.S. manufacturing, but the Delta surge may draw the spotlight, Annie Karni, July 28, 2021.  President Biden is set to travel on Wednesday to Lehigh Valley, Pa., to bolster support for his infrastructure package as bipartisan negotiations near a make-or-break point.

But a backslide in the country’s progress toward ending the coronavirus pandemic threatened to overshadow the trip, the president’s sixth visit to the critical swing state since taking office. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for universal masking in schools and told vaccinated Americans that they should begin wearing masks again in the many counties in the country where the virus is surging.

Speaking and touring a Lehigh Valley plant that produces Mack Trucks, Mr. Biden was expected to underscore the importance of American manufacturing and unveil a new proposal that seeks to support domestic production by increasing the amount of U.S.-made products purchased by the federal government.,

ny times logoNew York Times, L.G.B.T.Q. Elected Officials in U.S. Number Nearly 1,000, Rising Fast, Shane Goldmacher, July 28, 2021. Every state but Mississippi now has at least one L.G.B.T.Q. elected official, a new report says. Most are Democrats, and anti-Trump fervor spurred many to run.

The number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender elected officials has continued to surge, growing by about 17 percent in the last year to nearly 1,000 nationwide — more than double the number just four years ago, according to a new annual report.

Their ranks now include two governors, two United States senators, nine members of Congress, 189 state legislators and 56 mayors, according to the report from the L.G.B.T.Q. Victory Institute, which provides training to candidates seeking public office. All told, the group identified 986 L.G.B.T.Q. elected officials.

“There are more L.G.B.T.Q. folks who are taking the plunge and deciding to run for office,” said Annise Parker, the institute’s president and chief executive. The mayor of Houston from 2010 to 2016, Ms. Parker was one of the first openly gay mayors of a major American city.

This is the fifth year that the institute has surveyed the nation, and total L.G.B.T.Q. representation in elected offices has risen to 986 today, from 843 in 2020, 698 in 2019 and 448 in 2017, out of roughly a half-million elective positions.

Of all racial groups, Black L.G.B.T.Q. elected officials grew at the fastest rate in the last year, with a 75 percent increase in representation, according to the report. The number of multiracial L.G.B.T.Q. elected officials rose by 40 percent.

The institute tracks federal officeholders, statewide officials, state legislators, as well as municipal and judicial officials. Every state except Mississippi now has at least one elected officeholder who identifies as L.G.B.T.Q., the report said.

Politico, Investigation: "He’s a Great Guy’: Trump’s Favored Aide Has Troubled Past, Michael Kruse, July 28, 2021. Sources say Max Miller has a history of aggressive behavior that includes slapping his ex-girlfriend, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. “Max Miller,” said Donald Trump.

djt hands up mouth open CustomThe former president stood behind the microphone at the lectern at one of the most recent of his trademark rallies late last month at the county fairgrounds here and told the thousands who had gathered to support him to also support Miller—the staunch former aide Trump eagerly tapped to try to unseat Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump, in the intensifying bellwether of the GOP primary in Ohio’s 16th congressional district.

“Great guy,” Trump said of Miller.

Miller, 32, is the poster child of Trump’s post-impeachment retribution tour. In his mounting efforts to punish Republican apostates in next year’s midterms and to bolster his political sway for a potential run of his own in 2024, Trump has endorsed an array of supportive candidates in House, Senate and state-level races—but there’s nobody on the list like Miller. He’s not merely a loyalist—he’s a loyalist who worked on both Trump campaigns as well as in the White House and used proximity to the president to foster by all accounts an actual affinity and rapport. He’s not just one of Trump’s “Complete and Total” House endorsements—he was the first. And he’s pitted against one of the impeachment voters who galls Trump the most—in a state he won twice. While the statement that accompanied Trump’s late February endorsement called Miller “a wonderful person,” this rally on a sweltering summer Saturday marked a yet more full-throated and visual showing of his backing.

djt maga hat“An incredible patriot,” Trump said, “who I know very well.”

Maybe not well enough, according to police records, court records and interviews with more than 60 people. Ranging from people who grew up with Miller in the affluent Cleveland inner suburb of Shaker Heights to those he worked with and for in the White House and on Trump’s campaigns—some of whom were granted anonymity because they fear retaliation from Miller, Trump or both—these people told me Miller can be a cocky bully with a quick-trigger temper. He has a record of speeding, underage drinking and disorderly conduct—documented charges from multiple jurisdictions that include a previously unreported charge in 2011 for driving under the influence that he subsequently pleaded down to a more minor offense.

And barely more than a year ago, according to three people familiar with the incident, Miller’s romantic relationship with former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham ended when he pushed her against a wall and slapped her in the face in his Washington apartment after she accused him of cheating on her.

Grisham declined to comment. Through his attorney, Miller denied that this happened. “Mr. Miller has never, ever assaulted Ms. Grisham in any way whatsoever,” the attorney, Larry Zukerman of Cleveland, wrote in a nine-page letter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jake Ellzey Defeats Widow of Former Congressman in Race for Texas Seat, David Montgomery, Updated July 28, 2021. Mr. Ellzey, a state representative, was victorious in a runoff against Susan Wright, whose husband had represented the Sixth Congressional District before he died of Covid-19.
The widow of a Texas congressman who died early this year of Covid-19 lost to a freshman state representative on Tuesday in a special runoff election between Republicans seeking to fill the vacant House seat.

State Representative Jake Ellzey, who narrowly missed capturing the Republican nomination for the seat in 2018, defeated Susan Wright, whose husband, Ron Wright, died in February about two weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus. Mr. Ellzey obtained 53.3 percent of the vote and will join the second-largest congressional delegation — 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats — in the U.S. House behind California.

Mr. Ellzey, basking in what he described as “a great day of celebration,” credited his victory to a positive message that played well among his future constituents.

“I believe in a brighter tomorrow, and a great country, and that our best days are ahead of us,” he said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Ellzey, 51, was elected to serve the remainder of Mr. Wright’s unexpired term, which ends in January 2023, but he will quickly start running for a full two-year term in next year’s election.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just lost, Bill Palmer, July 28, 2021. It’s puzzling how many Republican office holders are still afraid of Donald Trump, given that his endorsements have never counted for all that much when it comes to winning. Even when Trump was in office, the candidates he endorsed would often end up losing. Trump was always able to get people to turn out for rallies, but not at the ballot box. Now that he’s gone from office and his favorability rating is in the toilet, it’s getting even worse for him.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night a special election took place in Texas to fill a U.S. House of Representatives seat that was vacated when the Republican incumbent died. The last two candidates standing in the race were both Republicans. Trump endorsed one of the Republicans, but the other Republican ended up winning by about seven points instead.

It’s the latest reminder that Donald Trump’s endorsement isn’t worth all that much when it comes to winning an election, and it never has been. It further raises the question of why most House and Senate Republicans are still kissing Trump’s backside, even now that he’s little more than a half-senile blob with no social media presence who rarely leaves the house. What does he have on them?

Reuters, Jared Kushner to leave politics, launch investment firm: sources, Steve Holland, July 28, 2021. Jared Kushner, a top adviser to former President Donald Trump, plans to launch an investment firm in coming months, a move that will take him away from politics for the foreseeable future, sources familiar with the plan said on Wednesday.

Kushner, the former chief executive of Kushner Companies, who served as the Republican president's senior adviser in the White House, is in the final stages of launching an investment firm called Affinity Partners that will be headquartered in Miami.

Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, is also looking to open an office in Israel to pursue regional investments to connect Israel’s economy and India, North Africa and the Gulf, said two people briefed on the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kushner has spent the last six months with his family in Miami writing a book about his White House experiences that is expected to be published early next year.

Kushner helped broker deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in a six-month flurry last year. He also helped negotiate a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Kushner and his family have been spending the summer as Trump's next-door neighbor at Trump's golf property in Bedminster, New Jersey.

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona cleanup bill could exceed $9 million after partisan election audit, Joseph Marks, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). That’s more than half the money the state received from Congress to improve election security before 2020.

Arizona’s heading into the red on election security, driven by a partisan audit in Maricopa County and baseless claims by former president Donald Trump and his allies that his election loss wasn’t legitimate.

The state’s already on the hook for roughly $3 million to replace the county’s voting machines because of concerns the partisan firm conducting the audit, Cyber Ninjas, can’t ensure the machines weren’t infected with malicious software during the process.

Now, Trump and his allies are pushing hard for the county to hand over routers that will cost an additional $6 million to replace if they similarly can’t be trusted.

Top Arizona state Senate officials issued a new subpoena last night demanding the county turn over the routers along with envelopes from all mail-in ballots or images of them and detailed voter registration records, The Associated Press reports. The GOP-controlled state Senate is the main body supporting the audit while Maricopa County's Board of Supervisors, which is also Republican controlled, has firmly opposed it.

Here’s some troubling math: Arizona got just about $16 million for election security in a pair of congressional spending bills in recent years aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2016 election, which was undermined by Russian interference. More than half of that could be lost to cleaning up after the audit.

That would be a whopping $9 million for a review that has been roundly pilloried as inept and lacking basic security and methodological controls by election experts, Maricopa County’s own officials and the Arizona secretary of state.

Cyber Ninjas' CEO Doug Logan was an ardent Trump supporter and has tweeted conspiracy theories supporting him. Maricopa County has already conducted two audits that found the 2020 election result was legitimate.

 

World News

 

state dept map logo Small

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Travel intelligence analysts finally see some action after a year of Zoom conferences, Wayne Madsen, left, July 28, 2021. There are units within major intelligence wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallagencies that are responsible for keeping track of the comings and goings of world leaders because their very presence in certain capital cities may yield some major intelligence findings. Since the pandemic, however, these special travel intelligence units have had very little to do other than keeping track of video conferences and who or who is not in attendance.

wayne madesen report logoOn July 25, travel intelligence branches around the world finally had something worthy to analyze and report. The Deputy Prime Minister Foreign Minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, fresh from visiting Washington, where he met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, showed up unannounced in Tehran to hold discussions with Iran's hard-line president-elect Ebrahim Raisi.

There was little doubt that the Qatari official was carrying a private message from Blinken, President Joe Biden, or both that dealt with resurrecting the moribund Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program that was unilaterally scuttled by Donald Trump, who was acting more in the interests of the former Likud government of Israel than U.S. national security interests.

The Guardian, Democrats call for possible action against NSO over Pegasus revelations, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Four Democrats in Congress tell Biden administration that such firms ‘should be sanctioned, and if necessary, shut down.’

Democratic lawmakers in Washington have called on the Biden administration to consider placing NSO Group on an export blacklist and said recent revelations of misuse reinforced their conviction that the “hacking-for-hire industry must be brought under control.”

The statement by four members of Congress followed reports by the Pegasus project, a collaboration of 17 media organisations including the Guardian, which investigated NSO, the Israeli company that sells its powerful surveillance software to government clients around the world.

nso group logoThe leak at the heart of the Pegasus project contained tens of thousands of phone numbers of individuals who are believed to have been selected as candidates for possible surveillance by clients of NSO. The numbers included those of heads of state such as the French president, Emmanuel Macron, government ministers, diplomats, activists, journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers.

It includes some people whose phones showed infection or traces of NSO’s Pegasus spyware, according to examinations of a sample of the devices by Amnesty International’s security lab. 

“Private companies should not be selling sophisticated cyber-intrusion tools on the open market, and the United States should work with its allies to regulate this trade,” the lawmakers said. "Companies that sell such incredibly sensitive tools to dictatorships are the AQ Khans of the cyber world. They should be sanctioned, and if necessary, shut down.”

They added that NSO had shown an “arrogant disregard for concerns that elected officials, human rights activists, journalists, and cyber-security experts have repeatedly raised”.

The statement represented a rare rebuke of an Israeli company by U.S. members of Congress, who suggested that NSO Group should join the ranks of blacklisted companies like Huawei and Hikvision of China. Any decision to add NSO to what is known as the entities list, forcing it to comply with new export rules, would be made by the Biden administration’s commerce department.

The statement was released by four influential lawmakers: Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, Katie Porter and Anna Eshoo of California, and Joaquin Castro of Texas.

They also singled out authoritarian governments like Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, and Rwanda, which are believed to have used NSO spyware and “make no distinction between terrorism and peaceful dissent”.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hong Kong Protester Is Convicted in First Trial Under Tough Security Law, Austin Ramzy, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Tong Ying-kit, 24, who struck police officers with his motorcycle while carrying a protest banner, was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession.

In the first trial under the tough national security law imposed by China, a Hong Kong court convicted a protester of terrorism and inciting secession on Tuesday, a ruling that sets new limits on dissent and raises the risks of challenging Beijing.

The protester, Tong Ying-kit, was arrested last year on July 1, after he drove his motorcycle around a Hong Kong neighborhood with a protest banner, then collided with police officers who tried to stop him, injuring three.

Under the security law, which went into effect hours before his arrest, Mr. Tong could be sentenced to life in prison. The court will hand down his sentence at a later date.

The trial was regarded as a test of how the city’s traditionally independent courts would enforce the security law while upholding the city’s much cherished civil liberties. In convicting Mr. Tong, the court showed the extent to which the new law would criminalize political speech.

“I think we would be kidding ourselves if we think the national security law would not be enforced in the way the Chinese government conceived it,” said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London. “The idea that the Hong Kong judiciary would be able to moderate it would be a mistake.”

 

2020 Olympics

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. women’s gymnastics takes silver with Simone Biles out. Russian Olympic Committee wins gold, Emily Giambalvo, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Biles struggled on the vault and withdrew, and the United States couldn't capture its third straight gold medal.

When Simone Biles exited the arena, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team’s gold medal chances plummeted. The world’s best gymnast later returned to the sideline but she withdrew from the competition for what USA Gymnastics cited as a “medical issue.”

Without Biles, the team scrambled to fill those holes in the lineup, and even though the United States had an opportunity to catch the Russian Olympic Committee heading into the final rotation, the Americans could not close the deal. The U.S. team earned the silver medal behind the ROC. A gap of more than three points separated the two nations after Jordan Chiles fell on a tumbling pass, crushing any hope the team had left. On the final routine from the ROC, Angelina Melnikova only needed to avoid disaster, and she hit her routine, bringing the team’s total to a 169.528, well ahead of Team USA’s 166.096.

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.


July 27

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Crime

 

More On Trump Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

U.S. Governance, Law, Crime, Politics

 

World News

  

U.S. Media News

 

2020 Olympics

 

Top Stories 

sworn capitol officers gty ps 210727 1627395009035 hpMain 16x9 992

 From left, Sgt. Aquilino Gonell of the U.S. Capitol Police, Officer Michael Fanone of the D.C. Metropolitan Police, Officer Daniel Hodges of the D.C. Metropolitan Police and Private First Class Harry Dunn of the U.S. Capitol Police are sworn in to testify before the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on U.S. Capitol on July 27, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘You will die on your knees’: D.C. officer recalls being pinned, John Wagner, Kim Bellware, Karoun Demirjian, Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany and Mariana Alfaro, July 27, 2021. New video footage shows how D.C. police officer lost consciousness from insurrectionist’s violence; Rep. Murphy recalls being in proximity to officer pinned between rioters and Capitol door frame; ‘I guess it is America,’ Capitol Police officer says of racist abuse that Black officers faced.

Four police officers are delivering emotional testimony Tuesday about the physical and verbal abuse they endured defending the Capitol on Jan. 6 from a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump, as a House select committee holds its first hearing on the insurrection.

In an opening statement, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the panel’s chairman, pledged not to give ground to “the big lie” — Trump’s claim to have won the 2020 election — that he said propelled the attack. Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), one of two Republicans appointed to the panel by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said no member of Congress should “whitewash what happened that day.”

What’s happening in today’s hearing:

  • The panel is hearing from two members of the Capitol Police — Officer Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell — along with two members of D.C.’s police force: officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges.
  • During his testimony, Fanone slammed his fist on the table and called the indifference of some lawmakers to the attack disgraceful. “Nothing, truly nothing, has prepared me to address those elected members of our government who continue to deny the events of that day. And in doing so, betray their oath of office.”
  • Lawmakers on the nine-member panel are now asking questions following statements from the four officers.
  • The Washington Post is providing live coverage of the hearing, which began shortly after 9:30 a.m.
  • How pro-Trump insurrectionists broke into the U.S. Capitol | How the rioters came dangerously close to Vice President Mike Pence | How one of America’s ugliest days unraveled

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Panel hears from 4 police officers about Capitol riot, John Wagner, July 27, 2021. House GOP leaders attack Pelosi ahead of hearing; Cheney hits back at criticism from party members over role in Jan. 6 probe, calling it ‘a disgrace;’ Post Reports: Investigating the insurrection.

  capitol ties

A heavily disguised man invades the U.S. Capitol as part of the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" protest carrying plastic "ties," which are normally used by law enforcers to bind the wrists of suspects but which are used also by terrorists to subdue hostage victims.

bennie thompson horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We have started investigating the attack on the Capitol. Nothing will be off-limits, Bennie G. Thompson, right, July 27, 2021. Bennie G. Thompson, a Democrat who represents Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House, is chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

On Jan. 6, a violent mob attacked the citadel of our democracy — the U.S. Capitol — in an attempt to prevent Congress from doing its constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.

On Tuesday, the bipartisan Select Committee on the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol begins its work investigating the facts, circumstances and causes of this assault on our democracy.

I had hoped that such an investigation would be carried out by an independent commission composed of national security experts, like the panel created by Congress after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. However, once the House Republican leadership rejected — and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell filibustered — bipartisan legislation to establish such a commission, we in the House believed we had no choice but to establish a select committee. In a recent poll, 72 percent of Americans agree there is more we must learn about that day.
Advertisement

Many of the Jan. 6 rioters have stated in their court pleadings that they stormed the Capitol believing they were acting on behalf of, or even at the behest of, then-President Donald Trump. The protection of our democracy demands that we comprehensively investigate what drove Americans to riot and violently assault Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and other law enforcement officers to access the inner sanctum of Congress and private offices of top congressional leaders, including the speaker of the House.

Jan. 6 was supposed to be about the peaceful transfer of power after an election, a hallmark of democracy and our American tradition. The rioters went to the Capitol that day to obstruct this solemn action — and nearly succeeded while defacing and looting the halls of the Capitol in the process. The committee will provide the definitive accounting of one of the darkest days in our history. Armed with answers, we hope to identify actions that Congress and the executive branch can take to help ensure that it never happens again.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I’m on the Jan. 6 Committee. Here Are the Questions I Want Answered, Adam Kinzinger (Mr. Kinzinger, a Republican, is a United States representative from Illinois), July 27, 2021. On Jan. 6, hundreds of our fellow citizens stormed the U.S. Capitol, armed and ready for battle. For hours, adam kinzinger headshotbroadcast live on television and streamed on social media, rioters attacked law enforcement and eventually breached the halls of Congress in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

Their goal was to subvert America’s democratic process — and their means to this end was brute force and violent assaults on the men and women of the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department.

How did this happen? Why? Who spurred this effort? Was it organized? When did our government leaders know of the impending attacks and what were their responses? What level of preparation or warnings did our law enforcement have? Was there coordination between the rioters and any members of Congress, or with staff?

We need answers and we need accountability, and the only way to get that is a full investigation and understanding of what happened to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Such an investigation should include a serious look at the misinformation campaigns and their origins, the lies being perpetuated by leaders — including by former President Donald Trump — and what impact such false narratives had on the events leading up to and following Jan. 6. We need to be fearless about understanding the motivations of our fellow Americans, even if it makes us uncomfortable about the truth of who they are and the truth of who played what role in inspiring them.

I’ve never been pessimistic about the future of this country, but if we fail to do this — and do this right — I will have serious doubts about what the future looks like for America and for our democracy. Self-governance requires accountability and responsibility, and it’s why I accepted Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s appointment to serve on the House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which is holding its first hearing on Tuesday.

Esquire, Opinion: Let the politicians bluster and fume. The videos do not lie, Charles P. Pierce, July 27, 2021. The body-cam videos. Always the body-cam videos.

Let the politicians bluster and fume. Let the unreconstructed bastards lie about what happened on January 6. Let the duplicitous pond scum create their own narrative out of their dark, unquenchable ambitions, and the carefully cultivated ignorance of their prime audiences. The body cams don’t lie. They’re hard to watch. They leave a hot, sour aftertaste of revulsion and rage. But they do not lie.

It’s strange, in a way. For years, police-reform activists pleaded for body cams to become mandatory in order to catch bad cops doing bad things, and to defeat orchestrated cover-ups by prosecutors, police unions, and the aforementioned bad cops. Now, here we are, watching the body-cam videos of the crimes of January 6, and the videos are irrefutable proof of the offenses committed against law-enforcement officers.

This is in no way to minimize the impact of the testimony given before the Select Committee investigating the insurrection by the officers who’d been invited to appear. You cannot dismiss the description of what happened to him offered by D.C. Metro police officer Michael Fanone:

But yet they tortured me. They beat me. I was struck with a taser device at the base of my skull numerous times. And they continued to do so, until I yelled out that I have kids.

You cannot dismiss DC Metro police officer Daniel Hodges’ description of the nightmarish moments in which he was trapped in a Capitol doorway at the mercy of the mob. "A meat grinder," Hodges said, and he described how he’d hoped not to be pulled to the ground: "At worst, [I might] be dragged down into the crowd and lynched."

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden seeks to end post-9/11 era, pulling combat forces from Iraq, Anne Gearan, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). Biden is set to welcome the Iraqi prime minister Monday and announce the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq — part of a broad goal of shifting the U.S. focus from the Middle East.

American FlagPresident Biden has announced the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He has started transferring prisoners from Guantánamo Bay in hopes of eventually shutting down the prison. And on Monday, he will welcome Iraq’s prime minister to the White House for an expected announcement that U.S. combat forces will leave that country within months.

The moves reflect what is emerging as an unmistakable pillar of Biden’s foreign policy: seeking to push America past the post-9/11 phase of its history, ending 20 years of relentless focus on the Middle East and terrorism rather than threats like China and cyberattacks. The United States needs to “fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20,” Biden has said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate infrastructure talks in jeopardy as infighting spills out into the open, Tony Romm, Seung Min Kim and Ian Duncan, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans initially said they had hoped to finalize a more robust blueprint by today, but the prospect now seems unimaginable.

Negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans over a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package appeared to be in political jeopardy on Monday, as lawmakers continued to feud publicly over how to dole out the money and finance the new federal spending.

transportation dept logoThe impasse arrives after lawmakers toiled away into the weekend over their proposal to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections. Republicans including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah initially hoped to finalize a more robust blueprint as soon as Monday so that the long-stalled debate could finally start, but the prospect now seems unlikely given the sheer scope of policy obstacles that negotiators must resolve.

Lawmakers must still sort through lingering disputes over how to spend billions of dollars to upgrade the country’s railways, for example, along with thorny policy issues around broadband spending — including efforts by Democrats to ensure Internet access is affordable.

Infrastructure deal in precarious state as endgame nears.

Both sides also have failed to come to terms on the formula for doling out money to improve the nation’s highways, as well as the exact funding available for water improvements. And lawmakers remain at odds over provisions sought by Democrats that aim to ensure any federal spending to improve infrastructure will pay workers prevailing wages to do the job.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, As Cases Rise, a New Feeling Spreads Among the Vaccinated: Anger, Roni Caryn Rabin, July 27, 2021. The rising sentiment is contributing to support for more coercive measures, such as vaccine mandates. But experts warn that a tougher stance may backfire.

As coronavirus cases resurge across the country, many inoculated Americans are losing patience with vaccine holdouts who, they say, are neglecting a civic duty or clinging to conspiracy theories and misinformation even as new patients arrive in emergency rooms and the nation renews mask advisories.

The country seemed to be exiting the pandemic; barely a month ago, a sense of celebration was palpable. Now many of the vaccinated fear for their unvaccinated children and worry that they are at risk themselves for breakthrough infections. Rising case rates are upending plans for school and workplace reopenings, and threatening another wave of infections that may overwhelm hospitals in many communities.

“It’s like the sun has come up in the morning and everyone is arguing about it,” said Jim Taylor, 66, a retired civil servant in Baton Rouge, La., a state in which fewer than half of adults are fully vaccinated.

“The virus is here and it’s killing people, and we have a time-tested way to stop it — and we won’t do it. It’s an outrage.”

The rising sentiment is contributing to support for more coercive measures. Scientists, business leaders and government officials are calling for vaccine mandates — if not by the federal government, then by local jurisdictions, schools, employers and businesses.

“I’ve become angrier as time has gone on,” said Doug Robertson, 39, a teacher who lives outside Portland, Ore., and has three children too young to be vaccinated, including a toddler with a serious health condition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden plans to require federal workers to be vaccinated or undergo repeated tests, Eli Rosenberg and Tyler Pager, July 27, 2021. New directive, planned for Thursday, comes as the White House tries to arrest the delta variant’s spread The plan is part of a change in tack by the White House in recent days as the delta variant has spread markedly through parts of the United States, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC urges vaccinated people in areas of high transmission to resume wearing masks indoors, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Joel Achenbach, Dan Diamond and Adam Taylor, July 27, 2021. The agency advised that people who live in high-transmission communities wear masks in indoor public spaces, even if they’ve been vaccinated.

Vaccinated people may be able to spread the coronavirus and should resume wearing masks under certain circumstances, the nation’s top public health official said Tuesday in a gloomy acknowledgment that the mutated delta variant has reversed the promising trend lines of spring.

Speaking to reporters in an afternoon news briefing, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expressed disappointment and dismay that the summer surge in cases, driven by the delta variant’s startling transmissibility and low vaccination rates in many areas, had forced her agency’s hand.

“It is not a welcome piece of news that masking is going to be a part of people’s lives who have already been vaccinated,” Walensky acknowledged. “This new guidance weighs heavily on me.”

The agency advised that people who live in high-transmission communities wear masks in indoor public spaces, even if they’ve been vaccinated. It also recommended that vaccinated people with vulnerable household members, including young children and those who are immunocompromised, wear masks indoors in public spaces.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.Y.C. and California Will Require Workers to Be Vaccinated or Tested, Staff Reports, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). The move by Mayor Bill de Blasio, with a mid-September deadline, comes days after a similar mandate for public health care workers.

The mandates extend to municipal employees in New York City, including police officers and teachers, and state and health care workers in California. A group of nearly 60 major medical organizations called for mandatory vaccination of U.S. health care workers. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

New York City will require all municipal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the time schools reopen in mid-September or face weekly testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday bill de blasio 11 2 2013morning.

Last week, Mr. de Blasio, left, announced a similar mandate for public health care workers — part of an effort to speed up vaccinations as the city faces a third wave of coronavirus cases driven by the spread of the Delta variant.

The new requirement will apply to roughly 340,000 city workers, including teachers and police officers. The Sept. 13 deadline, when about a million students are set to return to classrooms, shows the importance of the reopening of schools for the city’s recovery and for Mr. de Blasio’s legacy.

Speaking at his morning news conference, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat in his final year in office, also reiterated his call to private employers to set similar or stronger vaccine mandates for their workers. “September is the pivot point of the recovery,” Mr. de Blasio said, “and so on Sept. 13, the first day of school, every single city employee will be expected to be either vaccinated or be tested weekly." 

In other news:

  • Coronavirus cases in Tokyo continue to pull athletes out of competition.
  • In Louisiana, vaccine misinformation is a huge challenge for public health workers.
  • France approves a contentious law making health passes mandatory.
  • Requests for U.S. college aid are down, with experts linking the drop to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Here’s the latest on Covid-19

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats broaden probe into Trump-era meddling at CDC, Dan Diamond, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). House investigators are seeking interviews with former CDC professional staff, including Anne Schuchat and Nancy Messonnier.

cdc logo CustomCongressional investigators expanded their inquiry Monday of political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Donald Trump, citing newly obtained documents and additional reports of the administration’s meddling in government scientists’ work.

The expanded investigation centers on efforts to blunt the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs), which offer public updates on scientists’ findings. The democratic donkey logoreports had been considered sacrosanct for decades and untouchable by political appointees in the past, but Trump appointees pushed last year to edit the findings, worried that they undermined Trump’s more optimistic spin on the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior officials also discussed how to respond to a Trump appointee’s demand to edit the reports, according to a newly released email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, Vaccine mandates are mounting — and courts are upholding them so far, Paige Winfield Cunningham, July 27, 2021. Judges historically have given governments and private companies wide latitude to mandate vaccines. Now, at least two courts have reaffirmed those broad powers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Evangelical pastor tells churchgoers to ditch their masks: ‘Don’t believe this delta variant nonsense,’ Jaclyn Peiser, July 27, 2021. Since the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Greg Locke, the pastor at a Nashville-area church, has repeatedly called covid a hoax, undermined emergency mandates and refused to comply with guidance from public health officials.

This week, Locke took his defiance a step further, making a sharp warning regarding mask-wearing.

If “you start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave,” Locke, 45, told scores of Global Vision Bible Church parishioners during his sermon on Sunday. His statement was followed by cheers and applause.

“I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church,” he added.

Global Vision Bible Church did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment.

Locke’s fiery five-minute diatribe, in which he also denied the existence of the delta variant, comes as vaccination rates in his home state slow and infection rates climb. So far, about 44 percent of Tennesseans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to The Washington Post’s vaccine tracker, making it among the states with the lowest rate. The state recently reported that 98 percent of people who died of covid and 97 percent of covid hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.

Locke’s evangelical church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., about 20 miles east of downtown Nashville, has grown during the pandemic, CNN reported. The pastor’s controversial commentary on covid and the 2020 presidential election has attracted far-right churchgoers.

During a sermon last month, Locke called President Biden a fraud and “a sex trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel,” a reference to QAnon, an extremist ideology based on false claims.

He has also falsely claimed the pandemic is “fake,” the death count is “manipulated,” and the vaccine is a “dangerous scam.”

And the pastor has preached misinformation about the vaccine, including falsely claiming it’s made of “aborted fetal tissue.”

washington post logoWashington Post, States that cut jobless aid early didn’t get a hiring boom, Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam, July 27, 2021.  States that scaled back unemployment aid have seen a decline in teen employment and an increase in workers over 25, early evidence has found.

The 20 Republican-led states that reduced unemployment benefits in June did not see an immediate spike in overall hiring, but early evidence suggests something did change: The teen hiring boom slowed in those states, and workers 25 and older returned to work more quickly.

A new analysis by payroll processor Gusto, conducted for The Washington Post, found that small restaurants and hospitality businesses in states such as Missouri, which ended the extra unemployment benefits early, saw a jump in hiring of workers over age 25. The uptick in hiring of older workers was roughly offset by the slower hiring of teens in these states. In contrast, restaurants and hospitality businesses in states such as Kansas, where the full benefits remain, have been hiring a lot more teenagers who are less experienced and less likely to qualify for unemployment aid.

washington post logoWashington Post, 188.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 27, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 163.2 million people fully vaccinated, representing 49.1 %of the eligible population and with 58.8 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 27, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 195,548,821, Deaths: 4,187,077
U.S. Cases:     35,287,269, Deaths:     627,039
India Cases:    31,440,951, Deaths:     421,414
Brazil Cases:   19,707,662, Deaths:     550,586

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. warns against travel to Israel, Portugal and Spain as delta variant surges, Erin Cunningham, July 27, 2021. The White House said it had no plans to lift broad restrictions on visitors from Britain, countries in Europe’s Schengen region and other nations.

The United States is now warning against travel to Israel and several European countries as the more contagious delta variant fuels coronavirus outbreaks mostly among the unvaccinated.

The State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new travel advisories Monday for Israel, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain, as well as Kyrgyzstan, citing surging case numbers in all five countries.

The warnings came as the White House also said it had no plans to lift broad restrictions on visitors from Britain, countries in Europe’s Schengen region and other nations such as Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Spain and Portugal have already reopened to U.S. travelers — and Canada said it would allow entry to vaccinated Americans beginning next month.

But, “given where we are today … with the delta variant, we will maintain existing travel restrictions at this point,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

More On Trump Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, previously a combat veteran, tears up during testimony on July 27, 2021 (Associated Press pool photo).Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, previously a combat veteran, tears up during testimony on July 27, 2021 (Associated Press pool photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Some are still suffering’: Months after Capitol riot, police who fought the mob contend with physical, psychological pain, Peter Hermann, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). Officers who plan to testify before Congress say recognition of insurrection is crucial to officers’ their recovery.

More than six months after Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell battled the mob that stormed the Capitol, he remains hobbled, a hand scarred, a shoulder aching, recovering from surgery to an injured foot that swelled so large it no longer fit his shoe.

The 42-year-old Capitol Police officer and Army reservist is also seeing a therapist to help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), first diagnosed after he served in the war in Iraq.

He said bouts of anxiety returned after his battle on American soil in the Jan. 6 riot.

“I can be fine now and see or hear something and next thing I get tears and get emotional,” said Gonell, who was hurt when rioters tried to yank away his ballistic shield, threw a speaker at him, struck him in the face with a pole and sprayed him with chemical irritants.

“I tried to be strong,” he said of the months following the riot. “I tried not to show my emotion.” But once, he said, he retreated to a quiet space at his home in Virginia, away from his wife and 9-year-old son: “I completely broke down.”

brian sicknick

In the aftermath of the riot, authorities said about 140 Capitol and D.C. police officers were hurt when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in a failed effort to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. Police were bludgeoned with poles and bats, pushed and trampled, and sprayed with chemical irritants.

A Capitol officer, Brian D. Sicknick, shown above, collapsed after confronting rioters and died a day later of a stroke. Two other officers in the riot, one Capitol, one D.C., later died by suicide. One Capitol officer surrendered her weapon, fearing she might use it on herself, Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) said.

But the full toll on police is still coming into view as officers continue to grapple with the impact of hours of hand-to-hand fighting. They have emerged with a complex jumble of physical and emotional trauma that has made diagnoses and treatment challenging, a problem some officers said is made more difficult by efforts of Republican lawmakers to downplay the riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats elevate Liz Cheney’s role on Jan. 6 commission, giving her prime speaking slot, Marianna Sotomayor, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats are seeking to elevate the role of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on the committee examining the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, scheduling her to deliver one of the two opening statements at the panel’s first public hearing Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the decision.

liz cheney oThe move is intended to present the committee as a bipartisan effort following Republican leadership’s decision not to participate in the panel after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week rejected two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the panel.

During a closed-door meeting last week, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) proposed to Pelosi and Cheney, right, that having the Wyoming congresswoman speak after Chairman Bennie G. democratic donkey logoThompson (D-Miss.) would present a “strong visual” for the committee’s goals and intentions as it embarks on a months-long process to investigate the insurrection, according to a person familiar with the conversation, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.

Jan. 6 select committee to open investigation amid political chaos and controversy

“The vast majority of the Republicans, both in the House as well as across the country, recognize and understand that this was an assault on our democracy and assault on our Constitution, and that there must be a fact-based investigation so that this never happens again,” Cheney said last week. “And we cannot allow those voices who are attempting to prevent the American people from getting the truth to prevail, and we certainly will not.”

 

U.S. Law, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Guilty Plea in Four Atlanta-Area Spa Killings, Richard Fausset, July 27, 2021. The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, still faces four murder charges in neighboring Fulton County, where the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.

The man accused of killing eight people at a string of Atlanta-area spas pleaded guilty on Tuesday to four counts of murder in suburban Cherokee County and will serve four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole plus 35 years in prison. But the man, Robert Aaron Long, still faces four other murder charges in nearby Fulton County, where the prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.

Mr. Long, 22, appeared in court in a white dress shirt and gray dress slacks, his wrists shackled at his sides. He was clean shaven and wore glasses, with his hair shaved at the sides and long at the top.

He stood before the judge and quietly answered, “Yes, ma’am,” when a prosecutor asked him if he understood the terms of the plea agreement.

The March 16 shooting spree set off a nationwide wave of concern over racially motivated attacks on Asian people at a time of broader anxiety and anger over racism in the United States. Six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent. Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, has indicated in court filings that she intends to seek enhanced penalties against Mr. Long, who is white, for committing crimes because of the “actual or perceived race, national origin, sex and gender” of the victims.

Mr. Long had not made a court appearance since he was arrested a few hours after the shootings at three spas. He was identified that evening by a state trooper while driving in an S.U.V. on Interstate 75, about 150 miles south of Atlanta.

washington post logoWashington Post, Daniel Hale, who leaked information on U.S. drone warfare, sentenced to 45 months in prison, Rachel Weiner, July 27, 2021. In 2013, Daniel Hale was at an antiwar conference in D.C. when a man recounted that two family members had been killed in a U.S. drone strike. The Yemeni man, through tears, said his relatives had been trying to encourage young men to leave al-Qaeda.

Hale realized he had watched the fatal attack from a base in Afghanistan. At the time, he and his colleagues in Air Force intelligence viewed it as a success. Now he was horrified.

It was such experiences, Hale told a federal judge in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday, that led him to leak classified information about drone warfare to a reporter after leaving the military.

“I believe that it is wrong to kill, but it is especially wrong to kill the defenseless,” he said in court. He said he shared what “was necessary to dispel the lie that drone warfare keeps us safe, that our lives are worth more than theirs.”

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady sentenced Hale, 33, of Nashville, to 45 months in prison for violating the Espionage Act, saying his disclosure of documents went beyond his “courageous and principled” stance on drones.

“You are not being prosecuted for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people,” O’Grady said. “You could have been a whistleblower … without taking any of these documents.”

Hale’s attorneys and advocates argued that the disclosures provided a valuable public service. The documents included a report finding that reliance on deadly attacks was undermining intelligence gathering. During one five-month stretch of an operation in Afghanistan, the documents revealed, nearly 90 percent of the people killed were not the intended targets.

Hale also disclosed the criteria for placing a person on the terrorism watch list, information that Muslim civil rights lawyers said in a letter to the court had helped them challenge the constitutionality of that system.

“I believe he only spoke out for humanitarian and educational purposes,” journalist Sonia Kennebeck told the court in a letter. She featured Hale in a 2016 documentary about drone warfare.

Prosecutors countered that Hale had put Americans at risk to boost his own ego. They noted that he began taking classified information to his home only a few weeks into a job at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in 2014, not long after swearing to preserve the government’s secrets.

“Hale did not in any way contribute to the public debate about how we fight wars,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said in court. “All he did was endanger the people who are doing the fighting.”

Friends and family members said military service was an awkward fit for Hale, who suffered from mental health issues throughout his life. His attorney said he joined the Air Force to escape an abusive atmosphere in a poor, fundamentalist home.

“Recently, someone asked me to tell them a happy memory I have with Daniel,” his sister wrote to the court. “Sadly, this was not an easy task.”

But Hale tested well and was steered into signals intelligence. He went to Afghanistan in 2012. When he left the following year, he said, he already had deep misgivings about the work he had done. He recalled in a letter to the judge learning after one drone strike on a car that a small child had been killed and another seriously injured. He wondered whether any of the other strikes he had helped carry out had killed innocent civilians deemed “enemy combatants” by virtue of being male and of military age.

“You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job,” he said in court Tuesday.

 

U.S. Governance, Law, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to curb toxic wastewater from coal plants with new rule, Dino Grandoni, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). The move would reverse a major Trump administration regulatory rollback. But in the near term, the EPA will not try reverting to Obama-era standards, upsetting some of Biden’s environmental allies. 

Reuters via Daily Beast, Former Wyoming Republican Senator Mike Enzi Dies in Cycling Accident, Barbie Latza Nadeau, July 27, 2021.  Mike Enzi, a former U.S. senator from Wyoming, died after a mike enzi wbicycle accident near his home. He was 77.

Enzi served as mayor of Gillette and as a state lawmaker before winning a Senate seat in 1996. He had just retired in January of this year after 24 years in Washington.

His family wrote on Facebook that the accident happened at 8:30 p.m. Friday evening near his home. He was airlifted to the U.C. Health Medical Center in Colorado and died Monday. “His family expresses their deep appreciation for all of the prayers, support and concern. They now ask for privacy and continued prayers during this difficult time,” his family tweeted from the late senator’s account.

Palmer Report, Opinion: “There is so much more” to the Matt Gaetz creep show, Bill Palmer, July 27, 2021. Most observers on social media have found it pretty bizarre that Matt Gaetz suddenly decided to bill palmerget engaged right around the time he learned that he was under federal criminal investigation for crimes like underage sex trafficking. Now it turns out someone very close to the situation is sounding the alarm.

bill palmer report logo headerMatt Gaetz’s financée’s sister is now publicly lashing out at Gaetz, calling him “weird and creepy” and a “literal pedophile.” She added that “There is so much more to the story and about what I know about Matt Gaetz.”

It sounds like she should be talking to federal prosecutors – and maybe she already is. Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend, and his former best bud Joel Greenberg, are already cooperating with prosecutors, so who knows who else has joined the fray?

In any case, the decision by Gaetz’s financée’s sister to go public with her accusations about Gaetz gives us the feeling that this is all about to come to a head. Federal prosecutors let it be known to ABC News last month that they were looking to indict Gaetz sometime in July. Today is July 27th. Tick tock.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Hong Kong Protester Is Convicted in First Trial Under Tough Security Law, Austin Ramzy, July 27, 2021. Tong Ying-kit, 24, who struck police officers with his motorcycle while carrying a protest banner, was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession.

In the first trial under the tough national security law imposed by China, a Hong Kong court convicted a protester of terrorism and inciting secession on Tuesday, a ruling that sets new limits on dissent and raises the risks of challenging Beijing.

The protester, Tong Ying-kit, was arrested last year on July 1, after he drove his motorcycle around a Hong Kong neighborhood with a protest banner, then collided with police officers who tried to stop him, injuring three.

Under the security law, which went into effect hours before his arrest, Mr. Tong could be sentenced to life in prison. The court will hand down his sentence at a later date.

The trial was regarded as a test of how the city’s traditionally independent courts would enforce the security law while upholding the city’s much cherished civil liberties. In convicting Mr. Tong, the court showed the extent to which the new law would criminalize political speech.

“I think we would be kidding ourselves if we think the national security law would not be enforced in the way the Chinese government conceived it,” said Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute in London. “The idea that the Hong Kong judiciary would be able to moderate it would be a mistake.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Wildfires Ravage Sardinia in ‘a Disaster Without Precedent,’ Gaia Pianigiani, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). A 25-mile swath of vegetation, farms and villages was hit by one of the largest wildfires in decades, devastating the Italian tourist destination. About 1,000 residents and tourists have been evacuated from areas of western Sardinia that were ravaged by wildfires over the weekend, with forests, pastures and villages on the Italian island engulfed in flames.

No deaths or injuries have been reported, the Italian authorities said. But the fires were still raging on Monday, when four firefighting planes from France and Greece joined the Italian firefighters’ air fleet to help control the blaze.

California News Times, Former US diplomat, 45, pleads guilty to raping and drugging 23 women over 14 years, Staff Report, July 26, 2021. Brian Jeffrey Raymond, 45, of La Mesa, California, pleaded guilty brian raymond fbito federal sexual abuse and the transportation of obscene physical charges on Friday.

Raymond’s investigation began last May after the discovery of a naked woman screaming for help on the balcony of an apartment in Mexico City. The following account comes from the FBI, which investigated and provided the photo at right: 

She had no memory of what happened after eating the drinks and food provided by Raymond. FBI agents recovered hundreds of photos and videos of more than 20 unconscious nude or partially nude women from Raymond’s cell phones, iCloud accounts, and other electronics. The file dates back to 2006 and lasts until May 2020.

The photos and videos not only clearly depict Raymond caressing the victim’s chest and buttocks, but also lie in bed with an unconscious woman on two different occasions.

During her stay with Raymond, the women experienced memory loss and claimed to have no knowledge of photography, video, or physical contact. 

According to court documents, Raymond has served the US government for 23 years in many countries. Prosecutors did not identify what position he was in Mexico, other than saying he worked for the embassy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tunisia’s president takes emergency powers; country in crisis, Siobhán O'Grady,  July 27, 2021 (print ed.). The dramatic political crisis moved into its second day after President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended parliament, in the most serious test to the country's institutions since its transition to democracy a decade ago.

 

U.S. Media News

Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Initiative via Poynter Institute, More chain-owned news organizations are returning to local ownership, Mark Jacob, July 26, 2021. From New England to Arkansas, local investors are buying news outlets from large chains and seek to reverse what they see as decades of disinvestment.

As chain consolidation brings new uncertainty to an already fluid news landscape, another trend is emerging in which local investors buy news outlets from large chains and seek to reverse what they see as decades of disinvestment.

Media acquisitions lawyer Sara April expects to see more news outlets go into local hands as some big chains focus on their larger products and spin off their smaller ones.

“It’s definitely safe to say that there is a trend of some newspapers returning to local ownership,” said April, a partner in Dirks, Van Essen & April. “… It made sense for these large newspaper companies to build when they did, but now it’s making sense for them to peel off these papers and put them in the hands of people who can really operate them in this day and age.”

In some ways, large chains can be beneficial for local news consumers. They often bring website expertise, technical support and consistent business practices. And they may have a greater ability to recruit talent.

But local owners’ strong presence in the community may be more important, according to Penny Abernathy, creator of the influential “news deserts” reports and visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

“All things being equal,” Abernathy said, “local ownership is always best for the community where the newspaper is located. That’s because a local owner is going to know that market and know the residents.”

As Tim Schmidt, who is building a small newspaper group in central Missouri, put it: “The newspaper has to care about the community. I think local ownership plays a huge part in that.”

In the wake of the Gannett-GateHouse merger in November 2019, Gannett is selling off some of its smaller news outlets. And industry observers are watching for what comes out of Alden Global Capital’s recent acquisition of Tribune Publishing and whether any of Tribune’s news outlets will end up in the hands of local owners. 

Hedge funds such as Alden now control about half of daily newspapers in the United States. Does this suggest greater volatility, with hedge funds likely to sell their news outlets to local owners?

“Every newspaper publisher is constantly looking at their options,” April said. “Are they financial owners known to be long-term holders of newspaper assets? Historically, no.”

Tim Franklin, senior associate dean and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News at Medill, said acquisitions by local investors make sense under the right conditions.

“After decades of consolidation in local news ownership, we could be on the cusp of a back-to-the-future moment with more local operators, especially in smaller communities,” Franklin said.

Fredric Rutberg has been both a buyer and a seller of local news outlets. In 2016, he was part of a group that bought New England Newspapers from Digital First Media, owned by Alden. This May, Rutberg and other owners kept the flagship Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, from that deal while selling off three Vermont newspapers and a magazine to tech entrepreneur Paul Belogour.

“This is my retirement project,” Rutberg said. “I was a judge in the local Massachusetts state court, and Massachusetts judges have mandatory retirement at age 70.”

So he and his partners went into the newspaper business.

 

2020 Olympics

olympics japan logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Critic’s notebook: Jill Biden, Changing the Fashion Game, Vanessa Friedman, July 27, 2021 (print ed.). Cheering the American Olympians, the first lady broke with recent sartorial customs. The game of first lady fashion is one played 12 months a year, at pretty much any time, watched by a global mass of avid spectators who care for reasons national, personal and political. Participants are drafted as soon as they get their jobs, whether they like it or not.

Jill Biden has famously been a reluctant player (“It’s kind of surprising, I think, how much commentary is made about what I wear,” she told Vogue).

Not for her the strategy of fashion diplomacy, mastered by Michelle Obama, wherein you champion a designer who bridges both your home country and a host country. Not for her the high fashion tactics of Melania Trump, conflating runway with realpolitik.

But she has, nevertheless, proved there are a variety of ways to score, as least judging by her first solo trip leading the American delegation at the Tokyo Olympics.

During her four days abroad, she not only represented the American industry, wearing a roll call of local designers. She also, perhaps more important, embodied the theme of the Olympics, which was billed as the greenest Games yet with the motto “Be better, together — For the planet and the people.” Dr. Biden apparently wore only a single new garment during the entirety of her trip to Japan: the Ralph Lauren navy jacket and pants that were part of the official U.S. Olympic Team uniform, and that she wore in her role as official U.S. Olympic Team booster.

Other than that, her clothes were all recycled outfits from her closet. And not just at fun family getaways: At public events. Often very big, photo op-filled, recorded-for-history public events.

That Dr. Biden would just say no to this cycle is as big a break with recent tradition as the fact that she is continuing to work as a professor during her time in the White House. And it may be just as important, and maybe even (if people pay attention) influential.

ap logoAssociated Press via Daily Beast, ‘This One Sucks’: Osaka Distraught After Straight-Sets Defeat in Tokyo, Blake Montgomery, July 27, 2021. Naomi Osaka admitted the pressure had got to her after falling to a straight-sets defeat in the third round of the Olympic tennis tournament.

“I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” Osaka said after a 6-4, 6-1 defeat to 42nd-ranked Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic. Making a return to competition after a two-month mental-health break, the Japanese world No. 2 became the iconic image of the Tokyo Games after lighting the Olympic cauldron last Friday night. She said that had been the honor of her life but there had been too much pressure on court. “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,” she told reporters. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much.”

The Associated Press said Osaka — who walked out of the French Open after deciding she no longer wanted to talk to the press — eft the court after Tuesday’s defeat without saying anything, but came back a bit later and spoke to a small group of reporters. “I’ve taken long breaks before and I’ve managed to do well,” she said. “I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.

 

July 26

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On  Trump Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Election Claims

 

 U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

  

U.S. Media News

 

2020 Olympics

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden seeks to end post-9/11 era, pulling combat forces from Iraq, Anne Gearan, July 26, 2021.  Biden is set to welcome the Iraqi prime minister Monday and announce the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq — part of a broad goal of shifting the U.S. focus from the Middle East.

American FlagPresident Biden has announced the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He has started transferring prisoners from Guantánamo Bay in hopes of eventually shutting down the prison. And on Monday, he will welcome Iraq’s prime minister to the White House for an expected announcement that U.S. combat forces will leave that country within months.

The moves reflect what is emerging as an unmistakable pillar of Biden’s foreign policy: seeking to push America past the post-9/11 phase of its history, ending 20 years of relentless focus on the Middle East and terrorism rather than threats like China and cyberattacks. The United States needs to “fight the battles for the next 20 years, not the last 20,” Biden has said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate infrastructure talks in jeopardy as infighting spills out into the open, Tony Romm, Seung Min Kim and Ian Duncan, July 26, 2021. Republicans initially said they had hoped to finalize a more robust blueprint by today, but the prospect now seems unimaginable.

Negotiations between Senate Democrats and Republicans over a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure package appeared to be in political jeopardy on Monday, as lawmakers continued to feud publicly over how to dole out the money and finance the new federal spending.

transportation dept logoThe impasse arrives after lawmakers toiled away into the weekend over their proposal to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections. Republicans including Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah initially hoped to finalize a more robust blueprint as soon as Monday so that the long-stalled debate could finally start, but the prospect now seems unlikely given the sheer scope of policy obstacles that negotiators must resolve.

Lawmakers must still sort through lingering disputes over how to spend billions of dollars to upgrade the country’s railways, for example, along with thorny policy issues around broadband spending — including efforts by Democrats to ensure Internet access is affordable.

Infrastructure deal in precarious state as endgame nears.

Both sides also have failed to come to terms on the formula for doling out money to improve the nation’s highways, as well as the exact funding available for water improvements. And lawmakers remain at odds over provisions sought by Democrats that aim to ensure any federal spending to improve infrastructure will pay workers prevailing wages to do the job.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 select committee to start work amid political chaos and controversy, Karoun Demirjian, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats are still finalizing their plans for the probe, while GOP leaders are boycotting it altogether — and threatening to retaliate with countermeasures.

The House select committee envisioned to be the ultimate arbiter of what led President Donald Trump’s supporters to invade the U.S. Capitol in January is scheduled to begin its work this week under a cloud of controversy that threatens to compromise the investigation from the outset.

Republican leaders, who declared a boycott after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week rejected two of their picks for the panel, have signaled to the GOP’s rank and file that there could be consequences for anyone who participates. As of Sunday, two have agreed to do so anyway, and Pelosi has hinted that there could be others.

It’s unclear when a roster may be finalized, and Democrats running the committee have yet to articulate specific plans or timelines for their investigation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pelosi Appoints Kinzinger to Panel Scrutinizing Jan. 6, Luke Broadwater, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). The selection of Representative Adam Kinzinger for the special committee adds a second Republican who has been an unsparing critic of former President Donald J. Trump.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday appointed Representative Adam Kinzinger to the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, adding a second Republican who is a forceful critic of former President Donald J. Trump to the panel.

republican elephant logoThe move, which bolsters the committee’s bipartisan credentials, came after Ms. Pelosi rejected two Republicans who are among Mr. Trump’s most vociferous defenders in Congress from joining, saying their conduct suggested they could not be trusted to participate.

adam kinzinger headshotMr. Kinzinger, right, a six-term congressman from Illinois who has drawn censure from his own party for disavowing Mr. Trump and the conspiracy theories the former president perpetuated, said in a statement that he had accepted the post.

“While this is not the position I expected to be in or sought out, when duty calls, I will always answer,” said Mr. Kinzinger, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump. “This moment requires a serious, cleareyed, nonpartisan approach. We are duty bound to conduct a full investigation on the worst attack on the Capitol since 1814 and to make sure it can never happen again.”

Ms. Pelosi, who has final say over the committee’s membership, has already given one of the eight seats normally reserved for the majority party to Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming. Ms. Cheney was ousted from House leadership in May for criticizing Mr. Trump and his actions before and during the riot.

About 140 police officers were injured on Jan. 6 as Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol, where Congress was meeting to formalize President Biden’s election, chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” stalking the halls for Ms. Pelosi and forcing lawmakers to evacuate their chambers.

nancy pelosi maskPalmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just made her Adam Kinzinger power move, Bocha Blue, July 25, 2021. Warrior Nancy Pelosi has done it again! She has appointed Rep. Adam Kinzinger to the January sixth committee. And this is a GREAT move.

washington post logoWashington Post, Civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit record highs as U.S. forces withdraw, U.N. mission reports, Susannah George, July 26, 2021. Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have hit record highs as U.S. forces are withdrawing from the country, a U.N. mission reported Monday. The mission warned the conflict is likely to become more deadly as fighting draws closer to urban areas.

Nearly 800 civilians were killed and more than 1,600 wounded between May and June, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said. The figures are the highest recorded during those two months since the mission began keeping track in 2009.

The war has entered a deadlier phase during the withdrawal of foreign forces that began in May. With less foreign support for Afghan government forces, the prolonged combat in rural areas and along the urban peripheries is proving more dangerous for civilians.

 

Virus Victims, Responses  

washington post logoWashington Post, As virus surges, GOP lawmakers are moving to limit public health powers, Frances Stead Sellers and Isaac Stanley-Becker, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). In some states, anger at perceived overreach by health officials has prompted legislative attempts to limit their authority, and some state courts have reined in the emergency and regulatory powers governors have wielded against the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: N.Y.C. and California Will Require Workers to Be Vaccinated or Tested, Staff Reports, July 26, 2021. The move by Mayor Bill de Blasio, with a mid-September deadline, comes days after a similar mandate for public health care workers.

The mandates extend to municipal employees in New York City, including police officers and teachers, and state and health care workers in California. A group of nearly 60 major medical organizations called for mandatory vaccination of U.S. health care workers. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

New York City will require all municipal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the time schools reopen in mid-September or face weekly testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday bill de blasio 11 2 2013morning.

Last week, Mr. de Blasio, left, announced a similar mandate for public health care workers — part of an effort to speed up vaccinations as the city faces a third wave of coronavirus cases driven by the spread of the Delta variant.

The new requirement will apply to roughly 340,000 city workers, including teachers and police officers. The Sept. 13 deadline, when about a million students are set to return to classrooms, shows the importance of the reopening of schools for the city’s recovery and for Mr. de Blasio’s legacy.

Speaking at his morning news conference, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat in his final year in office, also reiterated his call to private employers to set similar or stronger vaccine mandates for their workers. “September is the pivot point of the recovery,” Mr. de Blasio said, “and so on Sept. 13, the first day of school, every single city employee will be expected to be either vaccinated or be tested weekly." 

In other news:

  • Coronavirus cases in Tokyo continue to pull athletes out of competition.
  • In Louisiana, vaccine misinformation is a huge challenge for public health workers.
  • France approves a contentious law making health passes mandatory.
  • Requests for U.S. college aid are down, with experts linking the drop to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Here’s the latest on Covid-19

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans unleashed a deadly vaccine skepticism. Can they now contain it? E.J. Dionne Jr., right, July 26, 2021 (print ed.).  Bad news is leading to at least a bit of good news: ej dionne w open neckThe surge of the coronavirus delta variant seems to have lit a fire under many Republican politicians. As the virus spreads largely in GOP regions with low vaccination rates, leaders of a party where anti-vax sentiment has run rampant have started sounding the alarm: Not getting vaccinated really can kill you.

One of the most unequivocal statements came from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “These shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible,” he said last week, adding a swipe at those pushing falsehoods about vaccines, who happen to include many in his own party:

djt maga hat“I want to encourage everybody . . . to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

As Republican pollster Whit Ayres notes, McConnell, who endured polio as a child, has always embraced the power of vaccination. More surprising was a vaccine plug from Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, a longtime baiter of federal authorities whose reelection campaign is selling merchandise mocking Anthony S. Fauci, the White House health adviser.

Yes, even the man peddling “Don’t Fauci My Florida” T-shirts seems to have noticed that over the past two weeks, 20 percent of all the nation’s new covid-19 cases were in his state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats broaden probe into Trump-era meddling at CDC, Dan Diamond, July 26, 2021. House investigators are seeking interviews with former CDC professional staff, including Anne Schuchat and Nancy Messonnier.

cdc logo CustomCongressional investigators expanded their inquiry Monday of political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Donald Trump, citing newly obtained documents and additional reports of the administration’s meddling in government scientists’ work.

The expanded investigation centers on efforts to blunt the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs), which offer public updates on scientists’ findings. The democratic donkey logoreports had been considered sacrosanct for decades and untouchable by political appointees in the past, but Trump appointees pushed last year to edit the findings, worried that they undermined Trump’s more optimistic spin on the coronavirus pandemic.

Senior officials also discussed how to respond to a Trump appointee’s demand to edit the reports, according to a newly released email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, 188.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 26, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 163.2 million people fully vaccinated, representing 49.1 %of the eligible population and with 58.8 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 26, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 194,985,522, Deaths: 4,178,555
U.S. Cases:     35,199,465, Deaths:     626,762
India Cases:    31,411,262, Deaths:     420,996
Brazil Cases:   19,688,663, Deaths:     549,999

washington post logoWashington Post, Australian prime minister calls lockdown-violating protests ‘selfish and self-defeating,’ Miriam Berger, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). Though many had looked forward to the easing of social and economic restrictions with the advent of coronavirus vaccines, the emergence of highly transmissible variants has upended expectations. 

This weekend’s anti-lockdown protests in Sydney were “selfish and self-defeating,” Australia’s prime minister said Sunday, amid a global wave of renewed restrictions and resulting demonstrations as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.

Some 3,500 people protested Saturday in Sydney after New South Wales tightened its regulations last week in response to rising coronavirus cases, even as the city’s lockdown enters its fifth week. The demonstrations violated the region’s strict stay-at-home orders, restrictions on public gatherings and face mask mandates.

Authorities are warning it could have been a superspreader event.

New South Wales police said Sunday on their website that they had arrested 63 people allegedly involved in the protest and charged 35 for violations such as resisting, assaulting and obstructing officers. Two men were charged with striking a police horse and refused bail.

washington post logoWashington Post, An activewear company told customers its clothes repelled covid. The false claims led to a $3.7 million fine, Jonathan Edwards, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). Pandemic fear racked Australia last summer. The virus had ripped through nursing homes. A government official warned of more funeral homes and hospitals being overrun. One headline screamed about the virus’s deadliest day — a record that stood for four days, until a higher death toll replaced it.

No one knew if coronavirus cases were about to explode.

Amid the uncertainty, an Australian clothing company started trumpeting its “anti-virus activewear.” That July, Lorna Jane launched an advertising campaign for apparel covered in a “groundbreaking” spray called LJ Shield that the company claimed would eliminate and repel covid and other viruses, bacteria and fungus.

“Cure for the Spread of COVID-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So,” one advertisement read.

“With Lorna Jane Shield on our garments it meant that we were completely eliminating the possibility of spreading any deadly viruses,” another claimed.

Except there was no scientific evidence Lorna Jane’s clothes did any of those things, government regulators said. On Friday, a federal judge ordered the company to pay $3.7 million for violating the country’s consumer protection laws, calling the clothing maker’s conduct “exploitative, predatory and potentially dangerous.”

“This was dreadful conduct as it involved making serious claims regarding public health when there was no basis for them,” said Rod Sims, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the regulatory agency that took the company to court.

Lorna Jane admitted it had made several false claims during the peak of the pandemic’s second wave in Australia but blamed a supplier for giving it bad information, the Guardian reported. The company won’t fight the court’s decision, according to BBC News.

washington post logoWashington Post, An unvaccinated radio host is sick with covid. His family is ‘elated’ listeners are now getting the vaccine, Katie Shepherd, July 26, 2021. When his brother first caught the novel coronavirus, Mark Valentine did not think he was suffering too much.

Phil Valentine continued posting regularly on Facebook, joked about his condition and even hosted a segment for his conservative talk radio show on WTN-FM in Nashville. He had chosen not to get the vaccine and frequently mocked Democrats’ campaigns to drive more people to get the shot. When the brothers spoke on the phone a few days after Phil tested positive in early July, he told Mark that he was already feeling better.

“He said, ‘I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal,’" Mark Valentine told The Washington Post on Sunday. “I frankly quit worrying about it.”

But by the end of the week, after nearly recovering, Phil Valentine’s health began a rapid descent. His family persuaded the 62-year-old to check into the emergency room. Medical scans showed the coronavirus infection had caused pneumonia in his right lung, Mark Valentine told The Post.

 

More On Trump Capitol Riot, Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Some are still suffering’: Months after Capitol riot, police who fought the mob contend with physical, psychological pain, Peter Hermann, July 26, 2021. Officers who plan to testify before Congress say recognition of insurrection is crucial to officers’ their recovery.

More than six months after Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell battled the mob that stormed the Capitol, he remains hobbled, a hand scarred, a shoulder aching, recovering from surgery to an injured foot that swelled so large it no longer fit his shoe.

The 42-year-old Capitol Police officer and Army reservist is also seeing a therapist to help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), first diagnosed after he served in the war in Iraq.

He said bouts of anxiety returned after his battle on American soil in the Jan. 6 riot.

“I can be fine now and see or hear something and next thing I get tears and get emotional,” said Gonell, who was hurt when rioters tried to yank away his ballistic shield, threw a speaker at him, struck him in the face with a pole and sprayed him with chemical irritants.

“I tried to be strong,” he said of the months following the riot. “I tried not to show my emotion.” But once, he said, he retreated to a quiet space at his home in Virginia, away from his wife and 9-year-old son: “I completely broke down.”
Advertisement

In the aftermath of the riot, authorities said about 140 Capitol and D.C. police officers were hurt when supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in a failed effort to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. Police were bludgeoned with poles and bats, pushed and trampled, and sprayed with chemical irritants.

A Capitol officer, Brian D. Sicknick, collapsed after confronting rioters and died a day later of a stroke. Two other officers in the riot, one Capitol, one D.C., later died by suicide. One Capitol officer surrendered her weapon, fearing she might use it on herself, Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) said.

But the full toll on police is still coming into view as officers continue to grapple with the impact of hours of hand-to-hand fighting. They have emerged with a complex jumble of physical and emotional trauma that has made diagnoses and treatment challenging, a problem some officers said is made more difficult by efforts of Republican lawmakers to downplay the riot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Merrick Garland, don’t politicize the pursuit of justice, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 26, 2021. On Tuesday, the Justice Department and the House of Representatives will file briefs jennifer rubin new headshotexplaining to a federal court whether each believes that Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was acting within the scope of his employment when he allegedly incited the violent attack on the Capitol and sought to subvert the peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 6.

This sounds absurd, but in effect Brooks is asking the Justice Department to certify that he was acting in the scope of his duties when he tried to overthrow the government. If he succeeds, he would be immune from suit, and the Justice Department would step in on behalf of the government in civil suits arising from the violent insurrection.

It would be a gross error and invitation for future insurrections if either the House or Justice Department agreed that Brooks is protected. How can encouraging a mob to disrupt the electoral college tabulation possibly be within Brooks’s duties? That would be akin to saying Gen. Robert E. Lee was acting within the scope of his duties in the U.S. Army when he attacked Union troops. Sedition is not within the scope of any official’s duties.

Constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe wrote last week, “If the attorney general decides to treat such action as merely one way of discharging official duties, then self-government will become a mirage, and those who are guilty of trashing it will have been placed beyond the reach of legal accountability to those they injure.” He argued, “That would mean that popular sovereignty is dead and the twin principles that no one is above the law and that every legal wrong deserves a remedy might as well be tossed into history’s dust heap.”

merrick garlandIf [Attorney General Merrick] Garland, right, comes even close to suggesting that the elected head of the executive branch and those members of Congress so beholden to him that they will join him in his crusade to “stop the steal,” as the president put it, are to be shielded by the Justice Department from liability — whether civil or criminal — for seeking to prevent Congress from peacefully certifying an election replacing that chief executive with a successor, our system of government will be in mortal peril.

And it would be folly for Garland to pretend that saying Brooks was acting within his authority still leaves open the possibility of denying that Donald Trump was acting within his when that question is teed up for decision, as it shortly will be in all three cases. Brooks’s basic defense, after all, is that he — like the mob he was addressing — was just doing Trump’s bidding.

Reuters, Biden nominates top prosecutors, including one to oversee Jan. 6 riot cases, Sarah N. Lynch and Nate Raymond, July 26, 2021. President Biden on Monday nominated a slate of eight people to serve as U.S. attorneys, including the top federal prosecutor who will oversee the Jan. 6 Capitol riots cases if he is confirmed, and a progressive prosecutor in Massachusetts.

Matthew Graves, a former federal prosecutor now with the corporate law firm DLA Piper, is Biden's choice to run the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, which has been overwhelmed with a flood of cases stemming from the riots.

Federal prosecutors have arrested more than 535 people on charges of taking part in the violence, in which followers of then-President Donald Trump fought police, smashed windows and sent members of Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence running for safety.

Graves earlier in his career served as a prosecutor in the same U.S. Attorney's Office he would lead, securing a guilty plea from former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr for misusing campaign funds and investigating banks for sanctions violations.

Biden also nominated Rachael Rollins, a local prosecutor in Boston who is part of a growing national movement of "progressive prosecutors" who support efforts to eliminate racial disparities by rejecting the traditional "tough on crime" culture that has led to the disproportionate incarceration of Black men.

The nominations must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Rollins, who earlier in her career worked as a federal prosecutor, was elected in 2018 as the first Black woman to serve as the district attorney in Suffolk County, which covers Boston. She would be the first Black woman to serve as the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts.

Rollins campaigned on a promise to decline prosecution for some low-level crimes, and she had been vocal about the need for police reform even before the nationwide protests following the May killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Other nominees to serve as U.S. attorneys include Erek Barron for the District of Maryland, Nicholas Brown for the Western District of Washington, Clifford Johnson for the Northern District of Indiana, Zachary Myers for the Southern District of Indiana, Trini Ross for the Western District of New York and Vanessa Waldref for the Eastern District of Washington.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Election Claims 

daniel hale bob hayes photo

 

“I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public that it keeps us safe… I began to speak out, believing my participation in the drone program to have been deeply wrong”

-- Whistleblower Daniel Hale, who faces sentencing tomorrow, July 27, after pleading guilty to violating the Espionage Act by leaking classified information about the U.S. targeted drone assassination program. (Source: Bob Hayes/handout)

Covert Action Magazine, In Pre-Sentencing Letter, Drone Whistleblower Daniel Hale Says Crisis of Conscience Motivated Leak, Brett Wilkins, July 26, 2021. Attorneys for drone whistleblower Daniel Hale—who faces sentencing tomorrow after pleading guilty earlier this year to violating the Espionage Act—last Thursday submitted a letter to Judge Liam O’Grady in which the former Air Force intelligence analyst says a crisis of conscience drove him to leak classified information about the U.S. targeted assassination program.

The 11-page handwritten letter (pdf) begins with a quote from U.S. Admiral Gene La Rocque, who said in 1995 that “we now kill people without ever seeing them. Now you push a button thousands of miles away… Since it’s all done by remote control, there’s no remorse.”

“It is not a secret that I struggle to live with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder,” the 33-year-old Hale wrote in the letter. “Depression is a constant… Stress, particularly stress caused by war, can manifest itself at different times and in different ways.”

“The first time that I witnessed a drone strike came within days of my arrival to Afghanistan,” Hale recounted. “Early that morning, before dawn, a group of men had gathered together in the mountain ranges of Patika province around a campfire carrying weapons and brewing tea. That they carried weapons with them would not have been considered out of the ordinary in the place I grew up, much less within the virtually lawless tribal territories outside the control of the Afghan authorities.”

“Except that among them was a suspected member of the Taliban, given away by the targeted cell phone device in his pocket,” he wrote. “As for the remaining individuals, to be armed, of military age, and sitting in the presence of an alleged enemy combatant was enough evidence to place them under suspicion as well.”

Daniel Hale's letter in his sentencing proceedings, on the trauma of war and how his conscience compelled him to inform the American people https://t.co/SaTpizr2vu pic.twitter.com/2pItkYKKJc
— Courage Foundation (@couragefound) July 22, 2021

In 2012—the same year that Hale deployed to Afghanistan to support the U.S. Defense Department’s Joint Special Operations Task Force and was responsible for identifying, tracking, and targeting “high-value” terror suspects—the New York Times reported then-President Barack Obama, who dramatically increased U.S. drone strikes in the so-called War on Terror, “embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” that effectively “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.”

Critics condemned the policy as an attempt by the administration to artificially lower the war’s civilian casualty figures—which by then already numbered in the hundreds of thousands, with most victims killed during former President George W. Bush’s tenure.

"I came to believe that the policy of drone assassination was being used to mislead the public that it keeps us safe... I began to speak out, believing my participation in the drone program to have been deeply wrong."

Daily Beast, ‘Traitor’ Tom Barrack Gets Heckled Before Not Guilty Plea, Justin Rohrlich, July 26, 2021. As the longtime Trump pal was led into Brooklyn federal court, a protester shouted, “It’s our daily beast logodemocracy, you asshole!” Private equity billionaire and former Trump inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack pleaded not guilty on Monday to federal charges that he illegally lobbied the White House on behalf of the United Arab Emirates while his longtime pal was president.

As Barrack, 74, entered the Brooklyn courthouse, a protester outside hoisted a sign that read “DIRTY TRAITOR” and shouted, “It’s our democracy! It’s our democracy, not yours! Traitor! It’s our democracy, you asshole!”

A seven-count indictment accuses Barrack, 74, Aspen resident Matthew Grimes, 27, and UAE national Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, 43, of “acting and conspiring to act as agents of the UAE” in an attempt to influence the policy positions of the Trump administration.

Barrack, the founder of investment firm Colony Capital and a staunch Trump ally and friend, is also facing charges of obstruction of justice and making false statements. Barrack was released from jail last Friday after posting a $250 million bond, which was secured by $5 million in cash, some $21 million in securities, and Barrack’s California home. Prosecutors argued in a detention memo that Barrack was a “serious flight risk,” as he holds Lebanese citizenship and has access to a private jet.

 

Former Trump National Security advisor and four-star general Michael Flynn, third from the left, takes what was described as an

Former Trump National Security advisor and four-star general Michael Flynn, third from the left at center, takes what was described as an "oath" to the conspiracy movement Q-Anon in 2020.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The DOJ has got to make a move on Michael Flynn, Justin Hodges, July 26, 2021. Michael Flynn hates the United States, and he hates democracy. Nothing he does seems to indicate otherwise.

That he’s a retired United States Army Lieutenant General with strong ties and apparent allegiance to QAnon is particularly disconcerting. It’s unclear just when Flynn turned on the country he had pledged to serve altruistically.

Footage has recently surfaced of a California event at which Flynn was given a semi-automatic rifle at a church. It’s rich that the pro-life crowd saw no inappropriateness in gifting a killing machine to an inciter of violence. That was bad enough, but Flynn then made this dog whistle of a remark: “Maybe I’ll find somebody in Washington, DC,” to the delighted laughter and glee of the crowd assembled in the house of worship. Flynn may try to pass his quip off as a joke, but it’s more likely that it could serve as instructional to the conspiracy-loving, anti-democracy QAnon crowd. We all know exactly to what Flynn was referring, just as we all know the message he was unsubtly sending.

As a reward for his multiple wrong-doings on behalf of the previous administration, Flynn received a corrupt pardon from the then-president in November of 2020. Angry at the outcome of the 2020 election, Flynn suggested that the former commander in chief suspend the Constitution, silence the media, and hold a new and rigged election under direction of the military. Flynn is dangerous to the country, as his deranged voice is far-reaching and falls on many susceptible ears.

Flynn’s Twitter account was permanently suspended in early 2021, but he continues to communicate with other traitors via other channels and remains highly popular with the QAnon lot. Referencing assassination with a gun in hand is a serious threat, and Flynn should not be walking around free; it’s time for his arrest. After all, Flynn is no longer pardon-protected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pegasus Project Global Investigation: Chief of WhatsApp, which sued NSO over alleged hacking of its product, disputes firm’s claims about spyware operations, Dana Priest and Elizabeth Dwoskin, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). Messaging app leader says claims ‘don’t match all the facts’ its investigation unearthed.

The leader of the world’s most popular instant messaging app this week challenged the statements made by NSO Group’s chief executive in response to media reports that its military-grade software had been used to spy on journalists and human rights activists across the globe.

WhatsApp chief executive Will Cathcart said the denials by Shalev Hulio “don’t all match the facts” that he said WhatsApp uncovered while investigating alleged hacking of its app in recent years by NSO’s Pegasus software. The incident resulted in Facebook-owned WhatsApp suing NSO in a case that’s still pending. NSO denies the allegation.

“This reporting matches what we saw in the attack we defeated two years ago,” including the types of targets “who had no business being spied on in any shape or form,” Cathcart said in an interview this week with Stephanie Kirchgaessner, a reporter for the Guardian newspaper in London and a member of the Pegasus Project reporting team. The team of 16 media outlets, including The Washington Post, was organized by Paris-based Forbidden Stories, a nonprofit journalism group.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration to curb toxic wastewater from coal plants with new rule, Dino Grandoni, July 26, 2021. The move would reverse a major Trump administration regulatory rollback. But in the near term, the EPA will not try reverting to Obama-era standards, upsetting some of Biden’s environmental allies.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Ethics Committee declines to investigate arrest of Rep. Beatty at voting rights protest, John Wagner, July 26, 2021. The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that it would not launch an investigation into the arrest this month of Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) at a voting rights protest in a Senate office building.

Beatty, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was among the demonstrators arrested by the U.S. Capitol Police on July 15 after chanting in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building. Speakers at the event expressed frustration that the Senate had yet to pass sweeping voting rights legislation approved by the House.

In a statement Monday, the Ethics Committee, whose membership is evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, noted that Beatty had paid a $50 fine before her release.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bob Moses (1935–2021): 1960s civil rights leader who saw math as road to equality dies at 86, Paul W. Valentine, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). Bob Moses, a towering but self-effacing leader of the civil rights movement who, after enduring beatings and jailings to register Black voters in Mississippi in the 1960s, picked up the civil rights torch 20 years later by founding the Algebra Project, a math education initiative aimed at rural and inner-city students, died July 25 at his home in Hollywood, Fla. He was 86.

Ben Moynihan, the director of operations for the Algebra Project, confirmed the death to the Associated Press.

Bespectacled, owlish and bearing a master’s degree in philosophy from Harvard, Mr. Moses was an unlikely front-line activist — much less an obvious candidate to quit his comfortable prep-school teaching job in the Bronx in 1960 and immerse himself in the most violently segregationist precincts of Mississippi.

A janitor’s son raised in New York public housing, he showed precocious talent for academic fields involving logic, especially mathematics and philosophy. He found kinship with Quaker friends in college, and he submerged himself in the writings of Albert Camus, the French-Algerian Nobel laureate whose books explored universal questions of human existence and justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, First came the ransomware attacks. Now come the lawsuits, Gerrit De Vynck, July 26, 2021 (print ed.).  Companies that have been locked out of their computer networks by hackers are now getting sued by consumers and workers claiming they were hurt by lax cybersecurity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facing 11 years in prison, a former intel analyst condemns ‘undeniable cruelties’ of Afghanistan drone strikes, Julian Mark, July 26, 2021. Months after U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst Daniel Hale arrived in Afghanistan in 2012, he watched as a car sped eastbound near Jalalabad toward the Pakistan border. It was a cloudy and windy afternoon, and the man driving the car was a suspected member of a car-bomb manufacturing ring.

A U.S. Predator drone fired a missile at the speeding car, but it missed by several feet. The car eventually stopped. The man got out and checked himself, and then a woman emerged. She started to frantically pull something out of the car. But Hale could not see what it was because the drone through which he watched the scene diverted its camera.

A couple of days later, Hale’s commanding officer told him the woman was the suspect’s wife, and in the back of the car were their two daughters, ages 5 and 3. Afghan soldiers had discovered the girls in a nearby dumpster. The elder girl was dead from shrapnel in her body, and the younger girl was alive but severely dehydrated.

Calling it the “most harrowing day of my life,” Hale described the episode in a handwritten 11-page letter to a judge who is expected to decide on Tuesday how long Hale will spend in prison for leaking classified documents on the U.S. drone program to a journalist. Hale pleaded guilty in March to leaking documents under the Espionage Act that revealed secrets about U.S. drone operations in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Prosecutors have recommended that Hale spend up to 11 years in prison, arguing that “vanity overrode the commitments he made to his country.” In court papers, the government argued Hale wanted to “ingratiate” himself with journalists and took a job with the Defense Department’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency so he could access top-secret information and share it with reporters.

Hale argues that he should be sentenced to just 12 to 18 months in prison. It was not vanity but “irreconcilable moral conflict,” his lawyers argue, that drove him to print out documents and share them with a journalist from the Intercept. “He felt extraordinary guilt for having been complicit in what he viewed as unjustifiable killings,” his lawyers wrote in sentencing documents filed last week.

Hale and his lawyers argue that the former airman suffered from “moral injury” during his short stint as a signals intelligence analyst and that his only coping mechanism for the post-traumatic stress was to attempt to “make a difference” and leak documents.

According to a New York Magazine profile, Hale grew up in Bristol, Va. In his early 20s, after an argument with this father, he enlisted in the military, took an exam, aced it, and was funneled into intelligence work. For three years he floated around, training at a military language program in Monterey, Calif., and then working at an Air Force dental office in Maryland. In March 2012, he was transferred to Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

There, Hale’s job was to identify targets for drone strikes. And he struggled with the risk that those he identified as enemies — a teenager or a farmer, for example — could be innocent civilians, he argued in recent court documents.

Hale contacted a reporter with whom he had previously communicated and printed out documents. That reporter, while not named in court documents, is widely believed to be Jeremy Scahill of the Intercept. He eventually used the leaked documents to build the Intercept series “The Drone Papers,” according to New York Magazine, which detailed the “inner workings” of the U.S. unmanned operations program, such as how the Obama administration approved airstrikes.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Crowd Turns on Gunman Who Killed One, Stoning Him to Death, Cheyenne Ubiera, July 26, 2021. The gunman had fired into a group of people.\

After a gunman in Fort Worth, Texas, killed one person while firing into a crowd of people, the group sought revenge, pelting him with stones that left him dead. Officials say the man started shooting into the crowd just before 1 a.m. Monday.

One person was killed and two others who are expected to survive were injured in the shooting. The crowd then began to throw gardening stones at the gunman, ultimately killing him. Police say that the cause of the shooting is still unknown but it’s believed to have stemmed from some kind of altercation. Everyone involved knew each other, according to police. The names of those involved have yet to be released.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This phony Arizona election “audit” just got even more idiotic, Shirley Kennedy, July 26, 2021. With this being their first undertaking, one must wonder how well or accurately they will conduct this so-called audit. CNN gave us some insight.

Doug Logan is the CEO of Cyber Ninjas. He claimed that they found 74,243 mail-in ballots with “no clear record of them being sent.” How does Logan know this without seeing missing postal markings? His auditors conducted “door-to-door questioning” of Maricopa County voters, and that by talking with people, they were able to determine whether inconsistencies are “real problems” or “clerical errors of some sort.” What? That makes no sense whatsoever, none. So, is he saying the people they spoke with did not use mail-in ballots? If so, what in the world does that prove? Only Republicans could find such an ill-equipped, incompetent outfit to conduct an “audit,” but it gets worse. According to CNN, Liz Harrington, a spokesperson for Trump, Lauren Boebert, and Trump jumped on the bandwagon, repeating the information as truth. No wonder the Republican party is such a hot mess right now. If Logan told them he had a bridge for sale cheap in San Francisco, they would probably repeat that as well.

CNN gave us the facts on these allegedly “miscounted” ballots. CNN reported that there are no “magically appearing ballots” in Maricopa County, which was verified by Maricopa County and experts. Instead of these ballots “missing,” the numbers derive from both mail-in ballots and early in-person voting ballots. Garrett Archer, who is an ABC election analyst and former official in the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, said that the ballot request list is never updated after a date certain, and thereafter, the total is added to the in-person vote totals, so what Logan is looking at is a combination of in-person voting and mail-in ballots, not mail-in ballots alone. Logan is merely proving that he is unqualified to audit elections since he does not even bother to learn how this works.

Logan’s other claim is that Maricopa County “stopped verifying voters’s signatures at some point in the election.” Where did Logan get this nonsense? He claims to have an affidavit (from whom no one knows) that verifies that the “comparison points” of signatures were systematically reduced “after some time” from 20 to 10 to 5 before they stop comparing altogether. Stephen Richer, a Republican member of the Maricopa County Recorder’s office told CNN that Maricopa County never modified its “rigorous signature verification requirements” and that “any suggestion to the contrary is categorically false.” Yet, the lies keep coming. The problem is the people who believe this crap. As long as they have people willing to fall for anything they are fed, the lies will continue.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Nancy Mace Called Herself a ‘New Voice’ for the G.O.P. Then She Pivoted, Catie Edmondson, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). Her shift reflects how rank-and-file Republicans — even those who may disagree with him — have decided it is too perilous to openly challenge former President Donald J. Trump.

Representative Nancy Mace had just delivered the kind of red-meat remarks that would ordinarily thrill the Republican voters in attendance here on a recent sweltering evening, casually comparing liberal Democrats to terrorists — the “Hamas squad,” she called them — and railing against their “socialist” spending plans.

nancy maceBut asked to give an assessment of her congresswoman, Mara Brockbank, a former leader of the Charleston County Republican Party who previously endorsed Ms. Mace, was less than enthusiastic.

“I didn’t like that she back-stabbed Trump,” Ms. Brockbank said. “We have to realize that she got in because of Trump. Even if you do have something against your leaders, keep them to yourself.”

Ms. Brockbank was referring to Ms. Mace’s first weeks in office immediately after the Jan. 6 riot, as the stench of tear gas lingered in the halls of the Capitol and some top Republicans were quietly weighing a break with President Donald J. Trump. Ms. Mace, a freshman congresswoman, placed herself at the forefront of a group of Republicans denouncing Mr. Trump’s lies of a stolen election that had fueled the assault and appeared to be establishing herself as a compelling new voice urging her party to change its ways.

But these days, as Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they have no intention of turning against Mr. Trump, Ms. Mace has quietly backpedaled into the party’s fold. Having once given more than a dozen interviews in a single day to condemn Mr. Trump’s corrosive influence on the party, Ms. Mace now studiously avoids the subject, rarely if ever mentioning his name and saying it is time for Republicans to “stop fighting with each other in public.”

washington post logoWashington Post, New Jersey Democrats want ‘fairness’ in Biden’s trillion-dollar agenda. They’re in for a fight, Mike DeBonis, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). The way New Jersey Democrats see it, President Donald Trump and his congressional allies targeted affluent, left-leaning states like theirs to fund Republican priorities such as massive tax cuts. And now, with President Biden pushing his own far-ranging agenda through Congress, it’s time to even the score.

“We were literally targeted as a Democratic state,” said Rep. Donald W. Norcross, one of 12 congressional Democrats from the state who are pushing for tax relief and infrastructure funding. “This is about fairness.”

Said Sen. Cory Booker (D), “We knew we were sort of in the crosshairs before. But now the floodgates have opened.”

But the state’s parochial concerns — which include restoring a major tax break used by about 40 percent of the state’s filers and protecting its powerful drug industry — are starting to conflict with the larger Democratic agenda of overhauling climate policy, reshaping the tax code and delivering new assistance to American families through a sweeping expansion of social programs.

Every dollar used to preserve a tax break mainly enjoyed by the wealthy or preserve pharmaceutical company profits, other Democrats say, is a dollar that can’t be used on more urgent priorities.

New Jersey Democrats need to “realize they’re part of a team,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “This is about whether or not Democrats deliver for the people on the promises we made.”

The state’s influential congressional delegation has not been deterred, however, and the intraparty conflict — amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars — has put the Garden State at the center of the action as Democrats try to maneuver the biggest social agenda in a generation through the smallest congressional majorities in decades.

Some New Jerseyans say they recognize that if the party is to pass anything over the unified Republican opposition, they — and other states looking for post-Trump payback — might have to sacrifice some of their goals, though not without a battle.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Matt Gaetz’s Future Sister-in-Law Says He’s a Gaslighting ‘Creep,’ Roger Sollenberger, July 26, 2021. Matt Gaetz's fiancée's sister says the Florida Republican tried to set her up with a man much older than her when she was 19, and went “full lawyer” on her when she confronted him.

Rep. Matt Gaetz’s future sister-in-law appears to have had more than enough with the Florida congressman, posting three TikTok videos in the last two days slamming him as “weird and creepy” and “a literal pedophile.”

Roxanne Luckey—the sister of Gaetz’s fiancée, Ginger Luckey—was sharply critical of the congressman and his treatment of young women, saying she “unfortunately was not surprised” to have learned Gaetz was under federal investigation for sex crimes.

In one video Monday night, Roxanne Luckey told a story about Gaetz pressuring an older man to court her when she was 19. Roxanne Luckey called the move “weird and creepy”—and she claims Gaetz yelled at her and her mother and went “full lawyer” when she confronted him.

“I saw the character and type of person he is, and when everything came out about him, I honestly, unfortunately, was not surprised,” Luckey said in one video.

“As someone who has personally experienced a ton of creepy old politician men hitting on me when I was underage, and experiencing sexual assault at that age by people of power, it’s very disheartening and I have zero tolerance of people like [Gaetz],” said Roxanne, who in 2020 worked briefly as a White House intern. She added that she is “tired of them getting away with this type of stuff.”

After the videos were posted, Ginger Luckey hit back at her sister, telling The Daily Beast she had a history of “destructive behavior.”

Roxanne, who is 20 now, said she was sharing her experiences in part because of her interactions with powerful men and her belief that it is important to “hold people accountable to whatever extent we can.”

“There is so much more to the story and about what I know about Matt Gaetz,” she added. “It is definitely a serious situation.”

The first of the videos, posted on Sunday, features Luckey dancing and lip-synching to Lana Del Ray’s “Jealous Girl” with a New York Times headline in the background, reading “Matt Gaetz Is Said to Face Justice Dept. Inquiry Over Sex With an Underage Girl.” She added her own text, writing, “When a creepy old man tries to hit on you at the bar but your sisters engaged to a literal pedophile.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz and Ginger Luckey at a rally in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Michael Ciaglo/Getty

In a follow-up video Monday night, Luckey apologized for using the term “pedophile” and shifted to “ephebophile”—someone primarily attracted to mid- to late-adolescents—which she reasoned felt more appropriate for Gaetz.

While The Daily Beast couldn’t reach Roxanne Luckey, the woman in the TikTok video appears to be the same person seen in a family photo on Ginger Luckey’s Facebook page, and the two women have multiple overlapping social media contacts. Ginger Luckey’s mother also appears to like posts on Roxanne’s Facebook. The TikTok account also shares two videos showing the person working in the White House as an intern. The Daily Beast was able to verify with a former Trump official that Roxanne Luckey did work as an intern during the summer of 2020, as the TikTok account claims.

Reached for comment Monday evening, Ginger Luckey claimed she and Roxanne had been estranged. (A video posted by Roxanne Luckey suggests she was close with her sister and Gaetz as recently as November.)

“Matt and I are enjoying our engagement and are deeply in love. My estranged sister is mentally unwell,” Ginger Luckey said in a text message. “She has been in therapy for years and our family hopes that after receiving in-patient mental health treatment, she will overcome the tendency she has repeatedly shown to engage in destructive behavior.”

 

World News

California News Times, Former US diplomat, 45, pleads guilty to raping and drugging 23 women over 14 years, Staff Report, July 26, 2021. Brian Jeffrey Raymond, 45, of La Mesa, California, pleaded guilty brian raymond fbito federal sexual abuse and the transportation of obscene physical charges on Friday.

Raymond’s investigation began last May after the discovery of a naked woman screaming for help on the balcony of an apartment in Mexico City. The following account comes from the FBI, which investigated and provided the photo at right: 

She had no memory of what happened after eating the drinks and food provided by Raymond. FBI agents recovered hundreds of photos and videos of more than 20 unconscious nude or partially nude women from Raymond’s cell phones, iCloud accounts, and other electronics. The file dates back to 2006 and lasts until May 2020.

The photos and videos not only clearly depict Raymond caressing the victim’s chest and buttocks, but also lie in bed with an unconscious woman on two different occasions.

During her stay with Raymond, the women experienced memory loss and claimed to have no knowledge of photography, video, or physical contact. 

According to court documents, Raymond has served the US government for 23 years in many countries. Prosecutors did not identify what position he was in Mexico, other than saying he worked for the embassy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tunisia’s president takes emergency powers; country in crisis, Siobhán O'Grady, July 26, 2021. The dramatic political crisis moved into its second day after President Kais Saied fired the prime minister and suspended parliament, in the most serious test to the country's institutions since its transition to democracy a decade ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Businessman becomes Lebanon’s latest prime minister designate, Nader Durgham, July 26, 2021. Najib Mikati is the third nominee in less than a year to seek to form a government to rescue the country from collapse.

 

U.S. Media News

Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Initiative via Poynter Institute, More chain-owned news organizations are returning to local ownership, Mark Jacob, July 26, 2021. From New England to Arkansas, local investors are buying news outlets from large chains and seek to reverse what they see as decades of disinvestment.

As chain consolidation brings new uncertainty to an already fluid news landscape, another trend is emerging in which local investors buy news outlets from large chains and seek to reverse what they see as decades of disinvestment.

Media acquisitions lawyer Sara April expects to see more news outlets go into local hands as some big chains focus on their larger products and spin off their smaller ones.

“It’s definitely safe to say that there is a trend of some newspapers returning to local ownership,” said April, a partner in Dirks, Van Essen & April. “… It made sense for these large newspaper companies to build when they did, but now it’s making sense for them to peel off these papers and put them in the hands of people who can really operate them in this day and age.”

In some ways, large chains can be beneficial for local news consumers. They often bring website expertise, technical support and consistent business practices. And they may have a greater ability to recruit talent.

But local owners’ strong presence in the community may be more important, according to Penny Abernathy, creator of the influential “news deserts” reports and visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

“All things being equal,” Abernathy said, “local ownership is always best for the community where the newspaper is located. That’s because a local owner is going to know that market and know the residents.”

As Tim Schmidt, who is building a small newspaper group in central Missouri, put it: “The newspaper has to care about the community. I think local ownership plays a huge part in that.”

In the wake of the Gannett-GateHouse merger in November 2019, Gannett is selling off some of its smaller news outlets. And industry observers are watching for what comes out of Alden Global Capital’s recent acquisition of Tribune Publishing and whether any of Tribune’s news outlets will end up in the hands of local owners. 

Hedge funds such as Alden now control about half of daily newspapers in the United States. Does this suggest greater volatility, with hedge funds likely to sell their news outlets to local owners?

“Every newspaper publisher is constantly looking at their options,” April said. “Are they financial owners known to be long-term holders of newspaper assets? Historically, no.”

Tim Franklin, senior associate dean and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News at Medill, said acquisitions by local investors make sense under the right conditions.

“After decades of consolidation in local news ownership, we could be on the cusp of a back-to-the-future moment with more local operators, especially in smaller communities,” Franklin said.

Fredric Rutberg has been both a buyer and a seller of local news outlets. In 2016, he was part of a group that bought New England Newspapers from Digital First Media, owned by Alden. This May, Rutberg and other owners kept the flagship Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, from that deal while selling off three Vermont newspapers and a magazine to tech entrepreneur Paul Belogour.

“This is my retirement project,” Rutberg said. “I was a judge in the local Massachusetts state court, and Massachusetts judges have mandatory retirement at age 70.”

So he and his partners went into the newspaper business.

 

2020 Olympics

olympics japan logo

 ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Men’s Basketball Team Loses Opening Game, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). The team fell to France, 83-76, remaining on unsteady footing after taking a rocky path to Tokyo. The Americans shot only 36 percent and were outscored badly in the third quarter, 25-11, when they blew an 8-point halftime lead and fell behind for good. Evan Fournier, who played for the Boston Celtics last season, led France with 28 points. Jrue Holiday, fresh off winning the N.B.A. title with the Milwaukee Bucks, scored 18 for the United States less than 24 hours after landing in Tokyo. In other news:

  • United States wins first gold medal on second day as Biles slips.
  • Simone Manuel and the U.S. win bronze in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
  • Chase Kalisz wins the first U.S. gold medal in Tokyo.
  • She celebrated as if she had won a gold. Except she hadn’t.
  • Yuto Horigome wins the first skateboarding medal as Nyjah Huston falters.
  • The U.S. women’s gymnastics team fell short of its usual standards.

ny times logoNew York Times, Critic’s notebook: Jill Biden, Changing the Fashion Game, Vanessa Friedman, July 26, 2021. Cheering the American Olympians, the first lady broke with recent sartorial customs. The game of first lady fashion is one played 12 months a year, at pretty much any time, watched by a global mass of avid spectators who care for reasons national, personal and political. Participants are drafted as soon as they get their jobs, whether they like it or not.

Jill Biden has famously been a reluctant player (“It’s kind of surprising, I think, how much commentary is made about what I wear,” she told Vogue).

Not for her the strategy of fashion diplomacy, mastered by Michelle Obama, wherein you champion a designer who bridges both your home country and a host country. Not for her the high fashion tactics of Melania Trump, conflating runway with realpolitik.

But she has, nevertheless, proved there are a variety of ways to score, as least judging by her first solo trip leading the American delegation at the Tokyo Olympics.

During her four days abroad, she not only represented the American industry, wearing a roll call of local designers. She also, perhaps more important, embodied the theme of the Olympics, which was billed as the greenest Games yet with the motto “Be better, together — For the planet and the people.” Dr. Biden apparently wore only a single new garment during the entirety of her trip to Japan: the Ralph Lauren navy jacket and pants that were part of the official U.S. Olympic Team uniform, and that she wore in her role as official U.S. Olympic Team booster.

Other than that, her clothes were all recycled outfits from her closet. And not just at fun family getaways: At public events. Often very big, photo op-filled, recorded-for-history public events.

That Dr. Biden would just say no to this cycle is as big a break with recent tradition as the fact that she is continuing to work as a professor during her time in the White House. And it may be just as important, and maybe even (if people pay attention) influential.

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report, July 23, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.

 

July 25

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

  

Probe of Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

2020 Olympics

  

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid fire and floods, a moment of truth for climate action, Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis, July 25, 2021. ‘We are all in the same boat,’ says one diplomat from the developing world. ‘That is what this summer is telling us.’

Scientists have repeatedly warned that the planet remains on track to exceed a critical threshold for warming within a decade. Yet experts and activists also see a rare opportunity to change course — possibly the last chance before many effects become irreversible.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Variant Keeps Spreading, but Vaccine Refusal Is the Real Threat, Apoorva Mandavilli, July 25, 2021. The United States is again at a crossroads in the pandemic: Infections are up, and the country may again see overflowing hospitals and needless deaths. The contagious Delta variant may be getting the blame, but fueling its rise is vaccine hesitancy and refusal, long pervasive among Americans.

After an all too brief respite, the United States is again at a crossroads in the pandemic. The number of infections has ticked up — slowly at first, then swiftly — to 51,000 cases per day, on average, more than four times the rate a month ago. The country may again see overflowing hospitals, exhausted health care workers and thousands of needless deaths.

The more contagious Delta variant may be getting the blame, but fueling its rise is an older, more familiar foe: vaccine hesitancy and refusal, long pervasive in the United States. Were a wider swath of the population vaccinated, there would be no resurgence — of the Delta variant, or Alpha variant, or any other version of the coronavirus.

While mild breakthrough infections may be more common than once thought, the vaccines effectively prevent severe illness and death. Yet nearly half of the population remains unvaccinated and unprotected. About 30 percent of adults have not received even a single dose, and the percentage is much higher in some parts of the country.

America is one of the few countries with enough vaccines at its disposal to protect every resident — and yet it has highest rates of vaccine hesitance or refusal of any nation except Russia.

Public health experts have fruitlessly warned for months that the virus — any version of it — would resurge if the country did not vaccinate enough of the population quickly enough. Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, predicted in January that Florida might have a rough summer. Now one in five new infections nationwide is in Florida.

True, the speed and ferocity with which the Delta variant is tearing through Asia, Europe, Africa and now North America has taken many experts by surprise. It now accounts for about 83 percent of the infections in the United States.

But Delta is by no means the wickedest variant out there. Gamma and Lambda are waiting in the wings, and who knows what frightful versions are already flourishing undetected in the far corners of the world, perhaps even here in America.

Every infected person, anywhere in the world, offers the coronavirus another opportunity to morph into a new variant. The more infections there are globally, the more likely new variants will arise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Summer music festivals have returned — just in time for the latest coronavirus surge, Kim Bellware, July 25, 2021. Over 16 months after summer music festivals were silenced by the coronavirus pandemic, a more infectious variant is showing up to this year’s gatherings like an unwelcome gate-crasher.

As of Friday, the seven-day average for new daily cases in the United States jumped 57 percent from the previous week, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. With the delta variant pushing new infections and hospitalization rates upward, the horns of triumph for summer music festivals are starting to sound more like a sad trombone.

After 2020′s summer of shutdowns, fans, musicians and promoters are eager to return to the stage — as are many of the cities that host the lucrative events. It’s made major music festivals seem like an unstoppable force and, to health experts, an avoidable risk.

“I would probably not recommend [going],” said Maria Alcaide, an infectious-disease specialist who directs the Infectious Diseases Research Unit with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She cited the “significant” uptick in the number of new cases and hospitalizations, primarily driven by unvaccinated people.

mustafa al kadhimi resized july 2021 via reuters

Daily Beast, Iraqi PM: American Combat Troops No Longer Needed, Barbie Latza Nadeau, July 25, 2021. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (shown at center in a government photo via Reuters) has announced that U.S. combat troops are no longer daily beast logoneeded to bolster Iraqi forces in their fight against Islamic State militants, according to a wide ranging interview with the Associated Press.

Al-Kadhimi said Iraq will, however, still ask the U.S. for support in training and intelligence gathering. The Iraqi P.M. is heading to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with President Joe Biden in what will be a fourth round of strategic talks. “There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” he said, but declined to set his preferred date for their withdrawal. “The war against IS and the readiness of our forces requires a special timetable, and this depends on the negotiations that we will conduct in Washington,” he told the AP.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oklahoma reels after Supreme Court ruling on Indian tribes, Annie Gowen and Robert Barnes, July 25, 2021 (print ed.). Over the past year since justices ruled that a large part of eastern Oklahoma is still Indian country, convictions have been imperiled in thousands of cases, confusion has grown for police and more than 50 criminals have been released, state records show.

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma said prosecution of Native Americans for crimes in the expanded Indian country must be carried out in federal and tribal courts, rather than by state or local officials. It was celebrated across the country by Native Americans last July, who saw it as a historic affirmation of treaties signed with the U.S. government in the 1800s.

But in the year since, the ruling has upended Oklahoma’s criminal justice system, imperiled convictions in thousands of cases, sowed confusion for police and emergency responders and led to the direct release of more than 50 criminals convicted on charges including second-degree murder and child abuse, state records show.

And there may be wider impacts for the region, which covers 19 million acres in eastern Oklahoma, includes a portion of the state’s second-biggest city, Tulsa, and is home to 1.8 million people.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online, Sheera Frenkel, July 25, 2021 (print ed.). Researchers and regulators say Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, creates and profits from misleading claims about Covid-19 vaccines.

The article that appeared online on Feb. 9 began with a seemingly innocuous question about the legal definition of vaccines. Then over its next 3,400 words, it declared coronavirus vaccines were “a medical fraud” and said the injections did not prevent infections, provide immunity or stop transmission of the disease.

joseph mercolaInstead, the article claimed, the shots “alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch.”

Its assertions were easily disprovable. No matter. Over the next few hours, the article was translated from English into Spanish and Polish. It appeared on dozens of blogs and was picked up by anti-vaccination activists, who repeated the false claims online. The article also made its way to Facebook, where it reached 400,000 people, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned tool.

The entire effort traced back to one person: Joseph Mercola.

Dr. Mercola, 67, right, an osteopathic physician in Cape Coral, Fla., has long been a subject of criticism and government regulatory actions for his promotion of unproven or unapproved treatments. But most recently, he has become the chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, according to researchers.

An internet-savvy entrepreneur who employs dozens, Dr. Mercola has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on Covid-19 vaccines since the pandemic began, reaching a far larger audience than other vaccine skeptics, an analysis by The New York Times found. His claims have been widely echoed on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

The activity has earned Dr. Mercola, a natural health proponent with an Everyman demeanor, the dubious distinction of the top spot in the “Disinformation Dozen,” a list of 12 people responsible for sharing 65 percent of all anti-vaccine messaging on social media, said the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate. Others on the list include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime anti-vaccine activist, and Erin Elizabeth, the founder of the website Health Nut News, who is also Dr. Mercola’s girlfriend.

“Mercola is the pioneer of the anti-vaccine movement,” said Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online conspiracy theories. “He’s a master of capitalizing on periods of uncertainty, like the pandemic, to grow his movement.”

Some high-profile media figures have promoted skepticism of the vaccines, notably Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham of Fox News, though other Fox personalities have urged viewers to get the shots. Now, Dr. Mercola and others in the “Disinformation Dozen” are in the spotlight as vaccinations in the United States slow, just as the highly infectious Delta variant has fueled a resurgence in coronavirus cases. More than 97 percent of people hospitalized for Covid-19 are unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

washington post logoWashington Post, 188.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 25, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 163 million people fully vaccinated, representing 49.1 %of the eligible population and with 58.8 %  with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 25, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 194,582,835, Deaths: 4,171,672
U.S. Cases:     35,184,671, Deaths:     626,713
India Cases:    31,371,901, Deaths:     420,585
Brazil Cases:   19,670,534, Deaths:     549,500

washington post logoWashington Post, Australian prime minister calls lockdown-violating protests ‘selfish and self-defeating,’ Miriam Berger, July 25, 2021. Though many had looked forward to the easing of social and economic restrictions with the advent of coronavirus vaccines, the emergence of highly transmissible variants has upended expectations. 

This weekend’s anti-lockdown protests in Sydney were “selfish and self-defeating,” Australia’s prime minister said Sunday, amid a global wave of renewed restrictions and resulting demonstrations as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.

Some 3,500 people protested Saturday in Sydney after New South Wales tightened its regulations last week in response to rising coronavirus cases, even as the city’s lockdown enters its fifth week. The demonstrations violated the region’s strict stay-at-home orders, restrictions on public gatherings and face mask mandates.

Authorities are warning it could have been a superspreader event.

New South Wales police said Sunday on their website that they had arrested 63 people allegedly involved in the protest and charged 35 for violations such as resisting, assaulting and obstructing officers. Two men were charged with striking a police horse and refused bail.

 

Probe of Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection nancy pelosi maskPalmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just made her Adam Kinzinger power move, Bocha Blue, July 25, 2021. Warrior Nancy Pelosi has done it again! She has appointed Rep. Adam Kinzinger to the January sixth committee. And this is a GREAT move.

Kinzinger (I wish he’d change parties, Republican, Illinois) is a smart and courageous man who wants to get to the bottom of the American terrorist attack as much as the Democrats do.

I think this is an excellent move on Pelosi’s part. The GOP cannot say this committee was not bi-partisan, although they will surely try.

bill palmer report logo headerTime and again, Warrior Pelosi has outwitted cowardly Kevin McCarthy. It’s a pleasure to watch.

“Today, I am announcing the appointment of Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran and Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard, to serve on the Select Committee,” Pelosi said.

The addition of Kinzinger gives even more legitimacy to the commission and really shows the difference between the two parties. Our party wants answers. The insurrection party wants a cover-up.

Can you imagine what the committee would have been like with the two Jims on it? Jordan would have belligerently raised hell, and we’d have been subject to that dreadful and nightmarish voice that frequently comes close to shattering the ears of viewers everywhere.

Never ever underestimate Pelosi. McCarthy did, and now he is forced to stew in his own juices as the Select Committee sets sail in search of the truth.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s “stop the steal” is even more of a scam than we knew, James Sullivan, July 25, 2021. While Donald Trump’s biggest lackeys are making fools of themselves – like Rudy Giuliani, Mike Lindell and Sidney Powell – and often finding themselves in legal jeopardy of their own as a result with each passing day, the former guy hardly gives it a thought.

How do we know this?

bill palmer report logo headerNone of the money from his 2020 campaign fund has been spent on ballot audits in any of the states where he claims people voted illegally. Since vacating the Oval Office, his Save America PAC has raised $75 million – and all the money has gone to paying for Trump’s travel, legal fees, and even staff members, with the PAC retaining most of the money.

This shouldn’t really be a surprise to those of you who saw the fine print at the bottom of his campaign’s “stop the steal” emails. Like everything else Trump’s been ranting about for the last four years, the Big Lie turned out to be yet another scam to test the mental hijinks and loyalty of his supporters, while also taking a sizable portion of money from their wallets. It’s also a tacit admission that Donald Trump lost the election, even if he’s incapable of ever openly admitting that he lost anything in his life.

The crop of shady non-profits and pro-Trump outlets that have opened up in the wake of this disaster have made it more clear than ever that it’s not simply Donald Trump who is at fault here, but also an entire political party that defined itself as simply running on whatever he says – and is still with him – even if they want to keep leaking stories to suggest they aren’t. They’re a party of losers rallying around a lost cause that deserves to stay buried.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Biden can do to show he’s serious about voting rights, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 25, 2021. After President Biden gave a major jennifer rubin new headshotspeech on voting rights this month without uttering the word “filibuster," the reaction from voting rights advocates fell somewhere between miffed and angry. Just days before his remarks, they had met with Biden to convey how essential new legislation — which would require modifying the filibuster — was to the fight. Many of these leaders concluded that his refusal to signal any support on filibuster reform means he is humoring them, not really listening.

There are several ways Biden can reassure the voting rights community.

The White House would be making a grave error if it concludes Democrats can out-organize their way around Republican efforts to impede access to the ballot box and undermine election integrity. If Biden does not go all out for voting rights reform and Democrats lose the House or Senate (thereby imperiling the 2024 presidential process), the verdict of his party and history will be severe.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nancy Mace Called Herself a ‘New Voice’ for the G.O.P. Then She Pivoted, Catie Edmondson, July 25, 2021. Her shift reflects how rank-and-file Republicans — even those who may disagree with him — have decided it is too perilous to openly challenge former President Donald J. Trump.

Representative Nancy Mace had just delivered the kind of red-meat remarks that would ordinarily thrill the Republican voters in attendance here on a recent sweltering evening, casually comparing liberal Democrats to terrorists — the “Hamas squad,” she called them — and railing against their “socialist” spending plans.

nancy maceBut asked to give an assessment of her congresswoman, Mara Brockbank, a former leader of the Charleston County Republican Party who previously endorsed Ms. Mace, was less than enthusiastic.

“I didn’t like that she back-stabbed Trump,” Ms. Brockbank said. “We have to realize that she got in because of Trump. Even if you do have something against your leaders, keep them to yourself.”

Ms. Brockbank was referring to Ms. Mace’s first weeks in office immediately after the Jan. 6 riot, as the stench of tear gas lingered in the halls of the Capitol and some top Republicans were quietly weighing a break with President Donald J. Trump. Ms. Mace, a freshman congresswoman, placed herself at the forefront of a group of Republicans denouncing Mr. Trump’s lies of a stolen election that had fueled the assault and appeared to be establishing herself as a compelling new voice urging her party to change its ways.

But these days, as Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they have no intention of turning against Mr. Trump, Ms. Mace has quietly backpedaled into the party’s fold. Having once given more than a dozen interviews in a single day to condemn Mr. Trump’s corrosive influence on the party, Ms. Mace now studiously avoids the subject, rarely if ever mentioning his name and saying it is time for Republicans to “stop fighting with each other in public.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Skilled in Strategy (and Grudges), Top Biden Adviser to Depart White House, Annie Karni, July 25, 2021. Anita Dunn, who is returning to her Democratic consulting company next month, has long faced questions about how her influence in the White House intersects with her company’s corporate work.

For the past 17 months, since shaking up his campaign after an embarrassing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has relied on Anita Dunn, a veteran Washington consultant, for both guidance and grudge-holding.

Ms. Dunn, 63, provided direction when Mr. Biden’s campaign was flailing. Later, she refused to give Julián Castro, a former housing secretary, a requested speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention, still upset about his debate-night jab at Mr. Biden’s mental acuity, according to people familiar with the snub. And in the West Wing, she has had a hand in shaping every major policy push so far.

Now Ms. Dunn is set to return to her powerful Democratic consulting company, leaving a hole in Mr. Biden’s small inner circle as the highly infectious Delta variant is ripping through unvaccinated communities and the fate of Mr. Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal is teetering on the edge of collapse.

“She brings stability and a faithfulness to strategy,” said David Plouffe, the former Obama campaign manager. “You see it in the White House, where they’re very disciplined on their approach to Covid, to the economy, to the use of the president. That discipline and not swinging at every pitch is really classic Anita.”

Ms. Dunn has prepped the president for every interview and news conference since she took over his campaign and driven the administration’s buttoned-up approach to dealing with the news media. She is widely credited with elevating women to senior positions in the West Wing. And she is adamantly opposed to Mr. Biden regularly taking questions from reporters, which she believes does little to advance his agenda. She prefers town hall events.

But for all her discipline and expertise, Ms. Dunn’s presence in the Biden administration, and in the Obama administration before that, has raised questions about how her influence in the government intersects with the corporate work of her company, which represents clients seeking to influence policy.

Ms. Dunn has only separated herself from SKDK, the corporate and political consulting company she helped found and is returning to next month, for brief periods of campaign and government work. And the fact that she is exempt from filing public financial disclosures required of full-time presidential appointees has drawn criticism from some ethics watchdogs.

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Donald Trump’s handlers rarely let him out in public anymore, Bill Palmer, July 25, 2021. On Saturday night, Donald Trump (shown in a file photo) tried to give a speech at a political event in bill palmerArizona. We say tried because the performance he ended up putting on could only be referred to as a “speech” under the most charitable definition of the word.

Trump loves few things more than giving speeches to his adoring fans. In fact it was arguably the only part of the presidency that he seemed to truly enjoy. If he had his way, he’d still be out there giving rally speeches every few days. So why isn’t he? There’s nothing stopping him; after all, New York hasn’t criminally indicted him yet.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump’s own performance on Saturday night, or lack thereof, is the increasingly obvious explanation. His visible physical condition, which has been going downhill since he caught COVID, appeared to be worse than ever. And his cognitive abilities… let’s just say that at one point Trump ended up rambling about LeBron James becoming a transgender woman.

Donald Trump is no doubt constantly demanding that his handlers allow him to give rally speeches. And yet when his handlers do occasionally let him on stage, it becomes clear why they allow it so rarely: putting him out there merely makes the general public aware that he’s way too far gone to be relevant.

Trump’s idiot base may love him no matter how much of a senile blob he’s turned into. But it’s never been about them. It’s about voters in the middle, and let’s just say that Trump is lucky so few TV outlets air his speeches these days. Moreover, it tells you something about how far gone Trump is that he’s unwilling or unable to overrule his own handlers, as they surely feed him excuses each day about why he can’t hold regular rallies. Trump isn’t even in charge of his own dumpster fire anymore.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Power outages cripple parts of the Middle East amid record heat waves and rising unrest, Louisa Loveluck, Kareem Fahim and Sarah Dadouch, July 25, 2021.  Record heat waves and crippling energy shortages across much of the Middle East are plunging homes and businesses from Lebanon to Iran into darkness and stirring unrest as poor families swelter while many of the rich stay cool with backup generators.

Power outages have pushed hospitals to a crisis point. Family businesses are struggling to survive. In some cities, the streetlights barely work.

Temperatures in several Middle Eastern countries this summer have topped 122 degrees Fahrenheit — 50 degrees Celsius — including in Iran, which hit 123.8, and Iraq, which nearly matched last year’s record of 125.2. Decades of neglect and underinvestment have left power grids unable to cope. Drought has crippled hydroelectric generation. Economic crises roiling several countries mean governments are now even struggling to purchase the fuel needed to generate power.

“It’s aggravated by climate change and increasing temperatures, but the roots of this are poor planning, weak governance and low investment in the power sector,” said Jessica Obeid, a nonresident scholar at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

In Iran, the outages have sparked protests in several cities and prompted a rare apology this month from outgoing President Hassan Rouhani. As anger spreads, demonstrations have also erupted over water shortages in Khuzestan, a province in southwestern Iran. Amnesty International said in a report released Friday that security forces had responded to the protests with live ammunition and killed at least eight protesters and bystanders.

In Iraq’s oil-rich city of Basra, demonstrators have blocked highways and burned tires as they decried a lack of power and poor public services. Protesters have done the same in scattered demonstrations in Lebanon.

With government power grids faltering across the region, sites ranging from state ministries to family homes have turned to privately run backup generators, with an army of operators working in hot, dark trailers round-the-clock to keep them going.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, A Catholic newsletter promised investigative journalism. Then it outed a priest using Grindr data, Michelle Boorstein, Marisa Iati and Elahe Izadi, July 25, 2021. A report that identified a senior official in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as having visited gay nightclubs led to his resignation — and a loud debate on ethics and morals.

In January, when Ed Condon and JD Flynn broke off from their jobs at a long-standing Catholic news agency, they promised readers of their new newsletter that they would deliver reporting without an agenda, or a foregone conclusion. “We aim to do serious, responsible, sober journalism about the Church, from the Church and for the Church. . . . We want The Pillar to be a different kind of journalism.”

Six months later the Pillar broke the kind of story mainstream news organizations would be unlikely to touch: They said they had obtained commercially available data that included location history from the hookup app Grindr, and used it to track a high-ranking priest from his offices and family lake house to gay nightclubs.

Now Condon and Flynn, two 38-year-old canon lawyers-turned-muckrakers, are at the center of both a global surveillance-ethics story as well as a mud fight among their fellow Catholics over whether this week they served or disgraced the church. One Catholic writer described it as “a witch hunt aimed at gay Catholic priests.”

  • jeffrey burrillWashington Post, Top U.S. Catholic Church official resigns after cellphone data used to track him on Grindr and to gay bars

In some ways the Pillar story and reaction to it feels almost like a throwback: Conservative Catholics who point to the 1960s and liberalizing sexual mores for society’s troubles and focus on gay priests. But in 2021 the availability of personal digital data and the use of smartphones for surveillance are far bigger fears for the vast majority of Americans than is news about a member of the clergy possibly using a hookup app.

Flynn and Condon’s story also punctuates how America’s religious and journalistic landscapes have changed. Institutions and hierarchies now have to contend with scrappy start-ups taking matters into their own hands.

And in the growing conservative Catholic media scene, their newsletter and its takedown of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, right, represents a new power and boldness of those demanding their church be purged of leaders who they see as too permissive on issues like abortion, gender norms and sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

washington post logoWashington Post, James Polk: 1937–2021: Pulitzer Prize winner for Watergate reporting at the old Washington Star dies at 83, Matt Schudel, July 25, 2021. James R. Polk, a journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his reporting on the Watergate scandal for the old Washington Star, and who later worked with NBC News and CNN, died July 15 at his home in Marietta, Ga. He was 83.

He had complications from a series of strokes, said his wife, Cara Polk.

james polk indiana universityMr. Polk, right, spent only two years with the Star, then called the Washington Star-News, but in that time he uncovered financial irregularities concerning the reelection campaign of President Richard M. Nixon, including a secret contribution from a shady financier, delivered in a briefcase.

After the break-in at the Watergate office complex in June 1972, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein led an investigation that led to a Pulitzer Prize in 1973. But reporters from other news organizations, including Mr. Polk, also pursued the story about White House corruption, centered on Nixon’s reelection committee.

Early in 1973, Mr. Polk revealed that Robert L. Vesco, who was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for stealing $224 million in assets from an offshore investment fund he controlled, had made an unreported $200,000 contribution to Nixon’s 1972 campaign.

Mr. Polk’s findings, which were printed in newspapers across the country, showed that Nixon’s onetime Attorney General John N. Mitchell and Commerce Secretary Maurice H. Stans were part of an effort to funnel the money to the reelection effort and to defendants in the Watergate break-in. Mr. Polk uncovered details of the transaction that seemed to be drawn from a movie about organized crime.

“A Vesco business aide, Laurence B. Richardson, who carried the $200,000 in a briefcase to Nixon fundraiser Maurice H. Stans,” Mr. Polk wrote, delivered the cash by saying, “I have a message from Mr. Vesco.”

 

2020 Olympics

olympics japan logo

 ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Men’s Basketball Team Loses Opening Game, The team fell to France, 83-76, remaining on unsteady footing after taking a rocky path to Tokyo. The Americans shot only 36 percent and were outscored badly in the third quarter, 25-11, when they blew an 8-point halftime lead and fell behind for good. Evan Fournier, who played for the Boston Celtics last season, led France with 28 points. Jrue Holiday, fresh off winning the N.B.A. title with the Milwaukee Bucks, scored 18 for the United States less than 24 hours after landing in Tokyo. In other news:

  • United States wins first gold medal on second day as Biles slips.
  • Simone Manuel and the U.S. win bronze in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
  • Chase Kalisz wins the first U.S. gold medal in Tokyo.
  • She celebrated as if she had won a gold. Except she hadn’t.
  • Yuto Horigome wins the first skateboarding medal as Nyjah Huston falters.
  • The U.S. women’s gymnastics team fell short of its usual standards.

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report, July 23, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.

Daily Beast, Naomi Osaka at the Olympics: ‘I’m Happy Again,’ Tracy Connor, July 25, 2021. Naomi Osaka spoke after winning her first match in two months: “The Olympics has been a daily beast logodream of mine since I was a kid, so I feel like the break that I took was very needed.”

Two months ago, Naomi Osaka took a break from competition after quitting the French Open amid an uproar over her refusal to do media interviews. But the tennis star, who revealed she suffered from “bouts of depression,” is back in a big way. Representing Japan at the Olympics, she won her first match on Sunday and, more surprisingly, spoke with reporters afterward.

 

July 24

Top Headlines

 

Police Threats, Spyware & Scandals

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Congressional Battles

 

U.S. Politics, Health, Governance

 

2020 Olympics

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post Sunday Magazine, Merrick Garland will not deliver your catharsis, David Montgomery, July 24, 2021. Progressives want a dramatic de-Trumpification of the Justice Department. But the attorney general has a different theory of how to heal America.

merrick garlandMerrick Garland, now more than four months into the job of attorney general, is on a quest to slay a monster — a monster that he won’t name and he pretends doesn’t exist.

On March 11, his first day, he stood in the Great Hall of Justice Department headquarters and addressed the agency’s 115,000 employees, most watching virtually. It was a homecoming of sorts for Garland, 68, who started at the department as a 26-year-old lawyer in 1979, rising to lead major investigations including the Unabomber case and the Oklahoma City bombing prosecution in the 1990s before spending the past two decades-plus as an esteemed federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“The only way we can succeed and retain the trust of the American people is to adhere to the norms that have become part of the DNA of every Justice Department employee,” he said in his first speech as attorney general. “Those norms require that like cases be treated alike. That there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes, one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless.”

Capitol rioter and heavy metal musician Jon Schaffer leaves an Indianapolis courthouse after pleading pleading guilty to federal charges in the pro-Trump Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, where his actions were captured on video as shown at right.

Capitol rioter and heavy metal musician Jon Schaffer leaves an Indianapolis courthouse after pleading pleading guilty to federal charges in the pro-Trump Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, where his actions were captured on video as shown at right.

Daily Beast, Heavy Metal Guitarist-Turned-Capitol Rioter Has Feces Thrown at Him in Jail, Corbin Bolies, July 24, 2021. Heavy metal band Iced Earth’s guitarist Jon Schaffer, who pleaded guilty to charges daily beast logorelated to the Capitol riot, had feces thrown at him and faced death threats during a hellish stint at an Indiana jail, according to his lawyer.

The comments made during a March court hearing were revealed Thursday, prompting Schaffer’s transfer to a Washington, D.C., jail before he was released on bail in April. “My client, who is presumed innocent, has just gone through two months of hell where other people were throwing feces at him and urine at him and threatening his life in a horrible, horrible situation,” Schaffer’s attorney Marc Victor said at the hearing, according to the Indianapolis Star. Schaffer was segregated due to his public status but it led to prisoners tormenting him.

Schaffer, a self-described founding member of the Oath Keepers, became the first insurrectionist to plead guilty and cooperate with the feds. He is expected to face between 3.5-4.5 years in prison.

ny times logoNew York Times, They Waited, They Worried, They Stalled. This Week, They Got the Shot, Julie Bosman, July 24, 2021. On a single day this past week, more than half a million people across the U.S. got vaccinated for Covid-19 after months of reluctance and procrastination.

The Times interviewed dozens of Americans, who revealed a nation at a crossroads as many worried about the Delta variant as well as the available vaccines.

ny times logopfizer logoNew York Times, Biden Officials Now Expect Vulnerable Americans to Need Booster Shots, Sharon LaFraniere, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). The growing consensus that some will need a booster is partly tied to research suggesting Pfizer’s vaccine is less effective after about six months.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Why I’m Sure Trump Will Run for President in 2024, Michael Wolff (the author of three books about the Trump presidency, most recently Landslide, right), July 24, 2021 (print ed.). To write three books in four michael wolff landslideyears about Donald Trump has been an immersion into his obsessions and fixations. This is why I know the obvious: Donald Trump will run for president again.

This spring, in another of his compulsive bids for attention — indifferent to whether it is good or bad — he hosted me at Mar-a-Lago, even after I had written two unflattering books about him (one whose publication he tried to stop), for an interview and dinner. After dinner, I asked about his plans for a presidential library, the traditional retirement project and fund-raising scheme of ex-presidents. There was a flash of confusion on his uniquely readable face, and then anger, aroused, I figured, by the implication of what I seemed to be saying — that his time in office was past.

“No way, no way,” he snarled, “no way.”

It is an existential predicament: He can’t be Donald Trump without a claim on the presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden attacks Trump at Virginia rally, tying McAuliffe’s opponent to ex-president, Sean Sullivan and Karina Elwood, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). After mostly avoiding direct attacks on Trump, President Biden said Friday he “whipped Donald Trump in Virginia” and so will Terry McAuliffe, highlighting a key strategy for Democratic candidates: linking opponents to Trump. 

washington post logoWashington Post, In a city besieged by the Taliban, Afghan military advances disappear with forces stretched thin, Susannah George | Photos by Lorenzo Tugnoli, July 24, 2021 (Interactive video).  Elite units are leading the battle to retake territory, but the troops called up to secure those gains have inconsistent support and lack advanced training. 

 

Police Threats, Spyware, & Scandals

Tampa Bay Times, Investigation: Pasco Sheriff’s Office letter targets residents for ‘increased accountability,’ Kathleen McGrory, July 24, 2021. Critics of the agency’s intelligence programs called the letter ‘patronizing’ and ‘offensive,’ and raised continued concerns about civil rights.

It starts like an offer of admission from a prestigious university. “We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected…” it says.

But the four-page letter from the Pasco Sheriff’s Office goes on to tell recipients they will be facing enhanced police scrutiny under the agency’s controversial intelligence program.

“You may wonder why you were enrolled in this program,” the letter continues. “You were selected as a result of an evaluation of your recent criminal behavior using an unbiased, evidence-based risk assessment designed to identify prolific offenders in our community. As a result of this designation, we will go to great efforts to encourage change in your life through enhanced support and increased accountability.”

Last year, a Tampa Bay Times investigation revealed that the Sheriff’s Office creates lists of people it considers likely to break the law based on criminal histories, social networks and other unspecified intelligence. The agency sends deputies to their homes repeatedly, often without a search warrant or probable cause for an arrest.

Targets and their relatives, including four who are now suing the Sheriff’s Office in federal court, described the tactics as harassment and a violation of their constitutional rights. National policing experts drew comparisons to child abuse and surveillance that could be expected under an authoritarian regime.

The Times also found that the agency has a separate program that uses schoolchildren’s grades, attendance records and abuse histories to label them potential future criminals.

Earlier this year, Sheriff Chris Nocco and the Pasco County school district announced they would scale back some features of the school-data program. But the letter signals a broadening of the core program.

The Sheriff’s Office said the letter is part of a new intelligence effort aimed specifically at people whose criminal histories include drug offenses and violent crimes. But critics of the agency’s intelligence efforts, including an alliance of local, state and national organizations known as People Against the Surveillance of Children and Overpolicing, or the PASCO Coalition, said the latest communication raises even more concerns.

“The letter is basically threatening and promising a certain level of harassment and oversight that is in line with the stories we are hearing from the community,” said Raniah Elgendi, of the Council of American-Islamic Relations-Florida.

The Times found being named a Sheriff’s Office target could have serious consequences. Deputies showed up at homes at all hours of the day and night, writing tickets for violations like overgrown grass and making arrests for any reason they could find. By 2020, some 1,000 people had been ensnared. About 100 were 18 years old or younger.

The new letter to so-called “prolific offenders” says its purpose is to communicate the agency’s “sincere desire” to help recipients “begin a new path.” But it also delivers a stern warning: “Our desire to help you will not hinder us from holding you fully accountable for your choices and actions.”

It then says the Sheriff’s Office will share recipients’ names and criminal histories with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure “the highest level of accountability” for any future crimes they commit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Indicted Trump ally Thomas Barrack to be released on $250 million bond, must appear in New York next week, Shayna Jacobs, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). A California judge on Friday set bail at $250 million for the billionaire investor and longtime friend of former president Donald Trump who was indicted on a charge of breaking foreign lobbying laws, ordering him to appear in federal court in New York next week.

tom barrackheadshotThomas J. Barrack, 74, who waived his court appearance for discussion of the prearranged release agreement, was expected to be freed from a jail in Los Angeles later Friday. His ex-wife Rachelle and son Thomas Barrack III were suretors on the bond.

Barrack’s co-defendant, Matthew Grimes, was set to be freed on a $5 million bond. Both men must wear GPS monitoring devices and were ordered to travel to New York for an afternoon proceeding on Monday in federal court in Brooklyn.

They were indicted on charges related to failing to register as lobbyists for the United Arab Emirates, whose government they worked for over two years beginning when Trump campaigned for office in 2016. The pair allegedly sought to influence Trump’s campaign — and later his administration — to advance policies that were favorable to the wealthy Gulf state.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI official’s romantic relationship broke rules, inspector general says, Devlin Barrett, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). A senior FBI official violated agency policies in her handling of a romantic relationship with a subordinate, according to findings of the Justice Department’s inspector general, and the bureau’s disciplinary office is now weighing what, if anything, to do about the findings, according to current and former law enforcement officials familiar with the matter.

jill tysonJill C. Tyson, shown at left during congressional testimony, who has a close working relationship with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray in her role as assistant director for congressional affairs, was criticized in a report issued michael horwitz headshotThursday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, right.

The inspector general did not name Tyson, but concluded that “the Assistant Director was engaged in a romantic relationship with a subordinate and failed to timely report the relationship, in violation of FBI policy.”

Multiple people familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive personnel issue, said the person in question is Tyson, one of the few women in a senior leadership role at the FBI.

FBI logoThe inspector general investigation “also found that the Assistant Director allowed the relationship to negatively affect an appropriate and professional superior-subordinate relationship and to disrupt the workplace by interfering with the ability of other FBI employees to complete their work, and that the Assistant Director participated in a hiring or organizational decision involving the subordinate, all in violation of FBI policy.”

Before coming to the Justice Department, Tyson worked as a prosecutor, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman and a congressional staffer. She also was employed at Justice Department headquarters, where she helped shepherd Wray’s 2017 confirmation through Congress.

christopher wray oWray, right, later hired her to run the FBI’s congressional affairs portfolio — a difficult job at a time when Republicans were frequently accusing the bureau of partisan investigations into President Donald Trump, and Democrats were pressing the agency to more aggressively pursue alleged crimes by Trump or his associates.

Tyson plays a key role inside the FBI, managing its interactions and information-sharing with lawmakers. As part of that job, she prepares Wray for congressional testimony; current and former law enforcement officials said Wray likes and trusts her.

larry nassar croppedThe inspector general’s findings about Tyson come a week after he issued a far longer, blistering criticism of how the FBI bungled the investigation into Larry Nassar, left, a former USA Gymnastics doctor now in prison for sexual abuse of girls who were under his care.

In that case, the inspector general found that FBI agents in Indianapolis failed to investigate allegations against Nassar, and then lied about it when confronted with their shortcomings.

And separately, the FBI has opened an internal investigation into criminal charges filed this week against an FBI agent who is leading the probe and prosecution of an alleged plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

That agent, Richard Trask II, was charged with felony assault. Court papers say his wife told police that he smashed her head into a nightstand after they attended a swingers party at a hotel earlier in the day. According to court papers, she said that after leaving the party, the pair argued and he later attacked her.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 Daily Beast, Maine GOP Lawmaker Who Blasted COVID Restrictions Tests Positive for Virus, Corbin Bolies, July 24, 2021. ‘I’m really, really sick.’ A Republican Maine state representative who condemned daily beast logothe state’s COVID-19 restrictions has allegedly tested positive for the virus.

Rep. Chris Johansen revealed the news in a phone call to a reporter for Mainer News, declining to talk to him because he was sick. “Listen up, I’ve got COVID and I’m really, really sick and I just don’t have time to talk to you today,” he said in an audio recording.

Johnson’s wife Cindy said on social media that she had also tested positive for the virus. The lawmaker had been a vocal opponent of the state’s preventative measures, organizing a protest outside Gov. Janet Mills’ home last year to reopen the state, refusing to wear masks, and downplaying the need for vaccines. He was eventually removed from a committee position for his remarks.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama’s GOP governor says ‘it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks’ for covid-19 spike, Timothy Bella,  July 24, 2021 (print ed.). When asked what more could be done to encourage Alabama residents to get their coronavirus vaccinations amid the latest spike in infections, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) had run out of ideas for how to persuade people in a state with the lowest vaccination rate in the nation.

kay ivey“I don’t know. You tell me,” the governor, right, told a reporter in Birmingham on Thursday. “Folks [are] supposed to have common sense.”

She did, however, have one message for her state: “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

Pointing to the nearly 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus in Alabama over the last two weeks, Ivey blamed the latest infections solely on the state’s unvaccinated population.

“Almost 100 percent of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks,” she told reporters at an event for a tech company. “These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Tennessee resumes most vaccine outreach to minors paused after GOP backlash, Timothy Bella and Paulina Villegas,  July 24, 2021 (print ed.). Tennessee's health commissioner said the state would restart its efforts, which include offering the vaccine at events on school property, as early as next week. The state of Tennessee announced Friday that it will resume nearly all forms of coronavirus vaccine outreach for children and teenagers after advocacy was halted this month because of pressure from Republican legislators upset by the state health department’s efforts to vaccinate minors.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said at a news conference that the state will jump-start efforts to promote vaccination for adolescents as early as next week, including by offering the shots at events on school property.

republican elephant logo“We put a pause on many things, and then we have resumed all of those,” Piercey told reporters, adding that outreach was paused so that the messaging would be directed at parents, not children.

The health department said it would continue to prohibit social media posts promoting vaccination that are specifically aimed at children.

Piercey also announced that health officials will provide vaccinations to minors without their parents’ permission in what she described as “fringed and nuanced” circumstances. Her statement Friday contradicted an announcement this week by state Republicans who claimed that Piercey privately agreed “to stop vaccinating children for covid-19 without parental consent, and to stop marketing to minors,” according to the Tennessean newspaper.

The news is the latest in the controversy over how Tennessee has gone about trying to vaccinate its young people during the pandemic and how political pressure has played a role in that messaging. Michelle Fiscus said she was fired from her job as director of immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health last week as retaliation for the department’s efforts to vaccinate teenagers against the coronavirus, a plan that she said angered several state legislators.

washington post logocdc logo CustomWashington Post, Frustration mounts over coronavirus vaccine holdouts, Dan Diamond and Tyler Pager, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). Millions continue to refuse to get shots as the delta variant drives new outbreaks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Vaccinated People Are Getting ‘Breakthrough’ Infections, Apoorva Mandavilli, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). The vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness and death, but they are not a golden shield against the coronavirus.

As the Delta variant surges across the nation, reports of infections in vaccinated people have become increasingly frequent — including, most recently, among at least six Texas Democrats, a White House aide and an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The highly contagious variant, combined with a lagging vaccination campaign and the near absence of preventive restrictions, is fueling a rapid rise in cases in all states, and hospitalizations in nearly all of them. It now accounts for about 83 percent of infections diagnosed in the United States.

But as worrying as the trend may seem, breakthrough infections — those occurring in vaccinated people — are still relatively uncommon, experts said, and those that cause serious illness, hospitalization or death even more so. More than 97 percent of people hospitalized for Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Florida Hospitals Have More Covid Patients Than Ever, Patricia Mazzei, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). The number of Covid-19 patients at two hospitals in Jacksonville increased tenfold over the span of five weeks, from 14 to 140 people. The numbers reflect a rapid rise in hospitalizations in parts of the country where the vaccination rate is lagging.

A national uptick in coronavirus cases has led, in sudden and concerning fashion, to a steep rise in hospitalizations in some spots around the country where people have been slower to get vaccinated, a predicament experts hoped might be avoided because the people contracting the infection tend to be younger and healthier.

Nationally, hospitalizations remain relatively low, nowhere near earlier peaks of the pandemic. But in some regions with lagging vaccination rates and rising virus cases — such as Northeast Florida, Southwest Missouri, Southern Nevada — the highly contagious Delta variant has flooded intensive care units and Covid wards that, not long ago, had seen their patient counts shrink.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.F.L. Sets Stiff Penalties for the Unvaccinated, Jolting Teams, Emmanuel Morgan, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). Commissioner Roger Goodell said outbreaks traced to an unvaccinated player or staff member could warrant a game forfeiture for their teams. The announcement prompted a backlash from some players.

nfl logoThroughout the off-season, the N.F.L. had stopped short of requiring that its players and other team personnel receive a Covid-19 vaccination, instead strongly encouraging inoculation.

With training camps starting in earnest next week and the regular season less than two months away, that approach has shifted.

Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday sent a memo to all 32 teams outlining Covid-19 guidelines for the 2021 season that detail drastic penalties for teams with unvaccinated personnel, including the forfeiture of games. Any forfeits could result in players’ not being paid — if their infections are known to have caused an outbreak.

The N.F.L. expects to complete its regular season and its playoff slate within the scheduled time frame, and will postpone contests only under government or medical orders.

If an unvaccinated player or staff member is shown to have caused an outbreak that forces a schedule change, the team experiencing the outbreak will be held financially responsible for the other club’s expenses, the memo said. If the game cannot be rescheduled, the team experiencing the outbreak will forfeit.

For playoff-seeding purposes, that team will be credited with a loss, while the other will be credited with a win. If an outbreak occurs among vaccinated individuals in a “breakthrough” infection, the N.F.L. will try to minimize the competitive and fiscal disruption for both teams. The terms of the memo were agreed upon with the N.F.L. Players Association, said Dawn Aponte, the league’s chief football administrative officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, 187.6 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 24, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 162.4 million people fully vaccinated.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 24, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 194,196,573, Deaths: 4,163,309
U.S. Cases:     35,283,075, Deaths:    626,658
India Cases:     31,332,159, Deaths:    420,043
Brazil Cases:   19,632,443,  Deaths:    548,420

 

 U.S. Congressional Battles

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump, now deplatformed, will lack GOP defense on Jan 6. committee, Jacqueline Alemany, July 23, 2021. When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pulled all five of his designees from the Jan. 6 selection committee earlier this week, he also inadvertently sidelined his members from defending the former president and de facto leader of the Republican Party during a high profile investigation.

According to a source inside his orbit, Twitterless Trump is likely to be angry if he watches the first hearing of the Jan. 6 committee, or sees wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the proceedings but does not see any Republicans coming to his defense (he continues to regularly spend time watching television every day).

Deplatformed from the most prominent social media outlets, Trump will largely have to rely on email to defend his actions leading up to and on the day of the insurrection on the Capitol.

Technically, the select committee is still bipartisan, as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), chosen by Pelosi, will serve on the committee. Multiple members told us that Pelosi was considering naming additional GOP members to the panel — like anti-Trump Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).

 

U.S. Politics, Health, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, A scandal-scarred Senate candidate wants a Trump endorsement. Some GOP advisers worry he’ll get it, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). Former Missouri governor Eric Greitens keeps getting questions on the campaign trail about the state of his relationship with former president Donald Trump.

eric greitens oBut the scandal-scarred Senate candidate, who is trying to run under the banner of Trump’s “America First” movement, always finds a way to avoid a direct answer.

republican elephant logo“We are honored to have so many of Donald Trump’s strongest fighters on our team,” Greitens said last month in one interview on a conservative podcast when asked about the relationship.

The former president has hosted a steady stream of potential candidates, sitting senators and political kibitzers who have tried to keep him from endorsing Greitens, a devoted cheerleader who is trying to use Trump’s grass-roots strength to emerge from disastrous allegations of bound hands and coercive sex that forced his resignation as governor in 2018. Trump advisers aware of the meetings spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations.

Daily Beast, Donald Trump Thinks Cleveland’s Baseball Team Should Keep Its Racist Name, Blake Montgomery, July 24, 2021. Speaking to an audience in Phoenix on Saturday, former president Donald daily beast logoTrump lamented the fact that Cleveland’s baseball team changed its racist name.

The team formerly known as the Indians is now the Guardians. Trump said, “If I were an Indian, I’d sue! Sue them, Indians! What could be better, especially if you have a good team? It’s one of the greatest names, one of the most incredible logos, people loved it. They are going absolutely crazy in Ohio over the name change. Cleveland Guardians? What’s that all about? The insanity of the Left knows no bounds, and both Indians and baseball fans should be greatly insulted.”

 

2020 Olympics

olympics japan logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Games begin officially with Opening Ceremonies, Ava Wallace, Emily Giambalvo, Simon Denyer and Barry Svrluga, July 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies, a four-hour extravaganza of flag-waving, parades, music, lights and cultural celebration that culminates with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report, July 23, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.

 

July 23

Top Headlines

 

Spyware, Spies & Scandals

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Congressional Battles

 

Media, Whistleblower, Sports News

 

2024 Olympics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Politics, Health, Governance

 

Top Stories

olympics japan logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Games begin officially with Opening Ceremonies, Ava Wallace, Emily Giambalvo, Simon Denyer and Barry Svrluga, July 23, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies, a four-hour extravaganza of flag-waving, parades, music, lights and cultural celebration that culminates with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

washington post logoWashington Post, Among U.S. Olympians, 83 percent are vaccinated against coronavirus, Adam Kilgore, July 23, 2021. Roughly 100 U.S. Olympians declined vaccination, but the USOPC's top medical official expressed satisfaction with a "substantial" vaccination rate.

American FlagNot all 613 U.S. Olympic team members have submitted to the USOPC their health histories, which contain vaccination information. But with nearly 600 athletes reporting, 83 percent of them have been vaccinated, Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Finnoff said.

The rate means that from a nation with universal vaccine availability, more than 100 athletes will live in the Athletes Village and compete without having taken the shot. Still, the contingent’s vaccination rate dwarfs the overall U.S. population’s, and the USOPC considered it a success.

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report, July 23, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC warns this is a ‘pivotal moment’ in fight against delta variant, Dan Diamond, July 23, 2021 (print ed.). Top Biden administration officials on Thursday said that a hyper-transmissible variant of the coronavirus is posing new challenges for the nation’s health system, urging millions of unvaccinated Americans to get shots to protect themselves and their communities.

cdc logo CustomThe delta variant, first detected in India, now represents more than 83 percent of cases circulating in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People infected with the variant appear to carry a viral load that is more than 1,000 times that of those infected with earlier forms of the virus, allowing the virus to spread rapidly among unvaccinated people, scientists have found.

“The delta variant is more aggressive and much more transmissible than previously circulating strains. It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters.

  • CDC exploring additional vaccine doses for the immunocompromised
  • Two hundred fully vaccinated D.C. residents have tested positive

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Vaccinated People Are Getting ‘Breakthrough’ Infections, Apoorva Mandavilli, Updated July 23, 2021. The vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness and death, but they are not a golden shield against the coronavirus.

As the Delta variant surges across the nation, reports of infections in vaccinated people have become increasingly frequent — including, most recently, among at least six Texas Democrats, a White House aide and an aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The highly contagious variant, combined with a lagging vaccination campaign and the near absence of preventive restrictions, is fueling a rapid rise in cases in all states, and hospitalizations in nearly all of them. It now accounts for about 83 percent of infections diagnosed in the United States.

But as worrying as the trend may seem, breakthrough infections — those occurring in vaccinated people — are still relatively uncommon, experts said, and those that cause serious illness, hospitalization or death even more so. More than 97 percent of people hospitalized for Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Why I’m Sure Trump Will Run for President in 2024, Michael Wolff (the author of three books about the Trump presidency, most recently Landslide, right), July 23, 2021. To write three books in four michael wolff landslideyears about Donald Trump has been an immersion into his obsessions and fixations. This is why I know the obvious: Donald Trump will run for president again.

This spring, in another of his compulsive bids for attention — indifferent to whether it is good or bad — he hosted me at Mar-a-Lago, even after I had written two unflattering books about him (one whose publication he tried to stop), for an interview and dinner. After dinner, I asked about his plans for a presidential library, the traditional retirement project and fund-raising scheme of ex-presidents. There was a flash of confusion on his uniquely readable face, and then anger, aroused, I figured, by the implication of what I seemed to be saying — that his time in office was past.

“No way, no way,” he snarled, “no way.”

It is an existential predicament: He can’t be Donald Trump without a claim on the presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Hey, world, are you noticing? Floods! Fires! Could it be time to do something about climate change? Editorial Board, July 23, 2021 (print ed.). Wildfires are raging across a drought-stricken West. Cities up and down the East Coast are living with poor air quality.Vast swaths of Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland are covered in muck from massive floods. Torrential rain has stricken central China, inundating subway tunnels in Henan province. The toll in death and misery continues to rise.

Yes, it is too early to say for sure that climate change is behind each of these latest instances of alarming weather. But that does not mean humanity can ignore the distinct possibility that they are related. Certainly, these calamities foreshadow life as climate-change-induced disasters become more frequent. Human society is unprepared.

People might think of global warming as just hotter days, but it is far more.

brett kavanaugh confirmation

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The FBI’s ‘investigation’ of Kavanaugh was laughable, Ruth Marcus, right, July 23, 2021 (print ed.). The most laughable — and ruth marcus twitter Custommost telling — part of the FBI’s recent letter to senators about its investigation of sexual assault allegations against Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh (shown above during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing) comes at the start: “This responds to your letter, dated August 1, 2019 . . . regarding the supplemental background investigation,” FBI Assistant Director Jill C. Tyson writes to Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.).

Then, impressively deadpan and without elaboration, “We apologize for the extended delay in responding.”

FBI logoExtended delay — ya think? An extended delay in responding to a senatorial inquiry is two months, not almost two years. Whitehouse and Coons had asked for “the courtesy of a response no later than August 30, 2019.” The date of the actual response? June 30, 2021. It’s no coincidence that it took a new administration — and Whitehouse’s incessant prodding of Biden administration nominees — to finally extract some answers.

The letter, which became public Thursday, offers a perfect illustration of the Trump administration’s disdain for congressional oversight, and the way in which the supposedly professional FBI allowed itself to be cowed — and ultimately tarnished — by subservience to the Trump White House.

 

Spyware, Spies & Scandals

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Was Pegasus used by Trump and Kushner to blackmail U.S. politicians? Wayne Madsen, July 23, 2021. Revelations by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Israeli wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallsales of NSO Group's Pegasus smart phone surveillance program closely matched the foreign trips of former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have raised the possibility that Jared Kushner, who participated in Netanyahu's diplomatic trips to countries using Pegasus, also used Pegasus to eavesdrop on the communications of Republicans who, virtually overnight, became loyalists of Donald Trump.

As more details emerge about the political intelligence uses of Pegasus, the Israeli government and NSO Group are trying to contain the public relations damage caused by Israel's sale of the surveillance system to some of the world's most repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, the lindsey graham judiciary chairmanUnited Arab Emirates, Hungary, and Morocco. All have close ties to Israel.

mitch mcconnell elaine chaoPegasus does not merely allow an eavesdropper to listen in on smart phone conversations but allows the phone's microphone and camera to be used as an espionage device, even when the phone is turned off. Pegasus has been termed a "digital predator."

Trump's possible use of Pegasus to provide surveillance information on those whose Apple and Microsoft data were subpoenaed by Trump's Justice Department and on those whose data was not subpoenaed opens the door to Trump using embarrassing information to blackmail Republicans who, on a dime, went from being Trump critics to his most loyal supporters. Blackmail in politics usually involves sex, money, or a combination of the two.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Foreign Agent in Trump’s Inner Circle? Michelle Goldberg, right, July 23, 2021. Once upon a time, it would have been huge news if the chairman of the former president’s imichelle goldberg thumbnaugural committee was indicted on charges of acting as an agent of a foreign power.

Donald Trump’s presidency, however, has left us with scandal inflation. At this point many of the leading figures from his 2016 campaign have been either indicted or convicted, even if they were later pardoned. The C.F.O. of Trump’s company was charged with tax fraud less than a month ago.

tom barrackheadshotSo when the billionaire real estate investor Tom Barrack, left, one of Trump’s biggest fund-raisers, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates along with other felonies, it might have seemed like a dog-bites-man story. Barrack was once described by longtime Trump strategist uae embassy sealRoger Stone — a felon, naturally — as the ex-president’s best friend. If you knew nothing else about Barrack but that, you might have guessed he’d end up in handcuffs.

Nevertheless, Barrack’s arrest is important. Trump’s dealings with the Emirates and Saudi Arabia deserve to be investigated as thoroughly as his administration’s relationship with Russia. So far that hasn’t happened. When Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, testified before Congress, Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said to him, “We did not bother to ask whether financial inducements from any Gulf nations were influencing U.S. policy, since it is outside the four corners of your report, and so we must find out.” But we have not found out.

washington post logoWashington Post, Indicted Trump ally Thomas Barrack to be released on $250 million bond, must appear in New York next week, Shayna Jacobs, July 23, 2021. A California judge on Friday set bail at $250 million for the billionaire investor and longtime friend of former president Donald Trump who was indicted on a charge of breaking foreign lobbying laws, ordering him to appear in federal court in New York next week.

tom barrackheadshotThomas J. Barrack, 74, who waived his court appearance for discussion of the prearranged release agreement, was expected to be freed from a jail in Los Angeles later Friday. His ex-wife Rachelle and son Thomas Barrack III were suretors on the bond.

Barrack’s co-defendant, Matthew Grimes, was set to be freed on a $5 million bond. Both men must wear GPS monitoring devices and were ordered to travel to New York for an afternoon proceeding on Monday in federal court in Brooklyn.

They were indicted on charges related to failing to register as lobbyists for the United Arab Emirates, whose government they worked for over two years beginning when Trump campaigned for office in 2016. The pair allegedly sought to influence Trump’s campaign — and later his administration — to advance policies that were favorable to the wealthy Gulf state.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI official’s romantic relationship broke rules, inspector general says, Devlin Barrett, July 23, 2021. A senior FBI official violated agency policies in her handling of a romantic relationship with a subordinate, according to findings of the Justice Department’s inspector general, and the bureau’s disciplinary office is now weighing what, if anything, to do about the findings, according to current and former law enforcement officials familiar with the matter.

jill tysonJill C. Tyson, shown at left during congressional testimony, who has a close working relationship with FBI Director Christopher A. Wray in her role as assistant director for congressional affairs, was criticized in a report issued michael horwitz headshotThursday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, right.

The inspector general did not name Tyson, but concluded that “the Assistant Director was engaged in a romantic relationship with a subordinate and failed to timely report the relationship, in violation of FBI policy.”

Multiple people familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive personnel issue, said the person in question is Tyson, one of the few women in a senior leadership role at the FBI.

FBI logoThe inspector general investigation “also found that the Assistant Director allowed the relationship to negatively affect an appropriate and professional superior-subordinate relationship and to disrupt the workplace by interfering with the ability of other FBI employees to complete their work, and that the Assistant Director participated in a hiring or organizational decision involving the subordinate, all in violation of FBI policy.”

Before coming to the Justice Department, Tyson worked as a prosecutor, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman and a congressional staffer. She also was employed at Justice Department headquarters, where she helped shepherd Wray’s 2017 confirmation through Congress.

christopher wray oWray, right, later hired her to run the FBI’s congressional affairs portfolio — a difficult job at a time when Republicans were frequently accusing the bureau of partisan investigations into President Donald Trump, and Democrats were pressing the agency to more aggressively pursue alleged crimes by Trump or his associates.

Tyson plays a key role inside the FBI, managing its interactions and information-sharing with lawmakers. As part of that job, she prepares Wray for congressional testimony; current and former law enforcement officials said Wray likes and trusts her.

larry nassar croppedThe inspector general’s findings about Tyson come a week after he issued a far longer, blistering criticism of how the FBI bungled the investigation into Larry Nassar, left, a former USA Gymnastics doctor now in prison for sexual abuse of girls who were under his care.

In that case, the inspector general found that FBI agents in Indianapolis failed to investigate allegations against Nassar, and then lied about it when confronted with their shortcomings.

And separately, the FBI has opened an internal investigation into criminal charges filed this week against an FBI agent who is leading the probe and prosecution of an alleged plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

That agent, Richard Trask II, was charged with felony assault. Court papers say his wife told police that he smashed her head into a nightstand after they attended a swingers party at a hotel earlier in the day. According to court papers, she said that after leaving the party, the pair argued and he later attacked her.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama’s GOP governor says ‘it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks’ for covid-19 spike, Timothy Bella, July 23, 2021. When asked what more could be done to encourage Alabama residents to get their coronavirus vaccinations amid the latest spike in infections, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) had run out of ideas for how to persuade people in a state with the lowest vaccination rate in the nation.

kay ivey“I don’t know. You tell me,” the governor, right, told a reporter in Birmingham on Thursday. “Folks [are] supposed to have common sense.”

She did, however, have one message for her state: “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

Pointing to the nearly 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus in Alabama over the last two weeks, Ivey blamed the latest infections solely on the state’s unvaccinated population.

“Almost 100 percent of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks,” she told reporters at an event for a tech company. “These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Tennessee resumes most vaccine outreach to minors paused after GOP backlash, Timothy Bella and Paulina Villegas, July 23, 2021. Tennessee's health commissioner said the state would restart its efforts, which include offering the vaccine at events on school property, as early as next week. The state of Tennessee announced Friday that it will resume nearly all forms of coronavirus vaccine outreach for children and teenagers after advocacy was halted this month because of pressure from Republican legislators upset by the state health department’s efforts to vaccinate minors.

Tennessee Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said at a news conference that the state will jump-start efforts to promote vaccination for adolescents as early as next week, including by offering the shots at events on school property.

republican elephant logo“We put a pause on many things, and then we have resumed all of those,” Piercey told reporters, adding that outreach was paused so that the messaging would be directed at parents, not children.

The health department said it would continue to prohibit social media posts promoting vaccination that are specifically aimed at children.

Piercey also announced that health officials will provide vaccinations to minors without their parents’ permission in what she described as “fringed and nuanced” circumstances. Her statement Friday contradicted an announcement this week by state Republicans who claimed that Piercey privately agreed “to stop vaccinating children for covid-19 without parental consent, and to stop marketing to minors,” according to the Tennessean newspaper.

The news is the latest in the controversy over how Tennessee has gone about trying to vaccinate its young people during the pandemic and how political pressure has played a role in that messaging. Michelle Fiscus said she was fired from her job as director of immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health last week as retaliation for the department’s efforts to vaccinate teenagers against the coronavirus, a plan that she said angered several state legislators.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Florida Hospitals Have More Covid Patients Than Ever, Patricia Mazzei, July 23, 2021. The number of Covid-19 patients at two hospitals in Jacksonville increased tenfold over the span of five weeks, from 14 to 140 people. The numbers reflect a rapid rise in hospitalizations in parts of the country where the vaccination rate is lagging.

A national uptick in coronavirus cases has led, in sudden and concerning fashion, to a steep rise in hospitalizations in some spots around the country where people have been slower to get vaccinated, a predicament experts hoped might be avoided because the people contracting the infection tend to be younger and healthier.

Nationally, hospitalizations remain relatively low, nowhere near earlier peaks of the pandemic. But in some regions with lagging vaccination rates and rising virus cases — such as Northeast Florida, Southwest Missouri, Southern Nevada — the highly contagious Delta variant has flooded intensive care units and Covid wards that, not long ago, had seen their patient counts shrink.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.F.L. Sets Stiff Penalties for the Unvaccinated, Jolting Teams, Emmanuel Morgan, July 23, 2021. Commissioner Roger Goodell said outbreaks traced to an unvaccinated player or staff member could warrant a game forfeiture for their teams. The announcement prompted a backlash from some players.

Throughout the off-season, the N.F.L. had stopped short of requiring that its players and other team personnel receive a Covid-19 vaccination, instead strongly encouraging inoculation.

With training camps starting in earnest next week and the regular season less than two months away, that approach has shifted.

Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday sent a memo to all 32 teams outlining Covid-19 guidelines for the 2021 season that detail drastic penalties for teams with unvaccinated personnel, including the forfeiture of games. Any forfeits could result in players’ not being paid — if their infections are known to have caused an outbreak.

The N.F.L. expects to complete its regular season and its playoff slate within the scheduled time frame, and will postpone contests only under government or medical orders.

If an unvaccinated player or staff member is shown to have caused an outbreak that forces a schedule change, the team experiencing the outbreak will be held financially responsible for the other club’s expenses, the memo said. If the game cannot be rescheduled, the team experiencing the outbreak will forfeit.

For playoff-seeding purposes, that team will be credited with a loss, while the other will be credited with a win. If an outbreak occurs among vaccinated individuals in a “breakthrough” infection, the N.F.L. will try to minimize the competitive and fiscal disruption for both teams. The terms of the memo were agreed upon with the N.F.L. Players Association, said Dawn Aponte, the league’s chief football administrative officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, 187.2 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 23, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 162.2 million people (48.8 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56.4 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 23, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 193,575,749, Deaths: 4,154,755
U.S. Cases:     35,214,399, Deaths:    626,179
India Cases:     31,293,062, Deaths:    419,502
Brazil Cases:   19,524,092, Deaths:     547,134

ny times logoNew York Times, Rising Rents Threaten to Prop Up Inflation as Pandemic Limits End, Coral Murphy Marcos, Jeanna Smialek and Jim Tankersley, July 23, 2021 (print ed.). As people move out on their own again or return to cities, and as tenants find they can’t afford to buy, demand for rentals is rebounding.

If rents continue to take off, it could be bad news both for those seeking housing and for the nation’s inflation outlook. Rents last month rose 7 percent nationally from a year earlier, Zillow data shows. While that was measured against a weak June 2020, the gain was also a robust 1.8 percent from May.

 

U.S. Congressional Battles

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Should Only the Little People Pay Taxes? Paul Krugman, right, July 23, 2021 (print ed.). I yield to no one when it comes to cynicism about paul krugmanpoliticians who see tax cuts for the rich as the answer to every problem. Indeed, the claim that tax cuts can perform magic is a prime case of a zombie idea — an idea kept alive, despite overwhelming evidence against it, because its survival serves the interests of wealthy donors.

Yet even I was caught by surprise when Republicans negotiating over a possible infrastructure bill ruled out paying for it in part by giving the Internal Revenue Service more resources to go after tax evasion.

irs logoThis is a big deal. The Treasury Department believes that there is a “tax gap,” taxes owed but not paid, of more than $500 billion every year; some estimates put the number much higher. And the Biden administration proposes giving the I.R.S. enough resources to reduce this gap as a way to help pay for investment in America’s future.

But if the administration goes this route, it will apparently do so with little if any Republican support.

Just to be clear, I’m not surprised to learn that a significant number of senators are sympathetic to the interests of wealthy tax cheats, that they are objectively pro-tax evasion. I am, however, surprised that they are willing to be so open about their sympathies.

There is, after all, a big difference between arguing for low taxes on the rich and arguing, in effect, that rich people who don’t pay what they legally owe should be allowed to get away with it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump, now deplatformed, will lack GOP defense on Jan 6. committee, Jacqueline Alemany, July 23, 2021. When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pulled all five of his designees from the Jan. 6 selection committee earlier this week, he also inadvertently sidelined his members from defending the former president and de facto leader of the Republican Party during a high profile investigation.

According to a source inside his orbit, Twitterless Trump is likely to be angry if he watches the first hearing of the Jan. 6 committee, or sees wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the proceedings but does not see any Republicans coming to his defense (he continues to regularly spend time watching television every day).

Deplatformed from the most prominent social media outlets, Trump will largely have to rely on email to defend his actions leading up to and on the day of the insurrection on the Capitol.

Technically, the select committee is still bipartisan, as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), chosen by Pelosi, will serve on the committee. Multiple members told us that Pelosi was considering naming additional GOP members to the panel — like anti-Trump Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).

jim jordan shirtsleeves

Palmer Report, Opinion: Jim Jordan is at it again, Robert Harrington, right, July 23, 2021. If Donald Trump had inspired the drooling cretins who follow him to burn down robert harringtnn portraityour house, Jim Jordan’s principal complaint would be to wonder why there weren’t enough firefighters to put it out. Before I give you enough time to suppose that might be hyperbole, that’s exactly what he did when he suggested that the January 6th insurrection was Nancy Pelosi’s fault because the Capitol was inadequately defended.

bill palmer report logo headerBut the analogy is even more outrageous than that, proving the hyperbole was a bridge not far enough. Because, to continue with the analogy, Jordan was also one of the arsonists.

You see, one of the reasons the Capitol was attacked in the first place was because grossly incompetent and irresponsible people just like Jordan supported the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. And because Jordan is a child with a yellow tie and no jacket he is going to blame the most recent person who hurt him. Nancy Pelosi vetoed his membership on the January 6th committee, for much the same reason Vincent Bugliosi kept Charles Manson off the jury. You don’t put criminals in charge of committees making judgments about their crimes.

But Jordan wasn’t content to stop there. In an orgiastic meltdown of whataboutisms Jordan ranted that because America is experiencing mild inflation (exactly what you’d expect in an economy coming out of a pandemic) there should be no inquiry into why the Capitol was attacked by a mob. You see, we can’t talk about anything else until we fix certain problems, according to Jordan’s agenda. Well if that’s true then why did he volunteer to be on the committee in the first place? As a man who represents himself as having a conscience about the good of the people, he surely would be wasting his time being on that djt maga hatcommittee, would he not?

But if Jordan is really so upset that the Speaker turned him down for the committee, maybe he should blame himself and his fellow Republicans for voting against the bipartisan committee. The reason Nancy Pelosi is calling a select committee is because Republicans blew their chance to put anyone they wanted on a bipartisan one.

You don’t have to go very far or work very hard to demonstrate what a bloviating buffoon Jim Jordan is. Jordan says he was shocked — shocked! — at how inadequate security was. He wasn’t shocked by the broken windows or assaulted police officers, not by the gallows erected to hang the Vice President, not by the fact that Trump dragged his feet about calling in the National Guard, but because Nancy Pelosi didn’t put more DC police around the Capitol. (And let’s face it, brothers and sisters, it wouldn’t matter what she did. It wouldn’t have been enough.)

 

Media, Whistleblower News

daniel ellsberg umass

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival, virtual events, begins with screenings starting Friday, July 23, and panel discussions starting Sunday, July 25; DC Pro president joins opening plenary July 26, Staff Report, July 23, 2021. SPJ DC Pro Chapter is a co-sponsor of the Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival this year, with a panel presentation on July 27. A chapter board member and a chapter Distinguished Service Award honoree will be participating on another panel July 30.

Here is a schedule for panels and screenings (subject to updates). All sessions will be held via Zoom; the film screenings will be streamed online.

Keynote speaker is whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg (shown above in a University of Massachusetts photo), at noon on July 30, in recognition of his role in releasing documents that led to the publication of excerpts in The New York Times of what came to be called the Pentagon Papers, 50 years ago this summer.

DC Pro Chapter President Randy Showstack will represent the chapter during the opening plenary on Monday, July 26, at 10 a.m., joining other sponsors or collaborators. They include:

Panelists:

  • Marcel Reid, Pacifica Foundation
  • Michael McCray, ACORN 8
  • Andrew Kreig (also a DC Pro Chapter member), Justice Integrity Project
  • Randy Showstack, Society of Professional Journalists Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter
  • Liz Hemperwitz, Project on Government Oversight
  • Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project
  • Siri Nelson, National Whistleblower Center

Indefatigable chapter Recording Secretary and FOI advocate Kathryn Foxhall will moderate the 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 27 panel, "The Perils of PIO," which is described thus: "Over 20-30 years, it’s become a cultural norm for various entities, public and private, to prohibit staff from communicating with reporters without oversight by authorities, often through public information officers (PIO). The basic part of this is quite fearsome: prohibition against any contact without notifying authorities. However, the rules also create a chokepoint severely limiting the number of contacts. They are also used to deliberately block unwanted contacts and constrain what can be said.

"This hampers whistleblowing by massively reducing reporters’ ability to get to know and be educated by staff; have staff come to trust them; and have confidential conversations. The Society of Professional Journalists has said it believes secrecy caused by these controls led to significantly higher COVID-19 death toll. An analysis by First Amendment attorney Frank LoMonte says the restrictions are unconstitutional and many courts have said so."

Panelists:

  • Kathyrn Foxhall (Moderator) The SPJDC.org website has articles about "Censorship by PIO" and resources.
  • Frank LoMonte, head of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida
  • Haisten Willis, freelance journalist and chair of national SPJ's Freedom of Information Committee

Ahead of the keynote speech by Ellsberg -- at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 30 -- DC Pro Chapter board member and attorney Kenneth Jost will join chapter DSA awardee Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum Institute and the institute's First Amendment Center, on a panel looking at the "Ramifications of the Pentagon Papers Today." The panel description says that the July 3, 1971, publication in The New York Times of what is now known as the Pentagon Papers prompted a series of events that ultimately resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon and changed the landscape for American journalism due to a landmark decision on freedom of the press (New York Times Co. v. United States). This informative panel will examine the long-term impact of the publishing of the Pentagon Papers on free speech, whistleblowing, investigative journalism and American society overall.

Panelists:

  • Gene Policinski, JD (Moderator)
  • Mark Zaid, JD
  • Kenneth Jost, JD

Access to streaming of panels and the films is here. More information on the Summit can be found here. Specific questions may be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (202) 370-6635. July 30 also is National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The National Whistleblower Center invites you to register here for its virtual all-day event marking the occasion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cleveland’s MLB team unveils its new name, will rebrand as Guardians, Chelsea Janes, July 23, 2021. For the first time in more than a century, Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team will not be called the Indians when it begins play in 2022, the latest prominent institution forced to divorce itself from what many have long considered an offensive name and imagery in the wake of a growing national conversation about race.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Health, Governance 

ny times logoNew York Times, The Supreme Court Needs to Be Cut Down to Size, Jamelle Bouie, right, July 23, 2021. On Tuesday, the Presidential Commission on the jamelle bouieSupreme Court of the United States sat for its third public meeting. Formed in April by executive order, the 36-member commission exists to hear arguments for and against Supreme Court reform and to analyze and appraise the merits of specific proposals.

President Biden did not run on court reform and rejected “court packing” during the 2020 campaign. But after Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell pushed Amy Coney Barrett through the Senate in a harried bid to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the presidential election, he could not resist calls from within the Democratic Party to do something.

The commission is Biden’s something, and it isn’t much to look at. Not only is it not meant to make recommendations or suggest a course of action, but its members come from the upper echelon of the legal elite — exactly the people most comfortable with the institutional status quo on the Supreme Court.

But this doesn’t mean the commission is worthless. It may not offer needed reforms, but in its three meetings so far it has already served as a valuable platform for scholars with a cleareyed view of the court and a powerful critique of its current role within the nation’s constitutional order. If nothing else, the commission has helped elevate important ideas and perspectives the broader public needs to hear. It is interesting, illuminating and worthy of your attention.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Legal expert: the indictment coming against Matt Gaetz is going to be “worth the wait,” Bill Palmer, right, July 23, 2021. Last month federal bill palmerprosecutors let it be known through the media that they were looking to criminally indict Matt Gaetz sometime in July. Of course we’re now three-quarters of the way through July, leading some observers to wonder if it’s really going to happen. But two things come into play here.

First, prosecutors clearly wanted the public to have the expectation that the Gaetz bust would happen in July. So if the timetable has changed, then prosecutors would likely have let it be known through the media by now.

bill palmer report logo headerSecond, there’s the fact that Joel Greenberg – a Matt Gaetz associate who recently pleaded guilty to many of the same crimes that Gaetz, right, is being investigated for – recently asked for and received a delay in his sentencing hearing so he could get credit for the results he’s helping to produce. So this directly points to big things happening soon as a result of Greenberg’s cooperation.

matt gaetz o CustomIn a tweet today, former New York Assistant Attorney General Tristan Snell cited Greenberg’s delayed sentencing hearing and said that when it comes to the Matt Gaetz indictment watch, “I think this is going to be worth the wait.”

We’re inclined to agree. We all know that federal prosecutors tend to work methodically to build the kind of comprehensive case that they believe will result in a near-guaranteed conviction, before bringing charges. The fact that the Matt Gaetz criminal case has taken this long to build is not an indicator that there’s something wrong with the case. Instead, particularly when accounting for the Greenberg situation, it’s an indicator that the Feds are likely building a massive case against Gaetz.

 

U.S. Politics, Health, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, A scandal-scarred Senate candidate wants a Trump endorsement. Some GOP advisers worry he’ll get it, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, July 23, 2021. Former Missouri governor Eric Greitens keeps getting questions on the campaign trail about the state of his relationship with former president Donald Trump.

eric greitens oBut the scandal-scarred Senate candidate, who is trying to run under the banner of Trump’s “America First” movement, always finds a way to avoid a direct answer.

republican elephant logo“We are honored to have so many of Donald Trump’s strongest fighters on our team,” Greitens said last month in one interview on a conservative podcast when asked about the relationship.

The former president has hosted a steady stream of potential candidates, sitting senators and political kibitzers who have tried to keep him from endorsing Greitens, a devoted cheerleader who is trying to use Trump’s grass-roots strength to emerge from disastrous allegations of bound hands and coercive sex that forced his resignation as governor in 2018. Trump advisers aware of the meetings spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect private conversations.

Daily MailOnline, Girl, 10, dies from the plague as cases are confirmed in six Colorado counties, Adam Manno, July 23, 2021. Colorado health authorities are investigating after a 10-year-old girl died from the plague this month, the first fatality from the insect-borne disease in the state since 2015.

The plague, caused by bacteria often spread by fleas, has been confirmed in six counties: San Miguel, El Paso, La Plata, Boulder, Huerfano and Adams, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health. The girl lived in La Plata County in the southwestern part of the state.

'We are so sad for the loss of this young Coloradan and our deepest condolences go to the family,' said state veterinarian Dr. Jennifer House in a statement published by the Associated Press. 'Public Health is doing an epidemiological investigation and wants Coloradans to know that while this disease is very rare, it does occur sometimes, and to seek medical care if you have symptoms.'

The state reported 22 cases of the plague between 2005 to 2020.

Nine of them were in La Plata County.

In 2015, four people died of the plague nationwide, including two from Colorado: an adult in Pueblo County and a teenager in Larimer County, according to Colorado Public Radio.

Antibiotics are highly effective against the disease, but they should be administered within 24 hours of the first symptoms

 

July 22

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Congressional Battles

 

Investigations

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Pro-Trump Insurrection, Finances

 

U.S. Law, Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden predicted that the F.D.A. would give final approval quickly for coronavirus vaccines, Jim Tankersley, Updated July 22, 2021. The president also defended his opposition to eliminating the Senate filibuster, even though it is being used to block voting rights legislation he has championed.

President Biden said on Wednesday that he expected the Food and Drug Administration would give final approval quickly for coronavirus vaccines, as he pressed for skeptical Americans to get vaccinated and stop another surge of the pandemic.

joe biden gage skidmore microphoneSpeaking to a town hall audience in Ohio, Mr. Biden (shown in a file photo) said he was not intervening in the decisions of government scientists, but pointed toward a potential decision soon from the F.D.A. to give final approval for the vaccines, which are currently authorized for emergency use. Many medical professionals have pushed for the final approval, saying it could help increase uptake of the vaccines.

“My expectation talking to the group of scientists we put together, over 20 of them plus others in the field, is that sometime maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, they’ll get a final approval” for the vaccines, Mr. Biden said.

The president also said he expected children younger than 12, who are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine, to be cleared to get it on an emergency basis “soon, I believe.”

In an hourlong discussion with a largely friendly crowd and moderator, CNN’s Don Lemon, at Mount St. Joseph University, Mr. Biden fielded questions about the economy, gun violence, the opioid crisis, immigration, the virtues of bipartisan compromise, the pandemic and online misinformation about vaccines. In typical Biden fashion, he frequently veered into personal stories and punctuated answers with “I’m serious,” and he sometimes did not give direct answers in the process.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House officials debate masking push as virus spikes, Annie Linskey, Dan Diamond, Tyler Pager and Lena H. Sun, July 22, 2021 (print ed.). The high-level discussions reflect rising concerns across the administration about the threat of the delta variant.

Top White House aides and Biden administration officials are debating whether they should urge vaccinated Americans to wear masks in more settings as the delta variant causes spikes in coronavirus infections across the country, according to six people familiar with the discussions.

The talks are in a preliminary phase and their result could be as simple as new messaging from top White House officials. But some of the talks include officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who are separately examining whether to update their masking guidance, according to a Biden administration aide and a federal health official.

Officials cautioned that any new formal guidance would have to come from the CDC, and they maintained that the White House has taken a hands-off approach with the agency to ensure they are not interfering with the work of scientists. But the high-level discussions reflect rising concerns across the administration about the threat of the delta variant and a renewed focus on what measures may need to be reintroduced to slow its spread.

washington post logoWashington Post, Southern California cities rebel against new mask mandate, hinting at delta variant drama to come, Erica Werner, July 22, 2021. Regional uproar shows how government response to the dominant coronavirus variant is dividing even liberal Southern California, a brawl that could play out all over the country.

Los Angeles County’s new mask mandate is infuriating officials in the sprawling region, leading to angry denunciations as some irate local leaders demand resignations and threaten to cut ties and form their own public health departments.

“The county cannot handle our current situation,” said Councilman Tony Wu of West Covina, a town of about 110,000 in the eastern part of the county. “We are absolutely not going to enforce nothing about this BS.”

The municipal mess reflects the growing national tension over how to respond to the coronavirus’s new delta variant, which has led to a sizable rebound in cases and caught many government officials and business leaders by surprise. It is reviving tensions about vaccination levels and mask rules at a moment when many Americans had thought the virus was behind them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Death toll in China floods climbs to 33 as rains spread and more cities call for help, Pei Lin Wu and Rebecca Tan, July 22, 2021. Smaller cities and towns warned that embankments protecting residents from the flooding from torrential rains were barely holding, and meteorologists said the rain is likely to intensify in some areas.

The death toll from torrential rains lashing China’s central Henan province rose to 33 on Thursday, local officials said, with at least eight people still missing and 3 million affected.

China FlagAs rainfall abated in the hard-hit city of Zhengzhou, where at least 12 died in submerged subway cars, state meteorologists warned that precipitation is likely to intensify in other parts of Henan and in the neighboring province of Hebei.

Desperate appeals for help mounted in the smaller towns and cities surrounding Zhengzhou, with many saying that embankments protecting residents from the floods were barely holding.

“The most, most crucial thing is that we don’t have food at the moment. We haven’t eaten since the morning,” said Li Xiqin, chief of the Gongji Hospital of Huixian city, where flooding has left her stranded on the hospital premises with 380 nursing home residents, 150 patients and 150 staff members.

She shared videos of the scene, including one showing employees wheeling bed-bound patients through muddy waters while medical supplies floated by. In another video, about a dozen staff members are shown pushing down a brick wall on the west side of the hospital campus to let water escape.

 

U.S. Congressional Battles

nancy pelosi mask

ny times logoNew York Times, Pelosi Bars Trump Loyalists From Jan. 6 Inquiry, Prompting a Boycott, Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos, July 22, 2021 (print ed.).  Democrats said Representatives Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, who amplified Donald J. Trump’s lies of a stolen election and opposed investigating the assault, could not be trusted to scrutinize it.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (shown above in a file photo) moved on Wednesday to bar two of former President Donald J. Trump’s most vociferous Republican defenders in Congress from joining a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, saying their conduct suggested they could not be trusted to participate.

In an unusual move, Ms. Pelosi announced that she was rejecting Representatives Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, both of whom amplified Mr. Trump’s false claims of election fraud, joined their party’s efforts to challenge President Biden’s victory on Jan. 6 and have opposed efforts to investigate the assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters. She agreed to seat the other three Republicans who had been chosen for the panel.

But Ms. Pelosi said she could not allow the pair to take part, based on their actions around the riot and comments they had made undercutting the investigation. Mr. Banks, who has equated the deadly attack to unrest during the racial justice protests last summer, said the Jan. 6 inquiry was created to “malign conservatives and to justify the left’s authoritarian agenda.” Mr. Jordan, one of the biggest cheerleaders of Mr. Trump’s attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 election, pressed Mr. Trump’s false claims of election fraud on the House floor as protesters breached the Capitol, and has called the select committee “impeachment Round 3.”

Kevin McCarthyThe speaker’s decision drew an angry response from Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, left, the minority leader, who announced that Republicans would boycott the panel altogether. He seized on Ms. Pelosi’s intervention as confirmation of his charge that the investigation was nothing more than a political exercise to hurt the G.O.P.

The partisan brawl, unfolding even before the select committee has begun its work, underscored the difficult task it faces in scrutinizing an attack on the lawmakers now charged with dissecting it. It was also the latest evidence of how poisonous relations have become between the two parties, especially in the House, in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s defeat and the violent bid to block certification of the outcome.

Many Democrats no longer wish to work with or hear from Republicans who helped spread Mr. Trump’s lie of a stolen election, especially those who led the effort and have sought to downplay the severity and significance of the assault that it inspired. Some said allowing two of the most prominent defenders to serve on a panel examining the attack was akin to allowing criminals to investigate their own crimes.

liz cheney oDemocrats received high-profile backing from Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, right, Mr. McCarthy’s former No. 3 whom Ms. Pelosi appointed to the committee after she was ousted from her leadership position in May for criticizing Mr. Trump.

“The rhetoric that we have heard from the minority leader is disingenuous,” Ms. Cheney told reporters on the steps of the Capitol. “At every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened, to block this investigation.”

She said Ms. Pelosi had been right to bar Mr. Jordan and Mr. Banks from the panel, saying that Mr. Jordan was a potential “material witness” and Mr. Banks had “disqualified himself” with recent comments disparaging the committee’s work.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: On Jan. 6, Pelosi chose truth. McCarthy chose theater, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 21, 2021. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom the insurrectionists tried to hunt down on jennifer rubin new headshotJan. 6, is deadly serious about getting to the bottom of the day’s events and exposing all groups and individuals who played a role in the attempt to overthrow our democracy. She was willing to have a bipartisan, evenly divided Jan. 6 commission.

But that was too much for the MAGA Republicans, whose lack of concern for our democracy and the truth makes them unfit to serve in any elected body. Senate Republicans filibustered the commission.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key federal aid programs running out of time — and cash — as new coronavirus variant spreads, Tony Romm, July 22, 2021 (print ed.). While the economic effects of the delta variant are unclear, a worsening pandemic again threatens to crimp travel and tourism, reduce traffic to storefronts and restaurants, and displace workers from their jobs.

 

Investigations

brett kavanaugh confirmation hearing 2004 CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: The Brett Kavanaugh scandal just got even uglier, Ron Leshnower, July 22, 2021. Donald Trump’s recently revealed rant about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, shown at right in a photo from his confirmation hearing, triggered renewed interest in how Kavanaugh escaped any meaningful vetting at his Senate confirmation hearing. Now, an alarming letter to Democratic senators from the F.B.I. raises even more questions about what happened.

According to Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency by Michael Wolff, an exasperated Trump exclaimed, “Where would he be without me? I saved his life,” referring to Kavanaugh. “He wouldn’t even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him.” What did Trump learn about Kavanaugh to make him say this?

We now have more insight, and the answer seems to be quite a bit. Nearly two years after Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Coons asked the F.B.I. about how it reviewed Kavanaugh’s background, Assistant Director Jill C. Tyson wrote back. In the letter, bill palmer report logo headerdated June 30 and disclosed today by Whitehouse, Tyson did not say whether the F.B.I. ever pursued any of the most “relevant” of the 4,500 tips it received into Kavanaugh’s background.

However, Tyson indicated that these potentially critical tips were simply passed along to Trump White House lawyers, who could then handle them as they pleased. (Picture staffers lifting up a MAGA rug for lawyers to sweep the tips neatly underneath.) As Whitehouse pointed out, the michael wolff landslideTrump White House Counsel’s Office “was the very office that had constrained and directed the limited investigation” into Kavanaugh in the first place.

In an interview with the New York Times, Whitehouse, left, described the sham process as a “fake tip line that never got properly sheldon whitehousereviewed, that was presumably not even conducted in good faith.” In a series of tweets today, Whitehouse also pointed out that it’s “[n]o wonder so many witnesses were so frustrated when they tried to bring evidence forward” and that individuals like Dr. Blasey Ford were denied a “sincere and thorough investigation.”

Last night, Whitehouse and Coons, along with five other Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee — Sens. Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono, and Cory Booker — wrote to F.B.I. Director Chris Wray to demand details about this shady arrangement. The truth about Kavanaugh and his sham investigation must come out. As Whitehouse summed things up quite perfectly: “Everyone deserves real answers, not cover-ups.”

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Mossad has a "Who's Who?" communications file of world leaders and businessmen thanks to Pegasus malware wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallprogram, Wayne Madsen, left, July 22, 2021. Mossad has a "Who's Who?" communications file of world leaders and businessmen thanks to Pegasus malware program

Chalk it up as a given that Israel's Mossad intelligence agency has back door access to smart phone users whose devices were penetrated by the malware Trojan horse called Pegasus by its Israeli vendor, NSO Group.

As is always the case when Israel gets caught spying, they have denied doing anything wrong in selling Pegasus to various brutal regimes around the world to spy on journalists, opposition politicians and activists, and businessmen.

Pegasus resembles a modern version of another backdoor-surveillance tool modified by a company linked to Israeli intelligence. Investigations in the 1980s revealed that Hadron, a firm headquartered in northern Virginia, illegally procured from INSLAW, Inc. a case tracking database system called PROMIS (Prosecutors' Management Information System) and throughout the 1980s and 90s distributed a backdoor-friendly version of it to law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world.

Wayne Madsen is a columnist, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst. His 1980s projects included Navy service investigating former Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard, who was later convicted of functioning as a spy for Israeli who seriousy harmed the United States and its personnel. This week Madsen's latest book, Cafe Vaterland, was republished in an expanded edition that includes his columns about revelations in recent books regarding the Trump family's admiration of German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and his fascist followers. Cafe Vaterland, drawing heavily on archival research about pro-Nazi operations and leaders n the United States during the 1930s, is a dystopian novel portraying what the United States would have been like if fascists had won World War II and their admirers like the Trumps had been able to achieve even more political power.

seth abramson graphicProof via Substack, Investigation: All Trumpworld Figures Who Have Been Criminally Investigated, Criminally Referred, Impeached, Arrested, and/or Convicted, As Well As Those Who Are Presently Fugitives From Justice, Seth Abramson, left, July 21-22, 2021. The staggering number of ties that Donald J. Trump has to individuals who have run afoul of the criminal justice system underscores that Mr. Trump is a career criminal.

seth abramson proof logoIf anyone with whom you’re in conversation ever doubts that Donald Trump ran the most corrupt presidential administration in American history, send them this list.

And remind them, too, that this is very much a partial and incomplete list—as it was nearly impossible to bring “Trumpworld” figures to justice during Trump’s presidency, and the initial edition of this list is being published just months into President Joe Biden’s administration. More time will be needed to see the full scope of Trump’s corruption. The List: Convicted (16)....

Palmer Report, Opinion: Tom Barrack’s arrest rises to the level of espionage – and it’s time for Donald Trump to panic, Bill Palmer, right, July 22, 2021. Given Tom Barrack’s ties to the Trump administration, the bill palmerTrump family, and the Middle East, his arrest this week surely has a whole lot of people in Trump world staying up at night. It’s not just that Barrack could end up cutting a plea deal against everyone. It’s where this investigation might be headed, with or without Barrack’s help.

When people are charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, it means they took foreign money that was legal in and of its own right, but they illegally failed to inform the U.S. government that they were doing so; it’s a crime of omission and misrepresentation.

bill palmer report logo headerBut it turns out Tom Barrack, right, wasn’t charged with a FARA violation. Instead he was charged with being “an agent of a foreign government.” That may not sound much different, but as legal expert David Laufman has pointed out, it’s an espionage-type charge that’s been used against people like Maria Butina. Or as legal expert Daniel Goldman summed it up, tom barrackheadshot“Barrack is charged for being a spy for the UAE.”

If these charges are proven, it’ll mean Donald Trump had an actual spy for a Middle Eastern government serving as his Middle East money man while he was running for, and serving FBI logoas, President of the United States. The best case scenario would be that Trump naively and idiotically didn’t know Barrack was a spy – and that’s the best case.

Any other scenario would involve Trump having known that Barrack was a spy for the UAE government, and using him anyway. Whether Barrack flips or not, you can only imagine where this investigation is going. If the Feds have proof that Barrack was a spy, then you’d better believe they’re investigating everyone who was closely allied with him, to see whether or not they knew Barrack was a spy – in the same way that the Feds examined every inch of Maria Butina’s boyfriend’s life.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York TImes, Live Covid Updates: Amid Rising Cases, C.D.C. Director Warns U.S. at ‘Another Pivotal Point,’ Staff Reports, July 22, 2021. After the World Health Organization detailed cdc logo Customplans to re-examine laboratories in the city where the first coronavirus cases appeared, senior Chinese officials denounced the idea as “shocking.” Here’s what you need to know:

  • House Republicans soft-pedal push for Covid vaccinations amid rising infections.
  • Here’s why even vaccinated people are getting ‘breakthrough’ infections.
  • Italy will require proof of vaccination or a negative test for many social activities.
  • As European nations look to national health passes, can the U.S. learn any lessons?
  • China denounces the W.H.O.’s call for another look at the Wuhan lab as ‘shocking’ and ‘arrogant.’
  • With half the country in lockdown, Australia’s prime minister apologizes for slow vaccine rollout.
  • YouTube pulls videos by Bolsonaro for spreading misinformation on the virus.

USA Today, Scientists discover more than 30 viruses frozen in ice, most never seen before, Jordan Mendoza, July 22, 2021 (print ed.).  A group of scientists discovered ancient viruses frozen in two ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China, and most of them are unlike anything ever seen before.

usa today logoThe findings, published Wednesday in the journal Microbiome, came from ice cores taken in 2015 that scientists said began to freeze at least 14,400 years ago.

“These glaciers were formed gradually, and along with dust and gases, many, many viruses were also deposited in that ice," Zhi-Ping Zhong, lead author and researcher at the Ohio State University Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, said in a statement. "The glaciers in western China are not well-studied, and our goal is to use this information to reflect past environments. And viruses are a part of those environments."

When researchers analyzed the ice, they found genetic codes for 33 viruses. Of the 33, genetic codes for four of them showed they are part of virus families that typically infect bacteria. Up to 28 were novel, meaning they had never before been identified.

The group said it doesn't believe the viruses originated from animals or humans but came from the soil or plants. The scientists said roughly half of them survived because of the ice.

"These are viruses that would have thrived in extreme environments,” said Matthew Sullivan, co-author of the study and director of Ohio State’s Center of Microbiome Science. “These viruses have signatures of genes that help them infect cells in cold environments – just surreal genetic signatures for how a virus is able to survive in extreme conditions."

washington post logoWashington Post, 187.2 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 22, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 162.2 million people (48.8 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56.4 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 22, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 192,974,202, Deaths: 4,145,502
U.S. Cases:     35,146,476, Deaths:    625,808
India Cases:     31,257,720, Deaths:    419,021
Brazil Cases:     6,054,711, Deaths:     151,501

washington post logoWashington Post, Unemployment claims jumped to 419,000 last week, a sudden increase that shows labor market remains unsettled, Eli Rosenberg, July 22, 2021. White House officials and economists are watching to see the delta variant’s impact on economy. The number of new claims grew to 419,000 from 360,000, the third time in six weeks that they had ticked up, according to data from the Department of Labor.

 

More On Pro-Trump Insurrection, Finances

Trump advisor and Jan. 6 insurrection participant Roger Stone poses at center with leaders of the Oath Keepers.

Trump advisor Roger Stone poses at center with leaders of the Oath Keepers.

washington post logoWashington Post, In new Capitol riot guilty plea, Tampa man admits intending to block Congress with Oath Keepers, Spencer S. Hsu, July 22, 2021 (print ed.). A Tampa man pleaded guilty Tuesday to joining a “stack formation” of Oath Keepers members and associates who allegedly breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, becoming the latest to cooperate with prosecutors and the first among the formation to specify that he intended to hinder Congress that day using intimidation and coercion.

Caleb Berry, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of obstructing an official proceeding.

In a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to request lowering an estimated prison term of 51 to 63 months under federal guidelines for Berry, who has no criminal record and is one of the youngest defendants charged in the Capitol riots, in exchange for his substantial assistance.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of Washington accepted the plea after Berry acknowledged that he coordinated plans and discussed the need to bring firearms for Jan. 6 in the nation’s capital with Oath Keepers members.

In plea papers, Berry admitted driving to Washington from Florida with other co-conspirators, meeting them the morning of Jan. 6 at a rally for President Donald Trump at the White House Ellipse and marching to the Capitol. They later walked single-file up the Capitol steps in camouflage, body armor and tactical gear and forced entry through the East Rotunda doors about 2:40 p.m., Berry admitted.

At least two other Oath Keepers associates — Graydon P. Young, 55, of Florida, who also admitted being part of the “stack,” and Mark Grods, 54, of Mobile, Ala., who said he entered minutes later — have also pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against others, describing encrypted communications and efforts to bring and store firearms at a hotel in nearby Arlington, Va.

The timing of Berry’s plea — he was charged July 9 under seal — could also be calculated to step up pressure on remaining defendants. Seven U.S. prosecutors entered appearances in Berry’s case, from offices including the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington and the Justice Department’s national security division.

U.S. prosecutors have now charged all but one of 14 people associated with the “stack” or just trailing behind them, including Berry and Young, according to an online group of Internet sleuths calling itself Capitol Terrorists Exposers that has provided information to journalists and investigators that prosecutors have cited in court filings.

Some have said they were in Washington to provide security for Republican VIPs including Roger Stone, or to support Trump in case he invoked the Insurrection Act and mobilized a citizen militia to pursue his unfounded claim that the election was stolen.

 

U.S. Law, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans threaten to hold up debt ceiling days before deadline, raising potential for political showdown, Tony Romm and Seung Min Kim, July 22, 2021 (print ed.). “There really is no other way,” Sen. Rubio says, but Democrats insist they have no plans to negotiate.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday threatened to vote against an increase to the debt ceiling unless Congress first agrees to new spending cuts or other reforms, raising the potential for a major political showdown that could carry vast implications for both the global economy as well as President Biden’s agenda.

The new ultimatum marked a reversal for Republicans, who agreed to address the debt ceiling — the statutory amount the government can borrow to pay its bills — multiple times to advance policies under now-former President Donald Trump that helped add $7 trillion to the federal debt during his term.

“We had a pandemic that drove a lot of [spending], but what’s been added on top of it, and what [Democrats] plan to spend moving forward on top of that, I think it calls for some level of sanity,” said GOP. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).

The renewed Republican threats arrived only 10 days before a current agreement that suspends the debt ceiling is set to expire. If Congress cannot reach a deal to raise or suspend the debt ceiling by month’s end, the U.S. government then would have only a few weeks to sustain itself using “extraordinary measures,” as it is known — though the Treasury Department has not provided an exact date when its spending would be at risk.

The drama intensified earlier Wednesday, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Punchbowl News that his party is unlikely to vote for an increase. 

Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) thumbs down vote

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bad news for Kyrsten Sinema, Bocha Blue, July 22, 2021. For politicians, sometimes bad news comes in their polling numbers. And for Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona (shown above emphasizing her moderate credentials by a "thumbs down" gesture in the Senate in voting against a $15 minimum wage), the numbers aren’t pretty.

democratic donkey logoSinema is one of the Democratic senators who have, thus far, not budged on getting rid of the filibuster. And people are NOT happy about it, as evidenced by her horrific polling numbers.

In a new poll by Mother Jones and Data for Progress, Sinema is viewed in a positive light by a miserable 38 percent of voters. Not good news at all.

bill palmer report logo headerBut the news is even worse than that. Just 42 percent of Democrats view her positively. In comparison, Senator Mark Kelly, also of Arizona, has an astonishing 75 percent approval from Democrats.
President Biden’s approval among Arizona Democrats is at 95 percent!

In the same poll, 66 percent of our Democratic friends in the Grand Canyon state said they would vote for a different Democrat in a 2024 primary. The poll was conducted from June 28th to July 6th.

So, what do these numbers mean for Sinema? The meaning is clear and undeniable. Voters are pissed.

Her own constituency is pissed. If Sinema wants to have a long-term career in the Senate, she will have to reevaluate her outlook on several core issues, the filibuster being one of them. One thing is certain. The numbers show she’s in trouble. And if she doesn’t improve upon her numbers, she will be VERY vulnerable to a primary challenger.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden will launch into campaigning to back McAuliffe in Virginia, Sean Sullivan, July 22, 2021. The president will make his first candidate-specific foray onto the campaign trail on Friday to support the Democratic nominee for governor in a state seen as a testing ground for his midterm message.

terry mcauliffe oTerry McAuliffe, right,  had just won the Democratic nomination for governor in Virginia last month when he got a call from President Biden.

“Terry, I’m all in,” Biden told him. “What do you want?”

“I need you to come in and, you know, help campaign,” replied McAuliffe, who recalled the conversation in an interview.

“I’m there,” Biden replied.

democratic donkey logoBiden will make his first candidate-specific foray onto the campaign trail as president on Friday, a quick hop across the Potomac River to Arlington to stump for McAuliffe in the year’s marquee election, a contest that is stoking some Democratic nervousness. The race is shaping up as a pivotal first test of the appeal of Biden’s agenda, as well as whether the moderate, suburban-led coalition that propelled him into office will endure or evaporate in the post-Trump era.

“Virginia is a perfect petri dish for the president to test-drive his midterm and any reelection messaging,” said Dan Sena, former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The central questions, said Sena — whose firm now works for Del. Hala S. Ayala of Prince William County, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor — are whether suburban voters are still driven by antipathy toward former president Donald Trump and how much they will credit Biden for his efforts to combat the pandemic.

Friday's event kick-starts what Biden’s friends and associates expect to be an aggressive schedule this election cycle as Democrats try to transcend the historical pattern of a president’s party getting pummeled in midterm elections.

TMZ, Rachel Uchitel says Seeking Arrangement dropped her like a bad habit as spokesperson for the dating site in the wake of the Matt Gatez scandal ... so she claims in a new lawsuit, Staff report, July 22, 2021. In docs, obtained by TMZ, Uchitel says she and Seeking Arrangement entered into a 6-month deal back in February to be the company's spokesperson. She says the deal called for $20k per month in return for de-stigmatizing the sugar daddy concept.

Uchitel says she did her job just fine ... and got paid the first few months. But, then came Gaetz's investigation by the feds over allegations he paid young women for sexual encounters with an underage female ... linking him with Seeking Arrangement and alleging he's a member of the site.

Uchitel says she had no connection to Gaetz, and the honchos at Seeking Arrangement told her to stay mum on Gaetz during interviews. She says she was told the scandal was "a very serious crisis for the company."

She says the CEO asked her to get 4 young women who used the site to make videos attesting that the site wasn't exploiting them. She says she followed orders but was then told the company was going through a re-branding and that required terminating her contract.

Uchitel says 6 days after terminating her contract the company came back to her and said they would pay her in full if she signed an NDA. Uchitel told them to pound sand, presumably because she didn't want in any way to become part of the Gaetz scandal.

She's suing Seeking Arrangement for the balance owed, along with damages for tarnishing her reputation. She also wants money for emotional distress. We reached out to Seeking Arrangement ... so far, no word back.

 

World News

ny times logomyanmar flagNew York Times, A top political prisoner dies of Covid in Myanmar, with others in critical condition, Hannah Beech, July 22, 2021 (print ed.). The death of U Nyan Win, a lawyer for Aung San Suu Kyi who was locked up for months after a February coup, pointed to the growing toll of Myanmar’s outbreak.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Harry Rosenfeld, Who Saw News in a ‘Third-Rate Burglary,’ Dies at 91, Sam Roberts, July 22, 2021. He assigned Woodward and Bernstein to follow the Watergate break-in for The Washington Post and fended off efforts to supplant them. 

Harry M. Rosenfeld, who injected his brash brand of journalism into The Washington Post, where he oversaw the two reporters who transformed a local crime story into the national Watergate corruption scandal that toppled the Nixon administration, died on July 16 at his home in upstate Slingerlands, N.Y. He was 91.

The cause was complications of Covid-19, his daughter Amy Rosenfeld Kaufman said.
Those We’ve Lost
Read about other people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic here.

As The Post’s assistant managing editor for metropolitan news, Mr. Rosenfeld directly supervised Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they mined secretive sources in their follow-the-money unraveling of the Watergate break-in, which President Richard M. Nixon’s press secretary had described as a “third-rate burglary attempt” and which led to Mr. Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

At one point Mr. Rosenfeld shielded the two reporters from attempts to remove them from the story once its broad implications became apparent. The Post’s editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee, had sought to replace “Woodstein,” as the duo were nicknamed, with Post veterans steeped in government and politics.

As quoted in Mr. Woodward’s and Mr. Bernstein’s book “All the President’s Men” — a line delivered by Jack Warden playing Mr. Rosenfeld in the 1976 movie version — Mr. Rosenfeld defended the reporters by asking Mr. Bradlee a rhetorical question.

“They’re hungry,” he said. “You remember when you were hungry?”

 

July 21

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Congressional Battles

 

Investigations

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Pro-Trump Insurrection, Finances

 

U.S. Law, Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Religion, Media, Sports

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds, Karan Deep Singh, July 21, 2021 (print ed). A comprehensive effort to estimate excess deaths in the country during the pandemic produced figures 10 times the government’s official coronavirus toll.

india flag mapThe number of people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic in India so far is likely to exceed three million — nearly 10 times the official Covid-19 death toll — making it one of the worst human tragedies in the nation’s history, according to a new study.

In a comprehensive examination of the true toll of the pandemic in the sprawling nation of 1.4 billion, the Center for Global Development, a Washington research institute, attempted to quantify excess deaths from all causes during the pandemic based on state data, international estimates, serological studies and household surveys.

“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions, not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy,” said its authors, one of whom is a former chief economic adviser to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The official government numbers have been called into question repeatedly. Even as funeral pyres lit up the night sky and bodies washed up on the Ganges River, with death all around, the Indian government was widely underreporting the scale of the devastation.

A chorus of experts have said the country’s official estimates are a gross understatement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Driven by covid deaths, U.S. life expectancy dropped by 1.5 years in 2020, Allyson Chiu, Lindsey Bever and Ariana Eunjung Cha, July 21, 2021. The decline, which is the largest seen in a single year since World War II, reflects the pandemic’s sustained toll on Americans, particularly the disproportionate impact of covid-19 on communities of color.

Life expectancy in the United States dropped by a year and a half in 2020 — a continuation of a worrisome decline that was observed in the first half of last year as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the country, according to federal data released Wednesday.

The decline, which is the largest seen in a single year since World War II, reflects the pandemic’s sustained toll on Americans, particularly the disproportionate impact of covid-19 on communities of color. Black Americans lost 2.9 years of life expectancy while Latinos, who have longer life expectancy than non-Hispanic Blacks or Whites, saw a drop of three years. There was a decrease of 1.2 years among White people.

‘I just pray God will help me’: Racial, ethnic minorities reel from higher covid-19 death rates

“It’s horrific,” said Anne Case, a professor emeritus of economics and public affairs at Princeton University. “It’s not entirely unexpected given what we have already seen about mortality rates as the year went on, but that still doesn’t stop it from being just horrific, especially for non-Hispanic Blacks and for Hispanics.”

tom barrack cbs

washington post logoWashington Post, Thomas Barrack, Trump ally who chaired inaugural committee, indicted in foreign lobbying case, Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). Thomas J. Barrack, a longtime friend to former president Donald Trump and a billionaire businessman, was arrested Tuesday in California and charged with violating foreign lobbying laws, obstructing justice and making false statements, officials said.

uae embassy sealBarrack, whose primary residence is in Los Angeles, was indicted on foreign lobbying charges related to his dealings with the United Arab Emirates, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday afternoon.

He and two other defendants are accused of acting and conspiring to act as agents of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018. Officials also alleged that Barrack lied to FBI agents in 2019 during an interview about his dealings with the UAE.

Barrack was in federal custody Tuesday and was expected to appear in court in Los Angeles in the afternoon. His spokesman released a statement that said: “Mr. Barrack has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset. He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty.” The 45-page indictment charges Matthew Grimes, an employee of Barrack’s investment firm, with helping in the lobbying effort. Grimes was also arrested, officials said. A third man charged, Rashid Alshahhi, is a citizen of the UAE who lived for a time in California.

 

U.S. Congressional Battles

nancy pelosi mask

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi rejects GOP's Banks, Jordan for Jan. 6 select committee, saying they may jeopardize 'integrity of the investigation,' Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany, July 21, 2021. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (shown above in a file photo) has rejected two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) picks to serve on the Jan. 6 select committee, saying the outspoken Republicans may jeopardize “the integrity of the investigation.”

Kevin McCarthyMcCarthy, left, announced Monday that he would recommend Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Banks (R-Ind.), noting that the two Republicans and three others represent an array of viewpoints and opinions. Both Jordan and Banks voted against certifying the election of President Biden.

“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.”

Pelosi, who as speaker has final say on who can serve on a committee that is set to hold its first hearing Tuesday, said that she was “prepared to appoint Representatives Rodney Davis, Kelly Armstrong and Troy E. Nehls.” All three members were seen arriving to McCarthy’s office in the Capitol for a huddle shortly after Pelosi released her statement.

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: On Jan. 6, Pelosi chose truth. McCarthy chose theater, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 21, 2021. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), whom the insurrectionists tried to hunt down on jennifer rubin new headshotJan. 6, is deadly serious about getting to the bottom of the day’s events and exposing all groups and individuals who played a role in the attempt to overthrow our democracy. She was willing to have a bipartisan, evenly divided Jan. 6 commission. But that was too much for the MAGA Republicans, whose lack of concern for our democracy and the truth makes them unfit to serve in any elected body. Senate Republicans filibustered the commission.

Pelosi then decided to form a select committee, chose Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to participate and even offered House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the disgraced former president’s chief apologist, the opportunity to name five members. McCarthy picked three who participated in the attempt to overthrow the election results, including one who immediately trashed the committee after his appointment.

liz cheney oPelosi, who could have let Republicans expose themselves as unhinged, unpatriotic provocateurs, rejected two of those appointments. In a fit of pique, McCarthy said he would pull all five of his people, hysterically threatening on Wednesday to run his own investigation. That, of course, would highlight only how unserious and untrustworthy his party truly is. Pelosi is free, of course, to appoint additional, responsible Republicans, such as Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) who condemned the insurrection, voted to impeach the instigator in chief and supported a bipartisan commission.

Cheney gave a thumbs-up to Pelosi’s decision. “At every opportunity the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened [on January 6], to block this investigation,” Cheney said Wednesday. “I agree with what the speaker has done.” For good measure, she added: “Any person who would be third in line to the presidency must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law, and Minority Leader McCarthy has not done that.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans are set to block an infrastructure bill in the Senate, pleading for more time for bipartisan talks, Emily Cochrane, July 21, 2021. Republicans were poised on Wednesday to block action on an infrastructure measure in the Senate, raising doubts about the fate of bipartisan efforts to strike a compromise on a nearly $600 billion bill to address the nation’s aging roads, bridges and other public-works projects.

chuck schumer smileSenator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, right, opted to force the vote even though the bill was unfinished and negotiators were still haggling over key details, in an effort to keep pressure on to finalize a deal that is a major piece of President Biden’s agenda. With Democrats expected to back the move, at least 10 Republicans would have to join them to reach the 60-vote threshold to move past a filibuster and take up the measure.

republican elephant logoBut Republicans and some Democrats toiling to hammer out a final agreement urged him to hold off, saying a premature vote risked scuttling their chances of success. In a last-ditch move to delay the process, 11 Senate Republicans were readying a letter to Mr. Schumer pledging to vote to allow the debate to go forward on Monday if a deal had been finalized by then.

“This vote is not a deadline to have every final detail worked out — it is not an attempt to jam anyone,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote. “The bipartisan group of senators will have many opportunities to make their agreement the base of the bill, even if they need a few more days to finalize the language.”

Still, in the absence of final legislation, Republicans warned on Tuesday that they would block the infrastructure debate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key federal aid programs running out of time — and cash — as new coronavirus variant spreads, Tony Romm, July 21, 2021. While the economic effects of the delta variant are unclear, a worsening pandemic again threatens to crimp travel and tourism, reduce traffic to storefronts and restaurants, and displace workers from their jobs.

 

Investigations

seth abramson graphicProof via Substack, Investigation: All Trumpworld Figures Who Have Been Criminally Investigated, Criminally Referred, Impeached, Arrested, and/or Convicted, As Well As Those Who Are Presently Fugitives From Justice, Seth Abramson, left, July 21, 2021. The staggering number of ties that Donald J. Trump has to individuals who have run afoul of the criminal justice system underscores that Mr. Trump is a career criminal.

seth abramson proof logoIf anyone with whom you’re in conversation ever doubts that Donald Trump ran the most corrupt presidential administration in American history, send them this list.

And remind them, too, that this is very much a partial and incomplete list—as it was nearly impossible to bring “Trumpworld” figures to justice during Trump’s presidency, and the initial edition of this list is being published just months into President Joe Biden’s administration. More time will be needed to see the full scope of Trump’s corruption.


The List: Convicted (16)....

fda logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How an Unproven Alzheimer’s Drug Was Approved, Pam Belluck, Sheila Kaplan and Rebecca Robbins, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). Though some of its own senior officials said there was little evidence of benefit for patients, the F.D.A. nonetheless greenlighted Biogen’s Aduhelm, or aducanumab.

Two months before the Food and Drug Administration’s deadline to decide whether to approve Biogen’s controversial Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab, a council of senior agency officials resoundingly agreed that there wasn’t enough evidence it worked.

The council, a group of 15 officials who review complex issues, concluded that another clinical trial was necessary before approving the drug. Otherwise, one council member noted, approval could “result in millions of patients taking aducanumab without any indication of actually receiving any benefit, or worse, cause harm,” according to minutes of the meeting, obtained by The New York Times.

“It is critical that the decision be made from a place of certainty,” the minutes said.

The session, whose details have not been reported before, represented at least the third time that proponents of approving aducanumab in the F.D.A. had received a clear message that the evidence did not convincingly show the drug could slow cognitive decline.

On June 7, the F.D.A. greenlighted the drug anyway — a decision that has been met with scathing rebuke from many Alzheimer’s experts and other scientists and calls for investigations into how the agency approved a treatment that has little evidence it helps patients.

How and why the F.D.A. went ahead and approved the drug — an intravenous infusion, marketed as Aduhelm, that the company has since priced at $56,000 a year — has become the subject of intense scrutiny. Two congressional committees are investigating the approval and the price. Much is still unknown, but an examination by The Times has found that the process leading to approval took several unusual turns, including a decision for the F.D.A. to work far more closely with Biogen than is typical in a regulatory review.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Pegasus Project Global Investigation, Among 50,000 phone numbers, the Pegasus Project found those of hundreds of public officials, Craig Timberg, Michael Birnbaum, Drew Harwell and Dan Sabbagh, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). Spies for centuries have trained their sights on those who shape destinies of nations: presidents, prime ministers, kings.

And in the 21st century, most of them carry smartphones.

Such is the underlying logic for some of the most tantalizing discoveries for an international investigation that in recent months scrutinized a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that included — according to forensics analyses of dozens of iPhones — at least some people targeted by Pegasus spyware licensed to governments worldwide.

The list contained the numbers of politicians and government officials by the hundreds. But what of heads of state and governments, arguably the most coveted of targets?

Fourteen. Or more specifically: three presidents, 10 prime ministers and a king.

None of them offered their iPhones or Android devices to The Washington Post and 16 other news organizations that scrutinized the list of phone numbers. That means the forensic testing that might have revealed infection by NSO’s signature spyware, Pegasus, was not possible. Nor was it possible to determine whether any NSO client attempted to deliver Pegasus to the phones of these country leaders — much less whether any succeeded in turning these highly personal devices into pocket spies capable of tracking a national leader’s nearly every movement, communication and personal relationship.

But here’s who’s on the list: Three sitting presidents, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Iraq’s Barham Salih and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa. Three current prime ministers, Pakistan’s Imran Khan, Egypt’s Mostafa Madbouly and Morocco’s Saad-Eddine El Othmani.

Seven former prime ministers, who according to time stamps on the list were placed there while they were still in office: Yemen’s Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, Uganda’s Ruhakana Rugunda, France’s Édouard Philippe, Kazakhstan’s Bakitzhan Sagintayev, Algeria’s Noureddine Bedoui and Belgium’s Charles Michel.

And one king: Morocco’s Mohammed VI.

Palmer Report, Opinion: No one in Trump world is safe now, Bill Palmer, right, July 21, 2021. Earlier this week a false and since-corrected story from the Associated bill palmerPress claimed that Merrick Garland’s DOJ had decided to let Wilbur Ross off on perjury charges. It created a new round of doomsday panic among liberal pundits who are somehow more certain than ever that Donald Trump and his associates are going to “get away with it all no matter what.”

But the real world came crashing down on that doomsday delusion yesterday when Thomas Barrack – a key Trump administration operative bill palmer report logo headerwhose departure in mid 2017 was so long ago that most of the public forgot he even existed – was indicted and arrested for Trump-related crimes he tom barrackheadshotcommitted years ago. If Barrack, right, thought he was off the legal hook just because he bailed on the Trump regime early on, he’s learning the hard way that the DOJ under Merrick Garland isn’t operating that way.

Now that the DOJ is known to be going as far back as the earliest days of the Trump regime to nail Trump associates and underlings for their Trump-related crimes, none of them are safe. We already more or less knew this back when the Feds raided the homes of former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Victoria Toensing for, among other things, their roles in the Trump-Ukraine scandal. But now we have confirmation that the DOJ’s probes into Trump world go all the way back to the beginning of the Trump administration.

Justice Department log circularThis doesn’t mean that every Trump associate or underling will go down. For one thing, not all of them committed crimes. Then there’s the fact that not all alleged crimes can be proven to a jury. Keep in mind that the DOJ makes its charging decisions based on likelihood of conviction. So no, not every Trump henchman will be indicted. But it’s starting to look like every Trump henchman who committed a provable crime will be charged.

This also serves as a reminder that federal criminal probes into far reaching and complicated crime schemes can indeed take a long time to unravel. The Feds now finally feel confident enough about getting a conviction against Barrack, for things he did circa 2017, that they’ve gone ahead and arrested him.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican Lawmakers Let Vaccine Skepticism Flourish, Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). As  the Delta variant rips through conservative U.S. communities, most Republicans remain reluctant to confront vaccine misinformation in their midst.
On Tuesday, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican who said he had received his first Pfizer vaccine shot only on Sunday, blamed the hesitance on Mr. Biden and his criticism of Donald J. Trump’s vaccine drive last year. Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, said skeptics would not get their shots until “this administration acknowledges the efforts of the last one.”

And Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas pointed the finger at the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.

“Every time Jen Psaki opens her mouth or Dr. Fauci opens his mouth,” he said, “10,000 more people say I’m never going to take the vaccine.”

Some elected Republicans are the ones spreading the falsehoods. Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, a Senate candidate, warned on Twitter of “KGB-style” agents knocking on the doors of unvaccinated Americans — a reference to Mr. Biden’s door-to-door vaccine outreach campaign.

Such statements, and the widespread silence by Republicans in the face of vaccine skepticism, are beginning to alarm some strategists and party leaders.

Mitchell_McConnell“The way to avoid getting back into the hospital is to get vaccinated,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, left, the Republican leader and a polio survivor, pleaded on Tuesday, one of the few members of his party to take a different approach. “And I want to encourage everybody to do that and to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

Nationally, the average of new coronavirus infections has surged nearly 200 percent in 14 days, to more than 35,000 on Monday, and deaths — a lagging number — are up 44 percent from two weeks ago. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated on Tuesday that the Delta variant accounted for 83 percent of all new cases.

The political disparity in vaccine hesitancy is stark. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported at the end of June that 86 percent of Democrats had at least one shot, compared with 52 percent of Republicans. An analysis by The New York Times in April found that the least vaccinated counties in the country had one thing in common: They voted for Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Growing number of Republican lawmakers urge vaccinations amid delta surge, Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany and Mike DeBonis, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). A shift in messaging among some GOP leaders comes after months of misinformation and anti-vaccine rhetoric among conservatives.

republican elephant logoA growing number of top Republicans are urging GOP supporters to get vaccinated as the delta coronavirus variant surges across the United States, marking a notable shift away from the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorizing that has gripped much of the party in opposition to the Biden administration’s efforts to combat the virus.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was part of the rising chorus on Tuesday, stressing the need for unvaccinated Americans to receive coronavirus shots and warning that the country could reverse its progress in moving on from the pandemic.

“These shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible, or we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for, that we went through last year,” McConnell said during his weekly news conference. “I want to encourage everybody to do that and to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

The remarks from McConnell followed comments in recent days from other top Republicans and from conservative voices urging people to get vaccinated, even as other members of the GOP continue to sound notes of skepticism and spread misinformation about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

Steve ScaliseAmong the most notable voices was Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, right, the No. 2 Republican in House leadership, who received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine over the weekend and urged others to follow suit. Scalise had long resisted vaccination, claiming protection from antibodies and saying earlier this year that he wanted to ensure his constituents had a chance to be vaccinated first.

In an interview Tuesday, Scalise said “there shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective.” He said he was compelled to get the shot in light of the recent spread of the delta variant and the associated spike in cases — and that politics was not a consideration.

And on the airwaves, some Fox News hosts who have helped amplify skepticism about the vaccines’ efficacy and slammed the idea of vaccination mandates by businesses are now pushing their viewers to get vaccinated immediately.

“I can’t say it enough. Enough people have died. We don’t need any more death,” Sean Hannity, who previously called the virus a hoax, said Monday on his broadcast. “And it absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccination.”

A survey of all 535 members of Congress by CNN found that in May, 100 percent of Democrats from both chambers were fully vaccinated, while only 44.8 percent of House Republicans and 92 percent of Republican senators could claim the same. Democrats say the lag in vaccinations among conservatives has been holding them back in easing restrictions on Capitol Hill.

washington post logoWashington Post, In latest clash over Wuhan lab, Fauci tells Sen. Rand Paul: ‘You do not know what you’re talking about,’ Reis Thebault, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). Anthony S. Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul, who have a history of heated exchanges, accused each other of lying about U.S. funding of the Wuhan lab in a hearing Tuesday.

anthony fauci CustomIt’s a tone not typically taken in the august chambers of the U.S. Senate — except when Anthony S. Fauci, right, and Sen. Rand Paul square off.

The two men — the country’s top infectious-diseases doctor and the junior Republican senator from Kentucky — have a history of heated exchanges and escalating accusations, with Paul, left, often using the congressional hearings to inveigh against Fauci over his Rand Paulhandling of the coronavirus pandemic and Fauci responding with an increasingly vigorous defense.

On Tuesday, they traded their most barbed public remarks yet, accusing each other of lying during a fierce debate over U.S. funding for a lab in Wuhan, China.

“Senator Paul, you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at one point. “You do not know what you are talking about.”

us senate logoThe argument, which echoed an earlier dust-up, centered on Paul’s claim that the National Institutes of Health awarded a grant that partially funded a project that relied on “gain-of-function” research, a controversial practice that involves enhancing a virus in a lab to try to anticipate future pandemics. This type of experimentation has come under growing scrutiny as U.S. intelligence agencies investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus and the theory that it could have accidentally leaked from a lab.

Officials have repeatedly denied Paul’s allegations, and in a hearing in May, Fauci told the senator that the National Institutes of Health “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research” at the Chinese lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

washington post logoWashington Post, 186 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 21, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 161.2 million people (48.6 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 21, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 192,396,522, Deaths: 4,136,699
U.S. Cases:     35,081,719, Deaths:    625,363
India Cases:     31,216,337, Deaths:    418,511
Brazil Cases:    19,419,741, Deaths:    544,302

 

More On Pro-Trump Insurrection, Finances

Trump advisor and Jan. 6 insurrection participant Roger Stone poses at center with leaders of the Oath Keepers.

Trump advisor Roger Stone poses at center with leaders of the Oath Keepers.

washington post logoWashington Post, In new Capitol riot guilty plea, Tampa man admits intending to block Congress with Oath Keepers, Spencer S. Hsu, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). A Tampa man pleaded guilty Tuesday to joining a “stack formation” of Oath Keepers members and associates who allegedly breached the Capitol on Jan. 6, becoming the latest to cooperate with prosecutors and the first among the formation to specify that he intended to hinder Congress that day using intimidation and coercion.

Caleb Berry, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of obstructing an official proceeding.

In a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to request lowering an estimated prison term of 51 to 63 months under federal guidelines for Berry, who has no criminal record and is one of the youngest defendants charged in the Capitol riots, in exchange for his substantial assistance.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta of Washington accepted the plea after Berry acknowledged that he coordinated plans and discussed the need to bring firearms for Jan. 6 in the nation’s capital with Oath Keepers members.

In plea papers, Berry admitted driving to Washington from Florida with other co-conspirators, meeting them the morning of Jan. 6 at a rally for President Donald Trump at the White House Ellipse and marching to the Capitol. They later walked single-file up the Capitol steps in camouflage, body armor and tactical gear and forced entry through the East Rotunda doors about 2:40 p.m., Berry admitted.

At least two other Oath Keepers associates — Graydon P. Young, 55, of Florida, who also admitted being part of the “stack,” and Mark Grods, 54, of Mobile, Ala., who said he entered minutes later — have also pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against others, describing encrypted communications and efforts to bring and store firearms at a hotel in nearby Arlington, Va.

The timing of Berry’s plea — he was charged July 9 under seal — could also be calculated to step up pressure on remaining defendants. Seven U.S. prosecutors entered appearances in Berry’s case, from offices including the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington and the Justice Department’s national security division.

U.S. prosecutors have now charged all but one of 14 people associated with the “stack” or just trailing behind them, including Berry and Young, according to an online group of Internet sleuths calling itself Capitol Terrorists Exposers that has provided information to journalists and investigators that prosecutors have cited in court filings.

Some have said they were in Washington to provide security for Republican VIPs including Roger Stone, or to support Trump in case he invoked the Insurrection Act and mobilized a citizen militia to pursue his unfounded claim that the election was stolen.

washington post logoWashington Post, Allen Weisselberg resigned from the top of the Trump Organization. So who’s running the company now?  David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Jonathan O'Connell, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). When Weisselberg resigned his position on the trust that controls the Trump Organization, Donald Trump Jr. officially became the company's most powerful officer.

allen weisselberg croppedEarlier this month, Allen Weisselberg, right — the Trump Organization’s most powerful employee not named “Trump” — resigned his post in the company’s leadership. Weisselberg had been one of two trustees at the trust that owns and controls former president Trump’s company. But Weisselberg gave up that post, and dozens of others at Trump subsidiaries, after he was charged with running a tax-fraud scheme inside the company.

Weisselberg still works at the company, according to one person familiar with the Trump Organization. But his resignation from those formal posts means that the company’s already small executive ranks have shrunk even further, at a time when the company faces a raft of financial and legal problems.

Here’s what we know — and what we don’t — about what’s happening at the Trump Organization now:

donald trump jr gage skidmore CustomOfficially, its most powerful officer is now Donald Trump Jr., shown at left in a Gage Skidmore photo.

The Trump Organization is controlled by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust — a legal entity to which Trump transferred his hundreds of companies when he took office in 2017. The trust, in turn is controlled by trustees. Previously, there were two. But after Weisselberg resigned, just one was left: Trump Jr., according to papers the company filed in New Jersey this month.

In a practical sense, people familiar with the company say, the company’s day-to-day leaders are Trump Jr., 43, and his younger brother Eric, 37. Eric, who lives in New York, usually plays a more active role, the people said, since Trump Jr. has moved to Florida and become more involved in politics.

 

U.S. Law, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans threaten to hold up debt ceiling days before deadline, raising potential for political showdown, Tony Romm and Seung Min Kim, July 21, 2021. “There really is no other way,” Sen. Rubio says, but Democrats insist they have no plans to negotiate.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday threatened to vote against an increase to the debt ceiling unless Congress first agrees to new spending cuts or other reforms, raising the potential for a major political showdown that could carry vast implications for both the global economy as well as President Biden’s agenda.

The new ultimatum marked a reversal for Republicans, who agreed to address the debt ceiling — the statutory amount the government can borrow to pay its bills — multiple times to advance policies under now-former President Donald Trump that helped add $7 trillion to the federal debt during his term.

“We had a pandemic that drove a lot of [spending], but what’s been added on top of it, and what [Democrats] plan to spend moving forward on top of that, I think it calls for some level of sanity,” said GOP. Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).

The renewed Republican threats arrived only 10 days before a current agreement that suspends the debt ceiling is set to expire. If Congress cannot reach a deal to raise or suspend the debt ceiling by month’s end, the U.S. government then would have only a few weeks to sustain itself using “extraordinary measures,” as it is known — though the Treasury Department has not provided an exact date when its spending would be at risk.

The drama intensified earlier Wednesday, after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Punchbowl News that his party is unlikely to vote for an increase.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to nominate Big Tech adversary Jonathan Kanter to helm Justice Dept. antitrust division, Cat Zakrzewski and Tyler Pager, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). The choice of Kanter, who has long opposed Big Tech companies as an antitrust lawyer, is the latest sign of the administration’s willingness to crack down on the power and influence of Silicon Valley titans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge blocks Arkansas ban on nearly all abortions, Bryan Pietsch, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). Judge Kristine Baker called the law an “imminent threat” to the constitutional rights of women seeking abortions in the state. The ban would prevent any abortions except in situations that would save the life of the mother, and does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked an Arkansas law banning nearly all abortions, calling it an “imminent threat” to the constitutional rights of women seeking abortions in the state.

Judge Kristine Baker of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas issued a preliminary injunction, preventing the law from being enforced asa hutchinsonuntil she can issue a final ruling.

Baker, responding to the challenge brought by advocates of abortion rights, wrote that bans on abortions before a fetus is considered viable are “categorically unconstitutional.”

The ban was set to go into effect on July 28 after being signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), right, in March. The ban, which is one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country, would prevent any abortions except in situations that would save the life of the mother, and does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. seeks 50-year bar to release of grand jury material, Devlin Barrett, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). Critics say the proposed change, along with a new rule for gag orders, would build higher walls of secrecy around federal investigations.

The Justice Department is pushing for rule changes that would put a 50-year delay on when courts can consider releasing material from federal grand juries, according to documents and interviews, and would separately allow gag orders to be applied more broadly to witnesses.

While the recommendations were made during the Trump administration, President Biden’s Justice Department is still seeking the changes, even as critics oppose what they say would be a significant expansion of secrecy around federal courts and investigations.

Grand jury secrecy is a cornerstone of American criminal justice. Much of what is said in grand juries — where citizens, guided by a prosecutor, consider whether to indict someone for alleged crimes — is never made public.

But judges occasionally rule that some other interest merits the release of grand jury information.

washington post logopaul gosarWashington Post, Paul Gosar was a beloved dentist. Now he’s a MAGA congressman. His former patients wonder what happened to him, Ben Terris, July 21, 2021. The Arizona Dental Association’s 2001 Dentist of the Year has evolved to a conspiracy-minded, race-baiting Republican congressman, right. 

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Bezos and Blue Origin Crew Land After Short Flight to Space, Staff Reports, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, lifted off from Texas with three other people in a spacecraft built by his rocket company. Watch and follow updates.

jeffrey bezos washington postAnother week, another billionaire with a rocket company going to space.

amazon logo smallLast week, it was Richard Branson earning his astronaut wings riding a space plane from Virgin Galactic, a company he founded 14 years ago, to an altitude of more than 50 miles above the skies of New Mexico.

On Tuesday, it was Jeff Bezos, left, the richest human being in the universe, who strapped into a capsule built by his rocket company, Blue Origin, and blasted off even higher, to more than 62 miles above West Texas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rescue efforts launched after record floods in central China displace 1.2 million, Alicia Chen, Lyric Li and Eva Dou, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). The death toll rose to 25 and more than 1.2 million people were displaced. Videos circulating online showed residents being rescued with ropes from deep, rushing waters. Large areas of the surrounding countryside remained underwater.

The flooding is a blow to China as it seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The country has largely returned its economy to its previous growth trajectory, although it retains strict border controls and continues to implement localized clampdowns when coronavirus clusters emerge.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Please Save Us!’ Grim Scenes in China as Flood Inundates a Subway, Steven Lee Myers, Updated July 21, 2021. The heaviest rainfall on record in central China also swept cars and people away, caused power outages and suspended rail services and flights.

China FlagThe flood that inundated Line 5 of Zhengzhou’s subway on Tuesday added to the grim global toll extreme weather has taken already this year, with scorching heat in the Pacific Northwest, forest fires in Siberia, and flooding in Germany and Belgium. Although flooding is common in China, researchers have attributed the extreme weather sweeping the planet to the consequences of climate change.

At least 25 died in and around Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, including 12 people in the subway, according to officials who briefed journalists on Wednesday. Days of torrential rain that began on Sunday created scenes of destruction that suggested the death toll could rise much higher.

ny times logomyanmar flagNew York Times, A top political prisoner dies of Covid in Myanmar, with others in critical condition, Hannah Beech, July 21, 2021. The death of U Nyan Win, a lawyer for Aung San Suu Kyi who was locked up for months after a February coup, pointed to the growing toll of Myanmar’s outbreak.

 

Religion, Media, Sports

washington post logoWashington Post, Milwaukee Bucks win their first NBA title since 1971 as Giannis Antetokounmpo scores 50, Candace Buckner and Des Bieler, July 21, nba logo2021. Before the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo declared his intentions. He wanted to stay and win it all in the only NBA city he has ever known.

For half a century Milwaukee had waited on a player like Antetokounmpo — charming and approachable, loyal and transcendent. And on Tuesday night, Antetokounmpo cemented his legacy among the pantheon of Milwaukee Bucks’ greats with a 105-98 win over the Phoenix Suns that secured the franchise’s first NBA championship since 1971.

  • Perspective: In an era of superteams, the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo did it the hard way
  • Analysis: Giannis Antetokounmpo stayed loyal to Milwaukee. His reward? An NBA Finals MVP and a title.

washington post logoWashington Post, Top U.S. Catholic Church official resigns after phone data is used to track him on Grindr and to gay bars, Michelle Boorstein, Marisa Iati and Annys Shin, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). The top administrator of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops resigned after a Catholic media site told the conference it had access to cellphone data that appeared to show he was a regular user of Grindr, the queer dating app, and frequented gay bars.

jeffrey burrillMonsignor Jeffrey Burrill, seen at right in 2018 via a photo by Bob Roller of the Catholic News Service, resigned July 20 as the general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops amid “impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior.”

Some privacy experts said that they couldn’t recall other instances of phone data being de-anonymized and reported publicly, but that it’s not illegal and will likely happen more as people come to understand what data is available about others.

Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill has since last fall been the general secretary of the USCCB, a position that coordinates all administrative work and planning for the conference, which is the country’s network for Catholic bishops. As a priest, he takes a vow of celibacy. Catholic teaching opposes sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Sleepy Tom’ Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs come to the White House for a very normal visit, Annie Linskey, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). joe biden twitterAs the U.S. Marine Band played “We Are the Champions” on the South Lawn of the White House, real-life Super Bowl champion Tom Brady stood near President Biden on Tuesday, both of them wearing sunglasses and grins.

nfl logoThe president, who fancied himself a football star in his younger days, held up a Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey and drew a parallel between his political trajectory and Brady’s lengthy career.

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with being the oldest guy to make it to the mountaintop,” quipped Biden, who at 78 is the oldest U.S. president, referring to Brady, shown in a file photo below at right and who at 43 is the oldest quarterback to lead a Super Bowl-winning team. “That’s how I look at it.”

tom brady twitterIt was in many ways the most traditional of presidential rituals — the visit of a championship team to the White House, allowing athletic stars and political leaders to bask in each other’s all-American glow.

Except that under President Donald Trump, such events were anything but traditional. Many championship athletes, upset by Trump’s politics, declined to come, often prompting Trump to insult or disinvite them. In some cases a racial divide was evident between the players on a team who came and those who did not.

 

July 20

Top Headlines

 

Trump Riot, Rallies, Bans

 

Spyware Scandals, Media

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Climate Change, Disasters

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Kevin McCarthy’s picks for the Jan. 6 panel make clear he wants to continue the coverup, Editorial Board, July 20, 2021. Having successfully blocked creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, Republicans are now intent sabotaging any kind of serious investigation. That became clear with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) selection of members to serve on the select committee formed to investigate the insurrection. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) must not allow his cynical gambit to spoil this opportunity to get to the bottom of the terrible events of Jan. 6.

Kevin McCarthyMr. McCarthy on Monday announced his five picks — Jim Jordan of Ohio, Jim Banks of Indiana, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Troy E. Nehls of Texas — for the 13-member committee. No sooner were the names revealed than Mr. Banks, who would serve as ranking minority member, issued a blistering statement that blasted Democrats, attacked the purpose of the committee and suggested Republicans might use it to attack President Biden. “I will not allow,” he said, “this committee to be turned into a forum for condemning millions of Americans because of their political beliefs.”

On Jan. 6, Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election results. This was not a peaceful expression of political beliefs; it was a violent and criminal attempt to interfere with the democratic process. A federal judge underscored that fact on Monday when he sentenced a Jan. 6 defendant to eight months in prison, rejecting any notion that the events of that day were simple protest. “There were people storming through the halls of the Capitol saying, ‘Where’s Nancy?’ People were threatening the lives of members of Congress. That is more than a simple riot,” said U.S. District Court Judge Randolph D. Moss.
Advertisement

Because of how the committee was created, Ms. Pelosi will have final say on its membership. Her appointments — including Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Democratic Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee who will lead the panel — reflected a real seriousness of purpose. In contrast, Mr. McCarthy’s choices seem solely designed to make a circus of the proceedings. Ringleader, of course, would be Mr. Jordan, a persistent if not terribly skillful disrupter and provocateur. Mr. Jordan, Mr. Banks and Mr. Nehls all voted against certifying the results of the election despite the absence of voter fraud or major irregularities. Their complicity in feeding Mr. Trump’s lie about a stolen election is not compatible with any dispassionate investigation of the day’s events.

The committee has important questions to explore, including the role that Mr. Trump and the Pentagon played on Jan. 6; possible failures of intelligence; and, most of all, how to lessen the likelihood of a recurrence. Ms. Pelosi should approve the appointment only of legislators who are committed to answering those questions and uncovering the truth.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mask mandates make a return — along with controversy, Dan Diamond, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). The growing calls to reinstate mask mandates have renewed their status as a cultural and health flashpoint a year and a half after the virus landed in the United States.

cdc logo CustomTwo months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated individuals didn’t need to wear masks in most settings, a growing number of experts are warning it’s time to put them back on.

First, there was Los Angeles County, where the rising menace posed by the delta variant of the coronavirus prompted health officials to reimpose a mask mandate. Then, Bay Area health officers on Friday recommended that residents of seven counties and the city of Berkeley, Calif., resume wearing masks indoors. Mask mandates are being discussed, too, in coronavirus hot spots such as Arkansas and Missouri, where cases have sharply increased in recent weeks and many residents remain unvaccinated.

“Universal masking indoors is a way of taking care of each other while we get more people vaccinated,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which last week moved to reinstate an indoor mask mandate. “It really doesn’t disrupt any business practices. It allows us to remain fully open — while we acknowledge that the delta variant [is] spreading like wildfire here.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opioid distributors near $21 billion settlement to resolve litigation, Meryl Kornfield and Lenny Bernstein, Updated July 20, 2021. The proposed deal would also require McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen to report their pain pill shipments. After months of gridlock and years of litigation, thousands of communities suing the nation’s three largest opioid distributors will announce this week they plan to move forward with a $21 billion global settlement that would resolve ongoing and future lawsuits filed by states, cities, counties, Native American tribes and other jurisdictions, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.

The deal could set aside funds for governments as soon as the end of September, according to those familiar with the negotiations, and release McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen from the behemoth, nationwide litigation brought by communities devastated by the opioid crisis. This long-awaited resolution in what is considered one of the most complex civil lawsuits in modern history would come as opioid overdose deaths have claimed more than 500,000 lives since 1999. The toll continues to climb, with an estimated 69,710 Americans dying of opioid overdoses in 2020.

As part of the proposed settlement, companies will agree to share information about their shipments of controlled substances, offering for the first time a full picture of where pain pills are sent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bipartisan infrastructure deal in precarious state as endgame nears, Seung Min Kim, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Monday took a subtle yet unmistakable dig at Republicans who have backed away from a major funding component in a bipartisan infrastructure package that is now starting to fray, saying pointedly that “we shook hands on it” even as he transportation dept logocontinued to promote the agreement.

Biden’s comment, with its accusatory undertones, reflected the agreement’s precarious state at the outset of what could be a pivotal week. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to force a vote within days to advance the roughly $1 trillion plan despite the Republican hesitations, a high-stakes gamble that is intended to force agreement but that GOP senators on Monday warned they would reject.

Biden also will seek to turn up the pressure by traveling to Ohio on Wednesday to pitch the plan and hold a town hall session with voters.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Wildfire So Big and Hot, It’s Affecting the Weather, Henry Fountain, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). The Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon, spurred by months of drought and last month’s blistering heat wave, is the largest wildfire so far this year in the United States, having already burned more than 340,000 acres, or 530 square miles, of forest and grasslands.

And at a time when climate change is causing wildfires to be larger and more intense, it’s also one of the most extreme, so big and hot that it’s affecting winds and otherwise disrupting the atmosphere.

“The fire is so large and generating so much energy and extreme heat that it’s changing the weather,” said Marcus Kauffman, a spokesman for the state forestry department. “Normally the weather predicts what the fire will do. In this case, the fire is predicting what the weather will do.”

“We’re not seeing any significant relief in the next week at least,” Mr. Redman said. “But I don’t think we can get any worse.”

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., his wife Becki Falwell, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, in a 2019 photo at Liberty University

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., his wife Becki Falwell, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, in a 2019 photo at Liberty University before the Falwells were forced out following allegations of major sex scandals implicating them personally in relationships with younger people (Reuters Photo).

ABC 13 News (Lynchberg, VA), Investigation: Liberty University 'enabled on-campus rapes:' 12 women file lawsuit, Cynthia Beasley, July 20, 2021. A 15-year-old reported being sexually assaulted at a Liberty University camp, according to a lawsuit, but university police blamed her for violating the “Liberty Way” and needlessly had her strip naked and spread her butt cheeks for a photograph.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court for the Eastern of New York, says that during the 2000 incident, Liberty threatened to charge the teenager with filing a false report, made her ride in a police car with her alleged attacker and questioned her without water or food for eight hours — all while failing to properly investigate her alleged attacker: Jesse Matthew, Jr., who went on to murder two college students years later.

liberty university sealIn advance of being filed, the lawsuit was provided to ABC13’s Cynthia Beasley, who has been investigating for a year-and-a-half allegations that Liberty University violated Title IX rules, repeatedly threatened victims with honor code violations and downplayed sexual assault allegations.

Twelve anonymous women, all of whom are former Liberty University employees or students, have signed onto the lawsuit that claims the university “enabled on-campus rapes” and suppressed complaints of sexual assault and rape.

While most of the alleged incidents took place while Jerry Falwell Jr. was president, not all did, including the 2000 incident allegedly involving multi-murderer Jesse Matthew. Falwell, who was Liberty's president from 2007 through 2020, resigned last year amid a storm of controversy, including alleged sexual improprieties, alcohol impairment, hypocrisies and questions about unusual business dealings.

"It just boggles my mind, that these people who claim to be Christians, cared more about covering it up than they cared about actually helping me," one plaintiff, Jane Doe 2, said in an interview.

Known as Jane Doe 2 in the lawsuit, the woman said she was sexually assaulted, reported it to Liberty, stalked by the same man, reported that to Liberty, and ultimately gang-raped – which she again reported to Liberty. However, there was no Title IX investigation or criminal charges, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that Liberty University silenced and sometimes punished these women under their honor code, “The Liberty Way.” The newest version of the “Liberty Way” honor code is not public, but the 2020 version can be found online. That document states that the university can issue “points” to students for breaking the “Liberty Way,” potentially making them pay a fine and perform community service hours. For example, the document online says they could fine students $300 for drinking alcohol or spending the night with a member of the opposite sex.

In addition to favoring the claims of the accused over women accusers -- including in cases when the female students provided evidence, such as text messages and pictures of bruises — the lawsuit also claims Liberty University used the "Liberty Way" as a weapon against the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit states some victims “were explicitly told they would be subject to discipline for violating the Liberty Way.”

“Liberty University weaponized its sexual violence reporting policies by (a) offering the victims of sexual violence a confusingly worded amnesty that (b) was often ignored altogether in practice.”

The plaintiffs are listed as Jane Doe 1 through 12.

Prior to becoming a Liberty University student, Doe 12 attended a summer debate camp at Liberty in 2000 when she was 15, the lawsuit states.

While in a dormitory hall, Doe 12 says she met a soft-spoken man who she later learned was Jesse Matthew Jr., who, years later, was sentenced to four life sentences for murdering Morgan Harrington and Hannah Graham.

While in the dorm, the complaint says that man “grabbed her and carried her into a bathroom.” The complaint states that LUPD later identified that man as Jesse Matthew.

The complaint states: Matthew threw Doe 12 into a large cushioned chair. Before he was able to grab her again, "she interposed her feet between him and her, and held him off while he attempted to grope her legs and breasts."

The complaint states that Doe 12 reported this to LUPD and officers apprehended Matthew, who she identified as her attacker.

The responding officer, who identified him as the Chief of the LUPD, then required Doe 12 to travel in the same car as her assailant to the police station over her express objection.

The complaint states that LUPD interrogated Doe 12 for hours, asking her to write two separate statements, and then accused her of fabricating her story when minor details were not identical.

Liberty Police reported to her that Matthew had denied any contact with her, the lawsuit states. When she reminded them that the single-gender dorm had a camera that would show him coming and leaving, the police changed their story and alleged that Matthew admitted to contact, but claimed it was consensual, the complaint says.

The lawsuit claims that LUPD told Doe 12 that she could be “expelled from the camp because she was wearing pants in an academic building, which was at the time a violation of the Liberty Way," and that she’d be criminally charged with filing a false police report if she refused to withdraw her sexual assault report against Matthew.

The police then began an ‘investigation’ into her claim, which seemed to solely consist of a demand that she strip and submit to being photographed by the chief of police. Doe 12 refused and suggested that such an investigation should be undertaken by a doctor or nurse, and that such a professional could also take samples from her nails. The police refused to transport Doe 12 to the hospital and, instead, continued to badger her until she agreed to allow herself to be photographed naked by a female debate coach.

The claim says that Doe 12’s mother was never contacted regarding the photographs and did not consent to such photographs.

Before allowing her to leave, the complaint states that police required that she wash her hands, “to destroy any DNA evidence and present her nails for inspection.”

The next day, Doe 12 told her story to friends, several of whom acknowledged that they had been approached for sex by a man similar to Doe 12’s description of Matthews, but had not reported the solicitation because of concerns that they would be expelled because their clothing had been too revealing.

The lawsuit says that Doe 12 reported this information to LUPD, but her friends said that they were never interviewed.

The lawsuit contends: There is no conceivable reason for the police to take naked photographs of a minor following an assault, particularly of areas where there was no bruising or other evidence of injury, as was done in this case.

Liberty University’s Title IX Office is the focus of the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that the Title IX Office failed to investigate multiple claims of rape and sexual assault. Federal laws require that investigators in Liberty University’s Title IX office fully investigate such claims.

 

Trump Rallies, Claims, Probes, Riot

Kellyanne Conway, at left, joins others on President Trump's communications team, with, from left, Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Dan Scavino, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Mercedes Schlapp (White House Photo).

Kellyanne Conway, at left, joins others on President Trump's communications team, with, from left, Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Dan Scavino, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Mercedes Schlapp (White House Photo).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Kellyanne Conway is about to become a huge problem for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 20, 2021. By the time Kellyanne Conway finished spending four years prominently telling lies in order to give cover to Donald Trump’s deranged and criminal administration, she was unemployable in the public arena. There’s only one thing left for political figures to do when they’re too discredited to continue working in politics: try to come up with the kind of book that becomes a bestseller and sets you up financially so you never have to work again.

bill palmer report logo headerThere are two routes for discredited Trump underlings to take. The first is to write a pro-Trump cheerleading book and try to sell it to Trump fans. The second is to write an insider’s tell-all account and blow the lid off everything, so you can sell the book to everyone who wants to know the Trump regime’s embarrassing secrets.

According to Politico, Kellyanne Conway appears to have chosen the second option. They’re reporting that Kellyanne is planning to publish a “hold-no-punches account” of the Trump regime. Notably, Donald Trump recently sat down with Kellyanne and gave her quotes and stories for the book, a move which Trump’s handlers now view as a mistake, because they fear that she’s planning to make Trump look bad.

Of course Kellyanne Conway has little credibility with anyone. But since her tell-all book about Trump will apparently include interviews with Trump, his handlers are correct in that it’ll give credibility to her claims about Trump that she wouldn’t otherwise have.

Donald Trump’s world is falling apart at this point, given his lack of an online voice, inability to even occasionally appear in public these days without making a complete fool of himself, and criminal indictments flying. The last thing he needs is Kellyanne Conway cashing out with a book that exposes more of his embarrassing, and potentially criminal, secrets. Yet here we go.

paul allard hodgkins

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Hodgkins, first felony defendant sentenced in Capitol riot, gets eight months in prison, Spencer S. Hsu, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). A federal judge on Monday handed down an eight-month prison term to the first person to be sentenced for a felony in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.

Tampa crane operator Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, pleaded guilty last month to one count of obstructing a joint session of Congress meeting to confirm the results of the 2020 president election. He was seen (as shown above) carrying a red-and-white “Trump 2020” flag into the well of the abandoned Senate while others stood over the vacated vice president’s chair.

“The symbolism of that act was unmistakable,” U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss said. “He was staking a claim on the floor of the U.S. Senate not with an American flag, but declaring his loyalty to a single individual over the nation. In that act, he captured the threat to democracy that we all witnessed that day.”

Moss said the Capitol riots caused damage far greater than the few hours of delay in Congress’s tallying of the electoral votes, saying it “left a stain that will remain on our nation for decades.”

“It means it will be harder for all of us to tell our children and grandchildren that democracy stands as the immutable foundation of our nation. It means we are all fearful of the next attack in a way we never were, and it makes us question whether our democracy is less secure than we believed just months ago,” Moss said, calling the harms “enormous” and “chilling.”

In a statement before he was sentenced Hodgkins said, “I can say without a shadow of a doubt I am truly remorseful and regretful for my actions in our nation’s Capitol on January 6, the damage that my actions caused and the way the country I love has been hurt.”

U.S. prosecutors had called for 18-month prison term, citing the need to deter domestic terrorism. “Jan. 6 was genuinely an act of terrorism … The need to preserve respect for the law is really at its pinnacle in a crime like this,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky said.

enrique tarrio mic

washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio pleads guilty to burning of Black Lives Matter banner in D.C., Paul Duggan and Rachel Weiner, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). Enrique Tarrio, above, a leader of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, pleaded guilty Monday to burning a Black Lives Matter banner stolen Dec. 12 from a historic African American church in Washington during a tumultuous demonstration by supporters of President Donald Trump.

Tarrio, 37, who is listed as a Miami resident in D.C. Superior Court records, also pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to possess a high capacity ammunition magazine, which is illegal in the district.

Police said four Washington, D.C., churches were vandalized the night of Dec. 12 as the Proud Boys and other groups marched through downtown, supporting Trump’s effort to delegitimize President Biden’s election victory. The BLM banner that Tarrio admitted to burning was taken from Asbury United Methodist Church in the 900 block of 11th Street NW.

After the incident, but before he was arrested, Tarrio told The Washington Post that if he were charged with a crime, he would be willing to plead guilty to destruction of property and pay the church the cost of the banner.

But he said the banner-burning was not a hate crime and that he not motivated by ideology. He was he acted because he thinks the Black Lives Matter movement “has terrorized the citizens of this country.”

Tarrio was arrested when he returned to the city on Jan. 4, two days before a riotous mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent attempt to stop Congress from confirming Biden’s election.

Police had obtained an arrest warrant for Tarrio in the banner-burning. On Jan. 4, they stopped a car in which Tarrio was riding shortly after it entered the city. While taking him into custody, they said, they found two high-capacity ammunition magazines among his belongings.

  • Washington Post, What were the Capitol rioters thinking on Jan. 6? Their lawyers have spent months trying to explain, Dan Zak and Karen Heller, July 20, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jim Jordan, four other Republicans chosen by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on panel investigating Jan. 6 riots, Marianna Sotomayor, Felicia Sonmez and Karoun Demirjian,  House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will recommend five Republicans to serve on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, according to two House GOP aides.

jim jordan shirtsleevesThe lawmakers are Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), right, Jim Banks (Ind.), Rodney Davis (Ill.), Kelly Armstrong (N.D.) and Troy Nehls (Tex.), according to the aides, who were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.

Nancy Pelosi The lawmakers were expected to meet with McCarthy in his office at the Capitol Monday evening.

McCarthy’s choices will need to be approved by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), left, before they can sit on the 13-member panel, according to the legislation passed by the House to establish the committee.

Pelosi moved to form the committee after Senate Republicans blocked an effort to create an independent, bipartisan commission.

 

Spyware Scandals

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Pegasus's victims, Erik Prince, and Israel's contempt for international law, Wayne Madsen, left, July 20, 2021. It should come as no surprise that among the most avid wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallcustomers for the Israeli NSO Group's Pegasus smart phone tracking and surveillance system are some of the world's most repressive regimes. These include Saudi Arabia, wayne madesen report logoMorocco, Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudi/UAE puppet regime representing the largely defunct Yemen Arab Republic.

The perfidy of these Arab governments in dealing with the harshest elements of Israel's government, namely, its military-intelligence complex, goes a long way in explaining why the Palestinian people continue to constitute one of the world's most persecuted populations.

nato logo flags name

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., allies accuse China of hacking Microsoft and condoning other cyberattacks, John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). The United States, European Union, NATO and other world powers on Monday accused the Chinese government of a broad array of malicious cyber activities, blaming its Ministry of State Security and affiliated criminals for a sophisticated attack on Microsoft’s widely used email server software earlier this year.

China FlagThe condemnations represent the first time NATO, a 30-nation alliance, has called out Beijing’s cyber activities following the Biden administration’s pledge in June to rally U.S. allies against malign Chinese behavior. The number of nations involved amounts to the largest condemnation of China’s cyber aggressions to date, U.S. officials said.

The joint statements stopped short, however, of punishing China for its alleged actions, exposing the challenge of confronting the world’s second largest economy by an alliance with deep business ties there.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chinese security officers charged in hacking scheme targeting companies, universities, and government entities in other countries, Devlin Barrett, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). Three Chinese security officials have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury as part of what authorities say was a far-reaching hacking scheme targeting companies, universities, and government entities in other countries — the latest in American efforts to “name and shame” hacking by foreign state actors.

The Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging four individuals in China, saying they worked together to try to steal data that would benefit Chinese companies, particularly research and development work.

The two-count indictment, which was returned in May and kept under seal until now, charges Ding Xiaoyang, Cheng Qingmin, and Zhu Yunmin were officers with the Hainan State Security Department, a provincial branch of China’s Ministry of State Security, or MSS.

A fourth charged individual, Wu Shurong, was charged as a computer hacker who created malware and hacked into computers run by foreign governments, companies and universities, and supervised other hackers engaged in such work. The indictment charges that hacking stretched from 2011 to 2018, targeting entities in the U.S., Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, and Britain.

The indictment was unsealed on the same day the U.S., European Union, and NATO accused the Chinese government of a wide range of malicious cyber activities, blaming the MSS for a sophisticated attack on Microsoft’s widely used mail server earlier this year — the first time NATO has called out Beijing’s cyber activities following the Biden administration’s pledge last month to rally U.S. allies against malign Chinese behavior. U.S. officials said the number of nations involved in Monday’s criticism represents the largest condemnation to date of China’s cyber aggressions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pegasus Project Investigation: Despite the hype, iPhone security no match for NSO spyware, Craig Timberg, Reed Albergotti and Elodie Guéguen, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). International investigation finds 23 Apple devices that were successfully hacked. The text delivered last month to the iPhone 11 of Claude Mangin, the French wife of a political activist jailed in Morocco, made no sound. It produced no image. It offered no warning of any kind as an iMessage from somebody she didn’t know delivered malware directly onto her phone — and past Apple’s security systems.

nso group logoOnce inside, the spyware, produced by Israel’s NSO Group and licensed to one of its government clients, went to work, according to a forensic examination of her device by Amnesty International’s Security Lab. It found that between October and June, her phone was hacked multiple times with Pegasus, NSO’s signature surveillance tool, during a time when she was in France.

The examination was unable to reveal what was collected. But the potential was vast: Pegasus can collect emails, call records, social media posts, user passwords, contact lists, pictures, videos, sound recordings and browsing histories, according to security researchers and NSO marketing materials. The spyware can activate cameras or microphones to capture fresh images and recordings. It can listen to calls and voice mails. It can collect location logs of where a user has been and also determine where that user is now, along with data indicating whether the person is stationary or, if moving, in which direction.

And all of this can happen without a user even touching her phone or knowing she has received a mysterious message from an unfamiliar person — in Mangin’s case, a Gmail user going by the name “linakeller2203.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The spyware is sold to governments to fight terrorism. In India, it was used to hack journalists and others, Joanna Slater and Niha Masih, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). The confirmed infections of seven phones represent a tiny fraction of what may be a vast surveillance net in Modi’s India.

A powerful surveillance tool licensed only to governments was used to infiltrate mobile phones belonging to at least seven people in India and was active on some of their devices as recently as this month.

india flag mapThe hacks — confirmed by forensic analysis of the phones — represent a tiny fraction of what may be a vast surveillance net, intensifying concerns about the erosion of civil liberties in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Hundreds of Indian phone numbers appeared on a list that included some selected for surveillance by clients of NSO Group, an Israeli firm. The list contained numbers for Rahul Gandhi, India’s main opposition leader; Ashok Lavasa, a key election official considered an obstacle to the ruling party; and M. Hari Menon, the local head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Others included on the list were journalists, activists, opposition politicians, senior officials, business executives, public health experts, Tibetan exiles and foreign diplomats. A group of Modi critics accused of plotting to overthrow the government also appeared on the list.

The spyware that infiltrated seven of the analyzed phones is called Pegasus. It secretly unlocks the contents of a target’s mobile phone and transforms it into a listening device. NSO says it licenses the tool exclusively to government agencies to combat terrorism and other serious crimes.

Wayne Madsen Report, Pegasus and NSO at center of sweeping and dangerous Mossad surveillance operation, Wayne Madsen, left, July 19, 2021. A joint wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallreport by several media organizations around the world and Amnesty International has revealed that the Israeli intelligence-linked NSO Group has provided an invasive smart phone tracking software known as Pegasus to some of the world's most brutal regimes to spy on wayne madesen report logojournalists, politicians, human rights advocates.

The conclusions about NSO Group and Pegasus provide addition proof that Israel's intentions are predominantly malign in the area of intelligence and security operations.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta variant takes hold in U.S. as coronavirus cases rise nearly 70 percent, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Frances Stead Sellers, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ CDC director says. Federal health officials sounded an alarm about a surge in infections fueled by the twin threats posed by the delta variant and a stagnation in efforts to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judge Affirms Indiana University’s Student Vaccine Requirement, Stephanie Saul, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). In what appeared to be the first ruling upholding a coronavirus vaccine mandate by a university, a federal judge affirmed on Monday that Indiana University could require that its students be vaccinated against the virus.

A lawyer for eight student plaintiffs had argued that requiring the vaccine violated their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and that the coronavirus vaccines have only emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and should not be considered as part of the normal range of vaccinations schools require. He vowed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

“What we have here is the government forcing you to do something that you strenuously object to and have your body invaded in the process,” said the lawyer, James Bopp Jr.

indiana universityHe said that the appeal would be paid for by America’s Frontline Doctors, a conservative organization that has been pursuing an anti-vaccine agenda. Mr. Bopp, of Terre Haute, Ind., is known for his legal advocacy promoting conservative causes.

Mr. Bopp filed the lawsuit in June, after Indiana University announced the previous month that faculty, staff and students would be required to get coronavirus vaccinations before coming to school this fall.

The university, whose main campus is in Bloomington, Ind., said that students who did not comply would have their class registrations canceled and would be barred from campus activities. The requirement permitted exemptions only for religious objections, documented allergies to the vaccine, medical deferrals and virtual class attendance.

On Monday, Judge Damon R. Leichty of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana said that while he recognized the students’ interest in refusing unwarranted medical treatment, such a right must be weighed against the state’s greater interest.

“The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff,” his ruling said, also noting that the university had made exceptions for students who object.

Universities around the country have taken different positions on the question of requiring coronavirus vaccines, with about 400 campuses mandating vaccines. Students on several campuses have filed or threatened lawsuits.

ny times logoNew York Times, On England’s ‘Freedom Day,’ Rising Virus Cases and a Prime Minister in Isolation, Mark Landler, July 20, 2021 (print ed.).  In a breathtaking gamble, the country has now lifted all but a few pandemic restrictions.

United Kingdom flag“Freedom Day” arrived in England on Monday with its chief architect, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, confined in quarantine, millions of Britons facing the same prospect and untold people more anxious about the risks of liberation.

Such were the incongruities on the long-awaited day when the government lifted all but a few remaining coronavirus restrictions — a day when the virus infected 39,950 people and swept up tens of thousands more who were notified by the National Health Service’s cellphone app after they were in contact with an infected person.

Mr. Johnson defended the decision to reopen from his country residence, Chequers, where he has been in se

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Have Their Own Private Autocracy, Paul Krugman, right, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). Many people, myself included, have declared for years that the G.O.P. is no longer paul krugmana normal political party. It doesn’t look anything like, say, Dwight Eisenhower’s Republican Party or Germany’s Christian Democrats. But it bears a growing resemblance to the ruling parties of autocratic regimes.

djt maga hatThe only unusual thing about the G.O.P.’s wholesale adoption of the Leader Principle is that the party doesn’t have a monopoly on power; in fact, it controls neither Congress nor the White House. Politicians suspected of insufficient loyalty to Donald Trump and Trumpism in general aren’t sent to the gulag. At most, they stand to lose intraparty offices and, possibly, future primaries. Yet such is the timidity of Republican politicians that these mild threats are apparently enough to make many of them behave like Caligula’s courtiers.

Unfortunately, all this loyalty signaling is putting the whole nation at risk. In fact, it will almost surely kill large numbers of Americans in the next few months.

The stalling of America’s initially successful vaccination drive isn’t entirely driven by partisanship — some people, especially members of minority groups, are failing to get vaccinated for reasons having little to do with current politics.

But politics is nonetheless clearly a key factor: Republican politicians and Republican-oriented influencers have driven much of the opposition to Covid-19 vaccines, in some cases engaging in what amounts to outright sabotage. And there is a stunning negative correlation between Trump’s share of a county’s vote in 2020 and its current vaccination rate.

washington post logoWashington Post, 186 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 20, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 161.2 million people (48.6 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56 % with at least one dose.

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

World Cases: 191,736,914, Deaths: 4,113,086
U.S. Cases:     35,018,600, Deaths:    624,983
India Cases:     31,174,322, Deaths:    414,513
Brazil Cases:   19,391,845, Deaths:     542,877

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene for spreading covid-19 misinformation, Bryan Pietsch, July 20, 2021|Updated today at 1:59 a.m. EDT. Twitter temporarily suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), right, for violating its covid-19 misinformation policy after she falsely claimed that the coronavirus was “not dangerous” for some people.

twitter bird CustomA Twitter spokesperson confirmed Monday evening that the company had taken “enforcement action” on Greene’s personal account for violations of its policies.

marjorie taylor greene headshotThe account was put on “read-only” mode for 12 hours, which according to Twitter’s rules happens “if it seems like an otherwise healthy account is in the middle of an abusive episode.”

The 12-hour suspension is the shortest of Twitter’s read-only penalties, which its website says can range from 12 hours to seven days, “depending on the nature of the violation.” Greene’s account had violated the misinformation policy multiple times, according to Twitter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Dolly Parton Tried. But Tennessee Is Squandering a Miracle, Margaret Renkl, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). When Dolly Parton, below right, received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at Vanderbilt University, where her million-dollar donation helped to fund the research, she sang an updated version of her iconic song “Jolene.” The tongue-in-cheek lyrics were meant to inspire people to get vaccinated.

She gave it a good try, a heroic try, but somehow the bonehead politicians running this state managed to overcome even the good will generated by its favorite daughter.

dolly partonRemember how hopeful we were this year when the new Covid-19 vaccines arrived so astonishingly quickly, and were so astonishingly effective and safe? As a nation — politically, institutionally, too often personally — we’d botched almost everything about this pandemic, and we did not deserve a miracle. The miracle arrived anyway.

Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, understood what was going on. Mr. Lee is vaccinated, but he refused to be photographed getting the shot — the Covid shot, that is. Not a word about protecting children from the deadliest pandemic in a hundred years.

From the beginning, white people in rural Tennessee have been so skeptical of this vaccine that last month state officials returned an allotment of three million doses to the federal stockpile. “The rate of daily coronavirus infections in Tennessee has more than tripled in the past three weeks — one of the largest increases in the entire nation — as the virus shows signs of renewed spread,” wrote The Tennessean’s indefatigable health reporter Brett Kelman last week. “The state’s average test positivity rate and count of active infections also climbed sharply in the same time period.”

Conservative Tennessee legislators responded, it’s true, but not by working to reduce vaccine hesitancy. Instead, they pressured state health officials to cancel vaccination events aimed at teenagers and retract social media posts urging adolescents to get vaccinated. Worse, these anti-vaccination efforts weren’t limited to the Covid-19 vaccine. Conservative lawmakers also urged the Tennessee Department of Health to halt outreach efforts designed to inform teenagers about all vaccines.

Worse still, they arranged the firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus. As medical director of the vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization program at the Department of Health, Dr. Fiscus was the state’s top vaccine authority. “

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Reach the Unvaccinated, Ross Douthat, right, July 20, 2021. Late last week Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review stirred up a mix of interest and outrage among journalists by arguing that more understanding should be extended to unvaccinated Americans, whose ross douthathesitancy about getting Pfizered or Modernafied often reflects a reasonable uncertainty and wariness after a year of shifting public-health rhetoric, blunders and misleading messaging.

The alternative perspective, judging from responses to his column, regards the great mass of the unvaccinated as victims of deliberately manufactured paranoia, the blame for which can be laid partly on their own partisan self-delusion and partly on wicked actors in the right-wing media complex — from conspiracy theorists flourishing online to vaccine skeptics interviewed by Tucker Carlson to Republican politicians who have pandered to vaccine resistance.

The sheer numbers of unvaccinated Americans — upward of 80 million adults — means that these perspectives can be somewhat reconciled. On the one hand, there is clearly a hard core of vaccine resistance, based around tribal right-wing identity, that’s being nourished by both online conspiracy theories and the bad arguments and arguers that some Fox News hosts and right-wing personalities have elevated.
But if the unvaccinated and their motivations are complex and heterogeneous, then these strategies are more fraught. Censoring the internet will have little effect if many of the vaccine-hesitant are disconnected rather than very online or drawing on personal experience rather than anti-vaxxer memes. (As Facebook noted in defending itself against Biden administration attacks, its users are more vaccine-friendly than the national average.)

So is there a way to substantially expand vaccinations in the narrow window of the next six months without going in for heavy-handed, possibly counterproductive interventions? To me the only major idea that seems worth considering is the simplest one: We could start paying people to take a vaccine — not just in lottery tickets or even the savings bonds issued by West Virginia but in big fat gobs of cash.

  • New York Times, Stocks rebounded a day after a rout that was prompted by fears over the Delta variant, July 20, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta variant fears send Dow tumbling in worst one-day decline of 2021, Taylor Telford and Hamza Shaban, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). Biden says Fed ‘should take whatever steps it deems necessary’ on inflation.

Global stock markets swooned Monday, with the Dow slumping more than 700 points, as investors grow increasingly anxious about a delta-led resurgence in coronavirus cases and its potential to derail the economic recovery. Oil prices also fell sharply.

The delta variant is now the dominant strain worldwide and surging rapidly, even in countries with high vaccination rates. New coronavirus infections in the United States rose nearly 70 percent in a single week, officials reported Friday, and nearly every state has reported an increase in cases. Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo during the Summer Games — which kick off later this week — and banned spectators, but there have been several positive coronavirus tests at the Olympic Village and an alternate for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team has tested positive.

 

U.S. Law, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. seeks 50-year bar to release of grand jury material, Devlin Barrett, July 20, 2021. Critics say the proposed change, along with a new rule for gag orders, would build higher walls of secrecy around federal investigations.

The Justice Department is pushing for rule changes that would put a 50-year delay on when courts can consider releasing material from federal grand juries, according to documents and interviews, and would separately allow gag orders to be applied more broadly to witnesses.

While the recommendations were made during the Trump administration, President Biden’s Justice Department is still seeking the changes, even as critics oppose what they say would be a significant expansion of secrecy around federal courts and investigations.

Grand jury secrecy is a cornerstone of American criminal justice. Much of what is said in grand juries — where citizens, guided by a prosecutor, consider whether to indict someone for alleged crimes — is never made public.

But judges occasionally rule that some other interest merits the release of grand jury information.

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Legal Team Decides Inmates Must Return to Prison After Covid Emergency, Charlie Savage and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). When the pandemic ends, thousands in home confinement will be recalled unless Congress acts or Biden issues mass commutations.

The Biden administration legal team has decided that thousands of federal convicts who were released to home confinement to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19 will be required by law to return to prison a month after the official state of emergency for the pandemic ends, according to officials.

Justice Department log circularThe administration has come under pressure from criminal justice reform activists and some lawmakers to revoke a Trump-era memo by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which said inmates whose sentences lasted beyond the “pandemic emergency period” would have to go back to prison.

But the Biden legal team has concluded that the memo correctly interpreted the law, which applies to about 4,000 nonviolent inmates, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity about sensitive internal deliberations. Several officials characterized the decision as an assessment of the best interpretation of the law, not a matter of policy preference.

The official state of emergency is not expected to end this year because of a rise in new infections caused by the coronavirus’s Delta variant. But the determination means that whenever it does end, the department’s hands will be tied.

That leaves two options if those prisoners are not to be sent back into cells: Either Congress could enact a law to expand the Justice Department’s authority to keep them at home beyond the emergency, or President Biden could use his clemency powers to commute their sentences to home confinement.

The Biden team is said to be wary of a blanket, mass commutation, however, both because it would represent an extraordinary intervention in the normal functioning of the judicial system and it could create political risks if any recipient who would otherwise be locked up commits a serious crime. Another option is case-by-case assessment for commutations, but the volume of work required to individually evaluate so many people is daunting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Loneliness Is Breaking America, Michelle Goldberg, right, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). After reading an article adapted from Frankly, michelle goldberg thumbWe Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost by Michael C. Bender, a Wall Street Journal reporter, I was fascinated by Bender’s account of the people who followed Trump from rally to rally like authoritarian Deadheads.

Bender’s description of these Trump superfans, who called themselves the “front-row Joes,” is sympathetic but not sentimental. Above all, he captures their pre-Trump loneliness.

michael bender frankly“Many were recently retired and had time on their hands and little to tie them to home,” writes Bender. “A handful never had children. Others were estranged from their families.” Throwing themselves into Trump’s movement, they found a community and a sense of purpose. “Saundra’s life had become bigger with Trump,” he says of a Michigan woman who did odd jobs on the road to fund her obsession.

There are many causes for the overlapping dysfunctions that make contemporary American life feel so dystopian, but loneliness is a big one. Even before Covid, Americans were becoming more isolated. And as Damon Linker pointed out recently in The Week, citing Hannah Arendt, lonely people are drawn to totalitarian ideologies. “The chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships,” Arendt concluded in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” describing those who gave themselves over to all-encompassing mass movements.

A socially healthy society would probably never have elected Trump in the first place. As Daniel Cox, a senior fellow in polling and public opinion at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote in FiveThirtyEight shortly after the 2020 election, the “share of Americans who are more socially disconnected from society is on the rise. And these voters disproportionately support Trump.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration Transfers Its First Detainee From Guantánamo Bay, Carol Rosenberg and Charlie Savage, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). The White House picked up where the Obama administration left off with the repatriation of a Moroccan man, reducing the prison population to 39.

The Biden administration on Monday transferred its first detainee out of Guantánamo Bay, repatriating a Moroccan man who had been recommended for discharge from the wartime prison starting in 2016 but nevertheless remained there during the Trump years. The transfer of the man, Abdul Latif Nasser, 56, was the first sign of a renewed effort under President Biden to winnow the population of prisoners.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facing Dire Drought, a Utah Town Pulls the Plug on Growth, Jack Healy and Sophie Kasakove, July 20, 2021. In some regions, the percentage is even higher — particularly where vaccination rates are low. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

After the spring that filled people’s taps became a trickle, the town of Oakley, Utah, stopped building homes that would connect to its water system. It is one of the first towns in the United States to purposely stall growth for want of water, in what could be a sign of things to come.

While summer monsoon rains have brought some recent relief to the Southwest, 99.9 percent of Utah is locked in severe drought conditions and reservoirs are less than half full. Yet cheap housing is even scarcer than water in much of Utah, whose population swelled by 18 percent from 2010 to 2020, making it the fastest-growing state in the country.

ny times logoNew York Times, Americans’ Medical Debts Are Bigger Than Was Known, Totaling $140 Billion, Sarah Kliff and Margot Sanger-Katz, July 20, 2021. Health care has become the country’s largest source of debt in collections, a new study found. Those debts are largest where Medicaid wasn’t expanded.
Americans owe nearly twice as much medical debt as was previously known, and the amount owed has become increasingly concentrated in states that do not participate in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program.

New research published Tuesday in JAMA finds that collection agencies held $140 billion in unpaid medical bills last year,. An earlier study, examining debts in 2016, estimated that Americans held $81 billion in medical debt.

This new paper took a more complete look at which patients have outstanding medical debts, including individuals who do not have credit cards or bank accounts. Using 10 percent of all credit reports from the credit rating agency TransUnion, the paper finds that about 18 percent of Americans hold medical debt that is in collections.

The researchers found that, between 2009 and 2020, unpaid medical bills became the largest source of debt that Americans owe collections agencies. Overall debt, both from medical bills and other sources, declined during that period as the economy recovered from the Great Recession.

“If you think about Americans getting phone calls, letters and knocks on the door from debt collectors, more often than not it’s because of the U.S. health care system,” said Neale Mahoney, a health economist at Stanford University and the paper’s lead author.

The $140 billion in debt does not count all medical bills owed to health care providers, because it measures only debts that have been sold to collections agencies. The increasing number of lawsuits that hospitals file against patients to collect debt, which can lead to legal fees or wage garnishments, are not included in the figure. Nor are the medical bills that patients pay with credit cards or have on long-term payment plans. Some of the difference between the new estimate and the older, smaller one may reflect differences in how different credit rating agencies categorize debts.

ny times logoNew York Times, A House Race in Cleveland Captures the Democrats’ Generational Divide, Jonathan Weisman, July 20, 2021. Nina Turner’s move from Bernie Sanders’s campaign to House candidate has highlighted a split between impatient activists and cautious older voters.

democratic donkey logoDemocratic leaders understand that the outcome of the race will be read as a signal about the party’s future. It has already rekindled old rivalries. The Congressional Black Caucus’s political action committee has endorsed Ms. Turner’s main rival, Shontel Brown, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chairwoman. So have Hillary Clinton and the highest-ranking Black member of the House, James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, who will be campaigning here this weekend for Ms. Brown. They argue that Ms. Brown is the better candidate, with a unifying message after four divisive years of Donald J. Trump.

Ms. Brown sees herself as liberal, but she would move step by step, for instance embracing Mr. Biden’s call for adding a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act before jumping straight to the single-payer Medicare-for-all health care system Ms. Turner wants.

 

World News

pedro castillo keiko fujimoro

washington post logoWashington Post, Pedro Castillo finally declared winner of Peru’s presidential election, Simeon Tegel, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). Pedro Castillo, above left, the provincial schoolteacher who promised to restructure Peru’s economy to favor the poor, was confirmed Monday evening as the Andean country’s president-elect more than six weeks after the election.

peru flag2Peru’s electoral agency certified the results of the June 6 runoff, giving the left-wing Castillo 50.13 percent of the vote over 49.87 percent for his hard-right opponent Keiko Fujimori, above right. The two candidates were separated by just 44,000 votes out of nearly 19 million cast.

The result followed a deeply divisive election and last-ditch legal challenges by Fujimori. Her lawyers made unsubstantiated claims of fraud in an effort to get 200,000 votes thrown out.

ny times logoNew York Times, Claude Joseph, Haiti’s Acting Prime Minister, Is Stepping Down, Catherine Porter, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Joseph had been the country’s leader in the aftermath of President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination. He will hand power to Ariel Henry, the elections minister said.

Ever since the president’s assassination on July 7, Haitian politicians have grappled for control of the government. Claude Joseph, the prime minister who immediately took control of Haiti’s government after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse this month, is stepping down, the nation’s minister for elections said in a text message Monday.

haiti flagEver since the president’s assassination on July 7, Haitian politicians have been at loggerheads, grappling for control of the government.

Mr. Joseph had been scheduled to be replaced the week of the killing, but the newly appointed prime minister, Ariel Henry, had yet to be sworn in. Both declared themselves to be the legitimate prime ministers, setting off a power struggle that threatened to further destabilize a country that had already been gripped by months of street protests over Mr. Moïse’s rule.

At least one senator had called Mr. Joseph’s move to run the country and impose a state of siege after the assassination a form of a coup.

But on Monday, the minister for elections, Mathias Pierre, said in a text message that Mr. Joseph would step down in “favor of Ariel Henry.”

And the president of Haiti’s Senate, Joseph Lambert, said that pressure from American diplomats had been a major factor in the reshuffling of new Haiti’s leadership.

“Haiti has become a baseball,” he said, “being thrown between foreign diplomats.” The political standoff in the wake of the assassination was made all the more complicated by the fact that many of the nation’s democratic institutions had been hollowed out during Mr. Moïse’s time in office.

The so-called Core Group of powerful foreign governments and international organizations that exercise great influence in Haiti — including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the European Union, the United States, France, Spain, Canada, Germany and Brazil — called on Saturday for the formation of a “consensual and inclusive” government.

 

July 19

Top Headlines


Trump Riot, Rallies, Bans

 

Spyware Scandals, Media

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Media, Education

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats, Republicans struggle to finish infrastructure proposal as key Senate deadline looms, Tony Romm, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). Despite months of haggling, lawmakers are slated to return to the Capitol on Monday in the same political position in which they departed last week.

President Biden’s economic agenda is set to face a major test on Capitol Hill this week, as the Senate barrels toward an early vote on a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve the nation’s infrastructure even though negotiators still haven’t agreed on key details.

Despite months of frenetic talks, lawmakers are slated to return to the Capitol on Monday in the same political position in which they departed last week: They broadly support new spending to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections, yet remain plagued by schisms over how to finance the still-forming package.

Seeking to keep their coalition of about two dozen Democrats and Republicans intact, congressional negotiators in recent days said they opted to eliminate one of the key elements that financed their initial infrastructure blueprint. Senators had hoped to raise about $100 billion by empowering the Internal Revenue Service to pursue unpaid federal taxes, but Republicans balked at the idea out of a concern it would give the tax-collection agency too much power to scrutinize families’ and corporations’ finances.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The Ascension of Ron Klain, Mark Leibovich, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s chief of staff is viewed as the essential conductor of administration business. Republicans call him “Prime Minister Klain.”

ron klain headshotMr. Klain, right, is an unquestioned man to see in the current White House, the most influential chief of staff of recent vintage and a marked departure from the four battered and marginalized short-timers who held the position under President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Klain, who was the chief of staff for Vice Presidents Biden and Al Gore, is viewed in and out of the West Wing as the essential conductor of administration business, a surrogate for the president and — in the mischievous portrayal of opponents — an all-powerful, unelected orchestrator of an ultraliberal agenda.

washington post logoWashington Post, Siege of lightning, new wildfires feared amid heat wave in West, Diana Leonard, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). An elevated fire threat stretches from California’s coast into northern Montana through Tuesday because of possible dry lightning and the ignition of new blazes.

The West is facing a new and serious fire threat as temperatures heat up again and moisture from the Southwest monsoon surges northward, triggering thunderstorms that unleash lightning but little rain. The dry lightning presents a heightened risk of new wildfires igniting between Sunday and Tuesday across a broad swath of the West, stretching from the California coast into northern Montana.

The fire threat is emerging as a heat wave builds over the northern Rockies and southern Canada, where scores of blazes are already active. The tinderbox conditions from the hot and dry weather, combined with possible dry lightning strikes, could result in a dangerous proliferation in fire activity.

This is a “multiday, multi-region classic monsoon-burst ignition event,” said Brent Wachter, a fire meteorologist in Redding, Calif., with the Predictive Services arm of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).

Already, 70 large blazes are burning across a dozen states, according to the NIFC. On Thursday, it raised the national preparedness level to 5, the highest, based on the amount of wildfire activity and need for firefighting resources.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unruly airplane passengers are straining the system for keeping peace in the sky, Michael Laris and Lori Aratani, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). A rise in confrontations is linked to alcohol, disputes over mask mandates and many of the same pathologies of life on the ground.

The system for keeping the peace in America’s skies is creaking under the pressure of what airlines and regulators say is an unprecedented proliferation of misbehavior.

The Federal Aviation Administration has received more than 3,400 reports of “unruly” passengers this year. But despite launching a “zero-tolerance” enforcement policy in January — amid a rise in conflicts often tied to mask requirements in the air — the agency said that as of mid-July it had “completely closed” just seven cases.

The sprawling, multitiered system for enforcing regulations and federal laws covering passengers can take years to play out. As travel rebounds, that structure is being strained by confrontations fueled by alcohol, hostility to mask mandates and small conflicts that careen out of control. One passenger hit a woman holding an infant amid an apparent dispute over a window shade. Another ran through business class and stomped on a flight attendant’s foot after the power outlet at her seat wouldn’t charge her phone, according to court records.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: A federal appeals court decision on handguns opens the door to more violence, Editorial Board, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). A federal appeals court panel has given a thumbs-up to licensed handgun sales for a cohort of individuals, aged 18 to 20, who are vastly more likely to use them to commit murder than older adults. In doing so, it shrugged off public safety concerns and brushed aside the legislative prerogatives of Congress, which mandated a legal age of 21 to purchase handguns from licensed dealers more than a half-century ago.

That act of judicial arrogance, if affirmed on appeal, would likely accelerate the current spike in homicides, many of them committed with handguns by individuals under the age of 21. And it comes as Americans are embarked on a record-setting gun-buying spree, which began during the pandemic and shows no sign of waning.

The split decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit also ignored the Supreme Court’s own decision in the landmark Heller case, from 2008. While the court overturned the District of Columbia’s restrictions on handguns in private homes, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, stressed that laws limiting firearms possession, for example by people deemed dangerous or “in sensitive places such as schools,” are legitimate for public safety.

That distinction was lost in the 4th Circuit’s 2-to-1 ruling, which declared, “We refuse to relegate either the Second Amendment or 18-to-20-year-olds to second-class status.”

 

Trump Rallies, Claims, Probes, Riot

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Trump Has Found a Way to Circumvent His Twitter Ban — and Twitter Has Done Nothing About It, Seth Abramson, July 18-19, seth abramson graphic2021. A few weeks ago, Trump initiated a craven scheme that effectively undid his Twitter ban. But most Americans don't yet realize twitter bird Customthat the domestic terror leader again has access to millions via Twitter.

Introduction: On June 18, CNN reported that Donald Trump had hired former Republican National Committee spokeswoman Liz Harrington to replace Jason Miller as his spokesperson.

 

Spyware Scandals

washington post logoWashington Post, Pegasus Project Investigation: Jamal Khashoggi’s wife targeted with spyware before his death, Dana Priest, Souad Mekhennet and Arthur Bouvart, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was used to secretly target the smartphones of the two women closest to murdered Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to digital forensic analysis.

The Android phone of his wife, Hanan Elatr, was targeted by a Pegasus user six months before his killing, but the analysis could not determine whether the hack was successful. The iPhone of his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, was penetrated by spyware days after the murder, the forensics showed.

Their cellphone numbers appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to spy on their citizens and also known to have been NSO clients.

Another of Khashoggi’s close associates was successfully hacked after the journalist’s murder. Two other associates and two senior Turkish officials involved in his homicide investigation appear on the list.

NSO executives have asserted that its spyware was not used to monitor Khashoggi or his family.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key takeaways from the Pegasus Project, Staff Report, July 19, 2021. Military-grade spyware leased by the Israeli firm NSO Group to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and the two women closest to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners led by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories.

Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, a human rights group, had access to a list of more than 50,000 numbers and shared it with the news organizations, which did further research and analysis. Amnesty’s Security Lab did forensic examination of the phones.

Wayne Madsen Report, Pegasus and NSO at center of sweeping and dangerous Mossad surveillance operation, Wayne Madsen, left, July 19, 2021. A joint wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallreport by several media organizations around the world and Amnesty International has revealed that the Israeli intelligence-linked NSO Group has provided an invasive smart phone tracking software known as Pegasus to some of the world's most brutal regimes to spy on wayne madesen report logojournalists, politicians, human rights advocates.

The conclusions about NSO Group and Pegasus provide addition proof that Israel's intentions are predominantly malign in the area of intelligence and security operations.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 186 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 19, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 161.2 million people (48.6 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56 % with at least one dose.

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

World Cases: 191,322,425, Deaths: 4,108,240
U.S. Cases:     34,963,907, Deaths:     624,746
India Cases:    31,144,229, Deaths:     414,141
Brazil Cases:   19,376,574, Deaths:     542,262

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuits challenge D.C. law allowing kids to get vaccines without parental permission, Justin Wm. Moyer and Julie Zauzmer, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). Two lawsuits filed in D.C. federal court this month challenged a city law passed last year that allows minors to be vaccinated without their parents’ knowledge, saying the legislation violates religious liberty.

The litigation comes as health officials across the country debate how much information minors should be given about vaccines, with at least one state seeking to limit teenagers’ access to shots that would protect them from covid-19 and other illnesses.

In October, the District passed the Minor Consent to Vaccinations Amendments Act, which allows children as young as 11 to get vaccines without their parents’ knowledge if a doctor determines that they are capable of informed consent.

The law was passed before coronavirus vaccines became available and was meant to allow teenagers to get shots such as the HPV vaccine, which protects against a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cancer, and the meningitis vaccine, which is recommended for teens.

On Monday, four parents of children who attend or planned to enroll at D.C. public and charter schools sued Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and other public officials, saying the law “subverts the right and duty of parents to make informed decisions about whether their children should receive vaccinations.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, cited parents’ religious objections to coronavirus vaccines and other immunizations. It said the law violates their religious liberty and “their fundamental right to direct the care and upbringing of their children.”

robert f kennedy jr gage skidmoreJessie Hill, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who has written on children’s legal rights to make some medical decisions for themselves, said that if the D.C. cases make it to court, they might pose novel questions on whether parents can impose their religious beliefs on children who disagree.

The lawsuit, which asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional and stop the city from enforcing it, was brought by Children’s Health Defense, an organization run by anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., right, who has supported debunked vaccine conspiracy theories and is listed as an attorney on the complaint.

The suit followed another, also filed in D.C. federal court, by a Maryland man who said his daughter sought a vaccine in the District without his knowledge and despite his religious objections to vaccines.

Children’s independent access to vaccines varies widely by state. Some states allow minors to get vaccinated without parental consent only when they are seeking the HPV vaccine, not other immunizations recommended for their age. Some states allow youths to make independent medical decisions at certain ages, such as 16 and up, but not as young as the District’s law.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republican mendacity and the education of Joe Manchin, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 19, 2021. On one level, the plethora of new books documenting the post-election months of jennifer rubin new headshotthe previous administration simply confirms that the 45th president was unhinged, deluded and unmoored to any concern for democracy.

In refusing to impeach him after the Jan. 6 insurrection, perpetuating the “big lie” of a stolen election, playing down the violent attack and refusing to investigate it through a bipartisan commission, Republicans have paved the way for future violence should the MAGA crowd not like the next election. Their utter refusal even now to act in the country’s interest should remove any doubt that whatever parliamentary rules and norms were designed for a system with two decent, pro-democracy parties are entirely inapposite when confronting the current GOP. Rep. Liz Cheney’s retort to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) during the insurrection (“You f------ did this”) is applicable to her entire party.

And that brings us to the current bizarrely off-kilter national conversation about the filibuster. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) would have us disregard all of this history. Oh, reasonable Republicans can still be found! Oh, the Senate can still operate with a 60-vote threshold. This is the way it’s always been. No, no and no.

We know there is no reasonable measure to protect democracy (e.g., election reform, a Jan. 6 commission) that Republicans would accept. And we know they harbor not a shadow of a doubt that they will continue to follow the authoritarian nut that brought the nation to this point. So of course a requirement for 60 votes will not work when one party continues to imperil democracy.

While Biden (who has known Manchin for years) might be lying low for now so as not to make the West Virginia senator even more intractable, the president must let Manchin know that the filibuster cannot take precedence over voting rights. If Biden believes the preservation of democracy is the test of his presidency, he is obligated to signal to his West Virginia friend at least in private: “If we cannot get 10 Republicans for your own slimmed-down voting reform bill (including minimum standards for audits to protect election integrity), we will do what it takes to pass voting protection. We will work around the filibuster.”

If that is not the case, both Biden and Manchin will bear the consequences of their refusal to act, including the collapse of reliable, accepted election outcomes and the permanent phenomenon of post-election violence. That, by Biden’s own telling, would be utterly unacceptable.

washington post logoWashington Post, 2020 presidential polls suffered worst performance in decades, report says, Dan Balz, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). A polling industry task force cited problems and possible reasons for the “unusual magnitude” of error, but it stopped short of definitive conclusions on how to fix what went wrong.

Public opinion polls in the 2020 presidential election suffered from errors of “unusual magnitude,” the highest in 40 years for surveys estimating the national popular vote and in at least 20 years for state-level polls, according to a study conducted by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe AAPOR task force examined 2,858 polls, including 529 national presidential race polls and 1,572 state-level presidential polls. They found that the surveys overstated the margin between President Biden and former president Donald Trump by 3.9 points in the national popular vote and 4.3 percentage points in state polls.

Polls understated the support for Trump in nearly every state and by an average of 3.3 percentage points overall. Polls in Senate and gubernatorial races suffered from the same problem.

washington post logoWashington Post, Minn. state Rep. John Thompson faces calls to resign over allegations of domestic violence, indecent exposure, Julian Mark, July 19, 2021. Minnesota state Rep. John Thompson (D) launched his political career after a police officer shot and killed his friend Philando Castile during a July 2016 traffic stop. Thompson pledged to reform policing in the state and was elected this past November.

Now, less than a year later, state Republican and Democratic officials, including Gov. Tim Walz (D), are calling for Thompson’s ouster after his own recent traffic stop led to new revelations about his past. Since the stop, police reports have surfaced showing that, years ago, Thompson was accused of choking and hitting a girlfriend on multiple occasions and once exposing his genitals to a couple of democratic donkey logowomen while children were present.

Neither Thompson nor his lawyer responded to a request for comment late on Sunday. But in a statement posted to Facebook earlier in the day, Thompson’s lawyer, Jordan Kushner, said that Thompson “challenges the authenticity” of the police reports and said he believed law enforcement groups provided the documents to news outlets as a part of a long-running “smear campaign.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Inspired by Texas Dems, Lindsey Graham urges Republicans to ‘leave town’ to stop $3.5 trillion budget package, Katie Shepherd, July 19, 2021. In a ploy to hamper Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham on Sunday proposed his fellow Republican senators follow the example of the Democratic Texas lawmakers who left their state to stop legislation that would have restricted voting rights.

“You got to have a quorum to pass a bill in the Senate. I would leave before I let that happen,” the South Carolina Republican, left, said in an interview on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “To my Republican colleagues, we may learn something from our Democratic friends in Texas when it comes to avoiding a $3.5 trillion tax and spend package: Leave town.”

Despite Graham’s conviction that he would be willing to skip town to stop the budget package — which he described as “a tax and spend dream of the socialist left” — the plan would probably not work. Senate rules only require 51 members to be present to meet quorum, so if just one Republican showed up at the U.S. Capitol, the strategy would fail.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: What China Expects From Businesses: Total Surrender, Li Yuan, July 19, 2021. Unlike regulators in Europe and the U.S., the country is using the guise of antitrust to align tech titans with its priorities, our columnist writes.

China’s Big Tech wields as much power as the American tech giants in the national economy. Like their American counterparts, the Chinese companies have appeared to engage in anticompetitive practices that hurt consumers, merchants and smaller businesses. That deserves scrutiny and regulation to prevent any abuse of power.

But it’s important to keep in mind that the Chinese tech companies operate in a country ruled by an increasingly autocratic government that demands the private sector surrender with absolute loyalty. So unlike the antitrust campaigns that European and American officials are pursuing in their regions, China is using the guise of antitrust to cement the Communist Party’s monopoly of power, with private enterprises likely to lose what’s left of their independence and become a mere appendage of the state.

washington post logoJapan FlagWashington Post, Two Americans sentenced to prison for helping ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn flee Japan, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, July 19, 2021. Michael Taylor, 60, and his son Peter, 28, had pleaded guilty last month to helping Ghosn escape while awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct. Michael Taylor received a two-year sentence, and Peter Taylor received one year and eight months.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: South Africa’s riots are a warning to the world, Ishaan Tharoor, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). The recent riots in the country’s two most populous provinces reflect, in many aspects, a uniquely South African tragedy. But lurking within the scenes of looting and violence, which saw at south africa flag after 1994least 212 people killed amid the worst unrest since the end of apartheid in 1994, is a broader global parable.

What happened in South Africa is what happens when the gross inequality that shapes a whole society boils over. And it’s also what happens when a major political faction and influential leader prioritize their own interests over the integrity of their country’s democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia deports far-right British commentator who boasted about breaking quarantine rules, Rachel Pannett and Bryan Pietsch, July 19, 2021. Australia deported a British conservative commentator after she boasted on social media about appearing naked and maskless in hotel quarantine, in breach of the country’s strict rules, authorities said Monday.

Katie Hopkins, a 46-year-old media personality, was fined 1,000 Australian dollars (about $740) and escorted by police to the Sydney airport, where she boarded an afternoon flight bound for Britain after her visa was canceled by the government.

Her efforts to flout Australia’s strict quarantine regime struck a raw nerve in a country where some 11 million residents are in lockdown to curb outbreaks of the delta variant of the coronavirus. Tens of thousands of citizens are stranded abroad, because authorities have capped the number of international arrivals to relieve pressure on the hotel quarantine system, which requires anyone who enters the country to spend two weeks in a hotel at their own expense.

Hopkins had come to Australia for the reality television show “Big Brother VIP.” Australia is officially closed to everyone but citizens, residents and their immediate family. But exceptions are made for some foreigners, including sports teams and celebrities, deemed to be making an important economic contribution.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Media, Education 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: As the Press Weakens, So Does Democracy, Charles M. Blow, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). I came to The New York Times in 1992, 29 years ago this summer, as the first intern in its graphics department. I arrived in Manhattan, a little Black boy from a hick town in Louisiana, and it blew my mind.

charles blow customIn those first months I saw how one of the best newsrooms in the country covered some of the biggest stories of the era, and it shaped me as a journalist and in my reverence for the invaluable role journalists play in society.

Newsroom employment was at a high, and throughout the 1990s, and even into the early 2000s, a slight majority of Americans still had a great deal or fair amount of trust in the news media to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly,” according to Gallup.

Since 2004, the United States has lost one-fourth — 2,100 — of its newspapers. This includes 70 dailies and more than 2,000 weeklies or nondailies.

At the end of 2019, the United States had 6,700 newspapers, down from almost 9,000 in 2004.

Today, more than 200 of the nation’s 3,143 counties and equivalents have no newspaper and no alternative source of credible and comprehensive information on critical issues. Half of the counties have only one newspaper, and two-thirds do not have a daily newspaper.

Many communities that lost newspapers were the most vulnerable — struggling economically and isolated.

The news industry is truly struggling, but the public is oblivious to this. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2018 found that “most Americans think their local news media are doing just fine financially.

I share all that to say this: Democracies cannot survive without a common set of facts and a vibrant press to ferret them out and present them. Our democracy is in terrible danger. The only way that lies can flourish as they now do is because the press has been diminished in both scale and stature. Lies advance when truth is in retreat.

leon black jeffrey epstein

Leon Black, left, CEO and co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (file photos).

Daily Beast, Epstein Pal Fires Back at Accuser With Wild Extortion Claim, Kate Briquelet, July 19, 2021. Leon Black offers details of an affair, but says the Russian model who has accused him of rape made off with millions in an elaborate scheme.

Billionaire Leon Black is fighting back against a former model’s sexual abuse allegations, claiming he was the victim of an “extortion” scheme and that his accuser “professed her love and appreciation” for him “while regularly extracting millions of dollars” for her own rent, furniture, tuition, vacations, and more.

daily beast logoIn June, Guzel Ganieva filed a lawsuit claiming Black—perhaps best known lately as a former friend to Jeffrey Epstein and for his ties to the Museum of Modern Art—coerced her into signing a nondisclosure agreement to stay silent about his years of “sexual violence” toward her. The 69-year-old private-equity mogul, in response, released a statement indicating he “foolishly had a consensual affair” with Ganieva, and his spokesman told the media that her complaint was “nothing more than a wholesale fiction.”

Now, in a 52-page answer and counterclaim filed Monday, Black alleges he has “irrefutable documentary evidence” that shows Ganieva, 38, “embarked on a campaign of extortion” to get more funds from him in 2015, after the relationship ended.

The court document also indicates Black is working to uncover whether Ganieva “is acting alone or is working in concert with” others in bringing her complaint.

“In short, Mr. Black is guilty only of extremely poor judgment in entering into an affair with Ganieva in the first instance, in making an easy target of himself throughout their relationship by lavishing her with gifts and money, and in allowing himself to be extorted rather than immediately reporting Ganieva to law enforcement,” Black’s court filing states.

“Ganieva, on the other hand, must be held to account,” the pleading continues. “In her defamatory Twitter posts, Ganieva purports to invoke ‘#MeToo,’ and claims to have come forward to protect ‘other women.’ In reality, her demonstrable lies and extortion are cynical attempts to weaponize a critically important and long-overdue movement. In so doing, Ganieva has done a tragic disservice to the brave truth-tellers—the vast majority of accusers—who have survived sexual abuse.

“This lawsuit will reveal who Ms. Ganieva really is; what truly motivated this hit job; and whether she is acting alone or is working in concert with, or at the behest of, a third party who might wish Mr. Black ill.”

Black is countersuing Ganieva for breach of contract, as well as defamation, relating to posts to her Twitter account in March 2021 and an interview with the New York Post. The billionaire investor is seeking damages and attorneys’ fees.

In a statement, Jeanne Christensen, a partner at the firm Wigdor LLP who is representing Ganieva, told The Daily Beast, “Right out of the defense playbook, Black’s counter-claims are an obvious effort at intimidating Ms. Ganieva, who will continue to aggressively litigate her claims and hold Black accountable for his heinous conduct.”

“As he admits in [the countersuit], Black ceased paying her in March 2021 after she posted her Tweet,” Christensen said in a phone call. “Is that how an extortionist extraordinaire operates? It is the antithesis of everything he claims she plotted to do for years.”

Christensen added that Black still hasn’t provided Ganieva or her lawyers with a full copy of an alleged confidentiality agreement cited in his filing—and noted that Black’s legal team didn’t attach it to his counterclaim to prove a breach of contract.

 

July 18

Top Headlines

 

Disasters, Climate Change

 

Trump Rallies, Claims, Probes, Riot

 

U.S. Law, Courts

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News

 

World Media News

 

Top Stories

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, As immigration heats up, Biden struggles for a clear plan, Nick Miroff and Sean Sullivan, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). The White House is pursuing what even some allies regard as a muddled strategy. But after the previous administration's scorched-earth tactics, President Biden has few appealing options.

joe biden kamala harrisThe huge increase in illegal border crossings that President Biden described as “seasonal” is growing larger despite the summer heat. Americans rate his handling of immigration poorly, polls show. And the president himself worries that Republican attacks on the issue will resonate politically, according to people familiar with his thinking.

When President Barack Obama faced a similar situation, he toughened enforcement, detained families and increased deportations. But under Biden, such measures have become anathema to Democrats who feel they were badly abused by President Donald Trump.

That leaves Biden in a vise, caught between the costly reality of a historic border influx and supporters who erupt in anger when his administration hints at tighter controls.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide, Dana Priest, Craig Timberg and Souad Mekhenne, July 18, 2021. Military-grade spyware licensed by an Israeli firm to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners.

israel flagThe phones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of the Israeli firm, NSO Group, a worldwide leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry, the investigation found.

The list does not identify who put the numbers on it, or why, and it is unknown how many of the phones were targeted or surveilled. But forensic analysis of the 37 smartphones shows that many display a tight correlation between time stamps associated with a number on the list and the initiation of surveillance, in some cases as brief as a few seconds.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disease experts see summer of covid freedom as premature, Joel Achenbach, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). Scientists and public health officials fear that the world’s protracted battle against the coronavirus is at a delicate and dangerous moment. “The world needs a reality check,” one epidemiologist said.

Coronavirus infections are surging in places with low vaccination rates. SARS-CoV-2 is continuing to mutate. Researchers have confirmed the delta variant is far more transmissible than earlier strains. Although the vaccines remain remarkably effective, the virus has bountiful opportunities to find new ways to evade immunity. Most of the world remains unvaccinated.

And so the end of the pandemic remains somewhere over the horizon.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook hit back at President Biden’s criticism of social media for spreading vaccine misinformation, Cecilia Kang, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). Facebook pushed back on Saturday against the Biden administration’s denouncing of the social media giant for spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines, escalating tensions between the Silicon Valley company and the White House.

facebook logoIn a blog post, Facebook called for the administration to stop “finger-pointing” and laid out what it had done to encourage users to get vaccinated. The social network also detailed how it had clamped down on lies about the vaccines, which officials have said led people to refuse to be vaccinated.

“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said in the post. “The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased.”

Mr. Rosen added that the company’s data showed that 85 percent of its users in the United States had been or wanted to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. While President Biden had set a goal of getting 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4, which the White House fell short of, “Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed,” Mr. Rosen said.

Facebook’s response follows a forceful condemnation of the company by Mr. Biden. When asked on Friday about the role of social media in influencing vaccinations, Mr. Biden declared in unusually strong language that the platforms were “killing people.”

“Look,” he added, “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that — and they’re killing people.”

Other White House officials have also become increasingly vocal about how social media has amplified vaccine lies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden is right. Purveyors of vaccine disinformation are killing people, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 18, 2021. President Biden hit the nail on jennifer rubin new headshotthe head Friday in response to a question about platforms such as Facebook that amplify scientifically false anti-vaccines claims, and deter people from getting lifesaving shots. “They’re killing people,” he said. “I mean they really, look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that’s — they’re killing people.”

One can quibble over whether Facebook or a mendacious Fox News host actually affects an individual’s decision to avoid vaccination, but it is hard to deny they can reinforce life-threatening behavior. (Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.)

Once more playing the right-wing gotcha game, Fox News’s Peter Doocy on Friday, ostensibly in response to a comment made by White House press secretary Jen Psaki about the handful of people on Facebook who promote most anti-vaccine content on the platform, demanded to know why the White House is spying on people’s social media profiles. That was a ridiculous, demonstrably false assertion. Perhaps if Fox News personnel paid attention to credible news accounts, they would be less inclined to make such wild accusations.

NPR, for example, reported: “Researchers have found just 12 people are responsible for the bulk of the misleading claims and outright lies about COVID-19 vaccines that proliferate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.” The report cited Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, who told NPR: “The ‘Disinformation Dozen’ produce 65% of the shares of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.” This is not the government “spying” on people or suppressing free speech. This is the administration reiterating independent research based on information in the public domain.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Merrick Garland Needs to Show He Knows What Jan. 6 Was Really About, Donald Ayer, Danielle Brian and Norman Eisen, July 18, 2021. Mr. Ayer was a deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration. Ms. Brian is the executive director of the Project On Government Oversight. Mr. Eisen served as special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the first Trump impeachment.

mo brooks oWhen Mo Brooks, left, took his oath of office as a U.S. representative, he swore to support and defend the Constitution. His official duties certainly don’t include what Mr. Brooks is accused of doing in a civil lawsuit pending in Washington federal court: helping to incite a mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6.

merrick garlandRepresentative Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat, sued Mr. Brooks, an Alabama Republican, and others for damages suffered as a result of their roles in the Capitol riot. Mr. Brooks has asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to certify that his actions on Jan. 6 were those of a government employee acting within the scope of his employment. The Justice Department must say if it will defend Mr. Brooks by July 27.

If the attorney general were to certify and the court agreed, Mr. Brooks would be dismissed from the lawsuit under a federal statute. The United States would be substituted as a defendant instead.

Mr. Garland’s choice is important in its own right, but it also carries ramifications for cases targeting possible official wrongdoing in the Trump era, including by the former president himself. Mr. Garland should emphatically reject Mr. Brooks’s request to make this certification, because our nation deserves a full accounting for those involved in the storming of the Capitol and any other assaults on our democracy.

Justice Department log circularThe case arises from Mr. Brooks’s appearance at the “Save America” rally in Washington on Jan. 6. All Americans are entitled to petition their government under the Constitution.But in our view, Mr. Brooks’s instructions went beyond these protections. He urged the assembled crowd to “fight for America” and “stop” at the Capitol, where the electoral transition would take place.

“Today the curtain will be pulled back and American patriots will learn by their votes which Republican senators and congressmen have the courage to fight for America,” Mr. Brooks said. “Today Republican senators and congressmen will either vote to turn America into a godless, amoral, dictatorial, oppressed and socialist nation on the decline or they will join us and they will fight and vote against voter fraud and election theft and vote for keeping America great.” He added, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” (In response to the suit, Mr. Brooks said he was talking in his speech about the 2022 and 2024 elections.)

We all know what happened next.

Determining when arguably wrongful conduct by a federal employee nonetheless occurred within the scope of his or her employment duties often involves a difficult exercise of judgment. The issue is not whether the employee committed a wrongful act — bad things can happen on the job. At the same time, not everything an employee does is within the scope of his job.

The Constitution and laws of the United States are not, as Justice Robert Jackson once warned, a suicide pact. Certification that Mr. Brooks acted within the scope of his job would leave the United States government defending the right of its elected representatives to foment insurrection against itself.

The decision before the Justice Department could also have an impact on other cases, including those against Mr. Trump. He, too, is a defendant in Representative Swalwell’s suit over his incitement at the same rally. If Mr. Brooks is immunized, how long before Mr. Trump seeks the same? There is also the Georgia criminal investigation of Mr. Trump’s efforts to have state officials “find 11,780 votes.” He surely would point to any precedent Mr. Garland set here to argue that that was official, too. Who knows what other yet-to-be revealed conduct would be swept within this new safe harbor for wrongdoing?

Our future depends on our resolve in adhering to our basic democratic values — among them, that truth is a key to the functioning of our electoral system. And that demands that Attorney General Garland unequivocally reject any notion that a congressman is doing his job when he foments a riot based on lies in order to sabotage a legitimate national electoral process.

 

Disasters, Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, Floodwaters Ebb in Europe; Death Toll Nears 160, Staff Reports, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). The figure is expected to rise. Firefighters and soldiers have begun clearing debris and unclogging roads. Extreme downpours like the ones that hit Germany are one of european union logo rectanglethe most visible signs that the climate is changing as a result of global warming.

After days of rain and flooding made worse by climate change, firefighters and soldiers began clearing debris and unclogging roads. Electricity and telephone services remained inaccessible in parts of Germany.

  • New evacuations are ordered in Germany, even as other residents return home after the floods.
  • Angela Merkel plans to visit the flood zone on Sunday.
  • The village of Müsch lost its power, running water and cellphone coverage. Then it lost its bridge.
  • german flagIn pictures: Cleaning up the wreckage.
  • Here’s what we know about the climate connection.
  • Flood-reduction measures in the Netherlands appear to have lessened the potential damage.

washington post logoWashington Post, As the Bootleg Fire burns, locals are faced with the realities of climate change — and remain skeptical, Joshua Partlow, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). In a row of small conservative towns, the flames are unlike anything they’ve seen before. Instead of concerns over global warming, though, there is blame directed at environmentalists, marijuana farmers and potential looters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Canada’s farmers brace for new heat wave as scorching summer leaves cherries roasting on trees, Caroline Anders, Updated July 18, 2021.  As devastating heat waves sweep swaths of the globe, farmers in Canada are facing a crippling phenomenon: Crops are baking in fields.

canadian flagCherries have roasted on trees. Fields of canola and wheat have withered brown. And as feed and safe water for animals grow scarce, ranchers may have no choice but to sell off their livestock. “It will totally upend Canadian food production if this becomes a regular thing,” said Lenore Newman, director of the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

A heat dome roasted Canada in late June, leading to hundreds of “sudden and unexpected” deaths, according to officials, and sparkedfear among Canadian farmers and climate experts. A village in British Columbia claimed the nation’s highest recorded temperature, clocking in just shy of 115 degrees. This weekend, another scorching wave is expected to return to the nation.

 

Trump Rallies, Claims, Probes, Riot

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: To Trump’s hard-core supporters, his rallies weren’t politics. They were life, Michael C. Bender (a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the author of “Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost,” from which this article is adapted), July 18, 2021 (print ed.). What 2020 looked like from the front row on the campaign trail.

They were mostly older White men and women who lived paycheck to paycheck with plenty of time on their hands — retired or close to it, estranged from their families or otherwise without children — and Trump had, in a surprising way, made their lives richer. The president himself almost always spent the night in his own bed and kept few close friends. But his rallies gave the Joes a reason to travel the country, staying at one another’s homes, sharing hotel rooms and carpooling. Two had married — and later divorced — by Trump’s second year in office.

In Trump, they’d found someone whose endless thirst for a fight encouraged them to speak up for themselves, not just in politics but also in relationships and at work. His rallies turned arenas into modern-day tent revivals, where the preacher and the parishioners engaged in an adrenaline-fueled psychic cleansing brought on by chanting and cheering with 15,000 other like-minded loyalists. Saundra Kiczenski, a 56-year-old from Michigan, compared the energy at a Trump rally to the feelings she had as a teenager in 1980 watching the “Miracle on Ice” — when the U.S. Olympic hockey team unexpectedly beat the Soviet Union.

“The whole place is erupting, everyone is screaming, and your heart is beating like, just, oh my God,” Kiczenski told me. “It’s like nothing I’ve experienced in my lifetime.”

donald trump jr gage skidmore CustomPalmer Report, Opinion: The unraveling of Donald Trump Jr is reaching a particularly dangerous level, Bill Palmer, right, July 18, 2021. The fallout from the Trump bill palmerOrganization criminal indictment thus far has been incremental in some instances, but it’s definitely underway. Allen Weisselberg has “resigned” from the trust that controls the Trump Organization, meaning he’s either trying to distance himself from Trump, or Trump is trying to distance himself from Weisselberg. But the real movement thus far in terms of fallout may be with Donald Trump Jr. (shown above in a file photo by Gage Skidmore).

The removal of Weisselberg from the Trump Organization trust has actually served to elevate Donald Trump Jr’s position of control over the company. That’s not good particularly good timing, given how badly Junior has been unraveling lately.

bill palmer report logo headerMost of you have seen the recent videos released by Donald Trump Jr, in which he’s come off as increasingly erratic, jittery, incoherent, and paranoid. Well, maybe he’s not being paranoid, given that he probably is going to end up criminally indicted in all this. But now Junior is taking things in an even uglier direction.

Earlier this week Donald Trump Jr suggested that God must have a sense of humor after lightning destroyed a memorial for murder victim George Floyd. Then yesterday Donald Trump Jr suggested that God must have a sense of humor after three Texas Democrats tested positive for COVID, a deadly disaster.

Donald Trump Jr has reached the point where he’s not only openly rooting for harm to come to anyone he perceives as not siding with the Trump family, he’s convinced that God is somehow carrying out revenge on behalf of the Trump family. This is a particularly dangerous and disturbing line of thinking, for a number of obvious reasons. This guy is unraveling by the day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Excerpt: Behind the scenes on Jan. 6: Delay at the Pentagon, resistance in the Oval Office as Ivanka Trump, advisers pleaded with Trump (Part II), Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, July 16, 2021. Part two of an excerpt from I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year. Rucker and Leonnig will discuss this book during a Washington Post Live event on July 20.

carol leonnig philip rucker trump2 coverAs the sun rose over Washington on Jan. 6, electricity hung in the air. The big day had come.

Thousands of President Trump’s supporters began gathering on the Ellipse to stake out a good spot from which to see the president, who was scheduled to address the “Save America” rally around noon. Organizers had obtained a federal permit for 30,000 people, but it looked as if the crowd would be even larger than that. Thousands more prepared to make their way toward the Capitol to protest the certification of Joe Biden’s election.

At the White House, Trump set the tone for the day with an 8:17 a.m. tweet: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Two Fla. police officers charged in new Proud Boys indictment in Capitol riot, Spencer S. Hsu, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). The indictments of a father and son — former and current police officers — bring the number of off-duty law enforcement officers charged in the Capitol mob to at least 20

A father and son, who are current and former Florida police officers, and a North Carolina man have been charged with joining alleged Proud Boys members in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots, according to a new, five co-defendant indictment unsealed in Washington on Friday.

Kevin “Tito” Tuck, 51, and Nathaniel A. Tuck, 29, of central Florida were arrested and released on $25,000 unsecured bond Thursday by a U.S. magistrate judge in Tampa, court records show.

Edward George Jr. was also arrested Thursday and was scheduled to appear in federal court Friday in Raleigh, according to court records.

The charges bring the number of off-duty law enforcement officers charged in the Capitol mob to at least 20, and the defendants’ ties to several central Florida police agencies highlight the continued pressure on sheriffs and police chiefs nationwide to scrub their ranks of members with links to white supremacist and far-right armed groups.

 

U.S. Law, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Nobody Believed Me’: Promise of the Me Too Movement Fades to Frustration, Jan Ransom, July 18, 2021. Increased awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault led to hope that the accused would be more frequently held accountable. But in New York City, statistics and personal accounts suggest not much is different about the way the justice system grapples with rape accusation

Cammy Duong woke up in a Manhattan hotel room in July 2017 and, dazed, called a friend she was supposed to meet later that morning: “I think I was raped,” she said, crying.

The police investigation lasted months. But when the case reached the Manhattan district attorney’s office, prosecutors quickly declined to bring charges, records show. It would be seven more months before Ms. Duong got an explanation.

The Me Too movement led to heightened awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault, an increase in reports to police, and a new hope that people accused would be more frequently held accountable. But in New York City, statistics and the accounts of women who say they were attacked suggest that little has changed about the way the criminal justice system grapples with rape accusations.

Most New York City prosecutors’ offices rejected a greater percentage of sex crime cases in 2019, the last year for which reliable data is available, than they did roughly a decade earlier, before the case against Harvey Weinstein touched off a national reckoning.

In the Manhattan district attorney’s office, prosecutors dropped 49 percent of sexual assault cases in 2019 — among the highest rate in the city, and an increase from 37 percent in 2017, state data shows. Only the Bronx rejected a greater percentage of cases. The data excludes most sex crimes against children, and certain nonviolent offenses like stalking.

The low prosecution rate partly reflects the inherent challenges of prosecuting sexual assault, particularly cases like Ms. Duong’s, in which the attacker is not a stranger and alcohol is involved. For cases that are not dropped, conviction rates for sexual assault cases are typically much lower than for other violent crimes: 44 percent in Manhattan in 2019, compared with 79 percent for first-degree murder.

“There aren’t really any third-party witnesses to these things,” said Carl Bornstein, a former state and federal prosecutor who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “This is tough sledding. The prosecutor has to assess: is this going to hold up under the scrutiny of 12 people?”

But some who study the matter believe the high drop rate also reflects prosecutors’ unwillingness to tackle those challenges. The issue became a focus of the race to succeed the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who did not run for re-election.

Mr. Vance, who heads one of the largest and most prominent district attorney offices in the country, has faced harsh criticism over his office’s handling of sex crimes, including the 2015 investigation into Mr. Weinstein, the former Hollywood producer who was convicted last year of rape and sexual assault, and the no-jail plea deal in 2016 for a Columbia University gynecologist accused of molesting dozens of patients.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How the Supreme Court dominates our democracy, Nikolas Bowie (an assistant professor of law at Harvard Law School, where he teaches federal and state constitutional law and local government law). July 18, 2021 (print ed.). Judicial review gives any five justices power over the whole government. Why?

Because the Supreme Court undermined or ignored Congress’s attempts to enforce the Constitution, the racial caste system that we know as Jim Crow emerged like an invasive species. With the court’s approval, White people in the South terrorized Black voters, disenfranchised them and enacted state laws to codify their place at the bottom of a racial hierarchy.

Today, as American democracy enters a midlife crisis, the Supreme Court has often been heralded as democracy’s guardian. Decisions dating from 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education are seen by many as essential responses to the tyranny of the majority.

Yet it appears that the court has reverted to its older ways. In 2013, a justice sneered at Congress’s nearly unanimous reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, calling it the “perpetuation of a racial entitlement.” He was soon joined by four of his colleagues in the Shelby County decision, which treated a central provision of the Voting Rights Act as beyond Congress’s power to enact “appropriate” legislation. And in its Brnovich decision this month, the court stuck a second dagger into the act, calling it too “radical” to be enforced as written.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Major Supreme Court reform is unlikely. But these changes would be a good start, Daniel Epps (Treiman professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis), July 18, 2021 (print ed.). New ethics rules might prevent conflicts of interest — and it’s time to televise arguments.

Expectations that Democrats will be able to substantially reform the Supreme Court — perhaps by adding new members — have nosedived recently. Even before President Biden’s blue-ribbon Supreme Court commission met for the first time, progressives were lamenting that its generally moderate and bipartisan members were unlikely to endorse bold changes to the court’s structure. And even if they did, major reforms appear politically impossible with Democrats’ extraordinarily narrow advantage in the Senate.

So court-packing is almost certainly off the table, as most likely are term limits for justices. But that doesn’t mean Supreme Court reform is dead. Narrower changes could find bipartisan support on Biden’s commission, in Congress and perhaps even among the justices themselves. These reforms certainly wouldn’t solve the biggest problems critics see with today’s court. But they would still be worth implementing to help fix some smaller ones.

What changes might be viable? Perhaps the most likely — as the Vanderbilt law professor Ganesh Sitaraman and I argue in a recent Harvard Law Review Forum essay — is ethics reform. Although federal judges are bound by a code of ethics, no rules govern Supreme Court justices.

A related issue is transparency. The court is a famously secretive institution that has resisted measures to make its work more visible to the public. Most notably, justices have refused to televise arguments. But the justices may not be able to hold out much longer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In Texas, vigilantism replaces the rule of law, Ruth Marcus, right, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). Leave it to Texas to ruth marcus twitter Customcome up with a way to violate women’s constitutional rights with a modern twist on vigilante justice.

At least eight states have passed laws that purport to prohibit abortions early in pregnancy — so-called fetal heartbeat laws that would bar abortion as early as six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

“Purport to” is the operative phrase here, however. Because these laws are clearly unconstitutional — at least until the Supreme Court says differently — federal judges have stepped in to block them from taking effect.

texas mapNow Texas has come up with a mechanism to end-run the federal courts — or so it believes. The state’s new law bars abortion once there is a “detectable” fetal heartbeat. But it prohibits state government officials from enforcing the ban. Instead, it outsources that job to private individuals — antiabortion vigilantes — who are deputized to go to state court to sue anyone who performs a supposedly illegal abortion or “aids or abets” such a procedure.

Their reward? A bounty of at least $10,000, plus legal costs. Imagine what that might mean in Texas, the state that brought you Roe v. Wade.

This is harassment waiting to happen. Anyone opposed to abortion could sue anyone — the relatives of a woman seeking an abortion, a counselor who phones a clinic to make an appointment, any doctor or nurse involved in the procedure — anywhere in the state at any time. If the law takes effect as scheduled on Sept. 1, the ensuing risk and chaos would shut down abortion providers in the state. Which is, of course, the goal.

 

jeffrey epstein julie brown cnn screenshot

Sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, left, and Miami Herald investigative reporter and author Julie Brown, right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Reporter’s Fight to Expose Epstein’s Crimes — and Earn a Living, Michelle Goldberg, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). At a news michelle goldberg thumbconference for Jeffrey Epstein’s 2019 sex trafficking indictment, a reporter asked Geoffrey Berman, then the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, if new information had prompted his office’s inquiry. The F.B.I., after all, had investigated Epstein’s sexual predation more than a decade earlier, and the crimes in the 2019 indictment took place between 2002 and 2005. Berman revealed little about what went on inside his office, but said that his team was helped by “some excellent investigative journalism.”

He was clearly referring to Julie K. Brown’s 2018 Miami Herald series “Perversion of Justice.” Brown had delved into how prosecutors led by Alex Acosta, who would later become Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, went behind the backs of Epstein’s victims to give the pedophile financier a scandalously lenient deal.

She has now written a book with the same title, which both expands on the Epstein story and explains all that went into writing it. It’s a gripping journalistic procedural, sort of “Spotlight” meets “Erin Brockovich.” It also shows just how close Epstein came to getting away with his industrial-scale sexual exploitation.

Brown’s book, which comes out on Tuesday, is about a mind-blowing case of plutocratic corruption, full of noirish subplots that may never be fully understood.

But it’s also about the slow strangulation of local and regional newspapers. Reading it, I kept thinking of all the malfeasance likely to go unexposed as many once-formidable newspapers outside of New York and Washington either shrink or disappear altogether.

Thanks to Brown, the basic outlines of the Epstein scandal — at least the part that preceded his baffling death — are well known. As she summarizes it in her book, “A supremely wealthy money manager with political connections wrestled an incredible immunity agreement out of the federal government — despite having molested, raped and sexually abused dozens of girls.” Rather than decades in federal prison, Epstein served only 13 months — with daily work release — in a county jail, where his cell door was left unlocked and a TV was installed for his entertainment.

Because of Brown’s reporting, Epstein seemed on the verge of real legal accountability when he died in his cell, apparently by suicide, in 2019. That reporting was done in the face of powerful headwinds. She was up against Epstein’s intimidating legal team and fears about her safety.

But Brown also had to contend with the punishing economics of the contracting newspaper industry, which for the last decade has been shedding experienced reporters and forcing those who remain to do much more with much less.

Brown is finally in a better place financially. She’s working with Adam McKay, the director of “The Big Short,” to turn Perversion of Justice into an HBO mini-series. After years of renting, she was recently able to buy a condo. “I’ve been able to pay down some of my horrible debt that I have accumulated,” she said. But she’s 59 and still doesn’t have a retirement account.

The more newspapers collapse, the more such stories there are likely to be.

ScheerPost, Investigation: The Jeffrey Epstein Cover Up: Pedophilia, Lies, and Videotape, Nick Bryant, right, July 18, 2021. Numerous procurers and perpetrators who were integral to Epstein and nick bryantMaxwell’s crimes against children over the course of 25 years have not been indicted, and the charges against Maxwell, which include only one count of child trafficking, are woefully inadequate and a further miscarriage of justice against her victims.

More recently, a report released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on May 10, 2021 superimposed an additional miscarriage of justice on the myriad of injustices that have already been inflicted on the victims of Epstein, et al. The FDLE report concluded that a Florida grand jury that didn’t indict Epstein on a single count of child abuse was not guilty of malfeasance.

Although Epstein’s crimes against children had been reported to the FBI in 1996, the first law enforcement agency to earnestly investigate Epstein was the Palm Beach Police Department (PBPD), starting in 2005. The PBPD compiled the statements of five minors who had been molested by Epstein. The PBPD also rounded up the statements of several witnesses who corroborated the minors’ claims, and the department was aware of 17 additional victims who had allegedly been molested by Epstein. The PBPD drew up an arrest warrant charging Epstein with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation and four counts of unwanted sexual activity with a minor. The PBPD also sought to charge two of Epstein’s henchwomen and procurers of underage girls: Sarah Kellen as a principal to Epstein’s offenses and Haley Robson with one count of lewd and lascivious conduct.

But Palm Beach state attorney Barry Krischer swooped in and snatched the Epstein case from the PBPD. He opted to impanel a grand jury to investigate the child abuse allegations. (Grand juries in Florida are extremely rare unless the crime involves a capital offense.)

_____

Nick Bryant, who started pursuing the disgraced financier around 2012, is an author who resides in New York City, and he’s been a child advocate for 30 nick bryant franklin resized coveryears. His writing has recurrently focused on the plight of disadvantaged children in the United States, and he’s been published in numerous national journals, including the Journal of Professional Ethics, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Journal of Social Distress and Homelessness, Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, and Journal of School Health.

He is the co-author of America’s Children: Triumph or Tragedy, addressing the medical and developmental problems of lower socioeconomic children in America. He spent seven years investigating a coast-to-coast child trafficking network and authored The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse, & Betrayal. He has also investigated the Jeffrey Epstein network, and he published Epstein’s “Little Black Book” on the Internet in 2015, four years before the case broke nationally. Bryant has contributed a chapter on child trafficking to Global Perspectives on Dissociative Disorders: Individual and Societal Oppression, a book addressing various facets of dissociative disorders that features chapters from an international panel of psychiatrists and psychologists. He has also spoken about child trafficking at several conferences, including the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation’s international convention and the 2020 and 2021 Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summits.

 

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, a different person than the "ex-girlfriend" described in news stories.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz is preparing for the worst, Robert Harrington, right, July 18, 2021. The expression “criminal attorney” is wonderfully idiomatically robert harringtnn portraitambiguous. Is it a criminal who practices law? A lawyer who only defends criminals? It is, of course, what is innocently intended, a lawyer who defends people accused of crimes. Marc Fernich is a criminal attorney, and when you consider his list of clients, the idiom retreats into ambiguity once again.

bill palmer report logo headerFernich’s clients include accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, and convicted crime family boss John “Junior” Gotti. It’s a rogue’s gallery of some of the most awful people the human race has managed to produce thus far, so it’s little wonder that Fernich’s latest client is Congressman Matt Gaetz.

Campaign finance records reveal that Gaetz paid Fernich $25,000 for “consulting fees,” a modest beginning, to be sure. Contrast that with the more substantial $825,000 Gaetz paid to the Logan Circle Group for advertising and “strategic campaign consulting.” But both payments portend the Gaetz strategy to pump his image while quietly defending his backside. It is a sinister and cynical move of Machiavellian proportions. These monies would not have to be spent at all if Gaetz were not in significant legal peril.

FBI logoAnd Gaetz knows it. The New York Times reported that the Department of Justice is investigating whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her to travel with him. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing, of course. But he is preparing for the worst.

According to his website, Fernich’s law practice “centers on criminal defense, mainly sophisticated appeals and legal motions that can toss charges at the trial level or pave the way for future appeals.” So not only is Gaetz bringing in the heavy guns, he is covering both his charge and retreat. Fernich can do everything from getting charges dismissed (“tossed”) to appealing convictions.

Meanwhile Gaetz, this spoiled child of money and privilege, continues to whine about what a victim he and others like him are. He continues to promote the Big Lie that the 2020 election was criminally stolen without a shred of evidence to support that claim, while more and more actual criminal evidence is coming to light that he is a statutory rapist, sex trafficker, drug abuser and obstructor of justice.

Meanwhile Gaetz is having trouble finding speaking venues. While he and Marjorie Taylor Greene clutch their pearls and wear sackcloth and ashes about their freedom of speech being violated, various speaking arenas are exercising their right to freedom from speech. They are, in effect, saying Gaetz and Greene are free to say what they like, but they can go and spew their hate somewhere else.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

Axios, Investigation: Rich candidates use mystery money, Lachlan Markay, July 18, 2021. Wealthy congressional candidates are pouring millions into their own Democratic-Republican Campaign logoscampaigns but failing to file mandatory disclosure forms, keeping voters in the dark about how they got their cash.

axios logoWhy it matters: Unlike regular donors, candidates can give unlimited sums to their campaigns. Watchdogs say knowing the source is crucial to vetting potential conflicts of interest and ensuring hidden supporters won't unduly influence them in office. Ignoring the law also speaks to a lack of fear of the congressional ethics officials charged with enforcing transparency requirements.

arizona mapWhat's happening: In Arizona, Republican Senate candidate Jim Lamon has lent $2 million to his own campaign. He also poured another $2 million into a conservative voter registration group in the state days before he entered the race in early May. The deadline for Lamon to file his personal financial disclosure form passed about six weeks ago. He has yet to do so or request an extension, according to the Senate Ethics Committee's website. Two of his GOP primary rivals, both of whom entered the race after Lamon, have filed their personal financial disclosure statements. Lamon is a solar energy executive, but the lack of a financial disclosure filing makes it difficult to know precisely how he derives his current income and what assets he holds.

The big picture: Financial disclosure filings are legally mandatory. "Knowingly and willfully" failing to file can subject candidates to tens of thousands of dollars in fines and disciplinary action from congressional ethics officials. Candidates nevertheless routinely flout disclosure deadlines and rarely face penalties for doing so. Omar Navarro, a perennial Republican challenger to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), is mounting his fourth consecutive House run this cycle. He hasn't filed a personal financial disclosure statement since 2015.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Texas, Top Two Republicans Steer Ship of State Hard to the Right, Reid J. Epstein, July 18, 2021 (print ed). Different in style and background, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have come together to push an uncompromising conservative agenda.

One is a former State Supreme Court justice who acts with a lawyer’s caution; the other a Trumpist firebrand who began his political djt maga hatcareer in the world of conservative talk radio. They have sparred at times, most recently this winter over the deadly failure of their state’s electrical grid.

Greg Abbott CustomBut together, Gov. Greg Abbott, right, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the two most powerful men in Texas, are the driving force behind one of the hardest right turns in recent state history.

The two Republicans stand united at a pivotal moment in Texas politics, opposing Democrats who have left the state for Washington in protest of the G.O.P.-controlled Legislature’s attempt to overhaul the state’s election system — blocking Republicans from advancing any bills to Mr. Abbott’s desk.

Any policy differences between the governor and lieutenant governor have melted away in the face of the realities of today’s Republican Party, with a base devoted to former President Donald J. Trump and insistent on an uncompromising conservative agenda.

 

us senate logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats See Edge in Early Senate Map as Trump Casts Big Shadow, Shane Goldmacher, July 18, 2021 (print ed). Early fund-raising has given Democrats cause for optimism in key states as Republicans split over how closely to align with Donald Trump’s preferences.

Six months into the Biden administration, Senate Democrats are expressing a cautious optimism that the party can keep control of the chamber in the 2022 midterm elections, enjoying large fund-raising hauls in marquee races as they plot to exploit Republican raphael warnockretirements in key battlegrounds and a divisive series of unsettled G.O.P. primaries.

Swing-state Democratic incumbents, like Senators Raphael Warnock of Georgia, right, and Mark Kelly of Arizona, restocked their war chests with multimillion-dollar sums ($7.2 democratic donkey logomillion and $6 million, respectively), according to new financial filings this week. That gives them an early financial head start in two key states where Republicans’ disagreements over former President Donald J. Trump’s refusal to accept his loss in 2020 are threatening to distract and fracture the party.

But Democratic officials are all too aware of the foreboding political history they confront: that in a president’s first midterms, the party occupying the White House typically loses seats — often in bunches. For now, Democrats hold power by only the narrowest of margins in a 50-50 split Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaker to push through President Biden’s expansive agenda on the economy, the pandemic and infrastructure.

ny times logoNew York Times, Born of a Crisis, Remote Voting in Congress Has Become a Useful Perk, Nicholas Fandos, July 18, 2021. Once billed as a temporary crisis measure, the proxy voting system has become a tool of personal and political convenience for many House members.

Fourteen months after it was approved, with the public health threat in retreat and most members of Congress vaccinated, a growing number of lawmakers are using the practice to attend political events, double down on work back home or simply avoid a long commute to Washington.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 186 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 18, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 161.2 million people (48.6 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56 % with at least one dose.

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

World Cases: 190,922,094, Deaths: 4,101,605
U.S. Cases:     34,953,937, Deaths:    624,715
India Cases:     31,106,065, Deaths:    413,640
Brazil Cases:   19,342,448, Deaths:     541,323

washington post logoolympics japan logoWashington Post, Two athletes in Olympic Village test positive for covid, the first instances of athlete infections in Village, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). The test results underscore growing fears about the spread of the virus during the Games that are set to begin in five days

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. envoys face daunting mission in Kabul with little military backup, Missy Ryan, Karen DeYoung and Dan Lamothe, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). s American military forces depart Afghanistan, the U.S. diplomats and aid workers who remain behind, bunkered at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, will encounter significant and dangerous challenges, current and former officials say.

The conclusion of the Pentagon’s two-decade effort in Afghanistan lays bare the challenges facing U.S. diplomats and aid workers who remain behind, as a modest civilian force attempts to propel warring Afghans toward peace and protect advances for women without the support and reach provided by the military mission.

Current and former officials described an array of obstacles that a shrinking cadre of civilians in the bunkered U.S. Embassy in Kabul must navigate, with the coronavirus pandemic and the specter of a possible diplomatic evacuation compounding the significant difficulties inherent to working in Afghanistan.

washington post logosouth africa flag after 1994Washington Post, ‘I am broken’: South African communities are gutted by a wave of looting, arson and loss, Hlengiwe Motaung, Max Bearak and Gulshan Khan, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). The widespread destruction of small, uninsured businesses underscores the bitter irony of this wave of violence born of anger at inequality: Most of its victims are the poor and dispossessed.

haiti flagny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Habit of Backing Strongman Allies Fed Turmoil in Haiti, Natalie Kitroeff and Michael Crowley, July 18, 2021. Washington dismissed warnings that democracy was unraveling under President Jovenel Moïse, leaving a gaping leadership void after his assassination. 

 

World Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, In Orban’s Hungary, spyware was used to monitor journalists and others who might challenge the government, Michael Birnbaum, Andras Petho and Jean-Baptiste Chastand, July 18, 2021. In communist-era Hungary, citizens were recruited to spy on their neighbors and report any potential threats to the secret police. In the Hungary of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, right, a spyware tool has been deployed to similar effect, monitoring viktor orbánpeople with technology that can turn smartphones into troves of information.

More than 300 Hungarian phone numbers — connected to journalists, lawyers, business titans and activists, among others — appeared on a list that included numbers selected for surveillance by clients of NSO Group, an Israeli security company.
Read key takeaways from the Pegasus Project

hungary flagThe records do not indicate how many of those numbers were targeted or successfully compromised. But forensic examination of six Hungarian phones associated with numbers on the list found that three had been infected with Pegasus spyware, a tool marketed to governments by NSO. Two other phones showed signs of attempted targeting with Pegasus. The sixth phone, that of independent media mogul Zoltan Varga, was inconclusive, possibly because it had been replaced since the period when his number was put on the list.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Poland’s attack on an American-owned TV network requires a strong U.S. response, Editorial Board, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). Poland’s right-wing nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, has been steadily losing ground in recent months. Its parliamentary majority has dwindled to one seat amid rising public discontent over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and passage of new restrictions on abortion.

Following the return to domestic politics of former prime minister and European Council president Donald Tusk, polls are showing his opposition Civic Platform party could defeat Law and Justice in the next election, which is due by 2023 but could come earlier.

polish flag wavingIt should be no surprise, then, that Law and Justice is reviving an effort to neuter the country’s highest-rated news station, TVN24, which unlike state-owned channels broadcasts independent news and critical commentary about the government. This week the head of the state broadcast regulator, a former Law and Justice member, told Reuters that the station was in violation of foreign ownership rules, and that its license might not be renewed by a Sept. 26 deadline.

Meanwhile, the party’s legislators were pushing a new rule that would tighten the regulations further; a sponsor said the aim was to force a sale to a Polish state company. That is the strategy Poland and the like-minded government of Hungary have been using to silence critical media; last year the Polish state oil refinery bought a chain of regional newspapers from a Germany company, ending their independence.

July 17

Top Headlines

 

Disasters, Climate Change

 

Trump Claims, Probes, Riot Follow-ups

 

U.S. Law, Courts. Regulation

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta variant takes hold in U.S. as virus cases rise nearly 70 percent, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Frances Stead Sellers, cdc logo CustomJuly 17, 2021 (print ed.). ‘This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ CDC director says.

Federal health officials sounded an alarm Friday about a surge in U.S. coronavirus infections fueled by the twin threats posed by the highly transmissible rochelle walensky 2delta variant and a stagnation in efforts to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.

During a White House briefing, Rochelle Walensky, left, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the seven-day average of coronavirus infections soared nearly 70 percent in just one week, to about 26,300 cases a day. The seven-day average for hospitalizations has increased, too, climbing about 36 percent from the previous seven-day period, she said.

“There is a clear message that is coming through: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky said. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well.”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘They’re killing people’: Biden aims blistering attack at tech companies over vaccine falsehoods, Matt Viser, Rachel Lerman and Tyler Pager, July 17, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Friday unleashed a forceful new attack against social media companies for allowing the spread of misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, explicitly blaming them for the deaths of many Americans of covid-19.

joe biden black background resized serious file“They’re killing people,” Biden said on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on his way to Camp David for the weekend. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people.”

Biden’s comments marked a far more combative tone than he had taken previously on the pandemic and came a day after Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued a broader warning against health misinformation, saying that tech companies were partially responsible for the falsehoods spreading online and causing large numbers of Americans to avoid getting vaccinated.

The salvo immediately placed Biden in a public argument with Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, on an issue that has consumed his presidency and is showing new signs of resurgence.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever said in a statement, pointing to the website’s tools for helping users to get authoritative information and find vaccination sites.

“The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives,” Lever said. “Period.”

The remarkable multi-front attack over the course of about 24 hours — from the president, his surgeon general and his press secretary — is a notable change in strategy for Biden. For six months, he has taken a gentler tone, praising Americans for getting vaccinated, imploring the hesitant to get the shots and avoiding attacks on figures who are falsely questioning the vaccines.

  • Washington Post, Utah’s GOP governor denounces anti-vaccine ‘propaganda,’ July 17, 2021 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly all hospitals flout federal requirement to post prices, report finds, Dan Diamond, July 17, 2021 (print ed.). Findings come a week after President Biden instructs HHS to enforce the rule The report found that 471 of 500 surveyed hospitals failed to fully post the prices they charge patients and the rates negotiated with insurers.

usda logo horizontal Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: The land was worth millions. A Big Ag corporation sold it to Sonny Perdue’s company for $250,000, Desmond Butler, Graphics by John Muyskens; Videos by Joy Sharon Yi and Erin Patrick O'Connor, July 17, 2021 (print ed.), electronic version June 29, 2021. It was a curious time for Sonny Perdue to close a real estate deal.

In February 2017, weeks after President Donald Trump selected him to be agriculture secretary, Perdue’s company bought a small grain plant in South Carolina from one of the biggest agricultural corporations in America.

Had anyone noticed, it would have prompted questions ahead of his confirmation, a period when most nominees lie low and avoid potential controversy. The former governor of Georgia did not disclose the deal — there was no legal requirement to do so.

sonny perdueAn examination of public records by The Washington Post has found that the agricultural company, Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM), sold the land at a small fraction of its estimated value just as it stood to benefit from a friendly secretary of agriculture.

Perdue did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the real estate deal. Jackie Anderson, a spokeswoman for Chicago-based ADM, denied that the company sold the property at a discount, saying that ADM began negotiations with Perdue’s former company, AGrowStar, in 2015 — well before Trump was elected — and could not find another buyer.

“This was nothing more than a business decision to sell a significantly underperforming asset,” she said.

Danny Brown, the former president of AGrowStar, confirmed negotiations began in late 2015. But Brown said ADM wanted $4 million for the plant — 16 times what Perdue’s company ultimately paid for it.

The timing of the sale just as Perdue was about to become the most powerful man in U.S. agriculture raises legal and ethics concerns, from the narrow question of whether the secretary followed federal financial disclosure requirements to whether the transaction could have been an attempt to influence an incoming government official, in violation of bribery statutes, ethics lawyers say.

“This stinks to high heaven,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a Georgetown University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “It deserves a prosecutor’s attention,” she added. “Only a prosecutor with the powers of the grand jury can find out, in fact, whether there was a quid pro quo that existed at the time of the deal.”

 

Disasters, Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, Floodwaters Ebb in Europe; Death Toll Nears 160, Staff Reports, July 17, 2021. The figure is expected to rise. Firefighters and soldiers have begun clearing debris and unclogging roads. Extreme downpours like the ones that hit Germany are one of european union logo rectanglethe most visible signs that the climate is changing as a result of global warming.

After days of rain and flooding made worse by climate change, firefighters and soldiers began clearing debris and unclogging roads. Electricity and telephone services remained inaccessible in parts of Germany.

  • New evacuations are ordered in Germany, even as other residents return home after the floods.
  • Angela Merkel plans to visit the flood zone on Sunday.
  • The village of Müsch lost its power, running water and cellphone coverage. Then it lost its bridge.
  • In pictures: Cleaning up the wreckage.
  • Here’s what we know about the climate connection.
  • Flood-reduction measures in the Netherlands appear to have lessened the potential damage.

washington post logogerman flagWashington Post, European flooding death toll passes 120 as receding waters reveal devastation, Loveday Morris, Jennifer Hassan and Emily Rauhala, July 17, 2021 (print ed.). Rescuers are still looking for hundreds of people. “Many people have lost what they have built all their lives,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

As deadly floodwaters began to recede Friday across Germany and Belgium, the full extent of the destruction was slowly revealed: muddy washouts where homes used to stand, cars and debris tangled together and officials still adding to a death toll that surpassed 100 and could climb higher.

“Whole places are scarred by the disaster,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a news conference after the worst flooding in decades to hit the region. “Many people have lost what they have built all their lives.”

The storm — a major low-pressure system that stretched from Germany to France — brought a deluge Thursday that quickly swelled rivers, collapsed bridges and roads and left many people scrambling to rooftops or onto fallen trees. At one point, German officials said up to 1,300 people remained unaccounted for. But the staggering figure could be due to the fact that mobile phone networks had been crippled.

washington post logoWashington Post, Blistering heat wave returns to northwestern U.S., Canada this weekend, Matthew Cappucci, July 17, 2021 (print ed.).  Temperatures could climb 25 degrees or more above average; the heat could persist into next week.

As relentless and punishing heat roasts the West, Boise, Idaho, has reached at least 95 degrees for a record 19 straight days. Now, temperatures are about to be turned up even more as a major heat dome builds from the central Rockies into southern Canada.

This new heat wave, set to peak between Sunday and Tuesday, will bring above-average temperatures from the interior of Oregon and Washington through northern Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana into the Dakotas. South-central Canada will also be smothered by heat. Montana will be at the epicenter, with parts of the state 25 degrees or more above historical norms.

It’s the fourth intense heat event to strike western parts of the Lower 48 in just the past five weeks. Last week, Las Vegas soared to 117 degrees, reaching its warmest temperature ever recorded.

Pacific Northwest heat wave was ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, scientists find.

This heat wave will not be quite as intense as the previous three but threatens to exacerbate the region’s historic drought and wildfire situation. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 70 large fires are burning across a dozen states. On Thursday, the center moved Oregon and Washington state to “Preparedness Level 5,” the highest level, based on the amount of wildfire activity and need for firefighting resources.

 

Trump Claims, Probes, Riot Follow-ups

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Excerpt: Behind the scenes on Jan. 6: Delay at the Pentagon, resistance in the Oval Office as Ivanka Trump, advisers pleaded with Trump (Part II), Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, July 16, 2021. Part two of an excerpt from I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year. Rucker and Leonnig will discuss this book during a Washington Post Live event on July 20.

carol leonnig philip rucker trump2 coverAs the sun rose over Washington on Jan. 6, electricity hung in the air. The big day had come.

Thousands of President Trump’s supporters began gathering on the Ellipse to stake out a good spot from which to see the president, who was scheduled to address the “Save America” rally around noon. Organizers had obtained a federal permit for 30,000 people, but it looked as if the crowd would be even larger than that. Thousands more prepared to make their way toward the Capitol to protest the certification of Joe Biden’s election.

At the White House, Trump set the tone for the day with an 8:17 a.m. tweet: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘A propaganda tool’ for Trump: A second federal judge castigates attorneys who filed a lawsuit challenging 2020 results, Rosalind S. Helderman, July 17, 2021 (print ed.). Federal Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter, below at left, repeatedly questioned the lawyers about why they promoted unproven claims.

reid neureiterJust before Christmas, two Colorado lawyers filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of 160 million American voters, alleging a vast conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election by the voting equipment manufacturer Dominion Voting Systems, Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg, his wife Priscilla Chan and elected officials in four states — and asking for $160 billion in damages.

The case was dismissed in April, but now a federal judge is considering disciplining the lawyers for filing a frivolous claim — sharply questioning the duo in a Friday hearing about whether they had allowed themselves to be used as “a propaganda tool” of former president Donald Trump.

“Did that ever occur to you? That, possibly, [you’re] just repeating stuff the president is lying about?” Neureiter asked the two lawyers, Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker, during a hearing to consider sanctioning them.

washington post logoWashington Post, The media scramble within Trump Book Summer, Paul Farhi, July 17, 2021. The peak of Trump Book Summer, the moment of maximum media intensity, may have come last Wednesday, when reporters scrambled to match a story about a story contained in one of those books.

Around 3 p.m. that day, New York magazine published an article based on a revelation its writer had discovered in the pages of I Alone Can Fix It, one of the entries in the current spate of Trump Studies, a copy of which the magazine said it had “obtained” before its official release.

The gist of the magazine’s report — that the book would reveal that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, feared Trump would precipitate a coup to maintain power — was so hot that it in turn triggered a nearly immediate follow-up report on CNN.com, written by no less than five reporters. Which in turn prompted The Washington Post to chase down the same nugget — which was kind of ironic considering the book that produced the scoop was written by two Post reporters and had already generated a prominent excerpt in the paper, with a second to come days later.

michael wolff landslideThe media-on-media scramble, a kind of Russian nesting doll of reportage, attested to both the profound import of the Milley anecdote and the cultural heat of the new syllabus of Trump books.

On the same day, I Alone, written by The Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, was the best-selling book on Amazon, which includes preorders for not-yet-released books.

The third and fourth bestsellers were also dishy Trump titles, Landslide, by the independent journalist Michael Wolff, and Frankly, We Did Win This Election, by the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender, respectively.

A fourth book, Nightmare Scenario, about Trump’s handling of the pandemic by two other Post reporters, Damian Paletta and Yasmeen Abutaleb, had climbed up the lists the week before.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like New York prosecutors have a witness directly incriminating Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, July 17, 2021.  bill palmerWhen New York prosecutors criminally indicted Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization two weeks ago, it was clear that prosecutors were looking to flip Weisselberg against Trump. Some pundits insisted that Weisselberg would never flip and that without him, prosecutors wouldn’t be able to criminally indict Donald Trump personally.

But of course these kinds of doomsday narratives are always overly simplistic, relying on the old tired trope that there’s only one possible path to success – and that the one path is doomed. In reality, things are always more complex than that, and there is bill palmer report logo headertypically more than one path to success. It turns out another witness in the case has already directly implicated Donald Trump in the crimes that Allen Weisselberg has been indicted for – and her name is also Weisselberg.

It’s long been established that Allen Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law Jennifer Weisselberg has been a allen weisselberg croppedcooperating witness in the New York criminal case. But what hasn’t been known is what she’s specifically told prosectors – until now.

Daily Beast is reporting that Jennifer Weisselberg told New York prosecutors that Donald Trump “personally guaranteed” the unreported benefits that were used to allow Allen Weisselberg, right, to avoid paying taxes on large chunks of his daily beast logoincome.

Given that Allen Weisselberg was just indicted for knowingly having been on the receiving end of this fraudulent scheme, it stands to reason that prosecutors will also indict Donald Trump for knowingly having been on the paying end of this fraudulent scheme.

Of course we expect New York prosecutors will aim to indict Donald Trump for a lot more than just the Allen Weisselberg benefits scheme, and that they’ll seek more witnesses than just Jennifer Weisselberg. After all, when they take their big swing at Trump, they’ll want it to be as comprehensive as possible, in order to guarantee a conviction. But Jennifer Weisselberg’s testimony alone lays out the path for Trump to be criminally indicted.

 

U.S. Law, Courts. Regulation

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge blocks new applicants to program that protects undocumented ‘Dreamers,’ Maria Sacchetti, July 17, 2021 (print ed.). A federal judge in Texas has largely halted an Obama administration initiative that grants work permits and reprieves from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — calling the program “unlawful” even as he allowed the more than 600,000 young people already in it to keep their protected status.

andrew hanenU.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen, right, an appointee of President George W. Bush, sided with Texas and other states in his ruling that President Barack Obama overstepped his executive authority when he created the program.

Hanen’s ruling called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an “illegally implemented program” and said “the public interest of the nation is always served by the cessation of a program that was created in violation of law.”

He prohibited the Department of Homeland Security from approving new applications, issued a permanent injunction vacating the memo that created DACA in 2012 — when President Biden was vice president — and remanded the issue to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for reconsideration.

ny times logoNew York Times, After a judge’s ruling, where does DACA stand? Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Miriam Jordan, July 17, 2021 (print ed.). Here’s what you need to know about a policy that protected from deportation people brought into the United States as children.

Bucks County Courier Times ( Levittown, Pa.) via Tribune News Service, Former Pa. police officer had nearly 1,700 child-porn images, investigators say, Christopher Dornblaser, July 17, 2021. A former Hilltown police officer charged in May with possessing child pornography is now charged with nearly 1,700 offenses after Montgomery County investigators discovered he had additional images and videos, officials said.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release Friday that additional searches into Matthew Reiss’ electronics found nearly 1,700 videos and images of child pornography.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, In Texas, Top Two Republicans Steer Ship of State Hard to the Right, Reid J. Epstein, July 17, 2021. Different in style and background, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have come together to push an uncompromising conservative agenda.

One is a former State Supreme Court justice who acts with a lawyer’s caution; the other a Trumpist firebrand who began his political djt maga hatcareer in the world of conservative talk radio. They have sparred at times, most recently this winter over the deadly failure of their state’s electrical grid.

Greg Abbott CustomBut together, Gov. Greg Abbott, right, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the two most powerful men in Texas, are the driving force behind one of the hardest right turns in recent state history.

The two Republicans stand united at a pivotal moment in Texas politics, opposing Democrats who have left the state for Washington in protest of the G.O.P.-controlled Legislature’s attempt to overhaul the state’s election system — blocking Republicans from advancing any bills to Mr. Abbott’s desk.

Any policy differences between the governor and lieutenant governor have melted away in the face of the realities of today’s Republican Party, with a base devoted to former President Donald J. Trump and insistent on an uncompromising conservative agenda.

 

us senate logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats See Edge in Early Senate Map as Trump Casts Big Shadow, Shane Goldmacher, July 17, 2021. Early fund-raising has given Democrats cause for optimism in key states as Republicans split over how closely to align with Donald Trump’s preferences.

Six months into the Biden administration, Senate Democrats are expressing a cautious optimism that the party can keep control of the chamber in the 2022 midterm elections, enjoying large fund-raising hauls in marquee races as they plot to exploit Republican raphael warnockretirements in key battlegrounds and a divisive series of unsettled G.O.P. primaries.

Swing-state Democratic incumbents, like Senators Raphael Warnock of Georgia, right, and Mark Kelly of Arizona, restocked their war chests with multimillion-dollar sums ($7.2 million and $6 million, respectively), according to new financial filings this week. That gives them an early financial head start in two key states where Republicans’ disagreements over former President Donald J. Trump’s refusal to accept his loss in 2020 are threatening to distract and fracture the party.

democratic donkey logoBut Democratic officials are all too aware of the foreboding political history they confront: that in a president’s first midterms, the party occupying the White House typically loses seats — often in bunches. For now, Democrats hold power by only the narrowest of margins in a 50-50 split Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaker to push through President Biden’s expansive agenda on the economy, the pandemic and infrastructure.

Orange County Register, Third strike: Anaheim venue latest to cancel Reps. Gaetz and Greene’s America First rally, Brooke Staggs, July 17, 2021. City: Operator agreed to cancel rally after hearing about safety concerns. Gaetz and Greene say event is still on in O.C.

Less than 10 hours before Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene were scheduled to host an America First rally in Anaheim, the city announced that the planned venue had canceled the event.

“We as a city shared our public safety concerns with the operator and the operator shares the concerns,” Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said Saturday morning.

This is the third time Gaetz and Greene’s planned rally Saturday night has been canceled, with protesters and city leaders speaking out against allowing the controversial Congress members to host an event in Southern California.

Gaetz tweeted just before noon Saturday that the rally was still on, posting “OMG the venue for today’s #AmericaFirst rally w myself and @mtgreenee is going to be even better than we imagined.” A flier for the event is now updated back to the original description, to only list “Orange County” as the location.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 185.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 17, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 160.4 million people (48.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.8 % with at least one dose.

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

World Cases: 190,435,149, Deaths: 4,094,523
U.S. Cases:     34,929,856, Deaths:    624,606
India Cases:     31,064,908, Deaths:    413,123
Brazil Cases:    9,308,109, Deaths:     540,500

washington post logoWashington Post, How vaccine-skeptical France and Germany came to support near-mandates, Rick Noack, July 17, 2021. Rejecting coronavirus vaccines could mean exclusion from social life, under new measures in both countries.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Cuba’s president confronts a nation in crisis. Among his challenges: ‘He’s no Fidel,’ Samantha Schmidt, July 17, 2021 (print ed.). “Freedom!” the crowds shouted. “Down with Fidel!”

It was 1994, and hundreds of Cubans poured their rage and desperation onto the oceanfront boulevard known as the Malecón.

The country was in the midst of an economic crisis known as the “special period,” when the collapse of the Soviet Union stripped Cuba of its primary trading partner and left the country on the brink of famine.

Some 27 years later, the country saw even larger protests, with thousands across the island taking to the streets over similar complaints: a failing economy, tightened U.S. sanctions, food shortages and blackouts that have left scores of Cubans sweltering in the heat. A spiking covid-19 outbreak has only made matters worse.

But there is one big difference: Fidel Castro — revered liberator, feared tyrant, master propagandist — is gone.

Moments after police quelled the 1994 protests, Castro stepped out of a Jeep onto the Malecón, according to news reports from the time, to find, almost magically, a group of supporters shouting “Viva Fidel!”

When the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, walked through streets of protesters this week, he was cursed at.

Díaz-Canel lacks the revolutionary pedigree of a Castro — a guerrilla fighter credited by his followers for freeing the island from the yoke of U.S. domination — nor has he yet displayed the kind of geopolitical sleight of hand that Castro relied on to wiggle out of difficult situations.

A former education minister, longtime bureaucrat and Communist loyalist, Díaz-Canel became Cuba’s new head of state in 2018 after nearly six decades of Castro rule. This year, he succeeded Raúl Castro as first secretary of the Communist Party.

The economic collapse of Cuba’s once oil-rich patron, Venezuela, coupled with U.S. sanctions tightened by the Trump administration and thus far maintained by the Biden administration, has left the island struggling.

washington post logoWashington Post, Head of Haitian presidential guard in custody amid hunt for assassination masterminds, Widlore Merancourt and Rachel Pannett, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The detention of Dimitri Hérard was haiti flagconfirmed by Bed-Ford Claude, a Haitian prosecutor; Israel Jacky Cantave, a spokesperson for Haiti’s prime minister; and Carl Martin, a close friend and colleague of Hérard’s. Much public anger has been directed against Hérard, as Haitians wonder how a team of alleged assassins appeared to easily infiltrate Moïse’s residence only to be later swiftly taken into custody.

It isn’t clear on what charges, if any, Hérard is being held. “The justice [system] wants him to answer questions,” Claude told The Washington Post.

 

U.S. Media News

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fox News’s embarrassing blunder in the White House briefing room, Aaron Blake, Updated July 17, 2021. The White House press briefing room has been a little more boring over the past six months, which is probably a good thing. But there are occasional fireworks, mostly when Fox News’s Peter Doocy asks press secretary Jen Psaki to comment on the culture-war issue du jour on his network.

jen psakiBut seldom has that effort been as poorly conceived as it was Friday.

Psaki, right, had offered a statistic Thursday in her daily briefing: “There’s about 12 people who are producing 65 percent of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. All of them remain active on Facebook, despite some even being banned on other platforms, including Facebook.”

When Friday’s briefing began, Doocy was raring to go. He accused the government of spying on people to obtain this factoid.

fox news logo SmallIt wasn’t exactly clear what Doocy was talking about. But after Psaki responded that his premise was inaccurate, he made clear that this was about the “12 people” stat. Doocy cited the number and suggested that the government must have been snooping around people’s Facebook pages to arrive at it. He even specifically cited the surgeon general’s office specifically as having done so, for some reason.

“But, okay, so these 12 people who you have on a list — 12 individuals — do they know that somebody at the surgeon general’s office is going through their profile?” Doocy asked. He went on to compare the situation to “Big Brother.”

I, like Doocy, was intrigued by where this number came from Thursday. I, unlike Doocy apparently, actually did 30 seconds of research on it. That’s all the time it took to find the publicly available study — which even has the number Psaki cited in its title, “The Disinformation Dozen” — from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The study was picked up by the likes of NPR and others in May.

Nor did anything in Psaki’s comments Thursday suggest that this was from some kind of government study or research project.

This continues a long-standing, often tortured search on Fox for government spying on their allies.

Doocy’s claim that the stat Psaki cited was proof of yet more supposed spying is just nonsensical, as he might have found had he done even the slightest bit of due diligence.


July 16

Top Headlines

 

Disasters, Climate Change

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses

  

Media News

 

World News

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, As mountain of video evidence grows, Capitol riot trials are pushed to 2022 and beyond, Spencer S. Hsu, July 16, 2021. U.S. officials say that organizing and transferring the mountain of data in what the Justice Department has called one of the largest criminal investigations in U.S. history is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars.

A struggle to manage huge amounts of video evidence is delaying hundreds of Jan. 6 Capitol breach cases as many of more than 500 people charged now wait for U.S. prosecutors to produce records that could help defendants decide whether to face trial or plead guilty.

Justice Department log circularMore than six months after the riots, the government has turned over big blocks of evidence directly implicating many individual defendants — including pertinent social media posts, FBI reports and search warrant returns.

And though the government has shared clips of U.S. Capitol surveillance and officer body-camera footage, it has yet to release comprehensive video of the entire event that might reveal mitigating or exonerating conduct that day, such as whether a person helped maintain order at other times, or what police or others nearby were doing, prosecutors and defense lawyers have said.

Partly as a result, only a trickle of suspects — about 20 out of more than 500 charged so far — have pleaded guilty.

Now, U.S. officials say that organizing and transferring the mountain of data in what the Justice Department has called one of the largest criminal investigations in U.S. history is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars.

Prosecutors say they hope to be able to turn over the bulk of 16,000 hours of Capitol and police footage to defendants beginning in August, and by fall to begin producing individually relevant returns from more than 6,000 grand jury subpoenas and more than 2,000 recovered smartphones, computers and other devices. They have also collected more than 300,000 public tips, including potential misidentifications that defendants might want to investigate.

News story excerpt continued below in section: "Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection"

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Excerpt: Behind the scenes on Jan. 6: Delay at the Pentagon, resistance in the Oval Office as Ivanka Trump, advisers pleaded with Trump (Part II), Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig, July 16, 2021. Part two of an excerpt from I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year. Rucker and Leonnig will discuss this book during a Washington Post Live event on July 20.

carol leonnig philip rucker trump2 coverAs the sun rose over Washington on Jan. 6, electricity hung in the air. The big day had come.

Thousands of President Trump’s supporters began gathering on the Ellipse to stake out a good spot from which to see the president, who was scheduled to address the “Save America” rally around noon. Organizers had obtained a federal permit for 30,000 people, but it looked as if the crowd would be even larger than that. Thousands more prepared to make their way toward the Capitol to protest the certification of Joe Biden’s election.

At the White House, Trump set the tone for the day with an 8:17 a.m. tweet: “States want to correct their votes, which they now know were based on irregularities and fraud, plus corrupt process never received legislative approval. All Mike Pence has to do is send them back to the States, AND WE WIN. Do it Mike, this is a time for extreme courage!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly all hospitals flout federal requirement to post prices, report finds, Dan Diamond, July 16, 2021. Findings come a week after President Biden instructs HHS to enforce the rule The report found that 471 of 500 surveyed hospitals failed to fully post the prices they charge patients and the rates negotiated with insurers.

washington post logoWashington Post, As IRS audits waned, big businesses racked up unapproved tax breaks, Douglas MacMillan and Kevin Schaul, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). Corporations have claimed more ‘uncertain’ tax breaks in recent years, as IRS budget cuts have weakened the government’s ability to challenge them.

Federal audits of corporate tax returns have plunged in recent years, letting big companies claim elaborate tax breaks with less government scrutiny, according to a Washington Post analysis of irs logocompany filings.

Accounting rules permit businesses to claim tax breaks even if they are likely to be overturned by tax authorities, legal experts said. In the past, the Internal Revenue Service audited virtually every tax return filed by large corporations and rejected tax breaks it deemed inappropriate, data show.

But during the Obama administration, congressional Republicans moved to slash the IRS budget, shrinking the agency’s staff and straining its ability to conduct audits. As a result, the federal government now examines just half of all large company tax returns, despite businesses claiming increasing tax benefits over this period that they say could be overturned by authorities, according to regulatory filings, interviews with tax policy experts and data from the IRS and financial researcher Calcbench.

washington post logoWashington Post, IRS begins sending monthly checks to millions of American parents in crucial test for Biden, Jeff Stein, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration has launched the biggest U.S. anti-poverty program since Lyndon Johnson’s ‘war on poverty’ in the 1960s.

  • What you need to know about the child tax credit
  • Calculate your family’s payment

 

Disasters, Climate Change

washington post logogerman flagWashington Post, European flooding death toll passes 120 as receding waters reveal devastation, Loveday Morris, Jennifer Hassan and Emily Rauhala, July 16, 2021. Rescuers are still looking for hundreds of people. “Many people have lost what they have built all their lives,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

As deadly floodwaters began to recede Friday across Germany and Belgium, the full extent of the destruction was slowly revealed: muddy washouts where homes used to stand, cars and debris tangled together and officials still adding to a death toll that surpassed 100 and could climb higher.

“Whole places are scarred by the disaster,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a news conference after the worst flooding in decades to hit the region. “Many people have lost what they have built all their lives.”

The storm — a major low-pressure system that stretched from Germany to France — brought a deluge Thursday that quickly swelled rivers, collapsed bridges and roads and left many people scrambling to rooftops or onto fallen trees. At one point, German officials said up to 1,300 people remained unaccounted for. But the staggering figure could be due to the fact that mobile phone networks had been crippled.

  • How weather patterns conspired for a flooding disaster in Germany

washington post logoWashington Post, Blistering heat wave returns to northwestern U.S., Canada this weekend, Matthew Cappucci, July 16, 2021. Temperatures could climb 25 degrees or more above average; the heat could persist into next week.

As relentless and punishing heat roasts the West, Boise, Idaho, has reached at least 95 degrees for a record 19 straight days. Now, temperatures are about to be turned up even more as a major heat dome builds from the central Rockies into southern Canada.

This new heat wave, set to peak between Sunday and Tuesday, will bring above-average temperatures from the interior of Oregon and Washington through northern Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana into the Dakotas. South-central Canada will also be smothered by heat. Montana will be at the epicenter, with parts of the state 25 degrees or more above historical norms.

It’s the fourth intense heat event to strike western parts of the Lower 48 in just the past five weeks. Last week, Las Vegas soared to 117 degrees, reaching its warmest temperature ever recorded.

Pacific Northwest heat wave was ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, scientists find.

This heat wave will not be quite as intense as the previous three but threatens to exacerbate the region’s historic drought and wildfire situation. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 70 large fires are burning across a dozen states. On Thursday, the center moved Oregon and Washington state to “Preparedness Level 5,” the highest level, based on the amount of wildfire activity and need for firefighting resources.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats push climate plan amid scorching summer, Dino Grandoni, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, July 16, 2021. The Senate budget plan, which would compel power plants to slash emissions and impose a tax on laggard nations, still faces hurdles.

The far-reaching set of climate measures that Senate Democrats outlined this week came as a scorching summer brought deadly heat waves, deepened droughts and fueled wildfires across the American West — the latest reminders of why the party has sought to prioritize efforts to slow rising temperatures around the globe.

While the $3.5 trillion budget deal that emerged Wednesday could change in key ways in the months ahead, the proposal represents one of the biggest efforts yet that Congress has undertaken to address climate change. It underscores how cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — and spurring other nations to do the same — has emerged as a central priority for President Biden and his party after years of relative indifference from lawmakers in Washington.

“We are facing a planetary crisis, not in the future or somewhere far away, but in every community across the country,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who along with several other Senate Democrats has said he won’t support more traditional infrastructure spending without a separate bill that includes meaningful climate action. “So what we do has to be bold enough to meet the moment.”

Still, the climate measures unveiled this week face significant political, legal and technical hurdles — including some from within the Democratic Party itself. Already, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), a crucial vote Democrats will need to pass any legislation opposed by Republicans, has expressed skepticism over the push to rapidly phase out fossil fuels.

washington post logoWashington Post, Search for condo collapse victims nears end; officials say they identified remains of nearly all 97 missing, Paulina Firozi, Timothy Bella and María Luisa Paúl, July 16, 2021. Three weeks after rescue crews began searching for victims, officials said they were nearing the end of their search for those trapped in the ruins of the Champlain Towers South condo building, a somber bookend to one of the deadliest such collapses in U.S. history.

In total, 97 people have been confirmed dead — young couples, entire families and retirees whose footprints stretched across multiple continents. No survivors had been found since the initial hours after the collapse. A Miami-Dade police spokesman said that as of Thursday, 97 missing reports had been confirmed, a number equal to the dead.

Nonetheless, authorities stopped short of saying all victims had been located. Ninety-two people have been identified as of Thursday evening, and there remains the possibility that one or more victims were never officially reported missing. Police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said the search for any other possible victims would continue until crews have reached the bottom of the debris pile.

 

Pro-Trump Jan. 6 Insurrectionpaul allard hodgkins

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. seeks prison term for first felony defendant to be sentenced in Capitol breach, citing domestic terrorism threat, Spencer S. Hsu, July 16, 2021. U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday urged a federal judge to impose an 18-month prison term on the first defendant to face sentencing for a felony in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, citing the need to deter domestic terrorism.

“The need to deter others is especially strong in cases involving domestic terrorism, which the breach of the Capitol certainly was,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky said in a government sentencing request for Tampa crane operator Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, above, who carried a Trump flag into the well of the Senate.

Hodgkins’s sentencing, scheduled for Monday, could set the bar for what punishment 100 or more defendants might expect to face as they weigh whether to accept plea offers by prosecutors or take their chances at a trial by jury.

About 800 people entered the building, U.S. officials have said, with more than 500 individuals charged to date and charges expected against at least 100 others.

About 20 people have pleaded guilty, and one misdemeanor defendant has been sentenced to probation.

In Hodgkins’s case, Sedky cited FBI Director Christopher A. Wray’s testimony in March to the Senate that the problem of homegrown violent extremism is “metastasizing,” with some actors growing emboldened by the Capitol riot.

“The need to deter others is especially strong in cases involving domestic terrorism, which the breach of the Capitol certainly was,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Sedky said in a government sentencing request for Tampa crane operator Paul Allard Hodgkins, 38, who carried a Trump flag into the well of the Senate.

The court filing marked one of the Justice Department’s bluntest statements to date of its view of the Capitol breach, in which members of a mob supporting President Donald Trump stormed barricades, assaulted nearly 140 police officers, and forced the evacuation of a joint session of Congress meeting to confirm the results of the 2020 election.

josiah colt rioter getty

washington post logoWashington Post, Man who dangled from Senate balcony pleads guilty in Capitol riots, will cooperate against others, Spencer S. Hsu, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). An Idaho man photographed (above via Getty images) hanging from the Senate balcony and sitting in the presiding officer’s chair in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony obstruction of Congress, admitting to joining a group of people who came to Washington with firearms, knives and body armor to support President Donald Trump.

Josiah B. Colt, 34, became the latest defendant to agree to cooperate in the breach investigation, seeking to pare down a possible recommended five-year prison sentence.

Though Colt is not accused of being part of a larger militia-like group, he admitted in plea papers to joining at least two men from Nevada and Tennessee who arranged travel, raised funds, bought paramilitary gear and recorded themselves before breaking into the building and rushing to the Senate chamber just evacuated by lawmakers.

“My fellow patriot Josiah Colt sleeping ready for the boogaloo Jan 6,” one of the others, alleged QAnon follower Ronald Sandlin, posted on Facebook on Jan. 4, according to plea papers. The post included a picture of Colt in a bed holding a handgun, and used a term taken up by fringe groups referring to civil war, Colt acknowledged in plea papers.

In a group video recorded before the riot, Sandlin “urge[d] other patriots” watching to “take the Capitol” and said “there is going to be violence,” according to plea papers.

“We are going to be there [the Capitol] back by one o’clock when it is action time it is game time,” Sandlin added, according to plea documents. That hour, prosecutors said, was the time Congress convened to certify the 2020 presidential election results and the moment members of the pro-Trump mob began confronting police and charging barricades outside the building.

In a plea hearing, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan of Washington read from Colt’s signed statement of facts and plea deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop three misdemeanor charges in exchange for his full cooperation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Don’t let the hysteria get to you, Bill Palmer, right, July 16, 2021.Yesterday we learned from the Guardian that the Kremlin really was holding blackmail material against Donald Trump all bill palmeralong, meaning Trump really was a Russian puppet all along. Yesterday we also learned from Michael Wolff’s book that General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, viewed Trump in terms of Adolf Hitler.

This is a lot to take in. This comes after weeks of increasingly ugly revelations about how Trump and his co-conspirators criminally meddled in the 2020 election results. As the floodgates of inside information continue to open, we’ll no doubt see even uglier bombshells about how Trump was abusing his power.

It’s now more important than ever to remember that all of these crimes and atrocities took place while Trump was still in office. None of these things are new; they’re just newly reported. None of them are happening right now; we’re just learning about them right now.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s even more crucial to remember that Trump is no longer in power. It’s easy to read all of these increasingly ugly revelations and fall victim to the kind of hysteria that leads you to unconsciously convince yourself that he’s still in power and he’s still doing these things as we speak.

The reality is that Trump has been ousted from office. He’s been ousted from social media. He has no remaining voice. He’s now the metaphorical equivalent of a guy living in his mom’s basement. He’s desperate to get back into power, but he has no idea how to even approach that notion. In his rare public appearances, he appears to have lost a step (or two or three) in the cognitive department. He’s under active criminal investigation in three different states, two of which have gone to grand jury, one of which has begun issuing indictments. There’s a reason so much dirt is now coming out about Trump’s time in office. He’s weak, vulnerable, and of little remaining value to those around him; the people leaking these stories are looking to finish him off.

As the headlines about Trump’s time in office continue to grow uglier, and it becomes even more clear how maniacally out of control he was while serving as President, don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking you need to cower to him. He’s not in power anymore. There’s nothing he can do to you right now.

If these new headlines about Donald Trump are going to motivate you, let it motivate you to work even harder to make sure that he has no future. Help spread the word about his criminal scandals and criminal prosecution. Help make sure he remains on track for prison before we even get to 2024. And make sure his favorability rating remains too deep in the toilet for him to be remotely viable for any future election anyway. At this point Trump should be scared of you, not the other way around.

djt as chosen oneWayne Madsen Report, The aspirant American führer: A Bill of Rights carve out for Nazism needed, Wayne Madsen, left, July 16, 2021. We should all appreciate the collegiate liberal arts undergraduate and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallpost-graduate educations of two generals, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley, and retired Marine Corps General John Kelly.

Thanks to them, the public is now aware of something this editor always had a gut feeling about: that Donald Trump is a Nazi admirer of Adolf Hitler and that his Ku Klux Klan-member wayne madsen cafe vaterlandfather, Fred Trump (shown below at left with his son), was an unrepentant pro-Nazi member of the German-American Bund in the 1930s and, very likely, a German spy used by the Gestapo and Abwehr to spy on American and Canadian troop transports departing from U.S. ports.

According to Carol Leonnig's and Phil Rucker's just-released book, I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year -- one of several new books that expose Donald Trump's plans to establish a far-right dictatorship with him as the dictator -- Trump said, pointing to a framed photograph of his father in the Oval Office, "I know the fucking krauts . . . I was raised by the biggest kraut of them all."

djt fred trump daily bast photo illustationIt was the naked Nazism displayed by father and son Trump that inspired me to write my first novel, Café Vaterland, an alternate history of the United States had Hitler obtained a nuclear weapon and intercontinental delivery missile before the United States. The book's cover photo [left] depicts a meeting of Bund leaders with Hitler in Berlin in 1936. Based on contemporaneous photos of Fred Trump, I believe that it is he who is standing behind Bund führer Fritz Kuhn, farthest right].

The Bill of Rights does not confer the freedom to murder, commit arson, riot, or commit coups. Nor should it enable Nazis like Trump and his supporters to have any rights to engage in hate fests and violent speech.

washington post logoWashington Post, A man in a gladiator costume filmed the Jan. 6 mob for his mother, feds say: ‘Here comes the riot police, Mom,’ Katie Shepherd, July 16, 2021. When Nathan Wayne Entrekin joined a crowd of rioters that pushed its way into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he donned a Roman gladiator costume over jean shorts and a T-shirt despite the winter chill, federal investigators say. As the mob chanted, Entrekin allegedly filmed videos on his cellphone, narrating the action for his mother, who was back in Arizona.

“Wow, Mom. I wish you were here with me,” Entrekin said in one video, according to a criminal complaint. “It’s really exciting in here. It’s joyful and it’s sad at the same time. We can’t let Biden … be our president. We can’t … there’s no way.”

Federal prosecutors on Thursday arrested Entrekin, of Cottonwood, Ariz., for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, during which he allegedly defied police orders, entered the U.S. Capitol and witnessed people looting offices. During an interview, Entrekin told investigators that “the calls of former president Donald Trump inspired him to attend the rally,” the complaint states.

He faces charges of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. His next court appearance has not yet been set, according to court records.

Entrekin joins more than 500 people charged by federal prosecutors for participating in the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot, including members of several far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Many of those arrested recorded their actions and later posted the videos and photos to social media or shared them with family and friends. Several others also wore recognizable costumes during the riot. 

washington post logoWashington Post, As mountain of video evidence grows, Capitol riot trials are pushed to 2022 and beyond, Spencer S. Hsu, July 16, 2021. (Continued from above): U.S. officials say that organizing and transferring the mountain of data in what the Justice Department has called one of the largest criminal investigations in U.S. history is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars.

The defense bar, organized by the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Washington, D.C., had hoped to rely on the government’s data system. But it Justice Department log circularlearned last month that — for what prosecutors called “contractual and technical reasons” — it would have to select its own vendor and build a system to receive the data, requiring additional time.

The timetable means that even jailed individuals at top priority are unlikely to go to trial before January or even next spring, with trials likely to start well into 2022 and continue in 2023, lawyers familiar with the investigation say.

Nearly, but not all, defendants are accepting delays so far, finding it to be in their interest. Judges up to now have also found that waiting for the government to dig through a mass of data serves justice and the public interest — but with diminishing patience.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Stanley Woodward warned a judge that if the government planned to “dump” thousands of hours of video at once, it could “take years” for attorneys like him to review and get ready for trial. Woodward asked for a trial date no sooner than September 2022 for Federico Guillermo Klein, a Trump State Department appointee who has pleaded not guilty to civil disorder and obstructing Congress.

Independent electronic evidence consultant Tom O’Connor, who has performed pro bono work on a variety of cases over the past 15 years for the Office of the Federal Public Defender, said the Capitol riot investigation could be a watershed event for the evidentiary use of technology in criminal cases, much as the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing transformed government physical security practices.

Joseph Biggs, left, and Ethan Nordean near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Carolyn Kaster of the Associated Press).Joseph Biggs, left, and Ethan Nordean near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 (Photo by Carolyn Kaster of the Associated Press).

Daytona Beach News-Journal, Volusia County Proud Boys leader threatened at Seminole County Jail, attorney says, Frank Fernandez, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). A Volusia County Proud Boys leader being held in the Seminole County Jail has been threatened by inmates and will likely be threatened again as they seek to test him, his attorney said during a federal hearing on Thursday.

Joseph R. Biggs, 37, was a leader among the Proud Boys in planning “an organized and violent attack” upon the country’s democracy and its Capitol building on Jan. 6, according to federal prosecutors.

And word that Biggs is locked up in a subsection of the Seminole County Jail, which holds about 150 federal inmates in other cases, has been getting around, according to J. Daniel Hull, who represents Biggs.

“I do worry about somebody wanting to test Joe Biggs' mettle,” Hull said. “I think that’s going to be coming up more and more.”

Biggs, whose home is in Volusia County near Ormond Beach, has been held at the Seminole County Jail since he turned himself in to U.S. Marshals on April 22.

joe biggs mugHull said that Biggs, right, is also having problems with an old injury for which he previously received surgery. Hull said on Thursday that he does not want Biggs moved to a detention facility in Washington, D.C.

Biggs and three other Proud Boys have been indicted together on six counts: conspiracy; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and aiding and abetting; destruction of government property and aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; and disorderly conduct in a restricted building or grounds.

The Proud Boys is a far-right nationalist organization that describes itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists,” according to a federal criminal complaint.

The Proud Boys strongly supported former president Donald Trump. In recent years, the group has increasingly confronted protesters on the left, including antifa, in places like Portland, sometimes leading to street fights.

Biggs’ case has been closely tied to Ethan “Rufio Panman” Nordean (shown above), another Proud Boys leader who is being held in Washington state. Nordean’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him. Biggs’ attorney joined that motion, which hasn't yet been heard by a judge.

 

william regnery will vragovic

William H. Regnery II, one of the men who bankrolled the far-right, is photographed outside his home in Boca Grande, Florida (Will Vragovic).

HuffPost, Commentary: William Regnery II, Reclusive Millionaire Who Financed American Fascists, Dead At 80, Christopher Mathias, July 16, 2021. The avowed huffington post logowhite nationalist inherited millions from his prominent Republican family and used the money to fund the rise of the so-called alt-right.

William H. Regnery II, one of the men who bankrolled the far-right, is photographed outside his home in Boca Grande, Florida, in 2017. He died earlier this month at the age of 80.

William H. Regnery II, a racist, reclusive multimillionaire who used his inherited fortune to finance vile white supremacist groups in the hopes of one day forming an American whites-only ethnostate, died earlier this month, his family and associates confirmed. He was 80 years old.

Regnery, whose family amassed riches from its right-wing publishing empire, died on July 2 in Florida after a “long battle with cancer,” his cousin Alfred, the former head of Regnery Publishing, confirmed to HuffPost.

Asked if he’d like to comment on his cousin’s life and legacy, Alfred Regnery replied: “No, it’s all been said before.”

In the final two decades of his life, William Regnery funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars — and likely much more — to extremist groups. He is often credited with being one of the main funders of the so-called alt-right, the resurgent fascist movement that gained momentum during the rise of former President Donald Trump.

“William Regnery’s sordid influence was felt from the deadly Charlottesville Unite the Right rally to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol,” said Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank that monitors the far right.

“His patronage of white nationalists over more than two decades helped popularize a genocidal vision for a white ethnostate on North American soil and sinking fear of racial replacement in the hearts of a growing portion of the white American population,” Ramos added. “This vision will not prevail, but it won’t either be easily extinguished.”

HuffPost first learned of Regnery’s death on Twitter, where some of the many avowed white nationalists permitted on that platform mourned their benefactor’s passing.

“Bill Regnery was a good man, who cared about the future, and, as they say, ‘did something’ about it,” tweeted Richard Spencer, the racist who led the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist organization Regnery founded.

Kevin MacDonald — perhaps America’s foremost anti-Semite, who authored a series of books claiming that Jews are genetically hard-wired to destroy Western civilization — also tweeted that he hoped Regnery would “rest in peace.”

MacDonald and Spencer are both members of the Charles Martel Society, a secretive organization of prominent American fascists founded and funded with nearly $90,000 donated from family charities and other tax exempt organizations affiliated with Regnery. (Nonprofits are not legally required to identify individual donors, so it’s possible Regnery personally donated much more.) The society publishes The Occidental Quarterly, a journal for which MacDonald serves as editor.

Other white nationalists who weren’t direct beneficiaries of Regnery’s largesse also expressed sadness at his passing.

Regnery, who went by Bill, was born Feb. 25, 1941, into a prominent Republican family.

His grandfather and namesake, textile magnate William H. Regnery I, was a founding member of the infamous America First Committee. The organization, led by anti-Semitic aviator Charles Lindbergh, opposed America’s intervention in World War II and counted many Nazi sympathizers among its ranks.

In 1947, Bill Regnery’s uncle, Henry, founded Regnery Publishing, which would grow into one of the most influential right-wing media dynasties in America. In its early years, the company published prominent conservative thinkers, including William F. Buckley, a racist and segregationist, and Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, the anti-communist conspiracist group.

More recently it has published anti-Muslim bigots Robert Spencer and David Horowitz, and anti-immigrant crusaders Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, as well as books from Republican senators and other politicians ― including Donald Trump’s 2015 “Time to Get Tough.”

When Henry Regnery died in 1996, The New York Times eulogized him as “the godfather of modern conservatism.”

The Regnery family’s influence extended beyond the publishing world. Bill Regnery’s cousin Alfred Regnery was an official at the Department of Justice under President Ronald Reagan before eventually taking over the family publishing company.

Bill Regnery started showing an interest in politics while a student in the early 1960s at the University of Pennsylvania, where he launched a conservative student magazine. He never graduated from Penn, however, telling BuzzFeed News in an extensive 2017 interview that he was “still a couple credits short of a degree.”

He said he left to work for the 1964 presidential campaign of Republican Barry Goldwater, the far-right senator from Arizona. As BuzzFeed News described, Regnery claimed to have hatched a bizarre scheme to suppress Democratic votes on Election Day that year:

His most memorable effort, he claimed, was a convoluted scheme called Operation Dewdrop, intended to suppress Democratic voters in Philadelphia. At the time, he explained, the theory was that Democrats voted less in the rain. So on election day, he said, he tried to seed rain clouds by using dry ice and a twin-engine airplane. It didn’t rain, he recalled, but he burned his fingers from the dry ice canisters, a detail that helps add a ring of authenticity. Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson in a landslide.

Such bizarre failures and embarrassments seem to have marked Regnery’s life. According to Alfred and another cousin, Frederick Meyers, he nearly ruined the family’s textile business, and the family forced him to resign as president in 1981, court records show.

In the early 1990s, Regnery became disillusioned with mainstream American conservatism, seeing it as insufficiently concerned about race, according to a memoir he published in 2015, “Left Behind,” a copy of which Mother Jones reviewed. It horrified him that whites might one day be a minority in America.

In December 1999, Regnery convened a conference for prominent white nationalists at a hotel in Florida, where he declared his belief in breaking up the United States into a series of enclaves based on race and religion, a plan that would undoubtedly involve the violent ethnic cleansing of nonwhites.

“In closing, I charge the participants of this conference with the sacred task of beginning to secure for our children’s children a proper home,” Regnery said at the conference.

Two years later, in 2001, he founded the Charles Martel Society, named for the 8th century Frankish ruler the modern far-right often glorifies for defending Gaul, in modern-day France, from an invading Arab army. Regnery staffed the organization with a who’s who of infamous white supremacists, including Sam Francis, who once suggested “imposing adequate fertility controls on nonwhites.”

In 2004, Regnery tried to launch a whites-only dating website, an effort he hoped would increase the number of white families, “since the survival of our race depends upon our people marrying, reproducing and parenting.”

And in 2005, he founded the innocuous-sounding National Policy Institute (NPI), a white nationalist think tank on a mission “to elevate the consciousness of whites” by studying “the consequences of the ongoing influx that non-Western populations pose to our national identity.”

This paranoia over immigration from nonwhite countries into America and Europe — often called the “great replacement” theory — has animated multiple white supremacist massacres in recent years, including those in Pittsburgh, El Paso and Charleston, South Carolina.

According to a BuzzFeed News tally, nonprofits and other tax-exempt organizations affiliated with Regnery poured nearly half a million dollars into NPI’s coffers from 2005 to 2015. (Though William Regnery himself could have personally donated more.)

Regnery seemed content to be the moneyman behind NPI and the Charles Martel Society, working quietly behind the scenes.

“Where his relatives have headed corporations, held public office, and run high-profile civic groups, the younger William works hard to keep his activities out of the public eye,” the Southern Poverty Law Center once wrote of Regnery, adding that while his family members “worked to cultivate an air of mainstream respectability, William ran headlong into the fever swamps of white nationalism, where his familial and financial clout allowed him to set himself up as a major force shaping the entire movement.”

richard spencer CustomRegnery tapped Richard Spencer, right, to lead NPI in 2011. In Spencer, Regnery found someone who relished the limelight. Also from a wealthy conservative family, Spencer had pursued a doctorate at Duke University while making inroads among right-wing extremists, writing for numerous publications, including The American Conservative.

Spencer launched two websites, AlternativeRight.com and RadixJournal.com, which eventually became important propaganda outlets for the so-called alt-right, a term Spencer claims to have coined himself to describe a growing online coalition of racists, including trolls and shitposters, neo-Nazis and Klansmen, Holocaust deniers and suit-and-tie fascists.

When Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015, he often mimicked “alt-right” talking points, such as calling Mexican immigrants rapists and proposing a ban on Muslims entering the United States. The chief executive of Trump’s campaign, Steve Bannon, had previously run Breitbart News, which he described as a “platform for the alt-right.”

As Trump’s poll numbers rose and the size of his rallies swelled, the media clamored to explain what the alt-right was and often found a willing spokesman in Spencer, who gave interviews to almost anyone who would ask. He quickly became the face of the far right in America.

In 2016, Regnery boasted in a speech that tapping Spencer to lead the NPI “secured my place in history.”

Regnery and the American white nationalist movement were jubilant when Trump was elected president. At an NPI conference in Washington, D.C., a few weeks after the election, Spencer shouted “Hail Trump!” and “Hail victory!” — the English translation of the Nazi cry “Sieg Heil!”

His supporters responded with Nazi salutes.

Cassie Miller, a research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told HuffPost that Regnery’s “material contributions helped to build networks of racist activists and a large body of pseudoscientific literature that, he hoped, would legitimize his calls to build a white ethnostate.”

Miller said the two major organizations he built, the Charles Martel Society and the NPI, were “once highly influential” but noted that the NPI is now “in disarray.”

“It appears to no longer be operational, and its death knell likely came earlier this year when a judge ordered NPI to pay $2.4 million in damages to an Ohio man injured at the Unite the Right rally for his physical and emotional suffering,” Miller said.

Spencer and the NPI helped organize the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, where some 1,000 white nationalists marched through the streets as clashes became increasingly violent. In the most vicious attack, a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Daily Beast, NY Times Suspends Sports Reporter Who Failed to Disclose Her Michael Phelps Book Deal, Lachlan Cartwright and Lloyd Grove, July 16, daily beast logo2021. After her ethical conflict was revealed, Crouse was yanked off the paper’s Olympic coverage team and taken off the swimming beat, multiple sources told The Daily Beast.

The New York Times has suspended star sports journalist Karen Crouse, and her future at the paper is being heatedly debated among the paper’s top editors, three people familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast, following revelations she failed to disclose her deal to write a book with Michael Phelps while reporting on the Olympic swimming icon.

ny times logoLast month, Crouse wrote a glowing piece on Phelps’ retirement from the sport and his reinvention as a mentor for young athletes. As The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple first reported, the Times quietly added an editor's note to the piece on Tuesday revealing the ethical violation.

“After this article was published, editors learned that the reporter had entered an agreement to co-write a book with Michael Phelps,” the note read. “If editors had been aware of the conflict, the reporter would not have been given the assignment.”

The reporter inked her deal to co-author the book earlier this year but failed to inform Times management. In fact, Crouse’s editors only learned of the publishing deal after reading about it in Sports Illustrated and were “livid,” according to the people familiar with the situation.

Crouse, one of the foremost swimming reporters in the world who has extensively written about Phelps over the years, did not return a request for comment. Publishing insiders told The Daily Beast that she is likely to earn high six figures for the book that will detail Phelps’ mental-health struggles outside of the pool.

“Our guidelines state that no staff member may serve as a ghost writer or co-author for individuals who figure or are likely to figure in coverage they provide, edit, package or supervise,” a spokesperson for The New York Times told The Daily Beast. “As the editors’ note makes clear, the arrangement was a conflict of interest. This was a significant lapse in judgment. We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ grows into hostility as conservatives attack efforts, Dan Diamond, Hannah Knowles and Tyler Pager, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The notion of coronavirus vaccines as unnecessary or harmful is increasingly embraced by Trump supporters, complicating President Biden’s push to boost the public’s immunity before autumn.

washington post logoWashington Post, The delta variant is ravaging this Missouri city. Many residents are still wary of vaccines, Fenit Nirappil, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). Experts fear Springfield, Mo., is a harbinger of tensions to come as people refuse to get vaccinated and downplay the pandemic even in the face of overwhelmed hospitals and preventable death.

The worst of the pandemic seemed behind Mercy Hospital, those weeks last winter when the coronavirus wards were full of people struggling to breathe.

But after months of reprieve, the virus has come roaring back, sending unvaccinated young adults and middle-aged patients from across southwest Missouri there in droves as the highly transmissible delta variant tears through the region. The hospital has been treating more than 130 covid-19 patients each day since Sunday — more than the winter surge — and had to open a sixth ward. It came close to running out of ventilators earlier this month.

“We’re just very disheartened. This was all pretty avoidable,” said Wanda Brown, a nurse unit manager. “Last year, we were looking forward to the vaccine coming out because we really thought that that was going to be helpful for our community. We feel like we’ve taken giant leaps backward.”

Springfield, a city of 170,000 nestled in the Ozarks, has become a cautionary tale for how the more transmissible delta variant, now estimated to account for half of all new cases nationwide, can ravage poorly vaccinated communities and return them to the darkest days of the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Delta Variant Fuels Rising U.S. Caseload as Vaccinations Slow, Staff Reports, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). Recorded infections are up in almost every state, though millions of inoculated Americans are largely protected. Here’s the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

  • As vaccinations slow in the U.S., the Delta variant is driving a rise in cases.
  • Haiti receives its first shipment of vaccines: 500,000 doses from the U.S.
  • Millions of children missed out on basic vaccinations during the pandemic.
  • Thousands marched in France and Greece after new vaccination rules were issued.
  • Some Republican leaders are speaking out in favor of Covid vaccines.
  • A blame game intensifies over Australia’s sluggish immunization campaign.
  • A human case of bird flu is reported in China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama military base is first in the U.S. to require vaccination proof amid rising covid-19 rates, Max Hauptman, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the delta variant continues to drive infection rates higher.

An Alabama military base is taking increased actions to combat the ongoing prevalence of coronavirus infections, authorizing leaders to ask for proof of vaccination of service members not wearing a mask while on duty. It is the first military base in the continental United States to allow leaders to check the vaccination status of those in uniform.

The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the new delta variant of the virus continues to drive infection rates and now accounts for a majority of cases in the United States. The base is among facilities, including Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where less than half of the surrounding populations have been vaccinated.

The order issued Tuesday by Maj. Gen. David Francis, commanding general of Fort Rucker, states that unmasked uniformed personnel “must be prepared to show proof of vaccination” when on the base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Los Angeles County reimposes indoor mask mandate as coronavirus cases rise nationwide, Fenit Nirappil, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The order, which will take effect late Saturday night in the county of 10 million people, marks the most dramatic reversal of the country’s reopening this summer as experts fear a new wave of the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, 185.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 16, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 160.4 million people (48.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.8 % with at least one dose.

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

World Cases: 189,888,496, Deaths: 4,085,912
U.S. Cases:     34,887,155, Deaths:    624,214
India Cases:    31,026,829, Deaths:    412,563
Brazil Cases:   19,262,518, Deaths:    539,050

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries dies after being shot in the head, Sammy Westfall, July 16, 2021 (print ed.).  Peter R. de Vries, a Dutch crime journalist known for tireless investigations shedding light on the criminal underworld, has died after being shot in the head July 6. He was 64 years old.

De Vriespete de vries 2017, shown at left, in a 2017 photo, spent decades focused on crime, including cold-case murders and mob hits. He investigated more than 500 murder files and played a role in solving several of them. Despite regular death threats, he didn’t live in fear.

“Peter has lived by his conviction: ‘On bended knee is no way to be free’. We are unbelievably proud of him and at the same time inconsolable,” family members wrote in a statement, reported RTL News.

He was shot five times after leaving a TV studio in Amsterdam, where he regularly appeared as an expert on “RTL Boulevard,” a Dutch TV news program.

Videos shared on social media showed the journalist lying on the street bleeding from his head after the shooting. He died Thursday alongside loved ones, after spending days in the hospital in critical condition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters photojournalist killed in Afghanistan, Ezzatullah Mehrdad, July 16, 2021. A Reuters photojournalist was danish siddiquikilled in southern Afghanistan while covering the fight between Afghan government forces and the Taliban, Reuters confirmed Friday.

Danish Siddiqui, right, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer from India, was embedded with Afghan forces attempting to retake a handful of districts that recently fell to the militants.

He described intense clashes and a near miss on his Twitter account. “I was lucky to be safe and capture the visual of one of the rockets hitting the armour plate overhead,” he tweeted Tuesday. Siddiqui was with an Afghan special forces unit attempting to retake the district of Spin Boldak, southeast of Kandahar city along the border with Pakistan. He was killed along with a senior Afghan officer, according to the Reuters report.

Capital Gazette, Capital Gazette shooting trial verdict: Jury finds gunman criminally responsible in killing five people in newsroom, Alex Maqnn and Lilly Price, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). Three years and 17 days after the mass shooting, an Anne Arundel County jury ruled Thursday the man who killed five Capital Gazette employees was sane, and therefore criminally responsible, during the attack that shocked the tight-jarrod ramosknit town of Annapolis and that he is culpable for his crimes.

Their verdict brings closer to a conclusion the legal case stemming from the June 28, 2018, murders of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Six people survived the attack, which has been billed as the deadliest attack ever on an American newsroom.

Now, Jarrod Ramos, 41, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison. At sentencing, prosecutors are seeking at least five life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess stood outside the courthouse Thursday and said prosecutors showed he was responsible and knew what he was doing. She said the verdict means everything to the community, which she said “has been seriously injured.”

JIP Editor's Note: Columnist Wayne Madsen has documented in the Wayne Madsen Report published social comments by the defendant voicing Trump-style language denouncing the so-called fake news and media. 

 

tejinder singh ravi batra chair nat ad cou s asian affairs

At a memorial service for journalist Tejinder Singh, shown at left, who prominently covered the White House and U.S. Departments of State and Defense, Ravi Batra, Chairman, National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, helped lead the tributes.

tejinder singh colleagues friends admirers july 12 2021

 Shown above, celebrants of the life of India America Today Editor Tejinder Singh, including the Justice Integrity Project's editor in the back row, gathered at the National Press Club after the ceremony on July 12, 2021 (photos courtesy of The Indian Panorama and India America Today.)

tejinder singh indian panorama front pageThe Indian Panorama, Rich Tributes Paid to Veteran Journalist Tejinder Singh, I. S. Saluja, July 17, 2021. Indian-origin journalist Tejinder Singh, who passed away on May 29 this year, was fondly remembered by friends, colleagues and admirers at a well-attended memorial meeting at National Press Club, Washington on July 12.

Tejinder Singh was a veteran White House correspondent and founder and editor of the India America Today newswire. He was the Vice-President (Print) for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA-DC) 2011-12.

Attorney Ravi Batra, Chairman National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, a friend to Tejinder, was filled with emotion when he paid his tribute to his friend. who he described as “a firebrand of a journalist.”

“He was a John Wayne kind of a reporter, with true grit. He was a proud and active member of the National Press Club,” Batra added.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Donald Trump – Bill O’Reilly tour is already in bad shape, Bill Palmer, July 16, 2021. The new trend among political figures who find themselves washed up or facing legal trouble? Going on tour. You’d have to ask them if they’re doing it in order to raise money for their legal defense fund, or if they’re trying to regain their lost glory, or if they’re just trying to distract themselves djt hands up mouth open Customfrom having to watch it all cave in for them.

bill palmer report logo headerThe thing about these tours is that while they get a fair amount of media attention, they don’t seem to go particularly well. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene have been touring the country together and giving deranged speeches, but all it’s really done is give the Democrats a series of talking points to use against the entire Republican Party in 2022.

Then there’s the frankly bizarre upcoming tour featuring Donald Trump and Bill O’Reilly. It’s not difficult to figure out why these two has-beens want the glory and money of going on tour. It’s more difficult to figure out what the draw is supposed to be. O’Reilly has fallen to the point that even right wing cable news networks no longer see fit to give him a show. And Trump generally uses his rare djt maga hatpublic appearances these days to rant incoherently about how angry he is that his life has collapsed.

So it probably shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the Trump-O’Reilly tour is already in bad shape. Ticket sales are lagging, and it’s beginning to look like they’ve overconfidently booked venues that are too large for their shrinking ability to draw a crowd.

Even Politico – which for some reason has been acting as a de facto mouthpiece for Trump’s lawyers this month – is acknowledging that Trump is having trouble selling tickets. For instance, musical acts Bad Bunny and Kane Brown are both vastly outpacing Trump in terms of ticket sales at a Florida venue.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Head of Haitian presidential guard in custody amid hunt for assassination masterminds, Widlore Merancourt and Rachel Pannett, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The detention of Dimitri Hérard was haiti flagconfirmed by Bed-Ford Claude, a Haitian prosecutor; Israel Jacky Cantave, a spokesperson for Haiti’s prime minister; and Carl Martin, a close friend and colleague of Hérard’s. Much public anger has been directed against Hérard, as Haitians wonder how a team of alleged assassins appeared to easily infiltrate Moïse’s residence only to be later swiftly taken into custody.

It isn’t clear on what charges, if any, Hérard is being held. “The justice [system] wants him to answer questions,” Claude told The Washington Post.

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspects in Haitian President’s Killing Met to Plan a Future Without Him, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Frances Robles and Julie Turkewitz, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). Haitian officials say key suspects met to plot the assassination, but participants called them sessions to plan a government once the president resigned.

The meetings, conducted in Florida and the Dominican Republic, appear to connect a seemingly disparate group of suspects in the investigation.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Acknowledging Disagreements, Biden and Merkel Signal Warmer Ties, Katie Rogers, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Biden exchanged friendly banter, but there were no breakthroughs on a Russian pipeline or how to approach China.

Signaling that the U.S.-European alliance remained strong after the tension of the Trump era, President Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday stressed their shared values, even as both acknowledged differences on a major Russian pipeline and how best to approach China.

During meetings at the White House, Mr. Biden’s agenda included several of his most pressing geopolitical priorities, such as restraining Chinese influence, curbing Russian aggression and waiving intellectual property restrictions on coronavirus vaccine manufacturers.

While there were no apparent breakthroughs, the visit was a way to show a unified front after President Donald J. Trump’s hostile exchanges with Ms. Merkel over NATO contributions, trade and multilateralism badly frayed relations. The meeting also comes before the chancellor’s term ends and a new German government will be sworn in after elections on Sept. 26.

“Good friends can disagree,” said Mr. Biden, who appeared alongside Ms. Merkel at a news conference in the East Room after the meeting.

angela merkel w 2008

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Matt Gaetz’s campaign paid $25,000 to lawyer who represented Jeffrey Epstein, Isaac Stanley-Becker, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The fee, for legal consulting, was paid to Manhattan criminal defense attorney Marc Fernich.

matt gaetz officialRep. Matt Gaetz’s campaign paid $25,000 in June to a Manhattan criminal defense attorney who lists Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted sex offender who killed himself in prison, as a notable client, according to a filing Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

The Florida Republican and acolyte of former president Donald Trump is under investigation for possible sex trafficking of a minor. A spokesman for Gaetz did not address the payment but touted the congressman’s fundraising haul, which totaled more than $1.3 million in the second quarter of the year.

The June payment, for legal consulting, went to the law office of Marc Fernich, whose website says he specializes in “subtle, novel and creative arguments that other attorneys may miss.”

“These arguments can make potential winners out of seemingly hopeless cases, spelling the difference between victory and defeat,” the site adds.
Advertisement

It lists Epstein, along with Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, the Mexican kingpin known as “El Chapo,” among his “Notable Clients.” Fernich did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The campaign also paid $25,000 for legal consulting to Zuckerman Spaeder, a large D.C.-based firm that also did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

The $1.3 million raked in by Gaetz between April and June is a sizable sum for a member of Congress under investigation by the Justice Department as well as the House Ethics Committee. He spent about $1.8 million in the same period, the filing shows, and has $1.6 million on hand.

Virtually all of Gaetz’s contributions were from individual donors rather than party committees or PACs, the filing shows. He did receive a financial boost from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), whose reelection campaign supplied Gaetz with $3,000 last month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dispute Over James Brown Estate Largely Ends as Heirs Agree on Plan, Ben Sisario and Steve Knopper, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). After nearly 15 years, the settlement may allow administrators to fund a trust outlined in the musician’s will that would finance the education of underprivileged children.

For nearly 15 years, James Brown’s estate has been one of the most contentious legal cases in the entertainment industry, involving volleys of lawsuits among his children, his former romantic partner and its various administrators.

Among the collateral damage as the litigation dragged on — in state and federal courts in both South Carolina and California — was a delay in implementing a charitable plan so dear to Mr. Brown that he made it the centerpiece of his will: the distribution of millions of dollars in scholarships for underprivileged children.

A settlement reached last Friday, after two months of “lengthy mediation discussions,” according to a statement from Mr. Brown’s children and the estate’s administrator, Russell L. Bauknight, will resolve most of the outstanding litigation. The agreement also opens the door to “fulfill Mr. Brown’s noble estate plan to fund scholarships,” the statement said.

Marc Toberoff, a lawyer for nine of Mr. Brown’s heirs — five children, the estate of another child and three grandchildren — said only, “The matter has been settled.” Neither Mr. Toberoff, Mr. Bauknight nor any others involved in the settlement negotiations would disclose further details about it.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Outline $3.5 Trillion Budget to Fulfill Biden’s Broad Agenda, Jonathan Weisman, Emily Cochrane and Jim Tankersley, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden vowed “to get a lot done” as Senate Democrats began drafting the details on a social and environmental bill.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Call for a Tax on Imports From Polluting Countries, Lisa Friedman, July 15, 2021 (print ed.). The party’s $3.5 trillion budget plan would include a carbon tariff, as well as a host of other climate actions.

 

July 15

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection Updates

 

World News

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

JFK Death, Media, Deep State

 

Top Stories

brett kavanaugh flag

Palmer Report, Opinion: What did Donald Trump know about Brett Kavanaugh? Ron Leshnower, July 15, 2021. In Michael Wolff’s new book, Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, Donald Trump rails on all three of hisSupreme Court picks. That’s not too surprising, given that they didn’t magically overturn the election and transform Biden’s inauguration into a Trump coronation. However, Trump’s criticism of Brett Kavanaugh is revealing and could spell legal trouble for Kavanaugh nearly three years into his undeserved tenure.

bill palmer report logo header“Where would he be without me? I saved his life,” Trump ranted, according to an excerpt obtained by Axios. “He wouldn’t even be in a law firm. Who would have had him? Nobody. Totally disgraced. Only I saved him.” Trump isn’t just venting here. Trump is clearly suggesting what many people have long thought—that there’s much more to the Kavanaugh story that was never properly investigated.

Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner believes that Trump’s statement constitutes new evidence for a formal Justice Department investigation into Kavanaugh, shown above. “What in the world did Donald Trump know about Brett Kavanaugh?” Kirschner wondered aloud in a recent video. “What did he learn during the nomination process that made it clear to Donald Trump that Kavanaugh was disgraced?”

Indeed, Trump’s statement was not some random vengeful utterance. Given the abbreviated sexual assault investigations, Kavanaugh’s mysteriously vanishing debt, and his seemingly perjurious testimony during his Senate confirmation hearing, Trump’s statement fits into a larger context that must no longer be ignored.

The Justice Department has its hands full now, thanks to a historically corrupt former guy, but investigating Kavanaugh shouldn’t require enormous resources. As Kirschner pointed out, the FBI can easily interview Kavanaugh’s friends (“boys”) to corroborate Kavanaugh’s explanation of his evaporating debt: “Did you happen to give Brett Kavanaugh $200,000 in cash for baseball tickets? No? Hmm! Well, that’s interesting.”

It’s not too late to launch a formal investigation into Kavanaugh. Also, the fact there is a new administration is legally irrelevant because, as Kirschner pointed out, “there is no grandfather clause.” Kirschner then summed it up perfectly. “All of that has to be investigated, not as political payback, not as retribution, not as election revenge, but because it’s the right thing to do… because justice matters.”

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Getting it correct about vaccines and racial history, Wayne Madsen, left, July 15, 2021. There is too much at stake with the history of public health efforts and the racial history wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallof the United States for elected and non-elected Democratic Party officials to get things wrong. But that is what Little Rock's African-American Democratic mayor, Frank Scott, Jr., has done twice in the past five months in urging Covid-19 vaccinations for the black community of his city.

wayne madesen report logoAppearing on CNN on July 14, Scott cited vaccine apprehension by African-Americans due to the "Tuskegee Airmen experiments." To set the historical record straight: the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, black pilots who were trained by the U.S. Army Air Corps at Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama to fly combat aircraft in World War II, had nothing to do with the U.S. Public Health Service's and the Tuskegee Institute's joint syphilis experiments on unsuspecting black male sharecroppers from Macon County,

Scott is not the only Democratic politician to conflate the Tuskegee syphilis experiment withe the famed airmen. On June 24, President Biden stated, "it's harder to get African-Americans, initially . . .vaccinated, because it used to be that they experimented on them – the Tuskegee Airmen and others.”

At a time when Republicans are trying to re-write the history books, Democratic politicians cannot afford to get the slightest thing wrong about our history. There is way too much at stake to be clumsy about facts and the truth.

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe Lays Out Vision for a Carbonless Future, but Big Obstacles Loom, Steven Erlanger, July 15, 2021 (print ed.). An ambitious blueprint to european union logo rectanglereduce emissions 55 percent by 2030 promises tough haggling among industry, 27 countries and the European Parliament.

The E.U. hopes to set an example, invent new technologies that it can sell and provide global standards that can lead to a carbon-neutral economy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Houston-area sheriff nominated to run ICE faces Senate confirmation hearing today, Maria Sacchetti, July 15, 2021. President Biden’s nominee to run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will appear for a Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, marking the first opportunity for lawmakers to question him publicly about his past criticism of the agency.

Harris County, Tex., Sheriff Ed Gonzalez is scheduled to testify at 10:15 a.m. before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Gonzalez runs the third-largest sheriff’s department in the United States, based in Houston, where immigrants make up nearly 30 percent of the population.

If confirmed, he would be the first Senate-approved ICE director since the Obama administration. 

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

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

Rolling Stone, Was Jeffrey Epstein a Spy? Vicky Ward, July 15, 2021.  The notorious financier pedophile told exaggerated stories of his time in intelligence circles — but some of those stories may have been, at least partially, true.

Back in 2002, when I was reporting on Jeffrey Epstein’s finances for Vanity Fair magazine, he was not a household name. During that time, I paid a visit to the Federal Medical Center, Devens in Devens, Massachusetts to meet with an inmate, one Steven Hoffenberg.

We sat in a little room off a recreation area, Hoffenberg dressed in the requisite orange jumpsuit, while I, several months pregnant with twins, was dressed per prison requirements: as shapelessly as possible.

It was an absolutely intriguing meeting.

Hoffenberg was serving 18 years in prison for committing a $450 million Ponzi scheme. In the 1980s he’d been running Towers Financial, a debt collection and re-insurance business, and had worked alongside Epstein, who was a paid consultant. Hoffenberg told me that Epstein had plans to turn Towers into a global colossus – through illegal means.

But Hoffenberg was so transfixed by Epstein and his ideas that he had even paid the rent for Epstein’s office space. (Now he says he was “stupid” and greedy for doing so).

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ grows into hostility as conservatives attack efforts, Dan Diamond, Hannah Knowles and Tyler Pager, July 15, 2021. The notion of coronavirus vaccines as unnecessary or harmful is increasingly embraced by Trump supporters, complicating President Biden’s push to boost the public’s immunity before autumn.

washington post logoWashington Post, The delta variant is ravaging this Missouri city. Many residents are still wary of vaccines, Fenit Nirappil, July 15, 2021.  Experts fear Springfield, Mo., is a harbinger of tensions to come as people refuse to get vaccinated and downplay the pandemic even in the face of overwhelmed hospitals and preventable death.

The worst of the pandemic seemed behind Mercy Hospital, those weeks last winter when the coronavirus wards were full of people struggling to breathe.

But after months of reprieve, the virus has come roaring back, sending unvaccinated young adults and middle-aged patients from across southwest Missouri there in droves as the highly transmissible delta variant tears through the region. The hospital has been treating more than 130 covid-19 patients each day since Sunday — more than the winter surge — and had to open a sixth ward. It came close to running out of ventilators earlier this month.

“We’re just very disheartened. This was all pretty avoidable,” said Wanda Brown, a nurse unit manager. “Last year, we were looking forward to the vaccine coming out because we really thought that that was going to be helpful for our community. We feel like we’ve taken giant leaps backward.”

Springfield, a city of 170,000 nestled in the Ozarks, has become a cautionary tale for how the more transmissible delta variant, now estimated to account for half of all new cases nationwide, can ravage poorly vaccinated communities and return them to the darkest days of the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Delta Variant Fuels Rising U.S. Caseload as Vaccinations Slow, Staff Reports, July 15, 2021. Recorded infections are up in almost every state, though millions of inoculated Americans are largely protected. Here’s the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

  • As vaccinations slow in the U.S., the Delta variant is driving a rise in cases.
  • Haiti receives its first shipment of vaccines: 500,000 doses from the U.S.
  • Millions of children missed out on basic vaccinations during the pandemic.
  • Thousands marched in France and Greece after new vaccination rules were issued.
  • Some Republican leaders are speaking out in favor of Covid vaccines.
  • A blame game intensifies over Australia’s sluggish immunization campaign.
  • A human case of bird flu is reported in China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama military base is first in the U.S. to require vaccination proof amid rising covid-19 rates, Max Hauptman, July 15, 2021. The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the delta variant continues to drive infection rates higher.

An Alabama military base is taking increased actions to combat the ongoing prevalence of coronavirus infections, authorizing leaders to ask for proof of vaccination of service members not wearing a mask while on duty. It is the first military base in the continental United States to allow leaders to check the vaccination status of those in uniform.

The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the new delta variant of the virus continues to drive infection rates and now accounts for a majority of cases in the United States. The base is among facilities, including Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where less than half of the surrounding populations have been vaccinated.

The order issued Tuesday by Maj. Gen. David Francis, commanding general of Fort Rucker, states that unmasked uniformed personnel “must be prepared to show proof of vaccination” when on the base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Los Angeles County reimposes indoor mask mandate as coronavirus cases rise nationwide, Fenit Nirappil, July 15, 2021.  The order, which will take effect late Saturday night in the county of 10 million people, marks the most dramatic reversal of the country’s reopening this summer as experts fear a new wave of the virus.

washington post logoworld health organization logo CustomWashington Post, WHO to correct errors in virus report, including details of early covid patients in Wuhan, Eva Dou and Emily Rauhala, July 15, 2021. A spokesman said the findings will be updated after “editing errors” were made, but that the agency can’t resolve a discrepancy in the location of the first official case.

washington post logoWashington Post, 185.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 15, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 160.4 million people (48.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.8 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 15, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 189,350,411, Deaths: 4,077,320
U.S. Cases:      34,848,068, Deaths:   623,838
India Cases:      30,987,880, Deaths:   412,019
Brazil Cases:    19,209,729, Deaths:   537,498

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Insurrection Updates

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Reviews: Two Accounts of Donald Trump’s Final Year in Office, One More Vivid and Apt Than the Other, Dwight Garner, July 15, 2021. Two new books about the final year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency are entering the cultural bloodstream. The first, Landslide,”by the gadfly journalist Michael Wolff, is the one to leap upon, even though the second, I Alone Can Fix It, from the Washington Post journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, is vastly more earnest and diligent, to a fault.

michael wolff landslideThis is Wolff’s third book about Trump in as many years. It’s Leonnig and Rucker’s second, after the excellent A Very Stable Genius, which appeared in early 2020. This one, alas, reads like 300 daily newspaper articles taped together so that they resemble an inky Kerouacian scroll. Each article longs to jump to Page A28 on a different scroll, in another room.

Perhaps it’s not the authors’ fault that I Alone Can Fix It is grueling. It may be that a reader, having survived Covid-19, “stop the steal” and the bear-spray wielders, and feeling carol leonnig philip rucker trump2 covera certain amount of relief — relief, John Lanchester has said, is the most powerful emotion — is uneager to rummage so soon through a dense, just-the-facts scrapbook of a dismal year.

A primary and not insignificant achievement in I Alone Can Fix It, however, is its bravura introduction of a new American hero, a man who has heretofore not received a great deal of attention: Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A better title for this book might have been “Mr. Milley Goes to Washington.”

There tend not to be a lot of people to root for in Trump books. Reading them is like watching WWE fights in which all the wrestlers are heels, smashing each other with folding chairs. Milley provides Leonnig and Rucker not just with an adult in the room, but a human being with a command of facts, a long view of history, a strong jaw and a moral center.

Milley (shown at right in uniform in a previous post as Army chief of staff) explains the Constitution to Trump. He delivers cinematic, Eisenhower-worthy monologues, such as: “Everything’s going to be OK. We’re going to have a peaceful transfer of power. We’re going to land this plane safely. This is America.” In one meeting he tells the egregious Stephen Miller to “shut the [expletive] up.”

mark milley army chief of staffWe were, Milley suggests, closer than we knew to the precipice. A crucial moment in this book details the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, when the stitching was really coming off the ball. Milley told aides he feared a coup, and, Leonnig and Rucker write, “saw parallels between Trump’s rhetoric of election fraud and Adolf Hitler’s insistence to his followers at the Nuremberg rallies that he was both a victim and their savior.” Milley told aides: “This is a Reichstag moment.”

About the Proud Boys and their ilk, he tells military and law enforcement leaders: “These are the same people we fought in World War II.”

There’s a vast amount more in I Alone Can Fix It. It’s an almost day-by-day accounting of Trump’s last year in office, from the fumbled Covid response to the second impeachment to Rudy Giuliani’s public self-immolations. There are apocalyptic scenes of Trump dressing down and humiliating those around him, including former Attorney General William P. Barr.

A final scene worth mentioning occurred during the siege on January 6. The congresswoman Liz Cheney called Milley the following day to check in. She described being with the Trump dead-ender Representative Jim Jordan during the attack on the Capitol, and how he said to her, “We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.” Cheney responded, the authors write, by slapping his hand away and telling him, “Get away from me. You [expletive] did this.”

Wolff has scenes Leonnig and Rucker don’t. These include election night details, such as the freak-out in Trump world when Fox News called Arizona early for Biden. Wolff, who wrote a biography of Rupert Murdoch, describes the frantic phone calls that flew back and forth before the word came down from the old Dirty Digger himself: “[Expletive] him.”

In this accounting, Trump belittles his followers. “Trump often expressed puzzlement over who these people were,” Wolff writes, “their low-rent ‘trailer camp’ bearing and their ‘get-ups,’ once joking that he should have invested in a chain of tattoo parlors and shaking his head about ‘the great unwashed.’”

Capital Gazette, Capital Gazette shooting trial verdict: Jury finds gunman criminally responsible in killing five people in newsroom, Alex Maqnn and Lilly Price, July 15, 2021. Three years and 17 days after the mass shooting, an Anne Arundel County jury ruled Thursday the man who killed five Capital Gazette employees was sane, and therefore criminally responsible, during the attack that shocked the tight-jarrod ramosknit town of Annapolis and that he is culpable for his crimes.

Their verdict brings closer to a conclusion the legal case stemming from the June 28, 2018, murders of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Six people survived the attack, which has been billed as the deadliest attack ever on an American newsroom.

Now, Jarrod Ramos, 41, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison. At sentencing, prosecutors are seeking at least five life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess stood outside the courthouse Thursday and said prosecutors showed he was responsible and knew what he was doing. She said the verdict means everything to the community, which she said “has been seriously injured.”

JIP Editor's Note: Columnist Wayne Madsen has documented in the Wayne Madsen Report published social comments by the defendant voicing Trump-style language denouncing the so-called fake news and media.  

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: American democracy survived its Reichstag fire on Jan. 6. But the threat has not subsided, Dana Milbank, right, Jdana milbank Customuly 15, 2021. In September, I wrote that the United States faced a situation akin to the 1933 burning of Weimar Germany’s parliament, which Hitler used to seize power.

“America, this is our Reichstag moment,” the column said, citing the eminent Yale historian Timothy Snyder on the lessons of 20th-century authoritarianism. Snyder argued that President Donald Trump had “an authoritarian’s instinct” and was surrounding the election in “the authoritarian language of a coup d’etat.” Predicted Snyder: “It’s going to be messy.”

Trump enablers such as Sen. Lindsey Graham scoffed. “With all due respect to @Milbank, he’s in the bat$hit crazy phase of Trump Derangement Syndrome,” the South Carolina Republican tweeted, with a link to my column.

But now we know that 1933 was very much on the mind of the nation’s top soldier, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “This is a Reichstag moment,” Milley told aides of Trump’s “stomach-churning” lies about election fraud. “The gospel of the Führer,” Milley labeled Trump’s claims.

Daytona Beach News-Journal, Volusia County Proud Boys leader threatened at Seminole County Jail, attorney says, Frank Fernandez, July 15, 2021. A Volusia County Proud Boys leader being held in the Seminole County Jail has been threatened by inmates and will likely be threatened again as they seek to test him, his attorney said during a federal hearing on Thursday.

Joseph R. Biggs, 37, was a leader among the Proud Boys in planning “an organized and violent attack” upon the country’s democracy and its Capitol building on Jan. 6, according to federal prosecutors.

And word that Biggs is locked up in a subsection of the Seminole County Jail, which holds about 150 federal inmates in other cases, has been getting around, according to J. Daniel Hull, who represents Biggs.

“I do worry about somebody wanting to test Joe Biggs' mettle,” Hull said. “I think that’s going to be coming up more and more.”

Biggs, whose home is in Volusia County near Ormond Beach, has been held at the Seminole County Jail since he turned himself in to U.S. Marshals on April 22.

joe biggs mugHull said that Biggs, right, is also having problems with an old injury for which he previously received surgery. Hull said on Thursday that he does not want Biggs moved to a detention facility in Washington, D.C.

Biggs and three other Proud Boys have been indicted together on six counts: conspiracy; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and aiding and abetting; destruction of government property and aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; and disorderly conduct in a restricted building or grounds.

The Proud Boys is a far-right nationalist organization that describes itself as a “pro-Western fraternal organization for men who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world; aka Western Chauvinists,” according to a federal criminal complaint.

The Proud Boys strongly supported former president Donald Trump. In recent years, the group has increasingly confronted protesters on the left, including antifa, in places like Portland, sometimes leading to street fights.

Biggs’ case has been closely tied to Ethan “Rufio Panman” Nordean, another Proud Boys leader who is being held in Washington state. Nordean’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him. Biggs’ attorney joined that motion, which hasn't yet been heard by a judge.

 

World News

djt validimir putin

Palmer Report, Opinion: Who’s leaking these new Trump-Russia details? TR Kenneth, July 15, 2021. Apparently, Putin can’t plug up his leaks because Trump’s been outed now as the Russian asset we’ve all known him to be. The documents confirming this were highly classified and direct from the Kremlin, as newly reported by the Guardian.

Right now, there’s lots of speculation as to why this is coming out. Is it more disinformation intentionally coming from Russia? Is it something the US has had and is finally releasing?

bill palmer report logo headerIf the Kremlin is “leaking” the documents to damage Trump, then Putin is signaling their relationship is done and Trump’s on his own. This could be significant, given Biden’s recent conversation with Putin about not interfering with the US.

If the US Intel community is outing the document, it could also signal Trump is cooked and should be investigated for treason. If the document is faked, then we can ride the speculation train all the way up to the mob and Semion Mogilevich.

washington post logoWashington Post, Head of Haitian presidential guard in custody amid hunt for assassination masterminds, Widlore Merancourt and Rachel Pannett, July 15, 2021. The detention of Dimitri Hérard was haiti flagconfirmed by Bed-Ford Claude, a Haitian prosecutor; Israel Jacky Cantave, a spokesperson for Haiti’s prime minister; and Carl Martin, a close friend and colleague of Hérard’s. Much public anger has been directed against Hérard, as Haitians wonder how a team of alleged assassins appeared to easily infiltrate Moïse’s residence only to be later swiftly taken into custody.

It isn’t clear on what charges, if any, Hérard is being held. “The justice [system] wants him to answer questions,” Claude told The Washington Post.

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspects in Haitian President’s Killing Met to Plan a Future Without Him, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Frances Robles and Julie Turkewitz, July 15, 2021. Haitian officials say key suspects met to plot the assassination, but participants called them sessions to plan a government once the president resigned.

The meetings, conducted in Florida and the Dominican Republic, appear to connect a seemingly disparate group of suspects in the investigation.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Acknowledging Disagreements, Biden and Merkel Signal Warmer Ties, Katie Rogers, July 15, 2021. Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Biden exchanged friendly banter, but there were no breakthroughs on a Russian pipeline or how to approach China.

Signaling that the U.S.-European alliance remained strong after the tension of the Trump era, President Biden and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on Thursday stressed their shared values, even as both acknowledged differences on a major Russian pipeline and how best to approach China.

During meetings at the White House, Mr. Biden’s age