August 2021 News

 

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

 

Aug. 31

U.S. departs Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Hurricanes, Fires, Climate Change

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Media News

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot Probes, Prosecutions

 

More On Afghanistan

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

 

World News


U.S. Politics, Governance


Top Stories

afghanistan marines centcom photo

U.S. Marines undertaking evacuation efforts during the last days of the war in Afghanistan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghanistan Live Updates: Biden Defends U.S. Withdrawal After Taliban Declare Victory, Michael D. Shear and Jim Tankersley, Aug. 31, 2021.  President Biden on Tuesday hailed what he called the “extraordinary success” of the evacuation of Kabul as he vehemently defended his decision to end America’s war in Afghanistan, just one day after the end of a two-week rescue of 125,000 people from Kabul that saw the deaths of 13 service members.

Speaking from the Cross Hall at the White House, Mr. Biden said the nation owed a debt of gratitude to the troops who died in the evacuation mission.

“Thirteen heroes gave their lives,” he said in a speech in which he offered no apologies for either his decision to end the war or the way in which his administration executed that mission. “We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude we can never repay, but we should never, ever, ever forget.”

Mr. Biden appeared intent on forcefully rejecting criticism of the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, offering a defensive recounting of his decision-making and blaming former President Donald J. Trump for negotiating a bad deal with the Taliban that boxed Mr. Biden and his team in.

“That was the choice, the real choice between leaving or escalating,” Mr. Biden declared, his tone angry and defensive as he opened the first minutes of his remarks. “I was not going to extend this forever war.”

jen psakiBefore Mr. Biden’s speech, Jen Psaki, right, the White House press secretary, had said the president would “lay out his decision to end the war in Afghanistan after 20 years, including the tough decisions he made over the last seven months since he took office to bring the war to a close,” she said. “He will make clear that as president, he will approach our foreign policy through the prism of what is in our national interests, including how best to continue to keep the American people safe.”

Ms. Psaki also said that the president would thank commanders and service members “who executed a dangerous mission in Kabul and airlifted more than 124,000 people to safety; he will also offer thanks to the veterans and volunteers who supported this effort.”

The president delivered his remarks almost 20 years after the United States ousted the Taliban from power in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and just a day after the last American troops and diplomats departed the country, which is once again under Taliban rule.

Mr. Biden pointedly did not announce the news on Monday that the final transport plane carrying American forces had left Afghanistan, leaving that instead to Pentagon officials who briefed reporters after the plane had left Afghan airspace. On Sunday, he declined to answer a question about Afghanistan from a reporter following his trip to Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware, to witness the transfer of the remains of 13 American service members killed in a bombing attack at the Kabul airport last week, the final U.S. casualties of the war.

Mr. Biden’s speech comes as White House officials are hoping to wind down a difficult episode for his presidency, and focus instead on domestic crises at hand — including the ongoing Delta variant wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the aftermath of Hurricane Ida’s destructive path through the Gulf Coast.

The president is also expected to pivot in the days and weeks ahead toward a push in Congress next month to pass key provisions of the president’s multi-trillion-dollar economic agenda, including major spending on infrastructure and social services.

For more than two weeks, the rushed exit of troops from Afghanistan, and the chaos and violence around the airport, have diverted the White House from the president’s domestic agenda.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden: Afghanistan withdrawal a ‘success,’ Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis, Miriam Berger, Paulina Villegas and Sammy Westfall, Aug. 31, 2021. President Biden on Tuesday defended the U.S. evacuation effort in Afghanistan, which was capped with the Taliban taking control of the Kabul airport after the last American military flight left the country.

“The United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history,” Biden said during an address at the White House, praising the efforts to get more than 120,000 Americans and allies evacuated to safety. “And still, the women and men of the United States military, our diplomatic corps and intelligence professionals did their job and did it well, risking their lives not for professional gains but to serve others — not in a mission of war, but a mission of mercy.”

Biden’s comments came after celebratory gunfire from the Taliban echoed across Kabul, capping the militant group’s victory in a 20-year war with the United States. One of the Taliban’s top officials, however, cautioned its fighters to be careful in how they treated the local population and called for international investment and national unity in the country.

“I invite you all to come and invest in Afghanistan,” said Zabihullah Mujahid at a speech at the airport. “Your investments will be in good hands. The country will be stable and safe.” He added that after years of war and invasion, “the people do not have more tolerance” for further violence.

The Taliban’s senior leadership has held multiday talks as the group works to forms a government. Key updates

  • In defense of decision to end war, Biden focuses on global rise of terrorism
  • Roughly 1,250 Canadian citizens and their family members left behind in Afghanistan
  • Taliban spokesman calls on international community to keep investing in Afghanistan

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In Afghanistan, an Unceremonious End to America’s Longest War, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Anxious Questions About Country’s Fate Under Taliban Rule.

The end of the United States’ longest war was unceremonious — trash blowing across the single airstrip of Kabul’s international airport, Afghans lingering outside the gates, still hoping in vain for evacuation, Taliban firing victoriously into the night sky.

In its final days, it was two U.S. Marines shaking hands with Taliban fighters in the dim glow of the domestic terminal. It was lines of starved and dehydrated evacuees boarding gray planes that took them to uncertain futures. It was the Taliban’s leadership dictating their terms, as a generation of Afghans pondered the end of 20 years of some kind of expanded hope.

It was highway overpasses and park benches stretched across the United States, named in honor of the war’s dead.

The end, at least for the Americans and their Western allies, came on a Monday after the thousands of U.S. troops defending Hamid Karzai International Airport flew out in waves, one lumbering transport plane after another until none were left, in the final hours of the lost war.

Unlike the Soviets defeated before them, the Americans’ legacy was not a landscape littered with the destroyed hulks of armored vehicles. Instead, they left all the arms and equipment needed to supply the Taliban, the victors, for years to come, the product of two decades and $83 billion training and equipping an Afghan military and police forces that collapsed in the face of poor leadership and dwindling U.S. support.

Afghanistan has once more completed a cycle that has repeatedly defined the past 40 years of violence and upheaval: For the fifth time since the Soviet invasion in 1979, one order has collapsed and another has risen. What has followed each of those times has been a descent into vengeance, score-settling and, eventually, another cycle of disorder and war.

It is up to the Taliban, now, to decide whether they will perpetuate the cycle of vengeance, as they did upon seizing power from a group of feuding warlords in 1996, or will truly embrace the new path that their leaders have promised in recent days: one of acceptance and reconciliation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: With U.S. Military Gone, Afghans Confront Their Future, Staff Reports, Aug. 31, 2021. Afghans woke up to their first day with no American presence, and to fears over what shape their lives would take under new leaders.

Vital questions swirl about how the group, which has yet to form a government, will preside over a nation beleaguered by humanitarian and economic crises.

Here’s the latest:

  • With Afghanistan fully controlled by the Taliban, daunting challenges lie ahead.
  • The Taliban declare victory at a Kabul airport in disarray.
  • In a final blow of the 20-year war, U.S. envoys close their embassy and exit Kabul.
  • Inside Kabul airport, the last American soldier leaves, and the first Taliban fighters arrive.
  • After the U.S. withdrawal, the fate of Kabul’s airport hangs in the balance.
  • U.K. rejects reports that its troops pushed for a gate at Kabul airport to stay open.
  • She was lauded for challenging a Taliban member on live TV. Then she fled.

frank mckenzie informal

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. departs Afghanistan, ending America’s longest war, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis, Susannah George, Miriam Berger and Paulina Villegas, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Biden says U.S. military leaders all agreed not to extend Aug. 31 deadline. 

The Pentagon said Monday that the United States had pulled out the last of its troops from Afghanistan and that the evacuation operation at Kabul’s international airport had ended.

The departure caps a chaotic withdrawal that was rushed by the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country and scarred by a suicide attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 other people. More than 120,000 people had been evacuated since Aug. 14, amounting to one of the largest airlifts in history, but the deteriorating security and chaos at the airport resulted in some Americans and thousands of Afghan allies being left behind.

ICE logoIn a news conference, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie (shown above in a file photo) announced “the completion of our withdrawal from Afghanistan and the end of the military mission to evacuate American citizens, third-country nationals and vulnerable Afghans.”

President Biden said later that there was unanimity among military leaders to end the airlift mission as planned.

He praised U.S. forces for evacuating more than 120,000 Americans and allies. The president said in a statement that he will address the nation Tuesday on his decision not to extend operations beyond then, but that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all commanders on the ground agreed that ending the military mission was “the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid celebrated the news Monday evening. “The last American occupier withdrew from (Kabul Airport) at 12 o’clock, and our country gained its full independence,” he tweeted. “Praise and gratitude be to God.”

The Taliban has agreed to allow foreign nationals and Afghans with relevant travel documents to leave the country safely after the international rescue mission ends Tuesday, the United States and dozens of other countries said Sunday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Family Accuses U.S. of Killing 10 in Errant Missile Attack, Matthieu Aikins, Photographs by Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Relatives and friends angrily dismissed suggestions that Zemari Ahmadi, whose car was struck, was linked to ISIS-K. The U.S. is investigating.

Zemari Ahmadi was coming home Sunday evening, having dropped off colleagues from the local office of an American aid group where he worked, relatives and colleagues said in interviews Monday.

As he pulled into the narrow street where he lived with his three brothers and their families, many of their children, seeing his white Toyota Corolla, rushed out to greet him, family members said. Some clambered onto the car in the street, one jumped in while others gathered in the narrow courtyard of the compound as he frank mckenzie opulled in.

It was then, friends and family say, that the vehicle was hit with a missile which they believe was fired by an American drone, blowing out doors and windows in the courtyard, spraying shrapnel, and killing 10 people, seven of them children.

In a news conference on Monday in Washington, Gen. Frank McKenzie, shown in an official file photo, commander of the U.S. Central Command, did not address the circumstances surrounding the drone strike except to say that it dealt ISIS Khorasan a crushing blow when the group was hoping to deliver one last attack before the U.S. withdrawal.

 

U.S. Hurricanes, Fires, Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, As Louisiana Surveys Ida’s Damage, New Orleans Levees Seem to Have Held, Staff Reports, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Across southeastern Louisiana, a day-after accounting of the wreckage from Hurricane Ida was hindered by power outages and limited phone service. New Orleans remained without electricity.

But the city’s system of levees, barriers and pumps appears to have passed a dramatic test.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: After Hurricane Ida, Louisiana Officials Urge Evacuees to Delay Return, Staff Reports, Aug. 31, 2021. More than a million homes and businesses remained without power, including much of New Orleans. Here’s the latest on the storm.

  • “It’s never been as bad”: With parts of Louisiana still unreachable, the full extent of destruction remained unclear.
  • A man was missing and presumed dead after an alligator attacked him in an area that flooded during Hurricane Ida.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ida weakens to tropical storm as it moves to Mississippi with destructive winds, heavy flooding, Gina Harkins and Kendra Nichols, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Hurricane forecasters downgraded Ida to a tropical storm Monday morning but are still warning of dangerous storm surges, damaging winds and heavy rainfall in multiple states.

The storm weakened 16 hours after Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane. Ida battered Louisiana late into Sunday night and early Monday, with reports of downed power lines, levee failures and flooding, collapsed buildings and trapped residents on rooftops.

Forecasters warned that flooding from storm surges will continue through Monday morning in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. As Ida’s center moves into southwestern Mississippi, damaging winds could cause more power outages. Heavy rainfall is possible through Tuesday morning across southeastern Louisiana, coastal Mississippi and southwestern Alabama.

  • Flooding could also hit portions of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys and the Mid-Atlantic through Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
  • Hurricane Ida tracker: See the projected path as the storm turns

washington post logoWashington Post, Evacuations Ordered Near Lake Tahoe as Caldor Fire Intensifies, Neil Vigdor and Thomas Fuller, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The fire had spread to more than 177,000 acres and was 14 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

A wildfire that had burned through remote areas in the Sierra Nevada for two weeks crested a ridge on Monday and began descending toward the major population centers along Lake Tahoe.

As the Caldor fire intensified amid dry and windy conditions, thousands of people along the lake’s southern and western shores were ordered to evacuate. Crews of firefighters sped to put out spot fires only miles from South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Tourists normally swarm the lake on the California-Nevada border in the summer months for boating, fishing, hiking, eating and drinking. But by sunset on Monday, the community seemed to stand still.

On streets that were clogged only hours earlier, shops and businesses — motels, restaurants, supermarkets — were deserted. Roads were empty except for fire engines and television reporters documenting the eerie calm.

It was impossible to know when, if at all, the fire would reach the town. But people did not stay to test the fury of a blaze that fire officials estimate could threaten more than 20,000 structures.

Public safety officials warned that the Caldor fire, the latest to grip California during a particularly unforgiving summer for fire crews in the West, showed no signs of relenting. It had scorched more than 177,000 acres and was 14 percent contained on Monday.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Records a Daily Average of 100,000 Covid Hospitalizations, Staff Reports, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The influx of patients hasn’t been this high since last winter, before most Americans were eligible to be vaccinated.

The daily average for hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the United States is now more than 100,000. That average, calculated over the last seven days, is higher than in any previous surge except last winter’s, before most Americans were eligible to get vaccinated.

The influx of patients is straining hospitals and pushing health care workers to the brink as deaths have risen to an average of more than 1,000 a day for the first time since March.

Hospitalizations nationwide have increased by nearly 500 percent in the past two months, particularly across Southern states, where I.C.U. beds are filling up, a crisis fueled by some of the country’s lowest vaccination rates and widespread political opposition to public health measures like mask requirements.

In Florida, 16,457 people are hospitalized, the most of any state, followed by Texas, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

With the surge pummeling the nation and overwhelming hospitals, a shortage of bedside nurses has complicated efforts to treat hospitalized coronavirus patients, leading to longer emergency room waiting times and rushed or inadequate care.

Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • The U.S. reaches 100,000 average daily Covid hospitalizations for the first time since winter.
  • Demand surges for a deworming drug despite no evidence it can treat Covid.
  • In Baton Rouge, a hospital strained by the pandemic braces for storm victims.
  • New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, has a record rise in daily cases.
  • In an effort to lure Berliners, Covid shots are made available on a train.
  • As the Delta variant surges, companies are readjusting the return to office.
  • The E.U. is set to reimpose travel restrictions on U.S. visitors.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Intolerable Wait for a Kids’ Vaccine, Michelle Goldberg, right, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Julie Swann, an engineer who studies health michelle goldberg thumbsystems and models infectious disease at North Carolina State University, leads a team of researchers who recently tried to simulate how the Delta variant of the coronavirus could move through schools in various scenarios. The results, which The Washington Post published over the weekend, were alarming.

Absent masking and testing, the study said, more than 75 percent of susceptible students would become infected in three months. Even with masking and testing, the simulation found, kids in environments with low immunity — which includes virtually all elementary school classrooms — had a 22 percent chance of getting Covid within 107 days.

As a parent of two elementary-school students, I found these figures harrowing. It already felt like a gut punch when, last week, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said he didn’t expect a pediatric Covid vaccine to be approved before the end of the year.

I live in New York City, where school staff must be vaccinated, and mask mandates are relatively uncontroversial. But Swann’s team’s calculations made it look like my family’s chance of getting through this fall without either of our kids coming down with Covid was almost a coin flip.

Daily Beast, Beloved Teacher Dies of COVID in School District That Chose Jeans Over Masks, Zoe Richards, Aug. 31, 2021. Bulloch County’s schools superintendent refused to issue a mask mandate—and instead said teachers could wear jeans to help them get through a difficult period.

A longtime teacher at a Georgia high school died over the weekend after losing a battle to COVID-19, weeks after the district’s superintendent refused to issue a mask mandate—and instead said teachers could wear jeans for a month.

Bulloch County Coroner Jake Futch confirmed to local outlets that Penny Gary, 58, a Statesboro High School teacher, died due to complications from COVID-19 at East Georgia Regional Medical Center on Sunday. I

 ny times logoNew York Times, Demand Surges for Deworming Drug for Covid, Despite No Evidence It Works, Emma Goldberg, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Prescriptions for ivermectin have jumped to more than 88,000 per week, and people are overdosing on forms of the drug meant for horses.

For the past week, Dr. Gregory Yu, an emergency physician in San Antonio, has received the same daily requests from his patients, some vaccinated for Covid-19 and others unvaccinated: They ask him for ivermectin, a drug typically used to treat parasitic worms that has repeatedly failed in clinical trials to help people infected with the coronavirus.

Dr. Yu has refused the ivermectin requests, he said, but he knows some of his colleagues have not. Prescriptions for ivermectin have seen a sharp rise in recent weeks, jumping to more than 88,000 per week in mid-August from a prepandemic baseline average of 3,600 per week, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some pharmacists are even reporting shortages of the drug. Travis Walthall, a pharmacist in Kuna, Idaho, a town of about 20,000 people, said that this summer alone he had filled more than 20 ivermectin prescriptions, up from two or three in a typical year. For the past week he has not been able to obtain the drug from his suppliers; they were all out.

Mr. Walthall was astonished, he said, at how many people were willing to take an unapproved drug for Covid. “I’m like, gosh, this is horrible,” he said.

While sometimes given to humans in small doses for head lice, scabies and other parasites, ivermectin is more commonly used in animals. Physicians are raising alarms about a growing number of people getting the drug from livestock supply centers, where it can come in highly concentrated paste or liquid forms.

Calls to poison control centers about ivermectin exposures have risen dramatically, jumping fivefold over their baseline in July, according to C.D.C. researchers, who cited data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Mississippi’s health department said earlier this month that 70 percent of recent calls to the state poison control center had come from people who ingested ivermectin from livestock supply stores.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 204.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 31, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 173.8 million people fully vaccinated, 52.4 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 31, 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: 218,071,879, Deaths: 4,526,894
U.S. Cases:     39,946,708, Deaths:    656,393
India Cases:     32,768,880, Deaths:    438,592
Brazil Cases:    20,752,281, Deaths:    579,643

 

U.S. Media News

robert david steele collageRobert David Steele, who recently led a nationwide tour that generated $1.2 million for his anti-mask, anti-vaxx messaging, is shown in a promotional photo at left and at right in a Florida hospital shortly before his deatho on Sunday from Covid-19. Although the news report below, like most, assumes the truth of Steele's claim that he had been a "CIA officer" earlier in his career, the Justice Integrity Project we has received information from a trusted source that he had been a contractor for the agency, not an officer. His claim was part of a pattern of absurd drama he used for fund-raising and ego-centric politicking, such as his repeated allegation that sex traffickers were keeping children as sex slaves on the planet Mars.

New York Daily News, ‘Hoax’ kills Covid-denying anti-vaxxer who worked for the CIA: report, Brian Niemietz, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). A former CIA agent (shown above who bought into QAnon conspiracy culture has seemingly died from Covid.

The death of Robert David Steele, a guest on the far right-wing program “Infowars,” was confirmed by a friend of his on social media Sunday. Steele prided himself as one of the first people to identify COVID — which Vice reports caused his death — as a “hoax.”

The 69-year-old ex-marine was reportedly hospitalized in Florida earlier this month, but remained skeptical about the virus that was killing him until his dying breath.

“I will not take the vaccination, though I did test positive for whatever they’re calling ‘COVID’ today,” he blogged on Aug. 17. “The bottom line is that my lungs are not functioning. The good news is that I will survive with a few days off.”

Steele optimistically called his fatal illness a “near death experience” that mirrored what he thought was happening in the United States. He believed he’d pull through, thanks to a sound network of friends.

“We will never be the same because now we know that we’ve all been lied to about everything,” he claimed. “But, now we also know that we can trust each other.”

Fellow conspiracy theorist Mark Tassi confirmed his pal’s death on Sunday, claiming Steele was fine until he was treated with an antiviral medication. Tassi claims Steele’s family gave into “shaming” and put the former Marine on a ventilator. According to Tassi, ventilators kill people.

“They are trying to make Florida look bad, why?” he asked rhetorically. “Why? Because (Ron) DeSantis is not going along with agenda so they are targeting Florida. Open your eyes. Don’t take my word for it. Do the research as I have done.”

While DeSantis’ plan to push through the pandemic without locking down Florida was initially praised, the conservative leader has come under fire since COVID infection rates in the Sunshine State began skyrocketing in recent weeks.

Tassi said Steele was touring the country to push claims that Donald Trump was the real winner of the 2020 presidential election when he got sick. Steele had allegedly spent all his money promoting that narrative.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Snake Oil Theory of the Modern Right, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Right-wing extremists, and to some extent paul krugmaneven more mainstream conservative media, rely on financial support from companies selling nutritional supplements and miracle cures — and that financial support is arguably a significant factor pushing the right to become more extreme.

Indeed, right-wing extremism isn’t just an ideological movement that happens to get a lot of money from sellers of snake oil; some of its extremism can probably be seen not as a reflection of deep conviction, but as a way of promoting snake oil.

Consider where we are right now in the fight against Covid-19. A few months ago it seemed likely that the development of effective vaccines would soon bring the pandemic to an end. Instead, it goes on, with hospitalizations closing in on their peak from last winter. This is partly due to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant, but it also crucially reflects the refusal of many Americans to take the vaccines.

And much of this refusal is political. True, many people who are refusing to get vaccinated aren’t Trumpists, but there’s a strong negative correlation between Donald Trump’s share of a county’s vote and vaccinations. As of July, 86 percent of self-identified Democrats said they had had a vaccine shot, but only 54 percent of Republicans did.

But vaccine refusers aren’t just rejecting lifesaving vaccines, they’re also turning to life-threatening alternatives. We’re seeing a surge in sales of — and poisoning by — ivermectin, which is usually used to deworm livestock but has recently been touted on social media and Fox News as a Covid cure.

As the historian Rick Perlstein has pointed out, there’s a long association between peddlers of quack medicine and right-wing extremists. They cater to more or less the same audience.

That is, Americans willing to believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that Italian satellites were used to switch votes to Joe Biden are also the kind of people willing to believe that medical elites are lying to them and that they can solve their health problems by ignoring professional advice and buying patent medicines instead.

Once you’re sensitized to the link between snake oil and right-wing politics, you realize that it’s pervasive.

This is clearly true in the right’s fever swamps. Alex Jones of Infowars has built a following by pushing conspiracy theories, but he makes money by selling nutritional supplements.

It’s also true, however, for more mainstream, establishment parts of the right. For example, Ben Shapiro, considered an intellectual on the right, hawks supplements.

Put it this way: There are big financial rewards to extremism, because extreme politics sells patent medicine, and patent medicine is highly profitable. (In 2014 Alex Jones’s operations were bringing in more than $20 million a year in revenue, mainly from supplement sales.) Do these financial rewards induce pundits to be more extreme?

The extremism of media figures radicalizes their audience, giving politicians an incentive to become more extreme.

None of this would be happening if there weren’t a climate of anger and distrust for unscrupulous pundits and politicians to exploit. But the fact that extremism sells patent medicine creates a financial incentive to get more extreme.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Rand Paul clown show crashes and burns, Bocha Blue, Aug. 31, 2021. What is going on with Rand and Ron? I refer to a couple of our nation’s worst “leaders.” There is number one — Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. And number two — Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

rand paul presser 6 2 15Apparently, R&R are fiercely fighting for the right of humans everywhere to take horse dewormer. I suppose it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. After all, Republicans have politicized everything else — why not animal medication?

bill palmer report logo headerRand Paul (shown in a file photo) is now saying that “hatred of” the former guy is to blame for the lack of studies of Ivermectin. No, it’s not Rand. The fact is the FDA had to put out a statement TELLING people they’re not horses and cows. Perhaps you think you are?

Don’t get me started on Ron Johnson, who has latched into so many conspiracy theories. I would not be surprised if he announced little aliens were living behind his ears. This would explain so much.

The fact is this drug should not be taken for COVID, and anyone who says otherwise is either delusional or lying to you.

So far, the right to consume horse dewormers hasn’t spread to many other republicans, but I predict that will change.

Why? Because the GOP isn’t a party anymore — it’s a cult, and no doubt if the former guy tells them to talk about Ivermectin, they will. In the meantime, sane people like us will continue to at least try to make people aware that they are indeed human, and horse and cow anti-parasite medication is not meant for them.

robert malone war room

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis The false claim that the fully-approved Pfizer vaccine lacks liability protection, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.).

“The little trick that they have done here: They have issued two separate letters for two separate vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine which is currently available is still under emergency use authorization and it still has the liability shield … The product that’s licensed … it’s called Comirnaty. … that’s the one that liability waiver will no longer apply to.”

Dr. Robert Malone, above, interview on Bannons War Room, Aug. 24

Malone, a physician who bills himself as having played a key role in creation of mRNA vaccines, is a prominent skeptic of the coronavirus vaccines that have been crafted using the technology. Shortly after the Food and Drug Administration fully authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he appeared on a program hosted stephen bannon cropped npc 2013by Stephen K. Bannon, right, a one-time adviser to former president Donald Trump, and claimed that the full authorization was a bait-and-switch game played by the FDA.

“One again the mainstream media has lied to you,” he said. “Sorry to say that. I know it’s a shock to this viewership.”

In essence, his argument was that the approved vaccine would no longer have liability protections so Pfizer would simply keep distributing in the United States the product that had been authorized for emergency use.

A similar claim was made by Robert F. Kennedy, a leading anti-vaccine campaigner.

“Licensed adult vaccines, including the new Comirnaty, do not enjoy any liability shield,” Kennedy wrote with a co-author in an Aug. 24 post. “Just as with Ford’s exploding Pinto, or Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, people injured by the Comirnaty vaccine could sue for damages. And because adults injured by the vaccine will be able to show that the manufacturer knew of the problems with the product, jury awards could be astronomical. Pfizer is therefore unlikely to allow any American to take a Comirnaty vaccine until it can somehow arrange immunity for this product.”

These claims are false, based on a misunderstanding of the law, as Malone acknowledged after we contacted him.

Malone quickly conceded his statement on the Bannon show was wrong. “When one is doing rapid analysis on the fly, one does not always get everything right,” he told The Fact Checker. “On this particular legal liability issue I did not hunt down the details myself, and relied on comments from a third party lawyer which were not fully correct.” He said the statements we received from Pfizer and HHS “are consistent with my current understanding.”

As regular readers know, we generally do not award Pinocchios when a person admits error. Otherwise, this would be a Four-Pinocchio claim. Malone was too quick to embrace false information (while bashing the mainstream media at the same time). The liability protection for Comirnaty is the same as the vaccine that was previously approved under emergency authorization, so that is not a bar to distributing the fully-approved vaccine in the United States.

 

marc bernierPalmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, right, Aug. 30, 2021. He’s the guy who calls himself “Mr. Anti-vax.” He tweeted a prediction that four robert harringtnn portraitmonths after the 2020 election people would be saying, “Coronavirus, what’s that?” In his most recent tweet to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who likened getting vaccinated against coronavirus to fighting the Nazis only much, much easier, Mr Anti-vax said, “Should say, ‘Now the US Government is acting like Nazi’s[sic]. Get the shot.’”

bill palmer report logo headerMeet Marc Bernier, above, another Florida “radio personality” who thinks you’re stupid for wearing a mask, who thinks it’s anti-American to get vaccinated, who has been an anti-vaxxer and Pro-Trumper and spreader of the Big Lie from the very first. He’s interested in your civil rights and he wants to make sure that America remains free from all this scientific coronavirus nonsense.

I would love to debate Mr. Bernier on these issues on Twitter but unfortunately I can’t. It’s not because his Twitter account has been taken down, not because he said something that violated Twitter’s terms of service (though he probably has), but because Marc Bernier died this weekend. On Saturday to be precise. Of coronavirus.

I’m afraid I played a little joke on you, brothers, and sisters. In my first two paragraphs I spoke of Bernier in the present tense — as a sort of polemical “Weekend at Bernier’s,” if you will. I did it because I wanted to illustrate in a shocking way how quickly coronavirus kills people.

Yes, the self-styled “Mr Anti-vax” has gone to that great lib-owning radio show in the sky. He took Patrick Henry’s thundering admonition, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” to its ultimate conclusion. You might say he owned himself in the most humiliating way possible. He became the ultimate rube cliche, the guy whose famous last words were, “Hey everybody, watch this!”

This is how stupid people die. This is what Drs Dunning and Kruger meant when they said the dumber some people are the more confident they become in their own beliefs. This is the price of ignoring science and believing your own thin, easily refuted propaganda. This is why wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and getting vaccinated isn’t a political issue, it isn’t open for debate, it isn’t a martyr’s hill to die on, it’s a scientific fact and a matter of life and death.

If it was just people like Mr. Bernier who died from their own stupidity then I couldn’t care less. Like the guy who killed himself in a homemade rocket to “prove” the earth was flat. But unfortunately people like Mr. Bernier take innocent people with them, innocent bystanders who become infected because some moron without a mask infected them. They are provoking anger in some people where no anger would have existed at all had they been left alone to decide for themselves. They are turning a health issue into a political one. It’s not.

Coronavirus isn’t a member of any party. It will kill you, your children, your friends and neighbors and it doesn’t give a crap what you think or what you believe. It behaves exactly like scientific truth, like the law of gravity, and all the propaganda and lies and government decrees on earth won’t change it one little bit. And it’s getting nastier, more virulent, more deadly every day.

Marc Bernier’s state (excuse me, former state) of Florida leads the nation in hospitalizations, with more than 16,000 Floridians hospitalized. Ninety five percent of the state’s ICU beds are now filled. For the 3rd straight week in a row Florida has had more than 150,000 new cases of coronavirus, including 26,000 children under twelve years of age.

There have been a total of more than 43,000 deaths in the state. Marc Bernier’s death is another one, but it’s far, far from the last. Despite the evidence of their own eyes, with people dropping dead right in front of them, the literally terminally stupid will continue to spread this anti-science excrement until millions have died. When they finally wake up to scientific reality it will be too late.

Daily Beast, Sidney Powell Storms Off Set When Grilled on Her Election Lies, Justin Baragona, Aug. 31, 2021. Powell later returned with her tiny dog in tow and continued to double down on her baseless claims.

Pro-Trump “Kraken” attorney Sidney Powell briefly fled from an interview when pressed to justify the “basic factual errors” behind her outlandish election fraud conspiracies, complaining that the questions were “wholly inappropriate” as she’s facing litigation over her baseless claims.

In the final part of the Australian Broadcasting Company’s two-part series on Fox News’ role in propagating former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie,” correspondent Sarah Ferguson sat down with the Trump loyalist at her Texas home to grill her on the wild allegations that voting software companies Smartmatic and Dominion conspired with foreign governments to steal the 2020 election for Biden.

Prior to her interview with Powell, Ferguson spoke with Smartmatic lawyer Erik Connolly about the $2.7 billion lawsuit the firm has filed against Powell, Fox News, several of its hosts, and former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. (Fox News has filed motions to dismiss the suits.)

Connolly noted that despite Powell’s repeated claims that Smartmatic was involved in widespread vote-rigging in various states, the company only had a single American contract in the 2020 election to provide a new voting system in Los Angeles County.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bishop Sycamore, IMG and the high school football game that duped ESPN, Ben Strauss, Aug. 31, 2021. ESPN aired a high school football game Sunday night between two mismatched teams that has sparked questions about how it happened and the legitimacy of Columbus-based Bishop Sycamore.

 Other Recent Stories:

ny times logoNew York Times, First Male Accuser at Trial Says R. Kelly Promised Fame for Sex, Troy Closson, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Ex-Assistant Describes R. Kelly’s Anger When His Strict Rules Were Broken.

r kelly twitterFive accusers — four women and one man — have now testified that the singer (shown in his Twitter photo) had sexual contact with them when they were underage, including a woman who described being raped.

One of R. Kelly’s former assistants described the singer’s system of strict rules for the women in his orbit — and the anger he displayed when those rules were broken — as his racketeering trial resumed Tuesday in Brooklyn.

The new testimony came a day after Mr. Kelly’s first male accuser testified that the R&B star offered help with his music career in exchange for sexual favors. The man, who testified under the pseudonym Louis, told jurors that he was 17 when Mr. Kelly began making sexual advances toward him.

Four women have also testified that they were underage when their encounters with Mr. Kelly began, including a woman identified only as Addie who on Monday described being raped by the singer in a dressing room after a concert.

Mr. Kelly has denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty to a racketeering charge and eight counts of violating an interstate anti-sex trafficking law.

Prosecutors have accused Mr. Kelly, 54, of running a decades-long criminal plot to prey on women and girls for sex with the help of a network of associates and employees.

Mr. Kelly is not charged with rape or sexual assault, and many of the specific accusations against him fall outside the statute of limitations for those crimes. But a racketeering charge allows prosecutors to present evidence of any related potential crimes.

  mike richards

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Richards out as ‘Jeopardy!’ executive producer after podcast controversy, Emily Yahr, Aug. 31, 2021. Mike Richards, above, is no longer the executive producer of “Jeopardy!" and “Wheel of Fortune,” Sony Pictures Television announced on Tuesday. The announcement comes less than two weeks after Richards stepped down as the new “Jeopardy!” host following the revelation of his many offensive comments on his former podcast.

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot Probes, Prosecutions

bennie thompson horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, House Jan. 6 committee asks telecom companies to retain phone records related to Capitol attack as it ramps up investigation, Dave Clarke and Felicia Sonmez, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The committee has made three requests for information this month as it ramps up its investigation.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol asked 35 telecommunications and social media companies Monday to retain phone records and other information relevant to its inquiry as the panel ramps up is investigation ahead of the return of Congress next month.

U.S. House logoThat list was expected to include phones used by some members of Congress, a person familiar with the request, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the investigation, said Friday. Committee spokesman Tim Mulvey on Monday declined to say which individuals were included in the request out of respect for their privacy.

“The Select Committee is at this point gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual,” Mulvey said in a statement.

Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), above, recently said his panel would not shy away from investigating lawmakers as part of its inquiry, highlighting the remarkable nature of Congress investigating an attack on itself.

facebook logoThe committee’s plans have already drawn criticism from Republicans, most of whom have opposed investigating the insurrection and former president Donald Trump’s role in inspiring the mob with his false claims about Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.

The request that went out Monday was sent to tech and social media companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Signal, as well as google logo customtelecommunications companies such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

The panel is asking the 35 companies to preserve “metadata, subscriber information, technical usage information, and content of communications for the listed individuals.”

In its letters to the companies, the committee asked for the preservation of material from individuals who were “involved in organizing, funding, or speaking” at January’s “Stop The Steal” rallies, as well as individuals who were “potentially involved with discussions of plans to challenge, delay, or interfere” with the electoral certification process.

att logoThe committee has now made three requests for information this month as it ramps up its investigation. The panel released its first request for information Aug. 25, issuing sweeping demands for records from federal agencies pertaining to the attack on the Capitol and Trump’s efforts to subvert the election.

In the letters asking for materials from the National Archives and seven other agencies, the committee signaled that an expansive investigation is underway, touching not only on what happened Jan. 6 but also on matters such as “the former president’s knowledge of the election results and what he communicated to the American people about the election.” The committee also asked the archivist for records of communication within the White House with “any Member of Congress or congressional staff” on Jan. 6

On Friday, it asked technology companies — including Facebook, Twitter and Google — for “all reviews, studies, reports, data, analyses, and communications” regarding misinformation generated by foreign and U.S. actors, “domestic violent extremists” associated with the attack, and other efforts to overturn the election results.

 michael fanone embattled but standingProof via Substack, Loose-Knit "Sedition Hunters" Group Reveals Connection Between the White House and the Attack on D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael seth abramson graphicFanone, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 30-31, 2021. A group of White House allies whose members were in touch with White House and Trump campaign agents in the hours before the insurrection had one of their number at the site of the horrifying attack.

seth abramson proof logoAs Time wrote, “[DCMP officer Michael] Fanone, in uniform and helmet (shown above at center), was nearly killed by a pro-Trump mob waving Thin-Blue-Line [pro-police] flags.”

In the eight months since the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol incited by former president Donald Trump, articles in major-media outlets like NPR (link), CNN (link), the Philadelphia Inquirer (link), The Daily Beast (link), Bloomberg News (link), the Guardian (link), Slate (link), and the New York Times (link) have highlighted the critical investigative role of a group of citizen journalists known as the Sedition Hunters.

FBI logoAs noted in the articles above, the work of the Sedition Hunters has led to arrests of a number of January 6 defendants, federal sentencing hearings getting postponed due to new evidence being uncovered by the group, and an ongoing (if informal) partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Times’ Visual Investigations Unit.

But the most recent find by the loose-knit group of volunteer researchers may be its most harrowing yet. It centers on the actions of a small group of insurrectionists that included Cindy Chafian, the leader of militant group The Eighty Percent Coalition and—most importantly—a lead organizer, in coordination with the Trump White House, of the events of January 6.

Read more at the Proof site to see the revelations....

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

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

 

john pierce

washington post logoWashington Post, Capitol riot defendants’ lawyer apparently hospitalized with covid leaves clients without counsel, prosecutors say, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). An attorney who represents the largest number of defendants charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and who has criticized vaccine mandates has dropped out of sight amid conflicting statements by associates over whether he has been hospitalized with covid-19, U.S. prosecutors told judges Monday.

John M. Pierce, of Los Angeles, shown above in a screenshot, has been incommunicado for the past seven days, leaving 17 clients effectively without defense counsel, prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office for Washington said.

“Hopefully, Mr. Pierce will soon regain his health and be able to continue his representation of the defendant,” prosecutors said in notices to judges. “The government did, however, want to make the Court aware of Mr. Pierce’s reported illness and its impact on the case so that the Court can take any steps it believes necessary to ensure that the defendant’s rights are adequately protected while Mr. Pierce remains hospitalized.”

The U.S. filings put a fresh spotlight on Pierce, whose conservative rhetoric has attracted Trump supporters facing criminal charges and whose business and legal tactics have drawn scrutiny from adversaries who question whether his political or financial interests are affecting his representation of clients.

Pierce gained national notoriety last summer, when he was hired to defend Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager charged with killing two people during a Black Lives Matter protest in Wisconsin. Other high-profile clients include Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Trump aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. He has spoken out against mask and vaccine mandates, encouraged violence against anti-fascist protesters and falsely suggested Trump won the 2020 election.

 

More On Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: No, Taliban did not seize $83 billion of U.S. weapons, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 31, 2021. That's the figure for all the money spent on the Afghan military over 20 years, about $24 billion of which was for equipment.

djt hands up mouth open Custom“ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States, and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost.”

Former president Donald Trump, in a statement, Aug 30

We don’t normally pay much attention to claims made by the former president, as he mostly just riffs golden oldies. But this is a new claim. A version of this claim also circulates widely on right-leaning social media — that somehow the Taliban has ended up with $83 billion in U.S. weaponry. (Trump, as usual, rounds the number up.)

The $83 billion number is not invented out of whole cloth. But it reflects all the money spent to train, equip and house the Afghan military and police — so weapons are just a part of that. At this point, no one really knows the value of the equipment that was seized by the Taliban.

The $83 billion figure — technically, $82.9 billion — comes from an estimate in the July 30 quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) for all spending on the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund since the U.S. invasion in 2001.

 

afghanistan air force 8 15 21 kuwait nydaily news

 Hundreds of Afghan citizens are shown aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane departing Kabul airport on Aug. 15. (Air Mobility Command Public Affairs Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Those six-figure Kabul evacuation numbers veil the limits of the U.S. response, Philip Bump, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). What if holders of special immigrant visas (SIVs), the Afghans who aided the U.S. military during the war, had been evacuated before the military withdrawal? What if the United States had managed to get Americans out of the country before this month without triggering a more rapid collapse of the Afghan government?

Politics being politics, the administration has regularly touted the top-line number of evacuees who have left the country since the fall of Kabul two weeks ago, a number that, as of Monday morning, has neared 117,000. But that top-line figure masks enormous uncertainty about who has gotten out and who hasn’t.

Even before the terrorist attack at the airport last week, the number of evacuations each day had slowed. More than 21,000 people left Kabul in the 24-hour period ending on the morning of Aug. 24, and by Aug. 27, that had fallen to 12,500. In the 24-hour period ending Monday morning, only 1,200 people had been evacuated, the fewest since the early days of the evacuation effort.

In part, that’s because the United States has begun winding down operations at the airport in advance of an Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline to which the government agreed. In part, it’s because there are fewer citizens left in the country. In part, it’s also obviously a reflection of the increased tension on the ground.

That 116,700 figure, the total number of evacuees who have left since Aug. 14, includes people who were evacuated by groups or countries other than the U.S. military. The government has included what it calls “coalition” figures since Aug. 20, looping in foreign-country and private-sector evacuations to the total because the U.S. military is responsible for security at the airport. It is transparent in including those figures, yes, but without including coalition evacuations, the number of U.S. military evacuations drops to somewhere from 66,000 to 75,000 evacuations. (It’s not clear how many of the evacuations that occurred before Aug. 18 were undertaken by nonmilitary operations.)

A week ago, most of the flights evacuating people from Kabul were coalition flights. Now, that stream of flights has essentially ceased. At that point, about half of the evacuations came from coalition flights. Overall, a bit over a third of evacuations have been.

The decline in flights and evacuations also reflects a decline in the number of people being evacuated per flight. Since the White House began reporting daily evacuation numbers, U.S. military flights have been averaging more than 200 evacuees per plane. Over the past three days, that has fallen to 80 evacuees per plane, even though the same types of aircraft are being used (C-17s and C-130s). Recent coalition flights have also carried fewer people, although it’s not clear what aircraft those are.

The central question about the evacuations is how many Americans and SIV-holders have been evacuated. The State Department has estimated that some 6,000 Americans sought evacuation. About 300 Americans are still in the country, according to figures released Sunday. That indicates that some 5,700 citizens have been evacuated. (The White House releases only sporadic numbers on the daily evacuations of Americans.)

The number of evacuated SIV-holders and their families is less clear. On Friday, the State Department reported that 7,000 people in that category have made it to the United States, a figure that doesn’t account for SIV-holders and family members evacuated from Afghanistan to other countries. In response to media questions, a military official confirmed that fewer than half of the 100,000-plus evacuees were SIV-holders and their families, but it’s not clear how many are in that category.

 Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Of the 500 Americans still in Afghanistan, many will choose to remain, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer), Aug. 30-31, 2021. Many of the 500 American wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallnationals remaining in Afghanistan are dual U.S.-Afghanistan citizens, many of whom have extended families in the country who have been reluctant to take advantage of U.S. government expatriation from the Taliban-controlled nation.

wayne madesen report logoThe issue of the dual U.S.-Afghanistan citizens was brought up by President Biden at an August 25 news conference at the White House. Biden said, "Some Americans may choose to stay in Afghanistan. Many of them are dual nationals who may consider Afghanistan their home, who have lived there for decades, or who may want to stay close to extended family. And there are Americans who are still evaluating their decision to leave based on the situation on the ground that evolves daily.”

The U.S. has been involved with Afghanistan militarily and intelligence-wise ever since 1979, when Soviet military forces entered the country, prompting the United States to forge an alliance with mujaheddin resistance fighters. The United States also began accepting refugees from Afghanistan, a process that has continued to the present time and spans eight U.S. presidential administrations, from Carter to Biden.

What no administration wants to admit is that several U.S.-Afghan dual nations are going to remain in Afghanistan in order to ensure the steady flow of opium from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry abroad and the illicit narcotics smuggling networks of Asia and Europe.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

ny times logoNew York Times, Iowa Man Gets Life in Prison for Murder of Mollie Tibbetts, Neil Vigdor, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Cristhian Bahena Rivera was convicted in May in the 2018 fatal stabbing of Ms. Tibbetts, which Donald J. Trump used to stoke opposition to illegal immigration.

A farmworker was sentenced on Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the fatal stabbing of an Iowa college student in 2018, a crime that Donald J. Trump seized upon as president as he amplified his hard-line policies against illegal immigration.

The farmworker, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, was convicted in May in the abduction and murder of Mollie Tibbetts, 20, a University of Iowa student who disappeared after going for a run.

It took more than a month until Mr. Bahena Rivera led investigators to the body of Ms. Tibbetts, which had been hidden in a cornfield outside Brooklyn, Iowa, her hometown.

The arrest of Mr. Bahena Rivera, who had been described by the authorities as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, quickly drew the attention of Mr. Trump. The president sought to use the case to his political advantage during the midterm elections in 2018 and in his efforts to build a border wall.

Mr. Bahena Rivera, 27, was expressionless as a caseworker with the state attorney general’s office read a victim impact statement on Monday that was written by Ms. Tibbetts’s mother, Laura Calderwood, in a district court in Montezuma, Iowa.

Ms. Calderwood said in the statement that her daughter had so much to look forward to until the evening of July 18, 2018.

“You chose to violently and sadistically end that life,” Ms. Calderwood said. “Who could harm such a beautiful, vibrant young woman so full of life and promise?”

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court asked to block Texas abortion law deputizing citizens to enforce six-week ban, Ann E. Marimow and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Abortion rights advocates asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block a Texas law from taking effect this week that allows private individuals to sue to enforce a ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The law incentivizes citizens to sue anyone suspected of helping a woman get an abortion, including people who drive a patient to a Texas clinic or provide financial help. Under the ban, those who successfully sue an abortion provider or health center worker are awarded at least $10,000.

It would be one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, effectively outlawing the procedure at a stage before many women are aware that they are pregnant.

Lawyers for abortion providers told the Supreme Court that the law, which is supposed to take effect Wednesday, “would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas” and likely force many clinics to close.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Kamala Harris’s trip to Asia was so important, Jennifer Rubin, Aug. 31, 2021. Vice President Harris’s trip to Southeast Asia coincided with the collapse of the Afghan government and the deadly attack on U.S. forces that killed 13 Americans and scores of Afghans. It was hard to find kamala harris debate june 27 2019 filecoverage of her trip in U.S. media, which understandably was absorbed in the events in Afghanistan.

But in a surprising way, the trip underscored an argument the Biden administration has been advancing: Afghanistan is not our biggest worry. The United States has much more significant national security and economic issues elsewhere, especially in Asia.

Indeed, talk of a “pivot to Asia” has been going on for 20 years, but so long as we were spending billions to fight a war that was not really possible to win, past administrations have been unable to focus on China and our Asian alliances, no matter how hard they tried.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: As U.S. leaves Afghanistan, Europe sours on Biden, Ishaan Tharoor, Aug. 31, 2021. Just a few months ago, the honeymoon seemed in full bloom. President Biden arrived in Brussels in June and was treated like a long-lost friend, happily home after a sojourn in the Trumpian wilderness. “America is back on the global scene,” Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said to Biden in front of the media. “It’s great news. It’s great news for our alliance. It’s also great news for the world.”

european union logo rectangleBut as the summer wanes, so too has the transatlantic romance that accompanied Biden’s ascent to power earlier this year. Biden promised a far less combustible relationship with the United States’ traditional Western allies, and appeared to galvanize European colleagues with his paeans toward shared values and his renewed efforts to help lead collective action on climate change. But sources of friction remain. The Biden administration, which touts its own brand of economic populism, has yet to fully lift a slate of tariffs on European goods put into place by former president Donald Trump.

Shadowing all deliberations is the sudden Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and the seemingly chaotic handling of the American withdrawal, which have shaken European faith in Biden’s decision-making and priorities. Last week, European leaders and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pressed Biden to delay his planned Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal. He didn’t budge. On Monday night, the last U.S. military planes left Kabul’s airport, bringing to a close the military-led evacuation operations out of the fallen Afghan capital and, if only technically, America’s longest war.

For myriad European politicians and diplomats, particularly in countries that invested a great deal in supporting the two-decade-long NATO mission in Afghanistan, the events of the past weeks have served as a gut check. Biden, acting on Trump’s agreement with the Taliban, announced a full withdrawal that his NATO allies had no choice but to follow. While European officials voice concerns about the humanitarian plight in the country, as well as the prospect of huge new flows of Afghan refugees, they also complain in private about a lack of genuine consultation with the Biden administration.

The sense of catastrophe hanging over the situation in Afghanistan has only added to the long-running discussion over Europe’s need for greater strategic autonomy.

The war in Afghanistan was the first mission in NATO’s history to emerge from invoking Article V, the alliance’s collective defense provision. Biden may be able to shrug off its shambolic denouement, but it has been a blow to European prestige. “What people will overlook is that an entire generation of western practitioners” — including military officers, diplomats, intelligence officials and journalists — “went through Afghanistan,” said Stelzenmüller. “This is NATO’s most legitimate mission, the one that was most central to our understanding of ourselves.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Exile or Jail: The Grim Choice Facing Russian Opposition Leaders, Anton Troianovski, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The steady stream of politically motivated emigration that had accompanied President Vladimir V. Putin’s two-decade rule turned into a torrent this year. Opposition figures, their aides, rights activists and even independent journalists are increasingly being given a simple choice: flee or face prison.

Russian FlagA top ally of the imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny left Russia this month, state media said, adding her to a list of dozens of dissidents and journalists believed to have departed this year. Taken together, experts say, it is the biggest wave of political emigration in Russia’s post-Soviet history.

This year’s forced departures recall a tactic honed by the K.G.B. during the last decades of the Soviet Union, when the secret police would tell some dissidents they could go either west or east — into exile or to a Siberian prison camp. Now, as then, the Kremlin appears to be betting that forcing high-profile critics out of the country is less of a headache than imprisoning them, and that Russians abroad are easy to paint as traitors in cahoots with the West.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Korea appears to have restarted Yongbyon nuclear reactor, U.N. body says, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). North Korea appears to have restarted its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in July, a "deeply troubling" sign that the country may be on track to expand its nuclear program, according to a new report by the United Nations' atomic agency.

North Korean flagSince early December 2018, there have been no indications that the main plutonium-producing reactor was in operation. But satellite images taken this year show signs consistent with the operation of the reactor, including the discharge of cooling water, according to an annual report submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors on Friday.

The finding adds another challenge to the Biden administration’s goal of denuclearizing North Korea. The apparent restarting of the reactor is notable given that the United States’ negotiations with Pyongyang over its nuclear program have stalled since 2019, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to dismantle the sprawling Yongbyon complex — but not other nuclear and missile sites — in exchange for extensive sanctions relief.

Analysis on 2019 Trump-Kim summit: From Yongbyon site to sanctions, what each side may bring to the table

Although Yongbyon is not the only site where North Korea has produced highly enriched uranium, its role at the heart of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions made the facility a bargaining chip in previous negotiations. In 2008, North Korea ceremoniously blew up the reactor’s cooling tower in a largely made-for-TV event amid nuclear talks between the United States and former leader Kim Jong Il. (A new cooling tower was built after the negotiations fell through.)

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Corporate America launches lobbying blitz to kill key parts of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion economic plan, Tony Romm, Aug. 31, 2021. Drug makers, big banks, tech giants and others are preparing to fight the party’s reconciliation package, including its plans for raising taxes.

irs logoA torrent of political groups representing some of the country’s most influential corporations — including ExxonMobil, Pfizer, and the Walt Disney Company — is laying the groundwork for a massive lobbying blitz to stop Congress from enacting significant swaths of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion economic agenda.

rnc logoThe emerging opposition appears to be vast, spanning drug manufacturers, big banks, tech titans, major retailers and oil-and-gas giants. In recent weeks, top Washington organizations representing these and other industries have started pfizer logostrategizing behind the scenes, seeking to battle back key elements in Democrats proposed overhaul to federal health care, education and safety net programs.

Among the most active is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is in the early stages of putting together an economywide coalition to coordinate the fight against the still-forming economic package, including its significant price tag, policy scope and potential for tax increases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking the political appointees Biden is nominating to fill the top roles in his administration, Harry Stevens, Madison Walls and Adrian Blanco, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Follow the president-elect’s progress filling nearly 800 positions, among the 1,200 that require Senate confirmation, in this tracker from The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.

We are tracking 800 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • 229 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 18 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 206 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 127 have been confirmed by the Senate.

Additionally, we have identified 220 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

 

Aug. 30

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Hurricanes, Fires, Climate Change

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot Probes, Prosecutions

 

More On Afghanistan

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Politics, Governance


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  joe biden jill biden afghanistan victims 8 29 2021 doug mills nyt

President Biden; the first lady, Jill Biden; and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III during the transfer at Dover Air Force Base on Sunday (Photo by Doug Mills of the  New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Receives Bodies of Soldiers Killed in Kabul Bombing, Jim Tankersley, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The president’s first trip in office to witness the transfer of remains was a reminder of the toll of the Afghanistan war, and of his unique relationship with it.

A gray C-17 transport plane landed in Delaware shortly after 8 a.m. on Sunday. It carried the remains of 11 Marines, a Navy medic and an Army staff sergeant, who collectively could be the last Americans to die in the war in Afghanistan.

Just before 8:40 a second plane, a white-and-blue Boeing jetliner, parked next to the transport. It carried the president who gave the orders to end that war after nearly 20 years, prompting the mass evacuation effort that those 13 service members were carrying out when a bomber from the Islamic State Khorasan group detonated his charges at the Kabul airport last week.

Department of Defense SealPresident Biden’s first trip in office to witness the transfer of remains at Dover was a reminder of the length and cost of the Afghanistan war, and of his unique attachment to it as a legislator, a vice president and now a commander in chief.

Mr. Biden made an unannounced flight to Delaware for a rare presidential appearance at a transfer of remains of service members killed overseas. They were on their way from Afghanistan, via Kuwait and Germany, to final rest in communities across the nation that have supplied sons and daughters to fight two decades of what was once called the war on terror.

The transfers began in the late morning and stretched nearly 40 minutes, finishing after noon. Time and again, service members in varying shades of green fatigues carried flag-draped transfer cases down the ramp of the transport, which faced Air Force One on the runway. First came the Army, then the Marines, then the Navy. The carry teams, as they are called, worked in three-minute cycles, marching before a host of dignitaries including the president, the secretaries of state and defense, and several top military brass. They carried the remains from the transport and lifted them through the back cargo doors of four gray vans.

The president stood with his hand over his heart as they passed by. When sets of Marines returned to the belly of the C-17, hands empty, to retrieve the next set of remains, Mr. Biden widened his stance and clasped his hands by his belt or behind his back. Often he bowed his head with his eyes squeezed shut, as if in prayer.

afghan deaths grid

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden meets with families of service members killed in Kabul as U.S. races to exit Afghanistan, Sean Sullivan, Dan Lamothe, Kareem Fahim and Haq Nawaz Khan, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Sunday paid his respects to the 13 Americans killed in last week's suicide bombing in Afghanistan as his military leaders tried to avert more carnage in the final days of a chaotic withdrawal from the country, carrying out a strike on a vehicle in Kabul that officials said posed a terrorist threat.

Thousands of miles away, U.S. officials worked with urgency to prevent more American casualties, as they move to conclude their evacuation mission by Tuesday. Defense Department officials said the military carried out a drone strike on a vehicle in Kabul that posed an "imminent" threat to Hamid Karzai International Airport.

The Thursday suicide bombing that killed 13 Americans and 170 civilians, for which the Islamic State affiliate known as ISIS-K claimed responsibility, happened at an airport entrance.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Don’t you ever forget that name’: Biden’s tough meeting with grieving relatives, Matt Viser, Aug. 30, 2021. President Biden made his way on Sunday around a quiet room at Dover Air Force Base, a chamber filled with couches and chairs, with dignitaries and grieving families huddling together as the president came to speak to them privately, one family at a time.

Mark Schmitz had told a military officer the night before that he wasn’t much interested in speaking to a president he did not vote for, one whose execution of the Afghan pullout he disdains — and one he now blames for the death of his 20-year-old son Jared.

But overnight, sleeping in a nondescript hotel nearby, Schmitz changed his mind. So on that dreary morning he and his ex-wife were approached by Biden after he’d talked to all the other families. But by his own account, Schmitz glared hard at the president, so Biden spent more time looking at his ex-wife, repeatedly invoking his own son, Beau, who died six years ago.

Schmitz did not want to hear about Beau, he wanted to talk about Jared. Eventually, the parents took out a photo to show to Biden. “I said, ‘Don’t you ever forget that name. Don’t you ever forget that face. Don’t you ever forget the names of the other 12,’ ” Schmitz said. “ ‘And take some time to learn their stories.’ ”

Biden did not seem to like that, Schmitz recalled, and he bristled, offering a blunt response: “I do know their stories.”

It was a remarkable moment of two men thrown together by history. One was a president of the United States who prides himself on connecting with just about anyone in a moment of grief, but now coming face-to-face with grief that he himself had a role in creating. The other was a proud Marine father from Missouri, awoken a few nights before at 2:40 a.m. by a military officer at his door with news that nearly made him faint.

In what may be a sign of the country’s deep divide, Schmitz was not the only family member who wrestled long and hard with whether he even wanted to meet with Biden and who did not hesitate to offer criticism of the commander in chief.

The family of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, too, had mixed emotions when it came time to decide whether to talk with the president. McCollum’s sisters and father joined his widow, Jiennah McCollum, on the trip to Dover — but when it came time to meet Biden, only Jiennah went in.

Afterward, one of the sisters, Roice McCollum, said Jiennah felt the president’s words were scripted and shallow, a conversation that lasted only a couple minutes in “total disregard to the loss of our Marine — our brother, son, husband and father.”

The White House declined to comment on Biden’s conversations with the grieving families, saying those exchanges should remain private. But last week, after news of the deaths emerged, the president publicly recalled how he and his wife, Jill, lost Beau, who served in Iraq before being diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.

“We have some sense, like many of you do, what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today,” Biden said. “You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There’s no way out. My heart aches for you.”

13 dead service members identified

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghanistan live updates: 10 civilians, including children, reported killed in U.S. drone strike; rockets fired at Kabul airport, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis and Susannah George, Aug. 30, 2021. A U.S. drone strike targeting the Islamic State killed 10 civilians in Kabul, including several small children, family members told The Washington Post on Monday. The dead were all from a single extended family and were getting out of a car in their modest driveway when the strike hit a nearby vehicle.

centcom logoU.S. Central Command said the strike Sunday destroyed an Islamic State car bomb that posed an “imminent” threat to Kabul’s airport. The command said in a statement it was “aware of reports of civilian casualties,” adding: “We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”

This was the second U.S. drone strike in response to a suicide bombing and gunfire attack outside Kabul’s airport Thursday that killed 13 U.S. troops and over 170 civilians trying to flee the country.

Meanwhile, rockets were fired at Kabul airport early Monday, but as many as five were intercepted by a missile defense system, highlighting the continued threat to the international rescue mission ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline for American troops to pull out.

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Family Accuses U.S. of Killing 10 in Errant Missile Attack, Matthieu Aikins, Photographs by Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times, Aug. 30, 2021. Relatives and friends angrily dismissed suggestions that Zemari Ahmadi, whose car was struck, was linked to ISIS-K. The U.S. is investigating.

Zemari Ahmadi was coming home Sunday evening, having dropped off colleagues from the local office of an American aid group where he worked, relatives and colleagues said in interviews Monday.

As he pulled into the narrow street where he lived with his three brothers and their families, many of their children, seeing his white Toyota Corolla, rushed out to greet him, family members said. Some clambered onto the car in the street, one jumped in while others gathered in the narrow courtyard of the compound as he pulled in.

It was then, friends and family say, that the vehicle was hit with a missile which they believe was fired by an American drone, blowing out doors and windows in the courtyard, spraying shrapnel, and killing 10 people, seven of them children.

Mr. Ahmadi’s daughter, Samia Ahmadi, 21, was in a room adjoining the courtyard when she was struck by the blast wave. “At first I thought it was the Taliban,” she said.

The Times could not independently verify whether an American missile strike killed Mr. Ahmadi and the others. Nor was it clear whether Mr. Ahmadi’s car was the Americans’ actual target.

The Pentagon acknowledged the possibility that Afghan civilians had been killed in the drone strike, but suggested that any civilian deaths had resulted from the detonation of explosives in the vehicle that was targeted.

“We’re not in a position to dispute it,” John F. Kirby, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said Monday about reports of civilian casualties. H

In a news conference on Monday in Washington, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, did not address the circumstances surrounding the drone strike except to say that it dealt ISIS Khorasan a crushing blow when the group was hoping to deliver one last attack before the U.S. withdrawal.

The attack on Sunday was carried out in a tense atmosphere, following the suicide bombing at the airport that killed at least 170 civilians and 13 U.S. service members.

With the Biden administration coming under withering criticism for its planning and execution of the evacuation of tens of thousands of American citizens and Afghans, the pressure to avoid a second attack was intense. The U.S. military said Saturday that it had killed the planner of that bombing in a different drone strike on Friday night.

Family members who witnessed the explosion said that Mr. Ahmadi and several of the children were killed inside his car; others were fatally wounded in rooms alongside the courtyard. The family’s SUV, parked next to the Corolla in the tight confines of the courtyard, was set on fire, while smoke filled the house.

Ms. Ahmadi, the driver’s daughter, staggered outside, choking, and saw the dismembered bodies of her siblings and relatives. “I saw the whole scene,” she said.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Of the 500 Americans still in Afghanistan, many will choose to remain, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer), Aug. 30, 2021. Many of the 500 American wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallnationals remaining in Afghanistan are dual U.S.-Afghanistan citizens, many of whom have extended families in the country who have been reluctant to take advantage of U.S. government expatriation from the Taliban-controlled nation.

wayne madesen report logoThe issue of the dual U.S.-Afghanistan citizens was brought up by President Biden at an August 25 news conference at the White House. Biden said, "Some Americans may choose to stay in Afghanistan. Many of them are dual nationals who may consider Afghanistan their home, who have lived there for decades, or who may want to stay close to extended family. And there are Americans who are still evaluating their decision to leave based on the situation on the ground that evolves daily.”

The U.S. has been involved with Afghanistan militarily and intelligence-wise ever since 1979, when Soviet military forces entered the country, prompting the United States to forge an alliance with mujaheddin resistance fighters. The United States also began accepting refugees from Afghanistan, a process that has continued to the present time and spans eight U.S. presidential administrations, from Carter to Biden.

What no administration wants to admit is that several U.S.-Afghan dual nations are going to remain in Afghanistan in order to ensure the steady flow of opium from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to the legitimate pharmaceutical industry abroad and the illicit narcotics smuggling networks of Asia and Europe.

 

U.S. Hurricanes, Fires, Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: As Louisiana Surveys Ida’s Damage, New Orleans Levees Seem to Have Held, Staff Reports, Aug. 30, 2021. Across southeastern Louisiana, a day-after accounting of the wreckage from Hurricane Ida was hindered by power outages and limited phone service. New Orleans remained without electricity.

But the city’s system of levees, barriers and pumps appears to have passed a dramatic test. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live updates Ida weakens to tropical storm as it moves to Mississippi with destructive winds, heavy flooding, Gina Harkins and Kendra Nichols, Aug. 30, 2021. Hurricane forecasters downgraded Ida to a tropical storm Monday morning but are still warning of dangerous storm surges, damaging winds and heavy rainfall in multiple states.

The storm weakened 16 hours after Ida made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane. Ida battered Louisiana late into Sunday night and early Monday, with reports of downed power lines, levee failures and flooding, collapsed buildings and trapped residents on rooftops.

Forecasters warned that flooding from storm surges will continue through Monday morning in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. As Ida’s center moves into southwestern Mississippi, damaging winds could cause more power outages. Heavy rainfall is possible through Tuesday morning across southeastern Louisiana, coastal Mississippi and southwestern Alabama.

  • Flooding could also hit portions of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys and the Mid-Atlantic through Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
  • Hurricane Ida tracker: See the projected path as the storm turns
  • Here’s what to know
  • More than a million people in Louisiana and Mississippi are without power Monday morning as Tropical Storm Ida moves out of Louisiana and into Mississippi.
  • New Orleans’s 911 services are experiencing “technical difficulties,” and residents are instead being urged to seek help in person from first responders.
  • More than a dozen states are sending search-and-rescue teams to Louisiana to address the damage caused by Ida.

washington post logoWashington Post, Evacuations Ordered Near Lake Tahoe as Caldor Fire Intensifies, Neil Vigdor and Thomas Fuller, Aug. 30, 2021. The fire had spread to more than 177,000 acres and was 14 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

A wildfire that had burned through remote areas in the Sierra Nevada for two weeks crested a ridge on Monday and began descending toward the major population centers along Lake Tahoe.

As the Caldor fire intensified amid dry and windy conditions, thousands of people along the lake’s southern and western shores were ordered to evacuate. Crews of firefighters sped to put out spot fires only miles from South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Tourists normally swarm the lake on the California-Nevada border in the summer months for boating, fishing, hiking, eating and drinking. But by sunset on Monday, the community seemed to stand still.

On streets that were clogged only hours earlier, shops and businesses — motels, restaurants, supermarkets — were deserted. Roads were empty except for fire engines and television reporters documenting the eerie calm.

It was impossible to know when, if at all, the fire would reach the town. But people did not stay to test the fury of a blaze that fire officials estimate could threaten more than 20,000 structures.

Public safety officials warned that the Caldor fire, the latest to grip California during a particularly unforgiving summer for fire crews in the West, showed no signs of relenting. It had scorched more than 177,000 acres and was 14 percent contained on Monday.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: U.S. Records a Daily Average of 100,000 Covid Hospitalizations, Staff Reports, Aug. 30, 2021. The influx of patients hasn’t been this high since last winter, before most Americans were eligible to be vaccinated.

The daily average for hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the United States is now more than 100,000. That average, calculated over the last seven days, is higher than in any previous surge except last winter’s, before most Americans were eligible to get vaccinated.

The influx of patients is straining hospitals and pushing health care workers to the brink as deaths have risen to an average of more than 1,000 a day for the first time since March.

Hospitalizations nationwide have increased by nearly 500 percent in the past two months, particularly across Southern states, where I.C.U. beds are filling up, a crisis fueled by some of the country’s lowest vaccination rates and widespread political opposition to public health measures like mask requirements.

In Florida, 16,457 people are hospitalized, the most of any state, followed by Texas, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

With the surge pummeling the nation and overwhelming hospitals, a shortage of bedside nurses has complicated efforts to treat hospitalized coronavirus patients, leading to longer emergency room waiting times and rushed or inadequate care.

Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • The U.S. reaches 100,000 average daily Covid hospitalizations for the first time since winter.
  • Demand surges for a deworming drug despite no evidence it can treat Covid.
  • In Baton Rouge, a hospital strained by the pandemic braces for storm victims.
  • New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, has a record rise in daily cases.
  • In an effort to lure Berliners, Covid shots are made available on a train.
  • As the Delta variant surges, companies are readjusting the return to office.
  • The E.U. is set to reimpose travel restrictions on U.S. visitors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis The false claim that the fully-approved Pfizer vaccine lacks liability protection, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 30, 2021.

“The little trick that they have done here: They have issued two separate letters for two separate vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine which is currently available is still under emergency use authorization and it still has the liability shield … The product that’s licensed … it’s called Comirnaty. … that’s the one that liability waiver will no longer apply to.”

Robert Malone, interview on Bannons War Room, Aug. 24

Malone, a physician who bills himself as having played a key role in creation of mRNA vaccines, is a prominent skeptic of the coronavirus vaccines that have been crafted using the technology. Shortly after the Food and Drug Administration fully authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he appeared on a program hosted by Stephen K. Bannon, a one-time adviser to former president Donald Trump, and claimed that the full authorization was a bait-and-switch game played by the FDA.

“One again the mainstream media has lied to you,” he said. “Sorry to say that. I know it’s a shock to this viewership.”

In essence, his argument was that the approved vaccine would no longer have liability protections so Pfizer would simply keep distributing in the United States the product that had been authorized for emergency use.

A similar claim was made by Robert F. Kennedy, a leading anti-vaccine campaigner.

“Licensed adult vaccines, including the new Comirnaty, do not enjoy any liability shield,” Kennedy wrote with a co-author in an Aug. 24 post. “Just as with Ford’s exploding Pinto, or Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, people injured by the Comirnaty vaccine could sue for damages. And because adults injured by the vaccine will be able to show that the manufacturer knew of the problems with the product, jury awards could be astronomical. Pfizer is therefore unlikely to allow any American to take a Comirnaty vaccine until it can somehow arrange immunity for this product.”

These claims are false, based on a misunderstanding of the law, as Malone acknowledged after we contacted him.

Malone quickly conceded his statement on the Bannon show was wrong. “When one is doing rapid analysis on the fly, one does not always get everything right,” he told The Fact Checker. “On this particular legal liability issue I did not hunt down the details myself, and relied on comments from a third party lawyer which were not fully correct.” He said the statements we received from Pfizer and HHS “are consistent with my current understanding.”

As regular readers know, we generally do not award Pinocchios when a person admits error. Otherwise, this would be a Four-Pinocchio claim. Malone was too quick to embrace false information (while bashing the mainstream media at the same time). The liability protection for Comirnaty is the same as the vaccine that was previously approved under emergency authorization, so that is not a bar to distributing the fully-approved vaccine in the United States

ny times logoNew York Times, Demand Surges for Deworming Drug for Covid, Despite No Evidence It Works, Emma Goldberg, Aug. 30, 2021. Prescriptions for ivermectin have jumped to more than 88,000 per week, and people are overdosing on forms of the drug meant for horses.

For the past week, Dr. Gregory Yu, an emergency physician in San Antonio, has received the same daily requests from his patients, some vaccinated for Covid-19 and others unvaccinated: They ask him for ivermectin, a drug typically used to treat parasitic worms that has repeatedly failed in clinical trials to help people infected with the coronavirus.

Dr. Yu has refused the ivermectin requests, he said, but he knows some of his colleagues have not. Prescriptions for ivermectin have seen a sharp rise in recent weeks, jumping to more than 88,000 per week in mid-August from a prepandemic baseline average of 3,600 per week, according to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some pharmacists are even reporting shortages of the drug. Travis Walthall, a pharmacist in Kuna, Idaho, a town of about 20,000 people, said that this summer alone he had filled more than 20 ivermectin prescriptions, up from two or three in a typical year. For the past week he has not been able to obtain the drug from his suppliers; they were all out.

Mr. Walthall was astonished, he said, at how many people were willing to take an unapproved drug for Covid. “I’m like, gosh, this is horrible,” he said.

While sometimes given to humans in small doses for head lice, scabies and other parasites, ivermectin is more commonly used in animals. Physicians are raising alarms about a growing number of people getting the drug from livestock supply centers, where it can come in highly concentrated paste or liquid forms.

Calls to poison control centers about ivermectin exposures have risen dramatically, jumping fivefold over their baseline in July, according to C.D.C. researchers, who cited data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Mississippi’s health department said earlier this month that 70 percent of recent calls to the state poison control center had come from people who ingested ivermectin from livestock supply stores.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 204.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 30, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 173.8 million people fully vaccinated, 52.4 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 30, 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: 217,359,913, Deaths: 4,517,926
U.S. Cases:     39,665,515, Deaths:    654,689
India Cases:     32,737,939, Deaths:    438,387
Brazil Cases:    20,741,815, Deaths:    579,330

ny times logoNew York Times, Why So Many Tennis Players Don’t Want the Covid Vaccine, Ben Rothenberg, Aug. 30, 2021. Despite the possible consequences of not being vaccinated — illness and the loss of income and opportunity to play — tennis players have been stubbornly slow to get the vaccine.

When the United States Tennis Association announced on Friday that proof of coronavirus vaccination would be required for all spectators 12 and older to enter the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, it widened a gulf between the spectators and the players they’ll be watching at the U.S. Open.

Adults in the stands will now be roughly twice as likely to be vaccinated as the players on court: The WTA said “nearly 50 percent” of its players were vaccinated, while the ATP said its vaccination rates were “just above 50 percent.”

In tennis, where each player is an independent contractor, there is no player union to encourage unified behavior and no general manager or team owner to encourage vaccination for the team’s competitive benefit. Other individual sports are still ahead of tennis, however: The PGA said early this month that its player vaccination rate was “above 70 percent.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A judge asked a mother if she got the coronavirus vaccine. She said no, and he revoked custody of her son, Jaclyn Peiser, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). When Rebecca Firlit joined a virtual court hearing with her ex-husband earlier this month, the Chicago mother expected the proceedings to focus on child support.

But the judge had other plans. “One of the first things he asked me … was whether or not I was vaccinated,” Firlit, 39, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

She was not, she said, explaining that she has had “adverse reactions to vaccines in the past” and that a doctor advised her against getting the coronavirus vaccine. “It poses a risk,” she added.

Cook County Judge James Shapiro then made what the parents’ attorneys called an unprecedented decision — he said the mother could not see her 11-year-old son until she got the coronavirus vaccine. The child’s father is vaccinated, the Sun-Times reported.

Firlit filed a petition to appeal the judge’s decision, her attorney, Annette Fernholz, told The Washington Post. In an interview with WFLD, Fernholz said that the ruling was an overreach.

Judges in other states have granted lesser sentences to defendants who opt to get the vaccine, or mandated the vaccine as a condition of release from prison for some inmates. A judge in the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge offered some defendants the option of getting the vaccine instead of completing community service hours.

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot Probes, Prosecutions

bennie thompson horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, House Jan. 6 committee asks telecom companies to retain phone records related to Capitol attack as it ramps up investigation, Dave Clarke and Felicia Sonmez, Aug. 30, 2021. The committee has made three requests for information this month as it ramps up its investigation.

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol asked 35 telecommunications and social media companies Monday to retain phone records and other information relevant to its inquiry as the panel ramps up is investigation ahead of the return of Congress next month.

U.S. House logoThat list was expected to include phones used by some members of Congress, a person familiar with the request, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the investigation, said Friday. Committee spokesman Tim Mulvey on Monday declined to say which individuals were included in the request out of respect for their privacy.

“The Select Committee is at this point gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual,” Mulvey said in a statement.

Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), above, recently said his panel would not shy away from investigating lawmakers as part of its inquiry, highlighting the remarkable nature of Congress investigating an attack on itself.

facebook logoThe committee’s plans have already drawn criticism from Republicans, most of whom have opposed investigating the insurrection and former president Donald Trump’s role in inspiring the mob with his false claims about Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.

The request that went out Monday was sent to tech and social media companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Signal, as well as google logo customtelecommunications companies such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

The panel is asking the 35 companies to preserve “metadata, subscriber information, technical usage information, and content of communications for the listed individuals.”

In its letters to the companies, the committee asked for the preservation of material from individuals who were “involved in organizing, funding, or speaking” at January’s “Stop The Steal” rallies, as well as individuals who were “potentially involved with discussions of plans to challenge, delay, or interfere” with the electoral certification process.

att logoThe committee has now made three requests for information this month as it ramps up its investigation. The panel released its first request for information Aug. 25, issuing sweeping demands for records from federal agencies pertaining to the attack on the Capitol and Trump’s efforts to subvert the election.

In the letters asking for materials from the National Archives and seven other agencies, the committee signaled that an expansive investigation is underway, touching not only on what happened Jan. 6 but also on matters such as “the former president’s knowledge of the election results and what he communicated to the American people about the election.” The committee also asked the archivist for records of communication within the White House with “any Member of Congress or congressional staff” on Jan. 6

On Friday, it asked technology companies — including Facebook, Twitter and Google — for “all reviews, studies, reports, data, analyses, and communications” regarding misinformation generated by foreign and U.S. actors, “domestic violent extremists” associated with the attack, and other efforts to overturn the election results.

 michael fanone embattled but standingProof via Substack, Loose-Knit "Sedition Hunters" Group Reveals Connection Between the White House and the Attack on D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael seth abramson graphicFanone, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 30, 2021. A group of White House allies whose members were in touch with White House and Trump campaign agents in the hours before the insurrection had one of their number at the site of the horrifying attack.

seth abramson proof logoAs Time wrote, “[DCMP officer Michael] Fanone, in uniform and helmet (shown above at center), was nearly killed by a pro-Trump mob waving Thin-Blue-Line [pro-police] flags.”

In the eight months since the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol incited by former president Donald Trump, articles in major-media outlets like NPR (link), CNN (link), the Philadelphia Inquirer (link), The Daily Beast (link), Bloomberg News (link), the Guardian (link), Slate (link), and the New York Times (link) have highlighted the critical investigative role of a group of citizen journalists known as the Sedition Hunters.

FBI logoAs noted in the articles above, the work of the Sedition Hunters has led to arrests of a number of January 6 defendants, federal sentencing hearings getting postponed due to new evidence being uncovered by the group, and an ongoing (if informal) partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Times’ Visual Investigations Unit.

But the most recent find by the loose-knit group of volunteer researchers may be its most harrowing yet. It centers on the actions of a small group of insurrectionists that included Cindy Chafian, the leader of militant group The Eighty Percent Coalition and—most importantly—a lead organizer, in coordination with the Trump White House, of the events of January 6.

Read more at the Proof site to see the revelations....

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

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

 

madison cawthorn resized hunting amazon

Daily Beast, Madison Cawthorn Fantasizes About Busting Out Jan. 6 ‘Political Hostages,’ Justin Baragona, Aug. 30, 2021. The far-right congressman said he was “actively working” on calling for MAGA supporters to descend on D.C. again, suggesting another Jan. 6-type rally.

MAGA-boosting Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), shown above, seemingly proposed another “Stop the Steal”-type rally in D.C. this week while sympathizing with the “political hostages” that were arrested and charged for participating in the violent Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

daily beast logoOn top of that, the far-right congressman further spoke in hypothetical terms about trying to “bust” out those jailed for crimes related to the insurrection, repeatedly referring to them as political prisoners. (Pro-Trump Republicans and right-wing media figures have increasingly portrayed the Capitol rioters, who sought to overturn President Joe Biden’s electoral victory, as mere protesters who were unfairly targeted for their political beliefs.)

Speaking at a North Carolina GOP event on Sunday evening, Cawthorn—a featured speaker at the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 violence—was asked by one attendee what he was doing to free the hundreds of rioters currently facing criminal charges.

“Political hostages,” Cawthorn shouted to applause in a viral video posted to Twitter by a Democratic congressional staffer. “So this is something that we are trying to figure everything out about.”

After saying that his office is “seeking answers” from federal investigators, the Republican lawmaker claimed they “don’t know where all the political prisoners are” before pondering about how to release them.

Daily Beast, Giuliani’s PR Guru Resigns as Legal Walls Close In, Roger Sollenberger, Aug. 30, 2021. Rudy Giuliani's high-profile, 22-year-old communications director has resigned amid Giuliani's mounting legal troubles, Aug. 30, 2021. As Rudy Giuliani navigates an increasingly lonely and stormy world amid a federal investigation and a billion-dollar defamation suit, he’ll now have to do so without his young but trusted communications director.

daily beast logoChristianné Allen, the 22-year-old MAGA influencer who joined Giuliani’s team in August 2019, has resigned her post at Giuliani Communications LLC effective this week, The Daily Beast has learned.

rudy giuliani recentAllen says she has been replaced by Todd Shapiro, a former spokesperson for Lindsay Lohan’s family who also claims to have represented Trump properties, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Hooters of Long Island and New Jersey.

Allen, who traveled extensively with Giuliani, right, and spearheaded a number of efforts to modernize and expand the former New York mayor’s social media and digital presence, said in a statement that she felt “incredibly blessed” to have served the role, and was signing on with a new startup company whose name she wasn’t at liberty to reveal yet.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani’s spokesperson abruptly quits as it all goes wrong for him, Bill Palmer, Aug. 30, 2021. When Igor Fruman decided last week to bill palmercut a plea deal, it was a fairly clear sign that we’re getting near the end for Rudy Giuliani. After all, Fruman has either already decided to cooperate against Giuliani, or he’ll face significant motivation to do so as he comes up on sentencing in his plea deal. Now the walls really are falling in on Rudy’s head.

bill palmer report logo headerOver the weekend, Rudy Giuliani’s spokesperson for the past three years abruptly quit. No reason was given. But given that she’s suddenly quitting just as Igor is making his own endgame move, it sure does feel like everyone in Rudy’s world knows that his indictment is coming soon.

Of course one thing we’ve learned about Trump world is that whenever someone terrible quits because things are getting too ugly, there’s always someone even worse who’s willing to jump aboard the sinking ship. To that end, the Daily Beast says that – and we can’t believe this is real – Rudy Giuliani has hired a new spokesman who used to represent Hooters and Lindsey Lohan.

There comes a point in your own collapse where even the people who knew all along that you were a sinking ship are finally getting off, and you’re left having to resort to hiring, well, the former Hooters guy because no one else would want the gig. It’s always tricky to predict precisely when indictments are coming down. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that everyone around Rudy expects it to come soon.

john pierce

washington post logoWashington Post, Capitol riot defendants’ lawyer apparently hospitalized with covid leaves clients without counsel, prosecutors say, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, Aug. 30, 2021. An attorney who represents the largest number of defendants charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and who has criticized vaccine mandates has dropped out of sight amid conflicting statements by associates over whether he has been hospitalized with covid-19, U.S. prosecutors told judges Monday.

John M. Pierce, of Los Angeles, shown above in a screenshot, has been incommunicado for the past seven days, leaving 17 clients effectively without defense counsel, prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office for Washington said.

“Hopefully, Mr. Pierce will soon regain his health and be able to continue his representation of the defendant,” prosecutors said in notices to judges. “The government did, however, want to make the Court aware of Mr. Pierce’s reported illness and its impact on the case so that the Court can take any steps it believes necessary to ensure that the defendant’s rights are adequately protected while Mr. Pierce remains hospitalized.”

The U.S. filings put a fresh spotlight on Pierce, whose conservative rhetoric has attracted Trump supporters facing criminal charges and whose business and legal tactics have drawn scrutiny from adversaries who question whether his political or financial interests are affecting his representation of clients.

Pierce gained national notoriety last summer, when he was hired to defend Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager charged with killing two people during a Black Lives Matter protest in Wisconsin. Other high-profile clients include Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Trump aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. He has spoken out against mask and vaccine mandates, encouraged violence against anti-fascist protesters and falsely suggested Trump won the 2020 election.

 

More On Afghanistan

 

afghanistan air force 8 15 21 kuwait nydaily news

 Hundreds of Afghan citizens are shown aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane departing Kabul airport on Aug. 15. (Air Mobility Command Public Affairs Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Those six-figure Kabul evacuation numbers veil the limits of the U.S. response, Philip Bump, Aug. 30, 2021. What if holders of special immigrant visas (SIVs), the Afghans who aided the U.S. military during the war, had been evacuated before the military withdrawal? What if the United States had managed to get Americans out of the country before this month without triggering a more rapid collapse of the Afghan government?

Politics being politics, the administration has regularly touted the top-line number of evacuees who have left the country since the fall of Kabul two weeks ago, a number that, as of Monday morning, has neared 117,000. But that top-line figure masks enormous uncertainty about who has gotten out and who hasn’t.

Even before the terrorist attack at the airport last week, the number of evacuations each day had slowed. More than 21,000 people left Kabul in the 24-hour period ending on the morning of Aug. 24, and by Aug. 27, that had fallen to 12,500. In the 24-hour period ending Monday morning, only 1,200 people had been evacuated, the fewest since the early days of the evacuation effort.

In part, that’s because the United States has begun winding down operations at the airport in advance of an Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline to which the government agreed. In part, it’s because there are fewer citizens left in the country. In part, it’s also obviously a reflection of the increased tension on the ground.

That 116,700 figure, the total number of evacuees who have left since Aug. 14, includes people who were evacuated by groups or countries other than the U.S. military. The government has included what it calls “coalition” figures since Aug. 20, looping in foreign-country and private-sector evacuations to the total because the U.S. military is responsible for security at the airport. It is transparent in including those figures, yes, but without including coalition evacuations, the number of U.S. military evacuations drops to somewhere from 66,000 to 75,000 evacuations. (It’s not clear how many of the evacuations that occurred before Aug. 18 were undertaken by nonmilitary operations.)

A week ago, most of the flights evacuating people from Kabul were coalition flights. Now, that stream of flights has essentially ceased. At that point, about half of the evacuations came from coalition flights. Overall, a bit over a third of evacuations have been.

The decline in flights and evacuations also reflects a decline in the number of people being evacuated per flight. Since the White House began reporting daily evacuation numbers, U.S. military flights have been averaging more than 200 evacuees per plane. Over the past three days, that has fallen to 80 evacuees per plane, even though the same types of aircraft are being used (C-17s and C-130s). Recent coalition flights have also carried fewer people, although it’s not clear what aircraft those are.

The central question about the evacuations is how many Americans and SIV-holders have been evacuated. The State Department has estimated that some 6,000 Americans sought evacuation. About 300 Americans are still in the country, according to figures released Sunday. That indicates that some 5,700 citizens have been evacuated. (The White House releases only sporadic numbers on the daily evacuations of Americans.)

The number of evacuated SIV-holders and their families is less clear. On Friday, the State Department reported that 7,000 people in that category have made it to the United States, a figure that doesn’t account for SIV-holders and family members evacuated from Afghanistan to other countries. In response to media questions, a military official confirmed that fewer than half of the 100,000-plus evacuees were SIV-holders and their families, but it’s not clear how many are in that category.

ny times logoNew York Times, 98 Countries Pledge to Accept Afghans After U.S. Military Departs, Lara Jakes, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). A joint statement from the United States and other countries said that they had “received assurances from the Taliban” that people with travel documents showing they were clear to enter any of those countries could safely depart.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Who’s to blame for the deaths of 13 service members in Kabul? We all are, Max Boot, right, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The last thing max boot screen shotPresident Biden ever wanted to do was to preside over another ramp ceremony for more flag-draped caskets returning home from Afghanistan. Indeed, the entire rationale of his troop withdrawal was to avoid further casualties. Yet there he was on Sunday at Dover Air Force Base honoring the 13 service members killed in the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport. Fate can be cruel that way.

No doubt the president was even more gutted than the rest of us, because he was the one who sent them into harm’s way. In one of her last Instagram posts, Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee had been pictured holding an Afghan baby in her arms. “I love my job,” she said. Now she is gone. Along with Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, who was married in February and expecting his first child; Marine Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, who hailed from the tiny border town of Rio Bravo, Tex., and saw military service as his “calling”; Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, who wanted to serve his country just like his two great-grandfathers who fought in the Korean War … and so many others.

Their deaths were not in vain. They died so that more than 114,000 people could escape to freedom. Generations as yet unborn will remember these heroes for helping them to find a better life. And yet their sacrifice was also agonizing and unnecessary. Like so many service members throughout U.S. history, they died, in part, because of the blunders of their superiors.

If you ask me who is to blame, I would point not only to Biden but to former president Donald Trump — and to all of us, the people of America. By carrying out this pell-mell withdrawal from Afghanistan, our leaders, after all, were only giving us what we wanted.

In a sense, the fuse of the bomb that exploded on Thursday was lit 18 months ago. That was when Trump, with bipartisan support, concluded a terrible troop-withdrawal deal that freed 5,000 Taliban terrorists and sapped the morale of our Afghan allies. Trump made scant provision to save Afghans who had fought with our troops. Olivia Troye, an aide to former vice president Mike Pence, has recounted how White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller hindered every effort to bring the holders of Special Immigrant Visas to the United States.

Biden should have done better, but he didn’t. In April, also with bipartisan support, he announced that all U.S. forces would rapidly withdraw, along with the 17,000 contractors who kept the Afghan air force flying and the Afghan army supplied. Denied the ability to support their forces, the Afghan military rapidly collapsed in the face of a Taliban offensive.

stuart scheller

washington post logoWashington Post, Marine says he’ll resign after being relieved of command for calling out leaders on Afghanistan, Sammy Westfall and Paulina Villegas,Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Marine Corps Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, above, who was relieved of command after a video of him criticizing senior U.S. officials for “failures” in Afghanistan went viral, said Sunday that he will be leaving the Marine Corps after 17 years.

“All I asked for was accountability of my senior leaders when there are clear, obvious mistakes that were made,” he said in a video posted on LinkedIn this weekend.

“I am not saying we can take back what has been done; all I asked for was accountability,” he said, adding that he could have remained silent for three more years to reach the 20 years of service required for full pension, but that he opted to speak out instead.

Scheller said leaders accepting “accountability” for a harried U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could have a more significant effect on service members “with post-traumatic stress or struggling with purpose” than any other “piece of paper or message.”

us veterans administration sealHe added that he wanted to forfeit any retirement benefits and entitlements. “When I am done with what I am about to do, you all are going to need the jobs and the security,” he said.

In a statement sent to The Washington Post on Sunday, a spokesperson said that the Marine Corps was aware of the video and that it was “taking appropriate action to ensure the safety and well being of Lt. Col. Scheller and his family.”

“As this is a developing situation, we cannot comment further at this time,” Capt. Sam Stephenson’s statement added.

On Thursday, hours after the attack in Kabul that killed at least 170 people and 13 U.S. service members, Scheller sat in full uniform before his military vest and helmet and recorded himself rebuking senior U.S. leaders in Afghanistan. He posted that 4:45-minute video to Facebook. “I want to say this very strongly,” he said in Thursday’s video. “I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability.”

“The reason people are so upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down,” he said. “People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up.’ ”

He noted that he had “a lot to lose,” especially if the video “picks up traction.” By Friday evening, the video had been shared 28,000 times.

As a member of the Marines for 17 years, he had not hit the 20-year mark to qualify for a full pension.

He later posted that fellow Marines asked him immediately to take down the post. “We all agree with you, Stu, but nothing will change, and it will come at a huge personal cost to you,” Scheller said they told him.

In a statement sent to The Washington Post on Friday, Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger confirmed that Scheller was “relieved of command by Col. David Emmel, Commanding Officer of School of Infantry-East due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command.”

“This is obviously an emotional time for a lot of Marines, and we encourage anyone struggling right now to seek counseling or talk to a fellow Marine,” Stenger wrote. “There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media.”

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Virginia was complicit in causing and perpetuating wrongful convictions. It must do better, John Grisham (novelist and retired lawyer), Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). It is refreshing and inspiring that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), right, has recently made use of his singular power to grant absolute ralph northam file headshotpardons to three wrongfully convicted men.

Bobbie Morman Jr., of Norfolk, spent 22 years in prison though an innocent man. Joey Carter, also of Norfolk, spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Emerson Stevens, of Lancaster County, served 32 years for a murder committed by someone else. That someone has never been caught because police framed the wrong man.

Pardons and exonerations are bittersweet.

On the one hand, the years of hard work by innocence lawyers ultimately pay off, and some measure of justice is found as the wrongfully convicted finally make their dramatic walk out of the prison gates.

On the other hand, it is infuriating that our criminal justice system is so broken that bogus convictions happen at all. Innocent lives are destroyed. The guilty roam free. And the police and prosecutors are almost never made to answer for their bad behavior. If the authorities played by the rules, virtually all wrongful convictions could be avoided.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration opens civil rights investigations over bans on school mask mandates, Laura Meckler, Aug. 30, 2021. The Education Department opened civil rights investigations Monday into five states for policies banning school districts from requiring masks, upping the Biden administration’s battle with Republican governors over pandemic policies for schools.

The letters were sent to officials in Iowa, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma and Tennessee, all of which bar local districts from mandating masks. The letters allege that these states may be preventing districts from meeting the needs of students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness should they contract the coronavirus.

The move follows up on President Biden’s promise earlier this month that the Education Department would use its authority to try to stop states from interfering with school districts that want to require masks. Governors argue that masking should be a personal choice for parents and families, and over the last few weeks, the disputes have reflected the larger national pandemic debate over personal freedom vs. public health.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court asked to block Texas abortion law deputizing citizens to enforce six-week ban, Ann E. Marimow and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, Aug. 30, 2021. Abortion rights advocates asked the Supreme Court on Monday to block a Texas law from taking effect this week that allows private individuals to sue to enforce a ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The law incentivizes citizens to sue anyone suspected of helping a woman get an abortion, including people who drive a patient to a Texas clinic or provide financial help. Under the ban, those who successfully sue an abortion provider or health center worker are awarded at least $10,000.

It would be one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, effectively outlawing the procedure at a stage before many women are aware that they are pregnant.

Lawyers for abortion providers told the Supreme Court that the law, which is supposed to take effect Wednesday, “would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas” and likely force many clinics to close.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, In India, a debate over population control turns explosive, Gerry Shih, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Proposed measures in two states reflect the volatile tensions between Hindus and Muslims over the country’s future.

— Yogi Adityanath, a star of India’s political right wing, stood before television cameras in his trademark saffron tunic and dramatically introduced a bill pushing for smaller families — two children at most.

india flag mapIn previous decades, this measure by the leader of the country’s most populous state might have been uncontroversial. Over the past month, it’s been explosive.

Supporters held a protest to demand even tougher population controls in Uttar Pradesh, a vast expanse of 220 million people. Demographers debated whether legislation was necessary, given that Indian birthrates are falling swiftly. Critics saw something deeply cynical: a veiled attempt to mobilize Hindu voters by tapping into an age-old trope about India’s Muslim population ballooning out of control.

As India barrels toward a pivotal election in Uttar Pradesh early next year, population bills introduced by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have become a new flash point in the national debate, vividly illustrating how the issues of religion and identity, spoken or implied, form the most powerful undercurrent in the country’s politics.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Korea appears to have restarted Yongbyon nuclear reactor, U.N. body says, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Aug. 30, 2021.  North Korea appears to have restarted its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in July, a "deeply troubling" sign that the country may be on track to expand its nuclear program, according to a new report by the United Nations' atomic agency.

North Korean flagSince early December 2018, there have been no indications that the main plutonium-producing reactor was in operation. But satellite images taken this year show signs consistent with the operation of the reactor, including the discharge of cooling water, according to an annual report submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governors on Friday.

The finding adds another challenge to the Biden administration’s goal of denuclearizing North Korea. The apparent restarting of the reactor is notable given that the United States’ negotiations with Pyongyang over its nuclear program have stalled since 2019, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to dismantle the sprawling Yongbyon complex — but not other nuclear and missile sites — in exchange for extensive sanctions relief.

Analysis on 2019 Trump-Kim summit: From Yongbyon site to sanctions, what each side may bring to the table

Although Yongbyon is not the only site where North Korea has produced highly enriched uranium, its role at the heart of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions made the facility a bargaining chip in previous negotiations. In 2008, North Korea ceremoniously blew up the reactor’s cooling tower in a largely made-for-TV event amid nuclear talks between the United States and former leader Kim Jong Il. (A new cooling tower was built after the negotiations fell through.)

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Inside Politico’s Billion-Dollar Drama, Ben Smith, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). A mogul in his own right: Robert Allbritton just became the unlikeliest winner of the new media sweepstakes, our media columnist, Ben Smith, writes.

The Washington heir, whose Georgetown existence and mild affect put him at a considerable distance from the larger-than-life characters in the red-hot center of digital media, has scored the kind of deal his counterparts in New York and Los Angeles only dream about: a billion-dollar sale.

politico CustomOn Thursday he reached an agreement to sell Politico (the “the” got dropped early on) for a billion dollars in cash to the German media company Axel Springer, meaning that he had pulled off what is probably the most successful exit in its generation of new media, in pure business terms. Mr. Allbritton, who had sunk more than $50 million of family money into Politico by 2018, is now among the most successful media investors of the century — although Politico, which never entered the buzzy venture capital fray, had rarely been mentioned among hot media start-ups.

“We kind of disadvantaged ourselves by not taking V.C. money because we just weren’t part of the conversation,” Mr. Albritton said.

Now, he added, he’s pleased to be handing his company over to Axel Springer, a swashbuckling outfit whose Berlin tower long stood as a gleaming middle finger to the Communist East.

“In some ways, they’re more American than most Americans are these days,” he said. “They’re about freedom of the press, they’re about freedom of thought, they are blatantly pro-Translantic alliance.”

Axel Springer publishes the confrontational German tabloid Bild, but its chief executive, Mathias Döpfner, told me the Politico deal cemented the company’s American future. Mr. Allbritton noted that the Politico staff will not be subject to one notable feature of the German company — a mission statement employees are required to sign in support of the trans-Atlantic alliance and Israel, among other favored values.

I spoke to Mr. Allbritton, 52, by phone for about 90 minutes Saturday. I’d been promised his first interview since the sale became public, and I should admit I came for the drama. His story had long intrigued me. When he started Politico, he was known as the scion of an upstart D.C. dynasty that had been gunning for the more patrician Graham family, which owned The Washington Post. His father, Joe, was a television mogul from Houston who bought The Washington Star in 1975, hoping to make it into a feisty, right-leaning competitor to the main paper in town.

ed asner mtm lou grant

washington post logoWashington Post, Ed Asner 1929–2021: Actor who twice had the role of a lifetime as newsman Lou Grant dies at 91, Emily Langer, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Asner starred on the TV comedy “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (shown in a scene above) and later on the spin-off series “Lou Grant.”

Ed Asner, an actor and liberal activist who twice had the role of a lifetime in the character of Lou Grant, the irascible newsman he played first on the hit 1970s sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and then on an acclaimed spinoff series, died Aug. 29 at his home in Tarzana, Calif. He was 91.

The son of an immigrant junk dealer, Mr. Asner had a fireplug build, jowly countenance and workingman’s appearance that are not traditionally considered the raw materials of stardom. Those attributes were perfect, however, for the gruff, middle-aged news director of WJM-TV, the fictional Minneapolis television station at the center of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Widely regarded as one of the finest sitcoms in TV history, the program aired on CBS from 1970 to 1977 and starred Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, an earnest assistant producer who became a generational ideal of the single working woman. Mr. Asner, then in his 40s, played Mary’s crusty boss and was catapulted to fame in the midst of a decades-long acting career that would include hundreds of TV and movie credits.

Besides Mr. Asner and Moore, the cast included a host of first-rate character actors: Gavin Mac­Leod as Murray Slaughter, the long-suffering news writer; Ted Knight as Ted Baxter, the pompous anchor; Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, hostess of the TV station’s “Happy Homemaker” program; and Valerie Harper as Mary’s self-deprecating neighbor and friend Rhoda Morgenstern.

Between its original broadcast and reruns, the show endeared itself to millions and ended with a plotline in which new management fires the newsroom crew, with the ludicrous exception of Ted. After a tearful speech by Lou — “I treasure you people” — the staff shuffles in a group hug to a box of Kleenex and then files out, with Mary left to turn off the lights.

When “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ended in 1977, Mr. Asner’s character was reimagined as a hard-charging Los Angeles newspaper editor in“Lou Grant,” a CBS drama that addressed issues such as overseas dictatorship, nuclear power and the mental health of Vietnam War veterans. Nancy Marchand played a fictional publisher modeled in part on Katharine Graham of The Washington Post.

Mr. Asner’s comedic role turned into one with serious themes and dramatic nuance. He received five Primetime Emmy Awards as Lou Grant — three for supporting actor in a comedy and two for lead actor in a drama.

CBS canceled “Lou Grant” in 1982, citing declining ratings. Many observers, including Mr. Asner, suspected that the true cause was his real-world political activism.

ed asner smileMr. Asner, left, was prominently involved in the Screen Actors Guild strike over wages and profit-sharing in 1980 and was SAG president from 1981 to 1985. During that time, he criticized President Ronald Reagan for sending military aid to the right-wing government in El Salvador and helped raise funds for medical supplies for leftist rebels there.

Those activities, Newsweek magazine reported in 1982, “stirred up the hottest Hollywood political dispute since Jane Fonda’s wartime visit to North Vietnam.”

Reagan, a former actor and head of SAG, said that he was “very disturbed” by Mr. Asner’s work. Another erstwhile SAG chief, the actor and future National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston, accused Mr. Asner of injecting politics into the union and using it “like some Mafia don.”

Mr. Asner helped raise money to support the high-profile legal defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1982 of killing a Philadelphia police officer. He later questioned widely accepted explanations of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and appeared in advertisements by the liberal group ­MoveOn.org targeting then-President George W. Bush.

In a foreword to a book about “Lou Grant” by author Douglass K. Daniel, Mr. Asner wrote that the drama was one of his proudest accomplishments as an actor.

“I knew, at the time, that we were doing exceptional and important work that had the power to make changes in our world. That may sound egotistical; it was, after all, just a television show,” he wrote.

“Consider, though, that a prime-time show reaches 40 million homes,” he continued. “ ‘Lou Grant’ has been seen in 72 countries; in many of them, the very idea of freedom of the press is amazing. That kind of power gives my industry an obligation to be responsible for what we produce, and, in that regard, ‘Lou Grant’ was exemplary.”

marc bernierPalmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, right, Aug. 30, 2021. He’s the guy who calls himself “Mr. Anti-vax.” He tweeted a prediction that four robert harringtnn portraitmonths after the 2020 election people would be saying, “Coronavirus, what’s that?” In his most recent tweet to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who likened getting vaccinated against coronavirus to fighting the Nazis only much, much easier, Mr Anti-vax said, “Should say, ‘Now the US Government is acting like Nazi’s[sic]. Get the shot.’”

bill palmer report logo headerMeet Marc Bernier, above, another Florida “radio personality” who thinks you’re stupid for wearing a mask, who thinks it’s anti-American to get vaccinated, who has been an anti-vaxxer and Pro-Trumper and spreader of the Big Lie from the very first. He’s interested in your civil rights and he wants to make sure that America remains free from all this scientific coronavirus nonsense.

I would love to debate Mr. Bernier on these issues on Twitter but unfortunately I can’t. It’s not because his Twitter account has been taken down, not because he said something that violated Twitter’s terms of service (though he probably has), but because Marc Bernier died this weekend. On Saturday to be precise. Of coronavirus.

I’m afraid I played a little joke on you, brothers, and sisters. In my first two paragraphs I spoke of Bernier in the present tense — as a sort of polemical “Weekend at Bernier’s,” if you will. I did it because I wanted to illustrate in a shocking way how quickly coronavirus kills people.

Yes, the self-styled “Mr Anti-vax” has gone to that great lib-owning radio show in the sky. He took Patrick Henry’s thundering admonition, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” to its ultimate conclusion. You might say he owned himself in the most humiliating way possible. He became the ultimate rube cliche, the guy whose famous last words were, “Hey everybody, watch this!”

This is how stupid people die. This is what Drs Dunning and Kruger meant when they said the dumber some people are the more confident they become in their own beliefs. This is the price of ignoring science and believing your own thin, easily refuted propaganda. This is why wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and getting vaccinated isn’t a political issue, it isn’t open for debate, it isn’t a martyr’s hill to die on, it’s a scientific fact and a matter of life and death.

If it was just people like Mr. Bernier who died from their own stupidity then I couldn’t care less. Like the guy who killed himself in a homemade rocket to “prove” the earth was flat. But unfortunately people like Mr. Bernier take innocent people with them, innocent bystanders who become infected because some moron without a mask infected them. They are provoking anger in some people where no anger would have existed at all had they been left alone to decide for themselves. They are turning a health issue into a political one. It’s not.

Coronavirus isn’t a member of any party. It will kill you, your children, your friends and neighbors and it doesn’t give a crap what you think or what you believe. It behaves exactly like scientific truth, like the law of gravity, and all the propaganda and lies and government decrees on earth won’t change it one little bit. And it’s getting nastier, more virulent, more deadly every day.

Marc Bernier’s state (excuse me, former state) of Florida leads the nation in hospitalizations, with more than 16,000 Floridians hospitalized. Ninety five percent of the state’s ICU beds are now filled. For the 3rd straight week in a row Florida has had more than 150,000 new cases of coronavirus, including 26,000 children under twelve years of age.

There have been a total of more than 43,000 deaths in the state. Marc Bernier’s death is another one, but it’s far, far from the last. Despite the evidence of their own eyes, with people dropping dead right in front of them, the literally terminally stupid will continue to spread this anti-science excrement until millions have died. When they finally wake up to scientific reality it will be too late. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as the state's new governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as the state's new governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).

ny times logoNew York Times, Kathy Hochul Wants to Make One Thing Clear: She Is Not Cuomo, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Aug. 30, 2021. In her first acts as New York’s new governor, Ms. Hochul has sought to distance herself from her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, who resigned amid turmoil.

In her first days as governor of New York, Kathy C. Hochul has gone to great lengths to demonstrate that whatever kind of leadership style she might adopt, it will be far from that of her disgraced predecessor, Andrew M. Cuomo.

She immediately began providing a more complete coronavirus death toll in New York, releasing figures used by the C.D.C. that put the total at roughly 55,400, which is 12,000 more than the state figures that the Cuomo administration had regularly cited.

She introduced a new ethics training requirement for all state employees, and pointedly said the state’s sexual harassment training would have to be done in person — a subtle jab at Mr. Cuomo following allegations that he never completed the state-mandated training.

She replaced most of Mr. Cuomo’s inner circle with top staffers of her own. She made a point of meeting with elected officials who warred with Mr. Cuomo, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, even posting a picture on Twitter showing her laughing with the mayor over pastries.

In her first week in office, Ms. Hochul has moved intently to disassociate herself from Mr. Cuomo, pursuing policies and a style of governing that cast her as the revitalizing antithesis of her predecessor.

She has even gone so far as to avoid his name in her 11-minute public address on Tuesday, and, in the subsequent media blitz, has made mention of Mr. Cuomo by name only three times since taking office.

Ms. Hochul, the state’s first female governor, seems focused on carving out her own space as she fills out the remainder of Mr. Cuomo’s term, which expires at the end of 2022. But Ms. Hochul may also be driven by political reasons: Future opponents, including Republicans and Democratic primary challengers, are likely to portray her as an entrenched member of the Cuomo machinery and argue that voters deserve a clean break from him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking the political appointees Biden is nominating to fill the top roles in his administration, Harry Stevens, Madison Walls and Adrian Blanco, Aug. 30, 2021. Follow the president-elect’s progress filling nearly 800 positions, among the 1,200 that require Senate confirmation, in this tracker from The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.

We are tracking 800 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • 229 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 18 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 206 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 127 have been confirmed by the Senate.

Additionally, we have identified 220 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Advancing democracy abroad requires defending it at home, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). One positive result of ej dionne w open neckour distemper is an outpouring of perceptive books about what ails democracy and what needs to be done to save it.

A great virtue of the latest entry in this field, Jan-Werner Müller’s Democracy Rules, is its emphasis on how “losing is a complicated business in a democracy.” Donald Trump’s false charges of fraud reflect not simply his psychological inability to accept that he was, indeed, a loser in 2020. They are also a threat to the democratic system itself.

Müller, a social science professor at Princeton, notes that “certain forms of losing actively undermine democracy, while others can strengthen it.”

Losing can be a particular problem for parties and candidates who think of themselves as populist: “How can it be the case that the populists are the people’s only morally legitimate representatives and yet fail to gain overwhelming majorities at the ballot box?”

This logic leads to the sort of election-rigging now being undertaken by so many Republican state legislatures. It follows from the faux-populist claim that “only a vote for the people’s uniquely authentic representative is legitimate (and legal).” No wonder, Müller says, that Trump called the Jan. 6 crowd “the real people.”

Müller lifts up media institutions as part of democracy’s “critical infrastructure.” But he stresses that whether they are partisan or not, these forums for knowledge and debate must be devoted to “providing accurate information that can be checked (and double checked).”

Aug. 29

Top Headlines

 

Hurricanes, Dought, Climate Change

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

 

More On Afghanistan

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Carries Out Strike on Explosive-Laden Vehicle in Kabul, Helene Cooper, Dan Bilefsky and Michael Levenson, Aug. 29, 2021. The attack on the Afghan capital was said to target a car full of explosives and came hours after the United States had warned that another terrorist assault was “highly likely.”

A U.S. military drone strike blew up a vehicle laden with explosives in Kabul on Sunday, a Defense Department official said, hours after President Biden had warned that a terrorist attack against the Afghan capital’s airport was “highly likely.”

centcom logoA spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Capt. Bill Urban, said the military was trying to determine whether the strike had caused civilian casualties, though he noted that there was no immediate evidence of that.

“U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport,” Captain Urban said, referring to the Islamic State Khorasan group. He added: “We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material.”

Earlier Sunday, the United States Embassy in Kabul had said that there was a “specific, credible threat” to the airport area, where a suicide bombing on Thursday killed about 170 civilians and 13 members of the American military. State Department officials have issued several similar warnings in recent days.

With just two days left before Mr. Biden’s Tuesday deadline to complete the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the military was shifting its focus from vetting and airlifting Afghan and American civilians to bringing its own personnel home.

On Sunday morning, American University of Afghanistan students and their families boarded buses bound for the airport, on what could prove to be the last day of civilian evacuations. Some 300 American citizens still remain in Afghanistan, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, in an interview on Fox News Sunday.

The American troop departures will mark the tumultuous end to a 20-year war that has left the country awash in grief and desperation, with many Afghans fearing for their lives under Taliban rule and struggling to support their families amid cash shortages and rising food prices. At least some banks had opened in Kabul on Sunday, and long lines had formed outside their doors.

About 113,500 people, most of them Afghans, have been evacuated since Aug. 14, a Pentagon official said, the day before the Taliban seized Kabul. On Saturday, about 1,400 people were still at the airport, having been screened and booked for flights, Pentagon officials said.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans are still thought to be trying to flee the country. Mr. Biden and other global leaders have acknowledged that many will not get out before the deadline.

Joe Biden Afghan Speech Aug. 16, 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to withdraw U.S. diplomatic staff from Afghanistan as future relationship with the Taliban remains unclear, John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden (shown above on Aug. 16 at the White House) is planning to withdraw the U.S. ambassador and all diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by Tuesday, and it is unclear when — or if — they might return to the country, according to two U.S. officials.

Despite the Taliban’s expressed interest in having the United States maintain a diplomatic mission in Kabul, the Biden administration has not made a final decision about what a future presence might look like.

On Friday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration is “actively discussing” the Taliban’s request with U.S. allies and partners in the region — but the United States has not yet engaged directly with the Taliban to discuss what form a diplomatic mission might take, according to one U.S. official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive policy deliberations.

The lack of a set plan all but ensures that the United States’ diplomatic presence in Kabul will lapse for weeks, months or even longer — potentially complicating the Biden administration’s ability to make good on recent assurances that although the U.S. military is departing the country by Tuesday, the United States will continue to help Americans and Afghans who want to leave after they are gone.

afghan deaths grid

washington post logoWashington Post, Most of the Americans killed in the Kabul bombing were 9/11 babies who never knew a nation at peace, Marc Fisher, María Luisa Paúl and Jose A. Del Real, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). They had signed up to do their part, to heal a country — their own — that had not known a moment of peace in their entire lives. Rylee McCollum wanted to become a history teacher, but only after doing what he could as a Marine to serve his country. Hunter Lopez knew this was what he wanted since he was 11 years old. Ryan Knauss knew it in second grade.

The 13 American service members killed in Kabul on Thursday died in gruesome violence, victims of a terrorist bombing. They were, with one exception, 9/11 babies, born within a few years of the terrorist attacks that led the United States into a military conflict that stretched across four presidencies and throughout the lives of these 11 men and two women.

  • The 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport attack

They never knew a United States that was not at war, never lived in the world before the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, a country without ID checks in office buildings, metal detectors at schools, shoes X-rayed at the airport.

Instead, they grew up keenly conscious of security concerns, in a culture now sometimes fixated on safety, always aware of a war on terrorism that men and women in uniform were fighting thousands of miles from home.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden tells some hard truths few want to hear, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 29, 2021. President Biden on Thursday mournfully delivered jennifer rubin new headshotinformation to the country that was disagreeable to many Americans: There is no way to withdraw from a futile war without messiness. The expectation that there would be no misery or casualties was a fantasy.

A case in point is the issue of Afghan refugees. “I know of no conflict, as a student of history — no conflict where, when a war was ending, one side was able to guarantee that everyone that wanted to be extracted from that country would get out,” Biden said solemnly. His historical memory is accurate.

The United States has transported roughly 120,000 Afghans and American citizens to safety at great human cost. That miraculous feat is a tribute to the humanity and bravery of the U.S. military and civilian personnel and volunteers. But any hope of depopulating a war-torn country, and ending the suffering there (including the dismal future for millions of women and girls) after our defeat is not grounded in reality. It belongs with the magical thinking that the United States could create a nation state in Afghanistan.

A week ago, many in the media were lecturing the administration for abandoning Afghans. Now, after we evacuated about 120,000 people at the cost of 13 American lives, reporters wanted to know why we were keeping troops at the airport. In response to such a question on Thursday, Biden said: “There are additional American citizens, there are additional green-card holders, there are additional personnel of our allies, there are additional SIV cardholders, there are additional Afghans that have helped us, and there are additional groups of individuals that — who have contacted us from women’s groups, to NGOs, and others, who have expressly indicated they want to get out.”) He was criticized for “abandoning” Afghans; when we stay to rescue them he gets faulted for risking American lives.

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan Live Updates: U.S. warns Americans to evacuate Kabul airport area, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Kareem Fahim, Aug. 29, 2021. Biden heads to Delaware today to honor Americans killed in Afghanistan, White House says

President Biden will honor the Americans killed in Thursday’s suicide bombing in Afghanistan and meet with their families, the White House said, as the threat of another attack at the Kabul airport hung over U.S. efforts to withdraw troops.

The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan on Saturday alerted American citizens in the vicinity of the airport to evacuate, hours after Biden warned of a “specific, credible threat” of attack “in the next 24 to 36 hours” — which would be the second to target the airport in the past week.

The terrorist group known as Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, asserted responsibility for Thursday’s suicide bombings, which killed 13 American service members and 170 other people.

The United States still plans to withdraw its ambassador and all diplomatic staffers from Afghanistan by Tuesday, though it remains unclear whether, and when, they might return home, U.S. officials said.

Here’s what to know:

  • The U.S. State Department has warned American citizens near the Kabul airport to evacuate the area immediately and avoid traveling to the airport.
  • Authorities have identified the 13 service members killed in Thursday’s attack. These are some of their stories.
  • The Biden administration has not made a final decision about what a future presence in Kabul might look like.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Taliban Tighten Their Grip, and Fears of Retribution Grow, Carlotta Gall, Aug. 29, 2021. Taliban leaders have promised amnesty to Afghan officials and soldiers, but there are increasing reports of detentions, disappearances and even executions.

When Taliban troops seized control of the Afghan capital two weeks ago, the invading units made a beeline for two critical targets: the headquarters of the National Security Directorate and the Ministry of Communications.

Their aim — recounted by two Afghan officials who had been briefed separately on the raid — was to secure the files of Afghan intelligence officers and their informers, and to obtain the means of tracking the telephone numbers of Afghan citizens.

The speed with which Kabul fell on Aug. 15, when President Ashraf Ghani fled, was potentially disastrous for hundreds of thousands of Afghans who had been working to counter the Taliban threat, from prominent officials to midlevel government workers, who have since been forced into hiding.

Few officials found the time to shred documents, and thousands of top-secret files and payroll lists fell into the hands of the enemy, the two officials said.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Washington Stews, State Legislatures Increasingly Shape American Politics, Michael Wines, Aug. 29, 2021. From voting rights to the culture wars, state legislatures controlled by Republicans are playing a role well beyond their own borders.

With the release of the 2020 census last month, the drawing of legislative districts that could in large part determine control of Congress for the next decade heads to the nation’s state legislatures, the heart of Republican political power.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIncreasingly, state legislatures, especially in 30 Republican-controlled states, have seized an outsize role for themselves, pressing conservative agendas on voting, Covid-19 and the culture wars that are amplifying partisan splits and shaping policy well beyond their own borders.

Indeed, for a party out of power in Washington, state legislatures have become enormous sources of leverage and influence. That is especially true for rural conservatives who largely control the legislatures in key states like Wisconsin, Texas and Georgia and could now lock in a strong Republican tilt in Congress and cement their own power for the next decade. The Texas Legislature’s pending approval of new restrictions on voting is but the latest example.

“This is in many ways genuinely new, because of the breadth and scope of what’s happening,” said Donald F. Kettl, a scholar of state governance at the University of Texas at Austin. “But more fundamentally, the real point of the spear of Trumpism is appearing at the state and local level. State legislatures not only are keeping the flame alive, but nurturing and growing it.”

He added that the aggressive role played by Republican legislatures had much further to run.

washington post logoWashington Post, Strike killed two ISIS-K targets, U.S. says, Reis Thebault, Danielle Paquette and Steve Hendrix, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Retaliatory strike targeted group that claims to have attacked Kabul airport. Photos and videos reveal crowded checkpoints, chaos at Kabul airport on day of the attack.

Department of Defense SealThe U.S. military carried out a drone strike on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan on Friday, the first retaliatory action following an attack at Kabul airport that killed 13 American service members and at least 170 other people.

The terrorist group, known as Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the Thursday airport bombing, and President Biden told the extremists that U.S. forces would “hunt you down and make you pay.”

“The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan,” said Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. military spokesman. “Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”

Urban said the target was “an ISIS-K planner,” but did not say whether the person played a role in organizing or carrying out the airport attack.

The strike came as the U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned Americans of ongoing security threats at the capital’s airport and urged them to “leave immediately.”

Evacuation efforts are steadily coming to a close. A White House official said the U.S. has assisted 111,900 people in leaving the country over the last two weeks, including 6,800 since early Friday.

Here’s what to know

  • Authorities are notifying families of the 13 service members who were killed in Thursday’s attack.
  • The Taliban has requested that the United States keep a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 withdrawal of U.S. military forces, the State Department said.
  • As NATO allies end their evacuations, thousands of Afghan interpreters, embassy staffers and drivers are being left behind.

 

Hurricanes, Dought, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Ida closes in on Louisiana as ‘life-threatening’ Category 4 storm, Jason Samenow and Matthew Cappucci, Aug. 29, 2021. On the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s assault on New Orleans, Category 4 Ida is bearing down on the southeast Louisiana coastline after rapidly gaining strength Saturday night. The powerhouse storm, packing winds of 150 mph, is forecast to make landfall Sunday afternoon, walloping New Orleans with hurricane-force winds and over a foot of rain.

Near where Ida comes ashore, the National Hurricane Center is predicting “potentially catastrophic” wind damage and an “extremely life-threatening” ocean surge. Devastating effects from destructive winds and flooding rain could extend more than a hundred miles inland.

Here’s what to know

  • Outside coastal zones protected by levees, the surge could result in up to 12 to 16 feet of inundation, engulfing roads, homes, businesses and marinas. New Orleans’ flood protection system, bolstered by a $14.5 billion investment post-Katrina, will be tested by Ida’s surge and torrential rain.
  • The core of the storm’s hurricane-force winds could pass through Houma and Baton Rouge and very close to New Orleans and Morgan City, producing structural damage, downed trees and widespread power outages, which could last weeks.
  • The storm could unload up to two feet of rain in parts of southeast Louisiana, causing severe flash flooding.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: 40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It’s Drying Up Fast, Abrahm Lustgarten (environmental reporter for ProPublica), Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure on the Colorado River, supplying fresh water to Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico.

The reservoir hasn’t been full since 1983. In 2000, it began a steady decline caused by epochal drought. On my visit in 2015, the lake was just about 40 percent full. A chalky ring on the surrounding cliffs marked where the waterline once reached, like the residue on an empty bathtub. The tunnel far below represented Nevada’s latest salvo in a simmering water war: the construction of a $1.4 billion drainage hole to ensure that if the lake ever ran dry, Las Vegas could get the very last drop.

For years, experts in the American West have predicted that, unless the steady overuse of water was brought under control, the Colorado River would no longer be able to support all of the 40 million people who depend on it. Over the past two decades, Western states took incremental steps to save water, signed agreements to share what was left, and then, like Las Vegas, did what they could to protect themselves. But they believed the tipping point was still a long way off.

Like the record-breaking heat waves and the ceaseless mega-fires, the decline of the Colorado River has been faster than expected. This year, even though rainfall and snowpack high up in the Rocky Mountains were at near-normal levels, the parched soils and plants stricken by intense heat absorbed much of the water, and inflows to Lake Powell were around one-fourth of their usual amount. The Colorado’s flow has already declined by nearly 20 percent, on average, from its flow throughout the 1900s, and if the current rate of warming continues, the loss could well be 50 percent by the end of this century.

Earlier this month, federal officials declared an emergency water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time. The shortage declaration forces reductions in water deliveries to specific states, beginning with the abrupt cutoff of nearly one-fifth of Arizona’s supply from the river, and modest cuts for Nevada and Mexico, with more negotiations and cuts to follow. But it also sounded an alarm: one of the country’s most important sources of fresh water is in peril, another victim of the accelerating climate crisis.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: When medical care must be rationed, should vaccination status count? Daniel Wikler (Professor of Ethics and Population Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the World Health Organization's first staff ethicist), Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Hospitals in Kentucky, Washington, Florida and several other states are reported to be at or near capacity. Scores of Texas hospitals have run out of ICU beds. This wouldn’t be happening if everyone eligible for vaccination had accepted the jab. Is it time to put those who are endangering public health by refusing vaccines on notice that if they need care they will go to the end of the line, behind the patients who acted responsibly?

Last week, the Dallas Morning News reported that the North Texas Mass Critical Care Guideline Task Force had quietly circulated a memo saying that doctors could take vaccination status into account if triage became necessary in assigning hospital beds, though hours later the group said the document had merely been a “homework assignment.”

When patients like these are evaluated for health care, their priority depends on how serious their condition is, how urgently they need help and how well they are likely to do if they’re treated. What does not matter is culpability, blame, sin, cluelessness, ignorance or other personal failing. Doctors and hospitals are not in the blame and punishment business. Nor should they be. That doctors treat sinners and responsible citizens alike is a noble tradition, an ethical feature and not a bug. And we shouldn’t abandon it now.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 204.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 29, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 173.5 million people fully vaccinated, 52.3 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 29, 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: 216,918,733, Deaths: 4,511,302
U.S. Cases:     39,617,417, Deaths:    654,381
India Cases:     32,695,030, Deaths:    437,860
Brazil Cases:    20,728,605, Deaths:    579,052

Associated Press via Detroit News, Reporter punched in face while covering anti-mask event near Traverse City, Staff Report, Aug. 28, 2021. A newspaper reporter said he was punched in the face while covering an anti-mask event near Traverse City. The Grand Traverse County sheriff’s office is investigating.

“I know the concern you have,” Sheriff Tom Bensley told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. “There are some people out there that are not happy with the news outlets. We’ve had two incidents in a short period of time.”

Record-Eagle reporter Brendan Quealy went to Silver Lake Recreation Area to check an event organized by a group called Citizens Liberating Michigan and promoted by local allies on a Facebook page.

Heather Cerone introduced herself to a crowd of 80 to 100 people Thursday and said there would be no recording of the event.

“There’s no reporting, Brendan,” Cerone said. “We don’t authorize that. So, you guys feel like standing in front of him?”

Quealy said two men confronted him and one of them shoved him into a fence and punched him in the face with both fists.

Cerone claimed the event was private because the pavilion had been rented. But prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said the area around the pavilion is “open to anyone.”

“My job is to chase the news, to accurately report it and that’s what I was doing,” Quealy said.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

nancy pelosi mask

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: House Democrats prepare to bow to a reality — their ambitions can only be as big as centrist Senate Democrats allow, Paul Kane, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, above, made an unusual admission this past week — one that essentially gives the Senate the upper hand in drafting details of President Biden’s ambitious $3.5 trillion plan to expand social safety-net programs.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) acknowledged that she had agreed to try to write just one version of the sweeping legislation so that the House would vote only on whatever can get through the Senate.

“We write a bill with the Senate, because it’s no use our doing a bill that is not going to pass the Senate,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference. “In the interest of getting things done, results, getting results.”

Her advisers suggest this will enhance the House position, creating a global negotiation now with the Senate and Biden administration officials rather than passing their own bill and then letting the Senate write its own legislation.

House passes $3.5 trillion budget plan, aims to vote on infrastructure package by late September

But time is a critical issue, Democrats say, and this will cut down on the number of votes that will have to happen to pass the legislation.

One result of this time crunch and streamlined approach to writing the legislation is that it will reinforce the power of centrist Senate Democrats, particularly Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who have already held outsize influence over the first two major agenda items for Biden: the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package and the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate earlier this month.

By limiting themselves only to things that can win the support of all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, aggressive proposals such as providing a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants may never get to the starting line. Senate budget rules could knock that provision out because it is a policy item and not primarily a tax or spending issue, meaning it may not be eligible for the reconciliation process that allows bills to avoid the threat of a filibuster.

Pelosi rejected the idea that she had made any concessions to the centrists in the House, instead portraying the streamlined approach as the best way to achieving the party’s goals. “No, it’s not, it’s a clarification. It’s a clarification. But it is — look, we had a vision — we have a vision about how we go forward,” she told reporters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Courts gets involved as everything unravels for the Cyber Ninjas, Bill Palmer, Aug. 29, 2021. This past week the Arizona election “audit” reached a new low when the Cyber Ninjas announced they were delaying the submission of their final report because they’d all come down with COVID. Given that their months-long “audit” has been a scandalous debacle and has uncovered zero evidence that the 2020 election was stolen, that wasn’t a surprise. But now things are getting even uglier for the Cyber Ninjas.

bill palmer report logo headerWith this audit debacle shaping up to be a criminal scandal for the Cyber Ninjas and perhaps for the Arizona state-level Republican politicians who have been in bed with them on it, they’re all naturally trying to bury the paper trail of how things got to this point.

But now a judge in Arizona is ordering the Cyber Ninjas to preserve all documents related to the audit, because they may need to be turned over in a civil case filed by the Arizona Republic newspaper. This puts the Cyber Ninjas in a no-win position. If they preserve and turn over the documents, they may incriminate themselves. But if they destroy the documents at this point, they’re looking at criminal trouble with the judge. This is only going to get uglier for them.

washington post logoWashington Post, The storms of August: Biden’s devastating month stokes midterm fears among Democrats, Sean Sullivan, Tyler Pager and Annie Linskey, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden is mired in the most devastating month of his tenure in office — struggling to contain a deadly crisis in Afghanistan, an unyielding pandemic and other setbacks that have sent waves of anger and worry through his party as his poll numbers decline.

August started with Democrats sounding quiet alarms about the resurgence of the coronavirus and the uncertain fate of Biden’s domestic priorities, tempered by some optimism about the economy and a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

But the month nears its conclusion with sirens blaring about Biden’s strategy in Afghanistan, where 13 Americans were killed this past week, as well as heightening concern about covid-19. These anxieties have set off a fresh round of intraparty finger-pointing.

Many Democrats increasingly fear that the tenets of Biden’s presidency — competence, calm and control — can credibly be called into question for the first time, potentially laying a foundation for devastating consequences in the 2022 midterm elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: U.S. boarding schools for Indians had a hidden agenda: Stealing land, Brenda J. Child (Professor at the University of Minnesota and the author of “Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940”), Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The government closed most of these institutions once the dispossession was complete

In Canada, the horrifying news that the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children were found at former residential schools is another painful episode in a national dialogue that has been going on for years. But for many in the United States, the conversation is, perhaps, just beginning. In June, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland — who, like most American Indians, has ancestors who attended government boarding schools — outlined her department’s plans to review “the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies.”

As a historian, and as a descendant of Ojibwe grandparents who attended these schools at the height of the assimilation movement, I have had many conversations with my community and students about this complex period. Recently, a reporter asked me if the United States needs a truth and reconciliation commission to address this history. The discovery of mass graves of children in Canada has shocked many non-Indians. For them, boarding schools are a distant and relatively unknown chapter. They may wonder what will be uncovered here — what the country has collectively forgotten or failed to learn. (American Indian scholars, including me, have spent decades researching and calling attention to students’ deaths from tuberculosis and the influenza pandemic of 1918, documented in records of the former schools.)

  • Washington Post, Opinion: As Canada reckons with its treatment of Indigenous children, I mourn my friend Joey Doug George-Kanentiio, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.).

 

U.S. Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Breyer, the optimistic justice, shakes off defeats but warns of threats to Supreme Court’s authority, Robert Barnes, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.).  Justice Stephen G. Breyer is on a losing streak.

Three times in the past 14 days, he dissented as the Supreme Court issued a series of emergency orders overturning pandemic-related bans and telling the executive branch it must reinstate a Trump-era immigration policy President Biden halted on his first day in office.

But as Breyer sat for an interview in his overstuffed chambers overlooking the Capitol on Friday — batting away questions about retirement and whether the upcoming term would be his last — the 83-year-old justice was anything but grim.

“Only sometimes when I’m in dissent do I get in a really black mood,” Breyer explained. “When I worked for [Supreme Court Justice] Arthur Goldberg and we’d lose something when I’d think we were so right, he’d say: ‘What do you want me to do? Cry?’ ”
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Instead, Breyer has adopted Goldberg’s attitude: “Ok, let’s go on to the next one.” Breyer adds: “If that’s Pollyanna, I’m Pollyanna.”

stephen breyer full portraitBreyer might have been a bit fixated on the description — excessively optimistic or cheerful — because he was just told that’s how some in his liberal fan base have characterized the assertions he makes about the Supreme Court’s image in his new book, The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics.

It is a slim volume based on a speech he gave at Harvard Law School in the spring. He argues the court’s authority is undermined by attempts to fit justices into ideological camps and attribute their disagreements to partisan inclinations. He warns that structural changes to the court, such as liberal proposals to offset the current conservative majority by adding justices, could come at too high a cost.

Breyer warns to think ‘long and hard’ about court-packing

“A short-term victory in the great zero-sum game that our politics has become could bring about grave structural damage not only to an essential constitutional institution but also to our system of government,” Breyer writes.

If the book could be summed up in a paragraph, it would be this one: “My experience from more than thirty years as a judge has shown me that anyone taking the judicial oath takes it very much to heart. A judge’s loyalty is to the rule of law, not the political party that helped to secure his or her appointment.”

Skeptical? Breyer responds: “I’m giving my experience. So you can’t say I’m a Pollyanna if that’s my experience.”

His point is that the court’s finality is acknowledged by the public and the other branches of government because it is seen as independent.

“The public now expects presidents to accept decisions of the Court, including those that are politically controversial,” Breyer writes. “The Court, with no troops of its own, has reached the point of being able to impose a significant check — a legal check — upon the executive’s actions, even in cases where the executive strongly disagrees with the outcome.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Elizabeth Holmes expected to argue she suffered abuse from ex-boyfriend during Theranos trial, Jay Greene and Rachel Lerman, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Unsealed documents, in the high-profile case that begins with jury selection Aug. 31, include Holmes’ accuses Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani of “essentially dominating her and erasing her capacity to make decisions.”

Former Theranos chief executive Elizabeth Holmes is likely to argue in her criminal trial that abuse by her ex-boyfriend, who was the company’s president, rendered her incapable of making her own decisions, according to documents unsealed in the case early Saturday morning.

Holmes, who started Theranos when she was a 19-year-old student at Stanford University, is charged with 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for allegedly defrauding investors and patients in connection to her failed blood-testing firm. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Aug. 31, with the trial starting Sept. 8.

The unusual defense strategy in one the highest-profile corporate trials in years offers clearer details on how Holmes plans to frame the implosion of a company that was once one of the industry’s start-up darlings. Holmes graced magazine covers and regularly appeared on business television programs while Theranos took in hundreds of millions of dollars from household-name investors such as Rupert Murdoch and Betsy DeVos. But her fall, after a 2015 Wall Street Journal investigation showed the company’s technology was unreliable, led to the many claims of fraud.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

More On Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, The 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport attack: What we know so far, Shawn Boburg, Meagan Flynn, Alex Horton, Ellen McCarthy, Dalvin Brown and María Luisa Paúl, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.).

 

Taliban leaders pose triumphantly in the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 (photo via Associated Press).

Taliban leaders pose triumphantly in the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 (photo via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: A Journey Through Kabul on the Day of the Fall, Mujib Mashal, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). A Times correspondent who grew up in the Afghan capital returned before the Taliban’s victory, taking in the end of one era and the fearful start of another.

In the hours before the Taliban walked into Kabul, and the two-decade quest to build a democratic Afghanistan tumbled into fear and uncertainty, I left my parents’ home to take a bus around the city. This was not a reporting outing. It was personal.

I had woken up that morning, Aug. 15, with a feeling that the window on Kabul as my generation knew it was closing. City after city had fallen to the Taliban, at such dizzying speed that my colleagues reporting on the war could not keep up. As the map changed, the possibilities for the capital were down to two: Kabul would get turned into rubble again in a stubborn quest to save those in power, or Kabul would fall to extremists who, when last in power, had ruled with oppression and banished some of the most basic liberties.

I was a boy when the Taliban were toppled in 2001, growing up here as new life was injected into the ruins of a capital that had been deeply scarred by civil war. For years, the world felt like it was opening up to many of us, though on the back of an increasingly bloody war and a worried sense that corruption and mismanagement were sliding toward something ominous.

Now, on the eve of another power change in Kabul, I was back in the city again, taking a break from my post in The New York Times’s New Delhi bureau to visit family and colleagues. And I knew — everyone here knew — that an era of hope, however uneven and misplaced, was about to end.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Why Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan, Peter Baker, right, Aug. 29, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s approach has prompted a debate over peter baker twitterwhether the mayhem in Kabul was inevitable or the result of a failure to consider other options. As the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan capping an ill-fated 20-year war turned uglier and deadlier in recent days, President Biden has stood by his decision but at the same time repeatedly singled out one person in particular to blame: his predecessor.

Because President Donald J. Trump struck an agreement with the Taliban last year to pull out, Mr. Biden has insisted that he had no choice but to abide by the deal he inherited or send tens of thousands of American troops back to Afghanistan to risk their lives in a “forever war.” It was, in other words, all in or all out.

But that reductionist formula has prompted a profound debate over whether the mayhem in Kabul, the capital, was in fact inevitable or the result of a failure to consider other options that might have ended in a different outcome. The unusual confluence of two presidents of rival parties sharing the same goal and same approach has led to second-guessing and finger-pointing that may play out for years to come in history books yet unwritten.

In framing the decision before him as either complete withdrawal or endless escalation, Mr. Biden has been telling the public that there was in fact no choice at all because he knew that Americans had long since grown disenchanted with the Afghanistan war and favored getting out. The fact that Mr. Trump was the one to leave behind a withdrawal agreement has enabled Mr. Biden to try to share responsibility.

“There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict,” Mr. Biden said as the Taliban seized Kabul this month.

Critics consider that either disingenuous or at the very least unimaginative, arguing that there were viable alternatives, even if not especially satisfying ones, that may not have ever led to outright victory but could have avoided the disaster now unfolding in Kabul and the provinces.

“The administration is presenting the choices in a way that is, at best, incomplete,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, a deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush who oversaw earlier stages of the Afghan war. “No one I knew was advocating the return of tens of thousands of Americans into ‘open combat’ with the Taliban.”

Instead, some, including the current military leadership of Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asserted that keeping a relatively modest force of as few as 3,000 to 4,500 troops along with the extensive use of drones and close air support could have enabled Afghan security forces to continue holding off the Taliban without putting Americans at much risk.

“There was an alternative that could have prevented further erosion and likely enabled us to roll back some of the Taliban gains in recent years,” said Gen. David H. Petraeus, the retired commander of American forces in Afghanistan and former C.I.A. director who argued the mission was making progress while serving alongside Mr. Biden under President Barack Obama.

 

Aug. 28

Top Headlines

afghan deaths grid

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Voting Rights, Voter Suppression

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

 

More On Afghanistan

 

Hurricanes, Floods, Fires, Climate

 

U.S. Media, Communications

 

World News

 

U.S. Politics, Governance


Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to withdraw U.S. diplomatic staff from Afghanistan as future relationship with the Taliban remains unclear, John Hudson, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe, Aug. 28, 2021. President Biden is planning to withdraw the U.S. ambassador and all diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by Tuesday, and it is unclear when — or if — they might return to the country, according to two U.S. officials.

Despite the Taliban’s expressed interest in having the United States maintain a diplomatic mission in Kabul, the Biden administration has not made a final decision about what a future presence might look like. On Friday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration is “actively discussing” the Taliban’s request with U.S. allies and partners in the region — but the United States has not yet engaged directly with the Taliban to discuss what form a diplomatic mission might take, according to one U.S. official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive policy deliberations.

The lack of a set plan all but ensures that the United States’ diplomatic presence in Kabul will lapse for weeks, months or even longer — potentially complicating the Biden administration’s ability to make good on recent assurances that although the U.S. military is departing the country by Tuesday, the United States will continue to help Americans and Afghans who want to leave after they are gone.

afghan deaths grid

washington post logoWashington Post, Most of the Americans killed in the Kabul bombing were 9/11 babies who never knew a nation at peace, Marc Fisher, María Luisa Paúl and Jose A. Del Real, Aug. 28, 2021. They had signed up to do their part, to heal a country — their own — that had not known a moment of peace in their entire lives. Rylee McCollum wanted to become a history teacher, but only after doing what he could as a Marine to serve his country. Hunter Lopez knew this was what he wanted since he was 11 years old. Ryan Knauss knew it in second grade.

The 13 American service members killed in Kabul on Thursday died in gruesome violence, victims of a terrorist bombing. They were, with one exception, 9/11 babies, born within a few years of the terrorist attacks that led the United States into a military conflict that stretched across four presidencies and throughout the lives of these 11 men and two women.

  • The 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport attack

They never knew a United States that was not at war, never lived in the world before the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, a country without ID checks in office buildings, metal detectors at schools, shoes X-rayed at the airport.

Instead, they grew up keenly conscious of security concerns, in a culture now sometimes fixated on safety, always aware of a war on terrorism that men and women in uniform were fighting thousands of miles from home.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Strike killed two ISIS-K targets, U.S. says, Reis Thebault, Danielle Paquette and Steve Hendrix, Aug. 28, 2021. Retaliatory strike targeted group that claims to have attacked Kabul airport. Photos and videos reveal crowded checkpoints, chaos at Kabul airport on day of the attack.

Department of Defense SealThe U.S. military carried out a drone strike on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan on Friday, the first retaliatory action following an attack at Kabul airport that killed 13 American service members and at least 170 other people.

The terrorist group, known as Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the Thursday airport bombing, and President Biden told the extremists that U.S. forces would “hunt you down and make you pay.”

“The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan,” said Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. military spokesman. “Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties.”

Urban said the target was “an ISIS-K planner,” but did not say whether the person played a role in organizing or carrying out the airport attack.

The strike came as the U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned Americans of ongoing security threats at the capital’s airport and urged them to “leave immediately.”

Evacuation efforts are steadily coming to a close. A White House official said the U.S. has assisted 111,900 people in leaving the country over the last two weeks, including 6,800 since early Friday.

Here’s what to know

  • Authorities are notifying families of the 13 service members who were killed in Thursday’s attack.
  • The Taliban has requested that the United States keep a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan beyond the Aug. 31 withdrawal of U.S. military forces, the State Department said.
  • As NATO allies end their evacuations, thousands of Afghan interpreters, embassy staffers and drivers are being left behind.

 

rylee mccollum family photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Rylee McCollum was a baby during 9/11. On Thursday, he was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in Kabul, Jack Healy and Dave Philipps, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). After Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, landed in Afghanistan with his Marine unit, his father, Jim, began checking his phone for a little green dot. Mr. McCollum had not been able to talk with his son, but the green dot next to Rylee’s name on a messaging app meant that he was online. That he was still OK.

When news came that a suicide bomber killed 13 American service members outside the airport in Kabul on Thursday, Mr. McCollum checked again for the dot. His son was on his first overseas deployment, had gotten married recently, and was about to become a father. Mr. McCollum messaged his son: “Hey man, you good?”

But the green dot was gone.

“In my heart yesterday afternoon, I knew,” Mr. McCollum said.

On Friday, Lance Corporal McCollum became one of the first American victims to be publicly identified in the attack that also killed at least 170 Afghans. It was the highest U.S. death toll in a single incident in Afghanistan in 10 years. His death was confirmed by his father and by the governor of Wyoming, Mark Gordon.

While the Department of Defense has not released an official accounting of the victims, their names began to emerge on Friday. They appeared in social media posts from family and friends and somber announcements from the high schools where the young men had played football or wrestled just a few years earlier.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Kabul airport bomber waited until he was about to be frisked by U.S. troops. This is how the attack unfolded, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Updated Aug. 28, 2021. The suicide bomber waited until the last possible moment, U.S. officials said.

A crowd straining to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport had converged on Abbey Gate, a main entryway patrolled by Marines and other service members. The troops knew that they could be targeted in an attack; just the day before, the State Department had warned of a “credible” threat at three gates at the airport, where more than 5,000 American troops had helped to evacuate more than 100,000 people in less than two weeks. Abbey Gate was on the list.

Airport security had closed two of the gates, but decided to leave Abbey Gate open, U.S. officials said.

They also said that, earlier in the day, Taliban commanders and fighters patrolling checkpoints along the airport route twice pushed back surging crowds, but they came back again.

That third time, someone else came with them.

At 5:48 p.m., the bomber, wearing a 25-pound explosive vest under clothing, walked up to the group of Americans who were frisking people hoping to enter the complex. He waited, officials said, until just before he was about to be searched by the American troops. And then he detonated the bomb, which was unusually large for a suicide vest, killing himself and igniting an attack that would leave dozens of people dead, including 13 American service members.

“This is close-up war — the breath of the person you are searching is upon you,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of United States Central Command, said on Thursday after the attack, describing the face-to-face contact between Marines at the airport gate and Afghans they must search before allowing them to enter.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military can’t use its typical security measures in Kabul, officials say, Dan Lamothe, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). The catastrophic loss of life in a suicide bombing at Kabul’s international airport laid bare the challenges the U.S. military faced in an evacuation mission that relied on the Taliban to create an outside perimeter of checkpoints and forced Americans to search Afghan civilians without the security measures typically used while deployed, defense officials and combat veterans said.

The bomb detonated on Thursday afternoon in a crowded area just outside the airport's Abbey Gate killed at least 170 people, including 13 U.S. troops, according to U.S. officials and the Taliban. The attack — which came after days of increasingly dire warnings that the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan was plotting to strike the airport — left dozens of bodies piled in a sewage ditch that desperate Afghans had been traversing while trying to evacuate, following the Taliban's takeover of Kabul.

The deaths and chaos have overshadowed an airlift mission that found its footing last week and has evacuated more than 111,000 people from Kabul as of Friday, in one of the largest noncombatant rescue efforts in U.S. military history. The threat of additional attacks remain, Pentagon officials said, and it could be heightened as the United States reduces its forces at the airport in advance of an Aug. 31 deadline for a full withdrawal.

  • Washington Post, Drought worsens hunger in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, signaling another threat to stability, Aug. 28, 2021. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of Americans face financial cliff as eviction ban, unemployment aid lapse, Tony Romm and Rachel Siegel, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.).  The clock is now ticking for millions of Americans who are set to face a series of stinging financial hardships in a matter of days, with the loss of federal protections against eviction and looming cuts to their weekly unemployment checks.

The two developments arrive at a moment of great tension in Washington, where the White House and Congress have grappled over the state of the country’s pandemic aid — and confronted their limited ability to authorize more of it — even as the economy shows potential signs of strain in the face of a resurgent coronavirus.

The first blow arrived Friday, as landlords now can more easily begin removing tenants who have fallen behind on their monthly payments. The potential wave of evictions comes after the Supreme Court found the Biden administration’s recent eviction moratorium to be unconstitutional, leaving the White House powerless to issue its own new directive protecting as many as 6.4 million households that are not current on their rents, according to federal survey data. Many Americans also have struggled to obtain federal rental aid from state and local programs that were allocated tens of billions of dollars in past stimulus packages.
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Ten days later, some of those same families could face additional financial peril as enhanced unemployment insurance benefits are set to lapse. Congress repeatedly has extended these weekly checks, but President Biden and some of his congressional allies have not sought to renew them ahead of their planned expiration Sept. 6. That could threaten 7.5 million people with the loss of much-needed income, according to a recent estimate from the Century Foundation.

The developments portend a potential shock to the economy, and they highlight the difficult political realities even in Democratic-dominated Washington. Biden has only so much power to act on his own to provide pandemic relief, and lawmakers in his party do not always see eye to eye about the need for additional economic stimulus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fast but uneven spate of evictions loom after Supreme Court frees landlords to oust tenants, Jonathan O'Connell, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). In the Atlanta area, thousands of eviction filings have piled up in court, ready to be processed. In New York, renters are waiting months for rental assistance to arrive and running out of time. In North Dakota, a legal aid nonprofit has 10 attorneys to cover 70,000 square miles, and evictions are already far outpacing lawyers’ ability to help.

Similar scenes are playing out across the United States, but this waiting game for millions of Americans could soon end.

A new Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday night is unleashing a rapid and uneven torrent of evictions across the United States, leaving the fate of millions of Americans in the hands of local judges, sheriffs and political leaders.

In some communities the decision — coupled with agonizingly slow rental relief programs — has left thousands of people who are behind on their rent immediately exposed. Some local judges are restarting cases that had been held up by the Centers for Disease

The Biden administration had tried to intervene but now many renters could face eviction in the coming days.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: The financial price you could pay for choosing not to get vaccinated, Michelle Singletary, right, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). If you lose michelle singletaryyour job for refusing to get a shot, you probably won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits.

If you choose not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus without having a legitimate medical or religious reason, you might want to start preparing for the cost of that decision.

Tens of millions of people are still not vaccinated. Of course, there are dire health risks from covid-19. But if you refuse to get vaccinated, it’s possible you’ll experience some tough economic losses, too.

More companies are weighing penalties for unvaccinated workers

You could lose your job as more employers require workers to get vaccinated. Even without a vaccination mandate, what if you get sick and run out of sick leave — assuming you have it — or can’t work because you’re hospitalized. How will your family survive financially? The research is still coming in on the long-haul effects of covid. Will you end up with long-term care expenses because you remained skeptical about the vaccines?

A mom of 4 who died of covid days after her husband makes one final wish: ‘Make sure my kids get vaccinated’

Employers initially had been cautious about mandating vaccinations. Then came the emergence of the delta variant, which has resulted in a surge in hospitalizations and deaths. The increase in coronavirus cases is overwhelmingly attributed to people who are not vaccinated.

Americans might prefer vaccine mandates to mask mandates

CNN recently fired three staffers after learning they were working in the office despite being unvaccinated. The Houston Methodist hospital system dismissed or asked for the resignation of 153 workers who refused to get inoculated. The Pentagon has ordered all active and reserve military personnel to get vaccinated.

Concho Valley Homepage.com (TX), Caleb Wallace, anti-mask organizer and co-founder of the San Angelo Freedom Defenders, dies of COVID-19, Jeff Caldwell, Aug .28, 2021. Caleb Wallace, the co-founder of the San Angelo Freedom Defenders and West Texas Minutemen State Coordinator, has died from causes related to COVID-19, according to an update on gofundme by his wife, Jessica Wallace.

“Caleb has peacefully passed on. He will forever live in our hearts and minds❤️,” reads the most recent update on the campaign that was set up to help Wallace’s three children and his wife, a stay-at-home mother who is expecting a fourth child in late September.

“This money is also going towards Calebs medical bills as they start coming in,” reads an update to the campaign’s description, “He’s now been in the hospital since July 30th and I know I must prepare for them as well. Gotta pray for the best and prepare for the worst.”

While Wallace had become a semi-regular feature in local news through his conservative activism, it was his battle with COVID-19 that garnered the national spotlight after his family’s struggle was featured in an article published in the San Angelo Standard Times on Sunday, August 22, 2021.

His organization of the “Freedom Rally,” a protest against state and local mask requirements during the summer of 2020, made him a figure of some prominence among those in the community who were opposed to mask mandates.

This opposition to coronavirus mitigation measures like mask mandates lead Wallace to found the San Angelo Freedom Defenders with like-minded local, Coco Simpson. The Freedom Defenders held local rallies like the San Angelo Freedom Parade in July of 2020 and the October 2020 Rally to End COVID-19 Tyrrany.

Wallace reportedly believed that vaccine mandates were also an infringement on people’s constitutional rights. In an article published in the New York Times on Friday, August 27, 2020, Wallace’s father attested to his son’s stance against vaccine and mask requirements, saying, “After watching all of the government’s efforts here, he decided he wanted to do something about it”

“I can’t tell the difference if I have freedom to breathe free air or breathe it behind… sucking air behind this thing,” Wallace said while speaking to local officials at a COVID-19 Update held by the City of San Angelo on November 13, 2020.

“My health has nothing to do with you. As harsh as that sounds, but our constitutional, fundamental rights protect that. Nothing else.” said Wallace.

“I’m sorry if that comes off as blunt and that I don’t care. I do care. I care more about freedom than I do for your personal health.”

Wallace’s most recent public action was in the form of an open letter, published locally on April 10, 2021, to the San Angelo Independent School District calling on the school board to “rescind ALL COVID-related policies immediately!”

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 204 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 28, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 173.1 million people fully vaccinated, 52.1 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 28, 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: 216,390,042, Deaths: 4,502,622
U.S. Cases:     39,540,401, Deaths:    653,405
India Cases:     32,649,947, Deaths:    437,403
Brazil Cases:    20,703,906, Deaths:    578,396

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida can’t block school mask mandates, judge says, Meryl Kornfield, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). A Florida judge ruled Friday that Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration overstepped its authority in restricting school districts from enacting mask mandates after parents sued officials amid a surge in coronavirus infections.

Judge John C. Cooper of Florida’s 2nd Circuit sided with parents from six Florida counties who challenged DeSantis (R) and state education officials in court this week, arguing that the governor’s order infringes on classroom safety guaranteed by the state’s constitution.

In a milestone decision in the heated debate about mask mandates in Florida, Cooper declared that the state cannot require districts to offer voluntary mandates over “the preservation of general welfare,” comparing the masking issue to the difference between the right to drink alcohol and the criminality of drunken driving.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News must be held accountable for this, Bocha Blue, Aug. 28, 2021. Palmer Report readers who had not known about it and were stunned when they found out.

fox news logo SmallBetween a day ago when I wrote the story and today as I write another story, things have become even worse regarding this crazy story. I feel it is important to keep readers updated. This “fad,” or whatever one wants to call it, has now spread to MANY more states.

A police officer in Georgia who advocated for Ivermectin’s use has just passed away from COVID.

bill palmer report logo headerFeed stores report that many of them are running out of medication and have to double their animal medication orders.

Owners of horses need the medication to treat their horses, and there is a shortage of the drug that has begun.

In the state of Arkansas, a doctor is now under investigation for prescribing the drug to “thousands” of human beings, and some of those humans include prisoners.

As I mentioned, the FDA has warned against humans consuming this drug. But as well as know, MAGA trusts Fox far more than a little thing called science.

Fox is to blame for much of this. And I believe litigation may follow. I say this because many Palmer Report readers have mentioned that Fox should be disciplined for actually even mentioning this on their hate show.

People taking this horse and cow drug should know that symptoms include vomiting, high blood pressure, bowel problems, seizures, and death.

The misinformation regarding this drug is also permeating social media, so if you see it, please correct the record if you can. There was a time that, if someone had reported this story and I’d read it, I’d have laughed in amazement and most likely called it fake news. But it isn’t. This is our new reality. And that’s the terrifying part.

 

U.S. Voting Rights, Voter Suppression

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas House passes voting restrictions, which Democrats had blocked for weeks by fleeing the state, Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Defying a months-long Democratic protest, the Texas House on Friday passed wide-ranging voting restrictions that opponents say will make casting ballots and administering elections harder in the state.

Elections bill S.B. 1 passed 80 to 41 mostly along party lines, with one Republican voting against the measure. Democrats — who broke quorum for weeks, Greg Abbott Customfleeing Texas and facing the threat of arrest to stave off passage of the measure this summer — did not have the numbers to overcome the chamber’s GOP majority.

The House’s passage of the measure is a victory for Gov. Greg Abbott (R), right, and the latest example of Republican state legislators adopting voting restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election. Proponents of the bills argue that voting rules should be tightened to prevent voter fraud, echoing baseless claims by former president Donald Trump and his supporters that the last election was tainted by irregularities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands rally for voting rights, D.C. statehood today in Washington, Ellie Silverman, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Organizers say this is a continuation of a decades-old fight to protect and expand access to the ballot.

Thousands of people marched on Saturday to mark the 58th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and voice their support for expanding and protecting access to the ballot.

The crowd cheered, sang and danced in the streets on the way to the National Mall while calling on Congress to pass an extensive voting rights measure and eliminate the filibuster if necessary to do so. The marchers, though fewer than in years past, also demanded D.C. statehood and an end to police brutality.

“If we keep going down this road, we’re going to be back like Jim Crow,” said Craig Browne, 74, who traveled to the nation’s capital from Wyncote, Pa. “I remember segregation,” Browne said. “I remember separate, and it wasn’t equal.”

Organizers had arranged buses to bring people in from across the country to rally on the National Mall. The demonstrators urged Congress to pass the For the People Act, a sweeping elections and ethics bill that would impose national standards for voting and override state-level restrictions, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aims to restore voting rights protections that have been weakened by the U.S. Supreme Court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The House debates voting rights, and it’s Jim Crow all over again, Colbert I. King, right, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). This week’s House colbert king twitterdebate on the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which passed on a 219-to-212 party-line vote, was a reprise of past legislative wars on voting rights. It was a disgusting sight to behold.

The Lewis Act itself is straightforward. It strengthens the Voting Rights Act of 1965 against the onslaught of voter suppression measures that many states passed following the 2020 elections. It also restores enforcement mechanisms that the Supreme Court gutted in 2013.

But when the Lewis Act reached the House floor Tuesday, a host of Republicans weighed in against the measure hurling objections that were as old and as specious as arguments made by Southern lawmakers against the original Voting Rights Act.

Fifty-six years ago, faced with compelling evidence of blatant discrimination against Black voters — as well as a nationally televised attack by Alabama state troopers on the peaceful participants in a march from Selma to Montgomery that left civil rights leader John Lewis with a cracked skull — Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina argued that passing the Voting Rights Act would make Congress “the final resting place of the Constitution and the rule of law," Thurmond said. “For it is here that they will have been buried with shovels of emotion under piles of expediency in the year of our Lord, 1965.”

Who will be in the corner of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act when the roll is called in the Senate?

President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a phalanx of civil rights groups and Americans aroused by injustice were on hand in 1965.

Where stands America now?

Palmer Report, Opinion: It just got even worse for Sidney Powell, Jesse Green, Aug. 28, 2021. Recently I mentioned how far up the creek the MAGA Lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood were given the size – both page and weight wise – of Judge Parker’s order sanctioning them and referring them for discipline for their post 2020 election antics.

bill palmer report logo headerFollowing that and receipt of a complaint earlier this year from the Michigan’s Governor Whitmer, Secretary of State Benson, and Attorney General Dana Nessel the State Bar of Texas responded. The Bar will have a hearing in November to determine if Powell should be disciplined. If the hearing finds there is just cause, there will either be a private hearing or public trial in district court depending on what Powell wants to have. If she is found to have committed misconduct after the hearing or trial, the discipline can range from a reprimand to disbarment. Or the Bar may suspend her or put her on probation. She might also find herself on the hook for monetary penalties as well

And not only was Powell sanctioned in Michigan and facing discipline in Texas, but she also is the subject of an ethics complaint in Arizona and a motion seeking sanctions in Wisconsin.

As Governor Whitmer said, Powell and her fellow MAGA Lawyers carried out an assault on democracy by using “the legal system to undermine a free and fair election.” Ms. Nessel noted that in Ex parte Wall, 107 U.S. 265, 274 (1883) the US Supreme Court said, “[o]f all classes and professions, the lawyer is most sacredly bound to uphold the laws.” Part of that is not undermining democracy for an Orange Florida Man. The MAGA Lawyers have failed in their sacred duty and should no longer be allowed to practice law.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

The Guardian, Sirhan Sirhan: six Kennedy children condemn decision to grant killer parole, Martin Pengelly, Aug. 28, 2021. Two children of assassinated Senator Robert F Kennedy support California decision, which may be reversed.

Six children of Robert F. Kennedy have condemned the decision to grant parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the man who shot and killed the New York senator as he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968.

“He took our father from our family and he took him from America,” the six said in a statement late on Friday. “We are in disbelief that this man would be recommended for release.”

The statement was signed by Joseph P Kennedy II, Courtney Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, Christopher G Kennedy, Maxwell T Kennedy and Rory Kennedy.

Two Kennedy children supported the decision. Douglas Kennedy, a toddler when his father was killed, said he was “overwhelmed just by being able to view Mr Sirhan face to face. I’ve lived my life both in fear of him and his name in one way or another. And I am grateful today to see him as a human being worthy of compassion and love.”

Robert F. KennedyRobert F. Kennedy, right, was US attorney general under his older brother, John F Kennedy, when the president was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Five years later the younger Kennedy was a senator from New York when he was killed at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles, moments after delivering a victory speech in the California primary. Five others were wounded.

Sirhan, now 77, insists he does not remember the shooting and had been drinking beforehand but was convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to death, commuted to life when the California supreme court briefly outlawed capital punishment.

The hearing on Friday was his 16th attempt to gain parole. Because of laws passed in 2018, the board was required to take into account the fact that Sirhan suffered childhood trauma from the conflict in the Middle East, committed the offense at a young age and is now elderly.

Appearing by video from a San Diego county prison, Sirhan said: “Senator Kennedy was the hope of the world … and I harmed all of them and it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed, if I did in fact do that.”

The board found Sirhan no longer poses a threat to society, noting his enrollment in programmes including anger management classes, Tai Chi and Alcoholics Anonymous, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We think that you have grown,” commissioner Robert Barton said.

The ruling will be reviewed over 120 days then sent to the governor, who will have 30 days to decide whether to grant, reverse or modify it. If Sirhan is freed, he must live in a transitional home for six months, enroll in an alcohol abuse program and get therapy.

The six Kennedy children who oppose release said they were “devastated” and appealed to the governor, Gavin Newsom, “to reverse this initial recommendation” which had “inflicted enormous initial pain”.

“Sirhan Sirhan committed a crime against our nation and its people,” they said, adding: “We hope that those who also hold the memory of our father in their hearts will stand with us.”

washington post logoWashington Post, California parole panel votes in favor of release from prison for Sirhan Sirhan, Tom Jackman, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Parole for 77-year-old convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy still must be approved by full board, governor.

sirhan sirhan 2016A California parole board panel on Friday voted in favor of Sirhan B. Sirhan’s request for release from prison on parole, 53 years after he was arrested and convicted of the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, finding that he was no longer a threat to society, according to Sirhan’s brother, one of Kennedy’s sons and one of Sirhan’s surviving victims.

The slaying of Kennedy (D-N.Y.), then a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, likely changed the course of American history. But Sirhan’s lawyer argued that was an irrelevant consideration for parole — that the criteria of rehabilitation, remorse and future dangerousness applied to all prisoners should also be applied to Sirhan, now 77 (shown in a 2016 photo).

“Over half a century has passed,” Sirhan told the two parole commissioners, “and that young impulsive kid I was does not exist anymore...Sen. Kennedy was the hope of the world and I injured, and I harmed all of them and it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed.”

It was Sirhan’s 16th parole hearing. Since California abolished capital punishment in 1972, and Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life, he has been eligible for release since 1975. The decision by the two-person panel will be reviewed by the full parole board for 90 days before it is final. Then the California governor, currently Gavin Newsom (D) who is facing a recall election which ends on Sept. 14, will have 30 days to uphold the decision, reverse it, or send it back to the board.

Kennedy’s family made a late decision to appear at the hearing, with son Douglas H. Kennedy speaking in favor of Sirhan’s parole. “I really do believe any prisoner who is found to be not a threat to themselves or the world should be released,” Douglas Kennedy said, according to the Associated Press. “I believe that applies to everyone, every human being, including Mr. Sirhan...I was very deeply moved by Mr. Sirhan’s expression of remorse and at times it brought tears to my eyes and affected me very deeply.”

 

More On Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, The 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport attack: What we know so far, Shawn Boburg, Meagan Flynn, Alex Horton, Ellen McCarthy, Dalvin Brown and María Luisa Paúl, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.).

 

Taliban leaders pose triumphantly in the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 (photo via Associated Press).

Taliban leaders pose triumphantly in the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 (photo via Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, What is ISIS-K? What to know about the Taliban’s more extreme rival, Claire Parker, Aug. 26, 2021. U.S. officials blamed an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan for twin blasts outside Kabul’s airport Thursday, and President Biden pledged to track down leaders of the group who ordered the attack.

The explosions left dozens dead or injured, including U.S. military personnel and Afghan civilians. Crowds have thronged the airport since the Taliban took over Kabul on Aug. 15, and U.S. intelligence officials had anticipated the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) could strike amid the chaos.

The Islamic State released a statement Thursday claiming responsibility for the attack.

The ISIS offshoot is a more extreme rival of the Taliban. Experts say the Taliban is likely to try to root out the group. But some warned earlier this month that ISIS-K could benefit from a security vacuum as the Taliban tries to consolidate power.

The U.S. withdrawal was based on the conclusion that terrorist groups would no longer be able to use the country to stage attacks on the United States.

“We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals — get those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and make sure al-Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again,” President Biden said in remarks from the White House last week defending the pullout of American forces after the Afghan government’s swift collapse. “We did that.”

But the bloody scenes outside the airport Thursday have underscored the ongoing terrorism threat in Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda also continues to operate.

While al-Qaeda has been substantially weakened since 2001 — and the Taliban has committed to preventing it from attacking the United States and its allies — al-Qaeda fighters remain in Afghanistan and have hailed the Taliban takeover.
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The Taliban has said it would not allow al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups to launch attacks from the country. But outside observers say the Taliban maintains ties to al-Qaeda.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: A Journey Through Kabul on the Day of the Fall, Mujib Mashal, Aug. 28, 2021. A Times correspondent who grew up in the Afghan capital returned before the Taliban’s victory, taking in the end of one era and the fearful start of another.

In the hours before the Taliban walked into Kabul, and the two-decade quest to build a democratic Afghanistan tumbled into fear and uncertainty, I left my parents’ home to take a bus around the city. This was not a reporting outing. It was personal.

I had woken up that morning, Aug. 15, with a feeling that the window on Kabul as my generation knew it was closing. City after city had fallen to the Taliban, at such dizzying speed that my colleagues reporting on the war could not keep up. As the map changed, the possibilities for the capital were down to two: Kabul would get turned into rubble again in a stubborn quest to save those in power, or Kabul would fall to extremists who, when last in power, had ruled with oppression and banished some of the most basic liberties.

I was a boy when the Taliban were toppled in 2001, growing up here as new life was injected into the ruins of a capital that had been deeply scarred by civil war. For years, the world felt like it was opening up to many of us, though on the back of an increasingly bloody war and a worried sense that corruption and mismanagement were sliding toward something ominous.

Now, on the eve of another power change in Kabul, I was back in the city again, taking a break from my post in The New York Times’s New Delhi bureau to visit family and colleagues. And I knew — everyone here knew — that an era of hope, however uneven and misplaced, was about to end.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Right-Wingers Who Admire the Taliban, Michelle Goldberg, right, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed). As the Taliban swept through Afghanistan in August, michelle goldberg thumba Gen Z alt-right group ran a Twitter account devoted to celebrating their progress. Tweets in Pashto juxtaposed two laughing Taliban fighters with pictures meant to represent American effeminacy. Another said, the words auto-translated into English, “Liberalism did not fail in Afghanistan because it was Afghanistan, it failed because it was not true. It failed America, Europe and the world see it.”

The account, now suspended, was just one example of the open admiration for the Taliban that’s developed within parts of the American right. The influential young white supremacist Nick Fuentes — an ally of the Arizona Republican congressman Paul Gosar and the anti-immigrant pundit Michelle Malkin — wrote on the encrypted app Telegram: “The Taliban is a conservative, religious force, the U.S. is godless and liberal. The defeat of the U.S. government in Afghanistan is unequivocally a positive development.” An account linked to the Proud Boys expressed respect for the way the Taliban “took back their national religion as law, and executed dissenters.”

“The far right, the alt-right, are all sort of galvanized by the Taliban essentially running roughshod through Afghanistan, and us leaving underneath a Democratic president,” said Moustafa Ayad, executive director for Africa, the Middle East and Asia at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank devoted to countering violent extremism.

This is not the first time that right-wing American extremists have been inspired by Muslim militants; several white supremacists lauded Al Qaeda’s attacks on Sept. 11. The difference now is that the far right has grown, and the distance between the sort of right-wingers who cheer for the Taliban and conservative power centers has shrunk.

The Florida Republican Matt Gaetz may be a clown, but he’s also a congressman who was close to the previous president. On Twitter earlier this month, Gaetz described the Taliban, like Trump, as “more legitimate than the last government in Afghanistan or the current government here.”

joe biden black background resized serious file

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Why Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan, Peter Baker, right, Aug. 28, 2021. President Biden’s approach has prompted a debate over peter baker twitterwhether the mayhem in Kabul was inevitable or the result of a failure to consider other options. As the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan capping an ill-fated 20-year war turned uglier and deadlier in recent days, President Biden has stood by his decision but at the same time repeatedly singled out one person in particular to blame: his predecessor.

Because President Donald J. Trump struck an agreement with the Taliban last year to pull out, Mr. Biden has insisted that he had no choice but to abide by the deal he inherited or send tens of thousands of American troops back to Afghanistan to risk their lives in a “forever war.” It was, in other words, all in or all out.

But that reductionist formula has prompted a profound debate over whether the mayhem in Kabul, the capital, was in fact inevitable or the result of a failure to consider other options that might have ended in a different outcome. The unusual confluence of two presidents of rival parties sharing the same goal and same approach has led to second-guessing and finger-pointing that may play out for years to come in history books yet unwritten.

In framing the decision before him as either complete withdrawal or endless escalation, Mr. Biden has been telling the public that there was in fact no choice at all because he knew that Americans had long since grown disenchanted with the Afghanistan war and favored getting out. The fact that Mr. Trump was the one to leave behind a withdrawal agreement has enabled Mr. Biden to try to share responsibility.

“There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict,” Mr. Biden said as the Taliban seized Kabul this month.

Critics consider that either disingenuous or at the very least unimaginative, arguing that there were viable alternatives, even if not especially satisfying ones, that may not have ever led to outright victory but could have avoided the disaster now unfolding in Kabul and the provinces.

“The administration is presenting the choices in a way that is, at best, incomplete,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, a deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush who oversaw earlier stages of the Afghan war. “No one I knew was advocating the return of tens of thousands of Americans into ‘open combat’ with the Taliban.”

Instead, some, including the current military leadership of Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asserted that keeping a relatively modest force of as few as 3,000 to 4,500 troops along with the extensive use of drones and close air support could have enabled Afghan security forces to continue holding off the Taliban without putting Americans at much risk.

“There was an alternative that could have prevented further erosion and likely enabled us to roll back some of the Taliban gains in recent years,” said Gen. David H. Petraeus, the retired commander of American forces in Afghanistan and former C.I.A. director who argued the mission was making progress while serving alongside Mr. Biden under President Barack Obama.

washington post logoWashington Post, Teddy bears, clothes and messages of love: Afghan refugees receive warm welcome in some countries, Jennifer Hassan, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). For those who managed to flee Afghanistan, leaving their home country under Taliban rule is just the beginning of their challenges — they are landing in foreign countries around the world to rebuild new lives and contend with anti-migrant attitudes.

Most people seeking to flee Afghanistan have little hope of finding a quick way out of the country, let alone finding welcome abroad, as some destination countries issue warnings against asylum seekers and harden their borders.

But some among the relatively small handful with the right paperwork who weathered the chaos of the Kabul airport in recent days and managed to board flights out have been received warmly upon arrival around the world.

Children were given white and pink teddy bears and met with welcome banners at Incheon International Airport in South Korea, where hundreds of Afghans arrived — not as refugees, but dubbed by authorities as “persons of special merit,” in a bid to deter anti-migrant abuse. Approximately 390 people have been granted short-stay visas that are valid for up to 90 days, with local media reporting that they are likely to be converted into long-term visas.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It Shouldn’t Fall to Veterans to Clean Up Biden’s Mess, Elliot Ackerman (author and former Marine who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan), Aug. 28, 2021. For the past two weeks, I’ve worked alongside an ad hoc group of veterans, journalists and activists with connections to Afghanistan who are trying to coordinate the evacuation of not just our Afghan friends but also strangers, like Ahmad and N., whose lives are under imminent threat. Days and nights full of creating elaborate text chains, building rosters of evacuees and sharing satellite imagery of routes to the airport.

As a Marine, I fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. As a journalist, I covered the war in Syria. Never have I witnessed a greater, swifter collapse of competence than what I have seen with the U.S. evacuation of Afghanistan.

Central to President Biden’s campaign was a promise that the candidate understood, deeply and personally, two essential things: empathy and service. Events in Afghanistan this week indicate this promise was, at worst, false and, at best, limited. Events in Afghanistan illustrate what happens when there is a breakdown in empathy. Events at the airport — desperation, death — indicate the extreme chaos that ensues when the commander in chief doesn’t actually understand the value of service.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Marine officer posted a video calling out senior leaders in Afghanistan. He was relieved of command, Sammy Westfall, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). “To the American leadership. Very Respectfully,” the Marine battalion commander captioned the video. On Thursday — several hours after the attack in Kabul that killed at least 170 people and 13 U.S. service members — Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller sat in full uniform before his military vest and helmet and recorded himself in a rebuke of U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan. He posted the 4:45 minute video to Facebook.

“I want to say this very strongly,” he said in the video. “I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability.”

“The reason people are so upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down,” he said. “People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up.’ ”

He noted that he had “a lot to lose,” especially if the video “picks up traction.” By Friday evening, the video had been shared 28,000 times.

As a member of the Marines for 17 years, he had not hit the 20-year mark to qualify for a full pension.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon Web Services disables ISIS propaganda website it had hosted since April, Craig Timberg and Jay Greene, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). AWS took the action after The Post reported that the site relied on Amazon's cloud services.

amazon logo smallAmazon late Friday disabled a website used by a propaganda arm of the Islamic State that celebrated the suicide bombing that killed at least 170 people in Kabul on Thursday after The Washington Post reported the extremists relied on the company’s technology to promote extremism.

Nida-e-Haqq, an Islamic State media group that distributes Islamist content in the Urdu language, had been using the company’s dominant cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services, to host its content, despite company policies against working with terror groups.

Some of that content included messages about the Islamic State-Khorasan offshoot that claimed responsibility for the lethal attack, said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism and discovered the link with Amazon Web Services. Urdu is widely spoken in neighboring Pakistan and occasionally in Afghanistan itself.

 

Hurricanes, Floods, Fires, Climate

washington post logoWashington Post, Ida becomes hurricane, forecast to hit Louisiana as Category 4 late Sunday, Matthew Cappucci, Jason Samenow and Caroline Anders, Aug. 28, 2021. New Orleans in the path of predicted “extremely dangerous major hurricane" on the anniversary of Katrina.

Hurricane Ida is poised to explosively intensify Saturday as it churns ever closer to crashing ashore along the Louisiana coast Sunday afternoon or night. The storm poses a serious threat to New Orleans and numerous other population centers along the northern Gulf Coast and even well inland.

The National Hurricane Center predicts Ida will strengthen to a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds by Sunday. It warned the powerhouse storm will push ashore an “extremely life-threatening” ocean surge of up to 10 to 15 feet above normally dry land at the coast while producing “potentially catastrophic wind damage” and inland flooding.

Tropical-storm-force winds could reach southeast Louisiana by Sunday morning, with deteriorating conditions expected thereafter into early Monday.

 

U.S. Media, Communictions

President Biden lowerered his head for a prolonged pause during his Aug. 26 White House news conference after being asked about deaths in Kabul from an ISIS suicide attack outside U.S. checkpoints.

President Biden lowerered his head for a prolonged pause during his Aug. 26 White House news conference after a Fox News reporter asking about deaths in Kabul from an ISIS suicide attack outside U.S. checkpoints declined to respond with specifics to Biden's question to the reporter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden escalates his efforts to puncture the Fox News bubble, Philip Bump, right, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). The network's Peter Doocy philip bumpgave the president an opportunity to make a broader point.

In a sense, Peter Doocy’s arrival in the White House press briefing room has been to his employer’s detriment. It used to be that Fox News could spend days condemning Democratic presidents for not responding to whatever controversy its hosts had been tumbling around in their rhetorical rock polishers.

Now, though, there’s Doocy, who is regularly selected by White House press secretary Jen Psaki to ask questions probably in part so that the familiar process can be beheaded early. Her exchanges with Doocy drop into the political conversation like bang snaps, crackling with life for an instant before being forgotten, the gotcha almost always redirected to the junkyard.

That’s at least in part because the questions often reflect a network or right-wing consensus that hasn’t been exposed to any significant scrutiny. Little grains of ice snowball into scandals, with Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino and whoever else packing on more and more — and then they get removed from the cooler and placed on the sidewalk. It often doesn’t take long for it to melt.

fox news logo SmallAt other times, the inflection of Doocy’s question itself gets at the point. As was the case Thursday evening, when President Biden called on Doocy after brief remarks about the suicide bombing outside the airport in Kabul.

“Let me take the one question,” Biden said, “from the most interesting guy that I know in the press.”

This was not really meant as a compliment.

“Mr. President, there had not been a U.S. service member killed in combat in Afghanistan since February of 2020,” Doocy said. “You set a deadline. You pulled troops out. You sent troops back in. And now 12 Marines are dead. You said the buck stops with you. Do you bear any responsibility for the way that things have unfolded in the last two weeks?”

When Donald Trump was asked a similar question in March 2020 about the failure of coronavirus testing, he answered like Donald Trump: “No, I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a — a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.” Rejection of the idea that he deserved blame and a pivot to his predecessor.

Biden's been doing this longer, so he accepted blame — and then pivoted to his predecessor.

“I bear responsibility for, fundamentally, all that’s happened of late,” Biden said. “But here’s the deal: You know — I wish you’d one day say these things — you know as well as I do that the former president made a deal with the Taliban that he would get all American forces out of Afghanistan by May 1. In return, the commitment was made — and that was a year before — in return, he was given a commitment that the Taliban would continue to attack others, but would not attack any American forces.”

This is a fair description. A deal struck between the U.S. government and the Taliban in February 2020 included the trade-off outlined by Biden.

At that point, though, Biden went in a different direction: He challenged Doocy to admit that he knew that his own framing of the question was unsound.

“Remember that? I’m being serious,” Biden said to Doocy.

Doocy tried to interject that Trump was no longer the president, but Biden kept at it.

“Now wait a minute,” he said. “I’m asking you a question. Is that — is that accurate, to the best of your knowledge?”

“I know what you’re talking about,” Doocy conceded, before then trying to get Biden to opine on why Americans might be frustrated with the situation in the country. Biden, after resting his head on his hands in apparent frustration, replied that Americans “have an issue that people are likely to get hurt” as they had that day.

He then returned to the prior point: that U.S. forces had avoided attack thanks to the deal made by Trump that had included a withdrawal pledge. This was the case, he said, “whether my friend will acknowledge it” or not — his friend being Doocy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Settlement in Apple developers’ court case won’t stop the push for App Store deregulation, Cat Zakrzewski, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Critics deride the deal as a publicity stunt. ‘It’s not real change,’ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

apple logo rainbowApple’s olive branch to small developers, announced late Thursday night as a proposed lawsuit settlement, is unlikely to shield it from the growing regulatory heat in Washington and around the world, interviews indicated on Friday.

Democrats who have proposed a bill to regulate both Apple and Google’s app stores say the company’s proposed changes — which must still be approved by the federal judge hearing the case — are insufficient, and they still want to push ahead with legislation to ensure there’s fair competition on smartphones.

European regulators who announced antitrust action against Apple for its alleged stifling of competition in the music streaming business said it will assess Apple’s announcement with that in mind. That comes amid broader regulatory efforts abroad, as legislators in South Korea recently advanced a bill that would prohibit Apple and Google from forcing developers to pay commissions on in-app purchases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawyer for Afghan girls’ robotics team tells Oklahoma woman to stop taking credit for rescue, Sarah Ellison and Elahe Izadi, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Several media outlets covered Allyson Reneau’s efforts to “save” the girls.

A lawyer for the famed all-girls Afghan robotics team has sent a cease-and-desist letter to an Oklahoma woman, telling her to stop taking credit for the girls’ escape from Kabul and warning that her numerous media appearances endanger their organization’s remaining members in Afghanistan.

The woman, Allyson Reneau, spoke last week to Today.com and then to several other media outlets, telling a story of her supposed involvement in the evacuation of several members of the robotics team, known internationally as the “Afghan Dreamers.” These outlets reported that she had “saved” the girls from probable oppression under the Taliban.

But a lawyer for the team’s parent organization, the Digital Citizen Fund, said that Reneau has overstated her role and has, in fact, put the girls and their families at risk because her repeated claims are undermining ongoing rescue efforts in the country.

“Continuingly recycling old pictures with the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, many of whom are minors, as validation that you had anything to do with their immensely stressful and dangerous escape not only impacts the safety of the girls but it also significantly affects the safety of the members of the team who still remain in Afghanistan,” wrote Kim Motley, a lawyer for the group and a Digital Citizen Fund board member, in a letter sent to Reneau just after midnight Wednesday. “It is highly unfortunate that you would use such a tragically horrible situation … for what appears to be your own personal gain.”

A spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, which helped evacuate many Afghans, including the robotics team members, also accused Reneau of taking credit for a rescue she had little to do with — and lambasted the U.S. media for making her a “White savior.”

Reneau denied that she has done anything but tell the truth. “‘I’m above board, and if you don’t tell the truth, then you have nothing else to show for it,” she told The Washington Post in a phone interview Wednesday. She said she was perplexed but undeterred by the “blowback” against her efforts.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, Bennett open new chapter in U.S.-Israel relations, Anne Gearan and Sean Sullivan, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden welcomed new Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett at the White House on Friday — a symbolic reset for an alliance whose leaders are poles apart politically but united in a desire to turn the page after the frictions under ousted prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Oval Office meeting was delayed one day because of the deadly terrorist attack Thursday in Kabul, and the tragedy hung over what would otherwise have been one of Biden’s most closely watched diplomatic engagements. Biden had called Bennett on Thursday evening, hours after their meeting had been postponed, and Bennett opened his public remarks with condolences for the loss of American troops.

israel flagBiden pledged “unwavering” support for Israel and continued backing for its Iron Dome missile defense system, along with diplomatic support for the normalization agreements Israel struck with help from President Donald Trump.

“The U.S. will always be there for Israel. It’s an unshakable partnership between our two nations,” Biden told the visiting Israeli, who was making his first Washington trip since his surprise success in ending Netanyahu’s record 12-year tenure.

“I have known every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, gotten to know them fairly well, and I look forward to us establishing a strong personal relationship,” the 78-year-old Biden told Bennett, 49.

Both leaders seemed eager to push aside their underlying disagreements for now. Bennett remains firmly opposed to the international nuclear deal with Iran that Biden has pledged to try to rejoin. The right-wing Israeli politician has also dismissed as folly Biden’s goal of an independent Palestinian state.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: House Democrats prepare to bow to a reality — their ambitions can only be as big as centrist Senate Democrats allow, Paul Kane, Aug. 28, 2021. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an unusual admission this past week — one that essentially gives the Senate the upper hand in drafting details of President Biden’s ambitious $3.5 trillion plan to expand social safety-net programs.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) acknowledged that she had agreed to try to write just one version of the sweeping legislation so that the House would vote only on whatever can get through the Senate.

“We write a bill with the Senate, because it’s no use our doing a bill that is not going to pass the Senate,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference. “In the interest of getting things done, results, getting results.”

Her advisers suggest this will enhance the House position, creating a global negotiation now with the Senate and Biden administration officials rather than passing their own bill and then letting the Senate write its own legislation.

House passes $3.5 trillion budget plan, aims to vote on infrastructure package by late September

But time is a critical issue, Democrats say, and this will cut down on the number of votes that will have to happen to pass the legislation.

One result of this time crunch and streamlined approach to writing the legislation is that it will reinforce the power of centrist Senate Democrats, particularly Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), who have already held outsize influence over the first two major agenda items for Biden: the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package and the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate earlier this month.

By limiting themselves only to things that can win the support of all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, aggressive proposals such as providing a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants may never get to the starting line. Senate budget rules could knock that provision out because it is a policy item and not primarily a tax or spending issue, meaning it may not be eligible for the reconciliation process that allows bills to avoid the threat of a filibuster.

Pelosi rejected the idea that she had made any concessions to the centrists in the House, instead portraying the streamlined approach as the best way to achieving the party’s goals. “No, it’s not, it’s a clarification. It’s a clarification. But it is — look, we had a vision — we have a vision about how we go forward,” she told reporters.

washington post logoWashington Post, The storms of August: Biden’s devastating month stokes midterm fears among Democrats, Sean Sullivan, Tyler Pager and Annie Linskey, Aug. 28, 2021. President Biden is mired in the most devastating month of his tenure in office — struggling to contain a deadly crisis in Afghanistan, an unyielding pandemic and other setbacks that have sent waves of anger and worry through his party as his poll numbers decline.

August started with Democrats sounding quiet alarms about the resurgence of the coronavirus and the uncertain fate of Biden’s domestic priorities, tempered by some optimism about the economy and a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

But the month nears its conclusion with sirens blaring about Biden’s strategy in Afghanistan, where 13 Americans were killed this past week, as well as heightening concern about covid-19. These anxieties have set off a fresh round of intraparty finger-pointing.

Many Democrats increasingly fear that the tenets of Biden’s presidency — competence, calm and control — can credibly be called into question for the first time, potentially laying a foundation for devastating consequences in the 2022 midterm elections.

washington post logoWashington, A school district opted out of a free meals program, saying students could ‘become spoiled,’ María Luisa Paúl, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). With two girls in elementary school and a mother who is a teacher, the Dringenburg household in a Milwaukee suburb had been joyous and excited about back-to-school season — until this year, when the Waukesha School District board decided to opt out of a federally funded program that would give free meals to all students regardless of family income.

The board voted June 9 to return to the pre-pandemic National School Lunch Program, which offers free and reduced-price lunches to students who apply and receive federal money for them. Waukesha is the only eligible school district in the state to eschew the funding.

According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 4,249 students in the Waukesha School District qualified for free and reduced-price meals in 2018-2019 — 36 percent of the student body.

Karin Rajnicek, a school board member, said the free program made it easy for families to “become spoiled.” Darren Clark, assistant superintendent for business services, said there could be a “slow addiction” to the service.

 

Inside DC

Forbes, Commentary: Here’s Why Trump’s Hotel Just Banned Me For Life, Zach Everson, Aug. 28, 2021. I went to the Trump International Hotel in Washington Thursday evening to do some investigating. The rates that night started at $2,400, well above the usual $400 to $700, and I wanted to find out why. Upon entering, I saw a big sign that read “Arrow Exterminators.” I confirmed that the exterminators were customers rather than contractors, and, with that assignment checked, settled in at the bar to see if any swamp people of note were still showing up with Trump out of power.

One $17 prosecco and no dignitaries later, I got up to leave, taking photos of the place to capture the scene. I then beat my usual exit path, walking the length of the lobby to people watch before heading to the restroom to wash my hands and snag a fresh tissue. Twenty seconds of scrubbing later, I was still in the restroom, texting, when the hotel’s director of security, Ernest Wojciech, opened the door, took a quick look around, and left.

Text sent, I exited the restroom and turned left to swing by the hotel ballroom before leaving. From several feet away, however, Wojciech beckoned, informing me that I was walking the wrong way. I did an about-face and, when I reached Wojciech, was notified that I was being told to leave.

While escorting me out, Wojciech explained that the ejection was for taking photos without permission. Once outside, he told me the ban was permanent, then declined to elaborate. Higher-ups in the Trump Organization also didn’t feel like explaining. When Forbes reached out to ask whether one of its reporters had, in fact, been banned from the hotel for life, a spokesperson did not respond.

The real reason they kicked me out probably wasn’t the photos though. For nearly five years, I’ve been reporting on the hotel, largely using social media to do things like track who was hanging out in the lobby (unsurprisingly, a lot of lobbyists) and who was using the hotel as an office (just Rudy Giuliani). I even started a newsletter, named 1100 Pennsylvania after the hotel’s address, to document the goings-on inside the building.

Some of my reporting may have been embarrassing to the hotel, as well as to the former president. And apparently the Trump Organization, which once offered me a complimentary glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne when I showed up to report on the hotel for Condé Nast Traveler, didn’t appreciate my coverage anymore. That might explain why the hotel’s director of marketing was standing by as the security guard escorted me out the front door.

 

Aug. 27

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Virus Victims, Responses

 

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Prisons

 

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President Biden lowerered his head for a prolonged pause during his Aug. 26 White House news conference after being asked about deaths in Kabul from an ISIS suicide attack outside U.S. checkpoints.

President Biden lowerered his head for a prolonged pause during his Aug. 26 White House news conference after being asked by Fox News about deaths in Kabul from an ISIS suicide attack outside U.S. checkpoints.

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghanistan Live Updates: Death Toll Put at 170, Daniel Victor, Zia ur-Rehman, Jim Huylebroek, Megan Specia, Fahim Abed and Helene Cooper, Aug. 27, 2021. After a blast that killed 13 U.S. troops, evacuation flights have resumed. With four days remaining until an Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. withdrawal, the window for airlifts is narrowing. Grief and Desperation in Kabul as Afghans Press to Get Out After Attack.

The reported toll of the bombing outside Kabul’s airport rose sharply on Friday, with local health officials saying that as many as 170 people were killed and at least 200 were wounded. Yet less than a day after the attack, crowds on Friday sought once again to reach the airport, their desperation to flee the Taliban blending with grief at the enormous scale of the violence.

Department of Defense SealHealth officials’ estimate of the number of bombing victims, which did not include the 13 U.S. service members killed and 15 wounded, was supported by interviews with hospital officials. The officials, who requested anonymity because the Taliban had told them not to speak with the media, said some of the dead civilians were Afghan Americans, with U.S. citizenship.

The revised estimates made Thursday’s attack one of the deadliest in the nearly two decades since the U.S.-led invasion.

At the airport and in the streets, the U.S. military and the Taliban tried to exert what authority they could. Militants with Kalashnikov rifles kept crowds farther away from the airport’s entrance gates, guarding checkpoints with trucks and at least one Humvee parked in the roads. The American military resumed evacuation flights, and the White House said early Friday that 12,500 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan in the previous 24 hours, despite the attacks.

The waiting crowds, many standing by buses with bags at their sides, numbered in the hundreds, not the thousands of previous days. An estimated hundreds of thousands remain in the country who are desperate for escape from the Taliban rule of Afghanistan, but very few appeared to be getting to the airport gates on Friday.

The airport itself appeared to be largely, if not entirely, locked down. At the airport’s southern and eastern gates, Taliban guards told a reporter that no one was allowed to go near the airport and that all entrance gates were closed. About 5,400 people remained inside waiting evacuation, the Pentagon said Friday.

The grisly scenes on Thursday, when children were among those killed in the crowds, illustrated the intense danger for those braving the high-risk journey to the airport.

On Friday, the U.S. military revised its account of what happened at the airport a day earlier, with Maj. Gen. William Taylor of the Joint Staff saying, “we do not believe that there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, that it was one suicide bomber.” But many witnesses reported hearing two blasts.

With four days remaining until an Aug. 31 deadline for the United States withdrawal, a date that President Biden has said he intends to keep despite domestic and international pressure to extend the evacuation operations, Afghans are scrambling to find a way out of the country.

After one of the deadliest attacks in 20 years of war, many people are still trying to reach the airport.

An estimated hundreds of thousands desperate for escape remained in Afghanistan, but very few seemed to be getting to the airport gates on Friday.
Armed militants kept crowds farther away from the airport’s entrances, guarding checkpoints with trucks, and Taliban guards said all gates were closed.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which Afghan officials said killed as many as 170. Thirteen U.S. troops were among the dead.

Here’s the latest.

  • The Kabul attack recalls the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a decade ago.
  • Biden faces a tragedy he worked to avoid.
  • A baby born on an evacuation flight is named Reach, after the aircraft’s call sign.
  • How strong are ISIS and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?
  • Aid groups work to find ways into Afghanistan amid the chaos in Kabul.
  • Devastation at one airport left many fearful at another across the world.
  • New York Times, Amid Afghan Chaos, a C.I.A. Mission That Will Persist for Years
  • The spy agency had plans to de-emphasize counterterrorism operations to focus on rising global powers. Those plans were upended.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Afghan Updates: U.S. expects more ISIS attacks, top commander says, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis and Erin Cunningham, Aug. 27, 2021. WHO wants air bridge to northern Afghanistan to meet ‘enormous’ humanitarian needs.

U.S. troops in Kabul are bracing for more Islamic State attacks that could include car bombs or rocket fire at the airport, even as evacuation efforts wind down, a top U.S. commander said.

Twin bombings near an airport gate Thursday killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans fleeing a Taliban takeover, marking the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan in a decade. A local affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We believe it is their desire to continue those attacks, and we expect those attacks to continue,” Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters Thursday. He said U.S. forces were sharing information with Taliban fighters manning checkpoints outside the airport.

“And we will continue to coordinate with them as they go forward,” he said.

Here’s what to know

  • President Biden on Thursday promised retribution against the terrorists who carried out the attacks, saying: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.” He added that more U.S. troops could be deployed to secure the evacuation if military commanders consider it necessary.
  • The United States and its allies have mounted one of the biggest air evacuations in history, bringing out more than 104,000 people since Aug. 14, the Pentagon said.
  • The total number of casualties remained uncertain early Friday. One person with knowledge of the matter said at least 112 people were killed and 111 injured. The death toll is likely to rise, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, California parole panel votes in favor of release from prison for Sirhan Sirhan, Tom Jackman, Aug. 27, 2021. Parole for 77-year-old convicted of assassinating Robert F. Kennedy still must be approved by full board, governor.

sirhan sirhan 2016A California parole board panel on Friday voted in favor of Sirhan B. Sirhan’s request for release from prison on parole, 53 years after he was arrested and convicted of the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, finding that he was no longer a threat to society, according to Sirhan’s brother, one of Kennedy’s sons and one of Sirhan’s surviving victims.

The slaying of Kennedy (D-N.Y.), then a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, likely changed the course of American history. But Sirhan’s lawyer argued that was an irrelevant consideration for parole — that the criteria of rehabilitation, remorse and future dangerousness applied to all prisoners should also be applied to Sirhan, now 77 (shown in a 2016 photo).

“Over half a century has passed,” Sirhan told the two parole commissioners, “and that young impulsive kid I was does not exist anymore...Sen. Kennedy was the hope of the world and I injured, and I harmed all of them and it pains me to experience that, the knowledge for such a horrible deed.”

It was Sirhan’s 16th parole hearing. Since California abolished capital punishment in 1972, and Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life, he has been eligible for release since 1975. The decision by the two-person panel will be reviewed by the full parole board for 90 days before it is final. Then the California governor, currently Gavin Newsom (D) who is facing a recall election which ends on Sept. 14, will have 30 days to uphold the decision, reverse it, or send it back to the board.

Kennedy’s family made a late decision to appear at the hearing, with son Douglas H. Kennedy speaking in favor of Sirhan’s parole. “I really do believe any prisoner who is found to be not a threat to themselves or the world should be released,” Douglas Kennedy said, according to the Associated Press. “I believe that applies to everyone, every human being, including Mr. Sirhan...I was very deeply moved by Mr. Sirhan’s expression of remorse and at times it brought tears to my eyes and affected me very deeply.”

Another son, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., sent a letter to the parole board on Friday in support of Sirhan after learning that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had sent a letter opposing parole “on behalf of the Kennedy family.”

“Please know that that letter was not at the direction of the ‘family,’ and certainly not me,” Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote. “As you may know, I have been a strong advocate for the release of Mr. Sirhan B. Sirhan since I learned of evidence that was not presented to the court during his trial.”

After the ruling, Robert Kennedy Jr. said, “My father, I think, would be really happy today. My father believed in compassion. The ideals of our justice system are the possibility of redemption and the importance of forgiveness. He didn’t believe the justice system was just about revenge.”

Paul Schrade was one of five people who were wounded in the shooting as they walked behind Kennedy, and Schrade has long believed that Sirhan shot him, but did not shoot Kennedy. After the ruling, Schrade said, “I’m pleased that we’ve done this for Sirhan because he didn’t deserve all of the very bad behavior from the prison system," meaning repeated parole denials, "and prosecutors and police. He was innocent and didn’t deserve this for 53 years.”

For the first time, the Los Angeles County district attorney did not appear at one of Sirhan’s parole hearings to argue in opposition. Newly elected prosecutor George Gascòn issued a policy that his office would no longer participate in parole hearings.

“The role of a prosecutor and their access to information ends at sentencing," Gascon adviser Alex Bastian said, noting that parole boards are better suited to judge a prisoner’s time behind bars and likelihood of reoffending. “If someone is no longer a threat to public safety after having served more than 50 years in prison, then the parole board may recommend release based on an objective determination. Our office policies take these principles into account and as such, our prosecutors stay out of the parole board hearing process.”

Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of Robert F. Kennedy assassination, seeks parole with no opposition from prosecutors

Only one journalist, Julie Watson of the Associated Press, was permitted to observe the hearing. She reported that Commissioner Robert Barton pointed out that Sirhan qualified as a youthful offender for purposes of parole consideration — he was 24 in 1968 — and the board is required to give that “great weight” under the law. Sirhan also qualified for “elderly parole” for being 77 and having served more than 20 years.

Shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968, Kennedy gave a speech at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic presidential primary. As he walked through a hotel pantry after the speech, Sirhan ran toward him from the front and fired a .22-caliber pistol, witnesses said. Sirhan was immediately wrestled onto a table and the gun seized, but Kennedy was mortally wounded. He died the next day.

Sirhan’s defense team claimed that he was mentally ill at the time of the shooting. Psychiatric experts on both sides of the case agreed, and Los Angeles County prosecutors reached a deal with the defense to allow Sirhan to plead guilty to first-degree murder and accept a life sentence, rather than face a capital murder charge and a possible death sentence. But a Los Angeles judge rejected the deal and demanded a trial.

At the trial, prosecutors said Sirhan had developed hatred for Kennedy because of the senator’s support of American military aid to Israel. Sirhan, a Palestinian Christian, experienced the Israeli takeover, and emigrated with his family to the United States. In his bedroom, police found a notebook in which Sirhan had repeatedly scribbled, “RFK Must Die."

At Friday’s parole hearing, Barton asked Sirhan if he still followed the conflicts in the Middle East and his feelings today. Sirhan said he did not follow it but thinks about the refugees and the suffering, and he broke down crying, the AP reported.

Barton said the conflict has not gone away, and he noted it “obviously is still able to touch a nerve.”

At his trial, Sirhan’s lawyers, one of whom was under indictment by the same prosecutors he was facing, continued to make a case that Sirhan was mentally ill, and did not challenge the physical evidence in the case.

Famed coroner Thomas Noguchi found that Kennedy had been shot three times at point-blank range from the back, with a fourth shot passing through his jacket without striking him, though witnesses said Sirhan was in front of Kennedy. Noguchi determined the shots were fired from a distance of three inches.

Sirhan’s lawyers moved Noguchi off the stand quickly without raising the issue of the gunshots. The defense also did not raise the issue of apparent multiple bullet holes found in the ceiling and door frames of the pantry, in addition to those which struck Kennedy and five other victims, possibly indicating more than the eight bullets that Sirhan’s gun held were fired.

A jury convicted Sirhan in April 1969 and sentenced him to death. When California eliminated the death penalty, Sirhan was resentenced to life. California has since reinstated the death penalty, but has a labyrinthine appeals process and rarely executes anyone.

The conviction was a source of controversy in Los Angeles almost immediately after it was handed down, after a weekly newspaper pointed out the bullet holes indicating more than eight shots were fired. The Los Angeles police then destroyed the ceiling tiles and door frames where the holes had been seen, though the case was still on appeal.

Beginning in the 1970s, surviving victim Paul Schrade became involved in pushing for further investigation, citing ballistics tests done on Sirhan’s gun which showed that bullets test fired from the gun did not match the bullets pulled from Kennedy and two other victims. He also cited a recording made from the hotel ballroom where Kennedy had just spoken, on which some analysts say 13 shots can be heard, while others say only eight shots were recorded.

  • Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn't think it was Sirhan Sirhan

Schrade appeared at Sirhan’s previous parole hearing in 2016, informing the board that he was a friend of Kennedy’s and had worked on campaigns with him since 1960. He apologized to Sirhan for not speaking at earlier hearings on his behalf.

“I know that he didn’t kill Robert Kennedy,” Schrade said in 2016. “And I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t sure of that. Because I loved Robert Kennedy and I would not defend somebody who killed him. Kennedy was a man of justice. So far, justice has not been served in this case. … There is clear evidence of a second gunman in that kitchen pantry who shot Robert Kennedy.”

Schrade helped convince Robert Kennedy Jr. of that view, and in December 2017, Kennedy Jr. visited Sirhan in prison and told him he believed he was innocent of the assassination, according to an interview with The Post in 2018. Kennedy Jr. said this week he still holds that view.

  • Note: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig assisted the Sirhan defense team with pro bono volunteer research.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court strikes down CDC’s eviction moratorium, Robert Barnes, Rachel Siegel and Jonathan O'Connell, Aug. 27, 2021. A divided Supreme Court has ended a national moratorium on evictions in parts of the country ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, removing protections for millions of Americans who have not been able to make rent payments.

A coalition of landlords and real estate trade groups in Alabama and Georgia challenged the latest extension of a moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued Aug. 3 and intended to run through Oct. 3.

In an unsigned opinion released Thursday night, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority agreed that the federal agency did not have the power to order such a ban.

“It is indisputable that the public has a strong interest in combating the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant,” the majority’s eight-page opinion said. “But our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends. . . . It is up to Congress, not the CDC, to decide whether the public interest merits further action here.”

The court’s three liberal justices dissented and said the majority’s rush to end the moratorium was inappropriate and untimely.

Roll Call, House panel probing Capitol attack seeks records from Twitter, Facebook, 4chan and others, Chris Marquette, Aug. 27, 2021. Letters ask how companies addressed extremism, misinformation.

Chairman Bennie Thompson on Friday announced that the Jan. 6 select committee is seeking records from 15 social media companies — including 4chan, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Parler, Reddit, TikTok and Snapchat — to examine how they addressed violent extremism and misinformation leading up to the Capitol attack.

The robust records requests focus on the spread of misinformation, domestic violent extremism, foreign influence and attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election victory of Joe Biden. The letters sent to the social media companies ask for communications, data, reports and analyses dating back to the spring of 2020.

Lawmakers want information on what policy changes the companies made — or didn't make — to combat misinformation, violent extremism and malign foreign influence. This includes what policies those companies had prior to Jan. 6 to sanction or ban accounts associated with violent extremists or other accounts that attempted to interfere with the election.

The panel wants all information on accounts, groups and other entities using the companies' tools or products that were banned or in some way disciplined for association with extremism tied to overturning the election and causing civil unrest. Also requested are accounts that were shared with or requested by law enforcement.

Also targeted were Zello, YouTube, Twitch, theDonald.win, Telegram, Gab and 8kun.

This is the second large-scale document request announced by the committee this week. On Wednesday, the panel revealed it is seeking information from federal agencies and the National Archives on former President Donald Trump's actions during the insurrection, including White House call logs and visitor records.

Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, issued a deadline of Sept. 9 for the social media companies and the agencies to respond to the requests.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

daniel wilkinsonCBS News, Veteran dies of treatable illness as COVID fills hospital beds, leaving doctors "playing musical chairs," Gayle King and David Begnaud, Aug. 27, 2021. When U.S. Army veteran Daniel Wilkinson started feeling sick last week, he went to the hospital in Bellville, Texas, outside Houston. His health problem wasn't related to COVID-19, but Wilkinson needed advanced care, and with the coronavirus filling up intensive care beds, he couldn't get it in time to save his life.

CBS News logo"He loved his country," his mother, Michelle Puget, told "CBS This Morning" lead national correspondent David Begnaud. "He served two deployments in Afghanistan, came home with a Purple Heart, and it was a gallstone that took him out."

Last Saturday, Wilkinson's mother rushed him to Bellville Medical Center, just three doors down from their home.

Belville emergency room physician Dr. Hasan Kakli treated Wilkinson (shown above in a family photo portraying him in military service), and discovered that he had gallstone pancreatitis, something the Belville hospital wasn't equipped to treat.

"I do labs on him, I get labs, and the labs come back, and I'm at the computer, and I have one of those 'Oh, crap' moments. If that stone doesn't spontaneously come out and doesn't resolve itself, that fluid just builds up, backs up into the liver, backs up into the pancreas, and starts to shut down those organs. His bloodwork even showed that his kidneys were shutting down."

Kakli told Begnaud that his patient was dying right in front of him. Wilkinson needed a higher level of care, but with hospitals across Texas and much of the South overwhelmed with COVID patients, there was no place for him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pediatricians besieged by parents over coronavirus shots for kids under 12, Frances Stead Sellers and Ariana Eunjung Cha, Aug. 27, 2021. As the start of the school year nears, pediatricians say they are being deluged by calls from anxious parents, who are eager to get their children vaccinated against the virus that continues its deathly rampage, especially as the delta variant appears to exact a greater toll on kids.

Some parents are seeking ways to get the shots before federal officials give the go-ahead, with more than 2,100 children with covid-19 hospitalized, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal data.

washington post logoWashington Post, Campus celebration and covid fear: Colleges reopen for a second fall under the pandemic shadow, Nick Anderson, Lauren Lumpkin, Susan Svrluga and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Vaccinated or not, here they come.

College students are flocking to campuses across the country for a school year they hope will mark a full return to the academic and social life so often denied them for the past year and a half of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet the delta variant’s summer surge, driving viral infections and covid-19 hospitalizations higher from coast to coast, now looms as a dangerous threat over what many had thought would be a celebratory moment for higher education. It raises the stakes in the divide between schools that mandate vaccination against the virus and those that do not. And it has inflamed debate over whether and how long students and professors must wear masks indoors.

Among faculty there is delight and, in some places, dread at the resumption of face-to-face instruction. Professors, too, are craving live contact with students after a string of exhausting semesters of remote and hybrid teaching. But they worry about what will happen in packed lecture halls and seminar rooms if unmasked students are carrying a virus that has killed more than 631,000 in the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Over 1,000 University of Utah students and staff sign petition for vaccine mandate, Adela Suliman and Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 27, 2021. Maryland leaders take steps to mandate masks in public schools.

More than a thousand people — including students, staff and alumni — at the University of Utah are demanding that college management put in place a vaccine mandate as classes return this fall.

Utah’s state legislature has banned mandates for vaccines under emergency use authorizations. But Gov. Spencer Cox (R) has been a top proponent of the vaccines among Republican governors and has said private businesses have the right to mandate vaccination.

Here’s what to know

  • The World Health Organization reportedly plans to ship 100 million doses of the Sinovac and Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines, mostly to Africa and Asia, in its first global delivery of Chinese vaccines.
  • The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in the United States surpassed 100,000 on Thursday, the highest level in eight months, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, largely due to the delta variant.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 203.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 27, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 172.6 million people fully vaccinated.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 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: 215,678,281, Deaths: 4,492,245
U.S. Cases:     39,342,153, Deaths:    651,956
India Cases:     32,603,188, Deaths:    436,889
Brazil Cases:    20,676,561, Deaths:    577,605

washington post logoWashington Post, Wife hospitalized for covid gets home to find husband dead from the same virus: ‘It was like walking into a horror movie,’ Andrea Salcedo, Aug. 27, 2021. Lisa Steadman could not wait to go home to her husband.

The nail technician had spent more than a week in a Central Florida hospital recovering from a serious case of covid-19 while Ronald Steadman, who had also contracted the coronavirus, battled a milder case from home.

During many of their check-in phone calls, she relayed to him how scared she was of dying alone in the hospital. Her health was improving and so was his, he reassured her. Soon, they’d be back together at the Winter Haven, Fla., home they were in the middle of renovating.

But Ronald, 55, did not appear to be home when Lisa returned Aug. 11.

Eventually, the barking of their three dogs led her to their bedroom.

The couple, who met through a Christian dating website after losing their previous partners, were part of the tens of millions of Americans who have not yet received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, which are available free to anyone 12 and older. Like the Steadmans, many people remain reluctant about the shots. Others have put off getting inoculated.

Nearly 52 percent of Floridians are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by The Post. In the past week, new daily reported cases and deaths in the state rose nearly 10 and 66 percent, respectively, The Post’s coronavirus tracker data shows.

 

Media News

My Citizen News, Obituary: John Kelly, Staff Report, Aug. 27, 2021. John Kelly, a national journalist and public official, died on Jan. 9, 2021, at the age 85 at St. Mary’s VITAS in Waterbury. John was born July 22, 1935, in Quincy, Mass., son of the late James and Ann (Flynn) Kelly. John grew up in Braintree, Mass., and moved to Hamden with his family. He also lived in New York City for many years and upon retirement moved to Maryland.

John had launched his career in the late 1950s as a newspaper reporter and broadcast producer while attending Columbia University in Manhattan. His career included being a news editor and correspondent on the national staffs of NBC News and CBS News. He was the last surviving reporter to have covered the 1960 Democratic presidential nominee John Kennedy at Election Night in Hyannis Port, Mass. John went on to cover civil rights stories, the FBI and Watergate, working with NBC Nightly News co-anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley and CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. Later, he undertook work for the CIA in Indochina during the Vietnam War.

John also worked for New York State Office of Taxation and Finance, appointed by Gov. Hugh Carey, during the 1970s to help unravel corruption schemes that were hurting the state’s taxpayers. In 2010, he became a co-founding director of the Justice Integrity Project and provided active inputs on story ideas and editing issues until his final illnesses. He was extremely active in providing guidance, particularly on sensitive matters, to the Justice Integrity Project to advance its mission of reporting under-covered developments of current day news.

After retirement, John stayed active in the National Press Club and the Japanese symphonic community maintaining cross-cultural exchanges with Americans. He has also served on boards of trustees of philanthropic foundations that emphasize the importance of grants in health, education and the arts. John was a gentleman in words and manner and was extremely generous. He was deeply concerned about exposing injustice at any level and devoted his life and career doing so.

A private Mass and celebration of John Kelly’s life is planned for a date to be determined. There are no calling hours, and arrangements have been entrusted to the Buckmiller Thurston Mengacci Funeral Home, 82 Fairview Ave., Naugatuck.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: California Could Throw Away What It’s Won, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 27, 2021. If you live in California and haven’t yet voted or made plans to paul krugmanvote on the proposed recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, please wake up.

This is a situation in which apathy could have awesome consequences: California, which isn’t as liberal a state as you may imagine but is nonetheless considerably more liberal than the nation as a whole, may be about to absent-mindedly acquire a Trumpist governor who could never win a normal election.

This would happen at a moment when control of statehouses is especially crucial because it shapes the response to the coronavirus. MAGA governors like Greg Abbott in Texas and Ron DeSantis in Florida aren’t just refusing to impose mask or vaccination requirements themselves; they’re trying to prevent others from taking precautions by issuing executive orders and backing legislation banning the imposition of such requirements by local governments and even private businesses. And that’s the kind of governor California will probably find itself with if the recall succeeds.

How is something like this even possible? Because the recall process is crazy. Voters answer two questions: Should Newsom be recalled? And who should replace him? If a majority vote “yes” on recall, whoever is chosen by the largest number of people on the second question becomes governor, even if that person receives far fewer than the number of votes to keep Newsom in office.

And the most likely outcome if Newsom is ousted is that Larry Elder, a right-wing talk-radio host who is vehemently opposed to mask and vaccine mandates, will end up in the governor’s office despite receiving only a small fraction of the total vote.

What would make this outcome especially galling is that California is in many ways — with the glaring exception of housing, which I’ll get to — a progressive success story.

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress will have an extremely busy September. Here's what happens next, Tobi Raji, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Here are dates to look out for:

  • Sept. 6: More than 7 million Americans will lose their enhanced unemployment benefits. The Biden administration has encouraged states with high jobless figures like California and New York to use their pandemic relief funds to prolong the benefits.
  • Sept. 9: The House select committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is expected to receive a wide array of records and information from agencies about the events surrounding the attack, including communications by former president Donald Trump and his top officials.
  • Sept. 11: President Biden initially wanted to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The date was then moved up to Aug. 31. Biden has stuck to this deadline but has contingency plans in place, should he decide to keep troops beyond Aug. 31.
  • Sept. 15: Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have instructed their committee chairs to finish drafting their portions of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill by this deadline.
  • Sept. 27: The House is expected to vote on the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.

 

More On Afghanistan

wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Afghanistan debacle the result of the cascading effects of Trump's incompetency, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 27, 2021. The ripple effects and cascading consequences of America electing an incompetent and failed game show host as president have come to full and catastrophic fruition in Afghanistan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: At a badly shaken White House, ‘sadness and horror,’  David Ignatius, right, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The catastrophic attacks at the Kabul airport on Thursday stunned Biden administration officials, in part because they had received detailed intelligence reports warning that such an assault david ignatiuswas likely, yet couldn’t manage to prevent the bloodiest day for U.S. forces there in years.

The horrific body count included 13 U.S. service members killed and 18 wounded at an entry gate to the airport grounds, along with many Afghans killed or wounded there and at a nearby hotel. U.S. officials believe the attackers were members of a group known as the Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K, deadly rivals of the Taliban fighters who now hold power in Kabul.

At a White House already badly shaken by events, this was a new shock. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this level of sadness and horror,” one official said on Thursday. The White House had received intelligence on Wednesday that a coordinated, multipronged attack at the airport by ISIS-K could be coming — and struggled unsuccessfully to avert it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden receives heated criticism from Republicans, questions from some Democrats, Paul Kane, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden faced heated criticism from congressional Republicans after the attacks in Kabul, as some senior Democrats also questioned the Pentagon’s reliance on the Taliban to protect the international airport where the bombings took place.

While some Republicans said Biden should resign, most focused on demanding that the withdrawal timeline, set for Tuesday, be lifted to allow a forceful counter attack against the Islamic State forces that took credit for the bombings, which killed 13 U.S. service members.

Some Republicans called for an emergency session of Congress, which is on its late summer break and not slated to return until mid-September.

The most vocal Democratic criticism came from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who questioned whether Taliban guards had failed in letting the ISIS bombers get so close to the Kabul airport.

 

Afghanistan Airport Bombing scene on Aug. 26, 2021 in Kabul (New York Times graphic by Lauren Leatherby).

Afghanistan Airport Bombing scene on Aug. 26, 2021 in Kabul (New York Times graphic by Lauren Leatherby).

 

U.S. Prisons, Courts, Crime

stephen breyer

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Stephen Breyer Talks Retirement and Politics at the Supreme Court, Adam Liptak, right, Aug. 27, 2021. In an interview prompted by his new adam liptakbook, the 83-year-old leader of the court’s liberal wing, shown above in a file photo, said he was working on a decision about when to step down.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer says he is struggling to decide when to retire from the Supreme Court and is taking account of a host of factors, including who will name his successor. “There are many things that go into a retirement decision,” he said.

He recalled approvingly something Justice Antonin Scalia had told him.

“He said, ‘I don’t want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years,’” Justice Breyer said during a wide-ranging interview on Thursday. “That will inevitably be in the psychology” of his decision, he said.

“I don’t think I’m going to stay there till I die — hope not,” he said.

Justice Breyer, 83, is the oldest member of the court, the senior member of its three-member liberal wing and the subject of an energetic campaign by liberals who want him to step down to ensure that President Biden can name his successor.

supreme court buildingThe justice visited the Washington bureau of The New York Times to discuss his new book, “The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics,” scheduled to be published next month by Harvard University Press. It prompted questions about expanding the size of court, the so-called shadow docket and, inevitably, his retirement plans.

The book explores the nature of the court’s authority, saying it is undermined by labeling justices as conservative or liberal. Drawing a distinction between law and politics, Justice Breyer wrote that not all splits on the court were predictable and that those that were could generally be explained by differences in judicial philosophy or interpretive methods.

In the interview, he acknowledged that the politicians who had transformed confirmation hearings into partisan brawls held a different view, but he said the justices acted in good faith, often finding consensus and occasionally surprising the public in significant cases.

“Didn’t one of the most conservative — quote — members join with the others in the gay rights case?” he asked in the interview, referring to Justice Neil M. Gorsuch’s majority opinion last year ruling that a landmark civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination.

Justice Breyer made the point more broadly in his new book. “My experience from more than 30 years as a judge has shown me that anyone taking the judicial oath takes it very much to heart,” he wrote. “A judge’s loyalty is to the rule of law, not the political party that helped to secure his or her appointment.”

Progressive groups and many Democrats were furious over Senate Republicans’ failure to give a hearing in 2016 to Judge Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s third Supreme Court nominee. That anger was compounded by the rushed confirmation last fall of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald J. Trump’s third nominee, just weeks after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and weeks before Mr. Trump lost his bid for re-election.

Liberals have pressed Mr. Biden to respond with what they say is corresponding hardball: expanding the number of seats on the court to overcome what is now a 6-to-3 conservative majority. Mr. Biden responded by creating a commission to study possible changes to the structure of the court, including enlarging it and imposing term limits on the justices.

He was in a characteristically expansive mood, but he was not eager to discuss retirement. Indeed, his publisher had circulated ground rules for the interview, saying he would not respond to questions about his plans.

ny times logoNew York Times, Austin Officer Is Charged With Murder in Second On-Duty Killing, Michael Levenson, Aug. 27, 2021. A police officer in Austin, Texas, who was charged with murdering a man in April 2020 has been charged with murdering another man about nine months earlier, prosecutors said on Friday.

The latest indictments charge the officer, Christopher Taylor, 29, and another officer, Karl Krycia, 28, with murder and deadly conduct in the fatal shooting of Mauris DeSilva, 46, who had been holding a knife in the hallway of his condominium complex on July 31, 2019.

The charges came five months after Officer Taylor had been charged with fatally shooting Michael Ramos, 42, outside an Austin apartment complex on April 24, 2020.

The killing of Mr. Ramos, who was Black and Hispanic, set off protests against police violence in Austin about a month before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis catalyzed global demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism.

Mr. DeSilva had severe mental illness and had been holding a knife to his neck when people in the building called 911, according to a lawsuit filed by his father that accuses Officers Taylor and Krycia of knowing that Mr. DeSilva was experiencing a mental health crisis and yet still responding “as if this were the scene of a violent crime.”

Officer Taylor’s lawyers argued that he had been protecting himself after Mr. DeSilva refused to drop the knife and came within three or four feet of the officer.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. federal jail where Jeffrey Epstein died to close, Justice Department says, Shayna Jacobs, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The Justice Department will shutter the problem-plagued Manhattan federal jail where pedophile Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide two years ago, as officials struggle to correct long-running safety and health conditions which a fed-up judge recently called "inhuman."

The Metropolitan Correctional Center, known as the MCC, which houses about 260 inmates, is one of two federal jails in New York City that have been the subject of scandals and complaints for years, while having housed high-profile inmates like Epstein as they await trial.

A statement said, “In an effort to address the issues at MCC NY as quickly and efficiently as possible, the Department has decided to close the MCC, at least temporarily, until those issues have been resolved.”

 

 larry elder alexandra datig

Larry Elder and Alexandra Datig, his former fiancee. Datig filed a report with the LAPD alleging that Elder, the California recall front-runner, once pushed her and checked a gun during a 2015 argument.(Alexandra Datig)

Los Angeles Times via KTLA 5-TV, L.A. prosecutors decline to pursue gun, domestic abuse claims against Larry Elder, Staff Report, Aug. 27, 2021. Larry Elder and Alexandra Datig, his former fiancee. Datig filed a report with the LAPD alleging that Elder, the California recall front-runner, once pushed her and checked a gun during a 2015 argument. (Alexandra Datig)

Los Angeles prosecutors have declined to pursue a criminal complaint against Larry Elder for allegations of brandishing a gun and domestic abuse, in a 6-year-old case related to statements made by his former fiancée.
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With a one-year statute of limitations for misdemeanor cases, a spokesman for the district attorney said Friday that prosecutors were not in a position to prosecute the accusations made by Alexandra Datig, who split with Elder in 2015.

Datig said she had been told that the L.A. city attorney’s office also would not continue an investigation because of the time that had elapsed. Neither office ruled on the substance of her allegations, but said their findings would be rendered moot because the alleged incidents occurred six years ago or more.

Datig, 51, said in prior interviews with the media that, during a 2015 argument about the couple’s breakup, Elder checked to see whether his .45-caliber revolver was loaded. She also told Los Angeles detectives that the longtime talk radio show host pushed her in 2014, in what she called a fit of “drug-induced anger.” She alleged Elder, 69, was a habitual marijuana user.

washington post logoWashington Post, Comments on body parts, questions about pregnancy: Court filing alleges harassment in judiciary, Ann E. Marimow, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). In support of a lawsuit filed by a former public defender in North Carolina, more than 20 current and former law clerks and employees of federally funded public defender’s offices and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in Washington offered firsthand accounts of a system that they say still lacks protections and procedures to hold officials accountable.

“I watched for over 20 years and what I saw, every step of the way, was the judiciary circling the wagons any time there was a complaint made by an employee,” said Laura C. Minor, the former equal employment opportunity officer for the court’s administrative office and former secretary of the Judicial Conference, the policymaking body for federal courts that is overseen by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

“It was impossible for an employee to break through that.”

Read the brief submitted Thursday detailing alleged harassment

In response to the new allegations Thursday, the court’s administrative office said it could not comment on pending litigation. But it defended its current policies and procedures as providing “robust protections for our employees” with options for anonymously reporting concerns.

 

Fires, Floods, Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Fires in Greece Are a Terrifying Warning, Alexander Clapp (a journalist based in Athens who writes widely about Greece and the Mediterranean region), Aug. 27, 2021. Six years after finding themselves at the forefront of Europe’s political crisis over refugees, thousands of Greeks are now refugees in their own country.

On July 21, a small wildfire began burning over the northern half of Evia, an island around 30 miles northeast of Athens. Over the next 20 days — most of which exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 38 degrees Celsius — it swelled into a vast conflagration, sweeping from one coastline of Evia to another and racking up a staggering balance sheet of damage: 120,000 acres of burned forest, hundreds of millions of euros in economic loss, and the wholesale evacuation of dozens of villages and thousands of islanders. Two people were killed.

greek flag2The devastation, though shocking, isn’t new: Swaths of Greece burn virtually every summer. This year’s destruction pales in comparison to the summer of 2007, when fires across the Peloponnese and southern Evia burned 670,000 acres of forest and farmland. And for human life, worse still was the summer of 2018, when the seaside town of Mati was razed by one of this century’s deadliest fires, killing 102 residents.

What sets this summer’s fires apart, however, is the Greek state’s explanation of why they’re happening. “The climate crisis,” as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in early August, “is here.” But after decades of privatization, austerity and boundless military spending, the state is in no position to combat it. In places like Evia, Greeks have been largely left to fend for themselves.

It’s a cautionary tale: Across southern Europe and beyond, countries — Turkey, Italy and Algeria among them — have struggled to respond to wildfires, as decades of underinvestment have withered the state’s ability to protect its citizens. In Greece as elsewhere, to have any chance of mitigating climate catastrophe, the state must reverse much of what it has done for the last 30 years — and commit to the patient, long-term task of investing in environmental resilience. Otherwise Athens, streaked by smoke, could become Europe’s first uninhabitable capital city.

 

Jan. 6 U.S. Pro-Trump Capitol Riot 

Raw Story, Capitol rioter's angry YouTube 'battlefield' rants are likely to blow up in his face: legal experts, John Wright, Aug. 27, 2021. Accused Capitol rioter Kevin Tuck, a former police officer with ties to the Proud Boys, has been posting incendiary videos on YouTube since his release from jail, calling on "patriots" to "rise up" against the government and telling them he looks forward to seeing them "on the battlefield."

Legal experts say Tuck's videos, posted on his "Patriot Pastor" channel, could come back to haunt him in court by prompting a judge to reject a plea deal or impose a harsher sentence, according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel.

"I fully expect this would be played at sentencing if he's convicted, ... or referenced," said attorney David Haas, who practices in federal court and added that any sign of remorse or regret is "obviously lacking" in Tuck's videos.

Tuck, who resigned as a Windermere police officer the day after his arrest, has also reportedly served as a church pastor. He is being represented by John Pierce, the anti-vaxx right-wing attorney who was hospitalized this week with a possible case of COVID-19.

Tuck was arrested along with his son, also a former police officer in Florida, and charged with six federal counts.

In one video posted to his YouTube account on Aug. 16, Tuck says: "I want to encourage pastors and patriots to rise up. Jan. 6 was a day that patriots just were fed up. Patriots are being arrested left and right, day after day, being arrested for trespassing. You've got to be kidding me. You can steal an election and go after people for trespassing? You guys are hypocrites. ... including the Republicans. Republicans are calling for the arrest of people that went into the Capitol. They're arresting patriots that love this country!"

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Spike Lee reediting 9/11 docuseries after backlash for including conspiracy theorists, Sonia Rao, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Spike Lee's HBO docuseries “NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½” was criticized for featuring debunked theories about why the twin towers collapsed.

Spike Lee announced he would be reediting an episode of his new HBO documentary series about New York City amid criticism over his decision to feature 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

“I’m Back In The Editing Room And Looking At The Eighth And Final Chapter Of NYC EPICENTERS 9/11➔2021½,” he wrote in a statement shared Wednesday afternoon with members of the media. “I Respectfully Ask You To Hold Your Judgement Until You See The FINAL CUT.”

“NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½” premiered Sunday and will air two episodes each week until its finale on Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Produced and directed by one of the city’s most prolific filmmakers, the series explores the resilience of New Yorkers and how they have grappled over the past two decades with the effects of landmark events like 9/11 and the coronavirus pandemic.

In the original cut, Lee reportedly allotted a significant portion of the eighth episode to interrogating why the twin towers collapsed as they did — even interviewing members of the conspiracy-theorist group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, including founder Richard Gage. Asked about his decision to include these theories in the series, Lee told the New York Times, “I mean, I got questions.”

“And I hope that maybe the legacy of this documentary is that Congress holds a hearing, a congressional hearing about 9/11,” he said.

Pushed to expand upon whether that meant the filmmaker didn’t accept the official explanation for the collapse — which a years-long investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology attributed to fires weakening the floors and already impacted steel support columns — Lee said, “The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature’s not reached.”

“And then the juxtaposition of the way Building 7 fell to the ground — when you put it next to other building collapses that were demolitions, it’s like you’re looking at the same thing,” he continued. “But people going to make up their own mind. My approach is put the information in the movie and let people decide for themselves. I respect the intelligence of the audience.”

Lee’s comments sparked backlash as they circulated online this week, given that, as Variety’s Caroline Framke wrote of the series, he seemed to be “in clear agreement with the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth calling for a new investigation.” Although the original cut of the episode also included an interview with Shyam Sunder, who led 200 technical experts in conducting the NIST investigation over a three-year period, some critics argued Lee’s approach seemed to grant equal weight to the conspiracy theorists’ perspectives.

“Lee and HBO are offering Gage and his conspiracy theories the biggest and most mainstream platform they’ve ever had, pointing their viewers directly toward a bog of heinously dangerous ideas,” wrote Slate’s Jeremy Stahl. “Like other conspiracy theorists, Gage doesn’t just stick to 9/11, and if Lee’s viewers follow Gage down the rabbit hole, they likely won’t, either.”

This isn’t the first time Lee has nodded toward a conspiracy claim. In a 2005 interview with CNN, ahead of his HBO documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lee said: “I don’t put anything past the United States government. I don’t find it too far-fetched that they tried to displace all the Black people out of New Orleans.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Sexual assault lawsuit against former ABC News producer prompts call for probe of company culture, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The network, which largely avoided the scrutiny placed on other media organizations during the MeToo movement, now finds itself under the microscope. The president of ABC News told staffers Thursday that she has requested an independent investigation into how the network responded to allegations of sexual assault and harassment by a prominent former producer, placing the network’s culture and treatment of women under scrutiny it had largely avoided until now.

The announcement comes a day after news of a bombshell lawsuit filed against ABC and Michael Corn, the former executive producer of “Good Morning America” who left the network abruptly in April with no explanation from ABC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Apple loosens rules for developers in major concession amid antitrust pressure, Rachel Lerman, Cat Zakrzewski and Heather Kelly, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Apple has faced accusations that it has monopoly powers through its App Store.

Apple announced it would make major changes to its App Store as part of a proposed lawsuit settlement with developers, following years of mounting regulatory scrutiny and legal challenges.

apple logo rainbowThe company will let developers tell its iPhone and iPad customers about ways to pay outside the official App Store, it said in a news release late Thursday. It also expands the types of prices that developers can offer for subscriptions, in-app purchases and paid apps, among other initiatives. The settlement still needs to be approved by the court.

The change is in response to a suit brought by small app developers, in which they alleged Apple’s pricing tiers and lack of outside purchasing options were monopolistic. Apple is also expecting an imminent judgment in a suit by Epic Games over similar allegations in front of the same judge in federal court in the Northern District of California.

jeopardy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Is Mayim Bialik’s dubious science going to be ‘Jeopardy!’s’ next big headache? Emily Yahr, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). This past October, actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik released a YouTube video in which she told viewers that she was going to do something she hadn’t done in 30 years: Get a vaccine. Specifically, vaccines for the coronavirus and flu.

“Now you might be saying, ‘Hey wait a second, Dr. Mayim Bialik, you don’t believe in vaccines. You’re one of those anti-vaxxers! I know it because I read it online,’ ” Bialik said in a jovial tone, waving her hand dismissively. “Well folks, let’s finally talk about it.”

mayim bialik twitterBialik, right, was referring to the many headlines that have appeared since her 2012 parenting book revealed her two sons were not on the “typical” vaccine schedule — and when she has offered quotes such as one to People magazine in 2009, saying “we are a non-vaccinating family.” While Bialik has long fought back against the anti-vaccine label, this video was the most in-depth defense yet. “I have never once said that vaccines are not valuable, not useful or not necessary — because they are,” she said, adding her children did receive some vaccinations, which she delayed for reasons she doesn’t want to share publicly.

But her comments are making the rounds once again as Bialik is suddenly in a bigger spotlight in 2021 than anyone could have predicted. Bialik, who drew rave reviews when she guest-hosted “Jeopardy!” earlier this year, was tapped on Aug. 11 as the host for the show’s prime-time specials and spinoffs alongside executive producer Mike Richards as the daily syndicated host. When Richards was forced to step down days later after the revelation of his offensive comments on his former podcast, Sony Pictures Television announced that Bialik would fill in and film 15 episodes this week as executives continue their search for a permanent host.

Now that Bialik is officially embedded in a legendary television institution, “Jeopardy!” fans and social media users are digging into her past: Her 2017 New York Times op-ed about disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that was criticized for victim-blaming, or her book that promoted the hotly debated attachment parenting philosophy (“Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way”).

ny times logoNew York Times, New York’s Legendary Literary Hangouts, Tina Jordan, Aug. 26, 2021 (Interactive). You might think of them as solitary creatures, furiously scribbling or typing alone, but as long as there have been writers in New York City, they have socialized together in an assortment of bars, restaurants, apartments and clubs.

The Times began writing about these places in its very first issues. In 1910, it published an article lamenting “the passing of the literary haunts of New York,” noting that many once-famous gathering spots were being razed as the city grew and modernized.

“Number 19 West 24th is gone,” the piece began. “At least the old 19 is gone, and … no account has been made of the fact that it at one time housed the Author’s Club, and that its rakish stairs were somewhat worn away by the feet of Matthew Arnold, Whittier, Lowell and Field.” The article went on to list more than a dozen locations that were no more, including Pfaff’s beer cellar, where Walt Whitman liked to drink, an unnamed restaurant at 5 Barclay Street where Edgar Allan Poe ate with fellow writers and The Den, where James Fenimore Cooper and friends gathered.

Pfaff’s, The Den and the rest may be long gone, but over the decades, dozens, if not hundreds, of other establishments popped up to take their places. Here, we celebrate a few of the most memorable ones.

 

Aug. 26

Top Headlines

 

U.S Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Courts

 

More On Afghanistan

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Top Stories

Afghanistan Airport Bombing scene on Aug. 26, 2021 in Kabul (New York Times graphic by Lauren Leatherby).

Afghanistan Airport Bombing scene on Aug. 26, 2021 in Kabul (New York Times graphic by Lauren Leatherby).

washington post logoWashington Post, Twin bombings at Kabul airport kill 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans, John Hudson, Alex Horton, Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe, Aug. 26, 2021. Twin bombings at the gates of Kabul’s international airport and a nearby hotel killed 10 U.S. Marines, two soldiers, one Navy corpsman and dozens of Department of Defense SealAfghan civilians Thursday, throwing the final days of a U.S.-led evacuation effort into chaos and fulfilling a nightmare scenario President Biden’s top aides had desperately sought to avoid.

The explosions, which also wounded 18 Americans and scores of Afghans, came as the United States and other Western nations rushed to complete the evacuation of tens of thousands of citizens and Afghan allies ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline.

washington post logoWashington Post, ISIS claims responsibility for attack; Biden vows retribution, Hannah Allam and Souad Mekhennet, Aug. 26, 2021. For months, terrorism analysts warned that Islamic State-linked militants in Afghanistan would try to turn the Biden administration’s exit into a bloody spectacle. On Thursday in Kabul, those predictions were realized.

ISIS-Khorasan, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan and Pakistan arm, issued a statement claiming responsibility for the suicide bombing attack that killed 13 U.S. service members and dozens of Afghans in an attack outside the airport. The blasts ripped through crowds of civilians who were clamoring for a chance to flee before the U.S. withdrawal deadline on Tuesday.

With its signature blend of complexity and cruelty, the attack was seen by many observers as a reminder to both the Americans and the Taliban that, no matter who was in the presidential palace, Afghanistan would remain contested.

Authorities had instantly suspected the Islamic State affiliate, known as ISIS-K or ISK for short.

The group’s rivalry with the Taliban is a microcosm of the competition between al-Qaeda and its more radical spinoff, the Islamic State, analysts say. There are generational and doctrinal splits between the groups, with the Islamic State brand more popular with militants in recent years because it managed to capture territory and create a short-lived extremist fiefdom that spanned Iraq and Syria.

In Afghanistan, with the U.S.-backed government gone from power, ISIS-K can now focus on undermining its other local enemy, the Taliban, which analysts said will be hard-pressed to stave off attacks as it struggles to secure and govern a war-weary nation.

Amira Jadoon, an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy, has written extensively about ISIS-K, arguing that an unconditional U.S. withdrawal and Taliban takeover would bring about “the most permissive” environment for the group to operate.

What the Taliban takeover means for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State

“And this is what we are seeing now,” Jadoon said. “ISK’s main goal right now is to stay politically relevant, disrupt efforts to stabilize the country, and also undermine the Afghan Taliban’s credibility.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden struggles to address the most volatile crisis of his presidency, Sean Sullivan and Anne Gearan, Aug. 26, 2021. President Biden made clear in remarks from the White House that the attack would not cause him to rethink his strategy.

President Biden on Thursday confronted the most volatile crisis of his young presidency, the deaths of at least 13 Americans in Afghanistan that threatened to undermine his credentials as a seasoned global leader and a steady hand.

In emotional comments at the White House, Biden made clear that the attack would not cause him to rethink his strategy. Rather, he said, it reinforced his belief that the war must end and that the evacuation must proceed. He framed the deaths as the sacrifice of heroes performing a noble mission, and he suggested that any move to cut short the evacuation of Americans and their Afghan supporters would amount to caving to the terrorists.

“I bear responsibility for, fundamentally, all that has happened,” Biden said, addressing the nation hours after the deadly attack. His voice broke as he invoked Scripture, history and personal loss to decry the double suicide bombing at the entrance to the Kabul airport, which stands as the last small acreage controlled by the United States in Afghanistan nearly 20 years after the war began.

Biden promised to track down the killers responsible for the massacre, who he suggested were members of the terrorist group ISIS-K. “To those who carried out this attack: We will not forgive,” he said. “We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

World leaders condemn attacks

Still, the mass killing immediately opened Biden up to criticism, especially from Republicans, that he was responsible for the deaths of the young Americans, either because of the hurried pace of the evacuation or, more fundamentally, because his decision to pull out of Afghanistan was a mistake in the first place.

Critics also seized on the tragedy to challenge one of the central messages of Biden’s presidency — that he is a competent, seasoned leader who, unlike his predecessor, knows how to protect Americans. Public support for the president had already been falling in many polls, and it may take time to show whether he can maintain his image as an able president with solid instincts.

At least two Republican senators quickly called for Biden’s resignation or impeachment. “It’s time for accountability, starting with those whose failed planning allowed these attacks to occur,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) added, “It is now painfully clear he has neither the will nor capacity to lead. He must resign.”

The most vocal criticism on the Democratic side came from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who wondered whether Taliban guards had failed by allowing the ISIS bombers get so close to the Kabul airport. “One thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security,” Menendez said.

The killings clearly marked a pivotal moment in Biden’s presidency and an episode that is likely to be part of his legacy. Biden keeps a tally of U.S. service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan on a card in his breast pocket, and now, for the first time, that tally will include some who lost their lives on his watch.

Biden directly blamed ISIS-K for the attack, suggesting that the United States could quickly identify individual leaders and punish them.

How Taliban takeover could affect ISIS-K

He spoke from the East Room of the White House toward the end of a day that will go down as the darkest of his early presidency, as a 78-year-old president whose life has been repeatedly marked by tragedy was now taking responsibility for another tragedy. The deaths marked the realization of the worst-case scenario that has hung over the president’s order for the military to withdraw from the United States’ two-decade war in Afghanistan.

“It’s been a tough day,” Biden said as he came to the lectern.

He stressed that it was always clear the mission would be dangerous, and he acknowledged that there might be further attacks. That is why he wants to end the evacuation by Aug. 31, he said, even while many Republicans and Democrats are urging him to extend the deadline.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. service members killed in Kabul airport blasts, Erin Cunningham, Rachel Pannett and Ellen Francis, Aug. 26, 2021. U.S. allies announce end to evacuation efforts in Kabul, citing terror threat; Taliban has ‘little experience’ running a government, Kabul mayor says.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby (shown above in a file photo) confirmed that two explosions took place outside Kabul’s airport on Thursday, causing “U.S. and civilian casualties,” in a complex attack that followed repeated threat warnings from the United States and its allies.

“We can confirm that a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport,” Kirby said in a statement. “A number of others are being treated for wounds.” He did not provide a number on how many were killed.

The deaths marked the first U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan since February 2020, when two American soldiers were killed in an insider attack by an Afghan soldier. The Trump administration signed a deal with the Taliban a few weeks later that included a promise that the militant group would not target U.S. troops.

U.S. officials believe the attack outside Kabul international airport was carried out by an affiliate of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K due to communications that were made by the group around the time of the attack, a U.S. official familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. A second U.S. official said the ISIS-K is the leading suspect in the attack.

According to Kirby, the first blast took place right outside the airport’s Abbey gate and the second at the nearby Baron Hotel. Scattered gunshots were heard after the blasts.

Large crowds of Afghans have been gathering daily at the airport in hopes of fleeing the country following the Taliban takeover. Kirby did not give precise figures, but Reuters cited Taliban officials as saying that up to 13 people could have been killed, including children.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned Americans late Wednesday to avoid traveling to Kabul airport because of unspecified security threats and advised citizens at three airport gates to “leave immediately.”

Australia and Britain also issued comparable warnings that Afghanistan was facing a “high threat” of a terrorist attack. Although officials did not provide more details, the Biden administration has previously warned that the Islamic State poses a threat to the evacuation mission.

The warnings came as NATO allies, including Poland and Belgium, ended their evacuation flights ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. troops to depart. Turkey, which has played a significant role in airport security, also began withdrawing its military.

“The Taliban have made public and private commitments to … permit safe passage for Americans, for third-country nationals and Afghans at risk” past the end of the month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Wednesday.

As many as 1,500 Americans in Afghanistan could still be seeking to leave, Blinken said. At least 4,500 U.S. citizens have been evacuated from the country since Aug. 14.

A Taliban spokesman told NBC News that there was “no evidence” that Osama bin Laden was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, despite plenty of proof to the contrary. The Islamist militants have pledged not to allow Afghanistan to be used as a terrorist base. The Taliban takeover could drive a coronavirus crisis in Afghanistan as vaccinations plummet, the United Nations warned.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden promised to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan. But how will we know if he does? Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 26, 2021. jennifer rubin new headshotPresident Biden has been emphatic that he will get out all Americans in Afghanistan who want to get out. Given the Aug. 31 deadline for a military withdrawal — which still might be subject to a contingency plan — the questions arise: How do we know when we have every American? What happens after Aug. 31?

The questions are trickier than a frustrated press corps might imagine. At his Wednesday news conference, Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained: “Since Aug. 14, we’ve evacuated at least 4,500 U.S. citizens and likely more. More than 500 of those Americans were evacuated in just the last day alone,” he said. He continued: “Over the past 24 hours, we’ve been in direct contact with approximately 500 additional Americans and provided specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely. We’ll update you regularly on our progress in getting these 500 American citizens out of Afghanistan.”

That leaves 1,000 people who might be Americans and might be seeking to get out. The actual group of Americans wanting to leave is likely smaller. Blinken explained that “we’re aggressively reaching out to them multiple times a day through multiple channels of communication, phone, email, text messaging, to determine whether they still want to leave and to get the most up-to-date information and instructions to them for how to do so.” Some might be gone already, others might not actually be Americans, and still others might be dual nationals who want to stay.

The extent of the effort to find Americans wanting to get out is stunning. “Since Aug. 14, we’ve sent more than 20,000 emails to enrolled individuals, initiated more than 45,000 phone calls and used other means of communication, cycling through and updating our list repeatedly,” Blinken said.

Now, after all of that and outreach through media, there might conceivably be some Americans still in the country wanting to evacuate who have missed all those messages, not heard any of the outreach efforts or pleas to leave from fellow Americans, and not contacted the State Department. Logically, though, it does not sound as if there would be many of them.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that over the course of the past few months, the administration has sent a total of 19 outreach messages to American citizens in Afghanistan, in addition to advertising. Even still, she said, the U.S. government will continue to look for Americans and, if it finds them, will evacuate them if they wish. That promise does not have an end date — although at some point there will be no military on the ground and no control over the airport.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sex-trafficked kids are crime victims. In Las Vegas, they still go to jail, Jessica Contrera, Photos by Bonnie Jo Mount, Aug. 26, 2021. Every year, dozens of victimized teenagers are locked up after being the target of sting operations by undercover detectives.

 

U.S Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection

michael byrd

NBC News, Officer who shot Ashli Babbitt during Capitol riot breaks silence: 'I saved countless lives,' Rich Schapiro, Anna Schecter and Chelsea Damberg, Aug. 26, 2021. In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Lt. Michael Byrd (above) said he opened fire only as a “last resort” after the rioters failed to comply with his commands.

In the chaotic minutes before he shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, Lt. Michael Byrd focused his attention on the glass doors leading into the lobby of the House of Representatives chamber.

About 60 to 80 House members and staffers were holed up inside, and it was Byrd’s job to protect them.

As rioters rampaged through the Capitol, Byrd and a few other officers of the U.S. Capitol Police set up a wall of furniture outside the doors.

“Once we barricaded the doors, we were essentially trapped where we were,” Byrd said in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt, speaking publicly for the first time since the riot. “There was no way to retreat. No other way to get out.

“If they get through that door, they’re into the House chamber and upon the members of Congress,” added Byrd, who gave NBC News permission to use his name after authorities had declined to release it.

Byrd’s connection to what was going on outside and inside the building was his police radio. For several minutes, it crackled with a cascade of alarming messages.

There were shouts of officers down. Screams from his colleagues under attack by rioters with chemical agents. A report that an officer’s fingertips were blown off.

“It was literally broadcast over the air,” Byrd said. “I said, ‘OK, this is getting serious.’”

Soon a horde of demonstrators arrived. Byrd, a 28-year veteran of the Capitol Police, took a defensive posture with his gun drawn as rioters smashed the glass doors.

He said he yelled repeatedly for them to get back. But the mob kept pressing forward, and then a lone rioter tried to climb through one of the doors.

What happened next was captured on video: Byrd fired one shot, striking Babbitt in the shoulder.

Babbitt, 35, an Air Force veteran and ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, fell to the ground; she died from her injuries later.

Her death became a rallying cry for the far right, which described Babbitt as a martyr. Trump himself declared that she had been murdered and suggested, falsely, that the officer who shot her worked for a high-ranking Democrat.

For Byrd, who is Black, the incident turned his life upside down. He has been in hiding for months after he received a flood of death threats and racist attacks that started when his name leaked onto right-wing websites.

But in his interview with Holt, Byrd said he has no doubt that he made the right decision in light of the circumstances.

“I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd said. “I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”

washington post logoWashington Post, House Jan. 6 panel issues wide-ranging records request, John Wagner, Aug. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the committee chairman, signaled that an expansive investigation is underway, touching not only on what happened Jan. 6 but also on former President Donald ivanka eric don jr trump CustomTrump’s efforts to subvert the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Seven Capitol Police officers sue Trump, right-wing groups over injuries from Jan. 6 riot, Paul Duggan and Spencer S. Hsu, Aug. 26, 2021. Seven U.S. Capitol Police officers on Thursday sued former president Donald Trump and more than a dozen alleged participants in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, saying the defendants are responsible for the officers being “violently assaulted, spat on, tear-gassed, bear-sprayed, subjected to racial slurs and epithets, and put in fear for their lives.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleges that Trump, by falsely claiming the presidential election was rigged, incited a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol in an effort to stop Congress from confirming President Biden’s victory.

The complaint describes an array of abuse endured by the seven officers, who collectively “have dedicated more than 150 years” to protecting Congress “so that it can carry out its constitutional responsibilities safely and openly.”

While hundreds of demonstrators besieged the historic building, many of them armed with bludgeons, cans of noxious spray and other weapons, the lawsuit says, Trump “reportedly was watching live television coverage” and “refused to call off the attackers, whom he had personally directed to the Capitol just moments before.”

The complaint says Trump and other defendants “encouraged and supported acts of violence, knowing full well that among his supporters were such groups and individuals as the Proud Boys, who had demonstrated their propensity to use violence” against Trump critics.

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. judges vent frustration about leniency in Capitol riot cases, Rachel Weiner, Aug. 26, 2021. Judges are asking prosecutors why defendants aren’t paying more to cover the cost of damage to the Capitol, why the court can’t order additional supervision of many defendants beyond a brief prison term and why more do not face heftier charges.Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani (file photo)

Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani (file photo)

Palmer Report, Opinion: This court ruling is even worse for Sidney Powell than you think, Jesse Green, Aug. 26, 2021. As was reported yesterday, Judge Linda Parker of the Eastern District of Michigan recently entered an order sanctioning the Kraken lawyer Sidney Powell and Lin Wood (the MAGA Lawyers) for their antics following the 2020 election.

I started to read through the document before realizing the thing was 110 pages long. It goes into detail about what the MAGA lawyers did and why they were bill palmer report logo headerwrong to do what they did and how the court had to sanction them and refer them for disbarment. If the sanctions and the disciplinary actions all stick it will help deter other attorneys who may want to repeat what they did and attack the very foundations of democracy.

lin wood gage skidmoreOn Lowering the Bar, writer Kevin Underhill had an interesting take on the order. He noted that printed out on standard paper the order would weigh over a pound. Mr. Underhill said, “if someone has moved to sanction you, and the judge’s order on that motion weighs more than a pound, that’s not good news for you.”

The MAGA lawyers decided to fight the sanctions. Wood, right, claims he shouldn’t be sanctioned because he didn’t participate in the actions, and Powell claims she was never given the chance to prove the allegations.

BradBlog & BradCast, Commentary: Accountability Rising for Trump's Failed Attempt to Steal the 2020 Election, Brad Friedman, Aug. 26, 2021. Trump lawyers sanctioned, will face disbarment probes; Capitol officers sue Trump; Terror suspect sentenced in MI Guv kidnap plot; House files massive 1/6 records requests; TX AG Paxton clears TX AG Paxton.

Donald Trump tried to steal the 2020 election. We really must stop describing his efforts and those by his supporters as "questioning the results" or "claiming fraud" or "trying to overturn the election." The fact is, Trump tried to steal it. He used every means at his disposal to try and do so. Thankfully, he is largely a failure at pretty much everything, so it didn't work, though we now know it came exceedingly close. So, let's start calling it for what it is: An unprecedented attempted by a President of the United States to try and steal a Presidential election. To that end, accountability is now happening. Slowly but quite assuredly, along with a number of other related accountability stories on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

Among the stories covered on today's program...

• The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released its 2020 post-election survey [PDF] of various voting and election-related data from all 50 states last year. While The Guardian's Sam Levine characterizes the report as proving the election was "a remarkable success," we explain why that may be a bit of an overstatement. That said, the data does reveal yet again that, while there were far too many rejections of absentee and mail-in ballots (as is always the case, but especially amid pandemic voting last year), there is still no evidence at all to even suggest that the Presidential election was stolen in any way, shape or form by Joe Biden, the Democrats or anyone else. Not that Donald Trump didn't try (and fail) to do exactly that, of course;

• More accountability for Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election, specifically for the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol that he incited as part of that effort. Seven Capitol Police officers on Thursday filed a lawsuit [PDF] against Trump, several far-right extremist groups charged with aiding the deadly plot, and even against Trump associates like Roger Stone. It is, as the New York Times describes it, "the most expansive civil effort to date seeking to hold Mr. Trump and his allies legally accountable." Trump is already facing two other similar lawsuits filed by the NAACP and by Rep. Eric Swalwell. But, no doubt, the disgraced former President and his supporters will see this new complaint differently, because it is filed by police officers and, as you know, Republicans always "back the blue", right?;

• That lawsuit follows just one day after the bi-partisan U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6th attack issued a massive series of records requests to at least 8 different federal agencies for documents related to Trump's movements, actions and meetings on January 6th, and in the weeks and months both before and after. The requests were sent to, among others, the FBI, Dept. of Homeland Security and National Archives, where Presidential White House records are stored. Trump is apparently livid about the effort, describing it as a "partisan exercise" being carried out by a "Leftist" House Committee. (That may come as a surprise to "Leftist" Committee members Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger);

• In still more accountability news today, tangentially related to Trump's attempt to steal last year's election in Michigan: The sentence for the first domestic terrorist, among some 13 charged in the plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year, was handed down on Wednesday. A 25-year old man who, according to Justice Department prosecutors, cooperated with the investigation after initially pleading not guilty, changed his plea and was sentenced to more than 6 years in prison on charges of providing material support for terrorist acts and felony firearms charges. The failed conspiracy, according to the FBI and Whitmer, sprang from Trump's attempt to vilify the Governor for her science-based handling of the COVID pandemic, in a year in which Trump was willing to say and do anything to win the important battleground state. (He lost it by 150,000 votes instead);

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. hospitalizations hit 100,000 for first time since January, Bryan Pietsch, Jacqueline Dupree and Adela Suliman, Aug. 26, 2021. More than 100,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in the United States, a level not seen since Jan. 30 — when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available — as the country grapples with the delta variant’s spread.

Hospitalizations are highest across the South, where every state in the region has a higher portion of its population currently hospitalized with covid-19 than the national level, according to a Washington Post database. More than 17,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in Florida, which has the most hospitalizations american flag upside down distressfor covid-19 of any state in the country, followed by Texas, which has more than 14,000.

Amid a raging debate over mask requirements in schools, current pediatric hospitalizations for covid-19 have reached 2,100 nationally, topping 2,000 for the first time since August 2020.

New coronavirus cases are being reported across the country at similar levels to those seen in January. About 151,000 new daily cases were being reported on average on Jan. 30; on Wednesday, that figure was 148,000. However, even as many hospitals are under strain and report shortages of intensive care unit beds, overall deaths are far lower; the daily average of deaths at the end of January was 3,100 and about 1,100 as of Wednesday.

In related news:

  • Models of vaccine vials, syringes offered in Malaysia religious festival to honor the dead
  • Vaccinated people can get two free Krispy Kreme doughnuts

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 202.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 26, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 171.8 million people fully vaccinated, 51.5 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 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: 214,970,834, Deaths: 4,481,034
U.S. Cases:     39,157,639, Deaths:    649,680
India Cases:     32,558,530, Deaths:    436,396
Brazil Cases:    20,645,537, Deaths:    576,730

washington post logoWashington Post, Sturgis motorcycle rally linked to more than 100 coronavirus infections, Brittany Shammas, Hannah Knowles and Dan Keating, Aug. 26, 2021. The 121 cases among five states almost certainly represent an undercount because the rally concluded less than two weeks ago and contact tracing is challenging in connection with an event that lures attendees nationwide.

These cases are an echo of an outbreak from a year ago, during the pandemic’s first summer, when the rally was thought to have seeded hundreds of infections and contributed to a surge in the Upper Midwest.

  • Live updates: Illinois becomes latest state to mandate masks indoors

Palmer Report, Opinion: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem swings and misses, Brutal Publicist, Aug. 26, 2021. Gov. Kristi Noem is making a late entry into the COVID Calamity Sweepstakes.

Being from the sparsely populated state of South Dakota — with approximately 900,000 residents, which would rank just outside the top 15 U.S. cities in population – Noem will never achieve the total death and hospitalization numbers that DeSantis and Abbott routinely achieve in Florida and Texas, respectively. But on a per capita basis and percentage increase basis, her numbers are very impressive.

The Queen of the Sturgis Superspreader has, for two years in a row, promoted phenomenal increases in both South Dakota COVID cases and the deportation of deaths en masse to other states in the region. This year, the massive Sturgis bike rally, which drew over 500,000 attendees from around the U.S., was held August 6th-15th. NBC News found that COVID cases have risen 371% in South Dakota in the past two weeks. In Meade County, S.D., home of Sturgis, cases spiked upwards by 1550%. Hospitalizations at one healthcare facility increased nineteen-fold compared to June, and patients were younger and almost all were unvaccinated.

Faced with these sobering statistics, Noem recently expressed her aggressive position against vaccines by tweeting: “If @joebiden illegally mandates vaccines, I will take every action available under the law to protect South Dakotans from the federal government.”

Aside from incorrectly implying that President Biden is about to impose a vaccine mandate (he simply urged local governments and businesses to do so), look at the thrust of her threat – she will “protect” her citizens from something that would save their lives, avoid serious hospitalizations (and the concomitant burdens imposed on our healthcare systems), and allow governments and businesses to keep their facilities open safely. Some protection she offers.

 

U.S. Law, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of RFK assassination, seeks parole with no opposition from prosecutors, Tom Jackman, Aug. 26, 2021. Sirhan B. Sirhan, convicted of the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, will face a California parole board for the 16th time Friday in a prison outside San Diego. But unlike the first 15 times, no prosecutor will stand to oppose the release of Sirhan, who is now 77.

sirhan sirhan 2016Sirhan (shown in a 2016 photo) was arrested at the scene of Kennedy’s shooting in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the slaying of a U.S. senator who appeared headed for the Democratic presidential nomination. The assassination, along with that of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. two months earlier, created a turning point in American history with the sudden elimination of the charismatic leaders of the American civil rights movement and the Democratic Party respectively.

When California abolished the death penalty, Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life with the possibility of parole. And now Sirhan, who has been incarcerated for 53 years, may benefit from a new push among progressive prosecutors to seek the release, or not oppose the release, of convicts who have served decades behind bars, no longer pose a threat to society and will be costly to treat medically in their later years.

Newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón told The Washington Post shortly before his inauguration in December that he was creating a sentencing review unit to revisit the cases of about 20,000 prisoners for possible resentencing, analyzing both the fairness of long sentences and the cost savings for releasing low-risk or older inmates. Gascón issued a directive that his office’s “default policy” would be not to attend parole hearings and to submit letters supporting the release of some inmates who had served their mandatory minimums, while also assisting victims and victim advocates at parole hearings if requested.

A growing group of prosecutors, who say the job is more than locking people up, wants to help free criminals, too

In Sirhan’s case, Gascón’s office is remaining neutral. The office said it will not attend the parole hearing, as Los Angeles prosecutors have done historically, but it also will not send a letter in support of Sirhan’s parole.

“The role of a prosecutor and their access to information ends at sentencing,” said Alex Bastian, special adviser to Gascón. “The parole board’s sole purpose is to objectively determine whether someone is suitable for release. If someone is the same person that committed an atrocious crime, that person will correctly not be found suitable for release. However, if someone is no longer a threat to public safety after having served more than 50 years in prison, then the parole board may recommend release based on an objective determination.”

  • Note: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig assisted the Sirhan defense team with pro bono volunteer research.

WCTV (Tallahassee), FBI agent arrested for crimes against children, Staff Report, Aug. 26, 2021. The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says an arrest warrant has been issued for an FBI agent on a slew of criminal charges, including sexual battery.

FCSO says FBI Supervisory Special Agent David Harris, 51, who was tasked with investigating crimes against children, including child pornography, is currently incarcerated in Louisiana and is facing charges of indecency with a child, crimes against nature and sexual battery.

FBI logoOfficials say a complaint was made to the department in February of this year regarding Harris who exposed himself in a lewd and lascivious manner to a then 14-year-old girl in July of 2019 while on St. George Island for a family vacation.

According to authorities, evidence was found during an investigation into Harris that led to other felonies committed by Harris of a sexual nation with minors and adults in the states of Louisiana and Texas, causing a joint investigative task force to be started by the Louisiana State Police and the Texas Department of Public Service.

Authorities say records obtained from Harris’ government-issued electronic devices found conversation excerpts from Harris claiming is sexual preference to underage girls and admitting to incidents, including what was alleged while on vacation on St. George Island.

Harris was arrested earlier this summer in Ascension Parish, Louisiana and has outstanding arrest warrants out of East Baton Rouge and Orleans Parish, Lousiiana, as well as Tyler, Texas.

Officials say the FBI has dismissed Harris’ employment.

Associated Press via Washington Post, Porn actor Ron Jeremy indicted on over 30 sex assault counts, Andrew Dalton, Aug. 26, 2021. A grand jury has indicted adult film actor Ron Jeremy on more than 30 counts of sexual assault involving 21 women and girls across more than two decades, authorities said.

Jeremy, 68, whose legal name is Ronald Jeremy Hyatt, pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday to all of the allegations, which include 12 counts of rape.

The indictment, which was returned Aug. 19 and unsealed Wednesday, covers allegations dating from 1996 to 2019 with victims aged 15 to 51. The counts appear to be identical to charges filed against Jeremy last year, which he also denied.

In a tactical move also employed in their case against Harvey Weinstein, LA County prosecutors used secret grand jury proceedings to get an indictment that replaces the original charges, allowing them to skip a public preliminary hearing on the evidence and proceed to trial.

Law & Crime, Woman Allegedly Killed Her 15-Month-Old Daughter, Said People Who Took COVID-19 Vaccine Would Go to Hell, Alberto Luperon, Aug. 26, 2021. A woman killed her 15-month-old daughter, attacked her husband, and also attacked her 16-year-old daughter, according to police in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The cops had not named the alleged perpetrator her or the victims as of Wednesday evening.

Officers responded to the scene after receiving reports of several people being stabbed, according to the police narrative obtained by Law&Crime. Cops said they found a 38-year-old man in the front of a home suffering from stab wounds. They say he named his wife as his attacker. Cops took the 38-year-old woman into custody, according to this version of events. Neighbors reportedly said the woman is an Army veteran.

“Officers then observed a 16 year-old approach the scene, also suffering from stab wounds,” police said. “Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to the scene and began to treat the injured. As officers conducted a cursory search of the residence, they discovered a 15 month-old female unresponsive. The officers carried her outside to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, who transported her to JMH Jackson North, where she succumbed to her injuries. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue airlifted the male victim along with the teenager to JMH Ryder Trauma Center, while the female subject was transported to JMH Ryder Trauma via ground. Four other children under the age of 11 were also inside the residence, but were not harmed.”

Police tell Law&Crime that the 16-year-old girl is the woman’s daughter.

Neighbors reportedly said the allegations are out of character, but one, Thelma Sloan, told Miami television station WSVN that the woman suspected in the killing and in the attacks had been acting strangely.

“She was not herself when I saw her,” Sloan said.

The oddities allegedly included comments the woman made about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The way she was talking to me and what she said to me about ‘nobody should take a shot’ because God had revealed to her that anybody who took a shot was going to hell, and if you had taken one, you had to pray real hard that God would forgive you,” Sloan said.

Neighbor Ronnie Williams described the suspect in markedly different terms.

“She’s a loving mother,” he said. “I see her with the kids all the time. They play up and down the street all the time.”

 

More On Afghanistan

Taliban leaders pose triumphantly in the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 (photo via Associated Press).

Taliban leaders pose triumphantly in the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 (photo via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem, Ezra Klein, right, Aug. 26, 2021. There was no good ezra klein twitterway to lose Afghanistan to the Taliban. A better withdrawal was possible — and our stingy, chaotic visa process was unforgivable — but so was a worse one.

Either way, there was no hope of an end to the war that didn’t reveal our decades of folly, no matter how deeply America’s belief in its own enduring innocence demanded one. That is the reckoning that lies beneath events that are still unfolding, and much of the cable news conversation is a frenzied, bipartisan effort to avoid it.

Focusing on the execution of the withdrawal is giving virtually everyone who insisted we could remake Afghanistan the opportunity to obscure their failures by pretending to believe in the possibility of a graceful departure. It’s also obscuring the true alternative to withdrawal: endless occupation. But what our ignominious exit really reflects is the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.

“The pro-war crowd sees this as a mechanism by which they can absolve themselves of an accounting for the last 20 years,” Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, told me. “Just think about the epic size of this policy failure. Twenty years of training. More than $2 trillion worth of expenditure. For almost nothing. It is heartbreaking to watch these images, but it is equally heartbreaking to think about all of the effort, of lives and money we wasted in pursuit of a goal that was illusory.”

Emma Ashford, a senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, phrased it well: “There’s no denying America is the most powerful country in the world, but what we’ve seen over and over in recent decades is we cannot turn that into the outcomes we want. Whether it’s Afghanistan or Libya or sanctions on Russia and Venezuela, we don’t get the policy outcomes we want, and I think that’s because we overreach — we assume that because we are very powerful, we can achieve things that are unachievable.”

ny times logoNew York Times, A Stranded Interpreter, and the Soldiers Who Would Not Let Go, Farnaz Fassihi, Aug. 26, 2021. Many Afghans who helped U.S. forces in Afghanistan are now in danger. One spoke to us about his battle to get his family out alive as he hid in Kabul. The current pace of evacuations is far too slow to rescue Afghans who may be eligible for special U.S. visas before Americans leave, estimates suggest.

washington post logoWashington Post, The story of an Afghan man who fell from the sky, Gerry Shih, Niha Masih and Dan Lamothe, Aug. 26, 2021. Fada Mohammad was one of several who died after clinging to a U.S. military plane as it took off.

As the Taliban encircled Kabul on Aug. 15, Fada Mohammad told his family about what he’d seen on Facebook: Canada and the United States were airlifting anyone who wanted to leave out of the Kabul airport.

But if Fada wanted to go himself, recalled his father, Payanda Mohammad, he didn’t mention it.

The young dentist never reached either country. The next day, he didn’t make it beyond a rooftop four miles from Kabul airport, where his body was found after he plunged from a U.S. military plane as it took off — one of the most tragic and indelible images in the final chapter of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.

In the 10 days since then, many details of the chaotic events at Hamid Karzai International Airport remain unknown. Fragments of videos taken by bystanders, which quickly went viral on social media, showed glimpses of an extraordinary scene as hundreds of Afghan civilians swarmed the Air Force cargo transport on the tarmac in a desperate attempt to get on board.

In one video, at least a dozen people were on top of landing gear hatches as the aircraft accelerated down the runway. In another, two bodies fell from the plane as it climbed skyward.

Yet another smartphone clip showed the aftermath: at least four motionless bodies on the airport tarmac, randomly spaced along the length of the runway. A promising teenage soccer player was among those who died. So was Fada.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., European nations accelerate Afghanistan evacuation effort, Missy Ryan, Karoun Demirjian, John Hudson and Dan Lamothe, Aug. 26, 2021. More than 8,600 Afghans arrived at Dulles Airport so far, Va. official says.

The United States and European allies accelerated their efforts to evacuate Western and local nationals from Afghanistan on Wednesday, with less than a week remaining before President Biden’s departure deadline, as the military prepared to hand control of the Kabul airport to Taliban forces.

European countries including France and Germany signaled that they would wrap up their evacuation missions within days, possibly as early as Thursday, despite the crush of desperate Afghans who fear Taliban reprisal but have not been able to get out.

The Pentagon acknowledged that its ability to airlift evacuees could decrease in coming days as it turns to pulling out weaponry, equipment and troops ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline, which Biden affirmed this week was likely to be a coda to the United States’ two decades in Afghanistan.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could affect al-Qaeda and Islamic State, Claire Parker, Aug. 23, 2021. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was based on the conclusion that terrorist groups would no longer be able to use the country to stage attacks on the United States.

“We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001, and make sure al-Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again,” President Biden said in remarks from the White House last week, defending the pullout of American forces after the Afghan government’s swift collapse over the weekend.

“We did that.”

But some experts aren’t so sure. While al-Qaeda has been substantially weakened since 2001 — and the Taliban has committed to preventing it from attacking the United States and its allies — al-Qaeda fighters remain in Afghanistan and have hailed its takeover.

After two decades of conflict and counterterrorism operations, “al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is a skeleton of its former self,” said Fawaz Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics. He said the group lacks charismatic leadership and is “starved financially.”

A recent U.N. report said al-Qaeda maintained a presence in at least 15 Afghan provinces. An offshoot, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, has operated “under the Taliban umbrella” from Kandahar, Helmand and Nimruz provinces, according to the United Nations. In total, al-Qaeda members are estimated to number between several dozen to 500 people.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: Casualties Reported After Explosions Outside Kabul Airport, Staff Reports, Aug. 26, 2021. At least two blasts rattled the area outside Kabul’s airport, just hours after Western governments had warned of a security threat there.

A Pentagon official called it a “complex attack” that had left “a number” of U.S. and civilian casualties. Here’s the latest.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Some countries halted evacuations before the blasts.
  • U.S. evacuations slow, but Pentagon vows they will continue until Aug. 31.
  • An Islamic State affiliate poses the biggest threat to the U.S. airlift in Kabul.
  • Turkey is withdrawing its troops from the Kabul airport, the defense ministry says.
  • U.K. official warns of ISIS threat as ‘clock continues to tick down’ on flights out.
  • Dozens of California students and parents are trapped in Afghanistan.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Wason Center poll shows McAuliffe with solid lead over Youngkin, Laura Vozzella, Aug. 26, 2021. A new poll shows former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe with a solid lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin in the race for Virginia governor, giving McAuliffe a wider margin than in two other recent surveys.

McAuliffe leads Youngkin 50 percent to 41 percent among likely voters in a poll released Thursday by AARP-Virginia and the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University, with 6 percent undecided. His lead exceeds the survey’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

McAuliffe, a veteran fundraiser and former Democratic National Committee chairman, is seeking a comeback to the Executive Mansion he occupied from 2014 to 2018, while Youngkin, a former private equity executive, is making his first run for public office. They are vying to succeed Gov. Ralph Northam (D), whom the state constitution bars from serving back-to-back terms.

What to know about the 2021 Virginia governor’s race

The race is drawing national money and attention as an early referendum on President Biden and potential preview of the 2021 congressional midterms.

  • Washington Post, Politico sold to German publisher Axel Springer, Jeremy Barr

 

Aug. 25

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection, Trump Allies

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as New York governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

More On Afghanistan

 

Fires, Floods, Climate Change

 

World News

 

Top Stories

djt mike pencePalmer Report, January 6th Committee targets Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Melania Trump, Bill Palmer, Aug. 25, 2021. Earlier this week we all learned that the January 6th Committee is going after the phone records of everyone who may have had contact with the insurrectionists before or during the attack, including House Republicans. Now it’s becoming clear that the committee is in fact going after everyone.

bill palmer report logo headerThe committee is seeking all communications that Donald Trump and/or Mike Pence had with anyone and everyone regarding January 6th, according to a new report from NBC News. This includes people like Trump’s White House Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser. It also includes Trump political advisers who were fired long before January 6th, such as Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon. And it includes Donald ivanka eric don jr trump CustomTrump Jr, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Melania Trump. That’s the entire Trump family (short of Tiffany and Barron).

Notably, the request letters are being sent directly to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, meaning the committee may be able to swiftly obtain these communications even without the cooperation of any of the participants. In any case it’s becoming more clear by the day that the January 6th Committee is going to take a no holds barred approach when it comes to exposing what really went on with regard to Donald Trump, his minions, and the Capitol attack.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Sticks to Afghan Deadline, Resisting Pleas to Extend Evacuation, Mark Landler and Michael D. Shear, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden said the U.S. still intended to completely withdraw from Afghanistan by Aug. 31. “The sooner we can finish, the better,” he said.

But faced with an increasingly assertive Taliban, Mr. Biden said he had asked the military for contingency plans in case staying longer became necessary.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden pushes to complete Afghan evacuation by Aug. 31 — but orders backup plan, Sean Sullivan, Anne Gearan, Dan Lamothe and John Hudson, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.).  Biden says every additional day would bring more risk to U.S. troops but finishing the evacuation by month’s end depends on Taliban cooperation. The uncertainty provoked confusion and anger among those worried about evacuees.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: On Last Days of Evacuation, U.S. Tries to Reach Remaining Americans, Staff Reports, Aug. 25, 2021. Some 1,500 Americans still in Afghanistan in last days of U.S. evacuation. The Taliban wants to ‘forget’ the past,’ a leader tells The Times, but there will be some restrictions.

Tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify are also waiting to be evacuated, and more than 10,000 people were inside the airport Wednesday. Here’s the latest.

  • An Islamic State affiliate poses the biggest threat to the U.S. airlift in Kabul.
  • Merkel calls for talks with the Taliban to preserve progress made for Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Afghans running out of money as Taliban bans taking dollars out of country, Ellen Francis and Rachel Pannett, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Kabul residents struggled to find money Wednesday even after the Taliban ordered banks to reopen for the first time in more than a week amid rising prices and uncertainty.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Reuters photo at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 24, 2021 via CNBC).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Reuters photo at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 24, 2021 via CNBC).

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just nailed it. So much for “House Democrats in disarray,” Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 24, 2021. Not surprisingly, Speaker Pelosi managed to get every House Democrat to vote in favor of the infrastructure package today. It’s a credit to her that she got it done, which she always does. Then again, this was always going to be the outcome, wasn’t it? No House Democrat was actually going to vote against infrastructure.

bill palmer report logo headerOf course there’s still work to be done. The Senate has already passed the $1 trillion bipartisan component of President Biden’s infrastructure plan with 60 votes, democratic donkey logobut the worst Senate Democrats will need to be wrangled in order to pass this $3.5 trillion reconciliation component, even with 50 votes.

Roll Call, House adopts budget, greenlights reconciliation process, Lindsey McPherson, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Committees can now get to work on fiscal package worth up to $3.5 trillion that Senate won't be able to filibuster.

House Democrats on Tuesday adopted a budget resolution needed to unlock a filibuster-proof $3.5 trillion package of domestic spending and tax breaks and teed up a vote on a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill next month.

The 220-212 vote capped off an eventful 24 hours of negotiating between Democratic leaders and a group of 10 party moderates who had planned to vote against the budget unless the infrastructure vote came first. While they didn’t get that demand met, they did get leadership to agree to holding the infrastructure vote no later than Sept. 27, a few days before surface transportation authorizations are set to expire Oct. 1.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

delta logoForbes, Delta Air Lines Will Charge Unvaccinated Employees $200 Per Month More For Health Insurance, CEO Says, Jonathan Ponciano, Updated Aug 25, 2021.  Starting November 1, Delta Air Lines will begin charging employees unvaccinated against coronavirus who are enrolled in the company’s health plan a $200 monthly surcharge to help the company combat costs associated with the spread of Covid-19 among its workforce, CEO Ed Bastian told employees in a Wednesday memo—a pointed move designed to encourage more employees to get vaccinated. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden receives inconclusive intelligence report on covid origins, Ellen Nakashima, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joel Achenbach, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden was briefed Tuesday on the report, which fell short of answering critical questions about whether the virus jumped from an animal to a human or accidentally leaked from a Wuhan, China, lab.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rejecting Covid Inquiry, China Peddles Conspiracy Theories Blaming the U.S., Austin Ramzy and Amy Chang Chien, Aug. 25, 2021. Beijing is promoting baseless theories that the U.S. may be the source of the coronavirus, reflecting its anxiety about being blamed for the pandemic.

When a conspiracy theory started circulating in China suggesting that the coronavirus escaped from an American military lab, it had largely stayed on the fringe. Now, the ruling Communist Party has propelled the idea firmly into the mainstream.

This week, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman repeatedly used an official podium to elevate unproven ideas that the coronavirus may have first leaked from a research facility in Fort Detrick, Md. A Communist Party publication, the Global Times, started an online petition in July calling for that lab to be investigated and said it gathered more than 25 million signatures.

Officials and state media have promoted a rap song by a patriotic Chinese hip-hop group that touted the same claim, with the lyrics: “How many plots came out of your labs? How many dead bodies hanging a tag?”

Beijing is peddling groundless theories that the United States may be the true source of the coronavirus, as it pushes back against efforts to investigate the pandemic’s origins in China. The disinformation campaign started last year, but Beijing has raised the volume in recent weeks, reflecting its anxiety about being blamed for the pandemic that has killed millions globally.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 202.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 25 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 171.8 million people fully vaccinated, 51.5 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 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: 214,192,938, Deaths: 4,469,360
U.S. Cases:     38,968,925, Deaths:    648,161
India Cases:     32,512,366, Deaths:    435,788
Brazil Cases:    20,615,008, Deaths:    575,829

washington post logoWashington Post, More than half of Florida’s students now go to schools with mask mandates defying DeSantis, Valerie Strauss, Aug. 25, 2021.  More than half of Florida’s students are now enrolled in public school districts with mask mandates despite threats of sanctions from the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who decreed that only parents can decide whether their children wear masks.

On Tuesday night, two school districts — in Orange and Indian River counties — approved mandates to try to stop the spread of the delta variant of the novel coronavirus. They joined eight other districts that recently moved to require a medical exemption from a doctor to opt out.

The state is a hotspot for covid-19 cases, with a positivity rate for new cases at nearly 20 percent as hospitals keep filling with patients.

Two of the 10 districts that voted for strict mandates — Indian River and Sarasota — supported Donald Trump for president in 2020. DeSantis is counting on voters in these districts for support in his bid for reelection next year. The others — Miami-Dade County, Broward, Hillsborough, Leon, Alachua, Palm Beach, Orange and Duval — supported Joe Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: Johnson & Johnson Says Second Dose of Vaccine Gives Strong Boost, Staff Reports, Aug. 25, 2021. The single-dose vaccine had not been part of the U.S. booster program but it hopes to be. China says it will hold unvaccinated people “accountable” for outbreaks.

A booster shot of the vaccine dramatically raises the levels of antibodies against the coronavirus, the company reported. Johnson & Johnson will submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration, which is evaluating similar studies from Pfizer and Moderna. If authorized by the agency, the Biden administration wants to provide booster shots eight months after vaccination.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was absent from the government’s initial booster plan, announced last week. But with the new data, the company hopes to be part of the initial distribution of additional shots, which could happen as early as September. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection, Trump Allies

john pierce

kyle rittenhouse tik tok profileRaw Story, Anti-vaxx lawyer for dozens of Capitol rioters is now on a ‘ventilator’ with COVID-19: report, John Wright, Aug. 25, 2021. Attorney John Pierce, who has represented Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting suspect Kyle Rittenhouse, right, as well as more than a dozen Capitol rioters, reportedly is on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19.

Pierce's illness was first reported Wednesday after it prompted a hearing for accused Capitol rioter Shane Jenkins to be delayed, according to independent journalist Marcy Wheeler and Washington Post reporter Rachel Weiner.

"Pierce is not AT this hearing, he sent the lawyer from his office who is not barred in DC again," Wheeler reported.

"Mr. Pierce is in the hospital, we believe, with COVID-19, on a ventilator, non-responsive," one of the attorneys who was present reportedly told a judge.

The judge ultimately continued the hearing until next week, saying, "Send our best wishes to Mr. Pierce and his family."

Last week, the Daily Beast reported that Pierce recently reinvented himself as "a go-to lawyer for conservative causes célèbres."

"But even as his star rises on the right, Pierce has been undermined by a bizarre tweet appearing to threaten federal officials, an employee facing felony charges for allegedly defrauding a grandmother, and his own financial woes," the Daily Beast reported.

Jenkins, the Capitol rioter, was recently denied release after a judge determined he represents a danger to the community and a flight risk. He allegedly destroyed property while trying to break into the Capitol, and threw a flagpole and desk drawer at police.

On his Twitter account, Pierce posted several messages stating his opposition to vaccines and mask mandates.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Judge drops the hammer on Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, Bill Palmer, Aug. 25, 2021. Justice comes slowly and incrementally by definition, but now that the Trump era is over, justice is indeed definitely coming. Even as we wait to see if the likes of Sidney Powell and Lin Wood will face criminal charges for trying to fraudulently overthrow the 2020 election, a judge is cracking down on them in a different way.

bill palmer report logo headerToday, Judge Linda Parker has approved the government’s request to bring sanctions, including disbarment referrals, against Powell and Wood. This ruling comes after hearings took place several weeks ago regarding Powell’s and Wood’s actions.

This ruling – assuming it does indeed result in disbarment – sends an important message to any lawyers out there who might be tempted to get involved in future Republican attempts at overthrowing elections. Disbarment means the end of your legal career. And in the case of Powell, Wood, and others, disbarment could just be the start of their legal problems.

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

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

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Is Qanon driven by military-grade PSYOPs subliminal programming? Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), Aug. 24-25, 2021. There remains an wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalluncomfortable fact with Qanon. The amorphous freewheeling cult is not losing adherents but, in fact, gaining them as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Qanon might be dismissed if its only followers were uneducated individuals prone to believing whatever nonsense was slickly-presented to them by conniving masters of deception -- those like the charlatans who sell "prosperity gospel" religion and miracle "medical" cures. But that is not the case. Qanon believers include those with college educations, including people with advanced degrees, military and intelligence community veterans, and, yes and very wayne madesen report logounfortunately, journalists.

There are some indications that Qanon is the product of those who have expertise in military psychological warfare operations (psyops) and that large masses of people around the world are being manipulated and coerced for some end game. What is the goal?

Judging from the effects this potential psyop is having on political stability, the ultimate target may be democratic governance.

benjamen burlew ap via fbi john minchillo

Benjamen Scott Burlew, center, is accused of yelling at, grabbing, dragging and ultimately pushing Associated Press photographer John Minchillo (shown in a gas mask) over a low stone wall on the Capitol grounds (AP photo via FBI).

Associated Press via NBC News, Capitol riot suspect charged with assault after allegedly throwing photographer over wall, Staff Report, Aug. 25, 2021.

An Oklahoma man seen on video pushing an Associated Press photographer over a wall outside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot has been arrested, authorities said Tuesday.

Benjamen Scott Burlew of Miami, Oklahoma, is the second person to be charged in the attack on photographer John Minchillo, who was documenting the mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters that day.

Burlew is accused of yelling at, grabbing, dragging and ultimately pushing Minchillo over a low stone wall on the Capitol grounds.

Authorities say Burlew was among several people who attacked Minchillo, who was wearing a helmet-style gas mask and was dragged by another person down the exterior stairs by his lanyard with Associated Press lettering.

At the bottom of the stairs, Burlew and three other people grabbed the photographer and pushed, shoved and dragged him again, the FBI said.

Minchillo later found himself backed up against a stone wall by the attackers. The FBI said Burlew lunged toward the photographer and shoved him over the wall, causing Minchillo to land on his back. Burlew leaned over the wall to witness Minchillo’s fall, according to court records.

Burlew is charged with assault in special territorial jurisdiction and committing acts of physical violence on restricted grounds, according to court records released Tuesday. He was arrested on Thursday.

washington post logoWashington Post, In latest bow to Trump, GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania plan to launch hearings on 2020 vote, Elise Viebeck, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.).  The move is part of a “full forensic investigation” of the November election, State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said this week.

Salon, Roger Stone claims Mike Lindell is being backstabbed by Steve Bannon — and his own advisers, Zachary Petrizzo, Aug. 25, 2021. Stone and Bannon have both shilled for Lindell's pillows — but now they're backing away from his fraud claims.

Veteran GOP operative Roger Stone suggested this week that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a prominent pro-Trump election truther, is being "stabbed in the back" by some of those around him, including Lindell's own advisors and Steve Bannon.

Stone's remarks, which came on a far-right QAnon-themed internet program, seem like an effort to defend the pillow tycoon, whose credibility in TrumpWorld is declining as he repeatedly fails to produce any hard evidence of 2020 election fraud.

"I think Mike Lindell has done great work," Stone told host Jeffrey Pedersen, who goes by the alias "The Matrixx." "I think he's been disserved by some of the people working for him. But he's got a heart of gold. He's a patriot. His instinct is absolutely correct. He has produced enormous evidence of irregularities in the election.

"But the left excoriates him, because he has the courage to speak the truth," Stone continued, "and then, making it even worse, you have people who are at least allegedly on our side like Steve Bannon, stabbing him in the back, questioning his public credibility," he continued.
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Stone described Bannon's alleged betrayal as "no surprise to me," referring to his extended beef with the onetime CEO of the 2016 Trump campaign, who testified against him in federal court back in 2019.

On Monday afternoon, Stone said on the far-right Infowars site that he has "never subscribed" to the idea bolstered by Lindell that Trump will be reinstated as president at some point this year. (Lindell originally claimed this would occur in August, and has had to revise his estimate.) "I love Mike Lindell, but there is no legal precedent for that, that I can see," Stone added. "I still don't see the election results being reversed."

Daily Beast, Trumpworld Pleads Ignorance on New Rally for Capitol Rioters, Kelly Weill and Asawin Suebsaeng, Aug. 25, 2021. MAGA insiders say they are not planning to attend and the former president has not been invited.

daily beast logoD.C. police are on high alert ahead of a planned September rally in support of imprisoned Jan. 6 riot suspects, but those close to the ringleader of the original rally want nothing to do with it.

Playing on popular pro-Trump talking points, the rally scheduled for Sept. 18 calls for the release of alleged Capitol rioters currently held in a Washington, D.C., jail, whom it characterizes as “political prisoners.” The event has the city’s police planning a “full activation,” with all officers ready to respond.

But despite its popularity with Proud Boys, and its origin with a former Trump campaign official, in the upper ranks of Trumpworld the event isn’t even on the radar. Of the eight individuals—close associates of the ex-president, as well as former Trump White House officials and 2020 campaign brass—most of them hadn’t even heard of the Sept. 18 rally until The Daily Beast contacted them this week. Almost all of them said they wanted nothing to do with it.


U.S. Politics, Governance

The American Prospect, Opinion: Biden Should Retire Fed Chair Jay Powell, Robert Kuttner, Aug. 25, 2021. The battle comes to a head this week, with Biden’s decision expected around Labor Day. The pro-Powell case boils down to three contentions. He’s been good on monetary easing. As a conservative Republican, he helps protect Biden from the charge of being soft on inflation. And he’d be confirmed overwhelmingly.

jerome powellBut the case against Powell is stronger. The Fed also does financial regulation. Here, Powell, right, has been terrible—just what you’d expect of a conservative Republican who used to be a partner with the private equity Carlyle Group.

As Fed chair, Powell has increased the concentration of the financial industry, and has worked to weaken the none-too-strong protections of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The alternative is Fed governor Lael Brainard, the lone Democrat on the Fed. When Brainard was being touted for Treasury secretary, I was lukewarm about her. But she has become a regulatory titan and would be light-years better than Powell.

As Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets points out, there is a connection between monetary policy and regulatory policy. Powell’s version of a loose monetary policy was simply to throw cheap money at financial markets. In the absence of stronger regulatory strictures, zero-interest-rate money increased speculative-bubble activity on Wall Street.

A Powell reappointment would be out of sync with all of Biden’s excellent regulatory appointments to date. Personnel is policy.

But the clincher for naming Brainard over Powell is the domino effect. Right now, the Fed’s board of governors has four conservative Republicans, one pro-regulation Democrat in Brainard, and two vacancies.

If Biden reappoints Powell, the Fed keeps its working majority of four regulatory conservatives close to Wall Street. But if Biden replaces Powell as chair, then the majority flips to at least 4-3 in favor of much tougher financial regulation, since Powell would almost surely leave the Fed entirely. Likewise the ultraconservative Randy Quarles, whose term as vice chair for supervision expires in October.

The Powell camp has been pitching the idea, as a sop to liberals, of naming Brainard as Fed vice chair for supervision. But the Fed chair sets the agenda and runs the place. A vice chair for supervision at odds with the chair would have no power.

If Brainard replaced Powell, two candidates for other Fed seats are former Fed governor Sarah Bloom Raskin and Lisa Cook, an eminent African American economist at Michigan State who worked in the Biden transition.

This would give the Fed three strong, progressive women, and perhaps more. The contention that Powell would be confirmed by nearly all Senate Republicans is a good argument for not reappointing him. Republicans love Powell because he is such a force for deregulation.

Biden has the chance to appoint the most progressive and diverse Fed ever. He shouldn’t blow it.

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as New York governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as New York governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).

ny times logoNew York Times, Kathy Hochul Is Sworn In as New York’s First Female Governor, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Aug. 24, 2021. Ms. Hochul, who succeeds Andrew Cuomo after his resignation, has vowed to usher in a new era of civility and consensus in state government.

Kathy C. Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, became the 57th governor of New York on Tuesday, making history as the first woman to ascend to the state’s highest office.

She was sworn in shortly after 10 a.m. at the State Capitol by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore, in a ceremonial event in the building’s ornate Red Room, hours after she was officially sworn in at a private ceremony just after midnight. Her ascension capped a whirlwind chain of events that followed a series of sexual harassment allegations made against the outgoing governor, Andrew M. Cuomo.

Ms. Hochul, 62, assumes office three weeks after a state attorney general investigation concluded that Mr. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. A week later, Mr. Cuomo announced his resignation, bringing his 10-year reign to an abrupt end after rising to national fame during the pandemic last year.

Governor Hochul, a Democrat, has vowed to lead the state through a still surging pandemic and economic uncertainty, while ushering in a new era of civility and consensus in state government.

ny times logoNew York Times, Donald Rumsfeld, Architect of War in Afghanistan, Is Laid to Rest, Mark Leibovich, Updated Aug. 25, 2021. In a quirk of timing, the two-time former defense secretary’s burial at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday seemed to serve as a kind of coda to America’s 20-year lost war.

donald rumsfeld wA horse-drawn caisson with a flag-draped coffin passed slowly through the gates of Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, a hushed tableau against a city loud with recriminations about the lost war in Afghanistan.

The cortege carried Donald H. Rumsfeld, the hard-charging, two-time secretary of defense and one of the war’s chief architects, whose burial on a sweltering August afternoon served as another coda to the 20-year conflict.

Mr. Rumsfeld died on June 29, at 88, of complications related to multiple myeloma. The date for his interment and an earlier private funeral service on Monday at Fort Myer, Va., had been set long before, but the timing meant that Mr. Rumsfeld was laid to rest during the same dick cheney wkind of shell shock as on Oct. 7, 2001, when the United States launched its first airstrikes in Afghanistan.

Say what you will about the man known as “Rummy,” and many have, harshly, for turning away from Afghanistan and waging a war in Iraq that left thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and ultimately wrecked the end of Mr. Rumsfeld’s political life. But at Memorial Chapel at Fort Myer, the eulogists recalled a different man.

“Our capital city has many familiar types,” former Vice President Dick Cheney, left, Mr. Rumsfeld’s longtime ally, recalled of his closest friend, according to his prepared remarks and confirmed by guests at the funeral. “Yet in all my years around this company town, I have never heard anyone described as ‘the Rumsfeld type.’ There is no such thing because nothing about Don was typical or derivative or standard-issue.”

Mr. Cheney also brought up some of Mr. Rumsfeld’s signature maxims, which Mr. Rumsfeld would sometimes adapt from familiar Washington sayings. “Harry Truman supposedly said, ‘If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,’” Mr. Cheney said. “To this, Don added the Rumsfeld corollary: Get a small dog — he might turn on you.”

The words “Afghanistan” or “Iraq” were barely spoken by Mr. Cheney and a procession of other eulogists, among them Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the outset of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Victoria Clarke, Mr. Rumsfeld’s longtime communications aide at the Pentagon.

Ms. Clarke invoked one of Mr. Rumsfeld’s favorite sayings, or so-called Rumsfeld Rules. “Cemeteries are filled with irreplaceable people,” Ms. Clarke said before the burial, quoting her former boss, but amending the rule in his honor. “Arlington National Cemetery will soon have someone who is truly irreplaceable.”

Details of the funeral and burial were closely held by the Rumsfeld family and none were released publicly after it was over. Guests included Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who knelt before Mr. Rumsfeld’s widow, Joyce, who was in a wheelchair, and presented her with the flag from her husband’s coffin.

Others there were Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, and Paul D. Wolfowitz, Mr. Rumsfeld’s No. 2 at the Pentagon who pushed hard for the war in Iraq.

“Mostly, it was just a lot of people who hadn’t seen each other in a long time, in some cases since Rumsfeld left the Pentagon,’’ said David Hume Kennerly, the presidential photographer of President Gerald R. Ford’s White House when Mr. Rumsfeld was Mr. Ford’s chief of staff. “And there were a lot of stories being shared.”

The stories surfaced in the eulogies, which were often drawn from the inside of the Pentagon, where Mr. Rumsfeld served as defense secretary to Ford in the 1970s and a quarter century later to President George W. Bush.

American Prospect, Commentary: The Gottheimer Gang’s Pointless Standoff, David Dayen, Aug. 25, 2021.  Conservative Democrats got a guarantee that the House would vote on the infrastructure bill by late September. But that changes nothing about the process.

Daily Beast, Matt Gaetz Failed to Properly Disclose Abysmal Book Sales, Roger Sollenberger, Aug. 25, 2021. Amid a Justice Department investigation into alleged sex crimes and a related House Ethics probe, beleaguered congressman Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) appears to have committed at least one much smaller but more straightforward federal violation: failure to disclose how much money he made from a book he published last September.

daily beast logoWhen The Daily Beast inquired about the omission last week, a Gaetz spokesperson said the office needed “additional documentation” from the publisher and was “in the process of receiving that information and amending the Congressman’s financial disclosure.” Sure enough, an amended financial disclosure was filed three days after The Daily Beast reached out asking about the undisclosed book income.

Gaetz’s book, Firebrand, went on presale last August and hit bookshelves and online stores in September, after last year’s financial disclosure deadline. The new amended disclosure claims the beleaguered Florida conservative earned exactly $25,000 from book sales last year, after giving 30 percent of his personal profits to his agent, Sergio Gor—a former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who also officiated and DJ’ed at Gaetz’s surprise wedding last weekend.

If Gaetz’s $25,000 claim and publishing terms are accurate, the disclosure indicates Firebrand didn’t exactly burn up the charts.

 

More On Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Separation mixes with hope and uncertainty at U.S. base in Germany hosting Afghan evacuees, Loveday Morris, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). In a few days, Ramstein Air Base, the largest Air Force base in Europe, was transformed to house about 1,000 women and children in three huge hangars.

He took his wife and children to Afghanistan one last time. Now he can’t get them out.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two Congress members make unauthorized trip to Kabul amid evacuation efforts, Annie Linskey, Tyler Pager, John Hudson and Sean Sullivan, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), who both served in Iraq before being elected to Congress, returned home via a U.S. military flight used for evacuating U.S. citizens, allies and vulnerable Afghans

Recent Afghan Headlines

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Allows Revival of Trump-Era ‘Remain in Mexico’ Asylum Policy, Adam Liptak, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The court’s unsigned order refused to stay a ruling from a federal judge in Texas forbidding the Biden administration from ending the policy.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to block a ruling from a federal judge in Texas requiring the Biden administration to reinstate a Trump-era immigration program that forces asylum seekers arriving at the southwestern border to await approval in Mexico.

The court’s brief unsigned order said that the administration had appeared to act arbitrarily and capriciously in rescinding the program, citing a decision last year refusing to let the Trump administration rescind the Obama-era program protecting the young immigrants known as dreamers.

The court’s three more liberal members — Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — said they would have granted a stay of the trial judge’s ruling. They did not give reasons. The case will now be heard by an appeals court and may return to the Supreme Court.

The challenged program, known commonly as Remain in Mexico and formally as the Migrant Protection Protocols, applies to people who left a third country and traveled through Mexico to reach the U.S. border. After the policy was put in place at the beginning of 2019, tens of thousands of people waited for immigration hearings in unsanitary tent encampments exposed to the elements. There have been widespread reports of sexual assault, kidnapping and torture.

Judge Kacsmaryk suspended his ruling for a week, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, refused to give the administration a further stay while it pursued an appeal, prompting an emergency application for a stay in the Supreme Court. On Friday, shortly before the ruling was to go into effect, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued a short stay to allow the full Supreme Court to consider the matter.

The Supreme Court has had previous encounters with the program. In response to an emergency application from the Trump administration, the court revived the program last year after a federal appeals court blocked it.

President Biden suspended and then ended the program. Texas and Missouri sued, saying they had been injured by the termination by having to provide government services like drivers’ licenses to immigrants allowed into the United States under the program.

On Aug. 13, Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, in Amarillo, ruled that a federal law required returning noncitizens seeking asylum to Mexico whenever the government lacked the resources to detain them.

That was a novel reading of the law, the acting solicitor general, Brian H. Fletcher, told the justices. That view had “never been accepted by any presidential administration since the statute’s enactment in 1996,” including the Trump administration, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, An Oklahoma man running for governor was arrested in kidnapping and rape of campaign applicant, police say, Jaclyn Peiser, Aug. 25, 2021. Over the years, Paul Tay has gained notoriety in Tulsa as a perennial candidate for city government who enjoys executing controversial stunts to gain publicity. He’s crashed live mayoral debates, held inappropriate signs outside schools and bicycled down an expressway towing an inflatable penis.

The 58-year-old, who is now running for governor of Oklahoma as an independent, made headlines again this week.

Tay was arrested Monday in the kidnapping of a woman who had responded to an ad for his campaign team, Tulsa police said. He was also charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and rape, police said.

The arrest was not Tay’s first, though he has continued to seek public office amid legal battles. Court records show he pleaded guilty after being arrested in 2003 and charged with assaulting a police officer. He has also had multiple protective orders against him, including one in April 2019 from a Tulsa city councilor who said he harassed, stalked and threatened her and her newborn baby.

The woman who police say was kidnapped responded to a Craigslist ad for a job with Tay’s gubernatorial campaign on Sunday. [He has been identified as an independent and former Libertarian Party member.]

Tay offered to pick the woman up in Bethany, Okla., and drive her about 12 miles to southeast Oklahoma City, police said. Once they were in the car, Tay instead began driving to Tulsa, according to police.

The woman then tried to get out of the car, police said, but Tay wouldn’t let her exit. “Instead, Tay hit the victim with a pipe and sexually assaulted her,” police said in a news release.

On Monday, the woman convinced Tay to take her to Walmart so she could buy hygiene products. While in the store, she managed to separate from Tay and ask a Walmart employee for help, police said.

Daily Beast, Outraged Survivors Say Time’s Up Boss Must Resign, Emily Shugerman, Aug. 25, 2021. Tina Tchen has held on to power at Time’s Up, the nation’s preeminent anti-harassment group, through almost two years of political scandal, celebrity controversy, and internal friction. Now, her grip on the embattled organization may be in peril.

daily beast logoTchen and her team were hit with an avalanche of damaging revelations in recent weeks, starting with the news that she and former board chair Roberta Kaplan had consulted with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on how to respond to allegations of sexual harassment against him. Kaplan stepped down more than two weeks ago, but Tchen has hung on, claiming she is “committed to rebuilding trust” with the communities the organization harmed.

And some survivors—including those who previously backed or benefited from the group’s services—aren’t happy about it.

 

Fires, Floods, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, Fire official warns massive California wildfire is ‘knocking on the door’ to Lake Tahoe area, Paulina Firozi, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The Caldor Fire has consumed more than 100,000 acres so far.

 ny times logoNew York Times, These Maps Tell the Story of Two Americas: One Parched, One Soaked, Aatish Bhatia and Nadja Popovich, Aug. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The country, like most of the world, is becoming both drier and wetter in the era of climate change. It depends where you live.

The country, like most of the world, is becoming both drier and wetter in the era of climate change. It depends where you live.
In New York City, a tropical storm delivered record-breaking rains this weekend. Heavy downpours caused devastating flash floods in central Tennessee, tearing apart houses and killing more than 20 people. Yet, California and much of the West remained in the deepest drought in at least two decades, the product of a long-term precipitation shortfall and temperatures that are much hotter than usual.

This divide, a wetter East and a drier West, reflects a broader pattern observed in the United States in recent decades.

The map above, created using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the Eastern half of the country has gotten more rain, on average, over the last 30 years than it did during the 20th century, while precipitation has decreased in the West. (Thirty-year averages are often used by scientists to glean big-picture climate trends from temperature and precipitation data that varies substantially year-to-year.)

It’s not yet clear whether these changes in precipitation are a permanent feature of our warming climate, or whether they reflect long-term weather variability. But they are largely consistent with predictions from climate models, which expect to see more precipitation overall as the world warms, with big regional differences. Broadly: Wet places get wetter and dry places get drier.

“There’s variability from year to year,” and even decade to decade, said Andreas Prein, a project scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “But climate change is slowly pushing this variability” toward wetter and drier extremes, he said.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Why North Korea still has not begun covid vaccinations, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Min Joo Kim, Aug. 24, 2021. A United Nations-backed vaccine distribution effort is making a renewed drive to offer up to 3 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine to the isolated nation.

Daily Beast, Bullying ‘Smears,’ Reminded Harry and Meghan Palace Was Evil, Tom Sykes, Aug. 25, 2021. The hotly anticipated new chapter of “Finding Freedom” says that Harry and Meghan saw all that was wrong with their former life when palace operatives briefed against them.

daily beast logoPrince Harry and Meghan Markle were worried about the impact of the bullying allegations lobbed at her by a British newspaper just days before the couple’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, but ultimately concluded that the efforts to “undermine” Meghan by shadowy figures at the palace showed how right they had been to leave the royals behind.

The claim is made in a new edition of Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s book Finding Freedom, which comes out next week. The book has been the subject of intense speculation due to the authors’ perceived closeness to Meghan and Harry. The couple has denied co-operating with the authors, despite the fact that the book shares detailed descriptions of their private moments and thoughts.

 

Aug. 24

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection, Trump Allies

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as New York governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

More On Afghanistan

 

World News

 

Media, Technology News

 

Top StoriesHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Reuters photo at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 24, 2021 via CNBC).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Reuters photo at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 24, 2021 via CNBC).

Palmer Report, Opinion: Nancy Pelosi just nailed it. So much for “House Democrats in disarray,” Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 24, 2021. Over the past few days a handful of bill palmerHouse Democrats from moderate districts have publicly expressed concerns about the size of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package, suggesting it involved too much spending. They were only doing this so they could go back and tell swing voters in their districts that they too were “concerned” about all the spending.

But large chunks of the media nonetheless used this as an opportunity to rack up ratings and page views by pushing the “Democrats in disarray” narrative.

bill palmer report logo headerNot surprisingly, Speaker Pelosi managed to get every House Democrat to vote in favor of the infrastructure package today. It’s a credit to her that she got it done, which she always does. Then again, this was always going to be the outcome, wasn’t it? No House Democrat was actually going to vote against infrastructure.

Of course there’s still work to be done. The Senate has already passed the $1 trillion bipartisan component of President Biden’s infrastructure plan with 60 votes, democratic donkey logobut the worst Senate Democrats will need to be wrangled in order to pass this $3.5 trillion reconciliation component, even with 50 votes.

But at this point it’s clear that at no point was infrastructure “doomed” as so many pundits and media outlets have claimed at various points along the way. This kind of doomsday punditry doesn’t help anything, except the careers of the pundits who promote it. It’s time we start ignoring those folks who are always insisting we’re “doomed” or going to lose “no matter what.” Such prognostications rarely turn out to have been based in fact.

Roll Call, House adopts budget, greenlights reconciliation process, Lindsey McPherson, Aug. 24, 2021. Committees can now get to work on fiscal package worth up to $3.5 trillion that Senate won't be able to filibuster.

House Democrats on Tuesday adopted a budget resolution needed to unlock a filibuster-proof $3.5 trillion package of domestic spending and tax breaks and teed up a vote on a separate bipartisan infrastructure bill next month.

The 220-212 vote capped off an eventful 24 hours of negotiating between Democratic leaders and a group of 10 party moderates who had planned to vote against the budget unless the infrastructure vote came first. While they didn’t get that demand met, they did get leadership to agree to holding the infrastructure vote no later than Sept. 27, a few days before surface transportation authorizations are set to expire Oct. 1.

The budget was “deemed” adopted when the House adopted a rule setting debate parameters for the Senate-passed infrastructure bill and voting rights legislation. The rule also included language that ensures the infrastructure bill will be brought to the floor by Sept. 27. The final rule the House adopted was the third iteration reported out of the Rules Committee during the flurry of negotiations.

The House was set to vote on the voting rights measure later Tuesday before recessing until Sept. 20. Leadership is hoping to have the reconciliation package, which committees have a Sept. 15 deadline to assemble, ready for floor action around the same time.

The end of September will be action-packed as Congress will also need to pass appropriations legislation to keep the government funded before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, as well as a measure to raise or suspend the debt limit.

The statutory debt limit was reinstated Aug. 1 and Treasury has said the extraordinary measures it is using to continue paying government debt obligations will run out this fall, although it’s been difficult to nail down a more exact estimate.

Leaders have signaled they are likely to use a stopgap measure known as a continuing resolution that would extend fiscal 2021 funding levels and policy until agreement can be reached on the fiscal 2022 appropriations bills and attach a debt limit suspension to that. Both are expected to be short-term measures kicking the deadline for action into December.

The Senate adopted the budget resolution earlier this month, so the House's action Tuesday is the last step before committees in that chamber can start marking up their sections of the reconciliation package.

Committees have a Sept. 15 deadline to have their legislation ready for the Budget Committee to assemble in the reconciliation package. Hoyer said he set aside the first two weeks of September as committee work weeks, which should provide the panels with plenty of time to complete their markups.

The combined instructions to House committees add up to no more than $1.75 trillion in deficit-spending, but wiggle room is provided so that the tax-writing Ways and Means panel can include offsets for more if they can agree.

House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said Tuesday that his colleagues want to pay for as much as possible.

"The president wants to offset all of it, the speaker wants to offset all of it," Yarmuth told reporters. "I would love to see more spending, but that's the number the Senate agreed upon. Hopefully we can do what they agreed upon.”

washington post logoWashington Post, CIA director had secret meeting with Taliban leader in Kabul, John Hudson, Aug. 24, 2021. The meeting is the highest-level face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and a Biden administration official since the militants seized the Afghan capital. The discussion came amid a frantic effort to evacuate people from the Kabul international airport ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline.

Williams Burns 2005CIA Director William J. Burns, right, held a secret meeting Monday in Kabul with the Taliban’s de facto leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, in the highest-level face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the militants seized the Afghan capital, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.

CIA LogoPresident Biden dispatched his top spy, a veteran of the Foreign Service and the most decorated diplomat in his Cabinet, amid a frantic effort to evacuate people from Kabul international airport in what Biden has called “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.”

Biden faces pressure to extend Afghanistan evacuation mission as Taliban warns against doing so

The CIA declined to comment on the Taliban meeting, but the discussions are likely to have involved an impending Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. military to conclude its airlift of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

Taliban leaders pose triumphantly in the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 (photo via Associated Press).

Taliban leaders pose triumphantly in the Presidential Palace in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2021 (photo via Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, The Taliban rejected a suggestion that U.S. forces might remain past Aug. 31 to finish evacuations, Mark Landler and Megan K. Stack, Updated Aug. 24, 2021. As a desperate U.S. effort to evacuate Americans from Afghanistan gained momentum on Monday, Taliban leaders rejected a suggestion from President Biden that American forces might remain past an Aug. 31 deadline to complete the operation, injecting fresh urgency into an already frantic process.

American officials are increasingly worried that even with the vast number of Afghans, Americans and people of other nationalities evacuated in recent days — a total of about 10,400 people in the 24 hours from Sunday to Monday alone, according to the White House — many still remain to be rescued. In recent days, that operation has increasingly focused on the Americans still left, over the Afghans who worked with the United States.

On Monday, a State Department official said that some former Afghan military interpreters or other close U.S. allies, a designated priority group for evacuations, were being turned away from the airport by American officials in order to give priority to U.S. passport and Green Card holders in recent days. The official was not authorized to brief the press, and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official’s account was supported by interviews with Afghans who have approached the airport in recent days, and with American veterans’ groups and other organizations that have tried to organize evacuations for interpreters and other Afghans at risk from the Taliban.

On Monday night, the State Department denied the accounts of Afghans’ being turned away. In a statement responding to questions from The New York Times, the department said, “Our overriding priority remains to put as many people as possible on departing planes as quickly as possible.”

There are still thousands of Americans, and a far larger number of Afghans who supported the two-decade war effort, believed to be stuck in a capital where signs of the Taliban tightening its grip were everywhere on Monday. Many people were hiding at home, terrified of encountering Taliban checkpoints on their way to the airport, according to interviews with The New York Times. Many more Afghan allies are still stranded in outlying cities and towns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan Live Updates: Taliban says Afghans are no longer allowed to flee country from Kabul airport; U.S. starts reducing troops at Kabul airport as Taliban deadline looms, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis and Adam Taylor, Aug. 24, 2021. The Taliban repeated Tuesday that it viewed the United States’ Aug. 31 deadline to depart from Afghanistan as final, even as the Biden administration is expected to decide whether to extend the evacuation mission.

“It was the American plan,” said Zabihullah Mujahid said at a news conference in Kabul. “They have the opportunity. They have all the resources. They can take all the people that belong to them.”

The Taliban was still allowing foreign nationals to leave, but Mujahid said that the group was stopping Afghan nationals from reaching the airport as it was dangerous and their skills were needed to rebuild the country. “We are asking the American please change your policy and don’t encourage Afghans to leave,” he said.

Other news:

  • Leaders in Afghan valley outside Taliban control ready to talk, but will fight if necessary
  • Group of Seven leaders to pledge coordination on handling Taliban

 

Larry Elder Screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, How Did Elder Become a Front-Runner in California’s Governor Race? Shawn Hubler, Aug. 24, 2021. Larry Elder, a conservative radio host who paints himself as the native son of a safer California, has drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

For a generation, Larry Elder, right, has been an AM radio fixture for millions of Californians, the voice they could count on when they were fed up with liberal Democratic politics. Undocumented immigrants? Deport them. Affirmative action? End it. Equal pay? The glass ceiling doesn’t exist.

Now Mr. Elder, a Los Angeles Republican who bills himself as “the sage from South Central,” could end up as the next governor of the nation’s most populous state. As the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom has become a dead heat among likely voters, Mr. Elder has emerged almost overnight as the front-runner in the campaign to replace him.

Fueled by a combination of arcane recall rules, name recognition and partisan desperation, his rise to the top of a pack of some four dozen challengers has stunned and unnerved many in both parties.

Democrats call him the agent of a far-right power grab. Republican rivals say he is an inexperienced, debate-dodging opportunist. Orrin Heatlie, the retired sheriff’s sergeant who is the recall’s lead proponent, said he and his fellow activists were voting for someone else.

This month, The Sacramento Bee and two Republican candidates — Kevin Faulconer, the former San Diego mayor, and Caitlyn Jenner, the television personality and former Olympian — demanded that Mr. Elder drop out of the race after an ex-girlfriend of his said he brandished a gun at her while high on marijuana during a 2015 breakup.

“We were having a conversation and he walked to the drawer and took out a .45 and checked to see that it was loaded,” Alexandra Datig, 51, said in an interview. Ms. Datig, who worked as an escort in the 1990s and now runs Front Page Index, a conservative website, said: “He wanted me to know he was ready to be very threatening to me. He’s a talented entertainer, but he shouldn’t be governor.”

Mr. Elder, 69, did not respond to requests for comment about Ms. Datig’s claims, but he did tweet that he has “never brandished a gun at anyone,” adding, “I am not going to dignify this with a response.”

The onslaught has come as a Sept. 14 election deadline nears. Ballots have been mailed to all active registered voters, asking whether the governor should be replaced, and, if so, by whom.

Constitutional scholars say Mr. Elder’s sudden ascent is an example of all that is wrong with the recall process, which requires a majority to oust a governor but only a plurality to replace one. Polls show a rout by Mr. Newsom among all Californians but a far tighter race among likely voters. Mr. Elder leads 46 challengers on the ballot with about 20 percent of the likely vote.

Mr. Newsom, whose fate rides on turnout, has made a foil of Mr. Elder, a “small-l libertarian” who reliably agitates the governor’s base with claims, for instance, that the minimum wage should be zero, the “war on oil” should be ended and racial preferences are destructive.

“The leading candidate thinks climate change is a hoax, believes we need more offshore oil drilling, more fracking, does not believe a woman has the right to choose, actually came out against Roe v. Wade, does not believe in a minimum wage,” Mr. Newsom has told supporters.

“Don’t paint me as some wild-eyed radical,” Mr. Elder said in a recent interview. “I’m running because of crime, homelessness, the rising cost of living and the outrageous decisions made during Covid that shut down the state.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Tennessee floods show a pressing climate danger across America: ‘Walls of water,’ Sarah Kaplan, Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed.).  Climate change will bring more deadly waves of water to the United States. Here’s what the country needs to do to be prepared.

Janet Rice never suspected that Trace Creek could get so high. It would take an ocean surging 500 miles from the coast to her rural town in middle Tennessee.

Then the weekend happened. More than 17 inches of rain fell in a single day on Saturday, overtopping the region’s many rivers and submerging places not previously considered floodplains within a matter of hours. Rice’s family business, a feed store that had stood for a century, was ripped in half. At least 21 people are dead, hundreds of homes are in shambles and the wreckage of people’s lives is strewn across the landscape.

“An ocean did come through,” Rice said.

Tennessee’s flash floods underscore the peril climate change poses even in inland areas, where people once thought themselves immune. A warmer atmosphere that holds more water, combined with rapid development and crumbling infrastructure, is turning once-rare disasters into common occurrences. Yet Americans, who often associate global warming with melting glaciers and intense heat, are not prepared for the coming deluge.

  • Photos: Record-breaking rain and flash floods devastate small towns in Tennessee
  • A catastrophic flash flood unfolded in Tennessee. Here’s how it happened.
  • Video: Harrowing stories of survival after flooding leaves a town in ruins

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Five reasons the Pfizer announcement could increase vaccine uptake, Leana S. Wen, right, Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Food and Drug leana wenAdministration on Monday granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for those 16 years old and above. This long-anticipated regulatory change marks a crucial turning point in the effort to increase vaccine uptake.

pfizer logoThere are five reasons. First, though many employers, universities and government entities have already implemented vaccine mandates, others have been waiting for this official stamp of approval. United Airlines, the Pentagon and universities from Louisiana to Minnesota have all said they will institute vaccine requirements after full approval. A school district in Culver City, Calif., has already mandated inoculation of eligible students.

I expect more schools to follow given the full approval, adding the coronavirus vaccine to the long list of childhood vaccinations that are already required for students to enroll.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Pfizer’s full FDA approval likely to boost vaccinations among 90 million hesitant, Aug. 24, 2021. Top public health officials are optimistic that a large swath of vaccine-hesitant Americans will be swayed by the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — which had previously received emergency use authorization — and by resulting mandates in the public and private sectors.

fda logoAnthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, said he estimates that about 20 percent of the U.S. population that is eligible for a shot but has yet to get one — a group of about 90 million — may be nudged by the approval. “I believe that those people will now step forward and get vaccinated,” he told NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

The FDA authorization spurred the Pentagon on Monday to announce that U.S. service members would soon have “actionable guidance” about a vaccine requirement. About 65 percent of the 1.3 million members of the U.S. military have been fully vaccinated.

  • France’s health watchdog recommends vaccine booster shots for people over 65
  • Afghanistan has enough vaccines to last one week; Biden administration to inoculate refugees

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia plans a path beyond ‘covid zero’ and snap lockdowns, Michael E. Miller, Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Unity is fraying and calls to reopen are growing louder as vaccinations surge. “This groundhog day has to end,” the prime minister said.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 201.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 24 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 171.1 million people fully vaccinated, 51.5 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 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: 213,521,861, Deaths: 4,457,874
U.S. Cases:     38,814,959, Deaths:    646,667
India Cases:     32,474,773, Deaths:    435,050
Brazil Cases:    20,583,994, Deaths:    574,944

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Workers Don’t Want Their Old Jobs on the Old Terms, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The pandemic disrupted many paul krugmanAmericans’ work lives. Some of us — generally highly educated white-collar workers with relatively well-paying jobs — were able to shift to remote work. Millions of other workers, especially many poorly paid service workers, simply saw their jobs disappear when consumers stopped eating out and traveling.

Now the economy is recovering — a recovery that will probably continue despite the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. But many Americans don’t want to go back to the way things were before. After a year and a half of working from home, many don’t want to return to the stress of commuting. And at least some of those who were forced into unemployment have come to realize how unhappy they were with low pay and poor working conditions, and are reluctant to go back to their previous jobs.

Associated Press via WTVA-TV, Contract medical workers arrive for Mississippi COVID surge, Emily Wagster Pettus, Aug. 24, 2021. More than 1,000 out-of-state medical workers were starting to deploy to 50 Mississippi hospitals Tuesday to help with staffing shortages as the state continues dealing with a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said 808 nurses, three certified nurse anesthetists, 22 nurse practitioners, 193 respiratory therapists and 20 paramedics were hired under 60-day contracts that could be extended, if needed.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency awarded contracts to four companies of the 19 that submitted bids when the state sought medical workers earlier this month. Reeves said the contract employees are being deployed within nine business days from when the state Health Department asked MEMA to seek the help.

“That, in my view, is an impressive feat,” Reeves said during a news conference Tuesday.

Mississippi will pay $80 million for the contracts, and Reeves said he expects the federal government to reimburse the state for the entire expense.

The Army and the Air Force are also each deploying medical contingents to work in Mississippi, with 43 people from each branch.

The Health Department on Tuesday reported 3,291 new cases of COVID-19 and 111 new deaths from the virus, bringing the state's coronavirus death total since the start of the pandemic to at least 8,158. Mississippi has a population of nearly 3 million and has reported nearly 417,000 COVID-19 cases since the spring of 2020.

Mississippi has seen a rapid increase in cases since early July, driven by the highly contagious delta variant of the virus and the state's low vaccination rate

  • Washington Post, Hawaii governor: ‘Now is not the time’ for tourists to visit, Timothy Bella, Aug. 24, 2021. Gov. David Ige's announcement does not prohibit travelers from visiting Hawaii, but the state, facing an overwhelmed hospital system, is working with businesses to “do what they could” to curb tourism.

Click2Houston.com, NRA cancels annual meeting in Houston next week due to COVID concerns, Ninfa Saavedra, Aug. 24, 2021./ The National Rifle Association announced Tuesday that it has canceled its annual meeting, which was set to be held in Houston next weekend, due to COVID-19 concerns.

nra logo Custom“Due to concern over the safety of our NRA family and community, we regret to inform you that we have decided to cancel the 2021 Annual Meeting and exhibits. The cancellation applies to all events and meetings that were scheduled in Houston,” the organization released in a statement on Twitter.

The meeting was scheduled to be at the George R. Brown Convention Center from Sept. 3 to Sept. 5.

The NRA meeting is known to welcome thousands of people from all over the world and involves many events, meetings and social gatherings.

The cancellation comes after Harris County and several other counties in Texas are experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection, Trump Allies

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

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

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Is Qanon driven by military-grade PSYOPs subliminal programming? Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), Aug. 24, 2021. There remains an wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalluncomfortable fact with Qanon. The amorphous freewheeling cult is not losing adherents but, in fact, gaining them as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Qanon might be dismissed if its only followers were uneducated individuals prone to believing whatever nonsense was slickly-presented to them by conniving masters of deception -- those like the charlatans who sell "prosperity gospel" religion and miracle "medical" cures. But that is not the case. Qanon believers include those with college educations, including people with advanced degrees, military and intelligence community veterans, and, yes and very wayne madesen report logounfortunately, journalists.

There are some indications that Qanon is the product of those who have expertise in military psychological warfare operations (psyops) and that large masses of people around the world are being manipulated and coerced for some end game. What is the goal?

Judging from the effects this potential psyop is having on political stability, the ultimate target may be democratic governance.

barry bennett djtWall Street Journal, Republican Lobbyist Barry Bennett Comes Under DOJ Scrutiny, Byron Tau, Aruna Viswanatha and Julie Bykowicz, Aug. 24, 2021. One-time Trump campaign senior adviser faces probe into whether he set up an undisclosed lobbying effort to embarrass Qatar’s adversaries, people familiar with the matter say.

wsj logoFederal prosecutors are investigating Barry Bennett, a Republican lobbyist and one-time unpaid campaign adviser to former President Donald Trump, over allegations that he secretly set up and funded a U.S.-based advocacy group without disclosing its ties to the government of Qatar, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Bennett, shown above at left in a 2016 file photo, founded his lobbying firm, Avenue Strategies, soon after Mr. Trump’s election and signed on to represent Qatar a few months later, according to the firm’s federal lobbying disclosure records. The tiny Gulf nation, which hosts a large U.S. Air Force base, was at the time embroiled in a diplomatic and political conflict with its regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

djt maga hatThe Embassy of Qatar paid Mr. Bennett’s firm about $3 million total between July 2017 and July 2018 for work that included developing “a long-term plan to create closer ties between the United States and the State of Qatar,” according to the records.

Prosecutors have presented evidence to a grand jury alleging that Mr. Bennett set up and funded a political group called Yemen Crisis Watch, according to the people familiar with the matter, as a way to embarrass Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., which at the time were enmeshed in a military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. That war has since left thousands dead and fueled what the United Nations described in 2019 as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Yemen Crisis Watch never registered with the U.S. government, as it would have been obligated to do under the Foreign Agents Registration Act if representing foreign interests. Mr. Bennett didn’t report that he set up and funded the organization, a review of FARA filings shows. Qatar gave Avenue Strategies $250,000 in October 2017 earmarked “for use in supporting the relief of humanitarian suffering in Yemen,” according to a lobbying document.

Mr. Bennett declined to comment. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment. The Qatar Embassy didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Yemen Crisis Watch had an active social-media presence in late 2017. A prominent evangelical minister and a Kansas Republican politician took up its cause, placing op-eds in a Washington newspaper and participating in a congressional briefing in late December. On Twitter, the group said it intended to “promote awareness of the atrocities and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen.”

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

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

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is what you’ve been waiting for, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 24, 2021. During a stretch of just a few hours yesterday, several big names in Trump bill palmerworld suddenly decided to loudly turn against several other big names in Trump world. It might have caught you off guard if you haven’t been paying attention these past few months. But in reality, everything we saw yesterday was the direct or indirect result of the incremental collapse of Trump world that we’ve been seeing throughout 2021.

bill palmer report logo headerYesterday it was revealed in court filings that Igor Fruman has decided to plead guilty, meaning he’s very likely going to cooperate in the prosecution of Rudy Giuliani. This didn’t come out of nowhere. Last week we brought you the news that the court-appointed special master phase of the criminal case against Giuliani was nearing completion, meaning his arrest could come within weeks. This meant that if Fruman was ever going to get a favorable deal, he’d have to do it now – and so he’s apparently doing just that.

Yesterday we also saw Alex Jones suddenly lash out at his hero Donald Trump, calling him a “dumbass.” Jones claimed it was in reference to Trump’s recent decision to finally recommend the COVID vaccine to his supporters. But given the timing, this is more likely about the fact that Jones’ top lieutenant Owen Shroyer was indicted over the weekend for his role in the insurrection that Trump incited. Now that Jones has to worry he’s about to be the next to get indicted for Trump’s insurrection, suddenly he’s lashing out at Trump in frustration. In other words, these past months of the Feds bringing January 6th-related charges against people incrementally further up the chain is finally prompting movement at the top.

Yesterday we also saw Roger Stone suddenly decide to reignite his long standing feud with Steve Bannon. But this probably didn’t just come out of nowhere, either. Stone now has to worry about Shroyer flipping on him, or Shroyer flipping on Jones who in turn could flip on Stone. And so now Stone is trying to change the subject by calling for Bannon’s arrest. Or just maybe this is Stone’s way of offering himself up as a witness against Bannon, in case Stone ends up needing to curry favor with prosecutors.

The thing is, the big movement we saw yesterday – the kind of stuff you’ve been waiting for – wasn’t spontaneous. It wasn’t as if these ongoing criminal cases and investigations were sitting dormant until they suddenly came to life yesterday. Rather, the details we’ve been steadily bringing you about these probes all year are what led to yesterday’s big fireworks. Even as the defeatists insist on referring to incremental progress as “nothing being done,” the reality is that Trump world is now eating itself alive, as a direct result of everything that has been done thus far in 2021.

owen shroyer

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge wants Justice Dept. to detail decision on charging Infowars host accused in Jan. 6 riot, Rachel Weiner, Aug. 24, 2021. Prosecutors say guidelines involving the media were followed in charging Jonathan Owen Shroyer.

A federal judge wants prosecutors to explain whether they considered a correspondent for the right-wing website Infowars a member of the media when charging him with participating in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui said in an order Tuesday that he is not questioning the decision to prosecute Jonathan Owen Shroyer, only whether the Justice Department followed its own protocols in doing so.

“The events of January 6 were an attack on the foundation of our democracy,” Faruqui wrote. “But this does not relieve the Department of Justice from following its own guidelines, written to preserve the very same democracy.”

Shroyer was arrested this week on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. Shroyer, prosecutors say, violated an agreement not to engage in such behavior that he signed after being removed from a 2019 impeachment hearing for heckling a Democratic lawmaker.

On the day of the riots, he marched with a crowd toward the Capitol shouting, “We aren’t going to accept it!” and later appeared on the building’s steps, prosecutors allege in court records.

Several people charged in the Capitol riot have described themselves as members of the press, but prosecutors have argued in the past that there is no evidence those defendants engaged in journalism. The government did not explain whether it concluded that Shroyer was not a member of the media.

Shroyer hosts a talk show on Infowars, which is banned by major social media platforms for promoting conspiracy theories. Like founder Alex Jones, he has falsely accused a pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington of harboring pedophiles and the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting of lying.

Justice Department guidelines require approval from the attorney general to investigate or charge a member of the news media with a crime, to ensure that law enforcement does not impinge upon freedom of the press. Those guidelines were recently strengthened after the Justice Department revealed that under President Donald Trump, records were secretly subpoenaed from several news organizations.
In a letter to the court, prosecutors say guidelines protecting the media have been “scrupulously followed.” But the government said the Justice Department is not required to detail that process for the court.

“Such inquiries could risk impeding frank and thoughtful internal deliberations within the Department about how best to ensure compliance with these enhanced protections for Members of the News Media,” wrote John Crabb, who leads the Criminal Division of the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, He Was the ‘Perfect Villain’ for Voting Conspiracists, Susan Dominus, Aug. 24, 2021. Eric Coomer had an election-security job at Dominion Voting Systems. He also had posted anti-Trump messages on Facebook. What happened next ruined his life.

dominion voting systemsThe Trump campaign and its allies have introduced more than 60 lawsuits claiming election fraud in this country, but no court has found persuasive evidence to support the idea that Coomer, Dominion or anyone else involved in vote-counting changed the election results.

Bipartisan audits of paper ballots in closely contested states such as Georgia and Arizona confirmed Biden’s victory; and prominent Republicans, including Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump’s official in charge of election cybersecurity, have reaffirmed the basic facts of the election: Over all, the results were accurate, the election process was secure and no widespread fraud capable of changing the outcome has been uncovered.

Joe.My.God, FCC Fines Jacob Wohl And Jack Burkman $5.1 Million, Joe MG, Aug. 24, 2021. First, a reminder about the case:

jacob wohl aug 2020Jacob Wohl, left, a conservative activist known for his largely bumbling attempts to stage political scandals, has been charged with running a robocalling scheme to spread false election information. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed four felony charges today against Wohl and his partner Jack Burkmanjack burkman w. They’re accused of targeting Detroit residents with calls that discouraged voting, including false claims that mail-in ballots would let health agencies “track people for mandatory vaccines.”

Wohl and Burkman allegedly targeted voters in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, making a total of around 85,000 calls in August. The calls claimed to come from a group called “Project 1599, a civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl,” and they were aimed at areas with large Black populations, urging them to not “be finessed into giving your private information to the man.”

And today, this.

‼️ Whoa! The FCC just announced a massive $5 million fine for illegal robocalling against conspiracy theorists John Burkman and Jacob Wohl pic.twitter.com/6ZPgpV0tLu

— Cristiano Lima (@viaCristiano) August 24, 2021

The pair are also facing a $2.75 million lawsuit from the NY AG https://t.co/IXQZydavHt

— Tonya Riley (@TonyaJoRiley) August 24, 2021

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as New York governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as New York governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).

ny times logoNew York Times, Kathy Hochul Is Sworn In as New York’s First Female Governor, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Aug. 24, 2021. Ms. Hochul, who succeeds Andrew Cuomo after his resignation, has vowed to usher in a new era of civility and consensus in state government.

Kathy C. Hochul, a former congresswoman from Buffalo, became the 57th governor of New York on Tuesday, making history as the first woman to ascend to the state’s highest office.

She was sworn in shortly after 10 a.m. at the State Capitol by the state’s chief judge, Janet DiFiore, in a ceremonial event in the building’s ornate Red Room, hours after she was officially sworn in at a private ceremony just after midnight. Her ascension capped a whirlwind chain of events that followed a series of sexual harassment allegations made against the outgoing governor, Andrew M. Cuomo.

Ms. Hochul, 62, assumes office three weeks after a state attorney general investigation concluded that Mr. Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women. A week later, Mr. Cuomo announced his resignation, bringing his 10-year reign to an abrupt end after rising to national fame during the pandemic last year.

Governor Hochul, a Democrat, has vowed to lead the state through a still surging pandemic and economic uncertainty, while ushering in a new era of civility and consensus in state government.

washington post logoWashington Post, In farewell speech, Cuomo derides investigation that led to his resignation as a ‘political firecracker,’ John Wagner and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The outgoing governor reiterated that his instinct was to fight sexual harassment allegations but he said that would lead to government paralysis.

andrew cuomo 2019New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), right, on Monday derided a report on allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women as a “political firecracker,” delivering a defiant farewell address on his final day in office before his resignation takes effect.

“The attorney general’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic, and it worked,” Cuomo said, reiterating that his initial instinct was to fight what he characterized as an “unfair and unjust” investigation of his actions.

But, he said, “prolonging this situation could only cause governmental paralysis, and that is not an option for you and not an option for the state, especially now.”

The governor’s taped valedictory, congratulatory speech did not specifically mention the women who have accused him of sexual harassment and the various county prosecutors now probing his conduct. He also did not address a variety of other federal and state investigations — including probes into how his administration handled nursing homes during the pandemic, whether state resources were used in the writing of his book about the crisis and how his administration provided preferential coronavirus tests for his relatives when they were scarce.

Cuomo announced plans to resign on Aug. 10 in an effort to head off a looming impeachment effort in the state Assembly that was triggered by an inquiry overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The investigation found that he also oversaw an unlawful attempt to exact retribution against one of his accusers.

washington post logonancy pelosi msnbc screengrabWashington Post, Analysis: House delays key vote on budget amid stalemate between Pelosi and centrist Democrats, Jacqueline Alemany, Aug. 24, 2021. Five centrists Democrats still resisted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) plan early Tuesday, setting up a potential floor fight on President Biden's domestic agenda.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Time to fold’: The rebels threatening Biden’s agenda are increasingly isolated, Greg Sargent, Aug. 24, 2021. The Sabotage Squad is still at it. As of early Tuesday morning, the nine conservative House Democrats working to derail the strategy that’s essential to passing President Biden’s agenda are still threatening to oppose a procedural vote that’s key to making that strategy work.

But their latest moves have left them increasingly isolated. And this illustrates not only the profound folly of their position, but some important larger dynamics animating the House Democratic caucus, and the party more broadly, as they seek to pass the most ambitious domestic agenda undertaken in decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Far Are Texans From Open Rebellion Against Greg Abbott? Mimi Swartz (an executive editor of Texas Monthly), Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed.). A law school classmate of our governor once insisted to me that Greg Abbott was more dangerous than his predecessor Rick Perry because he was smart. I would say that the events of the past few months lend considerable support to the first part of the sentence.

Greg Abbott CustomMaybe you heard that Mr. Abbott, right, tested positive for the coronavirus? One day before the news broke, he appeared at a crowded campaign event, maskless, shaking hands and posing for pictures. It was nice of him to let us know that he was feeling fine after getting the kind of care President Donald Trump received when he tested positive — those nifty monoclonal antibodies and all.

Yet for years, Mr. Abbott has denied federal funds toward a state expansion of Medicaid, which could help many Texans get access to health care (and, polls show, has the support of a majority of residents).

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is ridiculous, Shirley Kennedy, Aug. 24, 2021. It took over one year and hundreds of thousands of lives for former “president” Donald Trump to admit that Covid exists. Most of us never took Trump seriously anyway, but now his favored people do not take him seriously.

In fact, according to Jezebel, they booed him at his latest super spreader rally in Alabama. Who can blame them? He spent most of the latter part of his “administration” downplaying the virus, and when he got it himself, he told his followers that it “wasn’t so bad.” He neglected to tell them that none of them would ever have access to the treatments he received, but they believe everything he says no matter how ridiculous. Now, when they need to believe and do what he suggested, they “boo” him. Go figure. We always knew they were not too bright.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump created the very atmosphere in which he found himself. As a result of his reckless words, an August Fox poll revealed that 32% of Trump voters have no plans to get the vaccine. The same poll showed that while 86% of Biden voters have already been vaccinated, only 54% of Trump voters have followed suit. No wonder the variant is running wild. These people just do not get it. Unless and until we are all vaccinated, it will be difficult if not impossible to control this virus. Who wants to live under threat of Covid for the rest of their lives? Some of them are just too daft to know the difference between freedom and safety.

Many of these same people believe that requiring masks for students and teachers encroaches on their personal freedoms.

Trump really wreaked havoc on this country. All this nonsense about personal freedom being violated by doing something as simple as wearing a mask has been burned into the brains of those who follow him. Even when he tried to change his narrative, those beliefs are now so deeply imbedded that they laughed at him. Hope for our country returning to normal looks like a remote possibility. We can thank the lies and outrageous behavior of a man who never belonged in national office in the first place.

 

More On Afghanistan

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Afghanistan War Was Lost Before Biden Ended It, Michelle Goldberg, right, Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed.). In 2019, allied and government michelle goldberg thumbairstrikes in Afghanistan killed some 700 civilians, more than in any other year since the war’s start, according to the Costs of War Project, a group working to tally the human toll of America’s post-9/11 conflicts. U.S. and NATO airstrikes declined in 2020 after Donald Trump’s withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, but strikes by the Afghan Air Force increased.

“As a consequence, the A.A.F. is harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history,” Neta C. Crawford, the chair of the political science department at Boston University and a co-director of the Costs of War Project, wrote last year.

America is as responsible for them as it is for the Afghans who will die because of our mismanaged withdrawal. Amid the wrenching scenes of the war’s denouement, that’s easy to forget, especially when commentators pretend that the conflict Joe Biden inherited could have been maintained at little price.

ny times logoNew York Times, Airbnb says it will give temporary free housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees, Eshe Nelson, Aug. 24, 2021. The company said it was working with resettlement agencies. It did not specify how long refugees could stay in the apartments and houses.

As American and European governments race to evacuate tens of thousands of people, the property rental company called the displacement and resettlement of refugees a “significant humanitarian crisis.”

The cost of the accommodations will be covered with money from Airbnb and its chief executive, Brian Chesky, as well as contributions from the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund, which was begun in June with the goal of raising $25 million. The organization is working with resettlement agencies and offered to support federal and state governments.

ny times logoafghanistan air force 8 15 21 kuwait nydaily newsNew York Times, They Were Protectors in Afghanistan. Now They Need Help, Bhadra Sharma, Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed). Former soldiers from Nepal have long served as private security guards in war-torn Afghanistan. Amid the chaos, they worry that they can’t get home.

washington post logoWashington Post, Taliban sends hundreds of fighters to final province beyond its control, Steve Hendrix, Susannah George, Rachel Pannett and Haq Nawaz Khan, Aug. 24, 2021. The Taliban pushed into the last corner of Afghanistan remaining beyond the group's control Monday, sending hundreds of fighters to the outskirts of the northern Panjshir Valley and vowing to quash a fledgling resistance movement in the province.

Panjshir has long been an anti-Taliban stronghold, and in recent weeks, opposition leaders there, along with officials from the fallen government, have been trying to marshal forces to hold off the Islamist militant group.

The Taliban, having secured a grip on the rest of the country, has responded quickly, with the group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid saying in a statement Monday that resistance forces are “surrounded.” He added that the Taliban wants to avoid further fighting and to “resolve the issue peacefully through negotiations.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: He Blew the Whistle on the Catholic Church in 1985. Why Didn’t We Listen? Ben Proudfoot (an Emmy-winning filmmaker), Aug. 24, 2021.  Nearly 20 years ago, an investigation by The Boston Globe into sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests ignited a firestorm of scandal that has traveled around the world. For many Americans, these shocking revelations — especially of the related cover-ups by the church — came out of nowhere, almost like a bolt of lightning. But the sobering reality is that this bolt of lightning had been striking for at least 15 years.

In May 1985, Jason Berry, a Catholic journalist in Louisiana, wrote his first piece on child sexual abuse in the church, for the National Catholic Reporter and the Times of Acadiana. Mr. Berry called himself a “reluctant muckraker,” but his exposé on the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe would prove to be only the first in a series of exhaustive investigations over the years, including his 1992 book, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation.” Mr. Berry appeared on national television programs like “Donahue” and “Oprah,” arguing that child sexual abuse had become “the Watergate of the Catholic Church.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Commutes Sentences of 1981 Brink’s Robbery Participant and 4 Others, Michael Wilson and Jesus Jiménez, Updated Aug. 24, 2021, David Gilbert, who was serving a 75-year sentence for felony murder in the notorious Rockland County crime, will now be eligible for parole.

Mr. Cuomo cited Mr. Gilbert’s work in AIDS education and prevention while in prison, and as a teacher and law library clerk. “He has served 40 years of a 75-year sentence, related to an incident in which he was the driver, not the murderer,” Mr. Cuomo wrote on Twitter on Monday evening.

 

 

PRESUMED GUILTY
How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights
By Erwin Chemerinsky

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review: A Supreme Court That Has Gone Wrong, Melvin I. Urofsky, Aug. 24, 2021. In the mid-1980s, several scholars — including myself warren burger o— published analyses of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Warren Burger, right, comparing it with the preceding Earl Warren era, and nearly all of us concluded that there had not been much of a jurisprudential change.

The consensus was summed up in the subtitle of one book, The Counter-Revolution That Wasn’t. After reading Presumed Guilty, Erwin Chemerinsky’s stunning indictment of the Burger court, and of the Rehnquist and Roberts courts that followed, all of us would have to make major revisions if there were ever to be new editions.

As anyone teaching constitutional law or history can tell you, very few cases came before the Supreme Court prior to 1953 involving the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution, the ones that provide protections for people accused of crimes. In 1833, the Supreme Court had held that the Bill of Rights did not apply to the states, but starting in the 1920s, the court interpreted the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to “incorporate” the protections of the Bill of Rights and apply them to the states as well as the federal government. The criminal clauses were among the last to be adopted, and nearly all the major cases came during the years that Earl Warren, left, presided over the court (1953-69).

earl warrenThe Warren court is clearly the hero of Chemerinsky’s tale, in that for the first and only time in our judicial history a majority of the justices cared about the rights of the accused. The court, among other things, adopted the exclusionary rule banning evidence seized without a proper warrant, required states to provide lawyers for defendants who could not afford one and — perhaps most famously — required police to give the “Miranda” warning to those whom they detained.

These decisions caused an uproar among conservatives, and Richard Nixon promised that if elected he would appoint justices who favored law and order and the police rather than the criminals. Nixon got to name four men to the court — Burger, William Rehnquist, Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell — who, together with Byron White, a Kennedy appointee who was conservative on everything except racial discrimination, formed the majority that, while it never overturned any of the Warren court’s major decisions, began hollowing them out. With the appointments of Reagan, the Bushes and Trump, that process has continued unabated.

Following the death of George Floyd in May 2020, a great public outcry arose against police brutality, especially involving people of color, and demands that police cease using chokeholds, stopping Black men for no seeming reason and shooting dozens of people of color each year. While well known within the Black community, the extent of this type of behavior shocked many white people, leading them to join protests around the country.

What most people do not know is the extent to which this behavior has been condoned by the judicial system, and here Chemerinsky presents a damning indictment of the Supreme Court. In case after case, the nation’s highest tribunal has found that police actions, even when clearly in violation of constitutional prohibitions, are acceptable. The decisions have not only prevented citizens from getting injunctions against future use of such practices as chokeholds, they have also made it almost impossible for those who have been the victims of police brutality to win civil suits seeking compensation. As Chemerinsky declares, the court’s record “from 1986 through the present and likely for years to come, can easily be summarized: ‘The police almost always win.’”

Although Chemerinsky builds his argument case by case, this is not a dusty accounting where first the court did this, then it did that. Aside from the fact that he writes well, Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, is also an experienced advocate, having appeared before the court on many occasions, and also having served as a consultant to those police forces who either by choice or necessity have tried to overhaul their practices. He bolsters his argument with examples from his own experiences, and his telling of the cases always starts with the people involved. Some have been stopped, beaten up and hauled into jail for no other reason than that they were Black and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Chemerinsky is doubtful that with the current makeup of the court any meaningful reform of police practices will result from judicial action. But while the justices, who willfully ignore the racial implications of their cases, rule that police forces can get away with almost anything, their decisions are not binding should Congress or state legislatures, or even municipal governments, enact rules governing police misbehavior. A chokehold or a warrantless search may not, in the eyes of conservative justices, violate the Constitution, but they have never ruled that the Constitution requires such practices. Chemerinsky details a number of ways state and local governments can and should reform police procedures without having to go to court.

Whether the furor unleashed by Black Lives Matter will lead to state and city governments reforming their police departments is yet to be seen, but all lawmakers, in fact all concerned citizens, need to read this book. It is an eloquent and damning indictment not only of horrific police practices, but also of the justices who condoned them and continue to do so.

Melvin I. Urofsky is the author of “Dissent and the Supreme Court” (2015) and, most recently, “The Affirmative Action Puzzle” (2020).

Raw Story, Pastor gets 30 years in prison after setting up network of cameras to secretly film children getting undressed, Sky Palma, Aug. 24, 2021. A Texas pastor has been sentenced to three decades in prison for secretly filming children, some as young as 11, getting undressed and bathing at his church, the New York Daily News reports.

David Pettigrew and an accomplice set up multiple hidden cameras disguising them as hooks, clocks, charging blocks, a smoke detector, a picture frame, an air conditioner adapter and even a pen, according to charging documents from the Justice Department.

After being arrested last year, Pettigrew, 49 admitted to filming a child in his home and that he and his co-defendant secretly recorded multiple children at the Denison Church of the Nazarene in Grayson County.

Two websites and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children contacted authorities after he uploaded some of his footage to the internet. Pettigrew's accomplice, Chad Rider, is still fighting the charges. This Monday, a federal judge sentenced Pettigrew to 360 months in federal prison.

"David Pettigrew is a predator who used his position to exploit children for his own gratification," Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas Ganjei, of the Eastern District of Texas, said in a statement after the sentencing.

Newsweek, Over 300 California Recall Election Ballots Found in Passed Out Man's Car, Ewan Palmer, Aug. 24, 2021. Police in California are investigating why a man found passed out in a vehicle was in possession of more than 300 unopened recall election vote-by-mail ballots.

The suspect, who has not been identified, was discovered by Torrance Police inside a vehicle at a 7-Eleven parking lot on August 16.

As well as the ballots, officers also found Xanax pills on the suspect, a loaded firearm, thousands of other pieces of mail, a scale, and multiple California driver's licenses and credit cards in other people's names.

The suspect was arrested on several weapons, narcotics and forgery charges.

Giving an update on the investigation, Torrance Police confirmed that there were hundreds of ballots for the September 14 gubernatorial recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom among the thousands of pieces of stolen mail found in the car.

Officers are now trying to determine how and why the suspect was in possession of the ballots, but confirmed the incident is not tied to any additional thefts of election ballots.

"Investigators are trying to figure out how the election ballots ended up in the suspect's vehicle and what their intent was in having them," Torrance Police said in a statement. "In the meantime, those who were identified through this investigation will be receiving a new election ballot."
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Speaking to KABC, Sgt. Mark Ponegalek, with the Torrance Police Department, said some of the ballots were in a box, but were also "kind of strewn across the backseat" of the vehicle.

"The election ballots, they were un-tampered with, unopened, a little over 300 of them found, primarily from addresses in Lawndale," Ponegalek said. "There were some from Compton.

"We're still trying to figure out where all these belonged to at this time so we're working with the Los Angeles [county] election office as well as the U.S. Postal Inspector."

The Los Angeles County Registrar's confirmed that the recall election ballots had been sent out but not returned by voters. Officials said there is no indication the ballots were taken in an attempt to influence the result of the upcoming recall vote.

"There's nothing to indicate this was focused on the election," a spokesperson for the county registrar's office told KABC.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Sweden prime minister’s abrupt resignation upends the country and its politics, Reis Thebault, Aug. 24, 2021 (print ed.).  The front runner to replace him would be the first female premier and could face the same challenges in governing with no parliamentary majority

Swedish flagStefan Lofven has been a survivor. The Swedish prime minister navigated seven years of fractious politics and fragile governing coalitions. He hung on as the coronavirus pandemic devastated his country — its response coming under increasingly harsh scrutiny — and he recaptured his seat after being ousted in June.

Then on Sunday, with no warning, he resigned.

The surprise announcement sent a tremor through Swedish politics at an already turbulent time in Stockholm, with leaders in a divided government pressing to pass a budget proposal, national elections looming in 2022 and public support growing for a far-right party with neo-Nazi roots.

The 64-year-old Lofven, a former metalworkers union boss, said he was quitting for the good of his center-left Social Democratic Party, which long dominated the country’s parliament but now relies on alliances with rivals to maintain tenuous control.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why North Korea still has not begun covid vaccinations, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Min Joo Kim, Aug. 24, 2021.  A United Nations-backed vaccine distribution effort is making a renewed drive to offer up to 3 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine to the isolated nation.

 

Media, Technology News

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Study finds sites that mislead, not flat-out lie, attract record share of Facebook interactions, Cristiano Lima, Aug. 24, 2021. As overall engagement on Facebook dropped this year, sites that share news misleadingly are attracting a record-level share of the platform’s audience, according to a study shared exclusively with The Technology 202.

More than 1 in 5 interactions — such as shares, likes or comments — with U.S. sites from April to June happened on “outlets that gather and present breitbart logoinformation irresponsibly,” according to a report by the German Marshall Fund.

This includes outlets such as the Daily Wire, TMZ, the Epoch Times and Breitbart that researchers say “distort or misrepresent information to make an argument or report on a subject,” a metric determined by NewsGuard, a website cited in the study that rates the credibility of news sources. Researchers say these epoch timessources, which they argue spread subtler but still harmful forms of misinformation, are decidedly different from sites that publish overtly false news.

“These are the kinds of sites that will cherry pick anecdotes and are giving rise to vaccine hesitancy and other kinds of conspiracy theories,” said Karen Kornbluh, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative, a public policy think tank.

Researchers highlighted articles that they say “disproportionately amplify vaccine-hesitant voices over experts” and “fail to mention risks of not being vaccinated against covid-19,” such as a June story on football, titled, “NFL Wide Receiver Refuses Vaccine, Wants To ‘Represent’ Other Silent Players.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Charlie Watts, Bedrock Drummer for the Rolling Stones, Dies at 80, Gavin Edwards, Aug. 24, 2021. Mr. Watts, who had no taste for the life of a pop idol, was an unflashy but essential presence with the band and brought to it a swinging style.

 

Aug. 23

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Responses

 

Investigations

 

More On Afghanistan

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News

 

Global Disasters, Climate Change

 

Media News


Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine wins full FDA approval, potentially persuading the hesitant to get a shot, Ben Guarino, Laurie McGinley and Tyler Page, Aug. 23, 2021. The licensing of the first coronavirus vaccine will have wide-reaching effects, experts predicted, including a sharp pfizer logoincrease in vaccine mandates imposed by employers and universities.

Federal regulators Monday granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — a milestone that could help increase inoculation rates and spark a wave of vaccine mandates by employers and universities amid a surge of new cases and hospitalizations fueled by the ferocious delta variant, according to two individuals with direct knowledge of the decision.

The Food and Drug Administration action marks the first licensing of a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has swept the United States in repeated and punishing waves since early 2020, exhausting nursing staffs, filling intensive care units and raising fears among the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

Critics for weeks had demanded that the FDA move faster on approving the vaccine, arguing that the millions of inoculations administered since late last year under an emergency authorization demonstrated the shots’ safety and effectiveness. But even as the FDA redoubled its efforts, increasing staff and computer resources dedicated to the review, the agency insisted on six months’ follow-up data for people enrolled in the pivotal clinical trial.

ap logoAssociated Press via HuffPost, Pentagon To Mandate COVID-19 Vaccine, As Pfizer Is Approved, Lolita C. Baldor, Aug. 23, 2021. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the move is an effort to ensure the safety of service members. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making good on his vow earlier this month to require the shots once the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine. Kirby said guidance is being developed and a timeline will be provided in the coming days.

In a memo Aug. 9, Austin said he’d seek the president’s approval to make the vaccine mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon FDA licensure “whichever comes first.”

Kirby said the move is an effort to ensure the safety of service members. Concerns about the virus are especially acute in the military, where service members live and work closely together in barracks and on ships, increasing the risks of rapid spreading. Any large virus outbreak in the military could affect America’s ability to defend itself in any security crisis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Taliban says U.S. must depart by Aug. 31 as Biden reconsiders deadline, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis and Haq Nawaz Khan, Aug. 23, 2021. About 10,400 evacuated from Kabul on U.S. military flights in 24-hour period.

  • French special forces escort more than 250 E.U. staffers through Kabul to the airport for evacuation
  • U.N. agencies call for humanitarian aid to enter Afghanistan through U.S.-held airport
  • Firefight at Kabul airport kills one, German military says

A Taliban spokesman warned that the United States would be crossing a “red line” if the Biden administration keeps troops in Afghanistan past its declared Aug. 31 deadline.

The statement comes as British media reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is widely expected to ask President Biden to extend the deadline at Tuesday’s meeting of the Group of Seven nations.

“If they extend it, that means they are extending occupation. … It will create mistrust between us,” Suhail Shaheen told Sky News in an interview from Doha, Qatar, that was aired Monday. “If they are intent on continuing the occupation, it will provoke a reaction.”

Biden has said the United States may push back its Aug. 31 deadline to facilitate more evacuations, adding, “our hope is we will not have to extend.” The United States and its allies have evacuated roughly 37,000 people since the militants swept through the country this month on the heels of the U.S. military withdrawal.

washington post logoWashington Post, Taliban insists it will not shelter al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Ellen Francis, Aug. 23, 2021.  Here’s how the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan could affect al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The Taliban is seeking to dismiss fears that it would provide al-Qaeda with a safe haven in Afghanistan, 20 years after the United States launched a war to crush the extremist network that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“They are not present in Afghanistan in the first place,” a Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Naeem, said in an interview with Saudi Arabia’s al-Hadath TV that aired late Sunday. When pressed, he insisted that al-Qaeda now has no foothold in the country and no relationship with the Taliban — while noting there may be “family ties” between members of the two organizations.

This comes after back-and-forth comments from top U.S. officials in recent days about whether al-Qaeda remains in the country nearly two decades after U.S. airstrikes helped topple the Taliban for its role in sheltering al-Qaeda.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Afghanistan outcome is ugly. Biden was still right to say: Enough, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The United States is ej dionne w open neckhighly competent at fighting wars when the objective is clear, victory is the only option and a large share of the public supports the engagement.

Our country has rarely been good at sustained commitments in murky conflicts where the goal is a vague “political settlement” that is neither victory nor defeat.

We ought to have learned that lesson long ago. Afghanistan has taught it again. It’s why President Biden finally said: Enough.

Biden’s decision to withdraw is a cold, realpolitik judgment, as he underscored in remarks on Sunday. His prism, he said, rested on the questions: “Where are our national interests? Where do they lie?” However brutal the Taliban is, however reactionary and oppressive it might be toward women in particular and dissenters from its purist religious doctrines generally, U.S. interests would not be served by extending our military commitment any longer.

nancy pelosi mask

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Curveballs and obstacles’ face Pelosi this week as Democrats spar over $3.5 trillion budget plan, Tony Romm, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Pelosi's ambitious timeline has forced Democrats in recent days to reckon with a series of persistent, internal disputes. White House officials have tried to intervene and resolve tensions, but a group of centrists is dug in and vowing to challenge the House speaker’s plan.

House Democrats are preparing to take the first steps Monday toward adopting a roughly $3.5 trillion spending plan that would enable sweeping changes to the nation’s health care, education and tax laws, but new rifts among party lawmakers threaten to stall the package’s swift advance.

The budget blueprint encompasses many of Democrats’ most cherished policy promises from the 2020 campaign, including pledges to expand Medicare, rethink immigration, and spend new sums to combat climate change. Its adoption this week would inch Congress closer to delivering on President Biden’s broader economic agenda.

But the fate of that vote appears in doubt, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), shown above, continues to grapple with persistent political divides among her own fractious caucus. Despite wide-ranging support for some of the new spending, the party’s liberal and centrist wings remain at odds over how exactly to proceed, raising the potential for defections that Democrats simply cannot afford in a chamber where they hold only a slim advantage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The reconciliation bill is really about health care. And 2022, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 23, 2021. So much media coverage regarding the jennifer rubin new headshotbipartisan infrastructure bill and the reconciliation package has focused on the legislative process for passing the bills. The contents of those packages, however, have received scant attention — especially the reconciliation bill.

"Human infrastructure” and “Build Back Better” sound rather nebulous, but in truth, much of the appeal of that social spending bundle centers on health care. And it is there that Democrats’ hopes for 2022 primarily rest. They might consider calling it the “Build Health Care Better” plan.

The readout from the White House on a phone call between President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Saturday shows health care is top of mind for the party’s leaders. The readout lists “cut prescription drug costs” as the first in a list of elements of the “Build Back Better” program.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: After George Floyd’s murder, big business pledged nearly $50 billion for racial justice. Where is the money going? Tracy Jan, Jena McGregor and Meghan Hoyer, Illustrations by Luisa Jung, Aug. 23, 2021. After the murder of George Floyd ignited nationwide protests, corporate America acknowledged it could no longer stay silent and promised to take an active role in confronting systemic racism.

From Silicon Valley to Wall Street, companies proclaimed “Black lives matter.” JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon adopted the posture of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality and took a knee with bank employees. McDonald’s declared Floyd and other slain Black Americans “one of us.”

Now, more than a year after America’s leading businesses assured employees and consumers they would rise to the moment, a Washington Post analysis of unprecedented corporate commitments toward racial justice causes reveals the limits of their power to remedy structural problems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during Jan. 6 insurrection acted lawfully, police say, Justin Jouvenal, Aug. 23, 2021. An internal investigation has cleared a U.S. Capitol Police officer of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Ashli Babbitt during the siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6, the law enforcement agency announced Monday.

The Justice Department previously said that the officer would not face criminal charges in the killing of the 35-year-old California woman, who was shot as she tried to force her way through a set of doors deep inside the Capitol.

ashli babbittBabbitt, right, who was the only Capitol rioter fatally shot by police, was praised by former president Donald Trump in a statement earlier this month. In the statement, Trump said he had questioned why the officer who shot her was “getting away with murder.” White supremacists and other far-right groups have labeled Babbitt a martyr.

The probe by the U.S. Capitol Police exonerated the officer for his use of force. The department said in a news release outlining the investigation that the officer’s actions were within department policy, which allows deadly force only when an officer reasonably believes they are protecting themselves or others from serious physical harm.

The department said it was not identifying the officer because he and his family have been the subject of numerous and specific threats. The department interviewed multiple witnesses, and also reviewed video and radio calls, before arriving at its decision, according to the release.

“The actions of the officer in this case potentially saved members [of Congress] and staff from serious injury and possible death from a large crowd of rioters who forced their way into the U.S. Capitol and to the House Chamber where members and staff were steps away,” the department wrote in the release. Babbitt was among a mob of Trump supporters who used a flagpole, a helmet and other items to batter the barricaded doors to the Speaker’s Lobby, the hallway outside the House Chamber where some lawmakers were sheltering on the afternoon of Jan. 6.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Time to say it: We’re done with the vaccine refusers, Paul Waldman, right, Aug. 23, 2021. On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration paul waldmangranted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for covid-19, and approvals for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines could follow soon. This could be a significant step in convincing the millions of unvaccinated Americans to finally get vaccinated, even if it doesn’t quickly transform the state of the pandemic.

It’s also an opportunity for us to say to the hard core vaccine refusers: We’re done with you.

We’ll treat you when you come to the hospital, of course, because that’s how medicine works; while doctors and nurses dealing with the wave of covid patients caused by the delta variant might like to turn away anyone who refused to take a vaccine, they won’t. But it’s time to refocus our outreach efforts and our public and private pandemic policies so that accommodating, understanding, and pandering to the refusers is no longer one of our chief concerns.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Unvaccinated covid patients are straining hospitals like mine, where I had to turn a cancer patient away, Nitesh N. Paryani, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Nitesh N. Paryani is a radiation oncologist in Tampa and medical director of Tampa Oncology & Proton.

The unvaccinated are killing people in ways they probably never imagined.

As the delta variant spreads, hospitals in Florida, Alabama and other states have been filling with covid patients, almost all of them people who chose not to get vaccinated. As daily infections break records, intensive-care unit beds are scarce or nonexistent.

But the surge has also affected non-covid patients, such as the Texas shooting victim who had to wait more than a week for surgery. Louisiana stroke victims who can’t get admitted to hospitals. And the cancer patient I recently had to turn away.

On Aug. 3, I received a call from a hospital that does not have a cancer program. Such calls are routine at the regional referral center where I work. A doctor at the outlying hospital had a patient with metastatic brain cancer. She was unable to walk, and without urgent radiation treatments there was no hope for any meaningful recovery.
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Typically, I would authorize a transfer and start that patient’s treatment the same day. But conditions are no longer typical.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Full Approval of Pfizer Vaccine in U.S. May Spur Mandates, Aug. 23, 2021. The Food and Drug Administration pfizer logogave its full backing to the vaccine as early as Monday. Here’s the latest pandemic news.

  • The surgeon general said misinformation on social networks is damaging Americans’ health.
  • Taiwan begins using a homegrown vaccine after months of shortages in imports.
  • Health officials warn people not to treat Covid with a drug meant for livestock.
  • A hospital finds an unlikely group opposing vaccination: its workers.
  • A local government in Australia killed its impounded dogs over coronavirus fears.
  • Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas says he tests negative for coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live: 3rd Pfizer dose lowers risk of infection significantly for seniors, Israeli data shows, Adela Suliman and Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 23, 2021. Mike Vrabel tests positive for coronavirus after Titans’ joint practices and game with Bucs; As covid-19 surges in Mississippi, some people are ingesting a livestock dewormer.

ny times logoNew York Times, Workers at a Staten Island, N.Y., hospital are staging protests over their employer’s vaccine mandate, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Updated Aug. 23, 2021. When a Staten Island hospital implemented a vaccine or testing mandate, some of its staff staged angry protests.

Their movement started discreetly, just a handful of people communicating on encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Signal. But in just days it had ballooned tenfold. And within two weeks, it had turned into a full-blown public protest, with people waving picket signs to denounce efforts to push them to receive coronavirus vaccines.

But these were not just any vaccine resisters. They were nurses, medical technicians, infection control officers and other staff who work at a hospital in Staten Island, which has the highest rate of Covid-19 infection of any borough in New York City.

Outside Staten Island University Hospital this week, as passing cars and fire trucks honked supportively, employees chanted, “I am not a lab rat!”

The aggressive opposition to the vaccine, and even regular testing, at a hospital in New York City — the epidemic’s onetime epicenter — shows the challenges of reaching the unvaccinated when some of the very people who could serve as role models refuse vaccination.

Some medical workers at the Staten Island hospital are so fiercely opposed that they call themselves “The Resistance” after the rebel faction in “Star Wars.” They are defending what they view as their inherent rights, and their leader is gathering hospital workers from other states in an attempt to create a nationwide movement.

Scientists and medical professionals point out that those who refuse vaccines are potentially endangering the lives of patients. “Vaccinations are critical to protect our patients, our staff and protect the general community,” said Dr. Mark Jarrett, chief medical officer at Northwell Health, which is the state’s largest health care provider and runs Staten Island University Hospital. “It’s a tough issue, but it’s our professional obligation to always maintain that whatever we do, it’s for the safety of our patients.”

He said he is hopeful that imminent federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine will persuade some of the unvaccinated to get shots.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Far-right taking over the anti-vaxx, anti-public health crusade, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 23, 2021. Neo-Nazis and other far-right wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallanti-social elements around the world are moving to the forefront of the anti-vaccination, anti-masking, and anti-social distancing campaign as the world approaches the second year of the novel coronavirus -- Covid-19 -- pandemic.

In the United States, the dominant far-right elements of the Republican Party have taken the reins of the anti-public health movement.

In the United Kingdom, a new political party formed in 2020 to wage a battle against Britain's National Health System and the policies of the British, Scottish, Welsh, and English local council governments on handling Covid-19.

Neo-Nazis and white nationalists consider the Covid pandemic to represent the sort of "acceleration" event they have long desired to seize control of government.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Weekly Pandemia Forum, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 23-27, 2021. America has always respected and honored its doctors, nurses, wayne madesen report logoEMTs, medical examiners, and scientists. It's time to return to that conduct (as illustrated by clips from iconic television and film portrayals from the past five decades).

ny times logoNew York Times, Cruise Passenger Dies From Covid, Testing Industry Plans, Ceylan Yeginsu, Aug. 23, 2021. The passenger and 26 crew members aboard the Carnival Vista tested positive for the coronavirus and the passenger later died. The company says its protocols successfully stopped further spread.

As the highly contagious Delta variant surges across the world, the health and safety protocols established for cruise ships are being put to the test. Over two weeks in late July and early August, 27 coronavirus infections were identified aboard the Carnival Vista cruise ship sailing out of Galveston, Texas.

One of those infected, a passenger, later died.

It was the highest number of cases aboard a ship reported since June, when cruises restarted in the Caribbean and United States, and the first death.

The passenger and 26 crew members were immediately isolated after testing positive for the virus. Contact tracing and further testing was conducted, with no new cases reported by Aug. 11, when the ship arrived at the port of Belize City on the northeastern coast of Central America, Carnival said.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ron DeSantis goes Lord of the Flies, Bocha Blue, Aug. 23, 2021.  Have you seen the excellent film, Lord of the Flies? Or perhaps you’ve read the book of the same title. No book or film does it better in showing the horrific consequences of groupthink (although another film, The River’s Edge, is also quite powerful on the subject.)

bill palmer report logo headerGroupthink can and is often deadly. All we have to do is look back in time to see that. We saw it in Germany with Hitler. We saw it in Salem, Massachusetts, with the witch trials. I could go on. But now we see it in the form of loathsome politicians who seem to be spreading their angry and destructive rhetoric to others, and nobody is safe from it. Just ask America’s worst Governor, Mr. Ron DeSantis.

twitter bird CustomDeSantis (incompetent, insurrection party, Florida) is all over the news and not in any good way. But now, his press secretary is making her own news, proving the unique and evil power of groupthink once again.

Christine Pushaw is the bombastic Governor’s press secretary. And right now, she is in a bit of trouble. An AP reporter had written a story on Regeneron that apparently irked the DeSantis crowd. So Pushaw, proving what an idiot she is, promptly tweeted to her supporters about AP and told them to “light them up.”

Of course, the reporter started receiving threats from Pushaw’s good little foot soldiers. Pushaw did eventually delete the tweet, but it was too late. The damage had been done. Twitter got involved and suspended the vile woman. Good for them!

Of course, expulsion would have been better, but at least there were some consequences.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 201.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 23 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 170.8 million people fully vaccinated, 51.4 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 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: 212,760,857, Deaths: 4,447,897
U.S. Cases:     38,545,144, Deaths:    645,058
India Cases:     32,449,306, Deaths:    434,784
Brazil Cases:   20,570,891, Deaths:     574,574

 

Recent Previous Reports:

 

Investigations

 

Biden National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the White House briefing room podium (File Photo)

Biden National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the White House briefing room podium (File Photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How the U.S. Exit from Afghanistan Unraveled, Miscue by Miscue, Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, Julian E. Barnes and Lara Jakes, Updated Aug. 22, 2021. Interviews with key participants in the last days of the war show a series of misjudgments that led to the current mayhem.

The nation’s top national security officials assembled at the Pentagon early on April 24 for a secret meeting to plan the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. It was two weeks after President Biden had announced the exit over the objection of his generals, but now they were carrying out his orders.

In a secure room in the building’s “extreme basement,” two floors below ground level, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, right, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with top White House and intelligence officials. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken joined by video conference. After four hours, lloyd austin resized uniform filetwo things were clear.

Department of Defense SealFirst, Pentagon officials said they could pull out the remaining 3,500 American troops, almost all deployed at Bagram Air Base, by July 4 — two months earlier than the Sept. 11 deadline Mr. Biden had set. The plan would mean closing the airfield that was the American military hub in Afghanistan, but Defense Department officials did not want a dwindling, vulnerable force and the risks of service members dying in a war declared lost.

Second, State Department officials said they would keep the American Embassy open, with more than 1,400 remaining Americans protected by 650 Marines and soldiers. An intelligence assessment presented at the meeting estimated that Afghan forces could hold off the Taliban for one to two years. There was brief talk of an emergency evacuation plan — helicopters would ferry Americans to the civilian airport in Kabul, the capital — but no one raised, let alone imagined, what the United States would do if the Taliban gained control of access to that airport, the only safe way in and out of the country once Bagram closed.

The plan was a good one, the group concluded.

Four months later, the plan is in shambles as Mr. Biden struggles to explain how a withdrawal most Americans supported went so badly wrong in its execution. On Friday, as scenes of continuing chaos and suffering at the airport were broadcast around the world, Mr. Biden went so far as to say that “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or what it will be that it will be without risk of loss.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Hospitals and Insurers Didn’t Want You to See These Prices. Here’s Why (Interactive), Sarah Kliff and Josh Katz, Produced by Rumsey Taylor, Aug. 22, 2021. Getting simple medical care at some hospitals can cost more with insurance than without.

This year, the federal government ordered hospitals to begin publishing a prized secret: a complete list of the prices they negotiate with private insurers.

The insurers’ trade association had called the rule unconstitutional and said it would “undermine competitive negotiations.” Four hospital associations jointly sued the government to block it, and appealed when they lost.

They lost again, and seven months later, many hospitals are simply ignoring the requirement and posting nothing.

But data from the hospitals that have complied hints at why the powerful industries wanted this information to remain hidden.

It shows hospitals are charging patients wildly different amounts for the same basic services: procedures as simple as an X-ray or a pregnancy test.

And it provides numerous examples of major health insurers — some of the world’s largest companies, with billions in annual profits — negotiating surprisingly unfavorable rates for their customers. In many cases, insured patients are getting prices that are higher than they would if they pretended to have no coverage at all.

At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a colonoscopy costs:

  • $1,463 with a Cigna plan.
  • $2,144 with an Aetna plan.
  • $782 with no insurance at all.

Until now, consumers had no way to know before they got the bill what prices they and their insurers would be paying. Some insurance companies have refused to provide the information when asked by patients and the employers that hired the companies to provide coverage.

This secrecy has allowed hospitals to tell patients that they are getting “steep” discounts, while still charging them many times what a public program like Medicare is willing to pay.

ny times logoNew York Times, Turmoil Was Brewing at Time’s Up Long Before Cuomo, Jodi Kantor, Arya Sundaram, Melena Ryzik and Cara Buckley, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The prominent anti-harassment charity, criticized for its relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is facing a crisis over its ties to those in power.Nearly four years ago, moving with resolve after the global #MeToo explosion, some of the country’s most famous women formed a new charity, Time’s Up, to fight sexual harassment in the workplace. Their collective power, funds and aspirations offered the promise of real progress.

Now the organization is in an “existential crisis,” its vice chairwoman told the staff. A group of abuse victims said they felt betrayed. Some board members are privately questioning whether Time’s Up will survive.

The turmoil was set off by the sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Time’s Up ally, and revelations that his office had relied on the counsel of the group's leaders as the accusations emerged.

andrew cuomo 2019Time’s Up was built on a bold premise: Ultra-connected women would pool their access and influence to push for gender equity. But even before the allegations against Mr. Cuomo, left, confusion and controversy had been building inside the group over its leadership’s ties — and help — to those in power, according to interviews with dozens of current and former board members, employees and other advocates, as well as a review of internal documents.

Some of them feared that the high-level connections at the heart of the group’s strategy compromised its credibility, or made the powerful more of a priority than the ordinary women Time’s Up was meant to help.

“We have, obviously, a broken-trust moment and a real examination, after three and a half years, of whether this is the right way to work,” Tina Tchen, the chief executive, said in an interview. She and others are wondering whether the group’s model can still be tenable. “I’m open to the answer.”

Where to draw the line has come up again and again. In spring 2020, Ms. Tchen, an Obama administration veteran, helped hold back a letter from women’s groups prodding Joseph R. Biden Jr. to respond more quickly to a sexual misconduct allegation — even as she raised funds for his campaign as a private citizen.

About the same time, after Ms. Tchen discussed a new for-profit consulting arm that could allow her and others to advise corporations, including those facing abuse accusations, board and staff members grew concerned, according to meeting notes. The plan never moved forward.

In the small, underfunded world of women’s charities, Time’s Up was an outlier. Its founders included Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey; Ms. Tchen, its leader since 2019, had been Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. The organization’s connections, and $24 million GoFundMe campaign, were its selling point. But some of the group’s power players — including Roberta Kaplan, who stepped down this month as chairwoman in the Cuomo fallout — became entangled in questions about conflicts of interest.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative Bill Kristol endorses McAuliffe in race for Virginia governor, Laura Vozzella, Aug. 23, 2021. The longtime commentator and Trump critic calls Republican Glenn Youngkin too “Trumpy.”

Bill Kristol is just like all the other disaffected Virginia Republicans whom gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin needs to win over, only famous.

The longtime conservative commentator, who settled in Northern Virginia three decades ago to join the Reagan administration, split with the GOP over President Donald Trump. With Trump out of the White House, Kristol says he’s ready to support “non-Trump Republicans.” But Kristol does not put Youngkin, a former terry mcauliffe oCarlyle Group executive, in that category. On Tuesday, he will formally endorse Democrat Terry McAuliffe, right, a former governor seeking a comeback.

“He’s a moderate Democrat, and he’s not going to shut down Virginia’s business success, economic success and so forth. He’s the kind of Democrat I’m comfortable supporting,” Kristol said in an interview Monday, when he criticized Youngkin’s “reckless” public health and tax policies as much as his embrace of Trump.

Kristol is one of 17 Republicans who endorsed McAuliffe on Tuesday in a coordinated rollout that the campaign bills as a sign of the former governor’s bipartisan appeal.

“I am proud to be building an unmatched, broad coalition of leaders who share my vision to move Virginia forward,” McAuliffe, who held the office from 2014 to 2018, said in a written statement.

Youngkin’s campaign was dismissive of Kristol’s endorsement. “A 43-year political boss like Terry McAuliffe trotting out the endorsements of fellow political grifters is neither impressive nor surprising,” Youngkin spokesman Matt Wolking said in a statement. “It exemplifies McAuliffe’s old and tired way of doing things that has failed Virginia.” Wolking said Youngkin has “tremendous support from Republicans AND Democrats, along with 16 different coalitions including Latinos, Blacks, Farmers, Firefighters, and Students.”

Youngkin has found himself in a corner when it comes to Trump, who lost the state by 10 points but remains highly popular with the GOP base. Trump endorsed Youngkin after he won the Republican nomination in May and followed up with two statements lauding him. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, headlined a fundraiser for Youngkin in Virginia Beach last week.

 

More On Afghanistan

ny times logoNew York Times, Did the War in Afghanistan Have to Happen? Alissa J. Rubin, Aug. 23, 2021. In 2001, the Taliban were ready to surrender, but the U.S. passed on a deal. Now the extremists hold all the cards,

ny times logoNew York Times, As mayhem persisted at Kabul’s airport, the Taliban reached out to a former Afghan president about a new government, Roger Cohen, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The militants have engaged the former officials Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, as well as Moscow, to seek help in building an “inclusive” government while cementing their rule.

Recent Headlines

afghanistan air force 8 15 21 kuwait nydaily news

 Hundreds of Afghan citizens are shown aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane departing Kabul airport on Aug. 15. (Air Mobility Command Public Affairs Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock); Washington Post, U.S. Air Force crew actually flew more than 800 people in that aircraft departing Kabul.

 

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 New York Judges Ordered Defendants to Get Vaccinated. Can They Do That? Jonah E. Bromwich, Aug. 23, 2021. The judges’ unusual orders came as the city confronts the Delta variant and a sizable portion of the population appears resistant to being vaccinated.

The defendant was charged with a number of minor crimes, including drug possession and shoplifting. He was prepared to plead guilty, and prosecutors agreed. But a Bronx judge approving the deal added his own unusual condition.

The defendant had to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

A week later, a Manhattan judge made the same order, this time of a woman seeking bail before a trial.

Neither defendant appeared to object. But legal observers said the two judges’ orders — made in different courts and for different reasons — raise important questions about the line between civic responsibility and civil liberties.

A number of experts who reviewed the orders disagreed as to whether they were justified, or whether or one or both could represent an overstep — a debate that underscores the legal and ethical complications that have emerged around vaccination requirements.

washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys leader Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio sentenced to five months in jail, Paul Duggan, Aug. 23, 2021. Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, a national leader of the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence, was sentenced Monday to five months in jail for two crimes, including setting fire to a stolen Black Lives Matter banner during a tumultuous demonstration in Washington a month after the election defeat of President Donald Trump.

Noting that the Constitution protects the right to protest, D.C. Superior Court Judge Harold L. Cushenberry Jr. said Tarrio’s conduct in the Dec. 12 demonstration “vindicated none of these democratic values. Instead, Mr. Tarrio’s actions betrayed them.”

The banner was stolen from Asbury United Methodist Church, a historical Black church at 11th and K streets NW, as far-right protesters marched in Washington in support of Trump’s effort to falsely delegitimize President Biden’s election victory. Tarrio pleaded guilty last month to burning the banner and to a charge of attempted possession of a high-capacity ammunition magazine.

“That day I made a grave mistake, a very, very bad mistake,” Tarrio, 37, said, appearing in court via video from Miami, where he lives. Wearing glasses and a patterned leisure shirt and occasionally sipping from a water bottle, he sat mostly expressionless throughout the half-hour proceeding.

“I’d like to profusely apologize for my actions,” he said, before Cushenberry sentenced him to 155 days in the D.C. jail. The judge rejected defense lawyer Lucas Duncie’s request for a sentence of community service, to be performed in Miami.

The judge ordered Tarrio to report to the jail within two weeks.

In a victim impact statement, Asbury’s senior pastor, the Rev. Ianther M. Mills, wrote of the “emotional and psychological impact” of the banner-burning on the church’s “aging congregation, many of whom, if not part of it themselves, are direct descendants of individuals who traveled north during the Great Migration” in the early and mid-20th century, when millions of African Americans fled oppression in the Jim Crow South.

“They migrated here in search of opportunity, but also to escape the stress, fear and anxiety of terror, including acts of social and racial injustice,” Mills wrote.

“Imagine, if you please, a marauding band of seemingly angry white men moving about the city, apparently looking for trouble,” she added. “Now imagine the images conjured up in the minds of Asbury’s congregants as a result of these white men burning the BLM banner: visions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, cross burnings. . . . ”

When he pleaded guilty on July 19, Tarrio said in court that if he had “known that the banner came from a church, it would not have been burned.” Authorities said the banner was stolen by “unidentified members” of the Proud Boys before being set afire on a street corner. Tarrio was not charged in the theft.

“Mr. Tarrio does not seem to have yet fully accepted responsibility,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul V. Courtney told the judge Monday. “Now he denies knowing that the banner came from a church at all, even though there is video that shows him standing on the church’s lawn . . . at the time other members of the Proud Boys were stealing and marching with the banner.”

The Dec. 12 demonstration, when several far-right groups roamed through downtown Washington, fighting with counterprotesters and others, was a prelude to the violent unrest of Jan. 6, when a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol, trying to stop Congress from confirming Biden’s election victory.

During a previous court hearing, Courtney said the plea agreement under which Tarrio was sentenced does not “prevent the government from bringing different or additional charges” against him in the future “based on his conduct on January 6th, 2021, or any other time.”

Tarrio, who has not been charged in the Jan. 6 riot, has denied being involved in planning the assault on the Capitol.

owen shroyer

washington post logoWashington Post, Infowars host Owen Shroyer wanted a ‘new revolution’ on Jan. 6, feds say. Now he’s charged in the Capitol riot, Jonathan Edwards, Aug. 23, 2021. The day of the U.S. Capitol riot, Infowars host Owen Shroyer, above, led a crowd from the spot where President Donald Trump had just given a speech encouraging his supporters to “fight like hell,” authorities said. As they marched to the Capitol, the right-wing talk show host allegedly told the masses why they were going.

“Today we march for the Capitol because on this historic January 6, 2021, we have to let our Congressmen and women know, and we have to let Mike Pence know, they stole the election,” Shroyer told them, according to a federal criminal complaint filed Thursday. “We know they stole it, and we aren’t going to accept it!”

After they arrived, Shroyer called into a live broadcast on the right-wing Infowars website, telling listeners the pro-Trump protesters had taken the Capitol grounds, FBI agent Clarke Burns wrote in an affidavit. Shroyer reported that members of the group had surrounded and climbed onto the actual Capitol building, the document states.

“We literally own these streets right now,” Shroyer said in the video, according to court records.

Shroyer, who lives in Texas, was charged on Thursday with two federal crimes in connection with the Jan. 6 riot: illegally entering a restricted area on Capitol grounds and disorderly conduct. In a video posted to the Infowars website, Shroyer said he plans to turn himself in on Monday morning. Shroyer could not be reached for comment early Monday, and no lawyer was listed for him in federal court documents.

Shroyer has publicly denied any wrongdoing. In a video posted Sunday to the Infowars website, the host said he and his crew never entered the Capitol and did not go around or jump any barricades as they walked the grounds. And, Shroyer added, no police officers or other authorities tried to stop them.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Father and Sons Are Charged in $21 Million Lottery Fraud, Neil Vigdor, Aug. 23, 2021. Ali Jaafar and his sons Mohamed and Yousef cashed in more than 13,000 Massachusetts lottery tickets, prosecutors said, allowing the actual winners to potentially avoid paying taxes or child support.

No statistical model could explain it, and when a Massachusetts man and his two sons cashed in more than 13,000 winning lottery tickets worth nearly $21 million over eight years, federal prosecutors and lottery officials said it was anything but luck.

“A statistician will say that there’s some astronomical odd,” Michael R. Sweeney, the executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery, said in an interview. “But the reality is, it’s zero.”

In a 19-page indictment that was unsealed on Monday in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Ali Jaafar and his sons Mohamed Jaafar and Yousef Jaafar were collectively charged with more than a dozen counts of fraud, money laundering and tax evasion for taking part in what the authorities say was a ticket-cashing scheme. A vast majority of the tickets were the scratch-off type that are typically sold at convenience stores, prosecutors said.

From 2011 to 2019, according to the indictment, the Jaafars claimed the prizes on behalf of the actual winners, who potentially avoided having their winnings garnished for unpaid taxes or child support, a requirement for any prize over $600 in Massachusetts.

The Jaafars then falsely reported six- and seven-figure gambling losses on their tax returns, allowing them to drastically reduce the taxes they paid on the winnings, prosecutors said.

The family had previously raised the suspicions of lottery officials in Massachusetts, where prosecutors said that Ali Jaafar, 63, of Watertown, Mass., was the “top individual lottery ticket casher” in 2019. Mohamed Jaafar, 31, of Watertown and Waltham, Mass., ranked third that year, and Yousef Jaafar, 28, of Watertown was fourth.

The Massachusetts State Lottery Commiss

ny times logoNew York Times, Witness Says R. Kelly Offered Fame for Sex: ‘I Just Wanted to Sing,’ Troy Closson and Emily Palmer, Aug. 23, 2021. The second accuser to testify against the disgraced R&B star said she was 17 when the singer pressured her for sex, as the second week of Mr. Kelly’s trial began.

When Zel was a 17-year-old aspiring singer, she was eager to meet R. Kelly, right, she said, and hoped that the R&B star could help jump-start her professional r kelly twittercareer.

She received his phone number at a music festival and was told she could audition for him, she said. But after she arrived at his hotel, Mr. Kelly was interested in only sex, Zel, who testified under a pseudonym, told jurors as the second week of Mr. Kelly’s criminal trial began in New York.

Zel said that Mr. Kelly told her that he needed to relieve himself sexually before she began to sing. “I was against it — I told him I did not come to please him,” she said. “He continued to persist and told me I didn’t have to do anything, just to take off my clothes.”

As Mr. Kelly’s pressure continued, Zel, who had told him that she was 18, told jurors that she acquiesced and allowed the entertainer to perform a sex act on her. He told her that if she agreed, he would allow her to audition — and would “take care of me for life,” she testified.

“I didn’t necessarily care for that,” she said. “I just wanted to sing.”

As she recounted the story of her first meeting with Mr. Kelly, Zel, who is now 23, became the second accuser to take the stand against Mr. Kelly at the trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. She previously defended the singer publicly as recently as 2019, even as claims against him mounted, but later made her own accusations of sexual and physical abuse. She testified under a pseudonym because of privacy concerns, and her real name does not appear in court records.

Another woman, Jerhonda Pace, told jurors last week that she and Mr. Kelly started a six-month sexual relationship when she was 16 and testified that the artist had physically abused her, including once choking her until she passed out, after she failed to abide by one of the strict restrictions he demanded guests follow.

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly Trial: Key Moments From Week 1, Emily Palmer, Aug. 23, 2021. For decades, allegations of sexual misconduct have followed R. Kelly. But not until Wednesday, on the first day of his long-awaited criminal trial, did one of his accusers take the witness stand to testify against the disgraced R&B superstar.

Jerhonda Pace was only 16 when Mr. Kelly began having sex with her — and when she told the singer, he seemed unconcerned, she testified. Across two days of searing testimony, Ms. Pace, one of Mr. Kelly’s most vocal accusers, opened what is expected to be a four-week trial focused on accusations that the singer used his fame — and a sizable group of employees and associates — to recruit women and girls for sex.

Ms. Pace is one of six women whose encounters with Mr. Kelly are at the center of the government’s case. Mr. Kelly, who is on trial in federal court in Brooklyn, is charged with one racketeering count and eight violations of an anti-sex trafficking law known as the Mann Act. Four of the women are expected to testify.

The four lawyers who make up Mr. Kelly’s defense team argue that the criminal enterprise he is accused of leading was simply the operation of a successful music company. They have painted his accusers as disgruntled or jealous fans, and the relationships as consensual.

Mr. Kelly has been on trial before. In 2008, he was acquitted of child pornography charges after his accuser declined to testify. Now, against the backdrop of the MeToo movement, several women will speak against him in court for the first time.

This is what happened during the first week of Mr. Kelly’s trial.

  • New York Times, Ex-Manager Says R. Kelly Thought Aaliyah, 15, Was Pregnant With His Baby, Aug. 20, 2021
  • New York Times, R. Kelly Knowingly Infected Accusers With Herpes, They Say, Aug. 19, 2021

 washington post logoWashington Post, Portland protests descend into violence as opposing groups clash with paintballs, weapons, chemical spray, Andrew Jeong, Aug. 23, 2021. 
Protests in Portland turn violent as left- and right-wing activists clash.

Hundreds of far-left and far-right demonstrators clashed in Portland, Ore., on Sunday afternoon, firing paintballs, spraying chemicals and destroying property.

Police have not reported any deaths or injuries. But footage from the two areas where the demonstrations occurred showed gunshots being fired, people being shoved to the ground and some protesters breaking the windows of parked vehicles. Images showed at least one person surrendering to law enforcement officials where the shots had been fired. Dennis G. Anderson, 65, was charged with unlawful use and possession of a firearm shortly after the shooting, police said.

The clashes came on the anniversary of similar competing protests a year ago, after the murder of George Floyd. In that incident, a far-right protester was shot and killed after demonstrators and counterprotesters clashed. An anti-fascist activist suspected of the shooting was later killed in a confrontation with police.

 

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

CNNCNN, Arizona's sham election 'audit' report delayed after Cyber Ninjas CEO and others test positive for Covid-19, Eric Bradner and Stephanie Becker, Aug. 23, 2021. Arizona election official reacts to 'check your six' threat from Republican. The report detailing the findings of contractors who conducted Arizona's sham "audit" of last year's election results -- which had been expected Monday -- will be late because three of the five members of the auditing team have tested positive for coronavirus, the state's Republican Senate leader says.

Cyber Ninjas Chief Executive Officer Doug Logan, whose firm was hired by the Republican-led Arizona Senate to audit the 2.1 million votes cast in Maricopa County in 2020's presidential race, and two other members of the five-person audit team tested positive "and are quite sick," Senate President Karen Fann said in a statement.

Logan and other members of his team were often seen during the recount process without masks. It is not clear whether those who tested positive had been vaccinated. CNN reached out to Cyber Ninjas requesting comment.

Elections experts in both parties have said for months that results of the "audit" -- pushed for by Republican lawmakers and conducted by the Florida-based company, which had no experience auditing election results and whose chief executive, Logan, has repeated wild conspiracy theories about election fraud -- will not be credible.

Fann said senators are receiving "a portion of the draft report" Monday but did not detail which portion and what will be left out. Fann also said senators want the envelopes that contained ballots mailed in last year included in the final report -- but got the images of those envelopes from Maricopa County too late.

"In addition to the illnesses, it wasn't until Thursday that the Senate received the images of the ballot envelopes from Maricopa County and are hoping to have those analyzed as soon as possible to incorporate those results into the final report," Fann said in a statement. "The Senate legal team will meet Wednesday to start reviewing the draft report, and when the remainder of the draft is submitted, the Senate team will hold another meeting to continue checking for accuracy, clarity, and proof of documentation of findings. Once that is complete, the final report will be presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee and findings released to the public."

Last week, Maricopa County officials said they'd already sent the images to the Cyber Ninjas review team in the past and were simply resending them. Randy Pullen, a spokesman for the Senate-sponsored audit, told CNN that the ballot images would not be handled by Cyber Ninjas.

The report was due to the Senate -- but it could be weeks or months before its results are revealed to the public. Fann and a team selected by Senate Republicans planned to review the report.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has lost control of his own monster, Bill Palmer, Aug. 23, 2021. From the very start, Donald Trump’s entire foray into politics bill palmerhas been based on calculated lies aimed at misleading, appealing to, and radicalizing America’s worst and weakest. Lies about Obama’s birthplace. Lies about Hillary’s emails. Lies about Biden’s son. Lies about COVID. Lies, lies, lies.

The trouble is, if you foment false narratives for long enough, those lies become gospel in the minds of your followers – and even you may not be able to undo it. During his rather pathetic rally this weekend, Trump belatedly “recommended” the COVID vaccine to his supporters. Who knows why he’s finally doing this. Perhaps he’s worried about liability. It’s a good thing that he’s doing this, but he deserves zero credit, given that he promoted violence during other parts of the bill palmer report logo headersame speech. But the real upshot is that while some in the audience made what sounded like agreeable noises when Trump recommended they get vaccinated, some of them booed and jeered him for it.

That’s right, some of Trump’s own biggest worshippers booed him, because he dared to push back against one of the biggest conspiracy theories that’s come to define their cult: that the COVID vaccine is bad news.

At this point it’s fair to say that Donald Trump has lost control of the monster he’s created. It’s not good news for America that some of his cult members are so far gone, even he can’t rein them in anymore. But it’s particularly bad news for him. If Trump harbors any fantasies about making a political comeback by adopting a slightly less deranged platform, it’s clear that a large chunk of his own base won’t let him do it. Trump is, in a word, toast.

ny times logoNew York Times, As White House Faces a Political Crisis, Democrats Look On in Alarm, Lisa Lerer, Reid J. Epstein and Annie Karni, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s party fears that if the pandemic or the situation in Afghanistan worsens, they may lose the confidence of moderate swing voters. With President Biden facing a political crisis that has shaken his standing in his party, Democrats across the country are increasingly worried about their ability to maintain power in Washington, as his administration struggles to defend its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and stanch a resurgent pandemic that appeared to be waning only weeks ago.

While Americans watched devastating scenes of mayhem at the Kabul airport and ascendant Taliban forces last week, the steady drumbeat of bipartisan criticism left many Democrats frustrated and dismayed at a White House they viewed as having fumbled the end of the country’s longest war on multiple fronts.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers announced congressional investigations into the administration’s handling of the withdrawal, as a handful of Democratic lawmakers weighed whether calling for the resignation of Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, would help the president “reset the narrative,” according to a Democratic House member, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The harrowing images appalled even the president’s staunchest supporters, many of whom — like a majority of the American public — support the decision to remove American troops from Afghanistan. But some of them worry the execution of the withdrawal has undermined Mr. Biden’s central campaign promise to restore a steady hand to governance, particularly on issues of national security.

Interviews with more than 40 Democrats, lawmakers, strategists and party officials show a White House at a pivot point. If the virus continues to worsen or the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates further, many of the president’s allies fear he will lose the confidence of the moderate swing voters who lifted his party to victory in 2020. Already, Democrats in battleground districts have been sounding alarms that the party needs to become more aggressive with their messaging, particularly on the economy and the efforts to combat the surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant.

democratic donkey logoThere are plenty of other reasons for Democrats to be worried: Historically, the president’s party loses seats in the midterm elections and the Republican advantage in redistricting has only increased those odds.

For many establishment Democrats, the Taliban’s rapid seizure of Afghanistan was the first time during Mr. Biden’s administration that they found themselves creating any daylight between themselves and the president.

“I consider Afghanistan a bone-headed mistake, unforced error,” said David Walters, a former Oklahoma governor who is now a member of the Democratic National Committee’s executive committee. “There is no real excuse. This was morally and politically a disaster and just bad policy.”

Yet, so far, most of the party has walked a fine line between expressing dismay at the current situation while not publicly denouncing the White House’s role in it.

“Afghanistan definitely has entered the conversation in a big way. We’ve done six or seven town halls in the last week and Afghanistan has come up in all of them,” said State Senator Jeff Jackson of North Carolina, an Army veteran who fought in Kandahar and is now running for the U.S. Senate. “It’s pretty clear there are concerns. They’ve seen the images we’ve all seen.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Limited resources and aging systems make local governments easy targets for ransomware attacks, Karina Elwood, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). In the area surrounding the nation’s capital, local government agencies such as school districts, city halls and police departments are among the most vulnerable to the attacks.

 

matt gaetz ginger luckey twitter

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his wife, Ginger Luckey, in a Facebook photo.

Vanity Fair, “Trump Was an Inspiration for Me”: Matt Gaetz Tries to Shift the Narrative With a MAGA Romance, Abigail Tracy, Aug. 22, 2021. Congressman has eloped, in between pushing election lies with Marjorie Taylor Greene and fending off a federal investigation.

Coming off a sweep through the Midwest that included stops at the Iowa State Fair and a rally in Des Moines with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz got married. In a quiet ceremony on Catalina Island off the coast of California, Gaetz and Ginger Luckey tied the knot. For a guy who craves the spotlight, the event was uncharacteristically understated. Aside from former Rand Paul staffer Sergio Gor, who took up the dual role of officiant and DJ, and war room hosts Raheem Kassam and Natalie Winters, few political personas were in attendance. Luckey’s brother, Palmer, and his partner, Nicole––who arrived on the former’s decommissioned naval vessel—and Nestor Galban, Gaetz’s adopted son, represented the family. About 30 other friends “from normal life” rounded out the party. djt maga hatGaetz cooked for the group, serving up a menu of BBQ chicken legs, grilled vegetables, and a watermelon salad.

The elopement was something of a surprise. The couple had previously planned to get married next August—or so they told me on a sticky summer afternoon late last month, when I met the two in the lobby bar of New York City’s Ace Hotel. Amidst a tornado of scandal for the congressman — the behavior he’s been accused of ranges from gross to potentially illegal and includes, but is not limited to, sex trafficking of a minor; sharing nude photos of women with his colleagues on the House floor; taking a sex-fueled jaunt to the Bahamas; and drug use — I was there to meet Luckey and, their hope was, to expand the public understanding of her beyond “that poor girl marrying Matt Gaetz.”

New York City isn’t known as the friendliest territory for Republicans with Gaetz’s level of opprobrium, and he dressed the part when we met. Clad in a casual cotton T-shirt and a baseball cap pulled low, Gaetz hardly fit the part of the bombastic firebrand who rode Donald Trump’s coattails to the upper echelon of MAGAworld—no Fox News bronze or overly coiffed bouffant in sight. But it’s clear that Washington, D.C., is no longer friendly territory either. Just days after our meeting, Gaetz was hounded off during a press conference. “Are you a pedophile?” a woman could be heard repeatedly shouting in videos of the incident. For years Gaetz enjoyed the shelter afforded to a lawmaker who spent most of his time brownnosing the president, but the Biden era has seen him fall under federal investigation.

Recent Headlines

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Honey, Who Shrunk the World? Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 23, 2021. How did we get so globalized? There are, it seems to me, two main paul krugmannarratives out there.

One narrative stresses the role of technology, especially the rise of containerized shipping (which is why the box shortage is a big deal). As the work of David Hummels, maybe the leading expert on this subject, points out, there has also been a large decline in the cost of air transport, which is a surprisingly big factor.

An alternative narrative, however, places less weight on technology than on policy. That’s the narrative one often sees associated with Trumpists (although they’re not the only ones with something like this view): Globalists pushed to open our borders to imports, and that’s why foreign goods have flooded into our economy.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘My Blood Is Boiling’: War Fever Surges in Ethiopia as Conflict Spreads, Abdi Latif Dahir, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). A government drive to enlist civilians threatens to widen the civil war, forcing ethnic groups to take sides and potentially spilling into other nations.

He swept to power preaching unity and hope, struck a landmark peace deal with the longtime foe Eritrea, released thousands of political prisoners, lifted restrictions on the press and promised to overturn decades of repressive authoritarian rule. For those accomplishments, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

But now, mired in a grinding civil war, Mr. Abiy has embarked on a radically different track, stoking war fever and urging all able-bodied men and women to join a widening military campaign, either as combatants or in support roles.

 

Hurricanes, Floods, Fire, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 21 dead, 20 missing after ‘catastrophic’ flooding in central Tennessee, officials say, Hannah Knowles and Brittany Shammas, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The family of six woke Saturday to floods bursting into their new duplex, relatives said. The water outside was up to their chests. Soon it tore them apart.

Danielle Hall, 25, was swept to a tree, where she clung for hours, waiting to be rescued, family members said. Her partner, Matt Rigney, tried to grab their four children, but a current pulled them away.

Two of the young children resurfaced unscathed, said their grandparents, who heard the story later. But Hall and Rigney’s 7-month-old twins never came up.

They are among 21 known victims of the historic rain and flash flooding that swept central Tennessee on Saturday, devastating the small city of Waverly, about 60 miles west of Nashville. Receding waters left behind wrecked homes, flipped cars and a list of about 20 people whose whereabouts remained unknown. Rescuers were still searching for the missing as nightfall approached Sunday.

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Russian Journalists Meet a Crackdown With Dark Humor, and Subscribers, Ben Smith, Aug. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Meduza, a leading independent news site, fights back with jokes, podcasts and a stunning donation campaign.

  • New York Times, Rachel Maddow, MSNBC’s Top Host, Extends Her Contract

 

Aug. 22

Top Headlines

 

Investigations

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On Afghanistan

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News

 

Global Disasters, Climate Change

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Curveballs and obstacles’ face Pelosi this week as Democrats spar over $3.5 trillion budget plan, Tony Romm, Aug. 22, 2021. Pelosi's ambitious timeline has forced Democrats in recent days to reckon with a series of persistent, internal disputes. White House officials have tried to intervene and resolve tensions, but a group of centrists is dug in and vowing to challenge the House speaker’s plan.

House Democrats are preparing to take the first steps Monday toward adopting a roughly $3.5 trillion spending plan that would enable sweeping changes to the nation’s health care, education and tax laws, but new rifts among party lawmakers threaten to stall the package’s swift advance.

The budget blueprint encompasses many of Democrats’ most cherished policy promises from the 2020 campaign, including pledges to expand Medicare, rethink immigration, and spend new sums to combat climate change. Its adoption this week would inch Congress closer to delivering on President Biden’s broader economic agenda.

But the fate of that vote appears in doubt, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues to grapple with persistent political divides among her own fractious caucus. Despite wide-ranging support for some of the new spending, the party’s liberal and centrist wings remain at odds over how exactly to proceed, raising the potential for defections that Democrats simply cannot afford in a chamber where they hold only a slim advantage.

supreme court resized 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: As Democrats Renew Voting Rights Push, Offsetting Roberts Court Is Top of Mind, Carl Hulse, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The House’s voting rights legislation seeks to counter the Supreme Court’s longstanding bid to undermine the Voting Rights Act, our columnist writes.

When Judge John G. Roberts Jr., right, faced the Senate for his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in September 2005, critics sounded the alarm about his john roberts olongstanding skepticism toward the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which many view as crucial to the political gains of Black Americans over the last half century.

“I fear that if Judge Roberts is confirmed to be chief justice of the United States, the Supreme Court would no longer hear the people’s cries for justice,” Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader from Georgia, said in urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the nomination.

Judge Roberts was easily confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate despite pleas from Mr. Lewis and other civil rights activists. He went on to oversee the court in rulings that weakened the Voting Right Acts, compromising its decades-long role as a protector of minority access to the ballot box across much of the South. Mr. Lewis died last July, just months before Republican state legislatures enacted an onslaught of voting restrictions after the 2020 elections.

But it is not only those legislatures that Democrats see as their adversaries on election issues.

“We are also up against a Supreme Court that is keen on destroying our nation’s most consequential voting rights law,” Representative Terry A. Sewell, Democrat of Alabama, said this week during a Democratic call celebrating the anniversary of women’s right to vote.

While Mr. Lewis may be gone, House Democrats hope to keep his spirit alive by passing a bill bearing his name next week that they hope will offset what Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called “disastrous” and “shameful” decisions undermining voting rights by the Roberts-led court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden began to rebut negative story lines about Afghanistan, Jennifer Rubin, right, Aug. 22, 2021. President Biden’s Friday speech on jennifer rubin new headshotAfghanistan, and even more so his answers to reporters’ questions, ended the week on a decidedly more positive note than it began. While on Monday the focus was on harrowing scenes of desperate Afghans falling from an American plane, by Friday it had turned to the image of an American service member lifting a sick baby over barbwire fencing at Kabul’s airport from the hands of a frantic parent. (The baby was treated and returned to his father.)

Until Friday, Biden appeared defensive. Chaotic images inundated the news, and reporters were in a feeding frenzy attempting to outdo one another in criticizing the president. If his remarks earlier in the week did not steady the ship, he hit his mark on Friday on at least three points.

First, Biden eliminated any ambiguity that U.S. troops would stay long enough in Afghanistan to rescue Americans and, as he put it, “those Afghans who have worked alongside us, served alongside of us, gone into combat with us, and provided invaluable assistance to us, such as translators and interpreters.” He left himself no wiggle room: “The United States stands by its commitment that we’ve made to these people, and it includes other vulnerable Afghans, such as women leaders and journalists,” Biden declared. In response to a reporter’s question, he reiterated his commitment to special immigrant visa recipients.

Second, Biden, in response to accusations of incompetence, was able to explain his reading of intelligence reports. Without blaming others for the suddenness of the Taliban victory, he declared, “I made the decision. The buck stops with me. I took the consensus opinion. The consensus opinion was that, in fact, it would not occur, if it occurred, until later in the year. So, it was my decision.”

He also gently informed the media that if we had left 15 or five years ago, “there’s no way in which you’d be able to leave Afghanistan without there being some of what you’re seeing now.” Nevertheless, he was able to add that “we’ve been able to get a large number of Americans out, all our personnel at the embassy out, and so on.” In essence, it was always going to be hard, Biden asserted, and we are now doing what needs to be done to live up to our commitments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. orders use of 18 commercial planes to aid evacuation of Americans, allies; Seven Afghan civilians killed outside Kabul airport; Biden set to update on evacuations, Adela Suliman and Sammy Westfall, Aug. 22, 2021. Taliban’s rhetoric of compromise carries echoes of its previous rise to power; One week into Taliban takeover, humanitarian situation in Afghanistan worsens.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered the activation of a program that will use 18 commercial airplanes to aid the U.S. military evacuation of American nationals and refugees in Afghanistan.

The activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet will provide the Defense Department with “access to commercial air mobility resources” in the evacuation efforts, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Sunday.

The activation is for 18 aircraft: Three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines.

The commercial planes will not fly into Kabul airport but instead be used “for the onward movement of passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases,” the statement said — probably from Persian Gulf Arab nations such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates where many Afghans are awaiting next steps. In other news:

  • Abdul Ghani Baradar, considered the Taliban’s top political leader, arrived in Kabul over the weekend as the Islamist group eyes the formation of a new government.
  • Afghans in airport hangars in Qatar and elsewhere begin to ponder next steps now they’re out of the country.

Business Insider, Donald Trump booed at Alabama rally after encouraging his supporters to get vaccinated against COVID-19, video shows, Joshua Zitser, Aug. 22, 2021. Former President Donald Trump was booed by some of his supporters at a "Save America" rally in Cullman, Alabama, on Saturday night after he suggested that they get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"I believe totally in your freedoms, I do, you've got to do what you've got to do," Trump said to the crowd. "But I recommend that you take the vaccines."

The former president then told his supporters that the vaccines are "good" and once again encouraged them to get a shot.

This suggestion was met with boos, as can be heard in a video shared by Vox journalist Aaron Rupar.

—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 22, 2021

"You've got your freedoms," Trump responded to the jeers. "But I happened to take the vaccine."

Once the booing died down, the former president joked that the crowd would be the "first to know" if the COVID-19 vaccines didn't work.

Read more: Trump boasts that he 'single-handedly' selected Alabama as the new location for Space Command, frustrating Colorado politicians who previously criticized the relocation

Trump's speech follows the news that his allies were trying to get him to run a pro-vaccination campaign, the Daily Beast reported.

According to the media outlet, Trump was initially reluctant and worried that promoting vaccines would be unpopular with his supporters and help President Joe Biden.

Trump has previously praised the vaccines, saying that they were "saving the world," but has repeatedly said that people should be able to exercise their "freedoms," Forbes reported.

The former president got vaccinated at the White House in January 2021, though the American public didn't learn about it until March.

 

Investigations

 

Biden National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the White House briefing room podium (File Photo)

Biden National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at the White House briefing room podium (File Photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How the U.S. Exit from Afghanistan Unraveled, Miscue by Miscue, Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, Julian E. Barnes and Lara Jakes, Updated Aug. 22, 2021. Interviews with key participants in the last days of the war show a series of misjudgments that led to the current mayhem.

The nation’s top national security officials assembled at the Pentagon early on April 24 for a secret meeting to plan the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. It was two weeks after President Biden had announced the exit over the objection of his generals, but now they were carrying out his orders.

In a secure room in the building’s “extreme basement,” two floors below ground level, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, right, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with top White House and intelligence officials. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken joined by video conference. After four hours, lloyd austin resized uniform filetwo things were clear.

Department of Defense SealFirst, Pentagon officials said they could pull out the remaining 3,500 American troops, almost all deployed at Bagram Air Base, by July 4 — two months earlier than the Sept. 11 deadline Mr. Biden had set. The plan would mean closing the airfield that was the American military hub in Afghanistan, but Defense Department officials did not want a dwindling, vulnerable force and the risks of service members dying in a war declared lost.

Second, State Department officials said they would keep the American Embassy open, with more than 1,400 remaining Americans protected by 650 Marines and soldiers. An intelligence assessment presented at the meeting estimated that Afghan forces could hold off the Taliban for one to two years. There was brief talk of an emergency evacuation plan — helicopters would ferry Americans to the civilian airport in Kabul, the capital — but no one raised, let alone imagined, what the United States would do if the Taliban gained control of access to that airport, the only safe way in and out of the country once Bagram closed.

The plan was a good one, the group concluded.

Four months later, the plan is in shambles as Mr. Biden struggles to explain how a withdrawal most Americans supported went so badly wrong in its execution. On Friday, as scenes of continuing chaos and suffering at the airport were broadcast around the world, Mr. Biden went so far as to say that “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or what it will be that it will be without risk of loss.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Hospitals and Insurers Didn’t Want You to See These Prices. Here’s Why (Interactive), Sarah Kliff and Josh Katz/ Produced by Rumsey Taylor, Aug. 22, 2021. Getting simple medical care at some hospitals can cost more with insurance than without.

This year, the federal government ordered hospitals to begin publishing a prized secret: a complete list of the prices they negotiate with private insurers.

The insurers’ trade association had called the rule unconstitutional and said it would “undermine competitive negotiations.” Four hospital associations jointly sued the government to block it, and appealed when they lost.

They lost again, and seven months later, many hospitals are simply ignoring the requirement and posting nothing.

But data from the hospitals that have complied hints at why the powerful industries wanted this information to remain hidden.

It shows hospitals are charging patients wildly different amounts for the same basic services: procedures as simple as an X-ray or a pregnancy test.

And it provides numerous examples of major health insurers — some of the world’s largest companies, with billions in annual profits — negotiating surprisingly unfavorable rates for their customers. In many cases, insured patients are getting prices that are higher than they would if they pretended to have no coverage at all.

At the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a colonoscopy costs:

  • $1,463 with a Cigna plan.
  • $2,144 with an Aetna plan.
  • $782 with no insurance at all.

Until now, consumers had no way to know before they got the bill what prices they and their insurers would be paying. Some insurance companies have refused to provide the information when asked by patients and the employers that hired the companies to provide coverage.

This secrecy has allowed hospitals to tell patients that they are getting “steep” discounts, while still charging them many times what a public program like Medicare is willing to pay.

ny times logoNew York Times, Turmoil Was Brewing at Time’s Up Long Before Cuomo, Jodi Kantor, Arya Sundaram, Melena Ryzik and Cara Buckley, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The prominent anti-harassment charity, criticized for its relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is facing a crisis over its ties to those in power.Nearly four years ago, moving with resolve after the global #MeToo explosion, some of the country’s most famous women formed a new charity, Time’s Up, to fight sexual harassment in the workplace. Their collective power, funds and aspirations offered the promise of real progress.

Now the organization is in an “existential crisis,” its vice chairwoman told the staff. A group of abuse victims said they felt betrayed. Some board members are privately questioning whether Time’s Up will survive.

The turmoil was set off by the sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Time’s Up ally, and revelations that his office had relied on the counsel of the group's leaders as the accusations emerged.

andrew cuomo 2019Time’s Up was built on a bold premise: Ultra-connected women would pool their access and influence to push for gender equity. But even before the allegations against Mr. Cuomo, left, confusion and controversy had been building inside the group over its leadership’s ties — and help — to those in power, according to interviews with dozens of current and former board members, employees and other advocates, as well as a review of internal documents.

Some of them feared that the high-level connections at the heart of the group’s strategy compromised its credibility, or made the powerful more of a priority than the ordinary women Time’s Up was meant to help.

“We have, obviously, a broken-trust moment and a real examination, after three and a half years, of whether this is the right way to work,” Tina Tchen, the chief executive, said in an interview. She and others are wondering whether the group’s model can still be tenable. “I’m open to the answer.”

Where to draw the line has come up again and again. In spring 2020, Ms. Tchen, an Obama administration veteran, helped hold back a letter from women’s groups prodding Joseph R. Biden Jr. to respond more quickly to a sexual misconduct allegation — even as she raised funds for his campaign as a private citizen.

About the same time, after Ms. Tchen discussed a new for-profit consulting arm that could allow her and others to advise corporations, including those facing abuse accusations, board and staff members grew concerned, according to meeting notes. The plan never moved forward.

In the small, underfunded world of women’s charities, Time’s Up was an outlier. Its founders included Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey; Ms. Tchen, its leader since 2019, had been Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. The organization’s connections, and $24 million GoFundMe campaign, were its selling point. But some of the group’s power players — including Roberta Kaplan, who stepped down this month as chairwoman in the Cuomo fallout — became entangled in questions about conflicts of interest.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Nursing Is in Crisis’: Staff Shortages Put Patients at Risk, Andrew Jacobs, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Before Covid, the U.S. faced nursing shortages. But the Delta variant has experts worried. “When hospitals are understaffed, people die,” one said.

Cyndy O’Brien, an emergency room nurse at Ocean Springs Hospital on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, could not believe her eyes as she arrived for work. There were people sprawled out in their cars gasping for air as three ambulances with gravely ill patients idled in the parking lot. Just inside the front doors, a crush of anxious people jostled to get the attention of an overwhelmed triage nurse.

“It’s like a war zone,” said Ms. O’Brien, who is the patient care coordinator at Singing River, a small health system near the Alabama border that includes Ocean Springs. “We are just barraged with patients and have nowhere to put them.”

Nursing shortages have long vexed hospitals. But in the year and half since its ferocious debut in the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has stretched the nation’s nurses as never before, testing their skills and stamina as desperately ill patients with a poorly understood malady flooded emergency rooms. They remained steadfast amid a calamitous shortage of personal protective equipment; spurred by a sense of duty, they flocked from across the country to the newest hot zones, sometimes working as volunteers. More than 1,200 of them have died from the virus.

Now, as the highly contagious Delta variant pummels the United States, bedside nurses, the workhorse of a well-oiled hospital, are depleted and traumatized, their ranks thinned by early retirements or career shifts that traded the emergency room for less stressful nursing jobs at schools, summer camps and private doctor’s offices.

“We’re exhausted, both physically and emotionally,” Ms. O’Brien said.

phil valentine

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Phil Valentine, a radio host who scoffed at Covid then urged his followers to get vaccinated, has died, Traci Carl, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Phil Valentine, a prominent conservative radio host in Tennessee who refused to get vaccinated, then urged his followers to get a shot after being hospitalized with Covid-19, has died, his station said on Saturday.

Mr. Valentine scoffed at the need for vaccines, writing on his blog that his chances of dying from the virus, should he become infected, were “way less than one percent.”

He announced his Covid-19 diagnosis on July 11 and pledged to return to his show within a day or two.

“Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’m going to make it,” he wrote. “Interesting experience. I’ll have to fill you in when I come back on the air. I’m hoping that will be tomorrow, but I may take a day off just as a precaution.”

Less than two weeks later, his radio station, 99.7 WTN, announced that the Nashville host was hospitalized “in very serious condition, suffering from Covid pneumonia.” The statement said Mr. Valentine had had a change of heart and urged others to get a vaccine.

“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘pro-vaccine,’ and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” the station said.

Some people responded to the announcement with words of support for Mr. Valentine, while others said he deserved to get sick.

On Saturday, the station announced on Twitter that Mr. Valentine had died, urging followers to “keep the Valentine family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, Aug. 22, 2021. Conservative talk radio show host Phil Valentine certainly stood his ground. After he announced testing positive for Covid-19 on July 11th he said he was “doing my patriotic duty for natural herd immunity.” Phil’s idea was that he was going to acquire natural immunity by acquiring antibodies the old-fashioned way. Once he had the disease, his theory went, his body would create its own vaccine. He taught his listeners to mistrust the “artificial” vaccines and follow his “patriotic” example.

Phil died on Saturday of Covid-19, aged 61. Valentine, whose nationally syndicated “Phil Valentine Show” aired on 100 stations from 2007 to 2019, recently questioned the efficacy of vaccines on his Nashville, Tennessee show aired on SuperTalk 99.7 WTN and online, where he mocked America’s inoculation campaign in the song “Vaxman,” a parody of the Beatles’ “Taxman.” “I certainly am not getting the vax now,” he replied to a commenter on Facebook on July 14th. “I have full immunity.” And it worked, too, except the part about being dead, of course.

bill palmer report logo headerPhil encouraged treatment over prevention. “You need to have a plan in case you get COVID,” Valentine wrote. “Make SURE you get your vitamin D3 level checked … And then have a doctor on speed dial who will write you a prescription for ivermectin.” How exactly some of his poorer Tennessee listeners who didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford to “have a doctor on speed dial” were supposed to do this Valentine didn’t say. As in the other 49 states, on the other hand, the Covid-19 vaccine is free and readily available in Tennessee.

“[Phil] wishes he could do it over,” Valentine’s brother Mark told Nashville public radio station WPLN in a late July interview. “His regret [was] ‘I made the decision [not to get vaccinated] based on my situation, but I know now that a lot of people didn’t get the vaccine because I didn’t get the vaccine. And that is what I would like to correct.’”

It is doubtful Phil’s too-little-too-late message will carry much weight. For some reason victims of the anti-vaxxer movement have to find out for themselves how bad Covid is before they change their minds about the vaccine, if they do at all. By that time many of them have “infected” other people with their ignorant opinions. By that time many of them are dead.

So why are many conservatives so slow to learn from the experiences of others? Lack of empathy. Just as the “[expletive] your feelings” crowd sees no irony in their over-the-top emotional response to Donald Trump losing the 2020 election, many are incapable of understanding what’s so bad about Covid-19. Until they get it themselves, of course.

How many times have we seen Republican politicians take inflexible stands against the rights of the LGBT community until they find out their son is gay or their granddaughter is trans? How many times have we seen Republicans, who arrogantly make decisions about a woman’s right to choose, become all about “my body my choice” when told they must wear a mask?

Until an issue becomes important to them personally Republicans cannot see past their own selfish little universe. So the Phil Valentines of the world will continue to have little impact on them. They must get sick and die first, or someone close to them must get sick and die and take others with them, before any lesson is learned. And by then, of course, it’s too late.

The tide is turning, however, and more and more Republicans are finally coming around to understanding the dangers of the Covid threat and the efficacy of the vaccine. But the delay comes at a price so terrible that their final surrender to the inexorable logic of science may be too late and make no difference at all. Thanks to them and their ignorance, it’s now become a possibility that the pandemic will never end. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 201.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 22 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 170.8 million people fully vaccinated, 51.4 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 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: 212,347,281, Deaths: 4,441,198
U.S. Cases:     38,519,294, Deaths:    644,840
India Cases:     32,424,234, Deaths:    434,399
Brazil Cases:    20,556,487, Deaths:    574,243

 

Recent Previous Reports:

washington post logoWashington Post, As covid-19 surges in Miss., some people take unproven drug intended for treating worms in livestock, Timothy Bella, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The plea from Mississippi’s top doctor to a state grappling with the nation’s second-lowest vaccination rate seemed simple: Do not take ivermectin — a drug intended for treating worms in livestock — to prevent or treat the coronavirus.

Despite no scientific evidence that ivermectin is effective at preventing or treating covid-19, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs was left baffled this week after one person was hospitalized for ingesting the horse dewormer medication to treat the virus — a “kind of crazy” act he likened to getting chemotherapy at a feed store.

“Please don’t do that,” he said.

Cases of people consuming ivermectin to treat the coronavirus in Mississippi are drawing alarm, with the state’s health department issuing an alert Friday warning people not to take the drug, saying the state’s poison control center has “received an increasing number of calls from individuals with potential ivermectin exposure taken to treat or prevent covid-19 infection.” Mississippi State Epidemiologist Paul Byers wrote in a letter to the MS Health Alert Network that “at least 70 percent of the recent calls” have been related to the ingestion of ivermectin “purchased at livestock supply centers.”

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Jesse Jackson and wife Jacqueline hospitalized for covid-19, Staff Report, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a famed civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate, and his wife, Jacqueline, have been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, according to a statement Saturday.

Jesse Jackson, 79, is vaccinated against the virus and received his first dose in January during a publicized event as he urged others to receive the inoculation as soon as possible. He and his wife, 77, are being treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

“Doctors are currently monitoring the condition of both,” according to the statement from Jesse Jackson’s nonprofit, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

“There are no further updates at this time,” the statement said. “We will provide updates as they become available.”

A protégé of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson was key in guiding the modern civil rights movement on numerous issues, including voting rights.

Despite having been diagnosed for Parkinson’s disease, Jackson has remained active, and has advocated for COVID-19 vaccines for Black people, who lag behind white people in the United States’ vaccination drive. Earlier this month, he was arrested outside the U.S. Capitol during a demonstration calling for Congress to end the filibuster in order to support voting rights.

 

More On Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Rush of Afghan evacuees to Qatar leaves many crammed in hot hangar, facing an uncertain future, Steve Hendrix and Susannah George, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The crush of civilians fleeing Afghanistan has threatened to overwhelm the air base here where most have been flown, leaving many evacuees crammed in a sweltering hangar without adequate toilets and showers as U.S. officials scramble to expand capacity and open new receiving points in the Middle East and Europe.

The military temporarily halted flights from the still-chaotic Kabul airport Friday when conditions at the Qatari base threatened to reach dangerous levels. Civilians inside the base said some people had been moved to trailers and tents in other parts of the facility and others boarded onward flights to processing facilities in the United States and elsewhere. Flights to Doha had resumed by Friday night.

“I haven’t slept for four days and four nights,” said Sayed Harris Khelwati, 31, who arrived Wednesday night on an American C-17. “There aren’t cots for everybody. You just lay down where you can.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Hundreds of Afghans arrive in Northern Virginia and are greeted by outpouring of support, Meagan Flynn, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.).  They kept coming: people carrying bags of clothes, bags of toiletries, bags of diapers and baby formula and toys and books.

All were donations for the hundreds of Afghan refugees or Special Immigrant Visa recipients who arrived overnight Saturday at Northern Virginia Community College after a harrowing evacuation from Afghanistan.

By morning, dozens of volunteers had assembled at the Annandale campus. And by noon, the piles of donations had grown so high that volunteers had to turn some away.

“I’ll take phone chargers!” yelled 22-year-old Salima Khan to the crowd of people trying to deliver donations.

“She said to only bring the duffel bags!” one woman said as she dropped them off.

Fleeing Afghanistan after the country fell to the Taliban, several hundred Afghans touched down at Dulles International Airport on Friday and were shuttled overnight to the Northern Virginia college, in what for some was their first experience in the United States. The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management set up more than 500 cots in ballrooms and community rooms, said Hoang-Dung Nguyen, a spokeswoman for the college. Volunteers have been bringing pizzas and snacks and water.

washington post logoWashington Post, Germany stumbles in late efforts to rescue Afghan support staff, Loveday Morris, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The government’s handling of its “Ortskräfte,” or local staff, has provoked harsh criticism in Germany. Ministries and officials have traded blame over why the country failed to act sooner on evacuations, piling on pressure ahead of tightly fought elections in September.

While other coalition countries are also scrambling to make rescues, Germany’s process has been faulted for being particularly narrow in scope, initially only accepting those who had worked for its military or agencies during the past two years. Subcontractors were excluded.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid new security concerns, Pentagon hints at more rescues outside Kabul airport, Karoun Demirjian, Dan Lamothe and John Hudson, Aug. 21, 2021. The signal that U.S. troops could undertake enhanced efforts to rescue people outside the airport came as the Biden administration scrambled to fly thousands of people per day out of Afghanistan.

The Pentagon on Saturday strongly hinted that U.S. troops may stage further operations outside the Kabul airport to help evacuate stranded American citizens and Afghans who aided the war effort, as the threat of violence in the capital grows amid the return of the Taliban’s top political leader and increased concern about potential attacks by the Islamic State.

The signal that U.S. troops could undertake enhanced efforts to rescue people outside the airport came as the Biden administration scrambles to fly thousands of people per day out of Afghanistan, and amid signs there were still significant bottlenecks to doing so. Numerous gates at the Kabul airport were closed for much of Saturday, as crowds continued to swell inside and the U.S. government struggled to process people quickly enough to alleviate the issues, said three U.S. officials familiar with the issue, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the precarious and evolving situation.

washington post logoWashington Post, These three brothers went to war in Afghanistan. Only one returned, Ian Shapira, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Taliban takeover has been a "gut punch" for Beau Wise, the only brother to serve in Afghanistan and survive.

Recent Headlines

afghanistan air force 8 15 21 kuwait nydaily news

 Hundreds of Afghan citizens are shown aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane departing Kabul airport on Aug. 15. (Air Mobility Command Public Affairs Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock); Washington Post, U.S. Air Force crew actually flew more than 800 people in that aircraft departing Kabul.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

Palmer Report, Opinion: Yes, the walls really are closing in on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 22, 2021. Last month we saw the arrest of Donald Trump’s CFO Allen bill palmerWeisselberg and the arrest of Trump’s political money man Tom Barrack. This week saw the arrest of Jared Kushner’s sidekick Ken Kurson. This week we also saw the arrest of Alex Jones’ sidekick Owen Shroyer. And now there’s the suggestion that Trump’s COO Matthew Calamari may be cooperating with prosecutors against Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerAnd yet the defeatists still demand to know why “No one has been arrested” and “Nothing is being done.” These cries are, of course, coming from people who either don’t understand how criminal cases work, or who are simply too worn down by the previous four years to be able to accurately process what’s playing out here.

Are we supposed to believe it’s mere coincidence that all the biggest names in Trump world are all seeing their biggest sidekicks arrested? If you’ve watched one too many fictional TV crime dramas, you might be left with the false impression that the bad guys are always taken down in an hour. But even those fictional TV shows make clear that the way you take down a big fish is to get a top assistant or henchman to flip. It’s how you prove to a trial jury that the big fish did indeed perpetrate the crimes, even if the big fish was hands-off when it came to carrying out those crimes.

So yeah, we’re all tired of waiting. But this is the reality of how these kinds of mafia-style criminal antics are prosecuted. Yes, it’s tedious to have to wait to see if Calamari’s apparent cooperation will motivate Weisselberg to cut an official deal before Calamari can. And yes, it’s annoying to watch Rudy Giuliani’s inevitable arrest stalled by a court proceeding with a special master over a dispute of a date range on a warrant.

But while the real world criminal process turns out to be infinitely slower and less tidy than what we see on Law & Order, the developments we’re seeing make more clear than ever that we’re on a path to Donald Trump and the biggest names around him being taken down. If you don’t want to believe that, it’s only because you’re ignoring all of the evidence for the sake of defeatism.

Recent Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, As White House Faces a Political Crisis, Democrats Look On in Alarm, Lisa Lerer, Reid J. Epstein and Annie Karni, Aug. 22, 2021. President Biden’s party fears that if the pandemic or the situation in Afghanistan worsens, they may lose the confidence of moderate swing voters. With President Biden facing a political crisis that has shaken his standing in his party, Democrats across the country are increasingly worried about their ability to maintain power in Washington, as his administration struggles to defend its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and stanch a resurgent pandemic that appeared to be waning only weeks ago.

While Americans watched devastating scenes of mayhem at the Kabul airport and ascendant Taliban forces last week, the steady drumbeat of bipartisan criticism left many Democrats frustrated and dismayed at a White House they viewed as having fumbled the end of the country’s longest war on multiple fronts.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers announced congressional investigations into the administration’s handling of the withdrawal, as a handful of Democratic lawmakers weighed whether calling for the resignation of Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, would help the president “reset the narrative,” according to a Democratic House member, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The harrowing images appalled even the president’s staunchest supporters, many of whom — like a majority of the American public — support the decision to remove American troops from Afghanistan. But some of them worry the execution of the withdrawal has undermined Mr. Biden’s central campaign promise to restore a steady hand to governance, particularly on issues of national security.

Interviews with more than 40 Democrats, lawmakers, strategists and party officials show a White House at a pivot point. If the virus continues to worsen or the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates further, many of the president’s allies fear he will lose the confidence of the moderate swing voters who lifted his party to victory in 2020. Already, Democrats in battleground districts have been sounding alarms that the party needs to become more aggressive with their messaging, particularly on the economy and the efforts to combat the surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant.

democratic donkey logoThere are plenty of other reasons for Democrats to be worried: Historically, the president’s party loses seats in the midterm elections and the Republican advantage in redistricting has only increased those odds.

For many establishment Democrats, the Taliban’s rapid seizure of Afghanistan was the first time during Mr. Biden’s administration that they found themselves creating any daylight between themselves and the president.

“I consider Afghanistan a bone-headed mistake, unforced error,” said David Walters, a former Oklahoma governor who is now a member of the Democratic National Committee’s executive committee. “There is no real excuse. This was morally and politically a disaster and just bad policy.”

Yet, so far, most of the party has walked a fine line between expressing dismay at the current situation while not publicly denouncing the White House’s role in it.

“Afghanistan definitely has entered the conversation in a big way. We’ve done six or seven town halls in the last week and Afghanistan has come up in all of them,” said State Senator Jeff Jackson of North Carolina, an Army veteran who fought in Kandahar and is now running for the U.S. Senate. “It’s pretty clear there are concerns. They’ve seen the images we’ve all seen.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A Texas GOP official’s covid-19 death went viral. Then came calls for vaccination — and bitter divides, Hannah Knowles, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). When H. Scott Apley died at 45 of covid-19, he became a face of vaccine refusal by the political right. A GoFundMe drive for his wife and baby son drew scorn as the Dickinson City Council member’s social media posts circulated.

scott apley“I wish I lived in the area!” the Houston-area member of the Texas Republican Party’s governing board wrote this spring about a “mask burning” party in Cincinnati. “You are an absolute enemy of a free people,” he once replied on Twitter to a doctor’s post celebrating the effectiveness of Pfizer’s shots against the coronavirus.

In the GOP circles where Apley, right, was well known, however, there was little mention of covid-19 or how to prevent it. Two days after mourning their former vice chairman in a Facebook post that did not say what put him on a ventilator, the Galveston County Republican Party shared a far-right website’s medical-evidence-free claim that immunization against the coronavirus had killed a young conservative activist. “Another tragedy - From the Vaccine!!!!!” they warned.

Apley’s hospitalization and death showcased the bitterness of the country’s divide over coronavirus vaccination, and over how to bridge it, as the pandemic makes personal tragedy inseparable from politics. The Dickinson, Tex., council member’s community offers a stark counterpoint amid a slew of stories about people who urge others to get vaccinated after losing a skeptical loved one to covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Florida, DeSantis cut jobless aid just as virus began terrifying new wave, Yeganeh Torbati, Aug. 22, 2021. Unemployed residents struggling to survive on low state benefits are a preview of what could come nationwide as federal pandemic aid programs expire.

By June, Meli Feliciano’s family appeared to have finally found a measure of stability after being jolted by the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. Her husband had secured a good job in construction, and she was receiving hundreds of dollars in weekly federal and state unemployment aid, giving her some breathing room while she submitted job applications each week. She kept records of it all in a pink binder that her daughter had once used in kindergarten.

That’s when calamity struck.

Her husband fell ill, temporarily wiping out his income. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) slashed her jobless aid by more than half to $197 per week, arguing that the federal boost to unemployment insurance was keeping people like Feliciano from getting back to work. The bill for her daughter’s college tuition and textbooks is due soon, nearly $1,000 that the family doesn’t have. And just as her husband was cleared to go back to work in August, her stepson Julian tested positive for the coronavirus, requiring the household to isolate for two weeks.

Feliciano and her family have been thrust squarely into a vast social, political and economic experiment that has no parallel or precedent. DeSantis and 25 other governors nationwide, all but one of them Republican, opted this spring and summer to reject extra federal aid intended for people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus, contending that the more robust social safety net was leading to widespread labor shortages. But the coronavirus’s deadly delta variant, which has overwhelmed Florida in recent weeks, shows just how fragile the economic recovery still is. Some people, like Feliciano, can’t even envision moving forward. They are worried about losing what little they have.

 

matt gaetz ginger luckey twitter

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his wife, Ginger Luckey, in a Facebook photo.

Vanity Fair, “Trump Was an Inspiration for Me”: Matt Gaetz Tries to Shift the Narrative With a MAGA Romance, Abigail Tracy, Aug. 22, 2021. Congressman has eloped, in between pushing election lies with Marjorie Taylor Greene and fending off a federal investigation.

Coming off a sweep through the Midwest that included stops at the Iowa State Fair and a rally in Des Moines with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz got married. In a quiet ceremony on Catalina Island off the coast of California, Gaetz and Ginger Luckey tied the knot. For a guy who craves the spotlight, the event was uncharacteristically understated. Aside from former Rand Paul staffer Sergio Gor, who took up the dual role of officiant and DJ, and war room hosts Raheem Kassam and Natalie Winters, few political personas were in attendance. Luckey’s brother, Palmer, and his partner, Nicole––who arrived on the former’s decommissioned naval vessel—and Nestor Galban, Gaetz’s adopted son, represented the family. About 30 other friends “from normal life” rounded out the party. djt maga hatGaetz cooked for the group, serving up a menu of BBQ chicken legs, grilled vegetables, and a watermelon salad.

The elopement was something of a surprise. The couple had previously planned to get married next August—or so they told me on a sticky summer afternoon late last month, when I met the two in the lobby bar of New York City’s Ace Hotel. Amidst a tornado of scandal for the congressman — the behavior he’s been accused of ranges from gross to potentially illegal and includes, but is not limited to, sex trafficking of a minor; sharing nude photos of women with his colleagues on the House floor; taking a sex-fueled jaunt to the Bahamas; and drug use — I was there to meet Luckey and, their hope was, to expand the public understanding of her beyond “that poor girl marrying Matt Gaetz.”

New York City isn’t known as the friendliest territory for Republicans with Gaetz’s level of opprobrium, and he dressed the part when we met. Clad in a casual cotton T-shirt and a baseball cap pulled low, Gaetz hardly fit the part of the bombastic firebrand who rode Donald Trump’s coattails to the upper echelon of MAGAworld—no Fox News bronze or overly coiffed bouffant in sight. But it’s clear that Washington, D.C., is no longer friendly territory either. Just days after our meeting, Gaetz was hounded off during a press conference. “Are you a pedophile?” a woman could be heard repeatedly shouting in videos of the incident. For years Gaetz enjoyed the shelter afforded to a lawmaker who spent most of his time brownnosing the president, but the Biden era has seen him fall under federal investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bad news for Matt Gaetz, Bill Palmer, Aug. 22, 2021. Ten days ago ABC News confirmed that Joel Greenberg has indeed given up the goods bill palmeron Matt Gaetz, turning over mountains of evidence to federal prosecutors, even as other sources reported that prosecutors have indeed decided to indict Gaetz. Now Gaetz has… gotten married?

bill palmer report logo headerThat’s right. Matt Gaetz announced his engagement to Ginger Luckey right around the time he found out he was under federal criminal investigation for things like underage sex trafficking, and the timing has always led observers to wonder what was really going on. Now in another strange fit of timing, Gaetz has announced this weekend that he just got married to Luckey, barely a week after he learned through the media that he’s indeed going to be indicted.

Former prosecutors like Richard Signorelli and Tristan Snell are confirming that spousal privilege in Matt Gaetz’s home state of Florida doesn’t apply to communications from before the marriage. So if Gaetz is hurrying up and getting married to try to make sure his wife can’t be compelled to testify against him, then he’s got some bad news coming on that front.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Limited resources and aging systems make local governments easy targets for ransomware attacks, Karina Elwood, Aug. 22, 2021.
In the area surrounding the nation’s capital, local government agencies such as school districts, city halls and police departments are among the most vulnerable to the attacks.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Iowa, Gaetz and Greene Pick Up Where Trump Left Off, Astead W. Herndon, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). At a rally in Des Moines, Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz showed that many Republicans had no plans to move on from the Trump era.

djt maga hatFar from Washington, and even farther from their home congressional districts, Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia found their people.

marjorie taylor greene headshotAs the two Republican lawmakers spoke at an “America First” rally in Des Moines, held in an auditorium that often hosts people with presidential aspirations, up was down and misinformation was gospel. Ms. Greene, right, denounced Covid-19 vaccines to applause. Both declared former President Donald J. Trump the rightful winner of the 2020 election.

These were facts, argued Eric Riedinger of Des Moines, 62, a small-business owner who attended the event and owns the website BigTrumpFan.com. And he would not vote for any Republican who failed to state this clearly, he said.

“My biggest issue looking ahead: Stop the RINOs,” he said, using a pejorative conservative phrase for ‘Republicans in Name Only.’ “If they’re part of that infrastructure bill and supporting it, they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

The fringe of the Republican Party is sick of being called the fringe. Led by people like Ms. Greene and Mr. Gaetz, two upstart members of Congress with little legislative power and few allies in their party’s caucus, these conservatives believe they have assets more valuable than Washington clout: a shared language with the party’s base, and a political intuition that echoes Mr. Trump’s.

Recent Headlines

 

Other World News

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘My Blood Is Boiling’: War Fever Surges in Ethiopia as Conflict Spreads, Abdi Latif Dahir, Aug. 22, 2021. A government drive to enlist civilians threatens to widen the civil war, forcing ethnic groups to take sides and potentially spilling into other nations.

He swept to power preaching unity and hope, struck a landmark peace deal with the longtime foe Eritrea, released thousands of political prisoners, lifted restrictions on the press and promised to overturn decades of repressive authoritarian rule. For those accomplishments, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

But now, mired in a grinding civil war, Mr. Abiy has embarked on a radically different track, stoking war fever and urging all able-bodied men and women to join a widening military campaign, either as combatants or in support roles.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Haiti, a brutal reckoning over an all too familiar task: Rebuilding, Anthony Faiola, Widlore Merancourt and Amanda Coletta, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). In the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, the list of broken infrastructure and housing after the recent earthquake is an omen of new hardship ahead.

Classrooms for 400 students lie crushed under a collapsed roof, a smattering of desks broken like match sticks. Chunks of the Pepto-pink health center slammed into the administration office. In the debris field that was the Evangelical Baptist School of Picot, a white crib in a day care is the single item still standing in place.

haiti flagTuition was $200 a year, a tidy sum for the land tillers, tradesmen and teachers that populate nearby farming communities. In a hard country where any edge helps, parents made the sacrifice to give their children a fighting chance. Like most schools in Haiti — where public services were wanting even before last week’s massive earthquake — Evangelical Baptist was private.

It was also uninsured.

One of the hundreds of schools destroyed or badly damaged when the earth shook, it is now emblematic of a disaster that took 2,189 lives and counting and so much more.

 

Hurricanes, Floods, Fire, Climate Change

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 10 Dead and Dozens Missing in Tennessee Floods, Officials Say, Michael Levenson, Updated Aug. 22, 2021. The authorities in Humphreys County were conducting house-to-house searches after flooding knocked out cellphone service and swamped roads.

At least 10 people were killed and about 40 others were missing on Saturday after catastrophic flash floods swept through Central Tennessee, the authorities said.

Rob Edwards, the chief deputy of the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed the numbers of missing and dead and said the authorities were doing house-to-house checks in the hardest-hit areas in Humphreys, a rural county of about 18,500, roughly 72 miles west of Nashville.

There were “power outages all over the area,” Deputy Edwards said in an email. “Complicating issues is the loss of all cellphone coverage from the major carriers,” he added.

Portable communication units were being brought in to help restore service, he said.

“We have lost a lot of roads, both rural and major highways,” he said. “In my 28 years, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

The devastation came after an estimated eight to 10 inches of rain inundated Dickson, Hickman, Houston and Humphreys counties, the National Weather Service said on Saturday morning. By Saturday night, officials were reporting that some areas had gotten more than a foot of rain.

 

Aug. 21

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses


Capitol Insurrection, Bomb Threat

 

More Afghani News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News

 

Global Disasters, Climate Change

 

U.S. Sex Crimes, Scandals

 

Top Stories

 

supreme court resized 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: As Democrats Renew Voting Rights Push, Offsetting Roberts Court Is Top of Mind, Carl Hulse, Aug. 21, 2021. The House’s voting rights legislation seeks to counter the Supreme Court’s longstanding bid to undermine the Voting Rights Act, our columnist writes.

When Judge John G. Roberts Jr., right, faced the Senate for his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in September 2005, critics sounded the alarm about his john roberts olongstanding skepticism toward the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which many view as crucial to the political gains of Black Americans over the last half century.

“I fear that if Judge Roberts is confirmed to be chief justice of the United States, the Supreme Court would no longer hear the people’s cries for justice,” Representative John Lewis, the civil rights leader from Georgia, said in urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the nomination.

Judge Roberts was easily confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate despite pleas from Mr. Lewis and other civil rights activists. He went on to oversee the court in rulings that weakened the Voting Right Acts, compromising its decades-long role as a protector of minority access to the ballot box across much of the South. Mr. Lewis died last July, just months before Republican state legislatures enacted an onslaught of voting restrictions after the 2020 elections.

But it is not only those legislatures that Democrats see as their adversaries on election issues.

“We are also up against a Supreme Court that is keen on destroying our nation’s most consequential voting rights law,” Representative Terry A. Sewell, Democrat of Alabama, said this week during a Democratic call celebrating the anniversary of women’s right to vote.

While Mr. Lewis may be gone, House Democrats hope to keep his spirit alive by passing a bill bearing his name next week that they hope will offset what Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called “disastrous” and “shameful” decisions undermining voting rights by the Roberts-led court.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is one element of a two-pronged legislative effort by Democrats to protect minority voting rights. A much broader bill, the For the People Act, would impose an array of requirements on states to expand voting by mail and early voting along with extensive provisions on ethics, campaign finance and redistricting.

The bill named for Mr. Lewis is narrower and focuses on restoring the power of the Voting Rights Act. Both measures face a bleak future in the Senate, where Republicans are nearly unanimous in their opposition to them.

But Democrats, who control the evenly divided chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, say they have not given up.

“Republicans refusing to support anything on voting rights is not an excuse for Democrats to do nothing,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, promising that Democrats would make the legislation a priority when they return after Labor Day.

Democrats are scaling back the broader bill to unite their party for coming votes. The Lewis measure already has the backing of all 50 senators who caucus with Democratic leadership, including Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, the sole Democrat who did not endorse the For the People Act. He has also enlisted the support of a lone Republican, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, far from the minimum of 10 Republicans needed to overcome a filibuster.

The Lewis measure is aimed at reinvigorating the voting protections Democrats say were lost in two Supreme Court decisions that “gutted” the landmark underlying law — Shelby County v. Holder and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee. The first, with a majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts in 2013, rendered moot a requirement that state and local governments with a history of imposing discriminatory voting laws receive “preclearance” from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before making changes to how people voted. The second, with a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. last month, made it harder for minority voters to prove they were being discriminated against by asserting that the relevant part of the Voting Rights Act could be used only to strike down substantial voting restrictions, not merely inconvenient ones.

ny times logojoe biden black background resized serious fileNew York Times, Analysis: Biden Ran on Empathy. Afghanistan Is Testing That, Peter Baker, Updated Aug. 21, 2021. The messy exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has fallen heavily on President Biden, undercutting his promise of more seasoned foreign policy. In the face of global criticism, Mr. Biden has doubled down on ending U.S. involvement in the war and has not admitted to any mistakes. That may haunt his legacy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden vows to get U.S. citizens home, defends Afghanistan exit, Matt Viser and Dan Lamothe, Aug. 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden promised Friday to bring all Americans home from Afghanistan and portrayed the evacuation effort as one that has made significant progress, despite clear evidence on the ground that the situation was continuing to deteriorate as flights were temporarily delayed and a chaotic scene played out at the gates to the Kabul airport.

During remarks in the East Room of the White House, Biden continued to defend his decision — without acknowledging any errors in the execution of the withdrawal he ordered as he urged Americans to save any criticism for later.

“There will be plenty of time to criticize and second-guess when this operation is over,” Biden said. “But now — now — I’m focused on getting this job done.”

The president vowed in his strongest terms yet that no American would be left behind, and he made the same commitment to Afghans who have aided the U.S. effort over the last two decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden tries to restore calm, vowing to rescue Americans and Afghan allies, Staff Reports, Aug. 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Friday promised to bring home any American still trapped in Afghanistan, calling the evacuation effort for Americans and vulnerable Afghans “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.”

But he acknowledged that he did not know how many Americans were still in the country, or if they could ultimately be brought out safely.

“Let me be clear: Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” Mr. Biden said, before adding, “I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or that it will be without the risk of loss.”

He also remained staunchly committed to his decision to pull U.S. troops from the country, defiantly telling reporters, “Does anybody truly believe that I would not have had to put in significantly more American forces? Send your sons, your daughters, like my son was sent to Iraq, to maybe die?”

Seeking to give a sense of how many people had been flown out of the country in the days since Afghanistan’s collapse, Mr. Biden said that some 18,000 people had been airlifted from the country since July. This week, he said, Afghans — including women leaders — and American journalists — including staff members of The Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal — had been safely removed from the country.

Mr. Biden said that he would commit to airlifting Afghans who had been helpful to the 20-year war effort, but said Americans were his first priority.

The president’s remarks were delivered amid wrenching images of human desperation as people begged to be evacuated from the airport in Kabul, the bottlenecked and sole point of departure for Americans and vulnerable Afghans trying to flee a takeover by the Taliban. The Biden administration has faced an international outcry over how quickly Afghanistan collapsed into Taliban rule as American forces stood down, as well as increasing questions over how much military and intelligence officials knew ahead of time about the tenuous situation on the ground.

Scenes of chaos and desperation, which included a young infant being hoisted over a razor wire fence into the arms of American soldiers, have added to the scrutiny over Mr. Biden’s staunch defense of his decision to pull troops out. Mr. Biden called the images of the past week “heartbreaking,” and said the United States had “6,000 of America’s finest fighting men and women” working to restore order at the Hamid Karzai International airport in Kabul and get people out of the country.

On Friday, Mr. Biden, who had been back and forth from vacation spots at Camp David and Wilmington, Del., took questions for the first time this week, and continued to defend his decision to pull American troops.

“What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point, with Al Qaeda gone?” Mr. Biden asked in response to a question about whether or not American allies have been critical of the withdrawal effort. “We went and did the mission. You’ve known my position for a long, long time.”

On Thursday, administration officials said that some 3,000 people had been evacuated at the airport in Kabul, including some 350 American citizens. But by Friday afternoon, administration officials said that the surge of evacuees to other countries had created a backup for “third-party countries” processing new arrivals. In related news:

  • Fear and confusion reign in Kabul despite American assurances.
  • Khalil Haqqani, long on America’s terrorist list, is welcomed by cheering crowds in Kabul.
  • Videos show babies and children caught in the melee outside Kabul’s airport.
  • In the bedlam at Kabul’s airport, having the right papers does not mean getting in.
  • On the ground: Kabul on edge.
  • NATO urges the Taliban to allow safe passage to the Kabul airport.
  • Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities fear a repeat of past atrocities.
  • To protect users, Facebook says it’s hiding friends lists on accounts in Afghanistan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vaccine resistance in the military remains strong, a dilemma for Pentagon as mandate looms, Max Hauptman, Aug. 21, 2021. The Pentagon’s effort to mandate coronavirus vaccination for all 1.3 million active-duty service members will continue to face resistance from a segment of the force, troops and observers say, until military leaders devise an effective strategy for countering pervasive doubt about the pandemic’s seriousness and widespread misinformation about the shots designed to bring it under control.

When Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced earlier this month that he would seek to require inoculation no later than mid-September, Pentagon data showed that thousands of personnel — about one-third of the force — remained unvaccinated. President Biden quickly endorsed the move.

The looming mandate comes as the virus’s highly transmissible delta variant fuels a new wave of infections globally, and after Biden, in what was widely seen as a signal to state and local governments and the private sector that they should follow suit, directed agencies throughout the federal government to implement proof-of-vaccination requirements or impose restrictions on employees who refuse. For military personnel, administration officials have said, the need is particularly urgent.

But, Kuzminski added, “I don’t think we’ve seen a vaccine that was [so] politicized.”

The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment about its efforts to address vaccine hesitancy within the ranks.

Vaccines show declining effectiveness against infection overall but strong protection against hospitalization amid delta variant

Vaccine rates have varied widely between the individual service branches. In July, before Austin’s announcement, the Navy led the way with more 70 percent of its personnel fully vaccinated. At the low end, fewer than 60 percent of Marines met that criteria.

Though Pentagon officials have made clear a mandate is imminent, and that those who refuse risk losing their jobs, inoculation has been voluntary since the vaccines were introduced over the winter — a rare optional task in an organization where orders are the norm. Anecdotally, it appears at least some have viewed the lack of a requirement as grounds to infer the shots might not be safe despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary — or even that they’re unnecessary if their health and physical fitness is otherwise good.

One potential factor driving the Navy’s comparatively high vaccination rate, observers say, can be traced to last year’s high-profile coronavirus outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which left the ship and its crew crippled after hundreds of sailors became sick. It was one of the first major incidents within the military to illustrate how swiftly the virus can spread, particularly among those living in tight quarters, and for many leaders it was a frightening wake-up call.

“There’s also a culture in the Navy that is much more top-down,” Kuzminksi said. “The commander has a lot more cultural authority because being shipboard is such a contained community.”

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Trump sabotaged Afghan withdrawal! Webster G. Tarpley, Aug. 21, 2021. Defying 2019 order by federal judge Chutkan, Trump-Miller webster tarpley 2007xenophobic operatives gutted State Department visa processing apparatus, stranding Afghan translators and auxiliaries in Kabul, former Pence official reveals; this is key factor in humanitarian emergency now, but Blob media continue to vilify Biden for delivering on promise to country sick of war;

With GOP more than ever the face of the pandemic, will California recall voters choose deadly covid chaos under a raving GOP ideologue on model of deSantis, Abbott, Noem, or Ducey?

Lame duck Bush Sr. trapped Clinton with Somalia intervention of November 1992, leading to Black Hawk Down defeat.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Supreme Court temporarily halts ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, which a lower court had ordered to resume today, Staff Reports, Aug. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Under Biden, some legal immigration channels have lagged as illegal entries soar.

The Supreme Court is temporarily halting a judge’s order that would have forced the government to reinstate a Trump administration policy forcing thousands to wait in Mexico while seeking asylum in the U.S.

Justice Samuel Alito issued the temporary stay late Friday night. It will remain in effect until Tuesday night so the high court can consider filings in the case.

A federal judge in Texas had previously ordered that the program, informally known as “Remain in Mexico,” be reinstated Saturday. The Biden administration appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Appeal in New Orleans and asked for a delay in re-implementing the program, pending appeal, but that was denied Thursday.

Formally known as the Migration Protection Protocols, the policy required tens of thousands of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to turn back to Mexico. It was meant to discourage asylum seekers but critics said it denied people the legal right to seek protection in the U.S. and forced them to wait in dangerous Mexican border cities.

jeffrey parker left william darby credits parker family madison county via ap

Jeffrey Parker, left, was killed by William Darby, a Huntsville, Ala., police officer, in 2018.Credit...From left: Parker family; Madison County Sheriff's Office, via Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Alabama Officer Gets 25 Years for Murdering Suicidal Man, Michael Levenson, Aug. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Huntsville city officials had spent $125,000 in public money to defend William Darby, saying he had been justified in using deadly force when he fatally shot Jeffrey Parker, 49, in 2018.

A former Huntsville, Ala., police officer who fatally shot a suicidal man was sentenced on Friday to 25 years in prison, capping a trial in which he was strongly supported by city officials who spent $125,000 in public money on his legal defense.

The former officer, William Darby, 28, resigned from the force only last month, two months after he had been convicted of murdering Jeffrey Parker. Mr. Parker had called 911 on April 3, 2018, to report that he was suicidal, and he was holding a gun to his head when the police arrived, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the evidence showed that the first officer on the scene, Genisha Pegues, had been trying to help Mr. Parker, 49, when Mr. Darby showed up. Mr. Darby, who had been on the force for about 18 months, shot Mr. Parker 11 seconds after entering his house, according to Martin Weinberg, a lawyer who represents Mr. Parker’s family.

City leaders had maintained that Mr. Darby was justified in using deadly force, and he was cleared of wrongdoing by a police review board before he was indicted on a murder charge in August 2018 and then convicted on May 7.

The Huntsville City Council voted to dedicate $125,000 in public money to Mr. Darby’s defense, the entire sum of which was spent on his case, city officials said on Friday. Mr. Darby also remained on the force after his conviction, first on paid administrative leave and then on accrued leave with pay, before he resigned on July 23, city officials said.

“I believe it is evident I didn’t want to kill him,” he told Judge Donna S. Pate of the 23rd Judicial Circuit, AL.com reported.

Prosecutors, who had asked for a term of at least 25 years, said they were satisfied with the sentence that Judge Pate handed down.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA set for full approval of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in coming days, Lateshia Beachum, Derek Hawkins, Adela Suliman, Bryan Pietsch, María Luisa Paúl,Tyler Pager and Dan Diamond, Aug. 21, 2021 print ed.). The Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine in the coming days, according to four people with knowledge of the plans.

fda logopfizer logoIf approved, the vaccine would be the first in the United States to receive full licensure, and it could result in private businesses issuing a new wave of vaccine mandates.

Public health experts have argued that the FDA’s move to grant full approval will be a pivotal moment in the fight against the pandemic, predicting that it would ease the ability of employers to mandate that millions of holdout Americans get vaccinated.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Nursing Is in Crisis’: Staff Shortages Put Patients at Risk, Andrew Jacobs, Aug. 21, 2021. Before Covid, the U.S. faced nursing shortages. But the Delta variant has experts worried. “When hospitals are understaffed, people die,” one said.

Cyndy O’Brien, an emergency room nurse at Ocean Springs Hospital on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, could not believe her eyes as she arrived for work. There were people sprawled out in their cars gasping for air as three ambulances with gravely ill patients idled in the parking lot. Just inside the front doors, a crush of anxious people jostled to get the attention of an overwhelmed triage nurse.

“It’s like a war zone,” said Ms. O’Brien, who is the patient care coordinator at Singing River, a small health system near the Alabama border that includes Ocean Springs. “We are just barraged with patients and have nowhere to put them.”

Nursing shortages have long vexed hospitals. But in the year and half since its ferocious debut in the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has stretched the nation’s nurses as never before, testing their skills and stamina as desperately ill patients with a poorly understood malady flooded emergency rooms. They remained steadfast amid a calamitous shortage of personal protective equipment; spurred by a sense of duty, they flocked from across the country to the newest hot zones, sometimes working as volunteers. More than 1,200 of them have died from the virus.

Now, as the highly contagious Delta variant pummels the United States, bedside nurses, the workhorse of a well-oiled hospital, are depleted and traumatized, their ranks thinned by early retirements or career shifts that traded the emergency room for less stressful nursing jobs at schools, summer camps and private doctor’s offices.

“We’re exhausted, both physically and emotionally,” Ms. O’Brien said.

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 200.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Aug. 21, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2vaccine. This includes more than 170.4 million people fully vaccinated, 51.2 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Aug. 21, 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: 211,721,070, Deaths: 4,431,783
U.S. Cases:     38,398,596, Deaths:    644,281
India Cases:     32,393,286, Deaths:    433,998
Brazil Cases:    20,528,099, Deaths:    573,658

Recent Previous Reports:

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Quiet Rage of the Responsible, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 20, 2021 (print ed.). The return to more or less normal life and its pleasures many paul krugmanexpected Covid vaccines to deliver could have happened in the United States. The reason it hasn’t — the reason we are instead still living in fear, with hospitals in much of the South nearing breaking point — is that not enough people have been vaccinated and not enough people are wearing masks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Four weeks in July: Inside the Biden administration’s struggle to contain the delta surge, Annie Linskey, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Tyler Pager, Aug. 21, 2021. Early last month, as the planned Fourth of July blowout at the White House approached, top health officials inside the Biden administration began calling each other with a flurry of anxious questions.

Would the president declare victory too soon? Would the event be seen as beating a virus that was not yet defeated? And would the massive party, with 1,000 guests, contribute to the virus’s spread?

While many in the White House had set their gaze on the present — eager to mark the progress that President Biden had made as coronavirus cases dipped below 12,000 per day for the first time since March 2020 — health officials were focusing abroad, where a new variant, delta, had sent cases skyrocketing. Even at home, in lightly vaccinated communities across Missouri and Arkansas, health officials were nervously watching cases rise, driven by delta.

washington post logoWashington Post, As covid-19 surges in Miss., some people take unproven drug intended for treating worms in livestock, Timothy Bella, Aug. 21, 2021. The plea from Mississippi’s top doctor to a state grappling with the nation’s second-lowest vaccination rate seemed simple: Do not take ivermectin — a drug intended for treating worms in livestock — to prevent or treat the coronavirus.

Despite no scientific evidence that ivermectin is effective at preventing or treating covid-19, State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs was left baffled this week after one person was hospitalized for ingesting the horse dewormer medication to treat the virus — a “kind of crazy” act he likened to getting chemotherapy at a feed store.

“Please don’t do that,” he said.

Cases of people consuming ivermectin to treat the coronavirus in Mississippi are drawing alarm, with the state’s health department issuing an alert Friday warning people not to take the drug, saying the state’s poison control center has “received an increasing number of calls from individuals with potential ivermectin exposure taken to treat or prevent covid-19 infection.” Mississippi State Epidemiologist Paul Byers wrote in a letter to the MS Health Alert Network that “at least 70 percent of the recent calls” have been related to the ingestion of ivermectin “purchased at livestock supply centers.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A Texas GOP official’s covid-19 death went viral. Then came calls for vaccination — and bitter divides, Hannah Knowles, Aug. 21, 2021. “Everyone already has an opinion, and it didn’t change because of Scott."When H. Scott Apley died at 45 of covid-19, he became a face of vaccine refusal by the political right. A GoFundMe drive for his wife and baby son drew scorn as the Dickinson City Council member’s social media posts circulated.

“I wish I lived in the area!” the Houston-area member of the Texas Republican Party’s governing board wrote this spring about a “mask burning” party in Cincinnati. “You are an absolute enemy of a free people,” he once replied on Twitter to a doctor’s post celebrating the effectiveness of Pfizer’s shots against the coronavirus.

In the GOP circles where Apley was well known, however, there was little mention of covid-19 or how to prevent it. Two days after mourning their former vice chairman in a Facebook post that did not say what put him on a ventilator, the Galveston County Republican Party shared a far-right website’s medical-evidence-free claim that immunization against the coronavirus had killed a young conservative activist. “Another tragedy - From the Vaccine!!!!!” they warned.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Jesse Jackson and wife Jacqueline hospitalized for covid-19, Staff Report, Aug. 21, 2021. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a famed civil rights leader and two-time presidential candidate, and his wife, Jacqueline, have been hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19, according to a statement Saturday.

Jesse Jackson, 79, is vaccinated against the virus and received his first dose in January during a publicized event as he urged others to receive the inoculation as soon as possible. He and his wife, 77, are being treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

“Doctors are currently monitoring the condition of both,” according to the statement from Jesse Jackson’s nonprofit, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

“There are no further updates at this time,” the statement said. “We will provide updates as they become available.”

A protégé of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson was key in guiding the modern civil rights movement on numerous issues, including voting rights.

Despite having been diagnosed for Parkinson’s disease, Jackson has remained active, and has advocated for COVID-19 vaccines for Black people, who lag behind white people in the United States’ vaccination drive. Earlier this month, he was arrested outside the U.S. Capitol during a demonstration calling for Congress to end the filibuster in order to support voting rights.

 

Capitol Insurrection, Bomb Threat

Proof via Substack, Investigation: New Pre-Insurrection Strategy Meetings #1: Reps. Mo Brooks and Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Donald Trump, and 50 seth abramson graphicHouse Republicans, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 19-20-21, 2021. In this new entry in a Proof series focused on lightly or non-reported pre-insurrection meetings involving insurrectionist kingpins, we discuss a secretive GOP-caucus call no one seems to be aware of.

Introduction: Most Americans don’t yet realize how much planning Congressional Republicans did prior to January 6 to ensure that that seth abramson proof logoterrible day would be as chaotic as possible.

The lightly and in some cases unreported meetings that top Washington Republicans held between January 2 and January 5—including White House meetings—explain why the Republican Party writ large can under no circumstances cooperate with the new House January 6 Committee. It is now a certainty that if that committee conducts a comprehensive review of top Republicans’ movements in the 120 hours preceding the January 6 attack on the Capitol, it will discover an institutionalized insurrectionist conspiracy the GOP must hide from voters if it is to take back the House in late 2022.

Proof previously began the process of reporting on largely or entirely unreported pre-insurrection strategy sessions with this article, among whose stunning revelations was a national conference call held by Donald Trump with state GOP officials on January 2. That call, which included nearly 300 such officials and was both highly irregular and conducted on a weekend, would have been more than enough covert insurrectionist business for a President of the United States to conduct a single day. But it turns out that it wasn’t the only major pre-insurrection meeting Donald Trump chaired that day.

This article is about a second such meeting.

Read more at the Proof site to see the revelations....

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

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

owen shroyerPalmer Report, Opinion: Alex Jones’ top sidekick has just been criminally indicted in January 6th Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 20, 2021. Earlier today Reuters bill palmerpublished a bizarre report – complete with suspect sourcing and misleading article construction – which essentially claimed that Roger Stone and Alex Jones were in the clear when it came to the January 6th Capitol attack. Not only did Palmer Report pick it apart in detail, we asked why allies of Stone and Jones were choosing now to call in whatever favors necessary to get such an article published. Now we’re apparently getting our answer.

InfoWars host Owen Shroyer, above, a sidekick of Alex Jones (and a host of "Warroom" on the Jones InforWars show, has just been criminally charged for his actions in the January 6th attack, according to multiple major news outlets including the Washington Post. So this explains the timing of the misleading article that was planted in Reuters early today.

bill palmer report logo headerBy getting the Reuters article planted this morning, allies of Stone and Jones managed to lay the groundwork such that some observers will mistakenly view this evening’s indictment of Jones sidekick Shroyer as a standalone thing that Jones and Stone are insulated from. We say “mistakenly” because, now that the Feds are going as far as arresting Shroyer, it’s obvious that they intend to do the same to Jones. In fact they’ll surely push Shroyer hard to flip on Jones.

Now we know a few things. First, those who took the Reuters report at face value, and began calling for the resignation of the Director of the FBI, once again jumped the gun. Second, these kinds of complex multi-layered investigations really do take time to work their way toward the top. Third, it’s now clear that the probe is indeed getting close to to the top; if the flipping is successful, Shroyer gets you to Alex Jones, who gets you to Roger Stone, who gets you to Donald Trump. Finally, Reuters sure has a lot of explaining to do.

 

"Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Akbar Alexander, center, with his hand in the air, and Infowars host and Trump ally Alex Jones standing next to him.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Homeland Security memo proves the Reuters article about January 6th was indeed a bunch of crap, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 21, 2021. When bill palmerReuters published an article on Friday morning which claimed that the FBI had found little evidence of a January 6th Capitol attack conspiracy, and that Roger Stone and Alex Jones in particular were off the hook, we pointed out in great detail why it was almost surely a bunch of crap.

bill palmer report logo headerWe also pointed out that these kinds of suspicious articles are often a sign that indictments are about to surface. Sure enough, Alex Jones’ top sidekick was indeed indicted hours later, for his role in the January 6th attack. Now it turns out the Reuters article was even more full of crap than we thought.

The Daily Beast has obtained an internal document from the Department of Homeland Security which spells out in detail how there was indeed “pre-operational coordination” among some of the January 6th attackers. So much for the Reuters claim that there was “scant” evidence of any coordination. This just keeps getting worse for Reuters.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Something doesn’t add up about this report that Roger Stone and Alex Jones are off the hook for January 6th, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 20, bill palmer2021. We’ve all spent months watching the FBI indict and arrest several Roger Stone and Alex Jones associates on charges of conspiracy to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Some of the arrestees were even Stone’s personal hired help on that day. It’s fairly obvious that these types are being squeezed to flip on bigger fish, so conspiracy charges can be brought against those bigger fish.

Yet today we all woke up to “exclusive” reporting from Reuters, claiming that the FBI has found little to no evidence that the Capitol attack was in any way coordinated, and implying that the likes of Stone and Jones are simply off the hook. When an “inside sourced” article like this seems to be at odds with everything else we know about a story, and something seems, well, wrong, it usually means there is something wrong. So let’s dive in and see if we can figure out what’s wrong here.

bill palmer report logo headerFor starters, the Reuters article is sourced to “four current and former law enforcement officials.” Well there’s a red flag. How many of these law enforcement officials are current, and how many of them are former? This phrasing suggests that all but one of them are former.

And why cite any former officials at all? They’re not involved in the probe, and therefore don’t officially know anything. The only way former officials could have inside knowledge of this case would be if a current official improperly gave them details of the case, which they then improperly gave to Reuters.

In other words, it feels like the “sourcing” here is just one current law enforcement official, and the only reason Reuters included the former officials is so that it could avoid presenting this article as a single-sourced story. So it’s not off to a great start. But this alone doesn’t prove that the article is illegitimate.

Of course the real problem is this. It’s not uncommon for investigators or prosecutors to strategically leak details to the media about how ugly the evidence is, or about how indictments are coming, to try to scare the suspect into cooperating. But there’s no strategic reason for officials to leak that an investigation isn’t going anywhere, or that the targets are off the hook. This kind of leak only makes the FBI’s job harder.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man who said he had bomb near Capitol charged with threatening to use ‘weapon of mass destruction,’ Rachel Weiner, Aug. 21, 2021 (print ed.). A man who prompted an evacuation of the U.S. Capitol and surrounding buildings on Thursday by claiming to have a bomb inside his truck faces charges of threatening to use explosives and a weapon of mass destruction.

Floyd Ray Roseberry of North Carolina surrendered to authorities Thursday about five hours after he drove a truck onto the sidewalk outside the Library of Congress and launched a standoff with law enforcement officers, police said. He had demanded to speak to President Biden about a range of grievances against the Democratic Party and claimed that if he was shot, his vehicle and four others would explode.

According to the court documents, a relative of Roseberry’s reported to local law enforcement on Wednesday that he “had recently expressed anti-
government views and an intent to travel to Virginia or Washington, D.C. to conduct acts of violence.”

Officials said they found no bomb in his car, but there were materials that could be used to make explosives.

In a court appearance Friday when the charges were made public, Roseberry said he went to school through the eighth grade before going to work but eventually returned and got his GED as well as a welding license. He also said he hadn’t taken his “mind medicine” for at least two days.

“My memory isn’t that well, sir,” he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui. He said his wife had power of attorney over his medical care.

Faruqui said he would delay any substantive decisions until the medication was provided but told Roseberry he faces up to life in prison.

“I can tell you’re a good man,” Roseberry responded. “I’m willing to do whatever you ask.”

Faruqui ordered a competency screening for Roseberry at the request of the government, which also asked for him to remain jailed. Authorities said Roseberry was 49, but in court he said he was 51. Before he was taken into custody, Roseberry delivered a tirade over a Facebook Live video that circulated widely before the website and other social media platforms took it down. In the video, he repeated the false claim that the election was stolen from former president Donald Trump and called on Democrats to resign.

He also threw what he said was $3,000 in cash out the windows of his truck.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Would-be terrorist at the Library of Congress not to be taken lightly, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 20-21, 2021. Floyd Ray Roseberry of North wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallCarolina may appear to be a character out of television's fictional Mayberry, but the aspirational bomber of the Library of Congress's Jefferson Building and surrounding structures, including the Supreme Court, is but one of many foot soldiers willing to die for Donald Trump.

Most of the major media, including Facebook and YouTube, have refused to publish or air Roseberry's sometimes incoherent and meandering verbal manifesto, orated over a five-hour period via a Facebook live stream on August 19 as he drove through Virginia and later sat in his pickup truck parked outside the Library of Congress.

wayne madesen report logoPerhaps Roseberry is not the most articulate of Trump supporters willing to die for their political führer -- few of them are -- but his intentions in wanting to decimate several city blocks in Washington, DC should be taken seriously. Many of these far-right seditionists see January 6 insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt as their Horst Wessel-like martyr, someone whose death must be avenged.

The lackluster and mealy-mouthed Attorney General, Merrick Garland, left, should be immediately replaced by someone like former federal prosecutor Glenn merrick garlandKirschner, who has called for Trump to be prosecuted for, among other things, his repeated calls for insurrection. The next time, it may not be some deluded cosplaying redneck from North Carolina who decides to kill a bunch people in downtown DC, but the real thing.

A rough and incomplete transcript of Roseberry's five-hour Facebook broadcast follows:

"I've cleared my conscience with God. I just love America, boy. I have no fear. None. The cracking you