Sept. News (Pt. 1)

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative September  2021 news and views. This is Part 1 of our tw excepts during a heavy news month

 

Sept. 21

Top Headlines

 

U.S. Terrorists, Election Fraudsters, Money Sources

 

Canadian, Russian Elections

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump Watch

Migration Issues

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime

 

World News

 

U.S.-Australia Sub Deal, French Outrage

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Markets

 

U.S. Media, Academic News


Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. careens toward shutdown, financial crisis amid stalemate in Congress, Tony Romm, Sept. 21, 2021. Democrats have tied an increase in the debt ceiling with a bill that funds the government into December, setting off a war with Republicans, who refuse to raise the cap out of opposition to President Biden’s agenda — even if it means grinding the country to a halt.

The U.S. government is careening toward an urgent financial crisis starting in 10 days, as a political standoff on Capitol Hill threatens to shutter the government during a pandemic, delay hurricane aid to millions of Americans and thrust Washington to the precipice of defaulting on its debt.

The high-stakes feud stems from a fight to raise the U.S. government’s borrowing limit, known as the debt ceiling. Democrats have tied the increase to a bill that funds federal operations into December, setting off a war with Republicans, who refuse to raise the cap out of opposition to President Biden’s broader agenda — even if it means grinding the country to a halt.

No recent fight in the halls of Congress has quite carried the same stakes as this one, coming at a time when Washington continues to grapple with rising coronavirus infections and the deadly consequences of a fast-warming planet. Biden himself has warned “catastrophic” effects of inaction with key deadlines looming.

U.S. default this fall would cost 6 million jobs, wipe out $15 trillion in wealth, study says

washington post logoWashington Post, More centrist Democrats question size of $3.5 trillion economic plan, Tony Romm and Marianna Sotomayor, Sept. 21, 2021. Razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate give Democrats little wiggle room as they try and assemble budget plan.

A slew of moderate Democrats in the House and Senate have toiled behind the scenes to try to rethink or scale back core elements of the party’s $3.5 trillion tax-and-spending plan, opening new internal rifts that complicate its path to swift passage.

U.S. House logoIn recent days, centrist Democratic lawmakers have questioned the price tag of the proposal, raised alarms that it could add to the deficit, and sought to whittle down some of its key components, including programs that would provide free prekindergarten and community college for all Americans perhaps regardless of income.

The political complications are hard enough to resolve on their own, pitting warring factions of Democrats against each other over President Biden’s broader economic agenda. But they have taken on greater significance at a time when the party finds itself newly consumed with a wide array of additional problems, including a scramble to prevent a government shutdown next week and a breach of the debt ceiling shortly after that. The battles could lessen some moderates’ appetites for trillions of dollars in new spending.

For now, the most forceful objections have come from lawmakers including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who met with President Biden to discuss her position last week. Three people familiar with Sinema’s thinking, who requested anonymity to describe their private conversations, said she is especially interested in targeting some of the aid more narrowly based on income and economic status than her Democratic peers might have preferred. That includes the new prekindergarten and community college spending.

 

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: In U.N. Debut, Biden Confronts Doubts About U.S. Global Leadership, Michael D. Shear, David E. Sanger and Rick Gladstone, Sept. 21, 2021. Covid-19 and climate change are dominating the start of the General Assembly gathering. The U.N. secretary general warned that an increasingly divided world was “on the edge of an abyss.” The annual U.N. meeting presents a major test for President Biden.

President Biden delivered his debut address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations on Tuesday amid strong new doubts about his ability to vault the United States back into a position of global leadership after his predecessor’s promotion of “America First” isolationism.

UN logoSpeaking to a smaller than usual audience of his peers because of the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Biden called for a new era of global unity against the coronavirus, emerging technological threats and the expanding influence of autocratic nations such as China and Russia.

“No matter how challenging or how complex the problems we’re going to face, government by and for the people is still the best way to deliver for all of our people,” he said, insisting that the United States and its Western allies would remain vital partners.

Calling for the world to make the use of force “our tool of last resort, not our first,” he defended his decision to end the U.S. war in Afghanistan, a chaotic withdrawal of American troops that left allies blindsided.

“Today, many of our greatest concerns cannot be solved or even addressed by the force of arms,” he said. “Bombs and bullets cannot defend against Covid-19 or its future variants.”

But Mr. Biden’s efforts to move America past President Donald J. Trump’s more confrontational policies come amid growing frustration among allies with his administration’s diplomatic approach.

His familiar refrain that the world must choose between democracy and autocracy looks different now that the Taliban are once again in control of Kabul, reversing many of the democratic gains of the past 20 years. Covid is resurging in much of the world. And the French just recalled their ambassador in outrage — not just over losing a $60 billion-plus submarine contract, but because it was made clear they are not in the inner circle of allies.

european union logo rectangleCharles Michel, the European Council president, said in a briefing at the E.U. Mission to the United Nations on Monday that “the elementary principles for allies are transparency and trust.” Expressing shock and bafflement over Mr. Biden’s treatment of France, he said, “And what do we observe? We are observing a clear lack of transparency and loyalty.”

The allies recognize the differences between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. But in conversations over the past two weeks, they say they have new concerns about the United States.

They worry about whether Mr. Biden really has their back, after the French foreign minister compared the submarine deal with Australia to a “knife in the back.” When they hear about Covid vaccine booster shots in the United States, they often wonder what that might do to global supplies. And when they look at how the U.S. handles the Australia deal, they wonder whether American national interest has eclipsed the role of global leader.

Mr. Biden and other leaders gathered in New York City against a backdrop of disastrous climate change, polarized superpower relations and a devastating pandemic that has worsened the global rich-poor divide.

The event is a major test of credibility for Mr. Biden, who was among the first to address the 193-member General Assembly. Among the last to speak will be President Xi Jinping of China, via prerecorded video, bookending a day with the competing views of the two most powerful countries in the world.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats to Pair Spending Bill With Raising Debt Ceiling, Pressuring G.O.P., Emily Cochrane, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The approach essentially dares Republicans to follow through on their threats to oppose increasing the debt limit, by coupling it with urgently needed federal spending. 

Top congressional Democrats announced on Monday that they would tack a measure lifting the federal borrowing limit through the end of 2022 onto a bill to keep the government funded through December, escalating a brewing showdown with Republicans who have vowed to oppose legislation needed to avert a fiscal catastrophe.

The House is expected to take up the bill as early as this week, as Democrats juggle work on their $3.5 trillion economic package with the pressing need to avoid a government shutdown in 10 days and a potential default on the national debt within weeks.

But Republicans have warned repeatedly that they are unwilling to support raising the debt ceiling, leaving the fate of both measures in doubt. In pairing the two, Democratic leaders hoped to pressure Republicans into dropping their opposition and allowing passage of legislation that is expected to contain urgently needed spending, including disaster relief to help their states.

“Addressing the debt limit is about meeting obligations the government has already made, like the bipartisan emergency Covid relief legislation from December, as well as vital payments to Social Security recipients and our veterans,” the top two Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, said in a joint statement announcing their plan. “Furthermore, as the administration warned last week, a reckless Republican-forced default could plunge the country into a recession.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, has argued for weeks that it is the ruling party’s responsibility to finance the federal spending it has endorsed, particularly as Democrats seek to maneuver trillions of dollars in spending around unified Republican opposition.

“Democrats want to build a partisan future without our input, so Democrats will not get bipartisan facilitators for their purely partisan spending binge,” Mr. McConnell declared on the Senate floor, adding that Republicans would support a stand-alone bill to keep the government open. “Democrats are fully capable of owning this step themselves.”

But the debt-limit increase is needed to pay for trillions of dollars in debt racked up by lawmakers in both parties, including under President Donald J. Trump. Democrats, who joined Republicans in increasing the limit during the Trump administration, argue that the G.O.P. should reciprocate under President Biden so the government does not default on its obligations.

“This is a bipartisan responsibility, just as it was under my predecessor,” Mr. Biden said on Twitter, in a statement of support for the plan. “Blocking it would be inexcusable.”

In their statement, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer singled out the need to pay for the $900 billion pandemic relief bill that became law in the final weeks of the Trump administration with bipartisan support, including from Mr. McConnell and moderate Republicans. The pair also said the legislation, which had not been made public by Monday evening, would also include emergency funding to resettle refugees from Afghanistan and address the onslaught of natural disasters in recent months, including the hurricane devastation in Louisiana and wildfires in the West.

 

U.S. Terrorists, Election Fraudsters, Dark Money

 Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall.

Trump-allied attorney Sidney Powell, right, with allied attorney Jenna Ellis in the background last fall, has pushed baseless claims of election tampering.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Campaign Knew Lawyers’ Voting Machine Claims Were Baseless, Memo Shows, Alan Feuer, Sept. 21, 2021. Days before lawyers allied with Donald Trump gave a news conference promoting election conspiracy theories, his campaign had determined that many of those claims were false, court filings reveal.

Two weeks after the 2020 election, a team of lawyers closely allied with Donald J. Trump held a widely watched news conference at the Republican Party’s headquarters in Washington. At the event, they laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming that a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Mr. Trump.

But there was a problem for the Trump team, according to court documents released on Monday evening.

By the time the news conference occurred on Nov. 19, Mr. Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic. The memo had determined that those allegations were untrue.

The court papers, which were initially filed late last week as a motion in a defamation lawsuit brought against the campaign and others by a former Dominion employee, Eric Coomer, contain evidence that officials in the Trump campaign were aware early on that many of the claims against the companies were baseless.

The documents also suggest that the campaign sat on its findings about Dominion even as Sidney Powell and other lawyers attacked the company in the conservative media and ultimately filed four federal lawsuits accusing it of a vast conspiracy to rig the election against Mr. Trump.

According to emails contained in the documents, Zach Parkinson, then the campaign’s deputy director of communications, reached out to subordinates on Nov. 13 asking them to “substantiate or debunk” several matters concerning Dominion. The next day, the emails show, Mr. Parkinson received a copy of a memo cobbled together by his staff from what largely appear to be news articles and public fact-checking services.

Even though the memo was hastily assembled, it rebutted a series of allegations that Ms. Powell and others were making in public. It found:

That Dominion did not use voting technology from the software company, Smartmatic, in the 2020 election.

That Dominion had no direct ties to Venezuela or to Mr. Soros.

And that there was no evidence that Dominion’s leadership had connections to left-wing “antifa” activists, as Ms. Powell and others had claimed.

As Mr. Coomer’s lawyers wrote in their motion in the defamation suit, “The memo produced by the Trump campaign shows that, at least internally, the Trump campaign found there was no evidence to support the conspiracy theories regarding Dominion” and Mr. Coomer.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Serious new legal trouble for everyone involved with Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, Bill Palmer, Sept. 21, 2021. Dominion Voting Systems has already brought individual civil cases against numerous lawyers associated with Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, over the phony conspiracy theories they touted about imaginary election fraud. The big question was whether there would end up being enough evidence to prove that they knew these claims were false when they made them, and whether Trump himself would end up being targeted by Dominion as well.

bill palmer report logo headerNow we’re getting some answers. The New York Times is reporting that after Donald Trump was declared the loser of the 2020 election, his campaign immediately crafted an internal memo admitting that there was no voting machine fraud. This is bad for the Trump cartel on two levels.

First, it means that the likes of Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani are really screwed. They’ll have a nearly impossible time convincing anyone that they somehow weren’t aware of this Trump campaign internal memo, meaning Dominion now has the smoking gun it needs to very likely win its cases against them.

Second, it means that Donald Trump and his 2020 campaign leaders all knew that Powell and Giuliani were lying when they went out there to make these claims on behalf of the campaign. It means Trump and his campaign people are looking at serious legal culpability in civil court, once Dominion inevitably files suit against them. It also raises the possibility of a criminal conspiracy to commit election fraud.
In the interim, Iran has continued to expand the quantity and quality of its uranium enrichment, leading some experts to conclude it is now even closer to possessing enough fissile material to build a bomb than the two or three months the Biden administration has publicly estimated. At the same time, Iran has repeatedly sparred with the International Atomic Energy Agency over monitoring of its nuclear activities originally agreed in the 2015 deal.

For its part, the administration has continued to warn that negotiating time is running out, without saying how much time is left or what it will do if it expires. Some answers may emerge this week, when the Tehran government says Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, plans to hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Britain, Germany and France at the annual United Nations General Assembly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Huge hack reveals embarrassing details of who’s behind Proud Boys and other far-right websites, Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg and Hannah Allam, Sept. 21, 2021. Researchers say it will allow them to gain important new insights into how extremists operate online.

Epik long has been the favorite Internet company of the far-right, providing domain services to QAnon theorists, Proud Boys and other instigators of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — allowing them to broadcast hateful messages from behind a veil of anonymity.

But that veil abruptly vanished last week when a huge breach by the hacker group Anonymous dumped into public view more than 150 gigabytes of previously private data — including user names, passwords and other identifying information of Epik’s customers.

Extremism researchers and political opponents have treated the leak as a Rosetta Stone to the far-right, helping them to decode who has been doing what with whom over several years. Initial revelations have spilled out steadily across Twitter since news of the hack broke last week, often under the hashtag #epikfail, but those studying the material say they will need months and perhaps years to dig through all of it.

“It’s massive. It may be the biggest domain-style leak I’ve seen and, as an extremism researcher, it’s certainly the most interesting,” said Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who studies right-wing extremism. “It’s an embarrassment of riches — stress on the embarrassment.”

Epik, based in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, has made its name in the Internet world by providing critical Web services to sites that have run afoul of other companies’ policies against hate speech, misinformation and advocating violence. Its client list is a roll-call of sites known for permitting extreme posts and that have been rejected by other companies for their failure to moderate what their users post.

Online records show those sites have included 8chan, which was dropped by its providers after hosting the manifesto of a gunman who killed 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019; Gab, which was dropped for hosting the antisemitic rants of a gunman who killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018; and Parler, which was dropped due to lax moderation related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

TheDonald’s owner speaks out on why he finally pulled plug on hate-filled site

Epik also provides services to a network of sites devoted to extremist QAnon conspiracy theories. Epik briefly hosted the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer in 2019 after acquiring a cybersecurity company that had provided it with hosting services, but Epik soon canceled that contract, according to news reports. Epik also stopped supporting 8chan after a short period of time, the company has said.

Earlier this month, Epik also briefly provided service to the antiabortion group Texas Right to Life, whose website, ProLifeWhistleblower.com, was removed by the hosting service GoDaddy because it solicited accusations about which medical providers might be violating a state abortion ban.

An Epik attorney said the company stopped working with the site because it violated company rules against collecting people’s private information. Online records show Epik was still the site’s domain registrar as of last week, though the digital tip line is no longer available, and the site now redirects to the group’s homepage.

Epik founder Robert Monster’s willingness to provide technical support to online sanctuaries of the far-right have made him a regular target of anti-extremism advocates, who criticized him for using Epik’s tools to republish the Christchurch gunman’s manifesto and live-streamed video the killer had made of the slaughter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How serious is the threat to democracy, and how do we defeat it? Jennifer Rubin, right, author of the new book Resistance published this week and shown below, Sept. 21, 2021. Election law guru Richard L. Hasen jennifer rubin new headshothas published a law review article explaining the danger of subverted elections and violence after millions have been brainwashed to believe the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.

The piece is particularly timely, given the new reporting that two supposedly “responsible” Republicans, Sens. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah, had reviewed the disgraced former president’s fraud claims in January and confirmed they were total bunk. Despite this, the senators have refused to separate their party from the instigator of the Jan. 6 insurrection and voted against a bipartisan commission to review the violent day.

jennifer rubin book resistanceHasen warns: “Of greatest concern is that the activities of Trump and his allies from the November 2020 election through January 7, 2021 served as dress rehearsal for how to subvert election results in 2024 or in other future elections.” He outlines three main risks to our elections.

The first risk arises from the “independent state legislature" doctrine. As Hasen explains, this is “[t]he argument that Article II and Article I, section 4 give state legislatures virtually unlimited powers over the rules for running presidential and congressional elections — even if it means violating the state’s own Constitution.” He points out that if courts were to accept this doctrine, it would "create a potential earthquake in American election law by upending everything from voter initiatives setting the rules for congressional primaries to normal election administration decisions of state and local election administrators — not to mention, rendering state constitutional protections for voting rights a nullity in congressional and presidential election.”

Democrats have warned that electing a GOP House majority in 2022 would open the door to abuse of this process and refusal to recognize voters’ presidential choice in preference for state lawmakers’ pick. Hasen writes:

The 2020 election shattered the illusion that bipartisan norms insulated our elections in a way that less mature democracies could not. Instead, it’s now clear we have one party that would gladly swap U.S. democracy for a tin-pot dictatorship with its champion at the helm. Behind that party is an army of disgraceful, right-wing media outlets, pundits and think tanks that eagerly legitimize anti-democratic subversion for the sake of a buck. A recently-surfaced, six-point plan from lawyer John Eastman advising how the vice president could unilaterally pull off a coup underscores the seriousness of the threat and just how deceitful and un-American are MAGA’s enablers. (It should also highlight the need for disciplinary action against lawyers plotting to overturn our democracy.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Two GOP operatives indicted for allegedly routing money from Russian national to support Trump campaign, Felicia Sonmez and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 21, 2021. A political strategist who was pardoned by the former president after being convicted in a 2012 campaign finance scheme is facing new charges related to an alleged 2016 plot to illegally funnel donations made by a Russian national to support then-candidate Donald Trump’s White House bid.

Jesse Benton, 43, who was previously a top aide to former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and later ran a pro-Trump super PAC, was charged this month, according to a federal indictment in Washington unsealed Monday. Also charged is Roy Douglas “Doug” Wead, 75, a conservative author and former special assistant to President George H.W. Bush.

According to the indictment, in the months before the 2016 presidential election, Benton and Wead solicited a U.S. campaign donation from a Russian national in violation of federal law, then filed false campaign finance reports to make it seem that the donation was from Benton.

Federal disclosures from that period make clear the donation went to support Trump’s election, though the recipient is not named in the indictment. Authorities allege Benton arranged for the Russian national to attend a fundraiser “and get a photograph with” the candidate, “in exchange for a political contribution.”

Benton and Wead “concealed the scheme from the candidate, federal regulators, and the public,” according to the indictment.

The court filing does not name Trump, but details in the indictment match a $25,000 donation that Benton made in the fall of 2016 to a committee that jointly raised money for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, campaign finance records show.

The unnamed Russian national, who is described as a business associate of Wead, wired a total of $100,000 from a bank account in Vienna, Austria, to a political consulting firm owned by Benton, authorities allege.

In return, Benton and Wead allegedly arranged for the Russian national to attend a September fundraiser in Philadelphia. The following month, Benton used his credit card to pay the $25,000 cost of the Russian national’s ticket to the event and told a consultant for the related campaign committees that he had “bought the tickets and gifted them” to Wead and the individual.

Benton then paid off the $25,000 on his card using the funds wired by the individual to his consulting company. He kept the remaining $75,000, the indictment alleges.

washington post logoWashington Post, Treasury Department will sanction crypto exchanges that help channel payments to hackers, Gerrit De Vynck, Sept. 21, 2021. The Biden administration is also warning companies that paying ransoms to hackers might be illegal The U.S. government is stepping up its efforts to disrupt the infrastructure hackers use to make money from breaking into and holding hostage computer networks, announcing sanctions against one virtual currency exchange and warning U.S. companies it could be legally risky for them to pay off hackers that hit their systems.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions Tuesday against Suex, an exchange that lets people buy and sell virtual currencies with regular credit cards, according to its website. The government said as much as 40 percent of known transactions run by Suex were criminal. Other exchanges could be hit with sanctions, too.

“We are going to continue to look at the ecosystem and look for actors that are taking similar actions,” Anne Neuberger, the White House’s deputy national security adviser on cybersecurity, said during a call with reporters.

Ransomware attacks, where hackers lock out a company or organization from its computer system and demand a ransom payment to restore access, more than doubled from 2019 to 2020. The government sees them as both a criminal menace, and a national security threat. In February, a hack on the Colonial Pipeline fuel-delivery network led to fuel shortages up and down the East Coast. President Biden has told Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is known to host many of the ransomware gangs responsible for the surge, that he would take “any necessary action” to defend critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.

The anatomy of a ransomware attack

Still, the hacks keep coming. On Monday, Iowa-based New Cooperative, a major buyer and distributor of grain and feed, said it had been hit by a ransomware attack, though it was able to find a workaround to keep most of its business running.

The announcement Tuesday is part of the government’s attempts to lower the frequency and profitability of ransomware attacks. It has urged companies to increase their cybersecurity practices, such as requiring all employees to use two-factor authentication. Legislators have proposed new rules requiring private companies that operate critical infrastructure to meet minimum security standards.
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Sanctioning crypto exchanges might also make it riskier for companies to pay ransoms even if they want to. Right now, many companies hire third-party consultants to negotiate and help pay ransoms, ensuring that computer systems get back up and running quickly. But if the exchanges used to facilitate those ransom payments are sanctioned, the hacked companies and their consultants could now both be breaking the law by paying.

“Companies that facilitate ransomware payments to cyber actors on behalf of victims, including financial institutions, cyber insurance firms, and companies involved in digital forensics and incident response, not only encourage future ransomware payment demands but also may risk violating OFAC regulations,” the Treasury Department said in its statement. “The U.S. government strongly discourages all private companies and citizens from paying ransom or extortion demands.”

FBI held back ransomware decryption key from businesses to run operation targeting hackers

If companies feel they must make a payment, the best course of action is to tell law enforcement ahead of time, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on the call.

“If a company determines that it’s in their interest to pay these demands, the OFAC guidance makes clear that the best way to protect that company from the risk of paying a sanctioned entity is to report the fact that they have been attacked to law enforcement,” Adeyemo said.

The White House has also been pushing cyber-insurance providers to craft policies that incentivize companies to take security more seriously. Some hackers have specifically targeted companies they know have robust cyber-insurance. The government wants stricter rules on who gets to access that insurance.

“In order to get home insurance, you have to have installed smoke detectors or have an alarm system,” Neuberger said. “So when we look at cybersecurity, what we’re grappling with is what seems to be the lack of incentives for companies to make the investment to have to modernize their defenses to meet the threat.”

 

Canadian, Russian Elections

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Neo-fascist party in Canada makes a mark in election; its vote count shouldn't fool anyone, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books, including one forthcoming on the rise of fascism in Western nations, and former Navy intelligence officer), wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSept. 21, 2021. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gambled his Liberal Party government's political future by calling a snap election and, defying many polls, came out ahead of his main rival, the increasingly Trump-like Conservative Party.

wayne madesen report logoWhile most eyes were on Trudeau and Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole, election observers eyeing the rise of neo-fascist, neo-Nazi, and other far-right parties around the world were looking at how a relatively new Canadian party, the far-right People's Party of Canada (PPC), would fare in its first national contest. Formed in 2018 by former Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, the PPC ran 312 candidates in the recent election.

The PPC expounds the same sort of Gish galloping gobbledygook that every far-right party uses to confuse voters. They claim to be "libertarian," "populist," "nationalist," and, most laughable, neither "right" or "left" in the classical sense.  The far-right claims ownership of terms like freedom, patriot, and libertarian to mask its fascist underpinnings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Justin Trudeau to Remain Prime Minister of Canada, Ian Austen, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Canadian broadcasters projected that Mr. Trudeau would remain in power after Monday’s election. Trudeau falls short of a majority in Canada’s federal election.

canadian flagHere’s what you need to know:

  • Justin Trudeau will remain prime minister, Canadian TV projects.
  • Many Canadians, weary of their prime minister, still see him as the least bad choice.
  • The national dialogue on Indigenous issues was missing from the campaign.
  • Climate change was supposed to be a big issue this election. It wasn’t.
  • The Conservative, Erin O’Toole, shifted left to broaden his party’s appeal.

justin trudeau twitterThe prime minister, right, called the election last month, two years ahead of schedule, expecting that the boost in his popularity provided by his handling of the pandemic would give him the majority he was denied in 2018. But those promising numbers immediately fell as Canadians expressed dismay about the election being held while the Delta variant of the coronavirus was straining hospitals and prompting the authorities to restore restrictions in some areas.

While disgruntlement about the election call dominated the five-week campaign, the pandemic intensified as a campaign issue over the final days. Mr. Trudeau has proposed mandatory vaccination for some and championed vaccine passports. Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader, rejected both.

Mr. Trudeau first came to power in 2015 by presenting himself as a new voice in politics with a fresh approach and policies.

This time around, Mr. Trudeau is part of the political establishment. So he focused on telling voters, explicitly or otherwise, that a return to a Conservative government under Mr. O’Toole would wipe away his achievements in a variety of areas including gun control, gender equity, climate change, child care, poverty reduction and, above all, ending the pandemic and getting Canadians vaccinated.

vladimir putin hand up palmer washington post logoWashington Post, Putin’s United Russia party gains big majority in parliamentary elections, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintained its tight grip on the nation's parliament in three-day elections criticized by opposition parties and independent observers for ballot stuffing and tampering, according to election results announced by the Central Election Commission.

CEC head Ella Pamfilova said United Russia won, holding on to its supermajority in the parliament with a turnout of 51.68 percent, well above the 2016 turnout of 47.88 percent — the lowest in Russian history.

russian flag wavingComing in for particular criticism by the opposition was a new, online voting system used in six regions, which was described as opaque and has been credited with preserving United Russia seats, especially in Moscow.

The Communist Party — which came in second as usual — announced it would not recognize the online voting results and would not do so in the future, saying the system had no integrity.

Putin’s party expected to maintain its grip on Duma as Russian opposition complains of stolen vote

Police cordoned off Pushkin Square in central Moscow after Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called for protests to “defend the election.” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin denied Communist Party applications to stage protests Monday, Tuesday or Friday.

The results mean Putin’s party has won all five State Duma elections since 2003, giving the Kremlin a compliant parliament that has long supported the president as he cracked down on political freedoms and crushed his opponents.

United Russia’s approval rating was hovering around 30 percent in the months leading to elections, due to voter discontent over increases in the pension age, high food prices, declining real wages and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Russian fascism shows weak links; Biden missed an opportunity, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 20-21, 2021. A Cold War mindset during the Barack wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallObama administration and a Russophile Donald Trump foreign policy squandered advantageous opportunities for the United States to politically hobble the neo-fascist policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The recent Russian legislative and regional elections indicate that if the United States were to provide "quiet" assistance to the Communist wayne madesen report logoParty of the Russian Federation (KPRF) the consistent majorities Putin's United Russia cult of personality party achieves in elections, including the three-day election that wrapped up on September 19, could suffer setbacks.

As of this report, with 99.6 percent of the vote counted, United Russia clocked in with 49.8 percent of the votes, only a plurality of votes for Putin. In 2016, the Putin party won 54.2 percent of the vote, a majority.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Second dose of J&J vaccine increases covid protection, company says, Ben Guarino, Sept. 21, 2021. According to Johnson & Johnson’s study, efficacy was 100 percent against severe or critical cases of covid-19 for two weeks after the booster shot. Regulators would have to authorize the boosters before the public could receive them.

johnson johnson logoA second shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosts protection against symptomatic and severe covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the drug company announced early Tuesday. Those booster shots also generated additional antibodies, molecules churned out by the immune system to help fight off infections.

Under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency-use authorization, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is given as a single dose, unlike the two shots required for full immunization with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines.

Results published this summer indicate that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine generates lasting amounts of antibodies able to target delta and other variants of concern. In June and July, when delta was ascendant, the effectiveness of the one-shot vaccine was 78 percent against observed covid-19, according to a report published Thursday that has not yet gone through peer review.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: U.S. reported deaths surpass toll of 1918 flu pandemic, Rachel Pannett and Annabelle Timsit, Sept. 21, 2021. Family urges others to get vaccinated after bride-to-be dies of covid: ‘Misinformation killed her.’

More people have died during of covid-19 in the United States than those estimated to have died of influenza during the 1918 pandemic. As of Monday, more than 675,000 U.S. deaths associated with the coronavirus have been reported since Feb. 29, 2020, per a Washington Post tracker.

 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s roughly how many died of influenza in the United States between 1918 and 1919 — along with more than 49 million people globally in the “deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.” (Coronavirus has killed nearly 4.7 million globally.)

That’s a grim milestone, but as The Post’s Aaron Blake explains, it needs to be put into context. The U.S. population is more than three times larger than it was roughly a century ago: While in 1918, 675,000 deaths represented about 1 in 150 Americans, it’s currently 1 in 500. The coronavirus has also killed fewer of the people it infects than the 1918 H1N1 flu virus, although it’s not clear whether “that reflects the relative deadliness of the virus, the advances in health care and mitigation over the past 100 years, or some combination of both,” Blake writes.

That doesn’t mean the parallel isn’t concerning. With overwhelmed hospitals, wars over vaccine mandates, and another winter approaching, the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be burning itself out like the flu virus did 100 years ago. Instead, it’s adapting, with new, more contagious variants like delta. The estimated death toll of the 1918 pandemic is just that — an estimate — meaning it’s possible that we had already surpassed it.

Here’s what to know

jair bolsonaro brazilThe United Nations General Assembly’s general debate kicks off today with speeches from Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, right, — whose unvaccinated status has been the cause of much hand-wringing among U.N. and New York officials — and later President Biden.

The White House Monday said it would revoke its travel ban for fully-vaccinated travelers from 33 countries, most of them in Europe, in early November.

Hospitals in the U.S. are struggling to get their hands on lifesaving medical equipment as trade disruptions caused by coronavirus and shortages of raw materials take a hit on global supply chains.

Biden will get a booster shot on camera, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday, but did not specify a timing. At 78, Biden is part of the cohort that a Food and Drug Administration expert panel recommended last week should be given booster shots.

Samantha Wendell and fiance Austin Eskew (family photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Family urges others to get vaccinated after bride-to-be dies of covid: ‘Misinformation killed her,’ Jessica Lipscomb, Sept. 21, 2021. After dating for more than 10 years, Samantha Wendell and her fiance, Austin Eskew (shown above), were ready to settle down and have kids.

Following their engagement in 2019, the couple set a wedding date for Aug. 21, 2021, at a church in Lisle, Ill., where Wendell’s parents had married years earlier. They planned to start a family soon after.

Wendell was eager to have children, so when she heard false claims that the coronavirus vaccine could affect her fertility, she decided to hold off on getting immunized, her family members told NBC News. But over the summer, Wendell, a surgical technician in Grand Rivers, Ky., changed her mind and scheduled a vaccine appointment for the end of July. It was too late — days before the appointment, she and Eskew tested positive for the virus.

After a long hospitalization, during which she was placed on a ventilator, Wendell died Sept. 10. She was 29.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP maneuvers to block vaccine mandates, undercutting a key policy, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Annie Linskey, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Republican leaders argue that requiring the shots violates personal freedoms, but experts say mass vaccinations have not worked historically without mandates.

washington post logoWashington Post, As covid patients fill hospitals, health workers fight fear and exhaustion: ‘Here we go again,’ Antonio Olivo and Rachel Chason, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Many on health care’s front lines say they’re baffled that there is still even a debate over whether to get vaccinated or wear a mask in public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawyer’s rise shows how vaccine misinformation can fuel fundraising and far-right celebrity, Shawn Boburg and Jon Swaine, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Thomas Renz, once a little-known attorney in Ohio with limited litigation experience, boosted his profile with lawsuits challenging coronavirus vaccines.

In one of dozens of recent media appearances, Ohio attorney Thomas Renz was claiming that coronavirus vaccines were more harmful than the virus itself. “The people that are dying are vaccinated,” he said on a conservative online talk show in July.

As Renz spoke, a message flashed across the screen with his website address. “Donate to his cause,” it urged.

Renz, who became a licensed attorney only months before the pandemic began, has rapidly gained prominence among covid-19 skeptics for leading federal lawsuits in six states that challenge shutdowns, mask mandates and the safety of vaccines while alleging that the danger of the virus has been overblown.

Anti-vaccine groups, conspiracy theory enthusiasts and far-right media have embraced him, and his best-known client, the group America’s Frontline Doctors, calls him part of a “Legal Eagle Dream Team.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Low dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe, effective in children ages 5-11, companies’ study finds, a key step toward approval, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The data, eagerly anticipated by many parents and pediatricians, is a crucial step toward the two-shot coronavirus vaccine regimen becoming available for children, perhaps close to Halloween.

pfizer logoA lower dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — one-third the amount given to adults and teens — is safe and triggered a robust immune response in children as young as 5 years old, the drug companies announced in a news release Monday morning.

The finding, eagerly anticipated by many parents and pediatricians, is a crucial step toward the two-shot coronavirus vaccine regimen becoming available for younger school-aged children, perhaps close to Halloween.

The companies still must prepare and submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration, a process they expect to complete by the end of September. Then, the data — not yet published or peer reviewed — will be scrutinized by regulators to ascertain that the vaccine is safe and effective. That could take weeks, or up to a month.

Regulators have made clear they are working as fast as possible, but also need to ensure the vaccine meets the highest standards — especially because a rare, but concerning vaccine side effect of heart muscle inflammation has been identified, most frequently in the younger males eligible for the vaccines. An FDA analysis estimated that among 16- to 17- year old males, the risk was close to one in 5,000.

ny times logo

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 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: 229,927,024, Deaths: 4,715,744
U.S. Cases:     43,108,260, Deaths:    694,637
India Cases:     33,504,534, Deaths:    445,416
Brazil Cases:    21,247,667, Deaths:    591,034

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 212 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 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 181.7 million people, 54.7 percent of the eligible population, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

TheHill.com, Anti-Greg Abbott TV ad pulled minutes before college football game: Lincoln Project, Monique Beals, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). An advertisement slamming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was pulled minutes before it was intended to air during a University of Texas football game, according to the group that produced the ad.

"Our ad was supposed to air in Texas during the Longhorns game this weekend. But then, 10 minutes before kickoff, we were informed the ad would not run and it was a 'University-made decision,'" said a statement from The Lincoln Project, a group led by Republican operatives who oppose former President Trump and his allies.

The ad is titled "Abbott's Wall" and says that caskets of the 60,000 Texans who have died from the coronavirus would stretch from Austin to San Antonio.

The advertisement was cleared by ESPN's legal department, and The Lincoln Project had paid $25,000 for the slot, a spokesman for the group told the Morning News.

Abbott is a graduate of the University of Texas and remains involved in appointing members of the school’s board of regents, according to the Morning News.

Abbott is up for reelection next year and has amassed $55 million in his campaign bank account ahead of the race, according to The Texas Tribune. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) is reportedly considering a run to oust him from the governor's office.

 

Trump Watch

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

seth abramson proof logoProof, Investigative Commentary: Why Donald Trump Is Again Interfering in Georgia's Electoral Process, Seth Abramson, left, Sept. 20-21, 2021. Trump is up to his old seth abramson graphiccrimes—bribery, witness tampering, and obstruction—as well as the basic graft for which he's well known. His latest scheme is a dangerous long-term play that we can't ignore.

That’s right: Trump is up to his old tricks (which in some instances have actually been crimes) in Georgia. CNN reports that Trump has just again initiated a communication with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which the corrupt ex-POTUS rehashes the “Big Lie” about the November presidential election and tries to convince Raffensperger to “decertify” the 2020 election results in Georgia—which georgia mapof course he knows (and Raffensperger knows) neither the State of Georgia nor anyone in it can do.

If you’re thinking Trump is up to something else here besides the obvious, you’re right.

In fact, it’s reasonably transparent: Trump is in the midst of trying to help one of the top insurrectionist leaders in America, Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), become the Secretary of State in Georgia so that Trump—or his handpicked 2024 Republican presidential candidate—can steal the 2024 election in that state through new administrative regs, the redeployment of voting machines away from majority-minority precincts, various draconian machinations involving early voting and poll hours and ID presentments, and, if necessary, open election fraud.

Palmer Report, Opinion: You’re darn right Donald Trump is going to prison, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 21, 2021. Because some time has passed since Donald Trump was bill palmerbooted from office and he hasn’t yet been indicted or arrested, some observers have concluded that he’s “dodged indictment” and “gotten away with it all.” Of course these are merely slogans for those who have no idea or interest in how the criminal justice system actually works, and we just received a major reminder of this.

From the time the New York criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s finances became public knowledge at the end of 2019, it’s been clear that once he lost reelection, prosecutors would then begin dismantling the Trump Organization and end up indicting Trump himself. That’s why, ever since the New York probe went public, Palmer Report has predicted that Trump will indeed end up in prison.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, things have played out like we said they would. First Trump lost reelection. Then New York prosecutors let it be known through the media that they were gunning for him. Then they criminally indicted Allen Weisselberg and the Trump Organization. And yesterday Weisselberg’s lawyers appeared in court and stated that they fully expect more people to be indicted in the New York criminal case. Hint: indictments tend to move up the hierarchy, and everyone above Weisselberg is named “Trump.”

So yeah, Donald Trump is absolutely on track to go to prison. That’s more clear than ever. The financial charges he’ll be indicted on in New York are the type that no one beats, which is why they’re going after him on financial charges. This is how it was always going to play out.

You just have to keep in mind that this isn’t a Law & Order episode. Criminals aren’t investigated, indicted, arrested, tried, and convicted in sixty minutes minus commercial breaks. In the real world, the legal process moves very, very deliberately. But Donald Trump is obviously on a track to prison. Even Weisselberg’s lawyers just basically admitted it.

 

Migration Issues

ICE logo

 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration to Lift Restrictions for Vaccinated Travelers, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Mark Landler, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Foreign travelers who provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before boarding a flight will be able to fly to the U.S.

washington post logoWashington Post, Deportees land in Port-au-Prince: ‘Nobody told us we were going back to Haiti,’ Widlore Merancourt and Anthony Faiola, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). He crossed the Mexican border into Texas only two weeks ago, joyous at the prospect of building anew in the United States. Now part of the first wave of deportees rapidly ejected by the Biden administration amid a fresh surge at the border, Johnson Bordes, 23, stepped off a Boeing 737 on Sunday and into the Haitian capital, terrified by a city torn apart by violence in a homeland he could barely remember.

Like many deportees arriving on charter flights at the airport in Port-au-Prince, 15 minutes from neighborhoods controlled by brutal armed gangs, Bordes’s family left Haiti in the great migration after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. He was 12 when they left, first for the Dominican Republic, then on to Chile, where he was living with his mother and brother when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Encouraged by relatives in the United States, the family set out on a 4,500-mile trek to the U.S. border — never imagining the road would lead back to the devastated country they left more than a decade ago.

“How could they bring us back here?” he asked. “This is an injustice. I don’t even know where we are going to sleep tonight.”

He mingled with other confused deportees, many of whom hadn’t seen Haiti in years and now spoke Spanish or Portuguese better than Haitian Creole. Several families told The Washington Post that they were never told they were being deported back to Haiti.

us dhs big eagle logo4“If Biden continues with these deportations, he’s no better than Trump,” Bordes said. “I’m afraid for my safety here. I don’t even know this country anymore.”
Drone video shows migrants under Texas bridge

They began landing Sunday in a nation that some describe as Somalia of the Caribbean — a failed state suffering a humanitarian emergency that critics say is too dangerous and unstable for the thousands being deported.

haiti flagRecognition of the conditions led the Biden administration as recently as May to grant temporary protected status to tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians in the United States. At the time, officials cited “serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources” in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.

Haiti suffered the still unsolved assassination of its president in July and a devastating earthquake that killed 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, schools and churches in August. Violent street gangs have seized neighborhoods and key roads, torching homes and spreading a plague of rapes, kidnappings and killings that have caused thousands of residents to flee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000, Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is raising the refugee admissions cap for the next fiscal year to 125,000, a reflection of the goal to which the president aspired during the 2020 campaign.

The move comes as the United States is accepting hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan after the end of U.S. military operations in the country. The administration also cited the expanded resettlement of Central Americans and Myanmar dissidents.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate majority whip, welcomed the news.

“I applaud the Biden administration for setting a target of 125,000 refugee admissions in the next fiscal year — a target my colleagues and I have been advocating for since April,” Durbin said in a statement. “And while I’m disappointed in the projected number of refugees to be admitted this fiscal year, I acknowledge the challenges the Biden administration inherited with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program due to the anti-immigrant actions of the previous Administration.”

The 125,000 number has long been the aspirational figure that the Biden administration had set for fiscal 2022, which begins Oct. 1.

Earlier this year, President Biden reinforced that goal but cautioned that the number “will still be hard to hit,” attributing his conclusion to the challenges of rebuilding a system that President Donald Trump had dismantled.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House, House Homeland Security chair denounce ‘horrific’ mistreatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol officers, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The White House and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Monday voiced concern over photos and reports appearing to show U.S. Border Patrol officers on horseback mistreating Haitian migrants near the Rio Grande, calling the images “horrific.”

Their statements come one day after the Biden administration began deporting people from the makeshift camp where nearly 14,000 migrants have gathered beneath a South Texas bridge.

One photo by photojournalist Paul Ratje shows a Border Patrol officer on horseback, grabbing the shirt of a Haitian migrant holding bags of food and trying to enter an encampment near the river. Other footage shows mounted Border Patrol officers chasing migrants away. One of the officers can be seen swinging at one of the migrants with what appears to be a strap connected to the horse’s bridle.

“This is why your country’s [expletive], because you use your women for this!” another of the officers can be heard saying to the migrants, according to footage published by Al Jazeera English.

Analysis: What one photo from the border tells us about the evolving migrant crisis

bennie thompson headshotRep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), left, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, denounced the officers’ behavior in a statement Monday.

“Video and photos coming out of Del Rio showing U.S. Border Patrol’s mistreatment of Haitian migrants along the border are horrific and disturbing,” Thompson said. “This mistreatment runs counter to our American values and cannot be tolerated.”

He called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “take immediate action to hold those responsible accountable and ensure that all migrants are treated in accordance with the law and basic decency, as this Administration has promised to do since day one.”

 

    Washington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing  Migrants walked across the Rio Grande carrying food and other supplies to a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas (Photo by Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times).Migrants walked across the Rio Grande carrying food and other supplies to a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas (Photo by Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times).

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats’ once-sweeping policy agenda continues to shrink, Mike DeBonis, Sean Sullivan and Maria Sacchetti, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). An overhaul of voting laws was blocked by Republicans. An effort to strike a bipartisan deal on police reforms has lost all momentum. A plan to provide a path to legal residency for millions of immigrants is now all but dead.

President Biden’s governing agenda is at risk of unraveling on Capitol Hill after a mounting series of delays, clashes and setbacks that have sapped momentum from an ambitious and intricate push to deliver on long-standing Democratic policy priorities.

An overhaul of the nation’s voting laws has been blocked by Republicans. An effort to strike a bipartisan deal on police reforms has lost all momentum. A sweeping immigration plan to provide a path to legal residency for millions of undocumented immigrants is now all but dead.

And centrist Democrats on Capitol Hill appear poised to pare down a planned $3.5 trillion economic package as their liberal counterparts in the House threaten in turn to kill the bipartisan infrastructure deal that passed the Senate last month.

Both chambers returned to session together Monday for the first time since July, as many Democrats acknowledged a sense of foreboding about the weeks ahead, with not only major aspects of their agenda on the line but also key deadlines looming to provide government funding and extend the federal debt limit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s agenda is in trouble. It’s absolutely clear who is to blame, Greg Sargent, Sept. 21, 2021. As Democrats hurtle into the final stretch of negotiations over the multi-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill, centrists holding out against its spending levels are spinning a new narrative about how we got here.

Don’t let them get away with this rewrite. If President Biden’s agenda does implode — which seems at least possible — the centrists themselves will be the ones to blame.

This also should prompt a reconsideration of the mythology that centrists, unlike progressives, are distinguished by their steely, clear-eyed determination to make Washington “work,” and their refusal to let hard governing realities get obscured by gauzy ideological nebula clouds.

The latest standoff concerns the process by which House Democrats will pass the $1 trillion bipartisan “hard” infrastructure bill that passed the Senate, and the $3.5 trillion “human” infrastructure reconciliation bill.

Politico reports on the latest threat from centrist House Democrats:

A group of five to 10 House moderates have signaled to leadership that they would be willing to let the infrastructure bill fail rather than be held hostage by liberals over the broader spending bill. It’s a more attractive alternative to them than having to vote for painful tax increases to pay for an unrestrained social safety net expansion, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has made similar threats. Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) wants a reconciliation “pause."

This is likely posturing. Centrists want to reduce the spending and taxes in the reconciliation package, and want Democrats to pass the infrastructure bill on Sept. 27 — as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has agreed to try to do. But progressives are vowing to vote down that bill, until the Senate completes a reconciliation one. So such centrist threats seem designed to increase leverage.

The centrists’ story here is that they piously want to get something done. But they are being held “hostage” by progressives in thrall to in-the-clouds ideological fantasies so radical that voting for this would be worse politically for them than imploding Biden’s entire agenda.

A review is in order.

This situation largely flows from the fact that centrists such as Manchin and Sinema insisted on pursuing a bipartisan infrastructure bill in the Senate. Progressives opposed this, believing (correctly) that it would squander valuable time, and because Democrats always could pass everything by reconciliation alone.

But progressives essentially accepted this outcome. Remember: Back in March, progressives reached a general understanding with the White House. They would swallow the need for moderates to try for Republican support on infrastructure, on the understanding that progressive priorities would pass by reconciliation later.

So progressives made accommodations at the outset. The “two track” strategy arose to ensure that the two sides would exert leverage on one another, holding the party together. But a small band of centrists threatened to oppose a procedural vote to start the reconciliation process, forcing Democratic leaders to rupture the two tracks with a planned Sept. 27 infrastructure vote.

There was never any serious rationale for that, but regardless, it is in response to that move that progressives are threatening to vote no. In so doing, progressives are just trying to maintain the original two-track strategy, which is rooted in a hardheaded appraisal of both factions’ needs.

By no means have progressives been blameless. They’re often too quick to accuse moderates of being squishy sellouts. And it’s still unclear whether progressives will accept reductions in the reconciliation bill needed to keep centrists on board. But on balance, progressives have been the true realists here.

As Jamelle Bouie writes, centrists enjoy the image of being “grown-ups," because they tend to come from swing districts and supposedly have a “sense of the possible.” But as Bouie notes, progressives have already reduced their reconciliation demands. And they have a more realistic assessment of the politics. What’s at stake is the success of the Biden agenda: The party will rise and fall with that together.

The progressive position is realistic on substance, too. As David Dayen notes, the centrist tendency to start with the generalized aim of lower spending levels for their own sake creates “artificial” constraints on our investments in our country and people, regardless of the value of their returns.

What’s more, it will be disastrous if the United States goes into this fall’s global climate conference without passing a very robust climate agenda via reconciliation, potentially hamstringing U.S. global leadership and our long-term ability to do what scientists say is needed to curb global warming. Aren’t those who want to avoid that scenario the true realists?

Here’s more realism: If progressives do vote against the infrastructure bill, the world won’t end. It’s not that uncommon for bills to fail the first time, then pass later.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats unveil funding plan as major showdown with GOP looms, Tony Romm, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). If Congress doesn't act, the government will shut down Oct. 1. But Republicans have expressed opposition to helping Democrats raise the debt limit, and it's unclear whether the new budget plan has the votes to pass.

House and Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a measure that would fund the government through December while staving off a potential default on U.S. U.S. House logodebts into next year, setting up a last-minute scramble ahead of key fiscal deadlines on Capitol Hill.

The plan immediately faced political headwinds, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reaffirmed that Republicans would oppose any increase in the country’s borrowing limit, even if it is attached to a measure preventing a shutdown — part of a broader GOP-led effort to scuttle President Biden’s economic agenda.

As they presented their plan, Democrats on Monday once again sounded dire warnings about consequences of failure, which they said could destabilize global democratic donkey logomarkets, shutter critical federal services during a pandemic and hold back assistance to millions of Americans in the aftermath of storms that battered the Gulf Coast and parts of the Eastern Seaboard. They urged Republicans to join them in adopting the measure, arguing that the debt ceiling helps cover prior spending, including the roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief package approved by both parties last year.

“Addressing the debt limit is about meeting obligations the government has already made, like the bipartisan emergency COVID relief legislation from December as well as vital payments to Social Security recipients and our veterans,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a statement Monday. " Furthermore, as the Administration warned last week, a reckless Republican-forced default could plunge the country into a recession."

washington post logoWashington Post, White House rules out debt-limit concessions as GOP refuses to help avert crisis, Jeff Stein, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, has insisted Republicans will not cooperate with pleas from the Biden administration to increase or suspend the debt ceiling, leaving the Mitchell_McConnelladministration with few answers as time runs out.

The White House is in a bind over the potential breach of the federal debt ceiling as GOP lawmakers refuse to help Democrats avert a national financial catastrophe, leaving the administration with few easy answers as time runs out.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted Republicans will not cooperate with pleas from the Biden administration to increase or suspend the debt ceiling — the legal limit for what the federal government can borrow to avoid defaulting on its obligations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: It’s All or Nothing for These Democrats, Even if That Means Biden Fails, Jamelle Bouie, Sept. 21, 2021. If President Biden’s “Build jamelle bouieBack Better” bill dies in Congress, it will be because moderate Democrats killed it.

Over the past month, those moderates have put themselves at the center of negotiations over the $3.5 trillion proposal (doled out over 10 years) for new programs, investments and social spending. And they’ve made demands that threaten to derail the bill — and the rest of Biden’s agenda with it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Begin Effort to Curb Post-Trump Presidential Powers, Charlie Savage, Sept. 21, 2021. House Democrats plan to introduce a package of proposed new limits on executive power that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of former President Trump. But to appeal to Republicans, a bill being introduced in the House to impose checks on executive authority may be broken into pieces in the Senate.

democratic donkey logoHouse Democrats are planning to introduce a package of proposed new limits on executive power on Tuesday, beginning a post-Trump push to strengthen checks on the presidency that they hope will compare to the overhauls that followed the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War.

Democrats have spent months negotiating with the Biden White House to refine a broad set of proposals that amount to a point-by-point rebuke of the ways that Donald J. Trump shattered norms over the course of his presidency. The Democrats have compiled numerous bills into a package they call the Protecting Our Democracy Act.

The legislation would make it harder for presidents to offer or bestow pardons in situations that raise suspicion of corruption, refuse to respond to oversight subpoenas, spend or secretly freeze funds contrary to congressional appropriations, and fire inspectors general or retaliate against whistle-blowers, among many adam schiff squareother changes.

The legislation’s lead sponsor, Representative Adam B. Schiff, right, Democrat of California, said he hoped it would receive a floor vote “this fall.”

While the bill would constrain President Biden and his successors, its implicit rebuke of Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House may limit how many Republicans are willing to vote for it. Under Senate rules, at least 10 Republicans would need to support it for that chamber to hold a vote on such a bill.

But supporters noted that Republican senators previously supported significant components of the bill, like requiring the Justice Department to turn over logs of contacts with White House officials and constraining a president’s ability to declare a national emergency and spend money in ways Congress did not approve.

U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) dramatically gives a thumbs down vote earlier this year to a vote on raising the federal minimum wage to $15.

U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) dramatically gives a thumbs down vote earlier this year to a vote on raising the federal minimum wage to $15.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kyrsten Sinema needs to show us what she believes in, Paul Waldman, right, Sept. 20, 2021. The next week could be the most important paul waldmanof Joe Biden’s presidency, as the fates of the infrastructure and reconciliation bills are likely to be determined. If it passes Congress, the latter will almost certainly be the most significant piece of legislation Biden signs; it could even be the last significant piece of legislation he signs.

So in this moment, everyone is being called upon to decide what matters to them. What do they hope to accomplish? What do they do when faced with competing impulses? What goals are they willing to sacrifice? And why did they get involved in politics in the first place?

Let’s consider those questions through the case of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), perhaps the most enigmatic of the players in this drama.

joe manchin headshotLike her colleague Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), right, Sinema is a committed supporter of the filibuster and a performative centrist, who clearly believes that it’s to her political advantage in a closely divided state to be seen as independent. Which is fine; every officeholder weighs their political incentives as they approach important decisions.

But in this case, Sinema is putting her foot down on one of the most popular elements of the reconciliation bill: the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs, which would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars. She has reportedly told the White House that she will not stand for it to be included in the bill and even opposes a far more modest proposal to allow for negotiation over a small number of medications.

There is absolutely no political advantage in taking this position. Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is absurdly popular, with some polls showing over 8 in 10 Americans supporting it. Given Arizona’s large population of senior citizens — who know more about high prescription drug prices than anyone — supporting price negotiation would be a clear political winner for Sinema.

It’s important to understand how central the Medicare provision is to the entire bill. Because Democrats are determined to pay for every last penny of new spending in this legislation, and because negotiating drug prices would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars, eliminating the provision would mean cutting all kinds of other priorities from the bill.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos earmarked $1 billion of his $10 billion environmental philanthropy to conservation efforts Monday afternoon, aiming to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030 in an effort to prevent mass extinctions.

The Bezos Earth Fund, which he formed in 2020, did not identify any of the groups or initiatives it intends to back with the new donations. It said, in a news release, only that it will prioritize “areas that are important for biodiversity and carbon stocks and will give emphasis to the central role of local communities and Indigenous peoples in conservation efforts.” It added that the philanthropy will focus on the Congo Basin, the tropical Andes and the tropical Pacific Ocean.

“By coming together with the right focus and ingenuity, we can have both the benefits of our modern lives and a thriving natural world,” Bezos said in a statement. “I hope this commitment inspires others to make their own pledges to protect and conserve nature and help in the fight against climate change. A job this big needs many allies.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Medicare Expansion Clashes With Health Care for the Poor as Budget Bill Shrinks, Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Under pressure to cut the bill’s cost, Democrats disagreed over whether to offer more benefits to older Americans or to cover more of the working poor.

Democrats are facing tough moral and political decisions over how to pursue their century-old dream of universal health care now that their ambitious $3.5 trillion social safety net bill will almost certainly have to be trimmed back.

As they try to reduce the bill’s cost, members of the party disagree over whether to prioritize expanding coverage to more poor adults in states whose leaders have refused to do so or to give new Medicare benefits to older people across income levels.

Southern Democrats, in particular, are urging their leaders to prioritize insurance coverage for 4.4 million working poor people in the 12 states, mostly in the South, with Republican or divided leadership that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. But progressives, led by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and former presidential candidate, are adamant about giving older Americans dental, hearing and vision coverage.

Many provisions of the delicately constructed bill are interconnected, and division over how to lower prescription drug costs and raise taxes will likely prevent the party from acting boldly on both fronts.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Future of nuclear talks with Iran uncertain as Tehran expands enrichment activities, Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim, Sept. 21, 2021. Three months after the last meeting to negotiate a revival of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, it remains unclear if and when the talks in Vienna will restart, or who might represent Iran’s new government.

In the interim, Iran has continued to expand the quantity and quality of its uranium enrichment, leading some experts to conclude it is now even closer to possessing enough fissile material to build a bomb than the two or three months the Biden administration has publicly estimated. At the same time, Iran has repeatedly sparred with the International Atomic Energy Agency over monitoring of its nuclear activities originally agreed in the 2015 deal.

For its part, the administration has continued to warn that negotiating time is running out, without saying how much time is left or what it will do if it expires. Some answers may emerge this week, when the Tehran government says Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, plans to hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Britain, Germany and France at the annual United Nations General Assembly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden vows to double aid for vulnerable nations dealing with climate change, Brady Dennis, Sept. 21, 2021. Proposed $11.4 billion in annual U.S. financing would help “support the countries and people that will be hit the hardest," the president said, but critics say it’s still not enough

washington post logoWashington Post, In first address to U.N., Biden calls for unity on climate change, pandemic, Anne Gearan, Sept. 21, 2021. President Biden defended the messy end to the of war in Afghanistan and made a case that the world can come together to confront global threats like climate change and the coronavirus in a Tuesday speech at the United Nations geared at easing allies’ increasing qualms with American leadership.

In his first address to the body as president, Biden also affirmed U.S. support for it and an alphabet soup of international partnerships and pledged support for poorer countries often disproportionately affected by climate change.

“We’ve ended 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan, and as we close this era of endless war we are opening an era of endless diplomacy,” Biden.

His measured address was notable mostly for its contrast to the boastful tone and sour reception that marked addresses by President Donald Trump.

President Biden announced plans Tuesday to double the funding the United States provides each year to help developing nations cope with the ravages of climate change and build greener economies.

Speaking at the United Nations, Biden framed the move as part of a broader return to multilateralism, saying the world must work together to combat daunting challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic, trade disputes and a rapidly warming planet.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas doctor who violated state’s abortion ban is sued, launching test of constitutionality, Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). A lawsuit that could test the constitutionality of the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban was filed in Texas on Monday against a doctor who admitted to performing an abortion considered illegal under the new law.

texas mapThe details of the civil suit against Alan Braid, a physician in San Antonio, are as unusual as the law itself, which empowers private citizens to enforce the ban on abortion once cardiac activity has been detected — often as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The plaintiff is a felon serving a federal sentence at home in Arkansas, with no connection to the abortion at issue. He said he filed the claim not because of strongly held views about reproductive rights but in part because of the $10,000 he could receive if the lawsuit is successful. A second suit filed Monday — just four paragraphs long — came from a man in Chicago who asked a state court to strike down the abortion law as invalid.

Since the Texas ban took effect Sept. 1, advocates on both sides of the abortion debate have been anticipating such lawsuits, though perhaps not from a “disbarred and disgraced former Arkansas lawyer,” as Oscar Stilley described himself in his complaint.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority said this month that an initial challenge to the law raised serious constitutional questions. But the majority allowed the law to stand and indicated that because abortion providers had sued state officials — and not private citizens charged with enforcing the ban — the court Greg Abbott Customcould not immediately weigh in.

The nation remains sharply divided over abortion rights, with a growing number of Republican-led state legislatures trying to limit or ban the procedure. Also Monday, the Supreme Court scheduled arguments for Dec. 1 in a Mississippi case that tests Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right to an abortion before viability, which is usually 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a strong backer of the law, is shown at left.

In Texas, Braid stepped forward last week to say that he had performed an abortion for a woman who was in the early stages of a pregnancy but beyond the state’s new limit. Despite the legal risks, Braid said in a Washington Post op-ed that he acted because of his duty as a doctor and “because she has a fundamental right to receive this care.”

Stilley, the Arkansas man, said he decided to sue after reading a news report about Braid’s declaration. A former lawyer convicted of tax fraud in 2010 and sentenced to 15 years, Stilley said in an interview that he is not personally opposed to abortion but thinks the measure should be subject to judicial review.

New York Times, How Hope, Fear and Misinformation Led Haitians to the U.S. Border, James Dobbins, Natalie Kitroeff, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Edgar Sandoval and Miriam Jordan. Some left to find work. Others to escape violence or racial discrimination in other countries. But many believe “there is nothing to go back to.”

    Washington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing  Migrants walked across the Rio Grande carrying food and other supplies to a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas (Photo by Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times).Migrants walked across the Rio Grande carrying food and other supplies to a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas (Photo by Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times).

Many of the migrants crowded under the highway bridge are part of a larger wave of Haitian migrants that arrived in Brazil, Chile and other South American nations following their country’s devastating earthquake in 2010.

Some Haitians seeking to avoid deportation could abandon the Del Rio camp and attempt to remain in the United States illegally, or return to Mexico, two U.S. officials acknowledged.

By announcing its intent to deport the Haitians before launching the flights, Biden officials also appeared to be hoping some in the camp would abandon their attempt to enter the United States and return to Mexico. Migrants arriving to the camp have been given numbered tickets by the Border Patrol as they await a turn to be formally taken into U.S. custody, the first step in starting the process of requesting U.S. asylum or some other form of protection from deportation.

The administration’s preparations to ramp up deportation flights to Haiti was first reported Friday by the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press.

A federal judge on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from using Title 42 to expel migrant families but stayed the order for 14 days. The Biden administration appealed the ruling Friday.

The Biden administration continues to use a pandemic enforcement measure known as Title 42 to rapidly “expel” border crossers to Mexico or their home countries. Officials said some of the flights to Haiti would probably be expulsion flights relying on the public health authority of the Title 42 provision.

“This isn’t about any one country or country of origin,” the official said. “This is about enforcing border restrictions on those who continue to enter the country haiti flagillegally and put their lives and the lives of the federal workforce at risk.”

Another U.S. official involved in the planning insisted that the flights were not a targeted measure aimed at Haitians, but the application of U.S. immigration laws allowing the government to swiftly return border-crossers who arrive illegally.

Haitian authorities have agreed to accept at least three flights per day, but Biden officials want to maximize deportations to break the momentum of the massive influx into the Del Rio, Tex., camp, one official said.

us dhs big eagle logo4Homeland Security officials are planning as many as eight flights per day to Haiti, three officials said, while cautioning that plans remained in flux. The administration was preparing to announce the flights Saturday, said two of the officials, who were not authorized to discuss the plan.

The Biden administration is preparing to send planeloads of migrants back to Haiti starting as soon as Sunday in a deportation blitz aimed at discouraging more border-crossers from streaming into a crude South Texas camp where nearly 14,000 have already arrived, according to five U.S. officials with knowledge of the plans.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. will fly migrants who have streamed into Texas back to Haiti, officials say, Nick Miroff, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The deportations, expected to start as soon as Sunday, are aimed at discouraging more border-crossers from coming to a South Texas camp.

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World News

 

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Justice

 

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Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Stocks Tumble in Wall Street’s Worst Day Since May, Matt Phillips, Eshe Nelson and Coral Murphy Marcos, Sept. 20, 2021. The S&P 500 closed down 1.7 percent, part of a global stock market drop caused by a range of jitters. Investors’ anxieties include China’s sputtering real estate market and questions over the future of the Federal Reserve bond-buying program.

When and why did West Virginia stop being a coal state? Contrary to right-wing legend and fossil-fuel propaganda, coal’s decline isn’t a recent phenomenon driven by burdensome environmental regulations. On the contrary, the collapse of coal mainly happened during the Reagan years: West Virginia coal employment was more than 60,000 jobs in the early 1980s but fell by more than half by 1989. Much of the decline was caused by automation; even more jobs were lost after 1990 as coal companies turned to labor-saving (and environment-destroying) techniques such as mountaintop removal.

So what does the state do for a living? These days West Virginia’s biggest industry is health care, which employs more than 100,000 people (and offers many middle-class jobs). More on that in a minute.

It’s actually startling how small a role coal plays in modern West Virginia’s economy. Before the pandemic, the coal mining industry employed only around 13,000 workers, less than 2 percent of the state’s work force. Even attempts to make the number look bigger by counting jobs indirectly supported by coal suggest a state that has overwhelmingly moved on from mining.

Coal mining has a proud history in West Virginia. Among other things, the coal miners’ union played a crucial role in the history of labor organizing, which in turn helped create the relatively equal society I grew up in. But coal is West Virginia’s past, not its present, and definitely not its future.

What I do know, and you should, too, is that if Manchin torpedoes Biden — and the planet — on climate policy, it won’t be because he’s serving the interests of his constituents.

I have no idea which way Manchin will go. Nor do I have any good sense of how much he is being influenced by lobbyists and his personal financial interests, as opposed to a desire to do the right thing.

The best-case scenario is that Manchin will intervene in ways that help coal miners and highlight his independence without doing too much damage to Biden’s objectives. The worst-case scenario is that he will cripple the climate initiative and effectively doom the planet — because the president’s climate push is almost certainly our last chance to avoid disaster.

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Markets

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Dear Joe Manchin: Coal Isn’t Your State’s Future, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 20, 2021. So Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia will be paul krugmanresponsible for putting together the Democratic climate plan. This is both understandable and terrifying. It’s understandable because Democrats need the vote of every one of their senators, which means doing whatever it takes to get skeptics on board. It’s terrifying because Manchin might end up gutting key proposals from President Biden, especially those aimed at drastically reducing the burning of fossil fuels.

Still, Mr. Trudeau is hoping that the 36-day campaign — the shortest election period allowed by law — pays off with the majority that eluded his party last time. The Liberals were heading into Election Day in a statistical tie with their main opponent, the Conservative Party, led by Erin O’Toole. Results may not be clear until Monday evening or early Tuesday morning; the last polls close in British Columbia at 7 p.m. Pacific time, or 10 p.m. Eastern.

They also said it was reckless to hold an election at a time when coronavirus cases are rising and restrictions are being reimposed.

But his rivals have called the election a power grab — and an unnecessary one, since Mr. Trudeau has largely been able to enact his legislative agenda.

The last general election, in 2019, left his Liberal Party in a weakened position, able to govern only with the support of opposition lawmakers in Parliament. This time, Mr. Trudeau says, he needs a strong mandate to bring the pandemic under control and lead Canada to economic recovery.

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada called a snap election last month — two years ahead of schedule — he has struggled to explain why he thinks it’s necessary.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, What to Know About Canada’s Snap Election, Vjosa Isai and Ian Austen, Sept. 20, 2021. Will Justin Trudeau remain the prime minister? A month ago, it might have looked like a sure thing, but lately, he has struggled to make his case.

Though the mission may have dropped from public attention, the United States still has boots on the ground in the other nation it invaded in the wake of 9/11. About 2,500 American troops are in Iraq now, the embers of what was once a scorching and divisive war, now carefully scattered to protect a few strategic bases. For the next nine months, roughly 2,000 soldiers from First Brigade will take over much of that duty.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2,000 U.S. Troops Are Headed to Iraq. Here Are the Stories of 6, David Philipps, Sept. 20, 2021. The United States still has boots on the ground in the other nation it invaded in the wake of 9/11. Meet the soldiers headed for duty in Iraq.

When schools reopened Saturday for grades seven through 12, only male students were told to report for their studies. The Taliban said nothing about girls in those grades, so they stayed home, their families anxious and uncertain about their future. Both boys and girls in grades one through six have been attending schools, with students segregated by gender in the higher three grades.

The only question is just how draconian the new system will be, and what type of Islamic-based education will be imposed on both boys and girls. Just as they did when they ruled most of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Taliban seem intent on ruling not strictly by decree, but by inference and intimidation.

But Aqila and other Afghan educators don’t need to attend meetings to comprehend the harsh new reality of education under Taliban rule. The emerging government has made clear that it intends to severely restrict the educational freedoms enjoyed by many women and girls the past 20 years.

“They say, ‘You should send a male representative,’” the director, Aqila, said inside the Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School, which was shattered in May by a terrorist bombing that killed scores of girls.

The director of a girls’ school in Kabul desperately wants to learn details of the Taliban’s plan for girls’ education. But she can’t attend the weekly Taliban committee meetings on education. They are for men only.

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Women and Girls Face Harsh New Reality in Taliban-Run Schools, Victor J. Blue and David Zucchino Sept. 20, 2021. The new government has made clear that it intends to severely restrict the educational freedoms enjoyed by many women and girls in the past 20 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shooting at Russian university leaves at least 6 dead, 24 injured, Jennifer Hassan, Robyn Dixon and Miriam Berger, Sept. 20, 2021. Officials russian flag wavingsaid that the gunman was a student and that he had been apprehended after the incident. Russia’s Investigative Committee, a law enforcement agency, said the attacker was a student who had purchased a hunting rifle in May. He was apprehended following the incident. The agency said he had been hospitalized for wounds sustained while resisting arrest.

“We have reached a tipping point on the need for climate action,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned Thursday, in one of his latest pleas for unity and urgency. “The disruption to our climate and our planet is already worse than we thought, and it is moving faster than predicted. … We must act now to prevent further irreversible damage.”

But with only six weeks left until a crucial global climate summit in Scotland, presidents and prime ministers also face pressure to set aside these diplomatic tensions and act quickly and collectively to slow the warming of the planet — something they have struggled to do in the past.

washington post logoWashington Post, World leaders face furious push to act quickly on climate change, Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). ‘We really are out of time,’ Secretary-General António Guterres warns, imploring countries to set aside political differences. As world leaders gather at the United Nations this week, they face no shortage of divisive issues: An ongoing global pandemic, economic strife on numerous continents, and conflict and human rights concerns from Afghanistan to Haiti.

United Nations

Mohamed Bashir, a supervisor for some of the guards, furrowed his brow as he ticked off recent attacks on his fingers: Ambushes against troops. Rocks thrown at aid workers. A gold shop, just outside his office on the edge of the communal market, was ransacked in July. Women in the camp often need money to buy provisions and, sometimes, to pay smugglers to get them out.

Al-Hol has become an ever more dangerous and desperate place. Religious militancy is on the rise, imperiling those who are not as fanatical. Killings are often blamed on hard-line women who take advantage of the fragile security to enforce their strictures and settle scores. Security sweeps to confiscate handguns, knives and other weapons have made little difference, according to officials at the camp, which is run by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Tensions between captives and captors are boiling.

washington post logoWashington Post, Syrian detention camp is rocked by dozens of killings blamed on Islamic State women, Louisa Loveluck, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Since January more than 70 people have been killed inside northeast Syria’s al-Hol camp as fanatics enforce strictures, settle scores. The killings have taken on a creeping sense of inevitability, guards say, and no one admits to hearing them, let alone knowing who is responsible.

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

 

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

washington post logoWashington Post, As France escalated its submarine dispute, it decided to go a bit lighter on Britain. Here’s why, Rick Noack and Sammy Westfall, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As the French faced one of their biggest fights among allies in years — which was prompted at least in part by Britain — French ire at their neighbors to the north was curiously limited. Paris on Friday recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations as part of its outrage over a quietly negotiated deal involving the United States and Britain to share technology on nuclear-powered subs with Australia. The pact effectively canceled an earlier agreement by Australia to buy French diesel-powered submarines.

U.S. officials acknowledged Sunday that they have been surprised by the strength of France’s reaction, which included abruptly recalling its ambassador from Washington last week. They privately attributed the spat largely to internal French politics as Macron seeks reelection but said they were nonetheless working urgently to tamp down the flare-up and avoid further inflaming a close ally.

The two leaders have not spoken since French leaders erupted last week at Biden’s announcement that the United States was forming a new defense alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom focused on the Indo-Pacific. As part of the deal, the United States will share nuclear submarine technology with Australia, prompting the Australians to drop a $66 billion submarine contract with France.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden seeks a phone call with France’s Macron to calm waters on submarines, Tyler Pager, Anne Gearan and John Hudson, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden is pressing to set up a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron in coming days, U.S. officials said Sunday, hoping to end a frantic stretch of public snubs and behind-the-scenes exchanges between the two allies.

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U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

Daily Beast, Trump Org Prosecutors Find New Evidence—in a Basement, Jose Pagliery, Sept. 20, 2021. A lawyer for Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg revealed in open court that prosecutors have found more evidence and that more indictments are expected.

Prosecutors have discovered a tranche of evidence in the basement of a co-conspirator in the Trump Organization tax fraud case, a defense lawyer for indicted chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, right, revealed in court on Monday, with the attorney also signaling that more shoes are yet to drop in New allen weisselberg croppedYork’s ongoing investigation.

 It’s unclear who that co-conspirator might be, but according to two sources close to the investigation, prosecutors have been more closely daily beast logoscrutinizing Matthew Calamari, a Trump bodyguard who rose through the ranks to become the company’s chief operating officer. Others have theorized that it might be Jeff McConney, the company comptroller who has long served as Weisselberg’s deputy—and who has already testified before the grand jury.

Skarlatos also referenced a private conversation that Weisselberg—along with his defense lawyers and prosecutors—had with the judge before proceedings were open to the public, revealing that prosecutors had discovered tax documents related to Donald Trump’s company in the basement of an unnamed co-conspirator.

“We have strong reason to believe there could be other indictments coming,” Weisselberg’s lawyer, Bryan C. Skarlatos, said in Manhattan criminal court on Monday.

ny times logoNew York Times, At the Supreme Court, a Plea to Reveal Secret Surveillance Rulings, Adam Liptak, right, Sept. 20, 2021. The justices will soon consider whether to adam liptakhear a case arguing that the First Amendment requires disclosure of a secret court’s major rulings, Last year, six months before he was nominated to be attorney general, Judge Merrick B. Garland wrote a forceful opinion on the importance of openness in the justice system.

“Secret law of all types causes several concrete harms that are antithetical to democratic norms,” their brief said. “Secret law prevents the public from understanding and shaping the law and thus inhibits democratic accountability; disables checks on governmental abuses of the law; and weakens the quality of the law itself.”

His general point about secret law, though, provides an important framework, according to a brief supporting the A.C.L.U. in the new case filed by two groups that do not always agree — the Brennan Center for Justice, which leans left, and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a libertarian group affiliated with the Koch family.

The case Judge Garland decided last year, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and the one before the justices both involved electronic surveillance, but they concerned different laws and different legal theories.

The justices are set to consider whether to hear that case, which was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and concerns decisions issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, at their private conference on Oct. 8.

Last month, the Justice Department led by Mr. Garland told the Supreme Court that the public had no right of access under the First Amendment to secret decisions issued by a federal court.

“At bottom,” he wrote, this “reflects the antipathy of a democratic country to the notion of ‘secret law,’ inaccessible to those who are governed by that law.”

Court decisions, he said, are public documents. “Indeed,” he wrote, “since at least the time of Edward III, judicial decisions have been held open for public inspection.”

 

mckayla maroney saul loeb pool reuters

U.S Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 2021 (Saul Loeb/POOL via Reuters).

ABC News, McKayla Maroney's gut-wrenching statement to Congress about FBI's handling of Nassar abuse, Staff edits, Sept. 15, 2021 (7:51 min. video).  "They had legal, abc news logolegitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing," she said.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Two miscarriages of justice reveal a sickening disparity, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 20, 2021. Two individuals allegedly made false ruth marcus twitter Customstatements to federal investigators. One now faces trial on a felony charge. The other does not. I defy you to read about their cases and conclude that justice is served in either instance, or that it is being applied even-handedly.

Let’s start with the person who has been let off the hook, because the decision is so infuriating and underscores so dramatically the unfairness of the other prosecution. W. Jay Abbott was the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office in 2015, when it received reliable reports that USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar had sexually abused multiple gymnasts.

One of Nassar’s victims, McKayla Maroney, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week about describing how Nassar had repeatedly molested her to one of Abbott’s agents, only to have the agent reply, “Is that all?”

What happened next? For months, nothing, as far as the FBI was concerned. Abbott’s office was supposed to refer the allegations to the FBI’s Lansing, Mich., office, the city where Nassar worked. But that never happened — and Nassar went on to abuse at least 70 more young athletes until he was arrested by Michigan state police 16 months later.

During that time period, Abbott met and corresponded repeatedly with the head of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny, about a tantalizing job prospect, heading up security for the entire U.S. Olympic Committee.

FBI logoWhen the Justice Department’s inspector general interviewed Abbott, since retired, about the bureau’s handling of the Nassar case, he “made multiple false statements” about both the conduct of the investigation and his job talks, in violation of the federal false statements law, the inspector general concluded in a searing report released in July.

Abbott claimed he had spoken with FBI counterparts in Detroit and Los Angeles about the Nassar allegations; both agents denied such conversations, and there was no documentation they occurred.

olympics logo 2018 winterThe inspector general “found no evidence” to support Abbott’s claims — and further concluded that “Abbott’s false statements were knowing and intentional.”

But Abbott also insisted to the inspector general that he had never applied for or taken other steps to secure the Olympics job. This was, according to the inspector general, untrue, deliberately so, and stretched across two sworn interviews, including after Abbott was confronted with evidence to the contrary.

“Abbott, by his own admission, was concerned that applying for a job with the U.S. Olympic Committee posed a conflict of interest with the FBI’s handling of the Nassar investigation, which was a high profile, sensitive matter,” the report noted. “Under this circumstance and given the risk involved, we found it highly unlikely that Abbott forgot about his ultimate decision to apply for the job.”

The inspector general asked the Justice Department’s criminal division to prosecute Abbott for false statements. It declined in September michael sussmann perkins younger2020. The lesson? You can lie to federal investigators with impunity.

The second case, with an opposite outcome, involves Michael Sussmann, right, a Washington lawyer who represented the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and a tech company executive during the 2016 election. Sussmann, a former Justice Department official with expertise in cybersecurity, sought a meeting with FBI general counsel James Baker to pass on information about digital connections between a computer linked to the Trump Organization and a Russian bank with ties to the Kremlin.

Justice Department special counsel John Durham, left, appointed by former attorney general William P. Barr to probe whether there was FBI or intelligence john durham Customcommunity wrongdoing relating to allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, obtained the indictment announced last week, the second criminal charge arising from his two-year probe.

It alleges Sussmann told Baker at the meeting, on Sept. 19, 2016, that he wasn’t doing work on those allegations “for any client.” That led Baker “to understand that Sussmann was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative,” when in fact, according to the indictment, Sussmann was acting on behalf of the tech executive and the Clinton campaign.

Sussmann’s “lie was material” — meaning that it could have affected the investigation — because it “misled” FBI officials “concerning the political nature of his work and deprived the FBI of information that might have permitted it more fully to assess and uncover the origins of the relevant data and technical analysis,” the indictment alleges.

As former federal prosecutor Randall D. Eliason has noted, this single false statement, before a single witness, is about as weak as a case can get. Whatever he told them, FBI officials knew full well that Sussmann represented Democrats and the Clinton campaign.

Justice Department log circularBaker didn’t take notes of the meeting. The evidence of Sussmann’s alleged misstatement, such as it is, comes from handwritten notes of the conversation made by another FBI official later that day. Sussmann also billed the meeting to the Clinton campaign, according to the indictment, an assertion his lawyers contest.

Sussmann has said he told Baker he was there on behalf of the tech client. Baker, testifying before House committee in 2018, said “I don’t remember him specifically saying that he was acting on behalf of a particular client” — a far cry from recalling a specific assertion from Sussmann that he wasn’t representing a client.

But assume that Sussmann did lie. Is there a reason to make a federal case out of it? There’s no indication, in the 27 discursive pages of the indictment, that Sussmann was knowingly trying to peddle false information. There’s no indication that the FBI, had it known the identity of Sussmann’s clients, would have proceeded much differently: it looked into the allegations and decided there wasn’t anything to them. What harm did the alleged lie cause?

Further, the Sussmann prosecution contradicts the entire predicate of Durham’s investigation. The probe was launched, more than two years ago, on the theory that the FBI was somehow hijacked by “deep state” conspirators who concocted the “Russia hoax” to prevent Donald Trump’s election. But in Durham’s retelling in the Sussmann indictment, the FBI was not a bad actor but a hapless victim of outside forces.

And consider: If the lesson of the Abbott non-prosecution is that you can repeatedly lie to federal investigators and get away with it, the lesson of the Sussmann indictment is that you bring information to the attention of federal investigators at the peril of your career and your freedom.

Where, you might ask, is Attorney General Merrick Garland in all this? In an exquisitely difficult position. Even though Durham is a Barr-appointed special counsel, Garland retains the power to supervise his investigation. But stepping in to prevent Durham from seeking this flimsy indictment risked generating a political uproar, with unsettling echoes of Barr’s heavy-handedness. Now, it is too late.

While Abbott collects his government pension, Sussmann, who has resigned from his law firm, faces ruin. These twin miscarriages of justice, each wrong on its own, are sickening when taken together.

  • Washington Post, Majorities of Americans oppose key parts of Texas abortion law, poll finds, Sept. 20, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas doctor who violated state’s abortion ban is sued, launching potential first test of constitutionality, Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 20, 2021. Greg Abbott CustomAlan Braid had written in a Washington Post op-ed that he performed an abortion on a woman who was no longer eligible, based on a Texas law that took effect this month. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is shown at right.

Recent U.S. Politics Headlines

But despite his troubles on the national stage, Mr. O’Rourke has maintained a deep wellspring of support in Texas, where many Democrats still display the black-and-white Beto signs from the 2018 campaign on their lawns and on their cars.

Democrats in Texas have been urging Mr. O’Rourke to get into the race for governor almost from the moment he dropped out of the 2020 race for president, a quixotic effort that stumbled early and failed to gain traction amid a crowded primary field.

beto orourke o 113th CongressIn recent weeks, Mr. O’Rourke, right, has been making calls to Democratic leaders across Texas to inform them that he is seriously considering taking on Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican who is up for re-election next year. And he has begun talking to supporters about having them join his campaign staff. A decision could be made in the coming weeks, the three people said, possibly as soon as October.

O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman who became a darling of Democrats after nearly defeating Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, is inching closer to announcing a run for governor of Texas, according to three people who have spoken with him.

ny times logoNew York Times, Beto O’Rourke Draws Closer to Entering Texas Governor’s Race, J. David Goodman and Reid J. Epstein, Sept. 20, 2021. Mr. O’Rourke has been calling Democratic leaders in Texas to tell them he is seriously considering challenging Gov. Greg Abbott in 2022.

“Sometimes, you have to kind of stop the clock to get to the goal,” he told CNN. He also said of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill: "It may be $3.5 [trillion]. It may be close to that, or it may be closer to something else."

What they're saying: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House minority whip, suggested Sunday his party may need more time to resolve its differences.

But progressives insist the bipartisan package will fail if leadership brings it to the floor for a vote before the reconciliation bill is passed. “It won’t have sufficient votes to pass the House,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Bloomberg.

Last Friday, nine House centrists reminded Pelosi of her promise to hold a vote on the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 — a week from Monday. “We reiterate our appreciation for the Speaker’s public commitment to only bring a bill to the House floor that can garner the necessary 51 votes for passage in the Senate,” the nine lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We need legislation that can get out of the Senate and to the president’s desk.”

Go deeper: The Democrats' strategy of passing the two pieces of legislation simultaneously will face a crucial test this coming week.

Between the lines: Manchin is more public about his opposition but Sinema also has deep reservations. She continues to engage with the White House and Senate leaders and to negotiate in granular detail.

But Manchin has signaled he has deep concerns with specific elements of the package, and that his spending range is capped at $1.5 trillion. Last week, the president failed to persuade him to accept the $3.5 trillion number during a meeting at the White House.

Biden campaigned on many specific programs, including universal preschool and free community college. White House officials, as well as progressives in Congress, argue they're desperately needed to help foster a more equitable and inclusive society.

It's largely been written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and would vastly expand the social safety net from cradle to grave, as the New York Times recently put it.

The big picture: Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are leading the Democratic opposition in the Senate to the size and scope of the reconciliation package.

House progressive lawmakers are publicly vowing to vote against the infrastructure bill if it's not paired with the $3.5 trillion bill to be passed through the budget reconciliation process. But centrist Democrats are adamant the House pass the bipartisan bill first — next week.

Any delay on the Democrat-only reconciliation package could imperil House passage of the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Pelosi has promised to pass by Sept. 27.

Those semi-public comments track with some of his private conversations about how long he wants to impose the "strategic pause" he floated in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this month. Manchin didn't give a specific timeline in his op-ed.

Driving the news: Back home in West Virginia last week, Manchin told a group of employees at a Procter & Gamble facility in Martinsburg he wanted to pause all the talk about the $3.5 trillion bill until 2022, Axios was told.

axios logoWhy it matters: Manchin’s new timeline — if he insists on it — would disrupt the plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on the budget reconciliation package this month.

Axios, Manchin: Delay Biden plan to '22, Hans Nichols, Sept. 19, 2021. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is privately saying he thinks Congress should take a “strategic pause” until 2022 before voting on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social-spending package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

joe manchin smile palmer

 

Many provisions of the delicately constructed bill are interconnected, and division over how to lower prescription drug costs and raise taxes will likely prevent the party from acting boldly on both fronts.

Southern Democrats, in particular, are urging their leaders to prioritize insurance coverage for 4.4 million working poor people in the 12 states, mostly in the South, with Republican or divided leadership that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. But progressives, led by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and former presidential candidate, are adamant about giving older Americans dental, hearing and vision coverage.

As they try to reduce the bill’s cost, members of the party disagree over whether to prioritize expanding coverage to more poor adults in states whose leaders have refused to do so or to give new Medicare benefits to older people across income levels.

Democrats are facing tough moral and political decisions over how to pursue their century-old dream of universal health care now that their ambitious $3.5 trillion social safety net bill will almost certainly have to be trimmed back.

ny times logoNew York Times, Medicare Expansion Clashes With Health Care for the Poor as Budget Bill Shrinks, Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sept. 20, 2021. Under pressure to cut the bill’s cost, Democrats disagreed over whether to offer more benefits to older Americans or to cover more of the working poor.

This is not an abstract question. In the here and now, Republican-controlled states have embraced voter suppression and election subversion, justified in the name of doubts sown by Trump’s preposterously false claims about the 2020 election outcome.

For at least two more elections — next year’s midterms and the 2024 presidential contest — the central issue before voters will be whether to reward or punish the GOP’s extremism and, particularly in the case of the House Republican leadership, the party’s embrace of Trump.

For all of Biden’s honorable efforts to pull the nation together, and his earlier habit of downplaying the radical nature of today’s Republicanism, our politics remain as dangerously abnormal as Gonzalez warns.

One of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 riot, Gonzalez called the former president “a cancer for the country.” He told the New York Times he did not want any part of a 2022 GOP that will “make Trump the center of fund-raising efforts,” adding that anthony gonzalez“most of my political energy will be spent” preventing Trump from being president again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Anthony Gonzalez gets what Democrats need to know, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden, call Anthony ej dionne w open neckGonzalez. The two-term Ohio Republican congressman, who announced last week that he will not seek reelection, understands what Democrats need to grasp about the stakes in American politics right now.

But Mr. Graham never demanded the same of Donald Trump. To the contrary, he became one of Trump’s biggest defenders. When a tape was released during the 2016 campaign of Trump bragging years earlier about sexually assaulting women, Graham revealed his true motives: It wasn’t religious piety, but rather raw politics.

“Mr. Clinton’s sin can be forgiven, but he must start by admitting to it and refraining from legalistic doublespeak. According to the Scripture, the president did not have an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with Monica Lewinsky — he committed adultery. He didn’t ‘mislead’ his wife and us — he lied. Acknowledgment must be coupled with genuine remorse. A repentant spirit that says, ‘I’m sorry. I was wrong. I won’t do it again. I ask for your forgiveness,’ would go a long way toward personal and national healing.”

He concluded:

Franklin Graham, the evangelical minister, wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 1998 that Clinton’s “extramarital sexual behavior in the Oval Office now concerns him and the rest of the world, not just his immediate family,” and that “private conduct does have public consequences.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: White Evangelicals Shun Morality for Power, Charles M. Blow, right, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Evangelical Christians castigated Bill Clinton charles blow customin wake of his “improper relationship” with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He had sinned. He would be stoned.

The order could conflict with Marino's ability to vote on the House floor if Manoogian is present. Lawmakers will be in Capitol on Tuesday.

“These statements are so out of context, and we’re simply going to move to set it aside,” he said.

Marino said he's a victim of “character assassination.” His attorney, Mike Rataj, said they would challenge the protection order.

“After trying to ignore Steve’s threats and harassment for 21 months, and begging him to stop texting me in this harassing manner countless times, I had no choice but to report his abuse to my Democratic leader,” Manoogian said in a court filing.

Marino said he hoped Manoogian’s “car explodes on the way in” and warned her to “hide on the House floor” in a series of texts in which they also discussed issues being handled by a state House committee.

There was no indication in the court file when the text messages were written, The Detroit News reported.
Related video: Two teens charged after making false threats at high schools
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Manoogian, 29, obtained a protection order last week from a judge, a few days after Marino, 32, was removed from House committees for alleged abuse. State police are investigating.

Marino, a Macomb County Republican, and Manoogian, an Oakland County Democrat, had a personal relationship that ended more than a year ago.

“You’re truly the worst human being I’ve ever met. I mean that with the utmost sincerity. Just a parasite,” Rep. Steve Marino told Rep. Mari Manoogian.

ap logoAssociated Press via Yahoo News, Michigan rep to fellow lawmaker: I hope 'your car explodes,' Staff Report, Sept. 20, 2021. A Michigan lawmaker told another lawmaker that he hoped her “car explodes on the way in,” according to text messages filed in court to support a request for a personal protection order.

For months, I harbored some hope that Republicans would come to their senses and deny Trump the nomination. That fantasy faded with each primary victory. With no hesitation, I concluded I could not remain in a party that embraced a character so at odds with American (let alone conservative) values. In May 2016, I wrote a column “breaking up” with the GOP. I wrote it because I was still “a believer in America’s ability and obligation to do good in the world; in the wonders of the free market — including free trade and legal immigration; in limited but energetic government (although not all centralized at the federal level); and in the rule of law and individual rights” and I could no longer remain in a party warped by Trumpism. I took a step that permanently severed my bonds with many past allies.

I saw social conservatives who demonized Bill Clinton swoon at the feet of a serial liar, adulterer and racist whose cruelty became a central feature of his presidency. Republicans who once insisted character was a critical factor in selecting leaders seemed almost giddy when Trump unleashed his personal viciousness on their progressive opponents.

jennifer rubin book resistanceGiven that I actually believed in these things, I watched in horror in 2016 as Republicans embraced a racist bully bent on undermining our democracy and promoting White Christians’ quest for political dominance. I witnessed one conservative “intellectual” and “respectable” publication after another deny, then rationalize, then defend and then laud a detestable figure who repudiated principles and positions that once animated them.

If I differed with “movement conservatives” on some issues, I appreciated their preference for incrementalism and resistance to allowing centralized power to bigfoot the “laboratories of democracy.” I shared their wariness that the executive branch had aggrandized power at the expense of Congress. And I held the deep conviction that character matters in leaders, that public virtue is not an oxymoron and that truth is not relative.

I had always voted Republican for president — from my first vote, for Ronald Reagan, to my last, for Mitt Romney. I admired mainstream Republicans who were dedicated to victory in the Cold War. I looked to free markets for expanded economic opportunity and embraced free trade and robust legal immigration.

Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 came as a shock to Republican-leaning women like me who had crossed party lines to vote for Hillary Clinton.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Trump mobilized women — including me, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 20, 2021. This essay was adapted from the book “Resistance: jennifer rubin new headshotHow Women Saved Democracy from Donald Trump” by Jennifer Rubin, shown below at left and to be published this week by William Morrow/HarperCollins.

“By coming together with the right focus and ingenuity, we can have both the benefits of our modern lives and a thriving natural world,” Bezos said in a statement. “I hope this commitment inspires others to make their own pledges to protect and conserve nature and help in the fight against climate change. A job this big needs many allies.”

The Bezos Earth Fund, which he formed in 2020, did not identify any of the groups or initiatives it intends to back with the new donations. It said, in a news release, only that it will prioritize “areas that are important for biodiversity and carbon stocks and will give emphasis to the central role of local communities and Indigenous peoples in conservation efforts.” It added that the philanthropy will focus on the Congo Basin, the tropical Andes and the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos earmarked $1 billion of his $10 billion environmental philanthropy to conservation efforts Monday afternoon, aiming to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030 in an effort to prevent mass extinctions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos pledges $1 billion to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea, Jay Greene and Steven Mufson, Sept. 20, 2021. Bezos’s large donations are transforming climate philanthropy — even as Amazon’s cloud-computing business and shipping operations have a significant carbon footprint.

This all points to things looking up for Biden. Despite the media’s best effort, his approval rating is still in a pretty good place. More importantly, most Americans are still aligned with Biden on policies and issues. This means that the further the media’s misleading Afghanistan coverage gets into the rear view, the more Americans will recall that they actually like what President Biden is doing.

Fox News, which believe it or not conducts highly accurate polls, reported this weekend that President Biden’s approval rating is at 50% – a decent place for a President to be. Moreover, the Fox poll showed that more than 60% of Americans agree with Biden’s new vaccination policies.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s not just right wing media pushing this narrative either; outlets like CNN have been quick to push this ratings-driven nonsense. Here’s the thing, though: it’s simply not true.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Things are looking up for President Joe Biden, Bill Palmer, Sept. 20, 2021. With ratings having fallen across the board now that there’s no disastrous Trump presidency to cover, the media has spent the past two months trying to scandalize President Joe Biden by any means possible – including several Joe Biden portrait 2instances of misleading reporting with regard to Afghanistan. The media has also been quick to insist that Biden’s approval rating is now in the gutter, and that his presidency has failed.

During a trip to Mississippi in June, she told an audience gathered at a community college in Jackson that the state’s 30 percent vaccination rate was “not enough,” and stressed that the vaccines were safe. Later that day, she told a supportive crowd gathered at a distillery in Nashville that only three in 10 Tennesseans were vaccinated. The attendees began booing.

Dr. Biden, an English and writing professor who made history as the only first lady to keep her career while in the White House, has traveled to 32 states, many of them conservative, to promote school reopenings, infrastructure funding, community colleges and support for military families. She has also traveled to states where low numbers of eligible people have received the coronavirus vaccine.

Eight months into Mr. Biden’s presidency, both husband and wife are finding that winning the “battle for the soul of the nation” is perhaps his most elusive campaign promise. In Washington, an outrage-driven approach to politics has replaced Mr. Biden’s rose-colored belief that bipartisan deal making can be an art form. As he tries to prove that this is still possible, his wife is not a bystander.

“I love him, and it’s hurtful,” Jill Biden said in an interview, the first she has granted to a newspaper since becoming first lady. “I do feel the sting of it. I wouldn’t be a good partner if I didn’t.”

But the events left another Biden feeling bruised.

Another pandemic surge prompted Mr. Biden, a veteran moderate, to attack Republican governors and embrace vaccine mandates. A bipartisan infrastructure deal hung in the balance. The American withdrawal from Afghanistan, during which 13 service members were killed in a terrorist attack, was criticized as violent and haphazard.

The summer was a rough one for President Biden.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jill Biden Is Chasing the President’s Most Elusive Campaign Promise: Unity, Katie Rogers, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). As the president tries to prove that bipartisanship is still possible, the first lady is not standing on the sidelines.

ny times logoNew York Times, This Powerful Democrat Linked to Fossil Fuels Will Craft the U.S. Climate Plan, Coral Davenport, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Senator Joe Manchin is already a crucial swing vote in the Democrats’ sweeping budget bill. But he will also write the details of its climate change program.

“It says something fascinating about our politics that we’re going to have a representative of fossil fuel interests crafting the policy that reduces our emissions from fossil fuels,” said Joseph Aldy, who helped craft former President Barack Obama’s climate change bill and now teaches at Harvard.

He profits personally from polluting industries: He owns stock valued at between $1 million and $5 million in Enersystems Inc., a coal brokerage firm which he founded in 1988. He gave control of the firm to his son, Joseph, after he was elected West Virginia secretary of state in 2000. Last year, Mr. Manchin made $491,949 in dividends from his Enersystems stock, according to his Senate financial disclosure report.

But Mr. Manchin is also closely associated with the fossil fuel industry. His beloved West Virginia is second in coal and seventh in natural gas production among the 50 states. In the current election cycle, Mr. Manchin has received more campaign donations from the oil, coal and gas industries than any other senator, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets, a research organization that tracks political spending.

joe manchin headshotAs chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Manchin holds the pen and the gavel of the congressional panel, with the authority to shape Mr. Biden’s ambitions.

Mr. Manchin has already emerged as the crucial up-or-down vote in a sharply divided Senate when it comes to Mr. Biden’s push to pass a $3.5 trillion budget bill that could reshape the nation’s social welfare network. But Mr. Biden also wants the bill to include an aggressive climate policy that would compel utilities to stop burning fossil fuels and switch to wind, solar or nuclear energy, sources that do not emit the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet.

Joe Manchin, right, the powerful West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate energy panel and earned half a million dollars last year from coal production, is preparing to remake President Biden’s climate legislation in a way that tosses a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry — despite urgent calls from scientists that countries need to quickly pivot away from coal, gas and oil to avoid a climate catastrophe.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Accounting Giants Craft Favorable Tax Rules From Inside Government, Jesse Drucker and Danny Hakim, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Lawyers from top accounting firms do brief stints in the Treasury Department, with the expectation of big raises when they return.

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It’s important to understand how central the Medicare provision is to the entire bill. Because Democrats are determined to pay for every last penny of new spending in this legislation, and because negotiating drug prices would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars, eliminating the provision would mean cutting all kinds of other priorities from the bill.

There is absolutely no political advantage in taking this position. Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is absurdly popular, with some polls showing over 8 in 10 Americans supporting it. Given Arizona’s large population of senior citizens — who know more about high prescription drug prices than anyone — supporting price negotiation would be a clear political winner for Sinema.

But in this case, Sinema is putting her foot down on one of the most popular elements of the reconciliation bill: the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs, which would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars. She has reportedly told the White House that she will not stand for it to be included in the bill and even opposes a far more modest proposal to allow for negotiation over a small number of medications.

Like her colleague Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Sinema is a committed supporter of the filibuster and a performative centrist, who clearly believes that it’s to her political advantage in a closely divided state to be seen as independent. Which is fine; every officeholder weighs their political incentives as they approach important decisions.

Let’s consider those questions through the case of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), perhaps the most enigmatic of the players in this drama.

So in this moment, everyone is being called upon to decide what matters to them. What do they hope to accomplish? What do they do when faced with competing impulses? What goals are they willing to sacrifice? And why did they get involved in politics in the first place?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kyrsten Sinema needs to show us what she believes in, Paul Waldman, right, Sept. 20, 2021. The next week could be the most important paul waldmanof Joe Biden’s presidency, as the fates of the infrastructure and reconciliation bills are likely to be determined. If it passes Congress, the latter will almost certainly be the most significant piece of legislation Biden signs; it could even be the last significant piece of legislation he signs.

U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) dramatically gives a thumbs down vote earlier this year to a vote on raising the federal minimum wage to $15.

U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) dramatically gives a thumbs down vote earlier this year to a vote on raising the federal minimum wage to $15.

 

Both chambers returned to session together Monday for the first time since July, as many Democrats acknowledged a sense of foreboding about the weeks ahead, with not only major aspects of their agenda on the line but also key deadlines looming to provide government funding and extend the federal debt limit.

And centrist Democrats on Capitol Hill appear poised to pare down a planned $3.5 trillion economic package as their liberal counterparts in the House threaten in turn to kill the bipartisan infrastructure deal that passed the Senate last month.

An overhaul of the nation’s voting laws has been blocked by Republicans. An effort to strike a bipartisan deal on police reforms has lost all momentum. A sweeping immigration plan to provide a path to legal residency for millions of undocumented immigrants is now all but dead.

President Biden’s governing agenda is at risk of unraveling on Capitol Hill after a mounting series of delays, clashes and setbacks that have sapped momentum from an ambitious and intricate push to deliver on long-standing Democratic policy priorities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats’ once-sweeping policy agenda continues to shrink, Mike DeBonis, Sean Sullivan and Maria Sacchetti, Sept. 20, 2021. An overhaul of voting laws was blocked by Republicans. An effort to strike a bipartisan deal on police reforms has lost all momentum. A plan to provide a path to legal residency for millions of immigrants is now all but dead.

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Global Supply Shortages Reach All the Way to a Haitian Aid Group, Peter S. Goodman, Sept. 20, 2021. Factory production disruption and bottlenecks in shipping are leaving nonprofit groups short of goods for vulnerable communities worldwide.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection closed the bridge that connects Del Rio to Mexico, adding another disruption to daily life, with local residents unable to make the cross-border trips for shopping or work or family visits.

While most of the migrants who have remained around the bridge, have been transferred to other border locations for processing or are being flown back to Haiti on deportation flights that began on Sunday, local police and jails have been overwhelmed with cases in recent weeks of migrants who ventured into town, and sometimes private property.

Del Rio, a bicultural city of 36,000, is used to cross-border traffic, and it benefits from it, with workers and residents going back and forth across the bridge daily. But the masses of humanity that have shocked and dismayed people seeing them on their phones and televisions this past week have been especially straining to the city and people who lie just beyond that bridge.

ny times logoNew York Times, Residents of Del Rio Feel the Impact of the Migrant Crisis, Edgar Sandoval and James Dobbins Sept. 20, 2021. The thousands of desperate migrants, many of them Haitian refugees, have been especially straining to the small Texas city and the people in it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration to Lift Restrictions for Vaccinated Travelers, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Mark Landler, Sept. 20, 2021. Foreign travelers who provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before boarding a flight will be able to fly to the U.S.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Hope, Fear and Misinformation Led Haitians to the U.S. Border, James Dobbins, Natalie Kitroeff, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Edgar Sandoval and Miriam Jordan. Some left to find work. Others to escape violence or racial discrimination in other countries. But many believe “there is nothing to go back to.”

    Washington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing  Migrants walked across the Rio Grande carrying food and other supplies to a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas (Photo by Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times).Migrants walked across the Rio Grande carrying food and other supplies to a makeshift camp in Del Rio, Texas (Photo by Verónica G. Cárdenas for The New York Times).

 He called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “take immediate action to hold those responsible accountable and ensure that all migrants are treated in accordance with the law and basic decency, as this Administration has promised to do since day one.”

“Video and photos coming out of Del Rio showing U.S. Border Patrol’s mistreatment of Haitian migrants along the border are horrific and disturbing,” Thompson said. “This mistreatment runs counter to our American values and cannot be tolerated.”

bennie thompson headshotRep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), left, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, denounced the officers’ behavior in a statement Monday.

Analysis: What one photo from the border tells us about the evolving migrant crisis

“This is why your country’s [expletive], because you use your women for this!” another of the officers can be heard saying to the migrants, according to footage published by Al Jazeera English.

One photo by photojournalist Paul Ratje shows a Border Patrol officer on horseback, grabbing the shirt of a Haitian migrant holding bags of food and trying to enter an encampment near the river. Other footage shows mounted Border Patrol officers chasing migrants away. One of the officers can be seen swinging at one of the migrants with what appears to be a strap connected to the horse’s bridle.

Their statements come one day after the Biden administration began deporting people from the makeshift camp where nearly 14,000 migrants have gathered beneath a South Texas bridge.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House, House Homeland Security chair denounce ‘horrific’ mistreatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol officers, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 20, 2021. The White House and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee on Monday voiced concern over photos and reports appearing to show U.S. Border Patrol officers on horseback mistreating Haitian migrants near the Rio Grande, calling the images “horrific.”

Earlier this year, President Biden reinforced that goal but cautioned that the number “will still be hard to hit,” attributing his conclusion to the challenges of rebuilding a system that President Donald Trump had dismantled.

The 125,000 number has long been the aspirational figure that the Biden administration had set for fiscal 2022, which begins Oct. 1.

“I applaud the Biden administration for setting a target of 125,000 refugee admissions in the next fiscal year — a target my colleagues and I have been advocating for since April,” Durbin said in a statement. “And while I’m disappointed in the projected number of refugees to be admitted this fiscal year, I acknowledge the challenges the Biden administration inherited with the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program due to the anti-immigrant actions of the previous Administration.”

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate majority whip, welcomed the news.

The move comes as the United States is accepting hundreds of refugees from Afghanistan after the end of U.S. military operations in the country. The administration also cited the expanded resettlement of Central Americans and Myanmar dissidents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to raise refugee admissions cap to 125,000, Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim, Sept. 20, 2021. The Biden administration is raising the refugee admissions cap for the next fiscal year to 125,000, a reflection of the goal to which the president aspired during the 2020 campaign.

Haiti suffered the still unsolved assassination of its president in July and a devastating earthquake that killed 2,200 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, schools and churches in August. Violent street gangs have seized neighborhoods and key roads, torching homes and spreading a plague of rapes, kidnappings and killings that have caused thousands of residents to flee.

haiti flagRecognition of the conditions led the Biden administration as recently as May to grant temporary protected status to tens of thousands of undocumented Haitians in the United States. At the time, officials cited “serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources” in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation.

They began landing Sunday in a nation that some describe as Somalia of the Caribbean — a failed state suffering a humanitarian emergency that critics say is too dangerous and unstable for the thousands being deported.

us dhs big eagle logo4“If Biden continues with these deportations, he’s no better than Trump,” Bordes said. “I’m afraid for my safety here. I don’t even know this country anymore.”
Drone video shows migrants under Texas bridge

He mingled with other confused deportees, many of whom hadn’t seen Haiti in years and now spoke Spanish or Portuguese better than Haitian Creole. Several families told The Washington Post that they were never told they were being deported back to Haiti.

“How could they bring us back here?” he asked. “This is an injustice. I don’t even know where we are going to sleep tonight.”

Like many deportees arriving on charter flights at the airport in Port-au-Prince, 15 minutes from neighborhoods controlled by brutal armed gangs, Bordes’s family left Haiti in the great migration after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people. He was 12 when they left, first for the Dominican Republic, then on to Chile, where he was living with his mother and brother when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Encouraged by relatives in the United States, the family set out on a 4,500-mile trek to the U.S. border — never imagining the road would lead back to the devastated country they left more than a decade ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Deportees land in Port-au-Prince: ‘Nobody told us we were going back to Haiti,’ Widlore Merancourt and Anthony Faiola, Sept. 20, 2021. He crossed the Mexican border into Texas only two weeks ago, joyous at the prospect of building anew in the United States. Now part of the first wave of deportees rapidly ejected by the Biden administration amid a fresh surge at the border, Johnson Bordes, 23, stepped off a Boeing 737 on Sunday and into the Haitian capital, terrified by a city torn apart by violence in a homeland he could barely remember.

 

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Media News

TheHill.com, Anti-Greg Abbott TV ad pulled minutes before college football game: Lincoln Project, Monique Beals, Sept. 20, 2021. An advertisement slamming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was pulled minutes before it was intended to air during a University of Texas football game, according to the group that produced the ad.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

 Abbott is a graduate of the University of Texas and remains involved in appointing members of the school’s board of regents, according to the Morning News.

Abbott is up for reelection next year and has amassed $55 million in his campaign bank account ahead of the race, according to The Texas Tribune. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) is reportedly considering a run to oust him from the governor's office.

The advertisement was cleared by ESPN's legal department, and The Lincoln Project had paid $25,000 for the slot, a spokesman for the group told the Morning News.

The ad is titled "Abbott's Wall" and says that caskets of the 60,000 Texans who have died from the coronavirus would stretch from Austin to San Antonio.

"Our ad was supposed to air in Texas during the Longhorns game this weekend. But then, 10 minutes before kickoff, we were informed the ad would not run and it was a 'University-made decision,'" said a statement from The Lincoln Project, a group led by Republican operatives who oppose former President Trump and his allies.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 212 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 20, 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 181.7 million people, 54.7 percent of the eligible population, fully vaccinated.

World Cases: 229,406,840, Deaths: 4,707,689
U.S. Cases:     42,900,906, Deaths:    691,880
India Cases:     33,478,419, Deaths:    445,165
Brazil Cases:    21,239,783, Deaths:    590,786

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 20, 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:

ny times logo

Regulators have made clear they are working as fast as possible, but also need to ensure the vaccine meets the highest standards — especially because a rare, but concerning vaccine side effect of heart muscle inflammation has been identified, most frequently in the younger males eligible for the vaccines. An FDA analysis estimated that among 16- to 17- year old males, the risk was close to one in 5,000.

The companies still must prepare and submit the data to the Food and Drug Administration, a process they expect to complete by the end of September. Then, the data — not yet published or peer reviewed — will be scrutinized by regulators to ascertain that the vaccine is safe and effective. That could take weeks, or up to a month.

The finding, eagerly anticipated by many parents and pediatricians, is a crucial step toward the two-shot coronavirus vaccine regimen becoming available for younger school-aged children, perhaps close to Halloween.

pfizer logoA lower dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — one-third the amount given to adults and teens — is safe and triggered a robust immune response in children as young as 5 years old, the drug companies announced in a news release Monday morning.

washington post logoWashington Post, Low dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe, effective in children ages 5-11, companies’ study finds, a key step toward approval, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Sept. 20, 2021. The data, eagerly anticipated by many parents and pediatricians, is a crucial step toward the two-shot coronavirus vaccine regimen becoming available for children, perhaps close to Halloween.

Anti-vaccine groups, conspiracy theory enthusiasts and far-right media have embraced him, and his best-known client, the group America’s Frontline Doctors, calls him part of a “Legal Eagle Dream Team.”

Renz, who became a licensed attorney only months before the pandemic began, has rapidly gained prominence among covid-19 skeptics for leading federal lawsuits in six states that challenge shutdowns, mask mandates and the safety of vaccines while alleging that the danger of the virus has been overblown.

As Renz spoke, a message flashed across the screen with his website address. “Donate to his cause,” it urged.

In one of dozens of recent media appearances, Ohio attorney Thomas Renz was claiming that coronavirus vaccines were more harmful than the virus itself. “The people that are dying are vaccinated,” he said on a conservative online talk show in July.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawyer’s rise shows how vaccine misinformation can fuel fundraising and far-right celebrity, Shawn Boburg and Jon Swaine, Sept. 20, 2021. Thomas Renz, once a little-known attorney in Ohio with limited litigation experience, boosted his profile with lawsuits challenging coronavirus vaccines.

 washington post logoWashington Post, As covid patients fill hospitals, health workers fight fear and exhaustion: ‘Here we go again,’ Antonio Olivo and Rachel Chason, Sept. 20, 2021. Many on health care’s front lines say they’re baffled that there is still even a debate over whether to get vaccinated or wear a mask in public.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP maneuvers to block vaccine mandates, undercutting a key policy, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Annie Linskey, Sept. 20, 2021.Republican leaders argue that requiring the shots violates personal freedoms, but experts say mass vaccinations have not worked historically without mandates.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Russian fascism shows weak links; Biden missed an opportunity, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 20, 2021. A Cold War mindset during the Barack wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallObama administration and a Russophile Donald Trump foreign policy squandered advantageous opportunities for the United States to politically hobble the neo-fascist policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

United Russia’s approval rating was hovering around 30 percent in the months leading to elections, due to voter discontent over increases in the pension age, high food prices, declining real wages and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of this report, with 99.6 percent of the vote counted, United Russia clocked in with 49.8 percent of the votes, only a plurality of votes for Putin. In 2016, the Putin party won 54.2 percent of the vote, a majority.

The recent Russian legislative and regional elections indicate that if the United States were to provide "quiet" assistance to the Communist wayne madesen report logoParty of the Russian Federation (KPRF) the consistent majorities Putin's United Russia cult of personality party achieves in elections, including the three-day election that wrapped up on September 19, could suffer setbacks.

The results mean Putin’s party has won all five State Duma elections since 2003, giving the Kremlin a compliant parliament that has long supported the president as he cracked down on political freedoms and crushed his opponents.

Police cordoned off Pushkin Square in central Moscow after Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called for protests to “defend the election.” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin denied Communist Party applications to stage protests Monday, Tuesday or Friday.

Putin’s party expected to maintain its grip on Duma as Russian opposition complains of stolen vote

The Communist Party — which came in second as usual — announced it would not recognize the online voting results and would not do so in the future, saying the system had no integrity.

russian flag wavingComing in for particular criticism by the opposition was a new, online voting system used in six regions, which was described as opaque and has been credited with preserving United Russia seats, especially in Moscow.

CEC head Ella Pamfilova said United Russia won, holding on to its supermajority in the parliament with a turnout of 51.68 percent, well above the 2016 turnout of 47.88 percent — the lowest in Russian history.

vladimir putin hand up palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin’s United Russia party gains big majority in parliamentary elections, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 20, 2021. President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintained its tight grip on the nation's parliament in three-day elections criticized by opposition parties and independent observers for ballot stuffing and tampering, according to election results announced by the Central Election Commission.

Republicans have argued that Democrats have the votes to increase the debt limit on their own and should do so given that Democrats are pushing trillions of dollars in new spending priorities. Democrats have rejected that approach because they do not believe they should be solely responsible for voting to prevent a national default and because the current national debt was created by both parties, although a top House Democrat on Sunday acknowledged that his party might have to act alone as a measure of last resort.

Instead, the Democrats and Republicans have spent recent days publicly bludgeoning each other over the debt ceiling, yet another sign that there are no negotiations to resolve the impasse.

Senate Republicans say they will vote to allow a debt default, leaving Democrats scrambling for plan to avert economic crisis

Meanwhile, the White House has ruled out offering policy concessions to Republican lawmakers to lure GOP votes, according to three senior administration officials familiar with the matter. McConnell has not communicated any requests to the administration of what he wants in exchange for support for the suspension, the people said. Even if McConnell does outline a proposal, the White House has no intention of rewarding the GOP for trying to use the debt ceiling as leverage in other negotiations, the officials said, with one describing the position as “a matter of principle.”

Washington Post, Analysis: Senate Republicans say they will vote to allow debt default, leaving Democrats scrambling for plan to avert economic crisis

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted Republicans will not cooperate with pleas from the Biden administration to increase or suspend the debt ceiling — the legal limit for what the federal government can borrow to avoid defaulting on its obligations.

The White House is in a bind over the potential breach of the federal debt ceiling as GOP lawmakers refuse to help Democrats avert a national financial catastrophe, leaving the administration with few easy answers as time runs out.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House rules out debt-limit concessions as GOP refuses to help avert crisis, Jeff Stein, Sept. 20, 2021. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, has insisted Republicans will not cooperate with pleas from the Biden administration to increase or suspend the debt ceiling, leaving the Mitchell_McConnelladministration with few answers as time runs out.

In their statement, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer singled out the need to pay for the $900 billion pandemic relief bill that became law in the final weeks of the Trump administration with bipartisan support, including from Mr. McConnell and moderate Republicans. The pair also said the legislation, which had not been made public by Monday evening, would also include emergency funding to resettle refugees from Afghanistan and address the onslaught of natural disasters in recent months, including the hurricane devastation in Louisiana and wildfires in the West.

“This is a bipartisan responsibility, just as it was under my predecessor,” Mr. Biden said on Twitter, in a statement of support for the plan. “Blocking it would be inexcusable.”

But the debt-limit increase is needed to pay for trillions of dollars in debt racked up by lawmakers in both parties, including under President Donald J. Trump. Democrats, who joined Republicans in increasing the limit during the Trump administration, argue that the G.O.P. should reciprocate under President Biden so the government does not default on its obligations.

“Democrats want to build a partisan future without our input, so Democrats will not get bipartisan facilitators for their purely partisan spending binge,” Mr. McConnell declared on the Senate floor, adding that Republicans would support a stand-alone bill to keep the government open. “Democrats are fully capable of owning this step themselves.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, has argued for weeks that it is the ruling party’s responsibility to finance the federal spending it has endorsed, particularly as Democrats seek to maneuver trillions of dollars in spending around unified Republican opposition.

“Addressing the debt limit is about meeting obligations the government has already made, like the bipartisan emergency Covid relief legislation from December, as well as vital payments to Social Security recipients and our veterans,” the top two Democrats, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, said in a joint statement announcing their plan. “Furthermore, as the administration warned last week, a reckless Republican-forced default could plunge the country into a recession.”

But Republicans have warned repeatedly that they are unwilling to support raising the debt ceiling, leaving the fate of both measures in doubt. In pairing the two, Democratic leaders hoped to pressure Republicans into dropping their opposition and allowing passage of legislation that is expected to contain urgently needed spending, including disaster relief to help their states.

The House is expected to take up the bill as early as this week, as Democrats juggle work on their $3.5 trillion economic package with the pressing need to avoid a government shutdown in 10 days and a potential default on the national debt within weeks.

Top congressional Democrats announced on Monday that they would tack a measure lifting the federal borrowing limit through the end of 2022 onto a bill to keep the government funded through December, escalating a brewing showdown with Republicans who have vowed to oppose legislation needed to avert a fiscal catastrophe.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats to Pair Spending Bill With Raising Debt Ceiling, Pressuring G.O.P., Emily Cochrane, Sept. 20, 2021. The approach essentially dares Republicans to follow through on their threats to oppose increasing the debt limit, by coupling it with urgently needed federal spending. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Justin Trudeau to Remain Prime Minister of Canada, Ian Austen, Sept. 20, 2021. Canadian broadcasters projected that Mr. Trudeau would remain in power after Monday’s election. Trudeau falls short of a majority in Canada’s federal election.

This time around, Mr. Trudeau is part of the political establishment. So he focused on telling voters, explicitly or otherwise, that a return to a Conservative government under Mr. O’Toole would wipe away his achievements in a variety of areas including gun control, gender equity, climate change, child care, poverty reduction and, above all, ending the pandemic and getting Canadians vaccinated.

Mr. Trudeau first came to power in 2015 by presenting himself as a new voice in politics with a fresh approach and policies.

While disgruntlement about the election call dominated the five-week campaign, the pandemic intensified as a campaign issue over the final days. Mr. Trudeau has proposed mandatory vaccination for some and championed vaccine passports. Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader, rejected both.

justin trudeau twitterThe prime minister, right, called the election last month, two years ahead of schedule, expecting that the boost in his popularity provided by his handling of the pandemic would give him the majority he was denied in 2018. But those promising numbers immediately fell as Canadians expressed dismay about the election being held while the Delta variant of the coronavirus was straining hospitals and prompting the authorities to restore restrictions in some areas.

Because many voters were still in line casting ballots, perhaps for several more hours, it is unclear whether Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party would regain a majority in Parliament — Mr. Trudeau’s objective. Preliminary results suggested that the Liberals would probably not achieve that.

Here’s what to know about the election.

  • The Conservative, Erin O’Toole, shifted left to broaden his party’s appeal.
  • Climate change was supposed to be a big issue this election. It wasn’t.
  • The national dialogue on Indigenous issues was missing from the campaign.
  • Many Canadians, weary of their prime minister, still see him as the least bad choice.
  • Canadians will decide if Justin Trudeau’s political gamble pays off.
  • Justin Trudeau will remain prime minister, Canadian TV projects.

canadian flagHere’s what you need to know:

The episode illustrates how strenuously the president’s legal team sought to nullify the results of the election; how flimsy even their more serious claims were; and what little stock the president’s own allies placed in his objections, even as they stood steadfastly with their standard-bearer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee vetted Trump’s fraud claims, new book says. They were unpersuaded, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sept. 20, 2021. “Peril,” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, reveals the lengths the two Republicans went to in examining the president’s baseless claims. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham agreed to hear Rudolph W. Giuliani out.

The memo suggested this as a potential option, and it also suggested Pence could use objections by GOP lawmakers to Biden’s electors to delay the process. The book reports that Pence explored this idea before rejecting it.

Because Republicans in several swing states had voted to send sham electors for Trump to Congress, it argued, Pence could simply set aside the actual electors from those states for President Biden. Both sets would be invalid, and Pence could count the remaining electors, designating Trump winner of a majority of them.

The book recounts that four days before Jan. 6 — when Congress counts the electoral votes — Lee received a White House memo outlining how Vice President Pence could scuttle the process, according to a new Post piece about the book.

The key takeaway: Gaping holes in the Electoral Count Act — the 1887 law that governs how Congress counts electoral college votes — were central to the chances that their scheme might succeed.

bob woodward robert costa peril coverBut for our purposes, the more important revelation involves how those lies were supposed to interlock with the broader scheme cooked up by Trump and his co-conspirators.

The revelations come from the new book Peril, by The Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The headline: Two GOP senators — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah — took Trump’s lies about election fraud seriously enough to devote real resources to vetting them.

This is thrust upon us by new revelations about the extent of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 loss — and by an important new paper by a leading legal scholar warning of future election subversion. Both should prompt new urgency among Democrats.

Graham and Lee, both of whom ultimately voted to certify the results, took the claims of election fraud seriously enough to get briefed on the details, involve their senior staff and call state officials throughout the country. But privately, Graham gave the arguments a withering assessment, according to the book, saying they were suitable for “third grade.”

Top general was so fearful Trump might spark war that he made secret calls to his Chinese counterpart, new book says

This scene is recounted in a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward and national political reporter Robert Costa. The book, Peril, describes parallel efforts by the South Carolina Republican and his conservative colleague from Utah, Sen. Mike Lee, to personally investigate the president’s claims of voter fraud as the lawmakers prepared to certify Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6.

bob woodward robert costa peril coverGiuliani promised details by Monday — proof that scores of ballots had been cast in the names of dead people and people under 18, among other irregularities.

Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney at the time, put forward a computer whiz who presented a mathematical formula suggesting Biden’s support in certain states was unrealistic. Graham, a lawyer and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, found the reasoning too abstract. He wanted hard evidence. “Give me some names,” Graham said at the Saturday meeting. “You need to put it in writing. You need to show me the evidence.”

In a Jan. 2 meeting arranged by Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, and held in his West Wing office, the South Carolina Republican met with Giuliani and his legal team to learn about findings they said could hand Trump a second term.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Ominous new details about Trump’s coup attempt require Democrats to act, Greg Sargent, right, Sept. 20, 2021. In case you need more greg sargentevidence of how much damage keeping the filibuster might end up doing, add this to the list: It could make a future stolen presidential election more likely.

In fact, it’s reasonably transparent: Trump is in the midst of trying to help one of the top insurrectionist leaders in America, Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), become the Secretary of State in Georgia so that Trump—or his handpicked 2024 Republican presidential candidate—can steal the 2024 election in that state through new administrative regs, the redeployment of voting machines away from majority-minority precincts, various draconian machinations involving early voting and poll hours and ID presentments, and, if necessary, open election fraud.

If you’re thinking Trump is up to something else here besides the obvious, you’re right.

That’s right: Trump is up to his old tricks (which in some instances have actually been crimes) in Georgia. CNN reports that Trump has just again initiated a communication with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which the corrupt ex-POTUS rehashes the “Big Lie” about the November presidential election and tries to convince Raffensperger to “decertify” the 2020 election results in Georgia—which georgia mapof course he knows (and Raffensperger knows) neither the State of Georgia nor anyone in it can do.

seth abramson proof logoProof, Investigative Commentary: Why Donald Trump Is Again Interfering in Georgia's Electoral Process, Seth Abramson, left, Sept. 20, 2021. Trump is up to his old seth abramson graphiccrimes—bribery, witness tampering, and obstruction—as well as the basic graft for which he's well known. His latest scheme is a dangerous long-term play that we can't ignore.

djt maga hat speech uncredited Custom

 “Addressing the debt limit is about meeting obligations the government has already made, like the bipartisan emergency COVID relief legislation from December as well as vital payments to Social Security recipients and our veterans,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a statement Monday. " Furthermore, as the Administration warned last week, a reckless Republican-forced default could plunge the country into a recession."

As they presented their plan, Democrats on Monday once again sounded dire warnings about consequences of failure, which they said could destabilize global democratic donkey logomarkets, shutter critical federal services during a pandemic and hold back assistance to millions of Americans in the aftermath of storms that battered the Gulf Coast and parts of the Eastern Seaboard. They urged Republicans to join them in adopting the measure, arguing that the debt ceiling helps cover prior spending, including the roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief package approved by both parties last year.

The plan immediately faced political headwinds, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reaffirmed that Republicans would oppose any increase in the country’s borrowing limit, even if it is attached to a measure preventing a shutdown — part of a broader GOP-led effort to scuttle President Biden’s economic agenda.

House and Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a measure that would fund the government through December while staving off a potential default on U.S. U.S. House logodebts into next year, setting up a last-minute scramble ahead of key fiscal deadlines on Capitol Hill.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats unveil funding plan as major showdown with GOP looms, Tony Romm, Sept. 20, 2021. If Congress doesn't act, the government will shut down Oct. 1. But Republicans have expressed opposition to helping Democrats raise the debt limit, and it's unclear whether the new budget plan has the votes to pass.

 


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U.S.-Australia Sub Deal, French Outrage

 

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They all survived, but another British woman later died after she sprayed herself with Novichok contained in a discarded perfume bottle allegedly used in the attack.

It was later discovered that Skripal, who was a former double agent, and Yulia, his adult daughter, had been poisoned with Novichok, a rare nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union. One of the police officers who found them was later hospitalized.

It was a spy poisoning drama that rocked a nation. In March 2018, police discovered a father and daughter slumped on a park bench in the city of Salisbury, in southern England.

Britain demands Russia explain ‘what has gone on’ after latest nerve agent poisoning

The newly identified Denis Sergeev, who used the alias Sergey Fedotov, was charged with conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, grievous bodily harm, possession and use of a chemical weapon.

For the first time, police described all three men allegedly involved in the 2018 attempted assassination of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England as Russian military intelligence operatives.

Police identified a third suspect in the attempted poisoning of a Russian double agent in 2018 and the European Court of Human Rights said Russia was responsible for an earlier political assassination in Britain — that of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.

U.S. Media News

Sept. 20

Palmer Report, Opinion: The part everybody got wrong about the California recall race, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 20, 2021. Sometimes all you can do is chuckle at the bill palmerpredictability of it all. If Gavin Newsom had lost the California recall race, or if he had even come remotely close to losing, every major media outlet would have run headlines about how it spelled doom for the Democrats in the 2022 midterms. But with Newsom having won by about twenty-seven points, the mainstream media was quick to stress that this didn’t mean anything positive for the Democrats in 2022.

bill palmer report logo headerWe see these kinds of slanted headlines time and again from the media, nearly always insisting that every new development is somehow bad for the Democrats. Even when the Democrats score an obvious victory, the media nearly always downplays it. There’s a reason for this, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the media favoring the Republicans.

danny fenster

ny times logoNew York Times, An American Journalist Sits in Prison as Myanmar Suppresses Dissent, Richard C. Paddock, Sept. 20, 2021. Danny Fenster, an American journalist who was arrested in May as he prepared to leave Myanmar, was ordered Monday to remain in prison as police investigate a vague accusation that he disseminated information that could be harmful to the military.

myanmar flagThe court hearing marked his 120th day in custody. Mr. Fenster, shown above in a file photo, is the only American known to be under arrest in Myanmar, and has become an international symbol of the military junta’s crackdown on free expression.

No formal charge has been filed against the Detroit native. No evidence has been presented against him at any of his eight court appearances, which are conducted by video and last only a few minutes. He is not permitted to speak or ask questions and has rarely met with his attorney since his arrest on May 24.

Mr. Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine, is accused of disseminating information that might induce military officers to disregard or fail in their duties, a charge often brought against journalists in the Southeast Asian nation. He faces three years in prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos pledges $1 billion to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea, Jay Greene and Steven Mufson, Sept. 20, 2021. Bezos’s large donations are transforming climate philanthropy — even as Amazon’s cloud-computing business and shipping operations have a significant carbon footprint.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos earmarked $1 billion of his $10 billion environmental philanthropy to conservation efforts Monday afternoon, aiming to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030 in an effort to prevent mass extinctions.

amazon logo smallThe Bezos Earth Fund, which he formed in 2020, did not identify any of the groups or initiatives it intends to back with the new donations. It said, in a news release, only that it will prioritize “areas that are important for biodiversity and carbon stocks and will give emphasis to the central role of local communities and Indigenous peoples in conservation efforts.” It added that the philanthropy will focus on the Congo Basin, the tropical Andes and the tropical Pacific Ocean.

“By coming together with the right focus and ingenuity, we can have both the benefits of our modern lives and a thriving natural world,” Bezos said in a statement. “I hope this commitment inspires others to make their own pledges to protect and conserve nature and help in the fight against climate change. A job this big needs many allies.”

Proof via Substack, America's Video Game Scandal Continues: More Evidence of Deception By Grading Company WATA, Seth Abramson, Sept. 20, 2021.

Mr. Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine, is accused of disseminating information that might induce military officers to disregard or fail in their duties, a charge often brought against journalists in the Southeast Asian nation. He faces three years in prison.

No formal charge has been filed against the Detroit native. No evidence has been presented against him at any of his eight court appearances, which are conducted by video and last only a few minutes. He is not permitted to speak or ask questions and has rarely met with his attorney since his arrest on May 24.

The court hearing marked his 120th day in custody. Mr. Fenster is the only American known to be under arrest in Myanmar, and has become an international symbol of the military junta’s crackdown on free expression.

Danny Fenster, an American journalist who was arrested in May as he prepared to leave Myanmar, was ordered Monday to remain in prison as police investigate a vague accusation that he disseminated information that could be harmful to the military.

Salon, Eccentric Christian reporter causing headaches for Jen Psaki, White House press corps, Zachary Petrizzo, Sept. 21, 2021. Little-known Christian reporter — who once sang in press room — claims Biden administration is persecuting him White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki has an odd problem on her hands: a longtime White House correspondent from an obscure Christian website — that publishes little or no actual reporting — is raising a fuss over no longer being allowed to enter her personal office whenever he wishes. This previously unreported West Wing drama has led the reporter in question to call for an investigation.

What wife shtick was for Henny Youngman and drug humor for Robin Williams, the Texas Republican is for Franken. He can deliver a tight five minutes.

But mostly, Ted Cruz.

Unlike the Senate, Franken is bipartisan in his targets. Republicans such as Mitch McConnell, Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham and former member Tom Coburn are mocked, occasionally drubbed. Also, fellow Democrats Bernie Sanders, Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer.

“I have the freedom to do many things. It’s very hard as a Senator to do a comedy tour,” he said in an interview a few days before the show. A previous tour ended early because of covid.

This is his first extended standup stint since he resigned from the U.S. Senate in January 2018 after several women accused him of groping during photo sessions and inappropriate kissing, allegations he has vigorously denied. If he no longer sits in Congress, if he did not receive the due process that he sorely wishes he had, why, Franken can bite the hands that once amicably slapped his back.

The recovering politician visited this bucolic college town Saturday to launch “The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour Tour,” which pokes fun at several of Franken’s former colleagues. Actually, make that many.

No longer. Now, everything is political roadkill for his new comedy tour.

For more than eight years in the Senate, Al Franken largely stifled the funny, as though he coexisted with a powerful alter ego in desperate need of submission: Senator Franken and "Saturday Night Live" Al. He had to watch everything he said. He dared to be dull.

washington post logoWashington Post, Al Franken has a new comedy tour. His targets? Former Senate colleagues, Karen Heller, Sept. 21, 2021. The recovering politician on Saturday launched “The Only Former U.S. Senator Currently on Tour Tour,” which pokes fun at many of Franken’s former colleagues. It’s his first extended stand-up stint since he resigned in 2018 after several women accused him of groping and kissing, allegations he has denied.

Yet to many in elite enclaves, the problem feels far bigger than this — so big that it’s tempting to reach for dramatic historical analogies to describe it.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, for example, documents 426 cases of scholars “targeted for sanction by ideological adversaries” since 2015, a relatively small number given the size of American higher education. “If any other problem in social life was occurring at this frequency and at this scale, we would consider it effectively solved,” writes Gurri.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Middle-Aged Sadness Behind the Cancel Culture Panic, Michelle Goldberg, right, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). In a sharp essay in Liberal michelle goldberg thumbCurrents, Adam Gurri looked at empirical evidence that might tell us how big a crisis academic cancellations really are, and he came away nonplussed.

I believe it is jealousy that is playing a huge role in the cancelled Kelly’s anger. Obviously, she cannot find a respectable job. Who would have her? But I also want to tell you about a beautiful article I once read. It was actually all about Lemon.

It was written by a good friend of Lemon’s, and one of its quotes is this: “We were destined to like each other.” It was a lovely article. You know who wrote it? Megyn Kelly. That’s right. The two were good friends. But now Kelly is out of the mainstream news. When people get bitter that is often when the serpent rears its ugly head. And each time it does, it’s essential that the hissing serpent gets called out.

bill palmer report logo headerI have written about her before and that is because her behavior must be called out. She is doing much to divide us, just like her former coworkers at FOX are. Kelly went off the rails this week. Declaring that most News Networks are not to be trusted, Kelly launched a series of vile attacks on several anchors. They include Joy Reid, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon. Notice how two of the three are people of color.

megyn kelly fox newsPalmer Report, Commentary: Megyn Kelly flips out, Bocha Blue, Sept. 21, 2021. I want to start this article with a quote: “O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face! Did ever a dragon keep so fair a cave?” This is a quote from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. There are many quotes that hold so much meaning within the sparse but poetic words. This is one such quote. There seem to be certain people whose serpent hearts have indeed been hidden away, but one cannot ignore their manifestations now. One such person is Megyn Kelly (shown above in a file photo).

 

U.S. Jobs, Economy, Markets

New York Times, Stocks Tumble in Wall Street’s Worst Day Since May, Matt Phillips, Eshe Nelson and Coral Murphy Marcos, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.).

A dire forecast about the company’s fate arrived on Tuesday for investors in Asia, this one from S&P Global Ratings.

But the question for many is whether the company can stumble out of its current crisis on its own without being led by Beijing. And experts are making increasingly grim predictions about Evergrande’s ability to hold on without a government bailout, and the consequences of a possible collapse.

China’s Evergrande Group, the embattled property developer whose towering debt has set off panic in global markets, is buckling under the weight of more than $300 billion in debt. The company’s billionaire chairman told employees on Tuesday that they would “walk out of darkness as soon as possible.”

Angry home buyers are waiting on as many as 1.6 million apartments. Suppliers that sold cement, paint, rebar and copper pipes are owed more than $100 billion China Flagin payments. Employees who were strong-armed into lending are panicking now that the company cannot repay them on time.

ny times logoNew York Times, Evergrande Crisis Shows Cracks in China’s Property Market, Alexandra Stevenson and Cao Li, Sept. 21, 2021. Experts are making grim predictions about the developer’s ability to hold on without a government bailout, and the consequences of a possible collapse.

When and why did West Virginia stop being a coal state? Contrary to right-wing legend and fossil-fuel propaganda, coal’s decline isn’t a recent phenomenon driven by burdensome environmental regulations. On the contrary, the collapse of coal mainly happened during the Reagan years: West Virginia coal employment was more than 60,000 jobs in the early 1980s but fell by more than half by 1989. Much of the decline was caused by automation; even more jobs were lost after 1990 as coal companies turned to labor-saving (and environment-destroying) techniques such as mountaintop removal.

So what does the state do for a living? These days West Virginia’s biggest industry is health care, which employs more than 100,000 people (and offers many middle-class jobs). More on that in a minute.

It’s actually startling how small a role coal plays in modern West Virginia’s economy. Before the pandemic, the coal mining industry employed only around 13,000 workers, less than 2 percent of the state’s work force. Even attempts to make the number look bigger by counting jobs indirectly supported by coal suggest a state that has overwhelmingly moved on from mining.

Coal mining has a proud history in West Virginia. Among other things, the coal miners’ union played a crucial role in the history of labor organizing, which in turn helped create the relatively equal society I grew up in. But coal is West Virginia’s past, not its present, and definitely not its future.

What I do know, and you should, too, is that if Manchin torpedoes Biden — and the planet — on climate policy, it won’t be because he’s serving the interests of his constituents.

I have no idea which way Manchin will go. Nor do I have any good sense of how much he is being influenced by lobbyists and his personal financial interests, as opposed to a desire to do the right thing.

The best-case scenario is that Manchin will intervene in ways that help coal miners and highlight his independence without doing too much damage to Biden’s objectives. The worst-case scenario is that he will cripple the climate initiative and effectively doom the planet — because the president’s climate push is almost certainly our last chance to avoid disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Dear Joe Manchin: Coal Isn’t Your State’s Future, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). So Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia will be paul krugmanresponsible for putting together the Democratic climate plan. This is both understandable and terrifying. It’s understandable because Democrats need the vote of every one of their senators, which means doing whatever it takes to get skeptics on board. It’s terrifying because Manchin might end up gutting key proposals from President Biden, especially those aimed at drastically reducing the burning of fossil fuels.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2,000 U.S. Troops Are Headed to Iraq. Here Are the Stories of 6, David Philipps, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.).  The United States still has boots on the ground in the other nation it invaded in the wake of 9/11. Meet the soldiers headed for duty in Iraq.

 Though the mission may have dropped from public attention, the United States still has boots on the ground in the other nation it invaded in the wake of 9/11. About 2,500 American troops are in Iraq now, the embers of what was once a scorching and divisive war, now carefully scattered to protect a few strategic bases. For the next nine months, roughly 2,000 soldiers from First Brigade will take over much of that duty.

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Women and Girls Face Harsh New Reality in Taliban-Run Schools, Victor J. Blue and David Zucchino, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The new government has made clear that it intends to severely restrict the educational freedoms enjoyed by many women and girls in the past 20 years.

When schools reopened Saturday for grades seven through 12, only male students were told to report for their studies. The Taliban said nothing about girls in those grades, so they stayed home, their families anxious and uncertain about their future. Both boys and girls in grades one through six have been attending schools, with students segregated by gender in the higher three grades.

The only question is just how draconian the new system will be, and what type of Islamic-based education will be imposed on both boys and girls. Just as they did when they ruled most of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Taliban seem intent on ruling not strictly by decree, but by inference and intimidation.

But Aqila and other Afghan educators don’t need to attend meetings to comprehend the harsh new reality of education under Taliban rule. The emerging government has made clear that it intends to severely restrict the educational freedoms enjoyed by many women and girls the past 20 years.

“They say, ‘You should send a male representative,’” the director, Aqila, said inside the Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School, which was shattered in May by a terrorist bombing that killed scores of girls.

The director of a girls’ school in Kabul desperately wants to learn details of the Taliban’s plan for girls’ education. But she can’t attend the weekly Taliban committee meetings on education. They are for men only.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shooting at Russian university leaves at least 6 dead, 24 injured, Jennifer Hassan, Robyn Dixon and Miriam Berger, Sept. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Officials russian flag wavingsaid that the gunman was a student and that he had been apprehended after the incident. Russia’s Investigative Committee, a law enforcement agency, said the attacker was a student who had purchased a hunting rifle in May. He was apprehended following the incident. The agency said he had been hospitalized for wounds sustained while resisting arrest.

United Nations

washington post logoWashington Post, World leaders face furious push to act quickly on climate change, Brady Dennis and Steven Mufson, Sept. 20, 2021 (print ed.). ‘We really are out of time,’ Secretary-General António Guterres warns, imploring countries to set aside political differences. As world leaders gather at the United Nations this week, they face no shortage of divisive issues: An ongoing global pandemic, economic strife on numerous continents, and conflict and human rights concerns from Afghanistan to Haiti.

“We have reached a tipping point on the need for climate action,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres warned Thursday, in one of his latest pleas for unity and urgency. “The disruption to our climate and our planet is already worse than we thought, and it is moving faster than predicted. … We must act now to prevent further irreversible damage.”

But with only six weeks left until a crucial global climate summit in Scotland, presidents and prime ministers also face pressure to set aside these diplomatic tensions and act quickly and collectively to slow the warming of the planet — something they have struggled to do in the past.

washington post logoWashington Post, Third Russian charged in 2018 attempted Novichok poisoning of a Russian double agent, U.K. police say, Karla Adam and Robyn Dixon, Sept. 21, 2021. Russia's covert operations against its former agents was thrown back in the spotlight with new developments on Tuesday in a pair of high profile incidents that took place on British soil.

 

World News

Other Recent U.S. / France / Australia Sub Headlines

 

Washington Post, As France escalated its submarine dispute, it decided to go a bit lighter on Britain. Here’s why

Washington Post, Biden seeks a phone call with France’s Macron to calm waters on submarines

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

U.S., China, Australia, France

 

Daily Beast, Trump Org Prosecutors Find New Evidence—in a Basement

New York Times, At the Supreme Court, a Plea to Reveal Secret Surveillance Rulings, Adam Liptak

Washington Post, Opinion: Two miscarriages of justice reveal a sickening disparity, Ruth Marcus

Other Recent Headlines:

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Autopsy scheduled on body believed to be Gabby Petito as authorities continue search for fiance, Kim Bellware and Timothy Bella, Sept. 21, 2021. An autopsy is scheduled Tuesday on the body found in Wyoming that authorities say resembles the description of Gabby Petito, as investigators continue to search for her fiance, Brian Laundrie, nearly three weeks after he returned from a cross-country van trip without her.

The Teton County coroner will determine whether the remains discovered Sunday in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming are those of the 22-year-old whose disappearance has attracted national attention.

washington post logoWashington Post, Women within the Southern Baptist Convention allege they were sexually abused and the church covered it up, Megan Botel, Sept. 21, 2021. An investigation of the church’s handling of allegations is moving forward. Women have been telling their stories for years.

Tens of thousands gathered in June at the Music City Center in Nashville for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual conference. For the many women who have been speaking out about sexual assault within the nation’s largest evangelical denomination, the conference marked a long-awaited change of course: The Southern Baptist Convention nearly unanimously approved a third-party audit of sexual abuse allegations within its more than 47,000 churches. It also authorized an investigation into a suspected widespread coverup by the Executive Committee.

This week, Southern Baptist executives reaffirmed the probe into the church’s handling of sex abuse allegations, and a vote on whether it’ll waive attorney-client privilege for the purposes of the investigation is expected.

These developments come after a landmark investigation in 2019 by the Houston Chronicle revealed that more than 250 pastors and church leaders in the SBC had been charged with sex crimes in the past 20 years, affecting more than 700 victims. Overwhelmingly, the victims were children. Most of them were girls.

[ Probe of Southern Baptist sex abuse response moves forward]

The persistence of sexual abuse among conservative evangelical denominations like the SBC is rooted both in theology and in culture, according to Diane Winston, a religion and media professor at the University of Southern California. Bound by the ideals of male headship and extreme sexual purity, she said, evangelical men in power are often held even less accountable than men in other institutions.

For years, Southern Baptist delegates resisted reform. They rejected proposals to track predators in SBC churches and to investigate survivors’ allegations. But the decision at its June conference was a marked change in course.

“All these survivors have been telling their stories for years now,” said Grant Gaines, a Southern Baptist pastor in Murfreesboro, Tenn., who raised the motion for the audit. “Now, let’s try to right those wrongs so we can move forward.”

[ Southern Baptist leaders called Kamala Harris a ‘Jezebel.’ That’s not just insulting, it’s dangerous, experts say.]

Here are the stories of three women who allege that the Southern Baptist Convention failed to protect them from abuse. Two of them are sisters who both say their father, a Southern Baptist minister, abused them for years. Another woman says she was assaulted by her youth pastor more than two decades ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Imam charged with sexually assaulting girl who sought his help, police say, Justin Jouvenal, Sept. 21, 2021. An imam from an Annandale mosque has been charged with allegedly sexually assaulting an underage girl who sought his help in 2015, Fairfax County police said Tuesday.

Said Shirzadi, 36, of Maryland, is facing one count of indecent liberties by a custodian after the victim disclosed the alleged unlawful contact in May and detectives launched an investigation, police said.

 

Washington Post, Majorities of Americans oppose key parts of Texas abortion law, poll finds, Sept. 20, 2021.

“If the law is no good, why should we have to go through a long, drawn-out process to find out if it’s garbage?” he said after filing the complaint in state court in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio. Stilley also noted that a successful lawsuit could result in a “bounty” of at least $10,000 for the plaintiff.

 Washington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s Entire Presidential Agenda Rests on Expansive Spending Bill, Jim Tankersley, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). No president has ever packed as much of his agenda, domestic and foreign, into a single piece of legislation as President Biden has with the $3.5 trillion spending plan that Democrats are trying to wrangle through Congress over the next six weeks.

No president has ever packed as much of his agenda into a single piece of legislation as President Biden has with the $3.5 trillion spending plan.

The bill tackles the economy, education, immigration and more. It binds disparate Democratic lawmakers, but risks sinking under its own weight.

The bill combines major initiatives on the economy, education, social welfare, climate change and foreign policy, funded in large part by an extensive rewrite of the tax code, which aims to bring in trillions from corporations and the rich. That stacking of priorities has raised the stakes for a president resting his ambitions on a bill that could fail over the smallest of intraparty disputes.

If successful, Mr. Biden’s far-reaching attempt could result in a presidency-defining victory that delivers on a decades-long campaign by Democrats to expand the federal government to combat social problems and spread the gains of a growing economy to workers, striking a fatal blow to the government-limiting philosophy of President Ronald Reagan that has largely defined American politics since the 1980s.

But as Democrats are increasingly seeing, the sheer weight of Mr. Biden’s progressive push could cause it to collapse, leaving the party empty-handed, with the president’s top priorities going unfulfilled. Some progressives fear a watered-down version of the bill could fail to deliver on the party’s promises and undermine its case for a more activist government. Some moderates worry that spending too much could cost Democrats, particularly those in more conservative districts, their seats in the 2022 midterm elections, erasing the party’s control of Congress.

The legislation, which Democrats are trying to pass along party lines and without Republican support, contains the bulk of Mr. Biden’s vision to overhaul the rules of the economy in hopes of reducing inequality and building a more vibrant middle class. But its provisions go beyond economics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan family ravaged by U.S. drone strike mistake wants headstones for the dead — and possible new life in America, Sudarsan Raghavan, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. apology was welcomed. But they want someone held accountable for the attack that claimed 10 lives. Family members in interviews on Saturday expressed no visible animosity toward the United States government for killing their loved ones. But "forgiveness" may be too strong a word.

By the time the American apology arrived, the lives of the Ahmadi family were already upended. And being falsely accused by the U.S. military of ties to the Islamic State was not the worst part of the ordeal.

There was their shattered family house. There were the nightmares, the bouts of crying and the screams triggered by the memory of a U.S. drone strike on Aug. 29 that killed 10 of their relatives, including seven children.

There were the fresh fears of persecution by the Taliban after the media spotlight on the family noted that some members, including survivors, worked for U.S.-Department of Defense Sealbased entities or the former Afghan security forces.

The Hellfire missile — the weapon used in the Pentagon’s capstone attack at the end of a two-decade war — also killed the family’s only breadwinner, Zamarai Ahmadi.

“We didn’t have money to bury our relatives,” said his 32-year-old brother Emal on Saturday, steps away from the mangled carcass of a white Toyota sedan. “We had to borrow the funds.”

U.S. military: ‘Horrible mistake’ led to drone strike that killed 10

Without doubt, the Pentagon’s mea culpa Friday — that a series of miscalculations led to the wrongful targeting of Zamarai Ahmadi, an aid worker with a U.S.-based group — has lifted a heavy weight off the family.

“The Americans kept emphasizing they killed an ISIS-K terrorist,” said Emal, referring to the Islamic State’s Afghanistan branch. “Now we are happy they have acknowledged their mistake and confirmed that they killed innocent people.”

What the family seeks now is to exit their American-made hell. Family members in interviews on Saturday expressed no visible animosity toward the U.S. government for killing their loved ones. But forgiveness may be too strong a word.

New York Times, Pentagon Says Drone Strike That Killed 10 in Afghanistan Was Mistake, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, Sept. 17, 2021. 
The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that the last U.S. drone strike before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, after initially saying it had been necessary to prevent an attack on troops.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 ny times logoNew York Times, They Shunned Covid Vaccines but Embraced Antibody Treatment, Benjamin Mueller, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Championed by doctors and conservative radio hosts alike, monoclonal antibodies for Covid are in high demand — even among people who don’t want a vaccine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid hospital bills arrive as insurers restore co-pays and deductibles, Christopher Rowland, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As large insurance providers stop fully covering covid-related hospital stays, an uneven patchwork of patient billing has emerged. In some cases, patients in the same ICU can be hit with very different charges.

In 2020, as the pandemic took hold, U.S. health insurance companies declared they would cover 100 percent of the costs for covid treatment, waiving co-pays and expensive deductibles for hospital stays that frequently range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But this year, most insurers have reinstated co-pays and deductibles for covid patients, in many cases even before vaccines became widely available. The companies imposed the costs as industry profits remained strong or grew in 2020, with insurers paying out less to cover elective procedures that hospitals suspended during the crisis.

Now the financial burden of covid is falling unevenly on patients across the country, varying widely by health-care plan and geography, according to a survey of the two largest health plans in every state by the nonprofit and nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Washington Post, Pandemic marks another grim milestone: 1 in 500 Americans have died of covid-19, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). 

washington post logoWashington Post, Rationing care becomes a reality as covid-19 patients crowd hospitals in some areas, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Meryl Kornfield, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The most feared scenarios of the pandemic are happening in parts of the United States as coronavirus infections remain at surge levels. Doctors in Alaska, Idaho and Montana face agonizing ethical questions.

Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, a physician on the coronavirus triage committee at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, found her team last weekend making one of the most agonizing decisions of their careers. With the delta variant surging, the hospital was overwhelmed, and the doctor-on-call had paged the group for guidance.

Four patients needed continuous kidney dialysis, her colleague explained, but only two machines could be made available. How should I choose?

“This is the worst it’s been for us,” Solana Walkinshaw said, and “it’s not over.”

ny times logo

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 19, 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: 229,005,546, Deaths: 4,701,437
U.S. Cases:     42,866,805, Deaths: 691,562
India Cases:     33,448,163, Deaths: 444,869
Brazil Cases:    21,230,325, Deaths: 590,547

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 211.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 19, 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 181 million people, or 54.5 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

 

More On Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigation: January 6 Was a Violent Nationwide Insurrection—Not One Attack on One Building in Washington, Seth Abramson, left, Sept. 18-19, seth abramson graphic2021. Many Americans don't realize that Trump's plan for a January 6 attack on American democracy was national in scope—and continues to be. As his insurgency continues, capitals across America are at risk.

Introduction: One of the gravest misunderstandings about January 6 is that it was a localized event involving a single target: the United States Capitol. In fact, it was a decentralized plot that involved dozens of individual attacks around the country and which—moreover—the President of the United States at the time, Donald Trump, publicly acknowledged he knew was a diffuse network of attacks on American democracy. Indeed, Trump said all of the following in his speech the White House Ellipse on Insurrection Day:

seth abramson proof logo• That in addition to the crowd in front of him, he was well aware his speech was being heard by “hundreds of thousands of American patriots who are committed to the honesty of our elections and the integrity of our glorious republic”, a reference to Trumpist insurrectionists gathering “live” in other locations outside D.C. (as any reference to a TV audience would have accounted it in the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands);

• that the purpose of the upcoming march on the Capitol, among other things, was to convince Vice President Mike Pence to “send it [the results of the Electoral College votes in the fifty states] back to the states to re-certify [them]”, a plot Trump believed would lead to the de-certification of Joe Biden’s electors and which he knew would only be aided if massive protests occurred in the states Trump was claiming wanted to revisit their Electoral College votes;

• that “in addition to challenging the certification of the election, I’m calling on…state legislatures to quickly pass sweeping election reforms, and you better do it before we have no country left”;

• that he was “looking out all over this country and seeing fantastic crowds” (emphasis supplied), a confession that he was tracking January 6 events across America;

• that the supposed theft of the 2020 presidential election was very much a state-by-state issue, with the former president spending time in his speech at the Ellipse discussing not just the national outcome of the November vote but specific events in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania (as well as, in the same speech, falsely characterizing the 2020 election results in Ohio, Texas, Florida, and projecting his false claims of election theft forward into future elections in Wyoming and New York); and

• “If this happened to the Democrats, there’d be hell all over the country going on, there’d be hell all over the country” (emphasis supplied), a repetition of a calculated phrase pointing toward a nationwide protest against democracy, and another attempt to send a message to pro-Trump insurrectionists outside D.C. unsure about how violent they had the sitting president’s permission to get so far from what was (at the time) seen as the epicenter of the January 6 spectacle.

With all of the foregoing in mind, America needs a comprehensive summary of what happened on January 6 outside the nation’s capital.

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: A Secretive Summit That Trump Attended in December of 2020 May Explain Both Trump's Role in the January 6 Insurrection and Why Both CJCS Milley and China Feared Trump Would Start a War, Seth Abramson (left, attorney, professor, Newsweek columnist, metajournalist, and New York Times bestselling author), Sept. 16-17, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court hearings, guilty pleas belie right-wing recasting of Jan. 6 defendants as persecuted patriots, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). There are about 73 pleas, with roughly 600 charged and dozens still jailed. Ahead of the Justice for J6 rally, a look at where the defendants stand.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice for J6 rally sees a sparse crowd and tight security, Emily Davies, Marissa J. Lang, Teo Armus, Peter Jamison and Katie Mettler, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). A small band of right-wing protesters decrying the treatment of the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was dwarfed by hundreds of police and news reporters. Police said they made four arrests and seized two weapons.

The most anticipated visit by right-wing activists to the nation’s capital since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 ended with a whimper Saturday, as demonstrators supporting the rioters found themselves far outnumbered by police, journalists and counterprotesters.

Although the protesters returned to the scene of a historically grievous attack on American democracy, it was immediately obvious that much had changed. The Capitol grounds — where poorly prepared police fought a losing, hand-to-hand battle against President Donald Trump’s supporters just over eight months ago — were secured Saturday with metal fences and hundreds of officers. The halls of Congress were all but deserted. No president, or former president, delivered a bellicose speech urging that his election loss be overturned.

In recent weeks the agency had repeatedly warned that it would have a large force in the field, aided by police departments from across the region and the National Guard. The entire D.C. police force was activated Friday and Saturday. The massive law enforcement presence Saturday was unmistakable, with many in full riot gear and others on horseback.

As evening approached, police remained concerned about the risk of clashes between pro-Trump protesters and others on a busy Saturday in Washington that included the annual H Street Festival in Northeast D.C., a Howard University football game and a baseball game at Nationals Park. Counterprotesters held their own event about a mile from the Capitol rally. Some wore black helmets, gas masks and flak jackets.

The rally’s poor attendance came as no surprise — and did not necessarily signal a weakening of attempts on the right to falsely recast the deadly riot of Jan. 6 as something more benign. Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally argued that many of the hundreds of people charged in connection with the breaching of the Capitol were not violent and were exercising their constitutional right to engage in political protest. Similar claims have been made by Trump and embraced by many of his supporters, including some Republican lawmakers.

Influential figures on the far right actually discouraged their followers from showing up Saturday, asserting the event was a trap. Baseless rumors ricocheted through social media alleging that the federal government was attempting to lure demonstrators to Washington to arrest them. The Proud Boys, a group with a history of violence that includes participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection, discouraged their members from attending.

Capitol Police said Saturday afternoon that between 400 and 450 people had been observed at some point inside the protest zone. But many of them were journalists and other bystanders.

“There are more hurdles here in place than reasons for people to come out to this event,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “People are simply just too fearful after all of the arrests related to Jan. 6 to go out and do this kind of big nationwide event.”

Simultaneous demonstrations elsewhere in the country were also sparsely attended. In Seattle, a group of about 15 stood in the rain, chanting “USA.” Some 20 people gathered across the street from the federal courthouse in Charlotte, where they were observed by joggers and heckled by a man who shouted out the window of his car as he drove by: “They’re all insurrectionists! Get over it! They deserve to be in jail!”

Washington Post, A one-time Trump aide finds the spotlight he sought — if not broad support — with today’s Jan. 6 rally

Washington Post, Oath Keepers founder draws scrutiny from federal officials and followers for role in Jan. 6 riot, but he remains free and uncharged

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

joe manchin smile palmer

Axios, Manchin: Delay Biden plan to '22, Hans Nichols, Sept. 19, 2021. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is privately saying he thinks Congress should take a “strategic pause” until 2022 before voting on President Biden’s $3.5 trillion social-spending package, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

axios logoWhy it matters: Manchin’s new timeline — if he insists on it — would disrupt the plans by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to vote on the budget reconciliation package this month.

Driving the news: Back home in West Virginia last week, Manchin told a group of employees at a Procter & Gamble facility in Martinsburg he wanted to pause all the talk about the $3.5 trillion bill until 2022, Axios was told.

Those semi-public comments track with some of his private conversations about how long he wants to impose the "strategic pause" he floated in a Wall Street Journal op-ed this month. Manchin didn't give a specific timeline in his op-ed.

Any delay on the Democrat-only reconciliation package could imperil House passage of the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Pelosi has promised to pass by Sept. 27.

House progressive lawmakers are publicly vowing to vote against the infrastructure bill if it's not paired with the $3.5 trillion bill to be passed through the budget reconciliation process. But centrist Democrats are adamant the House pass the bipartisan bill first — next week.

The big picture: Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are leading the Democratic opposition in the Senate to the size and scope of the reconciliation package.

It's largely been written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and would vastly expand the social safety net from cradle to grave, as the New York Times recently put it.

Biden campaigned on many specific programs, including universal preschool and free community college. White House officials, as well as progressives in Congress, argue they're desperately needed to help foster a more equitable and inclusive society.

But Manchin has signaled he has deep concerns with specific elements of the package, and that his spending range is capped at $1.5 trillion. Last week, the president failed to persuade him to accept the $3.5 trillion number during a meeting at the White House.

Between the lines: Manchin is more public about his opposition but Sinema also has deep reservations. She continues to engage with the White House and Senate leaders and to negotiate in granular detail.

Go deeper: The Democrats' strategy of passing the two pieces of legislation simultaneously will face a crucial test this coming week.

Last Friday, nine House centrists reminded Pelosi of her promise to hold a vote on the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27 — a week from Monday. “We reiterate our appreciation for the Speaker’s public commitment to only bring a bill to the House floor that can garner the necessary 51 votes for passage in the Senate,” the nine lawmakers said in a joint statement. “We need legislation that can get out of the Senate and to the president’s desk.”

But progressives insist the bipartisan package will fail if leadership brings it to the floor for a vote before the reconciliation bill is passed. “It won’t have sufficient votes to pass the House,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Bloomberg.

What they're saying: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House minority whip, suggested Sunday his party may need more time to resolve its differences.

“Sometimes, you have to kind of stop the clock to get to the goal,” he told CNN. He also said of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill: "It may be $3.5 [trillion]. It may be close to that, or it may be closer to something else."

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Senate Republicans say they will vote to allow debt default, leaving Democrats scrambling for plan to avert economic crisis, Paul Kane, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Early last year, one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s longest rivals offered a lesson about why the Kentucky Republican is unfazed by his critics whenever he digs in on a political strategy.

“The people in Kentucky who know him understand that he can’t be shamed into changing,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who has worked with and clashed with McConnell for more than 50 years, said in an interview.

Mitchell_McConnellThat was January 2020, and the context focused on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) decision to hold articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over his actions toward Ukraine to try to pressure McConnell into agreeing to hold an expansive Senate trial that would include witnesses.

Now, almost two years later, Democrats have set up a similar type of strategy that, if successful, will force Republicans to accept their fair share of the national debt that now tops $28 trillion. If this strategy fails, the federal government could run out of funding authority and enter another congressionally forced shutdown — the fourth in less than a decade — and create a debt crisis that could rattle global financial markets.

McConnell has declared that Senate Republicans will not vote to increase the Treasury’s authority to continue borrowing, which is the same as voting to allow a default. As he has done before, McConnell has essentially created a new rule out of whole cloth to justify his actions.

“Let me make it perfectly clear. The country must never default. The debt ceiling will need to be raised. But who does that depends on who the American people elect,” McConnell told Punchbowl News on Tuesday, acknowledging he will vote for a policy outcome he says he doesn’t want to occur.

Because Democrats control the White House and both branches of Congress, his argument goes, they alone are responsible for safeguarding the government’s creditworthiness and preventing a potential economic calamity.

No such rule exists, nor has it ever.

republican elephant logoIn fact, almost every time the debt ceiling has been lifted, it has been done in bipartisan fashion under the regular Senate order that requires at least 60 votes to end debate on the legislation.

In today’s 50-50 Senate, that means at least 10 Republicans have to join Democrats to approve a new debt limit or, as has been done in recent years, suspend that law for a few years.

Instead, McConnell says he is vehemently opposed to the more than $6 trillion proposed agenda President Biden has pushed on Capitol Hill and is now urging Democrats to use a parliamentary budget move to deal with the debt issue on their own.

The goal is purely political.

Democrats are determined to break the Republican blockade by exposing how their threats could lead to both a government shutdown and a potential default.

“Nobody gets to hold the American economy hostage. Right now, we’re in the middle of it, Mitch McConnell trying to establish a double standard,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview Tuesday.

No one is certain of the exact timing of all this. The latest estimates, from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and private market analysts, suggested the government would run out of maneuvers to juggle the books by late October. Democrats plan to attach the debt-ceiling issue to the legislation to keep the government funded, a deadline that hits Sept. 30. If Republicans block that measure, over the debt issue, the government would shut down the next day.

Washington Post, Opinion: The debt-ceiling debate is out of control. Here’s how to stop the madness, Allan Sloan, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Joe Manchin Got the Voting Bill He Wanted. Time to Pass It, Editorial Board, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Far too many Republicans are players in a cynical pantomime: They say that the new voting restrictions being passed across the nation are designed solely to thwart widespread voting fraud, when the reality is that widespread fraud does not exist and the new restrictions’ purpose is to frustrate and disadvantage voters who lean Democratic — especially minority, young and lower-income voters.

Are Democrats going to do a darn thing about it? We’ll soon find out.

Republicans in Congress have repeatedly rejected measures to make voting fairer, more accessible and more secure. In state after state, the party has spent this year pushing laws that tighten ballot access — at least for certain groups — and that make the system more vulnerable to partisan meddling.

This antidemocratic (and anti-Democratic) agenda began before President Donald Trump, but he supercharged it. Now, the former president and his supporters — who tried unsuccessfully to overturn the last election by lying about fraud and trying to strong-arm state officials and Congress into flipping electoral votes — have continued their crusade against democracy at the state and local levels. In the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, Republicans began floating bogus claims of fraud long before the votes were tallied. “Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged?” Mr. Trump charged Monday, on the eve of Election Day. Urging voters to mistrust the system and to reject the outcome if they dislike it has become standard operating procedure for the G.O.P.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats rolled out a reform bill aimed at curbing the madness. The Freedom to Vote Act, introduced by Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, would address longstanding flaws in the electoral system along with some of the Republicans’ recent machinations. It is a compromise proposal of sorts, crafted by a coalition of moderates and progressives after a more sweeping reform bill, the For the People Act, was blocked in June by a Republican filibuster. This slimmed-down package jettisons some of the more controversial elements of the earlier plan. It would not, for instance, restructure the Federal Election Commission or mandate the use of nonpartisan commissions for congressional redistricting. It is nonetheless an ambitious, urgently needed corrective to Republicans’ ongoing assault on the franchise.

The package’s provisions range from making Election Day a public holiday to protecting local election officials from partisan interference. Partisan gerrymandering and voter caging, a sketchy method of purging voting rolls, would be banned. Same-day voter registration would be available in all states, as would automatic voter registration systems. A 30-minute wait-time limit would be imposed for in-person voting, and uniform, flexible ID requirements would be established in states that require voter IDs. The list goes on.

Federal voting protections wouldn’t just protect voters in red states. Blue and purple states with less liberal standards would have to up their game as well. For instance, neither Connecticut nor New Hampshire currently provides for early in-person voting, nor does New Hampshire have online voter registration. Wisconsin has a strict photo ID law. New York does not have same-day voter registration (though voters have the opportunity to move to change that in November). Federal standards would serve all voters in all states and of all electoral hues.

“Put simply, if the new bill is enacted, more citizens will be able to register to vote, vote in person and by mail and have their votes counted,” asserted Marc Elias, one of the Democrats’ top legal champions on voting rights. “And, those of us fighting suppression laws in court will have the tools necessary to achieve fast, consistent victories for voters when states fail to follow the law.”

Merits aside, the new bill’s prospects are shaky at best. To avoid death by filibuster, it needs the support of all 50 Democrats plus 10 Republicans. Absent that, Democrats will face a hard choice: Let this crucial legislation die or eliminate the legislative filibuster in order to pass the bill on a party-line vote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Think all politics are local? The California recall says most politics are now national, Dan Balz, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). It may be time to revisit the old axiom from Tip O’Neill, the former Democratic House speaker from Massachusetts, who famously said that all politics are local. These gavin newsom headshot Customdays, as the California recall election showed, most politics are national.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), right, easily avoided being recalled last week by employing a strategy to nationalize the race, drawing energy by bashing the Republican-led states of Texas and Florida for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, linking the GOP’s leading candidate to former president Donald Trump and in the process waking up what had been a slumbering Democratic base. In a state as blue as California, that’s all it took for Newsom to prevail.

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Talks and a Hidden Agenda: Behind the U.S. Defense Deal that France Called a ‘Betrayal,’ David E. Sanger, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts, U.S. officials gave no heads-up about their plans to upend France’s largest defense contract.

The United States and Australia went to extraordinary lengths to keep Paris in the dark as they secretly negotiated a plan to build nuclear submarines, scuttling France’s largest defense contract and so enraging President Emmanuel Macron that on Friday he ordered the withdrawal of France’s ambassadors to both nations.

Mr. Macron’s decision was a stunning and unexpected escalation of the breach between Washington and Paris, on a day that the two countries had planned to celebrate an alliance that goes back to the defeat of Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Yet it was driven by France’s realization that two of its closest allies have been negotiating secretly for months. According to interviews with American and British officials, the Biden administration had been in talks since soon after President Biden’s inauguration about arming the Australian Navy with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that could patrol areas of the South China Sea and beyond that Beijing is trying to dominate with its own military forces.

But one thing was standing in their way: a $60 billion agreement that called for Australia to buy a dozen far less sophisticated, and far noisier, conventionally-powered submarines from France.

For Mr. Biden, who has made pushing back on China a central tenet of his national security policy, those French submarines would not do. They did not have the ability to range the Pacific and show up unexpectedly off Chinese shores — adding an element of military advantage for the West. And the Australians, officials say, came to the same conclusion long ago, after being bullied by an increasingly emboldened China.

In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts — some including Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken — the Americans did not give France a heads-up about their plans to upend the French deal, the officials said, asking for anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. U.S. officials only told the French about the new agreement hours before it was publicly announced at the White House in a virtual meeting with Mr. Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.

ny times logoNew York Times, France Recalls Ambassadors to U.S. and Australia, Roger Cohen and Michael D. Shear, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). It is the first time in the long history of the French-U.S. alliance that a top diplomat has been recalled, illustrating the depth of France’s anger. Calling American and Australian behavior “unacceptable between allies and partners,” France announced on Friday that it was recalling its ambassadors to both countries in protest over President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a “brutal” American decision and a “stab in the back” from Australia.

In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said the decision was made by Mr. Macron, who is understood to be furious about the way the United States, Britain and Australia negotiated the deal without informing France.

Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement to purchase French-built, conventionally powered submarines, hours before the deal with Washington and London was announced.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

ny times logoNew York Times, The Sharp U.S. Pivot to Asia Is Throwing Europe Off Balance, Steven Erlanger, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The new U.S. alliance with Australia and Britain against China has put Europe closer to a question it has tried to avoid: Which side are you on?

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Justice

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Senate knew about Kavanaugh’s partisan history. It confirmed him anyway, Jackie Calmes (a columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the author of "Dissent: The Radicalization of the Republican Party and Its Capture of the Court"), Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). ‘What goes around comes around,’ the future justice warned. Now it really could.

brett kavanaugh confirmation hearing 2004 CustomNearly three years after his confirmation, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, right, remains a deeply divisive figure, the best-known but least-popular justice on the Supreme Court. Occasionally, his votes or some news story will renew the bitter sense among many Americans that he got away with a lie in denying Christine Blasey Ford’s and Debbie Ramirez’s allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as a third such accusation, from his Yale years, that Senate Republicans all but bottled up.

Earlier this summer, reports said the Justice Department had confirmed that, in 2018, the FBI received more than 4,500 tips against Kavanaugh and sent “relevant” ones to the Trump White House, where they disappeared. This month, Kavanaugh joined the 5-to-4 ruling allowing a Texas antiabortion bounty-hunting law to take effect, though it plainly violates court precedents upholding a constitutional right to abortion. To many, that provided further evidence — along with his previous support for a Louisiana antiabortion law — that he’d bamboozled Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who provided the linchpin vote for his confirmation after he assured her that he respected those precedents as “settled law.”

Yet Kavanaugh’s credibility was suspect even before the sexual misconduct allegations. The Senate had received plenty of evidence, at an earlier hearing on his nomination, that he had at best misled senators and possibly lied under oath in 2004 and 2006, when he was a nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, about matters suggesting just what a partisan operator he’d been as a young lawyer. The hearing record signaled that Kavanaugh was a Republican with an ax to grind long before his televised tirade in 2018 dismissing the misconduct allegations as a Democratic “political hit” — payback for Donald Trump’s election and Kavanaugh’s role in Ken Starr’s Javert-like pursuit of the Clintons.

He warned us then: “What goes around comes around.”

And in fact, it still could. Kavanaugh could be a decisive vote if the court is drawn into vote-suppression cases and election disputes in 2022 and 2024 that couldn’t have been imagined only recently — before Trump refused to accept defeat, helped inspire an insurrection, and spurred Republicans nationwide to echo his lies about fraud and, in key states, enact laws giving party officials the final word on elections.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Brett Kavanaugh must go, Paulette Halpern, Sept. 19, 2021.  We could disagree a lot about the leanings of any justice on the Supreme Court, but are they a criminal or not, is a different question.

Our actions, even in your youth, influence your attitudes as an adult. Getting away with bad decisions in your youth, could lead someone to believe that every decision they make is a good one – regardless of the consequences to others. NOT what I would want in a sitting justice on the Supreme Court.

bill palmer report logo headerThat brings us to the recently disclosed information by Guardian reporter Stephanie Kirchgaessner that “The FBI disclosed to the Senate this June — two years after questions were initially asked — that it had received 4500 tips from the public during the background check and that it had shared all ‘relevant tips’ with the White House counsel at that time. It is not clear whether those tips were ever investigated.”

Of course sharing that information with The Former Guy’s White House counsel was going to lead nowhere. Trump himself probably thought that what Kavanaugh did in his youth, made him an even better candidate for the court.

Now we have a man sitting on the court, passing judgement on the fate of women’s healthcare rights, who has likely demonstrated such little regard for women. It doesn’t matter that he is married and has children.

4500 tips — don’t tell me that none of them had merit — that would seem like a foolish expectation and the best way to make sure that NONE of them come to light, is to investigate NONE of them.

We can change that. If it makes Kavanaugh squirm like he did during his Senate confirmation…..and his sniffling behavior returns, so be it. The truth has a right to be heard.

Sept. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Facebook, Google and Twitter are the new ‘oligarchy of speech,’ George F. Will, right, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As the price of something george f willprecious, the dissemination of speech, declines steeply, society is facing some disquieting consequences of the cheap speech that the Internet enables. Among the anomalous responses are conservatives demanding new government regulations of privately owned but liberal-leaning businesses (Facebook, Google, Twitter). And liberals, who excoriated the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that corporations and unions have a constitutional right to fund speech about political candidates (independent of the candidates’ campaigns), are defending the freedom of some enormous corporations to influence political speech.

Such oddities are explored by Eugene Volokh in “What Cheap Speech Has Done: (Greater) Equality and Its Discontents” in the UC Davis Law Review. Volokh, law professor at UCLA, notes that the Internet, by making it possible for almost anyone to speak to many others, has radically reduced the importance of the “oligarchy of speech” that existed when large media entities acted as gatekeepers to the public forum.

Says Volokh, “Oligarchy, how quickly many have come to miss you!” Here are some reasons why.

facebook logoWhile the “old expensive-speech system” may have seemed “undemocratic,” at least the media owners were disciplined by market forces (loss of their audience’s confidence could be costly), they valued their reputations, and because they had financial assets, they were disciplined by the risk of liability for, say, libel. The democratic and egalitarian Internet has, Volokh says, “the vices of those virtues.” The mainstream media had defects, but, says Volokh, they “didn’t offer much of a voice to people obsessed with private grievances, or to outright kooks, or to the overly credulous spreaders of conspiracy theories.”

Many people who spread hoaxes and “fake news” with a few clicks have no significant assets, financial or reputational, that are risked by issuing, say, defamatory falsehoods. The First Amendment generally protects reckless speech by the credulous or malicious from criminalization. And a controversial 1996 statute stipulates that Internet content and service providers do not have the legal status of publishers or speakers of material posted by others.

Hence, says Volokh, “for much online material, there is no potential institutional defendant who might be held accountable.” Thus there is no “incentive to police speech.”

So, “courts have shifted to a remedy that had long been seen as categorically forbidden — injunctions against libel,” whereby continuing to libel someone becomes criminal contempt. Although modern laws against “criminal harassment” and “cyberstalking” were written to prohibit unwanted speech to a person (e.g., telephone harassment), some courts have used them — this is constitutionally problematic — against speech about a person.

Laws also can protect against invasions of privacy. North Dakota criminalizes intentionally or recklessly engaging in “harassing conduct by means of intrusive or unwanted … words” that annoy or alarm a person by affecting his or her privacy. Minnesota lets judges enjoin “repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted” words intended to adversely affect a person’s privacy. Volokh says “the era of ‘cheap speech’ has pushed courts and legislatures to criminalization — either through specific statutes or through the use of injunctions backed by the threat of criminal contempt — in order to deal with the danger posed by judgment-proof speakers,” of whom “there are millions.”

Newspapers, which cost money to publish and make money from advertisers and subscribers, are accountable in multiple ways. But because Internet users can speak cheaply and without persuading “any intermediary about the worth of their speech, judges are likely to see much more speech that seems pointless and ill-motivated.” Volokh is rightly uneasy about courts enforcing such judgments. Today, however, three non-government intermediaries — Facebook, Google, Twitter — mean that control “is more oligarchical than ever.”

 

More on Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Political battle lines harden after general’s testimony that he advised keeping some troops in Afghanistan, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Political battle lines are forming ahead of Congress’s first public oversight hearing to scrutinize senior military leaders’ recommendations to the White House in connection with last month’s calamitous exit from Afghanistan, as lawmakers in both parties pursue accountability for the loss of life and failure to evacuate everyone who wished to leave.

austin scott millerSenate Republicans have seized on a disclosure from Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2018 until his departure in July, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that before President Biden announced his decision in April to pull out all military personnel, the general had advised superiors to leave a few thousand troops rather than complete a full withdrawal. Democrats left the session frustrated so many people were left behind and seeking a sweeping examination of the 20-year mission.

The response to Miller’s testimony, delivered in a private briefing for the committee, has foreshadowed the tense reception that awaits Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie when they appear on Capitol Hill on Sept. 28.

“The president wasn’t there, but [Miller] did talk to Austin, McKenzie and Milley, and told them that he had been opposed to the total withdrawal,” Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the committee’s top Republican, told reporters after Miller’s testimony had concluded. “We heard enough to know that there are inconsistencies between what the administration has said and the truth. Clearly, President Biden didn’t listen to all the military advice.”

Miller told the committee that he could not verify whether his recommendation made it to the White House, said an official familiar with the general’s testimony who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive. A separate official said Friday that Miller’s position was conveyed to Biden.

The Pentagon declined to detail what others advised the president, and the White House did not return a request for comment.

“The Secretary is more than comfortable with the degree to which senior defense and military leaders contribute to the policy-making process,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “We won't detail the specifics of their advice, but their counsel was fully considered.”

The Taliban apologized after two Afghan reporters were beaten. The journalists are skeptical.
U.S. military admits ‘horrible mistake’ in drone strike that killed 10 Afghans, including children

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, The Iranian Scientist and the A.I.-Assisted Weapon That Killed Him, Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.).  Israeli agents had wanted to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist for years. Then they came up with a way to do it with no operatives present. Here’s how the killing unfolded using a new, satellite-controlled weapon that could reshape the worlds of security and espionage.

Israel FlagSince 2004, when the Israeli government ordered its foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the agency had been carrying out a campaign of sabotage and cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment facilities. It was also methodically picking off the experts thought to be leading Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Iran FlagSince 2007, its agents had assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists and wounded another. Most of the scientists worked directly for Mr. Fakhrizadeh (pronounced fah-KREE-zah-deh) on what Israeli intelligence officials said was a covert program to build a nuclear warhead, including overcoming the substantial technical challenges of making one small enough to fit atop one of Iran’s long-range missiles.

Israeli agents had also killed the Iranian general in charge of missile development and 16 members of his team.

washington post logoWashington Post, First all-amateur space crew splashes down in the Atlantic off Florida, Christian Davenport, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The quartet of amateur astronauts onboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean Saturday evening, completing the first all-civilian mission to orbit the Earth and setting the stage for more privately funded missions to come.

washington post logoWashington Post, As France escalated its submarine dispute, it decided to go a bit lighter on Britain. Here’s why, Rick Noack and Sammy Westfall, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As the French faced one of their biggest fights among allies in years — which was prompted at least in part by Britain — French ire at their neighbors to the north was curiously limited. Paris on Friday recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations as part of its outrage over a quietly negotiated deal involving the United States and Britain to share technology on nuclear-powered subs with Australia. The pact effectively canceled an earlier agreement by Australia to buy French diesel-powered submarines.

But France didn’t recall its ambassador to Britain, and officials appeared relatively tight-lipped about London’s role even as they lashed out at Australia’s “treason” and compared the U.S. decision to a Trump-era move against an ally.

“There really is a serious crisis between us,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France’s public broadcaster on Saturday evening.
China, France rebuke U.S. nuclear submarine pact 'AUKUS'
China and France denounced a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia on Sept. 16. (Reuters)

Observers have struggled to make sense of the light touch with Britain. France’s Le Monde newspaper called the decision to not recall the French ambassador to Britain an “odd exception” on Saturday. Was France trying to spare Britain to save their already strained relations, as some have hypothesized? Or, perhaps, are French diplomats suggesting that Britain is not worth bothering with?

French officials suggested Saturday that the latter hypothesis may come closer to the truth: Britain was seen as a junior partner in the three-nation defense pact. “The U.K. tagged along with this entire operation opportunistically,” said a French diplomatic official. “There’s no need for us to consult with our ambassador in Paris to know what to make of it and what conclusions to draw.”

Washington Post, Australia says France knew it had ‘deep and grave concerns’ about its submarines before U.S. deal

washington post logoWashington Post, How an intelligence officer’s disappearance in Somalia has ripped the government apart this week, Rachel Chason and Omar Faruk, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The disappearance of a young intelligence officer in Somalia has led to a rapidly escalating power struggle between the president and prime minister that has torn the government apart and potentially gives new openings to al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Details of what happened to Ikran Tahlil Farah, a 25-year-old cybersecurity analyst, are still murky. But her abduction led President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Thursday to suspend the powers of the prime minister, who has accused him of obstructing justice in Tahlil’s case.

The political showdown risks becoming a security crisis, experts say, and has blown up any pretense that Somalia’s federal government is functioning. That could strengthen the hand of al-Shabab — which Somalia’s government has been fighting for years, aided by billions of dollars in security support from the United States.

“Anytime you have this level of political infighting, it benefits al-Shabab in so many ways,” said Omar Mahmood, senior Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group. “This narrative paints into everything they say about the federal government. That it is ineffective, weak, divisive and provides nothing to the public. And it is hard to argue against that.”

Implications of the back-and-forth between the president, known by his nickname, Farmaajo, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble rippled Friday across international borders. The president’s office accused neighboring Djibouti of illegally detaining the former head of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, Fahad Yasin, as he tried to board a flight to Mogadishu. Roble suspended Yasin — who is known as the president’s right-hand man — earlier this month in connection with Tahlil’s disappearance.

 

U.S. Auctions, Entertainment, Media

Proof via Substack, America's Video Game Scandal Continues: More Evidence of Deception By Grading Company WATA, Seth Abramson, Sept. 19, 2021. WATA seems to have staged yet another fake "appraisal" on the History Channel to manipulate America's video game market. In fact, it might be the embattled grading seth abramson graphichouse's most preposterous stunt yet.

Introduction: When the conspicuously scuzzy History Channel program Pawn Stars bills one of its recent segments as involving “RARE Atari Video Games” (emphasis in original), you certainly don’t expect there to be much truth in that advertising. And so it was that at the very end of last year, the show promoted a clip in which an allegedly random pawn store customer tried to sell a sealed copy of Atari 2600 game Frogger alongside a seth abramson proof logonon-plastic-wrapped copy of another title from the 1980s console, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In fact, not only are these games among the five most common sealed Atari 2600 games out of the 525+ released for the console—see this Proof market report for more details—they’re also nearly worthless, comparatively speaking, giving to lie to the other bold claim made by Pawn Stars in promoting the clip: that these miserably common second-generation video game titles could be worth some “BIG $$$” (emphasis in original).

Even today, with the sealed video game market exploding into semi-regular six- and seven-figure sales reported on by the likes of CNN and the New York Times, you can still get a copy of Frogger much like the one seen on Pawn Stars last December for under $175. Raiders of the Lost Ark is an even cheaper buy, and can be had right now—again, at a time this submarket has more or less doubled since 2020—for under $85.

But this article isn’t about any of that.

Our focus here isn’t on how an overtly skeezy television program lies to viewers about the significance of what it depicts, but on whether WATA, a 2019-founded collectibles grading company that has tasked itself with neutrally and objectively grading millions of dollars of merchandise, is staging conflict-of-interest-laden TV appraisals in order to artificially inflate the booming video game market. And to be clear, we’re speaking here of something beyond the usual fakery that all television programming is heir to; what’s described below is—if everything is as it appears on the surface to be—much more of a market manipulation plot than a mere exemplar of Hollywood skullduggery.
Introducing “DRob”

One of the most well-known sealed-and-graded video game collectors in the relatively small high-end video game collecting community goes by the nickname DRob online. DRob may well be a nice guy, and this article doesn’t accuse him of any illegal conduct. It just notes some facts about DRob significant to this report, which is, fundamentally, about the corporate business practices of WATA—not about any one collector it may have recruited to its cause at a time when that collector stood to make literally millions of dollars for playing dumb on a facile television show.

So here’s everything you need to know about DRob:

1. He’s a self-described “friend” of WATA co-founder and president Deniz Kahn, as he confesses during his prep for this interview with journalist Karl Jobst and Tom Curtin, the latter a longtime public ally of WATA and Kahn.

2. DRob is currently selling $330,000 worth of video games on eBay via his eBay account, DRobGaming.

 

Sept. 18

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection Probes

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Media News /  Investigations

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

 

More On Afghanistan

 

Other U.S. Court, Crime, Immigration

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Says Drone Strike That Killed 10 in Afghanistan Was Mistake, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, Sept. 17, 2021. 
The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that the last U.S. drone strike before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, after initially saying it had been necessary to prevent an attack on troops.

Department of Defense SealThe extraordinary admission provided a horrific punctuation to the chaotic ending of the 20-year war in Afghanistan and will put President Biden and the Pentagon at the center of a growing number of investigations into how the administration and the military carried out Mr. Biden’s order to withdraw from the country.

Almost everything senior defense officials asserted in the hours, and then days, and then weeks after the Aug. 29 drone strike turned out to be false. The explosives the military claimed were loaded in the trunk of a white Toyota sedan struck by the drone’s Hellfire missile were probably water bottles, and a secondary explosion in the courtyard in a densely populated Kabul neighborhood where the attack took place was probably a propane or gas tank, officials said.

In short, the car posed no threat at all, investigators concluded.

The acknowledgment of the mistake came a week after a New York Times investigation of video evidence challenged assertions by the military that it had struck a vehicle carrying explosives meant for Hamid Karzai International Airport.

lloyd austin oDefense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, left, ordered a review of the military’s inquiry into the drone strike to determine, among other issues, who should be held accountable and “the degree to which strike authorities, procedures and processes need to be altered in the future.”

Congressional lawmakers, meanwhile, said they wanted their own accounting from the Pentagon.

Senior Defense Department leaders conceded that the driver of the car, Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group, had nothing to do with the Islamic State, contrary to what military officials had previously asserted. Mr. Ahmadi’s only connection to the terrorist group appeared to be a fleeting and innocuous interaction with people in what the military believed was an ISIS safe house in Kabul, an initial link that led military analysts to make one mistaken judgment after another while tracking Mr. Ahmadi’s movements in the sedan for the next eight hours.

washington post logoWashington Post, The insurrectionists and their defenders are an old American story, Colbert I. King, right, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Rest assured, our nation’s colbert king 2003capital will not be occupied wall to wall with protesters attending Saturday’s “Justice for J6” rally. The sponsors will be lucky to draw enough warm bodies to fill a State Department auditorium. But it’s the thought that counts.

The mere idea of people coming to town to hail insurrectionists charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion as “patriots” is as profane as it is insane. But this is where America finds itself at this stage in the “big lie” campaign, which holds that twice-impeached, soundly defeated former president Donald Trump was cheated out of reelection.

It is, however, the pernicious and sinister intent of the liars — not their staged protests — that poses the real threat, which is no less than a slur on democracy.

That makes the work of the House select committee charged with investigating the Jan. 6 attack of paramount importance. The peaceful transfer of power was threatened by the Trump-inspired rampage. His “big lie” as CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale reports, has spawned nationwide Republican efforts to change election laws to make it more difficult to vote, spurred Republican crackdowns on election officials who are doing their jobs, and provided ammunition to conspiracy theorists inclined to take matters in their own hands.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Panel Recommends Pfizer Boosters for Those Over 65 or at High Risk, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The committee said there was insufficient evidence to recommend third shots for all adult recipients of the vaccine, as Pfizer had requested.

fda logoA key advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly rejected recommending Pfizer booster shots for most recipients of the company’s coronavirus vaccine, instead endorsing them only for people who are 65 or older or at high risk of severe Covid-19, and received their second dose at least six months ago.

The vote — the first on boosters in the United States — was a blow to the Biden administration’s strategy to make extra shots available to most fully vaccinated adults in the United States eight months after they received a second dose. The broader rollout was to start next week.

Committee members appeared dismissive of the argument that the general population needed booster shots, saying the data from Pfizer and elsewhere still seemed to show two shots protected against severe disease or hospitalization and did not prove a third shot would stem the spread of infection. Some also criticized a lack of data that an additional injection would be safe for younger people.

“It’s unclear that everyone needs to be boosted, other than a subset of the population that clearly would be at high risk for serious disease,” said Dr. Michael G. Kurilla, a committee member and official at the National Institutes of Health.

But the panel’s final recommendation left some room for the White House to argue that the core of its booster strategy remained intact. Depending on how “at high risk” is defined, tens of millions of Americans could conceivably wind up eligible for additional shots of the Pfizer vaccine.

The committee of largely outside experts voted 16 to 2 against a Pfizer booster for people 16 and older after a tense daylong public discussion that put divisions in the agency and the administration on public display. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health joined infectious disease experts and doctors in voting against additional shots for such a broad swath of the population.

ny times logoNew York Times, C.D.C. Study Shows Pfizer Vaccine’s Protection Wanes, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The new study found that beyond 120 days after recipients got their second dose, the effectiveness fell to 77 percent. Here’s the latest on the virus.

  • pfizer logoThe Biden administration is negotiating to buy another 500 million Pfizer doses to donate overseas.
  • England’s coronavirus restrictions on international travel will ease, and simplify, as of Oct. 4.
  • A new study suggests that children’s eyesight may have worsened during lockdown.
  • The U.S. virus surge appears to be declining in some states, but deaths are still increasing.
  • India boosts its Covid vaccine drive with 25 million shots given on Modi’s birthday.

 ny times logoNew York Times, They Shunned Covid Vaccines but Embraced Antibody Treatment, Benjamin Mueller, Sept. 18, 2021. Championed by doctors and conservative radio hosts alike, monoclonal antibodies for Covid are in high demand — even among people who don’t want a vaccine.

ny times logo

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 18, 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: 228,521,181, Deaths: 4,695,184
U.S. Cases:     42,799,907, Deaths:    690,714
India Cases:     33,417,390, Deaths:    444,563
Brazil Cases:    21,102,536, Deaths:    589,744

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 211.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 18, 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 181 million people, or 54.5 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

 

More On Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigation: January 6 Was a Violent Nationwide Insurrection—Not One Attack on One Building in Washington, Seth Abramson, left, Sept. 18, seth abramson graphic2021. Many Americans don't realize that Trump's plan for a January 6 attack on American democracy was national in scope—and continues to be. As his insurgency continues, capitals across America are at risk.

Introduction: One of the gravest misunderstandings about January 6 is that it was a localized event involving a single target: the United States Capitol. In fact, it was a decentralized plot that involved dozens of individual attacks around the country and which—moreover—the President of the United States at the time, Donald Trump, publicly acknowledged he knew was a diffuse network of attacks on American democracy. Indeed, Trump said all of the following in his speech the White House Ellipse on Insurrection Day:

seth abramson proof logo• That in addition to the crowd in front of him, he was well aware his speech was being heard by “hundreds of thousands of American patriots who are committed to the honesty of our elections and the integrity of our glorious republic”, a reference to Trumpist insurrectionists gathering “live” in other locations outside D.C. (as any reference to a TV audience would have accounted it in the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands);

• that the purpose of the upcoming march on the Capitol, among other things, was to convince Vice President Mike Pence to “send it [the results of the Electoral College votes in the fifty states] back to the states to re-certify [them]”, a plot Trump believed would lead to the de-certification of Joe Biden’s electors and which he knew would only be aided if massive protests occurred in the states Trump was claiming wanted to revisit their Electoral College votes;

• that “in addition to challenging the certification of the election, I’m calling on…state legislatures to quickly pass sweeping election reforms, and you better do it before we have no country left”;

• that he was “looking out all over this country and seeing fantastic crowds” (emphasis supplied), a confession that he was tracking January 6 events across America;

• that the supposed theft of the 2020 presidential election was very much a state-by-state issue, with the former president spending time in his speech at the Ellipse discussing not just the national outcome of the November vote but specific events in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania (as well as, in the same speech, falsely characterizing the 2020 election results in Ohio, Texas, Florida, and projecting his false claims of election theft forward into future elections in Wyoming and New York); and

• “If this happened to the Democrats, there’d be hell all over the country going on, there’d be hell all over the country” (emphasis supplied), a repetition of a calculated phrase pointing toward a nationwide protest against democracy, and another attempt to send a message to pro-Trump insurrectionists outside D.C. unsure about how violent they had the sitting president’s permission to get so far from what was (at the time) seen as the epicenter of the January 6 spectacle.

With all of the foregoing in mind, America needs a comprehensive summary of what happened on January 6 outside the nation’s capital.

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: A Secretive Summit That Trump Attended in December of 2020 May Explain Both Trump's Role in the January 6 Insurrection and Why Both CJCS Milley and China Feared Trump Would Start a War, Seth Abramson (left, attorney, professor, Newsweek columnist, metajournalist, and New York Times bestselling author), Sept. 16-17, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court hearings, guilty pleas belie right-wing recasting of Jan. 6 defendants as persecuted patriots, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). There are about 73 pleas, with roughly 600 charged and dozens still jailed. Ahead of the Justice for J6 rally, a look at where the defendants stand.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice for J6 rally sees a sparse crowd and tight security, Emily Davies, Marissa J. Lang, Teo Armus, Peter Jamison and Katie Mettler, Sept. 18, 2021. A small band of right-wing protesters decrying the treatment of the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was dwarfed by hundreds of police and news reporters. Police said they made four arrests and seized two weapons.

The most anticipated visit by right-wing activists to the nation’s capital since a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 ended with a whimper Saturday, as demonstrators supporting the rioters found themselves far outnumbered by police, journalists and counterprotesters.

Although the protesters returned to the scene of a historically grievous attack on American democracy, it was immediately obvious that much had changed. The Capitol grounds — where poorly prepared police fought a losing, hand-to-hand battle against President Donald Trump’s supporters just over eight months ago — were secured Saturday with metal fences and hundreds of officers. The halls of Congress were all but deserted. No president, or former president, delivered a bellicose speech urging that his election loss be overturned.

In recent weeks the agency had repeatedly warned that it would have a large force in the field, aided by police departments from across the region and the National Guard. The entire D.C. police force was activated Friday and Saturday. The massive law enforcement presence Saturday was unmistakable, with many in full riot gear and others on horseback.

As evening approached, police remained concerned about the risk of clashes between pro-Trump protesters and others on a busy Saturday in Washington that included the annual H Street Festival in Northeast D.C., a Howard University football game and a baseball game at Nationals Park. Counterprotesters held their own event about a mile from the Capitol rally. Some wore black helmets, gas masks and flak jackets.

The rally’s poor attendance came as no surprise — and did not necessarily signal a weakening of attempts on the right to falsely recast the deadly riot of Jan. 6 as something more benign. Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally argued that many of the hundreds of people charged in connection with the breaching of the Capitol were not violent and were exercising their constitutional right to engage in political protest. Similar claims have been made by Trump and embraced by many of his supporters, including some Republican lawmakers.

Influential figures on the far right actually discouraged their followers from showing up Saturday, asserting the event was a trap. Baseless rumors ricocheted through social media alleging that the federal government was attempting to lure demonstrators to Washington to arrest them. The Proud Boys, a group with a history of violence that includes participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection, discouraged their members from attending.

Capitol Police said Saturday afternoon that between 400 and 450 people had been observed at some point inside the protest zone. But many of them were journalists and other bystanders.

“There are more hurdles here in place than reasons for people to come out to this event,” said Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “People are simply just too fearful after all of the arrests related to Jan. 6 to go out and do this kind of big nationwide event.”

Simultaneous demonstrations elsewhere in the country were also sparsely attended. In Seattle, a group of about 15 stood in the rain, chanting “USA.” Some 20 people gathered across the street from the federal courthouse in Charlotte, where they were observed by joggers and heckled by a man who shouted out the window of his car as he drove by: “They’re all insurrectionists! Get over it! They deserve to be in jail!”

washington post logoWashington Post, A one-time Trump aide finds the spotlight he sought — if not broad support — with today’s Jan. 6 rally, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Some of the members of Congress most outspoken in spreading false narratives around the Capitol attack did not plan to attend. Former president Donald Trump himself called the rally a “setup.”

The last time Matt Braynard held a rally in D.C. to defend those arrested for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, about 100 people showed up. But now Braynard is taking his protest outside the site of the insurrection, leading to heightened law enforcement and widespread media coverage.

He has the attention he has long sought, putting Washington on high alert for a rally he himself estimated hundreds, not thousands, would attend. But he doesn’t have the broad support of the far right as he seeks to position himself as one of its leaders.

Braynard, who as of last fall ran some of his efforts from a Northern Virginia apartment, has his own consulting firm and has worked for years in Republican polling and data analysis. But he has found a more public role supporting false narratives surrounding the 2020 election.

“He has taken it upon himself to try to embody the far right’s greater desire to rewrite the history of January 6 in a way that is more flattering to themselves,” said Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s digital forensic research lab who researches domestic extremism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder draws scrutiny from federal officials and followers for role in Jan. 6 riot, but he remains free and uncharged, Hannah Allam and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). It depends on who’s talking.

To some, Stewart Rhodes is a paramilitary commander enlisting thousands of foot soldiers to overthrow the government.

stewart rhodesTo others, he’s a couch-surfing grifter — and the most shocking thing about the involvement of his Oath Keepers group in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was that some members actually showed up.

To federal prosecutors, Rhodes, 56, is “Person One,” which is how he is referenced in court filings for roughly 22 Oath Keepers associates charged in connection with the Capitol attack, including 18 who are accused of conspiracy in the largest single indictment of the probe. Five have pleaded guilty.

In the prosecution’s timeline, Rhodes coordinated with participants, allegedly giving advice about what weapons to bring and speaking with one who was part of the “stack” formation implemented moments before the group charged into the Capitol — one of the most salient images of the day.

washington post logoWashington Post, What to know about today’s rally for those arrested in Capitol riot, Ellie Silverman, Sept. 18, 2021. Organizers of the “Justice for J6” rally at a public park near the Capitol Reflecting Pool say they expect around 700 attendees.

washington post logoWashington Post, Capitol Police chief dropped request to have armed National Guard on standby for Saturday’s rally after official’s protocol concern, Carol D. Leonnig and Aaron C. Davis, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. Capitol Police chief formally asked for 100 armed National Guard members to be on standby for a rally this Saturday at the Capitol in case it turns violent, but he withdrew the request at the urging of a top Senate security official who said he had not followed protocol.

Days later, Chief J. Thomas Manger instead asked for unarmed Guard members after conferring with the official, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson and the Pentagon, according to internal correspondence and three people familiar with the discussions. The Guard members would be armed only with batons and would be accompanied by armed police.

On Friday morning, the Defense Department approved the request for support, saying unarmed soldiers will be stationed at the D.C. Armory and will deploy only if necessary. It’s highly unusual for armed National Guard members to respond to protests, and strict rules must be followed in such cases.

But the change to the chief’s original security plans infuriated some Capitol Police officials. They privately argued it was a foolhardy repeat of a central mistake that had left the Capitol so vulnerable during the Jan. 6 insurrection — not preparing for the worst — according to interviews with three people familiar with the dispute.

Palmer Report, Opinion: These idiots are going to play right into our hands on September 18, Bill Palmer

ny times logoNew York Times, Hochul Orders Release of 191 Rikers Detainees, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Chelsia Rose Marcius, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The New York governor signed a bill on Friday that authorized the release of the detainees, but the population of the city’s notorious jail will remain far higher than it was last spring.

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Bureau of Land Management headquarters to return to D.C., in reversal of Trump decision, Joshua Partlow, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Friday announced the move and said current headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo., would become a “Western headquarters" for the agency.

The Interior Department will summon the far-flung headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management back to Washington from the mountains of western Colorado, reversing a move by the Trump administration that caused upheaval within the agency and led to nearly 90 percent of the former headquarters staff to retire, quit or leave for other jobs.

deb haaland oInterior Secretary Deb Haaland broke the news to BLM staffers on a phone call Friday afternoon, before the announcement was made public in a statement shortly afterward. Haaland said the agency will create a new “Western headquarters” in Grand Junction, Colo.

During the staff call, Haaland said her “primary concern has always been for your well being and to restore the effectiveness of the BLM’s operations.”

“I know the past few years have been difficult for many of you. The relocation of the BLM headquarters scattered employees and programs across the West, driven others out of the agency, and put enormous stress on those who remained,” Haaland said, according to the call heard by The Washington Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal workers can be fired for refusing vaccination, but they must show up to work until their cases are determined, new guidance says, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Federal employees can be fired for refusing to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, but as their disciplinary cases wind through the system, they will report to work alongside vaccinated colleagues, according to Biden administration guidance issued this week.

The new guidance to implement a vaccine mandate for the government, which Biden announced last week, represents a reversal of the strategy the White House coronavirus task force pushed in August for those employees without shots who refused under an earlier plan to get regular testing for covid-19.

Then, agencies were told they could place employees on administrative leave, a paid suspension used widely for short-term absences but also when a manager proposes removing an employee.

“They seem like they decided to go with a harder approach,” said Jeff Friday, general counsel for the National Federation of Federal Employees, which has about 100,000 members at the Defense Department, U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.

“You’re still going to have to work until you’re let go,” Friday said. “Paid leave is certainly a disincentive to getting vaccinated.”

The rules on how to enforce the mandate were among several new details of what will be a complex, potentially messy process that will likely stretch deep into winter if not longer, given the government’s sprawling size and presence in every state. The details will leave multiple groups of people following different rules in the same workplace.

In most agencies, for example, civil servants work side-by-side with employees who work for federal contractors. But under the policy announced by the president last week, contractors who are not vaccinated must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within three days before entering a federal facility — or enroll in a regular testing program.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Senate Republicans say they will vote to allow debt default, leaving Democrats scrambling for plan to avert economic crisis, Paul Kane, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Early last year, one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s longest rivals offered a lesson about why the Kentucky Republican is unfazed by his critics whenever he digs in on a political strategy.

“The people in Kentucky who know him understand that he can’t be shamed into changing,” Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who has worked with and clashed with McConnell for more than 50 years, said in an interview.

Mitchell_McConnellThat was January 2020, and the context focused on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) decision to hold articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump over his actions toward Ukraine to try to pressure McConnell into agreeing to hold an expansive Senate trial that would include witnesses.

Now, almost two years later, Democrats have set up a similar type of strategy that, if successful, will force Republicans to accept their fair share of the national debt that now tops $28 trillion. If this strategy fails, the federal government could run out of funding authority and enter another congressionally forced shutdown — the fourth in less than a decade — and create a debt crisis that could rattle global financial markets.

McConnell has declared that Senate Republicans will not vote to increase the Treasury’s authority to continue borrowing, which is the same as voting to allow a default. As he has done before, McConnell has essentially created a new rule out of whole cloth to justify his actions.

“Let me make it perfectly clear. The country must never default. The debt ceiling will need to be raised. But who does that depends on who the American people elect,” McConnell told Punchbowl News on Tuesday, acknowledging he will vote for a policy outcome he says he doesn’t want to occur.

Because Democrats control the White House and both branches of Congress, his argument goes, they alone are responsible for safeguarding the government’s creditworthiness and preventing a potential economic calamity.

No such rule exists, nor has it ever.

republican elephant logoIn fact, almost every time the debt ceiling has been lifted, it has been done in bipartisan fashion under the regular Senate order that requires at least 60 votes to end debate on the legislation.

In today’s 50-50 Senate, that means at least 10 Republicans have to join Democrats to approve a new debt limit or, as has been done in recent years, suspend that law for a few years.

Instead, McConnell says he is vehemently opposed to the more than $6 trillion proposed agenda President Biden has pushed on Capitol Hill and is now urging Democrats to use a parliamentary budget move to deal with the debt issue on their own.

The goal is purely political.

Democrats are determined to break the Republican blockade by exposing how their threats could lead to both a government shutdown and a potential default.

“Nobody gets to hold the American economy hostage. Right now, we’re in the middle of it, Mitch McConnell trying to establish a double standard,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview Tuesday.

No one is certain of the exact timing of all this. The latest estimates, from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and private market analysts, suggested the government would run out of maneuvers to juggle the books by late October. Democrats plan to attach the debt-ceiling issue to the legislation to keep the government funded, a deadline that hits Sept. 30. If Republicans block that measure, over the debt issue, the government would shut down the next day

 ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Joe Manchin Got the Voting Bill He Wanted. Time to Pass It, Sept. 18, 2021. Far too many Republicans are players in a cynical pantomime: They say that the new voting restrictions being passed across the nation are designed solely to thwart widespread voting fraud, when the reality is that widespread fraud does not exist and the new restrictions’ purpose is to frustrate and disadvantage voters who lean Democratic — especially minority, young and lower-income voters.

Are Democrats going to do a darn thing about it? We’ll soon find out.

Republicans in Congress have repeatedly rejected measures to make voting fairer, more accessible and more secure. In state after state, the party has spent this year pushing laws that tighten ballot access — at least for certain groups — and that make the system more vulnerable to partisan meddling.

This antidemocratic (and anti-Democratic) agenda began before President Donald Trump, but he supercharged it. Now, the former president and his supporters — who tried unsuccessfully to overturn the last election by lying about fraud and trying to strong-arm state officials and Congress into flipping electoral votes — have continued their crusade against democracy at the state and local levels. In the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, Republicans began floating bogus claims of fraud long before the votes were tallied. “Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged?” Mr. Trump charged Monday, on the eve of Election Day. Urging voters to mistrust the system and to reject the outcome if they dislike it has become standard operating procedure for the G.O.P.

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats rolled out a reform bill aimed at curbing the madness. The Freedom to Vote Act, introduced by Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, would address longstanding flaws in the electoral system along with some of the Republicans’ recent machinations. It is a compromise proposal of sorts, crafted by a coalition of moderates and progressives after a more sweeping reform bill, the For the People Act, was blocked in June by a Republican filibuster. This slimmed-down package jettisons some of the more controversial elements of the earlier plan. It would not, for instance, restructure the Federal Election Commission or mandate the use of nonpartisan commissions for congressional redistricting. It is nonetheless an ambitious, urgently needed corrective to Republicans’ ongoing assault on the franchise.

The package’s provisions range from making Election Day a public holiday to protecting local election officials from partisan interference. Partisan gerrymandering and voter caging, a sketchy method of purging voting rolls, would be banned. Same-day voter registration would be available in all states, as would automatic voter registration systems. A 30-minute wait-time limit would be imposed for in-person voting, and uniform, flexible ID requirements would be established in states that require voter IDs. The list goes on.

Federal voting protections wouldn’t just protect voters in red states. Blue and purple states with less liberal standards would have to up their game as well. For instance, neither Connecticut nor New Hampshire currently provides for early in-person voting, nor does New Hampshire have online voter registration. Wisconsin has a strict photo ID law. New York does not have same-day voter registration (though voters have the opportunity to move to change that in November). Federal standards would serve all voters in all states and of all electoral hues.

“Put simply, if the new bill is enacted, more citizens will be able to register to vote, vote in person and by mail and have their votes counted,” asserted Marc Elias, one of the Democrats’ top legal champions on voting rights. “And, those of us fighting suppression laws in court will have the tools necessary to achieve fast, consistent victories for voters when states fail to follow the law.”

Merits aside, the new bill’s prospects are shaky at best. To avoid death by filibuster, it needs the support of all 50 Democrats plus 10 Republicans. Absent that, Democrats will face a hard choice: Let this crucial legislation die or eliminate the legislative filibuster in order to pass the bill on a party-line vote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Think all politics are local? The California recall says most politics are now national, Dan Balz, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). It may be time to revisit the old axiom from Tip O’Neill, the former Democratic House speaker from Massachusetts, who famously said that all politics are local. These gavin newsom headshot Customdays, as the California recall election showed, most politics are national.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), right, easily avoided being recalled last week by employing a strategy to nationalize the race, drawing energy by bashing the Republican-led states of Texas and Florida for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic, linking the GOP’s leading candidate to former president Donald Trump and in the process waking up what had been a slumbering Democratic base. In a state as blue as California, that’s all it took for Newsom to prevail.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Tomi Lahren’s vanishing voter-fraud claim, Erik Wemple, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). On Wednesday, Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren tweeted about the results of the California recall election. The snippets were very responsible, at least by the standards of some of her colleagues:

The California Recall was not a waste or a lost cause. You sent a message to Newsom and elected tyrants from coast to coast that they are not untouchable and they are not too big to fail. Keep pushing. We have a lot left in the tank. Stay hungry!
— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) September 15, 2021

Something was missing in the messaging: Just a week before the recall, Lahren had discussed the election on “Outnumbered,” Fox’s noontime roundtable. “The only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud,” she predicted. “Pay attention to the voter fraud going on in California because it’s going to have big consequences not only for that state but for upcoming elections.”

Then came Election Day. With 78 percent of the vote counted, the “No” ballots — rejecting the initiative to remove Newsom — were ahead of “Yes” ballots by about 2.6 million votes. News organizations had little trouble making an election-night call. Don’t the vote-fraudsters know that they don’t need to provide that big a margin?

Given that Lahren got a bit of attention for her prediction — including scrutiny from CNN’s Brian Stelter on “Reliable Sources” — we figured she’d want to discuss it further. So we asked Fox News for an interview with her, and we asked the network whether it stands by the fraud prediction. We’ve heard nothing yet from Fox News.

News outlets with standards would discipline or fire commentators for speculating about voter fraud in advance of an election. It’s not just that such drivel undermines faith in democracy; it’s also that it’s unsupported by evidence, something that should concern leaders at organizations with “News” in their name.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ambassador nomination of Rahm Emanuel, a target of the left, may be rescued by Republicans, Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Emanuel, President Biden’s choice for ambassador to Japan, drew the hostility of many liberals during his long career. But some Senate Republicans say they will support his confirmation.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: California shows US future once again! Webster G. Tarpley, right, Sept. 18, 2021. Newsom’s landslide win in California recall marks failure for webster tarpley 2007GOP‘s anti-social ”health freedom” demagogy: Silent Majority of Vaccinated emerges despite media focus on loudmouth rejection front; Time for Dems to take gloves off!

In Virginia gubernatorial debate, Wall Street’s GOP candidate Youngkin showcases his plan for avoiding Larry Elder‘s fate: LYING!
Gen. Milley provides much-needed model of patriotism;

Playing small ball, FDA advisory board backs covid boosters for over-65s;

Definitively refuting trickle-down economics, 2020 direct stimulus payments cut US poverty rate by unprecedented 2.7% despite pandemic and closures; now make Child Tax Credit permanent!

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

washington post logoWashington Post, Judges strike down North Carolina voter ID law, citing its ‘discriminatory purpose’ against African Americans, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). A panel of North Carolina judges on Friday struck down the state’s law requiring voters to present photo identification before casting ballots, saying that the measure “was enacted in part for a discriminatory purpose” against African American voters.

The ruling is the latest development in a state battle over voting rights that has drawn national attention, and it comes amid a raft of new restrictions by GOP-led state legislatures across the country, as well as an effort in Congress to restore key parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The North Carolina measure, known as S.B. 824, was enacted in December 2018 after a supermajority of the state legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper (D). North Carolina voters also approved a ballot measure creating a constitutional requirement that voters present a photo ID. At the time, Cooper said the law would disenfranchise minority voters, who are less likely to possess the required identification.

 

U.S. Media News / Investigations

mckayla maroney saul loeb pool reuters

 U.S Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 2021 (Saul Loeb/POOL via Reuters).

ABC News, McKayla Maroney's gut-wrenching statement to Congress about FBI's handling of Nassar abuse, Staff edits, Sept. 15, 2021 (7:51 min. video).  "They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing," she said.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Indianapolis Star showed Simone Biles the ‘magnitude’ of the abuse in U.S. gymnastics, Elahe Izadi, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Local newspapers may be struggling, but they are still publishing journalism that makes a difference. Here’s how it landed the story.

As Simone Biles delivered stirring testimony before a Senate committee about her abuse at the hands of the doctor Larry Nassar, she blamed a system that failed to protect her and later kept her in the dark, even as she competed at the summer 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In fact, the Olympian said, “I didn’t understand the magnitude of what all was happening until the Indianapolis Star published its article in the fall of 2016 entitled ‘Former USA Gymnastics doctor accused of abuse.’ ”

That article — in which former gymnast Rachael Denhollander publicly accused Nassar of abuse — was part of an investigative series from the Indianapolis newspaper called “Out of Balance.” The project, which brought accountability where there had been none, all began with the Star acting swiftly on a tip.

In March 2016, Indianapolis Star reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski had been reporting on the problem of schools failing to report abuse when a source told her to look into a similar issue with USA Gymnastics, which is based in Indianapolis.

“Marisa took off one day from the newsroom, and you could tell something big was going on,” recalled fellow reporter Tim Evans. She got on a plane to Georgia the same day and came back with thousands of pages of documents related to a lawsuit filed there by a former gymnast against both a coach and USA Gymnastics. She had moved quickly, concerned the court was about to seal the records in the case.

Kwiatkowski and Evans, along with their reporter colleague Mark Alesia, pored over the documents, conducted numerous interviews and dug up more information that eventually led to their first blockbuster story, published Aug. 4, just as the Rio Olympics got underway. The story detailed how USA Gymnastics, the national governing body of the sport, had dealt with sexual abuse allegations against coaches who continued to work with young girls. The Georgia court documents helped expose the organization’s long-standing policy of not reporting child sex abuse allegations to law enforcement or child welfare, unless the complaints came directly from athletes or their parents.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The Iranian Scientist and the A.I.-Assisted Weapon That Killed Him, Ronen Bergman and Farnaz Fassihi, Sept. 18, 2021.  Israeli agents had wanted to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist for years. Then they came up with a way to do it with no operatives present. Here’s how the killing unfolded using a new, satellite-controlled weapon that could reshape the worlds of security and espionage.

Israel FlagSince 2004, when the Israeli government ordered its foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the agency had been carrying out a campaign of sabotage and cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment facilities. It was also methodically picking off the experts thought to be leading Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Iran FlagSince 2007, its agents had assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists and wounded another. Most of the scientists worked directly for Mr. Fakhrizadeh (pronounced fah-KREE-zah-deh) on what Israeli intelligence officials said was a covert program to build a nuclear warhead, including overcoming the substantial technical challenges of making one small enough to fit atop one of Iran’s long-range missiles.

Israeli agents had also killed the Iranian general in charge of missile development and 16 members of his team.

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Talks and a Hidden Agenda: Behind the U.S. Defense Deal that France Called a ‘Betrayal,’ David E. Sanger, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts, U.S. officials gave no heads-up about their plans to upend France’s largest defense contract.

The United States and Australia went to extraordinary lengths to keep Paris in the dark as they secretly negotiated a plan to build nuclear submarines, scuttling France’s largest defense contract and so enraging President Emmanuel Macron that on Friday he ordered the withdrawal of France’s ambassadors to both nations.

Mr. Macron’s decision was a stunning and unexpected escalation of the breach between Washington and Paris, on a day that the two countries had planned to celebrate an alliance that goes back to the defeat of Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Yet it was driven by France’s realization that two of its closest allies have been negotiating secretly for months. According to interviews with American and British officials, the Biden administration had been in talks since soon after President Biden’s inauguration about arming the Australian Navy with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that could patrol areas of the South China Sea and beyond that Beijing is trying to dominate with its own military forces.

But one thing was standing in their way: a $60 billion agreement that called for Australia to buy a dozen far less sophisticated, and far noisier, conventionally-powered submarines from France.

For Mr. Biden, who has made pushing back on China a central tenet of his national security policy, those French submarines would not do. They did not have the ability to range the Pacific and show up unexpectedly off Chinese shores — adding an element of military advantage for the West. And the Australians, officials say, came to the same conclusion long ago, after being bullied by an increasingly emboldened China.

In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts — some including Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken — the Americans did not give France a heads-up about their plans to upend the French deal, the officials said, asking for anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. U.S. officials only told the French about the new agreement hours before it was publicly announced at the White House in a virtual meeting with Mr. Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.

ny times logoNew York Times, France Recalls Ambassadors to U.S. and Australia, Roger Cohen and Michael D. Shear, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). It is the first time in the long history of the French-U.S. alliance that a top diplomat has been recalled, illustrating the depth of France’s anger. Calling American and Australian behavior “unacceptable between allies and partners,” France announced on Friday that it was recalling its ambassadors to both countries in protest over President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a “brutal” American decision and a “stab in the back” from Australia.

In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said the decision was made by Mr. Macron, who is understood to be furious about the way the United States, Britain and Australia negotiated the deal without informing France.

Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement to purchase French-built, conventionally powered submarines, hours before the deal with Washington and London was announced.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

ny times logoNew York Times, The Sharp U.S. Pivot to Asia Is Throwing Europe Off Balance, Steven Erlanger, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The new U.S. alliance with Australia and Britain against China has put Europe closer to a question it has tried to avoid: Which side are you on?

 

More on Afghanistan

washington post logoWashington Post, Political battle lines harden after general’s testimony that he advised keeping some troops in Afghanistan, Karoun Demirjian and Dan Lamothe, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Political battle lines are forming ahead of Congress’s first public oversight hearing to scrutinize senior military leaders’ recommendations to the White House in connection with last month’s calamitous exit from Afghanistan, as lawmakers in both parties pursue accountability for the loss of life and failure to evacuate everyone who wished to leave.

austin scott millerSenate Republicans have seized on a disclosure from Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2018 until his departure in July, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that before President Biden announced his decision in April to pull out all military personnel, the general had advised superiors to leave a few thousand troops rather than complete a full withdrawal. Democrats left the session frustrated so many people were left behind and seeking a sweeping examination of the 20-year mission.

The response to Miller’s testimony, delivered in a private briefing for the committee, has foreshadowed the tense reception that awaits Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie when they appear on Capitol Hill on Sept. 28.

“The president wasn’t there, but [Miller] did talk to Austin, McKenzie and Milley, and told them that he had been opposed to the total withdrawal,” Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the committee’s top Republican, told reporters after Miller’s testimony had concluded. “We heard enough to know that there are inconsistencies between what the administration has said and the truth. Clearly, President Biden didn’t listen to all the military advice.”

Miller told the committee that he could not verify whether his recommendation made it to the White House, said an official familiar with the general’s testimony who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive. A separate official said Friday that Miller’s position was conveyed to Biden.

The Pentagon declined to detail what others advised the president, and the White House did not return a request for comment.

“The Secretary is more than comfortable with the degree to which senior defense and military leaders contribute to the policy-making process,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “We won't detail the specifics of their advice, but their counsel was fully considered.”

The Taliban apologized after two Afghan reporters were beaten. The journalists are skeptical.
U.S. military admits ‘horrible mistake’ in drone strike that killed 10 Afghans, including children

washington post logoWashington Post, Pakistan calls for engagement with Taliban as West highlights concerns of abuse, Pamela Constable and Haq Nawaz Khan,Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). For years, Pakistan has been accused of secretly backing Taliban insurgents in next-door Afghanistan. Now leaders here, reluctant to criticize the new Afghan rulers, find themselves facing pressure from the West to help keep their neighbors in line.

The question of how much influence the Pakistani government retains over a group that once depended heavily on its support has become especially relevant since the Taliban announced an interim cabinet Sept. 7.

To the dismay of many Afghans and foreign governments, the cabinet includes leaders of the Haqqani network, a militant group that American and former Afghan officials have charged was covertly sponsored by Pakistan’s military-led intelligence agency. The Pakistani government denies those charges.

The prominence of the Haqqanis, a group blamed for deadly terrorist attacks as well as scenes of Taliban fighters repressing protesters and journalists, has undermined the new Afghan government’s attempts to put a benign face on its intentions and has prompted Washington and other Western governments to press Pakistan to take a strong stance.

Washington Post, Taliban reopens high school for boys but makes no mention of female students

washington post logoWashington Post, As an Afghan newspaper struggles to survive, a brutal beating — and a Taliban apology, Sudarsan Raghavan, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). The Etilaatroz daily, one of Afghanistan’s few remaining critical outlets, is facing financial problems and concerns over its security and future. The Taliban has sought to silence a vibrant media ecosystem, one of the most significant achievements of the 20-year American and Western presence.

 

Other U.S. Court, Crime, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial Board: John Durham’s zombie Russia investigation produces an iffy indictment. Is this all there is? Editorial Board, Sept. 17, 2021. After more than two years and the persistent goading of former president Donald Trump, special counsel John Durham, the lawyer Trump-era attorney general William P. Barr tapped to probe the Justice Department’s 2016 Russia investigation, finally did something on Thursday. He indicted attorney Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI.

This, to put it mildly, is not the confirmation of some broad 2016 deep-state conspiracy against Mr. Trump that the former president apparently desired.

The danger of special counsel investigations is that, given unlimited time and resources, they often find some bad action tangentially related to their original inquiry that may have had little or no substantial negative impact. Mr. Durham has uncovered alleged wrongdoing that has little to do with whether federal officials tried to sabotage the Trump campaign.

Justice Department log circularThe case against Mr. Sussmann is iffy. It revolves around a Sept. 19, 2016, meeting Mr. Sussmann had with James Baker, an FBI lawyer, in which Mr. Sussmann relayed concerns about curious Internet data that may have indicated that Mr. Trump, then a candidate for president, was in secret contact with Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution. Mr. Baker claims that Mr. Sussmann said he was not representing any client during the meeting, when he was in fact working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Mr. Sussmann denies he said that, and he argues that he was not technically representing the campaign during the meeting, anyway.

The indictment claims that had Mr. Sussmann informed the FBI of his ties to the Clinton campaign, they might have taken a different view of the information he presented. This is not the same as saying that investigators would have taken substantially different actions as a result. Indeed, the indictment admits that federal officials knew about Mr. Sussmann’s associations. Investigators would have examined the strange Internet traffic anyway, and dismissed the alleged Trump-Alfa Bank connection, as they did.

Even if true, the Sussmann episode is far less alarming than the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Mr. Barr moved to protect from punishment and Mr. Trump later pardoned. Mr. Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, an issue of central importance to the investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The consequences of Mr. Sussmann’s alleged lie are minimal by comparison.

The Justice Department indicated Thursday that Mr. Durham’s investigation is ongoing. So far there are no indications he has uncovered anything suggesting an illegitimate government plot to subvert the 2016 Trump campaign — or even that the Russia inquiry was unwarranted. That is because the facts already public proved long ago that there was ample reason for federal investigators to launch and pursue the Russia investigation. If Mr. Durham has nothing more compelling coming, he should bring an end to this long-running exercise.

Wonkette, Analysis: Special Counsel John Durham Blows His Measly Load Trying To Make Serverghazi Happen Again, Liz Dye, right, Sept. 17, 2021. For years the liz dye twitterwingers have promised special counsel John Durham was preparing to rain down hell on the Deep State and do LOCK HER UPS to Hillary Clinton and all the dastardly Democrats in DC.

In 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr tasked the former US Attorney for Connecticut with cobbling together evidence of a Justice Department conspiracy to frame Donald Trump for cahootsing with Putin to steal the election. But aside from one conviction of a low-level DOJ attorney for falsifying an email related to Season 1 dipshit Carter Page, it's been crickets.

john durham CustomUntil yesterday when John Durham, left, did the home team proud by bringin' it to those Deep State conspirators for their evil attempt to bring down saintly Donald Trump by making him look like he was in bed with Mother Russia.

Just kidding! Durham indicted an outside lawyer on a single count of lying to the FBI. PFFFFFFFT.

Yesterday the special counsel announced the culmination of three years of work: one measly charge against attorney Michael Sussman for failing to disclose that he was working for the Clinton campaign and the DNC when he met with FBI general counsel James Baker to hand over information about the "Alfa Bank server" in Trump Tower that was mysteriously pinging back and forth with a server in Russia. As if anyone in DC, down to the busboys at Busboys and Poets, is unaware that Sussman's former law firm Perkins Coie is associated with major Democratic causes.

Indeed, as Politico notes, Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan openly sneered at the idea that Sussman's partisan bona fides could have escaped Baker's notice when he appeared before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees in October 2018.

"Did you know when he was giving this information did you know he was working for — that he did extensive work for the DNC and the Clinton campaign?" Jordan demanded.

"I am not sure what I knew about that at the time," Baker replied.

"You knew what his career was," Meadows hammered. "And you knew generally speaking that he had some involvement with the Democratic National Committee." (He slipped that time and said "Democratic." Mostly Meadows refers to it as the "Democrat National Committee," because he's a dick.)

And Baker conceded that he did, because, hello, DC ain't that big.

While Baker and Jordan were pursuing a theory that Baker was part of a Deep State Democrat conspiracy with Sussman to frame poor, innocent Donald Trump, michael sussmann perkins youngerDurham has taken the opposite position. In the special counsel's telling, Sussman, right, pulled one over on Baker by hiding the fact that his real client was the Clinton campaign.

Here's how Durham makes a case that Sussman's alleged misrepresentation was actually material — i.e., important enough to affect how the FBI conducted its business — in the indictment:

Had SUSSMAN truthfully disclosed that he was representing specific clients, it might have prompted FBI General Counsel to ask SUSSMAN for the identity of such clients, which, in turn, might have prompted further questions. In addition, absent SUSSMAN's false statement, the FBI might have taken additional or more incremental steps before opening and/or closing an investigation. The FBI also might have allocated its resources differently, or more efficiently, and uncovered more complete information about the reliability and provenance of the purported data at issue.

Thats a lot of "mights." Particularly since Baker says that's not how it went down at all.

Baker testified that he was pretty sure Sussman said he was coming forth as a private citizen, although he wasn't entirely certain about that. But even if Sussman had said, "Here's a little something from Hillary Clinton, Fusion GPS, and the DNC," it wouldn't have made any difference to the way the FBI treated the information.

DEM HOUSE LAWYER: So regardless of not being the most typical route for evidence besides the FBI, when the evidence is provided to you, does the FBI have a process to evaluate the credibility of the evidence, to vet it as it would any other piece of evidence coming to the FBI?

BAKER: Yes.

DEM HOUSE LAWYER: Okay. So whatever evidence was provided to you would have been evaluated by the same individuals the FBI as through whatever typical challenges the FBI gets its evidence?

BAKER: Yes. Yes.

Indeed, Baker said that he wanted to know as little as possible about Sussman's allegations.

"I mean, so I was uncomfortable with being in the position of having too much factual information conveyed to me, because I'm not an agent. And so I wanted to get this — get the information into the hands of the agents as quickly as possible and let them deal with it," Baker testified. "If they wanted to go interview Sussmann and ask him all those kind of questions, fine with me."

In fact, the only contemporaneous written notes of the meeting, taken by Bill Priestap, assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division, make it clear that everyone involved was well aware of Sussman's connections to Clinton and the DNC.

Not for nothing, but good luck getting this memo — in which Priestap records what Baker says he thinks Sussman said — admitted at trial. Hearsay evidence may be acceptable in a grand jury, but it's not gonna play in an IRL court of law.

Astute observers will note that the FBI just dropped charges against Michael Flynn because his lies to the FBI were not "material," according to Bill Barr. There's also the niggling detail that Barr set up a special intake process at the Justice Department for Rudy Giuliani's insane book reports about Joe Biden's supposedly nefarious dealings in Ukraine. But that was very cool and very legal, unlike what Sussman did, okay?

And if Durham's big plan is to get Sussman to flip on the Deep State, he appears to have miscalculated.

"The special counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge," Mr. Sussmann's lawyers said in a statement reported by the Wall Street Journal. "This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for. Mr. Sussmann will fight this baseless and politically-inspired prosecution."

In summary and in conclusion, they're trying to make Serverghazi happen again. It's not going to happen.

washington post logoWashington Post, A woman accepted $50 from a West Virginia police chief so he could rape her 17-year-old relative, feds say, Jonathan Edwards, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). In exchange for $50, Kristen Naylor-Legg brought her 17-year-old family member to a community center in June 2020 where a local police chief allegedly raped the girl, federal prosecutors claim.

Naylor-Legg, court documents say, stood by — directing the girl during the alleged rape and providing her with towels to clean up afterward. A West Virginia police chief, who was on duty, according to court documents, allegedly failed to pay the woman the agreed-upon price and left.

On Wednesday, Naylor-Legg, 28, pleaded guilty in a West Virginia federal court to one count of conspiracy to sex traffic a minor. She faces up to life in prison at sentencing, which is scheduled for December.

Larry Allen Clay Jr., the now ex-police chief of the small town of Gauley Bridge, is charged with sex trafficking a minor using coercion and conspiracy. Clay, who was 57 at the time of his March arrest, also worked roughly eight years as a Fayette County Sheriff’s deputy.

He pleaded not guilty in May; his trial is scheduled for November.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. predicts globe could warm by a worrying 2.7 degrees Celsius, William Booth and Tyler Pager, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). New Glasgow commitments, if implemented, would result in a 12 percent emissions cut by the decade’s end, well short of what is needed to curb global warming.

The United Nations warned Friday that based on the most recent action plans submitted by 191 countries to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is on track to warm by more than 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century — far above what world leaders have said is the acceptable upper limit of global warming.

Even a lower increase would mean millions of people losing their homes to rising seas, vast sections of permafrost lost and extinction for scores of animal species.

The report set the stakes as President Biden gathered the world’s biggest emitters to the White House on Friday to try reach an agreement among some of them to cut methane — a potent greenhouse gas — by 30 percent by 2030.

The U.N. report said that it had received 86 new plans — known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs — but that as of the end of July, nearly as many countries had still not stepped forward with new road maps. The plans submitted thus far would, if implemented, lead to a 12 percent reduction in their greenhouse gases by 2030 compared with 2010.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Populists Decline, the Center-Left Sees Hints of a Comeback, Max Fisher, Sept. 18, 2021 (print ed.). A long-struggling political faction has seen surprising gains this year, in part because of changes wrought by the pandemic. Can it hold on to them?

The gray-suited technocrats of the center-left are once more a serious force, at the expense of both the establishment conservatism that prevailed among Western democracies for much of the 21st century, and the right-wing populism that arose in backlash to the status quo.

This month alone, center-left parties have taken power in Norway and appear on the verge of doing the same in Germany. They hold the White House, share power in Italy and lead a newly credible opposition movement in authoritarian-leaning Hungary.

Calling it a comeback would be premature, analysts warn. Center-left gains are uneven and fragile. And they may be due less to any groundswell of enthusiasm than to short-term political tailwinds, largely a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s Longest-Serving President, Dies at 84, Amir Jalal Zerdoumi and Carlotta Gall, Updated Sept. 18, 2021. Mr. Bouteflika, ousted from the presidency in 2019 after 20 years in office, helped lead the nation out of a brutal civil war in the 1990s.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who joined his country’s fight against French colonial rule in the 1950s, rose to foreign minister at 26, went into exile over corruption charges and then returned to help lead the nation out of civil war, has died, He was 84.

 

Sept. 17

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection Probes

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

 

Other U.S. Court, Crime, Immigration

 

Personal Privacy / Security / Advertising


World Security, Climate Change

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Disclosures on Milley’s Trump pushback could further politicize the military, Missy Ryan, Sept. 17, 2021. Supporters say the country’s top officer sought to protect the Constitution, but some fear his actions could compound existing problems. New revelations showing how Gen. Mark A. Milley, the nation’s top military officer, quietly maneuvered to check President Donald Trump reveal the lengths that top officials went to prevent potentially rash action, but the disclosures also threaten to thrust the military deeper into the partisan fray, former officials said.

mark milley army chief of staffA series of dramatic inside-the-room accounts, including one in which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, right, promised to alert China’s top officer if Trump was preparing to launch an attack, provides new insight into military leaders’ response to the previous administration’s fraught final period.

But Kori Schake, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the revelations that Milley covertly acted to counter his commander in chief are “bad for the military as an institution.”

“It encourages people to do what Americans are already doing, which is viewing the military as they view the Supreme Court: apolitical when they agree with them, partisan when they don’t,” she said.

Biden comes to Milley’s defense after revelation that top general, fearing Trump, conferred with China to avoid war

The latest exposé comes in a book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who write that Milley, alarmed by the possibility Trump might strike China as he tried to stay in power, reached out to Gen. Li Zuocheng in the months surrounding the 2020 election in order to dismiss any Chinese fears of a preemptive American attack, they said.

That followed other dramatic accounts involving Milley, including in a book by Washington Post journalists Carol D. Leonnig and Philip Rucker, which said the general likened the circumstances around the election to those of Nazi-era Germany.

washington post logoWashington Post, Milley says calls to Chinese counterpart were ‘perfectly within the duties and responsibilities’ of his job, John Wagner, Sept. 17, 2021. Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday that calls he made late in the Trump administration to his Chinese military counterpart were “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his job and that he would explain his actions in greater detail during an upcoming appearance before Congress.

Milley, who has come under fire after a new book revealed the conservations aimed at averting armed conflict, described the calls as “routine” and said they were done “to reassure both allies and adversaries in this case in order to ensure strategic stability.”

“I think it’s best that I reserve my comments on the record until I do that in front of the lawmakers who have the lawful responsibility to oversee the U.S. military,” Milley said, according to the Associated Press. “I’ll go into any level of detail Congress wants to go into in a couple of weeks.”

The AP reported that Milley, the Pentagon’s top uniformed officer, made his comments to reporters traveling with him to Europe. Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are scheduled to testify Sept. 28 before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden comes to Milley’s defense after revelation top general, fearing Trump, conferred with China to avert war, Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Critics of Gen. Mark Milley contend he should be removed as Joint Chiefs chairman after a new book disclosed the extent of his alarm that Trump might order a strike on China in the waning days of his presidency.

President Biden on Wednesday threw his full support behind the Pentagon’s top uniformed officer, who has come under fire after a new book revealed he privately conferred with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng, left, to avert armed conflict late in the Trump administration.

Gen. Li Zuocheng“I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden told reporters at the White House, following calls from former president Donald Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill for the removal of Gen. Mark A. Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Biden’s declaration, coinciding with efforts by the chief spokespersons for the White House and the Pentagon to stage a similar defense of the embattled general, effectively ends speculation that Milley’s assignment may be cut short. But the controversy surrounding his fitness for the job rages on — and thus far is falling mostly along party lines.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Says Drone Strike That Killed 10 in Afghanistan Was Mistake, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper, Sept. 17, 2021. 
The Pentagon acknowledged on Friday that the last U.S. drone strike before American troops withdrew from Afghanistan was a tragic mistake that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, after initially saying it had been necessary to prevent an attack on troops.

The extraordinary admission provided a horrific punctuation to the chaotic ending of the 20-year war in Afghanistan and will put President Biden and the Pentagon at the center of a growing number of investigations into how the administration and the military carried out Mr. Biden’s order to withdraw from the country.

Almost everything senior defense officials asserted in the hours, and then days, and then weeks after the Aug. 29 drone strike turned out to be false. The explosives the military claimed were loaded in the trunk of a white Toyota sedan struck by the drone’s Hellfire missile were probably water bottles, and a secondary explosion in the courtyard in a densely populated Kabul neighborhood where the attack took place was probably a propane or gas tank, officials said.

In short, the car posed no threat at all, investigators concluded.

The acknowledgment of the mistake came a week after a New York Times investigation of video evidence challenged assertions by the military that it had struck a vehicle carrying explosives meant for Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III ordered a review of the military’s inquiry into the drone strike to determine, among other issues, who should be held accountable and “the degree to which strike authorities, procedures and processes need to be altered in the future.”

Congressional lawmakers, meanwhile, said they wanted their own accounting from the Pentagon.

Senior Defense Department leaders conceded that the driver of the car, Zemari Ahmadi, a longtime worker for a U.S. aid group, had nothing to do with the Islamic State, contrary to what military officials had previously asserted. Mr. Ahmadi’s only connection to the terrorist group appeared to be a fleeting and innocuous interaction with people in what the military believed was an ISIS safe house in Kabul, an initial link that led military analysts to make one mistaken judgment after another while tracking Mr. Ahmadi’s movements in the sedan for the next eight hours.

Former teen gymnastic stars Simone Biles, MyKala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, left to right, testify before Congress against sexual abuse and FBI indifference at a hearing on Sept. 15, 2021 (Pool photo by Saul Loeb via AFP).ol 9 15 21

Former teen gymnastic stars Simone Biles, MyKala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, left to right, testified before Congress against sexual abuse and FBI indifference at a hearing on Sept. 15, 2021. See New York Times, Biles and Other Gymnasts Rip F.B.I. for Botching Nassar Abuse Case.(Pool photo by Saul Loeb).

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Panel Recommends Pfizer Boosters for Those Over 65 or at High Risk, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, Sept. 17, 2021.  The committee said there was insufficient evidence to recommend third shots for all adult recipients of the vaccine, as Pfizer had requested.

A key advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly rejected recommending Pfizer booster shots for most recipients of the company’s coronavirus vaccine, instead endorsing them only for people who are 65 or older or at high risk of severe Covid-19, and received their second dose at least six months ago.

The vote — the first on boosters in the United States — was a blow to the Biden administration’s strategy to make extra shots available to most fully vaccinated adults in the United States eight months after they received a second dose. The broader rollout was to start next week.

Committee members appeared dismissive of the argument that the general population needed booster shots, saying the data from Pfizer and elsewhere still seemed to show two shots protected against severe disease or hospitalization and did not prove a third shot would stem the spread of infection. Some also criticized a lack of data that an additional injection would be safe for younger people.

“It’s unclear that everyone needs to be boosted, other than a subset of the population that clearly would be at high risk for serious disease,” said Dr. Michael G. Kurilla, a committee member and official at the National Institutes of Health.

But the panel’s final recommendation left some room for the White House to argue that the core of its booster strategy remained intact. Depending on how “at high risk” is defined, tens of millions of Americans could conceivably wind up eligible for additional shots of the Pfizer vaccine.

The committee of largely outside experts voted 16 to 2 against a Pfizer booster for people 16 and older after a tense daylong public discussion that put divisions in the agency and the administration on public display. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health joined infectious disease experts and doctors in voting against additional shots for such a broad swath of the population.

Washington Post, FDA advisers to meet on highly charged issue of recommending coronavirus vaccine boosters

Washington Post, Live Updates: Biden says GOP governors are risking lives as 24 states threaten legal action over vaccine mandate plans

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: C.D.C. Study Shows Pfizer Vaccine’s Protection Wanes, Sept. 17, 2021. The new study found that beyond 120 days after recipients got their second dose, the effectiveness fell to 77 percent. Here’s the latest on the virus.

The Biden administration is negotiating to buy another 500 million Pfizer doses to donate overseas.

England’s coronavirus restrictions on international travel will ease, and simplify, as of Oct. 4.

A new study suggests that children’s eyesight may have worsened during lockdown.

The U.S. virus surge appears to be declining in some states, but deaths are still increasing.

India boosts its Covid vaccine drive with 25 million shots given on Modi’s birthday.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA advisers to meet on highly charged issue of recommending coronavirus vaccine boosters, Laurie McGinley, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Lena H. Sun, Sept. 17, 2021. In an all-day meeting, the agency’s outside experts will hear from representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments and Pfizer. The Biden administration has said it wants to begin offering the shots next week.

fda logoExpert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration will meet Friday on the increasingly contentious issue of coronavirus vaccine boosters, the first phase of what could be a multiday effort to come up with government policy on who should get the extra shots and when.

The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, in an all-day meeting, will weigh whether the agency should clear a third dose of the shot by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech for the public. The companies want the agency to approve boosters for people at least 16 years old who finished their immunizations six months earlier.

The decisions made by the FDA’s outside experts — and subsequently by the agency itself and advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — will determine whether the Biden administration will be able to begin offering boosters the week of Sept. 20, as outlined by senior officials a month ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Biden says GOP governors are risking lives as 24 states threaten legal action over vaccine mandate plans, Adela Suliman and Andrew Jeong, Sept. 17, 2021. President Biden accused some Republican governors on Thursday of “the worst kind of politics” by using their powers to push back against vaccination and testing requirements. “The governors of Florida and Texas are doing everything they can to undermine the lifesaving requirements that I proposed,” he said in remarks from the White House about his economic plans.

Meanwhile, Republican attorneys general from 24 states including South Carolina, Missouri and Florida threatened to “seek every available legal option” against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate plans. In an open letter published Thursday, they called the vaccine requirements for millions of federal employees, contractors and nearly two-thirds of the private sector workforce, “disastrous and counterproductive,” adding that such a move would be a “threat to individual liberty” and could overburden companies.

In an ongoing war of words, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) also called Biden “a habitual violator of the U.S. Constitution” on Thursday and accused the president of lacking the authority to issue vaccine mandates. “I’m confident Texas will win this constitutional showdown,” Abbott said.

Here’s what to know

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee is set to meet Friday for a highly anticipated nonbinding vote on whether the agency should approve a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The FDA said Thursday it would expand emergency use authorization for a coronavirus antibody cocktail made by Eli Lilly, which will serve as a preventive drug for people who have been exposed to the virus and are at risk of severe symptoms.

Alaska is facing “one of the sharpest surges” in covid-19 cases in the country, its state epidemiologist warned Thursday, with hospitals stretched. Some 20 percent of patients hospitalized in Alaska now have covid, the state health department reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, California is seeing covid-19 cases drop. Has the state turned the tide on the delta variant? Derek Hawkins and Jacqueline Dupree, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Experts say the state’s embrace of vaccines, masks and other public health measures has helped it contain the highly transmissible variant.

Daily Beast, Laura Loomer, Who Once Said ‘Bad Fajitas’ Were Worse Than COVID, Says She’s Tested Positive, Jamie Ross, Sept. 17, 2021. The far-right activist laura loomersaid in a Gettr post that she’s experiencing severe coronavirus symptoms. "Pray for me."

The far-right, anti-Muslim, anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer says she’s tested positive for the coronavirus, after suffering from severe symptoms that she wrote left her feeling like she “got hit by a bus.”

In a post on the Trumpist social network Gettr, Loomer complained that she started suffering from “fever, chills, a runny nose, sore throat, nausea and severe body aches” on Wednesday that she said felt like “a bad case of the flu... So I took a COVID test and it came back POSITIVE.”

daily beast logoShe added: “I have not taken the COVID-19 vaccine, and I don’t plan on ever taking it because it is unsafe and ineffective. Today, I immediately started a treatment of Azithromyacin and Hydroxychloroquine. I’m also taking the OrthoMune dietary supplement.” She said she’s also received the Regeneron antibody treatment used by ex-President Donald Trump.

Last year, Loomer expressed a wish that she could catch COVID to show everyone that it was no big deal. She wrote on Parler in December 2020: “I hope I get COVID just so I can prove to people I’ve had bouts of food poisoning that are more serious and life threatening than a hyped up virus. Have you ever eaten bad fajitas? That will kill you faster than COVID.”

However, in follow-up messages on her Telegram channel late Thursday, she made it clear that she was suffering severe symptoms. “Just pray for me please,” she wrote. “Can’t even begin to explain how brutal the body aches and nausea that come with COVID are. I am in so much pain.”

She then posted more vaccine conspiracy theories, writing that the government “doesn’t want you to know what it really does,” despite the scientific fact that it would have offered her some protection.

Loomer, a far-right activist who was embraced by Trump, lost a U.S. House bid in Florida last year. She has been banned from most mainstream social networks—as well as Uber and Lyft—for blatant Islamophobia. In June, she was thrown out of a cryptocurrency conference in Florida after heckling Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey about her ban from the platform.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 17, 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: 227,958,122, Deaths: 4,686,595
U.S. Cases:    42,634,769, Deaths:     688,488
India Cases:    33,381,728, Deaths:     444,278
Brazil Cases:   21,069,017, Deaths:     589,277

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 211.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 17, 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 180.6 million people, or 54.2 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

dusty graham tristan graham

Tristan (left) and Dusty (right) were known in the reseller community by the name "Alabama Pickers." The pair died of COVID less than a month from each other after saying they wouldn't be getting the vaccine.

Al.com, Alabama Pickers, couple known for reselling and vaccine opposition, both dead of COVID, Tandra Smith,Sept. 17, 2021.  A married Alabama couple known for their reselling videos on YouTube under the name “Alabama Pickers” have both died of COVID.

Dusty and Tristan Graham lived in Huntsville, where they would often post videos about various tips and tricks to reselling vintage items like clothes and home decor. They sold on eBay under the username, bama4348.

Dusty died Thursday, almost three weeks after his wife did, according to the GoFundMe page set up by one of their children.

“Unfortunately, Dusty and Tristan have both passed away,” Windsor Graham posted on the page. “Thank you all for your kind words and helping us during this difficult time. We will be using the money to pay for funeral expenses.”

One of the last videos the married couple posted on their now deleted YouTube channel was about how they wouldn’t get the vaccine.

It was later reposted on Vaxx Mann’s channel, which is connected to a website titled SORRYANTIVAXXER.COM, dedicated to sharing stories of people who have gotten COVID and died, or came close to dying after sharing their anti-vax beliefs.

Tristan died on Aug. 25 in her sleep, according to the GoFundMe page. Two days later, Dusty started a GoFundMe for her expenses on the 27th, while still in the ICU himself.

 Recent Headlines:

 

More On Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: A Secretive Summit That Trump Attended in December of 2020 May Explain Both Trump's Role in the January 6 seth abramson graphicInsurrection and Why Both CJCS Milley and China Feared Trump Would Start a War, Seth Abramson (left, attorney, professor, Newsweek columnist, metajournalist, and New York Times bestselling author), Sept. 16-17, 2021.

Introduction: On December 27, 2020, fresh off receiving one of the most controversial presidential pardons in U.S. history—from then-president Donald Trump, the very man he had committed federal felonies to protect—Roger Stone traveled to Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach to “thank[ ]” his patron and criminal co-conspirator.

seth abramson proof logoOnly a few U.S. media outlets covered the astonishingly brazen meeting at the time, and surprisingly that didn’t change nine days later—when a “movement” co-led by Stone, Stop the Steal, coordinated with the 2020 Trump Campaign in a sequence of events resulting in armed insurrection and a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Back in December 2020, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported on the meeting in a way that should have, but didn’t, lead to it becoming a focus of sustained national attention: per the paper, Stone went to see Trump on December 27 not just to “deliver a personal thank you to the president” but also, critically, to “counsel the president on how he could ‘ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.’” This was during the same period that, as Proof has reported, Stone recorded a video seeking donations for arms and armor for Proud Boys and Oath Keepers planning to travel to Washington on January 6—the precise conduct Proud Boy “sergeant-at-arms” and Stone associate Ethan Nordean would later be arrested for.

So there can be no doubt that when Stone met Trump just nine days before January 6 to discuss how that day could lead to an overturning of the November 2020 election, Stone’s focus was on the Stop the Steal–cosponsored March to Save America that he was personally involved in coordinating at a logistical as well as strategic level.

The Sun-Sentinel report noted that, after posting a picture of (and commentary upon) the strange golf club meeting on Parler, Stone subsequently thought better of it and deleted all reference to the event on the far-right social media platform. At the time, he claimed it was to honor a policy supposedly in place at Trump’s golf club to prevent guests from posting pictures of the club; journalists have not yet been able to verify that any such policy exists, and a Google Image search certainly suggests it doesn’t (especially when the photograph promotes Donald Trump in any way). In any case, Stone had by then deleted not only photos of the meeting but also any reference to it on social media—and thereafter would refuse to discuss it with journalists. It did not, therefore, seem like a reticence related to an eldritch country club photography policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Oath Keepers founder draws scrutiny from federal officials and followers for role in Jan. 6 riot, but he remains free and uncharged, Hannah Allam and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 17, 2021. It depends on who’s talking.

To some, Stewart Rhodes is a paramilitary commander enlisting thousands of foot soldiers to overthrow the government.

stewart rhodesTo others, he’s a couch-surfing grifter — and the most shocking thing about the involvement of his Oath Keepers group in the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol was that some members actually showed up.

To federal prosecutors, Rhodes, 56, is “Person One,” which is how he is referenced in court filings for roughly 22 Oath Keepers associates charged in connection with the Capitol attack, including 18 who are accused of conspiracy in the largest single indictment of the probe. Five have pleaded guilty.

In the prosecution’s timeline, Rhodes coordinated with participants, allegedly giving advice about what weapons to bring and speaking with one who was part of the “stack” formation implemented moments before the group charged into the Capitol — one of the most salient images of the day.

Palmer Report, Opinion: These idiots are going to play right into our hands on September 18th, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 17, 2021. In spite of the ongoing sensationalism bill palmercoming from the media and the pundits, January 6th wasn’t a “test run” for anything. It was a one-off, based on the element of surprise and Donald Trump still having control of federal law enforcement, and it still failed miserably. Just as January 20th was a non-event, so will be September 18th.

bill palmer report logo headerThat doesn’t mean we can just ignore September 18th. Whenever right wingers threaten to gear up for something, the government must always meet them with much stronger forces, so the right wingers will cower like the snowflakes they are. Which is what the government has already said it’s going to do – and no, Trump isn’t in charge of the government this time.

The point is, we shouldn’t cower. You should spend all day on September 18th making fun of these right wingers for being the whiny fragile losers that they are. Do not assign them imaginary magical powers to overthrow the government; that only gives them leverage that they don’t otherwise have.

So sit back on September 18th, let these idiots get arrested and/or humiliate themselves, and then make sure the voters in the middle know that these whack job losers outside the Capitol are what now define the Republican Party. Point out the Democrats have no lunatic equivalent.

And once the January 6th Committee begins holding high profile televised hearings every day, remind voters in the middle that these right wing losers spent Sept 18th taking credit for the murderous and treasonous nature of January 6th. It wasn’t antifa; it was Trump Republicans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The potential trouble with Jan. 6 defendant prosecutions, Amber Phillips, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). As far-right groups prepare to come back to the Capitol on Saturday, prosecutors may have hit a speed bump with some of the more serious charges against Jan. 6 defendants.

D.C. and Capitol police are preparing for a rally Saturday with potentially hundreds of people in support of defendants who are jailed or facing charges over their actions on Jan. 6.

The protest comes as federal prosecutors move on from charging people who stormed the Capitol with smaller crimes to prosecuting those they say committed the most egregious ones, such as inciting people to intimidate and commit violence against elected officials.

But now those prosecutors may have run into a problem with their legal strategy.

At least two federal judges have questioned the main charge prosecutors are using to try to go after more than 200 people involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, to obstruct “any official proceeding” of Congress, reports The Post’s Spencer S. Hsu.

But legal experts who spoke to The Fix say there’s still hope for prosecutors’ main legal avenue to punish some of the most prominent Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Here’s what’s going on.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here come the January 6th superseding indictments, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. “They’ve gotten away with it all!” It’s the rallying cry of defeatists everywhere who are so eager to feel outrage, they’ve baselessly convinced themselves that the January 6th attackers are off the hook. Meanwhile back in the real world, the indictments continue to come down – and now we’re getting into superseding indictments.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, prosecutors handed down superseding indictments today against Capitol attackers Ronald Sandlin and Nathaniel DeGrave, who had already been hit with lesser January 6th charges. It’s a reminder that as the evidence continues to add up, and people start cutting plea deals and ratting each other out, the indictments are continuing to get more serious.

The criminal indictments in relation to January 6th are still just getting started. That’s a fact made clear by the evidence. How high up will these indictments go, and will they reach the likes of Roger Stone and Donald Trump? We’ll see. But the narrative that they’ve “gotten away with it all” is simply fiction.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ohio House Republican, Calling Trump ‘a Cancer,’ Bows Out of 2022, Jonathan Martin, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, is the first of the group to retire rather than face a stiff primary challenge.

Calling former President Donald J. Trump “a cancer for the country,” Representative Anthony Gonzalez, Republican of Ohio, said in an interview on Thursday that he would not run for re-election in 2022, ceding his seat after just two terms in Congress rather than compete against a Trump-backed primary opponent.

anthony gonzalezMr. Gonzalez, right, is the first, but perhaps not the last, of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to retire rather than face ferocious primaries next year in a party still in thrall to the former president.

The congressman, who has two young children, emphasized that he was leaving in large part because of family considerations and the difficulties that come with living between two cities. But he made clear that the strain had only grown worse since his impeachment vote, after which he was deluged with threats and feared for the safety of his wife and children.

Mr. Gonzalez said that quality-of-life issues had been paramount in his decision. He recounted an “eye-opening” moment this year: when he and his family were greeted at the Cleveland airport by two uniformed police officers, part of extra security precautions taken after the impeachment vote.

“That’s one of those moments where you say, ‘Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?’” he said.

Mr. Gonzalez, who turns 37 on Saturday, was the sort of Republican recruit the party once prized. A Cuban American who starred as an Ohio State wide receiver, he was selected in the first round of the N.F.L. draft and then earned an M.B.A. at Stanford after his football career was cut short by injuries. He claimed his Northeast Ohio seat in his first bid for political office.

Mr. Gonzalez, a conservative, largely supported the former president’s agenda. Yet he started breaking with Mr. Trump and House Republican leaders when they sought to block the certification of last year’s presidential vote, and he was horrified by Jan. 6 and its implications.

Still, he insisted he could have prevailed in what he acknowledged would have been a “brutally hard primary” against Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide who was endorsed by the former president in February.

Yet as Mr. Gonzalez sat on a couch in his House office, most of his colleagues still at home for the prolonged summer recess, he acknowledged that he could not bear the prospect of winning if it meant returning to a Trump-dominated House Republican caucus.

“Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now,” he said. “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”

For the Ohioan, Jan. 6 was “a line-in-the-sand moment” and Mr. Trump represents nothing less than a threat to American democracy.

“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Court hearings, guilty pleas belie right-wing recasting of Jan. 6 defendants as persecuted patriots, Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Ellie Silverman and Rachel Weiner, Sept. 17, 2021. There are about 73 pleas, with roughly 600 charged and dozens still jailed. Ahead of the Justice for J6 rally, a look at where the defendants stand.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Don’t Let Trump Steal the Show With ‘Stop the Steal,’ Jamelle Bouie, right, Sept. 17, 2021. You cannot actually debunk Republican jamelle bouieaccusations of voter fraud. You can show they aren’t true (and they aren’t), but that has no bearing on the belief itself.

“Voter fraud” is not a factual claim subject to testing and objective analysis as much as it’s a statement of ideology, a belief about the way the djt maga hatworld works. In practice, to accuse Democrats of voter fraud is to say that Democratic voters are not legitimate political actors; that their votes do not count the same as those of “the people” (that is, the Republican electorate); and that Democratic officials, elected with those illegitimate votes, have no rightful claim to power.

In a sense, one should take accusations of voter fraud seriously but not literally, as apologists for Donald Trump once said of the former president. These accusations, the more florid the better, tell the audience that the speaker is aligned with Trump and that he or she supported his attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election. They also tell the audience that the speaker will do anything necessary to “stop the steal,” which is to say anything to stop a Republican from losing an election and, barring that, anything to delegitimize the Democrat who won.

The problem is that to break the hold of this ideology on Republican voters, you need Republican politicians to lead the charge. A Margaret Chase Smith, for example. But as long as Trump controls the party faithful — as long as he is, essentially, the center of a cult of personality — those voices, if they even exist, won’t say in public what they almost certainly say behind closed doors.

It is up to Democrats, then, to at least safety-proof our electoral system against another attempt to “stop the steal.” The Senate filibuster makes that a long shot as well, even as centrist Democrats like Joe Manchin insist that there’s a compromise to strike with Republicans. Let’s hope he’s right because at this stage of the game, it is the only move left to play.

 

U.S., China, Australia, France

ny times logoNew York Times, Secret Talks and a Hidden Agenda: Behind the U.S. Defense Deal that France Called a ‘Betrayal,’ David E. Sanger, Sept. 17, 2021. In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts, U.S. officials gave no heads-up about their plans to upend France’s largest defense contract.

The United States and Australia went to extraordinary lengths to keep Paris in the dark as they secretly negotiated a plan to build nuclear submarines, scuttling France’s largest defense contract and so enraging President Emmanuel Macron that on Friday he ordered the withdrawal of France’s ambassadors to both nations.

Mr. Macron’s decision was a stunning and unexpected escalation of the breach between Washington and Paris, on a day that the two countries had planned to celebrate an alliance that goes back to the defeat of Britain in the Revolutionary War.

Yet it was driven by France’s realization that two of its closest allies have been negotiating secretly for months. According to interviews with American and British officials, the Biden administration had been in talks since soon after President Biden’s inauguration about arming the Australian Navy with a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines that could patrol areas of the South China Sea and beyond that Beijing is trying to dominate with its own military forces.

But one thing was standing in their way: a $60 billion agreement that called for Australia to buy a dozen far less sophisticated, and far noisier, conventionally-powered submarines from France.

For Mr. Biden, who has made pushing back on China a central tenet of his national security policy, those French submarines would not do. They did not have the ability to range the Pacific and show up unexpectedly off Chinese shores — adding an element of military advantage for the West. And the Australians, officials say, came to the same conclusion long ago, after being bullied by an increasingly emboldened China.

In meeting after meeting with their French counterparts — some including Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken — the Americans did not give France a heads-up about their plans to upend the French deal, the officials said, asking for anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy. U.S. officials only told the French about the new agreement hours before it was publicly announced at the White House in a virtual meeting with Mr. Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.

ny times logoNew York Times, France Recalls Ambassadors to U.S. and Australia, Roger Cohen and Michael D. Shear, Sept. 17, 2021. It is the first time in the long history of the French-U.S. alliance that a top diplomat has been recalled, illustrating the depth of France’s anger. Calling American and Australian behavior “unacceptable between allies and partners,” France announced on Friday that it was recalling its ambassadors to both countries in protest over President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.

It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a “brutal” American decision and a “stab in the back” from Australia.

In a statement, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said the decision was made by Mr. Macron, who is understood to be furious about the way the United States, Britain and Australia negotiated the deal without informing France.

Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement to purchase French-built, conventionally powered submarines, hours before the deal with Washington and London was announced.

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, (L-R), Foreign Minister Marise Payne, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Pool photo by Andrew Harnik.)

ny times logoNew York Times, The Sharp U.S. Pivot to Asia Is Throwing Europe Off Balance, Steven Erlanger Sept. 17, 2021. The new U.S. alliance with Australia and Britain against China has put Europe closer to a question it has tried to avoid: Which side are you on? Sept. 17, 2021.

 

Other U.S. Court, Crime, Immigration

Wonkette, Analysis: Special Counsel John Durham Blows His Measly Load Trying To Make Serverghazi Happen Again, Liz Dye, right, Sept. 17, 2021. For years the liz dye twitterwingers have promised special counsel John Durham was preparing to rain down hell on the Deep State and do LOCK HER UPS to Hillary Clinton and all the dastardly Democrats in DC.

In 2019, Attorney General Bill Barr tasked the former US Attorney for Connecticut with cobbling together evidence of a Justice Department conspiracy to frame Donald Trump for cahootsing with Putin to steal the election. But aside from one conviction of a low-level DOJ attorney for falsifying an email related to Season 1 dipshit Carter Page, it's been crickets.

john durham CustomUntil yesterday when John Durham, left, did the home team proud by bringin' it to those Deep State conspirators for their evil attempt to bring down saintly Donald Trump by making him look like he was in bed with Mother Russia.

Just kidding! Durham indicted an outside lawyer on a single count of lying to the FBI. PFFFFFFFT.

Yesterday the special counsel announced the culmination of three years of work: one measly charge against attorney Michael Sussman for failing to disclose that he was working for the Clinton campaign and the DNC when he met with FBI general counsel James Baker to hand over information about the "Alfa Bank server" in Trump Tower that was mysteriously pinging back and forth with a server in Russia. As if anyone in DC, down to the busboys at Busboys and Poets, is unaware that Sussman's former law firm Perkins Coie is associated with major Democratic causes.

Indeed, as Politico notes, Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan openly sneered at the idea that Sussman's partisan bona fides could have escaped Baker's notice when he appeared before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees in October 2018.

"Did you know when he was giving this information did you know he was working for — that he did extensive work for the DNC and the Clinton campaign?" Jordan demanded.

"I am not sure what I knew about that at the time," Baker replied.

"You knew what his career was," Meadows hammered. "And you knew generally speaking that he had some involvement with the Democratic National Committee." (He slipped that time and said "Democratic." Mostly Meadows refers to it as the "Democrat National Committee," because he's a dick.)

And Baker conceded that he did, because, hello, DC ain't that big.

While Baker and Jordan were pursuing a theory that Baker was part of a Deep State Democrat conspiracy with Sussman to frame poor, innocent Donald Trump, michael sussmann perkins youngerDurham has taken the opposite position. In the special counsel's telling, Sussman, right, pulled one over on Baker by hiding the fact that his real client was the Clinton campaign.

Here's how Durham makes a case that Sussman's alleged misrepresentation was actually material — i.e., important enough to affect how the FBI conducted its business — in the indictment:

Had SUSSMAN truthfully disclosed that he was representing specific clients, it might have prompted FBI General Counsel to ask SUSSMAN for the identity of such clients, which, in turn, might have prompted further questions. In addition, absent SUSSMAN's false statement, the FBI might have taken additional or more incremental steps before opening and/or closing an investigation. The FBI also might have allocated its resources differently, or more efficiently, and uncovered more complete information about the reliability and provenance of the purported data at issue.

Thats a lot of "mights." Particularly since Baker says that's not how it went down at all.

Baker testified that he was pretty sure Sussman said he was coming forth as a private citizen, although he wasn't entirely certain about that. But even if Sussman had said, "Here's a little something from Hillary Clinton, Fusion GPS, and the DNC," it wouldn't have made any difference to the way the FBI treated the information.

DEM HOUSE LAWYER: So regardless of not being the most typical route for evidence besides the FBI, when the evidence is provided to you, does the FBI have a process to evaluate the credibility of the evidence, to vet it as it would any other piece of evidence coming to the FBI?

BAKER: Yes.

DEM HOUSE LAWYER: Okay. So whatever evidence was provided to you would have been evaluated by the same individuals the FBI as through whatever typical challenges the FBI gets its evidence?

BAKER: Yes. Yes.

Indeed, Baker said that he wanted to know as little as possible about Sussman's allegations.

"I mean, so I was uncomfortable with being in the position of having too much factual information conveyed to me, because I'm not an agent. And so I wanted to get this — get the information into the hands of the agents as quickly as possible and let them deal with it," Baker testified. "If they wanted to go interview Sussmann and ask him all those kind of questions, fine with me."

In fact, the only contemporaneous written notes of the meeting, taken by Bill Priestap, assistant director of the Counterintelligence Division, make it clear that everyone involved was well aware of Sussman's connections to Clinton and the DNC.

Justice Department log circularNot for nothing, but good luck getting this memo — in which Priestap records what Baker says he thinks Sussman said — admitted at trial. Hearsay evidence may be acceptable in a grand jury, but it's not gonna play in an IRL court of law.

Astute observers will note that the FBI just dropped charges against Michael Flynn because his lies to the FBI were not "material," according to Bill Barr. There's also the niggling detail that Barr set up a special intake process at the Justice Department for Rudy Giuliani's insane book reports about Joe Biden's supposedly nefarious dealings in Ukraine. But that was very cool and very legal, unlike what Sussman did, okay?

And if Durham's big plan is to get Sussman to flip on the Deep State, he appears to have miscalculated.

"The special counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge," Mr. Sussmann's lawyers said in a statement reported by the Wall Street Journal. "This case represents the opposite of everything the Department of Justice is supposed to stand for. Mr. Sussmann will fight this baseless and politically-inspired prosecution."

In summary and in conclusion, they're trying to make Serverghazi happen again. It's not going to happen.

Wall Street Journal, Editorial: Durham Cracks the Russia Case, Editorial Board, Sept. 17, 2021. The special counsel’s indictment tells the real story of 2016 collusion. John Durham on Thursday indicted a Clinton campaign lawyer from 2016 for lying to the FBI, but this is no ho-hum case of deception. The special counsel’s 27-page indictment is full of new, and damning, details that underscore how the Russia collusion tale was concocted and peddled by the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Durham charged Michael Sussmann, an attorney at the Perkins Coie law firm that represented the Clinton campaign. Mr. Sussmann is accused of making false statements to then-FBI general counsel James Baker in a Sept. 19, 2016 meeting when he presented documents purporting to show secret internet communications between the Trump Organization and Russia-based Alfa bank.

The indictment says Mr. Sussmann assured Mr. Baker he was not doing this work “‘for any client,’ which led the FBI General Counsel to understand that SUSSMANN was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative.” This was false, says the indictment, which documents how Mr. Sussmann was working with other Democrats (including fellow Perkins Coie lawyer Marc Elias ) and billing his time to the Clinton campaign.

Mr. Sussmann’s lie “deprived the FBI” of crucial information, says the indictment, and led the agency to initiate an investigation into the Trump-Alfa claim, which was quickly leaked to the media. Mr. Sussmann didn’t lie to the FBI to protect himself. He is accused of lying to the FBI to trigger an investigation into a rival campaign based on a false claim of Russia-Trump collusion. He has pleaded not guilty.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial Board: John Durham’s zombie Russia investigation produces an iffy indictment. Is this all there is? Editorial Board, Sept. 17, 2021..After more than two years and the persistent goading of former president Donald Trump, special counsel John Durham, the lawyer Trump-era attorney general William P. Barr tapped to probe the Justice Department’s 2016 Russia investigation, finally did something on Thursday. He indicted attorney Michael Sussmann for allegedly lying to the FBI.

This, to put it mildly, is not the confirmation of some broad 2016 deep-state conspiracy against Mr. Trump that the former president apparently desired.

The danger of special counsel investigations is that, given unlimited time and resources, they often find some bad action tangentially related to their original inquiry that may have had little or no substantial negative impact. Mr. Durham has uncovered alleged wrongdoing that has little to do with whether federal officials tried to sabotage the Trump campaign.

The case against Mr. Sussmann is iffy. It revolves around a Sept. 19, 2016, meeting Mr. Sussmann had with James Baker, an FBI lawyer, in which Mr. Sussmann relayed concerns about curious Internet data that may have indicated that Mr. Trump, then a candidate for president, was in secret contact with Alfa Bank, a Russian financial institution. Mr. Baker claims that Mr. Sussmann said he was not representing any client during the meeting, when he was in fact working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Mr. Sussmann denies he said that, and he argues that he was not technically representing the campaign during the meeting, anyway.

The indictment claims that had Mr. Sussmann informed the FBI of his ties to the Clinton campaign, they might have taken a different view of the information he presented. This is not the same as saying that investigators would have taken substantially different actions as a result. Indeed, the indictment admits that federal officials knew about Mr. Sussmann’s associations. Investigators would have examined the strange Internet traffic anyway, and dismissed the alleged Trump-Alfa Bank connection, as they did.

Even if true, the Sussmann episode is far less alarming than the case of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Mr. Barr moved to protect from punishment and Mr. Trump later pardoned. Mr. Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, an issue of central importance to the investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia. The consequences of Mr. Sussmann’s alleged lie are minimal by comparison.

The Justice Department indicated Thursday that Mr. Durham’s investigation is ongoing. So far there are no indications he has uncovered anything suggesting an illegitimate government plot to subvert the 2016 Trump campaign — or even that the Russia inquiry was unwarranted. That is because the facts already public proved long ago that there was ample reason for federal investigators to launch and pursue the Russia investigation. If Mr. Durham has nothing more compelling coming, he should bring an end to this long-running exercise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Durham grand jury indicts lawyer whose firm represented Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). A grand jury working with special counsel John Durham’s office handed up an indictment Thursday of lawyer Michael Sussmann, who prosecutors have accused of making false statements to the FBI during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sussmann, the indictment charges, “lied about the capacity in which he was providing ... allegations to the FBI” of potenmichael sussmann perkins youngertial cyber links between a Russian bank and a company owned by former president Donald Trump.

An attorney at Perkins Coie, a prominent law firm tied to the Democratic party, Sussmann, right, had been bracing for possible indictment.

Read the indictment: U.S. v. Michael Sussmann

Charging him marks a strange twist in the special counsel’s probe championed by Trump and his Republican allies, and which to date has resulted in a single conviction of a low-level FBI lawyer.

Durham  was tasked with finding crimes that may have been committed at the FBI and elsewhere in the federal government, but in charging Sussmann, the special counsel is in essence arguing that the FBI was the victim of a crime.

In a statement issued Wednesday, ahead of the indictment, lawyers for Sussmann insisted their client committed no crime.

“Michael Sussmann is a highly respected national security and cyber security lawyer, who served the U.S. Department of Justice during Democratic and Republican administrations alike,” his lawyers Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said in a joint statement. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work. We are confident that if Mr. Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name.”

Durham grand jury examines if anyone presented false evidence to FBI

In recent months, Durham’s team has questioned witnesses about how the allegation of a possible digital tie between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank Justice Department log circularwas presented to the FBI. Durham also has examined the authenticity of data given to the FBI.

Durham is pursuing a prosecutorial theory that Sussmann was secretly representing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which was a client of Sussmann’s firm, these people said.

It was not immediately clear how an individual lying to the FBI’s top lawyer would square with the Justice Department’s historical practice of charging false-statements cases. Typically, such cases are charged when a witness knowingly lies to a special agent conducting an investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing, Arelis Hernández and Nick Miroff, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Authorities in Del Rio, Tex., say more than 8,000 people have arrived at an impromptu camp, and they are expecting thousands more — numbers that are overwhelming Customs and Border Protection capacity.

Thousands of Haitian migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande since Tuesday are sleeping outdoors under a border bridge in South Texas, creating a humanitarian emergency and a logistical challenge U.S. agents describe as unprecedented.

Authorities in Del Rio say more than 8,000 migrants have arrived at the impromptu camp, and they are expecting more in the coming days. The sudden influx has presented the Biden administration with a new border emergency at a time when illegal crossings have reached a 20-year high and Department of Homeland Security officials are straining to accommodate and resettle more than 60,000 Afghan evacuees.

The migrants arriving to Del Rio appear to be part of a larger wave of Haitians heading northward, many of whom arrived in Brazil and other South American nations after the 2010 earthquake. They are on the move again, embarking on a grueling, dangerous journey to the United States with smuggling organizations managing the trip, according to border authorities and refugee groups.

More than 29,000 Haitians have arrived over the past 11 months, the latest Customs and Border Protection figures show, including some in mixed-nationality families with children born in Brazil, Chile or other South American nations.

They have trekked through the jungles of Panama’s Darien Gap, navigated migrant camps and criminal gangs in Central America and dodged border guards and troops along the highways of southern Mexico. Many say the economic toll of the pandemic pushed them to leave, while others say a more welcoming U.S. administration has offered them a fleeting opportunity to reach the United States.

“I see brave people who instead of being trapped by conformity chose to find a better life,” said Wendy Guillaumetre, 31, who spent four years in Chile before setting out with his wife and 3-year-old daughter for the United States. “They are courageous,” he said. “Conditions are too hard in Haiti.”

mckayla maroney saul loeb pool reuters

U.S Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 2021 (Saul Loeb/POOL via Reuters).

ABC News, McKayla Maroney's gut-wrenching statement to Congress about FBI's handling of Nassar abuse, Staff edits, Sept. 15, 2021 (7:51 min. video).  "They had legal, abc news logolegitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing," she said.

Introduction: Gymnast McKayla Maroney testified to Congress about the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar case. Nassar, a former doctor, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of hundreds of women and girls. Maroney, a 2012 Olympic medalist, has said Nassar repeatedly abused her. The Justice Department's inspector general said in a report the FBI's investigation included major missteps. This is a transcript of Maroney's opening statement to Congress.

Good morning. Thank you Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and members of the Judiciary Committee for inviting me to speak today.

As most of you are probably aware, I was molested by the U.S. Gymnastics national team and Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar. In actuality he turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.

What I'm trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal. After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.

After reading the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) report, I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others.

My story is one in which special agent in charge Jay Abbott and his subordinates did not want you to hear, and it's time that I tell you.

In the summer of 2015, like I said, I was scheduled to speak to the FBI about my abuse with Larry Nassar over the phone. I was too sick to go meet with anyone in person, and talking about this abuse would give me PTSD for days, but I chose to try to speak about it to try to make a difference and protect others.

....

I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough, and we deserve justice.

These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nassar for over a year.

To not indict these agents is disservice to me and my teammates; it is a disservice to the system, which was built to protect all of us from abuse; it was a disservice to every victim who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke up.

Why are public servants whose job is to protect getting away with this? This is not justice. Enough is enough. Today, I ask you all to hear my voice.

I ask you, please, do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report and for covering up for a child molester.

In closing, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the United States Senate, a very powerful institution that from the very beginning has fought for us rather than against us. Thank you and I welcome any questions.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). An FBI agent accused of failing to properly investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and lying about it later — has been fired by the FBI, days before a high-stakes public hearing into the bureau’s flawed investigation of the child sex-abuse case involving Simone Biles and other world-famous gymnasts.

FBI logoMichael Langeman, who as a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office interviewed gymnast McKayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.

A July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz harshly criticized Langeman — without naming him — as well as his Justice Department log circularformer boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to inspector general investigators when confronted with those failures.

IG report: FBI failed to pursue Nassar sex abuse allegations

At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent — a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. FBI firings are relatively rare; most investigators facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Robert Durst Found Guilty of Murder After Decades of Suspicion, Charles V. Bagli, Sept. 17, 2021. Mr. Durst, the onetime heir to a Manhattan real estate empire, was convicted of killing a close confidante in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2000.

Robert A. Durst, the enigmatic real estate scion who evaded criminal suspicion for half his life only to become a national sensation after damaging admissions were aired in a 2015 documentary on HBO, was convicted on Friday in the execution-style murder of a close confidante more than 20 years ago.

The verdict, which came after about seven and a half hours of deliberations, was the latest act in a case that spanned almost four decades. It began in the wealthy precincts of New York with the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Durst’s first wife, Kathie, in 1982 and concluded with his conviction for the 2000 killing of Susan Berman, a friend who prosecutors said helped him cover up his wife’s disappearance and death.

Mr. Durst, a frail 78-year-old millionaire who sat through the trial in a wheelchair, was convicted of first-degree murder and faces the possibility of a life sentence. A judge is scheduled to sentence him at later date.

The trial was remarkable on many levels. It began in March 2020 but adjourned days later for 14 months because of the coronavirus pandemic. When it resumed in May, the jurors were spread across the gallery while the prosecutors sat in the jury box. Everyone, including the judge and witnesses, wore masks as precautions against Covid-19.

Ultimately, the prosecution called 80 witnesses and introduced nearly 300 exhibits. But the most damaging evidence came, as a deputy Los Angeles County district attorney, John Lewin, said in his opening statements, right out of Mr. Durst’s own mouth. The jury heard Mr. Durst make a series of acknowledgments in a nearly three-hour interview with Mr. Lewin right after his arrest in 2015, in hundreds of jailhouse phone calls and in more than 20 hours of interviews with the producers of the documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”

Mr. Durst, whose family owns many iconic buildings in Manhattan, has lived a life with enough titillating elements that they could fill a dozen true-crime shows, including a Mafia princess, a missing young wife, the death and dismemberment of a drifter, celebrities like Laraine Newman and Steve Rubell, and decades of family betrayal.

Although Mr. Durst was charged only with killing Ms. Berman, the prosecution contended that her death was connected to the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Durst’s first wife and the killing of the drifter, whom he had befriended in 2001. Mr. Durst was acquitted in 2003 of killing the drifter, Morris Black, who lived across the hall from him in a rooming house in Galveston, Texas, where Mr. Durst was hiding from the authorities and living as a mute woman.
Mr. Durst has never been charged in connection with his wife’s disappearance despite investigations by the New York Police Department, the State Police and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. His lawyers have emphasized that there was no weapon, fingerprints or fibers connecting him to her disappearance and death.

Still, the disappearance of his wife has long been both in the background and at the core of this case against Mr. Durst; prosecutors said he had confided in Ms. Berman, who helped him evade the authorities.

 

World Security, Climate Change

Wayne Madsen Report, Shifting military alliances to gain the literal "high ground," Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books, frequent commentator on national security issues and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Sept. 16-17, 2021. Geopolitics have been affected but not halted by wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe Covid pandemic.

The September 15 announcement of a new military concordat between the United States, Britain, and Australia that will see nuclear submarine technology transferred to Australia by Washington and London is but one of several shifting strategies on the international chessboard aimed primarily at China's growing influence.

The hurried pace of new and refurbished alliances has little to with China's growing politico-military or economic clout and everything to do with another global peril -- the increasing impact of climate change.

Global military competition is no longer fixated on islands and maritime regions. Instead, military planners are looking to secure the high ground as a refuge for highly-populated cities that are already seeing the effects of torrential rains and rising seas.

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Expands Inquiry Into Climate Disinformation by Oil Giants, Hiroko Tabuchi, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Executives from Exxon, Shell, BP and others are being called to testify after a secret recording exposed an Exxon official boasting of such efforts.

The House Oversight Committee has widened its inquiry into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.

The move comes as Washington is wrestling with major climate legislation intended to slash the nation’s reliance on oil and gas, and in a year of climate disasters that have affected millions of Americans. Raging wildfires in the West burned more than two million acres, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States left a path of destruction from Louisiana to New York City, and heat waves smashed records and delivered life-threatening conditions to regions unaccustomed to extreme heat.

Thursday’s demands from the powerful Oversight Committee put senior executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies at the center of an investigation into the role their industry has played in undermining the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.

 

Personal Privacy / Security

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle That Is Reshaping the Internet, Brian X. Chen, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the implications, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul. Apple introduced a pop-up window for iPhones in April that asks people for their permission to be tracked by different apps.

twitter bird CustomGoogle recently outlined plans to disable a tracking technology in its Chrome web browser.

And Facebook said last month that hundreds of its engineers were working on a new method of showing ads without relying on people’s personal data.

The developments may seem like technical tinkering, but they were connected to something bigger: an intensifying battle over the future of the internet. The struggle has entangled tech titans, upended Madison Avenue and disrupted small businesses. And it heralds a profound shift in how people’s personal information may be used online, with sweeping implications for the ways that businesses make money digitally.

facebook logoAt the center of the tussle is what has been the internet’s lifeblood: advertising.

More than 20 years ago, the internet drove an upheaval in the advertising industry. It eviscerated newspapers and magazines that had relied on selling classified and print ads, and threatened to dethrone television advertising as the prime way for marketers to reach large audiences.

google logo customInstead, brands splashed their ads across websites, with their promotions often tailored to people’s specific interests. Those digital ads powered the growth of Facebook, Google and Twitter, which offered their search and social networking services to people without charge. But in exchange, people were tracked from site to site by technologies such as “cookies,” and their personal data was used to target them with relevant marketing.

Now that system, which ballooned into a $350 billion digital ad industry, is being dismantled. Driven by online privacy fears, Apple and Google have started revamping the rules around online data collection. Apple, citing the mantra of privacy, has rolled out tools that block marketers from tracking people. apple logo rainbowGoogle, which depends on digital ads, is trying to have it both ways by reinventing the system so it can continue aiming ads at people without exploiting access to their personal data.

If personal information is no longer the currency that people give for online content and services, something else must take its place. Media publishers, app makers and e-commerce shops are now exploring different paths to surviving a privacy-conscious internet, in some cases overturning their business models. Many are choosing to make people pay for what they get online by levying subscription fees and other charges instead of using their personal data.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Emboldened by recall win, Democrats brush aside talk of unity and escalate attacks on Republicans, Sean Sullivan and David Weigel, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). The party, worried that the Biden administration’s accomplishments have not gotten through to the public, has taken on a more aggressive posture that dovetails with anger among its voters.

Democrats have been sharpening their attacks on Republicans over the pandemic, former president Donald Trump and other polarizing topics, and now, emboldened by victory in California’s recall election, party leaders are seeking to further escalate hostilities ahead of the midterm elections.

Beyond prompting a collective sigh of relief in a party reeling from a difficult summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Tuesday win served as the first test of a revamped campaign strategy that Democrats quietly began assembling weeks ago, amid a realization that positive talk about President Biden getting the country back on track had run into the harsh realities of a delta variant coronavirus surge.

Chastened by the resurgence, the difficult Afghanistan withdrawal and declining public confidence in Biden’s handling of the pandemic and other issues, Democrats have gone on offense against the GOP, following private summer polling that showed broad and growing anger at the Republican resistance to vaccination, according to Democrats familiar with the discussions who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Thomas defends the Supreme Court’s independence and warns of ‘destroying our institutions,’ Mike Berardino and Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Justice Clarence Thomas defended the independence of the Supreme Court on Thursday and warned against "destroying our institutions because they don't give us what we want, when we want it."

Clarence Thomas HRThomas, right, the longest serving justice, acknowledged that the high court has its flaws, comparing it to a “car with three wheels” that somehow still works. But he said the justices are not ruling based on “personal preferences” and suggested that the nation’s leaders should not “allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcome that we like.”

The justice’s remarks came during a lecture at the University of Notre Dame in which he talked about traveling by RV in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee with his wife, Ginni. Thomas reflected on his childhood in the segregated South and his religious faith. He also alluded several times to the political polarization in the United States.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re really good at finding something that separates us,” Thomas told the crowd of more than 800 students and faculty gathered at the school’s performing arts center.

Thomas is the latest justice to add his voice to the mix and publicly come to the court’s defense in the face of growing criticism that the nine justices are merely politicians in robes.

“I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference. So if they think you are antiabortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician,” Thomas said in response to a question about public misconceptions of the court.

“That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump gave six months extra Secret Service protection to his kids, three officials. It cost taxpayers $1.7 million, David A. Fahrenthold and Carol D. Leonnig, Sept. 17, 2021. The former president required the Secret Service to devote agents and money to wealthy adults with no role in government, whom the agents trailed to ski vacations, weekend houses, a resort in Cabo San Lucas and business trips abroad.

In June, former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin visited Israel to scout investments for his new company, then flew to Qatar for a conference. At the time, Mnuchin had been out of office for five months.

secret service logoBut, because of an order given by President Donald Trump, he was still entitled to protection by Secret Service agents. As agents followed Mnuchin across the Middle East, the U.S. government paid up to $3,000 each for their plane tickets, and $11,000 for rooms at Qatar’s luxe St. Regis Doha, according to government spending records.

In all, the records show U.S. taxpayers spent more than $52,000 to guard a multimillionaire on a business trip.

These payments were among $1.7 million in additional government spending triggered by Trump’s highly unusual order — which awarded six jared kushner ivanka trump july 4 2017 facebookextra months of Secret Service protection for his four adult children and three top administration officials — according to a Washington Post analysis of new spending documents.

That $1.7 million in extra spending is still tiny in comparison to the Secret Service’s $2.4 billion budget.

But, as the records show, Trump’s order required the Secret Service to devote agents and money to an unexpected set of people: wealthy adults, with no role in government, whom the agents trailed to ski vacations, weekend houses, a resort in Cabo San Lucas, and business trips abroad.

“Who wouldn’t enjoy continuing their free limo service and easy access to restaurant tables?” said Jim Helminski, a former Secret Service executive, who said the decision appeared to show Trump giving a public service as a private benefit to his inner circle. “Even if there was a credible risk to family and associates of Trump, these people are now private citizens who can afford to hire some very talented private security firms for their personal protection.”

 

U.S. Congress

Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) thumbs down vote

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Manchin gets all the attention. But Kyrsten Sinema, shown above voting "No!" on increasing the federal mininum age to $15 this spring, could be an even bigger obstacle for Democrats’ spending plans, Mike DeBonis, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). After objecting to the price tag of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan in late July, the Arizonan has remained almost entirely mum. But behind the scenes she has been peppering her colleagues with questions and concerns.

Senate Democrats were riding high on the afternoon of July 28: A long-delayed bipartisan infrastructure package had finally come together, with many senators eager to finish that bill and move forward with a multitrillion-dollar piece of economic, climate and social legislation — President Biden’s signature “Build Back Better” plan.

But one senator, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), punctured the gleeful atmosphere with a warning shot. While Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee may have agreed on the size of the second bill, she had not.

“[W]hile I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” Sinema said in a statement that struck some of her fellow Democrats as poorly timed — coming just hours before she was counting on a united caucus to advance the infrastructure deal she had painstakingly negotiated.

Palmer Report, Opinion: By all means, Republicans, please proceed! Ministry of Trvth, Sept. 17, 2021. Conventional wisdom says that voter turnout in off-year elections favors the Republican party. There are many reasons why this has historically been the case, but they all boil down to voter engagement.

And so the Democrats were expected to lose two Senate seats in Georgia. After all, we had just spent four exhausting years working to rid ourselves of the most corrupt president in our history. We had won the war, and the pundits expected us to return to our woke covens to feast on the flesh of the unborn in celebration while our progress quietly regressed.

But then a funny thing happened. Some idiot decided to pretend he didn’t lose the election in a blowout, giving American voters bad flashbacks to that time when the Supreme Court halted the counting of votes and handed the election to the (now) second-worst president in our history. And so the war dragged on from November into January.

We stepped up and put in the hard work in Georgia to rip the gavel out of Moscow Mitch’s frail hands, delivering a razor-thin Senate majority to the Democrats. Sweet victory! But just as we were about to pop the cork on that special bottle of Tears of the Deplorables, a storm of idiots, with the support of some elected lawmakers, desecrated our nation’s capital in a pathetic attempt to thwart the ceremonial counting of electoral votes.

We just can’t have nice things, it would seem. Republicans abuse their waning power to oppose common-sense mask and vaccine mandates or to enact onerous restrictions on voting or abortion rights. They file frivolous go-nowhere lawsuits and televise fake election audits to steal what we have worked so hard to win. Midterm elections are over a year away, but thanks to some premature super-spreader rallies we can sense that the 2024 primaries have already begun. They even tried to recall a popular governor and replace him with a clown carousel, only to draw us out in even greater numbers with a resounding “NO!”

So if this is supposed to be some genius winning strategy for the GQP, I say “bring it.” Tsunami season is still going strong.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, For Some, Afghanistan Outcome Affirms a Warning: Beware the Blob, Sarah Lyall, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan exposed the shortcomings of views within the foreign policy establishment, also known as “The Blob.”

First there was the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then there was the chorus of disapproval. And then, as is so often the case in American foreign policy, there was the Blob.

“‘The Blob’ turns on Jake,” Alex Thompson and Tina Sfondeles wrote in Politico, referring to President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. And then: “I’ve got to say hats off to the Blob on this whole Afghanistan thing,” the commentator Matthew Yglesias said sarcastically on Twitter. “They couldn’t achieve any of their stated war aims, but they’ve proven they can absolutely wreck you politically.”

What is this Blob of which they speak? What does it have to do with the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and whether they can actually govern? And why, like the nebulous malevolent organism in the 1958 horror film with which it shares a name, is it perpetually lurking around, sucking up everything in its path?

The term “Blob” is generally understood to describe members of the mainstream foreign-policy establishment — government officials, academics, Council on Foreign Relations panelists, television talking heads and the like — who share a collective belief in the obligation of the United States to pursue an aggressive, interventionist policy in the post-9/11 world. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are seen in this context as Blob-approved.

This foreign-policy philosophy has its origins in the post-World War II view of American exceptionalism, epitomized by officials like Dean G. Acheson, that U.S. military intervention in foreign conflicts was vital to defending American interests and generally did more good than harm. To the extent that the Blob holds this view, the Afghanistan withdrawal was a defeat for its position. For Blob critics, it was more fodder for discussing why the Blob gets things so wrong.

“Coming out of Afghanistan was a rebuke to, or the swan song of, the neoconservative approach, which had its heyday during the Iraq war,” said Vali R. Nasr, a professor of Middle East studies and international affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “After the first Iraq war, the United States developed a sense that the U.S. could basically engage in war, and help shape outcomes internationally, at little or no cost.’’

Former President George W. Bush positioned “a group of ragtag terrorists as America’s great strategic rival and an existential threat to the United States,” Mr. Nasr continued. “Even though the effort failed early on, it continued unimpeded and became fundamental to the Blob’s thinking post-9/11.”

ny times logoNew York Times, As Russians Vote, Resignation, Anger and Fear of a Post-Putin Unknown, Anton Troianovski, Photographs by Sergey Ponomarev, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Many say they are fed up with corruption and stagnant wages. But there’s fear that, as one man said, “if things start to change, there will be blood.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake candidates and jailed opposition: Russia’s parliament elections stack the cards for Putin, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 17, 2021 (print ed.). But even from prison, opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s “Smart Voting” app has the Kremlin uneasy.

Boris Vishnevsky is a slight man with thin graying hair, mournful eyes and a beard. He's running for parliament against Boris Vishnevsky, a slight man with thin gray hair, mournful eyes and a beard.

russian flagAlso on the ballot in Russia's State Duma elections: another Boris Vishnevsky, same hair, same beard, similar eyes.

The latter two Vishnevskys are fakes. They were created by rivals, at least one associated with President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, to peel votes off from the real Vishnevsky, an opposition candidate from the pro-democracy Yabloko party.

Russia’s parliamentary elections — taking place amid Putin’s withering crackdown on opposition — run Friday to Sunday and, to many Putin opponents, are another low-water mark for Russia’s post-Soviet democracy.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in jail. His electoral network has been banned, and its leaders have been arrested or have fled the country. Dozens of opposition candidates were barred or withdrew from their contests.

 

Sept. 16

Top Headlines

 

World Security, Climate Change

 

Virus Victims, Responses


More On Justice Probes, Courts

 

Personal Privacy / Security

 

Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection Probes

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Governance


U.S. Congress

 

World News

 

Trump Watch / U.S. Media

 

Top Stories

Former teen gymnastic stars Simone Biles, MyKala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, left to right, testify before Congress against sexual abuse and FBI indifference at a hearing on Sept. 15, 2021 (Pool photo by Saul Loeb via AFP).ol 9 15 21

Teen gymnastic stars Simone Biles, MyKala Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols, left to right, testify before Congress against sexual abuse and FBI indifference at a hearing on Sept. 15, 2021 (Pool photo by Saul Loeb via AFP, photographer also of Biles, below right).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biles and Other Gymnasts Rip F.B.I. for Botching Nassar Abuse Case, Juliet Macur, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). “I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system,” Simone Biles told senators in emotional testimony. The F.B.I. director apologized.

Sitting at a witness table alongside three of her former gymnastics teammates, Simone Biles broke down in tears while explaining to a Senate committee that she doesn’t want any more young people to experience the kind of suffering she endured at the hands of Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor.

simone biles saul loeb afp pool 9 15 21“To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, but I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles, 24, said Wednesday as her mother, Nellie Biles, sat nearby, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Biles and hundreds of other girls and women — including a majority of the members of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics teams — were molested by Nassar, who is now serving what amounts to life in prison for multiple sex crimes. His serial molestation is at the center of one of the biggest child sex abuse cases in American history.

McKayla Maroney, an Olympian in 2012, also testified, describing in detail how Nassar repeatedly abused her, even at the London Games, where she won a gold medal. She said she survived a harrowing ordeal when she and Nassar were at a competition in Tokyo, certain she “was going to die that night because there was no way he was going to let me go.”

“That evening I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me, molesting me for hours,” she said.

In 2015, when Maroney was 19 years old and before she had even told her mother what Nassar had done, she described her abuse to an F.B.I. agent during a three-hour phone call from the floor of her bedroom. When she finished, Maroney said the agent asked, “Is that all?” She said she felt crushed by the lack of empathy.

“Not only did the F.B.I. not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said,” Maroney testified. “They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me but countless others.”

christopher wray oIn a remarkable turn, the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, right, acknowledged the agency’s mishandling of the case and apologized to the victims. He said the F.B.I. had fired an agent who was involved in the case early — the one who interviewed Maroney. It was the first time anyone at the agency had submitted to public questioning about the F.B.I.’s failure to properly investigate a sexual abuse case that shook the sports world to its core.

Wray, who became the F.B.I. director in 2017 said he was “heartsick and furious” when he heard that the F.B.I. had made so many errors in the case before he took charge of the agency.

“I’m sorry that so many people let you down again and again,” Wray said to the victims. “I am especially sorry that there were people at the F.B.I. who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable. It never should have happened, and we are doing everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”

Wray said that one of the agents initially involved in the case, Michael Langeman, was fired two weeks ago. When asked why the case was mishandled in the first place, Wray said the agents had made many basic mistakes that clashed with how the F.B.I. usually conducts investigations.

“I don’t have a good explanation for you,” Wray said, later adding, “On no planet is what happened in this case acceptable.”

Wray said that as a result of the Nassar case the F.B.I. had strengthened its policies, procedures, systems and training, including emphasizing that agents report abuse cases to state and local law enforcement. He promised that steps in future investigations would be “quadruple checked” so that there was not “a single point of failure.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden comes to Milley’s defense after revelation top general, fearing Trump, conferred with China to avert war, Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner, Sept. 16, 2021. Critics of Gen. Mark Milley contend he should be removed as Joint Chiefs chairman after a new book disclosed the extent of his alarm that Trump might order a strike on China in the waning days of his presidency.

mark milley army chief of staffPresident Biden on Wednesday threw his full support behind the Pentagon’s top uniformed officer, right, who has come under fire after a new book revealed he privately conferred with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Li Zuocheng, left, to avert armed conflict late in the Trump administration.

Gen. Li Zuocheng“I have great confidence in General Milley,” Biden told reporters at the White House, following calls from former president Donald Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill for the removal of Gen. Mark A. Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Biden’s declaration, coinciding with efforts by the chief spokespersons for the White House and the Pentagon to stage a similar defense of the embattled general, effectively ends speculation that Milley’s assignment may be cut short. But the controversy surrounding his fitness for the job rages on — and thus far is falling mostly along party lines.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Newsom’s Anti-Trump Recall Strategy Offers G.O.P. a 2022 Warning, Jonathan Martin, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Gov. Gavin Newsom emphatically turned back the effort to recall him from office. A key factor in the results: the tribal politics of today. California Democrats were able to nationalize the vote — thanks to an avalanche of money, party discipline and, above all, an easily demonized opponent.

gavin newsom headshot CustomThe first-term Democratic governor will remain in office because, in a deeply liberal state, he effectively nationalized the recall effort as a Republican plot, making a flame-throwing radio host the Trump-like face of the opposition to polarize the electorate along red and blue lines.

Mr. Newsom, right, found success not because of what makes California different but because of how it’s like everywhere else: He dominated in California’s heavily populated Democratic cities, the key to victory in a state where his party outnumbers Republicans by five million voters.

“Gavin may have been on a high wire, but he was wearing a big, blue safety harness,” said Mike Murphy, a California-based Republican strategist.

The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office, at least when the strategy is executed with unrelenting discipline, an avalanche of money and an opponent who plays to type.

 

World Security, Climate Change

washington post logoWashington Post, From snub to subs: Will new deal improve strained U.S.-Australia relations? Michael E. Miller, Sept. 16, 2021.The announcement Wednesday that the United States will share highly sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia as part of a new defense alliance came with a sense of whiplash down under, where just a few weeks ago some analysts were wondering if the relationship was wobbling.

scott morrison 2016President Biden’s decision not to dial Prime Minister Scott Morrison, right, until two days after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan stung in Australia.

But the surprise submarine deal between the two countries and Britain signals a strengthening of the already close U.S.-Australian military partnership, and may pave the way for a thawing of the so-far frosty relationship between the two leaders ahead of a meeting next week, australian flag wavingexperts said.

U.S. will share nuclear submarine technology with Australia as part of new alliance, a direct challenge to China

“I don’t think it’s too much to say it’s turning a page in the relationship,” said Eric Sayers, an ​​expert in Asia-Pacific security policy at the American Enterprise Institute. The Biden administration had “fumbled” communication with allies including Australia during the Afghanistan withdrawal, he said, but the message behind the new alliance was clear.

washington post logoWashington Post, China accuses new U.S.-Australian submarine deal of stoking arms race, threatening regional peace, Lily Kuo, Sept. 16, 2021. China on Thursday slammed a decision by the United States and Britain to share sensitive nuclear submarine technology with Australia, a move seen as a direct challenge to Beijing and its growing military ambitions.

After President Biden’s announcement on Wednesday of a new defense alliance, to be known as AUKUS, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian described the agreement as “extremely irresponsible” while Chinese state media warned Australia that it was now an “adversary” of China and should “prepare for the worst.”

At a regular news briefing in Beijing, Zhao said the alliance “seriously undermined regional peace and stability, aggravated the arms race and hurt international nonproliferation efforts.”

ny times logoNew York Times, France Is Outraged by U.S. Nuclear Submarine Deal With Australia, Roger Cohen, Sept. 16, 2021. French officials accused President Biden of acting like his predecessor, saying they were not consulted and describing it as a “knife in the back.” The indignation reflected the fact that France had its own, now-collapsed deal to provide Australia with less technologically sophisticated submarines.

France reacted with fury on Thursday to President Biden’s announcement of a deal to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines, calling it a “unilateral, French Flagbrutal, unpredictable decision” that resembled the rash and sudden policy shifts common during the Trump administration.

The angry words from Jean-Yves Le Drian, the foreign minister, in an interview with Franceinfo radio, followed an official statement from him and Florence Parly, the minister of the Armed Forces, calling “the American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France” a “regrettable decision” that “shows a lack of coherence.”

The degree of French anger recalled the acrimonious rift in 2003 between Paris and Washington over the Iraq war and involved language not seen since then. “This is not done between allies,” Mr. Le Drian said. His specific comparison of President Biden to his predecessor appeared certain to infuriate the American president.

His indignation reflected the fact that France had its own deal with Australia, reached in 2016, to provide it with conventional, less technologically sophisticated submarines. That $66 billion deal has now collapsed, but a harsh legal battle over the contract appears inevitable.

“A knife in the back,” Mr. Le Drian said of the Australian decision, noting that Australia was rejecting a deal for a strategic partnership that involved “a lot of technological transfers and a contract for a 50-year period.”

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Shifting military alliances to gain the literal "high ground," Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books, frequent commentator on national security issues and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Sept. 16, 2021. Geopolitics have been affected but not halted by wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallthe Covid pandemic.

The September 15 announcement of a new military concordat between the United States, Britain, and Australia that will see nuclear submarine technology transferred to Australia by Washington and London is but one of several shifting strategies on the international chessboard aimed primarily at China's growing influence.

The hurried pace of new and refurbished alliances has little to with China's growing politico-military or economic clout and everything to do with another global peril -- the increasing impact of climate change.

Global military competition is no longer fixated on islands and maritime regions. Instead, military planners are looking to secure the high ground as a refuge for highly-populated cities that are already seeing the effects of torrential rains and rising seas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden launches fresh push for trillions in additional spending, Tyler Pager and Tony Romm, Sept. 16, 2021. The president’s pitch Thursday was part of a pivot away from the first chapter of his presidency, in which Washington and his administration were consumed by emergency funding measures to combat the pandemic.

Six months after signing a massive economic stimulus package into law, President Biden on Thursday embarked on a fresh push for trillions of dollars in additional spending, attempting to pivot from an emergency posture to advancing a long-term liberal vision of government.

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden heralded the return of jobs and other recent economic gains, which he attributed to a combination of federal relief efforts and the arrival of effective coronavirus vaccines. But he stressed the need for even deeper, lasting policy changes to ease the hardships that many Americans have faced since long before the coronavirus took hold.

“This pandemic has been god-awful for so many reasons,” Biden said. “But it does present us with an opportunity. We can build an economy that gives working people a fair shot this time. We can restore some sanity and fairness to our tax code. We can make the investments that we know are long overdue in this nation.”

Democrats prepare for next phase of budget fight

Biden’s pitch marked an important political inflection point: Even as the pandemic simmers, the battered U.S. economy is still much healthier than it was at the start of his presidency, when millions more were out of work and businesses nationwide lay dormant. The improved tail winds have allowed Biden to pivot and pursue a dramatic expansion of the country’s social safety net, chiefly through a series of new spending proposals that would be paid for by tax hikes on wealthy Americans and profitable corporations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of Haitian migrants wait under bridge in South Texas after mass border crossing, Arelis Hernández and Nick Miroff, Sept. 16, 2021. Authorities in Del Rio, Tex., say more than 8,000 people have arrived at an impromptu camp, and they are expecting thousands more — numbers that are overwhelming Customs and Border Protection capacity.

Thousands of Haitian migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande since Tuesday are sleeping outdoors under a border bridge in South Texas, creating a humanitarian emergency and a logistical challenge U.S. agents describe as unprecedented.

Authorities in Del Rio say more than 8,000 migrants have arrived at the impromptu camp, and they are expecting more in the coming days. The sudden influx has presented the Biden administration with a new border emergency at a time when illegal crossings have reached a 20-year high and Department of Homeland Security officials are straining to accommodate and resettle more than 60,000 Afghan evacuees.

The migrants arriving to Del Rio appear to be part of a larger wave of Haitians heading northward, many of whom arrived in Brazil and other South American nations after the 2010 earthquake. They are on the move again, embarking on a grueling, dangerous journey to the United States with smuggling organizations managing the trip, according to border authorities and refugee groups.

More than 29,000 Haitians have arrived over the past 11 months, the latest Customs and Border Protection figures show, including some in mixed-nationality families with children born in Brazil, Chile or other South American nations.

They have trekked through the jungles of Panama’s Darien Gap, navigated migrant camps and criminal gangs in Central America and dodged border guards and troops along the highways of southern Mexico. Many say the economic toll of the pandemic pushed them to leave, while others say a more welcoming U.S. administration has offered them a fleeting opportunity to reach the United States.

“I see brave people who instead of being trapped by conformity chose to find a better life,” said Wendy Guillaumetre, 31, who spent four years in Chile before setting out with his wife and 3-year-old daughter for the United States. “They are courageous,” he said. “Conditions are too hard in Haiti.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Expands Inquiry Into Climate Disinformation by Oil Giants, Hiroko Tabuchi, Sept. 16, 2021. Executives from Exxon, Shell, BP and others are being called to testify after a secret recording exposed an Exxon official boasting of such efforts.

The House Oversight Committee has widened its inquiry into the oil and gas industry’s role in spreading disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming, calling on top executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, as well as the lobby groups American Petroleum Institute and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to testify before Congress next month.

The move comes as Washington is wrestling with major climate legislation intended to slash the nation’s reliance on oil and gas, and in a year of climate disasters that have affected millions of Americans. Raging wildfires in the West burned more than two million acres, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States left a path of destruction from Louisiana to New York City, and heat waves smashed records and delivered life-threatening conditions to regions unaccustomed to extreme heat.

Thursday’s demands from the powerful Oversight Committee put senior executives from some of the world’s largest oil companies at the center of an investigation into the role their industry has played in undermining the scientific consensus that the burning of fossil fuels is a root cause of global warming.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Daily Beast, Facebook Boots Anti-Vax Group With New 'Social Harm' Rules, Adam Rawnsley, Sept. 16, 2021. Facebook’s “Coordinated Social Harm” policy ratchets up the pressure on some of the most extreme, anti-vax, hate speech, and election misinformation groups.

daily beast logoIn a move that will crack down on some of the most extreme and well-organized extremist groups, Facebook’s security team said Thursday that it will more aggressively go after groups that engage in “Coordinated Social Harm”—a term aimed at online clubs that are evading the company’s existing rules while engaged in threatening offline behavior.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, outlined a three-part test in a phone call with reporters to define what qualifies as coordinated social harm under the new enforcement regimen. First, groups must “have a systemic history of violations on our platform,” are “tightly coordinated on our platform working together to either evade our enforcement or maintain their persistence on our platform,” and are contributing to or driving significant social harm.”

facebook logoExamples of the kinds of “significant social harm” that could violate the policy, according to Gleicher, include “accelerating violence or undermining trust in critical medical understanding or could include presenting violence as a legitimate response to address government programs.”

While the new policy applies to a range of groups involved in offending behaviors, anti-vax activists served as the first case for enforcement under the new policy.

A case in point is the German group “Querdenken,” a conspiracy movement that protested lockdown rules and vaccines, and is known for organizing protests which frequently turn violent and attract members of the country’s far-right and QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Querdenken served as the first case for the rollout of the new policy, Gleicher said. And while the definition of coordinated social harm is broad enough to encompass groups involved in a range of activities, the new policy is likely to cause problems for the most severe anti-vaccine groups, many of which have already repeatedly tangled with the company’s moderation and security teams.

Gleicher said Querdenken activists “typically portrayed violence as the way to overturn the pandemic-related government measures limiting personal freedoms” and “engaged in physical violence against journalists, police, and medical practitioners in Germany.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. hospitals in crisis as Idaho rations care, Bryan Pietsch and Annabelle Timsit, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Coronavirus fears play major role in Newsom recall election.

Health officials in Idaho said Tuesday that hospitals in parts of the state may soon get the green light to start rationing health care amid a sharp rise in covid-19 cases and lackluster coronavirus vaccination uptake, joining two other districts that activated crisis standards of care last week.

Covid-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated, are flooding Idaho hospitals, and as a result, the Panhandle and North Central health districts of Idaho said they would not be able to provide the same level of health care for patients who don’t have the virus in at least 10 hospitals as of Sept. 7 due to a shortage of staff and beds.

Officials now say hospitals in the Boise-Nampa and Magic Valley regions could be next as Idaho, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates among states, recorded a 44 percent average increase in covid-19 deaths over the past week.

Hospitals across the United States are at a breaking point. At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense recently deployed 20-person teams of military medical personnel to support health-care staff in Idaho and Arkansas, after doing the same in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. In large states like Florida and Texas, 89.2 and 92.1 percent of ICU beds are in use, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And Alaska’s largest hospital has started rationing care and implemented crisis standards amid a surge in cases there, the Associated Press reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, California is seeing covid-19 cases drop. Has the state turned the tide on the delta variant? Derek Hawkins and Jacqueline Dupree, Sept. 16, 2021. Experts say the state’s embrace of vaccines, masks and other public health measures has helped it contain the highly transmissible variant.

washington post logoWashington Post, 1 in 500 Americans have died of covid-19 in another grim pandemic milestone, Dan Keating and Akilah Johnson, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Death rates for those in the prime of life have been lower than those for older Americans, but racial inequities have grown larger, with a disproportionate burden on Black, Latino, and American Indian and Alaska Native people.

The idea, he said, was to prevent “the humanitarian disaster” that occurred in New York City, where ambulance sirens were a constant as hospitals were overwhelmed and mortuaries needed mobile units to handle the additional dead.
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The goal of testing, mask-wearing, keeping six feet apart and limiting gatherings was to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus until a vaccine could stamp it out. The vaccines came but not enough people have been immunized, and the triumph of science waned as mass death and disease remain. The result: As the nation’s covid death toll exceeded 663,000 this week, it meant roughly 1 in every 500 Americans had succumbed to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

People older than 85 make up only 2 percent of the population, but a quarter of the total death toll. One in 35 people 85 or older died of covid, compared with 1 in 780 people age 40 to 64

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of LAPD employees seek vaccine exemptions, police officials sue city over mandate, Timothy Bella, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Thousands of Los Angeles Police Department employees are planning to seek exemptions from getting vaccinated against the coronavirus after a group of police officials filed a federal lawsuit against the city over its vaccine and mask mandate.

washington post logoWashington Post, This pastor will sign a religious exemption for vaccines if you donate to his church, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). A pastor is encouraging people to donate to his Tulsa church so they can become an online member and get his signature on a religious exemption from coronavirus vaccine mandates. The pastor, Jackson Lahmeyer, is a 29-year-old small-business owner running in the Republican primary challenge to Sen. James Lankford in 2022.

Lahmeyer, who leads Sheridan Church with his wife, Kendra, said Tuesday that in the past two days, about 30,000 people have downloaded the religious exemption form he created.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “My phone and my emails have blown up.”

The rules around religious exemptions for coronavirus vaccines vary widely as each state or institution often has its own exemption forms for people to sign. Experts on religious freedom claims say that most people do not necessarily need a letter from clergy for a religious exemption

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Publishes First Analysis of Pfizer Booster Shot Application, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). The analysis comes amid significant disagreement about the need for boosters between career scientists and top health officials. Here’s the latest on Covid.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday offered the first public look at Pfizer’s application for a booster coronavirus shot, two days before an outside advisory committee of experts is scheduled to meet to recommend whether or not the agency should approve the company’s request.

pfizer logoIt also comes amid significant disagreement about the need for boosters between career scientists at the agency and top Biden health officials, who have already started planning a broad booster campaign for this fall.

In a 23-page document reviewing the company’s application, regulators examined safety and immune response data on roughly 300 adults who received a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine six months after their second dose, finding an increased immune response in study participants, even as they said that coronavirus vaccines were holding up powerfully against severe forms of Covid-19. There were no serious safety concerns associated with the booster injection, the regulators reported.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 16, 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: 227,387,581, Deaths: 4,676,271
U.S. Cases:    42,479,780, Deaths:     685,023
India Cases:    33,347,325, Deaths:     443,960
Brazil Cases:   21,034,610, Deaths:    588,640

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 210.7 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 16, 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 180.1 million people, or 54.1 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Just Disheartening’: Schools Face a Shortage of Essential Workers, Giulia Heyward, Sept. 16, 2021. Just weeks into the new year, U.S. schools are struggling to fill jobs. Low pay, few benefits and erratic schedules are keeping workers away.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker is activating the National Guard to help with the shortage in bus drivers. In North Carolina, legislators are hoping to ease a cafeteria worker shortage by giving districts federal funding to cover signing bonuses for new hires. And some Missouri districts are wiping away some of the requirements to become a substitute teacher to attract more applicants.

Across the country, school districts are desperate to fill jobs. Some are struggling to retain counselors, teachers and principals, but a more urgent need seems to be for employees who have traditionally operated behind the scenes — cafeteria workers, bus drivers and substitute teachers — according to Chip Slaven, interim director for the National School Boards Association.

hunter pepperDaily Beast, Unvaxed Teen Councilman Who Attacked Mask Mandates Now Battling ‘Terrible’ COVID Pneumonia, Zoe Richards, Sept. 16, 2021. Hunter Pepper, a 19-year-old council member who vowed to “fight to the end” against a mask mandate in Decatur, Alabama, revealed he’s been hospitalized with shallow breathing.

A teenage city council member in Morgan County, Alabama, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday after railing against mask mandates said he’s now battling coronavirus-related pneumonia in the hospital.

daily beast logo“I am still shallow in breathing but my oxygen remains okay for now,” Decatur City Councilman Hunter Pepper, 19, right, wrote on Facebook Thursday. He received a CT scan on Wednesday night that confirmed he has COVID pneumonia, “which is absolutely terrible,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, Pepper—who’s repeatedly slammed mask mandates and refused to get vaccinated— said that he took two rapid tests and a PCR test for the coronavirus after he started to feel sick on Monday.

“Well, it has finally happened to me. Unfortunately, this morning I have confirmed two positive [tests] for Covid-19,” Pepper wrote Wednesday on Facebook. Everything In me wants to tell myself it is something different but every way I look it’s ‘Covid this, Covid that’ and it has terrified me and my family.”

Pepper wrote that he was “terrified” by the way that the media “continues to report on Covid-19 and explains ‘Death’ each time they do,” adding that he has “faith in the lord.”

“Maybe this will clear up soon and the symptoms of this sickness shall not progress as I can tell you, it feels terrible not to be able to breathe.”

He later told the Decatur Daily News that he had begun to show a “massive amount of symptoms” of the virus on Wednesday and that his oxygen levels were “holding a little well, and I don’t feel good at all.”

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More On Justice Department'Investigations

 

mckayla maroney saul loeb pool reuters

U.S Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 2021 (Saul Loeb/POOL via Reuters).

ABC News, McKayla Maroney's gut-wrenching statement to Congress about FBI's handling of Nassar abuse, Staff edits, Sept. 15, 2021 (7:51 min. video).  "They had legal, abc news logolegitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing," she said.

Introduction: Gymnast McKayla Maroney testified to Congress about the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar case. Nassar, a former doctor, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of hundreds of women and girls. Maroney, a 2012 Olympic medalist, has said Nassar repeatedly abused her. The Justice Department's inspector general said in a report the FBI's investigation included major missteps. This is a transcript of Maroney's opening statement to Congress.

Good morning. Thank you Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and members of the Judiciary Committee for inviting me to speak today.

As most of you are probably aware, I was molested by the U.S. Gymnastics national team and Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar. In actuality he turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.

What I'm trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal. After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.

After reading the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) report, I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others.

My story is one in which special agent in charge Jay Abbott and his subordinates did not want you to hear, and it's time that I tell you.

In the summer of 2015, like I said, I was scheduled to speak to the FBI about my abuse with Larry Nassar over the phone. I was too sick to go meet with anyone in person, and talking about this abuse would give me PTSD for days, but I chose to try to speak about it to try to make a difference and protect others.

I remember sitting on my bedroom floor for nearly three hours as I told them what happened to me. I hadn't even told my own mother about these facts, but I thought as uncomfortable and as hard as it was to tell my story, I was going to make a difference and hopefully protecting others from the same abuse.

I answered all of their questions honestly and clearly, and I disclosed all of my molestations I had endured by Nassar to them in extreme detail.

They told me to start from the beginning. I told them about the sport of gymnastics, how you make the national team and how I came to meet Larry Nassar when I was 13 at a Texas camp. I told them that the first thing Larry Nassar ever said to me was to change into shorts with no underwear because that would make it easier for him to work on me, and within minutes, he had his fingers in my vagina.

The FBI then immediately asked, "Did he insert his fingers into your rectum?"

I said, "No, he never did."

They asked if he used gloves.

I said, "No, he never did."

They asked if this treatment ever helped me.

I said, "No, it never did. This treatment was 100% abuse and never gave me any relief."

I then told the FBI about Tokyo, the day he gave me a sleeping pill for the plane ride to then work on me later that night. That evening, I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me molesting me for hours. I told them I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go. But he did. I told them I walked the halls of Tokyo hotel at 2 a.m., at only 15 years old.

I began crying at the memory over the phone, and there was just dead silence. I was so shocked at the agent's silence and disregard for my trauma.

After that minute of silence he asked, "Is that all?"

Those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me. To have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me, just to feel like my abuse was not enough.

But the truth is my abuse was enough, and they wanted to cover it up. USA Gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic Committee were working together to conceal that Larry Nassar was a predator.

I then proceeded to tell them about London and how he'd sign me up last on his sheet so he could molest me for hours twice a day. I told them how he molested me right before I won my team gold medal, how he gave me presents, bought me caramel macchiatos and bread when I was hungry. I even sent them screenshots of Nassar's last text to me, which was, "McKayla, I love how you see the world with rose-colored glasses. I hope you continue to do so."

This was very clear, cookie-cutter pedophilia and abuse. And this is important because I told the FBI all of this and they chose to falsify my report and to not only minimize my abuse but silence me yet again.

I thought given the severity of the situation that they would act quickly for the sake of protecting other girls. But instead, it took them 14 months to report anything when Larry Nassar, in my opinion, should have been in jail that day. The FBI, USOC and USAG sat idly by as dozens of girls and women continued to be molested by Larry Nassar.

According to the OIG report, about 14 months after I disclosed my abuse to the FBI -- nearly a year and a half later -- the FBI agent who interviewed me in 2015 decided to write down my statement, a statement that the OIG report determined to be materially false.

Let's be honest: by not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year, and this inaction directly allowed Nassar's abuse to continue.

What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?

They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing. If they're not going to protect me, I want to know, who are they trying to protect?

What's even more upsetting to me is that we know that these FBI agents have committed an obvious crime. They falsified my statement, and that is illegal in itself.

Yet no recourse has been taken against them -- the Department of Justice refused to prosecute these individuals. Why? Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco couldn't even bring herself to be here today, and it is the Department of Justice's job to hold them accountable.

I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough, and we deserve justice.

These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nassar for over a year.

To not indict these agents is disservice to me and my teammates; it is a disservice to the system, which was built to protect all of us from abuse; it was a disservice to every victim who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke up.

Why are public servants whose job is to protect getting away with this? This is not justice. Enough is enough. Today, I ask you all to hear my voice.

I ask you, please, do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report and for covering up for a child molester.

In closing, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the United States Senate, a very powerful institution that from the very beginning has fought for us rather than against us. Thank you and I welcome any questions.

larry nassar gymnastics plea

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). An FBI agent accused of failing to properly investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and lying about it later — has been fired by the FBI, days before a high-stakes public hearing into the bureau’s flawed investigation of the child sex-abuse case involving Simone Biles and other world-famous gymnasts.

FBI logoMichael Langeman, who as a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office interviewed gymnast McKayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.

A July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz harshly criticized Langeman — without naming him — as well as his Justice Department log circularformer boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to inspector general investigators when confronted with those failures.

IG report: FBI failed to pursue Nassar sex abuse allegations

At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent — a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. FBI firings are relatively rare; most investigators facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.

BradCast, Commentary: Sen. Whitehouse Presses FBI Director Wray on Whitewash of Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Probe, Brad Friedman, Sept. 16, 2021. If there's one guy you really don't want vowing to dog you, it may be Rhode Island's Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, easily one of the most persistent Senators in the upper chamber. If you're Trump's FBI Director or, especially, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, that's probably not good news. But it's just one of the stories covered on today's BradCast. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

After the well-publicized testimony of U.S. gymnasts in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, regarding the FBI's years-long failure to adequately investigate hundreds of allegations of sexual assault against now-convicted team physician Larry Nassar, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse had a few related questions for Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray about another similarly flubbed investigation --- perhaps more accurately described as a Trump Administration/FBI cover-up --- regarding serious allegations of sexual assault against a young girl by a now sitting Supreme Court Justice.

After alleged sexual assaulter Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump's second nominee to be packed onto the U.S. Supreme Court by Republicans, Whitehouse vowed to Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh's main accuser, that he would get to the bottom of the FBI's clearly whitewashed pre-confirmation "background check" probe of Kavanaugh. It's three years later and Whitehouse has not forgotten. As he explained while pressing Wray during Wednesday's hearing, he has been waiting all of that time for answers and documents from the FBI. He made clear to Wray that he will not stop until he gets them. As evidenced by his nearly ten years of weekly "Time to Wake Up" climate addresses on the floor of the U.S. Senate, the Rhode Island Senator does not back down easily.

washington post logoWashington Post, Durham grand jury indicts lawyer whose firm represented Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 16, 2021. A grand jury working with special counsel John Durham’s office handed up an indictment Thursday of lawyer Michael Sussmann, who prosecutors have accused of making false statements to the FBI during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sussmann, the indictment charges, “lied about the capacity in which he was providing ... allegations to the FBI” of potenmichael sussmann perkins youngertial cyber links between a Russian bank and a company owned by former president Donald Trump.

An attorney at Perkins Coie, a prominent law firm tied to the Democratic party, Sussmann, right, had been bracing for possible indictment.

Read the indictment: U.S. v. Michael Sussmann

Charging him marks a strange twist in the special counsel’s probe championed by Trump and his Republican allies, and which to date has resulted in a single conviction of a low-level FBI lawyer.

john durham CustomDurham, right, was tasked with finding crimes that may have been committed at the FBI and elsewhere in the federal government, but in charging Sussmann, the special counsel is in essence arguing that the FBI was the victim of a crime.

In a statement issued Wednesday, ahead of the indictment, lawyers for Sussmann insisted their client committed no crime.

“Michael Sussmann is a highly respected national security and cyber security lawyer, who served the U.S. Department of Justice during Democratic and Republican administrations alike,” his lawyers Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth said in a joint statement. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work. We are confident that if Mr. Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name.”

Durham grand jury examines if anyone presented false evidence to FBI

In recent months, Durham’s team has questioned witnesses about how the allegation of a possible digital tie between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank Justice Department log circularwas presented to the FBI. Durham also has examined the authenticity of data given to the FBI.

Durham is pursuing a prosecutorial theory that Sussmann was secretly representing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which was a client of Sussmann’s firm, these people said.

It was not immediately clear how an individual lying to the FBI’s top lawyer would square with the Justice Department’s historical practice of charging false-statements cases. Typically, such cases are charged when a witness knowingly lies to a special agent conducting an investigation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr’s last hurrah just flopped, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 16, 2021. Even as most of the media spent two years portraying Attorney General Bill bill palmerBarr as an all-powerful villain with an evil magic wand who got his way on everything, Palmer Report kept factually pointing out that almost none of Barr’s antics ever got him (or Donald Trump) anywhere.

Case in point: Barr tasked U.S. Attorney John Durham with investigating the “origins” of Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe. At the time, we pointed out that this wouldn’t go anywhere, and that it wouldn’t have any political impact because no one outside Trump’s base would care anyway. Sure enough, it had zero impact on the 2020 election.

bill palmer report logo headerStill, even after Trump and Barr were gone from office, alarmists insisted that Trump was somehow magically going to “get away with it all” because incoming Attorney General Merrick Garland didn’t immediately wave a magic wand and make the Durham probe go away. Of course nothing works that way. Now Durham has apparently wrapped up his probe, with the whimper of a single indictment against someone you’ve never heard of, for having given inconsistent testimony to federal investigators in 2016. Big whoop.

In other words, the Durham probe turned out to be precisely the legal and political non-event that we said it would be. Merrick Garland made the right move by quietly letting it die of its own accord. And it’s the latest reminder that Bill Barr’s simplistic antics never did get him anywhere. As with most of Barr’s moves, the Durham probe was simply to impress Trump, and it was never actually going to help Trump.

Of course Donald Trump’s base will point to this one irrelevant indictment as “proof” that the Trump-Russia investigation was some kind of evil plot against Trump. But none of that matters one bit, because no one in the real world listens to the hysterically conspiratorial ramblings of Trump’s base. As for Bill Barr, the Durham probe was his last remaining hurrah, and it turned out – as usual – to be a flop.

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly Pressed Victims to Write Letters Absolving Him, Prosecutors Say, Emily Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. Many of Kelly’s accusers say he pressured them to write letters that said he was innocent of the sexual abuse that they now say he committed.

r kelly twitterFive months after R. Kelly’s 2019 arrest, federal agents searching a locked safe in a Chicago storage facility discovered a stack of the singer’s personal papers in protective sleeves. Among them: a seven-page handwritten letter from a woman who began living with Mr. Kelly when she was 17.

Calling Mr. Kelly, right, a “great man,” the woman wrote: “At the age of 17 I never had sex with Robert Kelly,” then proceeded to tick off a list of specific sex acts that she said she had not participated in with the R&B superstar.

But less than two years later, when the woman who had written the letter testified under a pseudonym during Mr. Kelly’s federal trial in Brooklyn, she said she had experienced coerced and recorded sexual encounters with the singer starting when she was 17. He hit her often, she said, and forced her to abort a pregnancy.

The letters that investigators found, she said, had been filled with lies, written under pressure from Mr. Kelly in an effort to conceal his abuse.

Again and again during Mr. Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn, women who have accused him of abuse have shared the same curious detail: While they were sexually involved with the singer, they have testified, he had them prepare letters that appeared designed to exonerate him from precisely the accusations they are now leveling against him.

Mr. Kelly, who has been trailed by sexual misconduct accusations for years, appeared to be attempting to ward off prosecution, or laying the foundation for an eventual defense. Instead, the letters have been presented by prosecutors as evidence of coercion and manipulation that even suggest he long knew his activities could land him behind bars.

Every letter introduced by prosecutors at trial came from Mr. Kelly’s own collection, discovered in the storage facility and his Chicago apartment, signed by women who now are at the heart of the case against him.

washington post logoNew York Times, Opinion: Governors Shouldn’t Be the Only Ones Responsible for a Person’s Freedom, John J. Lennon (Mr. Lennon, a contributing editor for Esquire, has been incarcerated since 2002), Sept. 16, 2021.

In New York State, the governor has the power to grant clemency to prisoners in the form of reprieves, commutations and pardons, at her “sole discretion.” (Parole is handled by a separate entity.) A pardon wipes out a conviction, while a commutation reduces a sentence. Just before stepping down, Gov. Andrew Cuomo granted executive clemency to Bobby Ehrenberg (who killed a Long Island jewelry store owner during a 1992 robbery) and nine others. Bobby’s term was commuted, and he would soon walk free.

But many of us are perplexed about clemency. Who deserves mercy? Can we earn it? If our victims won’t forgive us, will a governor? And why should mercy fall on the grace of the governor alone?

In Mr. Cuomo’s decade in office, he granted a total of 41 commutations. He left a heaping pile of petitions for his replacement, Kathy Hochul, to sort out: a total of 3,682 commutation and pardon applications have been filed since the beginning of 2020, according to the state corrections department.

 

More On Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Insurrection

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: A Secretive Summit That Trump Attended in December of 2020 May Explain Both Trump's Role in the January 6 seth abramson graphicInsurrection and Why Both CJCS Milley and China Feared Trump Would Start a War, Seth Abramson (left, attorney, professor, Newsweek columnist, metajournalist, and New York Times bestselling author), Sept. 16, 2021.

Introduction: On December 27, 2020, fresh off receiving one of the most controversial presidential pardons in U.S. history—from then-president Donald Trump, the very man he had committed federal felonies to protect—Roger Stone traveled to Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach to “thank[ ]” his patron and criminal co-conspirator.

seth abramson proof logoOnly a few U.S. media outlets covered the astonishingly brazen meeting at the time, and surprisingly that didn’t change nine days later—when a “movement” co-led by Stone, Stop the Steal, coordinated with the 2020 Trump Campaign in a sequence of events resulting in armed insurrection and a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Back in December 2020, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported on the meeting in a way that should have, but didn’t, lead to it becoming a focus of sustained national attention: per the paper, Stone went to see Trump on December 27 not just to “deliver a personal thank you to the president” but also, critically, to “counsel the president on how he could ‘ensure that Donald Trump continues as our president.’” This was during the same period that, as Proof has reported, Stone recorded a video seeking donations for arms and armor for Proud Boys and Oath Keepers planning to travel to Washington on January 6—the precise conduct Proud Boy “sergeant-at-arms” and Stone associate Ethan Nordean would later be arrested for.

So there can be no doubt that when Stone met Trump just nine days before January 6 to discuss how that day could lead to an overturning of the November 2020 election, Stone’s focus was on the Stop the Steal–cosponsored March to Save America that he was personally involved in coordinating at a logistical as well as strategic level.

The Sun-Sentinel report noted that, after posting a picture of (and commentary upon) the strange golf club meeting on Parler, Stone subsequently thought better of it and deleted all reference to the event on the far-right social media platform. At the time, he claimed it was to honor a policy supposedly in place at Trump’s golf club to prevent guests from posting pictures of the club; journalists have not yet been able to verify that any such policy exists, and a Google Image search certainly suggests it doesn’t (especially when the photograph promotes Donald Trump in any way). In any case, Stone had by then deleted not only photos of the meeting but also any reference to it on social media—and thereafter would refuse to discuss it with journalists. It did not, therefore, seem like a reticence related to an eldritch country club photography policy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The potential trouble with Jan. 6 defendant prosecutions, Amber Phillips, Sept. 16, 2021.  As far-right groups prepare to come back to the Capitol on Saturday, prosecutors may have hit a speed bump with some of the more serious charges against Jan. 6 defendants.

D.C. and Capitol police are preparing for a rally Saturday with potentially hundreds of people in support of defendants who are jailed or facing charges over their actions on Jan. 6.

The protest comes as federal prosecutors move on from charging people who stormed the Capitol with smaller crimes to prosecuting those they say committed the most egregious ones, such as inciting people to intimidate and commit violence against elected officials.

But now those prosecutors may have run into a problem with their legal strategy.

At least two federal judges have questioned the main charge prosecutors are using to try to go after more than 200 people involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, to obstruct “any official proceeding” of Congress, reports The Post’s Spencer S. Hsu.

But legal experts who spoke to The Fix say there’s still hope for prosecutors’ main legal avenue to punish some of the most prominent Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Here’s what’s going on.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here come the January 6th superseding indictments, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. “They’ve gotten away with it all!” It’s the rallying cry of defeatists everywhere who are so eager to feel outrage, they’ve baselessly convinced themselves that the January 6th attackers are off the hook. Meanwhile back in the real world, the indictments continue to come down – and now we’re getting into superseding indictments.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, prosecutors handed down superseding indictments today against Capitol attackers Ronald Sandlin and Nathaniel DeGrave, who had already been hit with lesser January 6th charges. It’s a reminder that as the evidence continues to add up, and people start cutting plea deals and ratting each other out, the indictments are continuing to get more serious.

The criminal indictments in relation to January 6th are still just getting started. That’s a fact made clear by the evidence. How high up will these indictments go, and will they reach the likes of Roger Stone and Donald Trump? We’ll see. But the narrative that they’ve “gotten away with it all” is simply fiction.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ohio House Republican, Calling Trump ‘a Cancer,’ Bows Out of 2022, Jonathan Martin, Sept. 16, 2021. Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, is the first of the group to retire rather than face a stiff primary challenge.

Calling former President Donald J. Trump “a cancer for the country,” Representative Anthony Gonzalez, Republican of Ohio, said in an interview on Thursday that he would not run for re-election in 2022, ceding his seat after just two terms in Congress rather than compete against a Trump-backed primary opponent.

anthony gonzalezMr. Gonzalez, right, is the first, but perhaps not the last, of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to retire rather than face ferocious primaries next year in a party still in thrall to the former president.

The congressman, who has two young children, emphasized that he was leaving in large part because of family considerations and the difficulties that come with living between two cities. But he made clear that the strain had only grown worse since his impeachment vote, after which he was deluged with threats and feared for the safety of his wife and children.

Mr. Gonzalez said that quality-of-life issues had been paramount in his decision. He recounted an “eye-opening” moment this year: when he and his family were greeted at the Cleveland airport by two uniformed police officers, part of extra security precautions taken after the impeachment vote.

“That’s one of those moments where you say, ‘Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?’” he said.

Mr. Gonzalez, who turns 37 on Saturday, was the sort of Republican recruit the party once prized. A Cuban American who starred as an Ohio State wide receiver, he was selected in the first round of the N.F.L. draft and then earned an M.B.A. at Stanford after his football career was cut short by injuries. He claimed his Northeast Ohio seat in his first bid for political office.

Mr. Gonzalez, a conservative, largely supported the former president’s agenda. Yet he started breaking with Mr. Trump and House Republican leaders when they sought to block the certification of last year’s presidential vote, and he was horrified by Jan. 6 and its implications.

Still, he insisted he could have prevailed in what he acknowledged would have been a “brutally hard primary” against Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide who was endorsed by the former president in February.

Yet as Mr. Gonzalez sat on a couch in his House office, most of his colleagues still at home for the prolonged summer recess, he acknowledged that he could not bear the prospect of winning if it meant returning to a Trump-dominated House Republican caucus.

“Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now,” he said. “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”

For the Ohioan, Jan. 6 was “a line-in-the-sand moment” and Mr. Trump represents nothing less than a threat to American democracy.

“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.”

 

Personal Privacy / Security

microsoft logo Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Microsoft is going password-free for consumer accounts, Sept. 16, 2021. You’ve got a lot of passwords to keep track of for your online bank account, insurance company, social media profiles and even your kid’s school software. But starting today, your Microsoft account doesn’t have to be one of them.

The company said Wednesday that it is officially retiring written passwords for personal accounts, including Outlook, OneDrive and Family Safety. Corporate accounts have been eligible for password-free sign-on since March.

The change comes as the entire IT industry rethinks its decades-long reliance on “shared secret” passwords — or the kind you have to remember. People have a tendency to lose and forget them, creating extra costs and headaches for companies and customers alike.

“We know people hate passwords,” Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of security, compliance and identity, said in an emailed statement. “Thirty percent of people said they just have stopped using an account or service they were trying to log into rather than deal with a password reset. I’ve even done that. Imagine the shopping carts, memberships or accounts that have been abandoned because of password issues.”

pennsylvania map major cities

washington post logoWashington Post, Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers approve wide-ranging subpoenas for personal information of 2020 voters, Elise Viebeck and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania on Wednesday approved subpoenas for a wide range of data and personal information on voters, advancing a probe of the 2020 election in a key battleground state former president Donald Trump has repeatedly targeted with baseless claims of fraud.

The move drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats who described the effort as insecure and unwarranted and said they would consider mounting a court fight. Among other requests, Republicans are seeking the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called Wednesday’s vote “merely another step to undermine democracy, confidence in our elections and to capitulate to Donald tom wolf o CustomTrump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.”

Wolf, right, added in a statement, “Election security is not a game and should not be treated with such carelessness. Senate Republican[s] should be ashamed of their latest attempt to destabilize our election system through a sham investigation that will unnecessarily cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

But Sen. Cris Dush, the Republican chairman of the committee that approved the subpoena, argued during the hearing that the information is needed because “there have been questions regarding the validity of people who have voted — whether or not they exist.”

“Again, we are not responding to proven allegations. We are investigating the allegations to determine whether or not they are factual,” he said, adding that the vetting process for outside vendors will be “rigorous.”

Judges, including on the Pennsylvania and U.S. Supreme Courts, have denied bids by Trump and his allies to overturn President Biden’s win in the state or invalidate millions of ballots.

Yet in Pennsylvania and other battleground states, Republican legislators have bowed to pressure from Trump and his base to investigate the results, despite a consensus among judges, election officials and experts that there was no widespread fraud in the election.

In Wisconsin, protesters gathered at the state Capitol last week to call for a ballot review like the one conducted in Arizona and push for an examination of voting machines. As of late last month, multiple reviews were ongoing in the state — including one by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and one led by former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman, whose approach recently raised fresh concerns with some election clerks.

In Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Wednesday, the Intergovernmental Operations Committee voted 7 to 4 to subpoena Wolf’s administration after a testy debate. In addition to voters’ records, the subpoenas for the Pennsylvania Department of State also request all guidance issued to counties, as well as communications between the Department of State and county election officials, for the period covering the two votes.

Wednesday’s party-line vote advanced the GOP probe, which state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R) has promised will be a “full forensic investigation” of the 2020 election.

After the vote, Corman sought to allay fears that Pennsylvania voter information could be vulnerable if obtained by the committee.

“Every necessary step will be taken to ensure this information is secure, including making any vendor personnel sign non-disclosure agreements to make sure the data are protected under penalty of law,” he said in a statement.

Republicans also emphasized that the subpoena would not seek information about voters’ party affiliation. But Dush declined to answer further questions from Democrats, including about the outside vendors he is considering to handle the data.

“What you’re now describing sounds very much to me like a partisan investigation,” said state Sen. Steven Santarsiero (D), noting that the subpoenas could cover information for “nearly 7 million Pennsylvanians.”

That hearing’s only witness — Stuart Ulsh, chairman of the county commission in rural Fulton County where Trump’s margin of victory was larger than anywhere else in the state — testified that people in his community had vowed never to vote again because of what they had heard about the 2020 election.

Neither Ulsh nor the committee’s Republican senators acknowledged that Trump has been responsible for spreading misinformation about the election or that many previous reviews of Pennsylvania’s results have confirmed Biden’s victory.

In an interview, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) called the hearing “a dud.” Shapiro said his office would carefully review any election-related subpoenas issued by the legislature, particularly any that sought tabulating machines or ballots. “I would expect a subpoena like that to face litigation,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle That Is Reshaping the Internet, Brian X. Chen, Sept. 16, 2021. As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the implications, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul. Apple introduced a pop-up window for iPhones in April that asks people for their permission to be tracked by different apps.

twitter bird CustomGoogle recently outlined plans to disable a tracking technology in its Chrome web browser.

And Facebook said last month that hundreds of its engineers were working on a new method of showing ads without relying on people’s personal data.

The developments may seem like technical tinkering, but they were connected to something bigger: an intensifying battle over the future of the internet. The struggle has entangled tech titans, upended Madison Avenue and disrupted small businesses. And it heralds a profound shift in how people’s personal information may be used online, with sweeping implications for the ways that businesses make money digitally.

facebook logoAt the center of the tussle is what has been the internet’s lifeblood: advertising.

More than 20 years ago, the internet drove an upheaval in the advertising industry. It eviscerated newspapers and magazines that had relied on selling classified and print ads, and threatened to dethrone television advertising as the prime way for marketers to reach large audiences.

google logo customInstead, brands splashed their ads across websites, with their promotions often tailored to people’s specific interests. Those digital ads powered the growth of Facebook, Google and Twitter, which offered their search and social networking services to people without charge. But in exchange, people were tracked from site to site by technologies such as “cookies,” and their personal data was used to target them with relevant marketing.

Now that system, which ballooned into a $350 billion digital ad industry, is being dismantled. Driven by online privacy fears, Apple and Google have started revamping the rules around online data collection. Apple, citing the mantra of privacy, has rolled out tools that block marketers from tracking people. apple logo rainbowGoogle, which depends on digital ads, is trying to have it both ways by reinventing the system so it can continue aiming ads at people without exploiting access to their personal data.

If personal information is no longer the currency that people give for online content and services, something else must take its place. Media publishers, app makers and e-commerce shops are now exploring different paths to surviving a privacy-conscious internet, in some cases overturning their business models. Many are choosing to make people pay for what they get online by levying subscription fees and other charges instead of using their personal data.

washington post logoWashington Post, Brutal killing of a woman and her dog in an Atlanta park reignites the debate over city’s growing crime problem, Tim Craig, Sept. 16, 2021.  The last time Emma Clark saw her girlfriend, Katherine Janness, she was headed out for a late-night walk with her pit bull near Piedmont Park, a sprawling and popular 187-acre green space in Midtown.

Janness, 40, had been stabbed repeatedly and appeared to have been mutilated, police said. Her dog also was stabbed to death. Although police and the FBI have said little publicly about the ongoing case, the brutal nature of the July 28 crime has rattled even veteran investigators.

Crime in Atlanta has skyrocketed over the past two years. The city recently surpassed 110 homicides — up 15 percent compared with the same time last year. But the viciousness of Janness’s killing, combined with where it happened — in an upscale and vibrant area seen as a symbol of the city’s economic and cultural transformation over the past 20 years — has shaken residents.

Despite a relentless wave of gun violence that has killed hundreds of Black Atlantans in recent years, the death of Janness has struck a nerve among residents of the city’s upscale neighborhoods who have been mostly sheltered from the surge in violent crime that hit cities during the pandemic. Last year was the city’s deadliest in nearly three decades, and homicides are up 64 percent this year compared with 2019 — before the city was embroiled in turmoil over its police department and its handling of Black Lives Matter protests.

Janness also was the city’s first White homicide victim this year.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Emboldened by recall win, Democrats brush aside talk of unity and escalate attacks on Republicans, Sean Sullivan and David Weigel, Sept. 16, 2021. The party, worried that the Biden administration’s accomplishments have not gotten through to the public, has taken on a more aggressive posture that dovetails with anger among its voters.

Democrats have been sharpening their attacks on Republicans over the pandemic, former president Donald Trump and other polarizing topics, and now, emboldened by victory in California’s recall election, party leaders are seeking to further escalate hostilities ahead of the midterm elections.

Beyond prompting a collective sigh of relief in a party reeling from a difficult summer, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Tuesday win served as the first test of a revamped campaign strategy that Democrats quietly began assembling weeks ago, amid a realization that positive talk about President Biden getting the country back on track had run into the harsh realities of a delta variant coronavirus surge.

Chastened by the resurgence, the difficult Afghanistan withdrawal and declining public confidence in Biden’s handling of the pandemic and other issues, Democrats have gone on offense against the GOP, following private summer polling that showed broad and growing anger at the Republican resistance to vaccination, according to Democrats familiar with the discussions who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy.

washington post logoWashington Post, The perils that the book ‘Peril’ reveals should be investigated by Congress, Editorial Board, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). There are many ways to destroy a constitutional democracy. One is by partisan mob attack on its electoral processes, of the kind that President Donald Trump incited at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Another is through military encroachment on civilian authority, in the name of national salvation or some other ostensibly higher cause. Outright physical destruction might come from war, intended or as a result of miscalculation, with a nuclear-armed foe. All of these risks are swirling through the debate over the recent conduct of Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as reported in “Peril,” a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Post.

It’s important to draw distinctions — and to be clear about what we do and do not yet know. Gen. Milley feared both what an out-of-control Mr. Trump might do and how, on the other hand, China might misinterpret U.S. intentions amid U.S. political turbulence. Through back channels, before and after the election, the general tried to reassure his military counterpart in Beijing of the United States’ peaceful intentions. Two days after the attack on the Capitol, having spoken with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and agreed with her that Mr. Trump was unstable, Gen. Milley arranged for a delay in military exercises the People’s Republic might have seen as provocative.

It’s not clear how much, if any, contemporaneous knowledge Mr. Trump had at the time. For what it’s worth, the former president says he would never have started a war with China. Republicans are predictably outraged; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is demanding the general’s resignation for threatening the “longstanding principle of civilian control of the military.” Yet concerns are not exclusively partisan: Former Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who sacrificed his military career to stand up to Mr. Trump’s abuse of power, has also called for Gen. Milley to step down.
(Simon and Schuster)

No doubt, Gen. Milley explored the limits of his constitutional authority. This could be quite benign if he was simply telling China’s top general, Li Zuocheng, as “Peril” reports he did on Jan. 8, “We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.” Axios has separately reported that Gen. Milley’s Oct. 30, 2020, phone call to Gen. Li formed part of wider reassurances, orchestrated by his civilian boss, then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, the purpose of which was to counter reports the Chinese were receiving from their own intelligence service to the effect that the United States intended war.

What could be considerably less benign is the pledge Gen. Milley reportedly made to alert Gen. Li ahead of any U.S. strike: “If we’re going to attack, I’m going to call you ahead of time. It’s not going to be a surprise.” According to “Peril,” this came in the Oct. 30 call — before the insurrection and, indeed, before the election. We struggle to understand what circumstances — absent clear authorization from civilian policymakers — could justify offering a foreign adversary such a pledge.

All of this should be investigated by Congress, with Gen. Milley afforded an ample opportunity to explain publicly, under oath. The country needs the same transparency about events on — and leading up to — Jan. 6, which, as these latest revelations suggest, may have been even more dangerous than already is known. The best forum would be a bipartisan committee of Congress or credible nonpartisan commission — the very mechanisms that Republicans, including some now protesting Gen. Milley, did their best to obstruct. However, a House committee led by Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is at work. It has some new leads to follow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Thomas defends the Supreme Court’s independence and warns of ‘destroying our institutions,’ Mike Berardino and Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 16, 2021. Justice Clarence Thomas defended the independence of the Supreme Court on Thursday and warned against "destroying our institutions because they don't give us what we want, when we want it."

Clarence Thomas HRThomas, right, the longest serving justice, acknowledged that the high court has its flaws, comparing it to a “car with three wheels” that somehow still works. But he said the justices are not ruling based on “personal preferences” and suggested that the nation’s leaders should not “allow others to manipulate our institutions when we don’t get the outcome that we like.”

The justice’s remarks came during a lecture at the University of Notre Dame in which he talked about traveling by RV in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee with his wife, Ginni. Thomas reflected on his childhood in the segregated South and his religious faith. He also alluded several times to the political polarization in the United States.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we’re really good at finding something that separates us,” Thomas told the crowd of more than 800 students and faculty gathered at the school’s performing arts center.

Thomas is the latest justice to add his voice to the mix and publicly come to the court’s defense in the face of growing criticism that the nine justices are merely politicians in robes.

“I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference. So if they think you are antiabortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician,” Thomas said in response to a question about public misconceptions of the court.

“That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions.”

washington post logoWashington Post, California is seeing covid-19 cases drop. Has the state turned the tide on the delta variant? Derek Hawkins and Jacqueline Dupree, Sept. 16, 2021. Experts say the state’s embrace of vaccines, masks and other public health measures has helped it contain the highly transmissible variant.

 

U.S. Congress

Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) thumbs down vote

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Manchin gets all the attention. But Kyrsten Sinema, shown above voting "No!" on increasing the federal mininum age to $15 this spring, could be an even bigger obstacle for Democrats’ spending plans, Mike DeBonis, Sept. 16, 2021. After objecting to the price tag of President Biden’s Build Back Better plan in late July, the Arizonan has remained almost entirely mum. But behind the scenes she has been peppering her colleagues with questions and concerns.

Senate Democrats were riding high on the afternoon of July 28: A long-delayed bipartisan infrastructure package had finally come together, with many senators eager to finish that bill and move forward with a multitrillion-dollar piece of economic, climate and social legislation — President Biden’s signature “Build Back Better” plan.

But one senator, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), punctured the gleeful atmosphere with a warning shot. While Democratic members of the Senate Budget Committee may have agreed on the size of the second bill, she had not.

“[W]hile I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion,” Sinema said in a statement that struck some of her fellow Democrats as poorly timed — coming just hours before she was counting on a united caucus to advance the infrastructure deal she had painstakingly negotiated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Trump aides to spearhead a $10 million effort to fight Biden economic plan, Jeff Stein, Sept. 16, 2021. Senior Trump officials Larry Kudlow, Linda McMahon and Brooke Rollins are among the leaders of the “Save America Coalition,” a campaign that plans to rally organizations and draw donors for advertisements and a social media push criticizing the proposal in key states and districts.

A new conservative coalition led by former Trump administration advisers plans to launch an up to $10 million campaign attacking President Biden’s economic package as it advances through Congress.

The effort, slated to be formally launched on Friday, is being spearheaded by the America First Policy Institute founded earlier this year by former Trump officials, as well as conservative organizations such as the Conservative Partnership Institute, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and FreedomWorks.

Leaders of the campaign, called the “Save America Coalition,” met Wednesday night at the Washington headquarters of the America First group located near the White House. They discussed plans to rally more than 100 conservative organizations and draw donors for advertisements and social media campaigns criticizing the Biden proposal in swing states and districts controlled by centrist Democrats.

Democrats prepare for next phase of budget fight as House readies package and Biden meets with Senate skeptics

Conservative alarm about Biden’s proposed tax hikes — which some nonpartisan estimates have found overwhelmingly target the rich and large corporations — has intensified as they move toward passage. Democrats face a difficult legislative path in holding together virtually all of their members in both the House and Senate to approve a plan to spend approximately $3.5 trillion over 10 years on safety net expansions, education programs, and funding to mitigate climate change.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Murphy’s misfired claim that 8 out of 10 U.S. drones miss their target, Glenn Kessler, Sept. 16, 2021. The Democratic senator from Connecticut made a startling statement that turns out to be wrong.

“Studies of our drone strikes have suggested that maybe eight out of 10 times we are hitting the wrong target, we have killed thousands of civilians.”

— Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), in an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Sept. 14

Murphy appeared on CNN to discuss an Aug. 29 drone strike in Afghanistan in the waning days of the U.S. presence there. The U.S. military initially claimed that the drone targeted an Islamic State vehicle preparing for a car-bomb attack.

But now it appears that the vehicle was driven by an aid worker who had loaded his car with water canisters, not explosives. Investigations by The Washington Post and the New York Times raised doubts about the military’s claim that the weapon used, a Hellfire missile, triggered a “secondary explosion” indicative of a car loaded with explosives.

As many as 10 people may have been killed, including the aid worker and seven children ranging in age from 3 to 16.

chris murphy new officialAs part of his appearance on “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Murphy made a claim that jumped out at us — that studies have shown that “maybe eight out of 10 times we are hitting the wrong target.”

That would be an astonishing record of failure. Is he right?

The short answer is no.

Peter Bergen, vice president for global studies at the New America Foundation, heads a project that has documented in great detail the drone war in Pakistan, air and ground operations in Yemen and Somalia, as well as the internationalized air war in Libya. He was puzzled by Murphy’s statement.

“Eight out of 10 is not a stat I have ever heard of,” Bergen said. “As I document in my new book, ‘The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden,’ based on the documents that came out bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, he was very worried about the precision of CIA drone strikes, which were killing a large number of al-Qaeda’s leaders.”

“What I said was true,” Murphy said in a statement to The Fact Checker (in response). “The data we have does suggest over 80 percent of strikes hit the wrong target. Since the government classifies data on the efficacy of drone strikes, the only full public data set is from a leak of the Haymaker drone campaign in Afghanistan. And a study of that data by The Intercept showed that 90 percent of drones killed the wrong target. At the time of this disclosure, the military did not offer any exculpatory evidence to rebut this claim, and so without any other data and no contradictory information from the military it’s completely reasonable to infer a broader trend from the limited data available. The bottom line is that the data released by the Intercept provides ample evidence that our drone program is wildly ineffective and badly in need of reform

 

Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The potential trouble with Jan. 6 defendant prosecutions, Amber Phillips, Sept. 16, 2021. As far-right groups prepare to come back to the Capitol on Saturday, prosecutors may have hit a speed bump with some of the more serious charges against Jan. 6 defendants.

D.C. and Capitol police are preparing for a rally Saturday with potentially hundreds of people in support of defendants who are jailed or facing charges over their actions on Jan. 6.

The protest comes as federal prosecutors move on from charging people who stormed the Capitol with smaller crimes to prosecuting those they say committed the most egregious ones, such as inciting people to intimidate and commit violence against elected officials.

But now those prosecutors may have run into a problem with their legal strategy.

At least two federal judges have questioned the main charge prosecutors are using to try to go after more than 200 people involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection, to obstruct “any official proceeding” of Congress, reports The Post’s Spencer S. Hsu.

But legal experts who spoke to The Fix say there’s still hope for prosecutors’ main legal avenue to punish some of the most prominent Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Here’s what’s going on.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: WMR, Trump's Covid-19 adviser was FBI's "person of interest" in post-9/11 anthrax attacks, Wayne Madsen, left, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallauthor of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 15-16, 2021.

The Trump administration and, specifically, Donald Trump's trade negotiator, the virulent anti-China Peter Navarro, right, relied initially on advice for the Covid-19 virus on Dr. Steven Hatfill, the individual named by then-Attorney peter navarro headshotGeneral John Ashcroft as a "person of interest" in the post-September 11, 2001 anthrax attacks on political figures and the media.

In 2003, Hatfill successfully sued John Ashcroft, the Department of Justice, Justice employees Timothy Beres and Daryl Darnell, the FBI, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Van Harp and other FBI agents for defamation. After his exoneration by the Justice Department, Hatfill received an award of $2.825 million in cash and an annuity paying $150,000 a year for 20 years.

Considering Hatfill's strong ties to the far-right, it should have come as no real surprise that his private ProtonMail e-mail exchange with Navarro, right, at the White House were discovered by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Roger Stone served ‘a big, big stack of papers’ from Capitol riot lawsuit during radio interview, Timothy Bella, Sept. 16, 2021.  As he was asked in a phone interview whether former president Donald Trump would run in 2024, Roger Stone paused to answer the front door.

Stone, a longtime confidant to the former president, apologized to the St. Louis radio show, but he had a good reason: He was being served with papers related to the federal lawsuit filed by seven U.S. Capitol Police officers against him, Trump, far-right “violent extremist groups” and others accused of being responsible for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“Hold on a second, I have a process server at my front door about to serve me in the latest lawsuit,” Stone said on “Tomorrow’s News Today with Joe Hoft & Kell Brazil.”

After Stone could be heard greeting the person at the door, the process server could be heard saying, “You know what I have.” The self-described “dirty trickster” inaccurately noted it was a civil lawsuit before the process server corrected him.

“It’s still a fraud, doesn’t matter,” said Stone, thanking the man. “All right, I have just been served in the Jan. 6 lawsuit — live, right here on your radio show.”

Stone, who was pardoned by Trump after he was convicted as part of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, noted to the radio show, in his own way, of the sheer heft of the documents served to him.

“This is a big, big stack of papers, which is good, because we’re out of toilet paper,” he said, as the radio hosts laughed.

While Roger Stone was live on the air this morning with ‘Real Talk 93.3’ (St Louis) doing an interview about the 2024 election, he gets served by a process server with the January 6 lawsuit. (Audio) pic.twitter.com/pnXBPQh3Vn
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) September 15, 2021

Stone being served in the lawsuit comes ahead of the Saturday rally of demonstrators supporting those arrested in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters trying to overturn President Biden’s election victory. Capitol Police have requested the support of the National Guard on Saturday if events get violent. The perimeter fence around the Capitol will also begin to be reinstalled Wednesday night, according to an email sent to Senate staff and obtained by The Washington Post’s Ellie Silverman. The fencing was erected after the failed security response in January and stayed until two months ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The state of the effort to undo Biden’s victory, a sixth of the way into his presidency, Philip Bump, Sept. 16, 2021. Pennsylvania joins the Second Lost Cause.

In late December, Republican officials had a bit of a problem. President Donald Trump was telling their voters that rampant fraud had occurred in the November election, an entirely baseless claim. They needed to respond, somehow, though they still needed to keep one foot in reality. So they came up with a compromise position: The problem was that states such as Pennsylvania changed voting rules in ways they shouldn’t have. They could say that the election was “stolen” in broad strokes, agreeing that there were ongoing questions about the results — questions fomented by dishonesty from Trump. They could nod along with the crowd while whispering some caveat like in the sense that voting expansions were questionable.

This sort of compromise has taken on a life of its own. In state after state, legislators are seizing on the people are asking questions rationale to launch reviews of the 2020 election that they often assiduously insist have nothing to do with overturning the results. But the shouting base knows what’s up. Trump supporters and conspiracy theorists — apparently including Trump — think that states will, at long last, prove that something so bad and so extensive occurred that it shows that Trump should be reinstated as president. Somehow. And Republican legislators, either trying to manifest those conspiracy theories surreptitiously or trying to get attaboys from that thundering base, are demanding or launching sweeping efforts to raise suspicions about how the election unfolded.

It’s the Second Lost Cause: a defeated confederacy of voters seeking to convince themselves and the world that they are right about what occurred in November. In multiple states, legislators have initiated formal processes to aid the effort.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, As Russians Vote, Resignation, Anger and Fear of a Post-Putin Unknown, Anton Troianovski, Photographs by Sergey Ponomarev, Sept. 16, 2021. Many say they are fed up with corruption and stagnant wages. But there’s fear that, as one man said, “if things start to change, there will be blood.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake candidates and jailed opposition: Russia’s parliament elections stack the cards for Putin, Robyn Dixon, Sept. 16, 2021. But even from prison, opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s “Smart Voting” app has the Kremlin uneasy.

Boris Vishnevsky is a slight man with thin graying hair, mournful eyes and a beard. He's running for parliament against Boris Vishnevsky, a slight man with thin gray hair, mournful eyes and a beard.

russian flagAlso on the ballot in Russia's State Duma elections: another Boris Vishnevsky, same hair, same beard, similar eyes.

The latter two Vishnevskys are fakes. They were created by rivals, at least one associated with President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, to peel votes off from the real Vishnevsky, an opposition candidate from the pro-democracy Yabloko party.

Russia’s parliamentary elections — taking place amid Putin’s withering crackdown on opposition — run Friday to Sunday and, to many Putin opponents, are another low-water mark for Russia’s post-Soviet democracy.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny is in jail. His electoral network has been banned, and its leaders have been arrested or have fled the country. Dozens of opposition candidates were barred or withdrew from their contests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bolsonaro Is Getting Desperate, and It’s Clear What He Wants, Vanessa Barbara, Sept. 15, 2021. Ms. Barbara is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

For weeks, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has been urging his supporters to take to the streets. So on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day, I was half expecting to see mobs of armed people in yellow-and-green jerseys, some of them wearing furry hats and horns, storming the Supreme Court building — our very jair bolsonaro brazilown imitation of the Capitol riot.

Fortunately, that was not what happened. (The crowds eventually went home, and no one tried to sit in the Supreme Court justices’ chairs.) But Brazilians were not spared chaos and consternation.

For Mr. Bolsonaro, right, it was a show of force. In the morning, addressing a crowd of around 400,000 people in Brasília, he said he intended to use the size of the crowd as an “ultimatum for everyone” in the three branches of government. In the afternoon, at a demonstration in São Paulo of 125,000 people, the president called the elections coming in 2022 “a farce” and said that he will no longer abide by rulings from one of the Supreme Court justices. “I’m letting the scoundrels know,” he bellowed, “I’ll never be imprisoned!”

brazil flag wavingIt seems to be part of a plan. By picking a fight in particular with the Supreme Court — which has opened several investigations of him and his allies, including about his role in a potentially corrupt vaccine procurement scheme and his efforts to discredit Brazil’s voting system — Mr. Bolsonaro is attempting to sow the seeds of an institutional crisis, with a view to retaining power. On Sept. 9 he tried to back down a little, saying in a written statement that he “never intended to attack any branch of government.” But his actions are plain: He is effectively threatening a coup.

Perhaps that’s the only way out for Mr. Bolsonaro. (Apart from properly governing the country, something that apparently doesn’t interest him.) The antics of the president, struggling in the polls and menaced by the prospect of impeachment, are a sign of desperation. But that doesn’t mean they can’t succeed.

Mr. Bolsonaro has good reason to be desperate. The government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the deaths of 587,000 Brazilians; the country faces record rates of unemployment and economic inequality; and it’s also afflicted by soaring inflation, poverty and hunger. Oh, and there’s a huge energy crisis on the way, too.

That has taken its toll on Mr. Bolsonaro’s standing with Brazilians. In July, his disapproval rating rose to 51 percent, its highest-ever mark, according to Datafolha Institute. And ahead of next year’s presidential elections, things are not looking rosy. In fact, polling suggests he’s going to lose. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the center-left politician and former president, is comfortably outstripping Mr. Bolsonaro. As things stand, Mr. Bolsonaro would lose to all possible rivals in a second-round runoff.

This explains Mr. Bolsonaro’s eagerness to push unfounded claims of fraud in Brazil’s electronic voting system. “There’s no way of proving whether the elections were rigged or not,” he said about past elections (including the one he won), during a two-hour TV broadcast in July, while failing to provide any evidence to support his allegations. He has repeatedly threatened to call off the elections if the current voting system remains in place — and although Congress recently rejected his proposal to require paper receipts, he continues to cast doubt on the voting process. (Sound familiar, anyone?)

Then there’s the corruption. A growing number of corruption accusations have been made against the president and two of his sons, who both hold public office. (One is a senator; the other sits on Rio de Janeiro’s City Council.) Prosecutors have suggested that the Bolsonaro family took part in a scheme known as “rachadinha,” which involves hiring close associates or family members as employees and then pocketing a portion of their salary.

ny times logoNew York Times, SpaceX Updates: Inspiration4 Crew Spends First Day in Orbit, Staff Reports, Sept. 16, 2021. After a successful launch on Wednesday, the first space crew with no professional astronauts aboard is circling Earth. Here’s the latest on the mission. The crew of the Inspiration4 mission is flying safely around Earth, SpaceX said in a Twitter update Wednesday afternoon.

The @Inspiration4x crew is healthy, happy, and resting comfortably. Before the crew went to bed, they traveled 5.5 times around Earth, completed their first round of scientific research, and enjoyed a couple of meals
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 16, 2021

 

Trump Watch / U.S. Media

Daily Beast, Mike Lindell Repeatedly Tried to Get Ads Back on Fox. They Keep Rejecting Him, Asawin Suebsaeng and Maxwell Tani, Sept. 16, 2021. After angrily yanking MyPillow ads from Fox in July, the pillow mogul has tried at least three times to advertise on Fox, but no matter what changes he’s made, they keep saying no.

daily beast logoIn late July, Mike Lindell, the MyPillow CEO who’s made a new name for himself as one of Donald Trump’s most diehard political supporters and 2020 election deadenders, irately announced he was yanking his company’s pillow ads from the Fox News airwaves.

The immediate source of tension between the MAGA pillow magnate and the pro-Trump cable-news giant—a relationship that for years has been financially fruitful for both, and led to Lindell’s seeming omnipresicence on the Fox universe—was the network’s refusal to run a TV ad mentioning Lindell’s then-upcoming “cyber symposium” featuring baseless 2020 election “fraud” conspiracy theories.

mike lindell screengrabIt was the latest salvo in a media mini-saga of bruised feelings, constant accusations of censorship and election-hacking, and political extremes, with the quarrel between Lindell and Fox serving as a microcosm of the ravingly anti-democratic state of U.S. conservatism in the long shadow of a Trump presidency.

By August, however, according to Lindell and Fox, the pillow mogul began trying to rekindle the advertising bond with Fox, following the speedy MyPillow withdrawal. But the overture towards a Fox-Lindell detente only went so far, with Fox rejecting his new ads multiple times, including as recently as this past Monday and Wednesday.

This reporting was first discussed on this week’s episode of The Daily Beast’s “Fever Dreams” podcast, listen and subscribe below:

djt maga hatThe Trump era was crazy, but wait ’til you hear what the right has planned next. Subscribe to Fever Dreams on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music or Acast to keep up with the conspiracy-mongers, MAGA acolytes and straight-up grifters. Hosted by Asawin Suebsaeng and Will Sommer.

“MyPillow is done with them, MyPillow is done!” Lindell claimed in an interview early this week.

But he revealed that “about a week or two” after he declared he was pulling the MyPillow commercials, he and his ad buyers approached Fox again, this time with a new ad for FrankSpeech, Lindell’s attempt at a social media website.

Lindell said that though that second ad was for FrankSpeech, it also promoted MyPillow with “promo codes” and “exclusive specials at FrankSpeech dot com” for both “MyPillow products and MyStore products.”

That ad, however, was soon rejected by Fox because, according to Lindell, it also managed to reference the summit on election-fraud conspiracy theories. “They still didn’t like that the ‘cyber symposium’ was still mentioned,” Lindell said.

But the pillow magnate wasn’t done yet.

After that, Lindell said he and his associates produced a third FrankSpeech ad to run on the network, this time leaving out “everything about the machines and the symposium or the election.”

But then, Lindell continued, “They denied that one anyway! We got a message from them on Monday, Sept. 13, that they did not like the content of FrankSpeech dot com…They went from not liking the content of the ad to not liking the content of the website!”

A Fox News spokesperson on Wednesday evening confirmed to The Daily Beast that Lindell’s two, more recently submitted FrankSpeech ads were, in fact, rejected.

“I’m going to make another ad this week, and see if they deny that ad,” Lindell promised on Monday.

 

djt evander holyfield vitor belfortMediaite, Trump-Announced Evander Holyfield Boxing Match Reportedly a Box Office Dud, Nets a Paltry 150k Pay-Per-View Buys, Brandon Contes, Sept. 16, 2021. Former US President Donald Trump poses for a photo prior to the fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

In a fight that never should have happened, Evander Holyfield was embarrassed in his return to the ring last week against Vitor Belfort, getting KO’d in the first round. But the real loser might be Triller Fight Club.

According to boxing journalist Dan Rafael, sources say the fight generated around 150,000 PPV buys. If that number holds, it will represent a massive fail for Triller, who promoted and sold the PPV event for $49.99.

In comparison, Mike Tyson’s return to the ring against Roy Jones Jr. last year surpassed a reported 1.6 million PPV buys, or more than 10 times the reported amount of Triller’s Holyfield bout.

Triller brought former president Donald Trump on board last week, in a desperate attempt to add juice to the fight and provide alternate commentary of the event. The former president’s boxing prowess dates back decades, having welcomed some of the world’s best fighters to Trump Plaza in Atlantic City long before the dying venue imploded earlier this year.

But even Trump, who loves to falsely criticize other sports for their dwindling popularity by invoking the “go woke, go broke” narrative, wasn’t enough of a draw to help this dud of a boxing match. While the NBA and NFL watch their TV ratings start to bounce back from a deplorable 2020, the Triller-Trump partnership just oversaw an epic fail for boxing.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Donald Trump’s boxing match stunt was a money losing disaster for everyone involved, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. Given Donald Trump’s treasonous acts against the United States, anyone who even tries to do business with him should be financially shunned by every mainstream American on principle alone. Even as we continue working toward that goal, it turns out Trump’s own inherent toxicity and crappiness is working to make sure his financial partners end up punished.

bill palmer report logo headerTake for instance, the disgusting decision to allow career criminal Donald Trump to provide pay per view commentary for a boxing match this past week. Mediaite is reporting that just a relative handful of people paid to tune in for Trump’s incoherent commentary, and the whole thing has apparently turned into a major financial loss for the promoters. In other words, the promoters got exactly what they deserved.

Hopefully this will send a message to anyone else who thinks about partnering with anti-American traitor Donald Trump going forward. His base is comparatively small, and even they seem increasingly uninterested in his ramblings. And the vast majority of the country wants nothing to do with Trump, or with anyone disgusting enough to partner with Trump. The traitor is a terrible financial bet. Then again, he always has been.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘CUT HIM OFF NOW!’ Newsmax Host Short-Circuits After Guest Commits Unforgivable Sin of Criticizing Trump, Ken Meyer, Sept. 16, 2021. Newsmax’s Grant Stinchfield had a major-league meltdown where he screamed and cut off a guest on his show for mildly criticizing Donald Trump over the former president’s approach to Afghanistan.

Stinchfield spoke on Wednesday night with Joe Saboe, an Iraq War veteran who recently made headlines for his efforts to help people flee Afghanistan in light of the Taliban’s national takeover.

During the interview, Stinchfield and Saboe had a dispute about whether the current state of affairs in Afghanistan is a “hostage situation,” and the Newsmax host eventually made the argument that Trump would’ve never let this happen.

I can tell you, this didn’t happen under President Trump, and I know there’s a lot of people on the Left that want to try to blame President Trump. He wanted out of Afghanistan real bad. He was real frustrated, not being able to get out, but he didn’t pull out because he knew this would happen. In fact, we all did.

Stinchfield moved to dismiss Saboe from the show, but before he could, Saboe offered a counterpoint by saying “we followed this closely from multiple administrations. We know that Trump’s administration’s efforts here were fairly weak, that they were trying to limit the number of people that would get out…”

At that moment, Stinchfield claimed he was “low on time” and once again moved to terminate the segment. Saboe kept on speaking though, which caused Stinchfield to repeatedly shout “Cut him off now!”

“You’re not gonna blame this on President Trump on my show!” He exclaimed. “Don’t come on this program and take the talking points of the left and blame President Trump! That’s not helping anybody!”

Stinchfield concluded by shouting that “the Biden administration screwed this up from the very start,” and he also took some parting shots at Saboe for disagreeing with his “hostage situation” commentary.

 

Sept. 15

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Justice

 

World News

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. General Twice Assured China Trump Wouldn’t Launch Strike, Michael S. Schmidt, New Book Says, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.).  According to “Peril,” the top military officer’s concern about President Trump prompted a meeting to remind commanders of nuclear launch procedures.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff twice called his Chinese counterpart in the final months of the Trump administration to reassure him that Donald J. Trump had no plans to attack China in an effort to remain in power and that the United States was not collapsing, according to “Peril,” a new book by the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

“Things may look unsteady,” the chairman, Gen. Mark A. Milley, told Gen. Li Zuocheng of China on Jan. 8, two days after Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to try to stop the certification of his election loss and in the second of two such calls. “But that’s the nature of democracy, General Li. We are 100 percent steady. Everything’s fine. But democracy can be sloppy sometimes.”

Yet despite his assurances, General Milley was so concerned about Mr. Trump that later that day he convened a meeting with top commanders to remind them that the procedures for launching a nuclear weapon called for his involvement in such a decision.

The book also reveals how Vice President Mike Pence struggled more than was publicly known over how to navigate Mr. Trump’s demands that he upend the election certification. Speaking privately to former Vice President Dan Quayle, who oversaw the certification of the 1992 election in which he was on the losing ticket, Mr. Pence appeared open to going along with Mr. Trump’s plan, pushed the false claim that Arizona’s voting results were wrong and asked whether there was any way he could delay certification. “Peril,” which is scheduled to be released next Tuesday, says its accounts are based on contemporaneous notes, documents and interviews with unnamed firsthand participants and witnesses. The New York Times obtained a copy of it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-U.S. Intelligence Officers Admit to Hacking Crimes in Work for Emiratis, Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). They were among a trend of Americans working for foreign governments trying to build their cyberoperation abilities.

Three former American intelligence officers hired by the United Arab Emirates to carry out sophisticated cyberoperations admitted to hacking crimes and to violating U.S. export laws that restrict the transfer of military technology to foreign governments, according to court documents made public on Tuesday.

The documents detail a conspiracy by the three men to furnish the Emirates with advanced technology and to assist Emirati intelligence operatives in breaches aimed at damaging the perceived enemies of the small but powerful Persian Gulf nation.

The men helped the Emirates, a close American ally, gain unauthorized access to “acquire data from computers, electronic devices and servers around the world, including on computers and servers in the United States,” prosecutors said.

The three men worked for DarkMatter, a company that is effectively an arm of the Emirati government. They are part of a trend of former American intelligence officers accepting lucrative jobs from foreign governments hoping to bolster their abilities to mount cyberoperations.

Legal experts have said the rules governing this new age of digital mercenaries are murky, and the charges made public on Tuesday could be something of an opening salvo by the government in a battle to deter former American spies from becoming guns for hire overseas.

The three men, Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke, admitted violating U.S. laws as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement. If the men comply with the agreement, the Justice Department will drop the criminal prosecution. Each man will also pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The men will also never be able to receive a U.S. government security clearance.

Mr. Baier worked for the National Security Agency unit that carries out advanced offensive cyberoperations. Mr. Adams and Mr. Gericke served in the military and in the intelligence community.

DarkMatter had its origins in another company, an American firm called CyberPoint that originally won contracts from the Emirates to help protect the country from computer attacks.

mckayla maroney saul loeb pool reuters

U.S Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing on Capitol Hill on Sept. 15, 2021 (Saul Loeb/POOL via Reuters).

ABC News, McKayla Maroney's gut-wrenching statement to Congress about FBI's handling of Nassar abuse, Staff edits, Sept. 15, 2021 (7:51 min. video).  "They had legal, abc news logolegitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing," she said.

Introduction: Gymnast McKayla Maroney testified to Congress about the FBI's handling of the Larry Nassar case. Nassar, a former doctor, was sentenced in 2018 to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of hundreds of women and girls. Maroney, a 2012 Olympic medalist, has said Nassar repeatedly abused her. The Justice Department's inspector general said in a report the FBI's investigation included major missteps. This is a transcript of Maroney's opening statement to Congress.

Good morning. Thank you Chairman Durbin, Ranking Member Grassley and members of the Judiciary Committee for inviting me to speak today.

As most of you are probably aware, I was molested by the U.S. Gymnastics national team and Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar. In actuality he turned out to be more of a pedophile than he was a doctor.

What I'm trying to bring to your attention today is something incredibly disturbing and illegal. After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.

After reading the Office of Inspector General's (OIG) report, I was shocked and deeply disappointed at this narrative they chose to fabricate. They chose to lie about what I said and protect a serial child molester rather than protect not only me, but countless others.

My story is one in which special agent in charge Jay Abbott and his subordinates did not want you to hear, and it's time that I tell you.

In the summer of 2015, like I said, I was scheduled to speak to the FBI about my abuse with Larry Nassar over the phone. I was too sick to go meet with anyone in person, and talking about this abuse would give me PTSD for days, but I chose to try to speak about it to try to make a difference and protect others.

I remember sitting on my bedroom floor for nearly three hours as I told them what happened to me. I hadn't even told my own mother about these facts, but I thought as uncomfortable and as hard as it was to tell my story, I was going to make a difference and hopefully protecting others from the same abuse.

I answered all of their questions honestly and clearly, and I disclosed all of my molestations I had endured by Nassar to them in extreme detail.

They told me to start from the beginning. I told them about the sport of gymnastics, how you make the national team and how I came to meet Larry Nassar when I was 13 at a Texas camp. I told them that the first thing Larry Nassar ever said to me was to change into shorts with no underwear because that would make it easier for him to work on me, and within minutes, he had his fingers in my vagina.

The FBI then immediately asked, "Did he insert his fingers into your rectum?"

I said, "No, he never did."

They asked if he used gloves.

I said, "No, he never did."

They asked if this treatment ever helped me.

I said, "No, it never did. This treatment was 100% abuse and never gave me any relief."

I then told the FBI about Tokyo, the day he gave me a sleeping pill for the plane ride to then work on me later that night. That evening, I was naked, completely alone, with him on top of me molesting me for hours. I told them I thought I was going to die that night because there was no way that he would let me go. But he did. I told them I walked the halls of Tokyo hotel at 2 a.m., at only 15 years old.

I began crying at the memory over the phone, and there was just dead silence. I was so shocked at the agent's silence and disregard for my trauma.

After that minute of silence he asked, "Is that all?"

Those words in itself was one of the worst moments of this entire process for me. To have my abuse be minimized and disregarded by the people who were supposed to protect me, just to feel like my abuse was not enough.

But the truth is my abuse was enough, and they wanted to cover it up. USA Gymnastics in concert with the FBI and the Olympic Committee were working together to conceal that Larry Nassar was a predator.

I then proceeded to tell them about London and how he'd sign me up last on his sheet so he could molest me for hours twice a day. I told them how he molested me right before I won my team gold medal, how he gave me presents, bought me caramel macchiatos and bread when I was hungry. I even sent them screenshots of Nassar's last text to me, which was, "McKayla, I love how you see the world with rose-colored glasses. I hope you continue to do so."

This was very clear, cookie-cutter pedophilia and abuse. And this is important because I told the FBI all of this and they chose to falsify my report and to not only minimize my abuse but silence me yet again.

I thought given the severity of the situation that they would act quickly for the sake of protecting other girls. But instead, it took them 14 months to report anything when Larry Nassar, in my opinion, should have been in jail that day. The FBI, USOC and USAG sat idly by as dozens of girls and women continued to be molested by Larry Nassar.

According to the OIG report, about 14 months after I disclosed my abuse to the FBI -- nearly a year and a half later -- the FBI agent who interviewed me in 2015 decided to write down my statement, a statement that the OIG report determined to be materially false.

Let's be honest: by not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year, and this inaction directly allowed Nassar's abuse to continue.

What is the point of reporting abuse if our own FBI agents are going to take it upon themselves to bury that report in a drawer?

They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing. If they're not going to protect me, I want to know, who are they trying to protect?

What's even more upsetting to me is that we know that these FBI agents have committed an obvious crime. They falsified my statement, and that is illegal in itself.

Yet no recourse has been taken against them -- the Department of Justice refused to prosecute these individuals. Why? Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco couldn't even bring herself to be here today, and it is the Department of Justice's job to hold them accountable.

I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough, and we deserve justice.

These individuals clearly violated policies and were negligent in executing their duties, and in doing so, more girls were abused by Larry Nassar for over a year.

To not indict these agents is disservice to me and my teammates; it is a disservice to the system, which was built to protect all of us from abuse; it was a disservice to every victim who suffered needlessly at the hands of Larry Nassar after I spoke up.

Why are public servants whose job is to protect getting away with this? This is not justice. Enough is enough. Today, I ask you all to hear my voice.

I ask you, please, do all that is in your power to ensure that these individuals are held responsible and accountable for ignoring my initial report, for lying about my initial report and for covering up for a child molester.

In closing, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the United States Senate, a very powerful institution that from the very beginning has fought for us rather than against us. Thank you and I welcome any questions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Abortion Has Never Been Just About Abortion, Thomas B. Edsall, Sept. 15, 2021. As recently as 1984, abortion was not a deeply partisan issue.

Some of the scholars and journalists studying the evolving role of abortion in American politics make the case that key leaders of the conservative movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s — among them Richard Viguerie, Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell Sr. — were seeking to expand their base beyond those opposed to the civil rights movement. According to this argument, conservative strategists settled on a concerted effort to politicize abortion in part because it dodged the race issue and offered the opportunity to unify conservative Catholics and Evangelicals.

“The anti-abortion movement has been remarkably successful at convincing observers that the positions individuals take on the abortion issue always follow in a deductive way from their supposed moral principles. They don’t,” Katherine Stewart, the author of the 2019 book “The Power Worshipers, wrote in an email.

For 20 years, Gallup has asked, “Regardless of whether or not you think it should be legal, please tell me whether you personally believe that in general gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable or morally wrong.” In 2001, 53 percent said morally wrong and 40 percent said morally acceptable. By 2021, however, 69 percent said gay and lesbian relations were morally acceptable compared with 30 percent who described such relations as morally unacceptable. The issue has been “demoralized” and has effectively disappeared from the national debate.

No such luck in the case of abortion. Over the same 20 years, Gallup asked whether abortion is morally acceptable or unacceptable. In 2001, 42 percent said the procedure is morally acceptable and 45 percent said morally unacceptable. Over those two decades, the numbers varied modestly year to year but effectively changed very little: In 2021, 47 percent said acceptable, 46 percent said unacceptable.

The bottom line: For at least the medium term, the abortion issue is here to stay. If anything, the Supreme Court 5-4 decision on Sept. 1 to refuse to block a Texas law prohibiting most abortions demonstrated that the issue will remain on center stage with no resolution in sight.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, 1 in 500 Americans have died of covid-19 in another grim pandemic milestone, Dan Keating and Akilah Johnson, Sept. 15, 2021. Death rates for those in the prime of life have been lower than those for older Americans, but racial inequities have grown larger, with a disproportionate burden on Black, Latino, and American Indian and Alaska Native people.

The idea, he said, was to prevent “the humanitarian disaster” that occurred in New York City, where ambulance sirens were a constant as hospitals were overwhelmed and mortuaries needed mobile units to handle the additional dead.
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The goal of testing, mask-wearing, keeping six feet apart and limiting gatherings was to slow the spread of the highly infectious virus until a vaccine could stamp it out. The vaccines came but not enough people have been immunized, and the triumph of science waned as mass death and disease remain. The result: As the nation’s covid death toll exceeded 663,000 this week, it meant roughly 1 in every 500 Americans had succumbed to the disease caused by the coronavirus.

People older than 85 make up only 2 percent of the population, but a quarter of the total death toll. One in 35 people 85 or older died of covid, compared with 1 in 780 people age 40 to 64

washington post logoWashington Post, Thousands of LAPD employees seek vaccine exemptions, police officials sue city over mandate, Timothy Bella, Sept. 15, 2021. Thousands of Los Angeles Police Department employees are planning to seek exemptions from getting vaccinated against the coronavirus after a group of police officials filed a federal lawsuit against the city over its vaccine and mask mandate.

Roughly 3,000 LAPD employees are expected to seek either religious or medical exemptions ahead of the city’s Oct. 5 deadline for municipal employees to be vaccinated, according to figures released by the city Tuesday. The vast majority of them are filing for religious exemptions. If those numbers hold up, nearly a quarter of the LAPD workforce will try to avoid vaccination.

The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times and KNBC.

The development follows the federal lawsuit recently filed by six LAPD employees against the city, Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and LAPD Chief Michel Moore, saying the vaccine and mask mandate for city employees violates their constitutional right to privacy and due process. The suit, filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, says that some employees involved in the litigation “could not assert a medical or religious exemption,” while others claim they have acquired antibodies from previous covid-19 infection.

Nonexempt employees must be vaccinated by Oct. 19 as a condition of employment.

Neither the police department nor the mayor’s office immediately responded to requests for comment early Wednesday. Moore said Tuesday that he “won’t comment on the sincerity level” of those LAPD employees claiming a religious exemption.

“We have seen a number of our personnel who have filed for an intent to have an exemption, based on either medical or sincerely held religious belief,” Moore told the Los Angeles Police Commission. “The department will wait for the city to provide instructions relative to the interpretation and what will happen to those intentions to file.”

The news is the latest instance in which police officers have spurned vaccinations and been resistant to mandates. The virus has been devastating among law enforcement in the country, with more officers dying of covid-19 last year than in firearm-related incidents, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Police unions nationwide have sought in recent weeks to prevent or delay mandatory vaccination for officers. Law enforcement agencies in cities including Portland, Ore., Cincinnati and San Jose have warned that vaccine mandates could result in mass resignations that decimate already understaffed departments. Some unions, as in New York City, are pushing for unvaccinated officers to be tested during working hours or to be given overtime pay if they get tested while off duty.

Other police departments’ unions have denounced the mandates outright. John Catanzara, the president of Chicago’s police union, likened vaccine mandates to the Holocaust. He later apologized. Police departments in Arizona have even begun recruiting officers in Washington state after Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that he would not offer exemptions to Washington state’s vaccine mandate.

Pushback has been seen throughout California as well. The San Diego police union said an internal survey of employees found that nearly half of those polled would prefer to be fired than comply with a vaccine mandate the city is pursuing, according to the Times of San Diego.

washington post logoWashington Post, This pastor will sign a religious exemption for vaccines if you donate to his church, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Sept. 15, 2021. A pastor is encouraging people to donate to his Tulsa church so they can become an online member and get his signature on a religious exemption from coronavirus vaccine mandates. The pastor, Jackson Lahmeyer, is a 29-year-old small-business owner running in the Republican primary challenge to Sen. James Lankford in 2022.

Lahmeyer, who leads Sheridan Church with his wife, Kendra, said Tuesday that in the past two days, about 30,000 people have downloaded the religious exemption form he created.

“It’s beautiful,” he said. “My phone and my emails have blown up.”

The rules around religious exemptions for coronavirus vaccines vary widely as each state or institution often has its own exemption forms for people to sign. Experts on religious freedom claims say that most people do not necessarily need a letter from clergy for a religious exemption.

Some institutions request a signature from a religious authority, but Charles Haynes, senior fellow for religious freedom at the Freedom Forum in Washington, said that those institutions could be on a shaky ground constitutionally. Haynes said that if a person states a sincere religious belief that they want to opt out of vaccination, that should be enough.

“He’s not really selling a religious exemption,” said Haynes, who compared Lahmeyer’s exemption offer to televangelists who sell things like prayer cloths. “He’s selling a bogus idea that you need one.”

Religious exemptions from coronavirus vaccines are expected to become a legal battleground

Lahmeyer, a father of five, also runs an investment company where he buys and sells real estate. Many pastors across the country have decided not to sign religious exemption forms, Lahmeyer said, so he wanted to give people an opportunity to get one signed. He said that the bylaws of the church, which has been running for 70 years, require that for the church to consider someone an online member, they must stream the services through one of the church’s platforms and donate at least $1 to the church. The charismatic nondenominational church has about 300 in-person members.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Justice

washington post logoWashington Post, Simone Biles to Congress: ‘I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system,’ Devlin Barrett, Sept. 15, 2021. Simone Biles, FBI director to testify at Senate hearing on Larry Nassar investigation.

Star gymnasts Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney offered gut-wrenching testimony to Congress Wednesday, emotionally describing the abuse they suffered at the hands of USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and blaming FBI officials for letting him continue to molest children.

Biles blamed USA Gymnastics, the US Olympics committee, and the FBI for the long-running abuse by the doctor, who molested girls under the guise of medical treatments. At times, her voice quivered as she tied her mental health difficulties at the Tokyo Olympics this summer directly to the long-term effects of Nassar’s abuse.

“I don’t want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured, before during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse,” Biles said as she fought back tears. “To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”

 

larry nassar gymnastics plea

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Devlin Barrett, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). An FBI agent accused of failing to properly investigate former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and lying about it later — has been fired by the FBI, days before a high-stakes public hearing into the bureau’s flawed investigation of the child sex-abuse case involving Simone Biles and other world-famous gymnasts.

Michael Langeman, who as a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Indianapolis office interviewed gymnast McKayla Maroney in 2015 about her alleged abuse at the hands of Nassar, lost his job last week, two people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because FBI logothey were not authorized to discuss personnel matters.

A July report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz harshly criticized Langeman — without naming him — as well as his former boss, Jay Abbott, for their handling of the Nassar case, saying the FBI failed to pursue it and then lied to inspector general investigators when confronted with those failures.

IG report: FBI failed to pursue Nassar sex abuse allegations

At the time, officials said Langeman had been removed from the duties of an FBI agent — a move often taken before the bureau fires someone. FBI firings are relatively rare; most investigators facing serious discipline choose to retire or resign before they can be terminated.

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly Pressed Victims to Write Letters Absolving Him, Prosecutors Say, Emily Palmer, Sept. 15, 2021. Many of Kelly’s accusers say he pressured them to write letters that said he was innocent of the sexual abuse that they now say he committed.

r kelly twitterFive months after R. Kelly’s 2019 arrest, federal agents searching a locked safe in a Chicago storage facility discovered a stack of the singer’s personal papers in protective sleeves. Among them: a seven-page handwritten letter from a woman who began living with Mr. Kelly when she was 17.

Calling Mr. Kelly, right, a “great man,” the woman wrote: “At the age of 17 I never had sex with Robert Kelly,” then proceeded to tick off a list of specific sex acts that she said she had not participated in with the R&B superstar.

But less than two years later, when the woman who had written the letter testified under a pseudonym during Mr. Kelly’s federal trial in Brooklyn, she said she had experienced coerced and recorded sexual encounters with the singer starting when she was 17. He hit her often, she said, and forced her to abort a pregnancy.

The letters that investigators found, she said, had been filled with lies, written under pressure from Mr. Kelly in an effort to conceal his abuse.

Again and again during Mr. Kelly’s trial in Brooklyn, women who have accused him of abuse have shared the same curious detail: While they were sexually involved with the singer, they have testified, he had them prepare letters that appeared designed to exonerate him from precisely the accusations they are now leveling against him.

Mr. Kelly, who has been trailed by sexual misconduct accusations for years, appeared to be attempting to ward off prosecution, or laying the foundation for an eventual defense. Instead, the letters have been presented by prosecutors as evidence of coercion and manipulation that even suggest he long knew his activities could land him behind bars.

Every letter introduced by prosecutors at trial came from Mr. Kelly’s own collection, discovered in the storage facility and his Chicago apartment, signed by women who now are at the heart of the case against him.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For Sirhan Sirhan, no remorse, no release, Charles Lane, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). As political leaders are wont to do after terrorist attacks, President Biden directed angry words at the branch of the Islamic State behind the Aug. 26 bombing in Kabul that killed 13 American service members. “We will not forgive,” he declared. “We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Never is a long time, though, and the years have a way of eroding such sentiments.

The day after Biden spoke, a two-member panel of California’s parole board offered a measure of forgiveness to a forgotten terrorist: They recommended release for Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee who fatally shot Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), then 42, on June 5, 1968, leaving 11 children fatherless, snuffing out a remarkable career and decapitating a political movement.

Sirhan’s case raises complex questions about punishment and redemption. It centers, or should center, on remorse, which is the key to unlocking any decent society’s store of forgiveness — while honoring its pain and preserving the truth.

In our time, Sirhan might have been described as a “lone wolf,” or “self-radicalized.” Traumatized by childhood experiences during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and dismayed by the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War, Sirhan became enraged at Kennedy, a leading Democratic presidential candidate in 1968, because he supported military aid to Israel. The then-24-year-old filled a notebook with phrases such as “RFK must die” and acted on them.

Sirhan has already benefited from the 1972 California Supreme Court decision that struck down capital punishment, automatically reducing his original death sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole. In 1973, Palestinian gunmen tried to spring Sirhan, demanding his release in exchange for diplomats they took hostage in Sudan. (There is no evidence Sirhan had any prior knowledge.) President Richard M. Nixon refused to bargain; the terrorists killed the U.S. ambassador and two other captives.

Sirhan subsequently sought his freedom at 16 separate parole hearings, without success until now. The 77-year-old has paid for his crime with 53 years behind bars.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Newsom’s Anti-Trump Recall Strategy Offers G.O.P. a 2022 Warning, Jonathan Martin, Sept. 15, 2021. Gov. Gavin Newsom emphatically turned back the effort to recall him from office. A key factor in the results: the tribal politics of today. California Democrats were able to nationalize the vote — thanks to an avalanche of money, party discipline and, above all, an easily demonized opponent.

The first-term Democratic governor will remain in office because, in a deeply liberal state, he effectively nationalized the recall effort as a Republican plot, making a flame-throwing radio host the Trump-like face of the opposition to polarize the electorate along red and blue lines.

Mr. Newsom found success not because of what makes California different but because of how it’s like everywhere else: He dominated in California’s heavily populated Democratic cities, the key to victory in a state where his party outnumbers Republicans by five million voters.

“Gavin may have been on a high wire, but he was wearing a big, blue safety harness,” said Mike Murphy, a California-based Republican strategist.

The recall does offer at least one lesson to Democrats in Washington ahead of next year’s midterm elections: The party’s pre-existing blue- and purple-state strategy of portraying Republicans as Trump-loving extremists can still prove effective with the former president out of office, at least when the strategy is executed with unrelenting discipline, an avalanche of money and an opponent who plays to type.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Hawley threatens to block national security nominees unless Austin and Blinken resign over Afghanistan, Andrew Jeong, Sept. 15, 2021. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has pledged to hold up all of President Biden’s nominations to the State Department and the Pentagon unless the top official at both departments resign in the wake of the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan.

Hawley called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to take responsibility for the administration’s Afghanistan policy, which involved a disorderly evacuation from Kabul last month and the deaths of 13 American service members, including a Marine from Missouri.

“Instead of planning for the worst, they planned for the best,” Hawley said Tuesday. “And now, there must be accountability.”

Hawley’s legislative threat to block the nominations is mostly symbolic and comes as he attempts to position himself as a leading critic of the White House. Because Democrats control the Senate, Hawley can effectively only delay Biden’s nominations, but his move will force Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to go through procedural hurdles on the Senate floor, rather than move quickly with a pro forma vote that is more common for nominees to lower-profile posts.

Hawley’s efforts “would undermine U.S. national security and its interests,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN.

“There is no chance that the threat will ‘work’ in forcing the secretaries” to resign, said Eric Schickler, a politics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “But Republicans have [made] Democrats choose between staffing the executive branch and spending time on legislation.”

Hawley, who is seen as a potential contender for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has backed President Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 election and objected against certifying Biden’s win on Jan. 6 — the same day a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dennis Kucinich falls short in bid to return to mayor’s office in Cleveland four decades later, John Wagner, Sept. 15, 2021. Dennis Kucinich, a former Democratic congressman from Ohio and twice-failed presidential candidate, came up short Tuesday in a bid to regain a job he held more than four decades ago as mayor of Cleveland.

Kucinich, 74, finished third in the city’s nonpartisan mayoral primary, from which the top two finishers will advance to the general election in November.

Nonprofit executive Justin Bibb was the top vote-getter, followed by Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley.

“I want everyone to know how proud I am of the campaign you have worked on,” Kucinich told supporters Tuesday night. “And I think we can be proud of the campaign Justin Bibb has run.”

During his concession speech, Kucinich said he looks forward spending more time with his wife and “feeding and refreshing” friendships forged during the election. His campaign focused on creating a safer, more peaceful Cleveland.

In 1996, Kucinich won an election to represent Ohio’s 10th District in the U.S. House. He would serve eight terms, during which he emerged as one of Congress’s staunchest critics of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Kucinich introduced articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney for starting the war.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders man detained after police say he had machete, bayonet outside DNC headquarters, Peter Hermann, Sept. 15, 2021 (print ed.). D.C. Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered a California man detained after police said they arrested him outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters near Capitol Hill with a machete and a bayonet in his truck.

Donald Craighead, 44, made no comments during a brief hearing, at which he appeared in person to face a charge of carrying a dangerous weapon outside a home or business.

The judge denied requests from his attorney to dismiss the charge for lack of probable cause and to release Craighead pending his next court hearing, on Sept. 28.

U.S. Capitol Police arrested Craighead shortly after midnight on Monday after seeing a Dodge Dakota truck without license plates but with a swastika and “other white supremacist symbols painted on it” in the 500 block of South Capitol Street SW.

An arrest affidavit filed in court says that Craighead told officers he was “on patrol” and that they spotted a single-edged 15-inch-long bayonet on the passenger seat and a 21-inch-long machete on the dashboard, in a black sheath.

Man arrested with bayonet and machete near DNC headquarters in D.C., police say

Craighead’s 65-year-old father, Donald W. Craighead, said Monday that his son has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and has a fixation with the CIA and the FBI.

As far as he knows, the father said, his son has never hurt or threatened to hurt anyone. In his interview with police, the younger Craighead said he did not associate with any extremist groups and denied the weapons were for “offensive purposes,” according to the affidavit.

But police said that law enforcement had issued an “armed and dangerous caution” on Craighead on a national database and that when he was arrested, he was wearing a shirt “which is associated with the boogaloo movement,” a loosely formed group of people who follow a violent anti-government ideology.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Slaughter of nearly 1,500 dolphins sparks outcry over traditional hunt in Faroe Islands, Rachel Pannett, Sept. 15, 2021. The hunt is part of a centuries-old tradition in the islands, but locals admit that the sheer size of the catch this time around was unprecedented.

The slaughter of nearly 1,500 dolphins in the remote Faroe Islands has revived a debate about a centuries-old tradition that environmentalists condemn as cruel.

The pod of white-sided dolphins was driven by hunters in speed boats and on water scooters on Sunday into the largest fjord in the North Atlantic territory, where they were corralled into shallow waters and killed.

Many locals defend the hunt as an important local custom, with meat and blubber shared by the local community of the semi-independent Danish territory, which is located halfway between Scotland and Iceland.

But the size of this year’s hunt — which conservationists estimate is the largest in Faroese history, and possibly the largest single-day hunt ever worldwide — may be too much to feed the rocky archipelago’s population of around 50,000 people.

“Normally meat from a grindadrap is shared amongst the participants and any remainder among the locals in the district where the hunt [took] place,” the Sea Shepherd conservation group, which has been campaigning to stop the traditional Faroese “Grind” hunt since the 1980s, said. “However there is more dolphin meat from this hunt than anyone wants to take, so the dolphins are being offered to other districts in the hopes of not having to dump it.”

The chairman of the Faroese Whalers Association, Olavur Sjurdarberg, told the BBC that the hunters underestimated the size of the pod, only realizing their error when they began killing the dolphins.

 

Sept. 14

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Police, Reviews, Law

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

 

Media, Entertainment

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP rejection of Biden vaccine mandate fuels concern for other directives, Felicia Sonmez, Marianna Sotomayor and Mariana Alfaro, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Leading Republicans have declined to say whether they think requirements by schools, the military and private employers should be overturned, raising concerns among public health experts as vaccines become more politicized.

Republicans’ sweeping denunciations of President Biden’s plan to force more people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus are raising concerns among public health experts that this heated criticism could help fuel a broader rejection of other vaccine requirements, including those put in place by schools and the military, as the issue of inoculations becomes increasingly political.

Over the weekend, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declared on Twitter that there should be “NO VACCINE MANDATES.”

More than a dozen other prominent Republicans in Congress and in the states have made similarly defiant statements in recent days, often using inflammatory rhetoric. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster pledged to fight Biden and Democrats “to the gates of hell” on coronavirus vaccine mandates, while Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) condemned Biden’s recent mandate as “authoritarian” and the work of “a power hungry government.”

Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.) declared in a tweet Sunday evening that “vaccine mandates are unAmerican!”

Many of these elected officials have declined to elaborate on their views about vaccine requirements and whether they only object to Biden’s federal plan or also think other mandates put in place by school districts, the military and private employers should be rethought or banned.

The sharp rhetoric and failure to clarify their broader views on vaccines are worrying some public health experts.

“The 20th century was a century of incredible progress against leading killers, and much of that progress was because of vaccinations,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “If we turn our back on vaccines at this moment where vaccines are really having a scientific heyday . . . I think that would be tragic, and it would cause a lot of unnecessary suffering and death, particularly among children.”

 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) greets President Biden, who visited California on Monday to survey wild fire damage, announce remediation measures and support Newsom's fight against a recall election culminating in voting on Sept. 14California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) greets President Biden, who visited California on Monday to survey wild fire damage, announce remediation measures and support Newsom's fight against a recall election culminating in voting on Sept. 14, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live: California Recall: Voters to decide whether to replace Newsom with a Trump-supporting Republican, John Wagner, Sept. 14, 2021. California’s electorate more heavily Democratic since 2003, when voters last ousted a Democratic governor; Newsom opponents hope for a turnout miracle.

The effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom comes to a close Tuesday, as voters head to the polls for a final day to decide whether to remove a relatively popular, first-term Democrat and replace him with one of 46 other candidates, including Larry Elder, a conservative Republican who supports former president Donald Trump.

Newsom, now in the third year of his first four-year term, has in recent weeks taken a strong lead in the recall race as more Californians became aware of the need to vote in September of a non-election year.

washington post logoWashington Post, With big tax push, Democrats aim to tackle enormous gains of top 1 percent, Jeff Stein, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The plan, reflecting President Biden’s pledge to confront a dramatic surge in U.S. inequality, is a central component of Democrats’ $3.5 trillion economic package, but they can’t proceed unless almost all of the party coalesces.

Senior House Democrats on Monday unveiled legislation that would represent the most significant tax hikes on the rich and certain corporations in decades, reflecting President Biden’s pledge to confront a dramatic surge in U.S. inequality.

richard neal oHouse Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), left, proposed more than $2 trillion in new revenue that would overwhelmingly hit the richest 1 percent of Americans with a bevy of new taxes and tax changes affecting their incomes, investments, businesses, estates, retirement funds, and other assets.

House Democrats circulate new tax plan as party seeks unity on key economic package

Neal’s plan pares back some of the ambitions from the Biden administration’s initial $3.5 trillion tax plan, rejecting a key White House proposal to tax the inheritances of the very wealthy and offering less aggressive changes for both domestic and multinational firms. And Democrats still have not completely rallied behind the package yet, with some members studying the details as votes are expected in the coming days.

But economists and tax experts say the proposal — which has White House support — amounts to the first major effort in Congress to address the populist political fervor over the gap between America’s ultrarich and its middle-class that has widened to levels unseen in nearly a century. The fears of a tax system unduly weighted to the rich have only intensified during the pandemic. Since 2019 alone, the wealth controlled by the top 400 people in America increased by $1.4 trillion, according to Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California Berkeley.

Democrats face numerous remaining hurdles in enacting the legislation, which is entangled with broader negotiations over the $3.5 trillion spending package. They also face amplifying GOP attacks alleging that the tax hikes will hurt middle-class families, drain investment, and strain economic growth. And there are signs Republicans could try and hammer Democrats over the tax proposal in midterm election campaigns.

House Democrats tried to blunt some of these criticisms by designing the proposal to put the lion’s share of tax increases on wealth earned by the most rich.

While an estimate from Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper Monday suggested suggested Neal’s tax plan would raise roughly $2.2 trillion, Democrats say their $3.5 trillion package is fully paid for because it makes up for the remaining revenue by cutting costs on prescription drugs and from “dynamic scoring,” or assuming higher economic growth leads to more government tax revenue.

“This is a critical time. The magnitude of the inequality in America today is much larger than it’s been in years. We are in an era not seen since the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th Century, or the Roaring ’20s right before the Great Depression,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist at Columbia University. “The question is: Will our political system be dictated by the vast majority of Americans, or a small minority of vested interests who want to keep their goodies for themselves?” 

 

nso group logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Issues Emergency Security Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw, Nicole Perlroth, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Apple issued emergency software updates for a critical vulnerability in its products on Monday after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.

Apple’s security team had worked around the clock to develop a fix since Tuesday, after researchers at Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog organization at the University of Toronto, discovered that a Saudi activist’s iPhone had been infected with an advanced form of spyware from NSO.

The spyware, called Pegasus, used a novel method to invisibly infect Apple devices without victims’ knowledge. Known as a “zero click remote exploit,” it is apple logo rainbowconsidered the Holy Grail of surveillance because it allows governments, mercenaries and criminals to secretly break into someone’s device without tipping the victim off.

Using the zero-click infection method, Pegasus can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages, texts, emails, calls — even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal — and send them back to NSO’s clients at governments around the world.

“This spyware can do everything an iPhone user can do on their device and more,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, who teamed up israel flagwith Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, on the finding.

The discovery means that more than 1.65 billion Apple products in use worldwide have been vulnerable to NSO’s spyware since at least March. It signals a serious escalation in the cybersecurity arms race, with governments willing to pay whatever it takes to spy on digital communications en masse, and with tech companies, human rights activists and others racing to uncover and fix the latest vulnerabilities that enable such surveillance.

 

 

 djt mike pence

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Awful new revelations about Trump and Jan. 6 show Mike Pence is no hero, Greg Sargent, right, Sept. 14, 2021. Ever since Mike Pence greg sargentannounced on Jan. 6 that he lacked power to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election in Congress, it’s been widely suggested that the vice president was one of the few heroes in this ugly tale.

irs logoBut new revelations in the forthcoming book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa cast doubt on this account. And the new details also hint at lines of inquiry about Jan. 6 that will shape aspects of the House select committee’s examination of those events.

The key details concern Trump’s relentless pressure on Pence to help subvert the electoral college count on Jan. 6, pursuant to the vice president’s role as president of the Senate. The day before, in the Oval Office, Trump angrily told Pence that various people believed he did have the power to somehow derail the count.

wayne madesen report logoCNNCNN reports on what the book says came next:

“If these people say you had the power, wouldn't you want to?” Trump asked.

"I wouldn't want any one person to have that authority," Pence said.

"But wouldn't it be almost cool to have that power?" Trump asked, according to Woodward and Costa.

“No,” Pence said. He went on, “I’ve done everything I could and then some to find a way around this. It’s simply not possible.”

I’ve done everything I could and then some. That’s at odds with the portrayal of Pence as a heroic defender of the Constitution and the rule of law who bravely rebuffed Trump’s corrupt pressure on him to help destroy them both.

Obviously Pence might have been exaggerating his efforts to placate Trump. But notably, the book also reports that Pence privately said the same to former vice president Dan Quayle.

Regardless, we need to know how far Pence actually did try to go. Which raises a bunch of other questions. For instance, did Trump try to pressure the Justice Department to develop a fake legal rationale for Pence to somehow derail the electoral count?

Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the 9/11 commission, has suggested another line of inquiry: What was Pence’s own understanding of the plot Trump was trying to set in motion?

We know Pence told his security detail that he adamantly would not allow himself to be removed from the Capitol as the violence raged. So what exactly did Pence understand about the intentions of Trump and his co-conspirators?

Trump sent the mob to terrorize Pence. Did Pence believe Trump and his allies wanted him removed in hopes that this would somehow halt the count and then kick it back to the states or into the House for a contingent election decided by state delegations? The new revelations make these lines of questioning more relevant.

Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the Jan. 6 select committee, says the new details suggest its investigation will have to fully flesh out Pence’s role.

“We need to look and see how far things went in 2020 in order to determine what correctives we need to make for 2024,” Raskin told me.

The point about 2024 is key: This isn’t merely about reconstructing past events, but also about safeguarding our system against a future stolen election.

“Trump wanted to exploit every vulnerability and booby trap in the electoral college,” Raskin said.

As Raskin pointed out, in 2024 Republicans might try to steal an election again, only this time, they might control one or both chambers of Congress. In various scenarios, the holes in the Electoral Count Act — which governs how electoral college votes are counted in Congress, and how disputes over them are resolved — might be exploited so a GOP House and/or Senate could subvert the count.

At the same time, Raskin pointed out, Trump’s loyalists are working to purge state-level Republicans who refused to assist his effort to steal the election in 2020, so there’s no telling whether we can count on officials holding the line next time.

Learning how far Pence was willing to go, Raskin says, might help us understand just how vulnerable the system is to a more successful effort, and what might be done about it.

“The electoral college system is a creaky antique, but it worked so long as everyone basically agreed to honor the popular vote in the states as controlling the award of electoral college votes,” Raskin told me. “The moment that understanding is breached, at that point all bets are off.”

“So the question is whether we can put the genie of coup and insurrection back in the bottle,” Raskin continued, “or whether we need fundamental and sweeping reform of the electoral college system in order to guarantee that we have a dependable democratic election.”

These are things the committee will have to grapple with. And the new Pence revelations underscore how complicated and ugly that task will truly be.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s “serious mental decline,” Bill Palmer, Sept. 14, 2021. As 2020 went on, we all watched Donald Trump become more desperate, more deranged, and more incoherent in his public behavior. By the time he lost and then tried to falsely declare himself the winner, and then turned around and incited the January 6th Capitol attack, no one was surprised at his worsening behavior. But it turns out he was even further off the deep end than we knew.

Bob Woodward and Robert Costa have written a new book which says that Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley was “certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election,” screaming and ranting all day about whacked out conspiracy theories. Milley went so far as to hold a secret meeting in order to preempt any potential nuclear strikes that Trump might order.

The book also reveals that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called General Milley after January 6th and urged him to get a handle on things, adding that Trump was “crazy.” Milley’s response to Pelosi: “I agree with you on everything.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Americans support vaccine mandates for office work and schools, poll shows, Annabelle Timsit and Bryan Pietsch, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). As President Biden rolls out sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandates, more than half of Americans say they support businesses requiring proof of vaccination to return to the office, according to a CNN poll published Monday.

The poll — conducted by research group SSRS before Biden announced on Sept. 9 he is seeking to compel businesses with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations or weekly coronavirus testing — shows Americans have warmed up to the idea of vaccine mandates in some cases.

cdc logo CustomThey are more supportive than they were in an April poll of vaccine mandates for office workers (54 percent now), students returning to schools (55 percent) and people seeking to attend a sporting event or a concert (55 percent). Fewer than half of Americans (41 percent) supported vaccine mandates for customers entering a grocery store.

“Support for these mandates has risen across the board since April, growing 6 percentage points with regard to students, 8 points regarding office workers and event attendees, and 15 points regarding grocery shoppers,” according to CNN. The survey was conducted between Aug. 3 and Sept. 7 online and on the phone among a sample of 2,119 adults.

The poll shows just how polarized the issue has become, with 51 percent of Americans agreeing that requiring proof of vaccination in exchange for the right to perform “everyday activities outside of the home” is “an acceptable way to increase the vaccination rate,” while 49 percent felt it was “an unacceptable infringement on personal rights.”

Here’s what to know.

  • Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN broader vaccine mandates may be needed to control the pandemic in the United States if vaccination uptake doesn’t increase.
  • New York City public schools reopen on Monday, welcoming staff, teachers, and approximately 1 million students back from the summer for in-person learning — with some twists.
  • A real-life experiment is underway across the United States to test where schools can stay open safely amid the aggressive spread of the delta variant.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York City Schools Reopen Fully After 18 Months, Staff Reports, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). New York City’s classrooms reopened on Monday to roughly a million children, most of whom were returning for the first time since the United States’ largest school system closed in March 2020.

bill de blasio 11 2 2013While the city reopened schools last fall for part-time learning, the vast majority of students chose to keep learning remotely. But with no remote option now available to almost all parents, classrooms will be full for the first time in a year and a half.

For months, Mayor Bill de Blasio, left, has forecast the first day of school to be a triumphant coda in New York City’s long recovery from the pandemic. But the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has complicated the city’s push to fully reopen schools and left many families and educators anxious about what the next few months will hold.

Roughly one million children are returning today — most of them for the first time since the school system closed in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

daniel marcias davey marcias

washington post logoWashington Post, California couple dies of covid, leaving five kids behind. Their newborn is three weeks old, Julian Mark, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Davy Macias, 37, was intubated and dying of complications from covid-19 when doctors helped her give birth to her daughter. She would never see her baby.

Her husband, Daniel Macias, 39, would only get a brief glimpse of their child because he, too, was hospitalized after contracting the virus. According to Davy’s sister-in-law, Terri Serey, Daniel waited to name the baby girl because he believed he and his wife would walk out of the hospital alive to introduce the newborn to their four other children, the eldest age 7 and the youngest, 2.

But about a week after the baby was born, Davy died. Two weeks later, so did Daniel (shown together above).

Daniel “was well enough to send me a picture of the baby,” Serey told The Washington Post. But “that was the last text I received from him.”

Davy and Daniel Macias, of Yucaipa, Calif., are among the 658,000 Americans to have died of covid-19 as the delta variant causes a resurgence of cases and health officials race to immunize a population divided on whether to take the shot. Davy Macias did not get vaccinated because she was pregnant, Serey said. It is unclear if Daniel was vaccinated.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Sept. 14, 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: 226,214,149, Deaths: 4,655,120
U.S. Cases:    42,140,103, Deaths:    680,274
India Cases:    33,289,579, Deaths:    443,247
Brazil Cases:   21,006,424, Deaths:   587,138

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 209.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Sept. 14, 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 178.7 million people, or 53.8 percent, fully vaccinated.

The United States reached President Biden’s target of getting at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine to 70 percent of adults just about a month after his goal of July 4. When the president set the goal May 4, more than 2 million vaccine doses were being given daily, 56 percent of adults had already received at least one shot, and the target seemed to be in easy reach. Vaccination rates fell to 1 million per day and in July fell further to around a half-million doses per day before turning up again.

Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, The trial of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks is at least another year away, the presiding judge said, Carol Rosenberg, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The new judge presiding in the Sept. 11, 2001 case at Guantánamo Bay said on Monday that the trial of the five men accused of plotting the attacks will not begin for at least another year.

matthew mccallThe judge, Col. Matthew N. McCall, right, who took over the case last month, was holding his second week of pretrial hearings at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after a delay of more than a year and half caused by the pandemic.

The timeline set by the judge on Monday would mean the trial of the five men, including the accused mastermind of the plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would not get underway until more than 21 years after hijacked jetliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Penn.

Colonel McCall was ruling on objections by defense lawyers for two of the defendants, Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The lawyers questioned his qualifications to preside in a death-penalty case because he had not read the filings and court record stretching back to the arraignment of the defendants in May 2012, including the 33,660-page transcript.

They urged him to suspend proceedings until he was properly trained as well as fully acquainted with the rulings by three previous judges in the case.

The judge replied that he had ample time, and a plan, to get up to speed, including taking a National Judicial College course on how to handle capital cases. Because of the pandemic, he will be taking it online, he said.

“At a minimum we are least one year away from trial,” said Colonel McCall, an Air Force colonel. He declared himself qualified by military commission regulations, Air Force bar and ethical obligations and “not bound by a particular timeline to get to trial.”

Colonel McCall is the fourth judge to preside at the Guantánamo court in the conspiracy case against Mr. Mohammed and the four other men who are accused of helping to plot the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon 20 years ago.

He has been a military judge for just two years, and was recently promoted to colonel, making him the youngest and least experienced of the judges who have overseen the case.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Barrett says the Supreme Court’s work is not affected by politics, Adam Liptak, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). “To say the court’s reasoning is flawed is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said on Sunday that political partisanship plays no role in decision making at the Supreme Court.

Speaking at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, in Kentucky, Justice Barrett (shown above in an Associated Press story about the event) said that “judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties.”

“To say the court’s reasoning is flawed,” she said, “is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner.”

Her remarks came after an introduction by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who helped found the center. Mr. McConnell was instrumental in ensuring Justice Barrett’s rushed confirmation just weeks after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and weeks before President Donald J. Trump lost his bid for re-election.

The court now has six Republican appointees and three Democratic ones.

Justice Barrett’s remarks, reported by The Associated Press, were consistent with those of other members of the court who insist that partisan affiliations have nothing to do with their frequent splits along ideological lines. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, has, for instance, made that point in a new book and in interviews promoting it.

Justice Barrett’s remarks followed a series of recent rulings — on asylum policy, the federal eviction moratorium and a novel Texas abortion law — in which the court’s three justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents were in dissent.

 

 

amy coney barrett 9 12 2021

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett speaks to an audience at the 30th anniversary of the University of Louisville McConnell Center on Sept. 12. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How Amy Coney Barrett might know she’s a political hack, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 14, 2021. Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s recent remarks in jennifer rubin new headshotLouisville, alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the architect of the frantic rush to put her on the Supreme Court in 2020 even as people were voting in the presidential election, set off gales of laughter, much eye-rolling and a new appreciation for the necessity of term limits for justices.

"My goal today is to convince you that this court is not composed of a bunch of partisan hacks,” Barrett said with a straight face. She continued, “Sometimes, I don’t like the results of my decisions. But it’s not my job to decide cases based on the outcome I want.”

The declaration might be a tad more credible if she had not chosen to appear in an overtly political setting. University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck tells me: “I’m hard-pressed to imagine a worse place to give a speech about the court not being partisan than . . . at an event in which she was introduced by Senator McConnell. It’s either remarkably tone-deaf or it’s deliberate. Neither is encouraging.”

And it might be a tad more credible if it did not come just days after she and her fellow conservatives on the bench used the “shadow docket” to allow Texas’s antiabortion law to go into effect. Shredded by Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent, no one could honestly think the order was guided solely on procedural grounds.

Barrett, who was nominated by a president who pledged to see Roe v. Wade overturned, and was picked from a list of judges vetted by antiabortion advocates, was no neutral observer in the majority’s refusal to block the law. We saw and heard during her confirmation hearing evidence of her own extreme antiabortion advocacy and her own remarks about backpedaling on decades of abortion precedent. Yet we are to believe none of her views had any impact on the shoddily argued order issued in the dead of night allowing a statute plainly in violation of Roe to go into effect?

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Amy Coney Barrett wants us to believe the Supreme Court isn’t partisan. Good luck with that, Eugene Robinson, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). “My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” the newest Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett, said Sunday. Good luck with that. When the court’s hard-right majority stops acting like partisan hacks, maybe we’ll believe her.

Barrett was speaking in Louisville, having been warmly introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who, in 2020, rushed Barrett’s confirmation through the Senate just eight days before the November election. That unprincipled exercise in raw political power increased the conservative majority on the high court from 5-4 to 6-3 — and likely cemented the balance of power on the court for a generation.

The arithmetic means that the court’s five most right-wing justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Barrett — can impose their will even when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a conservative but also an institutionalist, decides to side with liberal justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. That is exactly what happened earlier this month when the court let stand a bizarre and draconian Texas law that comes close to nullifying the constitutional right to abortion recognized nearly 50 years ago in Roe v. Wade.

“Judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties,” Barrett claimed in her speech. And it is true that the conservative justices (all appointed by Republicans) and the liberal justices (all appointed by Democrats) reach consensus or cross party lines on many decisions. But on the issues most associated with partisan politics — such as abortion, gun control, affirmative action and voting rights — philosophy and party affiliation function in lockstep on the high court, with Roberts sometimes straying from GOP orthodoxy.

Barrett complained that this is not how the justices see their work. She said that when the media and “hot takes on Twitter” report a decision by the court, that “makes the decision seem results-oriented. It leaves the reader to judge whether the court was right or wrong, based on whether she liked the results of the decision.”

But Barrett is being disingenuous. The Supreme Court’s rulings are not theoretical exercises in abstract legal reasoning. They have real-world results. In Texas, the second-most-populous state in the nation, many reproductive health clinics have stopped offering abortion services because they and their workers could face a ruinous avalanche of civil lawsuits brought by state- and self-appointed antiabortion vigilantes. Roe v. Wade is still on the books. But in Texas it no longer functionally applies.

Even worse is that the ruling was made on a procedural question without the court even hearing argument on the merits of the Texas law. In a rare public comment, Breyer — one of the four justices who voted to block the Texas law at least temporarily — called the ruling “very, very, very wrong.” And Breyer is very, very, very right to be upset, because even if the ruling is technically just about procedure, it has concrete and dramatic impact on any Texas woman who is or becomes pregnant and doesn’t want to be. Moreover, other states with Republican-controlled state legislatures are rushing to draft copycat laws. If the Supreme Court wants to let states ban abortion, it should just go ahead and reverse Roe v. Wade.

I see no reason to believe the court’s conservative majority will stop short of doing just that. Thomas and Alito have long made clear that they are raring to do just that. And while the three justices appointed by former president Donald Trump — Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett — all claimed deep respect for precedent at their confirmation hearings, their votes to let the Texas law go into effect say otherwise.

The conservative Federalist Society, which has become a crucial gatekeeper on the right and vetted a list of acceptable Supreme Court candidates for Trump to choose from, did its job well. The result is a solid five-vote and sometimes six-vote majority that opposes abortion, supports gun rights, questions affirmative action, doubts existing federal protection of voting rights, doesn’t see the influence of big money in politics as a problem... in short, a majority that agrees with the Republican Party’s position on issues the party most cares about.

What can Democrats and progressives do about all the terrible, reactionary, wrongheaded decisions that look likely to come in the next months and years? On voting rights, they could pass strong new federal legislation, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act or the For the People Act. On other issues, they should prepare to battle at the state level — and to bring the same legislative creativity and tenacity that Texas conservatives brought to bear on the abortion law.

And they should ignore Barrett and others who claim this court’s decisions are nonpartisan — at least until and unless we see evidence to the contrary.

 

Afghanistan, 9/11

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Blinken clashes with Republican lawmakers over Afghanistan withdrawal, John Hudson and Missy Ryan, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Secretary of State Antony Blinken clashed with Republican lawmakers Monday over the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in his first hearing before Congress since the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

Republicans excoriated the administration for ending the U.S. military evacuation before every American left the country, the sluggish pace of visa processing for Afghan allies, and other tactical decisions, such as the abandonment of its largest military base at Bagram airfield.

“I never thought in my lifetime that I would see an unconditional surrender to the Taliban,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (Tex.), the committee’s top Republican. “The American people don’t like to lose, especially to the terrorists.”

“The majority of Americans wanted to leave Afghanistan, but not like this,” added Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).

While declaring the Taliban takeover a humiliation, Republicans stopped short of advocating for a new surge of U.S. troops into the country — an unpopular antony blinken o newproposal that Blinken said would’ve been the only real alternative to withdrawing all personnel.

“President Biden immediately faced the choice between ending the war or escalating it,” said Blinken, right, noting President Trump’s 2020 agreement with the Taliban to withdraw U.S. forces.

“Had he not followed through on his predecessor’s commitment, attacks on our forces and those of our allies would have resumed, and the Taliban’s nationwide assault on Afghanistan’s major cities would have commenced,” he said.

United Nations

ny times logoNew York Times, A Million Afghan Children Could Die in ‘Most Perilous Hour,’ U.N. Warns, Marc Santora, Nick Cumming-Bruce and Christina Goldbaum, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Millions of Afghans could run out of food before the arrival of winter and one million children are at risk of starvation and death if their immediate needs are not met, top United Nations officials warned on Monday, putting the country’s plight into stark relief.

Secretary General António Guterres, speaking at a high-level U.N. conference in Geneva convened to address the crisis, said that since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan last month, the nation’s poverty rate has soared and basic public services have neared collapse and, in the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have been made homeless after being forced to flee fighting.

“After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour,” Mr. Guterres said, adding that one in three Afghans do not know where they will get their next meal.

The deepening humanitarian crisis tops a dizzying array of challenges confronting the new Taliban regime as it navigates governing a country propped up for decades by aid from international donors.

Speaking to the news media on Monday afternoon, Mr. Guterres said more than $1 billion in aid pledges had been made at the meeting by the international community, which is still grappling with how to work with an organization like the Taliban, with a history of brutality and human rights abuses.

The international community pledged more than $1 billion in emergency aid as millions of Afghans risked running out of food just as winter sets in.

 Recent Afghanistan and 9/11 Headlines

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 7 reasons to think Senate Democrats will actually change the filibuster, Norman Eisen, below at left, and Norman Ornstein, right, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The norm ornstein leading authoritiesparty has to pass voting rights legislation. Changing the rules is the only way to do it.

In the middle of a brazen nationwide assault on voting rights, of a kind we have not seen since Jim Crow was established after the Civil War, some are skeptical that Democrats in Washington will respond. If they don’t, allowing the filibuster to block voting rights legislation, it will consign the party (and its majority of U.S. voters) to possible permanent minority status.

norman eisen SmallAfter decades of studying and working with the Senate, we think the signs point the other way: There are seven reasons to believe that the filibuster will be reformed and voting rights legislation will be passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Biden.

The “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen did not end when President Donald Trump left office. It has only intensified, with over 216 bills in more than 41 states targeting our system of voting based on that falsehood. Trump and his acolytes in many of these states have continued to pour on the disinformation. They are trying to undo the things that made the 2020 election one of the most successful in history, such as early voting, drop boxes, mail-in voting and high minority turnout. A number of these bills would even make it possible for Trump’s allies in state legislatures to take steps to reverse future elections, irrespective of the will of the voters.

That’s where Congress comes in. Lawmakers can set national minimums for best practices to prevent open targeting of minority voters and block legislative hijacks of election outcomes. Those issues are addressed by bills such as the For the People Act (which already passed the House as H.R. 1), the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (which passed the House as H.R. 4) and the Preventing Election Subversion Act, sponsored by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.).

The obstacle, of course, is the filibuster, which has already twice blocked the For the People Act. But that can change. As we explain in a new paper, reform is possible if 51 votes can be mustered in the Senate — all 50 Democrats and Vice President Harris, voting as the presiding officer to break a tie. As when the GOP eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in 2017, modifying it to pass voting rights legislation can be achieved with a bare majority.

Manchin thinks the filibuster fosters bipartisanship. Here’s why it doesn’t:

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, The F.E.C. dismisses claims that Twitter illegally blocked a Hunter Biden article, Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). The commission’s ruling provides further flexibility to social media giants to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed Republican accusations that Twitter violated election laws in October by blocking people from posting links to an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden, in a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns.

The F.E.C. determined that Twitter’s actions regarding the Hunter Biden article had been undertaken for a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, and were thus allowable, according to a document outlining the decision obtained by The New York Times.

twitter bird CustomThe commission’s ruling, which was made last month behind closed doors and is set to become public soon, provides further flexibility to social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The suppression of the article about Hunter Biden caused an avalanche of conservative criticism in October and prompted accusations that the tech company was improperly aiding the Biden presidential campaign, including a formal complaint by the Republican National Committee that said Twitter’s actions amounted to an “illegal in-kind contribution” to the campaign.

But the F.E.C. disagreed. The commission said Twitter had “credibly explained” that blocking the article’s distribution was a commercial decision and that the move followed existing policies related to hacked materials, according to the “factual and legal analysis” provided to the parties involved in the complaint.

Twitter actually reversed course within a day of its decision to block distribution of the Hunter Biden article, and its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has called the initial move a “mistake.”

The F.E.C.’s official vote on the case — the commission is split equally between three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans — is not yet public, nor are any additional statements written by commissioners. Such statements often accompany the closure of cases and can provide further insight into the commission’s reasoning.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Wildfire in Spain is razing forests, uprooting villages – and raising concerns about climate change, Ellen Francis, Sept. 14, 2021 (print ed.). Spanish troops are assisting firefighters battling a raging blaze that has emptied out Andalusian villages and burned through forest land for days.

Already, the fires have forced hundreds of people out of their homes in the south of the country. Six more villages and towns were evacuated on Sunday.

“We have talked for a long time about the consequences of abandoning the environment or climate change. Today, we are living them,” Juan Sánchez, director of the operations center at Andalusia’s forest fire agency, told reporters.

At least 365 firefighters were tackling “the most complex fire we have seen in recent times,” he added.

  • Washington Post, Wildfires rage across Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Russia and Lebanon

 

Crime, Civil Rights

 

les wexner mansion jeffrey epstein wmr graphic mariaWayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Bannon's involvement with Epstein reflects on a past littered with ties to pedophiles, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer, Sept. 14, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. According to a new book by Donald Trump biographer Michael Wolff, former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon coached the late pedophile and child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein for a planned CBS "60 Minutes" interview in the months prior to Epstein's arrest by federal authorities in 2019.

According to Wolff's book, Too Famous: The Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious, the Damned," Bannon conducted 15 hours of practice interviews with Epstein at his Manhattan townhouse [known as the Wexner Mansion, named for Epstein's benefactor Leslie Wexner, the clothing retailing mogul and shown above in a WMR graphic].

We have previously reported that Epstein's New York residence was the scene of the 1994 rape of two girls, one 12 and the other 13, by Epstein and Trump. Bannon has, for quite some time, been under our radar for his past association with pedophiles. In 2005, Bannon was affiliated with a Hong Kong-based company alexander acosta o cropped Customcalled Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE) [whose silent partner included Marc Collins-Rector].

There is a common thread that extends far and wide within Trump's circle of friends and associates. U.S. Attorney in Miami Alex Acosta, right, whom Trump named as his Labor Secretary, the government's chief monitor for underage sex trafficking, was more interested in burying the criminal activities of pedophiles like Epstein, Trump, and Rector than in protecting children from predators with large bank accounts.

Sept. 13

Virus Victims, Responses

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Legacy of America’s Post-9/11 Turn to Torture, Carol Rosenberg Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Twenty years later, the United States is still grappling with the consequences of brutal interrogations carried out in the name of national security.

Mohamedou Ould Slahi is almost clinical as he recalls details of the torture he endured in the summer of 2003 at Guantánamo Bay.

There were the guards who menaced him with attack dogs and beat him so badly they broke his ribs. The troops who shackled him, blasted him with heavy metal music and strobe lights or drenched him in ice water to deny him sleep for months on end. The mind-numbing isolation in a darkened cell without his Quran. The female guards who exposed themselves and touched him sexually in an effort to undermine his adherence to Islam.

But what left Mr. Slahi in utter despair, he said, was the interrogator who tried to threaten him into acknowledging that he was complicit in plotting a terrorist attack.

“If you don’t admit to it, we are going to kidnap your mother, rape her,” the interrogator said, by Mr. Slahi’s account.

“I remember telling them: ‘This is unfair. This is not fair,’” Mr. Slahi recalled. The interrogator, he said, responded: “I’m not looking for justice. I’m looking to stop planes from hitting buildings in my country.”

To which Mr. Slahi said he replied, “You need to get those people, not me.”

Today, Mr. Slahi, 50, is a free man in Mauritania, his homeland in West Africa, after nearly 15 years as a detainee, an early portion of that time with the threat of a death-penalty trial hanging over him.

In the end, he was released in 2016 without ever being charged, the confessions he made under duress recanted, a proposed case against him deemed by the prosecutor to be worthless in court because of the brutality of the interrogation.

“I was very naïve, and I didn’t understand how America works,” Mr. Slahi said.

For the United States, as for Mr. Slahi, the legacy of the torture remains complex and multifaceted two decades after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, led the George W. Bush administration to set aside legal and moral constraints in the name of national security.

The United States has long since stopped employing the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used in what studies have concluded was a fruitless or counterproductive effort to extract lifesaving information from detainees in secret C.I.A. prisons and at Guantánamo Bay.

But the choice to turn to government-sanctioned torture remains a stain on the country’s reputation, undercutting its authority to confront repression elsewhere. Even today, some former Bush administration officials risk questioning when traveling to Europe by investigators invoking the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

After his first meeting with President Biden in June, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia reminded journalists that Guantánamo remained open and that the C.I.A. had carried out torture in secret foreign prisons. “Is that human rights?” he asked.

ny times logoNew York Times, The trial of the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks is at least another year away, the presiding judge said, Carol Rosenberg, Sept. 13, 2021. The new judge presiding in the Sept. 11, 2001 case at Guantánamo Bay said on Monday that the trial of the five men accused of plotting the attacks will not begin for at least another year.

The judge, Col. Matthew N. McCall, who took over the case last month, was holding his second week of pretrial hearings at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after a delay of more than a year and half caused by the pandemic.

The timeline set by the judge on Monday would mean the trial of the five men, including the accused mastermind of the plot, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would not get underway until more than 21 years after hijacked jetliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Penn.

Colonel McCall was ruling on objections by defense lawyers for two of the defendants, Walid bin Attash and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The lawyers questioned his qualifications to preside in a death-penalty case because he had not read the filings and court record stretching back to the arraignment of the defendants in May 2012, including the 33,660-page transcript.

They urged him to suspend proceedings until he was properly trained as well as fully acquainted with the rulings by three previous judges in the case.

The judge replied that he had ample time, and a plan, to get up to speed, including taking a National Judicial College course on how to handle capital cases. Because of the pandemic, he will be taking it online, he said.

“At a minimum we are least one year away from trial,” said Colonel McCall, an Air Force colonel. He declared himself qualified by military commission regulations, Air Force bar and ethical obligations and “not bound by a particular timeline to get to trial.”

Colonel McCall is the fourth judge to preside at the Guantánamo court in the conspiracy case against Mr. Mohammed and the four other men who are accused of helping to plot the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon 20 years ago.

He has been a military judge for just two years, and was recently promoted to colonel, making him the youngest and least experienced of the judges who have overseen the case.

 

amy coney barrett 9 12 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Barrett says the Supreme Court’s work is not affected by politics, Adam Liptak, Sept. 13, 2021. “To say the court’s reasoning is flawed is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett said on Sunday that political partisanship plays no role in decision making at the Supreme Court.

Speaking at the University of Louisville’s McConnell Center, in Kentucky, Justice Barrett (shown above in an Associated Press story about the event) said that “judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties.”

“To say the court’s reasoning is flawed,” she said, “is different from saying the court is acting in a partisan manner.”

Her remarks came after an introduction by Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, who helped found the center. Mr. McConnell was instrumental in ensuring Justice Barrett’s rushed confirmation just weeks after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and weeks before President Donald J. Trump lost his bid for re-election.

The court now has six Republican appointees and three Democratic ones.

Justice Barrett’s remarks, reported by The Associated Press, were consistent with those of other members of the court who insist that partisan affiliations have nothing to do with their frequent splits along ideological lines. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, has, for instance, made that point in a new book and in interviews promoting it.

Justice Barrett’s remarks followed a series of recent rulings — on asylum policy, the federal eviction moratorium and a novel Texas abortion law — in which the court’s three justices who were appointed by Democratic presidents were in dissent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t let Amy Coney Barrett fool you: Everything the court does is political, Paul Waldman, right, Sept. 13, 2021. If you want to know what paul waldmanRepublicans will say if and when the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade next year, you only have to look at Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s extraordinary new display of, well, trolling.

Not every justice would have the sheer gall to make a speech about the importance of the court staying above politics while appearing at a celebration for Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). But that’s what Barrett did.

And she showed how the Supreme Court can pursue a radical ideological agenda, one aimed at creating a conservative legal and political revolution in America, while simultaneously protesting that they would never consider something as unseemly as politics.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoThe occasion was an event honoring the anniversary of the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville in the senate minority leader’s home state of Kentucky. He, of course, is the man who fast-tracked her nomination in the waning days of the Trump presidency, after refusing to allow Barack Obama’s nominee a hearing on the grounds that it was too late in Obama’s term.

McConnell’s ruthlessness has already borne fruit — in no area so vividly as Roe, whose destruction both liberals and conservatives now regard as all but inevitable after Barrett and four other conservatives allowed Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional antiabortion law to take effect.

But with McConnell by her side, Barrett insisted that she and the other justices are unsullied by politics. “This court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she said. “Judicial philosophies are not the same as political parties,” she went on, reminding everyone that she’s an “originalist.”

In her confirmation hearings, Barrett said much the same — which Republican nominees always do. She was particularly vigorous in her insistence on her own breathtaking purity of mind, in which the grubbiness of politics was so far beneath her that she could barely see it from her perch in the intellectual clouds.

Weirdly enough, conservatives greeted her confirmation with rapturous joy, almost as if they didn’t believe her when she promised to rule in ways unmoored from any political or ideological concern or agenda.

Those conservatives popping the champagne know full well that those who call themselves “originalists,” as Barrett did, are seldom constrained from finding their way to whatever rulings they prefer on complex contemporary issues the Framers could not possibly have foreseen.

So how can Barrett say she’s not “partisan” and is motivated not by an ideological agenda but by a “judicial philosophy” unencumbered by political considerations? By defining “politics” so narrowly that it loses all relevance. The truth, however, is that everything the Supreme Court does is political, and that’s particularly true of its conservative majority.

No honest person can claim, for instance, that the string of decisions the court has issued upholding Republican efforts to solidify their minority rule — aggressive voter purges, brutal gerrymandering, all manner of techniques to make it harder to vote — are not political. Are the court’s attacks on unions not political? When Barrett and her fellow conservatives overturn Roe, is that not going to be political?

Of course it will be. Politics is about how power is distributed and used, how government relates to citizens, and how the law chooses to structure those relationships. It’s all political, because the political is where the law meets the real world.

The fact that in a particular case a justice can come up with a justification beyond “I’m just ruling this way because it’s what Republicans want” — even a persuasive one — doesn’t mean that her decisions don’t have profound political implications. And she and the other justices are well aware of those implications before they rule.

Sometimes they rule in ways that might confer political advantage on their ideological compatriots and sometimes they’ll rule in ways that might create political problems for their friends, but they do it with their eyes open every time, even as some of them continue to weave a myth of their own innocence.

The pending demise of Roe is a perfect example. If and when the conservative justices overturn that decision, they’ll do so knowing that it will almost certainly produce a backlash that will harm the Republican Party. But stopping women from being able to access abortion is such a long-standing ideological goal for conservatives — including those on the court — that they’re willing to see the GOP take some political damage.

The decision will affect politics in every corner of the country, probably in some ways we can’t anticipate. But when it happens, Republicans will say it was only the court doing the right thing, and that it was nothing more than what the Constitution and the beliefs of the Framers demand. And they’ll say it with a smirk, knowing that lying so gleefully drives liberals crazy, when the truth is far more simple: They’re the ones with the power, and they’ll use it to get what they want.

That’s politics too — a form of politics that is now playing out in a battle for control of women’s bodies and lives. And precisely because it’s political, it couldn’t be more important. Don’t let anyone get away with denying it.

 

Sept. 12

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supreme court resized 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Breyer’s airbrushed portrayal of the judicial process, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). Could the timing of Supreme Court Justice ruth marcus twitter CustomStephen G. Breyer’s new book be any worse? It’s hard to imagine.

Breyer’s latest — an earnest testament to the nonpartisanship and professionalism of his conservative colleagues — comes on the heels of the decision by five of them to let a blatantly unconstitutional Texas abortion law take effect.

Breyer dissented from that move, saying it undermined “the ability to ask the Judiciary to protect an individual from the invasion of a constitutional right — an invasion that threatens immediate and serious injury.”

He dissented a few weeks earlier, when a six-justice majority rejected the Biden administration’s bid to extend the eviction moratorium. And again, a few days before that, when the same six justices rejected the Biden administration’s effort to undo the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Breyer’s book, loftily titled The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, is an earnest plea to preserve the former and avoid the latter, a paean to the rule of law and a warning against precipitous steps — such as expanding the size of the court — that might undermine its legitimacy.

stephen breyer biography“Under the law, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; and the same is true of the public’s willingness to accept judicial decisions with which it disagrees,” Breyer, left, writes. “The rule of law is not a meal that can be ordered à la carte.”

Except that the goose and gander seem to be treated awfully differently these days. Conservative justices insist on strict adherence to statutory text, except when they don’t: See the court’s evisceration of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Conservative justices lunge to prevent the perceived infringement of some constitutional rights — stepping in to block pandemic restrictions that limit religious observance — while insisting that procedural hurdles make it impossible to halt the Texas abortion law. They praise the importance of precedent, then casually toss it aside.

And the conservative justices are increasingly ordering off-menu, using their “shadow docket” to make decisions without the fig leaf of full briefing and oral argument. When the conservative justices leap to employ their power to issue emergency orders at the behest of the Trump administration but then act differently when the Biden administration comes calling, that sauce has a bitter aftertaste.

When it comes to politics, Breyer sees plenty of blame to go around — just not among his colleagues. Journalists, for one, who routinely identify the political party of the president appointing the justices when reporting on the court, a change from decades past. “Going further, they systematically label judges as conservative or liberal,” Breyer laments.

Guilty as charged — and it’s because times, and the court, have changed. To take one salient example: Four of the seven justices in the majority in Roe v. Wade were named by a Republican president; one of the two dissenters was nominated by a Democrat. Today, except in unusual and increasingly infrequent circumstances, the justices’ votes can be reliably predicted by looking at party affiliation. The labels are accurate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind the Texas Abortion Law, a Persevering Conservative Lawyer, Michael S. Schmidt, Sept. 12, 2021. A onetime Supreme Court clerk, Jonathan Mitchell spent years honing a legal approach that has flummoxed the courts and enraged abortion rights supporters. He is only now emerging as a pivotal player in one of the most high-profile examples yet of the erosion of the right to abortion.

Jonathan F. Mitchell grew increasingly dismayed as he read the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2016 striking down major portions of a Texas anti-abortion bill he had helped write.

Not only had the court gutted the legislation, which Mr. Mitchell had quietly worked on a few years earlier as the Texas state government’s top appeals court lawyer, but it also had called out his attempt to structure the law in a way that would prevent judicial action to block it, essentially saying: nice try.

“We reject Texas’ invitation to pave the way for legislatures to immunize their statutes” from a general review of their constitutionality, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in the majority’s opinion.

For Mr. Mitchell, a onetime clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia, the decision was a stinging rebuke, and he vowed that if he ever had the chance to help develop another anti-abortion law, he would ensure it survived at the Supreme Court.

Last month, he got his chance. With its ideological balance recast by President Donald J. Trump, the court refrained from blocking a new law in Texas that all but bans abortion — a potential turning point in the long-running fight over the procedure. And it was the deeply religious Mr. Mitchell, a relative unknown outside of Texas in the anti-abortion movement and the conservative legal establishment, who was the conceptual force behind the legislation.

The court’s decision did not address the law’s constitutionality, and the legislation will no doubt face more substantive challenges. But already, the audacious legislative structure that Mr. Mitchell had conceived of — built around deputizing ordinary citizens to enforce it rather than the state — has flummoxed lower courts and sent the Biden administration and other supporters of abortion rights scrambling for some way to stop it.

Police Officer Heather Weyker in 2016 (St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press photo).

Police Officer Heather Weyker in 2016 (St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: If the Police Lie, Should They Be Held Liable? Often the Answer Is No, Shaila Dewan, Sept. 12, 2021. Federal agents and police officers are often immune from lawsuits, even for serious violations. The Supreme Court is being asked to re-evaluate that.

In 2010, Officer Heather Weyker of the St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota had the biggest case of her career: a child sex-trafficking ring said to have spanned four states and involved girls as young as 12. Thirty people, almost all of them Somali refugees, were charged and sent to jail, many of them for years.

Then the case fell apart. It turned out, the trial judge found, that Officer Weyker had fabricated or misstated facts, lied to a grand jury and lied during a detention hearing. When three young women unwittingly got in the way of her investigation, according to their court filings, she had them locked up on false charges.

“She took my life away,” said one of the women, Hamdi Mohamud, who was a senior in high school at the time.

But there is little Ms. Mohamud can do. For decades, the Supreme Court and Congress have declined to close the many legal loopholes, like qualified immunity, that protect the police from accountability. Now legal advocates say that an increasingly conservative Supreme Court has emboldened lower courts to close off the few avenues that plaintiffs once had to seek redress.

“If a federal law enforcement officer lies, manipulates witnesses, and falsifies evidence, should the officer be liable for damages?” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit wrote of Officer Weyker, whose investigation ultimately resulted in no convictions. The answer was no.

More than 20 civil lawsuits have been filed against Officer Weyker, a former vice officer who is still the subject of an internal department investigation. Some of the suits failed because she was granted qualified immunity, a doctrine created by the courts that shields officers from lawsuits unless they violate a “clearly established” right.

In others, the courts found that if the facts before them were to be believed, she had indeed violated people’s rights. But she was shielded by an even more robust immunity offered to federal law enforcement officers — even though she is not one.

The protection extends not just to federal agents but to state and local police officers who, like Officer Weyker, serve on one or another of the numerous joint task forces that bring state, local and federal agents together to fight problems like terrorism, gang violence or human trafficking.

Federal law allows state and local officers, but not federal agents, to be sued for rights violations, even when their actions are the same. That is why a federal judge recently told the Black Lives Matter organization that it could sue the local — but not the federal — police officers who violently cleared protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington in June 2020.

 

Sept. 11

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Top Stories

Baltimore Sun, He swallowed the the evidence, then as FBI went to arrest him in case of illicit images of a child, Caroline County judge killed himself, Justin Fenton, jonathan newellSept. 11, 2021. An Eastern Shore judge, who had been on a leave of absence for more than a month amid an investigation into illicit images of children, took his own life Friday morning as federal agents moved in to arrest him.

Judge Jonathan G. Newell, 50, right, was pronounced dead at 6:43 a.m. from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced. A judge since 2016 and before that Caroline County’s top prosecutor for more than a decade, he was to be taken into custody on federal charges of sexual exploitation of a child, prosecutors said.

A boy that Newell took on a hunting trip on Hoopers Island discovered a hidden camera in the bathroom on July 23, and his parents reported it to police, which The Sun reported last week. When confronted by investigators, Newell is believed to have chewed up and swallowed a camera memory card, authorities said in a criminal complaint unsealed Friday.

A neighbor of Newell posted pictures on Facebook saying the FBI was outside his Henderson, Md. home asking him to come out over a loudspeaker. The neighbor, Kimberly Keith, said that she heard flash bangs and what she believed to be gunshots, and later an ambulance.

FBI logoThe FBI interviewed several young males, who said they had been to the hunting lodge with Newell and that while in the bathroom, Newell checked their bodies for ticks, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in federal court and unsealed Friday following his death.

“At least two of the males stated they were naked when Newell checked them for ticks — one stated that he moved his own genitalia for Newell to look for ticks, and the other initially did not recall if Newell touched his genitalia, but later stated that Newell once or twice moved the minor’s genitalia to look for ticks,” FBI Special Agent Rachel Corn wrote in the criminal complaint.

Authorities searched Newell’s home, truck and judicial office, and located a hard drive in his den that they said contained numerous videos of young men showering. Newell can be seen on the footage setting the camera up, the FBI said. In one video clip, he can be seen searching a young man’s naked body for ticks.

When confronted by authorities, Newell denied knowledge of a camera, and asked if he could plug his phone into a charger in another room and make some calls. They saw him reach down multiple times, but believed he was holding the phone charger into an outlet. A few moments later, the investigator observed Newell’s right hand closed in a fist and saw him place his fist to his mouth.

“The investigator heard a loud, distinguishable, ‘crunch,’ sound from the area of Newell’s mouth. After another minute or two, the investigator heard the same ‘crunch’ again from Newell’s mouth, followed by Newell immediately reaching for and drinking from a cup located on his dresser,” the FBI wrote in charging documents.

They took him to a hospital and obtained a warrant to have a CT scan performed, which revealed a “foreign object” had been ingested. The SD card from the camera discovered by the boy was missing, and the FBI believes Newell chewed it up and swallowed it.

republican elephant logoNewell, a Republican, has been Caroline County’s only Circuit Court judge, earning $174,433 annually. The county, population 33,000, also has an appointed family magistrate judge, and civil case examiners.

Newell began his law career as a public defender in 1999, then became the deputy state’s attorney for Kent County. He held both positions for two years each. He was elected state’s attorney for Caroline County in 2003, a position he held until 2016 when Gov. Larry Hogan appointed him to be a judge. He retained that position in 2018 and was serving a 15-year term.

Keith, Newell’s neighbor, said rumors about the ongoing investigation were “very well known around here.” Before the investigation, Keith said she found Newell’s Facebook posts to be “very odd.”

“All he ever posted on Facebook was about boys,” she said.

 

Sept. 9

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washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to resume in-person hearings, but building still closed to public, Robert Barnes, Sept. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court will return to its historic courtroom in Washington to hear arguments when its term begins Oct. 4, but the hearings will be conducted without the public in attendance.

The court announced Wednesday that because of the coronavirus pandemic, the building remains closed except for official business.

“Courtroom access will be limited to the Justices, essential Court personnel, counsel in the scheduled cases, and journalists with full-time press credentials issued by the Supreme Court,” the court said in a news release.

It added: “The Court will continue to closely monitor public health guidance in determining plans.”

The court will provide live audio of the proceedings in October, November and December, as it has been doing in cases heard by teleconference.

Supreme Court resumes arguments, with all the grandeur of working from home

The court has not held arguments in person since March 2020. All were held remotely last term. But all nine justices are vaccinated against the coronavirus, the court has said, and they began to meet together for their private conferences this past spring.

It will be a new court that returns to the mahogany bench. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate last October, has never sat for hearings with her colleagues in person.

She replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died nearly a year ago. When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. takes his position at the center of the court, the most senior justice, Clarence Thomas, will be at his right. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who was confirmed three years after Thomas, in 1994, will be on Roberts’s left.

Breyer, the optimist, shakes off defeats and the calls for his retirement

The court did not announce whether its return to the bench will also mean a return to the rapid questioning style of oral arguments, where justices ask at will and jump in whenever there is a break.

During the teleconference hearings, the justices asked questions by seniority, with Roberts playing timekeeper and referee. In that format, Thomas, who has asked few questions during his nearly three decades on the court, was an active participant.

 

Top Stories

ed henry former chief white house correspondent

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Ex-Fox News Anchor Ed Henry Must Face Sex Trafficking Suit, as Judge Advances Multiple Claims Against Him and Network, Adam Klasfeld, Sept. 9, 2021. Ex-Fox News anchor Ed Henry (shown above in a file photo) cannot dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of sex trafficking, as a federal judge advanced several claims against him and the network in a ruling on Thursday.

The developments came in a lawsuit filed by ex-associate producer Jennifer Eckhart roughly a year ago, which opened with a “Trigger Warning” cautioning readers with blaring red text in block capital letters that the complaint contained “Highly Graphic Information of a Sexual Nature, Including Sexual Assault.”

“She asserts that [Henry] is liable for sex trafficking because she says he used empty promises of career advancement to defraud her into coming to his hotel room, then used force to cause her to have sexual intercourse with him,” U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams summarized in a 52-page opinion and order.

The judge, who is the sister of Law&Crime’s founder Dan Abrams, noted that Eckhart’s allegations are not what traditionally comes to mind when the public thinks of the statute.

fox news logo Small“To be sure, this is not a conventional claim of sex trafficking,” the judge wrote. “Eckhart has not alleged, for example, that Henry forced her into prostitution or sexual slavery.”

During oral arguments in July, Eckhart’s lawyer Michael John Willemin described Henry’s conduct as “Weinstein-esque, but worse.”

“He hit her,” Willemin said, referring to Henry and his client. “He handcuffed her. He bruised her up. He called her a ‘whore.’ He told her she doesn’t have a choice.”

Ultimately, Judge Abrams found that Eckhart’s allegation fell under the “relatively broad language of the applicable statute,” classifying sex trafficking as the use of “force” or “fraud” to cause a person to “engage in a sex act” for a “thing of value.”

The judge also advanced multiple harassment-related counts against Fox News, though not the sex-trafficking one.

“At this juncture, the Court concludes that Eckhart has plausibly alleged that the network knew or should have known about Henry’s sexually harassing behavior but not necessarily the specific conduct that amounts to sex trafficking,” Judge Abrams found.

Eckhart’s lawyer said he and his client are “very pleased with the Court’s decision.”

“Neither Fox News nor Ed Henry succeeded in their early attempts to escape liability as to Ms. Eckhart’s allegations of rape, sexual assault and unlawful termination,” Willemin told Law&Crime in an email.

 

Sept. 8

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Top Stories

Anton

Anton "Tony" Lazzaro, shown above in a screenshot from Fox News, has been Fox News pundit and GOP strategist who recently worked on the 2020 campaign for Republican candidate Lacy Johnson in Minneapolis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Teen suing GOP donor claims he offered $1,000 in hush money after alleged sex-trafficking crime, lawsuit says, Julian Mark, Sept 8, 2021 (print ed.). By all appearances, Anton “Tony” Lazzaro was living the dream. The 30-year-old political strategist, self-described entrepreneur and prominent donor to Minnesota Republicans posed in photos alongside famous tony lazarro djtGOP figures like Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Fox News host Tucker Carlson and former president Donald Trump.

He also posted photos of his lavish lifestyle — sitting atop a private jet, putting gas in his red Ferrari and posing shirtless with wads of $100 bills.

Then, on Aug. 12, federal agents arrested Lazzaro on charges that he recruited minors for sex. Arrested alongside Lazzaro was 19-year-old Gisela Castro Medina, a University of St. Thomas student who a grand jury indictment alleges trafficked the minors with Lazzaro. Through his lawyer, Lazzaro has denied the allegations.

djt maga hatNow, an alleged victim is suing the embattled politico, claiming in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that Medina lured her into having sex with Lazzaro when she was 16. The lawsuit also claims that Lazzaro hired lawyers to offer the alleged victim and her family $1,000 for the girl’s silence.

The lawyer representing Lazzaro in the criminal case did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday, and court records do not list an attorney for Medina.

Before his arrest, Lazzaro was active in Minnesota politics. He operated a political action committee called Big Tent Republicans, whose stated goal is “broadening the appeal of the Republican Party,” according to Lazzaro’s website. Lazzaro has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican campaigns and political committees, the Star Tribune reported.

fox news logo SmallYet while Lazzaro pursued his political ambitions, prosecutors say he conspired with Medina to recruit and solicit sex from six minors. The abuse allegedly took place between May 2020 and December 2020.

It is unclear whether the alleged victim who filed the lawsuit is connected to the indictment, which offers few details about the federal investigation into Lazzaro. But her account is the first to publicly detail how Lazzaro and Medina allegedly lured a minor during that same time period.

According to the lawsuit, Lazzaro met Medina on a “sugar dating” website, where wealthy people meet younger people willing to exchange companionship for financial support. In 2020, Lazzaro allegedly gave Medina “money and gifts” to help him find underage women for sex, the lawsuit says. In May 2020, the lawsuit alleges, Medina began grooming the plaintiff, whom Medina had met two years before. Medina allegedly introduced the 16-year-old to Lazzaro, whom she portrayed as a “powerful, prominent, and wealthy businessman and political figure,” according to the lawsuit.

The father declined the offer and contacted law enforcement.

The allegations have roiled the state’s GOP over the past month, and many Republicans have attempted to distance themselves from Lazzaro. Multiple state legislators have donated Lazzaro’s contributions and publicly denounced him.

Lazzaro’s arrest also led to the ouster of Jennifer Carnahan, the state’s GOP chair, whose close ties to Lazzaro invited wider criticism of her leadership. She denied knowing about the allegations being leveled at Lazzaro.

“I found out when you guys found out,” she said, according to WCCO. “I was shocked and disgusted. I think Mr. Lazzaro is going to spend the rest of his life in prison.”

keith raniere nxivmny times logoNew York Times, Sex Cult Leader’s Top Deputy Sentenced to 42 Months in Prison, Colin Moynihan, Sept. 8, 2021. Nancy Salzman, the Nxivm “prefect,” left 20 years of “trauma and destruction” in her wake, a judge said on Wednesday.

For 20 years, Nancy Salzman and Keith Raniere were business partners and allies who promised to improve people’s lives.

They led the self-help organization that they co-founded in the 1990s as it grew into the cultlike group Nxivm, and when it fell apart in 2018, Ms. Salzman and Mr. Raniere became co-defendants, accused of running a criminal enterprise that subjected women to sexual abuse.

Mr. Raniere was convicted on several charges and sentenced to 120 years in prison; Ms. Salzman pleaded guilty to a single count of racketeering conspiracy, and former Nxivm members have described her as an enabler who made Mr. Raniere’s abuse possible.

But as Ms. Salzman’s sentencing hearing approached, she sought to publicly distance herself from Mr. Raniere. In a letter to Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, Ms. Salzman’s lawyers portrayed her as Mr. Raniere’s dupe, writing that she had been “fooled, controlled, humiliated, and ultimately led to engage in criminal conduct by an egotistical, self-important, sex fiend.”

But Judge Garaufis did not appear to be persuaded, and on Wednesday Ms. Salzman was sentenced to 42 months in prison — slightly more than the sentence prosecutors had sought.

Before being sentenced, Ms. Salzman made a statement to the court in which she said that under Mr. Raniere’s influence, she had begun to “rationalize and overlook the wrongdoing around me.”

“I apologize to everyone I hurt, intentionally and not,” she added. “I don’t know that I can ever forgive myself.”

Judge Garaufis acknowledged that Ms. Salzman had been the first of Mr. Raniere’s co-defendants to plead guilty. But he also said that she had shared power with Mr. Raniere, facilitated his crimes and betrayed and harmed others.

“You positioned yourself alongside Mr. Raniere atop the Nxivm pyramid,” he said, adding: “In 20 years at Mr. Raniere’s side, you left trauma and destruction in your wake.”

In the more than two years since her guilty plea, Ms. Salzman had largely escaped the attention paid to co-defendants like the liquor heiress Clare Bronfman, who refused to disavow Mr. Raniere, or Allison Mack, who was described as having inducted women into a clandestine group of “slaves,” some of whom were directed to “seduce” Mr. Raniere and branded with his initials.

But as Ms. Salzman’s sentencing approached, former Nxivm members began speaking out. They described her as indispensable to Mr. Raniere’s control of the group and said she had played a central part in crafting his philosophical ideas into teachings that spread Nxivm’s code to followers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: OnlyFans Is Not a Safe Platform for ‘Sex Work.’ It’s a Pimp, Catherine MacKinnon (lawyer, scholar, writer, teacher and activist. She teaches law at the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School and works for sexually violated people around the globe), Sept. 8, 2021 (print ed.).

We are living in the world pornography has made. For more than three decades, researchers have documented that it desensitizes consumers to violence and spreads rape myths and other lies about women’s sexuality. In doing so, it normalizes itself, becoming ever more pervasive, intrusive and dangerous, surrounding us ever more intimately, grooming the culture so that it becomes hard even to recognize its harms.

One measure of this success is the media’s increasing insistence on referring to people used in prostitution and pornography as “sex workers.” What is being done to them is neither sex, in the sense of intimacy and mutuality, nor work, in the sense of productivity and dignity. Survivors of prostitution consider it “serial rape,” so they regard the term “sex work” as gaslighting. “When the ‘job’ of prostitution is exposed, any similarity to legitimate work is shattered,” write two survivors, Evelina Giobbe and Vednita Carter. “Put simply, whether you’re a ‘high-class’ call girl or a street walkin’ ho, when you’re on a ‘date’ you gotta get on your knees or lay on your back and let that man use your body any way he wants to. That’s what he pays for. Pretending prostitution is a job like any other job would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.”

“Sex work” implies that prostituted people really want to do what they have virtually no choice in doing. That their poverty, homelessness, prior sexual abuse as children, subjection to racism, exclusion from gainful occupations or unequal pay plays no role. That they are who the pornography says they are, valuable only for use in it.

Pornography’s power became clear once again last month, when OnlyFans, the London-based subscription service, announced that it would ban the “sexually explicit” from its platform, before abruptly reversing course amid criticism. “OnlyFans has been celebrated for giving adult entertainers and sex workers a safe place to do their jobs,” Bloomberg News observed. According to the A.C.L.U., a longtime defender of pornography, “When tech platforms like OnlyFans see themselves as arbiters of acceptable cyber speech and activity, they stigmatize sex work, making workers less safe.” On the contrary, it is the sex industry that makes women unsafe. Legitimizing sexual abuse as a job makes webcamming sites like OnlyFans particularly seductive to the economically strapped.

OnlyFans became a household name during the pandemic, when demand for pornography skyrocketed. People started living their lives online, domestic violence exploded, women lost their means of economic survival even more than men, and inequalities increased. OnlyFans, niche pornography as mediated soft prostitution, was positioned to take advantage of these dynamics.

OnlyFans has been to conventional pornography what stripping has been to prostitution: a gateway activity, sexual display with seeming insulation from skin-on-skin exploitation, temporary employment for those with their financial backs against the wall and few if any alternatives. It offers the illusion of safety and deniability for producer and consumer alike. But the outcry over the proposed ban made clear that only explicit sex — mostly, the sexual consumption of feminized bodies, usually female, gay or trans — sells well in pornography’s world. As Dannii Harwood, the first so-called content creator on OnlyFans, told The New York Times, “Once subscribers have seen everything, they move on to the next creator.” Empirical research has also documented that dynamic.

Van Christopher Havis and Holly Deboard via WHNT

Law&Crime, Alabama Man and Woman Set to Spend Rest of Their Lives in Prison for ‘Physically Repulsive’ Abuse, Bestiality, Alberto Luperon, Sept. 8, 2021. Authorities are closing the book on a truly sickening case. A man and a woman in Alabama (shown above) received quite lengthy sentences this week for abusing another man who authorities described as living with mental disability.

Van Christopher Havis, 55, received a term of life in prison with the possibility of parole for charges of sodomy and sexual torture, and a six-month punishment for bestiality, which is a misdemeanor, Marshall County District Attorney Chief Investigator John Young told Law&Crime. Co-defendant Holly Renae Debord, 37, received 99-year punishments each for sodomy and sexual torture, plus a year for bestiality, lead prosecutor Jennifer Reynolds Bray said in a Facebook post. Because the sentences all run concurrently, the total sentence is 99 years.

“In Alabama, it’s a possibility he can pop up in five years,” Young said of Havis, “but in our experience with these types of cases, he is going to be there for a while.”

The pair is reportedly eligible for parole.

Havis worked out a plea deal in which he was going to testify against Debord, Young told Law&Crime. Ultimately, both of them chose to admit guilt rather than face jurors. They were charged with abuse so disgusting that authorities have opted to discuss it in general terms. Bray said that Debord possessed 19 sickening videos of the crime.

“I’m so relieved that this case is over,” Bray wrote. “[All through] throughout my career I’ve seen some very disturbing things, nothing compares to the 19 videos Holly DeBord had on her phone of this heinous crime that lasted for hours. The first time I watched the video evidence in this case, it almost physically made me sick.”

Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims was also vague when discussing the bestiality charge.

“This is a different, unique type case from what it involved,” he said when Havis and Debord were arrested in January 2020, according to WHNT. “I’m sure one of the charges is not what you often hear, called bestiality. I’ll just say it involves a domesticated animal and leave it at that.”

Video of the abuse spread through Facebook messenger, texts, and email, authorities said.

“This is one case that was just physically repulsive,” Bray told WHNT. “You know, it made your stomach churn watching these videos. It is so violent and so aggressive. And what they’re doing to this victim, again it’s just awful. Words can’t describe it.”

 

Sept. 7

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Supermodels Speak Out Against Sexual Harassment, Elizabeth Paton, Sept. 7, 2021. As former models prepare to testify against Gérald Marie, their former agency boss, big names like Carla Bruni and Paulina Porizkova are offering support. On the eve of fashion month, six women, all former models, flew into Paris from across the world — not to walk runways but to be interviewed by the child protection unit of the Paris police.

Their testimonies, set to be heard Sept. 7, include allegations of rape and sexual misconduct against Gérald Marie, who for three decades was one of the most powerful men in the fashion industry. A former European chief of Elite Model Management who was once married to Linda Evangelista and who now lives in Ibiza, Mr. Marie has long denied the allegations that have mounted against him over the years from at least 24 women.

Now, however, a year after prosecutors in France opened an investigation into the alleged incidents, which are said to have occurred in the 1980s and ’90s, a chorus of new and high-profile voices has emerged to support Mr. Marie’s accusers — and to demand more robust labor regulation to protect young and often vulnerable models whose work can take them far from home and supervision.

“Enough is enough — I stand with Carré and the other survivors of Gérald Marie as they come to Paris to testify against their abuser,” said Carla Bruni, one of the most famous models of the ’90s and the former first lady of France. She was referring to Carré Sutton, a onetime American supermodel who is leading the group of women testifying in Paris.

“No industry is immune from sexual abuse,” Ms. Bruni continued. “There is so much work to do in France and around the world to ensure that women are protected from sexual violence on the job.”

Helena Christensen said she stood with these “brave women all the way.” Paulina Porizkova added that in the early days of her career, young models were taught to view “sexual harassment as a compliment.”

“As models, we weren’t paid for our talents,” Ms. Porizkova said. “We were renting our body and face. Your body wasn’t your own.” She applauded the women who had traveled to Paris and who would, she said, “relive some painful memories to stand up for a better industry and the women who haven’t been able to come forward.”

Ms. Bruni, Ms. Christensen and Ms. Porizkova had decided to speak up at the urging of the Model Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group for fashion workers. The organization has offered resources to Mr. Marie’s accusers, including weekly Zoom meetings where the women have had access to legal counsel.

keith raniere nxivm

ny times logoNew York Times, Nxivm’s Second-in-Command Helped Build a Culture of Abuse, Survivors Say, Colin Moynihan, Sept. 7, 2021. Nancy Salzman awaits sentencing, some who fell prey to the Nxivm cultlike group say Ms. Salzman’s enabling made the group’s misdeeds possible.

Three days after Ivy Nevares told a Brooklyn jury last fall about the lasting pain that the Nxivm cult leader Keith Raniere had inflicted on her, she got a phone call.

The caller did not want to talk about Mr. Raniere, who had just been sentenced to 120 years in prison. He called, according to a letter Ms. Nevares later sent to a judge, with a warning: Do not talk about Nancy Salzman.

“I felt intimidated and, after the call, was deeply upset for days,” Ms. Nevares wrote.

Years after Nxivm was exposed as a cultlike criminal enterprise built to conceal Mr. Raniere’s sexual, physical and psychological abuse of women and girls, the details of Ms. Salzman’s role within the organization has remained largely shrouded. But her influence was significant: Ms. Salzman co-founded Nxivm’s predecessor group with Mr. Raniere and stood as his second-in-command for 20 years.

She was eventually indicted on several charges related to the group and pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.

Now, as Ms. Salzman’s own sentencing hearing approaches on Wednesday, testimony from Mr. Raniere’s trial, assertions in a lawsuit, written statements submitted to the court and interviews with former Nxivm members show the power she wielded to advance Mr. Raniere’s agenda.

Ms. Nevares and other former Nxivm members say the woman known as Prefect was not only Mr. Raniere’s business partner and confidant but his abettor and protector. She managed many of Nxivm’s operations, they say, and helped Mr. Raniere control the group’s members and avoid accountability.

ny times logoNew York Times, Human Rights Campaign Chief Is Fired for Advising Andrew Cuomo, Maggie Haberman, Updated Sept. 7, 2021. The L.G.B.T.Q. group fired Alphonso David over a report that he aided efforts against a woman who accused the former New York governor of sexual harassment.

Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy organization, was ousted by the group’s board on Monday night over a report revealing that he had advised former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on how to handle sex harassment allegations.

Mr. David, the group’s first Black president, was terminated “for cause” in separate votes by the boards of the Human Rights Campaign and its affiliated foundation after the two boards held a joint meeting. Beyond two abstentions from the foundation board, the votes were unanimous.

andrew cuomo 2019Mr. David’s removal is the latest fallout from the report by Letitia James, the New York State attorney general, describing allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. Cuomo, left, and efforts by his aides to retaliate against the former governor’s accusers. Mr. Cuomo resigned in August after the report outlined 11 allegations and described a toxic work environment.

Mr. David, who had worked as a lawyer in Mr. Cuomo’s office, was identified in the James report as involved in efforts to undermine Mr. Cuomo’s first accuser, Lindsey Boylan. Despite no longer working there, Mr. David had a memo in his possession containing confidential information about Ms. Boylan’s employment history. He shared the memo with one of Mr. Cuomo’s communications advisers who were hoping to release details to reporters. Mr. David has maintained that he had an obligation as a lawyer to do so.

Mr. David also suggested edits to a letter intended to malign Ms. Boylan that was being circulated among Mr. Cuomo and his aides, and said that he would collect signatures for it from former aides. He declined to sign it himself, however, and he later said that he did not know the extent of the allegations against Mr. Cuomo. He called for Mr. Cuomo’s resignation after the report came out.

Mr. David said he would fight his firing. “As a Black, gay man who has spent his whole life fighting for civil and human rights, they cannot shut me up,” he said in a Twitter post late Monday. “Expect a legal challenge.”

 

Sept. 6

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses


Investigations

 

U.S. Labor Day Holiday

 

U.S. Immigration, Politics, Governance

 

Afghanistan


U.S. Floods, Fires, Hurricanes, Climate

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Law

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions in U.S. lose jobless benefits as federal aid expires, Yeganeh Torbati, Andrew Van Dam and Alyssa Fowers, Sept. 6, 2021 (print ed.). Federal funds meant to ease the economic shock of the pandemic are coming to an end. ‘It just feels like being discarded,’ one worker said In addition to the more than 7 million people who will lose all their benefits, nearly 3 million more people will lose a $300 weekly boost to their state unemployment benefits.

More than 7 million out-of-work people across the United States are set to lose all of their jobless benefits this week as three federal programs expire on Monday, in what several experts described as one of the largest and most abrupt ends to government aid in U.S. history.

In addition to the more than 7 million people who will lose all their benefits, nearly 3 million more people will lose a $300 weekly boost to their state unemployment benefits.

The cessation of this jobless aid, first put in place by Congress nearly 18 months ago, could upend the lives of millions of Americans still struggling to find work at a time when the pandemic’s delta variant is wreaking fresh havoc across a number of states. It could also lead to a sharp pullback in spending, particularly in certain areas of the country, impacting a wide range of restaurants and other businesses that rely on consumer dollars.

The White House has wrestled with how to deal with these expiring benefits, an internal debate that exposes the fraught political and economic consequences of inaction. President Biden said in June that it “makes sense” for one of the programs, which boosted unemployment checks by $300 each week, to lapse in September, but senior aides have also called on states to reallocate other money in a way that would continue offering some support. No states appear inclined to take action, though, leading to this week’s sudden cutoff.

washington post logoWashington Post, Republican focus on state, judicial power gives GOP wins on voting, abortion, guns, Michael Scherer, Sept. 6, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats may control the elected levers of power in Washington, but the party now finds itself playing defense amid divisions about what to do next and growing fears that Republica