Oct. 2021 News, Views

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

Note: Excerpts are from the authors' words except for subheads and occasional "Editor's notes" such as this.

 

Oct. 27

Top Headlines

 

Trump Riot, Election Claims

 

U.S. Building, Safety Net Battles

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 

World Conflict, Human Rights

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U.S. Elections, Governance, Media

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race


Top Stories

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washington post logoWashington Post, Election ‘distracted’ Trump team from pandemic response, Birx tells Congress, Dan Diamond, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Former White House coronavirus coordinator (shown above in a White House file photo) says more than 130,000 people in the U.S. died unnecessarily.

The Trump administration was “distracted” by last year’s election and ignored recommendations to curb the pandemic, the White House’s former coronavirus response coordinator told congressional investigators this month.
U.S. coronavirus cases tracker and map

President Donald Trump official“I felt like the White House had gotten somewhat complacent through the campaign season,” said Deborah Birx, who former president Donald Trump chose in March 2020 to steer his government’s virus response, according to interview excerpts released by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.

Birx, who sat for interviews with the subcommittee on Oct. 12 and 13, also detailed advice that she said the White House ignored late last year, including more aggressively testing younger Americans, expanding access to virus treatments and better distributing vaccines in long-term care facilities.

More than 130,000 American lives could have been saved with swifter action and better coordinated public health messages after the virus’ first wave, Birx told lawmakers.

“I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30-percent less, to 40-percent less range,” Birx said.

More than 735,000 Americans have died from coronavirus-related complications since the pandemic began, including more than 300,000 since President

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: New cases fall nearly 60% in U.S. since delta surge, CDC says, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, Oct. 27, 2021. Some immunocompromised people can get a fourth coronavirus shot.

New coronavirus infections in the United States have dropped nearly 60 percent since a September spike brought on by the more contagious delta variant, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

The seven-day average of infections stood at about 69,000 this week, figures show, reflecting a 58 percent drop from the latest surge’s peak around Sept. 13, when the average for that week was 164,475.

The impact of vaccinations is clear in regions with the highest uptake. Puerto Rico recorded a seven-day average of 1,121 new cases on Aug. 23 as it wrestled with delta; that figure had declined to 105 as of Tuesday. About 73 percent of Puerto Ricans are immunized.

But a handful of states are still struggling to turn the tide, especially as colder weather brings more people indoors again. In Montana, 45 out of every 100,000 people are hospitalized due to covid-19 — the highest rate in the country. Just over half the state’s population is fully vaccinated — below the national rate of 57.5 percent. Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Utah and Vermont have not yet stemmed the initial increases in cases and deaths triggered by the delta variant surge.

Here’s what to know

  • An independent panel of vaccine experts has said the Food and Drug Administration should grant emergency authorization to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to children 5 to 11 years old.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some people with weakened immune systems who received either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine could get a fourth shot.
  • Deborah Birx, a former White House coronavirus response coordinator, told congressional investigators that the Trump administration was “distracted” by last year’s election and ignored recommendations to curb the pandemic.
  • Miami private school scraps policy to send home vaccinated students after funding threatened

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats race to reach deal on spending ahead of Biden’s trip, Tony Romm, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Talks advanced between the party’s moderate and liberal factions, but they still appeared far apart on their plans to expand health-care coverage, invest in green energy, provide paid leave to all Americans and overhaul the tax code. Additional Medicare, Medicaid benefits may be whittled or cut as Democrats woo moderates. Manchin’s machinations reach a crescendo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Top U.S. general calls China’s hypersonic weapon test very close to a ‘Sputnik moment,’ Sara Sorcher, Oct. 27, 2021. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said China’s test of a hypersonic weapons system is “very concerning” — and “very close” to a Sputnik moment as Beijing rapidly expands its military capabilities.

mark milley army chief of staffMilley, right, the United States’ top military officer, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that aired Wednesday that “what we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system.”

As The Washington Post has reported, national security officials were alarmed by the suspected test in August of a nuclear-capable hypersonic vehicle that partially orbited the globe before hurtling toward Earth. As China is in the midst of a rapid expansion of its strategic and nuclear weapons systems, its demonstration of hypersonic and orbital capabilities — first reported by the Financial Times — was less noteworthy to analysts for the technology, which its military has been developing for years, than for the fact that Beijing decided to test it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking, Mike Isaac, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects.

facebook logoIn 2019, Facebook researchers began a new study of one of the social network’s foundational features: the Like button.

They examined what people would do if Facebook removed the distinct thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its photo-sharing app Instagram, according to company documents. The buttons had sometimes caused Instagram’s youngest users “stress and anxiety,” the researchers found, especially if posts didn’t get enough Likes from friends.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wBut the researchers discovered that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads. At the same time, it did not alleviate teenagers’ social anxiety and young users did not share more photos, as the company thought they might, leading to a mixed bag of results.

Mark Zuckerberg, left, Facebook’s chief executive, and other managers discussed hiding the Like button for more Instagram users, according to the documents. In the end, a larger test was rolled out in just a limited capacity to “build a positive press narrative” around Instagram.

The research on the Like button was an example of how Facebook has questioned the bedrock features of social networking. As the company has confronted crisis after crisis on misinformation, privacy and hate speech, a central issue has been whether the basic way that the platform works has been at fault — essentially, the features that have made Facebook be Facebook.

Apart from the Like button, Facebook has scrutinized its share button, which lets users instantly spread content posted by other people; its groups feature, which is used to form digital communities; and other tools that define how more than 3.5 billion people behave and interact online. The research, laid out in thousands of pages of internal documents, underlines how the company has repeatedly grappled with what it has created.

What researchers found was often far from positive. Time and again, they determined that people misused key features or that those features amplified toxic content, among other effects. In an August 2019 internal memo, several researchers said it was Facebook’s “core product mechanics” — meaning the basics of how the product functioned — that had let misinformation and hate speech flourish on the site.

The company documents are part of the Facebook Papers, a cache provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to Congress by a lawyer representing Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who has become a whistle-blower. Ms. Haugen earlier gave the documents to The Wall Street Journal. This month, a congressional staff member supplied the redacted disclosures to more than a dozen other news organizations, including The New York Times.

In a statement, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, criticized articles based on the documents, saying that they were built on a “false premise.”

“Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” he said. He said Facebook had invested $13 billion and hired more than 40,000 people to keep people safe, adding that the company has called “for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards to which we can all adhere.”

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washington post logoWashington Post, In bid to head off a GOP takeover at FCC, Biden nominates two, including first woman to lead agency, Taylor Telford, Tony Romm and Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel is poised to become the first woman to run the Federal Communications Commission.

The White House on Tuesday named Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn to top Federal Communications Commission positions in a late bid to stave off a Republican majority over the regulator.

jessica rosenworcel fccIf confirmed, Rosenworcel, right, the FCC’s acting chairwoman, would become the first woman to lead the agency. Sohn, a former FCC official, is a net neutrality advocate.

The FCC has been stymied by vacancies under President Biden’s tenure, as the White House contends with a raging public health crisis, supply chain collapse and a torrent of severe weather disasters. Unless both candidates are approved by the Senate before the end of the year, Rosenworcel’s term will expire and Republicans will claim a majority in January.

Rosenworcel, who had been widely favored to be Biden’s pick, faces a tangled policy landscape that influences how Americans learn, work, shop and communicate. As acting chair, Rosenworcel has tackled robocalls and championed efforts to close the “homework gap,” including $3.2 billion for emergency broadband benefits to help millions of students who lack access, according to the FCC.

While regulators have long cast Internet access as a luxury, the pandemic has crystallized how essential the Web is to modern life. It has illuminated the gulf between those who can seamlessly migrate their lives online and those who must rely on free broadband signals in malls, coffee shops and darkened parking lots. Research has demonstrated that Internet access is tethered to jobs and economic growth.


Trump Riot, Election Claims 

Oct. 27

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The Secret Behind Trump’s January 2 Phone Call, Seth Abramson, left, Oct. 27-28, 2021. Congress must subpoena Joe diGenova seth abramson graphicand the Stop the Steal leaders who were on Trump's January 2 pre-insurrection strategy call. If it does, it will discover in full what Trump planned for January 6.

Introduction Late last night, CNN reported that the House January 6 Committee will subpoena testimony from Donald Trump lawyer John Eastman, author of a now-infamous pre-January 6 memo that may well run afoul of federal criminal statutes and has been the subject of significant reporting from Proof over the last two weeks. The problem with this prospective subpoena is that Eastman has a host of arguments available seth abramson proof logoto him to resist calls for him to testify to the House January 6 Committee.

But is there someone else Congress could speak to right now who has both more to offer the Committee and less basis to argue that he can’t be compelled to do so?

The Trump Lawyer to Speak to Isn’t a Trump Lawyer

Newly discovered information about another man very close to Trump suggests that he might be the person Congress needs to speak to—not just because it appears he has a great deal to say, but because he is precluded from claiming that he’s Trump’s lawyer on the grounds that both he and Donald Trump have repeatedly insisted that he is not.

That man is Joe diGenova, one of the primary figures in my national bestselling book Proof of Corruption (Macmillan, 2020) because he worked with Trump to try to steal the 2020 presidential election using manufactured dirt on Joe Biden illicitly offered to the Trump campaign by pro-Kremlin Ukrainians.

DiGenova is, to be clear, a Trump lawyer, whatever he and the former president may have said on the subject. Indeed, diGenova has been one of Trump’s most invaluable legal assets for at least two years, as Trump ensured in the run-up to the 2020 election that diGenova and his wife, fellow attorney Victoria Toensing (the two co-run a law firm) would not only represent him but also several his co-conspirators in the Trump-Ukraine scandal that led to his second impeachment. Trump thereby ensured, or so he believed and appears to still believe, that diGenova would be an ideal conduit between the former president and his co-conspirators.

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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 committee expected to subpoena lawyer who advised Trump, Pence on how to overturn election, Jacqueline Alemany, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol is expected to subpoena John Eastman, the pro-Trump legal scholar who outlined scenarios for denying Joe Biden the presidency, according to the panel’s chairman.
2021 Election: Complete coverage and analysis

“It will happen,” Chair Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said in an interview Tuesday of a subpoena for Eastman, who played a key role in the legal operation that was run out of a “command center” at the Willard Hotel in Washington in the days and hours leading up to Jan. 6. Thompson did not provide a timeline for when the subpoena will be issued.

The committee has requested documents and communications related to Eastman’s legal advice and analysis on how President Donald Trump could seek to overturn the election results and remain in office.

Eastman told The Washington Post last week that he had not been contacted by the panel investigating the insurrection, but a person familiar with the select committee’s work disputed that claim and said investigators have been in touch with Eastman. This person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations, added that a subpoena would be avoidable if Eastman cooperated with the committee’s investigation voluntarily. The committee is expected to issue subpoenas to other witnesses in the days ahead.

Eastman confirmed in subsequent text messages late Tuesday that the committee had contacted him.

“I returned the call and left a voice message. No further contact,” Eastman added. When asked whether he planned on cooperating with the committee, he responded: “No comment.”

Eastman, a member of the conservative Federalist Society and a law professor, outlined the scenarios for overturning the election results in two memos that served as the basis of an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4 between Eastman, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

In recent months, Eastman has distanced himself from the memos, telling the National Review last week that the options he outlined did not represent his advice. He said he wrote the memos at the request of “somebody in the legal team” whose name he could not recall.

 

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U.S. Building, Safety Net Battles

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats Would Tax Billionaires to Pay for Their Agenda, Jonathan Weisman, Oct. 27, 2021. Senate Democrats hope to extract from the mountains of wealth that billionaires sit on to help pay for their social safety net and climate change policies. The plan stakes out new territory by putting levies on unrealized gains in the value of their liquid assets, such as stocks, bonds and cash.

Senate Democrats plan to tax the richest of the rich, hoping to extract hundreds of billions of dollars from the mountains of wealth that billionaires sit on to help pay for their social safety net and climate change policies.

The billionaires tax would almost certainly face court challenges, but given the blockade on more conventional tax rate increases imposed by Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Democrats have few other options for financing their domestic agenda.

It would for the first time tax billionaires on the unrealized gains in the value of their liquid assets, such as stocks, bonds and cash, which can grow for years as vast capital stores that can be borrowed off to live virtually income tax free.

The tax would be levied on anyone with more than $1 billion in assets or more than $100 million in income for three consecutive years — about 700 people in the United States. Initially, the legislation would impose the capital gains tax — 23.8 percent — on the gain in value of billionaires’ tradable assets, such as stocks, bonds and cash, based on the original price of those assets.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Build Less Better, David Dayen (executive editor of The American Prospect), Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The Build Back Better Act’s strength david dayen Customis also its weakness. Tackling health care coverage, prescription drug prices, family care, education, housing, poverty, the climate crisis, pandemic preparedness and fair taxation in one bill makes it wondrously comprehensive, and gives every Democratic constituency some hope that their dream policy could finally be enacted.

But that also makes it wrenching to cut anything from the bill while keeping everyone on board. A couple of Democratic senators (and a handful of other party members hiding behind them) demanding stingier social spending, lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations, higher drug prices and more burning of carbon have created an impossible dilemma for the party. Should they still try to address all of the issues they care about, with roughly half the funds required to do the job properly? Or should they choose what stays and what goes, and focus on executing what remains?

To me, the answer is clear: To be successful, not only in this legislation but in revitalizing Joe Biden’s presidency and his party, Mr. Biden must enact permanent, simple, meaningful programs, and connect them to his argument about how government can work again.

For too many years, Congress has tried to resolve longstanding policy issues by erecting complicated systems that an untutored public must navigate. Ordinary people who qualify for benefits — usually because they are in great financial need — are drafted into becoming unpaid bureaucrats, forced to spend time and effort to access what the system owes them. It’s confusing and exasperating, and it has sapped the faith that Americans once had in their government. Simply put, Democrats cannot continue to campaign on solving big problems and then fail to deliver without destroying their political project and alienating voters.

Many progressives believe the best way to reverse this dynamic is to start work on all the problems at once, betting that the public will reward their efforts and keep them in power to finish the job. Some have suggested sunsetting key programs after a few years, turning future elections into a referendum over making them permanent. Once the public gets some real help, they argue, it will be politically impossible for lawmakers to roll these programs back.

But that presumes that the pinched, constrained, unsatisfying policies on offer will feel worth fighting to protect.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Manchin warns that Biden’s agenda would create an ‘entitlement society.’ But his state leads the way, Karen Tumulty, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). In his skirmishes with the liberals of his party over the size and shape of their agenda, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D) has repeatedly warned that the left would lead the nation into a crippling dependency on government.

“I’ve been very clear when it comes to who we are as a society, who we are as a nation,” Manchin has said. “I don’t believe that we should turn our society into an entitlement society.”

That phrase — “entitlement society” — has become something of a battle cry for the senior senator from West Virginia as he works to slash the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion domestic spending package to less than half its size.

Not surprising from a senator who hails from a state that presents itself as fiercely self-reliant. But in fact, West Virginians are not only older, sicker and poorer than most of the nation; they are, by some measures, more reliant on the federal government than any other state.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Democrats’ billionaire tax would target 10 wealthiest Americans, but alternative plan is emerging, Andrew Van Dam, Jeff Stein and Tony Romm, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Many lawmakers want to resolve their differences by the end of the week, but they are still stuck on the thorny issue of taxation.

Many lawmakers want to resolve their differences by the end of the week, but they are still stuck on the thorny issue of taxation.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid cases and deaths grossly underestimated among meatpackers, House investigation finds, Taylor Telford, Oct. 27, 2021. The coronavirus infected 59,000 workers at the country’s top meatpacking companies and killed more than 250, lawmakers found.

More workers at the country’s top five meatpacking companies were sickened and died of the coronavirus than had been previously estimated, an investigation by the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis has found.

At least 59,000 workers at Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, JBS, Cargill and National Beef — companies that control the lion’s share of the U.S. meat market — were infected with the coronavirus during the pandemic’s first year, according to a report the subcommittee released Wednesday on its findings. At least 269 workers across these companies died of covid-19 between March 1, 2020, and Feb. 1.

The report, which stems from an investigation the subcommittee launched in February, alleges that the country’s top meatpackers failed to protect workers, allowing the virus to spread quickly in the close quarters of processing and packing plants. Workers were pushed to show up while ill, The Washington Post has reported, turning many facilities into covid hot spots. Dozens of plants were forced to close during the pandemic’s first wave, throttling production and sending ripples across the supply chain.

ny times logoNew York Times, Merck Will Share Formula for its Covid Pill With Poor Countries, Stephanie Nolen, Oct. 27, 2021. The company announced a licensing deal that will allow the drug, molnupiravir, to be made and sold cheaply in 105 developing nations.

Merck has granted a royalty-free license for its promising Covid-19 pill to a United Nations-backed nonprofit in a deal that would allow the drug to be manufactured and sold cheaply in the poorest nations, where vaccines for the coronavirus are in devastatingly short supply.

merck logoThe agreement with the Medicines Patent Pool, an organization that works to make medical treatment and technologies globally accessible, will allow companies in 105 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, to sublicense the formulation for the antiviral pill, called molnupiravir, and begin making it.

Merck reported this month that the drug halved the rate of hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk Covid patients in a large clinical trial. Affluent nations, including the United States, have rushed to negotiate deals to buy the drug, tying up large portions of the supply even before it has been approved by regulators and raising concerns that poor countries would be shut out of access to the medicine, much as they have been for vaccines.

Treatment-access advocates welcomed the new deal, which was announced Wednesday morning, calling it an unusual step for a major Western pharmaceutical company.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Judge rejects a police union’s bid to suspend a vaccine mandate for N.Y.C. employees, Staff Reports, Oct. 27, 2021. A New York State judge on Wednesday denied a police union request to temporarily block the city’s tough new vaccine mandate, which requires most of the municipal work force to receive a first shot by 5 p.m. on Friday or face unpaid leave.

A lawsuit filed Monday by the Police Benevolent Association was the latest legal challenge to fail to gain traction in court as Mayor Bill de Blasio pushes ahead with one of the most aggressive municipal vaccination campaigns in the nation.

While most of the city’s 300,000 workers have already been vaccinated, about 46,000 had not been as of last week. The highest percentage of unvaccinated employees was in the city’s Department of Corrections, where only half of workers had been vaccinated.

More than a quarter of employees in some of the city’s other crucial departments — emergency medical services, fire, police and sanitation — remained unvaccinated as of last week.

Workers who do not show proof of vaccination by 5 p.m. on Friday will be put on unpaid leave as of Monday. Requests for medical or religious exemptions were due on Wednesday, and workers who have applied for those exemptions will be permitted to work with weekly testing while their cases are considered.

Because of a severe staffing shortage on Rikers Island, the city has made an exception for uniformed corrections officers, giving them until Dec. 1 to get their first dose. The city’s health care workers and education department employees were already required to be vaccinated under earlier mandates.

The Police Benevolent Association, which represents about 24,000 uniformed police officers, argued in court papers that the city’s mandate was arbitrary and unnecessary given that levels of the virus had been dropping under an earlier vaccine mandate that allowed unvaccinated workers to stay on the job with weekly tests.

But Judge Lizette Colon of Richmond County Supreme Court did not find their argument compelling enough to approve their request to stop the mandate from going into effect while the lawsuit goes forward. Both sides are due back in court Nov. 12. In other news:

  • A report accused President Jair Bolsonaro of causing thousands of unnecessary deaths by discouraging masks, ignoring offers of vaccines and promoting ineffective drugs.
  • Australians will soon be allowed to freely travel abroad if they are fully vaccinated.
  • Merck will share its formula for its Covid pill with 105 poor countries.
  • An F.D.A. panel recommends the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for young children.
  • South Korea will strictly enforce Covid rules on Halloween.
  • When vaccinating kids, does weight matter? Your questions about vaccines for children, answered.
  • New German leadership says it will let federal coronavirus controls lapse

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Stop the false narrative about young children and covid. They need vaccines, Leana S. Wen, right, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Advisers to the Food leana wenand Drug Administration marked a milestone in the covid-19 pandemic on Tuesday, as they recommended authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Having millions more Americans eligible for vaccination could influence the trajectory of the pandemic and reduce community infection rates, though I believe the more significant outcome will be that young kids will finally be protected from illness, disability and death.

Data presented at the meeting refutes the pervasive and false narrative that young children are not affected by the coronavirus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1.8 million children between 5 and 11 have been diagnosed with covid-19. Kids in this age range currently constitute more than 1 in 10 new infections. More than 8,600 children have been hospitalized, with 1 in 3 hospitalizations requiring intensive care. Tragically, 143 young children have died.

While many of the children suffering severe illness have underlying medical conditions such as obesity or asthma, nearly one-third of hospitalizations occurred among children who were otherwise healthy.

Younger children appear to be most susceptible to multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a serious condition occurring several weeks after covid-19 infection that affects multiple organ systems and can cause long-lasting effects. Half of the more than 5,200 MIS-C cases to date have been in 5- to 13-year-olds. Sixty to 70 percent of MIS-C patients were admitted to intensive care, and 1 to 2 percent died. Two in 3 children afflicted with MIS-C report ongoing symptoms more than 60 days after diagnosis.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Advisory Panel Recommends Pfizer Vaccine for 5- to 11-Year-Olds, Staff Reports, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Federal officials hope the pediatric dose can help close a major gap in the nation’s vaccine campaign. The decision brings the vaccine a step closer to about 28 million American children. The F.D.A. typically follows the committee’s recommendations. The panel endorsed giving the age group one-third of the dosage given to those 12 and up. Shots could be offered as early as next week. Here’s the latest.

  • Now that the F.D.A. panel has recommended pediatric Covid shots, here’s what happens next.
  • Moderna agrees to sell up to 110 million Covid vaccine doses to African countries.
  • Birx testifies that Trump’s White House failed to take steps to prevent more virus deaths.
  • China locks down a northwestern city to subdue a small outbreak.
  • In Germany’s Parliament, wristbands indicate lawmakers’ Covid status.
  • New Zealand will expand its vaccine mandate to cover 40 percent of workers.
  • Hong Kong’s quarantine rules, among the world’s tightest, are getting even tighter.
  • New York City’s biggest police union sues over the city’s vaccine mandate.
  • As other nations push to vaccinate children, Mexico is an outlier.
  • Days away from its deadline, Tyson Foods reaches a 96 percent vaccination rate.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 27, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 245,435,740, Deaths: 4,982,150
U.S. Cases:    46,497,719, Deaths:    759,932
Indian Cases:  34,215,653, Deaths:    455,684
Brazil Cases:  21,748,984, Deaths:    606,293

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 220.6 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 27, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 190.8 million eligible persons, 57.5%, fully vaccinated.

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Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, The World Is Bending the Climate Emissions Curve. Just Not Enough, Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Nations have started making progress on climate change. But the Earth is still on track for dangerous warming unless those efforts accelerate drastically.

In 2014, before the Paris climate agreement, the world was on track to heat up nearly 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, an outcome widely seen as catastrophic. Today, thanks to rapid growth in clean energy, humanity has started to bend the emissions curve. Current policies put us on pace for roughly 3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100 — a better result, but still devastating.

ny times logoNew York Times, At McKinsey, Widespread Furor Over Work With Planet’s Biggest Polluters, Michael Forsythe and Walt Bogdanich, Oct. 27, 2021.  More than 1,100 employees have called for change at the consulting firm, which has advised at least 43 of the 100 most environmentally damaging companies.

ny times logoNew York Times, The heads of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron and BP will testify in Congress on Thursday on climate disinformation, Hiroko Tabuchi and Lisa Friedman, Oct. 27, 2021. Executives of some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies — Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell — are set to appear before a congressional committee Thursday to address accusations that the industry spent millions of dollars to wage a decades-long disinformation campaign to cast doubt on the science of climate change and to derail action to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels.

The hearings mark the first time oil executives will be pressed to answer questions, under oath, about whether their companies misled the public about the reality of climate change by obscuring the scientific consensus: that the burning of fossil fuels is raising Earth’s temperature and sea levels with devastating consequences worldwide, including intensifying storms, worsening drought and deadlier wildfires.

House Democrats compare the inquiry with the historic tobacco hearings of the 1990s, which brought into sharp relief how tobacco companies had lied about the health dangers of smoking, paving the way for tough nicotine regulations. Climate scientists are now as certain that the burning of fossil fuels causes global warming as public health experts are sure that smoking tobacco causes cancer.

The evidence showing that fossil fuel companies distorted and downplayed the realities of climate change is well documented by academic researchers.

 

World Conflict, Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Poland ordered to pay more than $1 million a day in fines amid E.U. dispute over its court system, Loveday Morris and Quentin Aries, Oct. 27, 2021. The European Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered Poland to pay a daily penalty of $1.2 million until it complies with an earlier ruling regarding its controversial overhaul of its judiciary.

european union logo rectangleCompliance “is necessary in order to avoid serious and irreparable harm to the legal order of the European Union and to the values on which that Union is founded,” the court said in a statement.

Poland and the European Union are in the midst of a bitter dispute over changes to the country’s court system by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party.

polish flag wavingEarlier this month, Poland’s top court ruled that the country’s own laws had primacy over those of the European Union, shaking the foundations of the 27-member bloc’s accepted legal order. That led to questions over whether Poland can continue to remain in the union if it does not accept its legal framework, though the Polish government has dismissed talk of a “Polexit” — Poland leaving the European Union — as “fake news.”

In July, the European Court of Justice ruled that Poland’s system of picking judges was “not compatible”with European law as it was open to direct political influence.

The Luxembourg court has ordered Poland to dissolve the disciplinary chamber of its Supreme Court. As pressure has mounted, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said that will happen by the end of the year, but has accused Brussels of attacking Poland’s sovereignty.

Speaking to the Financial Times in recent days, he accused Brussels of making demands with a “gun to our head.” The dispute has also delayed Poland’s $42 billion share in Europe’s pandemic economic recovery package, and Morawieki told the newspaper that if Brussels withholds promised funds it could start a “third world war.”

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washington post logoWashington Post, Biden heads abroad with most ambassadorial picks stranded in Senate, stunting diplomatic efforts, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 27, 2021.   President Biden — who has made renewed international engagement a hallmark of his foreign policy ethos — is headed to a pair of global summits in Europe this week with just a handful of his ambassadors in place, as most of his picks to represent the United States abroad remain mired in messy domestic politics.

us senate logoTo date, only four of Biden’s choices to be a U.S. ambassador to a foreign government have been approved by the Senate — three of them just on Tuesday. That means Biden is lagging considerably behind his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, who at this point in his presidency had 22 such U.S. ambassadors confirmed, 17 of them by voice vote, according to data compiled by Senate Democratic leadership aides.

The delays stem from threats by some Republican senators, led by Ted Cruz (Tex.), who has been angling for a fight with the Biden administration over matters of national security. That is prolonging the usually routine process of getting ambassadors formally installed, while several high-profile posts are also vacant because the White House has yet to put forward nominees for them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iran to return to nuclear negotiations, signaling possible revival of talks aiming to restore 2015 deal, Kareem Fahim and Karen DeYoung, Oct. 27, 2021. Iran has agreed to return to nuclear negotiations in Vienna by the end of November, Tehran’s top negotiator said Wednesday, signaling the possible revival of a process aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal that has been stalled for months and surrounded by uncertainty.

Iran suspended the negotiations in June after the election of its new president, Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric who expressed a willingness to revive the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but is wary of broader engagement with the West.

For months, his government has said it would return to the negotiating table but declined to set a date, feeding a growing sense of pessimism and alarm over whether the restoration of the nuclear deal was possible.

President Donald Trump in 2018 withdrew the United States from the agreement, under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities and submit to international monitoring in exchange for a lifting of U.S. and international economic sanctions. After Trump reimposed punitive sanctions, Iran restarted its high-level enrichment program.

In a message posted on Twitter, the negotiator, Ali Bagheri, the deputy foreign minister, who has been meeting with European diplomats in Brussels, said the exact date of the negotiations would be announced next week.

Bagheri said he had engaged in “very serious and constructive dialogue” with Enrique Mora, the European Union’s deputy secretary general for political affairs, “on the essential elements for successful negotiations.” But Peter Stano, a foreign affairs spokesman for the European Union, said “there is nothing to announce at the moment.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Gangs Rule Much of Haiti. Here’s What That Means for Haitians, Natalie Kitroeff and Maria Abi-Habib, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). A country in crisis is facing a severe fuel shortage that is pushing it to the brink of collapse.

haiti flagGangs blocking Haiti’s ports, choking off fuel shipments. Hospitals on the verge of shutting down as generators run dry, risking the lives of hundreds of children. Cellphone towers going without power, leaving swaths of the country isolated. And an acute hunger crisis growing more severe each day.

After a presidential assassination, an earthquake and a tropical storm, a new crisis is gripping Haiti: A severe fuel shortage is pushing the nation to the brink of collapse because gangs, not the government, rule about half of the nation’s capital.

With gangs holding up fuel trucks at will, truck drivers have refused to go to work, setting off a nationwide strike by transportation workers and paralyzing a nation dependent on generators for much of its power.

It is just the latest reflection of the security vacuum that has enveloped Haiti, where 16 Americans and one Canadian with an American missionary group were kidnapped this month by a gang demanding a $17 million ransom. The authorities know where the hostages are being held — but can’t enter the gang-controlled neighborhood because the police are so outmatched.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden and Mother Nature Have Reshaped the Middle East, Thomas L. Friedman, right, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). So, I just have one tom friedman twitterquestion: Should I point out how President Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is already reshaping Middle East politics — mostly for the better? Or should I wait a few months and not take seriously yet what one Gulf diplomat drolly said to me of the recent festival of Arab-Arab and Arab-Iranian reconciliations: “Love is in the air.”

What the heck, let’s go for it now.

Because something is in the air that is powerfully resetting the pieces on the Middle East chess board — pieces that had been frozen in place for years. The biggest force shifting them was Biden’s decision to pull out of Afghanistan and tell the region: “You’re home alone. If you’re looking for us, we’ll be in the Straits of Taiwan. Write often. Send oil. Bye.”

But a second factor is intensifying the pressure of America’s leaving: Mother Nature, manifesting herself in heat waves, droughts, demographic stresses, long-term falling oil prices and rising Covid-19 cases.

Indeed, I’d argue that we are firmly in a transition from a Middle East shaped by great powers to a Middle East shaped by Mother Nature. And this shift will force every leader to focus more on building ecological resilience to gain legitimacy instead of gaining it through resistance to enemies near and far. We are just at the start of this paradigm shift from resistance to resilience, as this region starts to become too hot, too populated and too water-starved to sustain any quality of life.

More on that in a minute — first, let’s go back to Biden. He was dead right: America’s presence in Afghanistan and tacit security guarantees around the region were both stabilizing and enabling a lot of bad behavior — boycotts, occupations, reckless adventures and brutal interventions.

Our staunch support for traditional allies, whether they were behaving badly or well, encouraged people to reach beyond their grasp, without fear of consequences. I am talking about the Saudi and United Arab Emirates intervention in Yemen and their boycott of Qatar, Turkey’s various machinations in Libya (or against the Kurds in Syria and Iraq), the now-fallen Afghan government’s idiotic refusal to negotiate with the Taliban and Israel’s expansion of settlements deep into the West Bank.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sudan’s prime minister returns home after detention in military takeover, Ellen Francis, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The power grab is upending Sudan's transition to civilian rule. Sudan’s deposed prime minister and his wife have returned home after the military detained them and dissolved the government, upending the country’s transition to civilian rule.

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U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP used Senate delays to make changes at U.S. product safety regulator, Todd C. Frankel, Oct. 27, 2021. Slow confirmation holdups are common but rarely play out with such clear consequences. A short-lived Republican majority atop the nation’s product safety regulator — the result of Senate delays in confirming Democratic nominees — recently pushed through dozens of last-minute changes to the agency’s annual plan, slowing work on some safety rules and abandoning at least one enforcement effort altogether.

The changes mean the Consumer Product Safety Commission no longer plans in the coming year to draw up new mandatory rules for preventing suffocation in infant nursing pillows or carbon monoxide poisoning from gas appliances. The amended plan also canceled a pilot project looking at the growing concern over the safety of products found online, rather than in brick-and-mortar stores.

Supporters of the changes defended the moves as “not substantive” and broadly supported, pointing to one amendment that added 27 new product safety inspectors at American ports.

The Republican push to amend the CPSC’s operating plan ignited a contentious fight over the future direction of a federal agency with the power to force dangerous products off the market and which is responsible for overseeing safety in 15,000 everyday items.

The changes occurred during a brief period in late September when Republicans held a 2-to-1 voting advantage over Democrats on the five-member CPSC board, with two seats vacant. At the same time, three Democratic commissioner nominees awaited Senate confirmation — in part, because of delays created by Republican senators, according to four government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk with the media.

“It’s incredibly disconcerting,” said Rachel Weintraub, general counsel at the advocacy group Consumer Federation of America. The new operating plan ended up being approved on a party-line vote, a result that the agency’s one Democratic commissioner then threw out, only for it to be resurrected by the two Republican commissioners who overruled him and passed the same plan again. Agency officials said they’d never seen anything like it.

The clash also highlights a broader problem facing President Biden’s administration: The slow pace of Senate confirmations. Biden’s nominees for government boards and agencies have faced longer waits than those from prior administrations, according to the nonpartisan group Partnership for Public Service.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Oath Keeper Was at the Capitol Riot. On Tuesday, He’ll Be on a Ballot, Tracey Tully, Oct. 27, 2021. Edward Durfee Jr. is a member of the far-right militia and was at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He is now running for office in New Jersey.

Edward Durfee Jr. is many things: a former Marine, a libertarian who distrusts the Federal Reserve and an active member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia who leads the group’s northern New Jersey region and was outside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack.

He is also running for the New Jersey State Assembly as a Republican.

More than 20 Oath Keepers have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Prosecutors have accused members of the militia of plotting to overturn the election by breaching the Capitol and making plans to ferry “heavy weapons” in a boat across the Potomac River into Washington.

Mr. Durfee, a 67-year-old tech consultant, said he did not enter the Capitol during the assault, and he condemned the violence that led to several deaths.

But he wholeheartedly embraces the ideology of the Oath Keepers, an antigovernment group that pledges to support and defend its interpretation of the Constitution against all enemies.

The group, whose name comes from their original mission to disobey certain government orders, became a zealous supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, promoting conspiracy theories about “deep-state” cabals attempting to overthrow him and embracing his relentless lies that the 2020 election was illegitimate.

Mr. Durfee said he went to Washington in January to “stop the steal” and to protest against disproved claims of election fraud.

But he is more than just a fringe candidate mounting a long-shot race for the Legislature.

He also leads the Republican committee in the town where he lives, Northvale, underscoring the extent to which right-wing activism has become increasingly mainstream within the G.O.P., even in a Democratic stronghold like Bergen County, less than 30 miles from Manhattan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Final New York Mayoral Debate Descends Into Exchange of Personal Insults, Emma G. Fitzsimmons, Updated Oct. 27, 2021. The televised confrontation between Eric Adams and Curtis Sliwa a week before Election Day seemed unlikely to change the dynamics of the race.

Mr. Adams is considered a prohibitive favorite in the race, and Mr. Sliwa has been trying to rattle him for weeks. Those efforts, including at the first debate, last week, had been unsuccessful.

But on Tuesday, Mr. Sliwa’s repeated attacks seemed to crack Mr. Adams’s resolve to ignore a rival he has previously characterized as a clown.

Since the primary, Mr. Adams, 61, has acted like the mayor-elect, raising funds and planning his transition. He has mostly ignored Mr. Sliwa while providing glimpses of what his mayoralty could look like: attending glitzy events like the opening of a new Manhattan skyscraper as well as others focused on vulnerable New Yorkers, including one with homeless advocates in Brooklyn.

ny times logoNew York Times, Mort Sahl, Whose Commentary Redefined Stand-Up, Dies at 94, Bruce Weber, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Mort Sahl, who confronted Eisenhower-era cultural complacency with acid stage monologues, delivering biting social commentary in the guise of a stand-up comedian and thus changing the nature of both stand-up comedy and social commentary, died on Tuesday at his home in Mill Valley, Calif., near San Francisco. He was 94.

The death was confirmed by Lucy Mercer, a friend helping to oversee his affairs.

mort sahl twitterGregarious and contentious — he was once described as “a very likable guy who makes ex-friends easily” — Mr. Sahl had a long, up-and-down career. He faded out of popularity in the mid-1960s, when he devoted his time to ridiculing the Warren Commission report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy; then, over the following decades, he occasionally faded back in. But before that he was a star and a cult hero of the intelligentsia.

He had regular club dates in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, with audiences full of celebrities. He recorded what the Library of Congress has cited as “the earliest example of modern stand-up comedy on record,” the album “At Sunset.” (Though recorded in 1955, it was not released until 1958, shortly after the release of his official first album, “The Future Lies Ahead.”) By 1960, he had starred in a Broadway revue, written jokes for Kennedy’s presidential campaign, hosted the Academy Awards, appeared on the cover of Time and been cast in two movies (he would later make a handful of others).

An inveterate contrarian and a wide-ranging skeptic, Mr. Sahl was a self-appointed warrior against hypocrisy who cast a jaundiced eye on social trends, gender relations and conventional wisdom of all sorts. Conformity infuriated him: In one early routine he declared that Brooks Brothers stores didn’t have mirrors; customers just stood in front of one another to see how they looked. Sanctimony infuriated him: “Liberals are people who do the right things for the wrong reasons so they can feel good for 10 minutes.”

But more than anything else, it was politicians who were the fuel for his anger. For that reason he was often compared to Will Rogers, whose death in 1935 had left the field of political humor essentially barren, though Mr. Sahl had none of Rogers’s homeyness and detested the comparison.

“I never met a man I didn’t like until I met Will Rogers,” he once said, turning the famous Rogers line against him, despite never having met him. He described Rogers as a man who pretended to be “a yokel criticizing the intellectuals who ran the government,” whereas Mr. Sahl himself pretended to be “an intellectual making fun of the yokels running the government.”

In December 1953, when Mr. Sahl first took the stage at the hungry i — the hip nightclub in San Francisco that he helped make hip, where he would routinely be introduced as “the next president of the United States” — American comedy was largely defined by an unadventurous joke-book mentality. Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Henny Youngman may have been indisputably funny, but the rimshot gag was the prevailing form, the punch line was king, and mother-in-law insults were legion. It was humor for a self-satisfied postwar society.

“Nobody saw Mort Sahl coming,” Gerald Nachman wrote in “Seriously Funny,” his book-length 2003 study of comedy in the 1950s and ’60s. “When he arrived, the revolution had not yet begun. Sahl was the revolution.”

Mr. Sahl was a shock to the comedy system. Other groundbreaking comedians — Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Woody Allen, Jonathan Winters, Joan Rivers, George Carlin and Richard Pryor among them — would pour into his wake, seizing on the awareness that audiences were hungry for challenge rather than palliation. And for social commentators who took to the airwaves in the half-century after he began to speak his mind — from Dick Cavett to Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart — Mr. Sahl was their flag bearer as well.

(If a younger generation of comedians considered Mr. Sahl an inspiration, he did not return their love. He said in a 2010 interview that he found their comedy “kind of soft” and urged them to “take more chances.”)

“He just doesn’t bring to mind any other performer in the history of show business,” Mr. Cavett said after watching Mr. Sahl perform in 2004.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Past, Rediscovered: The hotel where Trump allies plotted to overturn election has a wild and sometimes violent history, Gillian Brockell, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The Trump International Hotel was a prime destination for hangers-on and favor-curriers during President Donald Trump’s term, but when it came to plotting a last-ditch effort to keep him in office, his team chose a more traditional Washington location for its “war room.”

Ahead of Jan. 6, Willard hotel in downtown D.C. was a Trump team ‘command center’ for effort to deny Biden the presidency

For more than 150 years, the Willard hotel, across the street from the White House, has been the site of political wheeling and dealing, international delegations and more than its fair share of intrigue and violence.

Here’s a history of the hotel author Nathaniel Hawthorne said “more justly could be called the center of Washington than either the Capitol or the White House or the State Department.”
 

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Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: DeSantis's big secret is emerging from the shadows, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct. 26-27, 2021. An October 25 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallreport in Hill Reporter. com, an affiliate of Meidas Media Network, described an incident involving [Florida Governor Ron DeSantis] DeSantis in 2001 at the Darlington private K-12 school in Rome, Georgia. DeSantis taught history at the school for a year.

A photograph from 2001 has surfaced showing a 22-year old DeSantis (shown above in file photo) partying with female Darlington students, some of whom were seniors who graduated in 2002. Such behavior would have been in violation of Darlington's code of conduct for members of its staff.

wayne madesen report logoThe Hill Reporter article stated that DeSantis "had a reputation among students for being a young 'hot teacher' who girls loved." The website also reported that DeSantis has another problem. Not only was DeSantis's socializing off campus with the Darlington students a violation of school policy, but the girls were also underage and DeSantis was an adult. The socializing also, according to The Hill Reporter, involved alcohol, which was also illegal.

And this fact makes the role of DeSantis's relationship with his 2018 gubernatorial top campaign political adviser even more curious. It was Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), currently under federal investigation for underage sex trafficking involving girls the same age as those seen partying with DeSantis in 2001, who arranged for DeSantis's campaign appearances in the state.

WMR's informed sources in Florida have reported that the federal investigation of Gaetz also involves DeSantis as a potential target and not merely for financial, campaign donation, and lobbying crimes. Gaetz's former "wing man," former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, was convicted on May 17, 2021 on six federal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor. Greenberg is reportedly singing to prosecutors in exchange for a lighter prison sentence.

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U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, A California Law School Reckons With the Shame of Native Massacres, Thomas Fuller, Oct. 27, 2021. The founder of the Hastings College of the Law masterminded the killings of hundreds of Native Americans. What should be done now is under debate. Native Americans were massacred in Round Valley, Calif., more than a hundred years ago.

They said they were chasing down horse and cattle thieves, an armed pursuit through fertile valleys and evergreen forests north of San Francisco. But under questioning in 1860 a cattle rancher let slip a more gruesome picture, one of indiscriminate killings of Yuki Indians.

  • A 10-year-old girl killed for “stubbornness.”
  • Infants “put out of their misery.”

Documented in letters and depositions held in California’s state archives, the Gold Rush-era massacres are today at the heart of a dispute at one of the country’s most prominent law schools whose graduates include generations of California politicians and lawyers like Vice President Kamala Harris.

serranus hastingsFor the past four years, the University of California, Hastings College of the Law has been investigating the role of its founder, Serranus Hastings, in one of the darkest, yet least discussed, chapters of the state’s history. Mr. Hastings, right, one of the wealthiest men in California in that era and the state’s first chief justice, masterminded one set of massacres.

For those involved, including a descendant of Mr. Hastings who sits on the school’s board, the journey into the past has revealed a very different version of the early years of the state than the one taught in classrooms and etched into the popular imagination of intrepid pioneers trekking into the hills to strike it rich.

Across Northern California — north of Napa’s vineyards, along the banks of the Russian River and in numerous other places from deserts to redwood groves — as many as 5,617 Native people, and perhaps more whose deaths were not recorded, were massacred by officially sanctioned militias and U.S. troops from the 1840s to the 1870s, campaigns often initiated by white settlers like Mr. Hastings who wanted to use the land for their own purposes.

Thousands more Indians were killed by vigilantes during the same period. But what sets apart the organized campaigns is that the killers’ travel and ammunition expenses were reimbursed by the state of California and the federal government.New York Times, Merck Will Share Formula for Its Covid Pill With Poor Countries, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The company announced a licensing deal that will allow the drug, molnupiravir, to be made and sold cheaply in 105 developing nations.

In 1878, Mr. Hastings donated $100,000 in gold coins to found the school that carries his name, California’s first law school. It was “to be forever known and designated as ‘Hastings’ College of the Law,” according to the school’s enactment.

 

Torchlight parade by White nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 8, 2017.

Torchlight parade by White nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 8, 2017.

washington post logoWashington Post, How to choose an impartial jury when white supremacists are on trial, Ellie Silverman, Oct. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Potential jurors for the Charlottesville Unite the Right federal civil trial were questioned on their views on antifa, Black Lives Matter, racism and antisemitism. From his bench in the federal courtroom, Judge Norman K. Moon questioned the potential jurors one by one, asking their opinions on Black Lives Matter and antifascists.

He dug into the answers they gave on the jury questionnaire, which had included the subject of monuments to the Confederacy: Were these statues of Robert E. Lee — and others who defended slavery — relics of Southern pride? Were they historical monuments? Did they represent symbols of racism?

Four years after the events of the Unite the Right rally weekend — which was related to a permitted demonstration to protest city plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee — white supremacists have returned to Charlottesville, this time for a trial in which a jury will decide whether the rally organizers conspired to foment racial violence.

From the opening of trial, a challenge became clear: How to find an impartial jury when the defendants are some of the nation’s most visible white supremacists?

The jury questionnaire reads like a culture-war bingo, with questions on statues of Confederate leaders, Black Lives Matter and far-left antifascist activists, specifically asking: “Are you familiar with ‘Antifa'?” Not even the judge seemed to understand the antifa movement, questioning whether it is something people sign up for. Potential jurors tripped over terminology, conflated groups and interjected their political views into proceedings, displaying how divided the country is on the subject of racism and how the understanding of what it means to be impartial varies from person to person.

Although all parties aimed to finish jury selection within two days, it will continue on Wednesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Convicted in ’81 Brink’s Robbery Wins Release From New York Prison, Michael Wilson, Oct. 26, 2021. David Gilbert, a participant in the infamous armed robbery of a Brink’s armored car in 1981, a politically motivated ambush that left two police officers and a guard dead, has been granted parole after spending 40 years behind bars for his role in the attack, officials said on Tuesday.

andrew cuomo frownMr. Gilbert, 77, will be released from prison by Nov. 30. He was granted a parole hearing this month after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, commuted Mr. Gilbert’s sentence on his final day in office in August, in the wake of sexual abuse accusations. In commuting the sentence, Mr. Cuomo cited Mr. Gilbert’s work in AIDS education and prevention while in prison, and his work teaching and clerking in the law library.

Mr. Gilbert was 37 on the day of the attack, Oct. 20, 1981, in which $1.6 million in cash was stolen from the armored car outside the Nanuet Mall near Nyack, N.Y. The heist was planned by the Black Liberation Army and the May 19th Communist Organization, and immediately became a centerpiece in the pantheon of political violence in the United States. Mr. Gilbert was convicted of robbery and felony murder.

He was unapologetic at his sentencing in 1983, where he was given 75 years to life, reading from a prepared statement: “The rulers, the rich and their armed mercenaries are the only lives valued by this court. We say that if they sentence us to 1,000 years or shoot us at dawn tomorrow, it will not save this social system.” His original earliest date for a parole hearing was to have been in 2056 before Mr. Cuomo intervened.

He had been in a getaway vehicle with Kathy Boudin, with whom he had a toddler son. Ms. Boudin was released in 2003 after receiving a 20-year sentence as part of a plea deal, and went on to become a professor at Columbia University.

The couple’s son, Chesa Boudin, was elected the district attorney of San Francisco in 2019, and led a campaign urging his father’s release from prison.

Mr. Boudin’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement issued after Mr. Cuomo commuted Mr. Gilbert’s sentence, Mr. Boudin said he was “overcome with emotion.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse can be called ‘rioters’ and ‘looters’ but not ‘victims,’ judge rules, Timothy Bella, Oct. 26, 2021. A Wisconsin judge ruled Monday that attorneys in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial could refer to the men the teen shot in Kenosha, Wis., last year as “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists.” They could not, however, describe Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, who were killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, who was wounded, as “victims” because the term was “loaded,” the judge said.

The ruling comes ahead of what’s expected to be a contentious trial. Rittenhouse, then 17, shot the men in downtown Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, with an AR-15-style rifle after crossing state lines during the turmoil sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by Rusten Sheskey, a Whitkyle rittenhouse tik tok profilee police officer. Rittenhouse was with fellow armed men who had tasked themselves with patrolling Kenosha’s streets amid the chaos.

Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder laid out final ground rules before the trial next week. Rittenhouse, right, faces homicide charges in the deaths of Rosenbaum, 36, and Huber, 26, and an attempted homicide charge for shooting Grosskreutz, 27. He also is charged with being a minor in possession of a firearm. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his attorneys are expected to argue that he acted in self-defense.

Schroeder said that while he advised Rittenhouse’s team against using pejorative terms to describe the three men shot, such language could be used in their closing arguments if evidence shows the men participated in criminal acts. Schroeder said Mark Richards, one of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, could “demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury,” according to the Chicago Tribune, the first to report the news.

“If more than one of them were engaged in arson, rioting, looting, I’m not going to tell the defense you can’t call them that,” the judge said. Grosskreutz, the lone survivor of the shooting, has not been charged with a crime from that night.

Schroeder’s ground rules reiterated his earlier ruling, in which he stated that the men shot by Rittenhouse could not be called “victims” because the term was prejudicial toward the teen. But on Monday, the judge also allowed the defense to use terms such as “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists” to refer to those men.

“The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word,” Schroeder said. “ ‘Alleged victim’ is a cousin to it.”

Although such rulings are not uncommon in trials in which there is a dispute over self-defense, prosecutors suggested the judge was employing a double standard by allowing Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz to be called “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists” but not “victims.” Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger questioned how Rosenbaum and Huber, in particular, could be so disparaged, given that they would never have the chance to defend themselves.

“The terms that I’m identifying here such as rioter, looter and arsonist are as loaded, if not more loaded, than the term ‘victim,’ ” Binger said.

A voice-mail message left for Schroeder at his office was not immediately returned Tuesday.

 

Oct. 26

Top Headlines

 

Trump Riot, Election Claims

 

U.S. Building, Safety Net Battles

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 

U.S. Elections, Governance, Media

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race

 

World Conflict, Human Rights, Climate Change

 

Top Stories

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washington post logoWashington Post, Election ‘distracted’ Trump team from pandemic response, Birx tells Congress, Dan Diamond, Oct. 26, 2021. Former White House coronavirus coordinator (shown above in a White House file photo) says more than 130,000 people in the U.S. died unnecessarily.

The Trump administration was “distracted” by last year’s election and ignored recommendations to curb the pandemic, the White House’s former coronavirus response coordinator told congressional investigators this month.
U.S. coronavirus cases tracker and map

President Donald Trump official“I felt like the White House had gotten somewhat complacent through the campaign season,” said Deborah Birx, who former president Donald Trump chose in March 2020 to steer his government’s virus response, according to interview excerpts released by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.

Birx, who sat for interviews with the subcommittee on Oct. 12 and 13, also detailed advice that she said the White House ignored late last year, including more aggressively testing younger Americans, expanding access to virus treatments and better distributing vaccines in long-term care facilities.

More than 130,000 American lives could have been saved with swifter action and better coordinated public health messages after the virus’ first wave, Birx told lawmakers.

“I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30-percent less, to 40-percent less range,” Birx said.

More than 735,000 Americans have died from coronavirus-related complications since the pandemic began, including more than 300,000 since President Biden took office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking, Mike Isaac, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects.

facebook logoIn 2019, Facebook researchers began a new study of one of the social network’s foundational features: the Like button.

They examined what people would do if Facebook removed the distinct thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its photo-sharing app Instagram, according to company documents. The buttons had sometimes caused Instagram’s youngest users “stress and anxiety,” the researchers found, especially if posts didn’t get enough Likes from friends.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wBut the researchers discovered that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads. At the same time, it did not alleviate teenagers’ social anxiety and young users did not share more photos, as the company thought they might, leading to a mixed bag of results.

Mark Zuckerberg, left, Facebook’s chief executive, and other managers discussed hiding the Like button for more Instagram users, according to the documents. In the end, a larger test was rolled out in just a limited capacity to “build a positive press narrative” around Instagram.

The research on the Like button was an example of how Facebook has questioned the bedrock features of social networking. As the company has confronted crisis after crisis on misinformation, privacy and hate speech, a central issue has been whether the basic way that the platform works has been at fault — essentially, the features that have made Facebook be Facebook.

Apart from the Like button, Facebook has scrutinized its share button, which lets users instantly spread content posted by other people; its groups feature, which is used to form digital communities; and other tools that define how more than 3.5 billion people behave and interact online. The research, laid out in thousands of pages of internal documents, underlines how the company has repeatedly grappled with what it has created.

What researchers found was often far from positive. Time and again, they determined that people misused key features or that those features amplified toxic content, among other effects. In an August 2019 internal memo, several researchers said it was Facebook’s “core product mechanics” — meaning the basics of how the product functioned — that had let misinformation and hate speech flourish on the site.

The company documents are part of the Facebook Papers, a cache provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to Congress by a lawyer representing Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who has become a whistle-blower. Ms. Haugen earlier gave the documents to The Wall Street Journal. This month, a congressional staff member supplied the redacted disclosures to more than a dozen other news organizations, including The New York Times.

In a statement, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, criticized articles based on the documents, saying that they were built on a “false premise.”

“Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” he said. He said Facebook had invested $13 billion and hired more than 40,000 people to keep people safe, adding that the company has called “for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards to which we can all adhere.”

fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, In bid to head off a GOP takeover at FCC, Biden nominates two, including first woman to lead agency, Taylor Telford, Tony Romm and Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 26, 2021. Acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel is poised to become the first woman to run the Federal Communications Commission.

The White House on Tuesday named Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn to top Federal Communications Commission positions in a late bid to stave off a Republican majority over the regulator.

jessica rosenworcel fccIf confirmed, Rosenworcel, right, the FCC’s acting chairwoman, would become the first woman to lead the agency. Sohn, a former FCC official, is a net neutrality advocate.

The FCC has been stymied by vacancies under President Biden’s tenure, as the White House contends with a raging public health crisis, supply chain collapse and a torrent of severe weather disasters. Unless both candidates are approved by the Senate before the end of the year, Rosenworcel’s term will expire and Republicans will claim a majority in January.

Rosenworcel, who had been widely favored to be Biden’s pick, faces a tangled policy landscape that influences how Americans learn, work, shop and communicate. As acting chair, Rosenworcel has tackled robocalls and championed efforts to close the “homework gap,” including $3.2 billion for emergency broadband benefits to help millions of students who lack access, according to the FCC.

While regulators have long cast Internet access as a luxury, the pandemic has crystallized how essential the Web is to modern life. It has illuminated the gulf between those who can seamlessly migrate their lives online and those who must rely on free broadband signals in malls, coffee shops and darkened parking lots. Research has demonstrated that Internet access is tethered to jobs and economic growth.

washington post logoWashington Post, Atmospheric river unleashes record-setting rain, flooding in California, Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Both San Francisco and Sacramento had their wettest October days on record.  

A historic atmospheric river drenched central and northern California Sunday with record-setting rains. The high-impact event dented the region’s drought and quelled the fire season but triggered flooding and mudslides.

climate change photoUp to a half-foot of rain fell at low elevations and over a foot in the mountains. Both San Francisco and Sacramento established new rainfall records for October, just after enduring a historic shortage of precipitation.

At the highest elevations of the northern Sierra Nevada, multiple feet of snow fell, a crucial addition to water resources in the drought-plagued region.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow swaths of exceptionally moist air, sometimes sourced from the tropics, that can produce excessive amounts of precipitation. This river was rated a level 5 out of 5 in the San Francisco Bay area by the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes in La Jolla, Calif.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Challenges Biden Again With Broad Cybersurveillance Operation, David E. Sanger, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The new campaign came only months after President Biden imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to a series of spy operations it had conducted around the world. The Russian agency behind the SolarWinds hacking has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. computer networks, Microsoft officials said.

microsoft logo CustomRussia’s premier intelligence agency has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. government, corporate and think-tank computer networks, Microsoft officials and cybersecurity experts warned on Sunday, only months after President Biden imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to a series of sophisticated spy operations it had conducted around the world.

russian flagThe new effort is “very large, and it is ongoing,” Tom Burt, one of Microsoft’s top security officers, said in an interview. Government officials confirmed that the operation, apparently aimed at acquiring data stored in the cloud, seemed to come out of the S.V.R., the Russian intelligence agency that was the first to enter the Democratic National Committee’s networks during the 2016 election.

While Microsoft insisted that the percentage of successful breaches was small, it did not provide enough information to accurately measure the severity of the theft.

Earlier this year, the White House blamed the S.V.R. for the so-called SolarWinds hacking, a highly sophisticated effort to alter software used by government agencies and the nation’s largest companies, giving the Russians broad access to 18,000 users. Mr. Biden said the attack undercut trust in the government’s basic systems and vowed retaliation for both the intrusion and election interference. But when he announced sanctions against Russian financial institutions and technology companies in April, he pared back the penalties.

Recent Top Stories

 

Trump Riot, Election Claims marjorii taylor greene gun

Palmer Report, Opinion: The “Insurrection Seven” exposed, Bocha Blue, Oct. 26, 2021. Fear is a strange thing. It has no physical form, yet it has its own specific aura. Fear is always dark and sometimes terrifying. It is not an emotion to take lightly.

bill palmer report logo headerAnd the “insurrection 7” as they have been branded on Twitter should be feeling fear. Because if all of the Rolling Stone information is true, these folks are in quite a bit of trouble. (Rolling Stone, Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings With Members of Congress and White House Staff, Hunter Walker.)

Mark MeadowsBoebert. Greene (above). Meadows (right). Cawthorn. Gohmert (below left). Biggs. Brooks. Gosar.

And who knows who else? I’d like to say a few things here. First off, I wasn’t all that surprised. Were you? These creatures clearly knew a lot more than they were telling. None of these people had clean hands, and we all knew it. Kudos to Rolling Stone for doing what is being described by many as “Pulitzer Prize level reporting.”

The other thing is: do not be surprised when more comes out. I cannot say for sure, but my gut level tells me there is even more here than meets the eye. I expect more bombshells. It would surprise me deeply if there WERE NOT more.

And third: As of the time of this writing, there is silence on Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter account. No tweets from her since before the Rolling Stone story.

BradBlog, Commentary: A 'Lay Down Case' of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, Brad Friedman, Oct. 26, 2021. BradCast Radio Guest: Attorney, blogger Keith Barber on where the Jan 6 probe may be heading; Also: Majority of Americans now very worried about climate crisis; Manchin nixing another climate provision from Build Back Better.

First up, some climate and "sausage making" news. New polling finds that a majority of Americans --- in both major parties --- now finally see our quickly worsening climate crisis as being of "high importance" to them. We break down the new survey and what it does and doesn't mean.

Next, the Biden Administration this week has, for a second time, rejected our disgraced, twice-impeached former President's attempt to invoke Executive Privilege to prevent the release of more Trump-era White House documents regarding the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. The documents are the second tranche requested of the National Archives by the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Trump-incited attack.

That bad news for the former President (but good news for all democracy-loving Americans) comes on the heels of a series of reporting shedding additional light on Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 election, including by insurrection at the Capitol. Over the weekend, Washington Post detailed the "war room" effort carried out at the historic Willard Hotel near the White House from December through January, as Trump's activist lawyers, goons and other operatives, such as Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, plotted various ways to overturn Joe Biden's victory.

louis gohmertAnother report over the weekend from Rolling Stone documents the ways in which at least seven GOP U.S. House Reps participating in the planning of the rallies that led to the assault on the Capitol. Those members of Congress, according to two of the organizers who served as sources for the magazine (who are also said to be cooperating with the Jan. 6 Committee) are Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), left. In the wake of the reporting, a number of Democrats in the House are now calling for the expulsion of those Republican members.

The Rolling Stone report also cites Gosar as encouraging the two unnamed organizers by telling them they could expect a "blanket pardon" from the President for a separate, unidentified matter in which they are said to have been involved. If true, Gosar's (apparently false) promise, if it was actually paul gosarmade, also seems to place Trump himself squarely at the center of organizing the conspiracy that eventually became a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Monday, on MSNBC, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who detailed the Willard Hotel war room in their new book, Peril, offered more details, with Woodward reporting that the pair had "talked recently with a former Republican head of the Criminal Division in the Justice Department who said there is a 'lay down case,' just in what we know --- 18 U.S. Code, Section 371 --- a law that says it is a crime to defraud the government in any deceptive way, and that's exactly what they did here."

Last night, citing Woodward's comment, our guest today, Keith Barber, who blogs at Daily Kos under the name "KeithDB", broke down exactly what 18 U.S.C. § 371 actually is and how it could or should be applied here. In addition to being a regular dKos contributor on legal and constitutional matters, Barber is a former U.S. Army Captain, a longtime (now retired) attorney, and a lifelong Republican, at least "pre- Trump", according to his profile at the website.

Today, he walks us through the statute in question today, explaining how it is interpreted by the DoJ and how it appears to apply quite perfectly to both Trump and his cronies in their efforts to steal last year's Presidential election through deception and fraud.

Citing the DoJ's own explanation for its attorneys, Barber notes that he "was really surprised how stunningly broad" the statute is. "It basically can refer to impairing, obstructing or defeating the lawful function of any department of government, or depriving any department of government of its lawful right and duty required by law."

"Here," he continues, "we have counting of the Electoral College votes, very much required by law. That has to be done. A duty of Congress by law. And, arguably, the efforts going on in that 'war room', even setting aside the violence question --- the efforts to, through legalese and bogus Constitutional means, overturn the election --- constituted an effort, through deception and dishonesty, to overturn the election." Barber argues that Trump's criminal conspiracy seems to perfectly meets the DoJ's definition of the law, exactly as Woodward and Costa's former DoJ source posited.

Then, of course, the question is: Will the House Select Committee on January 6 cite that section of federal law and, more importantly, will the DoJ take action to enforce it against Trump and/or his cronies? As we also discuss, the DoJ has been less than aggressive in upholding the conspiracy law against Trump in other matters, such as the criminal conspiracy that both federal prosecutors and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, allege that Trump "directed" in the hush-money payoffs to adult film actress Stormy Daniels --- for which his co-conspirator Cohen served time in prison.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Book Launch: The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich: The Era of Trumpism and the New Far-Right, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct 25-26, 2021. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallThis week, WMR announces the release of The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich.

This book details Donald Trump's serious efforts to bring about a fascist dictatorship in the United States. In addition to emulating Adolf Hitler's "Big Lie" (große Lüge) to the letter, Trump made common cause with the world's other leading fascists in creating a new "Axis" alliance. In fact, the wayne madsen fourth reich covergovernment of the neo-Nazi President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, was direcrly involved in the January 6th coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol. It was no less a violation of U.S. national sovereignty than was Nazi Germany's involvement in the attempted July 25, 1934 attempted coup in Austria that saw Nazis, with German support, assassinate Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.

The Holy Roman Empire was the First Reich. It was followed by Imperial Germany of the Kaisers, the Second Reich. From the ashes of Imperial Germany rose the Third Reich of the National Socialists and Adolf Hitler.

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the return of strongmen leaders around the world -- in Russia, China, India, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, and other nations -- ushered into place the Fourth Reich. No less an observer than the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, commented that the Trump administration and the events of January 6, 2021 were reminiscent of the Nazi Party's burning of the Reichstag in 1933. In the third decade of the 21st century, the signs of fascism were present in Washington, Moscow, Beijing, and even in London -- with the ascendance of the proto-fascist Boris Johnson to the Prime Minister's office. This book describes the re-emergence of fascist rule long after it was believed that World War II ended the threat of this venal system of government forever.

In addition to copying Hitler's strategy of employing the Big Lie, Trump stood to implement other Nazi playbook policies. The Nazis used the outbreak of typhus in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto and forced ghettos in other Polish cities to blame the interned Jews for harboring typhus-causing lice. The same scenario played out during the initial infections of Covid-19 in major U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Newark, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, because these cities had Democratic mayors or were in states with Democratic governors. Trump Covid advisers like Jared Kushner and Peter Navarro decided to withhold federal support support in states with Democratic governors so that voters in those states would blame those governors for the pandemic's rising death rate. It was no more an insidious operation than the Nazis blaming Polish Jews for typhus.

facebook logoFacebook and Mark Zuckerberg had permitted Trump's Big Lies on Covid, police killings of black Americans, and other triggering subjects to martial Trump's increasingly-frenzied political base to threaten to kill Democratic governors in Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, and other states. This propaganda operation ultimately led to January 6th, Trump's version of Hitler's Reichstag Fire of 1933 and the 1934 "Night of the Long Knives."

Trump's version of Joseph Goebbels, Steve Bannon, the aspirant propagandist for a global fascist "Movement," vowed to fight for political control "precinct-by-precinct" in elections around the United States and the world.

This book delineates where the political battlefield's lines at the electoral district level have been drawn -- from Hungary and Poland to Brazil and the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona -- so that the fight can be joined by progressives and democrats everywhere.

Related Headlines:

Palmer Report, Opinion: The MAGA meltdown is fully underway, Bocha Blue, Oct. 26, 2021. Rolling Stone’s explosive story is all over the place. For now, anyway, it is all anyone is talking about. And that is as it should be. This story is enormous. And it will most likely be in the news for quite a while. This is not a “one-day” news story.

bill palmer report logo headerPeople are justified in their anger. And anger is spilling forth all over the place — rightfully so. But what of MAGA? What are THEY saying about the story? Well — many things, actually. I dove in a bit to see how MAGA really feels about this story.

Take a deep breath because here comes the stupid:

“Rolling Stone is not a real news source.” Yes, this is a popular one. Who reads Rolling Stone, the maggots are asking derisively. (Most likely, everyone is reading it at this particular moment in time.)

“What about Antifa?” Sigh. Yes, this is something that is being said.

“It’s all a distraction! They’re trying to distract from Dr. Fauci and puppy gate.” This theory is so dumb I have nothing to say about it.

“Big deal. They planned a peaceful protest. What’s wrong with that?” My answer: if MAGA thinks that was peaceful, they’re more delusional than even I thought.

So, basically, MAGA’s ardor for the world of insurrection is deeper than ever. And so it will stay until cult deprogrammers get involved — and that might have no effect either.

My personal opinion is that most of the MAGA group are too far gone to believe anything negative about their cult leaders. Their denial is too thick. But ours isn’t. And the fact is these wretched Congresspeople must be punished. And now, with this new information, I feel it is only a matter of time until they are.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Trump team and Fox News alleged dead voters. Most cases were either debunked or actually involved Republicans, Aaron Blake, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). A trip down memory lane on the Trump campaign's allegations of dead voters.

President Donald Trump and those around him threw a multitude of voter-fraud conspiracy theories at the wall after the 2020 election. And few were as pervasive as the idea that people rose from the dead to help defeat Trump’s reelection bid.

Unlike many of the often-nebulous claims, these ones carried the benefit of often having been rather specific — citing actual dead people, by name, who supposedly voted. This made them actually verifiable.

Nearly a year later, those specific claims have provided a case study in — and a microcosm of — just how ridiculous this whole exercise was.

fox news logo SmallThe specific dead people cited by Trump and his allies have, in most cases, proved to not actually have been cases of dead people’s identities used fraudulently to vote. And in several other cases, in which a dead person was actually recorded as voting, the culprit has been identified: not a systemic effort to inflate vote totals for President Biden, but rather a Republican.

On New Year’s Day, the conservative Daily Signal ran down some of the names that had been cited. The Trump campaign had named four people in Pennsylvania and four in Georgia, including in a series of news releases called “Victims of Voter Fraud.” The Nevada Republican Party cited another two in that state, calling one of them “concrete” evidence of irregularities. Fox News’s Tucker Carlson then laundered those names and another in a segment on dead people supposedly voting, saying, “What we’re about to tell you is accurate. It’s not a theory. It happened, and we can prove it.”

Of the 11 names cited in all of this, though, none has been shown to involve the identities of dead people used to vote for Biden. Most have been either debunked or pointed in the opposite direction.

We’ll recap the examples below, with the supposed dead person voting in bold.

The latest example involves a man in Nevada who said someone had voted in the name of his dead wife, Rosemarie Hartle. This was hailed widely on conservative media. It was the case the Nevada GOP said showed the “concrete” evidence of irregularities. We learned late last week that there might have been fraud involved, but the alleged fraud was perpetrated by a Republican with ties to the Trump campaign. The man, Donald Kirk Hartle, has been charged with voting in his dead wife’s name.

 

U.S. Building, Safety Net Battles

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: Build Less Better, David Dayen (executive editor of The American Prospect), Oct. 26, 2021. The Build Back Better Act’s strength david dayen Customis also its weakness. Tackling health care coverage, prescription drug prices, family care, education, housing, poverty, the climate crisis, pandemic preparedness and fair taxation in one bill makes it wondrously comprehensive, and gives every Democratic constituency some hope that their dream policy could finally be enacted.

But that also makes it wrenching to cut anything from the bill while keeping everyone on board. A couple of Democratic senators (and a handful of other party members hiding behind them) demanding stingier social spending, lower taxes on the wealthy and corporations, higher drug prices and more burning of carbon have created an impossible dilemma for the party. Should they still try to address all of the issues they care about, with roughly half the funds required to do the job properly? Or should they choose what stays and what goes, and focus on executing what remains?

To me, the answer is clear: To be successful, not only in this legislation but in revitalizing Joe Biden’s presidency and his party, Mr. Biden must enact permanent, simple, meaningful programs, and connect them to his argument about how government can work again.

For too many years, Congress has tried to resolve longstanding policy issues by erecting complicated systems that an untutored public must navigate. Ordinary people who qualify for benefits — usually because they are in great financial need — are drafted into becoming unpaid bureaucrats, forced to spend time and effort to access what the system owes them. It’s confusing and exasperating, and it has sapped the faith that Americans once had in their government. Simply put, Democrats cannot continue to campaign on solving big problems and then fail to deliver without destroying their political project and alienating voters.

Many progressives believe the best way to reverse this dynamic is to start work on all the problems at once, betting that the public will reward their efforts and keep them in power to finish the job. Some have suggested sunsetting key programs after a few years, turning future elections into a referendum over making them permanent. Once the public gets some real help, they argue, it will be politically impossible for lawmakers to roll these programs back.

But that presumes that the pinched, constrained, unsatisfying policies on offer will feel worth fighting to protect.

washington post logoNew York Times, Opinion: Tax the Rich, Help America’s Children, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats may — may — finally be about to agree paul krugmanon a revenue and spending plan. It will clearly be smaller than President Biden’s original proposal, and much smaller than what progressives wanted. It will, however, be infinitely bigger than what Republicans would have done, because if the G.O.P. controlled Congress, we would be doing nothing at all to invest in America’s future.

irs logoBut what will the plan do? Far too much reporting has focused mainly on the headline spending number — $3.5 trillion, no, $1.5 trillion, whatever — without saying much about the policies this spending would support. To be fair, though, the Biden administration could have done a better job of summarizing its plans in pithy slogans.

So let me propose a one-liner: Tax the rich, help America’s children. This gets at much of what the legislation is likely to do: Reporting suggests that the final bill will include taxes on billionaires’ incomes and minimum taxes for corporations, along with a number of child-oriented programs. And action on climate change can, reasonably, be considered another way of helping future generations.

Republicans will, of course, denounce whatever Democrats come out with. But there are three things you should know about both taxing the rich and helping children: They’re very good ideas from an economic point of view. They’re extremely popular. And they’re very much in the American tradition.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden and Democrats Race for Budget Deal This Week as Rifts Remain, Emily Cochrane, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden and Democratic leaders want a vote within days even as disagreements continue over health benefits, paid leave and how to pay for the plan. In a fresh wrinkle, Senator Joe Manchin, a key swing vote, was pushing to weaken or remove a second climate change provision from the budget bill.

Joe Biden portrait 2President Biden and Democratic congressional leaders raced on Monday to strike a compromise on a domestic policy and climate package, pushing for a vote within days even as critical disagreements remained over health benefits, paid leave, environmental provisions and how to pay for the sprawling plan.

Negotiators were closing in on an agreement that could spend around $1.75 trillion over 10 years, half the size of the blueprint Democrats approved earlier this year, as they haggled with centrist holdouts in their party who are pressing to curtail the size of the bill.

They have coalesced around a plan that would extend monthly payments to families with children, establish generous tax incentives for clean energy use and provide federal support for child care, elder care and universal prekindergarten. An array of tax increases, including a new wealth tax for the country’s billionaires, would pay for the initiatives.

But a final deal remained elusive amid disputes over the details of potential Medicare and Medicaid expansions, a new paid family and medical leave program, programs to combat climate change and a proposal to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Top Democrats were also toiling to nudge the price tag up to $2 trillion, still far below the $3.5 trillion level they laid out in their budget plan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats quietly scramble to address immigration, Sean Sullivan and Marianna Sotomayor, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The ideas to address the issue in their framework to expand the social safety net shed light on one of the most divisive issues of the Biden presidency.

The most pressing question confronting Democrats is what to do about millions of undocumented immigrants seeking a path to legalization. One option under discussion is a plan to provide protected status that stops short of a path to citizenship. Another, which is seen by some of the people with knowledge of the situation as something of a placeholder, is to include a proposal that would enable immigrants who arrived in the United States before 2010 to apply for a green card.

The talks, which were described by the people with knowledge of the situation, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose sensitive discussions, are said to remain fluid, with no final resolution yet reached and failure to tackle immigration in the plan still possible.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, Democrats’ billionaire tax would target 10 wealthiest Americans, but alternative plan is emerging, Andrew Van Dam, Jeff Stein and Tony Romm, Oct. 26, 2021. Many lawmakers want to resolve their differences by the end of the week, but they are still stuck on the thorny issue of taxation.

Many lawmakers want to resolve their differences by the end of the week, but they are still stuck on the thorny issue of taxation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A revealing Joe Manchin quote helps explain why we’re in deep trouble, Greg Sargent, right, Oct. 26, 2021. As Democrats prepare to greg sargentshrink their agenda to satisfy Sen. Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat offered an offhand remark that unintentionally illuminates a deep perversity about our system — and the ways it’s structurally rigged against the sort of progress Democrats hope for.

“I’m totally out of sync with 48 other Democrats,” Manchin told reporters Monday night. “I love them all. And I love all the Republicans.”

“So I’m just trying to survive in a very, very divided Congress in a very divided country,” Manchin continued.

This is both true and misleading at the same time. Yes, Manchin is smack in the middle of a “divided Congress.” But the suggestion that Manchin is smack in the ideological middle of our “divided country” is an illusion, one created in part by our malapportioned Senate.

Because of that malapportionment, Manchin is both well to the right of public opinion on many matters and in a position to decide, single-handedly, what the party representing a majority of Americans can and cannot pass into law.

Which is exactly the problem.

You can see the destructiveness of this dynamic in a new effort by Manchin to water down a critical climate provision — a methane fee — in the big social policy bill Democrats are negotiating.

Manchin wants to remove or modify the fee, which fines methane emissions that come from oil and gas wells. Manchin objects to overlap between this and another executive action to reduce methane emissions, and negotiations still may fix the problem.

But this comes after Manchin succeeded in removing another crucial provision, the Clean Energy Performance Program, which would use fines and rewards — sticks and carrots — to prod power companies to transition to renewable energy sources.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Stop the false narrative about young children and covid. They need vaccines, Leana S. Wen, right, Oct. 26, 2021. Advisers to the Food leana wenand Drug Administration marked a milestone in the covid-19 pandemic on Tuesday, as they recommended authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Having millions more Americans eligible for vaccination could influence the trajectory of the pandemic and reduce community infection rates, though I believe the more significant outcome will be that young kids will finally be protected from illness, disability and death.

Data presented at the meeting refutes the pervasive and false narrative that young children are not affected by the coronavirus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1.8 million children between 5 and 11 have been diagnosed with covid-19. Kids in this age range currently constitute more than 1 in 10 new infections. More than 8,600 children have been hospitalized, with 1 in 3 hospitalizations requiring intensive care. Tragically, 143 young children have died.

Sign up for The Checkup With Dr. Wen, a newsletter with advice on navigating the pandemic and other public health challenges

While many of the children suffering severe illness have underlying medical conditions such as obesity or asthma, nearly one-third of hospitalizations occurred among children who were otherwise healthy. Younger children appear to be most susceptible to multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a serious condition occurring several weeks after covid-19 infection that affects multiple organ systems and can cause long-lasting effects. Half of the more than 5,200 MIS-C cases to date have been in 5- to 13-year-olds. Sixty to 70 percent of MIS-C patients were admitted to intensive care, and 1 to 2 percent died. Two in 3 children afflicted with MIS-C report ongoing symptoms more than 60 days after diagnosis.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: F.D.A. Advisory Panel Recommends Pfizer Vaccine for 5- to 11-Year-Olds, Staff Reports, Oct. 26, 2021. Federal officials hope the pediatric dose can help close a major gap in the nation’s vaccine campaign. The decision brings the vaccine a step closer to about 28 million American children. The F.D.A. typically follows the committee’s recommendations. The panel endorsed giving the age group one-third of the dosage given to those 12 and up. Shots could be offered as early as next week. Here’s the latest.

  • Now that the F.D.A. panel has recommended pediatric Covid shots, here’s what happens next.
  • Moderna agrees to sell up to 110 million Covid vaccine doses to African countries.
  • Birx testifies that Trump’s White House failed to take steps to prevent more virus deaths.
  • China locks down a northwestern city to subdue a small outbreak.
  • In Germany’s Parliament, wristbands indicate lawmakers’ Covid status.
  • New Zealand will expand its vaccine mandate to cover 40 percent of workers.
  • Hong Kong’s quarantine rules, among the world’s tightest, are getting even tighter.
  • New York City’s biggest police union sues over the city’s vaccine mandate.
  • As other nations push to vaccinate children, Mexico is an outlier.
  • Days away from its deadline, Tyson Foods reaches a 96 percent vaccination rate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why is Anthony Fauci trying to kill my puppy? Dana Milbank, right, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). My family recently got a new puppy, a strong-dana milbank newestwilled and mouthy but ultimately lovable little nipper.

Unfortunately, though, I can’t take Bernie out on walks. Here in the capital, we have a puppy killer on the loose, a murderous psychopath known as Anthony S. Fauci.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci is facing calls from a bipartisan group of legislators to respond to allegations that his National Institutes of Health division provided a grant to a lab in Tunisia to torture and kill dozens of beagle puppies for twisted scientific experiments,” Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post reported Sunday afternoon.

“HORROR ‘EXPERIMENTS’: #ArrestFauci trending after doc ‘funded research that saw beagles eaten alive & stripped of vocal cords in testing’” Murdoch’s Sun reported.

“'Cruel' Fauci is condemned for … experiments which saw beagles ‘de-barked’ and trapped in cages so flies could eat them alive,” added Britain’s Daily Mail, mentioning “a Tunisian research lab where beagle puppies were force-fed a new drug.”

The monster! What next, Fauci? Setting kittens’ tails on fire? Pulling appendages off daddy longlegs while watching cock fights?

Unlikely. As it turns out, the only thing being tortured here is the truth. The episode says more about the right-wing disinformation machine and its crusade against Fauci than it does about research funded by Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It turns out that this Tunisian study was erroneously attributed to NIAID. NIAID did, however, fund different research in Tunisia — and the beagles weren’t puppies, they weren’t euthanized, they weren’t “de-barked,” and they weren’t “trapped” so “flies could eat them alive.” The dogs were given an experimental vaccine and allowed to roam. There was a very good reason for this: Dogs are the main reservoir host (and flies the main vector) of the disease that was being studied, which affects half a million people a year, particularly children, and has a 6 percent mortality rate in Tunisia.

But right-wing news outlets, through stupidity or malice, conflated separate studies funded by NIAID, using documents provided by the White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog group with an anti-Fauci bent. Over the past couple of months, Gateway Pundit, National Review, Fox News, the Hill and others have picked up elements of this “story,” with varying degrees of accuracy, and lawmakers have written letters to Fauci based on the misinformation. NIAID received hundreds of threatening calls Monday from people inflamed by the misleading reports.

Had right-wing outlets checked with the NIH, they would know that in another study, which didn’t involve Tunisia and didn’t involve flies, NIAID-funded researchers did indeed perform cordectomies on 44 beagle puppies and euthanized them after the study. And here’s why: The Food and Drug Administration requires researchers to experiment on non-rodent mammals for certain classes of HIV-AIDS drugs, and for this study specifically recommended dogs. It is necessary to use young dogs (six to eight months) to assess whether the drugs retard growth. It is mandatory that the dogs be euthanized so researchers can search for damage to organ systems. And it is recommended by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care that the dogs undergo cordectomies to reduce anxiety (in dogs) and hearing loss (in humans) from barking. (Beagles are used because of their uniform size.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Fired After Endorsing Vaccines, Evangelical Insider Takes a Leadership Role, Ruth Graham, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). After being at the center of a media storm, Daniel Darling hopes to lead a more civil discussion at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 26, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 244,995,084, Deaths: 4,973,730
U.S. Cases:     46,417,525, Deaths:    757,849
India Cases:     34,202,202, Deaths:    455,100
Brazil Cases:    21,735,560, Deaths:    605,884

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 220.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 26, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 190.7 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

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Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, The World Is Bending the Climate Emissions Curve. Just Not Enough, Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Nations have started making progress on climate change. But the Earth is still on track for dangerous warming unless those efforts accelerate drastically.

In 2014, before the Paris climate agreement, the world was on track to heat up nearly 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, an outcome widely seen as catastrophic. Today, thanks to rapid growth in clean energy, humanity has started to bend the emissions curve. Current policies put us on pace for roughly 3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100 — a better result, but still devastating.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ron desantis uncredited Custom

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: DeSantis's big secret is emerging from the shadows, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct. 26, 2021. An October 25 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallreport in Hill Reporter. com, an affiliate of Meidas Media Network, described an incident involving [Florida Governor Ron DeSantis] DeSantis in 2001 at the Darlington private K-12 school in Rome, Georgia. DeSantis taught history at the school for a year.

A photograph from 2001 has surfaced showing a 22-year old DeSantis (shown above in file photo) partying with female Darlington students, some of whom were seniors who graduated in 2002. Such behavior would have been in violation of Darlington's code of conduct for members of its staff.

wayne madesen report logoThe Hill Reporter article stated that DeSantis "had a reputation among students for being a young 'hot teacher' who girls loved." The website also reported that DeSantis has another problem. Not only was DeSantis's socializing off campus with the Darlington students a violation of school policy, but the girls were also underage and DeSantis was an adult. The socializing also, according to The Hill Reporter, involved alcohol, which was also illegal.

And this fact makes the role of DeSantis's relationship with his 2018 gubernatorial top campaign political adviser even more curious. It was Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), currently under federal investigation for underage sex trafficking involving girls the same age as those seen partying with DeSantis in 2001, who arranged for DeSantis's campaign appearances in the state.

WMR's informed sources in Florida have reported that the federal investigation of Gaetz also involves DeSantis as a potential target and not merely for financial, campaign donation, and lobbying crimes. Gaetz's former "wing man," former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, was convicted on May 17, 2021 on six federal charges, including sex trafficking of a minor. Greenberg is reportedly singing to prosecutors in exchange for a lighter prison sentence.

washington post logoWashington Post, TikTok, Snap, YouTube defend how they protect kids in a first-time appearance for two of the social media giants, Rachel Lerman and Cristiano Lima, Oct. 26, 2021.  TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube, all social media sites popular with teens and young adults, answered to Congress Tuesday about how well they protect kids online and what needs to change to make things safer.

tiktok logo CustomIt’s the first time testifying before the legislative body for both TikTok and Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, despite their popularity and Congress’s increasing focus on tech industry practices. By contrast, Facebook representatives have testified 30 times in the past four years, and Twitter executives including CEO Jack Dorsey have testified on Capitol Hill 18 times total.

TikTok and Snapchat are testifying for the first time. Their peers are in the double-digits.

Tuesday’s hearing, convened by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in front of the Senate Commerce Committee’s consumer protection panel, drilled into kids’ experiences on social media, how the company’s features and product changes affect their privacy and mental health, and what laws may need to change to protect teens and kids.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: The Trump team and Fox News alleged dead voters. Most cases were either debunked or actually involved Republicans, Aaron Blake, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). A trip down memory lane on the Trump campaign's allegations of dead voters.

RawStory, Republican lawyer outed after his mom says a school book scared him so much Virginia should vote GOP to ban books, Sarah K. Burris, Oct. 25, 2021. Republican lawyer outed after his mom says a school book scared him so much Virginia should vote GOP to ban books.

Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is out with a new ad by a mom talking about how her child was terrified by a book he was forced to read while in school. She goes on to talk about why having a governor like Youngkin means better regulations on schools so far-right parents can decide what everyone's child should read and learn.

What is becoming known now, however, is that the mom's son was actually a senior in high school when he was "scared" by the book he read. He was 17-years-old and legally able to see rated-R movies in a theater. The child is a lawyer in the Republican Party today, and it is being reported in multiple outlets that he was so terrified by a book at 17 that it's being used in political ads years later. Even at 19, he was confessing to having "night terrors" after reading the book.

Night terrors are defined by the Mayo Clinic, "episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep." The analysis goes on to say, "sleep terrors differ from nightmares. The dreamer of a nightmare wakes up from the dream and may remember details, but a person who has a sleep terror episode remains asleep. Children usually don't remember anything about their sleep terrors in the morning. Adults may recall a dream fragment they had during the sleep terrors."

Youngkin is going all-in on his campaign of literary censorship, despite a Fox News campaign attacking Democrats for attempting to censor Dr. Seuss because the author's foundation stopped printing certain books of his.

Issues like "critical race theory" and censorship of African American history and literature could motivate white supremacists and those on the far-right in next week's election. However, it is unclear if it could make or break the Virginia governor's race, where voters say they're most concerned about the economy and COVID.

A Fox News poll tried to claim that a "plurality" of Virginia voters were against teaching "CRT," yet when asked what the top issues people are voting on in the 2021 election it only ranked at 7 percent. Only 39 percent (plus or minus 3 percent) oppose CRT. More people say they support teaching it (27 percent) or don't know enough about it (32 percent). The same poll shows Youngkin's polling at just 44 percent and Donald Trump's at 41 percent. A conservative, anti-CRT group is already launching a $1 million expenditure attacking the education policy. Few other groups are polling the issue and none in the past month.

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U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Convicted in ’81 Brink’s Robbery Wins Release From New York Prison, Michael Wilson, Oct. 26, 2021. David Gilbert, a participant in the infamous armed robbery of a Brink’s armored car in 1981, a politically motivated ambush that left two police officers and a guard dead, has been granted parole after spending 40 years behind bars for his role in the attack, officials said on Tuesday.

andrew cuomo frownMr. Gilbert, 77, will be released from prison by Nov. 30. He was granted a parole hearing this month after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, commuted Mr. Gilbert’s sentence on his final day in office in August, in the wake of sexual abuse accusations. In commuting the sentence, Mr. Cuomo cited Mr. Gilbert’s work in AIDS education and prevention while in prison, and his work teaching and clerking in the law library.

Mr. Gilbert was 37 on the day of the attack, Oct. 20, 1981, in which $1.6 million in cash was stolen from the armored car outside the Nanuet Mall near Nyack, N.Y. The heist was planned by the Black Liberation Army and the May 19th Communist Organization, and immediately became a centerpiece in the pantheon of political violence in the United States. Mr. Gilbert was convicted of robbery and felony murder.

He was unapologetic at his sentencing in 1983, where he was given 75 years to life, reading from a prepared statement: “The rulers, the rich and their armed mercenaries are the only lives valued by this court. We say that if they sentence us to 1,000 years or shoot us at dawn tomorrow, it will not save this social system.” His original earliest date for a parole hearing was to have been in 2056 before Mr. Cuomo intervened.

He had been in a getaway vehicle with Kathy Boudin, with whom he had a toddler son. Ms. Boudin was released in 2003 after receiving a 20-year sentence as part of a plea deal, and went on to become a professor at Columbia University.

The couple’s son, Chesa Boudin, was elected the district attorney of San Francisco in 2019, and led a campaign urging his father’s release from prison.

Mr. Boudin’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement issued after Mr. Cuomo commuted Mr. Gilbert’s sentence, Mr. Boudin said he was “overcome with emotion.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Men shot by Kyle Rittenhouse can be called ‘rioters’ and ‘looters’ but not ‘victims,’ judge rules, Timothy Bella, Oct. 26, 2021. A Wisconsin judge ruled Monday that attorneys in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial could refer to the men the teen shot in Kenosha, Wis., last year as “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists.” They could not, however, describe Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, who were killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, who was wounded, as “victims” because the term was “loaded,” the judge said.

The ruling comes ahead of what’s expected to be a contentious trial. Rittenhouse, then 17, shot the men in downtown Kenosha on Aug. 25, 2020, with an AR-15-style rifle after crossing state lines during the turmoil sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by Rusten Sheskey, a Whitkyle rittenhouse tik tok profilee police officer. Rittenhouse was with fellow armed men who had tasked themselves with patrolling Kenosha’s streets amid the chaos.

Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder laid out final ground rules before the trial next week. Rittenhouse, right, faces homicide charges in the deaths of Rosenbaum, 36, and Huber, 26, and an attempted homicide charge for shooting Grosskreutz, 27. He also is charged with being a minor in possession of a firearm. Rittenhouse has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his attorneys are expected to argue that he acted in self-defense.

Schroeder said that while he advised Rittenhouse’s team against using pejorative terms to describe the three men shot, such language could be used in their closing arguments if evidence shows the men participated in criminal acts. Schroeder said Mark Richards, one of Rittenhouse’s attorneys, could “demonize them if he wants, if he thinks it will win points with the jury,” according to the Chicago Tribune, the first to report the news.

“If more than one of them were engaged in arson, rioting, looting, I’m not going to tell the defense you can’t call them that,” the judge said. Grosskreutz, the lone survivor of the shooting, has not been charged with a crime from that night.

Schroeder’s ground rules reiterated his earlier ruling, in which he stated that the men shot by Rittenhouse could not be called “victims” because the term was prejudicial toward the teen. But on Monday, the judge also allowed the defense to use terms such as “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists” to refer to those men.

“The word ‘victim’ is a loaded, loaded word,” Schroeder said. “ ‘Alleged victim’ is a cousin to it.”

Although such rulings are not uncommon in trials in which there is a dispute over self-defense, prosecutors suggested the judge was employing a double standard by allowing Rosenbaum, Huber and Grosskreutz to be called “rioters,” “looters” and “arsonists” but not “victims.” Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger questioned how Rosenbaum and Huber, in particular, could be so disparaged, given that they would never have the chance to defend themselves.

“The terms that I’m identifying here such as rioter, looter and arsonist are as loaded, if not more loaded, than the term ‘victim,’ ” Binger said.

A voice-mail message left for Schroeder at his office was not immediately returned Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge finds teen committed sexual assault in Virginia school bathroom, Justin Jouvenal, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The case has generated anger among parents and become an issue in the Virginia governor’s race.

In a case that has generated a political firestorm, a Virginia juvenile court judge found sufficient evidence during a trial Monday to sustain charges that a teen sexually assaulted a classmate in the girls’ bathroom of a Loudoun County high school in May.

The teenager, now 15, is also charged with the sexual assault of another student that occurred months later at a different Loudoun school. Loudoun County juvenile court Chief Judge Pamela L. Brooks said she would wait to sentence the teen until that case is decided in November.

The judge’s finding is the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict in other courts.

The case generated local and national attention after the parents of the girl assaulted in May said the charged youth was “gender fluid,” prompting renewed backlash against a policy in Loudoun County schools that allows transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. That policy was adopted after the May assault.

Authorities have not commented on the youth’s gender identity and it did not become an issue Monday in court. During the hearing, the 15-year-old victim in the first case testified she had consensual sexual encounters with the defendant on two occasions in a girls’ bathroom at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn. On May 28, she said, the two arranged to meet again and the youth threw her to the floor and forced her to perform sex acts.

The case also has sparked anger from parents who have questioned why the teen was allowed to attend another school while awaiting trial in the May assault. It has prompted the head of Loudoun County schools to embark on major reforms to the district’s disciplinary procedures to prevent a similar occurrence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Assistant director who gave Baldwin prop firearm was fired over gun discharge on 2019 movie set, Sonia Rao, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The assistant director who handed actor Alec Baldwin a prop firearm that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza on the set of “Rust” last week had been fired from a previous film in 2019 after an unexpected discharge on that set, according to a producer from that film.

Assistant director Dave Halls, who was identified in an affidavit as the person who handed Baldwin the gun, was fired from “Freedom’s Path” in 2019 after a crew member was injured following the unexpected discharge of a firearm, said a producer from “Freedom’s Path,” who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the current investigation.

“Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged,” the producer said. “Production did not resume filming until Dave was off-site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time.”


World Conflict, Corruption

washington post logoWashington Post, Sudan’s military detains prime minister, Cabinet members in apparent coup, Max Bearak, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The apparent detention of the prime minister and a large number of his Cabinet and party members plunged the country’s fragile democratic transition into disarray. The detention by Sudan’s military of the country’s prime minister and a large number of his cabinet and party members early Monday morning plunged the country’s fragile democratic transition into disarray.

Just days earlier, the capital Khartoum was swept by the biggest pro-democracy street protests since 2019, when longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir was toppled by a wave of popular discontent. Crowds swelled in Khartoum’s streets again on Monday in response to the detentions.

Internet services were disrupted or unavailable in Khartoum and other parts of the vast northeast African country, according to phone calls with locals in Monday’s early-morning hours. Later in the morning, calls were not going through. Local news channels reported the closing of roads and bridges connecting Khartoum with the rest of Sudan by large contingents of security forces as well as the suspension of flights at the airport.

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U.S. Media, Business News

 

Former Facebook Product Manager Frances Haugen testifying to Congress (Photo by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press on Oct. 10, 2021).

Former Facebook Product Manager Frances Haugen testifying to Congress (Photo by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press on Oct. 10, 2021).

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: How Facebook’s Big Leak Spilled Out, Ben Smith, right, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Frances Haugen, the former Facebook worker who ben smith twittershared company documents, led a meticulous media rollout, our media columnist Ben Smith writes. In a time of mega-leaks, journalists’ sources have become power players. Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager who shared company documents, led a meticulous media rollout.

Frances Haugen first met Jeff Horwitz, a tech-industry reporter for The Wall Street Journal, early last December on a hiking trail near the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, Calif.

facebook logoShe liked that he seemed thoughtful, and she liked that he’d written about Facebook’s role in transmitting violent Hindu nationalism in India, a particular interest of hers. She also got the impression that he would support her as a person, rather than as a mere source who could supply him with the inside information she had picked up during her nearly two years as a product manager at Facebook.

“I auditioned Jeff for a while,” Ms. Haugen told me in a phone interview from her home in Puerto Rico, “and one of the reasons I went with him is that he was less sensationalistic than other choices I could have made.”

She became one of the greatest sources of the century, turning over the tens of thousands of pages of internal documents she had collected. Starting Sept. 13, The Journal justified her confidence with a meticulous rollout that included 11 major articles by Mr. Horwitz and other reporters cleverly packaged under a catchy rubric, The Facebook Files.

  • Washington Post, TikTok, Snap, YouTube to defend how they protect kids in a first-time appearance for two of the social media giants, Rachel Lerman and Cristiano Lima, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.).
  • New York Times, The Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen is set to testify in British Parliament today, Oct. 25, 2021.
  • New York Times, Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects.

Oct. 25

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 

U.S. Elections, Governance, Media

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race

 

World Conflict, Human Rights, Climate Change

 

U.S. Media, Business News

 

Top Stories 

Alternet, 'This makes my blood boil': Outrage erupts as new report links GOP lawmakers to the Jan. 6 rally, David Badash, Oct. 25, 2021. Americans are expressing outrage after a bombshell Rolling Stone report that claims several GOP Members of Congress and their staffs were involved in planning and organizing Donald Trump's January 6 rally that led to the violent and deadly insurrection, along with "Trump's efforts to overturn his election loss."

Some of those who are among the most outraged are Democratic Members of Congress, who were in the Capitol on January 6 and feared for their lives. Learning that some of their GOP colleagues were involved in the planning of the rally that precipitated the insurrection has been "triggering," as one House Democrat revealed, adding that it makes her "blood boil."

The Rolling Stone article cites two "planners of the pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington, D.C.," who allege Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) were deeply involved, along with these members of Congress or their aides: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Legal experts have called for those members of Congress and staffers to be expelled if the allegations are true, while one has urged people to "chill," and let the DOJ do what it needs to.

U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) calls the Rolling Stone article "highly disturbing."

"No one should be above the law," he says, "including Members of Congress and former White House Staff. And if pardons were indeed discussed in advance, why would that be? Because folks knew crimes were about to be committed."

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) says she is "joining the calls for those who helped plan the deadly January 6th insurrection to be immediately expelled."

"Every Member of Congress that helped to plan the attempted coup of our government shouldn't be allowed to serve in Congress."

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, the first Asian-American elected to Congress from New York, says she has "angry tears right now," citing the Rolling Stone report.

"During 1/6, I, like many, texted loved ones goodbye. Countless people have asked if I've been ok since & I've always answered truthfully that i was fine. But this article was triggering. How could colleagues be traitors? This makes my blood boil."

Rolling Stone, Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings With Members of Congress and White House Staff, Hunter Walker, Oct. 24, 2021. Hunter Walker is the author of the politics newsletter The Uprising. He previously spent the entirety of the Trump administration as a White House correspondent for Yahoo News. Walker has also written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, NBC News, Vanity Fair's HIVE website, and New York Magazine, among others.

Two sources are communicating with House investigators and detailed a stunning series of allegations to Rolling Stone, including a promise of a “blanket pardon” from the Oval Office.

Rolling Stone reports "planners of the pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington, D.C., have begun communicating with congressional investigators and sharing new information about what happened when the former president's supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Two of these people have spoken to Rolling Stone extensively in recent weeks and detailed explosive allegations that multiple members of Congress were intimately involved in planning both Trump's efforts to overturn his election loss and the Jan. 6 events that turned violent."

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Book Launch: The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich: The Era of Trumpism and the New Far-Right, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct 25, 2021. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallToday, WMR announces the release of The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich.

This book details Donald Trump's serious efforts to bring about a fascist dictatorship in the United States. In addition to emulating Adolf Hitler's "Big Lie" (große Lüge) to the letter, Trump made common cause with the world's other leading fascists in creating a new "Axis" alliance. In fact, the wayne madsen fourth reich covergovernment of the neo-Nazi President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, was direcrly involved in the January 6th coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol. It was no less a violation of U.S. national sovereignty than was Nazi Germany's involvement in the attempted July 25, 1934 attempted coup in Austria that saw Nazis, with German support, assassinate Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.

The Holy Roman Empire was the First Reich. It was followed by Imperial Germany of the Kaisers, the Second Reich. From the ashes of Imperial Germany rose the Third Reich of the National Socialists and Adolf Hitler.

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the return of strongmen leaders around the world -- in Russia, China, India, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, and other nations -- ushered into place the Fourth Reich. No less an observer than the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, commented that the Trump administration and the events of January 6, 2021 were reminiscent of the Nazi Party's burning of the Reichstag in 1933. In the third decade of the 21st century, the signs of fascism were present in Washington, Moscow, Beijing, and even in London -- with the ascendance of the proto-fascist Boris Johnson to the Prime Minister's office. This book describes the re-emergence of fascist rule long after it was believed that World War II ended the threat of this venal system of government forever.

In addition to copying Hitler's strategy of employing the Big Lie, Trump stood to implement other Nazi playbook policies. The Nazis used the outbreak of typhus in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto and forced ghettos in other Polish cities to blame the interned Jews for harboring typhus-causing lice. The same scenario played out during the initial infections of Covid-19 in major U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Newark, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, because these cities had Democratic mayors or were in states with Democratic governors. Trump Covid advisers like Jared Kushner and Peter Navarro decided to withhold federal support support in states with Democratic governors so that voters in those states would blame those governors for the pandemic's rising death rate. It was no more an insidious operation than the Nazis blaming Polish Jews for typhus.

facebook logoFacebook and Mark Zuckerberg had permitted Trump's Big Lies on Covid, police killings of black Americans, and other triggering subjects to martial Trump's increasingly-frenzied political base to threaten to kill Democratic governors in Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, and other states. This propaganda operation ultimately led to January 6th, Trump's version of Hitler's Reichstag Fire of 1933 and the 1934 "Night of the Long Knives."

Trump's version of Joseph Goebbels, Steve Bannon, the aspirant propagandist for a global fascist "Movement," vowed to fight for political control "precinct-by-precinct" in elections around the United States and the world.

This book delineates where the political battlefield's lines at the electoral district level have been drawn -- from Hungary and Poland to Brazil and the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona -- so that the fight can be joined by progressives and democrats everywhere.

 

narendra modi horizontal file

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How Facebook neglected the rest of the world, fueling hate speech and violence in India, Cat Zakrzewski, Gerrit De Vynck, Niha Masih and Shibani Mahtani, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). A trove of internal documents show Facebook didn’t invest in key safety protocols in the company’s largest market.

facebook logoFor all of Facebook’s troubles in North America, its problems with hate speech and disinformation are dramatically worse in the developing world. Internal company documents made public Saturday reveal that Facebook has meticulously studied its approach abroad — and was well aware that weaker moderation in non-English-speaking countries leaves the platform vulnerable to abuse by bad actors and authoritarian regimes.

In February 2019, not long before India’s general election, a pair of Facebook employees set up a dummy account to better understand the experience of a new user in the company’s largest market. They made a profile of a 21-year-old woman, a resident of North India, and began to india flag maptrack what Facebook showed her.

At first, her feed filled with soft-core porn and other, more harmless, fare. Then violence flared in Kashmir, the site of a long-running territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (shown above), campaigning for reelection as a nationalist strongman, unleashed retaliatory airstrikes that India claimed hit a terrorist training camp.

Soon, without any direction from the user, the Facebook account was flooded with pro-Modi propaganda and anti-Muslim hate speech. “300 dogs died now say long live India, death to Pakistan,” one post said, over a background of laughing emoji faces. “These are pakistani dogs,” said the translated caption of one photo of dead bodies lined-up on stretchers, hosted in the News Feed.

An internal Facebook memo, reviewed by The Washington Post, called the dummy account test an “integrity nightmare” that underscored the vast difference between the experience of Facebook in India and what U.S. users typically encounter. One Facebook worker noted the staggering number of dead bodies.

About the same time, in a dorm room in northern India, 8,000 miles away from the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters, a Kashmiri student named Junaid told The Post he watched as his real Facebook page flooded with hateful messages. One said Kashmiris were “traitors who deserved to be shot.” Some of his classmates used these posts as their profile pictures on Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

Junaid, who spoke on the condition that only his first name be used for fear of retribution, recalled huddling in his room one evening as groups of men marched outside chanting death to Kashmiris. His phone buzzed with news of students from Kashmir being beaten in the streets — along with more violent Facebook messages.

“Hate spreads like wildfire on Facebook,” Junaid said. “None of the hate speech accounts were blocked.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking, Mike Isaac, Oct. 25, 2021. Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects.

facebook logoIn 2019, Facebook researchers began a new study of one of the social network’s foundational features: the Like button.

They examined what people would do if Facebook removed the distinct thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its photo-sharing app Instagram, according to company documents. The buttons had sometimes caused Instagram’s youngest users “stress and anxiety,” the researchers found, especially if posts didn’t get enough Likes from friends.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wBut the researchers discovered that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads. At the same time, it did not alleviate teenagers’ social anxiety and young users did not share more photos, as the company thought they might, leading to a mixed bag of results.

Mark Zuckerberg, left, Facebook’s chief executive, and other managers discussed hiding the Like button for more Instagram users, according to the documents. In the end, a larger test was rolled out in just a limited capacity to “build a positive press narrative” around Instagram.

The research on the Like button was an example of how Facebook has questioned the bedrock features of social networking. As the company has confronted crisis after crisis on misinformation, privacy and hate speech, a central issue has been whether the basic way that the platform works has been at fault — essentially, the features that have made Facebook be Facebook.

Apart from the Like button, Facebook has scrutinized its share button, which lets users instantly spread content posted by other people; its groups feature, which is used to form digital communities; and other tools that define how more than 3.5 billion people behave and interact online. The research, laid out in thousands of pages of internal documents, underlines how the company has repeatedly grappled with what it has created.

What researchers found was often far from positive. Time and again, they determined that people misused key features or that those features amplified toxic content, among other effects. In an August 2019 internal memo, several researchers said it was Facebook’s “core product mechanics” — meaning the basics of how the product functioned — that had let misinformation and hate speech flourish on the site.

The company documents are part of the Facebook Papers, a cache provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to Congress by a lawyer representing Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who has become a whistle-blower. Ms. Haugen earlier gave the documents to The Wall Street Journal. This month, a congressional staff member supplied the redacted disclosures to more than a dozen other news organizations, including The New York Times.

In a statement, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, criticized articles based on the documents, saying that they were built on a “false premise.”

“Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” he said. He said Facebook had invested $13 billion and hired more than 40,000 people to keep people safe, adding that the company has called “for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards to which we can all adhere.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen testifies in British Parliament today, Loveday Morris, Hamza Shaban, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cristiano Lima, Oct. 25, 2021. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is testifying Monday before members of the British Parliament, answering questions about the trove of tens of thousands of documents she says show how the company has tracked real-world damage it helped exacerbate.

The Facebook Papers, a collection of internal documents, has triggered a fresh round of global reporting on the social media giant, including an investigation by The Washington Post. Lawmakers had already launched probes into Facebook’s conduct following a series of stories by the Wall Street Journal.

United Kingdom flagFacebook releases its quarterly earnings results later Monday and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is expected to speak to investors, possibly addressing criticism brought on by the reporting. He may even change the company’s name, according to a report.

Facebook removed a video in which Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro falsely associated coronavirus vaccines with the onset of AIDS, putting the social media giant at the center of the nation’s explosive debate over misinformation.

facebook logoBolsonaro, a coronavirus skeptic, has often used his Facebook Live dispatches to communicate with his most ardent supporters, spread misinformation about the virus and undermine attempts to curb its spread. Many here have been calling on the platform to take down such videos, which Facebook did for the first time Sunday.

In a statement Monday, Facebook said that Bolsonaro’s statements didn’t comply with its policy prohibiting false claims describing the coronavirus vaccines as either deadly or seriously harmful.

During the Thursday night transmission, Bolsonaro said reports from the United Kingdom suggested that “vaccinated people are developing the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.” U.K. health officials afterward told the Brazilian news outlet G1 that the statements were false.

Brazil has spent years mired in debate over freedom of expression and misinformation, spurring national investigations that have led to the arrests of several Bolsonaro supporters. The Brazilian president, meanwhile, has characterized the inquiries as political persecution.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden and Democrats Race for Budget Deal This Week as Rifts Remain, Emily Cochrane, Oct. 25, 2021. President Biden and Democratic leaders want a vote within days even as disagreements continue over health benefits, paid leave and how to pay for the plan. In a fresh wrinkle, Senator Joe Manchin, a key swing vote, was pushing to weaken or remove a second climate change provision from the budget bill.

Joe Biden portrait 2President Biden and Democratic congressional leaders raced on Monday to strike a compromise on a domestic policy and climate package, pushing for a vote within days even as critical disagreements remained over health benefits, paid leave, environmental provisions and how to pay for the sprawling plan.

Negotiators were closing in on an agreement that could spend around $1.75 trillion over 10 years, half the size of the blueprint Democrats approved earlier this year, as they haggled with centrist holdouts in their party who are pressing to curtail the size of the bill.

They have coalesced around a plan that would extend monthly payments to families with children, establish generous tax incentives for clean energy use and provide federal support for child care, elder care and universal prekindergarten. An array of tax increases, including a new wealth tax for the country’s billionaires, would pay for the initiatives.

But a final deal remained elusive amid disputes over the details of potential Medicare and Medicaid expansions, a new paid family and medical leave program, programs to combat climate change and a proposal to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Top Democrats were also toiling to nudge the price tag up to $2 trillion, still far below the $3.5 trillion level they laid out in their budget plan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Atmospheric river unleashes record-setting rain, flooding in California, Matthew Cappucci and Jason Samenow, Both San Francisco and Sacramento had their wettest October days on record.  

A historic atmospheric river drenched central and northern California Sunday with record-setting rains. The high-impact event dented the region’s drought and quelled the fire season but triggered flooding and mudslides.

Up to a half-foot of rain fell at low elevations and over a foot in the mountains. Both San Francisco and Sacramento established new rainfall records for October, just after enduring a historic shortage of precipitation.

At the highest elevations of the northern Sierra Nevada, multiple feet of snow fell, a crucial addition to water resources in the drought-plagued region.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow swaths of exceptionally moist air, sometimes sourced from the tropics, that can produce excessive amounts of precipitation. This river was rated a level 5 out of 5 in the San Francisco Bay area by the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes in La Jolla, Calif.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Challenges Biden Again With Broad Cybersurveillance Operation, David E. Sanger, Oct. 25, 2021. The new campaign came only months after President Biden imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to a series of spy operations it had conducted around the world. The Russian agency behind the SolarWinds hacking has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. computer networks, Microsoft officials said.

microsoft logo CustomRussia’s premier intelligence agency has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. government, corporate and think-tank computer networks, Microsoft officials and cybersecurity experts warned on Sunday, only months after President Biden imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to a series of sophisticated spy operations it had conducted around the world.

russian flagThe new effort is “very large, and it is ongoing,” Tom Burt, one of Microsoft’s top security officers, said in an interview. Government officials confirmed that the operation, apparently aimed at acquiring data stored in the cloud, seemed to come out of the S.V.R., the Russian intelligence agency that was the first to enter the Democratic National Committee’s networks during the 2016 election.

While Microsoft insisted that the percentage of successful breaches was small, it did not provide enough information to accurately measure the severity of the theft.

Earlier this year, the White House blamed the S.V.R. for the so-called SolarWinds hacking, a highly sophisticated effort to alter software used by government agencies and the nation’s largest companies, giving the Russians broad access to 18,000 users. Mr. Biden said the attack undercut trust in the government’s basic systems and vowed retaliation for both the intrusion and election interference. But when he announced sanctions against Russian financial institutions and technology companies in April, he pared back the penalties.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A C.I.A. Fighter, a Somali Bomb Maker and a Faltering Shadow War, Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes, Photographs by Tyler Hicks, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The hunt for an elusive Somali militant illustrates why Al Shabab, the wealthy and dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate, are at their strongest in years. Despite a decade of American covert action, they roam the countryside, bomb cities and run an undercover state, complete with courts and parallel taxes.

CIA LogoThe C.I.A. convoy rolled out of Mogadishu in the dead of night, headed south along a crumbling ocean road that led deep into territory controlled by Al Shabab, one of Africa’s deadliest militant groups.

The vehicles halted at a seaside village where American and Somali paramilitaries poured out, storming a house and killing several militants, Somali officials said. But one man escaped, sprinted to an explosives-filled vehicle primed for a suicide bombing, and hit the detonator.

The blast last November killed three Somalis and grievously wounded an American: Michael Goodboe, 54, a C.I.A. paramilitary specialist and former Navy SEAL, who was airlifted to a U.S. military hospital in Germany. He died 17 days later.

His was a rare American fatality in the decade-old shadow war against Al Shabab, the world’s wealthiest and arguably most dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate. But Mr. Goodboe was also a casualty of an American way of war that has flourished since the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, now under greater scrutiny than ever.

The United States’ most ambitious response to the 9/11 attacks was in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of troops were dispatched to banish extremists and rebuild the country — a mission that recently ended in crushing failure with the chaotic American withdrawal.

But in Somalia, as in countries like Yemen and Syria, the U.S. turned to a different playbook, eschewing major troop deployments in favor of spies, Special Operations raids and drone strikes. Private contractors and local fighters were recruited for risky tasks. The mission was narrow at first, a hunt for Qaeda fugitives, only later expanding to include fighting Al Shabab and building up Somali security forces.

Now that playbook is also failing. As in Afghanistan, the American mission has been stymied by an alliance with a weak, notoriously corrupt local government, an intractable homegrown insurgency and the United States’ own errors, such as drone strikes that have killed civilians.

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Virus Victims, Responses

 

 

vaxxers headlights

Logic of the Anti-Vaxxers (illustrated)

Press Run, Opinion: Who cares if anti-vaxxers quit their jobs? Eric Boehlert, right, Oct. 25, 2021. It's not news.  Wringing its hands at the sight of workers walking away eric.boehlertfrom jobs when faced with simple vaccine mandates, the Wall Street Journal over the weekend became the latest national news outlet to shower attention on the topic.

The sympathetic, 2,000-word Journal piece focused on a minuscule portion of the workforce that has irrationally decided not to take a free, safe, and effective vaccine. Instead of presenting these actions as delusional, the press often frames the quitting as being principled or even heroic. (The “resistance” is “unwavering,” the New York Times announced.)

The continued, hand-holding coverage — “brainwashing” is virtually never used — represents the latest example of the press helping to normalize irrational, nihilistic behavior by Trump followers.

As we watch a parade of unreasonable people needlessly blow up their careers and walk away from good paying jobs with excellent benefits, the questions that linger are, should we care, and should this trend be breathlessly treated as Big News by the media? Should we care that a tiny percentage is embracing rabbit-hole conspiracies about a vaccine that nearly 200 million Americans have safely taken? Should we care that they’ve decided to believe non-stop lies to the point where they’ll likely be unemployable for months, and maybe years to come?

It’s true that Covid dead-enders affect us all because epidemiologists estimate that 85 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated before the virus is truly under control.

But the media’s specific fixation on anti-vaxxers quitting their jobs seems misguided and out of place. And the coverage clearly feeds off a lack of context. That Journal’s weekend report looked at anti-vaccine nurses who once worked at Virginia and West Virginia-based Valley Health System. But nearly 6,000 of the company’s 6,200 employees have complied with the vaccine mandate.

The New York Times on Sunday published a long, 2,000-word story about anti-vaxxers quitting their jobs, focusing on public school employees in New York City, where 96 percent of workers have complied with the vaccine mandate. 96 percent — shouldn’t that be the story?

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: New York City Police Union Sues Over Vaccine Mandate, Staff Reports, Oct. 25, 2021. The lawsuit was filed in Staten Island, where many officers live and vaccination rates lag behind the citywide average. Here’s the latest Covid news. New U.S. travel rules, set to take effect Nov. 8, will allow entry of unvaccinated children and a narrow group of unvaccinated travelers from countries where shots are scarce.

The largest police union in New York City asked a judge on Monday to allow unvaccinated police officers to continue working, despite the city’s recently imposed vaccine mandate, which requires all municipal workers to have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Nov. 1.

In a lawsuit filed in Staten Island, which is home to many police officers and has a vaccination rate that lags behind the citywide average, the Police Benevolent Association of New York said it opposed a vaccine mandate for police officers that does not allow the option of being tested weekly instead of being vaccinated.

The lawsuit also claimed the mandate — which the mayor announced last week — does not contain sufficient protections for those officers who might object to the vaccine because of their religious beliefs. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the city will be “offering religious accommodation,” but that “valid religious exemptions” are rare.

While most lawsuits trying to stop government vaccine mandates in New York and elsewhere have so far failed to gain traction, some federal judges have appeared more sympathetic to suits that narrowly attack vaccine mandates for failing to accommodate religious beliefs.

  • Moderna’s Covid vaccine produces a strong immune response in younger children, the company said.New
  • As Djokovic drama plays out, it’s unclear if unvaccinated players will be allowed to play at the Australian Open.New
  • As the rest of the world abandons ‘Zero Covid,’ China holds out.
  • AstraZeneca’s vaccine comes with a slightly higher risk of a nerve syndrome but not worse than from Covid, a study finds.New
  • South Korea loosens restrictions as it fully vaccinates 70 percent of its population.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fired After Endorsing Vaccines, Evangelical Insider Takes a Leadership Role, Ruth Graham, Oct. 25, 2021. After being at the center of a media storm, Daniel Darling hopes to lead a more civil discussion at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccinations for U.S. Children Might Start Soon, if Parents Consent, Staff Reports, Oct. 25, 2021. A poll showed only about one in three parents of 5- to 11-year-olds planned to inoculate their children “right away.” Covid-19 vaccines could be approved and available for younger American children soon, but the question of how quickly parents will allow them to get inoculated is another matter.

Children ages 5 to 11 could begin getting vaccinated in early November, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, said Sunday.

That means those children could be fully immunized by the holidays, if an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration approves Pfizer’s application for vaccine use in that age group on Tuesday. Children 12 and up have been eligible for vaccination since May.

But hesitancy among parents of these children could be a hurdle. Only about one in three parents of 5- to 11-year-olds planned to get their children inoculated “right away” once a vaccine is authorized, according to polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted last month. Another third said they wanted to “wait and see” how the vaccine affected children.

Here’s the latest pandemic news:

  • Covid vaccinations for children 5 and up could begin next month, Dr. Fauci says.
  • As the rest of the world abandons ‘Zero Covid,’ China holds out.
  • Singer Ed Sheeran announces he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Unexpected Pandemic Consequence Frustrates Florida’s Biggest City, Patricia Mazzei, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Jacksonville is one of dozens of American cities that have struggled to pick up trash, yard waste and recycling amid a pandemic labor shortage.

One man in Florida’s largest city wrote to officials that the smell and flies were getting bad, after six weeks of waiting for his yard waste to be picked up. Other residents sent photos of overflowing bins, stacked plastic bags and littered lawns. At one point, the fed-up neighbors of Almira Street in Jacksonville threatened to rent a truck and dump their trash on the steps of City Hall.

The disruption to America’s economy created by the coronavirus pandemic has led to mass cancellations of school buses and ferries, to rental car shortages and a bottleneck of cargo ships waiting at seaports. And, in cities like Jacksonville, it has created a small but growing indignity: garbage left out to rot.

In the grand scheme of suffering, there are bigger problems. But it has become yet one more example of a public service that most people take for granted but is no longer working right.

“What good” are public servants, one frustrated man emailed the city, “if they can’t even maintain basic services??”

The pandemic delays have not been limited to Florida. Dozens of communities have experienced similar trouble. Atlanta began offering $500 signing bonuses to trash haulers, and garbage pickups were delayed in Denver. In Collingswood, N.J., just outside Philadelphia, municipal workers had to pick up the trash themselves earlier this summer after the borough’s waste hauler announced that it had no drivers: “We’re just not coming in,” the mayor said he was told.

The blame for the trash problems around the country lies with a labor shortage that predates the pandemic but has been exacerbated by it, said David Biderman, executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America.

“Recruiting and retaining workers is perhaps the biggest challenge that solid waste companies and local governments have with sanitation,” he said. “Covid was the perfect storm.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Their Jobs Made Them Get Vaccinated. They Refused, Sarah Maslin Nir, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The willingness of some workers to give up their livelihoods helps explain America’s struggle to reach herd immunity.

To public health officials, and the majority of Americans, the defiance is unreasonable and incomprehensible. Who would jeopardize their families’ financial security over a shot that has been proven safe and effective at preventing death?

That is not the way the holdouts see it. In interviews, New Yorkers who have given up their livelihoods spoke of their opposition to the vaccines as rooted in fear or, more commonly, in a deeply held conviction — resistance to vaccination as a principle to live by, one they put above any health, job or financial consideration.

It is this alternative worldview, resistant to carrot or stick, that helps explain why 21 percent of eligible adults in the country have not gotten a single vaccine dose, threatening a nationwide goal of achieving herd immunity.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 25, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 244,512,570, Deaths: 4,965,637
U.S. Cases:     46,312,782, Deaths:    756,362
India Cases:     34,189,774, Deaths:    454,740
Brazil Cases:    21,729,763, Deaths:   605,682

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 220.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 25, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 190.7 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

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Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, The World Is Bending the Climate Emissions Curve. Just Not Enough, Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, Oct. 25, 2021. Nations have started making progress on climate change. But the Earth is still on track for dangerous warming unless those efforts accelerate drastically.

In 2014, before the Paris climate agreement, the world was on track to heat up nearly 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, an outcome widely seen as catastrophic. Today, thanks to rapid growth in clean energy, humanity has started to bend the emissions curve. Current policies put us on pace for roughly 3 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100 — a better result, but still devastating.

washington post logoWashington Post, An ‘extreme and possible historic atmospheric river’ is battering California, Matthew Cappucci, Diana Leonard and Jacob Feuerstein, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Copious rainfall, mountain snow expected as extreme weather batters California. Amid an exceptional drought that has wrought havoc on California for years, a Level 5 out of 5 atmospheric river is soaking the region, dumping double-digit rainfall totals and up to six feet of mountain snow. This heavy precipitation will help ease the drought but produce dangerous mudslides and debris flows in areas recently devastated by fires.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow swaths of exceptionally moist air, sometimes sourced from the tropics, that can produce excessive amounts of precipitation.

“It will be a wild 24 to 36 hours across northern California as we will see an extreme and possible historic atmospheric river push through the region,” wrote the National Weather Service in Sacramento, calling it a “dangerous, high-impact weather system.”

Flash flood watches are up for most of Central and Northern California, blanketing some of the same areas that went upward of six months without a stitch of measurable rain. Sacramento recorded its first 0.01 inches of rain last week since March 19, capping off a record-setting 222 days without precipitation. Now it is bracing for more than half a foot of rain and flooding.

washington post logoWashington Post, More frequent outages afflict U.S. power grid as states fail to prepare for climate change, Douglas MacMillan and Will Englund, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). State officials are reluctant to ask ratepayers to foot the bill for investments experts say are needed to fortify the grid against increasingly severe weather.

Every time a storm lashes the Carolina coast, the power lines on Tonye Gray’s street go down, cutting her lights and air conditioning. After Hurricane Florence in 2018, Gray went three days with no way to refrigerate medicine for her multiple sclerosis or pump the floodwater out of her basement.

“Florence was hell,” said Gray, 61, a marketing account manager and Wilmington native who finds herself increasingly frustrated by the city’s vulnerability.

“We’ve had storms long enough in Wilmington and this particular area that all power lines should have been underground by now. We know we’re going to get hit.”

Tonye Gray holds a photo of flooding in her home in Wilmington, N.C., in 2018 from Hurricane Florence on Sept. 21. (Cornell Watson for The Washington Post)

Across the nation, severe weather fueled by climate change is pushing aging electrical systems past their limits, often with deadly results. Last year, the average American home endured more than eight hours without power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration — more than double the outage time five years ago.

This year alone, a wave of abnormally severe winter storms caused a disastrous power failure in Texas, leaving millions of homes in the dark, sometimes for days, and at least 200 dead. Power outages caused by Hurricane Ida contributed to at least 14 deaths in Louisiana, as some of the poorest parts of the state suffered through weeks of 90-degree heat without air conditioning.

As storms grow fiercer and more frequent, environmental groups are pushing states to completely reimagine the electrical grid, incorporating more batteries, renewable energy sources and localized systems known as “microgrids,” which they say could reduce the incidence of wide-scale outages. Utility companies have proposed their own storm-proofing measures, including burying power lines underground.

But state regulators largely have rejected these ideas, citing pressure to keep energy rates affordable. Of $15.7 billion in grid improvements under consideration last year, regulators approved only $3.4 billion, according to a national survey by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center — about one-fifth.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Ga. police chief creates a firestorm with bid to change shooting tactics, Jamie Thompson, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Chief Louis Dekmar has started training his officers to shoot away from the center of a person’s body because he believes it could reduce the number of fatal police shootings. However, the effort in LaGrange, Ga., has elicited harsh, widespread criticism from the national law enforcement community.

A fundamental tenet of police training in the United States is that officers who fire their weapons in response to a deadly threat should always aim for "center mass," generally the chest. That's the biggest target and so the easiest to hit. But a bullet that finds its mark there is likely to kill.

georgia mapThe police chief in this picturesque Deep South town says there’s a better approach. Louis Dekmar, who has run the LaGrange Police Department for 26 years, is training his officers to shoot for the legs, pelvis or abdomen in situations where they think it could stop a deadly threat without killing the source of that threat. Doing so, he believes, could make a difference in the more than 200 fatal police shootings nationwide every year that involve individuals armed with something other than a gun.

“Every time we avoid taking a life,” Dekmar says, “we maintain trust.”

The chief’s “Shoot to Incapacitate” program has drawn interest from academics who say it merits further study. In the national law enforcement community, however, it has elicited harsh, widespread criticism.

Other police leaders in Georgia found the idea so controversial that they made it a focus of their annual conference in August, flying in nine experts to discuss the pros and cons. One group’s executive director will soon release a position paper advising departments throughout the state not to follow Dekmar’s lead.

While such a policy might be supported by the public, explained John B. Edwards of the Peace Officers Association of Georgia, most agencies would find it impossible to implement. “It’s opened Pandora’s box,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tired of waiting for asylum in southern Mexico, migrants march north, Paulina Villegas, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The caravan is made up of Central American migrants, as well as some Haitians, many of whom say they have been stuck in legal limbo, waiting as long as a year for asylum applications to be processed.

Yaneli Castillo fled Honduras with her two young children after gang members killed her husband in front of their house and threatened that she would be next.

The 29-year-old arrived in southern Mexico four months ago and filed an asylum claim. She was still waiting for her application to be processed when new threats arrived — text messages from gang members who said they knew where to find her, she said.

“I was trying to do the right thing, and waited and waited with all my papers, and they never helped me,” she said. “So I decided to join the caravan out of fear.”

Castillo is one of several thousand migrants who, desperate for work and fleeing poverty and violence, decided to march out of the border city of Tapachula on Saturday. Mexico’s National Guard forces tried to stop them, but the contingent pushed through. They continued their trek Sunday, hoping to eventually reach Mexico City.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Youngkin banishes Trump, but he can’t clean the stench of Trumpism, Dana Milbank, right, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). They sanitized the dana milbank newestevent space. They scrubbed the speeches. The campaign of Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin eliminated virtually any indication that Donald Trump had ever existed. Instead, Youngkin invoked George W. Bush’s line about the “soft bigotry of low expectations” and stole a joke of John McCain’s.

But while Youngkin banished Trump, he could not wash away the stench of Trumpism.

At his rally here Saturday night in Richmond’s suburbs, Youngkin debuted his closing argument. It was a Trumpian blend of conspiracy theories, race-baiting and fabrications.

Conspiracy theory: “Terry McAuliffe wants government to stand between parents and their children,” Youngkin said of his Democratic opponent. “And when parents across this great commonwealth said, ‘No, Terry, you’re wrong,’ he called his friend Joe Biden and asked the FBI to come silence us.”

pope francis headshot palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s meeting with the pope will carry resonance as disputes divide U.S. Catholics, Matt Viser, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The second Catholic joe biden resized opresident, like the leader of the Catholic church, above, is striving to move conservative institutions in a more liberal direction after rising to leadership late in life.

With Pope John Paul II, the meeting stretched 45 minutes, frequently interrupted by aides who were brushed aside by a pontiff interested in talking to a 37-year-old senator named Joe Biden. With Pope Benedict XVI, there was a long discussion of whether politicians should impose their beliefs on others when it comes to church doctrine, an exchange Biden described as “like going to theology class.”
2021 Election: Complete coverage and analysis

But it is with Pope Francis — the longtime Jesuit priest Biden will see Friday in a historic encounter at the Vatican — that Biden shares the deepest bond. It was Francis who comforted the Biden family in 2015 after Biden’s son Beau died. It was Francis who met privately with Biden to talk about cancer research. And it was Francis whose photo Biden has displayed prominently in the Oval Office.

Biden’s meeting with the Pope in the Vatican, shortly before he heads off to a pair of international summits, will carry deep political, religious and symbolic significance, as the nation’s second Catholic president greets the worldwide leader of the Catholic Church.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Rotten Core of the Republican Party, Binyamin Appelbaum, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the top House Republican, recently took to social media to warn that Democrats have hatched a dastardly plot. “Democrats,” he said, “want to track every penny you earn so they can then tax you and your family at the maximum possible amount.”

Well, yes. Democrats want Americans to pay the full amount they owe in taxes. What doesn’t get enough attention is that many Republicans seem not to agree.

Resistance to taxation is the rotten core of the modern Republican Party. Republicans in recent decades have sharply reduced the federal income tax rates imposed on wealthy people and big companies, but their opposition to taxation goes beyond that. They are aiding and abetting tax evasion.

Republicans have hacked away at funding for the Internal Revenue Service over the past decade, enfeebling the agency. When the rich and powerful open loopholes in the tax code, Republicans reliably fight to keep the loopholes open. Indeed, they valorize Americans who find ways to pay less, a normalization of antisocial behavior that may be even more damaging than the efforts at bureaucratic sabotage.

 senate democrats logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: True conservatives should support filibuster reform, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden signaled last week ej dionne w open neckthat Isaac Newton’s third law of motion — for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction — may finally apply to American politics.

Do not underestimate the significance of Biden’s statement at a CNN town hall Thursday that he has reached the end of his rope on a Senate filibuster that has been used to increasingly destructive effect in the years since Barack Obama came to office.

“We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster,” said Biden, a longtime skeptic of changes in the filibuster.

Biden asserted his willingness to push for bypassing the filibuster to allow Senate Democrats to enact a voting rights bill — and went on to say he might favor lifting it on behalf of other measures as well.

Until now, the asymmetry of our nation’s political contest seemed to defy Newton’s proposition.

Republicans in the Senate have relentlessly used their power to scuttle Democratic proposals or to make passage excruciatingly difficult — witness the painful and protracted negotiations over Biden’s Build Back Better program.

GOP aggressiveness has not been met by a comparably ferocious Democratic response. Except for a small tweak in filibuster rules in 2013 initiated by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to ease confirmation for executive-branch appointees and lower-court judges, Democrats largely stood by as GOP obstruction ran rampant.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had no compunction during Donald Trump’s presidency when he led the majority to set aside the filibuster for the cause he cares about most: the confirmation of right-wing Supreme Court justices.

What finally moved Biden — and also longtime skeptics of changing the rules, among them Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) — is how recent Republican actions have fundamentally altered the terms of the debate. The need for filibuster reform was brought home by the solid phalanx of Republican opposition last week even to debating a voting rights bill. That followed a recent GOP threat to use the filibuster to block efforts to lift the debt ceiling, normally a routine action.

Opponents of filibuster reform, notably Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), have spoken of wanting to protect the Senate’s best habits of open debate, a degree of bipartisanship and honest give-and-take.

But abuse of the filibuster has itself become the central threat to a functional Senate and the civil behavior extolled by those most devoted to its traditions.

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U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race

Torchlight parade by White nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 8, 2017.

Torchlight parade by White nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 8, 2017.

ny times logoNew York Times, Victims of Charlottesville Rally Argue the Violence Was Planned, Neil MacFarquhar, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). A civil trial that starts Monday will examine whether the far-right organizers had plotted violence. They have countered that it was self-defense.

The violent rally started with a mob of men brandishing burning torches in the heart of an American city while chanting racist, antisemitic slogans, and it ended with a woman murdered, scarring a nation. Now, more than four years later, a civil trial starting on Monday in Charlottesville, Va., will revisit those unsettling events.

The long-delayed lawsuit in federal court against two dozen organizers of the march will examine one of the most violent manifestations of far-right views in recent history. Since the rally in August 2017, extremist ideology has seeped from the online world and surfaced in other violence, ranging from street clashes between far-right groups and leftists in Portland, Ore., to the storming of the Michigan Statehouse, to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The federal government has called the rise of domestic extremism a lethal threat to the United States.

The plaintiffs accuse the organizers of the Charlottesville rally of plotting to foment the violence that left them injured, while the defendants counter that their views constituted free speech, however offensive others might find it, and that the bloodshed stemmed from self-defense.

Using a combination of digital sleuthing and a 19th-century law written to curb the Ku Klux Klan, the lawyers for the nine plaintiffs in the Charlottesville case are hoping that their quest for unspecified financial damages will both punish the organizers and deter others.

The 24 defendants, including 10 organizations, are a collection of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Klan sympathizers and other adherents of extremist ideology. The case will underscore some of the most divisive fault lines segmenting the United States, including the claim by members of the far right that the existence of the white race is under threat.

“The trial will provide a detailed look into the world of far-right extremism and organization, but that world should not be understood as an outlier,” said Richard C. Schragger, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. “Though some of the groups and individuals targeted by the lawsuit seem fringe and marginal, their ideas and the wider conspiracy-mongering and propensity to violence that they represent is alive and well in the U.S.”

 

KNX-AM/FM (Los Angeles), Biden administration moves to block release of JFK top-secret assassination materials--as a group sues to force publication, Mark Zaid and Larry Schnapf, Oct. 25, 2021. There are estimated to be several hundred thousands pages and materials relating to the official government investigation into the 1963 assassination for President John F. Kennedy--they've been under lock and key for decades, with successive presidents ordering that the assassination materials stay classified.

President Joe Biden is the latest to do this--his administration late Friday night ordered a temporary postponement of the release of JFK investigation documents. A lot of these materials are from the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, which investigated both the murders of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The documents were supposed to be released in 2017, but that was delayed by former President Trump. Larry Schnapf is an environmental attorney out of New York who has led years-long efforts to secure the release of secret JFK assassination files --and-- Mark Zaid is a national security & free speech attorney; he's representing Larry Schnapf in the Freedom of Information lawsuit seeking the release of the JFK assassination materials See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Politico, What Biden is keeping secret in the JFK files, Bryan Bender, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The censored files may offer insights into Cold War covert ops, but don't expect a smoking gun about the assassination.

President Joe Biden has once again delayed the public release of thousands of government secrets that might shed light on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“Temporary continued postponement is necessary to protect against identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure,” Biden wrote in a presidential memorandum late Friday.

politico CustomHe also said that the National Archives and Records Administration, the custodian of the records, needs more time to conduct a declassification review due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision, which follows a delay ordered by President Donald Trump in 2017, means scholars and the public will have to wait even longer to see what remains buried in government archives about one of the greatest political mysteries of the 20th century. And the review process for the remaining documents means Biden can hold the release further if the CIA or other agencies can convince him they reveal sensitive sources or methods.

nara logoPublic opinion polls have long indicated most Americans do not believe the official conclusion by the Warren Commission that the assassination was the work of a single gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine who once defected to the Soviet Union and who was shot to death by a nightclub owner Jack Ruby while in police custody.

A special House committee in 1978 concluded “on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”

But longtime researchers almost uniformly agree that what is still being shielded from public view won’t blow open the case.

“Do I believe the CIA has a file that shows former CIA Director Allen Dulles presided over the assassination? No. But I’m afraid there are people who will believe things like that no matter what is in the files,” said David Kaiser, a former history professor at the Naval War College and author of “The Road to Dallas.”

His book argued that Kennedy’s murder cannot be fully understood without also studying two major U.S. intelligence and law enforcement campaigns of the era: Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s war on organized crime and the CIA’s failed efforts to kill communist dictator Fidel Castro in Cuba (with the Mafia’s help).

Still, Kaiser and other experts believe national security agencies are still hiding information that shows how officials actively stonewalled a full accounting by Congress and the courts and might illuminate shadowy spy world figures who could have been involved in a plot to kill the president.
What’s still hidden?

Portions of more than 15,000 records that have been released remain blacked out, in some cases a single word but in others nearly the entire document, according to the National Archives.

The records were collected by the Assassination Records Review Board, which was established by Congress in the 1992 JFK Records Act.

The independent body, which folded in 1998, was headed by a federal judge and empowered to collect classified information from across the government that might have bearing on Kennedy’s murder and make public as much as possible after consulting with the agencies where the intelligence originated. It also had legal authority to overrule recalcitrant agencies.

A large portion of the JFK collection came from the probe by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, which investigated the murders of President Kennedy and the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The panel also delved into a series of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement activities in the early decades of the Cold War as part of its probe.

The creation of the review board ultimately led to the release of thousands of files. But the board also postponed the release of other documents until 2017, when Trump used his authority to further delay full public disclosure.

Much of what has yet to be released involves intelligence activities during the height of the Cold War that likely had no direct bearing on the plot to kill Kennedy but could shed light on covert operations.

One heavily censored file involves a CIA plot to kill Castro. Another is a 1963 Pentagon plan for an “engineered provocation” that could be blamed on Castro as a pretext for toppling him. Then there’s a history of the CIA’s Miami office, which organized a propaganda campaign against Castro’s Cuba.

Other redacted files are believed to contain new CIA information about the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee in Washington’s Watergate Hotel by former CIA operatives that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

But some could reveal more about the events leading up to the assassination itself.

Researchers are keenly interested in the personnel file of the late George Joannides, a career CIA intelligence operative who staffers on the House investigation in the late 1970s believe lied to Congress about what he knew about a CIA-backed exile group that had ties to Oswald.

A federal appeals court in 2018 upheld the CIA’s rejection of a lawsuit by researcher Jefferson Morley to obtain the file.
Lee Harvey Oswald denies shooting President Kennedy.

Paraded before newsmen after his arrest, Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 23, 1963, tells reporters that he did not shoot President John F. Kennedy. | AP Photo

Another partially released file contains information about how the CIA may have monitored Oswald on a trip he purportedly took to Mexico City ahead of the assassination.

The files could reveal more of “what the CIA was doing in New Orleans, some more info about Mexico City and likely even some revelations about the CIA role in Watergate,” said Larry Schnapf, a lawyer and assassination researcher.

Morley, who has filed multiple lawsuits to force disclosure, believes the CIA is covering up for individuals who may have had a role in Kennedy’s death or knew who was responsible and wanted it hidden from the public to protect the agency.

He says the CIA’s refusal to comply “can only be interpreted as evidence of bad faith, malicious intent, and obstruction of Congress.”

A spokesperson for the CIA, which accounts for the majority of the withheld records, declined to address the charge, saying only that the agency will comply with the law and the president’s directive.
When will the secret files be revealed?

Biden did set in motion the release of some of the remaining records.

“Any information currently withheld from public disclosure that agencies have not proposed for continued postponement shall be reviewed by NARA before December 15, 2021, and shall be publicly released on that date,” the memo states.

He also directed that the National Archives conduct an “intensive review” over the next year “of each remaining redaction to ensure that the United States Government maximizes transparency, disclosing all information in records concerning the assassination, except when the strongest possible reasons counsel.”

But that means the CIA and other agencies can still convince Biden to further delay the release of some documents.

A coalition of legal experts and academics asserts that Trump and now Biden have been flouting the 1992 law that set up the disclosure process.

They contend in a legal memo the legislation laid out a “stringent process and legal standard for postponing the release of a record” that requires the president to certify why any single file is being withheld.

“Congress established a short-list of specific reasons that federal agencies could cite as a basis for requesting postponement of public disclosure of assassination records,” they advised Biden last month. “A government office seeking postponement was required to specify, for each record sought to be postponed, the applicable grounds for postponement.”

Schnapf plans to file a lawsuit on Monday seeking copies of the underlying communications that have led to the decision by successive presidents to postpone the release of so many documents.

The Public Interest Declassification Board, a bipartisan advisory panel appointed by the president and leaders of Congress, appealed to Biden last month to limit further postponement to the “absolute minimum,” noting that “we understand that agencies are asking you to extend the postponement of public disclosure for parts of many records subject to the JFK Act.”

The board said it believes disclosure after all these years would “bolster the American people’s confidence and trust in their government.”

The board’s chair, Ezra Cohen, the former acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence, called the Biden memo “a step in the right direction” but “we will know more regarding agency and Archives implementation come December.”

“In the short term,” he added, “the Archivist will need to work hard to keep agencies on track with the President’s guidance.”

Schnapf said Congress may have to step in if military and intelligence agencies keep delaying full disclosure.

He pointed out that with the expiration of the JFK records review board, there is no authority other than Biden who can overcome the “kind of stalling, delaying and excessive secrecy that led to the enactment of the JFK Act in the first place.”

“Trump gave the agencies three and a half years … and yet full disclosure has not been obtained,” he added. “This is not about conspiracy but about compliance with the law. There is widespread bipartisan support to have the rest of the records released. These records will reveal important secrets about our country’s history. When President Biden agreed to release the 9/11 records, he said 20 years is long enough. How about 58 years?”

washington post logoWashington Post, A man spent most of his covid business loan on one item, prosecutors say: A $57,789 Pokémon card, Hannah Knowles, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Justice Department news releases document a litany of luxury items allegedly bought with pandemic aid meant to keep struggling businesses afloat.

One man was charged with spending his loan money on strip clubs. Another pleaded guilty to using his funds for a $318,000 Lamborghini.

But Vinath Oudomsine may be the only person accused of using his small-business loan on a single Pokémon card. Prosecutors say the card cost the Georgia man $57,789 — more than two-thirds of his federal aid, which officials say was based on false information.

FBI logoThe wire-fraud charge brought last week against Oudomsine is part of a federal crackdown on alleged misuse of massive relief programs that threw lifelines to businesses during the pandemic but also raised concerns about scams and waste.

A federal watchdog said this month that the Small Business Administration (SBA) overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that sba logo best“no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information” — even claims of up to 1 million employees. This year, the SBA inspector general concluded that the federal agency rushed out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.

The result, according to the SBA inspector general, was “limited assurance that loans went to only eligible recipients.”

SBA program overpaid $4.5 billion in pandemic aid, inspector general says

The SBA on Sunday faulted the administration of President Donald Trump and called Oudomsine’s case “another example of the fraud that resulted from their lax controls.”

In a statement, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures while speeding up its processes. Defenders of the SBA’s pandemic-relief programs have also argued that flagged loans and grants represented a small fraction of hundreds of billions of dollars in aid.

Prosecutors accused Oudomsine of abusing the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for small businesses hurting during the pandemic, which upended the economy with shutdowns and stay-home orders. EIDL funds, officials noted, could go toward payroll, sick leave and other business costs such as rent.

The SBA said Sunday that its covid EIDL program has disbursed more than $310 billion to small businesses and has been “critical” to their pandemic recovery.

On July 14, 2020, according to prosecutors, Oudomsine sought a loan for a business that he said had 10 employees and revenue of $235,000 over a year. The next month, court documents state, the SBA deposited $85,000 into a bank account in Oudomsine’s name.

The SBA inspector general’s office said this month that the SBA was “taking corrective actions” after its report describing improper grants to self-employed people in 2020.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Gene Freidman, ‘Taxi King’ Who Upended His Industry, Dies at 50, Sam Roberts, Oct. 25, 2021. He bid up the price of medallions and borrowed against them. When their value plummeted, immigrant cabbies were left deep in debt.

Gene Freidman, a cabdriver’s son who schemed his way to become the nation’s biggest taxi mogul and came to personify both the inflated ascent of the industry in New York City and its crushing financial collapse, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 50.

His death, in a Manhattan hospital, apparently from complications of a heart attack, was confirmed by the Riverside Memorial Chapel funeral home.

Mr. Freidman, who emigrated from the Soviet Union with his parents in 1976, was widely known as the swashbuckling “Taxi King” and just as widely regarded as a piratical entrepreneur who did for the cab industry early in the 21st century what greedy lenders did for the nation’s savings and loan associations at the end of the 20th.

“He hurt so many people in so many different ways,” David Pollack, the former head of the Committee for Taxi Safety, an association of fleet owners that once included Mr. Freidman, told The New York Times in 2019. “Your headline could be ‘The man who brought down the taxi industry.’”

 

World Conflict, Corruption

kim hak soon

Kim Hak-soon, right, in 1992 at a weekly protest that she and others started in Seoul to demand that Japan apologize for brutalities toward women during World War II (Associated Press Photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Overlooked No More: Kim Hak-soon, Who Spoke for ‘Comfort Women,’ Choe Sang-Hun, Oct. 21, 2021. Her testimony about the horrors of sexual slavery that Japan had engineered for its World War II military encouraged other survivors to step forward. This article is part of Overlooked, a series of obituaries about remarkable people whose deaths, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

On Aug. 14, 1991, a woman who lived alone in a flophouse here faced television cameras and told the world her name: Kim Hak-soon. She then described in gruesome detail how, when she was barely 17, she was taken to a so-called comfort station in China during World War II and raped by several Japanese soldiers every day.

south korea flag Small“It was horrifying when those monstrous soldiers forced themselves upon me,” she said during a news conference, wiping tears off her face. “When I tried to run away, they caught me and dragged me in again.”

Her powerful account, the first such public testimony by a former “comfort woman,” gave a human face to a history that many political leaders in Japan had denied for decades, and that many still do: From the 1930s until the end of the war, Japan coerced or lured an estimated 200,000 women into military-run rape centers in Asia and the Pacific, according to historians. It was one of history’s largest examples of state-sponsored sexual slavery.

Kim died of a lung disease when she was 73, on Dec. 16, 1997, just six years after the testimony. But she left a long-lasting legacy and inspired other former ​sex slaves to come forward in Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Australia and the Netherlands.

“Nothing that I wrote could come close to the impact of the personal firsthand account given publicly by Kim Hak-soon 30 years ago,” Gay J. McDougall, a former United Nations special rapporteur whose 1998 report defined Japan’s wartime enslavement of comfort women as crimes against humanity, said this year at a conference about Kim’s legacy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sudan’s military detains prime minister, Cabinet members in apparent coup, Max Bearak, Oct. 25, 2021. The apparent detention of the prime minister and a large number of his Cabinet and party members plunged the country’s fragile democratic transition into disarray. The detention by Sudan’s military of the country’s prime minister and a large number of his cabinet and party members early Monday morning plunged the country’s fragile democratic transition into disarray.

Just days earlier, the capital Khartoum was swept by the biggest pro-democracy street protests since 2019, when longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir was toppled by a wave of popular discontent. Crowds swelled in Khartoum’s streets again on Monday in response to the detentions.

Internet services were disrupted or unavailable in Khartoum and other parts of the vast northeast African country, according to phone calls with locals in Monday’s early-morning hours. Later in the morning, calls were not going through. Local news channels reported the closing of roads and bridges connecting Khartoum with the rest of Sudan by large contingents of security forces as well as the suspension of flights at the airport.

washington post logoWashington Post, Colombian drug lord captured in jungle hideout; bust compared to Pablo Escobar’s fall, Rachel Pannett, Diana Durán and Samantha Schmidt, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Colombia’s most-wanted drug lord, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, widely known by his alias Otoniel, has been captured by armed forces in his jungle hideout.

Úsuga, 50, a former left-wing guerrilla and later a paramilitary fighter, is the alleged leader of the notorious drug trafficking group Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, which dominates major cocaine smuggling routes through thick jungles in the country’s restive north.

colombia flag nameColombian President Iván Duque likened Úsuga’s arrest Saturday to the capture of Pablo Escobar three decades ago. Escobar, known as “the Godfather,” once sat on top of the drug world with tentacles reaching around the globe.

“Otoniel was the most feared drug trafficker in the world, killer of police, of soldiers, of social leaders, and recruiter of children,” Duque said during a broadcast video message. “This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.”

A police officer died during the operation, Duque said, according to Reuters.

Úsuga is accused of sending dozens of shipments of cocaine to the United States. He is also accused of killing police officers, recruiting minors and sexually abusing children, among other crimes, Duque said. The U.S. government had put up a reward of $5 million for help locating him.

“Otoniel’s capture is truly important,” said Daniel Mejía, a Colombian university professor and expert on narco-trafficking. “He was the head of the most powerful narco-trafficking structure in Colombia, the Gulf Clan, which holds domain of a broad part of the territory.”

Other Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Media, Business News

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Inside Amazon’s Worst Human Resources Problem, Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise and Grace Ashford, Updated Oct. 25, 2021. A patchwork system has led the company to fire and underpay workers who sought parental or medical leave, according to records obtained by The Times.

amazon logo smallWorkers across the country facing medical problems and other life crises have been fired when the attendance software mistakenly marked them as no-shows, according to former and current human resources staff members, some of whom would speak only anonymously for fear of retribution. Doctors’ notes vanished into black holes in Amazon’s databases.

Employees struggled to even reach their case managers, wading through automated phone trees that routed their calls to overwhelmed back-office staff in Costa Rica, India and Las Vegas. And the whole leave system was run on a patchwork of programs that often didn’t speak to one another.

 

Former Facebook Product Manager Frances Haugen testifying to Congress (Photo by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press on Oct. 10, 2021).

Former Facebook Product Manager Frances Haugen testifying to Congress (Photo by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press on Oct. 10, 2021).

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: How Facebook’s Big Leak Spilled Out, Ben Smith, right, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Frances Haugen, the former Facebook worker who ben smith twittershared company documents, led a meticulous media rollout, our media columnist Ben Smith writes. In a time of mega-leaks, journalists’ sources have become power players. Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager who shared company documents, led a meticulous media rollout.

Frances Haugen first met Jeff Horwitz, a tech-industry reporter for The Wall Street Journal, early last December on a hiking trail near the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, Calif.

facebook logoShe liked that he seemed thoughtful, and she liked that he’d written about Facebook’s role in transmitting violent Hindu nationalism in India, a particular interest of hers. She also got the impression that he would support her as a person, rather than as a mere source who could supply him with the inside information she had picked up during her nearly two years as a product manager at Facebook.

“I auditioned Jeff for a while,” Ms. Haugen told me in a phone interview from her home in Puerto Rico, “and one of the reasons I went with him is that he was less sensationalistic than other choices I could have made.”

She became one of the greatest sources of the century, turning over the tens of thousands of pages of internal documents she had collected. Starting Sept. 13, The Journal justified her confidence with a meticulous rollout that included 11 major articles by Mr. Horwitz and other reporters cleverly packaged under a catchy rubric, The Facebook Files.

  • New York Times, The Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen is set to testify in British Parliament today, Oct. 25, 2021.
  • New York Times, Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects.

 

Oct. 24

Top Headlines

 

How Social Media Helped Trump Jan. 6 Insurrection

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance


U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race

 

World Conflict, Human Rights, Climate Change

 

Top Stories 

The Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, DC (Photo by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK via WikiMedia Commons).

The Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, DC (Photo by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK via WikiMedia Commons).

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Ahead of Jan. 6, Willard hotel in downtown D.C. was a Trump team ‘command center’ for effort to deny Biden the presidency, Jacqueline Alemany, Emma Brown, Tom Hamburger and Jon Swaine, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). They called it the “command center,” a set of rooms and suites in the posh Willard Hotel a block from the White House where some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal lieutenants were working day and night with one goal in mind: overturning the results of the 2020 election.

The Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse and the ensuing attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob would draw the world’s attention to the quest to physically block Congress from affirming Joe Biden’s victory. But the activities at the Willard that week add to an emerging picture of a less visible effort, mapped out in memos by a conservative pro-Trump legal scholar and pursued by a team of presidential advisers and lawyers seeking to pull off what they claim was a legal strategy to reinstate Trump for a second term.

They were led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. Former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon was an occasional presence as the effort’s senior political adviser. Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik was there as an investigator. Also present was John Eastman, the scholar, who outlined scenarios for denying Biden the presidency in an Oval Office meeting on Jan. 4 with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

The effort underscores the extent to which Trump and a handful of true believers were working until the last possible moment to subvert the will of the voters, seeking to pressure Pence to delay or even block certification of the election, leveraging any possible constitutional loophole to test the boundaries of American democracy.

“I firmly believed then, as I believe now, that the vice president — as president of the Senate — had the constitutional power to send the issue back to the states for 10 days to investigate the widespread fraud and report back well in advance of Inauguration Day, January 20th,” one of those present, senior campaign aide and former White House special assistant Boris Epshteyn, told The Washington Post.

In seeking to compel testimony from Bannon, the congressional panel investigating Jan. 6 this week cited his reported presence at the “ ‘war room’ organized at the Willard.” The House voted Thursday to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with the committee’s subpoena.

The committee has also requested documents and communications related to Eastman’s legal advice and analysis.

Eastman told The Post on Wednesday that he has not yet been contacted by the House select committee investigating the insurrection. Asked about his involvement in the Trump team’s operation at the Willard, Eastman said: “To the extent I was there, those were attorney discussions. You don’t get any comment seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionfrom me on those.”

In May, Eastman indicated that he was at the hotel with Giuliani on the morning of Jan. 6. “We had a war room at the Willard . . . kind of coordinating all of the communications,” he told talk show host Peter Boyles, comments first reported in the newsletter Proof (Investigation: Team Trump Had a Second Pre-Insurrection War Room, Seth Abramson, June 6, 2021. An investigation of who was in this second Insurrection Eve war room has now begun).

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, The pandemic, paired with natural disasters, drove a record number of illegal U.S. border crossings, Eileen Sullivan and Miriam Jordan, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). A record 1.7 million migrants from around the world, many of them fleeing pandemic-ravaged countries, were encountered trying to enter the United States illegally in the last 12 months. The tally capped a year of chaos at the southern border, which has emerged as one of the most formidable challenges for the Biden administration.

It was the highest number of illegal crossings recorded since at least 1960, when the government first began tracking such entries. The number was similarly high for the 2000 fiscal year, when border agents caught 1.6 million people, according to government data.

Single adults represented the largest group of those detained in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, at 1.1 million, or 64 percent of all crossers. There were also large numbers of migrant families — more than 479,000, which is about 48,000 fewer than during the last surge in family crossings in 2019.

us dhs big eagle logo4But the nearly 147,000 children whom agents encountered without parents or guardians was the largest number since 2008, when the government started tallying unaccompanied minors.

The crossers hailed from around the globe, many of them seeking economic opportunity as the coronavirus pandemic erased hundreds of millions of jobs. Agents caught people from more than 160 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with Mexico accounting for the largest share.

In addition to the pandemic, two hurricanes destroyed livelihoods and homes in Guatemala and Honduras, where extortion and violence from gangs have persisted in many communities, further fueling an exodus.

A public health rule, invoked by President Donald J. Trump at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to seal the border, has remained in place under the Biden administration. Over the last 12 months, the Border Patrol has carried out more than one million expulsions of migrants back to Mexico or to the migrants’ home countries.

President Biden has walked a fine line between trying to control the influx and put in place a more humane approach to border enforcement. Republicans have blamed Mr. Biden’s promises to reverse Trump-era immigration policies for fueling the surge, as word spread that the country’s borders had become easier to breach.

A record 1.7 million migrants from around the world, many of them fleeing pandemic-ravaged countries, were encountered trying to enter the United States illegally in the last 12 months. The tally capped a year of chaos at the southern border, which has emerged as one of the most formidable challenges for the Biden administration.

It was the highest number of illegal crossings recorded since at least 1960, when the government first began tracking such entries. The number was similarly high for the 2000 fiscal year, when border agents caught 1.6 million people, according to government data.

Single adults represented the largest group of those detained in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, at 1.1 million, or 64 percent of all crossers. There were also large numbers of migrant families — more than 479,000, which is about 48,000 fewer than during the last surge in family crossings in 2019.

But the nearly 147,000 children whom agents encountered without parents or guardians was the largest number since 2008, when the government started tallying unaccompanied minors.

The crossers hailed from around the globe, many of them seeking economic opportunity as the coronavirus pandemic erased hundreds of millions of jobs. Agents caught people from more than 160 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, with Mexico accounting for the largest share.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A C.I.A. Fighter, a Somali Bomb Maker and a Faltering Shadow War, Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt and Julian E. Barnes, Photographs by Tyler Hicks, Oct. 24, 2021. The hunt for an elusive Somali militant illustrates why Al Shabab, the wealthy and dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate, are at their strongest in years. Despite a decade of American covert action, they roam the countryside, bomb cities and run an undercover state, complete with courts and parallel taxes.

CIA LogoThe C.I.A. convoy rolled out of Mogadishu in the dead of night, headed south along a crumbling ocean road that led deep into territory controlled by Al Shabab, one of Africa’s deadliest militant groups.

The vehicles halted at a seaside village where American and Somali paramilitaries poured out, storming a house and killing several militants, Somali officials said. But one man escaped, sprinted to an explosives-filled vehicle primed for a suicide bombing, and hit the detonator.

The blast last November killed three Somalis and grievously wounded an American: Michael Goodboe, 54, a C.I.A. paramilitary specialist and former Navy SEAL, who was airlifted to a U.S. military hospital in Germany. He died 17 days later.

His was a rare American fatality in the decade-old shadow war against Al Shabab, the world’s wealthiest and arguably most dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate. But Mr. Goodboe was also a casualty of an American way of war that has flourished since the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, now under greater scrutiny than ever.

The United States’ most ambitious response to the 9/11 attacks was in Afghanistan, where tens of thousands of troops were dispatched to banish extremists and rebuild the country — a mission that recently ended in crushing failure with the chaotic American withdrawal.

But in Somalia, as in countries like Yemen and Syria, the U.S. turned to a different playbook, eschewing major troop deployments in favor of spies, Special Operations raids and drone strikes. Private contractors and local fighters were recruited for risky tasks. The mission was narrow at first, a hunt for Qaeda fugitives, only later expanding to include fighting Al Shabab and building up Somali security forces.

Now that playbook is also failing. As in Afghanistan, the American mission has been stymied by an alliance with a weak, notoriously corrupt local government, an intractable homegrown insurgency and the United States’ own errors, such as drone strikes that have killed civilians.

 

How Social Media Helped Trump Jan. 6 Insurrection

 

Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Internal Alarm, Public Shrugs: Facebook’s Employees Dissect Its Election Role, Ryan Mac and Sheera Frenkel, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed. ). Company documents show that employees repeatedly raised red flags about the spread of misinformation before and after the contested November vote; he internal dispatches reveal the degree to which Facebook knew of extremist movements and groups on its site that were trying to polarize American voters.

facebook logoSixteen months before last November’s presidential election, a researcher at Facebook described an alarming development. She was getting content about the conspiracy theory QAnon within a week of opening an experimental account, she wrote in an internal report.

On Nov. 5, two days after the election, another Facebook employee posted a message alerting colleagues that comments with “combustible election misinformation” were visible below many posts.

Four days after that, a company data scientist wrote in a note to his co-workers that 10 percent of all U.S. views of political material — a startlingly high figure — were of posts that alleged the vote was fraudulent.

In each case, Facebook’s employees sounded an alarm about misinformation and inflammatory content on the platform and urged action — but the company failed or struggled to address the issues. The internal dispatches were among a set of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times that give new insight into what happened inside the social network before and after the November election, when the company was caught flat-footed as users weaponized its platform to spread lies about the vote.

Former Facebook Product Manager Frances Haugen testifying to Congress (Photo by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press on Oct. 10, 2021).

Former Facebook Product Manager Frances Haugen testifying to Congress (Photo by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press on Oct. 10, 2021).

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Facebook documents show how platform fueled rage ahead of Jan. 6 attack on Capitol, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Reed Albergotti, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Thousands of internal documents turned over to the SEC show what Facebook knew about the growth of the Stop the Steal movement on its platform in the weeks before a pro-Trump mob overran the Capitol — and the anger that many employees felt at their company’s failure to stop the Jan. 6 violence.

Relief flowed through Facebook in the days after the 2020 presidential election. The company had cracked down on misinformation, foreign interference and hate speech — and employees believed they had largely succeeded in limiting problems that, four years earlier, had brought on perhaps the most serious crisis in Facebook’s scandal-plagued history.

facebook logo“It was like we could take a victory lap,” said a former employee, one of many who spoke for this story on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters. “There was a lot of the feeling of high-fiving in the office.”

Many who had worked on the election, exhausted from months of unrelenting toil, took leaves of absence or moved on to other jobs. Facebook rolled back many of the dozens of election-season measures that it had used to suppress hateful, deceptive content. A ban the company had imposed on the original Stop the Steal group stopped short of addressing dozens of look-alikes that popped up in what an internal Facebook after-action report called “coordinated” and “meteoric” growth. Meanwhile, the company’s Civic Integrity team was largely disbanded by a management that had grown weary of the team’s criticisms of the company, according to former employees.

But the high fives, it soon became clear, were premature.

On Jan. 6, Facebook staffers expressed their horror in internal messages as they watched thousands of Trump supporters shouting “stop the steal” and bearing the symbols of QAnon — a violent ideology that had spread widely on Facebook before an eventual crackdown — thronged the U.S. Capitol. Many bashed their way inside and battled to halt the constitutionally mandated certification of President Biden’s election victory.

securities exchange commission sealMeasures of online mayhem surged alarmingly on Facebook, with user reports of “false news” hitting nearly 40,000 per hour, an internal report that day showed. On Facebook-owned Instagram, the account reported most often for inciting violence was @realdonaldtrump — the president’s official account, the report showed.

Facebook has never publicly disclosed what it knows about how its platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp, helped fuel that day’s mayhem. The company rejected its own Oversight Board’s recommendation that it study how its policies contributed to the violence and has yet to fully comply with requests for data from the congressional commission investigating the events.

But thousands of pages of internal company documents disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission by the whistleblower Frances Haugen offer important new evidence of Facebook’s role in the events. This story is based on those documents, as well on others independently obtained by The Washington Post, and on interviews with current and former Facebook employees. The documents include outraged posts on Workplace, an internal message system.

“This is not a new problem,” one unnamed employee fumed on Workplace on Jan. 6. “We have been watching this behavior from politicians like Trump, and the — at best — wishy washy actions of company leadership, for years now. We have been reading the [farewell] posts from trusted, experienced and loved colleagues who write that they simply cannot conscience working for a company that does not do more to mitigate the negative effects on its platform.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Their Jobs Made Them Get Vaccinated. They Refused, Sarah Maslin Nir, Oct. 24, 2021. The willingness of some workers to give up their livelihoods helps explain America’s struggle to reach herd immunity.

To public health officials, and the majority of Americans, the defiance is unreasonable and incomprehensible. Who would jeopardize their families’ financial security over a shot that has been proven safe and effective at preventing death?

That is not the way the holdouts see it. In interviews, New Yorkers who have given up their livelihoods spoke of their opposition to the vaccines as rooted in fear or, more commonly, in a deeply held conviction — resistance to vaccination as a principle to live by, one they put above any health, job or financial consideration.

It is this alternative worldview, resistant to carrot or stick, that helps explain why 21 percent of eligible adults in the country have not gotten a single vaccine dose, threatening a nationwide goal of achieving herd immunity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Cases grow in Germany, as a national state of emergency is set to expire next month, Staff Reports, Oct. 24, 2021. Infections have increased by 57 percent in the past two weeks, while deaths on average in the same period have increased by 11 percent.

Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • Dozens of new Covid cases reported in China in recent days.
  • The U.S. and Israel were early world leaders on vaccinations. Now they are trailing.
  • Biden delays the release of remaining J.F.K. assassination records, citing the pandemic.
  • Here are the lessons experts have taken from the five waves of the coronavirus in the U.S.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Previous Covid-19 Waves Tell Us About the Virus Now, Lauren Leatherby, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Looking back at the outbreak can provide some clues about how the virus may spread in the future.''

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates:Struggles over vaccine mandates, the death of Colin Powell: the week in Covid news, Staff Reports, Oct. 23, 2021.

  • Regulators at the F.D.A. say the Pfizer vaccine’s benefits outweigh the key risks for 5- to 11-year-olds.
  • New Zealand wants a 90% vaccination rate. Street gangs may hold the key.
  • Spain will reimburse thousands of people fined during 2020 lockdown.
  • Here’s what you need to know to navigate the C.D.C.’s new mix-and-match vaccine strategy.
  • A limited C.D.C. study finds no significant change in hospitalization outcomes during the U.S. Delta wave.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 24, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 244,264,107, Deaths: 4,962,008
U.S. Cases:     46,294,927, Deaths:    756,215
India Cases:     34,176,553, Deaths:    454,324
Brazil Cases:    21,723,559, Deaths:    605,569

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 220.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 24, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 190.4 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

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Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, An ‘extreme and possible historic atmospheric river’ is battering California, Matthew Cappucci, Diana Leonard and Jacob Feuerstein, Oct. 24, 2021. Copious rainfall, mountain snow expected as extreme weather batters California. Amid an exceptional drought that has wrought havoc on California for years, a Level 5 out of 5 atmospheric river is soaking the region, dumping double-digit rainfall totals and up to six feet of mountain snow. This heavy precipitation will help ease the drought but produce dangerous mudslides and debris flows in areas recently devastated by fires.

Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow swaths of exceptionally moist air, sometimes sourced from the tropics, that can produce excessive amounts of precipitation.

“It will be a wild 24 to 36 hours across northern California as we will see an extreme and possible historic atmospheric river push through the region,” wrote the National Weather Service in Sacramento, calling it a “dangerous, high-impact weather system.”

Flash flood watches are up for most of Central and Northern California, blanketing some of the same areas that went upward of six months without a stitch of measurable rain. Sacramento recorded its first 0.01 inches of rain last week since March 19, capping off a record-setting 222 days without precipitation. Now it is bracing for more than half a foot of rain and flooding.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: What Will Success Look Like in Glasgow? Editorial Board, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). In 1992, more than 150 countries agreed in Rio de Janeiro to stabilize emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases at a level that would “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” — United Nations-speak for global warming.

Many follow-up meetings have been held, long on aspiration but short on action. Emissions have gone up, as have atmospheric temperatures, while the consequences of climate change — droughts, floods, explosive wildfires in both familiar and unexpected places, melting glaciers and ice caps, dying corals, slow but inexorable sea level rise — have become ever more pronounced.

Beginning on Oct. 31, in Glasgow, the now 197 signatories to the Rio treaty will try once again to fashion an international agreement that might actually slow and then reliably (and, it is hoped, quickly) reduce emissions and thus prevent the world from tipping into full-scale catastrophe late in this century.

As with other climate meetings — notably those in Kyoto in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009 and Paris in 2015 — Glasgow is being advertised as a watershed event.

John Kerry, the former secretary of state who led the American negotiating team in Paris and will lead this one, called Glasgow the world’s “last best chance” to avoid ecological calamity. President Biden said he will “be there with bells on,” and 100 other world leaders are set to attend, including, of course, the host, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but not, at least so far, President Xi Jinping of China, which is by far the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Of all the earlier meetings, Paris was the most successful, in part because negotiators agreed to abandon years of fruitless efforts to achieve legally enforceable targets, instead eliciting modest voluntary pledges, known as nationally determined contributions, from nations large and small to do the best they could as part of a collective effort to keep the average global temperature from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels — just a few tenths of a degree hotter than the world is today. The 1.5 number was believed then, as it is now, to be a threshold beyond which lie warming’s most serious consequences.

That every country pledged to help inspired a lot of high-fiving among the delegates in Paris, and deservedly so. It had taken a long time to persuade both rich and poor nations that a global problem required a global solution. But the delegates were under no illusion that these pledges would be enough to reach the 1.5 degree target. So they agreed to meet again in five years in order to assess progress and ratchet up those commitments. Glasgow is that meeting.

The lack of progress since Paris invites cynicism — at the very least, wariness — about Glasgow. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have since risen above annual averages of 400 parts per million, long seen as a dangerous threshold. In 2019 the world logged the most annual greenhouse gas emissions ever recorded, equivalent to more than 60 billion tons of carbon dioxide, a figure that includes methane and other climate-warming agents. The economic downturn caused by the Covid pandemic hardly moved the needle.

With only a week to go before the clamor begins in Glasgow, China, Australia, Russia and India have yet to make new pledges to cut their emissions. The Washington Post recently reported that Brazil and Mexico have put forward weaker targets than they submitted in Paris five years ago. Many of those that have submitted new pledges have promised rather vaguely to reach a goal of net-zero emissions by midcentury, which on paper would help keep warming within manageable limits but in practice will not do so unless followed up with real policies aimed at sharply reducing the use of fossil fuels, switching to cleaner sources of energy, electrifying cars and buildings and doing whatever else is necessary to decarbonize the world.

The question now is whether the delegates in Glasgow can rise above this pessimism and surprise us all with truly meaningful steps. Gloomy predictions to the contrary, several things have happened since Paris that should inspire everyone. For starters, the science of climate change has become tighter, tougher and more terrifying. In 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a truly scary warning — what one U.N. official described as “a deafening, piercing smoke alarm going off in the kitchen.” The gist of it was that if the world had any hope of meeting the 1.5 degree threshold and thus avoiding ecological and social calamity, it must radically transform its energy systems not on any sort of leisurely glide path but in the next 12 years, which meant cutting greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half by 2030 and zeroing them out by 2050.

In case anyone missed the message, the I.P.C.C. repeated it in a no less alarming report in August of this year, a report that U.N. Secretary General António Guterres called a “code red for humanity.” The report warned that so much carbon dioxide had already been baked into the atmosphere that further major ecological and social damage — floods, droughts, famines, fires — was inevitable and the world should begin now to plan for it. Yet as the panel did in 2018, it opened a window of hope, arguing that with swift and sustained action to reduce the fossil fuels burned in cars, power plants and factories; vastly increase the use of renewable energy sources; and find other ways to decarbonize the planet, the world could stay within hailing distance of 1.5 degrees to avoid an even darker future.

Then, too, the delegates in Glasgow, unlike those in Paris, have lived through a year of extraordinary environmental upheaval, unprecedented in modern times. Much of it was associated with climate change — huge floods in Europe, Nigeria, Uganda and India; catastrophic wildfires in Greece, Siberia and California; fatal heat waves in the Pacific Northwest; drought and minimal snowfall that seem to be inexorably drying up rivers and reservoirs. No previous climate summit took place in similarly disturbing circumstances.

One more post-Paris development: technological progress. As the writer Fred Pearce points out in an essay on the website Yale Environment 360, the potential for achieving reductions in emissions has improved since Paris because of technological advances. Electric cars were barely on the horizon in 2015, and now one big automaker after another has pledged to produce them for mass consumption. The costs of solar and battery power have continued to go down.

Finally, and importantly, America is back in the game, after four dismal years in which President Donald Trump not only abandoned the Paris agreement but also did everything else he could think of to undermine the science of climate change and encourage the production of fossil fuels. In a complete turnabout, Mr. Biden’s ambitions match the I.P.C.C.’s demands: a 50 to 52 percent cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. Along the way, he would aim to eliminate fossil fuel emissions from power plants by 2035.

In any case, America’s credibility will not be the main issue in Glasgow. The main issue there will be whether the delegates will listen to the science, look clearly at what’s happening in the world around them and then — here is the hard part — provide action plans to match their aspirations.

Washington Post, More frequent outages afflict U.S. power grid as states fail to prepare for climate change, Douglas MacMillan and Will Englund, Oct. 24, 2021. State officials are reluctant to ask ratepayers to foot the bill for investments experts say are needed to fortify the grid against increasingly severe weather.

Every time a storm lashes the Carolina coast, the power lines on Tonye Gray’s street go down, cutting her lights and air conditioning. After Hurricane Florence in 2018, Gray went three days with no way to refrigerate medicine for her multiple sclerosis or pump the floodwater out of her basement.

“Florence was hell,” said Gray, 61, a marketing account manager and Wilmington native who finds herself increasingly frustrated by the city’s vulnerability.

“We’ve had storms long enough in Wilmington and this particular area that all power lines should have been underground by now. We know we’re going to get hit.”
Tonye Gray holds a photo of flooding in her home in Wilmington, N.C., in 2018 from Hurricane Florence on Sept. 21. (Cornell Watson for The Washington Post)

Across the nation, severe weather fueled by climate change is pushing aging electrical systems past their limits, often with deadly results. Last year, the average American home endured more than eight hours without power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration — more than double the outage time five years ago.

This year alone, a wave of abnormally severe winter storms caused a disastrous power failure in Texas, leaving millions of homes in the dark, sometimes for days, and at least 200 dead. Power outages caused by Hurricane Ida contributed to at least 14 deaths in Louisiana, as some of the poorest parts of the state suffered through weeks of 90-degree heat without air conditioning.

As storms grow fiercer and more frequent, environmental groups are pushing states to completely reimagine the electrical grid, incorporating more batteries, renewable energy sources and localized systems known as “microgrids,” which they say could reduce the incidence of wide-scale outages. Utility companies have proposed their own storm-proofing measures, including burying power lines underground.

But state regulators largely have rejected these ideas, citing pressure to keep energy rates affordable. Of $15.7 billion in grid improvements under consideration last year, regulators approved only $3.4 billion, according to a national survey by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center — about one-fifth.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

pope francis headshot palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s meeting with the pope will carry resonance as disputes divide U.S. Catholics, Matt Viser, Oct. 24, 2021. The second Catholic joe biden resized opresident, like the leader of the Catholic church, above, is striving to move conservative institutions in a more liberal direction after rising to leadership late in life.

With Pope John Paul II, the meeting stretched 45 minutes, frequently interrupted by aides who were brushed aside by a pontiff interested in talking to a 37-year-old senator named Joe Biden. With Pope Benedict XVI, there was a long discussion of whether politicians should impose their beliefs on others when it comes to church doctrine, an exchange Biden described as “like going to theology class.”
2021 Election: Complete coverage and analysis

But it is with Pope Francis — the longtime Jesuit priest Biden will see Friday in a historic encounter at the Vatican — that Biden shares the deepest bond. It was Francis who comforted the Biden family in 2015 after Biden’s son Beau died. It was Francis who met privately with Biden to talk about cancer research. And it was Francis whose photo Biden has displayed prominently in the Oval Office.

Biden’s meeting with the Pope in the Vatican, shortly before he heads off to a pair of international summits, will carry deep political, religious and symbolic significance, as the nation’s second Catholic president greets the worldwide leader of the Catholic Church.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats’ problem is not focusing on issues most vital to independents, 2 prominent pollsters say, Paul Kane, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). democratic donkey logoIn late 2009 and early 2010, with unemployment hovering around 10 percent, key swing voters cared most about jobs and not expanding access to health insurance. Today’s voters appear to be most concerned about the ongoing global pandemic and are not deeply invested in the haggling over proposals such as expanding Medicare coverage to include dental, hearing and vision benefits.

It has become fashionable to talk about how few undecided voters exist in this polarized era, but both pollsters view this small bloc as the difference between a sweeping GOP victory and Democrats’ narrowly retaining their already narrow majority, especially after the 2018 and 2020 elections realigned centrist suburban voters solidly into the Democratic coalition.

senate democrats logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Manchinism can help the Democrats. Sinema’s politics are a dead end, Matthew Yglesias (author of the Slow Boring newsletter and is the author of One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger), Oct. 24, 2021.

Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) are mentioned in the same sentence so frequently that there’s a raging battle on Twitter over whether Manchinema or Sinemanchin is the correct portmanteau.

But despite the obvious similarities between the two most conservative members of the Democrats’ Senate caucus — notably their opposition to the size of President Biden’s major domestic-spending bill, as originally introduced, and willingness to buck their party’s leadership — Manchin and Sinema represent very distinct political visions.

A reputation for independence, by itself, can have some electoral allure. But Manchin’s departure from the Democratic mainstream — however much it infuriates progressives — offers something of a road map for appealing to less-educated and rural voters, especially White ones, whom the party badly needs to win if it wants to hold future Senate majorities.

Sinema, by contrast, offers little beyond vague fiscal conservatism. She chooses politically perverse topics on which to make a stand, blocking some of Biden’s most popular ideas, and offers nothing for the party to build on.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It’s All About Compromise,’ Biden Says. Will Supporters Agree? Michael D. Shear, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden pushed for a big agenda knowing that he would most likely have to pare it back, leading to disappointment that may hurt at the polls.

Joe Biden portrait 2Joe Biden’s pitch during the 2020 campaign to unseat President Donald J. Trump was simple: Trade in a stubborn, immovable leader for one with a proven record of taking half a loaf when a full one is out of reach.

That approach appears to have brought Mr. Biden to the precipice of victory on a $2 trillion deal that could begin to define his legacy as a successful Oval Office legislative architect, one who is reshaping government spending and doing so by the narrowest of margins in a country with deep partisan and ideological chasms.

But the bill is certain to be far smaller than what he originally proposed, and far less ambitious than he and many of his allies had hoped. It won’t make him the one who finally secured free community college for everyone. Seniors won’t get free dental, hearing and vision coverage from Medicare. And there won’t be a new system of penalties for the worst polluters.

“Look — hey, look, it’s all about compromise,” Mr. Biden said at a CNN town hall meeting on Thursday, shrugging off the doubters as he sought to close the deal with lawmakers and the public.

washington post logoWashington Post, Residents of decaying public housing see futures on line as Democrats cut spending bill, Jeff Stein and Sean Sullivan, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The New York City Housing Authority said in a statement that poor living conditions in the housing are reflective of the desperate need for federal funds to upgrade the nation’s decaying public housing stock.

Biden’s proposed $40 billion to repair public housing — long maligned as a symbol of government mismanagement — may be vulnerable to downsizing in negotiations, according to a half-dozen aides familiar with ongoing negotiations, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reflect private deliberations. Democratic lawmakers have this week begun to acknowledge that Biden’s broader $300 billion housing plan, which was first rejected by Republicans in bipartisan infrastructure negotiations, could shrink to as little as $100 billion in the final version of the legislation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Donald Trump has turned against his lapdog Kevin McCarthy, Bocha Blue, Oct. 24, 2021.  It appears the relationship between Kevin McCarthy and former President Assolini is still not very good. In fact, per The Washington Post, it appears to be terrible. Per Business Insider, their relationship is “hot and gold.” Why is that? Well, assolini cannot forgive McCarthy for suggesting the insurrectionist should face a censure vote.

For my part, I think this comment was about the only thing Kevin has ever said that makes sense. But apparently assolini cannot get over what he perceives as a slight. And he has told many he will never forget it.

This cannot be welcome news to McCarthy, who has literally been falling over himself these past few months trying to get the orange tumor to like him again. Alas, Kevin’s efforts appear to be for naught. This, however, has not stopped McCarthy’s groveling. He has been shameless in his open sucking up, and just about everybody has noticed.

And supposedly, Trump has been badmouthing McCarthy. This does not appear to bother Kevin, who is openly bragging about taking back the House in the 2022 elections. I sense an implosion between the two men coming. As big a boot-licker as McCarthy is, nothing he does will ever be enough for Trump because Trump is a Narcissist and cannot be satisfied. It appears everybody knows this but McCarthy.

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U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race

Torchlight parade by White nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 8, 2017.

Torchlight parade by White nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 8, 2017.

ny times logoNew York Times, Victims of Charlottesville Rally Argue the Violence Was Planned, Neil MacFarquhar, Oct. 24, 2021. A civil trial that starts Monday will examine whether the far-right organizers had plotted violence. They have countered that it was self-defense.

The violent rally started with a mob of men brandishing burning torches in the heart of an American city while chanting racist, antisemitic slogans, and it ended with a woman murdered, scarring a nation. Now, more than four years later, a civil trial starting on Monday in Charlottesville, Va., will revisit those unsettling events.

The long-delayed lawsuit in federal court against two dozen organizers of the march will examine one of the most violent manifestations of far-right views in recent history. Since the rally in August 2017, extremist ideology has seeped from the online world and surfaced in other violence, ranging from street clashes between far-right groups and leftists in Portland, Ore., to the storming of the Michigan Statehouse, to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The federal government has called the rise of domestic extremism a lethal threat to the United States.

The plaintiffs accuse the organizers of the Charlottesville rally of plotting to foment the violence that left them injured, while the defendants counter that their views constituted free speech, however offensive others might find it, and that the bloodshed stemmed from self-defense.

Using a combination of digital sleuthing and a 19th-century law written to curb the Ku Klux Klan, the lawyers for the nine plaintiffs in the Charlottesville case are hoping that their quest for unspecified financial damages will both punish the organizers and deter others.

The 24 defendants, including 10 organizations, are a collection of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Klan sympathizers and other adherents of extremist ideology. The case will underscore some of the most divisive fault lines segmenting the United States, including the claim by members of the far right that the existence of the white race is under threat.

“The trial will provide a detailed look into the world of far-right extremism and organization, but that world should not be understood as an outlier,” said Richard C. Schragger, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. “Though some of the groups and individuals targeted by the lawsuit seem fringe and marginal, their ideas and the wider conspiracy-mongering and propensity to violence that they represent is alive and well in the U.S.”

 

Politico, What Biden is keeping secret in the JFK files, Bryan Bender, Oct. 24, 2021. The censored files may offer insights into Cold War covert ops, but don't expect a smoking gun about the assassination.

President Joe Biden has once again delayed the public release of thousands of government secrets that might shed light on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“Temporary continued postponement is necessary to protect against identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure,” Biden wrote in a presidential memorandum late Friday.

politico CustomHe also said that the National Archives and Records Administration, the custodian of the records, needs more time to conduct a declassification review due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision, which follows a delay ordered by President Donald Trump in 2017, means scholars and the public will have to wait even longer to see what remains buried in government archives about one of the greatest political mysteries of the 20th century. And the review process for the remaining documents means Biden can hold the release further if the CIA or other agencies can convince him they reveal sensitive sources or methods.

nara logoPublic opinion polls have long indicated most Americans do not believe the official conclusion by the Warren Commission that the assassination was the work of a single gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, a former Marine who once defected to the Soviet Union and who was shot to death by a nightclub owner Jack Ruby while in police custody.

A special House committee in 1978 concluded “on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”

But longtime researchers almost uniformly agree that what is still being shielded from public view won’t blow open the case.

“Do I believe the CIA has a file that shows former CIA Director Allen Dulles presided over the assassination? No. But I’m afraid there are people who will believe things like that no matter what is in the files,” said David Kaiser, a former history professor at the Naval War College and author of “The Road to Dallas.”

His book argued that Kennedy’s murder cannot be fully understood without also studying two major U.S. intelligence and law enforcement campaigns of the era: Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s war on organized crime and the CIA’s failed efforts to kill communist dictator Fidel Castro in Cuba (with the Mafia’s help).

Still, Kaiser and other experts believe national security agencies are still hiding information that shows how officials actively stonewalled a full accounting by Congress and the courts and might illuminate shadowy spy world figures who could have been involved in a plot to kill the president.
What’s still hidden?

Portions of more than 15,000 records that have been released remain blacked out, in some cases a single word but in others nearly the entire document, according to the National Archives.

The records were collected by the Assassination Records Review Board, which was established by Congress in the 1992 JFK Records Act.

The independent body, which folded in 1998, was headed by a federal judge and empowered to collect classified information from across the government that might have bearing on Kennedy’s murder and make public as much as possible after consulting with the agencies where the intelligence originated. It also had legal authority to overrule recalcitrant agencies.

A large portion of the JFK collection came from the probe by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, which investigated the murders of President Kennedy and the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The panel also delved into a series of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement activities in the early decades of the Cold War as part of its probe.

The creation of the review board ultimately led to the release of thousands of files. But the board also postponed the release of other documents until 2017, when Trump used his authority to further delay full public disclosure.

Much of what has yet to be released involves intelligence activities during the height of the Cold War that likely had no direct bearing on the plot to kill Kennedy but could shed light on covert operations.

One heavily censored file involves a CIA plot to kill Castro. Another is a 1963 Pentagon plan for an “engineered provocation” that could be blamed on Castro as a pretext for toppling him. Then there’s a history of the CIA’s Miami office, which organized a propaganda campaign against Castro’s Cuba.

Other redacted files are believed to contain new CIA information about the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee in Washington’s Watergate Hotel by former CIA operatives that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

But some could reveal more about the events leading up to the assassination itself.

Researchers are keenly interested in the personnel file of the late George Joannides, a career CIA intelligence operative who staffers on the House investigation in the late 1970s believe lied to Congress about what he knew about a CIA-backed exile group that had ties to Oswald.

A federal appeals court in 2018 upheld the CIA’s rejection of a lawsuit by researcher Jefferson Morley to obtain the file.
Lee Harvey Oswald denies shooting President Kennedy.

Paraded before newsmen after his arrest, Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 23, 1963, tells reporters that he did not shoot President John F. Kennedy. | AP Photo

Another partially released file contains information about how the CIA may have monitored Oswald on a trip he purportedly took to Mexico City ahead of the assassination.

The files could reveal more of “what the CIA was doing in New Orleans, some more info about Mexico City and likely even some revelations about the CIA role in Watergate,” said Larry Schnapf, a lawyer and assassination researcher.

Morley, who has filed multiple lawsuits to force disclosure, believes the CIA is covering up for individuals who may have had a role in Kennedy’s death or knew who was responsible and wanted it hidden from the public to protect the agency.

He says the CIA’s refusal to comply “can only be interpreted as evidence of bad faith, malicious intent, and obstruction of Congress.”

A spokesperson for the CIA, which accounts for the majority of the withheld records, declined to address the charge, saying only that the agency will comply with the law and the president’s directive.
When will the secret files be revealed?

Biden did set in motion the release of some of the remaining records.

“Any information currently withheld from public disclosure that agencies have not proposed for continued postponement shall be reviewed by NARA before December 15, 2021, and shall be publicly released on that date,” the memo states.

He also directed that the National Archives conduct an “intensive review” over the next year “of each remaining redaction to ensure that the United States Government maximizes transparency, disclosing all information in records concerning the assassination, except when the strongest possible reasons counsel.”

But that means the CIA and other agencies can still convince Biden to further delay the release of some documents.

A coalition of legal experts and academics asserts that Trump and now Biden have been flouting the 1992 law that set up the disclosure process.

They contend in a legal memo the legislation laid out a “stringent process and legal standard for postponing the release of a record” that requires the president to certify why any single file is being withheld.

“Congress established a short-list of specific reasons that federal agencies could cite as a basis for requesting postponement of public disclosure of assassination records,” they advised Biden last month. “A government office seeking postponement was required to specify, for each record sought to be postponed, the applicable grounds for postponement.”

Schnapf plans to file a lawsuit on Monday seeking copies of the underlying communications that have led to the decision by successive presidents to postpone the release of so many documents.

The Public Interest Declassification Board, a bipartisan advisory panel appointed by the president and leaders of Congress, appealed to Biden last month to limit further postponement to the “absolute minimum,” noting that “we understand that agencies are asking you to extend the postponement of public disclosure for parts of many records subject to the JFK Act.”

The board said it believes disclosure after all these years would “bolster the American people’s confidence and trust in their government.”

The board’s chair, Ezra Cohen, the former acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence, called the Biden memo “a step in the right direction” but “we will know more regarding agency and Archives implementation come December.”

“In the short term,” he added, “the Archivist will need to work hard to keep agencies on track with the President’s guidance.”

Schnapf said Congress may have to step in if military and intelligence agencies keep delaying full disclosure.

He pointed out that with the expiration of the JFK records review board, there is no authority other than Biden who can overcome the “kind of stalling, delaying and excessive secrecy that led to the enactment of the JFK Act in the first place.”

“Trump gave the agencies three and a half years … and yet full disclosure has not been obtained,” he added. “This is not about conspiracy but about compliance with the law. There is widespread bipartisan support to have the rest of the records released. These records will reveal important secrets about our country’s history. When President Biden agreed to release the 9/11 records, he said 20 years is long enough. How about 58 years?”

 

World Conflict, Corruption

World Crisis Radio, Commentary: Trump clones are losing power worldwide! Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 23, 2021. Virtually unnoticed by US media, the reactionary-webster tarpley twitterpopulist-dictatorial wave of the past half-dozen years is ebbing away, with Trump, Netanyahu, German CDU/CSU, Babis of Czech Republic, and Kurz of Austria already ousted and Duterte leaving; Orban and Bolsonaro face grim odds; Italian cities turn toward center-left, making future Salvini-Meloni anti-immigrant regime less likely;

terry mcauliffe oCriminal contempt of Congress charge for Bannon and coming Jeffrey Clark testimony could be steps towards further demolition of GOP;

With UK posting almost 50,000 covid cases daily under ”Freedom” policy compared to Italy’s 2,800, Tory Boris Johnson is also going down hill; Putin shuts down Russia for a week;

1934 off-year election win by New Deal Dems after FDR’s Hundred Days shows how delivering mass traction economic measures can preserve and expand a narrow majority; this shows need to pass Biden’s program this coming week as part of final push for Terry McAuliffe, left, in Virginia!

washington post logoWashington Post, Colombian drug lord captured in jungle hideout; bust compared to Pablo Escobar’s fall, Rachel Pannett, Diana Durán and Samantha Schmidt, Oct. 24, 2021. Colombia’s most-wanted drug lord, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, widely known by his alias Otoniel, has been captured by armed forces in his jungle hideout.

Úsuga, 50, a former left-wing guerrilla and later a paramilitary fighter, is the alleged leader of the notorious drug trafficking group Clan del Golfo, or Gulf Clan, which dominates major cocaine smuggling routes through thick jungles in the country’s restive north.

colombia flag nameColombian President Iván Duque likened Úsuga’s arrest Saturday to the capture of Pablo Escobar three decades ago. Escobar, known as “the Godfather,” once sat on top of the drug world with tentacles reaching around the globe.

“Otoniel was the most feared drug trafficker in the world, killer of police, of soldiers, of social leaders, and recruiter of children,” Duque said during a broadcast video message. “This blow is only comparable to the fall of Pablo Escobar in the 1990s.”

A police officer died during the operation, Duque said, according to Reuters.

Úsuga is accused of sending dozens of shipments of cocaine to the United States. He is also accused of killing police officers, recruiting minors and sexually abusing children, among other crimes, Duque said. The U.S. government had put up a reward of $5 million for help locating him.

“Otoniel’s capture is truly important,” said Daniel Mejía, a Colombian university professor and expert on narco-trafficking. “He was the head of the most powerful narco-trafficking structure in Colombia, the Gulf Clan, which holds domain of a broad part of the territory.”

 

recep erdogan throne

ny times logoNew York Times, Erdogan Threatens to Expel 10 Western Ambassadors, Carlotta Gall, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The move follows a statement from the envoys demanding the release of a prominent philanthropist jailed since 2017.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has threatened to expel the ambassadors from 10 countries including the U.S., declaring them ‘persona non grata’ after they called for the release of a jailed philanthropist.

Flag of Turkey“I gave the instruction to our foreign minister and said ‘You will immediately handle the persona non grata declaration of these 10 ambassadors,’” Mr. Erdogan said in a speech Saturday in Eskisehir in western Turkey.

The outburst seemed to indicate a return to frosty relations with the West, following a brief thaw that analysts have attributed to Mr. Erdogan’s concern for his country’s stumbling economy.

The envoys, including those from the seven European nations, Canada and New Zealand, as well as the United States, released a letter earlier this week urging the Turkish government to abide by a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights and release the philanthropist, Osman Kavala, who has been held since 2017 despite not having been convicted of a crime.

The Biden administration was the driving force behind the letter, in keeping with the president’s policy of publicly calling out states over human rights violations.

A declaration of persona non grata typically means the individual must leave the host country. However, the ambassadors were not immediately given a deadline for leaving, and it remained unclear whether they would actually be expelled.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel moves to ban six Palestinian rights groups it accuses of terrorism, prompting international outrage, Amy Cheng, Oct. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Israel designated six leading Palestinian rights organizations as terrorist groups on Friday, in the latest blow to activists who say space for dissent in the occupied territories has steadily shrunk amid intimidation by Israeli and Palestinian authorities alike.

The announcement was swiftly condemned by watchdogs in Israel and internationally, who say the designations are unsubstantiated and are attempts to muzzle prominent critics of the Israeli government.

The terrorism designation effectively bans the groups by allowing authorities to freeze their funds, raid their offices and prohibit fundraising and public expressions of support for the organizations, according to international monitors.

Israel’s Defense Ministry accused the groups of being controlled by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist-Leninist movement with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks on civilians. The PFLP does not recognize the existence of Israel.

Israel and its allies, including the United States, consider the PFLP to be a terrorist organization.

The six outlawed organizations are al-Haq, Addameer, the Bisan Center for Research and Development, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Defense for Children International-Palestine and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

 

Oct. 23

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance


World Conflict, Human Rights, Corruption

 

Weather, Climate, Disasters

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Where Biden’s economic plan appears to stand: From taxes to climate to Medicare to immigration, Jeff Stein, Rachel Roubein and Marianna Sotomayor, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Even as negotiations over President Biden’s economic package continue, Democratic officials have started signaling which parts of the White House agenda could be cut from the legislation and which are likely to be approved.

joe biden twitterBiden, for instance, said on Thursday night that his plan to create universal free community college had fallen out of the bill. The president acknowledged his new clean energy plan to incentivize utility firms to move away from fossil fuels is in danger of being jettisoned. By contrast, universal prekindergarten and a national child care program are widely seen as all but guaranteed to be included, enjoying the backing of the Democratic caucus.

The bill is also likely to retain significantly smaller versions of a wide range of Biden’s proposals, such as initial plans to provide roughly $300 billion for housing and homelessness, $400 billion on eldercare for seniors, and $450 billion for the child tax credit. Each initiative stands to be cut from anywhere from a third to a half of their initial proposed amounts, though estimates on how much vary by significant margins.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Again Refuses to Block Texas Abortion Law, Adam Liptak, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Friday once again refused to immediately block a Texas law that banned most abortions after six weeks. But the justices agreed to fast-track their consideration of appeals from the Justice Department and abortion providers in Texas, scheduling arguments for Nov. 1.

Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissent.

“For the second time, the court is presented with an application to enjoin a statute enacted in open disregard of the constitutional rights of women seeking abortion care in Texas,” she wrote. “For the second time, the court declines to act immediately to protect these women from grave and irreparable harm.”

But she added she welcomed the court’s decision to hear arguments in the two cases, which will apparently be limited to the procedural question of whether the Texas law, S.B. 8, is subject to review in federal court given its novel structure.

The court said it would decide this question in the federal government’s appeal: “May the United States bring suit in federal court and obtain injunctive or declaratory relief against the state, state court judges, state court clerks, other state officials or all private parties to prohibit S.B. 8 from being enforced?”

The court turned down a request from officials in Texas to use the cases to decide whether to overturn the right to abortion established in 1973 in Roe v. Wade.

That question is already before the court in a case challenging a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. Roe and other Supreme Court precedents, notably Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, prohibit states from banning abortion before fetal viability, the point at which fetuses can sustain life outside the womb, or about 22 to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. The Mississippi case will be argued on Dec. 1, a month after the Texas case.

The Texas law, known as Senate Bill 8, was designed to evade review in federal court.

Usually, a lawsuit seeking to block a law because it is unconstitutional would name state officials as defendants. However, the Texas law, which makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from incest or rape, bars state officials from enforcing it and instead deputizes private individuals to sue anyone who performs the procedure or “aids and abets” it.

While not immediately striking down the law, the court said it would fast-track the cases challenging it and hear arguments on Nov. 1. The justices also turned down a request from officials in Texas to decide whether to overturn the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade.

 

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

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

 washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted in campaign finance fraud case, Shayna Jacobs, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.).  Lev Parnas, a Florida businessman who is an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani's, was found guilty on Friday of using funds from a foreign investor to try to influence political candidates through campaign donations.

It took the federal jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan less than a day to find that Parnas committed fraud through donations to several state and federal candidates that were bankrolled by a Russian financier. Parnas was also found guilty on counts related to a $325,000 donation in 2018 to a joint fundraising committee that supported then-President Donald Trump.

Prosecutors told the jury that the illegal fundraising efforts documented in text messages and other trial evidence gave Parnas access to elected officials and candidates. They showed photos of Parnas with Trump and Giuliani, who was the president’s personal lawyer, schmoozing at high-end political fundraisers. ukraine flagProsecutors also said Parnas lied to the Federal Election Commission about the source of the hefty 2018 donation, which he said in filings was from his start-up company Global Energy Producers. The company was in fact not profitable and not functioning as a real business, prosecutors argued. The donation was actually sourced through a mortgage refinance loan obtained by Parnas’s business partner, Igor Fruman, the jury found.

Fruman — whose alleged role in the events was regularly discussed in testimony at the trial — pleaded guilty last month to one count of soliciting foreign campaign contributions. He’s due to be sentenced early next year.

Outside the courtroom after the verdict on Friday, Parnas said: “I’ve never hid from nobody. I’ve always stood to tell the truth.”

 

djt march 2020 Custom

Medium, Personal Communications Commentary: When old friends choose MAGA over morality it’s time to say goodbye, James Stephens, Oct. 23, 2021. Ironically, it was Facebook ( of all places ) that shined the light of truth.

facebook logoI’m not sorry that our Facebook posts about the pandemic ended our friendship.

I grieve, but I’m not sorry.

Your posts are the evidence I didn’t want but needed.

You aren’t the person I thought you were.

donald trump twitterIt turns out much of what I thought we had in common was only superficially true. The ties that bind weren’t holding anything together. It appeared that way because nothing ever tested us — until recently.

Trump and Covid have laid bare the truth.

I see a blessing in that.

God can cause good to spring forth from bad circumstances.

Until the next day, around January 7th of 2021, I thought you were a loyal citizen of the United States of America, even if I didn’t understand your devotion to Donald Trump. I didn’t like it, but I could blame Fox News for your misguided beliefs about MAGA, and Covid, and all the rest. I know you’re a busy person with inadequate time to digest it all. Besides, you’ve always voted for Republicans, and it wasn’t a problem between us.

It appeared that we had religion in common.

For me, aspiring to live the teachings of Jesus is the pinnacle of the virtues I want in a friend. We attended the same kind of evangelical church services, so I assumed we were in one accord in the moral primacy of Christ.

But, the pandemic showed me your true motivation.

The aftermath of the presidential election confirmed my dismay.

I was shocked to find out we worshipped different gods. I am devoted to the God who is Love, and you the god of callous selfishness and fear.

These two cannot co-exist.

Like the Holocaust, there is no other side of this story for future history teachers to balance. All they can do is try to explain how so many Americans became enthralled and bewitched by self-centeredness and racism.

You seem to think Uncle Sam is a sacred being, and that Trump is his prophet.

I can’t go along with that.

“Q” looks like an upside-down noose.

You tell me that I’m a sheep, and I don’t know the real truth. But you keep spreading The Big Lie. You tell me that you won’t live in fear, but you’re terrified by vaccine myths. You tell me that wearing a mask is a sign of capitulation to tyranny, but you are willing to lie, kill, and die for that orange tyrant.

I used to think you meant well.

Things have changed us into obvious enemies.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates:Struggles over vaccine mandates, the death of Colin Powell: the week in Covid news, Staff Reports, Oct. 23, 2021.

  • Regulators at the F.D.A. say the Pfizer vaccine’s benefits outweigh the key risks for 5- to 11-year-olds.
  • New Zealand wants a 90% vaccination rate. Street gangs may hold the key.
  • Spain will reimburse thousands of people fined during 2020 lockdown.
  • Here’s what you need to know to navigate the C.D.C.’s new mix-and-match vaccine strategy.
  • A limited C.D.C. study finds no significant change in hospitalization outcomes during the U.S. Delta wave.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. communities want to share unused vaccines with Mexico, but the White House won’t let them, Kevin Sieff and Dan Diamond, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). For months, health officials and hospital executives in Southern California watched as coronavirus vaccines neared their expiration dates unused while demand for doses waned.

A small group around San Diego had an idea: It would donate thousands of shots to Mexico, a short drive away, where the vaccine rollout had been much slower and the infection rate remained high.

But as the plan was readied, it was blocked by the White House Vaccine Task Force. The doses were instead discarded.

State and local officials across the country have run into the same problem, as the Biden administration has prevented efforts to donate leftover vaccines to India and other countries suffering from acute outbreaks.

The reason, White House officials say, is that vaccines in the United States are the property of the federal government, not the cities or states in which they are distributed. That means the federal government is liable for their use, and donation efforts must be run out of Washington. The White House runs its own program rochelle walensky 2to donate vaccines, usually through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The green light from Rochelle Walensky, left, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, means that eligible Americans at risk of severe disease can choose any of the three boosters now authorized in the United States regardless of their original shot.

“The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe — as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given,” Walensky said in a statement Thursday night, several hours after receiving unanimous recommendations from the expert panel, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. “And, they are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating delta variant.”

Walensky’s action — following authorization Wednesday from federal regulators — largely fulfills the administration’s August pledge to make boosters of all three vaccines available to Americans, albeit a month later than promised and for a smaller group. The administration’s focus on boosters came as the highly contagious delta variant sickened millions and killed tens of thousands, and also reflected concern about waning immunity from the vaccines.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 23, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 243,896,964, Deaths: 4,956,267
U.S. Cases:     46,264,596, Deaths:    755,721
India Cases:     34,159,562, Deaths:    453,742
Brazil Cases:    21,711,843, Deaths:    605,211

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 219.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 23, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 190.2 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: No issue is more important than voting rights, Colbert I. King, right, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). This week found the Biden White House colbert king 2003bollixed up in debates over such matters as dental benefits to people on Medicare and free community college tuition as the Freedom to Vote Act was getting unceremoniously crushed in the Senate by a united Republican minority. If any pending Senate action warranted President Biden’s — and the nation’s — undivided attention, it was the federal voting rights bill to protect and expand access to the ballot box.

Yet when a handful of Democratic senators led by Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Raphael G. Warnock (Ga.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) moved to close debate on a motion to proceed to consideration of that critical bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), confident in the knowledge that Biden has failed to yet mobilize sufficient public support against him, withheld the 10 Republican votes needed.

The importance of what occurred in the Senate chamber Wednesday shouldn’t be overshadowed by attention to the rest of Biden’s agenda, his upcoming summit meetings or navel-gazing over any other single issue.

Legislation deemed critical to our democracy by the bill’s sponsors, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), succumbed to the “big lie” told by former Republican president Donald Trump that he did not lose in a fair and free election in November. Republicans who blocked the Freedom to Vote Act bill are standing arm in arm with nearly 20 Trump-poisoned states that have passed laws undercutting democracy.

Let’s be clear: Obstructing the Freedom to Vote Act was as subversive as state voter-suppression actions to roll back access to the vote, as well as the Jan. 6 storming and desecration of the Capitol by insurrectionists intent on halting congressional certification of valid presidential election results.

Nonetheless, when this crucial federal voting rights measure to correct state voting rights wrongs was put forward in the Senate on Wednesday, the nation’s attention, including Biden’s, seemed focused elsewhere.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It’s All About Compromise,’ Biden Says. Will Supporters Agree? Michael D. Shear, Oct. 23, 2021. President Biden pushed for a big agenda knowing that he would most likely have to pare it back, leading to disappointment that may hurt at the polls.

Joe Biden portrait 2Joe Biden’s pitch during the 2020 campaign to unseat President Donald J. Trump was simple: Trade in a stubborn, immovable leader for one with a proven record of taking half a loaf when a full one is out of reach.

That approach appears to have brought Mr. Biden to the precipice of victory on a $2 trillion deal that could begin to define his legacy as a successful Oval Office legislative architect, one who is reshaping government spending and doing so by the narrowest of margins in a country with deep partisan and ideological chasms.

But the bill is certain to be far smaller than what he originally proposed, and far less ambitious than he and many of his allies had hoped. It won’t make him the one who finally secured free community college for everyone. Seniors won’t get free dental, hearing and vision coverage from Medicare. And there won’t be a new system of penalties for the worst polluters.

“Look — hey, look, it’s all about compromise,” Mr. Biden said at a CNN town hall meeting on Thursday, shrugging off the doubters as he sought to close the deal with lawmakers and the public.

Associated Press, US budget deficit hits $2.77 trillion in 2021, 2nd highest, Martin Crutsinger, Widely published on Oct. 23, 2021, first reported on the previous day. 
The U.S. budget deficit totaled $2.77 trillion for 2021, the second highest on record but an improvement from the all-time high of $3.13 trillion reached in 2020. The deficits in both years reflect trillions of dollars in government spending to counteract the devastating effects of a global pandemic.

The Biden administration said Friday that deficit for the budget year that ended Sept. 30 was $360 billion lower than 2020, as a recovering economy boosted revenues, helping to offset government spending from pandemic relief efforts.

Before the deficit ballooned during two years of a global pandemic, the biggest deficit had been a shortfall of $1.4 trillion in 2009. At that time, the U.S. was spending heavily to lift the country out of a severe recession following the 2008 financial crisis.

omb logo management and budget seal CustomAs a percentage of the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, the 2021 deficit represents 12.4% of GDP, down from the 2020 deficit, which was 15% of GDP.

The 2020 deficit was the highest in relation to the overall economy since World War II, when it hit 29.6% of GDP in 1943 as the United States was borrowing heavily to finance the war effort. Those figures remained elevated at 22.2% of GDP in 1944 and 21% of GDP in 1945 before beginning to retreat once the war was won.

For 2021, the joint report from Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget said government spending increased 4.1% to $6.82 trillion. This was offset by an increase of 18.3% in government revenues to $4 trillion. The revenue gain reflected an improving economy as millions of people who had lost jobs at the start of the pandemic went back to work and corporate profits rebounded after a horrendous 2020.

“Under President Biden’s leadership, the U.S. economy is getting back on track and Americans are getting back to work,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Shalanda Young, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a joint statement.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office expects the deficit will fall to $1.15 trillion in the current budget year, which began Oct. 1, and will dip below $1 trillion for three years from 2023 through 2025 before rising again above $1 trillion for each year through 2031.

That CBO forecast does not include the spending that will occur if Biden is able to get two pending measures through Congress: a $1 trillion proposal for traditional infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges, and his plan to bolster the social safety net and combat climate change.

Bad News, Commentary: Kyrsten Sinema's long march through the institutions, Ryan Grim, right, Oct. 23, 2021. So Kyrsten Sinema is now pushing an income tax on ryan grim Custombillionaires.

It’s fun to think that Sinema has actually never left the days when she was an anarcho-curious, black bloc protester committed to tearing down the power structure, and this whole absurd, indecipherable parade of hostility to anything that would help the poor or slightly inconvenience the rich has all been an act, part of a long march through the institutions with the end goal of revolution.

Back on earth, though, the fact that Sinema is proposing her own tax policies -- which comes after she has promised colleagues she won’t blow up their reconciliation bill -- is the most encouraging sign yet that a deal is forthcoming. And if it does actually take a bite out of billionaire wealth, all the better. Her proposal, which would hit unrealized gains over a billion dollars a year -- or over $100 million for three straight years -- would finally do something non-trivial about economic inequality, and it would redistribute that hoarded wealth downwards. It would also set a nice precedent, similar to how the original income tax only hit the richest of the rich. (It’s estimated the tax would hit about 700 people, yet still raise a ton of money.)

What Sinema might be finally recognizing is that the politics she’s been pursuing the last few years are the politics of the party’s past. I have a new story on that below, which compares her fundraising haul over the past three months with other Democrats in swing states and finds that people like Mark Kelly, Raphael Warnock and Maggie Hassan are badly out-fundraising her, calling into question just what the hell it is she thinks she’s accomplishing.

We also have a new story on the many federal investigations that probed Manchin’s close allies through his rise in West Virginia politics. The whole story is worth a read -- I also learned that his uncle was JFK’s sherpa in West Virginia for his famous 1960 primary victory there -- but one of the most significant revelations is that Manchin, as governor, instructed his chief of staff to work with lobbyists who were pushing for an electricity rate increase that would bail out a power plant that was the main buyer of his coal. This is a follow up to our earlier investigation into his coal empire, by Daniel Boguslaw, who appears on Deconstructed as well, along with Rep. Ro Khanna, talking about reconciliation negotiations.

Kyrsten Sinema might be on the young side for a senator — less than half the age of some of her colleagues — but she represents the Democratic Party’s past. Think of her and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as the dead hands reaching out of the grave, grabbing at the party as it tries to move on from them. They might have managed to claw back spending on the Build Back Better Act, but the reality that their time has passed is clear. And the way you can measure this most directly is in terms of dollars.

For Sinema in particular, her approach to the negotiations — to push against social spending and tax hikes on the rich and corporations — has cost her badly in the polls at home and hasn’t had much of an upside when it comes to campaign cash. Her model of politics is outdated, though it has been the dominant form for most of her life.

In the 1980s, in response to the Reagan Revolution and the ongoing realignment that broke what Democrats thought was a permanent stranglehold on Congress, the party developed what was called at the time a “PAC strategy” but today is just called fundraising.

Starting with Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential race, it finally started to look possible that a candidate funded by a large number of small, individual donations could compete with one funded by the rich and corporations. Technology was making it possible for people to quickly translate their enthusiasm not just into a honk and wave on a highway overpass, but also into actual money.

For the past few months, we were treated to endless stories about Sinema skipping important events in Washington to be at this or that fundraiser and even leaving the country to go to Paris to raise money. For all that trouble, Sinema broke her fundraising record, reporting $1.1 million in fundraising in third quarter.

Fellow Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly is totally fine with the full $3.5 trillion proposal for the reconciliation bill, voted for a minimum wage increase, supports passing parts of the labor reform legislation called the PRO Act, and generally supports all kinds of reforms that Sinema is battling. Kelly, who’s up for reelection next year, raised $8.2 million this past quarter, while the Republican candidate expected to win that primary raised just over half a million.

In the last three months, Kelly raised $3.4 million from small donors, according to his FEC report. In other words, he raised three times more than Sinema just from small donors even while Sinema was making a corporate-loving spectacle of herself and traveling the world to raise money. He made nothing from PACs. And his $3.8 million in itemized contributions shows that a Democrat in a swing state can back the Biden agenda and still raise money from big donors.
Sinema raised $914,000 from itemized contributions — those are big donations — and just $31,653.71 from small donors. She also raised $192,000 from PACs.

washington post logokevin mccarthyWashington Post, Kevin McCarthy contorts positions to stay in Trump’s good graces as he pursues a GOP House, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, Photos by Jabin Botsford, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The House minority leader, right, has worked to keep a fractious party in line, sometimes contorting his own positions as he strives to stay in the former president's good graces.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nevada Republican who claimed someone stole dead wife’s ballot is charged with voter fraud, Amy B Wang, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Donald Kirk Hartle looked troubled last November. It was a few days after Election Day and the Las Vegas man was telling a local news station that someone had stolen his late wife’s mail-in ballot and returned it to Clark County election officials, according to Nevada’s online ballot tracker.

“That is pretty sickening to me, to be honest with you,” Hartle said in an interview then with KLAS 8 News Now. “It was, uh, disbelief. It just — it made no sense to me.”

Hartle noted that his late wife, Rosemarie, had died in 2017, but remained on the voter rolls. The signature on the returned ballot had matched what election officials had on file for Rosemarie, KLAS 8 News Now reported at the time, leaving Hartle to wonder “who took advantage of his grief” and how had they pulled it off?

djt maga hatNearly a year later, there appears to be an answer.

On Thursday, the Nevada attorney general’s office announced it had filed two charges of voter fraud against Hartle, alleging that he forged his late wife’s name to vote with her ballot. Both charges — one for voting using the name of another person and another for voting more than once in the same election — are category D felonies that each can carry a prison sentence of up to four years, along with a fine of up to $5,000.

“Voter fraud is rare, but when it happens it undercuts trust in our election system and will not be tolerated by my office,” Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I want to stress that our office will pursue any credible allegations of voter fraud and will work to bring any offenders to justice.”

Hartle allegedly voted twice, including once in his late wife’s name, between Oct. 26 and Oct. 30 of last year, according to a criminal complaint. David Chesnoff, an attorney for Hartle, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday, but told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his client would respond to the allegations in court. His first court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 18.

The voter-fraud allegation that perfectly captures the post-2020 Republican Party

The charges are the result of an investigation by the Nevada secretary of state’s office, which had been criticized by the Nevada GOP for not doing enough to investigate voter fraud allegations. In April, state GOP leaders voted to censure Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a fellow Republican, for “[putting] the reliability of our elections in Nevada in question.”

“Our office takes voter fraud very seriously,” Cegavske said in a statement Thursday. “Our Securities Division worked hard to bring this case to a close.”

The case was one that local and national Republican leaders touted last year as concrete evidence of voter fraud. Even before Election Day, then-president Donald Trump had already been pushing baseless claims that the election was rigged against him, something he would continue to do for nearly a year more.

“Kirk was surprised to find that his late wife Rosemarie, a Republican, cast a ballot in this years election despite having passed away in 17’,” the Nevada GOP tweeted last November, citing Hartle’s case. “The media needs to understand we are finding concrete cases of voter irregularities that they must expose.”

According to his LinkedIn profile, Hartle is the chief financial officer and treasurer for the Ahern Family of Companies, whose owner, Don Ahern, is a prominent Trump supporter. The company was fined last year for flouting pandemic safety guidelines in order to host a rally for Trump in Nevada.

As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported, the claims by Hartle, a registered Republican, spread quickly in conservative circles, jumping from local outlets to Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who used it to bolster Trump supporters’ assertions that widespread voter fraud could have swayed the 2020 election results.

Last November, Carlson declared on his show something that would wind up being prescient: “We don’t know who did this,” he said. “We wish we did, because it’s fraud.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Glenn Youngkin has failed the test of character, Editorial Board, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Next month’s elections in Virginia coincide with a singular moment in U.S. history, in which one major party has turned against accepting the results of free and fair elections. That momentous juncture poses a character test for all Republicans, which turns on this question: Will they stand against the assault on democracy’s most basic precept, or will they tolerate it? Glenn Youngkin, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in Virginia, has failed that character test.

glenn youngkinA wealthy private equity executive turned political newcomer, Mr. Youngkin, right, has run what amounts in some ways to a conventional Republican campaign, seeking at once to court rural White conservatives and swing-voting suburban moderates. But he also has indulged and encouraged Republicans who have swallowed former president Donald Trump’s lie that last year’s presidential election was stolen and that American elections are not to be trusted.

Few stances could be more subversive to the American experiment or more corrosive to our pluralistic system’s fundamental legitimacy. Few shine so bright a spotlight on a candidate’s courage and commitment to the Constitution, or lack thereof.

It seems likely that Mr. Youngkin knows that U.S. elections, including last year’s presidential contest, have been largely free of any significant fraud or cheating, and that to suggest otherwise is flat-out dishonesty. No elections are immaculate, but there is zero credible evidence that conspiracies and malfeasance in voting have altered the outcomes of high-profile U.S. electoral contests in recent decades.

Nonetheless, for months, as he sought the gubernatorial nomination — and while Mr. Trump promoted those lies and refused to concede the results of the election — Mr. Youngkin refused to acknowledge that President Biden was fairly elected, by a comfortable margin, or that allegations that the 2020 election was stolen were baseless. To the contrary, during those months Mr. Youngkin’s No. 1 policy proposal, and the only one for which he supplied any detail, was to establish a state commission on election integrity, an idea that winked at the prevalent, and baseless, idea among Republicans that elections are fraudulent.

It was only after he secured the nomination that Mr. Youngkin finally said, grudgingly, that Mr. Biden is the legitimate president. Since then, he has rarely submitted to challenging interviews or media appearances, but he did finally acknowledge, under direct questioning, that past Virginia elections have not been marred by fraud — nor did he expect cheating in this one.

Yet both before and after those statements, he undercut them by continuing to flirt with pernicious lies.

This is not an everyday campaign dispute. We might disagree with Mr. Youngkin on Medicaid expansion, say — he termed it “sad,” though it extended health insurance to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who lacked it — without arguing that his stance is disqualifying. But at a moment when democracy itself is under assault, Mr. Youngkin chose to dignify a fundamental fiction that is subverting our system, rather than stand up squarely for the truth. In so doing, he proved himself unfit for office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Residents of decaying public housing see futures on line as Democrats cut spending bill, Jeff Stein and Sean Sullivan, Oct. 23, 2021.  The New York City Housing Authority said in a statement that poor living conditions in the housing are reflective of the desperate need for federal funds to upgrade the nation’s decaying public housing stock.

Biden’s proposed $40 billion to repair public housing — long maligned as a symbol of government mismanagement — may be vulnerable to downsizing in negotiations, according to a half-dozen aides familiar with ongoing negotiations, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reflect private deliberations. Democratic lawmakers have this week begun to acknowledge that Biden’s broader $300 billion housing plan, which was first rejected by Republicans in bipartisan infrastructure negotiations, could shrink to as little as $100 billion in the final version of the legislation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sinema’s Tax-Rate Blockade Prods Democrats Left Toward Billionaires’ Tax, Jonathan Weisman, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s refusal to accept tax rate increases has led Democrats to consider proposals once championed by the party’s most liberal flank.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona and one of her party’s only holdouts on President Biden’s sprawling budget bill, has cultivated a profile in Congress as a business-minded centrist.

But her refusal to raise tax rates on high earners and major corporations to pay for Mr. Biden’s plan is pushing Democrats toward wealth taxation and other measures once embraced only by the party’s left flank.

The frenzied search for new paths around Ms. Sinema’s tax-rate blockade has cheered liberals but raised serious qualms among more moderate Democrats, who now openly say they hope that Ms. Sinema’s business allies will pressure her to relent once they — and she — see the details of the alternatives that she is forcing on her colleagues to pay for around $2 trillion in spending on social programs and anti-climate change initiatives.

“The irony is, with some of these alternatives that are coming out there, it may be the very business community that’s rushing to the barricades, saying, ‘Please, give us rates,’” Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and a moderate on the Finance Committee, which is charged with drafting the tax plans.

Democrats had hoped to pay for much of their social policy and climate spending with the relatively modest proposal to raise low capital gains tax rates for those earning at least $400,000, lift the top personal income tax rate back to 39.6 percent from the 37 percent level that President Donald Trump secured in 2017, and increase the corporate income tax rate from 22 percent to 25 percent or 26 percent. That corporate rate would still be far less than the 35 percent rate that Mr. Trump slashed, while the top personal rate would be back to where it was for most of the past 25 years.

But in the 50-50 Senate where all Republicans are opposed, they cannot afford to lose even one Democratic vote on the legislation, giving Ms. Sinema effective veto power over its contents.

To get around her resistance, they are looking to a proposal by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the Finance Committee chairman, that would raise hundreds of billions of dollars from just 600 to 700 people — America’s billionaires. Mr. Wyden said his “billionaires’ tax” is a political winner, a way to finally tax the richest of the rich, who in some years have escaped income taxation all together.

“It clearly connects in some of the most challenging political communities in the country — it makes Build Back Better enormously more popular,” he said, using Mr. Biden’s name for the bill, and adding: “I’d like to see elected officials stand up and say, ‘Hey, I don’t think billionaires ought to pay any taxes.’”

Until now, such wealth taxes were almost exclusively the domain of the most ardent liberals in the Senate, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Other Recent Headlines

 

World Conflict, Corruption

World Crisis Radio, Commentary: Trump clones are losing power worldwide! Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 23, 2021. Virtually unnoticed by US media, the reactionary-webster tarpley twitterpopulist-dictatorial wave of the past half-dozen years is ebbing away, with Trump, Netanyahu, German CDU/CSU, Babis of Czech Republic, and Kurz of Austria already ousted and Duterte leaving; Orban and Bolsonaro face grim odds; Italian cities turn toward center-left, making future Salvini-Meloni anti-immigrant regime less likely;

terry mcauliffe oCriminal contempt of Congress charge for Bannon and coming Jeffrey Clark testimony could be steps towards further demolition of GOP;

With UK posting almost 50,000 covid cases daily under ”Freedom” policy compared to Italy’s 2,800, Tory Boris Johnson is also going down hill; Putin shuts down Russia for a week;

1934 off-year election win by New Deal Dems after FDR’s Hundred Days shows how delivering mass traction economic measures can preserve and expand a narrow majority; this shows need to pass Biden’s program this coming week as part of final push for Terry McAuliffe, left, in Virginia!

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The stabbing of a British MP is another example of how violence eats away at democracy, Gabby Giffords, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). gabrielle giffords oGabby Giffords, a Democrat, represented Arizona’s 8th Congressional District from 2007 to 2012.

For years, one of my favorite things about serving in Congress was getting the opportunity to interact with my constituents. I loved chatting with them about our beloved state of Arizona and the policies I was fighting for. Even when we disagreed, we did so respectfully. We found common ground without vilifying each other.

This, I thought, was what representative democracy should look like.

That’s why one of my first priorities after being elected for a third term was to host a “Congress on Your Corner” event outside a grocery store in the Tucson area. A long line of people waited there to meet me that day in January 2011. Six of them would never return home; 13 of us had our lives forever changed by a bullet from a gun.

When I heard that Conservative member of Parliament David Amess was stabbed to death in Britain this month while meeting with constituents, I was horrified and heartbroken. Amess was doing exactly what I was doing on that day near Tucson — listening, connecting. But he paid for his public service with his life.

After I was shot 10 years ago, that act of hateful violence was decried as a low point in civil discourse. Unfortunately, polarization and extremism have only gotten worse over the past decade. Harassment and threats against government officials are no longer the exception but more the norm.

As I write this, five men are awaiting trial for plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) last fall. These men, reportedly upset by actions Whitmer had taken to curb the coronavirus, are accused of going so far as to scout the governor’s second home.

In her victim impact statement, the governor wrote, “Threats continue. I have looked out my windows and seen large groups of heavily armed people within 30 yards of my home. I have seen myself hung in effigy. Days ago at a demonstration, there was a sign that called for ‘burning the witch.’ For me, things will never be the same.”

This is not what representative democracy should look like.

There should not be a “before” and “after” for elected officials, like there is for Whitmer and like there is for me. Putting your name on the ballot should not mean a comment you make or a vote you take may lead someone to threaten your life — or, even worse, act on that threat.

Elected officials are not the only public employees who face threats of violence. According to the CDC, 23 percent of 26,000 public health workers surveyed in July said they felt bullied, threatened or harassed because of their work during the pandemic. My friend David Chipman, who was nominated to be the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, faced threats of violence that made him fear for the safety of his family.

As the stabbing of Amess makes all too clear, the problem of politicized violence is endemic around the world. But in the United States, this problem is exacerbated by our tragically lax gun laws.

Gun violence has surged across our country in the past two years, with an estimated 45,000 gun deaths in 2020 — an increase of 15 percent over 2019. Gun sales have similarly skyrocketed. If more guns made people safer, as the gun lobby claims, we would have much less gun violence than other developed nations, such as the United Kingdom. Instead, we have much more.

If more of the insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol had been armed on Jan. 6, I fear the outcome could have been much worse than it was. The District’s relatively strong gun laws likely played a role in limiting the firearms brought into the Capitol — for which I’m exceedingly grateful, because one of those inside the building was my husband, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). I feared for his life then, as he had feared for mine 10 years earlier. Both of us went into public service because we were eager to do just that: to serve. We never imagined that by answering this calling, we would be risking our lives.

If we want to encourage the next generation of leaders to pursue public service in its many forms, we must take violent threats and harassment seriously. We must take steps to curb armed intimidation of the sort we saw at state capitals and peaceful racial justice protests throughout 2020.

My organization, Giffords, often talks about how gun violence is both a public health crisis and a public safety threat. Armed intimidation and threats of violence are also a rot eating away at the heart of our democracy. We must protect our democracy, and those who represent us within it, by refusing to allow guns and violence to be a part of the democratic process.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

Weather, Climate, Disasters

washington post logoWashington Post, Drought-denting rains soaking California amid parade of autumn storms, Matthew Cappucci, Diana Leonard and Jason Samenow, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). A “bomb cyclone” over the ocean will drag a Category 5 atmospheric river into California by Sunday.

A parade of storms forming in the Gulf of Alaska is generating a relentless barrage of atmospheric rivers — strips of deep tropical moisture. The next and most powerful river is poised to blast the Pacific Northwest and California Saturday night into early next week.

Double digit rainfall totals are possible in some spots through Tuesday, with more than four feet of snow expected in parts of the Sierra Nevada.

The copious amounts of rain and snow predicted in northern and central California should end the fire season there.

The precipitation may cause serious problems, however, with flood watches up for much of Northern California and the Central Valley. Rain falling on wildfire burn scars could cause debris flows and mudslides, too, and evacuation warnings have been issued in some vulnerable areas. High winds are a concern both along the coast and in the mountains, where gusts could top 60 mph.

While some rain will reach Southern California early next week, it is not expected to be enough to ease the drought or wildfire potential there.

Alec Baldwin (Photo by Jim weber of the Santa Fe New Mexican via the Associated Press)

Film and TV star Alec Baldwin (Photo by Jim weber of the Santa Fe New Mexican via the Associated Press)

washington post logoWashington Post, Alec Baldwin was told prop gun was unloaded moments before fatal shooting, reports say, Meryl Kornfield, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). An assistant director who handed Alec Baldwin a loaded prop gun on the set of the western “Rust” told the actor the firearm was “cold,” or unloaded, officials say.

The assistant director “did not know live rounds were in” one of the three guns set aside on a cart for filming before Baldwin fired the gun, striking cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in the chest and director Joel Souza in the shoulder, killing Hutchins and hospitalizing Souza, according to court records obtained by the Associated Press, New York Times and Santa Fe Reporter on Friday.

While the warrant affidavit filed by Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office investigators offers new details about the moments immediately before and after Thursday’s shooting at Bonanza Creek Ranch in New Mexico, the document does not answer how the live round ended up in the gun.

The fatal incident on a set of a film about the fallout of an accidental killing has rattled many — leaving lingering questions about the safety of firearms on the set.

No charges have been filed and the Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office says an investigation remains “open and active.”

“There are no words to convey my shock and sadness regarding the tragic accident that took the life of Halyna Hutchins, a wife, mother and deeply admired colleague of ours,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter. “I’m fully cooperating with the police investigation. My heart is broken for her husband, their son, and all who knew and loved Halyna.”

Hutchins, 42, was airlifted to the hospital where she died. Souza was taken to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical and was released Friday.

Daily Beast, ‘Inexperienced’ Armorer, Tight Budget, Walk Offs: Trouble Was Brewing on Baldwin Film, Cheyenne Roundtree, Oct. 23, 2021. The accident was a result of failings from top to bottom, sources said, starting with the production’s cost-cutting measures, which led to the hiring of a 24-year-old armorer.

daily beast logoIn the days leading up to the tragic death of Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on Thursday afternoon, there was trouble brewing.

After multiple complaints made to production, at least six fed up crew members had reportedly walked off set hours before actor and film producer Alec Baldwin was handed a prop gun. According to a Santa Fe Sheriff’s Office search warrant affidavit, he mistakenly believed it had no cartridges inside, and glenn youngkindischarged it, striking 42-year-old Hutchins and 48-year-old director Joel Souza.

Hutchins was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque where she died, while an injured Souza was released from the hospital on Friday morning.

Sources have insisted the fatal accident was a result of failings from top to bottom, starting with the production’s low-budget and cost-cutting measures, which led the film to hire 24-year-old armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was identified in the affidavit as the armorer on set at the time of the shooting. A production source described her to The Daily Beast as “inexperienced and green.”

They also placed blame on first assistant director, identified in the affidavit as Dave Halls. “He’s supposed to be our last line of defense and he failed us,” the production source added. “He’s the last person that’s supposed to look at that firearm.”

And in a heartbreaking 911 call, script supervisor Mamie Mitchell also seemed to lash out at Halls as she urgently asked a dispatcher to send an ambulance to the set at Bonanza Creek Ranch, on the outskirts of Santa Fe.

Referring to an unnamed assistant director, Mitchell can be overheard telling someone nearby, “this fucking AD that yelled at me at lunch asking about revisions, this motherfucker. Did you see him lean over my desk and yell at me? He’s supposed to check the guns. He’s responsible for what happened.”

Detectives are still investigating the circumstances that led up to the tragic misfirings, and no charges have been filed against anyone involved, but the search warrant affidavit filed in Santa Fe County has helped paint a picture of what went so drastically wrong.

According to the affidavit, Gutierrez-Reed had placed three prop guns on a cart outside where the scene was being filmed. Halls reportedly grabbed a revolver from the cart and gave it to Baldwin, mistakenly believing the firearm was not loaded.

 

Trump, Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like the Steve Bannon criminal referral did the trick: major 1/6 witness agrees to testify, Bill Palmer, Oct. 22, 2021. Steve Bannon – bill palmerwho is reportedly under criminal investigation in New York – was always going to be highly hesitant to testify to the January 6th Committee, for fear of further incriminating himself in the process. In fact Palmer Report has wondered aloud if the committee made a point of going after Bannon first, knowing he wouldn’t comply, so it could make an example out of him and scare other more valuable witnesses into cooperating.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, just twenty-four hours after the House referred Bannon to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution for contempt of Congress, former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark has suddenly agreed to testify. In fact, according to CNN, Clark has agreed to testify as soon as next week.

This testimony is a major coup, from a witness that we (and many others) expected would be hesitant to cooperate. Did Clark suddenly agree to testify because he’s afraid of also being referred to the DOJ for criminal prosecution? There’s no way to know for sure, but it sure feels like it.

jeffrey clark oIn any case, Jeffrey Clark, right, is a big fish. He was the DOJ official who conspired with Donald Trump to try to convince the DOJ leadership to ask the Supreme Court to overthrow the 2020 election result. The Trump-Clark scheme didn’t come close to working; it was shut down by the Acting Attorney General and others at the DOJ, and even if it hadn’t been, the Supreme Court ended up unanimously shutting Trump down anyway. But the Trump-Clark effort ended up serving as the basis for Trump’s false claims of a “rigged” election, and helped lead to the January 6th insurrection.

Clark’s testimony will likely end up being something of a mixed bag. He certainly has to be worried about incriminating himself with his testimony, so he may invoke the Fifth Amendment in response to some of the dicier questions. He also may try to paint things as much in his own favor as he can, just shy of committing actual perjury.

But this isn’t about getting perfect testimony from Clark. This is about getting him to testify at all, so the viewing public can be made more aware of just how ugly January 6th was, and just how directly Donald Trump was involved in planning and inciting it. It’s a huge victory for the committee that Clark is promptly testifying, rather than trying to drag it out. Looks like the hammer the committee dropped on Bannon is producing results already.

 

djt steve bannon

Donald Trump, left, and Steve Bannon, who has been quoted as backing the idea of a Trump reinstatement, saying that the "return of Trump" will be in "2022 or maybe before."  Washington Post, House votes to hold Bannon in contempt for refusing to comply with Jan. 6 subpoena

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

Bloomberg, U.S. to Release More Records Related to Kennedy Assassination, John Harney, Oct. 22, 2021. The Biden administration said it will release more records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in December.

Some of the information regarding Kennedy’s death on Nov. 22, 1963, remained off limits to “protect against an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure,” the White House said on Friday in a memorandum signed by President Joe Biden.

nara logoAlthough those considerations have become less and less urgent with the passage of the decades, and most of the records have been made available by the National Archives and Records Administration, several government agencies and departments must determine if any of the remaining undisclosed materials should continue to be kept from public view.

Some of the records will be released from Dec. 15, and most, if not all, of the rest by the end of 2022, according to the memo, 59 years after the assassination in Dallas.

“Any information that an agency proposes for continued postponement beyond Dec. 15, 2022, shall be limited to the absolute minimum under the statutory standard,” Biden said.

Under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, the National Archives took charge of “more than five million pages of assassination-related records, photographs, motion pictures, sound recordings and artifacts (approximately 2,000 cubic feet of records),” according to the Archives website.

Congress intended that, under the act, all of the records would eventually be disclosed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge dismisses criminal charges against Park Police officers in Bijan Ghaisar slaying, Tom Jackman, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Officers acted properly in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man, are entitled to federal supremacy clause immunity, a judge rules.

bijan ghaisar headA federal judge in Alexandria on Friday dismissed all criminal charges against two U.S. Park Police officers who fatally shot unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar in 2017, saying that they reasonably feared that one of the officers was in danger and that their actions following a pursuit of Ghaisar were “necessary and proper.”

Prosecutors for the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney said they would appeal the ruling.

“Today is another affirmation that the system is built to cover up wrongdoing by police in our country,” Ghaisar’s family said in a statement Friday evening. “These officers shot at Bijan ten times, including several times as his car rolled away from them into a ditch. That’s not fearing for their lives, that’s murder.” The family agreed with the decision to appeal the case, saying, “We will not stop fighting for justice for Bijan.”

Ghaisar, 25, was an accountant from McLean who was driving south on the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Alexandria on Nov. 17, 2017, when he suddenly stopped in a lane of traffic and was hit from behind by a Toyota Corolla, court records show. Ghaisar then drove away, the Corolla driver said, and the Corolla’s passenger called 911 to report the crash.

Park Police officers Lucas Vinyard, 40, and Alejandro Amaya, 42, soon spotted Ghaisar’s Jeep Grand Cherokee in Alexandria and signaled him to pull over, but he drove off. On the parkway, Ghaisar stopped, was approached by Amaya with his gun drawn, and drove off. He did the same thing a second time after pulling off the parkway in Fairfax County. A Fairfax police lieutenant who joined the pursuit recorded the sequence of events on his in-car video camera.
Bijan Ghaisar, pictured in April 2015, was fatally shot by two U.S. Park Police officers in November 2017. (Sima Marvastian)

Ghaisar stopped a third time in a residential neighborhood in the Fort Hunt area. Vinyard pulled his marked Park Police vehicle in front of Ghaisar to block him from driving away again, but as Amaya stood at the front of Ghaisar’s Jeep with his gun drawn, Ghaisar slowly rolled forward. Amaya and Vinyard began firing, the Fairfax police video shows. As the Jeep moved twice more, each officer fired again. Ghaisar was mortally wounded and died 10 days later.

After two years, the Justice Department declined to charge the officers. Last year, Fairfax prosecutor Steve Descano took the case to a special grand jury that indicted Vinyard and Amaya on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm.

But the Constitution holds that states must defer to federal law, and federal officers generally have “supremacy clause” immunity from state prosecution if their actions are “necessary and proper” and undertaken as part of their duties. Vinyard and Amaya removed the case to federal court, and argued to Senior U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton that he should grant the immunity and dismiss the case. The officers did not testify at a hearing in August and have spoken only through court filings.

Hilton agreed the officers were entitled to immunity. He cited “Ghaisar’s dangerous driving behavior and refusal to pull over” as creating the context for what happened at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue. “Ghaisar appeared intoxicated while continually engaging in extremely reckless behavior and unusual driving,” Hilton wrote. Marijuana was found in the car and in Ghaisar’s blood, court records show, and the officers said they smelled pot smoke in the vehicle after the shooting.

“Considering the circumstances,” the judge opined, “the officers were reasonable to fear for Officer Amaya’s life and discharge their weapons when Ghaisar’s Jeep lurched forward while Officer Amaya was standing in front of Ghaisar’s vehicle. The officers’ decision to discharge their firearms was necessary and proper under the circumstances and there is no evidence that the officers acted with malice, criminal intent, or any improper motivation.”

Hilton, 80, was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 and took senior status in 2005 but continued to take a full caseload. He spent a year as an assistant prosecutor in Arlington soon after his graduation from American University law school, and another year as the commonwealth’s attorney of Arlington in 1974, when the previous prosecutor stepped down. He handled a variety of types of law in private practice, according to a 2018 profile of him in the Federal Lawyer, including representing the Arlington sheriff in federal civil rights cases and serving on the Arlington police trial board, which hears officer discipline cases.

Lawyers for Vinyard and Amaya declined to comment Friday. The two officers have been on paid leave since their indictment in October 2020, and on paid administrative duty before that. The Park Police have said that no internal affairs investigation would be launched until the criminal case was concluded. Park Police officials did not respond to a request for comment on whether that investigation would begin now, or wait for appeals to be concluded.

Oct. 22

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump, Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

david brock msnbc

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance


World Conflict, Corruption

 

U.S. Media, Sports

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP rebrands itself as the party of tax cheats, Catherine Rampell, right, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Once upon a time, Republicans portrayed themselves as the party of small government and family values. Recently, though, GOP leaders have been cobbling together a new coalition, catherine rampellwelcoming insurrectionists, white-nationalist tiki-torchers and people who think Bill Gates is trying to microchip them.

The latest recruit to the Big Tent? Tax cheats.

Here’s the backstory. Each year, about $600 billion in taxes legally owed are not paid. For scale, that’s roughly equal to all federal income taxes paid by the lowest-earning 90 percent of taxpayers, according to Treasury Department data.

These unpaid taxes — often called the “tax gap” — are predominantly owed by wealthy individuals. The richest 1 percent alone duck an estimated $163 billion in income taxes each year.

irs logoTo be clear, rank-and-file wage-earners are not necessarily more honest or patriotic. It’s just much harder for them to shortchange Uncle Sam.

Workplace grunts have taxes automatically withheld from their paychecks. And, critically, most labor-related income — as well as income from dividends, interest and other sources — gets reported to the Internal Revenue Service through W-2s, 1099s and other common tax documents.

So it’s difficult to sneak unpaid liabilities past the IRS.

There are some types of income, however, for which little or no third-party reporting exists. These income categories — including partnership, proprietorship and rental income — accrue disproportionately to high earners. The government has much less ability to tell when these filers are misreporting; as a result, they can more easily get away with cheating.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden abruptly ramps up his involvement in agenda talks, Annie Linskey, Sean Sullivan and Matt Viser, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). From universal pre-K to dental benefits to college aid, President Biden is laying down specifics as tight deadlines converge and time grows short.

For weeks, President Biden has met repeatedly with Democratic lawmakers as part of the tortuous negotiations over his agenda — but to the frustration of many, he has revealed few opinions of his own on what should remain in the plan and what should be jettisoned.

This week, however, Biden is doing something new: getting specific and plunging into details, telling lawmakers exactly what he thinks needs to go into the package that could define his presidency.

In private meetings with members of Congress this week, Biden outlined particular trade-offs, explaining for example that he wants universal prekindergarten care rather than free community college tuition, citing research that shows money spent on younger children has more impact.

He has floated the idea of giving seniors a debit card loaded with $800 to spend on dental benefits as part of an expansion of Medicare. He has revealed that he’s feeling pressure from his wife, Jill, who teaches at a local community college, to push for higher-education spending, joking that otherwise he would have to find somewhere else to sleep.

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

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

Palmer Report, Opinion: Lev Parnas has been found guilty – and it’s bad news for Rudy Giuliani, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 22, 2021. When Rudy Giuliani associates Lev bill palmerParnas and Igor Fruman were indicted on charges related to the Trump-Ukraine scandal, Parnas rather quickly came out against Giuliani and Donald Trump, while Fruman remained silent. But in the end it was Fruman who quietly cut a plea deal, while Parnas curiously insisted on going to trial.

bill palmer report logo headerParnas must have held some hope that he could convince a jury to acquit him. But today Parnas was found guilty on six felony counts. This means he’s going to prison. It’s too late for him to get any leniency by simply agreeing to plead guilty, as Fruman did. At this point the only way Parnas can avoid serious prison time is if he now cuts a cooperating plea deal and gives up bigger fish.

ukraine flagWe’ll see how far Parnas ends up being willing to go in order to try to stay out of prison. He may not be willing to spill the beans on his international ties.

But he could far more easily just give up Rudy Giuliani – and in these situations the path of least resistance usually ends up being what eventually happens. Rudy now has yet another reason not to sleep at night.

Other Major U.S. Legal Headlines

 

Washington Examiner, Biden delays release of secret JFK assassination files, Daniel Chaitin and Misty Severi, Oct. 22, 2021. President Joe Biden ordered yet another delay in the release of secret files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy yet to see the light of day more than 50 years after his death.

A White House memo, signed by Biden, said "[t]emporary continued postponement is necessary to protect against identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure."

The order comes in response to the archivist of the United States recommending the president “temporarily certify the continued withholding of all of the information certified in 2018” and “direct two public releases of the information that has” ultimately “been determined to be appropriate for release to the public,” with one interim release on Dec. 15 and one more comprehensive release in late 2022, according to the memo.

Former President Donald Trump ordered in 2018 that documentation still under wraps stay redacted for national security reasons, with a deadline of Oct. 26, 2021. His administration said the decision was made at the behest of the intelligence community.

This time around, delays associated with the coronavirus pandemic were to blame for the recommendation to put off the release.

David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, reported “unfortunately, the pandemic has had a significant impact on the agencies” and National Archives and nara logoRecords Administration, the White House memo said.

NARA “require[s] additional time to engage with the agencies and to conduct research within the larger collection to maximize the amount of information released," added the memo, which also said the archivist noted that “making these decisions is a matter that requires a professional, scholarly, and orderly process; not decisions or releases made in haste.”

Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. [Editor's noted: This is heavily disputed by critics of the official investigation, who dispute also the disparaging term of "conspiracy theory" popularized by the CIA via is longstanding media relationships to smear researchers.]

lee harvey oswald minskOswald, left, was arrested and charged with the killings of Kennedy and Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. The 24-year-old denied shooting Kennedy, claiming he was a "patsy," before he was shot dead soon after on national television by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

According to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, which was signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush in an attempt to minimize conspiracy theories about Kennedy's death, the Congress declared, “all Government records concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy ... should be eventually disclosed to enable the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination.”

Congress also found at the time that “most of the records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are almost 30 years old, and only in the rarest cases is there any legitimate need for continued protection of such records.”

Tens of thousands of the JFK assassination documents, with varying levels of redactions, have already been released .

Among the information that has not been made public are highly sensitive details about U.S. operations against Cuba in 1963, according to the Intercept. There are also unseen passages about surveillance techniques that detected Oswald's visits to the Soviet and Cuban embassies in Mexico City weeks before Kennedy's assassination.

"Since the 1990s, more than 250,000 records concerning President Kennedy’s assassination — more than 90 percent of NARA’s collection — have been released in full to the public. Only a small fraction of the records contains any remaining redactions," the memo said.

A lot of the information that has been made available to the public is not accessible online. Under the order Friday, Biden instructed the archivist to issue a plan for the digitization of the records by Dec. 15.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC signs off on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters, Lena H. Sun and Katie Shepherd, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.).The decision means that those eligible for boosters can choose any of the three now authorized in the United States.

moderna logoTens of millions of Americans can sign up to get Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters beginning Friday after the nation’s top public health official endorsed recommendations from expert advisers that the shots are safe and effective at bolstering protection against the coronavirus.

The green light from Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, means that eligible Americans at risk of severe disease can choose any of the three boosters now authorized in the United States regardless of their original shot.

“The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe — as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given,” Walensky said in a statement Thursday night, several hours after receiving unanimous recommendations from the expert panel, called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. “And, they are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating delta variant.”

Walensky’s action — following authorization Wednesday from federal regulators — largely fulfills the administration’s August pledge to make boosters of all three vaccines available to Americans, albeit a month later than promised and for a smaller group. The administration’s focus on boosters came as the highly contagious delta variant sickened millions and killed tens of thousands, and also reflected concern about waning immunity from the vaccines.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 22, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 243,397,606, Deaths: 4,947,807
U.S. Cases:     46,174,547, Deaths:    753,747
India Cases:     34,143,236, Deaths:    453,076
Brazil Cases:    21,697,341, Deaths:    604,764

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 219.6 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 22, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 189.9 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Trump, Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like the Steve Bannon criminal referral did the trick: major 1/6 witness agrees to testify, Bill Palmer, Oct. 22, 2021. Steve Bannon – bill palmerwho is reportedly under criminal investigation in New York – was always going to be highly hesitant to testify to the January 6th Committee, for fear of further incriminating himself in the process. In fact Palmer Report has wondered aloud if the committee made a point of going after Bannon first, knowing he wouldn’t comply, so it could make an example out of him and scare other more valuable witnesses into cooperating.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, just twenty-four hours after the House referred Bannon to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution for contempt of Congress, former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark has suddenly agreed to testify. In fact, according to CNN, Clark has agreed to testify as soon as next week.

This testimony is a major coup, from a witness that we (and many others) expected would be hesitant to cooperate. Did Clark suddenly agree to testify because he’s afraid of also being referred to the DOJ for criminal prosecution? There’s no way to know for sure, but it sure feels like it.

In any case, Jeffrey Clark is a big fish. He was the DOJ official who conspired with Donald Trump to try to convince the DOJ leadership to ask the Supreme Court to overthrow the 2020 election result. The Trump-Clark scheme didn’t come close to working; it was shut down by the Acting Attorney General and others at the DOJ, and even if it hadn’t been, the Supreme Court ended up unanimously shutting Trump down anyway. But the Trump-Clark effort ended up serving as the basis for Trump’s false claims of a “rigged” election, and helped lead to the January 6th insurrection.

Clark’s testimony will likely end up being something of a mixed bag. He certainly has to be worried about incriminating himself with his testimony, so he may invoke the Fifth Amendment in response to some of the dicier questions. He also may try to paint things as much in his own favor as he can, just shy of committing actual perjury.

But this isn’t about getting perfect testimony from Clark. This is about getting him to testify at all, so the viewing public can be made more aware of just how ugly January 6th was, and just how directly Donald Trump was involved in planning and inciting it. It’s a huge victory for the committee that Clark is promptly testifying, rather than trying to drag it out. Looks like the hammer the committee dropped on Bannon is producing results already.

 

djt steve bannon

Donald Trump, left, and Steve Bannon, who has been quoted as backing the idea of a Trump reinstatement, saying that the "return of Trump" will be in "2022 or maybe before."

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to hold Bannon in contempt for refusing to comply with Jan. 6 subpoena, Felicia Sonmez, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon (shown above in a file photo) has argued through his attorney that he can’t respond to the subpoena because of executive privilege asserted by former president Donald Trump. The matter now goes to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to pursue the contempt referral.

U.S. House logoThe House voted Thursday to hold former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

The measure was approved on a 229-to-202 vote, with nine Republicans joining all Democrats present in voting “yes.” Thursday’s full House vote comes days after the members of the bipartisan select committee voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.

Bannon has previously argued through his attorney that he can’t respond to the subpoena because of executive privilege asserted by former president Donald Trump.

Justice Department log circularThe matter now goes to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to pursue the contempt referral. Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Asked at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday how the Justice Department would handle such a referral, Attorney General Merrick Garland said it “will do what it always does in such circumstances — it will apply the facts and the law.”

Legal experts have cast doubt on the merit of Bannon’s defense of his defiance of the subpoena and say the former president’s immunity from congressional subpoena extends only to his closest White House advisers — and not to private citizens like Bannon.

Trump’s sweeping claims of executive privilege to shield his activities and his aides and allies from congressional scrutiny have also been questioned by constitutional experts and lawyers.

Trump filed a 26-page lawsuit on Monday to block the House committee from receiving records for its inquiry from the National Archives, arguing that the committee’s document request serves no legislative purpose, that it undermines Trump’s executive privilege, and that the committee has provided Trump’s legal team with insufficient time to review the records requests.

 

Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). 

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Move over Watergate, here comes Willardgate, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 21 books, including the forthcoming The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich: The Era of Trumpism and the New Far-Right, widely published commentator and former Navy intelligence officer), Oct. 21-22, 2021. Long the king of Washington wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallpolitical scandals, the Watergate office, residential, and hotel complex stands to be eclipsed by "Willardgate."

Watergate lent its name to countless other political "gate" scandals due to its being the location where the Democratic National Committee headquarters was burglarized by Richard Nixon re-election henchmen, an act that ultimately brought down the administration of Richard Nixon. Willardgate, however, may replace Watergate as the granddaddy of all DC scandals because, as with Guy Fawkes Day in England, Willardgate has become synonymous with "Treason and Plot."

wayne madesen report logoThe Willard Hotel, which is a mere few blocks from the White House and lies in-between the Executive Mansion and the Trump International Hotel, was the scene of a January 6th eve "War Council" meeting involving top Trump advisers. Documents subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on the January 6th insurrection point to the Willard War Council as planning the storming of the Capitol the next day in order to delay or suspend the certification of Joe Biden's presidential election victory.

It is also becoming clearer that the Willard Hotel served as a nexus between the Oval Office and insurrection perpetrators, many of whom were staying at Trump's hotel, with a few others at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, which is across 14th street from the Willard. The Willard apparently acted as a relay point for a "sneaker net" in order to limit the electronic communications of the conspirators. E-mail and phone call records could and would be made available to law enforcement as "smoking gun" evidence if the plotters' plan failed, which, of course, it did.

There is a major difference between how the Watergate and Willard have gone down in American history. The Watergate scandal demonstrated that the Nixon White House was not above the law and the affair ultimately cost Nixon his presidency. Willardgate, on the other hand, has thus far shown that Trump may get away with almost having carried out a coup.

liz cheney oPalmer Report, Opinion: Steve Bannon had to know this was coming, Shirley Kennedy, Oct. 22, 2021. No one is surprised that Steve Bannon has refused to honor the House Select Committee’s subpoena. Some may be surprised, however, that several Republicans joined in the vote to hold him in contempt. Business Insider reported that Bannon’s attorney told the committee that Bannon had no obligation to respond until issues are resolved with Trump’s claim of executive privilege. What one has to do with the other makes no sense.

bill palmer report logo headerRegardless of Trump’s position, Bannon has no grounds upon which to claim privilege. Liz Cheney believes that Bannon was involved in the planning of the event and “likely had an important role in formulating those plans,” according to the Hill.

As far as Cheney is concerned, Bannon’s involvement points to Trump’s direct knowledge and participation in the event.President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th, and we will get to the bottom of that.” Cheney appears to be on to something. Innocent people do not hide their innocence; they shout it from the rooftops. Bannon, Trump, and Kevin McCarthy all come across as guilty. McCarthy has tried his best to thwart the committee at every turn, and if Bannon was directly involved with the assistance of Trump, they both have plenty to hide.

Virtually everyone else who has been subpoenaed is cooperating, including Ali Alexander, leader of the Stop the Steal organization, and he continues to claim that Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar were all willing participants. If he is telling the truth, there is little wonder that Republicans continue to interfere.

CNN reported that Cheney called out Jim Banks for falsely holding himself out as a ranking member of the committee. It is reported that he sent letters to several federal agencies, including a letter to the Department of Interior, requesting copies of information provided to the committee, asking to be briefed on developments. When Cheney called him on it, Banks whined that Pelosi would “not allow” him to serve on the committee. Why would she? This committee is working well together. Imagine what it would have been like had the three Trump apologists been allowed on the committee. It would have gotten nowhere, as their goal would have been to disrupt, obfuscate, and conceal information. Clearly, Bannon and everyone else involved in this event have something to hide.

Adam Schiff pointed out that Bannon was in close contact with Trump leading up to the insurrection. According to Schiff, Bannon knew what was going to happen that day because “he predicted that all hell was going to break loose on January 6.” Schiff is mostly concerned with Trump’s role before, during, and after the insurrection. So are we. Many of these conversations and plans appear to make the case that Trump was in fact involved. We have a right to know just how much havoc Trump unleashed on our country besides what we could already see for ourselves.

ny times logoNew York Times, Liz Cheney’s Consultants Are Given an Ultimatum: Drop Her, or Be Dropped, Jonathan Martin, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The message, delivered by a lobbyist close to the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, has already led one Republican firm to cut ties.

A prominent Washington lobbyist close to Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, is warning Republican political consultants that they must choose between working for Representative Liz Cheney or Mr. McCarthy, an ultimatum that marks the full rupture between the two House Republicans.

djt maga hatJeff Miller, the lobbyist and a confidant of Mr. McCarthy’s dating to their youthful days in California politics, has conveyed this us-or-her message to Republican strategists in recent weeks, prompting one fund-raising firm to disassociate itself from Ms. Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming.

In response, The Morning Group, a fund-raising firm she hired to help prepare for a primary next year against a challenger endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump, informed her last month they could no longer work on her campaign, according to Republicans familiar with the matter.

Mr. Miller’s warnings illustrate the disintegration of the relationship between the two lawmakers, who began this year serving together in the House Republican leadership. They also underline Mr. McCarthy’s willingness to wield his leadership position to undercut Ms. Cheney’s re-election and head off an impediment to his claiming the speakership, should Republicans win a House majority next year. Were Ms. Cheney to return to Congress, she would loom as a potential instigator of any effort to block Mr. McCarthy from leading their party in the House.

 

david brock msnbc

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Was Wrong About Donald Trump, David Brock, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Brock, above, led one of the largest Democratic super PACs dedicated to defeating Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Before he became a Democrat, he worked for The Washington Times and the Heritage Foundation.

Like most Democrats, I initially underestimated Donald Trump. In 2015, I founded a super PAC dedicated to electing Hillary Clinton. Through all the ups and downs of the campaign, I didn’t once imagine that Americans would vote Mr. Trump in.

He was an obvious pig (see the “Access Hollywood” tape), a fraud (multiple failed businesses and bankruptcies) and a cheat (stiffing mom-and-pop vendors). Not to mention the blatant racism and misogyny. About the outcome, I was spectacularly wrong.

Once he was in office, I misread Mr. Trump again. Having worked inside the conservative movement for many years, I found his policies familiar: same judges, same tax policy, same deregulation of big business, same pandering to the religious right, same denial of science. Of course, there were the loopy tweets, but still I regarded Mr. Trump as only a difference of degree from what I had seen from prior Republican presidents and candidates, not a difference of kind.

When a raft of books and articles appeared warning that the United States was headed toward autocracy, I dismissed them as hyperbolic. I just didn’t see it. Under Mr. Trump, the sky didn’t fall.

My view of him began to shift soon after the November election, when he falsely claimed the election was rigged and refused to concede. In doing so, Mr. Trump showed himself willing to undermine confidence in the democratic process, and in time he managed to convince nearly three-quarters of his supporters that the loser was actually the winner.

Then came the Capitol Hill insurrection, and, later, proof that Mr. Trump incited it, even hiring a lawyer, John Eastman, who wrote a detailed memo that can only be described as a road map for a coup. A recent Senate investigation documented frantic efforts by Mr. Trump to bully government officials to overturn the election. And yet I worry that many Americans are still blind, as I once was, to the authoritarian impulses that now grip Mr. Trump’s party. Democrats need to step up to thwart them.

Are Democrats up for such a tough (and expensive) fight? Many liberal voters have taken a step back from politics, convinced that Mr. Trump is no longer a threat. According to research conducted for our super PAC, almost half of women in battleground states are now paying less attention to the political news.

But in reality, the last election settled very little. Mr. Trump not only appears to be preparing for a presidential campaign in 2024; he is whipping up his supporters before the 2022 midterms. And if Democrats ignore the threat he and his allies pose to democracy, their candidates will suffer next fall, imperiling any chance of meaningful reform in Congress.

Going forward, we can expect bogus claims of voter fraud, and equally bogus challenges to legitimate vote counts, to become a permanent feature of Republican political strategy. Every election Republicans lose will be contested with lies, every Democratic win delegitimized. This is poison in a democracy.

As of late September, 19 states had enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for their citizens to vote. The Republican National Committee’s “election integrity director” says the party will file lawsuits earlier and more aggressively than it did in 2020. Trump wannabe candidates like Glenn Youngkin, running for Virginia governor, are currying favor with the Republican base by promoting conspiracy theories suggesting that Virginia’s election may be rigged.

More alarmingly, Republicans in swing states are purging election officials, allowing pro-Trump partisans to sabotage vote counts. In January, an Arizona lawmaker introduced a bill that would permit Republican legislators to overrule the certification of elections that don’t go their way. In Georgia, the legislature has given partisan election boards the power to “slow down or block” election certifications. Why bother with elections?

Democrats now face an opposition that is not a normal political party, but rather a party that is willing to sacrifice democratic institutions and norms to take power.

The legislation Democrats introduced in Congress to protect our democracy against such assaults would have taken an important step toward meeting these challenges. But on Wednesday, Republicans blocked the latest version of the legislation, and given the lack of unanimity among Democrats on the filibuster, Republicans may well have succeeded in killing the last hope for any federal voting rights legislation during this session of Congress.

Having underestimated Mr. Trump in the first place, Democrats shouldn’t underestimate what it will take to counter his malign influence now. They need a bigger, bolder campaign blueprint to save democracy, one that doesn’t hinge on the whims of Congress.

We should hear more directly from the White House bully pulpit about these dire threats. The Jan. 6 investigators should mount a full-court press to get the truth out. Funding voting rights litigation should be a top priority.

Where possible, Democrats should sponsor plebiscites to overturn anti-democratic laws passed by Republicans in states. They should underwrite super PACs to protect incumbent election officials being challenged by Trump loyalists, even if it means supporting reasonable Republicans. Donations should flow into key governor and secretary of state races, positions critical to election certification.

In localities, Democrats should organize poll watching. Lawyers who make phony voting claims in court should face disciplinary action in state bar associations. The financiers of the voting rights assault must be exposed and publicly shamed.

The good news is that liberals do not have to copy what the right is doing with its media apparatus — the font of falsehoods about voter fraud and a stolen election — to win over voters. Democrats can leapfrog the right with significant investments in streaming video, podcasting, newsletters and innovative content producers on growing platforms like TikTok, whose audiences dwarf those of cable news networks like Fox News.

Issues like racial justice, the environment and immigration are already resonating online with audiences Democrats need to win over, such as young people, women and people of color. Democratic donors have long overlooked efforts to fund the media, but with so much of our politics playing out on that battlefield, they can no longer afford to.

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Faces a Huge Test on Libel Law, Floyd Abrams, right, Oct. 22, 2021. Mr. Abrams is a prominent First Amendment lawyer whose many clients have included floyd abramsThe New York Times, which he successfully represented in the Pentagon Papers case. His firm represents The Times on occasion.

Next Friday, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to meet to consider whether to hear appeals from two libel cases in which the plaintiffs seek to persuade the justices to reconsider the single greatest First Amendment victory for the press in American history.

Two of the court’s justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, already have expressed a readiness to do just that, a disturbing turn that could weaken speech protections and threaten the country’s free and robust press.

Their focus is the court’s unanimous 1964 decision in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan, won by the paper in the midst of the civil rights revolution. The purported libel appeared in a full-page advertisement in The Times titled “Heed Their Rising Voices,” which criticized a “wave of terror” against civil rights demonstrators in the South led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (shown below left on the cover of one of his books.)

mlk why we cant wait coverMost of the assertions in the advertisement were accurate; a few were not. The police commissioner of Montgomery, Ala., L.B. Sullivan, who was not named in the ad, sued The Times, claiming it had in effect falsely accused him of misconduct. He was awarded $500,000 by an all-white jury, a verdict upheld by Alabama’s highest court.

For news organizations, the threat the case presented was not only sizable if not crippling libel judgments. It was also that such a result would deter reporting critical of government and public officials.

When the case reached the Supreme Court, the justices applied the First Amendment for the first time in a libel case. The core of the court’s ruling in reversing the Alabama judgment was that the First Amendment barred public officials from recovering damages for a “defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct” in the absence of clear and convincing evidence that the statement was made with what the justices called “‘actual malice”— that it was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

Such sweepingly broad protection was required, the court concluded, because the First Amendment embodied a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attack on government and public officials.”

“Erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate,” the court added, and “must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the ‘breathing space’ that they need to survive.”

Later decisions by the court expanded the “actual malice” standard to apply to public figures outside government.

If Sullivan is overruled, defendants in libel cases will lose constitutional protections they now have, and the United States could well return to a libel regime akin to England’s. A return by the Supreme Court to anything like the English approach could significantly chill speech of the most important sort. That has happened disturbingly often in England.

The stark difference in approach between American and English libel law led Congress to unanimously pass legislation, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, barring state or federal courts from enforcing foreign libel judgments against U.S. defendants that are not consistent with First Amendment protections as set forth in the Sullivan decision.

That law, the Speech Act, was adopted partly in response to a libel suit brought in London by a Saudi billionaire against an American author, Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose book Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It alleged that he had funded terrorism.

Ms. Ehrenfeld had credible sources for her assertions. But she declined to appear in court and submit to English jurisdiction, noting, as she later explained, that her book “was neither published nor marketed in Britain.” Libel law in England “chills free speech through the award of disproportionate damages” and leaves defendants with “a lack of viable defenses,” she wrote in The Times.

Should the court agree to hear one or both of the libel cases does not mean, of course, that either or both would be overruled. (The Times joined in an amicus brief in support of the defendant in one of those cases when it was before an appeals court.) But it is troubling that two of the court’s nine justices have criticized Sullivan and seem ready to overrule it. Only four votes are required for the full court to take up cases, and if it does so, a fifth would be needed for any ruling.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden town hall updates: Biden expresses optimism about deal on expansive domestic policy agenda, Amy B Wang, Meryl Kornfield, Mariana Alfaro, Dan Diamond and John Wagner, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Anderson Cooper moderated a town hall with President Biden in Baltimore that aired on CNN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Veterans on Sen. Sinema’s advisory council quit, accusing her of being ‘one of the principal obstacles to progress,’ Mariana Alfaro, Five veterans on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s advisory council resigned, accusing the centrist Arizona Democrat of being “one of the principal obstacles to progress” because she refuses to back key provisions of President Biden’s agenda that “support our veteran community and protect the very heart and soul of our nation.”

In a letter, first reported by the New York Times, the veterans said they could no longer stand by Sinema as she continues to oppose portions of the president’s multitrillion-dollar domestic policy agenda. They also criticized her opposition to abolishing the filibuster, a tool Republicans are using to block voting rights legislation.

The veterans said Sinema is hanging her constituents “out to dry” and accused her of “answering to donors rather than your own people.”

“We shouldn’t have to buy representation from you, and your failure to stand by your own people and see their urgent needs is alarming,” they said.

The group also took issue with her lack of support for negotiations on reducing the cost of prescription medication, which they said contravenes her campaign promises.

“These are not the actions of a maverick,” they said, referencing the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sinema’s predecessor and self-described role model.

In response to the letter, Sinema lamented the veterans’ departure from her advisory council but said she appreciates “their diverse views [and] contributions to legislation.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Not to Let Corporations Kill Biden’s Agenda, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 21, 2021. I’m not one of those liberals who believe that corporate paul krugmangreed is the root of all evil. It’s the root of only some evil; there are other dark forces, especially white nationalism, stalking the U.S. body politic.

But corporate money is surely the villain behind the latest roadblock to President Biden’s agenda: Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s opposition to any rollback to Donald Trump’s big 2017 corporate tax cut.

irs logoAfter all, Sinema, who was in the House of Representatives at the time, voted against that tax cut. And she attacked the tax cut the next year during her run for the Senate. Given that raising taxes on corporations has overwhelming public support, it’s hard to see any reason for her flip other than the corporate lobbying blitz against Build Back Better.

It’s a distressing story. But here’s what you need to know: While the Trump tax cut was bad and should be reversed, reclaiming the lost revenue isn’t essential right now. If the key elements of the Biden agenda — investing in children and in protecting the planet against climate change — have to be paid for in part by borrowing, that’s OK. It would certainly be better than not making those investments at all.

washington post logoWashington Post, Neera Tanden named staff secretary for President Biden, Michael Scherer, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Neera Tanden was named the next White House staff secretary on Friday morning, putting her in the nerve center of the building charged with overseeing the paper flow for President Biden, according to a White House official briefed on the move.

Neera TandenWhite House Chief of Staff Ron Klain announced the move in a morning staff call. She has been working for Biden since May and will also retain her current title of White House senior adviser, which has allowed her to advise the president on a wide range of issues, the person said.

Tanden, right, will replace Jessica Hertz, a former Obama administration attorney who worked more recently in the government affairs office of Facebook. White House officials have praised Hertz as a highly regarded, well-liked member of the team.

Hertz will leave the job on Friday, a planned departure that was first reported by Politico last week, and Tanden will start on Monday, the official said. The staff secretary, who reports to the chief of staff, traditionally plays the role of both traffic cop and honest broker in the White House, with control over the documents that make it to the president, whether they be briefing books or decision memos laying out the arguments on major decisions.

The White House staff secretary has often served as a steppingstone for other roles in government. Former White House counsel Harriet Miers, Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and former White House chief of staff John D. Podesta, a mentor for Tanden, have all previously held the job.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas’s top elections job goes to lawyer who helped Trump contest 2020 results, Eugene Scott, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). John Scott — one of the lawyers who represented Donald Trump in his lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results — is the new secretary of state of Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed John Scott — one of the attorneys who represented former president Donald Trump in his lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results — as the new secretary of state of Texas.
2021 Election: Complete coverage and analysis

As the state’s top election official, Scott will oversee next year’s races, including the governor’s race where Abbott is running for reelection.

Abbott in his statement about the appointment praised Scott’s decades of experience in election law and litigation. When Abbott was attorney general, Scott served as a deputy attorney general.

“John understands the importance of protecting the integrity of our elections and building the Texas brand on an international stage,” the governor said. “I am confident that John’s experience and expertise will enhance his oversight and leadership over the biggest and most thorough election audit in the country.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Patrick offered $25,000 for election-fraud tips. The first payout was for a Republican’s illegal vote, Julian Mark, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Three days after the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden — and as President Donald Trump took to Twitter and falsely claimed that tens of thousands of votes were cast illegally — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said he would reward a minimum of $25,000 to tipsters who uncovered credible instances of voter fraud.

“I support President Trump’s efforts to identify voter fraud in the presidential election and his commitment to making sure that every legal vote is counted and every illegal vote is disqualified,” Patrick said in a Nov. 10 news release.

Now, nearly a year later, Patrick has given out his first reward — but not to a member of his party, the Dallas Morning News reported this week. Patrick’s campaign sent a $25,000 check to Eric Frank, a Democratic poll worker from Pennsylvania whose tip led to the recent conviction of a 72-year-old registered Republican who cast a second vote in his son’s name last November, the Morning News reported.

Having deposited his check, Frank told the Morning News that Patrick’s plan may have backfired.

“It’s my belief that they were trying to get cases of Democrats doing voter fraud. And that just wasn’t the case,” Frank said. “This kind of blew up in their face.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Youngkin accused of antisemitism after claiming George Soros allies placed school board ‘operatives,’ Michelle Boorstein and Laura Vozzella, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). GOP gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin is facing allegations of antisemitism after accusing allies of Jewish philanthropist George Soros of a shadowy campaign to place secret political operatives onto Virginia school boards.

glenn youngkinWhen Youngkin, right, who some polls show is tied with McCauliffe, said Soros’s name, some in the crowd of about 700 people hooted and hollered.

In an appearance Tuesday night at a rally at the Burke Volunteer Fire Department, Youngkin tried to link Soros, his Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe, and cultural debates roiling some suburban Northern Virginia public school systems. In particular, some parents are protesting equity initiatives they associate with critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how systemic racism is ingrained in the country’s history.

“The present chaos in our schools lays squarely at the feet of 40-year politician Terry McAuliffe. It just does,” Youngkin said at an appearance Tuesday night. “But also at George Soros-backed allies, these allies that are in the left, liberal progressive movement. They’ve inserted political operatives into our school system disguised as school boards.”

 

Climate Change, Disasters

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Change Poses Widening Threat to National Security, Reports Say, Christopher Flavelle, Julian E. Barnes, Eileen Sullivan and Jennifer Steinhauer, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.).. Intelligence and defense agencies issued reports warning that the warming planet will increase strife between countries and spur migration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inaction on climate change imperils millions of lives, doctors say, Sarah Kaplan, Oct. 20, 2021. Top medical journal warns that rising temperatures will worsen heat and respiratory illness and spread infectious disease. Climate change is set to become the “defining narrative of human health,” a top medical journal warned Wednesday — triggering food shortages, deadly disasters and disease outbreaks that would dwarf the toll of the coronavirus.

But aggressive efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from human activities could avert millions of unnecessary deaths, according to the analysis from more than 100 doctors and health experts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Energizing Conservative Voters, One School Board Election at a Time, Stephanie Saul, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans hope that fears about critical race theory, an academic framework that sees racism as ingrained in modern institutions, can help them in elections. Education leaders deny that there is any critical race theory being taught in K-12 schools. But the issue has torn apart one Wisconsin suburb.

Little more than a year ago, Scarlett Johnson was a stay-at-home mother, devoted to chauffeuring her children to school and supervising their homework. That was before the school system in her affluent Milwaukee suburb posted a video about privilege and race that “jarred me to my core,” she said.

“There was this pyramid — where are you on the scale of being a racist,” Ms. Johnson said. “I couldn’t understand why this was recommended to parents and stakeholders.” The video solidified Ms. Johnson’s concerns, she said, that the district, Mequon-Thiensville, was “prioritizing race and identity” and introducing critical race theory, an academic framework used in higher education that views racism as ingrained in law and other modern institutions.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republicans implode during Merrick Garland’s testimony, Bocha Blue, Oct. 21, 2021. Attorney General Merrick Garland, below right, testified in merrick garlandfront of Congress on this week. He was asked many questions. He was asked questions by the Democrats about deeply concerning issues that face our country. And Garland spoke confidently and reassuringly.

The Republicans questioned him as well. And they asked questions about deeply concerning issues as well. Some of these issues include prosecuting Hillary Clinton, Hunter Biden’s artwork, and why Garland dares to look into MAGA, who make terrorist threats at school board meetings.

As House Republican Fitzgerald inelegantly put it, why is Garland involved in “the silencing of parents?”

bill palmer report logo headerThis is what the GOP has become. THEY’RE STILL TALKING ABOUT HILLARY CLINTON.

She lives rent-free in their heads. It is embarrassing. They really need to change their name and call themselves the “no ideas” party. Or perhaps the sedition party.

Garland, to his credit, remained unflappable. I think very highly of Garland and was deeply impressed with his verbal presentation here. And now we must talk about Ted Lieu of California. Ted eviscerated the GOP. When it was his turn to speak, he mentioned his wife had been one of the people targeted at these school board meetings.

Lieu let loose on the GOP’s complete reluctance to step up and protect teachers and parents from vicious terrorist threats. He called their behavior “shameful.”

THESE are the stories the world must hear about. THESE are the happenings that Middle America must observe and know about because we have a party, which is beyond dysfunctional and is now openly encouraging threats against teachers.

Daily Beast, ‘Delinquent’ Matt Gaetz Blocked from Practicing Law, Jose Pagliery, Updated Oct. 22, 2021. Matt Gaetz is facing an investigation for underage sex trafficking and has had fundraising slow down to a drip. Now he’s been deemed ineligible to practice law in Florida.

daily beast logoThis is one bar tab Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) may regret not paying. Faced with an onslaught of accusations that he engaged in underage sex trafficking—and bracing for criminal charges—Gaetz allowed his license to practice law in his home state of Florida to lapse this month.

On Friday, The Daily Beast revealed that Gaetz had not paid the fees he owes to The Florida Bar, which regulates lawyers there. That mistake prompted the organization to deem him “delinquent” and “not eligible to practice law in Florida.”

Gaetz’s office initially chalked it up to a career change. “Congressman Gaetz is no longer actively engaged in the practice of law. He is focused on representing his constituents in Congress, not the courtroom,” said his office’s communications director, Joel Valdez.

But after our story published, Gaetz on Friday morning rushed to file a signed petition to get reinstated and pay the $265 fee—plus another $200 in late fees, according to the professional association.

Four attorneys who spoke to The Daily Beast noted that it is extremely rare for lawyers to do what Gaetz had initially claimed—stepping back from his legal career. Instead, attorneys taking a hiatus normally pay a smaller $175 fee to remain “inactive” but still a “member in good standing.”

“He clearly doesn’t take his law license very seriously when he doesn’t take the time to pay the $265 dues,” said Daniel Uhlfelder, a Santa Rosa Beach attorney who lives in Gaetz’s district. “He’s not a serious lawyer. He’s not a serious congressman. He’s not a serious person. This is one small but symbolic example of that.”

The Daily Beast has learned that the Florida Bar has branded Gaetz as “delinquent” twice in the past two years. The organization temporarily cut him off in 2019 and again in 2020, because Gaetz failed to affirm that he is properly handling and protecting any clients’ money in trust accounts. Lawyers must abide by strict rules to ensure they are not stealing or misusing money that belongs to the people they represent.

In 2019, he also ran afoul of the professional organization’s “standards of civility” for serving the role of Trump attack dog. Gaetz threatened Trump Organization attorney-turned-whistleblower Michael Cohen on the eve of his tell-all congressional testimony, tweeting at him: “Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?” When Gaetz later apologized, the group’s grievance committee let him off the hook—but not before issuing a “letter of advice” that said his behavior was “unprofessional, reckless, insensitive, and demonstrated poor judgment.”

Although Gaetz is a Republican who rails against government financial assistance and hurricane disaster relief, he started his legal career by making money by suing local governments. In one saga that made news headlines in the Florida panhandle, Gaetz represented a woman who successfully sued her county and raked in thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Gaetz’s former client, Suzanne Harris, was quoted recently in the Northwest Florida Daily News saying, “I think Walton County government shakes in their boots every time they hear his name.”

Matthew Louis Gaetz II got his start at Keefe Anchors & Gordon, a law firm in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. When he made his way to Congress, he played an instrumental role in getting his former mentor, Larry Keefe, appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump.

Gaetz has been under intense public scrutiny since March following a bombshell New York Times report that he is being investigated for his role in underage sex trafficking, and The New York Times reported Thursday night that two top federal prosecutors had joined the legal team investigating the child sex trafficking allegations against Gaetz.

Other Recent Headlines

 

World Conflict, Corruption

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. military carries out strike on al-Qaeda leader in northern Syria, Pentagon says, Dan Lamothe, Oct. 22, 2021. The U.S. military carried out an airstrike on a senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria along the Turkish border in an operation that will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to plot attacks against American interests, defense officials said.

The Pentagon disclosed the strike in a statement Friday evening, saying it hit a leader named Abdul Hamid al-Matar. The strike was carried with an MQ-9 Reaper drone in the town of Suluk, north of Raqqa, Syria, said Army Maj. John Rigsbee, a U.S. military spokesman.

“Al-Qaeda continues to present a threat to America and our allies,” Rigsbee said. “Al-Qaeda uses Syria as a safe haven to rebuild, coordinate with external affiliates, and plan external operations.”

Suluk was among the towns that Turkish forces advanced into in 2019, as Ankara attempted to push out Kurdish forces. U.S. troops had been in the region but withdrew at the order of President Donald Trump.

Rigsbee said that there was no initial indication that the strike caused any civilian casualties. In a brief phone interview, he said the strike had been planned for days and had nothing to do with an attack on U.S. troops on Wednesday in Tanf, where the U.S. military has maintained a garrison with about 200 troops along a highway that runs from Damascus to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. That attack was carried out with both indirect fire and unmanned aircraft, U.S. military officials said.

About 900 U.S. troops remain in Syria, including a number of Special Forces personnel, U.S. military officials have said. The majority are in northeast Syria, where Kurdish forces still have influence. U.S. officials have said the deployment is meant as a hedge against a resurgence of the Islamic State, which seized broad swaths of Syria and Iraq, prompting U.S. military intervention beginning in 2014.

Tag Hollywood, New Book ' Unanswered Questions' Explores the slick oil connection between the Saudis and the Bush Administration, Ilene Proctor for Ray McGinnis, Oct. 22, 2021. Unanswered Questions: What the September Eleventh Families Asked and the 9/11 Commission Ignored is a brutally persuasive book for those who want answers to the real origins of the Afghanistan war.

ray mcginnis unanswered coverMany families wondered how American national security would be imperiled by 9/11 families suing the Saudis? How could details of possible Saudi complicity in the attacks embarrass the United States government, or harm the nation? Are there classified documents that point not only to Saudi complicity, but to the United States itself?

Bob McIlvaine, whose son Bobby McIlvaine Jr. died while entering the North Tower lobby calls the headlines about Saudi Arabia “a distraction, a joke.” McIlvaine, whose family story was featured in the Atlantic Monthly this September, calls for a new independent investigation. He wants it to include legitimate suspects in the former Bush White House, and other private citizens working for think tanks or corporations, and have them testify under oath.

Some families are hopeful that President Biden’s September 3 Executive Order on Declassification Review of Certain Documents Concerning the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, will clear the air. But others worry what “certain documents” will be declassified? Will there be other documents kept sealed, possibly harming American national security or implicate the U.S. government?

Most of the questions the families asked remain ignored. The history we teach our children cannot be based on a false narrative and understanding of what really happened two decades ago. Many families, first responders, and veterans of wars in Afghan and Iraq are still waiting for truth and accountability.

Unanswered Questions is a must-read book on the crime that quite literally altered the face and fate of America. 9/11 became the turning point of the great American experiment, the moment when Americans began to truly question their government? Why were 9/11 Commissioners so obsequious and deferential toward the families, while ignoring their questions during the investigation?

ray mcginnisAbout the Author: Since 1999 Ray McGinnis, right, has been a free-lance presenter of journal writing, poetry, and memoir workshops to over 15,000 participants. He has taught at business conferences, colleges, theological schools, retreat settings, churches, synagogues, grief and loss support groups, schools, mental health settings, hospitals, and professional development days including for first responders, and lawyers. In 2005, he authored Writing the Sacred: A Psalm-inspired Path to Appreciating and Writing Sacred Poetry.

McGinnis believes the stories of the families of the victims of September 11th, and their efforts to establish an inquiry into the attacks, offer a doorway for theological reflection about what it means to live in a post-9/11 world.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

Media, Sports

The Hill, News organizations, journalists ask court to review decision on Nunes lawsuit, Dominick Mastrangelo, Oct. 22, 2021 (print ed.). A group of leading news organizations are throwing their support behind a legal effort to challenge a judge's ruling in favor of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calf.), who is suing reporter Ryan Lizza over a 2018 story in Esquire about Nunes' family farm.

devin nunes screenshotA defamation suit Nunes, left, brought against Lizza was initially tossed out by a judge in August of 2020. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled in September that because Lizza had tweeted out a link to the story in question after the congressman had filed his initial defamation suit, he had essentially "republished" it — reviving the lawmaker's libel claim.

The story, titled "Milking the System," detailed the Republicans' family’s dairy operation in Iowa and alleged his family sold their California farmland in 2006 and “secretly” moved the operation to Sibley, Iowa, a community that frequently relied on labor from undocumented immigrants.

In the brief filed this week, more than two dozen news organizations including Fox News, the New York Times and Vox Media argued the judge's September ruling sets a precedent that "could create havoc for not just news publishers, but all distributors of content."

"The panel’s holding that Nunes could state a claim for defamation based on a tweet that hyperlinked to—but did not repeat the substance of—an allegedly defamatory article threatens to upend long-standing legal principles governing the dissemination of news and information in the Internet age," the news organizations wrote in the brief.

"Hyperlinks are essential to the dissemination of information today," they added, noting journalists on social media "use hyperlinks to direct readers to their published work and the published work of others, and to engage with the public about that reporting."

The group requested a rehearing of Nunes' case against Lizza. Nunes' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In their opinion last month, the 8th Circuit judges wrote that Nunes' complaint "adequately alleges that Lizza intended to reach and actually reached a new audience by publishing a tweet about Nunes and a link to the article."

"The pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in 'the purposeful avoidance of the truth,'" it added.

In February, a federal judge rejected a libel lawsuit Nunes filed against CNN regarding their reporting on his efforts to dig up dirt on now-President Biden regarding dealings with Ukraine. Late last year, Nunes had a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post thrown out after he sued the Post for reporting intelligence official Shelby Pierson told members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russia had "developed a preference" for former President Trump.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Rule 23 conundrum, Robert Harrington, right, Oct. 22, 2021. The new era of liberty has at last arrived. Finally, a social network where you can say what you like, when robert harrington twitteryou like, about anything you like, and never fear the social media politically correct police. We have our freedom and it comes directly from the hand of Don. Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty. We’re free at last.

Yes, Donald Trump has created the quintessential unfettered social media group called “Truth Social.” According to his shouty son, Don Junior, at Truth Social you will now be “free to exercise your First Amendment rights.”

bill palmer report logo headerExcept for one thing. Rule 23 of the Terms of Service. You are not allowed to “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.” In other words, welcome to Taliban Social. The last time we had this kind of “Truth” it was spelled “Pravda.”

Once again we see in microcosm what we have seen all along. When Republicans want freedom what they really want is freedom for them and not for us. Freedom to attack us and we have to sit there and take it. Freedom to Benghazi Investigation us and we can’t Insurrection Hearing them back. The relevant part of rule 23 — Catch-23, if you will — are the words “in our opinion.” Put another way, anything you say that they don’t like can be interpreted as a disparagement against them — in their opinion.

It is the first rule of despotism that you cannot criticize the despot. Republicans simply cannot stop themselves from being despotic. It is so deep in their natures that, for them, the very right to free speech comes with heavily freighted conditions.

But this is all what the British call a storm in a teacup, of course. Trump’s new social media platform is just another joke, and it will remain a joke. No one is going to care about what is being said there. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, those are the social media platforms people are interested in. No one is going to give a crap about some racist rant over on some radical right hangout with the pretentious name of “Truth Social.” You don’t need to be a Wall Street guru or business boffin to predict it. “Truth Social” has got failure written all over it.

Say what you like about Facebook — and I do, all the time. Which is finally the point. While it’s true I have many Facebook friends who’ve done their time in Facebook jail (and for reasons that I honestly don’t understand, I’ve never spent a night there) we can still post memes critical of Mark Zuckerberg with impunity. Such freedom is gone forever — let’s call it what it is — on “Trump Social.” Because nothing good can or ever will come from Trump. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

 

Oct. 21

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump, Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

david brock msnbc

 

U.S. Investigations

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance


World Conflict, Corruption

 

U.S. Media, Sports

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Republicans block latest voting rights bill, Mike DeBonis, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The new bill, written to satisfy concerns raised by Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), was a scaled-down version of a plan Republicans blocked earlier this year.

republican elephant logoDemocrats’ months-long drive for muscular new federal voting rights legislation hit a new roadblock Wednesday, with options for progress dwindling as Senate Republicans remained united in blocking debate on the issue.

Outwardly, key lawmakers and advocates have continued to elevate the political stakes, calling federal legislation essential to protecting American democracy from the efforts of Republican state legislatures and election officials to restrict voting access following former president Donald Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

“If there’s anything worthy of the Senate’s attention, if there’s any issue that merits debate on this floor, it’s protecting our democracy from the forces that are trying to unravel it from the inside out,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan militant held illegally at Guantánamo, judge rules, Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 21, 2021. Lawyers for Asadullah Haroon Gul, the last “low-value” Afghan detainee, are calling it the first such ruling in 10 years as he seeks to be freed, citing the end of the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

A federal judge has found that a former Afghan militant has been held unlawfully at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, the first time in 10 years that a detainee has won such a case against the U.S. government, his lawyers said.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta in Washington this week entered a final order and two classified opinions in the case of Asadullah Haroon Gul. One opinion granted Gul’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus after finding he was not part of al-Qaeda, but another found that the end of hostilities in Afghanistan did not merit his immediate release.

The government could appeal the order, and others previously granted habeas have sometimes languished for years. But the decision marks a significant legal turn involving the prison that remains a global symbol of U.S. excesses of power after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon. The facility became infamous for its detention of suspects who had not been charged. Guantánamo, which has held nearly 800 detainees, now houses 39.

 

Justice Department logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Garland Parries Pressure From Both Sides in Congressional Testimony, Katie Benner, Oct. 21, 2021. Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee, the attorney general sidestepped questions from Democrats about the Jan. 6 investigation and batted away criticism from Republicans.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland sidestepped questions from Democrats in Congress on Thursday about whether the Justice Department would back their latest efforts in the investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. He also batted away criticism from Republicans that he had politicized the department’s response to threats of violence stemming from the debate over how racial issues are taught in schools.

In his first oversight hearing as attorney general, Mr. Garland told the House Judiciary Committee that the special counsel appointed by the Trump administration to scrutinize the Russia investigation, John H. Durham, had his budget approved for another year, indicating that his work was ongoing. And Mr. Garland confirmed that the department’s tax-related investigation of President Biden’s son Hunter Biden was continuing.

He declined to provide any details, citing department regulations against speaking about cases while they are still open.

Mr. Garland used his opening statement to walk lawmakers through the work done over the past several months to address what he considers the department’s top priorities: upholding the rule of law, keeping the country safe and protecting civil rights.

Democrats and Republicans largely ignored his overview and focused instead on issues that could resonate in next year’s midterm elections, including investigations into actions of former President Donald J. Trump and the role of race and other contentious topics in school curriculums.

Mr. Garland was confronted by Republicans about his position that the Justice Department would respond to violence and threats of violence directed at school board members who have come under fire amid the national debate over school curriculum.

Republicans roundly attacked him over a memo that he issued this month that said the department would respond to the “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff” in public schools by prosecuting those crimes when appropriate.

Some Republican lawmakers noted that Mr. Garland issued the memo soon after public school leaders asked Mr. Biden to address safety issues that had arisen amid the fight over how to teach students about racial inequality and injustice, suggesting that the timing of the memo seemed to have been directed by the White House.

Mr. Garland said he had not issued the memo at the behest of Mr. Biden.

Other Republicans said the memo had the effect of intimidating parents who expressed concerns about schools and asked whether Mr. Garland intended to deploy the F.B.I. to school board meetings.

“I have no intention of policing school board meetings,” Mr. Garland said. He said that the F.B.I. would not police schools or intimidate parents, and he noted that the memo did not authorize such actions.

Teaching about race and racism has emerged as an issue that has energized social conservatives, as have matters such as how schools recognize gender and pandemic-era health and safety policies.

While Democrats asked questions on gun control, inhumane prison conditions, hate crimes against Asian Americans and voting rights, many of them focused on the Justice Department’s willingness to enforce subpoenas issued by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Mr. Garland was questioned hours before the House voted to hold Stephen K. Bannon in contempt for refusing to comply with the select committee’s subpoena. Mr. Bannon, who stepped down as a top White House adviser in 2017 but continued to counsel Mr. Trump, has declined to provide documents or testimony to the committee, citing executive privilege.

The next step in the conflict is for the U.S. attorney in Washington to decide whether to enforce the subpoena.

Mr. Garland declined to say whether the Justice Department would enforce the subpoena against Mr. Bannon or to give his view on how and when the department enforces congressional subpoenas.

“The Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances,” Mr. Garland said. “We’ll apply the facts and the law and make a decision, consistent with the principles of prosecution.”

The Justice Department’s enforcement decision will have broad implications for the principle of executive privilege, as the courts have not definitively ruled on whether a president’s conversations with private citizens can be protected under such a privilege claim. And it will have pragmatic implications for the select committee, since the outcome for Mr. Bannon could influence other witnesses who have not yet complied with the panel’s subpoenas.

There are at least two Justice Department opinions that generally bar prosecutors from enforcing such subpoenas against executive branch officials when a president has invoked privilege.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook Oversight Board reprimands company for not being open about exempting VIPs from rules, Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 21, 2021. The reports reveal the board is still negotiating its relationship with the social network and says its credibility depends on Facebook being more forthcoming.

facebook logoFacebook’s Oversight Board issued a strong reprimand against the company in a set of quarterly reports Thursday, accusing it of not being “fully forthcoming” about a key program. The reports highlight the tense negotiations between the two entities, as the board attempts to force greater transparency from the social media giant, despite its limited power.

An experimental panel created by Facebook to oversee its most complicated content decisions, the board said the company “failed to provide relevant information” about the company’s “XCheck” program, which shields VIP users such as politicians and celebrities from its rules. On other occasions, the information Facebook provided to the board was incomplete, the reports said.

It was “not acceptable,” the board wrote, that Facebook didn’t mention the “XCheck” system when it briefed the entity about its enforcement policies on politicians when it was reviewing the company’s decision to ban former president Donald Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Biden’s favorite stat — that 55 major corporations paid no federal income tax, Glenn Kessler, Oct. 21, 2021.

“Here’s the deal: If you spent $3 on your coffee this morning, that’s more than what 55 major corporations paid in taxes in recent years.”

President Biden, in a tweet, Oct. 20

The president is not known for a snappy Twitter account but he threw some snark at 55 big companies as he presses for an increase in the corporate tax to fund his proposed expansion of social programs.

irs logoThis is one of Biden’s favorite statistics. According to factba.se https://factba.se/biden/search#55%2Bcorporations, which tracks his statements, the president has used it in speeches or interviews 10 times since April. Normally he is careful to refer to “federal income taxes” so the tweet is little off by referring just to “taxes.” The companies in question say they pay billions of dollars in state, local and property taxes. The tweet also says “recent years” when in fact the number refers to just one year — 2020.

Let’s dig into this statistic. It’s not necessarily wrong but there are some limitations.

 
Virus Victims, Responses

fda logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA authorizes Moderna and J&J boosters, says people can get a shot different from original dose, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Laurie McGinley and Lena H. Sun, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Millions more people in the United States will soon be able to receive an extra dose of any coronavirus vaccine, moderna logoregardless of their initial vaccination — a flexibility that comes along with the authorization Wednesday of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots by federal regulators.

The decision by the Food and Drug Administration paves the way for boosters of all three authorized shots to be available to a wide swath of the U.S. population and promises to ease the logistics of the booster campaign for pharmacies and clinics offering vaccines.

The action, arriving as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic exceeds 729,000 and tens of millions of Americans have yet to get their first shot against the virus, largely fulfills the Biden administration’s controversial pledge this summer that booster shots would be widely available. That move drew criticism because it leaped ahead of decisions by scientific agencies and triggered a fierce debate about whether those extra shots were warranted now, and for whom.

washington post logoWashington Post, As White House tries to finalize vaccine mandate, dozens of groups seek last-minute meetings, Eli Rosenberg, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Lobbyists from industry associations and unions, as well as some private anti-vaccine individuals, are lining up to take meetings with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is in the process of finalizing the rule that will apply to some 80 million workers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Small Needles, Short Lines: Biden’s Plan to Vaccinate Young Children, Katie Rogers, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). With the anticipated approval of coronavirus shots for 5- to 11-year-olds within weeks, vaccination campaigns will look different than those for adults. President Biden’s push will rely on doctors, clinics and pharmacies instead of mass inoculation sites to distribute shots to 28 million children.

The campaign to vaccinate young children in the United States against the coronavirus will not look like it did for adults. There will be no mass inoculation sites. Pediatricians will be enlisted to help work with parents. Even the vials — and the needles to administer doses — will be smaller.

Biden administration officials, anticipating that regulators will make the vaccines available to 5- to 11-year-olds in the coming weeks, is laying out plans to ensure that some 25,000 pediatric or primary care offices, thousands of pharmacies, and hundreds of school and rural health clinics will be ready to administer shots if the vaccine receives federal authorization.

pfizer logoThe campaign aims to fulfill the unique needs of patients largely still in elementary school, while absorbing the lessons from the rollout of vaccines to other age groups.

This month, Pfizer and BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize emergency use of their vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, a move that could help protect more than 28 million people in the United States. A meeting to discuss the authorization is set for Oct. 26, and an F.D.A. ruling could come in the days after, possibly clearing a path for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make recommendations on a pediatric dose in early November.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 21, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 242,972,896, Deaths: 4,940,793
U.S. Cases:     46,092,913, Deaths:    751,815
India Cases:     34,127,450, Deaths:    452,844
Brazil Cases:    21,680,489, Deaths:    604,303

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 219.2 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 21, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 189.5 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

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U.S. Investigations 

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Adds Two Top Prosecutors to Matt Gaetz Case, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, Oct. 21, 2021. The move by the department is a sign of the complex and high-stakes nature of the sex trafficking investigation into Representative Gaetz, a close ally of Donald Trump.

The Justice Department has added two top prosecutors from Washington to the child sex trafficking investigation of Representative Matt Gaetz, according to two people briefed on the matter, a sign of the complex and high-stakes nature of the inquiry into Mr. Gaetz, a Florida Republican who is one of former President Donald J. Trump’s closest congressional allies.

The prosecutors — one a public corruption investigator with an expertise in child exploitation crimes, and the other a top leader of the public corruption unit — have been working on the Florida-based investigation for at least three months, the people said.

It is not unusual for prosecutors from the Justice Department in Washington to be added to local teams of federal investigators in high-profile cases that require a deep and specific expertise like sex crimes.

The Washington prosecutors have joined a group of federal authorities in Florida who have been investigating accusations of sex trafficking, fraud and corruption by several people connected to Republican politics in Florida, including Mr. Gaetz. The authorities have been examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated a federal child sex trafficking law by providing goods or payments to a 17-year-old girl in exchange for sex.

Despite the wide-ranging nature of the case, only one person has been publicly charged, a former local tax collector named Joel Greenberg. He has pleaded guilty to sex trafficking the same 17-year-old girl and other corruption and fraud charges. Mr. Greenberg agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation, telling authorities that he saw Mr. Gaetz and others have sex with the girl.

In a sign of the ongoing nature of the investigation, the judge overseeing the case granted a motion on Monday filed by Mr. Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, to have his client’s sentencing delayed until March.

One of the questions the prosecutors will have to wrestle with is whether to charge Mr. Gaetz with the same crime that Mr. Greenberg pleaded guilty to, sex trafficking a minor. The law is broadly written and carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison.

Under President Biden, the Justice Department has largely avoided having to directly take on Mr. Trump and his allies, leaving investigations of the previous administration to Congress and inspectors general. But moving forward with a case against Mr. Gaetz would directly pit the administration against one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal allies in a new way.

In August, the department indicted a Florida real estate developer on charges he tried to extort the Gaetz family of $25 million in exchange for a promise that he could get Mr. Gaetz a presidential pardon from Mr. Biden that would have ended the sex trafficking investigation.

One of the Washington prosecutors is Todd Gee, a deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section, which is part of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. The section, which oversees public corruption cases, is involved in nearly all major criminal investigations into alleged misconduct by federal, state and local officials.

Mr. Gee served as one of the lead prosecutors in the successful conviction in 2020 of a former Navy commander at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who covered up a fight with a commissary worker who was found dead in the bay.

He also worked as the chief counsel to Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee during the George W. Bush administration.

During a congressional hearing on Thursday, Mr. Gaetz asked Attorney General Merrick B. Garland whether the department imposed any special vetting processes before it hired former lobbyists or former congressional staffers to work as federal prosecutors, specifically in the Public Integrity Section.

“Is there any prohibition against people who’ve been lobbyists, partisan committee staff or political consultants actually going in and serving in the Public Integrity Section, or is that allowed?” Mr. Gaetz asked. He later added, “If someone has been a political operative, to then put them in charge of election crimes, it’s kind of like having the fox guard the henhouse.”

Mr. Garland noted that it was against Justice Department policy to consider a person’s political affiliations or views during the hiring process for career civil servants.

“There is a requirement that, once somebody becomes a prosecutor, just like when somebody becomes a judge, that they get rid of whatever preconceptions they had before,” Mr. Garland said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Was Wrong About Donald Trump, David Brock, Oct. 21, 2021. Mr. Brock led one of the largest Democratic super PACs dedicated to defeating Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Before he became a Democrat, he worked for The Washington Times and the Heritage Foundation.

Like most Democrats, I initially underestimated Donald Trump. In 2015, I founded a super PAC dedicated to electing Hillary Clinton. Through all the ups and downs of the campaign, I didn’t once imagine that Americans would vote Mr. Trump in.

Once he was in office, I misread Mr. Trump again. Having worked inside the conservative movement for many years, I found his policies familiar: same judges, same tax policy, same deregulation of big business, same pandering to the religious right, same denial of science. Of course, there were the loopy tweets, but still I regarded Mr. Trump as only a difference of degree from what I had seen from prior Republican presidents and candidates, not a difference of kind.

Then came the Capitol Hill insurrection, and, later, proof that Mr. Trump incited it, even hiring a lawyer, John Eastman, who wrote a detailed memo that can only be described as a road map for a coup. A recent Senate investigation documented frantic efforts by Mr. Trump to bully government officials to overturn the election. And yet I worry that many Americans are still blind, as I once was, to the authoritarian impulses that now grip Mr. Trump’s party. Democrats need to step up to thwart them.

Are Democrats up for such a tough (and expensive) fight? Many liberal voters have taken a step back from politics, convinced that Mr. Trump is no longer a threat. According to research conducted for our super PAC, almost half of women in battleground states are now paying less attention to the political news.

djt maga hatBut in reality, the last election settled very little. Mr. Trump not only appears to be preparing for a presidential campaign in 2024; he is whipping up his supporters before the 2022 midterms. And if Democrats ignore the threat he and his allies pose to democracy, their candidates will suffer next fall, imperiling any chance of meaningful reform in Congress.

Going forward, we can expect bogus claims of voter fraud, and equally bogus challenges to legitimate vote counts, to become a permanent feature of Republican political strategy. Every election Republicans lose will be contested with lies, every Democratic win delegitimized. This is poison in a democracy.

The legislation Democrats introduced in Congress to protect our democracy against such assaults would have taken an important step toward meeting these challenges. But on Wednesday, Republicans blocked the latest version of the legislation, and given the lack of unanimity among Democrats on the filibuster, Republicans may well have succeeded in killing the last hope for any federal voting rights legislation during this session of Congress.

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Takes Advantage of Wall Street Fad to Bankroll New Venture, David Enrich, Matthew Goldstein and Shane Goldmacher, Oct. 21, 2021. A merger with a so-called blank check company is poised to give the former president access to hundreds of millions of dollars.

After decades of bankruptcies, loan defaults, business disputes and commercial failures — not to mention a polarizing presidency that ended with a violent mob storming the Capitol — Donald J. Trump was shunned by much of corporate America.

Now, thanks to one of Wall Street’s hottest fads, the former president has managed to sidestep that tarnished reputation and gain access to hundreds of millions of dollars to launch a social media company.

Riding to his rescue: SPACs.

Special purpose acquisition companies are the reverse of initial public offerings. Sometimes called blank-check companies, SPACs go public first and raise money from investors with the goal of finding a private company to merge with. Those investors have no clue about what that merger partner will turn out to be.

Which led some of the prominent investors in a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition — including the hedge funds D.E. Shaw and Saba Capital — to the surprising realization that they were financially backing Mr. Trump’s latest company.

Mr. Trump’s new company, Trump Media and Technology Group — incorporated in Delaware in February with little fanfare, and with no revenue or tested business plan — reached a deal to merge with Digital World on Wednesday.

Digital World, which was set up shortly after Mr. Trump lost the 2020 election, last month raised nearly $300 million, largely from big investors. Assuming the merger is consummated, that money will soon be bankrolling the Trump media venture, which plans early next year to offer a Twitter-like social media app.

Shares of the newly merged company soared on Thursday, rising more than 300 percent to close at $45.50 a share and partly reflecting expectations that the former president’s media company could be very profitable.

SPACs have long had a dubious reputation because they give struggling or untested companies that would otherwise not find backers a pathway to the public markets. But in recent years, these lightly regulated entities have become all the rage because with interest rates remaining low, investors are eager for new places to put their money to work. In the past two years alone, such companies have raised $190 billion from investors.

But even by Wall Street’s frothy standards, the swiftness with which Digital World reached a deal with Mr. Trump — which many in the former president’s inner circle didn’t know about — was remarkable.

Most blank-check companies take about 17 months to find a target and complete a deal after going public. Digital World gave itself a year, but found its target within a month of going public.

“That is an extraordinary time period,” said Usha Rodrigues, who teaches corporate law at the University of Georgia School of Law and has written about SPACs. “It is far outside the norm.”

deutsche bank logoDigital World’s founder and chief executive is Patrick Orlando, who previously worked for Deutsche Bank and other Wall Street firms. More recently, Mr. Orlando, who is based in Miami and knew Mr. Trump before the deal, according to one of Mr. Orlando’s colleagues, has launched three other blank-check companies. While they have raised money from investors, not one has completed a deal. A plan to merge one of the SPACs, Yunhong International, with Giga Energy recently fell apart.

When Digital World went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange last month, it didn’t have the assistance of a brand-name investment bank. Instead, it turned to a small firm that until recently was called Kingswood Capital Markets.

This summer, Kingswood changed its name to E.F. Hutton, adopting one of Wall Street’s most storied brands, presumably in a bid to improve its marketing cachet. (The original E.F. Hutton was famous for the advertising slogan “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”) Joseph Rallo, E.F. Hutton’s chief executive, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

With the help of bankers at the newly renamed E.F. Hutton, Mr. Orlando and Digital World lined up 11 hedge funds and other institutional investors to serve as so-called anchor investors. They agreed to buy substantial slugs of shares in Digital World’s public stock offering on Sept. 8.

As is standard in “blank check” deals, the investors in some cases ponied up as much as $30 million without much guidance as to how Digital World would spend their money, officials at several of the hedge funds said. All they knew was what Digital World said in its securities filing — that it was looking to invest in “middle-market emerging growth technology-focused companies.” It didn’t give any hint that it was hoping to merge with a social-media company or to work with the former president.

Mr. Trump, for his part, kept much of his inner circle in the dark. His plans had not come up on his political team’s weekly calls, according to participants.

CNNTrump Media and Technology Group, whose website lists Mr. Trump’s private club, Mar-a-Lago, as its mailing address, has grand ambitions. A slide presentation on the company’s website envisions it competing not only with Twitter and Facebook, but also against companies like Netflix, Disney and CNN. In the “long-term opportunity” category, the company lists Google and Amazon as potential rivals.

Mr. Trump’s yet-to-be-launched app is called Truth Social. Within hours of its announcement, hackers claimed to have created fake accounts on an unreleased test version in the name of Mr. Trump and others.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pranksters have already defaced Trump’s new social network, Drew Harwell, Oct. 21, 2021. Truth Social has some unusual rules for a Trump-run site: It reserves the right to ban users and safeguard itself from lawsuits with Section 230 protections. It also prohibits ‘excessive use of capital letters.’

Former president Donald Trump and his team declared Wednesday night that they would soon launch a “media powerhouse” that would help them triumph in their long-running war against Big Tech. But within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account.

trump truth platformThe site has since been pulled offline — evidence that Trump is likely to face a daunting challenge in building an Internet business that can stand on its own.

Banned by all major social networks after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump has for months agitated to regain the online megaphone that once blasted his voice around the world. In a presentation released Wednesday by his new media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, his team hailed the new social network as the first tentpole for a Trump-led media, news and Internet empire that would one day compete with Disney, CNN and Facebook.

But the site’s early hours revealed lax security, rehashed features and a flurry of bizarre design decisions. An open sign-up page allowed anyone to use the site shortly after it was revealed, sparking the creation of the “donaldjtrump” account and the pig posting. A Washington Post reporter was able to register and post under the account name “mikepence” without any stops in place. New sign-ups were blocked shortly after.

The site looks almost entirely like a Twitter clone: A user can post Truths, which are like tweets, or Re-Truths, which are retweets. There’s also a news feed, called the Truth Feed, a notification system so users can know “who’s interacting with your TRUTH’s,” the social network’s App Store profile states.

trump defecating pigLawyers, Guns, Money, Opinion: Of chumps and pig dumps, Shakezula, Oct. 21, 2021. Is this a picture of a pooping pig or Truth Social?

Former president Donald Trump and his team declared Wednesday night that they would soon launch a “media powerhouse” that would help them triumph in their long-running war against Big Tech. But within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account.

The site has since been pulled offline — evidence that Trump is likely to face a daunting challenge in building an Internet business that can stand on its own.

donald trump twitterYeah. No. The evidence it will face daunting challenges is that Orangefinger is involved in it in any way. Merry pranksters are a delightful extra.

The site’s code shows it runs a mostly unmodified version of Mastodon, the free, open-source software launched in 2016 that anyone can use to run a self-made social networking site.

I’m not saying it would be impossible to build a “news and Internet empire that would one day compete with Disney, CNN and Facebook,” on open-source code. I am saying that the klutzes, putzes and yutzes who would be allowed to work for TFG couldn’t do it even if they didn’t have a coke-addled clown giving them new instructions every five seconds.

parler logoThe site is likely to undermine other conservative-friendly social media alternatives, such as Gettr, Gab and Parler, that have sought to win over pro-Trump audiences.

This is an understatement. Being on the original official MAGA platform will be a huge draw for his fans. Plus, the competing sites will be treated to all the venom he’s capable of spraying.

Assuming the platform doesn’t collapse under the combined weight of bots, pranksters, constant format changes, and incompetence. Which it will. So never mind. The next scene will be blaming Big Tech for his failure and demanding money from the rubes.

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

nikolas cruz

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman in Parkland school shooting pleads guilty to murdering 17, Derek Hawkins and Mark Berman, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The former student who killed 17 people at a South Florida high school in 2018 pleaded guilty Wednesday to 17 counts each of murder and attempted murder, paving the way for a jury to decide whether to sentence him to death or life without parole.

Appearing in Broward County court in a mask and dark-colored shirt, Nikolas Cruz (shown above) listened as Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer guided him through the charges and potential punishment for the massacre that killed 14 students and three faculty members (in a crime scene also shown above, at right).

“These are capital felonies, and they’re punishable one of two ways, either life in prison or the death penalty,” Scherer said. “Do you understand that you are facing a minimum, best-case scenario of life in prison?”

“Yes ma’am,” he responded.

Before accepting the plea, Scherer emphasized that Cruz’s decision would be irreversible, even if he ended up on death row. “You will not be able to change your mind,” she told him.

  • Washington Post, Parkland victims’ families reach $25 million settlement with school district

jonathan toebbe diana toebbe

washington post logoWashington Post, How a suburban engineer and his teacher wife became an unlikely pair accused of selling U.S. military secrets, William Wan and Ian Shapira, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Jonathan and Diana Toebbe (shown above) could face life in prison for allegedly trying to sell secrets about advanced nuclear submarines. They have a court hearing Wednesday. Who were the Annapolis couple before their arrest?

For years, the aspiring spy had gone to remarkable lengths to protect his identity and evade detection.

With a cash-bought burner phone, he created an anonymous email account that could send encrypted messages, according to the FBI, then waited to use it.

To avoid suspicion at his job developing America’s most advanced submarines, he allegedly sneaked out sensitive documents for years, a few pages at time.

The Navy veteran’s work for the U.S. government had taught him to spot the clues that betray insider threats, and, according to an FBI affidavit, he would later brag that “we made very sure not to display even a single one.”

Get caught up quickly. Subscribe to the day’s top stories, via SMS.

But now, after all that caution, the foreign officials Jonathan Toebbe believed he was negotiating with were pushing him to do the one thing he’d been avoiding: come out into the open.

  • Washington Post, FBI still can’t find accused Md. spy couple’s payments, secret documents, Oct. 20, 2021.

gabby petito fiancé bian laundrie

washington post logoWashington Post, Unidentified human remains, belongings of Brian Laundrie found in Fla. park, authorities say, María Luisa Paúl, Timothy Bella and Meryl Kornfield, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Laundrie was reported missing shortly before the remains of his fiancee, Gabby Petito, were found in Wyoming on Sept. 19.

Authorities said they discovered unidentified human remains as well as belongings of Brian Laundrie, who vanished after his fiancee, Gabby Petito (shown together above), went missing during the couple’s cross-country trip and was later found dead.

The unidentified remains were discovered along with Laundrie’s backpack, notebook and other items in an area of Carlton Reserve that had been underwater until recently, FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson said in a news briefing Wednesday. He said the investigation remained ongoing and declined to answer further questions about the latest update in a lengthy search for Laundrie, a “person of interest” in Petito’s disappearance.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Climate Change Poses Widening Threat to National Security, Reports Say, Christopher Flavelle, Julian E. Barnes, Eileen Sullivan and Jennifer Steinhauer, Oct. 21, 2021. Intelligence and defense agencies issued reports warning that the warming planet will increase strife between countries and spur migration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inaction on climate change imperils millions of lives, doctors say, Sarah Kaplan, Oct. 20, 2021. Top medical journal warns that rising temperatures will worsen heat and respiratory illness and spread infectious disease. Climate change is set to become the “defining narrative of human health,” a top medical journal warned Wednesday — triggering food shortages, deadly disasters and disease outbreaks that would dwarf the toll of the coronavirus.

But aggressive efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from human activities could avert millions of unnecessary deaths, according to the analysis from more than 100 doctors and health experts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Energizing Conservative Voters, One School Board Election at a Time, Stephanie Saul, Oct. 21, 2021. Republicans hope that fears about critical race theory, an academic framework that sees racism as ingrained in modern institutions, can help them in elections. Education leaders deny that there is any critical race theory being taught in K-12 schools. But the issue has torn apart one Wisconsin suburb.

Little more than a year ago, Scarlett Johnson was a stay-at-home mother, devoted to chauffeuring her children to school and supervising their homework. That was before the school system in her affluent Milwaukee suburb posted a video about privilege and race that “jarred me to my core,” she said.

“There was this pyramid — where are you on the scale of being a racist,” Ms. Johnson said. “I couldn’t understand why this was recommended to parents and stakeholders.” The video solidified Ms. Johnson’s concerns, she said, that the district, Mequon-Thiensville, was “prioritizing race and identity” and introducing critical race theory, an academic framework used in higher education that views racism as ingrained in law and other modern institutions.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republicans implode during Merrick Garland’s testimony, Bocha Blue, Oct. 21, 2021. Attorney General Merrick Garland, below right, testified in merrick garlandfront of Congress on this week. He was asked many questions. He was asked questions by the Democrats about deeply concerning issues that face our country. And Garland spoke confidently and reassuringly.

The Republicans questioned him as well. And they asked questions about deeply concerning issues as well. Some of these issues include prosecuting Hillary Clinton, Hunter Biden’s artwork, and why Garland dares to look into MAGA, who make terrorist threats at school board meetings.

As House Republican Fitzgerald inelegantly put it, why is Garland involved in “the silencing of parents?”

bill palmer report logo headerThis is what the GOP has become. THEY’RE STILL TALKING ABOUT HILLARY CLINTON.

She lives rent-free in their heads. It is embarrassing. They really need to change their name and call themselves the “no ideas” party. Or perhaps the sedition party.

Garland, to his credit, remained unflappable. I think very highly of Garland and was deeply impressed with his verbal presentation here. And now we must talk about Ted Lieu of California. Ted eviscerated the GOP. When it was his turn to speak, he mentioned his wife had been one of the people targeted at these school board meetings.

Lieu let loose on the GOP’s complete reluctance to step up and protect teachers and parents from vicious terrorist threats. He called their behavior “shameful.”

THESE are the stories the world must hear about. THESE are the happenings that Middle America must observe and know about because we have a party, which is beyond dysfunctional and is now openly encouraging threats against teachers.

 

ted cruz beard

washington post logoWashington Post, Here’s what Ted Cruz wants in return for unblocking Biden’s nominations, Oct. 20, 2021. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) expects to be formally delaying up to 40 of President Biden’s nominees by week’s end, but they won’t include former colleagues Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) or Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Cruz, above, has been stalling Biden picks — chiefly for ambassadorships and some senior State Department postings, but also choices for jobs at the Treasury Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development — for leverage in disputes with the administration over policies toward Russia and the Middle East.

The tactic isn’t new. But the scale and scope of Cruz’s embargo seems unprecedented: It targets not just political appointees but career diplomats with unrelated briefs, some heading to unglamorous posts, like Larry Edward Andre, Jr., whom Biden nominated as envoy to Somalia and whose nomination reached the floor in June.

Setting aside the policy questions, the Texas Republican benefits politically from taking a high profile-role in GOP opposition to a president deeply unpopular with the party’s base — especially as a potential 2024 contender.

The Senate’s inner workings empower a senator to try to delay a nominee by formally place a “hold” on them — essentially a promise to filibuster — once they get to the floor for a final vote.

Cruz can’t block nominees forever — they can move through the confirmation process by simple majority, which Democrats have. But he can prevent them from sailing through via unanimous consent and instead force Biden’s party to endure a formal process that could take precious legislative days away from other actions, such as advancing Biden’s extensive domestic agenda.

Cruz plans to exempt McCain, Flake and Udall as a kind of senatorial courtesy, according to my colleague Seung Min Kim and an aide. The Texas Republican currently has holds on about 20 people, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a fresh batch of about 30 nominees on Tuesday, so the number of holds will grow.

Cruz, joined by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), initially imposed his holds to force the administration to impose sanctions on a Russia-backed company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to ferry natural gas from Russia to Germany. Opponents to the pipeline note it will potentially give Moscow enormous sway over energy-hungry Western Europe.

The Biden administration waived sanctions on the project in late May as part of a deal with Germany, which wants the pipeline. Cruz wants them back on, or imposed and then waived in a way that would trigger a vote on the matter in Congress, where Democrats would likely prevail but could feel some political pain. Biden is unlikely to do anything to stall the energy project.

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Trump, Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

 

david brock msnbc

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Was Wrong About Donald Trump, David Brock, Oct. 21, 2021. Mr. Brock, above, led one of the largest Democratic super PACs dedicated to defeating Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Before he became a Democrat, he worked for The Washington Times and the Heritage Foundation.

Like most Democrats, I initially underestimated Donald Trump. In 2015, I founded a super PAC dedicated to electing Hillary Clinton. Through all the ups and downs of the campaign, I didn’t once imagine that Americans would vote Mr. Trump in.

He was an obvious pig (see the “Access Hollywood” tape), a fraud (multiple failed businesses and bankruptcies) and a cheat (stiffing mom-and-pop vendors). Not to mention the blatant racism and misogyny. About the outcome, I was spectacularly wrong.

Once he was in office, I misread Mr. Trump again. Having worked inside the conservative movement for many years, I found his policies familiar: same judges, same tax policy, same deregulation of big business, same pandering to the religious right, same denial of science. Of course, there were the loopy tweets, but still I regarded Mr. Trump as only a difference of degree from what I had seen from prior Republican presidents and candidates, not a difference of kind.

When a raft of books and articles appeared warning that the United States was headed toward autocracy, I dismissed them as hyperbolic. I just didn’t see it. Under Mr. Trump, the sky didn’t fall.

My view of him began to shift soon after the November election, when he falsely claimed the election was rigged and refused to concede. In doing so, Mr. Trump showed himself willing to undermine confidence in the democratic process, and in time he managed to convince nearly three-quarters of his supporters that the loser was actually the winner.

Then came the Capitol Hill insurrection, and, later, proof that Mr. Trump incited it, even hiring a lawyer, John Eastman, who wrote a detailed memo that can only be described as a road map for a coup. A recent Senate investigation documented frantic efforts by Mr. Trump to bully government officials to overturn the election. And yet I worry that many Americans are still blind, as I once was, to the authoritarian impulses that now grip Mr. Trump’s party. Democrats need to step up to thwart them.

Are Democrats up for such a tough (and expensive) fight? Many liberal voters have taken a step back from politics, convinced that Mr. Trump is no longer a threat. According to research conducted for our super PAC, almost half of women in battleground states are now paying less attention to the political news.

But in reality, the last election settled very little. Mr. Trump not only appears to be preparing for a presidential campaign in 2024; he is whipping up his supporters before the 2022 midterms. And if Democrats ignore the threat he and his allies pose to democracy, their candidates will suffer next fall, imperiling any chance of meaningful reform in Congress.

Going forward, we can expect bogus claims of voter fraud, and equally bogus challenges to legitimate vote counts, to become a permanent feature of Republican political strategy. Every election Republicans lose will be contested with lies, every Democratic win delegitimized. This is poison in a democracy.

As of late September, 19 states had enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for their citizens to vote. The Republican National Committee’s “election integrity director” says the party will file lawsuits earlier and more aggressively than it did in 2020. Trump wannabe candidates like Glenn Youngkin, running for Virginia governor, are currying favor with the Republican base by promoting conspiracy theories suggesting that Virginia’s election may be rigged.

More alarmingly, Republicans in swing states are purging election officials, allowing pro-Trump partisans to sabotage vote counts. In January, an Arizona lawmaker introduced a bill that would permit Republican legislators to overrule the certification of elections that don’t go their way. In Georgia, the legislature has given partisan election boards the power to “slow down or block” election certifications. Why bother with elections?

Democrats now face an opposition that is not a normal political party, but rather a party that is willing to sacrifice democratic institutions and norms to take power.

The legislation Democrats introduced in Congress to protect our democracy against such assaults would have taken an important step toward meeting these challenges. But on Wednesday, Republicans blocked the latest version of the legislation, and given the lack of unanimity among Democrats on the filibuster, Republicans may well have succeeded in killing the last hope for any federal voting rights legislation during this session of Congress.

Having underestimated Mr. Trump in the first place, Democrats shouldn’t underestimate what it will take to counter his malign influence now. They need a bigger, bolder campaign blueprint to save democracy, one that doesn’t hinge on the whims of Congress.

We should hear more directly from the White House bully pulpit about these dire threats. The Jan. 6 investigators should mount a full-court press to get the truth out. Funding voting rights litigation should be a top priority.

Where possible, Democrats should sponsor plebiscites to overturn anti-democratic laws passed by Republicans in states. They should underwrite super PACs to protect incumbent election officials being challenged by Trump loyalists, even if it means supporting reasonable Republicans. Donations should flow into key governor and secretary of state races, positions critical to election certification.

In localities, Democrats should organize poll watching. Lawyers who make phony voting claims in court should face disciplinary action in state bar associations. The financiers of the voting rights assault must be exposed and publicly shamed.

The good news is that liberals do not have to copy what the right is doing with its media apparatus — the font of falsehoods about voter fraud and a stolen election — to win over voters. Democrats can leapfrog the right with significant investments in streaming video, podcasting, newsletters and innovative content producers on growing platforms like TikTok, whose audiences dwarf those of cable news networks like Fox News.

Issues like racial justice, the environment and immigration are already resonating online with audiences Democrats need to win over, such as young people, women and people of color. Democratic donors have long overlooked efforts to fund the media, but with so much of our politics playing out on that battlefield, they can no longer afford to.

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Takes Advantage of Wall Street Fad to Bankroll New Venture, David Enrich, Matthew Goldstein and Shane Goldmacher, Oct. 21, 2021. A merger with a so-called blank check company is poised to give the former president access to hundreds of millions of dollars.

After decades of bankruptcies, loan defaults, business disputes and commercial failures — not to mention a polarizing presidency that ended with a violent mob storming the Capitol — Donald J. Trump was shunned by much of corporate America.

Now, thanks to one of Wall Street’s hottest fads, the former president has managed to sidestep that tarnished reputation and gain access to hundreds of millions of dollars to launch a social media company.

Riding to his rescue: SPACs.

Special purpose acquisition companies are the reverse of initial public offerings. Sometimes called blank-check companies, SPACs go public first and raise money from investors with the goal of finding a private company to merge with. Those investors have no clue about what that merger partner will turn out to be.

Which led some of the prominent investors in a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition — including the hedge funds D.E. Shaw and Saba Capital — to the surprising realization that they were financially backing Mr. Trump’s latest company.

Mr. Trump’s new company, Trump Media and Technology Group — incorporated in Delaware in February with little fanfare, and with no revenue or tested business plan — reached a deal to merge with Digital World on Wednesday.

Digital World, which was set up shortly after Mr. Trump lost the 2020 election, last month raised nearly $300 million, largely from big investors. Assuming the merger is consummated, that money will soon be bankrolling the Trump media venture, which plans early next year to offer a Twitter-like social media app.

Shares of the newly merged company soared on Thursday, rising more than 300 percent to close at $45.50 a share and partly reflecting expectations that the former president’s media company could be very profitable.

SPACs have long had a dubious reputation because they give struggling or untested companies that would otherwise not find backers a pathway to the public markets. But in recent years, these lightly regulated entities have become all the rage because with interest rates remaining low, investors are eager for new places to put their money to work. In the past two years alone, such companies have raised $190 billion from investors.

But even by Wall Street’s frothy standards, the swiftness with which Digital World reached a deal with Mr. Trump — which many in the former president’s inner circle didn’t know about — was remarkable.

Most blank-check companies take about 17 months to find a target and complete a deal after going public. Digital World gave itself a year, but found its target within a month of going public.

“That is an extraordinary time period,” said Usha Rodrigues, who teaches corporate law at the University of Georgia School of Law and has written about SPACs. “It is far outside the norm.”

deutsche bank logoDigital World’s founder and chief executive is Patrick Orlando, who previously worked for Deutsche Bank and other Wall Street firms. More recently, Mr. Orlando, who is based in Miami and knew Mr. Trump before the deal, according to one of Mr. Orlando’s colleagues, has launched three other blank-check companies. While they have raised money from investors, not one has completed a deal. A plan to merge one of the SPACs, Yunhong International, with Giga Energy recently fell apart.

When Digital World went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange last month, it didn’t have the assistance of a brand-name investment bank. Instead, it turned to a small firm that until recently was called Kingswood Capital Markets.

This summer, Kingswood changed its name to E.F. Hutton, adopting one of Wall Street’s most storied brands, presumably in a bid to improve its marketing cachet. (The original E.F. Hutton was famous for the advertising slogan “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”) Joseph Rallo, E.F. Hutton’s chief executive, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

With the help of bankers at the newly renamed E.F. Hutton, Mr. Orlando and Digital World lined up 11 hedge funds and other institutional investors to serve as so-called anchor investors. They agreed to buy substantial slugs of shares in Digital World’s public stock offering on Sept. 8.

As is standard in “blank check” deals, the investors in some cases ponied up as much as $30 million without much guidance as to how Digital World would spend their money, officials at several of the hedge funds said. All they knew was what Digital World said in its securities filing — that it was looking to invest in “middle-market emerging growth technology-focused companies.” It didn’t give any hint that it was hoping to merge with a social-media company or to work with the former president.

Mr. Trump, for his part, kept much of his inner circle in the dark. His plans had not come up on his political team’s weekly calls, according to participants.

CNNTrump Media and Technology Group, whose website lists Mr. Trump’s private club, Mar-a-Lago, as its mailing address, has grand ambitions. A slide presentation on the company’s website envisions it competing not only with Twitter and Facebook, but also against companies like Netflix, Disney and CNN. In the “long-term opportunity” category, the company lists Google and Amazon as potential rivals.

Mr. Trump’s yet-to-be-launched app is called Truth Social. Within hours of its announcement, hackers claimed to have created fake accounts on an unreleased test version in the name of Mr. Trump and others.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pranksters have already defaced Trump’s new social network, Drew Harwell, Oct. 21, 2021. Truth Social has some unusual rules for a Trump-run site: It reserves the right to ban users and safeguard itself from lawsuits with Section 230 protections. It also prohibits ‘excessive use of capital letters.’

Former president Donald Trump and his team declared Wednesday night that they would soon launch a “media powerhouse” that would help them triumph in their long-running war against Big Tech. But within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account.

trump truth platformThe site has since been pulled offline — evidence that Trump is likely to face a daunting challenge in building an Internet business that can stand on its own.

Banned by all major social networks after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump has for months agitated to regain the online megaphone that once blasted his voice around the world. In a presentation released Wednesday by his new media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, his team hailed the new social network as the first tentpole for a Trump-led media, news and Internet empire that would one day compete with Disney, CNN and Facebook.

But the site’s early hours revealed lax security, rehashed features and a flurry of bizarre design decisions. An open sign-up page allowed anyone to use the site shortly after it was revealed, sparking the creation of the “donaldjtrump” account and the pig posting. A Washington Post reporter was able to register and post under the account name “mikepence” without any stops in place. New sign-ups were blocked shortly after.

The site looks almost entirely like a Twitter clone: A user can post Truths, which are like tweets, or Re-Truths, which are retweets. There’s also a news feed, called the Truth Feed, a notification system so users can know “who’s interacting with your TRUTH’s,” the social network’s App Store profile states.

trump defecating pigLawyers, Guns, Money, Opinion: Of chumps and pig dumps, Shakezula, Oct. 21, 2021. Is this a picture of a pooping pig or Truth Social?

Former president Donald Trump and his team declared Wednesday night that they would soon launch a “media powerhouse” that would help them triumph in their long-running war against Big Tech. But within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account.

The site has since been pulled offline — evidence that Trump is likely to face a daunting challenge in building an Internet business that can stand on its own.

donald trump twitterYeah. No. The evidence it will face daunting challenges is that Orangefinger is involved in it in any way. Merry pranksters are a delightful extra.

The site’s code shows it runs a mostly unmodified version of Mastodon, the free, open-source software launched in 2016 that anyone can use to run a self-made social networking site.

I’m not saying it would be impossible to build a “news and Internet empire that would one day compete with Disney, CNN and Facebook,” on open-source code. I am saying that the klutzes, putzes and yutzes who would be allowed to work for TFG couldn’t do it even if they didn’t have a coke-addled clown giving them new instructions every five seconds.

parler logoThe site is likely to undermine other conservative-friendly social media alternatives, such as Gettr, Gab and Parler, that have sought to win over pro-Trump audiences.

This is an understatement. Being on the original official MAGA platform will be a huge draw for his fans. Plus, the competing sites will be treated to all the venom he’s capable of spraying.

Assuming the platform doesn’t collapse under the combined weight of bots, pranksters, constant format changes, and incompetence. Which it will. So never mind. The next scene will be blaming Big Tech for his failure and demanding money from the rubes.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Organization, Already Under Indictment, Faces New Criminal Inquiry, William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The investigation, by the Westchester County district attorney’s office, increases the legal scrutiny of the former president and his family business.

republican elephant logoFormer President Donald J. Trump’s family business, which is already under indictment in Manhattan, is facing a criminal investigation by another prosecutor’s office that has begun to examine financial dealings at a golf course the company owns, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

In recent months, the district attorney’s office in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., has subpoenaed records from the course, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, and the town of Ossining, which sets property taxes on the course, a sprawling private club that is perched on a hill north of New York City and boasts a 101-foot waterfall.

The full scope of the investigation could not be determined, but the district attorney, Mimi E. Rocah, appears to be focused at least in part on whether Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misled local officials about the property’s value to reduce its taxes, one of the people said.

Ms. Rocah, a Democrat, has not accused anyone at the company of wrongdoing, and it is unclear whether the investigation is examining Mr. Trump’s conduct or if it would ultimately lead to any charges. Still, the Westchester inquiry intensifies the law enforcement scrutiny on Mr. Trump and his family business. Both have been the subject of a long-running criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is examining a range of potential financial and tax improprieties.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Tommy Tuberville has no regrets after objecting to Biden’s victory on Jan. 6. Is he allowed to just move on? Ben Terris, Oct. 21, 2021 (print ed.). “I wasn’t voting for me, I was voting for the people of Alabama,” the college football coach-turned-senator recently said. What comes next for pro-Trump Republicans who want to forget what happened last winter while remaining loyal to a leader who won’t let it go?

thomas tubervilleTommy Tuberville, right, had a decision to make. So did the other Republican senators huddling with him in the storage closet.

It was Jan. 6, right-wing rioters were ransacking the U.S. Capitol, but these lawmakers were already in a secured part of the complex and had been milling about a hearing room with a larger group of senators. They weren’t hiding from the mob. They were hiding from their colleagues.

The group, led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), had planned to object to the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential campaign — a gesture of solidarity with President Donald Trump, who had spent months trying to overturn his loss. The siege of the Capitol by Trump’s supporters, however, had some lawmakers thinking that formally objecting to Biden’s victory might be a bad look.

So into the closet they went, for privacy’s sake — around a dozen Republicans, including the Alabama newbie known as “Coach.”

“You’ve got 25 seconds to call a play,” Tuberville said recently, thinking back on the scene. “You can’t call a bunch of timeouts.”

It was the former college football coach’s first full day in the Senate, and already he was being called off the sidelines. Earlier on Jan. 6, Trump had wanted to talk to Tuberville but called Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) by mistake; Lee had handed Tuberville a cellphone in the Senate chamber. Tuberville said he didn’t have time to find out exactly what Trump wanted.

mike pence bites lip CustomVice President Mike Pence, right, had been whisked to a secure location, and Tuberville and his colleagues had to get moving, too. “I know we’ve got problems,” Tuberville recalled the president saying before the call ended. “Protect yourself.”

Inside the storage closet, a bunker within a bunker, surrounded by stacked furniture, the senators weighed whether the mob’s demonstration of loyalty to Trump that day might affect their own. “There were 12 of us gathered to talk about what happens now [and] where do things go from here,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.).

The mood was “very heavy,” remembered Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.). “I do remember saying we have to pull the country together,” said Lankford, “We are so exceptionally divided that it’s spilling into the building.”

“I didn’t really listen to them,” Tuberville said about the closet colloquy. He does remember a few details. “One thing that was brought up was that people were hurt,” he recalled in one of several interviews with The Washington Post.

Plus, Biden was going to end up president, whether they objected or not. “Do we want to continue this,” Tuberville remembered his colleagues mulling, “if there’s not going to be a result we are looking for anyway?”

Palmer Report, Opinion: What’s really pushed Donald Trump over the edge this past week, Bill Palmer, Oct. 21, 2021. Since Donald Trump got kicked off Twitter and bill palmerthen kicked out of the White House, he’s largely remained in hiding, with very few public appearances – but he’s periodically released short “press releases” that are little more than thinly disguised Twitter-style rants. Here at Palmer Report we ignore most of these glorified tweets, because Trump was banned from social media for a reason. But now something has happened that’s worth noting.

bill palmer report logo headerOver the past week Trump has begun putting out more frequent press releases, more over the top in nature, more threat-filled, more insult-filled, and more frantic sounding than ever. Something has clearly triggered him. So what was it?

Let’s take a look at what Trump has been ranting about over the past week or so. He released a statement basically telling his supporters not to vote at all in 2022 and 2024 in protest of the fact that he hasn’t been reinstated. He also released a statement out of nowhere disputing the old “Pee Pee Tape” scandal, which later turned out to be an ahead-of-time response to a Christopher Steele interview that had been taped but hadn’t yet aired.

We all know that the “Pee Pee Tape” thing in particular has always agitated Trump. But is that it? As this week has gone on, he’s released a statement that seemingly called Liz Cheney ugly, and a separate rant about long-forgotten former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Trump is now doing all of his greatest hits, in the most histrionic fashion possible. So again, what gives?

On Wednesday night the news broke that the Westchester New York District Attorney is running a criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s finances that’s separate from the existing Manhattan New York District Attorney criminal investigation into Trump’s finances. It’s possible that the newspaper asked Trump for comment for the story a few days before it ran, so he knew it was coming. But is this what has set him off this past week?

Then there’s the criminal contempt referral against Steve Bannon, whose most likely (eventual) outcome will involve Bannon cutting a plea deal with the DOJ in exchange for cooperating against bigger fish in Trump world. Is this what’s set Donald Trump off?

 

World Conflict, Corruption

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. and Iran enter ‘decisive’ period to revive nuclear accord or risk failure, U.N. watchdog chief says, Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick, Oct. 20, 2021. Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran has extended an invitation for him to meet with its political leaders in Tehran as he works to salvage the 2015 agreement.

The next few weeks will be “decisive” in determining whether the United States and Iran can return to indirect negotiations and resume efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between them, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday.

Iran, in response to an urgent appeal by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, has now extended an invitation for him to meet with its political leaders in Tehran in the coming days, Grossi said in an interview. On his agenda are interruptions in international monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program and other questions that, if they are not resolved, could make it virtually impossible to return to the agreement.

All other parties to the accord — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, with the European Union playing a coordinating role — as well as the United States, have confirmed to him that if the monitoring regime is not fully restored, “it would be extremely difficult to have an agreement of this type,” Grossi said.

Tag Hollywood, New Book ' Unanswered Questions' Explores the slick oil connection between the Saudis and the Bush Administration, Ilene Proctor for Ray McGinnis, Oct. 20, 2021. Unanswered Questions: What the September Eleventh Families Asked and the 9/11 Commission Ignored is a brutally persuasive book for those who want answers to the real origins of the Afghanistan war.

ray mcginnis unanswered coverMany families wondered how American national security would be imperiled by 9/11 families suing the Saudis? How could details of possible Saudi complicity in the attacks embarrass the United States government, or harm the nation? Are there classified documents that point not only to Saudi complicity, but to the United States itself?

Bob McIlvaine, whose son Bobby McIlvaine Jr. died while entering the North Tower lobby calls the headlines about Saudi Arabia “a distraction, a joke.” McIlvaine, whose family story was featured in the Atlantic Monthly this September, calls for a new independent investigation. He wants it to include legitimate suspects in the former Bush White House, and other private citizens working for think tanks or corporations, and have them testify under oath.

Some families are hopeful that President Biden’s September 3 Executive Order on Declassification Review of Certain Documents Concerning the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, will clear the air. But others worry what “certain documents” will be declassified? Will there be other documents kept sealed, possibly harming American national security or implicate the U.S. government?

Most of the questions the families asked remain ignored. The history we teach our children cannot be based on a false narrative and understanding of what really happened two decades ago. Many families, first responders, and veterans of wars in Afghan and Iraq are still waiting for truth and accountability.

Unanswered Questions is a must-read book on the crime that quite literally altered the face and fate of America. 9/11 became the turning point of the great American experiment, the moment when Americans began to truly question their government? Why were 9/11 Commissioners so obsequious and deferential toward the families, while ignoring their questions during the investigation?

ray mcginnisAbout the Author: Since 1999 Ray McGinnis, right, has been a free-lance presenter of journal writing, poetry, and memoir workshops to over 15,000 participants. He has taught at business conferences, colleges, theological schools, retreat settings, churches, synagogues, grief and loss support groups, schools, mental health settings, hospitals, and professional development days including for first responders, and lawyers. In 2005, he authored Writing the Sacred: A Psalm-inspired Path to Appreciating and Writing Sacred Poetry.

McGinnis believes the stories of the families of the victims of September 11th, and their efforts to establish an inquiry into the attacks, offer a doorway for theological reflection about what it means to live in a post-9/11 world.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

Media, Sports

The Hill, News organizations, journalists ask court to review decision on Nunes lawsuit, Dominick Mastrangelo, Oct. 21, 2021. A group of leading news organizations are throwing their support behind a legal effort to challenge a judge's ruling in favor of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calf.), who is suing reporter Ryan Lizza over a 2018 story in Esquire about Nunes' family farm.

devin nunes screenshotA defamation suit Nunes, left, brought against Lizza was initially tossed out by a judge in August of 2020. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled in September that because Lizza had tweeted out a link to the story in question after the congressman had filed his initial defamation suit, he had essentially "republished" it — reviving the lawmaker's libel claim.

The story, titled "Milking the System," detailed the Republicans' family’s dairy operation in Iowa and alleged his family sold their California farmland in 2006 and “secretly” moved the operation to Sibley, Iowa, a community that frequently relied on labor from undocumented immigrants.

In the brief filed this week, more than two dozen news organizations including Fox News, the New York Times and Vox Media argued the judge's September ruling sets a precedent that "could create havoc for not just news publishers, but all distributors of content."

"The panel’s holding that Nunes could state a claim for defamation based on a tweet that hyperlinked to—but did not repeat the substance of—an allegedly defamatory article threatens to upend long-standing legal principles governing the dissemination of news and information in the Internet age," the news organizations wrote in the brief.

"Hyperlinks are essential to the dissemination of information today," they added, noting journalists on social media "use hyperlinks to direct readers to their published work and the published work of others, and to engage with the public about that reporting."

The group requested a rehearing of Nunes' case against Lizza. Nunes' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In their opinion last month, the 8th Circuit judges wrote that Nunes' complaint "adequately alleges that Lizza intended to reach and actually reached a new audience by publishing a tweet about Nunes and a link to the article."

"The pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in 'the purposeful avoidance of the truth,'" it added.

In February, a federal judge rejected a libel lawsuit Nunes filed against CNN regarding their reporting on his efforts to dig up dirt on now-President Biden regarding dealings with Ukraine. Late last year, Nunes had a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post thrown out after he sued the Post for reporting intelligence official Shelby Pierson told members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russia had "developed a preference" for former President Trump.

Axios, Axel Springer CEO admits "mistake" on Politico paywall, Sara Fischer, Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner told Politico staffers in a company-wide Q&A Thursday that it was "a mistake" to tell The Wall Street Journal last week that he planned to institute a paywall.

axios logomathias döpfnerWhy it matters: Politico staffers have told Axios they feel bait and switched after Döpfner's comments, which were less than two months after he told staffers "We're from Berlin, We don't like the concept of walls."

"They are playing fast and loose with the paywall thing," a staffer told Axios prior to the company-wide call Thursday. Axios has obtained audio from the call.

Details: When asked whether Politico's free website would go behind a paywall Döpfner, right, said, "The answer is no. Absolutely not. No decision has been made. My answer honestly was very unfortunate. It was my mistake."

"The immediate answer — do you implement a paywall? I said no but then I elaborated how important paid content is for us and I believe in that. That is actually politico Customthe main reason we acquired Politico because it was based so much on a subscription model," Döpfner said.

He also noted that we should call it "paid content or subscriptions and never again paywall, because I truly think — apart from the Berlin Wall — it is a negative psychology. Wall excludes people or keeps people imprisoned and that's not what we should do. It's an offering, so in general, something positive."

The big picture: Axel Springer announced it would buy Politico in August, adding to its growing U.S. media investment portfolio, which also includes Insider and Morning Brew.

CelticsBlog, Celtics games pulled off air in China after Enes Kanter’s comments on Tibet, Keith P. Smith, Oct. 21, 2021. Boston joins Philadelphia in having their games not broadcasted in China.

Boston Celtics games have been pulled off the air in China by Tencent following Enes Kanter’s recent comments on the Free Tibet movement. Tencent is one of the leading NBA broadcasters in China. Tencent has marked all recent broadcasts of Celtics games as unavailable, and has indicated no games will be aired in the future.

China FlagKanter recently took to social media with a series of tweets where he called for China to give freedom to the Tibetan people. Kanter addressed his message to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, by calling him a “brutal dictator.”

The leading Celtics social media fan account on Weibo also said they would immediately stop posting about the team. They posted a message stating, “Resolutely resist any behavior that damages national harmony and the dignity of the motherland!”

Boston now joins the Philadelphia 76ers in having their games not broadcast in China. The Sixers are in the second year of a ban, due to Daryl Morey heading the team’s basketball operations. Before the 2019-20 season, Morey had tweeted in support of Hong Kong. That tweet led to all NBA games being temporarily pulled off the air in China. The ban was then limited to only Morey’s then-team, the Houston Rockets. That prohibition was then transferred to Morey’s current team, the 76ers, at the start of the 2020-21 season and continues to be active today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pranksters have already defaced Trump’s new social network, Drew Harwell, Oct. 21, 2021. Truth Social has some unusual rules for a Trump-run site: It reserves the right to ban users and safeguard itself from lawsuits with Section 230 protections. It also prohibits ‘excessive use of capital letters.’

Former president Donald Trump and his team declared Wednesday night that they would soon launch a “media powerhouse” that would help them triumph in their long-running war against Big Tech. But within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account.

trump truth platformThe site has since been pulled offline — evidence that Trump is likely to face a daunting challenge in building an Internet business that can stand on its own.

Banned by all major social networks after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump has for months agitated to regain the online megaphone that once blasted his voice around the world. In a presentation released Wednesday by his new media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, his team hailed the new social network as the first tentpole for a Trump-led media, news and Internet empire that would one day compete with Disney, CNN and Facebook.

But the site’s early hours revealed lax security, rehashed features and a flurry of bizarre design decisions. An open sign-up page allowed anyone to use the site shortly after it was revealed, sparking the creation of the “donaldjtrump” account and the pig posting. A Washington Post reporter was able to register and post under the account name “mikepence” without any stops in place. New sign-ups were blocked shortly after.

The site looks almost entirely like a Twitter clone: A user can post Truths, which are like tweets, or Re-Truths, which are retweets. There’s also a news feed, called the Truth Feed, a notification system so users can know “who’s interacting with your TRUTH’s,” the social network’s App Store profile states.

trump defecating pigLawyers, Guns, Money, Opinion: Of chumps and pig dumps, Shakezula, Oct. 21, 2021. Is this a picture of a pooping pig or Truth Social?

Former president Donald Trump and his team declared Wednesday night that they would soon launch a “media powerhouse” that would help them triumph in their long-running war against Big Tech. But within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account.

The site has since been pulled offline — evidence that Trump is likely to face a daunting challenge in building an Internet business that can stand on its own.

donald trump twitterYeah. No. The evidence it will face daunting challenges is that Orangefinger is involved in it in any way. Merry pranksters are a delightful extra.

The site’s code shows it runs a mostly unmodified version of Mastodon, the free, open-source software launched in 2016 that anyone can use to run a self-made social networking site.

I’m not saying it would be impossible to build a “news and Internet empire that would one day compete with Disney, CNN and Facebook,” on open-source code. I am saying that the klutzes, putzes and yutzes who would be allowed to work for TFG couldn’t do it even if they didn’t have a coke-addled clown giving them new instructions every five seconds.

parler logoThe site is likely to undermine other conservative-friendly social media alternatives, such as Gettr, Gab and Parler, that have sought to win over pro-Trump audiences.

This is an understatement. Being on the original official MAGA platform will be a huge draw for his fans. Plus, the competing sites will be treated to all the venom he’s capable of spraying.

Assuming the platform doesn’t collapse under the combined weight of bots, pranksters, constant format changes, and incompetence. Which it will. So never mind. The next scene will be blaming Big Tech for his failure and demanding money from the rubes.

Oct. 20

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Responses

 

Investigations

 

Politics of Climate Change, Energy, Disasters

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

World Conflict, Corruption

 

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Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

 

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joe biden flag profile uncredited palmer

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden sets new, much lower fiscal target for spending bill, Marianna Sotomayor, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden told Democrats during a private meeting Tuesday that he believed they could secure a deal on a new tax-and-spending proposal between $1.75 trillion and $1.9 trillion, far less than some in the party initially sought, even as some lawmakers later maintained it still would allow them to accomplish broad swaths of their vast economic agenda.

democratic donkey logoThe early outline — shared at least with liberal lawmakers in the House — appeared to offer one potential avenue for the White House to broker a truce among Democrats’ warring left-leaning and moderate factions. Four people familiar with Biden’s comments confirmed the early details, requesting anonymity to describe the negotiations.

The potential new price range marks a significant reduction from the $3.5 trillion that some Democrats initially pursued under a budget agreement chiefly brokered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earlier this year. But it is closer to the number that centrists, especially Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), had outlined in recent months as they sought steep cuts to Democrats’ spending plans. Manchin and Sanders met Tuesday for the second time in two days after the two sparred with each other over the weekend.

Biden faces shrinking timetable to salvage his agenda.

By the White House’s calculations, a package up to $1.9 trillion would allow them to accomplish some of their most significant priorities. That includes at least some expansion of Medicare to offer new benefits to seniors, the introduction of universal prekindergarten, and billions of dollars to address climate change, the sources said, cautioning that many of the details must still be worked out.

But slimming down the package also is sure to force Democrats to make some sacrifices. The path put forward by the White House could extend new, expanded child tax credit payments recently adopted by Congress, but perhaps for only one additional year, three of the sources said. It would offer new money to make housing more affordable, yet far less than Democrats once envisioned. And it would provide paid leave, except only four weeks of benefits, rather than the 12 weeks some had once proposed, according to one of the people in the room.

Liberal-leaning Democrats, meanwhile, offered some early praise for what they heard Tuesday. They acknowledged some of the cuts while stressing that many of their policy priorities in health care, education and social spending appear to remain intact.

“All our priorities are there in some way, shape or form,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

 

The Intercept, Commentary: Biden Faces Deadline For Release of More JFK Assassination Papers, Jefferson Morley, right, and Rex Bradford, Oct. 20, 2021. John F. jefferson morley newKennedy was assassinated 58 years ago, but the U.S. government has balked at the full release of some secret CIA documents.

Will Biden follow the law? The JFK Records Act, passed unanimously by Congress in 1992, called for “expeditious public transmission” of all JFK files into the public record. Twenty-nine years later, the intent of Congress has been effectively nullified by the demands of federal agencies, particularly the CIA, which is responsible for 70 percent of the withheld records. The National Archives website says 15,834 JFK files that have been released remain redacted, though some redactions involve only a single word.

Federal Judge John Tunheim, chair of the civilian review board which declassified more than 300,000 JFK documents in the 1990s, called on Biden to release the JFK files without exception. “Why keep on holding back stuff?” Tunheim told The Intercept. “I don’t think there is any reason to protect any of it.”

What’s in the files?

The most sensitive JFK secrets involve U.S. operations against Cuba in 1963. Oswald was a public supporter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, or FPCC, a popular campus group which defended Fidel Castro’s government from aggressive U.S. policies. Records declassified in the 1990s revealed that the CIA targeted CIA Logothe FPCC for disruption in September 1963. Within the records that have been partially released, propaganda sources, deception methods, and surveillance techniques are often redacted.

One passage in a file on Operation Northwoods, a top-secret Pentagon operation that aimed to provoke a U.S. invasion of Cuba, is still off-limits to the public. Two paragraphs of the 200-page document remain classified in 2021.

There are scores of similar erasures in the JFK files that illuminate how the letter and spirit of the JFK Records Act is being flouted by extreme claims of secrecy. The information withheld hardly seems earthshaking, but the full significance of the last of the JFK files can only be assessed after full disclosure. Biden’s decision is expected on October 26.

Related articles on the JFK Facts site written and curated by Jefferson Morley:

  • Why Did the CIA Reclassify Parts of Some JFK Files in 2018?
  • JFK Redacted: The CIA's Collaborators in the Miami News Media
  • From the Secret JFK Files, Praise for a CIA Officer Who Monitored Oswald
  • Former DA says CIA hides JFK details but are they related to the assassination?
  • The JFK Records Act: Will There Be a Final Chapter?
  • Final Deadline Loom on JFK Records: Will Biden Follow the Law?

washington post logoWashington Post, All eyes on Manchin after Republicans again block voting rights legislation, Mike DeBonis, Oct. 20, 2021. Democrats’ months-long drive for muscular new federal voting rights legislation hit a new roadblock Wednesday, with options for progress dwindling as Senate Republicans remained united in blocking debate on the issue.

Outwardly, key lawmakers and advocates have continued to elevate the political stakes, calling federal legislation essential to protecting American democracy from the efforts of Republican state legislatures and election officials to restrict voting access following former president Donald Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

“If there’s anything worthy of the Senate’s attention, if there’s any issue that merits debate on this floor, it’s protecting our democracy from the forces that are trying to unravel it from the inside out,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.

But the realities of the Senate — with a razor-thin Democratic majority and a united Republican minority empowered by the long-standing filibuster rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to advance most legislation — continue to make progress difficult and wholly dependent on the willingness of key Democratic senators to change their views on modifying the Senate’s rules.

Wednesday’s vote, which would have paved the way for a floor debate on voting rights, failed 51 to 49, with 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. For procedural reasons, Schumer joined all 50 Republicans in voting no.

The vote was meant, in part, to demonstrate the depth of the Republican opposition to one of the holdouts over changing the filibuster rule, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who played a leading role in crafting a narrower alternative to the sprawling bill that Senate Republicans blocked in June.

Revised Democratic voting bill drops controversial provisions, tweaks others as pressure for action mounts

The new bill, called the Freedom to Vote Act, keeps some provisions of the earlier bill, including national standards for early voting and vote-by-mail, new disclosure requirements for “dark money” groups and the establishment of Election Day as a federal holiday. But it also discards or scales back controversial provisions such as a reworking of the Federal Election Commission, a major new public financing system for congressional elections and a mandate for nonpartisan redistricting commissions. It also omits major revisions to the ethics regime for federal officeholders.

The procedural vote Wednesday came after Manchin spent the past month wooing Republican colleagues — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — to support it. Yet no Senate Republican emerged before Wednesday to support the bill — let alone the 10 needed to join Democrats to start debate on it.

Whether or not Manchin or Sinema can be persuaded to change their minds on the Senate rules, Democrats are under immense pressure to keep hope alive — because of political pressure from their base, the potential impact of state voting law changes on the 2022 elections and beyond and the continued stream of false claims of fraud from Trump and his allies.

Mother Jones, Manchin Tells Associates He’s Considering Leaving the Democratic Party and Has an Exit Plan, David Corn, Oct. 20, 2021. He could pull the trigger if he doesn’t get his way on the Build Back Better bill.

In recent days, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has told associates that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Joe Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, according to people who have heard Manchin discuss this. Manchin has said that if this were to happen, he would declare himself an “American Independent.” And he has devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure.

Dick ShelbyManchin, right, has been in the center of a wild rush of negotiations with his fellow Democrats and the White House over a possible compromise regarding Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better package, and Manchin’s opposition to key provisions—including Medicare and Medicaid expansion, an expanded child tax credit, and measures to address climate change—has been an obstacle that the Democrats have yet to overcome. As these talks have proceeded, Manchin has discussed bolting from the Democratic Party—perhaps to place pressure on Biden and Democrats in these negotiations.

He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. (He is vice chair of the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications committee.) Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent.

Manchin told associates that he was prepared to initiate his exit plan earlier this week and had mentioned the possibility to Biden.

It is unclear whether in this scenario Manchin would end up caucusing with the Democrats, which would allow them to continue to control the Senate, or side with the Republicans and place the Senate in GOP hands. In either event, he would hold great sway over this half of Congress.

Without Manchin’s vote, the Democrats cannot pass the package in the 50–50 Senate. And a vote on this measure is key to House passage of the $1 trillion bipartisan road-bridges-and-broadband infrastructure bill the Senate approved in August. (Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, has also been a problem for the party.)

Manchin has met with Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a variety of his fellow Senate Democrats this week in an effort to strike a deal. Through it all, he has insisted that $1.75 trillion is his top and final offer, and he has constantly said no to proposed programs that almost every other congressional Democrat supports. He has told his fellow Democrats that if they don’t accept his position, they risk getting nothing.

Manchin told associates that he was prepared to initiate his exit plan earlier this week and had mentioned the possibility to Biden. But he was encouraged by the conversations with Sanders and top Democrats that occurred at the start of the week and did not yet see a reason to take this step. Still, he has informed associates that because he is so out of sync with the Democratic Party, he believes it is likely he will leave the party by November 2022.

Manchin has repeatedly said he has a significant philosophical difference with most of his fellow Democrats. He has told reporters that he believes major programs in the Build Back Better bill would move the United States toward an “entitlement mentality” and that he cannot accept that.

In a recent meeting with Biden, Manchin told the president that he sees government as a partner with the public not the ultimate provider, according to people who heard the senator’s account of the conversation. He explained to the president that in his view Biden didn’t win the presidency last year by championing progressive proposals, and he pressed the president to recall his campaign promise to bring people together.

He also reminded Biden that he has vowed not to support any package unless it contains the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, except in cases of incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Manchin isn’t going anywhere, Bill Palmer, Oct 20, 2021. This week we’ve finally begun seeing Joe Manchin starting to cave on the bill palmerinfrastructure reconciliation bill – thanks to the pressure that everyone from Joe Biden, to Bernie Sanders, to those of you reading this, have been placing on him. Now that Manchin is being forced to cave, we’re seeing rumors in the media that he’s threatening to leave the Democratic Party.

bill palmer report logo headerThis isn’t surprising. The pressure is clearly getting to Manchin, as evidenced by how much he’s caving on infrastructure. Naturally, he doesn’t want to have to keep caving further on the legislation. So now he’s leaking that he might leave the party, in the hope that this threat will scare the rest of us into pulling back from continuing to pressure him. But Manchin’s threat is an empty one.

To give you an idea of how weak Manchin’s leverage is, he didn’t even make the threat outright. Instead he anonymously leaked it to the media, and now he’s publicly denying it. He wants the threat out there in the hope it’ll work in his favor, but he doesn’t the threat to be taken too seriously, because any amount of real scrutiny will reveal that it’s an empty one.

Manchin can’t become a Republican, because his moderate voting record in the Senate would never allow him to survive a Republican primary challenge from a far right candidate who’s more aligned with West Virginia Republican politics. And if Manchin were to become an Independent but continued to caucus with the Democrats, it wouldn’t change Senate majority math one bit (Bernie Sanders and Angus King are both Independents, but they count as Democrats when it comes to calculating the Senate majority).

washington post logoWashington Post, House is poised to vote to hold Bannon in contempt for refusing to comply with Jan. 6 subpoena, Felicia Sonmez and Jacqueline Alemany, Oct. 21, 2021. The former White House chief strategist has argued through his attorney that he can’t respond to the subpoena because of executive privilege asserted by former president Donald Trump.

steve bannon beard

washington post logoWashington Post, House Jan. 6 committee votes to hold Bannon in contempt, Jacqueline Alemany, Tom Hamburger and Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Lawmakers on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol unanimously voted in support of holding Stephen K. Bannon (shown above in a file photo) in contempt on Tuesday. The seven Democrats and two Republicans tasked with investigating the insurrection all supported the resolution recommending that the House find the former adviser to Donald Trump in criminal contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee.

The vote could be taken up by the full House as early as this week. The matter would then be referred to the Justice Department. Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

“We believe Mr. Bannon has information relevant to our probe, and we’ll use the tools at our disposal to get that information,” committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said in opening remarks before the vote Tuesday. “I expect that the House will quickly adopt this referral to the Justice Department and that the U.S. attorney will do his duty and prosecute Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, As White House tries to finalize vaccine mandate, dozens of groups seek last-minute meetings, Eli Rosenberg, Oct. 20, 2021. Lobbyists from industry associations and unions, as well as some private anti-vaccine individuals, are lining up to take meetings with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is in the process of finalizing the rule that will apply to some 80 million workers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Small Needles, Short Lines: Biden’s Plan to Vaccinate Young Children, Katie Rogers, Oct. 20, 2021. With the anticipated approval of coronavirus shots for 5- to 11-year-olds within weeks, vaccination campaigns will look different than those for adults. President Biden’s push will rely on doctors, clinics and pharmacies instead of mass inoculation sites to distribute shots to 28 million children.

The campaign to vaccinate young children in the United States against the coronavirus will not look like it did for adults. There will be no mass inoculation sites. Pediatricians will be enlisted to help work with parents. Even the vials — and the needles to administer doses — will be smaller.

Biden administration officials, anticipating that regulators will make the vaccines available to 5- to 11-year-olds in the coming weeks, is laying out plans to ensure that some 25,000 pediatric or primary care offices, thousands of pharmacies, and hundreds of school and rural health clinics will be ready to administer shots if the vaccine receives federal authorization.

pfizer logoThe campaign aims to fulfill the unique needs of patients largely still in elementary school, while absorbing the lessons from the rollout of vaccines to other age groups.

This month, Pfizer and BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize emergency use of their vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, a move that could help protect more than 28 million people in the United States. A meeting to discuss the authorization is set for Oct. 26, and an F.D.A. ruling could come in the days after, possibly clearing a path for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make recommendations on a pediatric dose in early November.

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid Live Updates: New York City Will Require Vaccinations for Municipal Workers, Staff Reports, Oct. 20, 2021. The planned mandate, covering more than 300,000 employees, will remove an option to take regular tests instead of getting shots. Washington State Patrol said that 127 police officers and employees had left after vaccine requirements came into effect there.

New York City will require all city workers to be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday. Regular testing will not be an option for workers who refuse to get vaccinated, he said.

More than 65 percent of New York City’s nearly nine million residents are fully vaccinated, well above the national average of 57 percent. But pockets of residents and public employees have resisted getting vaccinated, leading city and state officials to push for mandates.

“As we continue our recovery for all of us, city workers have been a daily inspiration,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “Now is the time for them to show their city the path out of this pandemic once and for all.”

Uniformed correction officers would initially be excluded, he said, because of staffing shortages at Rikers Island.

The mandate builds on a July announcement that all city employees would be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.

In August, educators became the first city workers to face a full vaccine mandate. That month, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a vaccine mandate for health care workers in the state.

Today’s announcement, reported earlier by the New York Post, will immediately apply to about 160,500 workers. More than 70 percent of them have already received at least one dose of the vaccine, the statement said.

City employees who have not yet received their first doses will receive an extra $500 in their paychecks for getting their first shots at a city-run vaccination site, a benefit that will end on Oct. 29. By that point, all of the city’s more than 300,000 employees will be required to have proof of at least one dose.

Some labor leaders, representing thousands of workers, have resisted that city mandate. In late September, Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said city schools “are not ready for the implementation of the vaccine mandate.”

But on Oct. 1, Mr. de Blasio said 90 percent of the city’s Department of Education staff, including 93 percent of teachers and 98 percent of principals, were vaccinated. “The bottom line is this mandate has worked,” he said during an interview on MSNBC.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the city’s largest police union, the Police Benevolent Association, said on Oct. 6 that his union would “continue to protect the rights of members who are not vaccinated.”

Elsewhere, the Washington State Patrol announced that the state’s vaccine mandate has forced out 127 police officers and other employees, as state and city vaccine requirements begin to push out law enforcement officers who refuse to comply. By Tuesday, 53 civil servants and 74 commissioned officers had left the agency, Chief John R. Batiste said in a statement. “We will miss every one of them,” he said. “I truly wish that you were staying with us.”

Monday was Washington State’s deadline for more than 800,000 workers, including those at state agencies, schools and health care facilities, to prove they had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The mandate, issued by Gov. Jay Inslee in August, is among the strictest in the country.

Police unions across the United States have clashed with local governments over Covid vaccine requirements. In Chicago, the head of the police union told officers to ignore a city order to report their vaccination status by the end of the day last Friday. On Tuesday, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said that 21 officers had been placed on “no pay status” for not complying with the city’s order to disclose their vaccination status.

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • The Olympic torch arrives in Beijing under a cloud of protests and Covid fears.
  • New York’s $2.1 billion fund for undocumented workers is running out of money after a blitz of claims.

 washington post logoWashington Post, FDA authorizes Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Laurie McGinley and Lena H. Sun, Oct. 20, 2021. moderna logoThe Food and Drug Administration also authorized people getting a booster shot different from their original dose of the vaccine. Boosters of the two vaccines could be available as early as Friday.

  • FDA strongly considers authorizing boosters for people as young as 40
  • White House unveils plans to roll out vaccines for children ages 5 to 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: To police officers who refuse to be vaccinated, we say: Good riddance, Paul Waldman, Oct. 20, 2021. In one city after another, police officers are loudly refusing to get vaccinated for covid-19, even quitting their jobs rather than comply with vaccine requirements. They’re probably showing up in your Facebook or Twitter feeds, and they’re being lionized as heroes in conservative media.

There are a few critical things to understand about this development. First, just as we’ve seen in one company and organization after another, it’s likely that the initial wave of high-profile refusers will be followed by the less-noticed news that almost everyone got vaccinated in the end, and only a small number followed up on threats to quit.

Second, this is the product of a propaganda machine, in which elite conservatives with something to gain — votes for the politicians, ratings and money for the media figures — cynically use refusers to drive a narrative meant to sow division, keep their supporters and audiences angry, and extend the pandemic as long as possible.

Third, as for those cops saying they’ll quit if they have to get vaccinated? The people who live in the places where they’re currently employed should have one message for them: Good riddance.

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazilian Leader’s Pandemic Handling Draws Explosive Allegation: Homicide, Jack Nicas, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). A Brazilian congressional panel is set to recommend mass homicide charges against President Jair Bolsonaro, right, asserting that he intentionally let the coronavirus rip through the country and kill jair bolsonaro brazilhundreds of thousands in a failed bid to achieve herd immunity and revive Latin America’s largest economy.

A report from the congressional panel’s investigation, excerpts from which were viewed by The New York Times ahead of its scheduled release this week, also recommends criminal charges against 69 other people, including three of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons and numerous current and former government officials.

brazil flag wavingIt is at best uncertain whether the report from the 11-member panel — seven of them opponents of Mr. Bolsonaro — will lead to any actual criminal charges, given the political realities of the country.

But in deeply polarized Brazil, it reflects the depths of anger against a leader who refused to take the pandemic seriously. The report may prove a major escalation in the challenges confronting Mr. Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019, faces re-election next year and is suffering falling popularity.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP Rep. Andy Harris, a doctor, says he’s prescribed ivermectin as a covid-19 treatment, Ovetta Wiggins and Meagan Flynn, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a practicing anesthesiologist, said he has prescribed ivermectin, a medication typically used to treat parasites in livestock and humans, as a covid-19 treatment, and he lashed out at pharmacies for not making the drug readily available, according to a recent radio interview.

andy harrisHarris, right, made the comments during a call-in radio program that he and his wife, Nicole, co-hosted last month on WCBM, an AM radio station in the Baltimore area.

“I wrote a prescription for ivermectin, I guess it’s now three weeks ago, four weeks ago, and yeah, couldn’t find a pharmacy to fill it,” he said on the “Casey & Company” show Sept. 17. “It’s gotten bad. . . . The pharmacists are just refusing to fill it.”

Harris made the comments in response to a call from “Ronnie,” a 63-year-old man who said he and his 56-year-old wife had opted not to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 20, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 242,430,172, Deaths: 4,930,830
U.S. Cases:     45,996,507, Deaths:   748,652
India Cases:     34,108,996, Deaths:   452,684
Brazil Cases:    21,664,879, Deaths:   603,902

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 219.2 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 20, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 189.5 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

washington post logoWashington Post, In-N-Out Burger chain refuses to comply with San Francisco vaccine mandate, Julian Mark, Oct. 20, 2021. Popular California burger chain In-N-Out is refusing to comply with San Francisco’s mandate that restaurants check vaccine cards before allowing customers to dine indoors — a move that resulted in a temporary shutdown of the city’s only location.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Investigations

washington post logoWashington Post, Gunman in Parkland school shooting pleads guilty to murdering 17, Derek Hawkins and Mark Berman, Oct. 20, 2021. The former student who killed 17 people at a South Florida high school in 2018 pleaded guilty Wednesday to 17 counts each of murder and attempted murder, paving the way for a jury to decide whether to sentence him to death or life without parole.

Appearing in Broward County court in a mask and dark-colored shirt, Nikolas Cruz listened as Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer guided him through the charges and potential punishment for the massacre that killed 14 students and three faculty members.

“These are capital felonies, and they’re punishable one of two ways, either life in prison or the death penalty,” Scherer said. “Do you understand that you are facing a minimum, best-case scenario of life in prison?”

“Yes ma’am,” he responded.

Before accepting the plea, Scherer emphasized that Cruz’s decision would be irreversible, even if he ended up on death row. “You will not be able to change your mind,” she told him.

  • Washington Post, Parkland victims’ families reach $25 million settlement with school district

washington post logoWashington Post, How a suburban engineer and his teacher wife became an unlikely pair accused of selling U.S. military secrets, William Wan and Ian Shapira, Oct. 20, 2021. Jonathan and Diana Toebbe could face life in prison for allegedly trying to sell secrets about advanced nuclear submarines. They have a court hearing Wednesday. Who were the Annapolis couple before their arrest?

For years, the aspiring spy had gone to remarkable lengths to protect his identity and evade detection.

With a cash-bought burner phone, he created an anonymous email account that could send encrypted messages, according to the FBI, then waited to use it.

To avoid suspicion at his job developing America’s most advanced submarines, he allegedly sneaked out sensitive documents for years, a few pages at time.

The Navy veteran’s work for the U.S. government had taught him to spot the clues that betray insider threats, and, according to an FBI affidavit, he would later brag that “we made very sure not to display even a single one.”

Get caught up quickly. Subscribe to the day’s top stories, via SMS.

But now, after all that caution, the foreign officials Jonathan Toebbe believed he was negotiating with were pushing him to do the one thing he’d been avoiding: come out into the open.

  • Washington Post, FBI still can’t find accused Md. spy couple’s payments, secret documents, Oct. 20, 2021.

washington post logoWashington Post, Combat ship’s destruction in suspected arson was ‘completely preventable,’ Navy finds, Dan Lamothe, Oct. 20, 2021. The suspected arson fire that destroyed a $2 billion Navy combat ship last year spread uncontrollably because the service failed to heed lessons from a similar catastrophe that gutted one of its submarines, according to the findings of a military investigation released Wednesday.

The USS Bonhomme Richard fire at a pier in San Diego allegedly began with arson, investigators said, but the ship’s sailors were ill-prepared to fight the blaze and lacked enough functioning equipment to do their jobs. It occurred as the Navy neared completion on a $249 million set of upgrades to the 844-foot ship. In a similar incident, a 2012 arson resulted in the demise of submarine USS Miami in Kittery, Maine.

“The loss of this ship was completely preventable,” Adm. Bill Lescher, the Navy’s No. 2 officer, said of the 2020 blaze on Wednesday. “And the Navy is executing a deliberative process that includes taking appropriate accountability actions with respect to personnel assigned to Bonhomme Richard and the shore commands designed to support the ship while moored at Naval Base San Diego.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal grand jury indicts Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on charges of lying to investigators about campaign contribution, Lachlan Markay, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). The congressman, who was elected in 2004, said in a video released Monday evening that he anticipated the indictment. His wife, Celeste, in a letter to supporters before the indictment was announced, labeled it a “false accusation.”

The federal grand jury charged him with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators looking into illegal contributions to his 2016 campaign, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

jeff fortenberryUnder House Republican rules, Fortenberry will have to step down as the top Republican on the appropriations subcommittee on agriculture while the charges are pending. Aides to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Fortenberry’s committee assignments.

Fortenberry, 60, right, served on the Lincoln City Council for four years before winning an open House seat in 2004 on a conservative record of opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He has easily won reelection in the Republican-leaning district. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The charges center on a $30,200 donation made by Gilbert Chagoury, a wealthy Nigerian business executive of Lebanese descent, in January 2016 “using other individuals as conduits,” according to the indictment.

“As a foreign national, Chagoury was prohibited from making donations and contributions directly or indirectly in support of any candidate for federal elected office in the United States,” the indictment states.

FBI logoAn individual who helped funnel the donation to Fortenberry’s campaign account through others began cooperating with law enforcement in September 2016. The individual told Fortenberry during a June 2018 phone call that the donation “probably did come from Gilbert Chagoury because he was so grateful for your support [for] the cause,” the indictment states.
\
Fortenberry did not file an amended FEC report. He went on to ask the individual to host another fundraiser for him, and later, in 2019, the congressman “knowingly and willfully made materially false statements and representations to the FBI and IRS” regarding the donation, according to the indictment.

In the video released Monday night, Fortenberry said he “didn’t know anything about” the illegal foreign donation. He described his conversations with FBI agents when they knocked on his door “about two and a half years ago.”

“I told them what I knew and what I understood,” Fortenberry said in the video. “They’ve accused me of lying to them and are charging me with this. We’re shocked. We’re stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help. And so now, we will have to fight.”

Most recently, former representatives Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) were indicted while in office and forced to resign. The two, who were early and avid supporters of former president Donald Trump, both won pardons from Trump in the closing weeks of his administration, in December 2020.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Organization, Already Under Indictment, Faces New Criminal Inquiry, William K. Rashbaum and Ben Protess, Oct. 20, 2021. The investigation, by the Westchester County district attorney’s office, increases the legal scrutiny of the former president and his family business.

republican elephant logoFormer President Donald J. Trump’s family business, which is already under indictment in Manhattan, is facing a criminal investigation by another prosecutor’s office that has begun to examine financial dealings at a golf course the company owns, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

In recent months, the district attorney’s office in suburban Westchester County, N.Y., has subpoenaed records from the course, Trump National Golf Club Westchester, and the town of Ossining, which sets property taxes on the course, a sprawling private club that is perched on a hill north of New York City and boasts a 101-foot waterfall.

The full scope of the investigation could not be determined, but the district attorney, Mimi E. Rocah, appears to be focused at least in part on whether Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misled local officials about the property’s value to reduce its taxes, one of the people said.

Ms. Rocah, a Democrat, has not accused anyone at the company of wrongdoing, and it is unclear whether the investigation is examining Mr. Trump’s conduct or if it would ultimately lead to any charges. Still, the Westchester inquiry intensifies the law enforcement scrutiny on Mr. Trump and his family business. Both have been the subject of a long-running criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which is examining a range of potential financial and tax improprieties.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Interviewed for 4.5 Hours in Protesters’ Lawsuit, Jonah E. Bromwich, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). The former president was deposed as part of a lawsuit accusing his security guards of roughing up protesters in 2015.

djt hands up mouth open CustomFormer President Donald J. Trump was deposed under oath for four and a half hours this week in connection with a lawsuit filed by a group of protesters who said his bodyguards attacked them in 2015.

The questioning took place in a conference room on the 25th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan on Monday, according to one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Benjamin N. Dictor.

Mr. Dictor said that the former president had been asked about his relationship with other defendants — including his longtime personal bodyguard Keith Schiller — as well as a witness in the case, Matthew Calamari. Mr. Calamari is an executive at the Trump Organization who prosecutors at the Manhattan district attorney’s office have been weighing whether to charge as part of their long-running investigation into Mr. Trump and his family business.

“We think that the fact that Donald J. Trump sat for deposition yesterday is a significant point, simply because this is the first time that the former president has been subject to judicial process since taking office,” Mr. Dictor said.

In a statement released on Monday, Mr. Trump called the suit “baseless,” and said that the plaintiffs “have no one to blame but themselves.” But he added that he had been “pleased to have had the opportunity to tell my side of this ridiculous story.”

Mr. Dictor, a labor lawyer, also represents the New York NewsGuild, a union representing the employees of various news publications including The New York Times.

Other topics that may have arisen in the deposition could also be of interest to investigators and to the general public, including any discussion of the former president’s net worth, which is relevant to the case because the plaintiffs have asked for punitive damages.

The protesters’ lawsuit has had a long life span. It was filed in 2015, shortly after the demonstration at Trump Tower, in which the five plaintiffs, disturbed by Mr. Trump’s campaign trail comments about Mexican people, showed up at Trump Tower holding signs that said “Make America Racist Again.”

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI searches D.C., NYC homes connected to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). FBI agents on Tuesday searched two homes connected to sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska — one in Washington and one in New York — as part of an unspecified criminal investigation into the activities of a man who has not set foot on U.S. soil in years, according to documents, interviews and people familiar with the investigation.

oleg deripaskaDeripaska, left, a politically connected tycoon whose name came up repeatedly in recent investigations involving Russia and the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump, is tied to the home on 30th Street NW through a company incorporated in Delaware, according to property records. Property records also link him to a home in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan that officials said was also searched Tuesday.

In Washington, yellow police tape stretched around the mansion near Embassy Row, and an FBI spokeswoman confirmed that agents were conducting law enforcement activity at that location. A person familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is pending, said the law enforcement activity is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Deripaska’s effort to free himself from U.S. sanctions imposed in 2018 failed in federal court earlier this year. He challenged his inclusion in a Treasury Department report on Russian oligarchs, saying the accusations were based on rumors and innuendo and that the sanctions had devastated him financially, according to his suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

ross wilburn

washington post logoWashington Post, Iowa Democratic Party chairman receives multiple threats, including one of lynching, after criticizing Trump, Mariana Alfaro, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Iowa authorities are investigating multiple threats — including one of lynching — that Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn, above, received soon after writing an op-ed critical of former president Donald Trump.

Wilburn, the state party’s first Black chairman, wrote the opinion piece published in the Des Moines Register ahead of Trump’s Oct. 9 rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. It ran online Oct. 8 and in print the following day and, in it, Wilburn accused Iowa Republicans of putting their loyalty to Trump ahead of Iowans’ needs.

“The entire Republican Party of Iowa is welcoming Trump with open arms proving once again that they have completely surrendered themselves to a man who not only openly attacked the foundations of our democracy, but also has shown disdain for our Constitution, and failed to help the American people when we needed it most,” Wilburn wrote.

Immediately after publishing the op-ed, Wilburn, who is also a state representative, received three threatening messages — two left in his phone messages from a restricted number, and one left in his legislature email’s inbox. Only the first voice mail included a violent threat of lynching, but all three included explicit language, he told reporters Tuesday morning.

“The n-word was used multiple times,” Wilburn said. “The voice mails and the email made reference to my writing about former president Trump and made specific references to my comments regarding Trump’s actions on January 6. This led me to believe that they had read my op-ed.”

Local authorities are investigating the threats, according to Wilburn and a law enforcement official who spoke to the Des Moines Register. Wilburn said he plans to press charges if those responsible for the threats are found.

 

Politics of Climate Change, Energy, Disasters 

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, What is COP26? Here are some key facts to know about the U.N. climate summit, Lisa Friedman, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Some 20,000 people are preparing to attend climate talks hosted by the United Nations starting at the end of the month. Here are some key facts to know before they go.

The goal is to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with levels before the Industrial Revolution. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the dangers of global warming — such as deadly heat waves, water shortages, crop failures and ecosystem collapse — grow immensely.

But China, Australia, Russia and India have yet to make new pledges to cut their pollution, and it’s not clear that they will before the summit. Meanwhile, only a few wealthy countries have allocated money to help poor and vulnerable nations cope with the impacts of climate disasters that they have done little to cause.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inaction on climate change imperils millions of lives, doctors say, Sarah Kaplan, Oct. 20, 2021. Top medical journal warns that rising temperatures will worsen heat and respiratory illness and spread infectious disease. Climate change is set to become the “defining narrative of human health,” a top medical journal warned Wednesday — triggering food shortages, deadly disasters and disease outbreaks that would dwarf the toll of the coronavirus.

But aggressive efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from human activities could avert millions of unnecessary deaths, according to the analysis from more than 100 doctors and health experts.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House doubles down on executive action as Democrats weigh trimming Hill climate plan, Dino Grandoni and Tony Romm, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is working to salvage its credibility on climate change by shoring up key provisions in a troubled tax-and-spending bill and demonstrating its ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions without the help of Congress.

What you need to know about the U.N. climate summit — and why it matters

The rush to write climate legislation as part of a massive budget bill comes ahead of critical United Nations climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, starting Oct. 31, where Biden and his team plan to push other nations to cut their own emissions. Failure to enact an ambitious set of policies could undermine Biden’s ability to broker a deal aimed at averting catastrophic warming.

ny times logoNew York Times, On a Pacific Island, Russia Tests Its Battle Plan on Climate Change, Anton Troianovski, Photographs by Sergey Ponomarev, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). President Vladimir Putin long dismissed the threat posed by global warming. But fires, disasters and foreign pressure have prompted him to change course. Mr. Putin said Russia would stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2060, a remarkable reversal two weeks before a pivotal U.N. climate summit.

Russian FlagRussia is scrambling to retain the wealth and power that come from selling fossil fuels to the world, even as the Kremlin increasingly acknowledges climate change to be a human-made crisis that the country needs to do more to address.

Vladimir PutinLast week, President Vladimir V. Putin, right, said Russia would stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2060. It was a remarkable reversal since Mr. Putin has long dismissed climate science and many in his country see international efforts to combat global warming as part of a Western plot to weaken Russia. His announcement comes two weeks before world leaders are set to converge in Glasgow for a pivotal U.N. climate summit.

But it’s unclear if Russia is sincere in its new pledge. Russian energy experts and government officials acknowledge the moves are largely driven by economics, with the European Union’s plans for tariffs on heavily polluting countries threatening exports from Russia, the fourth biggest among nations in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Some elements of Russia’s plans have prompted skepticism, including a heavy reliance on forests as a tool to absorb carbon dioxide.

 

Global Kidnapping, Coups

haiti flag

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. in contact with Haitian officials over effort to free kidnapped American missionaries, Miriam Berger, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). For months, the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation has been battling a surge in gang violence and kidnappings.

U.S. and senior Haitian officials are working to free 17 members of an Ohio-based Christian aid organization kidnapped Saturday in Haiti, the State Department said Sunday.

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. “We have been in regular contact with senior Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them and interagency partners.”

American missionaries and family members kidnapped in Haiti by ‘400 Mawozo’ gang, groups say

FBI personnel are in Haiti assisting with negotiations for the release, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Saturday’s kidnapping of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian national thrust Haiti once more into the center of an international crisis. But for months, the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation has been battling a surge in gang violence and kidnappings. A power struggle after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has further eroded any semblance of rule of law.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Rachel Levine, openly transgender health official, sworn in as four-star admiral, Dan Diamond, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.).  The former Pennsylvania health secretary is the sixth four-star admiral in the history of the health corps. A senior Biden health appointee who made history when she became the nation’s highest-ranking openly transgender official has also become its first openly transgender four-star officer.

rachel levine oRachel Levine, the U.S. assistant secretary for health, was sworn in Tuesday as an admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a 6,000-person force that responds to health crises on behalf of the federal government, including administering coronavirus vaccines and delivering care after hurricanes. Levine, right, is also the organization’s first-ever female four-star admiral.
U.S. coronavirus cases tracker and map

The move was hailed by advocacy groups like the gay rights organization GLAAD, and health care leaders who called it a breakthrough moment.

The group representing public health officials “is here to support you and your team defend the health of all Americans!” Michael Fraser, CEO of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, wrote on Twitter.

 Other Recent Headlines

 

World Conflict, Corruption

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia to host international talks with Taliban as Putin looks for gains in U.S. absence, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Susannah George, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Since the return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the calculus for Moscow has been tricky: how to reassert its regional influence after the U.S. military exit while also keeping some distance from internal Afghan struggles.

“Afghanistan itself is not of interest to Russia,” said Andrei Serenko, the head of the Moscow-based Center of Contemporary Afghan Studies. “Russia wants to use Afghanistan without getting involved in Afghanistan.”

Russia’s gambit will be tested Wednesday as it hosts Taliban envoys for multinational talks on the security and political situation in Afghanistan. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cautioned that “there should be no hurry” to officially recognize the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan.

But the meeting offers another stage for the Taliban to open international channels.

washington post logoWashington Post, Haiti gang that kidnapped 17 from U.S. missionary group demands $1 million per hostage, official says, Widlore Mérancourt and Adela Suliman, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). An armed gang in Haiti holding members of an American Christian missionary organization hostage is seeking a ransom of $1 million per person in exchange for their release, the Haitian Minister of Justice told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The 16 Americans and one Canadian national were kidnapped Saturday while in Haiti with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries organization. Five children, including an 8-month old, are among the hostages.

Liszt Quitel, the country’s justice minister, said it was not clear whether children were included in the ransom amount, and that the gang was probably expecting to negotiate. “Usually they request more, then people close to the kidnapped persons will negotiate,” said Quitel. “Usually even when they ask for a ransom they know they don’t get all that they ask.”

Other Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Race

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s pick to lead Customs and Border Protection says he will enforce immigration laws humanely, Nick Miroff, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.).  Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said during his Senate confirmation hearing that wall construction in some areas along the southern U.S. border "could make sense," but he resisted Republicans’ effort to label the current migration surge a "crisis."

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus also said he would support coronavirus testing and vaccination for migrants arrested by CBP, and that he is open to closing gaps in the border wall created by the Biden administration’s construction freeze, something Republican lawmakers have called for.

Biden has picked Magnus to take over the nation’s largest law enforcement agency at a time when border agents are facing crisis-level workloads and heated criticism from immigrant advocates, Democratic lawmakers and the president himself over the treatment of Haitian migrants last month in Del Rio, Tex.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dozens of NYPD officers should be disciplined for misconduct at George Floyd protests, watchdog says, Derek Hawkins, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). New York City’s police watchdog agency says more than five dozen officers should be disciplined — and some possibly terminated — for alleged misconduct during the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The recommendations issued Monday by the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board are the latest rebuke of the New York Police Department’s aggressive response to the demonstrations in May and June 2020, during which officers were seen using violence to disperse peaceful protesters.

Officers in Denver, Austin, Santa Rosa, Calif., and other places have also faced punishments for roughing up people who rallied peacefully after the killing of Floyd, who died after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. In Oakland, officials recently reprimanded or suspended about two dozen officers for violations that included improperly deploying tear gas against protesters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Army vet falsely claimed he was paralyzed. He got $1 million in payouts, feds say, Jaclyn Peiser, Oct. 20, 2021. In 2007, two years after William Rich was wounded by an explosion in Iraq, federal investigators say the U.S. Army veteran wheeled himself into an appointment with a Veterans Affairs physician for a checkup on his injuries. Rich, according to the doctor, was a paraplegic.

Based on that examination, Rich was granted permanent VA disability benefits.

Rich had recovered within six weeks of the blast, investigators found.  By the time federal agents built their case, the 41-year-old veteran had stolen more than $1 million in veteran disability and Social Security benefits, prosecutors allege. He now faces charges of wire fraud and theft of government property.

 

Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

washington post logoWashington Post, A man stole a Capitol Police officer’s baseball cap on Jan. 6, feds say. He wore it on his YouTube channel, Jaclyn Peiser, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Hours after Darrell Neely joined a mob of President Donald Trump supporters as they stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, he invited three friends to a video call to recap his day. During the chat, Neely showed off several items he claimed to have nabbed from the Capitol, three witnesses told FBI agents.
2021 Election: Complete coverage and analysis

He flashed four china plates, a baseball cap, and a jacket with a silver badge on the front and white letters on the back, court documents state.

“Neely boasted that he had attacked a [U.S. Capitol Police] officer and had taken the USCP jacket, badge, name tag, and baseball cap from the officer,” a person described as Witness 3 told investigators.

darrell neelyNeely, left, who runs an online conservative radio station called Global Enlightenment Radio Network, didn’t hide his souvenirs. In the days that followed, he wore the Capitol Police baseball cap during several broadcasts on his network’s YouTube channel, according to the FBI.

Now, Neely faces five federal charges of theft of government property, entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a restricted building and a Capitol building, and demonstrating at a Capitol building. He was arrested in D.C. on Monday.

As the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection approaches, federal prosecutors continue to charge alleged rioters. Neely is one of more than 600 people accused of breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The FBI first became aware of Neely’s activity at the Capitol on Jan. 9, when investigators received a tip from someone claiming Neely had entered the building. Agents soon identified him through video footage that showed him in the Capitol while appearing “to be holding a marijuana cigarette,” court documents state. He was also captured leaving the building while holding a cellphone.

Investigators matched the surveillance footage with an image of Neely in law enforcement databases. They also used subpoenaed cellphone data to prove he was in the vicinity of the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to investigators.

FBI agents spoke with three witnesses who worked with Neely at his radio network. The trio spoke with Neely twice on Jan. 6 in group calls, according to court documents. They also told investigators they spoke with Neely in a Facebook Messenger group chat on Jan. 6 and 7.

Witness 1 said during the first call, a portion of which was on video, Neely entered the Capitol and narrated what he was seeing, according to court documents. The second video call was around 5:30 p.m., Witness 1 said, as Neely left Capitol grounds.

Witness 2 recalled Neely telling them that he “acquired a jacket as a souvenir,” according to court documents. Witness 1 added that Neely claimed the jacket belonged to a Capitol Police officer.

 

Media, Sports News

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook to pay more than $14 million in Justice Dept. settlement over discrimination against American workers, David Nakamura, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Facebook has agreed to pay penalties totaling more than $14 million under a settlement with the Justice Department over findings that the social media behemoth’s hiring practices intentionally discriminated against Americans in favor of foreign workers, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

facebook logoThe company has also agreed in a settlement with the Labor Department to do more to recruit Americans for technology jobs and be subject to federal scrutiny for up to three years, the officials said.

The agreements came after the Justice Department charged Facebook in a suit in December with failing to properly advertise at least 2,600 jobs — and consider applications from U.S. citizens — before it offered the spots to foreigners whom the company was sponsoring for green cards granting permanent residency in 2018 and 2019.

Conservative author and radio host Dennis Prager speaks to a Turning Point USA conference in 2020 (Gage Skidmore photo).

Conservative author and radio host Dennis Prager speaks to a Turning Point USA conference in 2020 (Gage Skidmore photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative radio host said he constantly hugged strangers to catch covid: ‘What I hoped for the entire time,’ Julian Mark, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Early in the pandemic, right-wing radio show host Dennis Prager said he did not mind eating with utensils that had fallen on the ground. Now, after the virus has killed more than 700,000 Americans, Prager has revealed that he’s been actively trying to get a coronavirus infection all along.

On Monday, the 73-year-old host of “The Dennis Prager Show” told his audience that his plan worked. Prager said he tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

“I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting covid,” he said. “Which is — indeed, as bizarre as it sounded — what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics.”

Contradicting studies and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prager told his audience that natural immunity was more effective than getting the vaccine, saying a covid infection was “what I hoped for the entire time.” The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated even after contracting the virus — officials point to an August study that showed unvaccinated people who already had covid were twice as likely to be reinfected as those who had been fully vaccinated after contracting the virus.

Prager listed off a cocktail of therapeutics he said he had been taking over the course of the pandemic, many of which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Since contracting the virus, he said, he has also received monoclonal antibodies, a treatment with the FDA’s stamp of approval.

The host said he has been “steadily improving” since his diagnosis. Prager had not hosted his daily talk show since Oct. 12 but said while broadcasting from his home on Monday “at no point was I in danger of hospitalization.”

Prager is one of several conservative radio show hosts to spread misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, including some who later died of the virus.

In the past three months, at least five right-wing radio show hosts, all of whom discouraged their listeners from getting the vaccine, have died of covid-19. The most recent was Bob Enyart, 62, who in the weeks leading to his infection told listeners to boycott the shots while pushing the debunked claim that the coronavirus vaccines are made from aborted fetus cells.

After contracting the virus in July, conservative radio host and vaccine skeptic Phil Valentine said on Facebook he was “going to make it.” About six weeks later, he died at 61. Following Valentine’s death, his family said the radio host had changed his mind about vaccines and would have used his platform to encourage listeners to get vaccinated.

 

Oct. 19

Top Headlines

 

Politics of Climate Change, Energy, Disasters

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Investigations


Global Kidnapping, Coups

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance


World Conflict, Corruption

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Race

 

Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

 

Media, Sports News

 

Top Stories

fda logo

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA to allow ‘mix-and-match’ approach on coronavirus booster vaccines, Laurie McGinley, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The agency is rushing to make the announcement Wednesday as part of its authorization of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to say this week that people can get coronavirus vaccine booster shots that are different johnson johnson logofrom their initial doses, according to two federal officials familiar with the situation.

The agency is rushing to make the announcement Wednesday as part of its authorization of boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The FDA may also say that people should generally stick to the same vaccine if possible, according to the two federal officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has been shown to be less effective than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, so there is intense focus on how to boost protection for recipients of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson regimen: Should it be with the Johnson & Johnson shot or with the other vaccines, which use a different technology?

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Don’t feel sorry for me,’ Colin Powell said as the end approached, Bob Woodward, right, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As death approached, Colin L. bob woodward headshotPowell was still in fighting form.

“I’ve got multiple myeloma cancer, and I’ve got Parkinson’s disease. But otherwise I’m fine,” he said in a July interview.

And he rejected expressions of sorrow at his condition.

“Don’t feel sorry for me, for God’s sakes! I’m [84] years old,” said Powell, who died Monday. “I haven’t lost a day of life fighting these two diseases. I’m in good shape.”

colin powell 2005 wOver 32 years beginning in 1989, after the U.S. invasion of Panama, I conducted about 50 interviews with Powell, who was the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first Black secretary of state. The last interview was a phone call, three months ago on July 12, for 42 minutes and recorded with Powell’s agreement. Powell is shown at left in a 2005 file photo.

Of his visits to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he said, “I have to get all kinds of exams and I’m a former chairman, so they don’t want to lose me, so they make me come there all the time. I’ve taken lots of exams and I get there on my own. I drive up in my Corvette, get out of the Corvette and go into the hospital. I also go to a clinic to get the blood tests taken. I don’t advertise it but most of my friends know it.”

Colin L. Powell, former secretary of state and military leader, dies at 84

We quickly switched to defense issues and foreign policy. I asked him about President Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops completely from Afghanistan.

“I thought we had to get out of there eventually,” Powell said. “[We] can’t beat these guys. Well, let’s get it over with. Afghanistan, you’re never going to win. Afghans are going to win.

“They have hundreds willing to fight and die for this country of theirs. That’s why I don’t have any problem with us getting out of there. We can’t go from 100,000 [U.S. troops] down to a few hundred and think that’ll prevail.”

At one point during our phone call, Alma Powell, his wife, called to him.

“Hang on a minute,” he told me. “I’m on the phone, Alma!” he said, shouting back to her, and then in a whisper he added, “She never liked me talking to you, but here we are.”

  • Powell had been treated for a cancer that can lower vaccine effectiveness
  • Perspective: Remembering where Colin Powell came from
  • Obituary: Powell, former secretary of state and military leader, dies at 84

 

U.S. United National Ambassador Colin Powell, flanked by CIA Director George Tenant and White House National Security Advisor John Negroponte, shows what he calls a vial of anthrax at the United Nations in a key run-up to the Iraq War in 2003. The claims that Iraq leader had U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, flanked by CIA Director George Tenet at left and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, showed what he called a vial of anthrax at the United Nations to build international support for a U.S.-led invastion of Iraq War soon afterward in 2003. Their claims that Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction" such as anthrax, thereby justifying his overthrow, were never substantiated.

ny times logoNew York Times, Colin Powell, Who Shaped U.S. National Security, Dies at 84, Eric Schmitt, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). A secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he served in top national security roles and helped pave the way for the war in Iraq.

Colin L. Powell, who in four decades of public life served as the nation’s top soldier, diplomat and national security adviser, and whose speech at the United Nations in 2003 helped pave the way for the United States to go to war in Iraq, died on Monday. He was 84.

He died of complications from Covid-19, his family said in a statement. He was fully vaccinated and was treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, his family said.

Mr. Powell was a path breaker serving as the country’s first African American national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state.

Born in Harlem of Jamaican parents, Mr. Powell grew up in the South Bronx and graduated from City College of New York, joining the Army through R.O.T.C. From a young second lieutenant commissioned in the dawn of a newly desegregated Army, Mr. Powell served two decorated combat tours in Vietnam. He later was national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan at the end of the Cold War, helping negotiate arms treaties and an era of cooperation with the Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev.

As chairman of the Joint Chiefs, he was the architect of the invasion of Panama in 1989 and of the Persian Gulf war in 1991 that ousted Saddam Hussein from Kuwait but left him in power in Iraq. Along with then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Mr. Powell reshaped the American Cold War military that stood ready at the Iron Curtain for half a century. In doing so, he stamped the Powell Doctrine on military operations — armed with clear political objectives and public support, use decisive and overwhelming force to defeat enemy forces.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Hold the tears on Colin Powell, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct. 19, 2021. While no one deserves to die from either Covid-19 or complications wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbrought on by Covid and co-morbidities, the eulogies for General Colin Powell -- who recently died from Covid and which had been made worse by multiple myeloma and Parkinson's -- have been a bit over the top.

Powell had stated that as Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration his having lied to the United Nations Security Council in 2003 over Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction was a "blot" on his career. Actually, it was one of many.

wayne madesen report logoPowell called the speech a "blot" on his record, adding, "I’m the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and will always be a part of my record . . . It was painful. It’s painful now.”

Powell's Security Council speech was chock full of bogus intelligence gleaned from dubious sources -- two Iraqi con artists, Ahmad Chalabi and another known as "Curveball" by the CIA because he was known by them to provide false information; Vice President Dick Cheney; Mossad; former CIA director James Woolsey; British Prime Minister Tony Blair; and others. But is wasn't Powell's first big fib during his career.

In 1968, 31-year old Major Colin Luther Powell, the assistant chief of staff of operations for the Americal Division, was dispatched to the village of My Lai, Son Tinh district in South Vietnam. There had been an engagement between U.S. and were described by the U.S. military's press office in Saigon as enemy forces in Son Trinh. The official report was: "In an action today, Americal Division forces killed 128 enemy near Quang Ngai City. Helicopter gunships and artillery missions supported the ground elements throughout the day."

It was a lie. In fact, on March 16, 1968, a massacre of over 500 civilians in My Lai by U.S. troops had occurred. [right] The Pentagon was able to keep a news media lid on the atrocity until was broken by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh the following year on the wires of the Associated Press -- November 12, 1969. Army Lt. William Calley, Jr. would later be convicted by a court-martial for ordering the massacre, but he had been a convenient scapegoat for higher-ups, who were aware of other massacres of South Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Iowa Democratic Party chairman receives multiple threats, including one of lynching, after criticizing Trump, Mariana Alfaro, Oct. 19, 2021.Iowa authorities are investigating multiple threats — including one of lynching — that Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn received soon after writing an op-ed critical of former president Donald Trump.

Wilburn, the state party’s first Black chairman, wrote the opinion piece published in the Des Moines Register ahead of Trump’s Oct. 9 rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. It ran online Oct. 8 and in print the following day and, in it, Wilburn accused Iowa Republicans of putting their loyalty to Trump ahead of Iowans’ needs.

“The entire Republican Party of Iowa is welcoming Trump with open arms proving once again that they have completely surrendered themselves to a man who not only openly attacked the foundations of our democracy, but also has shown disdain for our Constitution, and failed to help the American people when we needed it most,” Wilburn wrote.

Immediately after publishing the op-ed, Wilburn, who is also a state representative, received three threatening messages — two left in his phone messages from a restricted number, and one left in his legislature email’s inbox. Only the first voice mail included a violent threat of lynching, but all three included explicit language, he told reporters Tuesday morning.

“The n-word was used multiple times,” Wilburn said. “The voice mails and the email made reference to my writing about former president Trump and made specific references to my comments regarding Trump’s actions on January 6. This led me to believe that they had read my op-ed.”

Local authorities are investigating the threats, according to Wilburn and a law enforcement official who spoke to the Des Moines Register. Wilburn said he plans to press charges if those responsible for the threats are found.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden sets new, much lower fiscal target for spending bill, Marianna Sotomayor, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein, Oct. 19, 2021. President Biden told Democrats during a private meeting Tuesday that he believed they could secure a deal on a new tax-and-spending proposal between $1.75 trillion and $1.9 trillion, far less than some in the party initially sought, even as some lawmakers later maintained it still would allow them to accomplish broad swaths of their vast economic agenda.

The early outline — shared at least with liberal lawmakers in the House — appeared to offer one potential avenue for the White House to broker a truce among Democrats’ warring left-leaning and moderate factions. Four people familiar with Biden’s comments confirmed the early details, requesting anonymity to describe the negotiations.

The potential new price range marks a significant reduction from the $3.5 trillion that some Democrats initially pursued under a budget agreement chiefly brokered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earlier this year. But it is closer to the number that centrists, especially Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), had outlined in recent months as they sought steep cuts to Democrats’ spending plans. Manchin and Sanders met Tuesday for the second time in two days after the two sparred with each other over the weekend.

Biden faces shrinking timetable to salvage his agenda.

By the White House’s calculations, a package up to $1.9 trillion would allow them to accomplish some of their most significant priorities. That includes at least some expansion of Medicare to offer new benefits to seniors, the introduction of universal prekindergarten, and billions of dollars to address climate change, the sources said, cautioning that many of the details must still be worked out.

But slimming down the package also is sure to force Democrats to make some sacrifices. The path put forward by the White House could extend new, expanded child tax credit payments recently adopted by Congress, but perhaps for only one additional year, three of the sources said. It would offer new money to make housing more affordable, yet far less than Democrats once envisioned. And it would provide paid leave, except only four weeks of benefits, rather than the 12 weeks some had once proposed, according to one of the people in the room.

Liberal-leaning Democrats, meanwhile, offered some early praise for what they heard Tuesday. They acknowledged some of the cuts while stressing that many of their policy priorities in health care, education and social spending appear to remain intact.

“All our priorities are there in some way, shape or form,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Jan. 6 committee votes to hold Bannon in contempt, Jacqueline Alemany, Tom Hamburger and Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 19, 2021. Lawmakers on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol unanimously voted in support of holding Stephen K. Bannon in contempt on Tuesday. The seven Democrats and two Republicans tasked with investigating the insurrection all supported the resolution recommending that the House find the former adviser to Donald Trump in criminal contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee.

The vote could be taken up by the full House as early as this week. The matter would then be referred to the Justice Department. Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor criminal offense that can result in up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

“We believe Mr. Bannon has information relevant to our probe, and we’ll use the tools at our disposal to get that information,” committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said in opening remarks before the vote Tuesday. “I expect that the House will quickly adopt this referral to the Justice Department and that the U.S. attorney will do his duty and prosecute Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal grand jury indicts Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on charges of lying to investigators about campaign contribution, Lachlan Markay, Oct. 19, 2021. The congressman, who was elected in 2004, said in a video released Monday evening that he anticipated the indictment. His wife, Celeste, in a letter to supporters before the indictment was announced, labeled it a “false accusation.”

The federal grand jury charged him with one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators looking into illegal contributions to his 2016 campaign, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

jeff fortenberryUnder House Republican rules, Fortenberry will have to step down as the top Republican on the appropriations subcommittee on agriculture while the charges are pending. Aides to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Fortenberry’s committee assignments.

Fortenberry, 60, right, served on the Lincoln City Council for four years before winning an open House seat in 2004 on a conservative record of opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He has easily won reelection in the Republican-leaning district. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The charges center on a $30,200 donation made by Gilbert Chagoury, a wealthy Nigerian business executive of Lebanese descent, in January 2016 “using other individuals as conduits,” according to the indictment.

“As a foreign national, Chagoury was prohibited from making donations and contributions directly or indirectly in support of any candidate for federal elected office in the United States,” the indictment states.

An individual who helped funnel the donation to Fortenberry’s campaign account through others began cooperating with law enforcement in September 2016. The individual told Fortenberry during a June 2018 phone call that the donation “probably did come from Gilbert Chagoury because he was so grateful for your support [for] the cause,” the indictment states.

Fortenberry did not file an amended FEC report. He went on to ask the individual to host another fundraiser for him, and later, in 2019, the congressman “knowingly and willfully made materially false statements and representations to the FBI and IRS” regarding the donation, according to the indictment.

In the video released Monday night, Fortenberry said he “didn’t know anything about” the illegal foreign donation. He described his conversations with FBI agents when they knocked on his door “about two and a half years ago.”

“I told them what I knew and what I understood,” Fortenberry said in the video. “They’ve accused me of lying to them and are charging me with this. We’re shocked. We’re stunned. I feel so personally betrayed. We thought we were trying to help. And so now, we will have to fight.”

Most recently, former representatives Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) were indicted while in office and forced to resign. The two, who were early and avid supporters of former president Donald Trump, both won pardons from Trump in the closing weeks of his administration, in December 2020.

 

Politics of Climate Change, Energy, Disasters 

climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, What is COP26? Here are some key facts to know about the U.N. climate summit, Lisa Friedman, Oct. 19, 2021. Some 20,000 people are preparing to attend climate talks hosted by the United Nations starting at the end of the month. Here are some key facts to know before they go.

The goal is to prevent the average global temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with levels before the Industrial Revolution. That’s the threshold beyond which scientists say the dangers of global warming — such as deadly heat waves, water shortages, crop failures and ecosystem collapse — grow immensely.

But China, Australia, Russia and India have yet to make new pledges to cut their pollution, and it’s not clear that they will before the summit. Meanwhile, only a few wealthy countries have allocated money to help poor and vulnerable nations cope with the impacts of climate disasters that they have done little to cause.

ny times logoNew York Times, On a Pacific Island, Russia Tests Its Battle Plan on Climate Change, Anton Troianovski, Photographs by Sergey Ponomarev, Oct. 19, 2021. President Vladimir Putin long dismissed the threat posed by global warming. But fires, disasters and foreign pressure have prompted him to change course. Mr. Putin said Russia would stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2060, a remarkable reversal two weeks before a pivotal U.N. climate summit.

Russian FlagRussia is scrambling to retain the wealth and power that come from selling fossil fuels to the world, even as the Kremlin increasingly acknowledges climate change to be a human-made crisis that the country needs to do more to address.

Vladimir PutinLast week, President Vladimir V. Putin, right, said Russia would stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2060. It was a remarkable reversal since Mr. Putin has long dismissed climate science and many in his country see international efforts to combat global warming as part of a Western plot to weaken Russia. His announcement comes two weeks before world leaders are set to converge in Glasgow for a pivotal U.N. climate summit.

But it’s unclear if Russia is sincere in its new pledge. Russian energy experts and government officials acknowledge the moves are largely driven by economics, with the European Union’s plans for tariffs on heavily polluting countries threatening exports from Russia, the fourth biggest among nations in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Some elements of Russia’s plans have prompted skepticism, including a heavy reliance on forests as a tool to absorb carbon dioxide.

washington post logorussian flag wavingWashington Post, Russia’s planet-warming methane leaks, revealed by a new generation of satellites, come at the planet’s peril, Steven Mufson, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis, John Muyskens and Naema Ahmed, Oct. 19, 2021 (with graphics). A new breed of satellites devoted to locating and measuring greenhouse gases, including methane, are orbiting Earth — meaning trouble for Russia, the world's second-biggest natural gas producer.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Manchin Blocks Climate Plan, His State Can’t Hold Back Floods, Christopher Flavelle, Photographs by Erin Schaff, Oct. 18, 2021 (print ed.). Senator Joe Manchin, right, is thwarting Democrats’ push to reduce warming. But West Virginia is more exposed to flood damage than anywhere else in the U.S.; Dick ShelbyMost residents in mountainous parts of the state have little room to relocate from the waterways that increasingly threaten their safety.

In Senator Joe Manchin’s hometown, a flood-prone hamlet of about 200 homes that hugs a curve on a shallow creek, the rain is getting worse.

Those storms swell the river, called Buffalo Creek, inundating homes along its banks. They burst the streams that spill down the hills on either side of this former coal-mining town, pushing water into basements. They saturate the ground, seeping into Farmington’s aging pipes and overwhelming its sewage treatment system.

Climate change is warming the air, allowing it to hold more moisture, which causes more frequent and intense rainfall. And no state in the contiguous United States is more exposed to flood damage than West Virginia, according to data released last week.

From the porch of his riverfront house, Jim Hall, who is married to Mr. Manchin’s cousin, recounted how rescue workers got him and his wife out of their house with a rope during a flood in 2017. He described helping his neighbors, Mr. Manchin’s sister and brother-in-law, clear out their basement when a storm would come. He calls local officials when he smells raw sewage in the river.

“These last few years here in West Virginia, we’ve had unbelievable amounts of rain,” Mr. Hall said. “We’ve seriously considered not staying.”

Mr. Manchin, a Democrat whose vote is crucial to passing his party’s climate legislation, is opposed to its most important provision that would compel utilities to stop burning oil, coal and gas and instead use solar, wind and nuclear energy, which do not emit the carbon dioxide that is heating the planet. Last week, the senator made his opposition clear to the Biden administration, which is now scrambling to come up with alternatives he would accept.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazilian Leader’s Pandemic Handling Draws Explosive Allegation: Homicide, Jack Nicas, Oct. 19, 2021. A Brazilian congressional panel is set to recommend mass homicide charges against President Jair Bolsonaro, right, asserting that he intentionally let the coronavirus rip through the country and kill jair bolsonaro brazilhundreds of thousands in a failed bid to achieve herd immunity and revive Latin America’s largest economy.

A report from the congressional panel’s investigation, excerpts from which were viewed by The New York Times ahead of its scheduled release this week, also recommends criminal charges against 69 other people, including three of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons and numerous current and former government officials.

brazil flag wavingIt is at best uncertain whether the report from the 11-member panel — seven of them opponents of Mr. Bolsonaro — will lead to any actual criminal charges, given the political realities of the country.

But in deeply polarized Brazil, it reflects the depths of anger against a leader who refused to take the pandemic seriously. The report may prove a major escalation in the challenges confronting Mr. Bolsonaro, who took office in 2019, faces re-election next year and is suffering falling popularity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Washington State Fires Football Coach for Refusing to Get Vaccinated, Billy Witz, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Nick Rolovich and four of his assistants were fired on Monday for failing to comply with the state’s vaccination mandate.

washington state universityWashington State University fired its football coach, Nick Rolovich, and four of his assistants for failing to comply with the state’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate, the school announced Monday.

nick rolovich washington stateRolovich, left, the state’s highest-paid employee, applied for a religious exemption this month from the mandate, among the strictest in the country. The status of the exemption request was unclear when the firings occurred.

“This is a disheartening day for our football program,” Athletic Director Pat Chun said in a statement. “Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team.”

The school announced that the team’s defensive coordinator, Jake Dickert, will become acting head coach.

jay inslee twitterMonday was the deadline Gov. Jay Inslee, right, set for state workers to be fully vaccinated or receive a religious or medical exemption allowing them to keep their jobs. A state agency report from earlier this month showed that about 90 percent of state employees who would be impacted by the mandate had already been vaccinated.

Earlier in the day, a Superior Court judge rejected a request by hundreds of Washington State Patrol troopers, corrections officers, ferry workers and other public employees for a temporary injunction to block Inslee’s mandate, though the lawsuit they have filed can still go forward.

Rolovich, who was in the second year of a five-year, $15.6 million contract, had become the public face of the showdown with Inslee, who repeatedly said there would be no exceptions. Rolovich was counseled by June Jones, whom he played quarterback for and coached under at Hawaii, to get vaccinated. And Jack Thompson, a Washington State star quarterback from the late 1970s, had several heart-to-heart talks with him.

Rolovich’s resistance frustrated campus leaders, including President Kirk Schulz, who has strongly encouraged students to get vaccinated. Fans at the last two home games have been required to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test in order to be admitted, a policy the school developed in conjunction with the University of Washington and the Seattle Seahawks.

Schulz said in a statement that nearly 90 percent of Washington State employees and 97 percent of its students were vaccinated. Students who are unvaccinated by next month will not be allowed to register for classes in the spring semester.

As Monday approached, the drama around the deadline intensified — fueled in part by the Cougars’ three-game winning streak, which has kept them in contention for the Pac-12 Conference North Division title. Players had firmly backed Rolovich, particularly quarterback Jayden de Laura, who gave an impassioned defense of his coach.

The players were informed Monday night when they were summoned to a mandatory meeting by Chun. With five coaches gone, it was not immediately clear if they would be replaced.

Rolovich said in July that he would not get vaccinated, calling it a personal decision and declining repeatedly over the past three months to elaborate on his decision. He maintained his stance  even after Inslee, a Democrat serving his third term as governor, issued his decree in mid-August, giving state workers nearly two months to comply. After the Cougars beat Oregon State on Oct. 9, Rolovich confirmed a USA Today report that he had applied for a religious exemption.

vax graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, A trooper defying his state’s vaccine mandate uses his final dispatch to tell off the governor, Brittany Shammas, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). At the end of his final shift as a trooper with the Washington State Patrol, Robert LaMay reached for his radio.

In a parting message broadcast across the agency’s dispatch system, he announced that he was “being asked to leave because I am dirty,” referring to his defiance of the state’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for government employees. The 22-year veteran thanked his colleagues — and offered some choice words for robert lemaythe governor.

“This is the last time you’ll hear me in a state patrol car,” said LaMay, 50, right, who recorded his remarks. “And Jay Inslee can kiss my a--.”

With that, he dropped the radio. Staring into the camera, he said, “That’s it.”

LaMay’s Friday sign-off, which was shared tens of thousands of times on social media, came as several law enforcement officers and other first responders across the United States resisted coronavirus vaccination and fought mandates. Those holdouts remain reluctant to get the shots even as covid-19 has emerged as the No. 1 cause of line-of-duty deaths in the first half of 2021, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which reported 71 deaths between January and June.

A Rikers Island inmate with coronavirus was granted emergency release. He died that afternoon.

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, appealed to officers directly to get the immunization Monday, saying the resistance “doesn’t make any sense” given that “more police officers die of covid than they do in other causes of death.”

In Washington state, most government employees — about 89 percent — have complied with the mandate, according to data provided to The Washington Post by the governor’s office. When including those who received accommodations, the compliance is about 92 percent. Spokesman Mike Faulk said officials expect the final figures, which will include employees who got the shots in the two weeks that preceded Monday’s deadline, to be higher than that.

But there have been pockets of resistance, with state troopers joining an ultimately unsuccessful last-ditch lawsuit seeking to put the mandate on hold. For those choosing to leave their jobs rather than get the shots, Faulk said, “We thank them for their service and wish them well, but this state is moving forward to get people vaccinated and to end this crisis.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid cases are rising in the northernmost U.S. states as cold weather sets in. Here’s the latest on the pandemic, Staff Reports, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Australia eases restrictions in parts of the country, including Sydney, after the state of New South Wales passes its target of fully vaccinating 80 percent of the eligible population.

ny times logoNew York Times, Threats, Resignations and 100 New Laws: Why Public Health Is in Crisis, Mike Baker and Danielle Ivory, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). An examination of hundreds of health departments around the country shows that the nation may be ill prepared for another pandemic.

As she leaves work, Dr. Allison Berry keeps a vigilant eye on her rearview mirror, watching the vehicles around her, weighing if she needs to take a more circuitous route home. She must make sure nobody finds out where she lives.

When the pandemic first hit the northern edge of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Dr. Berry was a popular family physician and local health officer, trained in biostatistics and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University. She processed Covid-19 test kits in her garage and delivered supplies to people in quarantine, leading a mobilization that kept her counties with some of the fewest deaths in the nation.

But this summer, as a Delta variant wave pushed case numbers to alarming levels, Dr. Berry announced a mask mandate. In September, she ordered vaccination requirements for indoor dining. By then, to many in the community, the enemy was not the virus. It was her.

Dr. Berry should be attacked “on sight,” one resident wrote online. Someone else suggested bringing back public hangings. “Dr. Berry, we are coming for you,” a man warned at a public meeting. An angry crowd swarmed into the courthouse during a briefing on the Covid-19 response one day, looking for her, and protesters also showed up at her house, until they learned that Dr. Berry was no longer living there.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Rents Rise, So Do Pressures on People at Risk of Eviction, Sophie Kasakove, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The end of the federal ban on evictions came amid soaring rents that make it harder for people to find new places to live. Every time Jeffery Jones hears a noise outside his house, his heart skips a beat. Since his landlord directed the county to evict him, his fiancée and their 2-year-old son from their modest gray house in the Atlanta suburb of Loganville, Ga., it is just a matter of time before the noise he hears is the knock of a sheriff’s deputy.

After losing their jobs early in the coronavirus pandemic, the couple quickly fell behind on the $1,400 monthly rent. They applied for federal rental assistance, but county officials say they never received necessary materials from the landlord and were unable to process the application, a claim disputed by the property manager.

The couple has spent months searching for another place, which they could pay for with rental assistance money, but with even the furthest reaches of the Atlanta suburbs seeing spikes in rents, they seem out of options.

“There is nowhere to go,” said Mr. Jones, adding that houses in his area are renting for hundreds of dollars more than before the pandemic began. An open house last month for a rare $900-a-month home drew a line of cars up and down the block. Mr. Jones turned around and drove home: With an eviction on his record and his credit sunk by the owed rent, he knew he could not compete.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci urges vaccines for police amid union protests, Bryan Pietsch and Annabelle Timsit, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Anthony S. Fauci, below right, the anthony fauci CustomUnited States’ top infectious-disease expert, is urging police officers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus — saying the resistance “doesn’t make any sense” as “more police officers die of covid than they do in other causes of death.”

Police departments are facing an infection crisis, as departments around the country seeking to mandate vaccines clash with police unions and officers who oppose the requirements.

Law enforcement officers are considered to be at higher risk because they are exposed to more people in the line of duty. Fauci urged Americans in critical jobs to consider “the implications of not getting vaccinated.” He added: “I’m not comfortable with telling people what they should do under normal circumstances, but we are not in normal circumstances right now.”

Hundreds of police officers have died of covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. The disease caused by the coronavirus was the leading cause of death for officers in 2020 and 2021; five times as many died of covid-19 than of gunfire in the same period, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks the on-duty deaths of U.S. police officers.

Meanwhile, some police unions and officers are filing lawsuits to block mandates. In Chicago, a deadline for police officers to report their vaccination status passed Friday as the head of the police union urged officers not to comply — and the city’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot (D), vowed to put noncompliant officers on unpaid leave starting this week. The department is preparing for possible shortages by restricting time off for the rest of the police force, local television station WLS reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Powell had been treated for a cancer that can lower vaccine effectiveness, Joel Achenbach and Lenny Bernstein, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Powell, who was 84, suffered from multiple myeloma as well as Parkinson’s disease and was due for a coronavirus vaccine booster shot, his longtime spokeswoman said.

Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who died Monday of what his family described as complications from covid-19, had been treated for the blood cancer known as multiple myeloma and was due to get a coronavirus booster shot when he suddenly became ill and was hospitalized, his longtime assistant, Peggy Cifrino, said Monday.

Powell, who was 84, received his second Pfizer shot in February but was immunocompromised as a result of his cancer and suffered from Parkinson’s disease, Cifrino said in an interview. Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that severely impairs the immune system, lowering the effectiveness of vaccines.

“He was actually scheduled to receive his booster when he fell ill last week,” Cifrino said. “He couldn’t go to his appointment. … He thought he was just not feeling quite right, and he went to the hospital.”

Coronavirus vaccines may not work in some people. It’s because of their underlying conditions.

Cifrino said Powell had been successfully treated for cancer for two or three years.

“Obviously it was a factor with his compromised immune system when he got the covid,” Cifrino said.

The family and Cifrino, who has worked for Powell for 28 years, did not release details about precisely which treatments doctors employed on Powell in recent days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

As a blood cancer patient, even one successfully treated, Powell would have become eligible for another dose of mRNA vaccine under an August recommendation from federal regulators that covered people who are immunocompromised and may not have mounted a normal immune response from the initial shots. Officials have said the extra shots should be seen as a way for these patients to complete the initial immunization.

Citing the waning of antibodies over time, federal officials have also authorized a third shot six months after the initial course of a Pfizer vaccine for people over 65 or at higher risk of complications because of underlying health conditions or occupational exposure. A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel has recommended the same for recipients of the Moderna vaccine, though the agency must authorize the extra shot. The panel also recommended a second shot for all recipients of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which the agency must also authorize.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Talk-show host Dan Bongino threatens to quit over Cumulus vax mandate, Rodney Ho, Oct 19, 2021. He is vaccinated but said he wants those who want to remain unvaccinated to have that choice.

dan bonginoDan Bongino, right, a rising star in the conservative talk show world on 300 stations nationwide, told his listeners Monday that he is threatening to bolt if his employer, Atlanta-based Cumulus Media, doesn’t change its coronavirus vaccine mandate.

Chief executive Mary Berner gave employees until Sept. 27 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the office and wrote in a memo that “it would neither be fair nor do we have the bandwidth to make exceptions based on individual preferences,” according to industry publication Inside Radio. Some employees who can work remotely full-time are exempted.

But Cumulus Media corporate said no to most staff who requested exemptions, including those who applied based on religious beliefs and for medical conditions, Inside Radio said.

cumulus media logoBongino is vaccinated because he has Hodgkin’s lymphoma but is protesting the mandate on behalf of other employees who don’t want to get vaccinated.

“I’m not really happy with the company I work with right here,” Bongino said on the radio Monday. “I believe these vaccine mandates are unethical. I believe they’re immoral. I believe they don’t take into account the science of natural immunity due to a prior infection. I believe they’re broad-based and don’t take into account an individual circumstances of why they may or may not want to take a vaccine. And they’re antithetical to everything I believe in.”

“So, I’ll say again, I’m not going to let this go,” Bongino continued. “Cumulus is going to have to make a decision with me — if they want to continue this partnership or they don’t. But I’m talking to you on their airwaves. They don’t have to let that happen. And I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t. Because it’s really unfortunate that people with a lower profile than me, who don’t have 300-plus stations, have been summarily either shown the door or been put in really untenable circumstances because they simply want to make a medical decision by themselves.”

Bongino is heard locally in Atlanta on 920/The Answer, which is owned by Salem. Cumulus doesn’t have a news/talk station in Atlanta since it sold its talk radio station 106.7 in 2019 to a Christian broadcaster. His radio show also airs on the streaming service Fox Nation and he hosts a weekend show on Fox News.

Westwood One also distributes well-known conservative talk-show hosts such as Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro, and Chris Plante. None of the network’s major hosts have left Cumulus though a few talk-show hosts in specific markets have departed or been let go for not getting vaccinated.

Cumulus, which operates Atlanta-based stations such as New Country 101.5, Rock 100.5, O.G. 97.9, 99X and Q99.7, owns 413 stations nationwide in 86 markets making it the second largest radio company behind only iHeartMedia.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP Rep. Andy Harris, a doctor, says he’s prescribed ivermectin as a covid-19 treatment, Ovetta Wiggins and Meagan Flynn, Oct. 19, 2021. Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a practicing anesthesiologist, said he has prescribed ivermectin, a medication typically used to treat parasites in livestock and humans, as a covid-19 treatment, and he lashed out at pharmacies for not making the drug readily available, according to a recent radio interview.

andy harrisHarris, right, made the comments during a call-in radio program that he and his wife, Nicole, co-hosted last month on WCBM, an AM radio station in the Baltimore area.

“I wrote a prescription for ivermectin, I guess it’s now three weeks ago, four weeks ago, and yeah, couldn’t find a pharmacy to fill it,” he said on the “Casey & Company” show Sept. 17. “It’s gotten bad. . . . The pharmacists are just refusing to fill it.”

Harris made the comments in response to a call from “Ronnie,” a 63-year-old man who said he and his 56-year-old wife had opted not to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

washington post logoWashington Post, Miami school says vaccinated students must stay home for 30 days to protect others, citing discredited info, Jaclyn Peiser, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). In April, a Miami private school made national headlines for barring teachers who got a coronavirus vaccine from interacting with students. Last week, the school made another startling declaration, but this time to the parents: If you vaccinate your child, they’ll have to stay home for 30 days after each shot.

cdc logo CustomThe email from Centner Academy leadership, first reported by WSVN, repeated misleading and false claims that vaccinated people could pass on so-called harmful effects of the shot and have a “potential impact” on unvaccinated students and staff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has debunked claims that the coronavirus vaccine can “shed or release any of their components” through the air or skin contact. The coronavirus vaccines do not contain a live virus, so their components can’t be transmitted to others.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 19, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying 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: 242,019,783, Deaths: 4,923,691
U.S. Cases:     45,908,212, Deaths:    746,509
India Cases:     34,094,373, Deaths:    452,485
Brazil Cases:    21,651,910, Deaths:    603,521

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 219.2 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct.19, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 189.5 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Investigations

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigation and Commentary: Is the Havana Syndrome a result of classified U.S. technology falling into the hands of right-wing Cubans in wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMiami? Wayne Madsen, left (former Navy intelligence officer, now completing his 21st book, which will document a near-century of fascist growth in America that was temporarily blocked by the Allied victory in WW II over the fascist powers), Oct. 18-19, 2021.

The first reports of U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana being stricken with ear ringing, dizziness, and severe fatigue, dubbed the "Havana Syndrome," resulted in a series of botched investigations of the source of the illness by the Trump administration.

wayne madesen report logoAlthough there have been a number of theories about the source of what some experts now believe may have been a psychotronic weapon emitting pulsed radio frequency/microwave bursts directed at the U.S. and Canadian embassies and diplomatic housing areas in Havana. These bursts resulted in the targets suffering from the Frey effect, which manifests itself with ringing, buzzing, grinding, or clicking auditory sensations.

This is named for Allan H. Frey, the former General Electric Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University scientist who originally discovered the effect that now carries his name. He was interviewed in 2018 by The New York Times at his home in suburban Washington, DC. Frey said federal investigators interviewed him about the Havana Syndrome and he agreed with the prevailing view at the time within the Trump administration about Russian and Cuban government involvement. He told the paper that "Cubans aligned with Russia, the nation’s longtime ally, might have launched microwave strikes in attempts to undermine developing ties between Cuba and the United States."

cuba flag saving CustomHowever, the Cuban government would have had no interest in severing relations with the U.S. that had been restored by President Obama after a 60-year freeze in diplomatic relations. And why would Russia have sought a confrontation with their first intelligence asset [Donald Trump] sitting at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office?

The party that would have had a motive and means to fracture U.S.-Cuban relations was the exile community in Miami that has become a virtual "nation within a nation" and which has a documented history of carrying out terrorist attacks against innocent people, including Americans.

But, what about the expats' means to carry out a psychotronic attack in Havana?

In 2008, the Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada, a longtime CIA contractor, began development of MEDUSA, or "Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio," a microwave weapon designed to transmit short microwave pulses. These pulses cause tissue to rapidly heat up and result in a shockwave inside a target's skull that is detected by the ears. More than a single pulse produces sounds in the ears. These effects, which emanate from the brain and not through the ears, which can even be heard by deaf people, describe most of the symptoms suffered by the U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana, including extreme discomfort, and, in some cases, incapacitation.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, had originally received a patent for a "Psychological Warfare" microwave weapon in 2002, with an improved modification patent being awarded the following year in 2003. Initial research on the weapon involved expat scientists from Russia and Ukraine, which raises some red flags in itself when considering the close links between Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and other Trump administration officials and Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.

Had the Cuban exile community been able to gain possession of such technology why would they have used it on U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana? The right-wing activists, with their history of terrorist attacks, would have been able to kill two birds with one stone. First, the far-right extremists in the Trump administration, who, in early 2017, included Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, and others would have immediately pushed for a freeze in relations with Cuba by blaming it for the attacks. And that is exactly what occurred.

canadian flagAs far as Canada was concerned, the exiles may have seen an opportunity to drive a wedge in Ottawa's relations with Havana, especially when considering that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's parents had been close friends of Fidel Castro.

The fact that the Trump administration dragged its feet on initially investigating the true cause of the injuries sustained by American diplomats in Havana attests to the fact that it never wanted the actual perpetrators caught, since that might lead right back to the Oval Office. The FBI failed to conduct an adequate investigation of the attacks and the State Department, Pentagon, and CIA appeared to have thrown their hands up as far as finding a cause.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Axel Springer removes a top editor after a Times report on workplace behavior, Ben Smith, right, and Melissa Eddy, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The ben smith twitterGerman media giant Axel Springer said on Monday that Julian Reichelt, the editor of Bild, its powerful tabloid, had been removed from his duties after The New York Times reported on allegations that he had behaved inappropriately with women at the publication.

The Times reported on Sunday on details of Mr. Reichelt’s relationship with a trainee, who testified during an investigation sponsored by the company that he had summoned her to a hotel near the office for sex and asked her to keep a payment secret.

bild logoMr. Reichelt had “not clearly separated private and professional matters, even after the compliance proceedings were concluded in spring 2021,” and had misled the company’s executive board on the subject, Axel Springer said in a statement. Mr. Reichelt has denied abusing his authority.

The company’s chairman and chief executive, Mathias Döpfner, praised Mr. Reichelt for his leadership but said retaining him had become impossible. He said his replacement, Johannes Boie, would combine “journalistic excellence with modern leadership.”

Mr. Reichelt, shown at right in a 2018 photo, was also removed from his duties at Bild TV, a television network introduced in August, said julian reichelt 2018Deirdre Latour, a spokeswoman for Axel Springer.

Axel Springer — whose leading publications pride themselves on their ability to dig up exclusive news before others do — also said in its statement that it would take legal action against third parties who it claimed tried to illegally influence the company’s compliance investigation, “apparently with the aim of removing Julian Reichelt from office and damaging Bild and Axel Springer.”

Despite the apparent threat, Ms. Latour said that “they will not go after whistle-blowers or anybody who brings forward complaints.”

Pressure built in Germany after the Ippen media group, a competitor of Bild, decided on Friday to pull its own in-depth investigation into Mr. Reichelt. That revelation stirred outrage among reporters in Berlin, leading one to ask Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman at a news conference on Monday whether that decision had raised concerns in the German government that freedom of the press could be in danger. Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, declined to comment.

Ippen said in a statement on Monday that it had decided not to publish its investigation to avoid the appearance that it wanted to harm a rival publisher. Bild is the flagship publication of Axel Springer, a titan of German media since after World War II. The company is now focusing much of its energy on the United States and digital publishing. In 2015, the company bought Business Insider (now called Insider) for $442 million. This summer, it announced that it had purchased Politico for $1 billion.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI searches D.C., NYC homes connected to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman, Oct. 19, 2021. FBI agents on Tuesday searched two homes connected to sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska — one in Washington and one in New York — as part of an unspecified criminal investigation into the activities of a man who has not set foot on U.S. soil in years, according to documents, interviews and people familiar with the investigation.

oleg deripaskaDeripaska, left, a politically connected tycoon whose name came up repeatedly in recent investigations involving Russia and the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump, is tied to the home on 30th Street NW through a company incorporated in Delaware, according to property records. Property records also link him to a home in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan that officials said was also searched Tuesday.

In Washington, yellow police tape stretched around the mansion near Embassy Row, and an FBI spokeswoman confirmed that agents were conducting law enforcement activity at that location. A person familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is pending, said the law enforcement activity is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Deripaska’s effort to free himself from U.S. sanctions imposed in 2018 failed in federal court earlier this year. He challenged his inclusion in a Treasury Department report on Russian oligarchs, saying the accusations were based on rumors and innuendo and that the sanctions had devastated him financially, according to his suit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.

 

Global Kidnapping, Coups

haiti flag

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. in contact with Haitian officials over effort to free kidnapped American missionaries, Miriam Berger, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). For months, the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation has been battling a surge in gang violence and kidnappings.

U.S. and senior Haitian officials are working to free 17 members of an Ohio-based Christian aid organization kidnapped Saturday in Haiti, the State Department said Sunday.

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. “We have been in regular contact with senior Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them and interagency partners.”

American missionaries and family members kidnapped in Haiti by ‘400 Mawozo’ gang, groups say

FBI personnel are in Haiti assisting with negotiations for the release, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Saturday’s kidnapping of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian national thrust Haiti once more into the center of an international crisis. But for months, the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation has been battling a surge in gang violence and kidnappings. A power struggle after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has further eroded any semblance of rule of law.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Retropolis, The Past, Rediscovered: Republicans saw Powell as their presidential savior in 1996. He couldn’t see himself that way, Bob Woodward, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). He was heavily recruited for president on the hope that he’d be another George Washington or Dwight Eisenhower.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to huddle with warring Democrats in hopes of reviving economic agenda, Tony Romm and Marianna Sotomayor, Oct. 19, 2021. Some Democrats had hoped to finalize the entire economic package by the end of October, but time is running out.

President Biden is huddling with top House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday as the White House attempts to cobble together a new economic package that can satisfy ambitious liberals and spending-weary centrists alike.

The new series of meetings reflect a fresh political urgency over Biden’s core promise to overhaul health care, education, immigration, climate and tax laws. With negotiations stalled for months — and tempers at times flaring publicly between Democrats’ warring factions — the president hopes to rally the Capitol and hit the road to try to get his agenda back on track.

Biden is first slated to sit down with liberal lawmakers including Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the congressional Progressive Caucus, a left-leaning bloc that has maintained its staunch support for vast new spending to tackle its priorities — including expanding Medicare coverage, combating global warming and providing new tax benefits and aid programs to low-income families.

Democrats to scale back Treasury's IRS bank plan after fierce GOP opposition

The president is then set to meet with moderates including Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), the leader of the New Democrat Coalition, and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.). The session comes amid additional outreach between Biden and other centrists, including Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who continue to insist on steep cuts to Democrats’ original $3.5 trillion plan.

Tensions between the two sparring camps of Democrats have flared in recent days, sparking at one point a public feud between Manchin and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the leader of the Budget Committee and the chief architect of the $3.5 trillion plan. The duo met late Monday to try to resolve some of their differences — and Sanders, while impatient at the pace of talks, still appeared a day later to ease off in his direct criticism of the West Virginia senator.

“We’ve had discussions and negotiations, month after month after month after month,” Sanders told reporters, declining to share details of his meeting. “The American people are tired of that. They want action.”

In recent days, Biden has told Democrats that they have no choice but to compromise — and potentially come to terms with a smaller, roughly $2 trillion package. That may force party lawmakers to rework or abandon some of the policy priorities, a delicate process that continued amid a flurry of behind the scenes talks on Tuesday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rachel Levine, openly transgender health official, sworn in as four-star admiral, Dan Diamond, Oct. 19, 2021. The former Pennsylvania health secretary is the sixth four-star admiral in the history of the health corps. A senior Biden health appointee who made history when she became the nation’s highest-ranking openly transgender official has also become its first openly transgender four-star officer.

rachel levine oRachel Levine, the U.S. assistant secretary for health, was sworn in Tuesday as an admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a 6,000-person force that responds to health crises on behalf of the federal government, including administering coronavirus vaccines and delivering care after hurricanes. Levine, right, is also the organization’s first-ever female four-star admiral.
U.S. coronavirus cases tracker and map

The move was hailed by advocacy groups like the gay rights organization GLAAD, and health care leaders who called it a breakthrough moment.

The group representing public health officials “is here to support you and your team defend the health of all Americans!” Michael Fraser, CEO of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, wrote on Twitter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Emanuel touts black, progressive support ahead of confirmation for ambassador job, John Hudson, Jacqueline Alemany and Theodoric Meyer, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). At least one member of Laquan McDonald’s family is backing the former mayor, Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is touting his support among Black organizations in closed-door meetings with lawmakers ahead of his confirmation hearing this week to become President Biden’s top envoy to Japan. But some Democratic lawmakers who met with him still have questions.

rahm emanuel wThe charm offensive by Emanuel, right, a former congressman and ex-chief of staff to President Barack Obama, seeks to combat calls by progressive House members to reject his nomination over his role in the police killing of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald.

Chicago police officer Jeffrey Van Dyke was sentenced to more than six years in jail after fatally shooting the 17-year-old McDonald in an incident that caused officials to lose their jobs and spurred a federal probe. The delayed release of dashboard-camera video of the shooting that came after Emanuel won his second term for mayor — 13 months after the shooting — led to suspicion of Emanuel in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.

The confirmation hearing will take place on Wednesday — the seven-year anniversary of McDonald’s death.

The long shadow cast by the McDonald incident has resulted in tough questions from Democratic senators otherwise prone to supporting a fellow liberal whose nomination appeared otherwise assured due to the support of a handful of Republican senators, including Sen. Susan Collins (Maine).

In private remarks to Senate offices, Emanuel has defended his record and pointed to support from Black community organizations in Chicago as well as McDonald’s family as demonstrated in a letter from an uncle, said multiple people familiar with his meetings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Rahm Emanuel ambassador confirmation process stirs up questions on Capitol Hill, Jacqueline Alemany and Theodoric Meyer, Oct. 19, 2021. Right now, it's unclear if Emanuel — a former congressman and President Barack Obama's chief of staff — has the 50 Senate votes needed to win confirmation after his confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

“[Emanuel] didn’t mention which family member it would come from … but said he’d have this letter and the family will say they are okay with his nomination,” said a Democratic aide from one Senate office.

Senate offices have expressed an interest in seeing the letter, but Emanuel’s team, according to the people familiar with his meetings, said it won't be released until just before his confirmation hearing.

“I think a number of senators will be listening closely to concerns raised by activists about Emanuel’s term as Chicago mayor, particularly regarding the coverup of the murder of Laquan McDonald,” said another Democratic Hill staffer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s pick to lead Customs and Border Protection faces Senate confirmation hearing, Nick Miroff, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s nominee to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection will face questions from the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning in a long-delayed confirmation hearing that comes amid deepening Republican and Democratic frustrations with White House immigration policy.

Biden’s pick, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, would take over the nation’s largest law enforcement agency at a time when border agents are facing crisis-level workloads and their mission has become increasingly politicized.

Magnus, 60, developed a reputation as a savvy reformer capable of navigating tensions between police and community activists during his tenure as chief in Tucson and in Richmond, Calif. In a copy of his opening statement to the committee obtained by The Washington Post, Magnus tried to strike a balance between firm enforcement and sensitivity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Glenn Youngkin, Virginia’s ‘political outsider,’ has given more than $1 million to GOP campaigns, Paul Schwartzman, Oct. 19, 2021. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia, likes to define himself as a “political outsider,” a phrase his campaign often repeats as it seeks to distinguish him from his Democratic rival, former governor Terry McAuliffe.

Yet while he has never held public office, Youngkin is hardly a political novice, having given, along with his wife, Suzanne, more than $1 million in campaign contributions to conservative candidates and political action committees since 1999, campaign finance records show.

Youngkin, a wealthy former business executive, and his wife have been prolific donors to mainstream GOP candidates, contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) when he ran for president in 2012 and former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) from the 2000s to 2017. The Youngkins also have given large sums to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and conservative political action committees, records show.

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World Conflict, Corruption

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia to host international talks with Taliban as Putin looks for gains in U.S. absence, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Susannah George, Oct. 19, 2021. Since the return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the calculus for Moscow has been tricky: how to reassert its regional influence after the U.S. military exit while also keeping some distance from internal Afghan struggles.

“Afghanistan itself is not of interest to Russia,” said Andrei Serenko, the head of the Moscow-based Center of Contemporary Afghan Studies. “Russia wants to use Afghanistan without getting involved in Afghanistan.”

Russia’s gambit will be tested Wednesday as it hosts Taliban envoys for multinational talks on the security and political situation in Afghanistan. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cautioned that “there should be no hurry” to officially recognize the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan.

But the meeting offers another stage for the Taliban to open international channels.

washington post logoWashington Post, Haiti gang that kidnapped 17 from U.S. missionary group demands $1 million per hostage, official says, Widlore Mérancourt and Adela Suliman,  Oct. 19, 2021. An armed gang in Haiti holding members of an American Christian missionary organization hostage is seeking a ransom of $1 million per person in exchange for their release, the Haitian Minister of Justice told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

The 16 Americans and one Canadian national were kidnapped Saturday while in Haiti with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries organization. Five children, including an 8-month old, are among the hostages.

Liszt Quitel, the country’s justice minister, said it was not clear whether children were included in the ransom amount, and that the gang was probably expecting to negotiate. “Usually they request more, then people close to the kidnapped persons will negotiate,” said Quitel. “Usually even when they ask for a ransom they know they don’t get all that they ask.”

Today News Africa, New Ambassador Heads To Africa, Simon Ateba, Oct. 19, 2021. Ambassador Mary Catherine Phee, the highest ranking United States official for Africa in the Biden administration, has embarked on her first trip to the continent with stops in Ghana and Burkina Faso to reinforce President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s message that “America is back” and “diplomacy is back” at the center of U.S. foreign policy. Phee, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs at the U.S. State Department, embarked on her first trip to the continent on October 16.

The trip comes just about two weeks after she was sworn into office on September 30, months after she was nominated by President Biden in April. Her job will be to rebuild badly damaged ties following the chaotic years of former President Donald J. Trump. Phee’s visit is not in isolation. It comes as United States Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer is traveling to Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Mauritania for official meetings this week, and David Marchickn is traveling to South Africa and India to advance U.S. Global Health Investments. President Biden is escalating diplomatic ties and engagement with African nations, again, to rebuild badly damaged ties during the chaotic years of Donald J. Trump, the most destructive American President in recent history. And that is our top story today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia shutters its mission to NATO in retaliation for expulsion of its diplomats, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Reis Thebault, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Russia is shuttering its permanent mission to NATO and suspending the alliance's liaison office in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday, further fraying the relationship between the organization and the Kremlin.

nato logo flags nameMoscow’s move comes less than two weeks after NATO expelled eight members of the Russian delegation, accusing them of working as undercover spies. NATO’s early October move also cut the maximum size of the Russian delegation in half.

A NATO statement at the time said the alliance had “strengthened our deterrence and defense in response to Russia’s aggressive actions,” but added that it remains “open for a meaningful dialogue.”

NATO expels eight Russian diplomats, alleging they were working as spies

Official talks between NATO and Moscow had already been limited in recent years. Communication will be further reduced now with Russia pulling out all of its diplomats from NATO’s headquarters and revoking the accreditations for NATO’s delegation in Moscow.

washington post logoWashington Post, Spanish prime minister vows to abolish prostitution, saying it ‘enslaves’ women, Rachel Pannett, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has promised to abolish prostitution in the country, saying it “enslaves” women.

spain flag CustomSpeaking at a three-day congress of his ruling Socialist Workers’ Party on Sunday, Sánchez vowed to move ahead with a pledge to outlaw prostitution that was part of his leftist party’s election manifesto in 2019. The manifesto called prostitution “one of the cruelest aspects of the feminization of poverty and one of the worst forms of violence against women.”

Prostitution has boomed in Spain since the practice was decriminalized in 1995; a 2011 U.N. report cited Spain as the third-biggest capital of prostitution in the world, behind Thailand and Puerto Rico, and it has made a name for itself as the brothel of Europe. Recent estimates put revenue from Spain’s domestic sex trade at $26.5 billion a year, with as many as 300,000 people working in the industry.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s pick to lead Customs and Border Protection says he will enforce immigration laws humanely, Nick Miroff, Oct. 19, 2021. Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said during his Senate confirmation hearing that wall construction in some areas along the southern U.S. border "could make sense," but he resisted Republicans’ effort to label the current migration surge a "crisis."

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus also said he would support coronavirus testing and vaccination for migrants arrested by CBP, and that he is open to closing gaps in the border wall created by the Biden administration’s construction freeze, something Republican lawmakers have called for.

Biden has picked Magnus to take over the nation’s largest law enforcement agency at a time when border agents are facing crisis-level workloads and heated criticism from immigrant advocates, Democratic lawmakers and the president himself over the treatment of Haitian migrants last month in Del Rio, Tex.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dozens of NYPD officers should be disciplined for misconduct at George Floyd protests, watchdog says, Derek Hawkins, Oct. 19, 2021. New York City’s police watchdog agency says more than five dozen officers should be disciplined — and some possibly terminated — for alleged misconduct during the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The recommendations issued Monday by the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board are the latest rebuke of the New York Police Department’s aggressive response to the demonstrations in May and June 2020, during which officers were seen using violence to disperse peaceful protesters.

Officers in Denver, Austin, Santa Rosa, Calif., and other places have also faced punishments for roughing up people who rallied peacefully after the killing of Floyd, who died after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes. In Oakland, officials recently reprimanded or suspended about two dozen officers for violations that included improperly deploying tear gas against protesters.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Two Rulings, Supreme Court Bolsters Legal Shield for Police, Adam Liptak, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). The unsigned decisions, without noted dissents, indicated that the court continued to support the widely criticized doctrine of qualified immunity.

In two unsigned decisions without noted dissents, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of police officers accused of using excessive force. The rulings were a signal that the court continues to support the doctrine of qualified immunity, which can shield police misconduct from lawsuits seeking damages.

The doctrine has been the subject of criticism across the ideological spectrum, and it became a flash point in the nationwide protests last year over police brutality, with activists and lawmakers calling for its reconsideration.

The doctrine requires plaintiffs to overcome a daunting hurdle. They must not only show that the official accused of misconduct violated a constitutional right, but also that the right had been “clearly established” in a previous ruling. The Supreme Court has generally required a tight factual fit between an earlier ruling and challenged conduct.

Critics of the doctrine were heartened by two rulings this year that called on appeals courts to reconsider rulings in favor of corrections officers accused of mistreating prisoners. One prisoner was held in what the court called “shockingly unsanitary cells,” and the other was sprayed in the face with a chemical “for no reason at all.”

 

Jan. 6th Capitol Rioters, Insurrectionists

washington post logoWashington Post, A man stole a Capitol Police officer’s baseball cap on Jan. 6, feds say. He wore it on his YouTube channel, Jaclyn Peiser, Oct. 19, 2021. Hours after Darrell Neely joined a mob of President Donald Trump supporters as they stormed the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, he invited three friends to a video call to recap his day. During the chat, Neely showed off several items he claimed to have nabbed from the Capitol, three witnesses told FBI agents.
2021 Election: Complete coverage and analysis

He flashed four china plates, a baseball cap, and a jacket with a silver badge on the front and white letters on the back, court documents state.

“Neely boasted that he had attacked a [U.S. Capitol Police] officer and had taken the USCP jacket, badge, name tag, and baseball cap from the officer,” a person described as Witness 3 told investigators.

darrell neelyNeely, left, who runs an online conservative radio station called Global Enlightenment Radio Network, didn’t hide his souvenirs. In the days that followed, he wore the Capitol Police baseball cap during several broadcasts on his network’s YouTube channel, according to the FBI.

Now, Neely faces five federal charges of theft of government property, entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct in a restricted building and a Capitol building, and demonstrating at a Capitol building. He was arrested in D.C. on Monday.

As the first anniversary of the deadly insurrection approaches, federal prosecutors continue to charge alleged rioters. Neely is one of more than 600 people accused of breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6.

The FBI first became aware of Neely’s activity at the Capitol on Jan. 9, when investigators received a tip from someone claiming Neely had entered the building. Agents soon identified him through video footage that showed him in the Capitol while appearing “to be holding a marijuana cigarette,” court documents state. He was also captured leaving the building while holding a cellphone.

Investigators matched the surveillance footage with an image of Neely in law enforcement databases. They also used subpoenaed cellphone data to prove he was in the vicinity of the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to investigators.

FBI agents spoke with three witnesses who worked with Neely at his radio network. The trio spoke with Neely twice on Jan. 6 in group calls, according to court documents. They also told investigators they spoke with Neely in a Facebook Messenger group chat on Jan. 6 and 7.

Witness 1 said during the first call, a portion of which was on video, Neely entered the Capitol and narrated what he was seeing, according to court documents. The second video call was around 5:30 p.m., Witness 1 said, as Neely left Capitol grounds.

Witness 2 recalled Neely telling them that he “acquired a jacket as a souvenir,” according to court documents. Witness 1 added that Neely claimed the jacket belonged to a Capitol Police officer.

 

Media, Sports News

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook to pay more than $14 million in Justice Dept. settlement over discrimination against American workers, David Nakamura, Oct. 19, 2021. Facebook has agreed to pay penalties totaling more than $14 million under a settlement with the Justice Department over findings that the social media behemoth’s hiring practices intentionally discriminated against Americans in favor of foreign workers, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

facebook logoThe company has also agreed in a settlement with the Labor Department to do more to recruit Americans for technology jobs and be subject to federal scrutiny for up to three years, the officials said.

The agreements came after the Justice Department charged Facebook in a suit in December with failing to properly advertise at least 2,600 jobs — and consider applications from U.S. citizens — before it offered the spots to foreigners whom the company was sponsoring for green cards granting permanent residency in 2018 and 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative radio host said he constantly hugged strangers to catch covid: ‘What I hoped for the entire time,’ Julian Mark, Oct. 19, 2021. Early in the pandemic, right-wing radio show host Dennis Prager said he did not mind eating with utensils that had fallen on the ground. Now, after the virus has killed more than 700,000 Americans, Prager has revealed that he’s been actively trying to get a coronavirus infection all along.

On Monday, the 73-year-old host of “The Dennis Prager Show” told his audience that his plan worked. Prager said he tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

“I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting covid,” he said. “Which is — indeed, as bizarre as it sounded — what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics.”

Contradicting studies and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prager told his audience that natural immunity was more effective than getting the vaccine, saying a covid infection was “what I hoped for the entire time.” The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated even after contracting the virus — officials point to an August study that showed unvaccinated people who already had covid were twice as likely to be reinfected as those who had been fully vaccinated after contracting the virus.

Prager listed off a cocktail of therapeutics he said he had been taking over the course of the pandemic, many of which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Since contracting the virus, he said, he has also received monoclonal antibodies, a treatment with the FDA’s stamp of approval.

The host said he has been “steadily improving” since his diagnosis. Prager had not hosted his daily talk show since Oct. 12 but said while broadcasting from his home on Monday “at no point was I in danger of hospitalization.”

Prager is one of several conservative radio show hosts to spread misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, including some who later died of the virus.

In the past three months, at least five right-wing radio show hosts, all of whom discouraged their listeners from getting the vaccine, have died of covid-19. The most recent was Bob Enyart, 62, who in the weeks leading to his infection told listeners to boycott the shots while pushing the debunked claim that the coronavirus vaccines are made from aborted fetus cells.

After contracting the virus in July, conservative radio host and vaccine skeptic Phil Valentine said on Facebook he was “going to make it.” About six weeks later, he died at 61. Following Valentine’s death, his family said the radio host had changed his mind about vaccines and would have used his platform to encourage listeners to get vaccinated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In NFL’s latest crisis of public trust, Roger Goodell is nowhere to be found, Sally Jenkins, right, Oct. 19, 2021 (print ed.). Roger Goodell has a last sally jenkinschance to rescue his reputation as an NFL commissioner, and maybe even become an important one, despite years of artless dodging on issues from domestic violence to Deflategate. The exposure of supremacist, sexist sentiments wriggling like worms in the league’s power center is another loaded problem for Goodell, but it’s also an opportunity. Here is a chance to do something meaningful in his job, to become more than just a careerist shoveler who buries treasure and excrement for pirates.

nfl logoGoodell has long self-righteously insisted that his role as commissioner is to maintain “public confidence” in the game. Well then, for once, do it. Issue a straightforward condemnation of those slurring email exchanges in former Washington executive Bruce Allen’s files, and release a clarifying executive summary of Beth Wilkinson’s investigation into Washington’s rampant workplace abuses, assigning personal responsibility for them.

Instead, so far Goodell has met his latest crisis with his usual careful silence. And that breeds not public “confidence,” but contempt. It breeds a hunch that Goodell’s real job is defined not by public trust but a darkly private principle of mutually assured destruction between him and the owners — whose contempt for the public is so pronounced that four of them have defied a court order by a livid judge in St. Louis to disclose their basic financials. He’s got stuff on them, and they’ve got stuff on him.

 

Oct. 18

Top Headlines

 

Investigations

 
Global Kidnapping, Coups

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance


World Conflict, Corruption

 

Politics of Climate Change, Energy, Disasters

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Race

 

Media, Sports News

 

Top Stories

joe biden

washington post logoWashington Post, Advocates worry Biden is letting U.S. democracy erode on his watch, Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager and Amy Gardner, Oct. 18, 2021 (print ed.).  Voting rights advocates meet once every week or two with White House officials via video conference, and in almost every session, an advocate speaks up to say that President Biden must do more, that American democracy is under threat and the president is not meeting the challenge.

At one such meeting earlier this year, a Biden aide responded that Democrats would simply have to “out-organize” the other side, according to multiple american flag upside down distressadvocates familiar with the exchange who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting. The comment infuriated advocates, who believe they are watching former president Donald Trump actively and perhaps permanently undermine faith in U.S. elections.

“There’s been a lot of anger and frustration with that line from the White House, which was communicated as a response to advocates wanting the White House to do more,” said Aaron Scherb, legislative director of Common Cause, a longtime pro-democracy group.

Scherb conceded that the White House’s urgency has significantly amped up in recent days, as voting rights legislation comes up for debate on Capitol Hill, and White House officials denied the activists’ account of the meeting. But the ongoing frustration is widespread among activists and many Democrats who fear Biden is missing the urgency of the moment.

In the nine months since Biden took office, GOP officials throughout the country have baselessly challenged the 2020 results, conducting elaborate and clumsy audits. States have restricted voting, often in ways activists say will hurt disadvantaged communities, and have changed their procedures to allow political influence over future elections.

Trump, meanwhile, frequently proclaims — with much fury but no evidence — that the last election was stolen, and some Republicans routinely assert that upcoming votes will be rigged as well. Many in Trump’s camp have taken to lauding the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which was aimed at violently overturning the last election, as a heroic act.

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 ny times logoNew York Times, As Rents Rise, So Do Pressures on People at Risk of Eviction, Sophie Kasakove Oct. 18, 2021. The end of the federal ban on evictions came amid soaring rents that make it harder for people to find new places to live. Every time Jeffery Jones hears a noise outside his house, his heart skips a beat. Since his landlord directed the county to evict him, his fiancée and their 2-year-old son from their modest gray house in the Atlanta suburb of Loganville, Ga., it is just a matter of time before the noise he hears is the knock of a sheriff’s deputy.

After losing their jobs early in the coronavirus pandemic, the couple quickly fell behind on the $1,400 monthly rent. They applied for federal rental assistance, but county officials say they never received necessary materials from the landlord and were unable to process the application, a claim disputed by the property manager.

The couple has spent months searching for another place, which they could pay for with rental assistance money, but with even the furthest reaches of the Atlanta suburbs seeing spikes in rents, they seem out of options.

“There is nowhere to go,” said Mr. Jones, adding that houses in his area are renting for hundreds of dollars more than before the pandemic began. An open house last month for a rare $900-a-month home drew a line of cars up and down the block. Mr. Jones turned around and drove home: With an eviction on his record and his credit sunk by the owed rent, he knew he could not compete.

 

Investigations

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigation and Commentary: Is the Havana Syndrome a result of classified U.S. technology falling into the hands of right-wing Cubans in wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMiami? Wayne Madsen, left (former Navy intelligence officer, now completing his 21st book, which will document a near-century of fascist growth in America that was temporarily blocked by the Allied victory in WW II over the fascist powers), Oct. 18, 2021.

The first reports of U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana being stricken with ear ringing, dizziness, and severe fatigue, dubbed the "Havana Syndrome," resulted in a series of botched investigations of the source of the illness by the Trump administration.

wayne madesen report logoAlthough there have been a number of theories about the source of what some experts now believe may have been a psychotronic weapon emitting pulsed radio frequency/microwave bursts directed at the U.S. and Canadian embassies and diplomatic housing areas in Havana. These bursts resulted in the targets suffering from the Frey effect, which manifests itself with ringing, buzzing, grinding, or clicking auditory sensations.

This is named for Allan H. Frey, the former General Electric Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University scientist who originally discovered the effect that now carries his name. He was interviewed in 2018 by The New York Times at his home in suburban Washington, DC. Frey said federal investigators interviewed him about the Havana Syndrome and he agreed with the prevailing view at the time within the Trump administration about Russian and Cuban government involvement. He told the paper that "Cubans aligned with Russia, the nation’s longtime ally, might have launched microwave strikes in attempts to undermine developing ties between Cuba and the United States."

cuba flag saving CustomHowever, the Cuban government would have had no interest in severing relations with the U.S. that had been restored by President Obama after a 60-year freeze in diplomatic relations. And why would Russia have sought a confrontation with their first intelligence asset [Donald Trump] sitting at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office?

The party that would have had a motive and means to fracture U.S.-Cuban relations was the exile community in Miami that has become a virtual "nation within a nation" and which has a documented history of carrying out terrorist attacks against innocent people, including Americans.

But, what about the expats' means to carry out a psychotronic attack in Havana?

In 2008, the Sierra Nevada Corporation of Sparks, Nevada, a longtime CIA contractor, began development of MEDUSA, or "Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio," a microwave weapon designed to transmit short microwave pulses. These pulses cause tissue to rapidly heat up and result in a shockwave inside a target's skull that is detected by the ears. More than a single pulse produces sounds in the ears. These effects, which emanate from the brain and not through the ears, which can even be heard by deaf people, describe most of the symptoms suffered by the U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana, including extreme discomfort, and, in some cases, incapacitation.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base, had originally received a patent for a "Psychological Warfare" microwave weapon in 2002, with an improved modification patent being awarded the following year in 2003. Initial research on the weapon involved expat scientists from Russia and Ukraine, which raises some red flags in itself when considering the close links between Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and other Trump administration officials and Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.

Had the Cuban exile community been able to gain possession of such technology why would they have used it on U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana? The right-wing activists, with their history of terrorist attacks, would have been able to kill two birds with one stone. First, the far-right extremists in the Trump administration, who, in early 2017, included Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn, Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, and others would have immediately pushed for a freeze in relations with Cuba by blaming it for the attacks. And that is exactly what occurred.

canadian flagAs far as Canada was concerned, the exiles may have seen an opportunity to drive a wedge in Ottawa's relations with Havana, especially when considering that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's parents had been close friends of Fidel Castro.

The fact that the Trump administration dragged its feet on initially investigating the true cause of the injuries sustained by American diplomats in Havana attests to the fact that it never wanted the actual perpetrators caught, since that might lead right back to the Oval Office. The FBI failed to conduct an adequate investigation of the attacks and the State Department, Pentagon, and CIA appeared to have thrown their hands up as far as finding a cause.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Axel Springer removes a top editor after a Times report on workplace behavior, Ben Smith, right, and Melissa Eddy, Oct. 18, 2021. The ben smith twitterGerman media giant Axel Springer said on Monday that Julian Reichelt, the editor of Bild, its powerful tabloid, had been removed from his duties after The New York Times reported on allegations that he had behaved inappropriately with women at the publication.

The Times reported on Sunday on details of Mr. Reichelt’s relationship with a trainee, who testified during an investigation sponsored by the company that he had summoned her to a hotel near the office for sex and asked her to keep a payment secret.

bild logoMr. Reichelt had “not clearly separated private and professional matters, even after the compliance proceedings were concluded in spring 2021,” and had misled the company’s executive board on the subject, Axel Springer said in a statement. Mr. Reichelt has denied abusing his authority.

The company’s chairman and chief executive, Mathias Döpfner, praised Mr. Reichelt for his leadership but said retaining him had become impossible. He said his replacement, Johannes Boie, would combine “journalistic excellence with modern leadership.”

Mr. Reichelt, shown at right in a 2018 photo, was also removed from his duties at Bild TV, a television network introduced in August, said julian reichelt 2018Deirdre Latour, a spokeswoman for Axel Springer.

Axel Springer — whose leading publications pride themselves on their ability to dig up exclusive news before others do — also said in its statement that it would take legal action against third parties who it claimed tried to illegally influence the company’s compliance investigation, “apparently with the aim of removing Julian Reichelt from office and damaging Bild and Axel Springer.”

Despite the apparent threat, Ms. Latour said that “they will not go after whistle-blowers or anybody who brings forward complaints.”

Pressure built in Germany after the Ippen media group, a competitor of Bild, decided on Friday to pull its own in-depth investigation into Mr. Reichelt. That revelation stirred outrage among reporters in Berlin, leading one to ask Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman at a news conference on Monday whether that decision had raised concerns in the German government that freedom of the press could be in danger. Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, declined to comment.

Ippen said in a statement on Monday that it had decided not to publish its investigation to avoid the appearance that it wanted to harm a rival publisher. Bild is the flagship publication of Axel Springer, a titan of German media since after World War II. The company is now focusing much of its energy on the United States and digital publishing. In 2015, the company bought Business Insider (now called Insider) for $442 million. This summer, it announced that it had purchased Politico for $1 billion.

 

Global Kidnapping, Coups

haiti flag

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. in contact with Haitian officials over effort to free kidnapped American missionaries, Miriam Berger, Oct. 18, 2021. For months, the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation has been battling a surge in gang violence and kidnappings.

U.S. and senior Haitian officials are working to free 17 members of an Ohio-based Christian aid organization kidnapped Saturday in Haiti, the State Department said Sunday.

“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” a State Department spokesperson said in a statement. “We have been in regular contact with senior Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them and interagency partners.”

American missionaries and family members kidnapped in Haiti by ‘400 Mawozo’ gang, groups say

FBI personnel are in Haiti assisting with negotiations for the release, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Saturday’s kidnapping of 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian national thrust Haiti once more into the center of an international crisis. But for months, the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation has been battling a surge in gang violence and kidnappings. A power struggle after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse has further eroded any semblance of rule of law.

washington post logoWashington Post, American missionaries and family members kidnapped in Haiti by ‘400 Mawozo’ gang, groups say, Anthony Faiola, Oct. 18, 2021 (print ed.). A notorious gang known for mass kidnappings is believed to have abducted a group of 17 missionaries and family members — primarily Americans — in Haiti on Saturday while they were returning from a visit to an orphanage, the latest in a wave of kidnappings to grip the Caribbean nation.

An audio recording described as a “prayer alert” from Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries and obtained by The Washington Post stated that “men, women and children” associated with the group were being held by an armed gang. Those abducted included organization staff as well as family members, according to the recording and a person familiar with the abduction.

“The mission field director and the American embassy are working to see what can be done,” the voice on the recording stated. It later added, “Pray that the gang members will come to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.”

Organizations that monitor kidnappings in Haiti said the missionaries were abducted by a much-feared gang known as 400 Mawozo, which is known for targeting religious groups and controls parts of Ganthier, a town east of the capital where the group was seized on Saturday. In recent months, its members have increasingly engage in mass kidnappings from buses and cars.

The gang in April kidnapped five priests and two nuns, including French nationals, in an incident that led Catholic universities and schools to close in protest. Then-Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe resigned shortly afterward, following a surge of other gang crimes — including an attack on an orphanage in which children were sexually assaulted.

Gédéon Jean, director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights in Port-au-Prince, said he had received information from authorities that Saturday’s captives included 16 Americans and one Canadian citizen. A person familiar with the abduction, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing crisis, said there may have been two Haitian nationals also abducted.

“The modus operandi is they take entire cars and buses,” Jean said. “Then they ask for a price to release everybody.”

 

joel greenberg 2019 orlando sentinelCNN, Gaetz ally Joel Greenberg is giving investigators new information, prosecutors say, David Shortell, Oct. 18, 2021. Joel Greenberg (shown above in a 2019 CNNOrlando Sentinel photo, the former Florida official whose crimes in the state ensnared Rep. Matt Gaetz in a federal sex trafficking investigation, has been providing the Justice Department with new information as he continues to cooperate with authorities following a guilty plea earlier this year.

At a brief hearing in Orlando federal court Monday, Roger Handberg, an assistant US attorney, said that Greenberg has made allegations to investigators that "take us to some places we did not anticipate."

"What investigators do is they follow up on that to try to corroborate the information that's been provided," Handberg said.

Greenberg, a former county tax commissioner and close friend of Gaetz's, pleaded guilty to six charges in May, admitting that he had knowingly solicited and paid a minor for sex.

As part of his plea agreement, he was required to give "substantial assistance" to investigators as they build out related cases. His lawyer has said that Greenberg has held a series of proffers, or meetings, with the Justice Department.

Handberg did not say what investigations Greenberg was providing new information to authorities about, although CNN has reported that Greenberg has told the Justice Department about encounters he and Gaetz had with women who were given cash or gifts in exchange for sex.

Greenberg faced dozens of criminal charges before his guilty plea, and the ongoing investigations related to him have also roped in a circle of local politicians and business