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. 31

Top Headlines

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More On Trump Insurrection Attempt, Election Claims

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 

U.S. Courts, Immigration, Law, Race

 

World News

 

Other U.S. Elections, Budget Bills, Governance

 

U.S. Education, Media

 

Top Stories

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washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Red Flags: FBI, other agencies failed to heed red flags weeks ahead of Jan. 6, Written by Aaron C. Davis, with staff colleagues; Visuals and design by Phoebe Connelly, Oct. 31, 2021 (interactive). As President Donald Trump propelled his supporters to Washington, law enforcement officials received a cascade of alerts that people were planning to target a joint session of Congress, a Post investigation found.

This investigation is based on interviews with more than 230 people and thousands of pages of court documents and internal law enforcement reports, along with hundreds of videos, photographs and audio recordings. Some of those who were interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions or sensitive information.

While the public may have been surprised by what happened on Jan. 6, the makings of the insurrection had been spotted at every level, from one side of the country to the other. The red flags were everywhere.

FBI logoOne of the most striking flares came when a tipster called the FBI on the afternoon of Dec. 20: Trump supporters were discussing online how to sneak guns into Washington to “overrun” police and arrest members of Congress in January, according to internal bureau documents obtained by The Post. The tipster offered specifics: Those planning violence believed they had “orders from the President,” used code words such as “pickaxe” to describe guns and posted the times and locations of four spots around the country for caravans to meet the day before the joint session. On one site, a poster specifically mentioned Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as a target.

Key findings

  • Law enforcement officials did not respond with urgency to a cascade of warnings about violence on Jan. 6
  • Pentagon leaders had acute fears about widespread violence, and some feared Trump could misuse the National Guard to remain in power
  • The Capitol Police was disorganized and unprepared
  • Trump’s election lies radicalized his supporters in real time

The head of intelligence at D.C.’s homeland security office was growing desperate. For days, Donell Harvin led a team that spotted warnings that extremists planned to descend on the Capitol and disrupt the electoral count. and his team had spotted increasing signs that supporters of President Donald Trump were planning violence when Congress met to formalize the electoral college vote, but federal law enforcement agencies did not seem to share his sense of urgency.

On Saturday, Jan. 2, he picked up the phone and called his counterpart in San Francisco, waking Mike Sena before dawn.

Sena listened with alarm. The Northern California intelligence office he commanded had also been inundated with political threats flagged by social media companies, several involving plans to disrupt the joint session or hurt lawmakers on Jan. 6.

us dhs big eagle logo4He organized an unusual call for all of the nation’s regional homeland security offices — known as fusion centers — to find out what others were seeing. Sena expected a couple dozen people to get on the line that Monday. But then the number of callers hit 100. Then 200. Then nearly 300. Officials from nearly all 80 regions, from New York to Guam, logged on.

In the 20 years since the country had created fusion centers in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sena couldn’t remember a moment like this. For the first time, from coast to coast, the centers were blinking red. The hour, date and location of concern was the same: 1 p.m., the U.S. Capitol, Jan.

Harvin asked his counterparts to share what they were seeing. Within minutes, an avalanche of new tips began streaming in. Self-styled militias and other extremist groups in the Northeast were circulating radio frequencies to use near the Capitol. In the Midwest, men with violent criminal histories were discussing plans to travel to Washington with weapons.

Forty-eight hours before the attack, Harvin began pressing every alarm button he could. He invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, military intelligence services and other agencies to see the information in real time as his team collected it. He took another extreme step: He asked the city’s health department to convene a call of D.C.-area hospitals and urged them to prepare for a mass casualty event.

Harvin was one of numerous people inside and outside of government who alerted authorities to the growing likelihood of deadly violence on Jan. 6, according to a Washington Post investigation, which found a cascade of previously undisclosed warnings preceded the attack on the Capitol. Alerts were raised by local officials, FBI informants, social media companies, former national security officials, researchers, lawmakers and tipsters, new documents and firsthand accounts show.

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, greets French President Emmanuel Macron, second right, during a group photo at the G20 summit in Rome, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The two-day Group of 20 summit is the first in-person gathering of leaders of the world's biggest economies since the COVID-19 pandemic started. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

U.S. President Joe Biden, left, is shown greeting French President Emmanuel Macron, second right, during a group photo at the G20 summit in Rome, on Oct. 30, 2021. The two-day Group of 20 summit was the first in-person gathering of leaders of the world's biggest economies since the COVID-19 pandemic started. (Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci, Pool.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Biden Faces Tough Tests on G20 Summit’s Final Day, Staff Reports, Oct. 31, 2021. Climate change and Covid vaccines are expected to dominate talks. President Biden met with Turkey’s leader, amid tensions over arms sales. Here’s the latest.

joe biden resized oFresh off a win on Saturday with a global corporate tax agreement and some progress toward restoring the nuclear accord with Iran, President Biden returned for the final day of the Group of 20 summit on Sunday facing far more difficult challenges, including pressure to take stronger action on climate change and to make concrete progress on delivering Covid vaccines to the poorest countries.

The difficult agenda facing the leaders of 20 of the wealthiest nations, their first in-person meeting since the pandemic began, g 20 italy logoillustrated a widening divide with developing countries. Those nations have argued that industrialized countries have hoarded vaccines and squandered decades of opportunities to slow the warming of the planet.

After the summit in Rome, Mr. Biden and other leaders will travel to Glasgow for a United Nations climate conference, where they will confront demands from scientific experts and many developing countries to rapidly reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for heating the planet. The talks in Glasgow, known as COP26, come as the U.N. warns of a looming climate catastrophe and are shaping up as a test of whether global cooperation is even possible to address a crisis that does not recognize national borders.

A senior administration official told reporters on Saturday evening that American negotiators were pushing for concrete progress from the summit on reducing methane emissions, decarbonizing the global power sector and ending international financing for coal projects.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rivals on World Stage, Russia and U.S. Quietly Seek Areas of Accord, Anton Troianovski and David E. Sanger, Oct. 31, 2021. There have been a series of beneath-the-surface meetings between the two countries as the Biden administration applies a more sober approach to relations.

As world leaders met at the Group of 20 summit this weekend in Rome, Mr. Biden did not even get the chance to hash things out with his Russian counterpart face to face because President Vladimir V. Putin, citing coronavirus concerns, attended the event remotely.

Yet beneath the surface brinkmanship, the two global rivals are now also doing something else: talking.

The summit between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin in June in Geneva touched off a series of contacts between the two countries, including three trips to Moscow by senior Biden administration officials since July, and more meetings with Russian officials on neutral ground in Finland and Switzerland.

pope francis joe biden 10 29 2021 vatican media via reuters

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘No decision of this Court is safe’: What’s at stake in the Texas abortion case, Ruth Marcus, right, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The only thing ruth marcusyou need to understand about the Texas abortion law now before the Supreme Court are these words, from the Biden administration’s brief: “If Texas is right, no decision of this Court is safe.”

The legal issues are mind-numbingly complex: Under what circumstances the federal government can go to court to prevent citizens’ rights from being violated. The scope of the 11th Amendment’s protections for state sovereign immunity. Technical questions about standing to sue and the appropriate reach of injunctive relief.

But the fundamental question presented in the two related cases to be argued Monday boils down to something much easier to grasp: Must federal courts stand by, powerless to intervene, when a state not only enacts a flagrantly unconstitutional law but also deliberately rigs the system to prevent effective judicial review?

And that is what the brief filed Wednesday by acting U.S. Solicitor General Brian H. Fletcher makes clear. The burning desire to eviscerate abortion rights launched this case, but even more is at stake.

As a group of constitutional law scholars wrote of the Texas law in their friend-of-the-court brief, “By attacking well-established constitutional rights through a scheme designed to evade judicial review, S.B. 8 represents a challenge to the rule of law, our system of constitutional government, and the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.”

Here’s why. The Supreme Court has ruled, and ruled again, that states cannot flatly prohibit abortions before the fetus is viable, at about 24 weeks. But the Texas law bars almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks.

Then, the law removes state officials from enforcing the prohibition; instead, it outsources that job to private parties — antiabortion vigilantes. This could be anyone, from any state, without any connection to the individual seeking the abortion, filing suit anywhere in Texas, against anyone who helped obtain the abortion in any way, except the pregnant woman herself.

If their suits are successful, these bounty hunters are guaranteed an award of at least $10,000, plus legal fees. Doctors or others involved in the abortion could be subject to an unlimited number of suits — even if the abortion was legal at the time it was performed.

Since S.B. 8 went into effect two months ago, it has worked as intended, all but shutting down abortions in Texas. The law makes it too risky, and too potentially financially ruinous, for clinics to operate, so it hasn’t been tested in state court, and in any event a state suit wouldn’t serve to block the law beyond that individual case. Meanwhile, under rulings from the conservative federal appeals court that covers Texas, the federal courts have been closed off to constitutional challenges.

As the solicitor general’s brief summed it up, Texas purposely “sought to create a situation where pregnant women have no access to constitutionally protected abortion care and no mechanism whatsoever to challenge that obvious violation of their constitutional rights.”

The justices are hearing two efforts to block the law, one from Texas abortion providers, the other from the Biden administration. The immediate question isn’t whether the six-week ban is constitutional, but whether either of these parties has the right to go to federal court to have it blocked.

ny times logoNew York Times, Both Parties Await Result in Virginia, and What It Bodes for the Battles Ahead, Jonathan Martin, Oct. 31, 2021. Republicans hope to hit on a recipe for renewal, while Democrats worry that a loss could force them to defend seats in blue states next year.

During one of the most hectic weeks of her speakership — as she sought to unite her fractious party and corral two sweeping pieces of legislation — terry mcauliffe oNancy Pelosi made time for a meeting in her Capitol suite with a group of Democratic lawmakers from New Jersey and Virginia bearing an urgent message of their own.

They warned Ms. Pelosi that if the candidates for governor in those two states, particularly former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, in liberal-leaning Virginia, were to lose on Tuesday, it could have a cascading effect on the party, prompting Democrats to pull back from President Biden and his ambitious agenda, and perhaps even drive some to retirement.

glenn youngkinMr. McAuliffe’s strategy of relentlessly linking his Republican rival, Glenn Youngkin, right, to Donald J. Trump represents the best test yet of how much of a drag the former president still exerts on his party in blue and purple states. At the same time, Mr. Youngkin’s fancy footwork regarding Mr. Trump — avoiding his embrace without alienating him or his base — and his attacks on Mr. McAuliffe over the role of parents in schools will indicate if G.O.P. candidates can sidestep Trumpism by drawing attention to what they argue is Democratic extremism on issues of race and gender.

To Republicans, Virginia represents the promise of renewal, the chance to rebuild their party in a fairly forbidding state — and without having to make the difficult choice of fully embracing or rejecting Mr. Trump. Addressing supporters near a farmer’s market in Old Town Alexandria Saturday morning, Mr. Youngkin said his victory would send “a shock wave across this country.”

Suffering yet another loss here, though, would make it clear to Republicans that they cannot continue to delay their internal reckoning over the former president and that, even in exile, his unpopularity remains the party’s biggest impediment.

Because Mr. Biden carried the state by 10 points last year, and Mr. McAuliffe began the race with an advantage befitting the former governor he is, the most significant implications in Virginia are for Democrats. The party is also haunted by recent history: Their loss in the 2009 Virginia governor’s race — the last time Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress — foreshadowed the party’s electoral wipeout the following year.

Should Mr. McAuliffe lose or barely win, moderates will demand immediate passage of the infrastructure bill. Liberals will argue that the Democratic Party, and democracy itself, are in such a parlous state that they must push through new voting laws. And strategists across the party’s ideological spectrum will be made to contend with a political playing field in the midterm elections that stretches deeper into blue America.

 

More On Trump Insurrection Attempt, Election Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump seeks to block hundreds of pages from Jan. 6 panel, Amy B Wang, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). According to a court filing, some of the materials Donald Trump is trying to withhold include emails, call logs, briefing lists and the draft of a Jan. 6 speech.

Former president Donald Trump is trying to withhold nearly 800 pages of documents from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to a court filing made Saturday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

President Donald Trump officialIn the filing, a National Archives and Records Administration director outlined the specific documents Trump is seeking to block from the House select committee, which months ago ordered the former president to provide records of all his actions and activities on Jan. 6. The bipartisan panel is investigating the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob trying to stop the certification of President Biden’s electoral college win, an attack that resulted in five deaths and left some 140 members of law enforcement injured.

According to a sworn declaration from John Laster, director of the White House liaison division at NARA, Trump is trying to assert executive privilege over 46 pages of records from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former senior adviser Stephen Miller, former deputy counsel Patrick Philbin and Brian de Guzman, the former director of White House information services.

nara logoThose records include “daily presidential diaries, schedules, appointment information showing visitors to the White House, activity logs, call logs, and switchboard shift-change checklists showing calls” to Trump and former vice president Mike Pence; they also include drafts of speeches about Jan. 6 and three handwritten notes about Jan. 6 from Meadows, the filing stated.

Trump is also trying to exert executive privilege over 656 pages of records from a second batch of files, which include “pages from multiple binders containing proposed talking points” for former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, “presidential activity calendars and a related handwritten note” for Jan. 6, draft text of a presidential speech for the Save America March on Jan. 6, a handwritten note from Meadows listing “potential or scheduled briefings and telephone calls concerning the January 6 certification and other election issues,” and a draft executive order on the topic of election integrity, the filing stated.

From a third batch of records, Trump is seeking to block 68 pages that include a draft proclamation honoring the Capitol Police and officers Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, who died after the insurrection; “an email chain originating from a state official regarding election-related issues”; a memo regarding a potential lawsuit against several states Biden won; “talking points on alleged election irregularities in one Michigan county; and a document ordering various actions about election security.

The filing was in response to — and shed more light on — a lawsuit Trump filed this month against the select committee and the National Archives in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to block the disclosure of records related to his whereabouts, communications and activities that day.

“The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration,” Trump’s lawsuit stated. “Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former president and his close advisors.”

Attorneys for both the Department of Justice and the House select committee, which also filed a response this week to Trump’s lawsuit, proposed that the former president’s motion for a preliminary injunction on disclosing these materials be denied. A U.S. district judge has set a hearing on the matter for Nov. 4. The committee’s subpoena has a Nov. 12 deadline to turn over the requested records.

“Mr. Trump’s broad claims of executive privilege are unprecedented and deeply flawed,” lawyers for the House select committee wrote in their filing. “Here, Mr. Trump’s conclusory interest must give way to the Select Committee’s urgent need for the records, as President Biden has likewise determined.”

Exerting additional pressure on Trump, on Thursday, 66 former members of Congress — including 44 Democrats and 22 Republicans — filed a brief opposing Trump’s attempt to shield documents from the Jan. 6 committee, arguing that Congress “has broad legislative powers grounded in multiple constitutional clauses to enact legislation to respond to the heretofore unimagined vulnerabilities in our constitutional system illustrated by last winter’s events.”

Former Congress members file brief opposing Trump’s attempt to shield Jan. 6 records

“If Congress fails to win this case, then you might as well pack up Congress and let them go home because this is fundamental to our checks and balances and the rule of law in this country,” former congressman Tom Coleman (R-Mo.), an outspoken Trump critic who signed the brief, told The Washington Post on Friday. “I can’t think of a better legislative reason for getting information than to get to the facts and get to the bottom of an insurrection against the United States government.”

For nearly a year, Trump has falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, and the former president has continued to push Republican-led audits of election results and sow doubt in the integrity of elections around the country. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the results of the election.

Trump has continued to insist he will exert executive privilege to resist any cooperation with the House select committee, referring to a legal theory that sitting presidents and their aides have invoked to shield themselves from past congressional inquiries. As a former president, however, Trump would need the Biden administration to assert executive privilege. Biden months ago indicated he will probably share with Congress information about Trump’s activities on Jan. 6 if asked.

Other Recent Related Headlines:

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Not Everyone in New York Wanted the Coronavirus to Lose, Mara Gay, right, Oct. 31, 2021. For nearly a year now, a small team of maya gay twitter croppedofficials from City Hall and the public health department have pored over detailed reports about how vaccine misinformation has spread through New York City.

A review of over eight months worth of these “misinformation bulletins” obtained by The Times reveals that the city has collected exhaustive intelligence about the misunderstandings and conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19 and swirling through the five boroughs. The project aimed to help tailor Covid-19 vaccine drives to New York’s diverse and sometimes insular communities and beat back the virus to push the city toward normalcy.

The misinformation reports — the vast majority of which come from public social media posts — also offer a fascinating historical accounting: a glimpse into what New Yorkers were reading, watching and at times misunderstanding about the disease that upended their city.

Overall, the effort is a case study in what effective city government can do, and what public health demands in 2021.

The reports were only necessary because not everyone has been rooting for the coronavirus to lose.

In January and February of this year, the city found leaflets aimed at the Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn that wrongly suggested the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines could change a person’s DNA and were only 0.5 percent effective.

In March, the city’s Polish community was treated to false claims that the mRNA vaccines were designed to “annihilate Christianity and the Polish Nation.” A city report in March described a rumor prevalent in New York’s Haitian neighborhoods that the vaccines were created to reduce the Black population.

In July, the project’s analysts were monitoring vaccine misinformation being shared by the writer Alex Berenson, a former New York Times employee. In August, the analysts made note of “misleading” claims by Oren Barzilay, who heads the union representing the Fire Department’s emergency medical workers.

Each of these bits of misinformation was reported to the city’s Vaccine Command Center, a high-level group at City Hall created to help oversee New York’s vaccination drive.

For almost a year now, the Vaccine Command Center has commissioned regular reports on such misinformation. The intelligence in the reports is compiled by a team of about 15 people inside the city health department, a handful of other city officials and the research firm GroupSense. The reports are then given to city officials involved in New York’s vaccination effort.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s spokesperson, Danielle Filson, said the city undertook the project because “understanding the specifics of myths is critical to dispelling them and educating the public with facts grounded in scientific reality.”

“New Yorkers deserve to know the truth and when it comes to matters as high-stakes as the vaccine — it’s our moral imperative to make sure they have it,” Ms. Filson wrote to me in an email.

Some reports suggest that some of the anti-vaccine activity spotted online had roots in disinformation campaigns that were linked to the Russian government. On June 8, GroupSense analysts said they agreed with the assessment of another research firm, known as Graphika, that an anti-vaccine cartoon posted to a website devoted to promoting far-right conspiracy theories was “consistent with a pro-Russian disinformation campaign.” That campaign was attributed to people linked to the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency.

The effort has identified conspiracy theories in at least a dozen languages, from Spanish to Urdu. Among the spookiest lies: Vaccinated people have developed boils; vaccines magnetize the body; “deep state operatives” developed the vaccines together with the military. All nonsense.

The reports, which have not been made public, draw a distinction between misinformation — the unintentional spreading of inaccurate information — and disinformation, which is not only inaccurate but likely malicious.

Charlotte Observer, Editorial: Richard Burr shouldn’t be NC’s senator, Editorial Board, Oct. 31, 2021. North Carolina just got another reminder of Richard Burr’s COVID betrayal: NC Sen. Richard Burr, his brother-in-law under investigation for insider trading.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Sen Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, and his brother-n-law for insider trading. They dumped stock before the market dropped in March 2020 as the COVID pandemic hit.

Richard Burr, right, has been cleared in one investigation into possible insider trading in the early days of the pandemic, but another probe has unearthed new problems for North Carolina’s senior U.S. senator. And as new revelations reminded us this week, his worst transgression might not be what he did when COVID-19 first threatened his state and country. It’s what he didn’t do.

New details arose Thursday regarding a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into possible insider trading by Burr. According to an SEC filing first us senate logoreported by ProPublica, Burr possessed “material nonpublic information” regarding the incoming economic impact of the virus when he dumped roughly $1.6 million in stocks in February 2020. After doing so, he called his brother-in-law, the filing says — and the very next minute, Burr’s brother-in-law called his stock broker.

Burr’s big sale was previously the subject of an investigation by the Justice Department, who informed the senator in January that it would not pursue charges against him. But he — and his brother-in-law — remain under investigation by the SEC. And despite having an estimated net worth of $7.4 million in 2018, Burr has been raising big money to help foot his hefty legal bills.

Thirty-three current or former U.S. senators, as well as other sitting members of Congress, have contributed to the Richard Burr Legal Expense Trust Fund as of September, the News & Observer reported. The fund has raised more than $524,000 and paid $565,000 to Latham & Watkins, a major law firm.

republican elephant logoPerhaps Burr thought that the stain of his actions would wash away with time. It hasn’t. We said last year that Burr’s actions were an affront to North Carolinians and embarrassing to the state, and nothing has changed our mind. Regardless of whether the SEC concludes that his actions were criminal, he has failed as a public servant, profiting off of a deadly virus while failing to convey to the public the seriousness of the threat it posed.

A reminder of Burr did and didn’t do: According to reports last year, members of Congress had been receiving “ominous, classified warnings” from U.S. intelligence agencies about the danger posed by COVID as early as January and February. Publicly, Burr was co-authoring op-eds reassuring the public that the United States was prepared to confront the virus. Privately, though, he seemed to be suggesting otherwise.

Fourteen days after dumping his stocks, Burr also warned members of the Tar Heel Circle, a nonpartisan group of North Carolina businesses and organizations, at a February 2020 luncheon that the coronavirus would spread rapidly, and that it was “probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” Still, he didn’t share that assessment with the general public, even as then-president Donald Trump downplayed the situation, hindering the nation’s early pandemic response.

Richard Burr’s troubles are not going away. So why isn’t he?

His assessment wasn’t wrong. As of September, COVID-19 has surpassed the 1918 Spanish flu to become the deadliest pandemic in American history, with 743,000 lives lost thus far. Still, Burr has yet to take responsibility for not sharing that knowledge publicly, or for using it to benefit financially. He’s offered little through public statements but has claimed that he “relied solely on public news reports to guide my decision regarding the sale of stocks on February 13.”

That’s something the SEC filing seems to dispute. Though Burr has long planned to step down in 2022, he ought to consider taking an earlier retirement. No matter what happens during the last year of his term, he will continue to be a politician who broke his commitment to serve and protect us when we needed him most. North Carolinians deserved better than that.

washington post logoWashington Post, Firefighters threaten New York state senator over mandate as city braces for possible staff shortage, María Luisa Paúl, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). After Mayor Bill de Blasio's deadline for city employees to show proof of vaccination passed, departments grappled with a potential staffing shortage.

Driving a ladder truck and wearing their uniforms on Friday morning, six firefighters stopped at the Brooklyn office of New York state Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D) to protest Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) order requiring all city workers to show proof of vaccination, a move that underscores the rising tensions over officials’ attempt to return to pre-pandemic life.

The group told Myrie’s staffers about 10:30 a.m. that they would have “blood on their hands” if de Blasio’s deadline for approximately 160,500 city employees to receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine was not suspended. It went into effect Friday at 5 p.m.

Matt Baer, director of policy and communications at the state senator’s office, said the firefighters also asked where the senator lived. While vaccination across the city’s departments has increased since the mandate was announced Oct. 20, the decision has been met with backlash — leading to concerns over shortages among the city’s essential workers.

“As a state lawmaker, our office has nothing to do with the mandate, but I think that they were just close to the office,” Baer told the Washington Post on Saturday. “They have every right to have their opinions about the topic, but that doesn’t justify using a city vehicle to do that on work time.”

The six firefighters — all members of the New York City Fire Department’s Ladder 113, the unit assigned to Brooklyn — have been “immediately relieved of duty and will face disciplinary action,” Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement to The Post on Saturday.

“This is a highly inappropriate act by on duty members of this Department who should only be concerned with responding to emergencies and helping New Yorkers and not harassing an elected official and his staff,” Nigro said.

The FDNY has among the lowest vaccination rates of all the city’s departments. According to data from City Hall, 77 percent of the FDNY’s 17,000 workers — including 72 percent of firefighters and 84 percent of emergency medical services personnel — had received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose as of Friday night.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 31, 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: 247,242,208, Deaths: 5,012,502
U.S. Cases:     46,799,970, Deaths:   766,117
India Cases:     34,273,300, Deaths:   458,219
Brazil Cases:   21,804,094, Deaths:    607,764

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 221.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 31, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 191.5 million eligible persons, 58%, fully vaccinated.

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Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 climate change photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Biden meets with Turkey’s Erdogan as summit focuses on climate, Chico Harlan, Annie Linskey and Seung Min Kim, Oct. 31, 2021. “Group of 20” leaders, representing the world’s largest economies, are convening for a climate-focused second day of a two-day summit, g 20 italy logobefore heading to Glasgow, Scotland, for a major climate conference.

Here’s what to know

  • The leaders are expected to discuss what wealthy countries owe poorer ones that are trying to develop in a climate-friendly and that may already be feeling the devastating impacts of climate change.
  • Britain’s Prince Charles, a longtime climate activist, tells G-20 in keynote: ‘The future of humanity and nature herself are at stake’
  • President Biden is scheduled to meet with individual country leaders and is expected to hold a news conference before leaving for Glasgow.
  • New Zealand pledges to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030

In other recent headlines:

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime, Immigration

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Military Jury Condemns Terrorist’s Torture and Urges Clemency, Carol Rosenberg, Oct. 31, 2021. Seven senior officers rebuked the government’s treatment of an admitted terrorist in a handwritten letter from the jury room at Guantánamo Bay.

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — Seven senior U.S. military officers who sentenced a terrorist to 26 years in prison last week after hearing graphic descriptions of his torture by the C.I.A. wrote a letter calling his treatment “a stain on the moral fiber of America.”

The rebuke of the U.S. government’s treatment of Majid Khan, a suburban Baltimore high school graduate turned Qaeda courier, was contained in a two-page handwritten letter urging the senior Pentagon official overseeing the war court to grant clemency. It was signed by seven of the eight members of the sentencing jury — six Army and Navy officers and a Marine, using their juror numbers.

The panel of active-duty officers was brought to Guantánamo Bay last week to hear evidence and decide a sentence of 25 to 40 years. Deliberations began after Mr. Khan spent two hours describing in grisly detail the violence that C.I.A. agents and operatives inflicted on him in dungeonlike conditions in prisons in Pakistan, Afghanistan and a third country, including sexual abuse and mind-numbing isolation, often in the dark while he was nude and shackled.

“Mr. Khan was subjected to physical and psychological abuse well beyond approved enhanced interrogation techniques, instead being closer to torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history,” according to the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times.

The panel also responded to Mr. Khan’s claim that after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, he told interrogators everything, but “the more I cooperated, the more I was tortured,” and so he subsequently made up lies to try to mollify his captors.

“This abuse was of no practical value in terms of intelligence, or any other tangible benefit to U.S. interests,” the letter said. “Instead, it is a stain on the moral fiber of America; the treatment of Mr. Khan in the hands of U.S. personnel should be a source of shame for the U.S. government.”

majid khan 2018 center for constitutional rightsIn his testimony on Thursday night, Mr. Khan (shown in a 2018 photo by the Center for Constitutional Rights) became the first former prisoner of the C.I.A.’s so-called black sites to publicly describe in detail the violence and cruelty that U.S. agents used to extract information and to discipline suspected terrorists in the clandestine overseas prison program that was set up after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In doing so, Mr. Khan also provided a preview of the kind of information that might emerge in the death penalty trial of the five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, a process that has been bogged down in pretrial hearings for nearly a decade partly because of secrecy surrounding their torture by the C.I.A.

The agency declined to comment on the substance of Mr. Khan’s descriptions of the black sites, which prosecutors did not seek to rebut. It said only that its detention and interrogation program, which ran the black sites, ended in 2009.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Jury Awards $10 Million to White Male Executive in Discrimination Case, Michael Levenson, Oct. 28, 2021. The jury award for David Duvall, who was fired from his job at Novant Health in North Carolina in 2018, could be reduced under federal law.

A federal jury in North Carolina has awarded $10 million in damages to a former health care executive who argued that he was fired because he is a white man and his employer was trying to diversify, court records show.

The employer, Novant Health, which oversees 15 hospitals and hundreds of outpatient centers and clinics, argued that the former executive, David Duvall, had been fired because his superiors “had very little confidence” in him as a leader — not because of his race and sex.

But a federal jury found on Tuesday that Mr. Duvall’s race and sex had been motivating factors in his termination and that Novant Health had failed to prove that it would have fired him regardless of those factors.

The jury awarded Mr. Duvall $10 million in punitive damages, a sum that is likely to be reduced by the trial judge, according to Sachin S. Pandya, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. He said that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act caps punitive damages at $300,000 for employers

Mr. Duvall’s lawyer, S. Luke Largess, said on Friday that his client also has a discrimination claim under North Carolina law in which the $300,000 cap does not apply. He said there will be a hearing in 30 days on the amount of back pay and front pay to be awarded.

The verdict came nearly two years after Mr. Duvall filed a federal lawsuit against Novant Health, contending that he had been fired to achieve racial and gender diversity, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

“We are pleased that the jury agreed with Mr. Duvall that his race and gender were unlawful factors in his termination — that he was fired solely to make room for more diverse leaders at Novant Health,” Mr. Largess said in a statement.

He said that the jury had included six women and two men and that six were white, one was Hispanic and the forewoman was Black. Mr. Duvall’s lawsuit was “decidedly not a statement against diversity and inclusion programs,” Mr. Largess said.

 

ICE logowashington post logoWashington Post, Detained immigrants were paid candy or $1 a day for labor. They’re owed $17 million, a jury says, Kim Bellware, Oct. 30, 2021. Goodluck Nwauzor fled Boko Haram militants in Nigeria only to end up cleaning showers for $1 a day while housed at one of the United States’ largest immigrant detention facilities.

Now his testimony has helped convince a federal jury that GEO Group, which runs the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, Wash., violated the state’s minimum wage laws and owes thousands of immigrant detainees $17.3 million in backpay.

“I feel so great, and I thank almighty God, who made it possible,” Nwauzor told The Washington Post by phone Saturday. “I really appreciate the jury’s decision.”

us dhs big eagle logo4The decision on Friday means Nwauzor and roughly 10,000 other detainees will receive individual awards ranging from $7 for a single day worked, to more than $30,000 in the instance of a detainee who worked almost 700 days, according to Adam J. Berger of the Seattle-based Schroeter Goldmark & Benderorthat, the law firm representing Nwauzor and the other detainees.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan will decide how much money GEO Group must pay the state for unjust enrichment — a sum on top of the $17.3 million already ordered.

Nwauzor’s attorneys called the jury’s award “precedent-setting,” while labor experts said it could have wider implications. Erin Hutton, a University of Buffalo sociology professor who authored a book on coerced labor, said the jury’s award sends a strong message to corporations that labor protections extend to people in pretrial detention.

“Immigration detention center labor is a kind of murky area that’s been operating under the aegis of prison labor,” Hutton said. “It’s been in dispute, but this ruling shows that they can’t get away with it without scrutiny.”

Representatives for GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment Saturday, and it is unclear whether the company will appeal the decisions. The jury first ruled Wednesday that the private prison operator violated the state’s minimum wage laws and ruled two days later on the compensation.

The rulings conclude two of three phases in the class-action lawsuit against GEO Group that was combined with a 2017 lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) over the company’s minimum wage violations.

Ferguson in a statement Wednesday said the jury’s decision sends a clear message: “Washington will not tolerate corporations that get rich violating the rights of the people.”

The GEO Group has argued it did not have a paid employee relationship with the immigrant detainees housed its facility; rather, they were paid a stipend as part of the “voluntary work program” the facility is required to provide as a condition of its contract with the federal government via U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The company, which last year reported revenue of more than $2.3 billion, in court filings characterized the work program as an unprofitable burden that was administratively inefficient given the high turnover of detainees.

Ferguson said at the outset of his 2017 lawsuit against the Florida-based company that the company’s labor practices were not only unfair to the detainees but to local job seekers.

“If GEO did not exploit detainees to perform this work, these are jobs that might have gone to people in the community,” Ferguson said in 2017.

Detainees at the Northwest ICE Processing Center were paid a $1 per day regardless of how many hours they worked in various cooking, cleaning, laundry and maintenance roles, if they were paid at all; some detainees were paid with candy or other snacks, according to court records.

Berger, Nwauzor’s attorney, notes that none of the individuals housed at the detention center had been convicted of a crime but were in administrative detention while their status was sorted out.

“A lot of them were people who were brought to the country as children, who thought they were lawful permanent residents until something happened that attracted the attention of ICE,” he said. Others, like Nwauzor, were asylum seekers who presented themselves lawfully at the border.

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

ap logoAssociated Press via Tampa Bay Times, Investigation: Still no charges in prison beating death of Whitey Bulger 3 years later, Staff Report, Oct. 30-31, 2021 (print ed.). Shortly after the killing, sources identified two Massachusetts organized crime figures as suspects: Fotios “Freddy” Geas and Paul J. DeCologero.

whitey bulger US Marshals Service Mug1He was one of the most infamous criminals to ever be killed behind bars. And investigators narrowed in on suspects immediately after his shocking slaying in a West Virginia prison.

Yet three years later, no one has been charged in the beating death of murderous Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, shown in a mug shot at right. Questions such as why the well-known FBI informant was put in the troubled lockup’s general population alongside other New England gangsters — instead of more protective housing — remain unanswered.

Federal officials will say only that his death remains under investigation. Meanwhile, the lack of answers has only fueled rumors and spurred claims by Bulger’s family that the frail 89-year-old was “deliberately sent to his death” at the penitentiary nicknamed “Misery Mountain.”

FBI logo“This was really a dereliction of duty,” said Joe Rojas, a union representative for the correctional staff at the Florida prison where Bulger was held before being transferred to USP Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. “There’s no way he should have been put in that institution.”

Bulger was found dead on Oct. 30, 2018, hours after arriving at Hazelton from the Coleman prison in Florida, where he was serving a life sentence for participating in 11 killings. The ruthless gangster who spent 16 years on the lam before being captured in 2011 was assaulted and died of blunt force injuries to the head, according to his death certificate.

Federal officials have never officially publicly identified any suspects and have said only that they are investigating his death as a homicide. But shortly after the killing, a former federal investigator and a law enforcement official who insisted on anonymity because of the ongoing probe identified two Massachusetts organized crime figures as suspects: Fotios “Freddy” Geas and Paul J. DeCologero.

Geas, a Mafia hitman serving life behind bars for his role in the killing of a Genovese crime family boss and other violent crimes, has been in a restricted unit at the West Virginia prison since Bulger’s killing even though no charges have been filed, said his lawyer, Daniel Kelly. Kelly says Geas hasn’t been provided regular reviews to see if he can be released from the unit but has petitioned to be returned to the general prison population, where he’d enjoy more freedoms, including the ability to call his family more often.

“He’s remaining positive and upbeat, but it’s a punitive measure,” Kelly said. “It’s a prison within a prison.”

DeCologero, meanwhile, was moved earlier this year to another high-security penitentiary in Virginia. A member of a Massachusetts gang led by his uncle, DeCologero was convicted in 2006 of racketeering and witness tampering for a number of crimes and is scheduled to be released in 2026.

Other Recent Headlines:

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Japan’s election to serve as test for ruling party amid leadership shift, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Sunday’s election is the first opportunity for voters to weigh in on the direction of the country under its new prime minister, who has faced declining approval ratings.

japan flagJapan’s general election is underway, in the first test for the country’s new prime minister amid growing frustrations over the ruling party’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the stagnant economy.

Elections for the Lower House, held every four years, are projected to be unusually competitive this year for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), in the face of a more consolidated opposition and criticisms of the former prime minister’s handling of covid response.

There are signs that voters may be more engaged than in the previous election in 2017. Nearly 1 million more people voted early than in 2017, according to figures released Friday. New activist groups have been mobilizing younger voters, who have historically turned out at dismally low rates but have shown new interest in voting this year because of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was elected Sept. 29, has been stumping across the country for his party’s candidates, amid warning signs that his party may not win in a landslide.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Biden rolls back Trump policies, G-20 allies join bid to revive Iran nuclear deal, Seung Min Kim, Chico Harlan and Annie Linskey, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden opened new fronts in global engagement Saturday, endorsing international accords on taxation and vaccinations while joining key European allies to ramp up pressure on Iran to revive the 2015 deal to curb its nuclear program.

iran flag mapThe Biden administration also announced during the annual Group of 20 summit that it had reached a deal with the European Union on resolving a bitter standoff over steel and aluminum imports imposed three years ago under President Donald Trump.

Taken together, the moves marked fresh efforts to turn away from Trump’s policies that included withdrawal from key international accords, a snub of the Iran nuclear deal and a range of protectionist trade measures.

g 20 italy logoPerhaps the most uncertain of the developments Saturday is the fate of the nuclear accord that set limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment and other advances in exchange for easing international sanctions. After Trump pulled out in 2018, Iran had announced higher-level enrichment — stirring alarm from the West and its allies — even as Tehran’s leaders insist they do not seek nuclear weapons but want to control nuclear fuel supply for reactors.

During the first full day of the G-20 summit in Rome, Biden met with leaders of the E3 countries — France, Germany and Britain — in an attempt to coordinate with other parties of the original agreement. Russia and China were also part of the accord.

In a statement, Biden and the E3 leaders said they felt it was possible to quickly reinstate the 2015 deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Saudi Investment Conference, Trump Allies Remain Front and Center, Kate Kelly, Oct. 31, 2021. But the Biden administration sent only a deputy commerce secretary to the high-profile gathering, amid shifts in global politics and diplomatic strains.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The wealthy and the powerful of the financial world descended on the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh this past week for Saudi Arabia’s annual investment conference, a reminder that even amid shifting politics, diplomatic strains and pandemic constraints, money is a surefire magnet.

Executives hugged and fist-bumped in the lobby of the hotel, where four years ago the kingdom’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, confined hundreds of his nation’s elites in an anti-corruption crackdown. They sipped coffee and mineral water in the hotel’s cafes.

They piled into a string of black sedans for dinners with clients and colleagues around Riyadh. They even made jovial conversation in the Ritz’s makeshift clinic, where the queue for the Covid-19 tests required to return home to other countries stretched at times to an hour or more.

But global politics poked through at times.

In sideline conversations, some U.S. business leaders spoke in stage whispers of the drugging and dismemberment of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 — a killing that an American intelligence report concluded had been approved by the crown prince, known by his initials, MBS. Yet when the crown prince made a brief appearance at the conference on Tuesday, he was welcomed with a standing ovation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian troop movements near Ukraine prompt concern in U.S., Europe, Paul Sonne, Robyn Dixon and David L. Stern, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). The Kremlin has embraced a harder line on Ukraine.

A renewed buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border has raised concern among some officials in the United States and Europe who are tracking what they consider irregular movements of equipment and personnel on Russia’s western flank.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the troop movements have reignited concerns that arose in April, when the largest buildup of troops by Russia near the Ukrainian border in years sparked an international outcry.

The renewed movements of Russian forces in the area come as the Kremlin embraces a harder line on Ukraine. Russian officials from President Vladimir Putin on down have escalated their rhetoric in recent months, attacking Kyiv’s Western ties and even questioning its sovereignty. Putin has warned that any expansion of NATO military infrastructure on Ukrainian territory represents a “red line” for Moscow.
Biden says Justice Department should prosecute those who refuse Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas

Earlier this week, White House counsel Dana Remus wrote to NARA, saying Biden had “determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified” for two batches of Jan. 6-related documents under review at the White House.
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An attorney for Trump also recently told a group of his former advisers not to comply with their subpoenas from the House select committee, citing “executive and other privileges.” The Jan. 6 committee has since voted to hold former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt for not complying with its subpoena.

washington post logoWashington Post, Protests sweep across Sudan as international backlash against coup intensifies, Max Bearak, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Amid a near-total communications blackout, tens of thousands of protesters across Sudan took a well-coordinated protest movement back onto city streets Saturday after a military coup earlier this week.

The coup was the second in three years and was led by the same generals who ousted longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April 2019. A power-sharing arrangement with civilian leaders crumbled Monday as Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the joint government, detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, suspended the constitution and gave himself control.

Saturday’s mass protests — which were mirrored by rallies in global cities with large Sudanese populations — were part of a sustained effort by Sudanese professional organizations, political parties and ordinary citizens to force Sudan’s military into ceding the reins of government to civilians in the lead-up to democratic elections expected two years from now.

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U.S. Education, Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Two doors, few windows and 4,500 students: Architect quits over billionaire’s mega dorm, Meryl Kornfield, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Billionaire investor Charlie Munger doesn’t mind some shade. Billionaire donor’s dorm design called ‘unsupportable as an architect, a parent, and a human being.’

Munger, vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to universities and high schools to build school facilities he designed himself. But the amateur architect’s latest idea for a mostly windowless mega-dorm to be built on the University of California at Santa Barbara campus faced objection this week when a university architectural consultant quit, calling the plan “unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being.”

Dennis McFadden, a Los Angeles architect and member of the university’s design review committee of 15 years, wrote in his resignation letter that he was “disturbed” by the 11-story, 1.68 million-square-foot building with just two entrances. The massive dorm would house 4,500 students, 94 percent of whom would not have windows in their compact single-occupancy bedrooms. McFadden called the dorm the “wrong answer” to the need for more housing ― raising the question of how much authority wealthy donors have when it comes to planning the buildings their names are etched on.

“As the ‘vision’ of a single donor, the building is a social and psychological experiment with an unknown impact on the lives and personal development of the undergraduates the university serves,” McFadden wrote in the letter, first reported by student-run newspaper the Daily Nexus and community outlet the Santa Barbara Independent.

Munger, who has no formal architecture training, says he’s unfazed by McFadden’s objections, telling The Washington Post that “this is not some crazy idea.” He said his plan has been in the works for years and compared virtual windows that would simulate sunlight in the dorm rooms to those in Disney cruise staterooms.

The $1.5 billion project, of which Munger is contributing $200 million, will proceed despite McFadden’s letter, a university spokeswoman said.

“We are delighted to be moving forward with this transformational project that directly addresses the campus’s great need for more student housing,” Andrea Estrada wrote in a statement to The Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: VIPs expect special treatment. At Wikipedia, don’t even ask, Noam Cohen (author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball), Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). No, John Eastman, you can’t edit your own article here.

In the early afternoon of Jan. 7, only hours after addressing the “Stop the Steal” rally outside the White House that fed into the assault on the Capitol, John C. Eastman began working on the first draft of history: He rewrote his own Wikipedia page.
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wikipedia logoWhere the article said that Eastman, a professor at Chapman Law School at the time, was helping President Donald Trump “to annul the voting processes and, by extension, the electoral college selections” of at least four states, Eastman substituted a less accusatory description. In his version, Trump hadn’t tried to annul the results but had simply “challenged the electoral votes in four states in which elections officials had violated state law (and hence Art II of the U.S. Constitution) in the conduct of the election.”

Eastman was able to move quickly because he already had a Wikipedia account and was familiar with its ways; over the years he had edited his own article, a violation of the rules that was noticed but incompletely acted upon. This time, however, Eastman’s editing drew immediate attention. In barely two hours, all of his changes were made to disappear — “reverted,” in the parlance of Wikipedia — and he was asked to make his case on the Talk page assigned to the article, where editors can debate proposals for improving an entry.

In a world of inequality, we are well accustomed to rich, powerful, connected people getting preferential treatment, whether a good table at a restaurant, admission to a selective college for their offspring or a torn-up speeding ticket. Despite its countercultural tendencies, the digital world has wound up in a quite similar place. On large platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the most important, newsworthy users are given VIP treatment. Their voices are amplified; their misdeeds are excused; they are, up to a point (see: Trump), freed from the automated policing that the rest of us have to endure. The notable exception is Wikipedia. There, VIPs have been shouting “Do you have any idea who you are dealing with?!” for years, only to be told either, not really, or, don’t care, and then instructed, as Eastman was, to take their objections to a Talk page where the community can weigh in.

On Jan. 9, Eastman indeed returned to Wikipedia with his list of proposed fixes and the sources for those claims. Experienced editors evaluated his suggestions. They approved some uncontroversial requests — a better photo of him was uploaded, too — but when he suggested rewriting the description of his meeting with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the lead-up to the certification vote in Congress, an editor using the name SundayClose rendered a verdict, “Not Done,” trusting an account in the New York Times over Eastman’s own testimony.

“Seriously?,” Eastman replied. “The youtube source I cited was the actual speech in which I specifically stated what was being asked of the Vice President. How is the actual statement not a more reliable source than an anonymous source cited by the NY Times?” SundayClose answered, exasperated: “Yes seriously. This is Wikipedia, not your personal soapbox,” adding, for good measure, “Just because you say it in a speech doesn’t make it true.”

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U.S. Elections, Budget Bills, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, God, Trump and the Closed-Door World of the Council for National Policy, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). What internal recordings and documents reveal about a major conservative group — and the future of the Republican Party.

Much has been written about this turn of conservatives toward Trump. But I wanted to learn more about the political and communications infrastructure that converted this support into votes and influence. How did these leaders and activists — once so critical of Trump — end up helping shape and advocate for his agenda? And now that he is almost a year removed from the White House, how are they continuing to serve him and his cause?

Working with fellow Washington Post reporter Shawn Boburg, I started gathering documents and cultivating sources. We zeroed in on key figures and groups, making charts of their ties and timelines of their actions. We identified networks of groups that served as a kind of nerve system for conservative influence campaigns.

Enmeshed in these efforts was the Council for National Policy. CNP may be the most unusual, least understood conservative organization in the nation’s capital. A registered charity, it has served for 40 years as a social, planning and communications hub for conservative activists in Washington and nationwide. One of its defining features is its confidentiality. In a town where people and groups constantly angle for publicity, CNP bars the press and uninvited outsiders from its events. All members — even such luminaries as former vice president Mike Pence, Ralph Reed and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — agree to remain silent about its activities.

Other bastions of conservative influence — from policy groups like the Heritage Foundation to media outlets like Breitbart News — generally have clear missions. By contrast, CNP’s executive director, Bob McEwen, told me that the organization itself does not “do anything.” He and other CNP leaders will tell you it is merely an educational venue aimed at uniting its conservative members.

Yet as I began to learn more, I came to see that it would be a mistake to underestimate the group’s significance. I also realized that researching CNP represented a rare opportunity: to get a behind-the-scenes look at the outlook, goals and methods of activists who have so successfully promoted Trumpism. “I just wanted to thank you and the Council for National Policy for your support and for consistently amplifying the agenda of President Trump and our Administration,” Pence wrote to CNP last year. “I know our collaboration with CNP will only strengthen and deepen this year and beyond.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Frequency of violent threats on Capitol Hill unnerves staffers, Meagan Flynn and Emily Davies, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Since Jan. 6, evacuation orders and violent threats on the streets of Capitol Hill have unfolded with unsettling regularity.

Even as many have turned out to be false alarms, the specter of political violence still hangs heavy with each alert, generating reminders of Jan. 6 and sending the city into a constant state of hypervigilance — much like it was in the weeks after 9/11 when residents feared another terrorist attack.

On the other hand, the relative regularity of the threats has also normalized them, staffers said, making them seem to be increasingly just part of life on the Hill.

So far this year, there have been about 70 bomb threats in the nation’s capital, according to the D.C. Office of Unified Communications. In the past 10 days alone, there was a bomb threat at the Department of Labor and a suspicious package sent to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). In August, a man parked his truck near the Capitol and threatened to destroy two blocks of Washington with an explosive device. In April, numerous buildings on the Capitol grounds were placed on lockdown after a man rammed into a Capitol Police barricade, killing one officer, and in March, a House office building was evacuated because of a suspicious package.

washington post logoWashington Post, In a setback for Black Lives Matter, mayoral campaigns shift to ‘law and order,’ Tim Craig, Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). From Buffalo to Seattle, and in Cleveland, Democratic mayoral candidates are backtracking on police budgeting stances or contending with opponents who are hammering them over public safety.

Mayoral candidates across the country are closing out their campaigns pledging to restore law and order, a major setback for racial justice protesters who only a year ago thought they had permanently reshaped the debate on policing in American cities.

As voters head to the polls Tuesday, local elections are dominated by discussions about safety and law enforcement amid a surge in violent crime. The tone of the debate, even in many liberal urban communities, highlights how major policing reforms have stalled.

From Buffalo to Seattle, Democratic politicians who once championed significant reductions or reallocations of police department budgets are backtracking. In other cities, including Cleveland, liberal candidates are being hammered over their stances on public safety.

And even in cities without a competitive mayor’s race, the question of how to get tough on crime and bolster public safety has emerged as a defining issue. In Miami Beach, for example, Mayor Dan Gelber (D) is campaigning for a controversial referendum that would ban the sale of alcohol at bars and nightclubs after 2 a.m., which the mayor says is needed to regain control of the city after a tumultuous year of unruly behavior and gun violence. Gelber is also exploring how Miami Beach can hire more police officers.

“My residents are saying ‘we need to crackdown’, or ‘we need to have zero tolerance,’ ” said Gelber, adding that his party has been hampered by public perceptions that it is soft on crime.

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Oct. 30

Top Headlines

 

Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection Attempt, Election Claims

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 

U.S. Courts, Immigration, Law, Race

 

World News

 

Virginia Elections

 

Other U.S. Elections, Budget Bills, Governance

 

U.S. Education, Media

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden, other world leaders formally endorse new global corporate minimum tax, Jeff Stein, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The new global minimum tax of 15 percent aims to reverse the decades-long decline in tax rates on corporations across the world.

joe biden resized oPresident Biden and the other national leaders gathered for the Group of 20 summit formally endorsed a new global minimum tax on Saturday, capping months of negotiations over the groundbreaking tax accord.

The new global minimum tax of 15 percent aims to reverse the decades-long decline in tax rates on corporations across the world, a trend experts say has deprived governments of revenue to fund social spending programs. The deal is a key achievement for Treasury g 20 italy logoSecretary Janet Yellen, who made an international floor on corporate taxes among the top priorities of her tenure and pushed forcefully for swift action on a deal.

The plan was already endorsed by the finance ministers of each country, but its official approval by the heads of state puts added pressure on the difficult task of turning what remains an aspirational agreement into distinct legislation.

Global minimum tax effort moves forward as Ireland and Hungary join pact

Nearly 140 countries representing more than 90 percent of total global economic output have endorsed the deal, but they each must implement the new standards in a process that could take some time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Vaccine access and economy to be discussed at G-20 summit, Chico Harlan, Seung Min Kim, Annie Linskey and Jeff Stein, Oct. 30, 2021. President Biden and the other national leaders representing “Group of 20” economies have formally endorsed a new global minimum tax designed to prevent big companies from shifting profits to low-tax countries. News of the accord came as the first in-person G-20 leaders’ summit in two years got underway in Rome.

At the beginning of Saturday’s G-20 session — devoted to the topics of the economy and health — Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said vaccine inequities were not only extending the pandemic, but also triggering problems for the global economy.

“In high-income countries, more than 70 percent of the population has received at least one dose,” Draghi said. “In the poorest ones, this percentage drops to roughly 3 percent.”

“These differences are morally unacceptable, and undermine the global recovery.”

g 20 italy logoDraghi referenced a pledge, made a day earlier among Group of 20 health and finance ministers, to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population by mid-2020. The aim is ambitious — but it would also require the world’s wealthy countries to provide far more support to the poorest ones.

Here’s what to know

The leaders are expected to discuss expanding vaccine access, averting the next pandemic, their commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and their financial contributions to support lower-income countries facing brutal consequences of climate change.
After a meeting of the health and finance ministers, Group of 20 countries made a pledge to take on dire vaccine inequities and vaccinate 70-percent of the global population by mid-2022.

The summit is noteworthy for its absences. Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are not attending in person.

On Monday, leaders will travel from Rome to Glasgow, Scotland, for the far bigger United Nations climate conference known as COP26.

  • Italian PM Draghi calls vaccine inequities ‘morally unacceptable’
  • Boris Johnson invokes the Roman Empire in describing planet’s worrisome trajectory

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats race to finalize $1.75 trillion spending bill for House vote next week, Tony Romm, Marianna Sotomayor, Tyler Pager and Mike DeBonis, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). With a once-elusive legislative victory now squarely in their sights, congressional Democrats on Friday continued the arduous task of writing a $1.75 trillion bill to overhaul the nation’s health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws, hoping to hold votes on President Biden’s broader economic agenda as soon as next week.

Spanning nearly 1,700 pages — and with still more to add and revise — the legislative wrangling on Capitol Hill marked a new stage in the debate a day after Biden offered the broad outlines of a compromise to satisfy warring liberals and moderates in his own party.

In a positive sign for the president, lawmakers from both Democratic factions largely have praised the plan, which would expand Medicare, invest anew to combat global warming, offer universal prekindergarten and impose new taxes on the ultrawealthy. Biden has heralded the investments as transformational even though they are in many cases smaller than what Democrats initially envisioned.

Here's what is in Biden's $1.75 trillion budget plan.

By late Friday, lawmakers had not issued any policy ultimatums, offering an encouraging sign about the road ahead. But the flurry of activity also masked some of the still-simmering policy divisions — and the lingering feelings of distrust — that continue to plague the party’s narrow-yet-powerful congressional majority.

 pope francis joe biden 10 29 2021 vatican media via reuters

Pope Francis meets President Biden at the Vatican on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. (Vatican Media via Reuters) Washington Post, Biden meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, bringing together the world’s two most powerful Catholics, Chico Harlan and Seung Min Kim, Oct. 29, 2021. For the first time during his administration, President Biden met with Pope Francis on Friday, bringing together the world’s two most powerful Catholics, who share plenty of common ground and are contending with similar adversaries and polarization within the church.

  virginia roberts giuffre nbc screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, Prince Andrew Mounts Attack Against Woman Who Accused Him of Sexual Abuse, Benjamin Weiser and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, said the woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre (shown above in an NBC interview and below left in 2001 at age 17 with Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell) was seeking financial gain from one of the world’s best known royal families.

United Kingdom flagLawyers for Prince Andrew on Friday issued a blistering attack on a woman who has accused him in a lawsuit of sexually abusing her when she was still a minor and he was a guest of Jeffrey Epstein.

The lawyers for Andrew, 61, denied in a new court filing in Manhattan that their client, who is also known as the Duke of York, had ever sexually abused prince andrew virginia roberts ghislaine maxwell 2001or assaulted the woman, Virginia Giuffre, who has been one of Mr. Epstein’s most prominent accusers.

Andrew’s lawyers argued in the court papers that Ms. Giuffre’s lawsuit was part of an effort by her over more than a decade to profit from allegations she had made against Mr. Epstein and others. Andrew’s lawyers claimed that Ms. Giuffre had sold articles and photographs to the news media and entered into secret agreements to resolve her abuse claims.

“Giuffre has initiated this baseless lawsuit against Prince Andrew to achieve another payday at his expense and at the expense of those closest to him,” Andrew’s lawyers wrote. “Most people could only dream of obtaining the sums of money that Giuffre has secured for herself over the years.”

The lawyers added that “accusing a member of the world’s best known royal family of serious misconduct has helped Giuffre create a media frenzy online and in the traditional press.”

Andrew’s lawyers issued their attack on Ms. Giuffre as part of a brief asking the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, to dismiss her lawsuit, which was filed in August in Federal District Court.

prince andrew jeff epstein news syndication CustomIn the lawsuit, Ms. Giuffre, 38, claimed that Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, sexually abused her when she was under 18 on Mr. Epstein’s private island, Little St. James, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and at his mansion in Manhattan.

She also accused Andrew, along with Mr. Epstein (shown together in a file photo at right) and his longtime companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, of forcing her to have sexual intercourse with Andrew at Ms. Maxwell’s home in London.

Mr. Epstein, 66, was arrested in July 2019 on sex-trafficking charges. One month later he was found dead by hanging in his jail cell in Manhattan. The medical examiner ruled the death a suicide. Giuffre has said she was a pool attendant, age 17, at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago property when she met Epstein, then a Palm Beach neighbor and friend of Trump's.

 

Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection Attempt, Election Claims

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump seeks to block hundreds of pages from Jan. 6 panel, Amy B Wang, Oct. 30, 2021. According to a court filing, some of the materials Donald Trump is trying to withhold include emails, call logs, briefing lists and the draft of a Jan. 6 speech.

Former president Donald Trump is trying to withhold nearly 800 pages of documents from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to a court filing made Saturday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In the filing, a National Archives and Records Administration director outlined the specific documents Trump is seeking to block from the House select committee, which months ago ordered the former president to provide records of all his actions and activities on Jan. 6. The bipartisan panel is investigating the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob trying to stop the certification of President Biden’s electoral college win, an attack that resulted in five deaths and left some 140 members of law enforcement injured.

According to a sworn declaration from John Laster, director of the White House liaison division at NARA, Trump is trying to assert executive privilege over 46 pages of records from the files of former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former senior adviser Stephen Miller, former deputy counsel Patrick Philbin and Brian de Guzman, the former director of White House information services.

Those records include “daily presidential diaries, schedules, appointment information showing visitors to the White House, activity logs, call logs, and switchboard shift-change checklists showing calls” to Trump and former vice president Mike Pence; they also include drafts of speeches about Jan. 6 and three handwritten notes about Jan. 6 from Meadows, the filing stated.

Trump is also trying to exert executive privilege over 656 pages of records from a second batch of files, which include “pages from multiple binders containing proposed talking points” for former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, “presidential activity calendars and a related handwritten note” for Jan. 6, draft text of a presidential speech for the Save America March on Jan. 6, a handwritten note from Meadows listing “potential or scheduled briefings and telephone calls concerning the January 6 certification and other election issues,” and a draft executive order on the topic of election integrity, the filing stated.

From a third batch of records, Trump is seeking to block 68 pages that include a draft proclamation honoring the Capitol Police and officers Brian D. Sicknick and Howard Liebengood, who died after the insurrection; “an email chain originating from a state official regarding election-related issues”; a memo regarding a potential lawsuit against several states Biden won; “talking points on alleged election irregularities in one Michigan county; and a document ordering various actions about election security.

The filing was in response to — and shed more light on — a lawsuit Trump filed this month against the select committee and the National Archives in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to block the disclosure of records related to his whereabouts, communications and activities that day.

“The Committee’s request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration,” Trump’s lawsuit stated. “Our laws do not permit such an impulsive, egregious action against a former president and his close advisors.”

Attorneys for both the Department of Justice and the House select committee, which also filed a response this week to Trump’s lawsuit, proposed that the former president’s motion for a preliminary injunction on disclosing these materials be denied. A U.S. district judge has set a hearing on the matter for Nov. 4. The committee’s subpoena has a Nov. 12 deadline to turn over the requested records.

“Mr. Trump’s broad claims of executive privilege are unprecedented and deeply flawed,” lawyers for the House select committee wrote in their filing. “Here, Mr. Trump’s conclusory interest must give way to the Select Committee’s urgent need for the records, as President Biden has likewise determined.”

Exerting additional pressure on Trump, on Thursday, 66 former members of Congress — including 44 Democrats and 22 Republicans — filed a brief opposing Trump’s attempt to shield documents from the Jan. 6 committee, arguing that Congress “has broad legislative powers grounded in multiple constitutional clauses to enact legislation to respond to the heretofore unimagined vulnerabilities in our constitutional system illustrated by last winter’s events.”

Former Congress members file brief opposing Trump’s attempt to shield Jan. 6 records

“If Congress fails to win this case, then you might as well pack up Congress and let them go home because this is fundamental to our checks and balances and the rule of law in this country,” former congressman Tom Coleman (R-Mo.), an outspoken Trump critic who signed the brief, told The Washington Post on Friday. “I can’t think of a better legislative reason for getting information than to get to the facts and get to the bottom of an insurrection against the United States government.”

For nearly a year, Trump has falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, and the former president has continued to push Republican-led audits of election results and sow doubt in the integrity of elections around the country. There has been no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would have changed the results of the election.

Trump has continued to insist he will exert executive privilege to resist any cooperation with the House select committee, referring to a legal theory that sitting presidents and their aides have invoked to shield themselves from past congressional inquiries. As a former president, however, Trump would need the Biden administration to assert executive privilege. Biden months ago indicated he will probably share with Congress information about Trump’s activities on Jan. 6 if asked.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: During Jan. 6 riot, Trump attorney told Pence team the vice president’s inaction caused attack on Capitol, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, Jon Swaine and Emma Brown, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.).

As Vice President Mike Pence hid from a marauding mob during the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol, an attorney for President Donald Trump emailed a top Pence aide to say that Pence had caused the violence by refusing to block certification of Trump’s election loss.

The attorney, John C. Eastman, also continued to press for Pence to act even after Trump’s supporters had trampled through the Capitol — an attack the Pence aide, Greg Jacob, had described as a “siege” in their email exchange.

“The ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss did not do what was necessary to allow this to be aired in a public way so that the American people can see for themselves what happened,” Eastman wrote to Jacob, referring to Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Eastman sent the email as Pence, who had been presiding in the Senate, was under guard with Jacob and other advisers in a secure area. Rioters were tearing through the Capitol complex, some of them calling for Pence to be executed.

Jacob, Pence’s chief counsel, included Eastman’s emailed remarks in a draft opinion article about Trump’s outside legal team that he wrote later in January but ultimately chose not to publish. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the draft. Jacob wrote that by sending the email at that moment, Eastman “displayed a shocking lack of awareness of how those practical implications were playing out in real time.”

  • Read: Pence aide Greg Jacob’s draft opinion article denouncing Trump’s outside lawyers

Jacob’s draft article, Eastman’s emails and accounts of other previously undisclosed actions by Eastman offer new insight into the mind-sets of figures at the center of an episode that pushed American democracy to the brink. They show that Eastman’s efforts to persuade Pence to block Trump’s defeat were more extensive than has been reported previously, and that the Pence team was subjected to what Jacob at the time called “a barrage of bankrupt legal theories.”

Eastman confirmed the emails in interviews with The Post but denied that he was blaming Pence for the violence. He defended his actions, saying that Trump’s team was right to exhaust “every legal means” to challenge a result that it argued was plagued by widespread fraud and irregularities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Draft opinion article: Pence aide Greg Jacob’s denounces Trump’s outside lawyers, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Here is the text of a draft op-ed Greg Jacob wrote in January 2021, when he was chief counsel to Vice President Mike Pence, but ultimately decided not to publish. The Washington Post obtained a copy of the draft for this story examining Trump attorney John Eastman’s actions around the events of Jan. 6.

In the days and hours leading up to the counting of the electoral votes in Congress, a cadre of outside lawyers to the President spun a web of lies and disinformation, to him and to the public, for the purpose of pressuring the Vice President to betray his oath to uphold our laws and the Constitution of the United States. That was a fool’s errand. The Vice President never wavered under the barrage of bankrupt legal theories, just as he never left the Capitol building when the assault began. Now that the moment of immediate crisis has passed, the legal profession should dispassionately examine whether the attorneys involved should be disciplined for using their credentials to sell a stream of snake oil to the most powerful office in the world, wrapped in the guise of a lawyer’s advice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans on the insurrection? Don’t confuse them with the facts, Colbert I. King, right, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). In 1974, colbert king twitterWashington collectively shook its head and suppressed laughter when Republican Rep. Earl Landgrebe of Valparaiso, Ind., a die-hard champion of President Richard M. Nixon, said this the day before Nixon resigned:

“Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.”

Now hold on. Everybody’s got an Uncle Earl up in the attic. That might help explain why the Republican Party was never held to account for Landgrebe, a colorful right-wing loner, who once voted no on a quorum call but could not later remember why.

After being named by New Times Magazine one of the “10 dumbest” members of Congress in the run-up to the 1974 elections, and because of his slavish embrace of the disgraced Nixon, Landgrebe earned himself a one-way ticket home, courtesy of voters who turned to the opposing Democratic candidate in droves.

Many of us who lived through the Watergate era thought we would never again see the likes of Earl Landgrebe. We had not accounted for the current crop of House Republicans.

Comes now a dawning reality: Though Landgrebe died in 1986, his spirit lurks in the House chamber, blanketing the Republican side of the aisle.

And the evidence?

It’s all there in antics displayed by House Republicans since President Donald Trump was fired by the American people nearly a year ago.

 

ICE logowashington post logoWashington Post, Detained immigrants were paid candy or $1 a day for labor. They’re owed $17 million, a jury says, Kim Bellware, Oct. 30, 2021. Goodluck Nwauzor fled Boko Haram militants in Nigeria only to end up cleaning showers for $1 a day while housed at one of the United States’ largest immigrant detention facilities.

Now his testimony has helped convince a federal jury that GEO Group, which runs the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, Wash., violated the state’s minimum wage laws and owes thousands of immigrant detainees $17.3 million in backpay.

“I feel so great, and I thank almighty God, who made it possible,” Nwauzor told The Washington Post by phone Saturday. “I really appreciate the jury’s decision.”

us dhs big eagle logo4The decision on Friday means Nwauzor and roughly 10,000 other detainees will receive individual awards ranging from $7 for a single day worked, to more than $30,000 in the instance of a detainee who worked almost 700 days, according to Adam J. Berger of the Seattle-based Schroeter Goldmark & Benderorthat, the law firm representing Nwauzor and the other detainees.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan will decide how much money GEO Group must pay the state for unjust enrichment — a sum on top of the $17.3 million already ordered.

Nwauzor’s attorneys called the jury’s award “precedent-setting,” while labor experts said it could have wider implications. Erin Hutton, a University of Buffalo sociology professor who authored a book on coerced labor, said the jury’s award sends a strong message to corporations that labor protections extend to people in pretrial detention.

“Immigration detention center labor is a kind of murky area that’s been operating under the aegis of prison labor,” Hutton said. “It’s been in dispute, but this ruling shows that they can’t get away with it without scrutiny.”

Representatives for GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment Saturday, and it is unclear whether the company will appeal the decisions. The jury first ruled Wednesday that the private prison operator violated the state’s minimum wage laws and ruled two days later on the compensation.

The rulings conclude two of three phases in the class-action lawsuit against GEO Group that was combined with a 2017 lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) over the company’s minimum wage violations.

Ferguson in a statement Wednesday said the jury’s decision sends a clear message: “Washington will not tolerate corporations that get rich violating the rights of the people.”

The GEO Group has argued it did not have a paid employee relationship with the immigrant detainees housed its facility; rather, they were paid a stipend as part of the “voluntary work program” the facility is required to provide as a condition of its contract with the federal government via U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The company, which last year reported revenue of more than $2.3 billion, in court filings characterized the work program as an unprofitable burden that was administratively inefficient given the high turnover of detainees.

Ferguson said at the outset of his 2017 lawsuit against the Florida-based company that the company’s labor practices were not only unfair to the detainees but to local job seekers.

“If GEO did not exploit detainees to perform this work, these are jobs that might have gone to people in the community,” Ferguson said in 2017.

Detainees at the Northwest ICE Processing Center were paid a $1 per day regardless of how many hours they worked in various cooking, cleaning, laundry and maintenance roles, if they were paid at all; some detainees were paid with candy or other snacks, according to court records.

Berger, Nwauzor’s attorney, notes that none of the individuals housed at the detention center had been convicted of a crime but were in administrative detention while their status was sorted out.

“A lot of them were people who were brought to the country as children, who thought they were lawful permanent residents until something happened that attracted the attention of ICE,” he said. Others, like Nwauzor, were asylum seekers who presented themselves lawfully at the border.

 

Donald J. Trump, left, and William Barr (Justice Department photo in March 2019).

Donald J. Trump, left, and William Barr (Justice Department photo in March 2019).

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Durham probe is finally backfiring on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 30, 2021. When Donald Trump and his Attorney General bill palmerBill Barr tasked John Durham, below right, with criminally investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, Palmer Report predicted that it wouldn’t end up helping Trump one bit. Sure enough, the probe went nowhere, found nothing, and changed zero minds heading into the 2020 election.

But the Durham probe is still ongoing, having finally resulted in a single indictment against one person for lying to investigators. Given the bill palmer report logo headerlack of legitimate evidence in the indictment, it’s likely to end in dismissal or acquittal. In fact, the indictment has turned out to be so sketchy, it’s beginning to backfire.

Remember the story about a computer server at Trump Tower that was communicating almost solely with Russia’s Alfa Bank? There john durham Customhave been so many different connections between Donald Trump and Russia, you may have forgotten that the server scandal even existed. But because the Durham indictment falsely claimed that the original authors of that article didn’t believe in their own work, they’re now coming forward to reiterate that they do indeed stand by their story.

This gives you an idea of just how absurd this indictment is; it’s based on the false claim that a group of journalists didn’t believe their story, and that someone else was therefore lying when he told federal investigators otherwise. Yeah, this is now pretty obviously alpha bank logo russiaheading for acquittal.

But it’s also served to pushed the Trump server – Alfa Bank story back into the headlines, including a major expose on the Rachel Maddow show last night. Thus far the only thing the Durham probe has done, aside from temporarily making life unfairly difficult for one indicted and pretty clearly innocent guy, is to push the Trump-Russia scandal back into the headlines. That’s the last thing Trump wanted.

russian flag wavingOf course we’ve seen this over and over again. When Donald Trump was in office, he spent much of his time trying to prove to himself that his 2016 win was legitimate, because his fragile ego couldn’t handle the possibility that he only won because Russia helped him. Accordingly, the people around him like Bill Barr ended up focusing on doing things not aimed at helping him in any real way, but instead aimed at calming Trump’s insecurities.

As a result we ended up with things like the Durham probe, an investigation that was never, ever going to help Donald Trump in any tangible way. And while these latest revelations should finally give the DOJ a legal basis for shutting Durham down, it’s not as if his probe was helping Trump. At this point the Durham probe is only serving to make Trump’s life more difficult.

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Virus Victims, Responses

fda logo

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Clears First Coronavirus Vaccine for 5- to 11-Year-Olds, Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The shot could bring relief to parents anxious about their children, though some experts worry that those most at risk may slip through the crac ks.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in children 5 to 11, a move eagerly anticipated by millions of families looking to protect some of the only remaining Americans left out of the vaccination campaign.

pfizer logoAbout 28 million children in the group will be eligible to receive one-third of the adult dose, with two injections three weeks apart. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signs off, as is expected, they could start getting shots as early as Wednesday.

The Biden administration has promised that children’s shots will be easily accessible at pediatrician offices, community health centers, children’s hospitals and pharmacies, with 15 million doses ready to ship immediately. States started ordering doses last week, under a formula based on how many children they have in the age group. While the school year is already well underway, the pediatric dose is arriving in time for the holidays, giving more comfort to families looking to gather older and younger people together for the first time since the early months of 2020.

“It’s an incredibly important tool in the return to normalcy,” said Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a leader of the Covid-19 Prevention Network. “To be able to know that your child is protected and not going to get severely ill by going to school is an incredible psychological relief.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Won’t Block Maine’s Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers, Adam Liptak, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). A state regulation that does not allow exemptions on religious grounds was challenged by workers who said getting the shot was at odds with their faith.

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to block Maine’s requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus notwithstanding their religious objections.

As is the court’s custom in rulings on emergency applications, its brief order gave no reasons.

But the three most conservative members of the court — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — issued a lengthy dissent, saying the majority had gone badly astray.

“Where many other states have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course,” Justice Gorsuch wrote for the dissenting justices. “There, health care workers who have served on the front line of a pandemic for the last 18 months are now being fired and their practices shuttered. All for adhering to their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Their plight is worthy of our attention.”

Maine has required health care workers to be vaccinated against various contagious diseases since 1989, and eliminated exemptions on religious or philosophical grounds under a state law enacted in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began. The state does exempt workers for whom the given vaccine would be “medically inadvisable” in the judgment of a health care professional.

The 2019 law was the subject of a referendum, with about 73 percent of the state’s voters approving it.

The state included a coronavirus vaccine among the required vaccinations in a regulation issued in August, setting a deadline of Oct. 29. Several health care workers sued, saying the requirement violated their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.

Judge Jon D. Levy of the Federal District Court in Maine ruled against the plaintiffs.

“Both the serious risk of illness and death associated with the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the efforts by state and local governments to reduce that risk have burdened most aspects of modern life,” he wrote.

The plaintiffs’ “refusal to be vaccinated based on their religious beliefs has resulted or will result in real hardships as it relates to their jobs,” Judge Levy wrote. “They have not, however, been prevented from staying true to their professed religious beliefs which, they claim, compel them to refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19.”

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, affirmed Judge Levy’s ruling.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccines offer more protection than prior infection, a C.D.C. study found, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Enrollment in New York City’s public schools dropped by 50,000 since the fall of 2019. Cases in Europe surge as winter approaches. Thousands of New York City employees are not yet in compliance with a vaccine mandate. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that vaccination provides stronger and more reliable protection against the coronavirus than a past infection does, the agency said on Friday.

cdc logo CustomUnvaccinated people who had previously recovered from a coronavirus infection were five times as likely to get Covid as people who had received both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, the C.D.C. said.

The study’s authors cautioned, however, that certain gaps in patient data and biases in their study participants could have influenced the results.

“We now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of Covid-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

The question of whether people who have had Covid really need a shot has gained traction among some Americans as vaccine mandates take hold across the country. Scientists have urged Covid survivors not to skip the vaccine, noting that the strength and durability of so-called natural immunity depends heavily on people’s age and health, and the severity of an initial infection.

The C.D.C. study used a roundabout experimental design. The researchers examined roughly 7,000 people hospitalized this year with Covid-like illness across nine states. They then looked at how many of those hospitalized patients were indeed infected with the coronavirus. The odds of testing positive for the virus were considerably higher among unvaccinated, previously infected patients than they were among vaccinated people.

The study comes with several caveats, however. The researchers cautioned that the findings may not translate to non-hospitalized people with different levels of access to medical care, and that some patients in the vaccinated group may unknowingly have also had previous infections.

The researchers also noted that separate research in Israel had failed to show that vaccinated people were better protected than those who had only been infected. In general, scientists said, studies on the topic had drawn contradictory conclusions.

 ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Russia hits new record for coronavirus infections, Jim Heintz, Oct. 30, 2021. Russia on Saturday reported a record number of new coronavirus infections as authorities hope to stem the rising contagion by keeping most people off work for the next week

The government’s coronavirus task force reported 40,251 new infections in 24 hours, exceeding the previous record 40,096 reported on Thursday. It said 1,160 people died of the virus over the past day, three fewer than the record set a day earlier.

That brought Russia’s official COVID-19 death count to 237,380, by far the largest in Europe. More than 8.47 million infections have been recorded in the country of 146 million during the pandemic.

The task force counts only deaths directly caused by the virus. The state statistics service Rosstat, which counts COVID-19 deaths by wider criteria, released figures Friday indicating a much higher toll.

Rosstat counted 44,265 deaths in September caused directly by the virus, or in which it was a contributing cause or of patients believed to have been infected. That would bring Russia’s pandemic-long death toll to about 461,000 as of the end of September, nearly twice the task force’s count.

ny times logoNew York Times, Children Drive Britain’s Longest-Running Covid Surge, Josh Holder, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Britain lifted most restrictions in July — and has had an extended wave since, with school-age children now making up more than a third of new cases.

Britain is once again at the peak of a coronavirus surge, just over three months after all coronavirus restrictions were lifted on what Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed as “Freedom Day.”

Cases have stayed at high levels since then, with more than 20,000 new cases recorded each day. There are almost 9,000 Britons hospitalized with Covid-19 — the highest level since March, when the United Kingdom was in the midst of a long national lockdown.

Unlike the rises and falls of previous periods of infection, the most recent wave shows the positive impact of Britain’s vaccination rollout: Far fewer Covid hospital admissions and deaths have followed the rise in cases than in previous waves. Still, health experts contend that the ongoing hospitalizations and deaths are burdening overstretched hospitals and could be reduced with basic measures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Case numbers in Europe are surging as winter approaches, Staff Reports, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Low vaccination rates in Eastern Europe are partly to blame for a recent spike. Americans with mental health disorders are now eligible for a booster shot. Thousands of New York City employees are not yet in compliance with a vaccine mandate.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The virus is surging again in Europe as winter looms.
  • England will remove the last seven countries on its restricted-travel ‘red list.’
  • Tonga records its first Covid case.
  • Even if lots of children have had Covid, they’ll still benefit from the vaccine, experts say.
  • New York’s vaccination deadline nears, and the city braces for shortages of police officers and firefighters.
  • The C.D.C. adds mental health conditions to its high-risk Covid list.
  • An Italian city adopts an ancient statue as a symbol of recovery from the pandemic.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 30, 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: 246,902,465, Deaths: 5,007,600
U.S. Cases:     46,771,979, Deaths:   765,722
Indian Cases:   34,260,470, Deaths:    457,773
Brazil Cases:   21,793,401, Deaths:    607,504

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 221.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 30, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 191.2 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

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Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

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Virginia Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia governor’s race a toss-up as Election Day nears, Post-Schar School poll finds, Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, Karina Elwood, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The Virginia governor’s race: A first major test for Democrats in the Biden era.

terry mcauliffe oVirginia’s race for governor is a toss-up as Tuesday’s election draws near, with 49 percent of likely voters favoring Democrat Terry McAuliffe, left, and 48 glenn youngkinpercent favoring Republican Glenn Youngkin, right, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.

The result is little changed from last month, when a Post-Schar School poll measured the race at 50 percent McAuliffe-47 percent Youngkin — although the Democrat’s six percentage-point edge among all registered voters in September has narrowed to three points in the new poll, at 47 percent for McAuliffe to 44 percent for Youngkin.

Youngkin is fueled by an 18-point advantage among independent likely voters, up from an eight-point advantage last month — a significant swing in a group that could determine the election’s outcome. While Virginia does not register voters by party, 33 percent of voters in the poll identified themselves as independents. That compares with 34 percent who said they consider themselves Democrats and 27 percent who said they are Republicans.

 

U.S. Courts, Law, Crime, Immigration

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court will hear cases that could undercut Biden’s goals on climate, immigration, Robert Barnes and Dino Grandoni, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on Friday took up cases that could limit the Biden administration’s ambitions on climate change and immigration policy.

The court granted a request from the coal industry and Republican-led states challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to limit greenhouse gases from power plants, which could threaten a key plank of President Biden’s climate agenda.

And it said it would hear a case that would allow conservative states to defend a Trump-era limitation on issuing green cards to noncitizens who may rely too heavily on government aid, which the law calls “public charges.”

In both cases, the Biden administration’s solicitor general had asked the court not to intervene.

West Virginia and officials in 18 other states are trying to head off the sweeping type of emission plan President Barack Obama had proposed in 2016. In that case, the Supreme Court put the plan on hold and it was never implemented.

 

ICE logowashington post logoWashington Post, Detained immigrants were paid candy or $1 a day for labor. They’re owed $17 million, a jury says, Kim Bellware, Oct. 30, 2021. Goodluck Nwauzor fled Boko Haram militants in Nigeria only to end up cleaning showers for $1 a day while housed at one of the United States’ largest immigrant detention facilities.

Now his testimony has helped convince a federal jury that GEO Group, which runs the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, Wash., violated the state’s minimum wage laws and owes thousands of immigrant detainees $17.3 million in backpay.

“I feel so great, and I thank almighty God, who made it possible,” Nwauzor told The Washington Post by phone Saturday. “I really appreciate the jury’s decision.”

us dhs big eagle logo4The decision on Friday means Nwauzor and roughly 10,000 other detainees will receive individual awards ranging from $7 for a single day worked, to more than $30,000 in the instance of a detainee who worked almost 700 days, according to Adam J. Berger of the Seattle-based Schroeter Goldmark & Benderorthat, the law firm representing Nwauzor and the other detainees.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan will decide how much money GEO Group must pay the state for unjust enrichment — a sum on top of the $17.3 million already ordered.

Nwauzor’s attorneys called the jury’s award “precedent-setting,” while labor experts said it could have wider implications. Erin Hutton, a University of Buffalo sociology professor who authored a book on coerced labor, said the jury’s award sends a strong message to corporations that labor protections extend to people in pretrial detention.

“Immigration detention center labor is a kind of murky area that’s been operating under the aegis of prison labor,” Hutton said. “It’s been in dispute, but this ruling shows that they can’t get away with it without scrutiny.”

Representatives for GEO Group did not respond to a request for comment Saturday, and it is unclear whether the company will appeal the decisions. The jury first ruled Wednesday that the private prison operator violated the state’s minimum wage laws and ruled two days later on the compensation.

The rulings conclude two of three phases in the class-action lawsuit against GEO Group that was combined with a 2017 lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) over the company’s minimum wage violations.

Ferguson in a statement Wednesday said the jury’s decision sends a clear message: “Washington will not tolerate corporations that get rich violating the rights of the people.”

The GEO Group has argued it did not have a paid employee relationship with the immigrant detainees housed its facility; rather, they were paid a stipend as part of the “voluntary work program” the facility is required to provide as a condition of its contract with the federal government via U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The company, which last year reported revenue of more than $2.3 billion, in court filings characterized the work program as an unprofitable burden that was administratively inefficient given the high turnover of detainees.

Ferguson said at the outset of his 2017 lawsuit against the Florida-based company that the company’s labor practices were not only unfair to the detainees but to local job seekers.

“If GEO did not exploit detainees to perform this work, these are jobs that might have gone to people in the community,” Ferguson said in 2017.

Detainees at the Northwest ICE Processing Center were paid a $1 per day regardless of how many hours they worked in various cooking, cleaning, laundry and maintenance roles, if they were paid at all; some detainees were paid with candy or other snacks, according to court records.

Berger, Nwauzor’s attorney, notes that none of the individuals housed at the detention center had been convicted of a crime but were in administrative detention while their status was sorted out.

“A lot of them were people who were brought to the country as children, who thought they were lawful permanent residents until something happened that attracted the attention of ICE,” he said. Others, like Nwauzor, were asylum seekers who presented themselves lawfully at the border.

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

ap logoAssociated Press via Tampa Bay Times, Investigation: Still no charges in prison beating death of Whitey Bulger 3 years later, Staff Report, Oct. 30-31, 2021 (print ed.). Shortly after the killing, sources identified two Massachusetts organized crime figures as suspects: Fotios “Freddy” Geas and Paul J. DeCologero.

whitey bulger US Marshals Service Mug1He was one of the most infamous criminals to ever be killed behind bars. And investigators narrowed in on suspects immediately after his shocking slaying in a West Virginia prison.

Yet three years later, no one has been charged in the beating death of murderous Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, shown in a mug shot at right. Questions such as why the well-known FBI informant was put in the troubled lockup’s general population alongside other New England gangsters — instead of more protective housing — remain unanswered.

Federal officials will say only that his death remains under investigation. Meanwhile, the lack of answers has only fueled rumors and spurred claims by Bulger’s family that the frail 89-year-old was “deliberately sent to his death” at the penitentiary nicknamed “Misery Mountain.”

FBI logo“This was really a dereliction of duty,” said Joe Rojas, a union representative for the correctional staff at the Florida prison where Bulger was held before being transferred to USP Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. “There’s no way he should have been put in that institution.”

Bulger was found dead on Oct. 30, 2018, hours after arriving at Hazelton from the Coleman prison in Florida, where he was serving a life sentence for participating in 11 killings. The ruthless gangster who spent 16 years on the lam before being captured in 2011 was assaulted and died of blunt force injuries to the head, according to his death certificate.

Federal officials have never officially publicly identified any suspects and have said only that they are investigating his death as a homicide. But shortly after the killing, a former federal investigator and a law enforcement official who insisted on anonymity because of the ongoing probe identified two Massachusetts organized crime figures as suspects: Fotios “Freddy” Geas and Paul J. DeCologero.

Geas, a Mafia hitman serving life behind bars for his role in the killing of a Genovese crime family boss and other violent crimes, has been in a restricted unit at the West Virginia prison since Bulger’s killing even though no charges have been filed, said his lawyer, Daniel Kelly. Kelly says Geas hasn’t been provided regular reviews to see if he can be released from the unit but has petitioned to be returned to the general prison population, where he’d enjoy more freedoms, including the ability to call his family more often.

“He’s remaining positive and upbeat, but it’s a punitive measure,” Kelly said. “It’s a prison within a prison.”

DeCologero, meanwhile, was moved earlier this year to another high-security penitentiary in Virginia. A member of a Massachusetts gang led by his uncle, DeCologero was convicted in 2006 of racketeering and witness tampering for a number of crimes and is scheduled to be released in 2026.

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World News

washington post logoWashington Post, As Biden rolls back Trump policies, G-20 allies join bid to revive Iran nuclear deal, Seung Min Kim, Chico Harlan and Annie Linskey, Oct. 30, 2021. President Biden opened new fronts in global engagement Saturday, endorsing international accords on taxation and vaccinations while joining key European allies to ramp up pressure on Iran to revive the 2015 deal to curb its nuclear program.

The Biden administration also announced during the annual Group of 20 summit that it had reached a deal with the European Union on resolving a bitter standoff over steel and aluminum imports imposed three years ago under President Donald Trump.

Taken together, the moves marked fresh efforts to turn away from Trump’s policies that included withdrawal from key international accords, a snub of the Iran nuclear deal and a range of protectionist trade measures.

Perhaps the most uncertain of the developments Saturday is the fate of the nuclear accord that set limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment and other advances in exchange for easing international sanctions. After Trump pulled out in 2018, Iran had announced higher-level enrichment — stirring alarm from the West and its allies — even as Tehran’s leaders insist they do not seek nuclear weapons but want to control nuclear fuel supply for reactors.

During the first full day of the G-20 summit in Rome, Biden met with leaders of the E3 countries — France, Germany and Britain — in an attempt to coordinate with other parties of the original agreement. Russia and China were also part of the accord.

In a statement, Biden and the E3 leaders said they felt it was possible to quickly reinstate the 2015 deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian troop movements near Ukraine prompt concern in U.S., Europe, Paul Sonne, Robyn Dixon and David L. Stern, Oct. 30, 2021. The Kremlin has embraced a harder line on Ukraine.

A renewed buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border has raised concern among some officials in the United States and Europe who are tracking what they consider irregular movements of equipment and personnel on Russia’s western flank.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the troop movements have reignited concerns that arose in April, when the largest buildup of troops by Russia near the Ukrainian border in years sparked an international outcry.

The renewed movements of Russian forces in the area come as the Kremlin embraces a harder line on Ukraine. Russian officials from President Vladimir Putin on down have escalated their rhetoric in recent months, attacking Kyiv’s Western ties and even questioning its sovereignty. Putin has warned that any expansion of NATO military infrastructure on Ukrainian territory represents a “red line” for Moscow.
Biden says Justice Department should prosecute those who refuse Jan. 6 committee’s subpoenas

Earlier this week, White House counsel Dana Remus wrote to NARA, saying Biden had “determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified” for two batches of Jan. 6-related documents under review at the White House.
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An attorney for Trump also recently told a group of his former advisers not to comply with their subpoenas from the House select committee, citing “executive and other privileges.” The Jan. 6 committee has since voted to hold former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt for not complying with its subpoena.

washington post logoWashington Post, Protests sweep across Sudan as international backlash against coup intensifies, Max Bearak, Oct. 30, 2021. Amid a near-total communications blackout, tens of thousands of protesters across Sudan took a well-coordinated protest movement back onto city streets Saturday after a military coup earlier this week.

The coup was the second in three years and was led by the same generals who ousted longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April 2019. A power-sharing arrangement with civilian leaders crumbled Monday as Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan dissolved the joint government, detained Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, suspended the constitution and gave himself control.

Saturday’s mass protests — which were mirrored by rallies in global cities with large Sudanese populations — were part of a sustained effort by Sudanese professional organizations, political parties and ordinary citizens to force Sudan’s military into ceding the reins of government to civilians in the lead-up to democratic elections expected two years from now.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dutch woman accused of financing terrorist group appears in Virginia court, Rachel Weiner, Oct. 30, 2021. Seven years after she was accused of raising money for a Somali terrorist group, a Dutch woman appeared for the first time in Virginia federal court.

Farhia Hassan, 38, is one of a group of more than a dozen women whom authorities say gathered online from at least 2011 through 2014 to raise money for al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda that has battled U.S.-backed governments in Somalia and Kenya.

Two U.S.-based women were convicted of related charges in 2016; both were sentenced to more than a decade in prison. Two other suspects remain at large overseas.

Hassan fought extradition from the Netherlands and was only brought to the United States this week. She will have a detention hearing Thursday.

Some women were told the money would go to feed orphans or build mosques, according to court records, rather than fueling terrorist attacks. The amounts of money Hassan and others are accused of gathering are small, sent in chunks of $50 or $100. But at trial and in sentencing in the earlier case, prosecutors James P. Gillis and Danya E. Atiyeh argued that even a few thousand dollars could have a devastating impact in Somalia.

Hassan has argued that the United States has no right to prosecute her as a foreign national who supported a group in another country.

“This indictment alleges that Ms. Hassan, a foreign national living abroad, was supposed to consider U.S. law when donating money to a foreign organization engaged in internal insurgency in Africa,” defense attorney Jessica Carmichael wrote.

Judge Anthony J. Trenga rejected that argument, saying Hassan is alleged to be tied to a conspiracy with women in America who sought to harm American interests by backing a designated terrorist group.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. announces deal with E.U. to ease aluminum and steel tariffs enacted under Trump, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein, Oct. 30, 2021.  The Biden administration has struck a deal with European Union officials to lift some tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, resolving at this year’s Group of 20 summit a bitter trade stand-off that began under president Donald Trump three years ago.

The deal announced Saturday allows “limited volumes” of steel and aluminum products from the EU to enter the United States tariff-free, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said.

Even as supply lines strain, Biden is in no rush to scrap Trump’s steel tariffs

In return, the European Union will drop their retaliatory tariffs on American goods. The EU had been poised on Dec. 1 to boost tariffs to 50 percent on various U.S. products, including Harley-Davidson motorcycles and bourbon from Kentucky.

Biden officials have faced a difficult task in deciding how or whether to unwind Trump’s duties on foreign imports, which were panned by many economists as raising prices for American consumers but in many cases were cheered by labor groups powerful among Democrats for shielding industry groups from foreign competition.

washington post logoWashington Post, LGBTQ Afghans land in Britain as Taliban official says no space for gay rights, Ellen Francis, Oct. 30, 2021. A group of LGBTQ Afghans who fled their home country have arrived in Britain, the first in a wave that London says it will evacuate, as advocates warn they have received calls from hundreds more people who fear Taliban persecution.

The 29 people, including students and activists who spoke out about their rights in Afghanistan, are the first of many more vulnerable LGBTQ Afghans who will arrive “in the coming months,” the Foreign Office said Saturday. It did not detail how they managed to leave.

The refugees landed Friday, just as a Taliban ministry official, appealing for the release of billions of dollars of central bank reserves, emphasized that the militants did not recognize gay rights.

A spokesman for the Finance Ministry told Reuters that the Taliban would respect human rights and allow women to get an education within its version of Islamic law, but added: “LGBT … That’s against our sharia law.”

washington post logoWashington Post, How Russia pushed Moldova’s pro-Western government to the brink of a gas crisis, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Oct. 30, 2021. One of Europe’s poorest countries declared a state of emergency over its natural gas supply and was thrown into desperate talks with Russia, its sole supplier of natural gas.

The crisis trickled down to Furnica. On chilly mornings with no heat, Furnica dressed her two young children in warm clothes. She and her husband played with them more to keep them active and build body heat. They drank hot tea and plugged in an electric heater.

Analysts say that’s exactly how Russia can use energy dependence to bully a new government that has turned away from Moscow and toward the West.

Moldova’s gas crunch ended late Friday with the signing of a new five-year contract with the Russian state gas giant Gazprom.

But the country’s experience is a cautionary tale. As international gas prices hit record highs this month, critics accused Russia, Europe’s top supplier, of stoking the continent’s inflation by holding back supplies. At the same time, Russia is pressing for final approval of Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany that will strengthen Russia’s hand in Europe’s energy markets.

 

U.S. Education, Media

washington post logoWashington Post, University of Florida bars faculty from testifying in voting rights lawsuit against DeSantis administration, Andrew Jeong, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The public university said the political scientists could pose “a conflict of interest to the executive branch” and harm the school’s interests if they testified against the law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The University of Florida barred three faculty members from testifying for plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a voting-restrictions law enthusiastically embraced by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which activists say makes it harder for racial minorities to vote, in a move that raises sharp concerns about academic freedom and free speech in the state.

The public university said the three political scientists — Daniel A. Smith, Michael McDonald, and Sharon Wright Austin — could pose “a conflict of interest to the executive branch” and harm the school’s interests if they testified against the law signed by DeSantis in May.

“As UF is a state actor, litigation against the state is adverse to UF’s interests,” school officials said, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post.

Lawyers attempting to reverse the Florida law, also known as Senate Bill 90, have sought to question DeSantis on whether he was involved in the decision to prevent the academics from testifying, according to the New York Times, which first reported on the university’s move.The University of Florida barred three faculty members from testifying for plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging a voting-restrictions law enthusiastically embraced by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which activists say makes it harder for racial minorities to vote, in a move that raises sharp concerns about academic freedom and free speech in the state.

The public university said the three political scientists — Daniel A. Smith, Michael McDonald, and Sharon Wright Austin — could pose “a conflict of interest to the executive branch” and harm the school’s interests if they testified against the law signed by DeSantis in May.

“As UF is a state actor, litigation against the state is adverse to UF’s interests,” school officials said, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post.

Lawyers attempting to reverse the Florida law, also known as Senate Bill 90, have sought to question DeSantis on whether he was involved in the decision to prevent the academics from testifying, according to the New York Times, which first reported on the university’s move.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two doors, few windows and 4,500 students: Architect quits over billionaire’s mega dorm, Meryl Kornfield, Oct. 30, 2021. Billionaire investor Charlie Munger doesn’t mind some shade. Billionaire donor’s dorm design called ‘unsupportable as an architect, a parent, and a human being.’

Munger, vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to universities and high schools to build school facilities he designed himself. But the amateur architect’s latest idea for a mostly windowless mega-dorm to be built on the University of California at Santa Barbara campus faced objection this week when a university architectural consultant quit, calling the plan “unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent, and a human being.”

Dennis McFadden, a Los Angeles architect and member of the university’s design review committee of 15 years, wrote in his resignation letter that he was “disturbed” by the 11-story, 1.68 million-square-foot building with just two entrances. The massive dorm would house 4,500 students, 94 percent of whom would not have windows in their compact single-occupancy bedrooms. McFadden called the dorm the “wrong answer” to the need for more housing ― raising the question of how much authority wealthy donors have when it comes to planning the buildings their names are etched on.

“As the ‘vision’ of a single donor, the building is a social and psychological experiment with an unknown impact on the lives and personal development of the undergraduates the university serves,” McFadden wrote in the letter, first reported by student-run newspaper the Daily Nexus and community outlet the Santa Barbara Independent.

Munger, who has no formal architecture training, says he’s unfazed by McFadden’s objections, telling The Washington Post that “this is not some crazy idea.” He said his plan has been in the works for years and compared virtual windows that would simulate sunlight in the dorm rooms to those in Disney cruise staterooms.

The $1.5 billion project, of which Munger is contributing $200 million, will proceed despite McFadden’s letter, a university spokeswoman said.

“We are delighted to be moving forward with this transformational project that directly addresses the campus’s great need for more student housing,” Andrea Estrada wrote in a statement to The Post.

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U.S. Elections, Budget Bills, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, God, Trump and the Closed-Door World of the Council for National Policy, Robert O'Harrow Jr., Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). What internal recordings and documents reveal about a major conservative group — and the future of the Republican Party.

Much has been written about this turn of conservatives toward Trump. But I wanted to learn more about the political and communications infrastructure that converted this support into votes and influence. How did these leaders and activists — once so critical of Trump — end up helping shape and advocate for his agenda? And now that he is almost a year removed from the White House, how are they continuing to serve him and his cause?

Working with fellow Washington Post reporter Shawn Boburg, I started gathering documents and cultivating sources. We zeroed in on key figures and groups, making charts of their ties and timelines of their actions. We identified networks of groups that served as a kind of nerve system for conservative influence campaigns.

Enmeshed in these efforts was the Council for National Policy. CNP may be the most unusual, least understood conservative organization in the nation’s capital. A registered charity, it has served for 40 years as a social, planning and communications hub for conservative activists in Washington and nationwide. One of its defining features is its confidentiality. In a town where people and groups constantly angle for publicity, CNP bars the press and uninvited outsiders from its events. All members — even such luminaries as former vice president Mike Pence, Ralph Reed and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — agree to remain silent about its activities.

Other bastions of conservative influence — from policy groups like the Heritage Foundation to media outlets like Breitbart News — generally have clear missions. By contrast, CNP’s executive director, Bob McEwen, told me that the organization itself does not “do anything.” He and other CNP leaders will tell you it is merely an educational venue aimed at uniting its conservative members.

Yet as I began to learn more, I came to see that it would be a mistake to underestimate the group’s significance. I also realized that researching CNP represented a rare opportunity: to get a behind-the-scenes look at the outlook, goals and methods of activists who have so successfully promoted Trumpism. “I just wanted to thank you and the Council for National Policy for your support and for consistently amplifying the agenda of President Trump and our Administration,” Pence wrote to CNP last year. “I know our collaboration with CNP will only strengthen and deepen this year and beyond.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Frequency of violent threats on Capitol Hill unnerves staffers, Meagan Flynn and Emily Davies, Oct. 30, 2021. Since Jan. 6, evacuation orders and violent threats on the streets of Capitol Hill have unfolded with unsettling regularity.

Even as many have turned out to be false alarms, the specter of political violence still hangs heavy with each alert, generating reminders of Jan. 6 and sending the city into a constant state of hypervigilance — much like it was in the weeks after 9/11 when residents feared another terrorist attack.

On the other hand, the relative regularity of the threats has also normalized them, staffers said, making them seem to be increasingly just part of life on the Hill.

So far this year, there have been about 70 bomb threats in the nation’s capital, according to the D.C. Office of Unified Communications. In the past 10 days alone, there was a bomb threat at the Department of Labor and a suspicious package sent to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). In August, a man parked his truck near the Capitol and threatened to destroy two blocks of Washington with an explosive device. In April, numerous buildings on the Capitol grounds were placed on lockdown after a man rammed into a Capitol Police barricade, killing one officer, and in March, a House office building was evacuated because of a suspicious package.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Adam Kinzinger, a G.O.P. critic of Donald Trump, won’t seek re-election in the House, Reid J. Epstein, Oct. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Representative Adam Kinzinger, who emerged this year as one of the pre-eminent Republican critics of former President Donald J. Trump, announced Friday that he would not seek re-election in 2022.

Mr. Kinzinger’s electoral fate was largely sealed late Thursday when Illinois Democrats, in an 11th-hour vote shortly before midnight, adopted a new congressional map that eliminated the Republican-majority district Mr. Kinzinger represented for the last decade.

adam kinzinger twitterMr. Kinzinger, right, who was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, announced his departure from Congress in a five-minute video in which he reiterated his opposition to Mr. Trump’s influence on the illinois mapRepublican Party and reflected on his first congressional victory during the 2010 Tea Party wave.

“I also remember during that campaign saying that if I ever thought it was time to move on from Congress, I would,” Mr. Kinzinger said. “And that time is now.”

Mr. Kinzinger has for months sought to create a larger national platform for himself beyond his district, which arcs in a crescent along the Chicago exurbs from the Illinois border with Wisconsin to the Indiana state line. He once again implied he may seek higher office. Illinois has contests for governor and the Senate in 2022, and no leading Republican candidates for either.

“It has also become increasingly obvious to me that in order to break the narrative, I cannot focus on both a re-election to Congress and a broader fight nationwide,” he said. “This isn’t the end of my political future, but the beginning.”

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Oct. 29

Top Headlines

pope francis joe biden 10 29 2021 vatican media via reuters


Virus Victims, Responses

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 

Virginia Elections

 

Other U.S. Elections, Governance

 

JFK Assassination

 

U.S. Rights, Courts, Law, Race

 

U.S. Safety Net, Infrastructure Bills

 

Media, Sports

 

Trump Riot, Election, Finance Claims

 

World News

 

Top Stories

 pope francis joe biden 10 29 2021 vatican media via reuters

Pope Francis meets President Biden at the Vatican on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021. (Vatican Media via Reuters)

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, bringing together the world’s two most powerful Catholics, Chico Harlan and Seung Min Kim, Oct. 29, 2021. For the first time during his administration, President Biden met with Pope Francis on Friday, bringing together the world’s two most powerful Catholics, who share plenty of common ground and are contending with similar adversaries and polarization within the church.

Here’s what to know:

● Biden and Francis discussed migration and climate change, among other topics, and Biden thanked Francis for standing up for impoverished and persecuted people around the world.

● Later Friday, Biden is scheduled to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, their first in-person encounter since the U.S. role in a thwarted submarine deal incensed the French government.

● On Saturday, Biden will join leaders of the Group of 20 nations for a summit focused on the coronavirus and climate change.

● The leaders will then continue on to Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 climate conference.

Biden arrived at the Vatican shortly before noon for a closed-door meeting with the pontiff. Their conversation lasted 75 minutes, longer than the pope’s recent other encounters with U.S. presidents — a 30-minute meeting with Trump in 2017 and a 50-minute meeting with Obama in 2014.

In the conversation, according to the White House, Biden thanked the pope for “his advocacy for the world’s poor and those suffering from hunger, conflict, and persecution.” The two also discussed the climate crisis, and Biden “lauded” the pope for “his advocacy to ensure the pandemic ends for everyone through vaccine sharing and an equitable global economic recovery.”

A White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting, said the “engagement between the two was very warm when the delegation arrived in the room.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says pope called him a good Catholic and said he should keep receiving Communion, Chico Harlan and Seung Min Kim, Oct. 29, 2021. President Biden said he was told Friday by Pope Francis that he is a “good Catholic” who should continue to receive Communion, even as some conservative U.S. Catholic leaders argue he should be denied the sacrament for his stance on abortion.

During their 90 minutes together at the Vatican — 75 of them in private — Francis also blessed Biden’s rosary, according to the president, who called the visit “wonderful.”

washington post logoWashington Post, New budget deal calls for the most climate spending in U.S. history, Steven Mufson and Sarah Kaplan, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.).  The $555 billion climate package in the reconciliation bill drops utility targets opposed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), but has tax credits for solar panels, electric vehicles and building improvements.

The White House’s Build Back Better plan unveiled Thursday represents the biggest clean-energy investment in U.S. history, with a $555 billion package of tax credits, grants and other policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change.

democratic donkey logoWhat you need to know about the U.N. climate summit — and why it matters

Although Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) forced Democrats to drop a key provision targeting the electric power sector, the final bill includes an array of tax credits for companies and consumers that will make it easier to buy electric vehicles, install solar panels, retrofit buildings and manufacture wind turbines and other clean-energy equipment in the United States.

joe biden twitterThe climate package comes at a time when President Biden is hoping to demonstrate at a high-profile United Nations summit next week that the United States can meet its international climate commitments. The legislation, coupled with executive actions, could help Biden halve U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in less than nine years compared with 2005 levels.
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“This is game-changing,” said Carol Browner, who served as President Barack Obama’s top climate adviser during the start of his administration and headed the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bill Clinton.

Comparing it to the 2009 stimulus bill that funneled billions of dollars to clean energy, Browner said, “This is six times the amount of Obama’s investment, and we thought that was big.”

  • Washington Post, 30,000 people gather for a climate summit in a pandemic. What could go wrong? Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Inside Biden’s surprising confidence that he’s on the cusp of a big victory, Greg Sargent, right, Oct. 29, 2021. Looked at in one greg sargentway, the failure of the House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill on Thursday was a major setback for President Biden. It means he heads into the international climate conference without being able to say the United States took a big leap toward delivering on its climate agenda, which could complicate his ability to lead.

U.S. House logoThat is obviously something we’d hoped to avoid. And let’s be clear: It’s still very uncertain whether Biden’s agenda will ultimately succeed or implode.

But the White House seems strangely, eerily confident about what’s happening right now. If you read between the lines of the doomscrolling coverage, what emerges is this: Improbably, Biden and his advisers seem to think the latest events have placed them on the brink of securing his agenda.

Administration officials argue that no one will care in the end that the infrastructure bill got pushed back again. They say they are closer than ever to passing two transformative pieces of legislation. That’s mostly true.

That’s mostly true, and it’s pretty important!

Let’s also note that something big happened because of the release of this framework. It made it official that major progressive priorities — such as paid leave, the billionaires’ tax, the Medicare expansion to dental and vision — will be jettisoned. Yet the Congressional Progressive Caucus overwhelmingly and strongly endorsed it, anyway.

That locks in the left’s willingness to accept those concessions while enthusiastically backing the package. As Politico Playbook correctly noted, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) provided the key quote revealing this: “We wanted a $3.5 trillion package, but we understand the reality of the situation.”

Which is why, from the White House perspective, the fact that the progressive caucus and a range of liberal groups are rallying behind the package shows that we’re seeing big general movement in the right direction. The left is one of those big moving parts — and it moved pretty dramatically.

“Every corner of the Democratic Party is coalescing around a vision that would be transformative and overwhelmingly popular right now,” one White House official tells me. “And it’s within reach.”

In fact, all that movement should focus our attention on the fact that there’s really one big missing piece left: getting Manchin and Sinema publicly on board behind the framework.

To be clear, that is a very big missing piece.But regardless, here’s how all this would now have to unfold. Sinema and Manchin would have to indicate their support for the framework in a persuasive enough public way to get progressives in the House to pass the two bills. After that, the Senate could pass the reconciliation one.

But the key point here is that the final missing piece is within view: Getting Manchin and Sinema to yes on a concrete framework that the rest of the party has endorsed. We were not at this point 24 hours ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘Let’s go Brandon’ is Republicans’ vulgar governing agenda, Dana Milbank, right, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). At 7:30 Thursday dana milbank newestmorning, White House officials rolled out President Biden’s roughly $1.75 trillion framework to cut taxes for ordinary Americans and make it easier for them to afford health care and housing, send their kids to prekindergarten and college, and adopt clean new power for their homes and cars.

An hour later came the Republican response, from the office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. It was succinct and to the point: “F--- Joe Biden.”

Technically, the message, a tweet from McConnell press secretary Doug Andres, showed a photo of a roadside sign that said “Let’s go Brandon.” For the uninitiated, that’s a MAGA meme in which the phrase stands for the slightly homophonous “F--- Joe Biden.” It’s a way to flip the bird at the president “without running afoul of technology censors,” as the right-wing Washington Times put it.

The substitute phrase has been chanted at rallies for Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin; used by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Republican Reps. Bill Posey of Florida (on the House floor) and Jim Banks of Indiana, and Donald Trump Jr.; and, on Thursday, adopted by the former president himself. He offered “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirts for those sending at least $45 to his grifter organization Save America.

Think about that.

Democrats clear the way for passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that will provide broadband Internet and lead-free drinking water to every American, and better roads, bridges and ports for all to enjoy. And Republicans reply: Let’s go Brandon.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

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ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. Clears First Coronavirus Vaccine for 5- to 11-Year-Olds, Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere, Oct. 29, 2021. The shot could bring relief to parents anxious about their children, though some experts worry that those most at risk may slip through the crac ks.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in children 5 to 11, a move eagerly anticipated by millions of families looking to protect some of the only remaining Americans left out of the vaccination campaign.

pfizer logoAbout 28 million children in the group will be eligible to receive one-third of the adult dose, with two injections three weeks apart. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signs off, as is expected, they could start getting shots as early as Wednesday.

The Biden administration has promised that children’s shots will be easily accessible at pediatrician offices, community health centers, children’s hospitals and pharmacies, with 15 million doses ready to ship immediately. States started ordering doses last week, under a formula based on how many children they have in the age group. While the school year is already well underway, the pediatric dose is arriving in time for the holidays, giving more comfort to families looking to gather older and younger people together for the first time since the early months of 2020.

“It’s an incredibly important tool in the return to normalcy,” said Dr. Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a leader of the Covid-19 Prevention Network. “To be able to know that your child is protected and not going to get severely ill by going to school is an incredible psychological relief.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Won’t Block Maine’s Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers, Adam Liptak, Oct. 29, 2021. A state regulation that does not allow exemptions on religious grounds was challenged by workers who said getting the shot was at odds with their faith.

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to block Maine’s requirement that health care workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus notwithstanding their religious objections.

As is the court’s custom in rulings on emergency applications, its brief order gave no reasons.

But the three most conservative members of the court — Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch — issued a lengthy dissent, saying the majority had gone badly astray.

“Where many other states have adopted religious exemptions, Maine has charted a different course,” Justice Gorsuch wrote for the dissenting justices. “There, health care workers who have served on the front line of a pandemic for the last 18 months are now being fired and their practices shuttered. All for adhering to their constitutionally protected religious beliefs. Their plight is worthy of our attention.”

Maine has required health care workers to be vaccinated against various contagious diseases since 1989, and eliminated exemptions on religious or philosophical grounds under a state law enacted in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic began. The state does exempt workers for whom the given vaccine would be “medically inadvisable” in the judgment of a health care professional.

The 2019 law was the subject of a referendum, with about 73 percent of the state’s voters approving it.

The state included a coronavirus vaccine among the required vaccinations in a regulation issued in August, setting a deadline of Oct. 29. Several health care workers sued, saying the requirement violated their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.

Judge Jon D. Levy of the Federal District Court in Maine ruled against the plaintiffs.

“Both the serious risk of illness and death associated with the spread of the Covid-19 virus and the efforts by state and local governments to reduce that risk have burdened most aspects of modern life,” he wrote.

The plaintiffs’ “refusal to be vaccinated based on their religious beliefs has resulted or will result in real hardships as it relates to their jobs,” Judge Levy wrote. “They have not, however, been prevented from staying true to their professed religious beliefs which, they claim, compel them to refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19.”

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, affirmed Judge Levy’s ruling.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Vaccines offer more protection than prior infection, a C.D.C. study found, Oct. 29, 2021. Enrollment in New York City’s public schools dropped by 50,000 since the fall of 2019. Cases in Europe surge as winter approaches. Thousands of New York City employees are not yet in compliance with a vaccine mandate. A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that vaccination provides stronger and more reliable protection against the coronavirus than a past infection does, the agency said on Friday.

cdc logo CustomUnvaccinated people who had previously recovered from a coronavirus infection were five times as likely to get Covid as people who had received both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, the C.D.C. said.

The study’s authors cautioned, however, that certain gaps in patient data and biases in their study participants could have influenced the results.

“We now have additional evidence that reaffirms the importance of Covid-19 vaccines, even if you have had prior infection,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, in a statement accompanying the release of the report.

The question of whether people who have had Covid really need a shot has gained traction among some Americans as vaccine mandates take hold across the country. Scientists have urged Covid survivors not to skip the vaccine, noting that the strength and durability of so-called natural immunity depends heavily on people’s age and health, and the severity of an initial infection.

The C.D.C. study used a roundabout experimental design. The researchers examined roughly 7,000 people hospitalized this year with Covid-like illness across nine states. They then looked at how many of those hospitalized patients were indeed infected with the coronavirus. The odds of testing positive for the virus were considerably higher among unvaccinated, previously infected patients than they were among vaccinated people.

The study comes with several caveats, however. The researchers cautioned that the findings may not translate to non-hospitalized people with different levels of access to medical care, and that some patients in the vaccinated group may unknowingly have also had previous infections.

The researchers also noted that separate research in Israel had failed to show that vaccinated people were better protected than those who had only been infected. In general, scientists said, studies on the topic had drawn contradictory conclusions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Children Drive Britain’s Longest-Running Covid Surge, Josh Holder, Oct. 29, 2021. Britain lifted most restrictions in July — and has had an extended wave since, with school-age children now making up more than a third of new cases.

Britain is once again at the peak of a coronavirus surge, just over three months after all coronavirus restrictions were lifted on what Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed as “Freedom Day.”

Cases have stayed at high levels since then, with more than 20,000 new cases recorded each day. There are almost 9,000 Britons hospitalized with Covid-19 — the highest level since March, when the United Kingdom was in the midst of a long national lockdown.

Unlike the rises and falls of previous periods of infection, the most recent wave shows the positive impact of Britain’s vaccination rollout: Far fewer Covid hospital admissions and deaths have followed the rise in cases than in previous waves. Still, health experts contend that the ongoing hospitalizations and deaths are burdening overstretched hospitals and could be reduced with basic measures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Case numbers in Europe are surging as winter approaches, Staff Reports, Oct. 29, 2021. Low vaccination rates in Eastern Europe are partly to blame for a recent spike. Americans with mental health disorders are now eligible for a booster shot. Thousands of New York City employees are not yet in compliance with a vaccine mandate.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The virus is surging again in Europe as winter looms.
  • England will remove the last seven countries on its restricted-travel ‘red list.’
  • Tonga records its first Covid case.
  • Even if lots of children have had Covid, they’ll still benefit from the vaccine, experts say.
  • New York’s vaccination deadline nears, and the city braces for shortages of police officers and firefighters.
  • The C.D.C. adds mental health conditions to its high-risk Covid list.
  • An Italian city adopts an ancient statue as a symbol of recovery from the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Cowards, Not Crazies, Are Destroying America, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Back in July, Kay Ivey, governor of Alabama, paul krugmanhad some strong and sensible things to say about Covid-19 vaccines. “I want folks to get vaccinated,” she declared. “That’s the cure. That prevents everything.” She went on to say that the unvaccinated are “letting us down.”

Three months later Ivey directed state agencies not to cooperate with federal Covid-19 vaccination mandates.

Ivey’s swift journey from common sense and respect for science to destructive partisan nonsense — nonsense that is killing tens of thousands of Americans — wasn’t unique. On the contrary, it was a recapitulation of the journey the whole Republican Party has taken on issue after issue, from tax cuts to the Big Lie about the 2020 election.

When we talk about the G.O.P.’s moral descent, we tend to focus on the obvious extremists, like the conspiracy theorists who claim that climate change is a hoax and Jan. 6 was a false flag operation. But the crazies wouldn’t be driving the Republican agenda so completely if it weren’t for the cowards, Republicans who clearly know better but reliably swallow their misgivings and go along with the party line. And at this point crazies and cowards essentially make up the party’s entire elected wing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Air Force is first military branch to face rejection of vaccine mandate as thousands avoid shots, Alex Horton, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Up to 12,000 Air Force personnel have rejected orders to get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus despite a Pentagon mandate, and officials say it is too late for them to do so by the Tuesday deadline, posing the first major test for military leaders whose August directive has been met with defiance among a segment of the force.

air force logoThe vast majority of active-duty airmen, more than 96 percent, are at least partially vaccinated, according to data from the Air Force. But officials have warned that, barring an approved medical or religious exemption, those who defy lawful orders to be fully immunized are subject to punishment, including possible dismissal from the service, or they could be charged in the military justice system.

The challenge now confronting Air Force leaders — how to address potential large-scale dissent in the face of a top health priority that has been deeply politicized — is a bellwether for the dilemma in store across the military’s other services, which have staggered compliance deadlines ranging from the end of November to the middle of next summer and, in some cases, have experienced far greater resistance to President Biden’s mandate.

A wave of dismissals could jolt the Air Force personnel system and cause significant challenges within units that must be ready to respond to crises at a moment’s notice, especially if some vital jobs — like pilots or aircraft maintainers — are overrepresented among those who could face expulsion, said Katherine L. Kuzminski, a military policy expert at the Washington think tank Center for a New American Security.

The Air Force is the third-largest military service, just behind the Navy, with 324,000 active-duty airmen, making even 3 percent of its ranks a substantial number. For comparison, personnel assigned to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, one of the service’s most-populated installations in the United States, numbered slightly more than 10,000 in 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House suggests flexibility in vaccine deadline for federal workers, contractors, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The White House coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients, left, indicated that the Biden administration could be flexible as it enforces the president’s executive order requiring federal workers and government contractors to vaccinate their workers.

jeffrey zients o obama national economic councilThe vaccine mandate aims to protect as many people from the coronavirus as possible — not to punish them by getting them fired from their jobs should they be unvaccinated by the due dates, Zients said Wednesday.

Federal agencies and contractors are expected to educate, counsel and accommodate their unvaccinated workers even after the deadline to persuade them to receive vaccine doses before terminating them, he added. Federal employees face a vaccination deadline of Nov. 22; contractors have a Dec. 8 deadline.

“To be clear, we’re creating flexibility within the system. We’re offering people multiple opportunities to get vaccinated. There is not a cliff here,” Zients said.

Some companies are seeing employee vaccination rates rise: About 99.7 percent of United Airlines employees are vaccinated, as are 96 percent of workers at Tyson Foods and 97 percent of Harvard University employees. But some large contractors have been reporting concerns about the impact on their workforce. Greg Hayes, chief executive of Raytheon Technologies, has said his company could lose thousands of workers. Some unions have also been engaged in legal battles with their employers over the mandate, such as at Southwest Airlines.

In other news:

  • New Orleans suspends mask mandate for most public spaces as cases ebb
  • Antidepressant drug shows promise in treating covid-19, study finds
  • Why cigarette sales rose last year for first time in two decades
  • Judge denies New York City police union’s request to halt vaccine mandate

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 29, 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: 246,441,852, Deaths: 4,999,550
U.S. Cases:     46,685,145, Deaths:    763,784
Indian Cases:   34,246,157, Deaths:    457,221
Brazil Cases:   21,781,436, Deaths:    607,125

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 221.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 29, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 191.2 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 climate change photo

huffington post logoHuffPost, Biden Reaches $550 Billion Climate Compromise Days Before Major UN Summit, Alexander C. Kaufman, Oct. 29, 2021. The spending package would mark the biggest U.S. green investment ever, but still falls short of what scientists and economists say is needed to avert disaster.

Just a week after fossil fuel stalwarts in his own party killed his signature carbon-cutting proposal, President Joe Biden announced Thursday a compromise package that, if passed, would mark by far the biggest climate investment in U.S. history.

The proposal directs $550 billion of Democrats’ $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act toward the nation’s buildout of zero-carbon electricity, electric vehicles and pollution cleanups.

In a speech Thursday afternoon, Biden called the framework “the most significant investment to deal with the climate crisis [to have] ever, ever happened ― beyond any other advanced nation in the world.”

“Over a billion metric tons of emissions reductions ― at least 10 times bigger on climate than any bill that has ever passed before and enough to position us for a 50 to 52% emissions reductions by the year 2030,” he said. “And we’ll do it in ways that grow the domestic industries, create good-paying union jobs, and address longstanding environmental injustices, as well.”

On a dollar-for-dollar basis, the plan dwarfs the last major federal climate investment, a $90 billion package then-President Barack Obama won in 2009, and gives the White House leverage to demand that the rest of the world take drastic action to curb climate-changing pollution when the president arrives next week in Glasgow, Scotland, for the big United Nations climate summit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Announces $1.85 Trillion Framework for Climate and Safety Net Plan, Staff Reports, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The plan would spend heavily on climate change, child care and a wide variety of other programs, paid for by tax increases on corporations and high earners. President Biden went to the Capitol to discuss the bill, though officials would not say if all holdout Democrats had promised to support it. Here’s the latest.

President Biden went to the Capitol on Thursday to announce a “framework” agreement for a $1.85 trillion social safety net and climate change bill that would bolster support for child care and early childhood education while coaxing the economy away from fossil fuels.

The president, who delayed his departure for a trip to Europe to nail down an accord on his domestic agenda, used a morning meeting at the Capitol to try to rally House Democrats around the emerging deal.

“It’s a good day,” Mr. Biden said as he arrived. “Everyone’s on board” with his proposal, he added.

He was pushing to convince liberal members that a final compromise was close enough to allow them to support a separate, $1 trillion infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate.

But liberals were still skeptical and said they wanted more than talking points.

us senate logo“There’s been so many changes in this process — so many people, you know, yes, no, doing the Hokey Pokey, one foot in one foot out,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, as she headed into the meeting. “We need certainty that we’re going to be able to deliver.”

Even Democratic leaders said Mr. Biden had his work cut out for him.

“I wish I could say yes, but there’s a great deal of uncertainty within the caucus as to what’s contained in the deal,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, told reporters when asked if he was confident all 50 senators backed the plan. “I will tell you there is a will to do it.”

At least one lawmaker involved in the talks had been told as of Thursday morning that two crucial holdouts, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, had yet to commit to voting for it, according to another person briefed on the discussions, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

 

Virginia Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Virginia governor’s race a toss-up as Election Day nears, Post-Schar School poll finds, Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, Karina Elwood, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, Oct. 29, 2021. The Virginia governor’s race: A first major test for Democrats in the Biden era.

terry mcauliffe oVirginia’s race for governor is a toss-up as Tuesday’s election draws near, with 49 percent of likely voters favoring Democrat Terry McAuliffe, left, and 48 glenn youngkinpercent favoring Republican Glenn Youngkin, right, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll.

The result is little changed from last month, when a Post-Schar School poll measured the race at 50 percent McAuliffe-47 percent Youngkin — although the Democrat’s six percentage-point edge among all registered voters in September has narrowed to three points in the new poll, at 47 percent for McAuliffe to 44 percent for Youngkin.

Youngkin is fueled by an 18-point advantage among independent likely voters, up from an eight-point advantage last month — a significant swing in a group that could determine the election’s outcome. While Virginia does not register voters by party, 33 percent of voters in the poll identified themselves as independents. That compares with 34 percent who said they consider themselves Democrats and 27 percent who said they are Republicans.

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), left, and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), left, and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s the thing about those new bombshell poll numbers in the Virginia Governor race, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 29, 2021. While the final bill palmerpolling averages are usually proven correct within their own stated margin of error, individual polls are often proven wrong. It’s why responsible journalists try to stick to the polling averages as much as possible. And of course the worst of journalists make a point of playing up the most ridiculous of outlier polls, as if they were the only poll, because controversy and “shocking” numbers drive ratings.

bill palmer report logo headerThis brings us to last night’s Fox News poll in the Virginia 2021 race for Governor. Here’s the thing. Fox News polls are usually proven to be pretty accurate; it’s one of the ways in which the network tries to establish “credibility” as cover for the fictional stories that its anchors routinely feature on air. But last night’s new Fox News poll was… well, let’s just say it’s not to be taken seriously.

This new Fox News poll claims that in a period of just about two weeks, the race has shifted from Democrat Terry McAuliffe having a six point lead, to Republican Glenn Youngkin now having a seven point lead. Let’s be clear here: it would be impossible for a statewide election to shift by thirteen points in just two weeks, without major news happening to change the minds of that many voters. For this to actually happen, McAuliffe would have had to repeatedly punch a baby on live national television. Anything short of that, there’s no possible way 13% of voters would have changed the minds overnight at the last minute. It just doesn’t work that way.

So what really happened? In instances like this, it’s always a result of a polling outlet changing up its methodology in an attempt at compensating for what it fears may be an inaccurate model. In this case the Fox poll had McAuliffe up by five points when most other polls had him up by just a couple points. The people running the Fox poll must have feared they had it wrong, and attempted to revise their polling model to produce a more accurate result. But instead the revised model turned out to be a massive overcorrection, and the result is this kind of laugh out loud shift that no serious person in politics would ever consider to be real.

Unfortunately, by giving the most attention to the most obviously flawed polls, the media has conditioned us to take the most flawed polls the most seriously. Liberal activists are predictably panicking over the Fox News poll, and insisting that it means Democratic candidate McAuliffe is doomed, and that all hope is lost.

This is the part where it gets dangerous, because the polling averages say that McAuliffe is slightly ahead, and that all liberal activists need to do is put in the work these final days in order to put him over the hump and secure the victory.

ny times logoNew York Times, Glenn Youngkin Was a Traditional Republican. Then He Became a Culture Warrior, Jeremy W. Peters, Oct. 29, 2021. As he runs for governor of Virginia, Mr. Youngkin has built a coalition, as one prominent conservative described it, of Trump voters and angry parents.

glenn youngkinFor months as he campaigned for governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, right, tried to sound a lot like the kind of Republican who dominated the party back in 2009 — the last time a Republican was elected to statewide office.

He avoided discussion of divisive social issues in favor of praise of free markets and job creators, and conservative activists knew very little about him or what he believed as a result.

“He was on nobody’s radar screen,” said John Fredericks, a radio host who was chairman of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaigns in Virginia in 2016 and 2020.

In the final days before the election on Tuesday, many Republicans say they still have no idea what Mr. Youngkin really believes. But they have cheered him on regardless, after he took a hard-right turn and began promoting the causes that are animating conservatives and supporters of the former president, from the debate over teaching the impact of racism to transgender rights in schools.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law, Race

ny times logoNew York Times, For First Time in Public, a Detainee Describes Torture at C.I.A. Black Sites, Carol Rosenberg, Updated Oct. 29, 2021. In a sentencing hearing, Majid Khan, a Pakistani who lived in suburban Baltimore before joining Al Qaeda, detailed dungeonlike conditions and abuse.

A suburban Baltimore high school graduate turned Al Qaeda courier, speaking to a military jury for the first time, gave a detailed account on Thursday of the brutal forced feedings, crude waterboarding and other physical and sexual abuse he endured during his 2003 to 2006 detention in the C.I.A.’s overseas prison network.

Majid Khan (Photo by Center for Constitutional Rights)Appearing in open court, Majid Khan, 41 (Photo by Center for Constitutional Rights), became the first former prisoner of the black sites to openly describe, anywhere, the violent and cruel “enhanced interrogation techniques” that agents used to extract information and confessions from terrorism suspects.

For more than two hours, he spoke about dungeonlike conditions, humiliating stretches of nudity with only a hood on his head, sometimes while his arms were chained in ways that made sleep impossible, and being intentionally nearly drowned in icy cold water in tubs at two sites, once while a C.I.A. interrogator counted down from 10 before water was poured into his nose and mouth.

Soon after his capture in Pakistan in March 2003, Mr. Khan said, he cooperated with his captors, telling them everything he knew, with the hope of release. “Instead, the more I cooperated, the more I was tortured,” he said.

The dramatic accounting capped a day in which eight U.S. military officers were selected to serve on a jury, which will deliberate Friday on his official sentence in the range of 25 to 40 years, starting from his guilty plea in February 2012.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Court Lifts Stay, Oklahoma Execution Is Said to Go Wrong, Adam Liptak, Oct. 29, 2021. The inmate convulsed and vomited as he was put to death. The Supreme Court also cleared the way for another execution next month.

The Supreme Court on Thursday lifted a stay of execution that a federal appeals court had granted to two Oklahoma death row inmates, clearing the way for the men to be put to death by lethal injection.

One of them, John Marion Grant, who was convicted of murdering a prison cafeteria worker in 1998, was executed on Thursday, a few hours after the Supreme Court ruled.

Like other executions in the state, this one — the first in six years — did not go smoothly, The Associated Press reported. Mr. Grant, who was strapped to a gurney, convulsed and vomited as the first chemical, a sedative, was administered. After several minutes of this, members of the execution team wiped vomit from his face and neck.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said the execution was carried out in accordance with protocols and “without complication.”

Mr. Grant and the other inmate, Julius Jones, had argued that the state’s lethal injection protocol, which uses three chemicals, could subject them to excruciating pain.

They also objected on religious grounds to a requirement imposed by a trial judge that they choose among proposed alternative methods of execution, saying that doing so would amount to suicide.

 

elizabeth prelogar reuters

washington post logoWashington Post, Elizabeth Prelogar confirmed as solicitor general ahead of Supreme Court battles over abortion, guns, Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate on Thursday confirmed Elizabeth B. Prelogar, above, as solicitor general, the federal government’s top advocate at the Supreme Court.

Prelogar, a veteran appellate attorney, is the second woman to hold the position and will lead the office at a time when the high court is weighing hotly contested issues, including abortion and gun rights in just the next week.

Following her confirmation on a vote of 53 to 36, Prelogar will be in position Monday to represent the Biden administration at the Supreme Court in its challenge to the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, which bars the procedure in Texas after about six weeks into pregnancy.

Prelogar was an adviser to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III during his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. She previously served in the solicitor general’s office and has argued nine times before the Supreme Court, including twice last year.

In addition to presenting the government’s views at the high court, the solicitor general is responsible for the department’s appellate strategy and for deciding whether the government will support a particular side in cases where the federal government has an interest.

In political spotlight, Supreme Court embarks on extraordinarily controversial term

Prelogar is a former law clerk to Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, the first woman to serve as solicitor general. Before that, Prelogar was a law clerk for Attorney General Merrick Garland during his tenure as a judge on the appeals court in D.C.

From January until her nomination in August, Prelogar had held the solicitor general’s post on an acting basis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor Rachael Rollins wants to remake criminal justice. The GOP is blocking her nomination, Joanna Slater, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). When President Biden announced a slate of nominees to serve as top federal prosecutors across the country, Republican senators approved them without controversy.

All except for one.

rachael rollins headshotWhen it came to Rachael Rollins, left, the nominee for United States attorney for the district of Massachusetts, Republicans vowed to block her ascent, calling her “pro-criminal,” “radical” and “dangerous.” They used a procedural maneuver to delay the progress of her nomination, the first time such a step had been taken in nearly 30 years.

Justice Department log circularRollins, 50, has emerged as a lightning rod in the national debate over crime and policing. She is the district attorney in Boston, the first woman — and the first Black woman — to win the job. Rollins, a former federal prosecutor, is outspoken about her belief that the criminal justice system needs reform after decades of incarcerating too many people and allowing rogue police officers impunity.

Republicans are incensed by her policy of not prosecuting certain low-level, nonviolent offenses in most cases. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has said she is a “prosecutor in name only” who “consistently sides with criminals.” In a recent editorial, Cotton wrote that confirming Rollins would increase drug trafficking and gang activity across New England.

When she ran for district attorney in 2018, Rollins made a public pledge that if elected, her office would decline to prosecute more than a dozen low-level crimes in nearly all situations — charges that included trespassing, possession of drugs and resisting arrest. After she won and took office, she issued an expanded memo detailing her approach and enumerating the exceptions to the policy.

Rollins has described the attacks as surreal. “I have no problem being held accountable for things that I have done,” she said on a recent afternoon, sitting at her desk overlooking a federal government building in downtown Boston. “I just want to operate in a world, generally, where things are factual.”

washington post logoWashington Post, In Supreme Court battle over N.Y. gun law, a surprising split for conservatives, Ann E. Marimow, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The lawsuit, which is backed by the National Rifle Association, seeks to overturn a law restricting who can carry concealed firearms in public. Seven states have similar laws.

When the Supreme Court first declared an individual right to gun ownership more than a decade ago, the court’s conservative majority relied on founding-era legal history to invalidate a D.C. law banning firearm possession in the home.

An even more conservative court is poised to scrutinize on Wednesday the follow up question left unanswered since 2008: To what extent do Americans have a constitutional right to carry loaded, concealed firearms outside the home and in public places?

nra logo CustomAlthough some observers say it seems likely that the court took the National Rifle Association-backed lawsuit to overturn a century-old New York state law, which is similar to restrictions in seven other states, there is a surprising split among conservative judges and legal analysts that could influence how broadly the justices rule.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller drew fire from some conservatives who said the court was creating an individual right to gun ownership that it was not clear the Constitution granted. Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, a Reagan appointee on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, fueled the controversy with a law review article calling the Heller majority “guilty of the same sins” as the Supreme Court that found a right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

Similarly, a conservative judge on the 9th Circuit recently wrote for the court an opinion that upheld Hawaii’s gun restrictions, pointing to “overwhelming” historical evidence that there has never been an “unfettered right” to carry firearms in public. In the New York case, a retired conservative judge joined former officials who served in Republican administrations to write an amicus brief supporting the state, saying the right to carry guns outside the home “has historically been restricted in many public places.”

Two gun owners who are challenging the law and are represented by former solicitor general Paul Clement also assert that historical evidence “overwhelmingly confirms” that the Second Amendment protects the right to carry firearms outside the home for self-defense and other lawful purposes.

With both sides claiming a historical upper hand, the case also underscores the limits of relying on the past to review modern laws.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Misconduct Complaint Is Filed Against Andrew Cuomo, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jonah E. Bromwich, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). A criminal complaint was filed accusing former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of forcible touching, a spokesman for New York State’s court system said. Mr. Cuomo resigned in August after a state attorney general report concluded that he had sexually harassed multiple women.

andrew cuomo 2019A criminal complaint accusing former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, of forcible touching has been filed in Albany City Court, a spokesman for New York State’s court system said on Thursday.

“A misdemeanor complaint was filed in Albany City Court against the former governor this afternoon,” said the spokesman, Lucian Chalfen.

The complaint came more than two months after Brittany Commisso, a former aide to Mr. Cuomo, filed a criminal complaint against him with the Albany County sheriff’s office. She accused him of groping her breast while they were alone in his residence late last year.

The complaint, signed by an investigator from the Albany County sheriff’s office, Amy Kowalski, said Mr. Cuomo did “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly place his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim and onto her intimate body part.” It said Mr. Cuomo touched the victim’s left breast “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires, all contrary to the provisions of the statute.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ‘No decision of this Court is safe’: What’s at stake in the Texas abortion case, Ruth Marcus, right, Oct. 29, 2021. The only thing ruth marcusyou need to understand about the Texas abortion law now before the Supreme Court are these words, from the Biden administration’s brief: “If Texas is right, no decision of this Court is safe.”

The legal issues are mind-numbingly complex: Under what circumstances the federal government can go to court to prevent citizens’ rights from being violated. The scope of the 11th Amendment’s protections for state sovereign immunity. Technical questions about standing to sue and the appropriate reach of injunctive relief.

But the fundamental question presented in the two related cases to be argued Monday boils down to something much easier to grasp: Must federal courts stand by, powerless to intervene, when a state not only enacts a flagrantly unconstitutional law but also deliberately rigs the system to prevent effective judicial review?

And that is what the brief filed Wednesday by acting U.S. Solicitor General Brian H. Fletcher makes clear. The burning desire to eviscerate abortion rights launched this case, but even more is at stake.

As a group of constitutional law scholars wrote of the Texas law in their friend-of-the-court brief, “By attacking well-established constitutional rights through a scheme designed to evade judicial review, S.B. 8 represents a challenge to the rule of law, our system of constitutional government, and the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.”

Here’s why. The Supreme Court has ruled, and ruled again, that states cannot flatly prohibit abortions before the fetus is viable, at about 24 weeks. But the Texas law bars almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, at about six weeks.

Then, the law removes state officials from enforcing the prohibition; instead, it outsources that job to private parties — antiabortion vigilantes. This could be anyone, from any state, without any connection to the individual seeking the abortion, filing suit anywhere in Texas, against anyone who helped obtain the abortion in any way, except the pregnant woman herself.

If their suits are successful, these bounty hunters are guaranteed an award of at least $10,000, plus legal fees. Doctors or others involved in the abortion could be subject to an unlimited number of suits — even if the abortion was legal at the time it was performed.

Since S.B. 8 went into effect two months ago, it has worked as intended, all but shutting down abortions in Texas. The law makes it too risky, and too potentially financially ruinous, for clinics to operate, so it hasn’t been tested in state court, and in any event a state suit wouldn’t serve to block the law beyond that individual case. Meanwhile, under rulings from the conservative federal appeals court that covers Texas, the federal courts have been closed off to constitutional challenges.

As the solicitor general’s brief summed it up, Texas purposely “sought to create a situation where pregnant women have no access to constitutionally protected abortion care and no mechanism whatsoever to challenge that obvious violation of their constitutional rights.”

The justices are hearing two efforts to block the law, one from Texas abortion providers, the other from the Biden administration. The immediate question isn’t whether the six-week ban is constitutional, but whether either of these parties has the right to go to federal court to have it blocked.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two men accused of plotting a racial ‘civil war’ sentenced to 9-year prison terms, Katie Mettler and Paul Duggan, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Two men accused of plotting deadly violence at a Virginia gun rights rally last year to incite a racial “civil war” were sentenced to nine years each in federal prison Thursday after apologizing in court, with one speaking ruefully of his “false ideology” and the other lamenting that he “got involved with the wrong people.”

patrik jordan mathewsPatrik J. Mathews, 29, right, and Brian M. Lemley Jr., 35, who belonged to a white-supremacist group, each pleaded guilty in June to firearms- and immigration-related charges. Citing federal sentencing guidelines, defense attorneys sought prison terms in the range of three years for each man, arguing that their clients were merely fantasizing aloud when they talked about sowing mayhem.

But U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang, in Greenbelt, Md., departed from the guidelines and imposed 108-month sentences, saying a “terrorism enhancement,” allowed by federal law, was warranted in the cases. The nine-year sentences fell far short of the 25-year terms that a prosecutor asked for.

brian lemley jr croppedThe two men belonged to an extremist group called the Base, whose members espouse racial hatred, antisemitism and violent ethno-nationalism.

“What else is there to say?” Mathews told Chuang, voicing regret for his association with the Base. “I got involved with the wrong people.”

Lemley, left, of Elkton, Md., said he abandoned his racist views after finding camaraderie among Black men who “embraced” him while he was in jail after his arrest last year.

“The change came too late,” he said, in tears, “but the power of friendship healed a festering wound of a false ideology.” Addressing the judge, he said, “I am begging you for your mercy that something could be salvaged from this terrible wreckage and disaster I brought upon my loved ones.”

Mathews, a Canadian national, said that when he joined the Base, he thought the group’s main focus was immigration control, but he learned his “perception was wrong, horrifically wrong, disastrously wrong.” He said, “I am most sorry for the harm I put my family through.”

How much prison time Mathews and Lemley faced hinged on the question of how serious they were about wreaking havoc at the huge gun rights rally, held in Richmond on Jan. 20, 2020. The two men were arrested in Delaware four days before the rally, which unfolded peacefully near the Virginia Capitol.

The sentence enhancement is sometimes used in cases of alleged domestic terrorism. That is because there is no federal statute defining such terrorism as a distinct crime. Instead, defendants are typically prosecuted only for the individual offenses that make up an alleged terrorist conspiracy, such as weapons violations.

In arguing that Mathews and Lemley were intent on carrying out deadly attacks in Richmond that amounted to terrorism, authorities cited secretly recorded discussions between the men in the weeks leading up to the demonstration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Flight attendant suffers broken bones in ‘one of the worst displays of unruly behavior’ in the skies, Lori Aratani, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). A flight attendant for American Airlines suffered broken bones in her face and had to be hospitalized after a passenger allegedly attacked her Wednesday in an incident the company’s chief executive called “one of the worst displays of unruly behavior we’ve ever witnessed.”

american airlines logoThe incident occurred on a flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif. It prompted the pilots to divert the flight to Denver, where the passenger was temporarily detained.

The flight attendant apparently bumped the passenger while moving through the first-class cabin, according to Julie Hedrick, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents those who fly for American Airlines. The flight attendant apologized, but the passenger left his seat, confronted her as she stood in the aircraft’s galley, then punched her in the face, Hedrick said.

Unruly passengers are straining the system for keeping passengers safe in the sky

Hedrick said the flight attendant was taken to a hospital for treatment of broken bones in her face. She was later released.

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JFK Assassination

Miami Herald, Cuban exile told sons he trained Oswald, JFK’s accused assassin, at a secret CIA camp, Nora Gámez Torres, Updated Oct. 29, 2021. Almost 40 years after his death following a bar brawl in Key Biscayne, Ricardo Morales, known as “Monkey” — contract CIA worker, anti-Castro militant, miami herald logocounter-intelligence chief for Venezuela, FBI informant and drug dealer — returned to the spotlight Thursday morning when one of his sons made a startling claim on Spanish-language radio: Morales, a sniper instructor in the early 1960s in secret camps where Cuban exiles and others trained to invade Cuba, realized in the hours after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963 that the accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, had been one of his sniper trainees.

Morales also told his two sons that two days before the assassination, his CIA handler told him and his “clean-up” team to go to Dallas for a mission. But after the tragic events, they were ordered to go back to Miami without learning what the mission was about.

The claims made by Ricardo Morales Jr. during a show on Miami’s Actualidad Radio 1040 AM, add to one of the long-held theories about the JFK assassination — that Cuban exiles working for the CIA had been involved.

But the claims also point the finger at the CIA, which some observers believe could help explain why President Joe Biden backed off last week on declassifying the remaining documents in the case.

Morales’ son, 58, said the last time his father took him and his brother to shooting practice in the Everglades, a year before dying in 1982, he told them he felt his end was near because he had revealed too much information of his work for the CIA to a Venezuelan journalist and he was writing a memoir.

So he encouraged his sons to ask him questions about his life.

“My brother asked ‘Who killed John F. Kennedy?’ and his answer was, ‘I didn’t do it but I was in Dallas two days before waiting for orders. We were the cleaning crew just in case something bad had to be done.’ After the assassination, they did not have to do anything and returned to Miami,” his son said on the radio show.

Morales Jr. said his father told them he did not know of the plans to assassinate Kennedy. “He knew Kennedy was coming to Dallas, so he imagines something is going to happen, but he doesn’t know the plan,” he said. “In these kinds of conspiracies and these big things, nobody knows what the other is doing.”

Morales also knew Oswald, his son claims. “When my old man was training in a CIA camp — he did not tell me where — he was helping to train snipers: other Cubans, Latin Americans, and there were a few Americans,” he said. “When he saw the photo of Lee Harvey Oswald [after the assassination] he realized that this was the same character he had seen on the CIA training field. He saw him, he saw the name tag, but he did not know him because he was not famous yet, but later when my father sees him he realizes that he is the same person.”

Morales Jr. gave a similar account to the Miami Herald in an interview Thursday, adding that his father said he didn’t believe Oswald killed Kennedy “because he has witnessed him shooting at a training camp and he said there is no way that guy could shoot that well.”

He said he believes his father told the truth at a moment he was fearing for his life after losing government protection.

While Lee Harvey Oswald was accused in Kennedy’s assassination, a 1979 report from the House Select Committee on Assassinations contradicted the 1964 Warren Commission conclusion that JFK was killed by one lone gunman. The committee instead concluded that the president was likely slain as the result of a conspiracy and that there was a high probability that two gunmen fired at him.

The House Select Committee, which also interviewed Morales, said they couldn’t preclude the possibility that Cuban exiles were involved.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Adam Kinzinger, a G.O.P. critic of Donald Trump, won’t seek re-election in the House, Reid J. Epstein, Oct. 29, 2021. Representative Adam Kinzinger, who emerged this year as one of the pre-eminent Republican critics of former President Donald J. Trump, announced Friday that he would not seek re-election in 2022.

Mr. Kinzinger’s electoral fate was largely sealed late Thursday when Illinois Democrats, in an 11th-hour vote shortly before midnight, adopted a new congressional map that eliminated the Republican-majority district Mr. Kinzinger represented for the last decade.

adam kinzinger twitterMr. Kinzinger, right, who was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, announced his departure from Congress in a five-minute video in which he reiterated his opposition to Mr. Trump’s influence on the illinois mapRepublican Party and reflected on his first congressional victory during the 2010 Tea Party wave.

“I also remember during that campaign saying that if I ever thought it was time to move on from Congress, I would,” Mr. Kinzinger said. “And that time is now.”

Mr. Kinzinger has for months sought to create a larger national platform for himself beyond his district, which arcs in a crescent along the Chicago exurbs from the Illinois border with Wisconsin to the Indiana state line. He once again implied he may seek higher office. Illinois has contests for governor and the Senate in 2022, and no leading Republican candidates for either.

“It has also become increasingly obvious to me that in order to break the narrative, I cannot focus on both a re-election to Congress and a broader fight nationwide,” he said. “This isn’t the end of my political future, but the beginning.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Letitia James Declares Her Candidacy for N.Y. Governor, Katie Glueck, Oct. 29, 2021. The attorney general, who oversaw the inquiry into sexual harassment allegations against Andrew Cuomo, will challenge Gov. Kathy Hochul for the Democratic nomination.

letitia james o headshotLetitia James, right, the New York attorney general who oversaw the inquiry into sexual harassment claims against former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that ultimately led to his resignation, declared her candidacy for governor on Friday, setting up a history-making, democratic donkey logohigh-profile matchup in the Democratic primary.

She begins the campaign as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s most formidable challenger, and her announcement triggers a start to what may be an extraordinarily competitive primary — a contest set to be shaped by issues of ideology, race and region in a state still battling its way out of the pandemic.

Her announcement comes at a volatile moment in state politics, a day after Mr. Cuomo was charged in a sexual misconduct complaint based on the account of one of the women whose claims of sexual harassment were detailed in the attorney general’s report.

That development, Ms. James said, validated “the findings in our report,” and to her allies it further cemented the case for her leadership. But it has also New York Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, left, swears in Kathy Hochul as the state's new governor (Pool photo by Hans Pennink).added fresh fuel to Mr. Cuomo’s suggestion that her investigation was politically motivated, a message that may resonate with some of the voters who still view him favorably.

Ms. James, a veteran Brooklyn politician and the first woman of color to be elected to statewide office in New York, is seeking to become the first Black female governor in the country; Ms. Hochul, above left, who is white, is the state’s first female chief executive and the first governor in more than a century to have deep roots in western New York.

Daily Beast, Judge Says GOP Congressman Can’t Be Left Alone With Evidence, Roger Sollenberger, Oct. 29, 2021. The judge was so concerned that Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) might compromise the case that he prohibited Fortenberry from looking at the evidence against him by himself.

daily beast logoAfter Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) was indicted last week for lying to the FBI over foreign donations to his campaign, authorities took the curious step Thursday of trying to prevent the nine-term Republican from tampering with witnesses or handling evidence without supervision—up to barring him from being alone in the room with evidence.

The request, filed by federal prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, also reveals that the government is pursuing multiple related investigations involving other “public officials.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A growing number of Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate have ugly pasts, Amber Phillips, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Explaining the controversial pasts of candidates like Herschel Walker in Georgia and Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania.

One top senatorial Republican candidate in Georgia is accused of threatening his then-wife’s life. Another in Pennsylvania could lose custody of his children during the campaign. One in Ohio is dating a subordinate on his campaign. And in Missouri, a leading candidate is the state’s former GOP governor, who resigned after a hairdresser with whom he had an affair accused him in gruesome detail of sexually assaulting her.

In a normal year, these candidates would be likely to be shunned by the Republican establishment, but the GOP has been put in the position of either supporting them or girding for their potential nomination, thanks to their ties to and even the support of former president Donald Trump.

And these races could determine which party controls the Senate next year. The Senate is split evenly, so Republicans need only a net gain of a single seat gain to retake majority control.

 

Trump Riot, Election, Finance Claims

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Nazis who go bump in the night, Wayne Madsen, (left, columnist, author of 21 books and former Navy intelligence officer), Oct. 28-29, 2021. It's not only masked ghouls and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallgoblins who are appearing on the streets this time of the year, but also arm-saluting Nazis at school board meetings and atop highway overpasses in Texas.

The main reason this editor wrote the newly-released book, The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich: The Era of Trumpism and the New Far-Right, is the painful truth that Nazis -- not neo-Nazis, but the actual Adolf Hitler-loving, Sieg Heiling-types -- are busy re-emerging, as do any vermin, wayne madsen fourth reich coverfrom the muck and mire of far-right politics.

Their chief enabler is Donald Trump, who has managed to hide the Nazi past of his father, Fred Trump, and his pre-war activities with the German-American Bund and the America First Committee. Donald Trump's Nazi supporters today are very much the Nazis who his father supported in the 1930s. And there is absolutely nothing "neo" about them.

While grilling Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is Jewish, during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz defended a parent's use of the Nazi salute during a school board meeting. WMR has previously reported on Garland's Milquetoast demeanor and it was on full display after Cruz's tirade in support of Nazi symbolism. Cruz criticized Garland for his October 4 memo on right-wing threats to school boards across the country. One of the incidents cited in the report, which was in response to a letter from the National School Boards Association, was a parent giving the Nazi salute at a school board meeting.

This is yet another example why Garland is not cut out for the job.

Nazism and white supremacism can only be vanquished if the pro-democracy forces in the United States take a hard line against the far-right. That may entail forming self-defense forces to confront those who threaten harm against election workers; school board members; school administrators, city, county, and town council members; public health officials and teachers; librarians; journalists; and others targeted by the Nazi and Ku Klux Klan ghouls who are running rampant around the nation.

Americans of good faith cannot allow the nation to be destroyed without drawing a final line in the sand. The lessons of the 1920s and 30s in Europe tell us that.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chief federal judge in D.C. assails ‘almost schizophrenic’ Jan. 6 prosecutions: ‘The rioters were not mere protesters,’ Rachel Weiner, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The chief judge presiding over the federal court in Washington on Thursday unleashed a blistering critique of the Justice Department’s prosecution of Capitol rioters, saying fiery rhetoric about the event’s horror did not match plea offers to minor charges.

“No wonder parts of the public in the U.S. are confused about whether what happened on January 6 at the Capitol was simply a petty offense of trespassing with some disorderliness, or shocking criminal conduct that represented a grave threat to our democratic norms,” Judge Beryl A. Howell said in court Thursday. “Let me make my view clear: The rioters were not mere protesters.”

While she and other judges have expressed similar concerns before, this was Howell’s first time sentencing a rioter and her first chance to fully air her views and demand answers from prosecutors. She took the opportunity, spending over an hour interrogating prosecutors on the decision to let Tennessee video game developer Jack Jesse Griffith plead guilty to the misdemeanor of parading inside the Capitol.

beryl howellHowell, right, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, also oversaw portions of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Before taking the bench, she served as a prosecutor and worked on cybersecurity law in the public and private sector.

Why, she asked, when prosecutors called the riot an “attack on democracy . . . unparalleled in American history,” were Griffith and other participants facing the same charge as nonviolent protesters who routinely disrupt congressional hearings?

“It seems like a bit of a disconnect,” Howell said — “muddled” and “almost schizophrenic.”

The parading charge carries a sentence of at most six months, with no supervised release.

“Is it the government’s view that the members of the mob that engaged in the Capitol attack on January 6 were simply trespassers?” Howell asked incredulously. “Is general deterrence going to be served by letting rioters who broke into the Capitol, overran the police . . . broke into the building through windows and doors . . . resolve their criminal liability through petty offense pleas?”

After asking for probationary sentences in several cases, the government sought a three-month jail sentence for Griffith. Howell questioned what distinguished those cases from this one. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitra Jafary-Hariri said prosecutors gave some defendants credit for early acceptance of responsibility. Griffith, she added, displayed a lack of remorse after the attack and continued to spread false election claims.

“Probation should not be the norm,” Howell said, but added that Griffith should not be punished more than others who engaged in similar conduct. Instead, she put him on probation for 36 months.

On Thursday, Griffith told the judge his behavior was “truly disgraceful.”

“I am ashamed of the way I acted,” he said. At the time of the break-in, he said, he thought it was a “minor inconvenience” for police, but now he understand they were “crippled by fear and wildly outnumbered.”

Prosecutors also agreed that Griffith, like other misdemeanor defendants, would pay only $500 in restitution. Howell calculated that if everyone charged paid that fine, it would amount to $300,000, while taxpayers are paying $500 million to improve Capitol security in the wake of the attack.

“My hands are tied,” Howell said in frustration. “In all my years on the bench, I’ve never been in this position before, and it’s all due to the government, despite calling this the crime of the century, resolving it with a . . . petty offense.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s $300 Million SPAC Deal May Have Skirted Securities Laws, Matthew Goldstein, Lauren Hirsch and David Enrich, Oct. 29, 2021. Former President Trump began discussing a deal with a “blank check” company early this year. Investors weren’t told.

Just days after Donald J. Trump left the White House, two former contestants on his reality show, “The Apprentice,” approached him with a pitch. Wes Moss and Andy Litinsky wanted to create a conservative media giant.

Mr. Trump was taken with the idea. But he had to figure out how to pay for it.

This month, the former president found a way. He agreed to merge his social media venture with what’s known as a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The result is that Mr. Trump — largely shut out of the mainstream financial industry because of his history of bankruptcies and loan defaults — secured nearly $300 million in funding for his new business.

To get his deal done, Mr. Trump ventured into an unregulated and sometimes shadowy corner of Wall Street, working with an unlikely cast of characters: the former “Apprentice” contestants, a small Chinese investment firm and a little-known Miami banker named Patrick Orlando.

Mr. Orlando had been discussing a deal with Mr. Trump since at least March, according to people familiar with the talks and a confidential investor presentation reviewed by The New York Times. That was well before his SPAC, Digital World Acquisition, made its debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange last month. In doing so, Mr. Orlando’s SPAC may have skirted securities laws and stock exchange rules, lawyers said.

SPACs sell their shares to investors through an initial public offering and then find a private company with which to merge. Because SPACs are empty vessels, stock exchanges allow them to list their shares without disclosing much financial information. But that creates opportunities for SPACs to serve as backdoor vehicles for companies to go public without receiving the kind of investor scrutiny they would in a traditional listing. To prevent that, SPACs aren’t supposed to have a merger planned at the time of their I.P.O.

securities exchange commission sealLawyers and industry officials said that talks between Mr. Orlando and Mr. Trump or their associates consequently could draw scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Another issue is that Digital World’s securities filings repeatedly stated that the company and its executives had not engaged in any “substantive discussions, directly or indirectly,” with a target company — even though Mr. Orlando had been in discussions with Mr. Trump.

Given the politically fraught nature of a deal with Mr. Trump, securities lawyers said that Digital World’s lack of disclosure about those conversations could be considered an omission of “material information.”

“Financial markets are premised on trust,” said Mike Stegemoller, a finance professor at Baylor University who studies SPACs. “If these disclosures are not true, no one wants to participate in markets that aren’t fair.”

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Marjorie Taylor Greene buys up to $50,000 worth of Trump SPAC stock during week of wild fluctuation, Bryan Pietsch, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The stock is down from its high on Friday, when the Republican congresswoman purchased the shares. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), above, purchased as much as $50,000 in stock of the company that plans to merge with former president Donald Trump’s new media firm, the congresswoman disclosed in a filing on Tuesday.

Greene, an ardent Trump supporter, on Friday purchased between $15,001 and $50,000 in shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. The firm is a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, created to buy another business and give it a stock-market listing. Digital World trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker “DWAC.”

Digital World’s stock price swung widely on Friday, opening at $118.79 per share and rising as high as $175 per share. At its lowest, a share in Digital World sold for $67.96 that day. It is not clear what price Greene bought the shares at.

On Tuesday, when Greene disclosed the purchase in a congressional filing, the stock closed at $59.07 per share. On Wednesday, it closed at $64.89. The disclosure was first noted by congresstrading.com, which tracks stock purchases by members of Congress.

Since news of Digital World’s proposed combination with Trump’s company, the “meme stock” had been the subject of posts on the Reddit channel WallStreetBets, a forum where day traders have seized on stocks such as GameStop and AMC.

Trump Media and Technology Group said last week that it would merge with Digital World as it announced the development of a new social media platform called Truth Social. Trump said in a statement that the network would “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.” The former president was booted from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

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U.S. Safety Net, Infrastructure Bills

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Joe Biden’s Big Gamble, Michael D. Shear and Jim Tankersley, Updated Oct. 29, 2021. President Biden told lawmakers that they had to rally behind his $1.85 trillion spending bill, because nothing less than his presidency was at stake.

President Biden was blunt. Democrats had to rally behind his $1.85 trillion economic and environmental spending bill, he told them on Thursday, because nothing less than his presidency was at stake.

“I don’t think it’s hyperbole,” he said as he unveiled a revised proposal and pleaded with Democratic lawmakers to support it during a last-minute morning meeting at the Capitol, hours before he left for a six-day trip to Europe to meet with world leaders.

“The House and Senate majorities and my presidency will be determined by what happens in the next week,” Mr. Biden told the lawmakers during the hourlong session, according to a person who was at the meeting.

The president’s proposals, while about half as costly as his original plan, still amount to a transformative agenda that would touch the lives of millions of Americans and serve as the core of his party’s argument to stay in power through the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 presidential contest.

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the key provisions in President Biden’s $1.85 trillion proposal, Jim Tankersley and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The framework leaves out several key planks of the economic agenda that Mr. Biden laid out on the campaign trail and shortly after taking office. It does nothing to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors, and it omits what would have been the nation’s first federally guaranteed paid family and medical leave for workers. It does not include free community college for all, as Mr. Biden had promised. It would expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, but not vision or dental services.

It also would not raise the corporate tax rate or the top individual income tax rate, and it would not impose a new tax on the unrealized wealth gains of billionaires, as Democrats had recently proposed.

The key provisions of the proposal include:

  • $555 billion to fight climate change, largely through tax incentives for low-emission sources of energy.
  • $400 billion to provide universal prekindergarten to 3- and 4-year-olds, and to significantly reduce health care costs for working families earning up to $300,000 a year.
  • $200 billion to extend an expanded tax credit for parents through 2022, and to permanently allow parents to benefit from the child tax credit even if they do not earn enough money to have income tax liability.

Offsetting that spending is an estimated $2 trillion in revenue increases, including:

  • A 15 percent minimum tax on the reported profits of large corporations.
  • Efforts to reduce profit-shifting by multinational companies, including a separate 15 percent minimum tax on profits earned by U.S. companies abroad — and tax penalties for companies that have their headquarters in global tax havens.
  • A 1 percent tax on corporate stock buybacks.
  • Increased enforcement for large corporations and the wealthy at the Internal Revenue Service.
  • An additional 5 percent tax on incomes exceeding $10 million a year and another 3 percent tax on incomes above $25 million.
  • Efforts to limit business losses for the very wealthy and to impose a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on certain people earning more than $400,000 a year who did not previously pay that tax.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The president’s plan is imperfect, but a big step forward for the country, Editorial Board, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The framework that President Biden presented to Congress on Thursday represents the core of his domestic agenda. It is a wide-ranging social spending and climate proposal designed to be a down payment on big structural changes that would make the United States fairer and more environmentally responsible.

Though the package, as it stands, is far from perfect, it represents a significant step toward both of those goals, while being reasonably fiscally responsible. As recently as a few days ago, such an outcome looked very much in doubt.

It is not as large or ambitious as most Democratic lawmakers wanted. Important policies, particularly on climate, have been badly compromised. But if Democratic lawmakers keep its core elements intact in the coming days of dealmaking, the measure will do substantial good.

It would fund for six years universal prekindergarten. It would spend half a trillion dollars over 10 years on climate change programs, including expanded green energy subsidies and hardening infrastructure against more violent climatic conditions. It would offer subsidized health-care coverage through 2025 to millions of low-income Americans stuck in the Medicaid “coverage gap,” who currently lack a plausible path to getting insurance. It would also shore up the Affordable Care Act, on which millions of other Americans depend for coverage.

The plan would maintain an expanded child tax credit, which drastically cut child poverty this year, through 2022. It would also extend for a year the enhanced earned-income tax credit, a highly successful anti-poverty initiative. Additional funding for Pell grants would help more Americans attend college.

The White House estimates that spending on these and other programs would cost $1.75 trillion over a decade. Negotiators excised some of the least defensible ideas, such as an expensive Medicare expansion for already highly subsidized seniors.

To pay for these programs and cut the deficit, the White House proposes raising $2 trillion in revenue, including a 15 percent minimum tax on big companies, multinational corporate tax reform that would make it harder for firms to hide money in tax havens, a surtax on incomes over $10 million and better Internal Revenue Service tax enforcement. Enhanced tax enforcement, which the White House estimates would bring in an extra $400 billion over 10 years, may not prove as rich a revenue source as Democrats imagine. But other pay-fors are credible, and if Democrats hold to them, would bring in substantial new tax revenue.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What cowards the Democrats have become on taxes, Catherine Rampell, right, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). As they negotiated their catherine rampellmarquee safety-net-and-climate proposal over the past few months, Democrats maintained that the whole package would be paid for through new taxes on the rich and corporations. But one by one, many of the most obvious revenue-raisers, including those targeting higher-income Americans, got ruled out.
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  • Meanwhile, some questionable math got ruled in.
  • Proposals to roll back the Trump tax cuts, which every single Democratic lawmaker opposed in 2017? Never mind.
  • President Biden’s onetime proposal to raise taxes on income accrued from wealth and tax it like ordinary income? Gone.
  • Efforts to close a loophole that allows heirs to escape a lot of taxes on their inheritances? Dead.
  • The plan to eliminate the “carried interest” tax break, enjoyed by hedge fund and private equity firm managers? Not quite.

 

Media, Sports

Insider.com, QAnon influencer who accused Democrats of being pedophiles turned out to be a convicted child molester, Bill Bostock, Oct. 29, 2021. A mid-level QAnon personality who often accuses top Democrats of being pedophiles is himself a convicted child molester.

david trent todeschiniDavid Todeschini, 70, runs a medium-sized channel on Bitchute, an alternative video sharing site like YouTube, called Net4TruthUSA.

In several of his videos, Todeschini, shown at right in a mug shot, has said Democrats are pedophiles. In the title of one recent video, Todeschini wrote that President Joe Biden was a "cho-mo," which is prison slang for pedophile.

QAnon followers claim that there is a "deep state" of senior Democratic Party politicos, CEOs, and celebrities that run a sex cult involving children. There is no evidence for this theory.

However, records show that Todeschini is a pedophile. In 1990, he was convicted of coercing an 8-year-old boy into sexual acts in 1987, as noted on the New York state sex offenders register. The news was first reported by Right Wing Watch.

Todeschini, who is known in QAnon circles as David Trent, is classed as a level three threat by New York state, meaning he has a "high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists." He was released from prison in 2006 and said in a recent video that he now lives in North Carolina.

His Bitchute channel has more than 21,000 followers and some of his videos have amassed over 100,000 views. Todeschini has previously had a number of his YouTube channels removed, according to Right Wing Watch.

Todeschini told Vice News in a recent interview that he also believes in the Frazzledrip conspiracy. Adherents believe that a video exists of Hillary Clinton torturing and drinking the blood of a young girl.

Todeschini has said that he was in Washington, DC, at the time of the January 6 riot at the Capitol, though it is unclear whether he entered the Capitol itself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook is changing its name to Meta as it focuses on the virtual world, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The company made the decision amid a wave of criticism following the release of tens of thousands of internal documents. Facebook on Thursday announced it changed its name to Meta, part of a strategic shift to emphasize the development of its virtual world while its main social network business is in crisis.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, made the announcement at Connect, the company’s annual hardware event where it talks about products like the Portal video devices and Oculus headsets.

The rebranding — pegged to a virtual world and hardware known as the “metaverse” — comes amid a broader effort to shift attention away from revelations that it knew its platform was causing a litany of social harms. The Facebook social network is not changing its name.

facebook logo“From now on, we’re going to be the metaverse first. Not Facebook first,” Zuckerberg said in his keynote. “Facebook is of for the most used products in the world. But increasingly, it doesn’t encompass everything that we do. Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything we are doing.”

A whistleblower has came forward with tens of thousands of documents demonstrating how the company was aware that it caused polarization in numerous countries, led people down misinformation rabbit holes, and failed to stop a violent network that led to the January 6 insurrection. In response, lawmakers around the world have threatened new regulation for the tech industry, as well as demanding more information from Facebook on what it knew and when.

The documents were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Washington Post, and were provided to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission in response to a whistleblower lawsuit.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Metaverse Is Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch, Kevin Roose, Oct. 29, 2021. If his new strategy works — a big if — it could help address several of Facebook’s biggest problems, our technology columnist writes.

When Mark Zuckerberg appeared onscreen at Facebook’s virtual Connect conference on Thursday, smiling as he wandered through sterile rooms filled with midcentury modern furniture, he looked like a man unburdened.

Whistle-blower? What whistle-blower? Cascading, yearslong trust crisis that has regulators fuming, employees bailing and lawmakers comparing Facebook to Big Tobacco? Hmm, doesn’t ring a bell.

Instead, Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants cheerfully laid out their vision for the so-called metaverse, the immersive virtual environment that Facebook — which, as of Thursday, has been renamed Meta, although everyone except for a few professionally obligated financial journalists will probably keep calling it Facebook — is trying to build.

As with most of Facebook’s strategy announcements, Thursday’s rebranding formalized a shift that has been underway for years. The company already has more than 10,000 people working on augmented and virtual reality projects in its Reality Labs division — roughly twice as many people as are on Twitter’s entire staff — and has said it plans to hire 10,000 more in Europe soon. Earlier this week, the company announced that it would spend about $10 billion on metaverse-related investments this year, and it has been acquiring V.R. start-ups in what could amount to a metaverse land grab.

There are several types of questions one could ask about this metaverse strategy. The first and most basic is: What is a metaverse, and what will Facebook’s version of one look like?

That question was answered, at least partially, by Thursday’s presentation. Mr. Zuckerberg painted a picture of the metaverse as a clean, well-lit virtual world, entered with virtual and augmented reality hardware at first and more advanced body sensors later on, in which people can play virtual games, attend virtual concerts, go shopping for virtual goods, collect virtual art, hang out with each others’ virtual avatars and attend virtual work meetings.

This vision of an immersive digital realm is not new — it was sketched out almost 30 years ago by the science fiction author Neal Stephenson — but Mr. Zuckerberg is staking Facebook’s future on the bet that it will become real, saying that the metaverse will be a “successor to the mobile internet.”

Another obvious question you could ask is “Will this work?” It’s impossible to say for certain, of course, although personally, I’m skeptical that Facebook — a lumbering bureaucracy whose biggest breakthroughs in the past decade have mostly come by buying competing apps or copying their features, rather than developing its own ideas internally — will create an immersive digital universe that people actually want to spend time in.

ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Goodell’s Pay for Two Years Reached Nearly $128 Million, Ken Belson, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The N.F.L. commissioner’s compensation for 2019-20 and 2020-21, bolstered by bonuses for closing labor and media rights deals, was disclosed to team owners in a private meeting.

N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s pay for the past two fiscal years totaled almost $128 million, bolstered by bonuses for helping the league’s owners clinch a new 10-year labor deal with the players and secure media contracts worth more than $100 billion over the next decade.

The nine-figure combination of salary, bonuses and other benefits made Goodell one of the highest-paid executives in the country, and the disclosure of the deal comes at a time when he has been criticized for his handling of numerous thorny issues, including the investigation into widespread workplace harassment at the Washington Football Team.

Goodell’s compensation was discussed at a two-day meeting of the league’s owners in Manhattan this week. During a session on Wednesday when only team owners were in attendance, a slide was shown listing the commissioner’s pay: $63,900,050 per year, or just under $128 million for the fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21.

taylor lorenz tucker carlson

ny times logoNew York Times, Geraldo Rivera criticizes his Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson, Michael M. Grynbaum, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Tucker Carlson, the top-rated Fox News host (shown during one of his attack segments above), faced criticism on Thursday — including from a prominent colleague at his own network — after he announced plans for a documentary series featuring debunked conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol.

The three-part series, “Patriot Purge,” is set to be broadcast next month on Fox News’s streaming service, Fox Nation. An 84-second trailer that aired on Fox News on Wednesday included the baseless suggestion that the riot was a so-called “false flag” operation created to demonize the political right.

As tense music plays on the soundtrack, Mr. Carlson says in ominous tones that “the helicopters have left Afghanistan and now they’ve landed here at home.” Various speakers convey the false idea that Democrats want to persecute and imprison conservatives.

fox news logo SmallThe trailer evoked a dismayed public response from Geraldo Rivera, the veteran Fox News correspondent, who used a profane term in a Twitter post to dismiss the claim that the Capitol riot was a “false flag” operation. That theory has repeatedly been debunked.

Speaking on Thursday with The New York Times, Mr. Rivera elaborated on his concerns.

“Tucker’s wonderful, he’s provocative, he’s original, but — man oh man,” Mr. Rivera said in a phone interview. “There are some things that you say that are more inflammatory and outrageous and uncorroborated. And I worry that — and I’m probably going to get in trouble for this — but I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate.”

“Messing around with Jan. 6 stuff … ” Mr. Rivera added, pausing briefly. “The record to me is pretty damn clear, that there was a riot that was incited and encouraged and unleashed by Donald Trump.”

Asked if he would urge his Fox News bosses to reconsider airing Mr. Carlson’s special, Mr. Rivera demurred, saying, “I don’t want to go there, that’s not my job.”

But he added of Mr. Carlson: “He’s my colleague. He’s my family. Sometimes you have to speak out about your family.”

Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Carlson’s prime-time provocations have helped propel him to the highest ratings in cable news, even as he has used rhetoric sometimes used by white nationalists. He has frequently questioned the coverage of the Jan. 6 attack, asserting that government agents were involved in the events and portraying the rioters as mostly peaceful.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Republican book banning will lead to book burning, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct. 29, 2021. 451 degrees wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallFahrenheit is the temperature at which paper catches fire.

wayne madesen report logoToday, a form of Fahrenheit 451 "firemen" have appeared at school board meetings, the gubernatorial campaigns in Virginia and New Jersey, state legislatures in Texas and Florida, and public libraries.

In 1821, the German author Heinrich Heine wrote in his tragedy, Almansore: "Where they burn books, they also ultimately burn people.”

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Four killed, hundreds wounded in clash with police as radical Islamists move to march on Pakistan’s capital, Rachel Pannett and Shaiq Hussain, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Four police officers were killed and hundreds injured after armed members of a hard-line Islamist group clashed with Pakistani security forces Wednesday near the northeastern city of Lahore during a protest over a French newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

The violence occurred during a demonstration led by the outlawed Islamist group Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan outside the capital city of Punjab province, as they prepared to march on the national capital, Islamabad. More than 250 people were injured in the clash, according to Usman Buzdar, chief minister of Punjab, who vowed “strict action” against those involved in the incident.

The Islamists were armed with automatic weapons and fired directly on security forces attempting to control the crowd, police said.

It is the latest of several deadly protests organized by the group in Pakistan since French President Emmanuel Macron honored a teacher who was beheaded last year in France after he showed a class the cartoons depicting Muhammad.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Dealing with ‘Havana Syndrome’ is a policymaker’s nightmare, David Ignatius, right, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The “Havana david ignatiusSyndrome” health cases are gut-wrenching. As the U.S. government gathers information, there’s growing speculation that the attackers may be Russians. But there’s no proof. It’s an assault case with no hard evidence — other than the suffering of the victims.
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These mysterious attacks are a policymaker’s nightmare. You can’t accuse another country of warlike assaults without solid facts; the Iraqi WMD fiasco taught a generation of intelligence analysts that lesson. But if you don’t hold rogue actors accountable, how do you deter future attacks? That’s the conundrum facing the Biden administration.

U.S. officials have analyzed about 200 cases in which Americans have experienced symptoms of what are officially known as “anomalous health incidents” such as the ones first reported in Havana in 2016. It’s a government-wide effort, driven by the Central Intelligence Agency, which employed many of those experiencing symptoms.

The information gathered has fostered suspicion about a Russian role, officials say. A significant number of those affected, more than 100, have U.S. intelligence connections. Of that group, many were involved in activities related to Russia and its close partners, though there’s no precise pattern. There may be a Russia nexus here, but there’s no smoking gun.

Investigators believe that the concussion-like damage may have been caused by mobile directed energy weapons, such as ones Russia, China and other adversaries have been developing for more than a decade. An investigation last year by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that directed energy was “the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases.” Despite speculation that cases may reflect mass hysteria, the report said the acute symptoms “cannot be ascribed to psychological and social factors” based on current evidence.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Biden Announces $1.85 Trillion Framework for Climate and Safety Net Plan, Staff Reports, Oct. 28, 2021. The plan would spend heavily on climate change, child care and a wide variety of other programs, paid for by tax increases on corporations and high earners. President Biden went to the Capitol to discuss the bill, though officials would not say if all holdout Democrats had promised to support it. Here’s the latest.

President Biden went to the Capitol on Thursday to announce a “framework” agreement for a $1.85 trillion social safety net and climate change bill that would bolster support for child care and early childhood education while coaxing the economy away from fossil fuels.

The president, who delayed his departure for a trip to Europe to nail down an accord on his domestic agenda, used a morning meeting at the Capitol to try to rally House Democrats around the emerging deal.

“It’s a good day,” Mr. Biden said as he arrived. “Everyone’s on board” with his proposal, he added.

He was pushing to convince liberal members that a final compromise was close enough to allow them to support a separate, $1 trillion infrastructure bill that has already passed the Senate.

But liberals were still skeptical and said they wanted more than talking points.

“There’s been so many changes in this process — so many people, you know, yes, no, doing the Hokey Pokey, one foot in one foot out,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, as she headed into the meeting. “We need certainty that we’re going to be able to deliver.”

Even Democratic leaders said Mr. Biden had his work cut out for him.

“I wish I could say yes, but there’s a great deal of uncertainty within the caucus as to what’s contained in the deal,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, told reporters when asked if he was confident all 50 senators backed the plan. “I will tell you there is a will to do it.”

At least one lawmaker involved in the talks had been told as of Thursday morning that two crucial holdouts, Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, had yet to commit to voting for it, according to another person briefed on the discussions, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to unveil new spending framework expected to win support of all Democrats, Tyler Pager, Sean Sullivan and Tony Romm, Oct. 28, 2021. President Biden’s planned announcement marks a potential breakthrough after months of negotiations and stalled talks. The White House plans to detail specific policies it expects to pass Congress after weeks of whittling down Biden’s agenda.

joe biden twitterPresident Biden plans to announce Thursday a revised framework for his social spending plan that he expects will gain the support of all Democrats, according to multiple people with knowledge of the situation, marking a potential breakthrough after months of lengthy negotiations and stalled talks.

The White House plans to detail specific policies it expects to pass Congress after weeks of whittling down Biden’s agenda, according to one of the people. Democrats on Capitol Hill were preparing written details of the revamped proposal for release on Thursday, according to the second person.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans on the record. The White House declined to comment.

Biden will address House Democrats Thursday morning before delivering remarks from the White House about the plan. The announcement comes ahead of his planned trip to Rome later in the day to begin a pair of international summits.

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia is fighting fire with fire, but the nation is running out of time, Michael E. Miller, Photos by Matthew Abbott, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Hazard-reduction burns are aimed at reducing the chance of a wildfire or, at least, slowing one. But in this chess game with Mother Nature, humans have put themselves at a disadvantage.

 

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

washington post logoWashington Post, Election ‘distracted’ Trump team from pandemic response, Birx tells Congress, Dan Diamond, Oct. 28, 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, New cases fall nearly 60% in U.S. since delta surge, CDC says, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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.

 

Trump Riot, Election Claims 

joseph digenova victoria toensing fox

Trump allies Joseph diGenova and his wife and law partner, Victoria Toensing, both frequent commentators on Fox News.

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, above, 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 (above right, 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).

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Nazis who go bump in the night, Wayne Madsen, (left, columnist, author of 21 books and former Navy intelligence officer), Oct. 28, 2021. It's not only masked ghouls and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallgoblins who are appearing on the streets this time of the year, but also arm-saluting Nazis at school board meetings and atop highway overpasses in Texas.

The main reason this editor wrote the newly-released book, The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich: The Era of Trumpism and the New Far-Right, is the painful truth that Nazis -- not neo-Nazis, but the actual Adolf Hitler-loving, Sieg Heiling-types -- are busy re-emerging, as do any vermin, wayne madsen fourth reich coverfrom the muck and mire of far-right politics.

Their chief enabler is Donald Trump, who has managed to hide the Nazi past of his father, Fred Trump, and his pre-war activities with the German-American Bund and the America First Committee. Donald Trump's Nazi supporters today are very much the Nazis who his father supported in the 1930s. And there is absolutely nothing "neo" about them.

While grilling Attorney General Merrick Garland, who is Jewish, during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz defended a parent's use of the Nazi salute during a school board meeting. WMR has previously reported on Garland's Milquetoast demeanor and it was on full display after Cruz's tirade in support of Nazi symbolism. Cruz criticized Garland for his October 4 memo on right-wing threats to school boards across the country. One of the incidents cited in the report, which was in response to a letter from the National School Boards Association, was a parent giving the Nazi salute at a school board meeting.

This is yet another example why Garland is not cut out for the job.

Nazism and white supremacism can only be vanquished if the pro-democracy forces in the United States take a hard line against the far-right. That may entail forming self-defense forces to confront those who threaten harm against election workers; school board members; school administrators, city, county, and town council members; public health officials and teachers; librarians; journalists; and others targeted by the Nazi and Ku Klux Klan ghouls who are running rampant around the nation.

Americans of good faith cannot allow the nation to be destroyed without drawing a final line in the sand. The lessons of the 1920s and 30s in Europe tell us that.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chief federal judge in D.C. assails ‘almost schizophrenic’ Jan. 6 prosecutions: ‘The rioters were not mere protesters,’ Rachel Weiner, Oct. 28, 2021. The chief judge presiding over the federal court in Washington on Thursday unleashed a blistering critique of the Justice Department’s prosecution of Capitol rioters, saying fiery rhetoric about the event’s horror did not match plea offers to minor charges.

“No wonder parts of the public in the U.S. are confused about whether what happened on January 6 at the Capitol was simply a petty offense of trespassing with some disorderliness, or shocking criminal conduct that represented a grave threat to our democratic norms,” Judge Beryl A. Howell said in court Thursday. “Let me make my view clear: The rioters were not mere protesters.”

While she and other judges have expressed similar concerns before, this was Howell’s first time sentencing a rioter and her first chance to fully air her views and demand answers from prosecutors. She took the opportunity, spending over an hour interrogating prosecutors on the decision to let Tennessee video game developer Jack Jesse Griffith plead guilty to the misdemeanor of parading inside the Capitol.

beryl howellHowell, right, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010, also oversaw portions of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Before taking the bench, she served as a prosecutor and worked on cybersecurity law in the public and private sector.

Why, she asked, when prosecutors called the riot an “attack on democracy . . . unparalleled in American history,” were Griffith and other participants facing the same charge as nonviolent protesters who routinely disrupt congressional hearings?

“It seems like a bit of a disconnect,” Howell said — “muddled” and “almost schizophrenic.”

The parading charge carries a sentence of at most six months, with no supervised release.

“Is it the government’s view that the members of the mob that engaged in the Capitol attack on January 6 were simply trespassers?” Howell asked incredulously. “Is general deterrence going to be served by letting rioters who broke into the Capitol, overran the police . . . broke into the building through windows and doors . . . resolve their criminal liability through petty offense pleas?”

After asking for probationary sentences in several cases, the government sought a three-month jail sentence for Griffith. Howell questioned what distinguished those cases from this one. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitra Jafary-Hariri said prosecutors gave some defendants credit for early acceptance of responsibility. Griffith, she added, displayed a lack of remorse after the attack and continued to spread false election claims.

“Probation should not be the norm,” Howell said, but added that Griffith should not be punished more than others who engaged in similar conduct. Instead, she put him on probation for 36 months.

On Thursday, Griffith told the judge his behavior was “truly disgraceful.”

“I am ashamed of the way I acted,” he said. At the time of the break-in, he said, he thought it was a “minor inconvenience” for police, but now he understand they were “crippled by fear and wildly outnumbered.”

Prosecutors also agreed that Griffith, like other misdemeanor defendants, would pay only $500 in restitution. Howell calculated that if everyone charged paid that fine, it would amount to $300,000, while taxpayers are paying $500 million to improve Capitol security in the wake of the attack.

“My hands are tied,” Howell said in frustration. “In all my years on the bench, I’ve never been in this position before, and it’s all due to the government, despite calling this the crime of the century, resolving it with a . . . petty offense.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The 14 things you need to know about Trump’s letter in the Wall Street Journal, Philip Bump, right, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). On philip bumpWednesday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter written by former president Donald Trump in which he makes a number of claims about the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. Below, the 14 things you need to know about the letter.

  1. The Wall Street Journal should not have published it without assessing the claims and demonstrating where they were wrong, misleading or unimportant.
  2. wsj logoThe Journal would have been better served had it explained why it chose to run the letter without contextualizing it, since that might have at least offered some clarity on the otherwise inexplicable decision, but it didn’t.
  3. Even if those who decided to publish the letter lacked the resources to fact-check each of the claims, they might have pushed back on obviously false claims, as when Trump falsely claims that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg spent millions of dollars to “interfere in the Pennsylvania election.”
  4. They might also have noted that the organization that Trump repeatedly cites as an authority for his claims, the “highly respected” group Audit the Vote PA, has no actual experience in evaluating elections.

The main thing you need to know about the letter, of course, is that Donald Trump is still railing against his election loss 358 days after it occurred. And that prominent institutions are still enabling his dangerous misinformation more than 358 days after they should have known better. 

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Forbes, Investigation: Trump’s SPAC Is Screwing His Own Supporters While Enriching Wall Street Elites, Dan Alexander, Oct. 28, 2021. Donald Trump set off fireworks on Wall Street the night of October 20, when he announced that a new business, the Trump Media and Technology Group, planned to go public via a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC). Shares soared 550% in a week.

At one point on Friday, when they hit their peak at $175, a little-known investor who organized the SPAC controlled a stake of more than $1 billion. Hedge funds who got in early were sitting on hundreds of millions in gains, assuming they hadn’t already cashed out. And everyday Trump supporters, betting on the SPAC from their brokerage accounts, were doubling and tripling their money in a matter of hours.

“Holy s-—, I am rich with $DWAC,” a Twitter user named Huy Tran said on Thursday, using the ticker symbol for the SPAC. He wasn’t the only one gloating about his gains. “I knew it was big this morning,” said another person. “Enough to throw $310K at it. Would’ve done more if I had more capital freed up, but damn, that was shocking. Incredible move and probably pushes $100 tomorrow. Best day of my trading career.”

Not everyone is going to make money. In any frenzy, there are suckers and there are sharks. The suckers want to play the game but don’t necessarily understand the rules. In this case, that’s likely the Trump fans and day traders buying up the stock. Some of them will get lucky. But many—especially the true Trump believers, who want to stick with the former president for the long haul—seem destined to lose big.

The sharks, on the other hand, already won the game before anyone else even came to the table. Take the SPAC’s organizer, for example. Or the group that did the underwriting. Or the Wall Street firms that bought in early. The biggest shark, however, seems to be the former president, who will probably make a fortune on the frenzy, even as those who trust in him get crushed.

In order to understand all of this, you need to be familiar with how SPACs actually work. We’ll start at the beginning, with Patrick Orlando. It is Orlando—not Trump—whose firm serves as the so-called sponsor of the SPAC. On Trump’s final day in office, January 20, Orlando’s firm paid $25,000 for what would become 8.6 million shares of a SPAC named Digital World Acquisition Corp., or about three tenths of a penny per share.

At the time, Digital World Acquisition had no assets and no operations. But soon enough, Orlando gathered a small team, including a chief financial officer named Luis Orleans-Braganza, who is a member of Brazil’s National Congress. Orlando’s firm handed Orleans-Braganza 10,000 shares around the time he signed on as CFO.

...

The higher the share price climbs, the more difficult it is to rationalize. At one point on Friday, shares of Digital World Acquisition were trading for $175 apiece. That means investors were paying $175 to buy a $7.62 chunk of a cash pile. Shares closed yesterday, October 27, at a $64.89 apiece. It would be like if a jar with $100 in coins went up for sale, and people were bidding $850 for it because doing so might allow them to invest the coins in a Trump-branded venture.

If this seems absurd, that’s because it is. The investment firms that got in early aren’t complaining, though. Even in a disaster scenario, in which the stock fell more than 90% to $5 per share, wiping out over $1 billion for SPAC investors, the owners of the Trump Media and Technology Group would still be left with shares worth estimated $430 million. And that stock would be more valuable than anything else Donald Trump currently owns.

 

taylor lorenz tucker carlson

ny times logoNew York Times, Geraldo Rivera criticizes his Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson, Michael M. Grynbaum, Oct. 28, 2021. Tucker Carlson, the top-rated Fox News host (shown during one of his attack segments above), faced criticism on Thursday — including from a prominent colleague at his own network — after he announced plans for a documentary series featuring debunked conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol.

The three-part series, “Patriot Purge,” is set to be broadcast next month on Fox News’s streaming service, Fox Nation. An 84-second trailer that aired on Fox News on Wednesday included the baseless suggestion that the riot was a so-called “false flag” operation created to demonize the political right.

As tense music plays on the soundtrack, Mr. Carlson says in ominous tones that “the helicopters have left Afghanistan and now they’ve landed here at home.” Various speakers convey the false idea that Democrats want to persecute and imprison conservatives.

fox news logo SmallThe trailer evoked a dismayed public response from Geraldo Rivera, the veteran Fox News correspondent, who used a profane term in a Twitter post to dismiss the claim that the Capitol riot was a “false flag” operation. That theory has repeatedly been debunked.

Speaking on Thursday with The New York Times, Mr. Rivera elaborated on his concerns.

“Tucker’s wonderful, he’s provocative, he’s original, but — man oh man,” Mr. Rivera said in a phone interview. “There are some things that you say that are more inflammatory and outrageous and uncorroborated. And I worry that — and I’m probably going to get in trouble for this — but I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate.”

“Messing around with Jan. 6 stuff … ” Mr. Rivera added, pausing briefly. “The record to me is pretty damn clear, that there was a riot that was incited and encouraged and unleashed by Donald Trump.”

Asked if he would urge his Fox News bosses to reconsider airing Mr. Carlson’s special, Mr. Rivera demurred, saying, “I don’t want to go there, that’s not my job.”

But he added of Mr. Carlson: “He’s my colleague. He’s my family. Sometimes you have to speak out about your family.”

Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Carlson’s prime-time provocations have helped propel him to the highest ratings in cable news, even as he has used rhetoric sometimes used by white nationalists. He has frequently questioned the coverage of the Jan. 6 attack, asserting that government agents were involved in the events and portraying the rioters as mostly peaceful.


matthew purse fbi capitol pressThese images, according to law enforcement, show Matthew Purse inside the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

HuffPost, Investigation: He Dressed As Press To Storm The Capitol. Now We Know He Runs A White Nationalist Website, Christopher Mathias, Oct. 28, 2021. Matthew Purse was one of the most malevolent characters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. The horrifying extent of his extremism has gone unreported, until now.

huffington post logoOn Jan. 6 Matthew Thomas Purse, a 45-year-old Navy veteran from Irvine, California, arrived at the Capitol with a red patch reading “DON’T SHOOT — PRESS” sewed to the back of his black tactical vest. Big, white letters on his helmet screamed “PRESS,” too. And a press pass declaring his credentials as a member of the media dangled from a lanyard around his neck.

But later that day, as he took hold of a microphone on the steps of the Capitol building, it was clear that Purse was actually a participant at the anti-democratic “Save America” rally — which had just exploded into a deadly attempted insurrection.

Moreover, it was clear that he hated journalists.

“First of all, mission accomplished, Patriots,” Purse said to scattered cheers from the right-wing mob that had just stormed, vandalized and looted the building, disrupting a joint session of Congress, according to a video reviewed by HuffPost. “History has been made here today. Simultaneously you broke in through the front and through the rear! They could not stop you! You occupied the building! You caused them to stop what they were doing! They had to evacuate! They couldn’t complete their session! Mission accomplished! Excellent!”

Before handing off the microphone to a fellow Make America Great Again enthusiast, Purse gestured over to a patch of grass near the Capitol building. “The lying press is hidden over there ... ” he said.

Later, Purse led a group of about 20 supporters of former President Donald Trump to a staging area for media outlets, where he immediately started accosting reporters, at one point targeting an Israeli correspondent with anti-Semitic slurs. Footage from the onslaught went viral and quickly became emblematic of the violent vitriol directed at the “fake news media” on Jan. 6.

Yet months later in July, after being arrested and charged for being part of the horde that invaded the Capitol building, Purse once again tried to pass himself off as a journalist, telling The Associated Press he was in the Capitol as “part of a legitimate news organization,” which he declined to name. “The record will show I was not there in any illegal capacity,” he said.

But HuffPost has learned the name of Purse’s “legitimate news organization.” It’s called Happening Center, and it is an unabashedly white nationalist website which hosts livestreams and a private message forum. It gained thousands of followers throughout the political tumult of 2020. Videos and social media posts produced by Happening Center — archived and preserved by anonymous anti-fascist researchers — show it at times embracing outright neo-Nazism and praising mass murderers.

Of all the characters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Purse could prove to be one of the most malevolent. The horrifying extent of his extremism has gone unreported, both in the press and in court documents, and is further evidence of the fascist ideology that drove the events of Jan. 6.

His presence also undercuts the revisionist right-wing narrative that the rioters were merely a group of bumbling MAGA tourists, as opposed to what they really were: the vanguard of a dangerous, racist mass movement hellbent on destroying what exists of American democracy.


‘Mr. Extra Creepy’

Television viewers across the world saw Purse’s zealotry that day. On Al Jazeera Balkans, he led a pack of Trump supporters as they charged into the part of the Capitol lawn designated for media, immediately harassing reporters. “This is the lying press!” Purse yelled into the Al Jazeera camera as the correspondent struggled to continue his broadcast.

Purse’s real identity would go unknown for months. He had introduced himself to multiple people on Jan. 6 as “Marc.” A group of anonymous online sleuths dedicated to exposing the Jan. 6 rioters took to calling him “Mr. Extra Creepy” as they dug through photos and video footage looking for clues.

By May, the sleuths had collected evidence showing that “Marc” or “Mr. Extra Creepy” was really Purse, who public records show has mostly resided in Arizona and Florida, but now lives in southern California. He enlisted in the Navy in 1995 and served two years as a Damage Controlman Fireman Apprentice, a Navy spokesperson told HuffPost, receiving the National Defense Service Medal. The Navy spokesperson would not disclose the circumstances of his separation from the military.

In 2009 he was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, copyright infringement and forfeiture, according to court records, after he and an accomplice were caught selling $500,000 worth of counterfeit software.

He was arrested again this past July on federal charges related to his joining the mob that invaded the Capitol.

According to an FBI affidavit, surveillance footage showed Purse entering the Capitol at 2:59 p.m. on Jan. 6 through the Columbus Door on the eastern side of the building, clearly identifiable in his “PRESS” helmet and vest, carrying a long black pole with a camera and microphone affixed to the end.

“Purse appeared to be standing off to the side, observing the crowd’s interactions with the law enforcement officers,” the affidavit says. “At approximately 3:03 p.m., as the crowd became more volatile ... Purse crossed the room and exited the Rotunda.”

Court records show Purse’s disguise as a journalist had nearly gotten him off the hook. When the Department of Justice first sought to charge him, a federal magistrate judge declined to sign off on an arrest warrant, arguing prosecutors had failed to prove Purse wasn’t actually a reporter. There are laws in place, after all, the judge argued, that protect journalists from being prosecuted for doing their jobs.

Prosecutors came back a week later and filed an amended affidavit. Purse, the FBI had learned, had not received “any credentials from the Capitol, which allowed members of the news media access to areas inside of the Capitol,” the affidavit stated. He also had no “employment history” related to “any news media organization.” And although “Purse has a website, the website appears to be primarily used for live streaming and does not contain original content. The website also includes a private forum for discussions.”

This time the judge signed off on the arrest warrant.

Purse has since pleaded not guilty to charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

He was released from jail on the condition that he surrender his passport to authorities; wear a location monitoring device; stay away from Washington, D.C., except for when attending court; and not possess a firearm, destructive device, or other weapon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook is changing its name to Meta as it focuses on the virtual world, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Oct. 28, 2021. The company made the decision amid a wave of criticism following the release of tens of thousands of internal documents. Facebook on Thursday announced it changed its name to Meta, part of a strategic shift to emphasize the development of its virtual world while its main social network business is in crisis.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, made the announcement at Connect, the company’s annual hardware event where it talks about products like the Portal video devices and Oculus headsets.

The rebranding — pegged to a virtual world and hardware known as the “metaverse” — comes amid a broader effort to shift attention away from revelations that it knew its platform was causing a litany of social harms. The Facebook social network is not changing its name.

facebook logo“From now on, we’re going to be the metaverse first. Not Facebook first,” Zuckerberg said in his keynote. “Facebook is of for the most used products in the world. But increasingly, it doesn’t encompass everything that we do. Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything we are doing.”

A whistleblower has came forward with tens of thousands of documents demonstrating how the company was aware that it caused polarization in numerous countries, led people down misinformation rabbit holes, and failed to stop a violent network that led to the January 6 insurrection. In response, lawmakers around the world have threatened new regulation for the tech industry, as well as demanding more information from Facebook on what it knew and when.

The documents were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Washington Post, and were provided to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission in response to a whistleblower lawsuit.

 

U.S. Building, Safety Net Battles

ny times logoNew York Times, How Democrats Would Tax Billionaires to Pay for Their Agenda, Jonathan Weisman, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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.

In recent headlines:

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Cowards, Not Crazies, Are Destroying America, Paul Krugman, right, Oct. 28, 2021. Back in July, Kay Ivey, governor of Alabama, paul krugmanhad some strong and sensible things to say about Covid-19 vaccines. “I want folks to get vaccinated,” she declared. “That’s the cure. That prevents everything.” She went on to say that the unvaccinated are “letting us down.”

Three months later Ivey directed state agencies not to cooperate with federal Covid-19 vaccination mandates.

Ivey’s swift journey from common sense and respect for science to destructive partisan nonsense — nonsense that is killing tens of thousands of Americans — wasn’t unique. On the contrary, it was a recapitulation of the journey the whole Republican Party has taken on issue after issue, from tax cuts to the Big Lie about the 2020 election.

When we talk about the G.O.P.’s moral descent, we tend to focus on the obvious extremists, like the conspiracy theorists who claim that climate change is a hoax and Jan. 6 was a false flag operation. But the crazies wouldn’t be driving the Republican agenda so completely if it weren’t for the cowards, Republicans who clearly know better but reliably swallow their misgivings and go along with the party line. And at this point crazies and cowards essentially make up the party’s entire elected wing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: White House suggests flexibility in vaccine deadline for federal workers, contractors, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, Oct. 28, 2021. The White House coronavirus response coordinator, Jeff Zients, indicated that the Biden administration could be flexible as it enforces the president’s executive order requiring federal workers and government contractors to vaccinate their workers.

The vaccine mandate aims to protect as many people from the coronavirus as possible — not to punish them by getting them fired from their jobs should they be unvaccinated by the due dates, Zients said Wednesday.

Federal agencies and contractors are expected to educate, counsel and accommodate their unvaccinated workers even after the deadline to persuade them to receive vaccine doses before terminating them, he added. Federal employees face a vaccination deadline of Nov. 22; contractors have a Dec. 8 deadline.

“To be clear, we’re creating flexibility within the system. We’re offering people multiple opportunities to get vaccinated. There is not a cliff here,” Zients said.

Some companies are seeing employee vaccination rates rise: About 99.7 percent of United Airlines employees are vaccinated, as are 96 percent of workers at Tyson Foods and 97 percent of Harvard University employees. But some large contractors have been reporting concerns about the impact on their workforce. Greg Hayes, chief executive of Raytheon Technologies, has said his company could lose thousands of workers. Some unions have also been engaged in legal battles with their employers over the mandate, such as at Southwest Airlines.

In other news:

  • New Orleans suspends mask mandate for most public spaces as cases ebb
  • Antidepressant drug shows promise in treating covid-19, study finds
  • Why cigarette sales rose last year for first time in two decades
  • Judge denies New York City police union’s request to halt vaccine mandate

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. economy grew at annual rate of 2% in third quarter, a sharp slowdown, as delta held back progress, Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam, Oct. 28, 2021. The GDP report, released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, offered yet another snapshot of an economy overshadowed by the ongoing pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge rejects a police union’s bid to suspend a vaccine mandate for N.Y.C. employees, Staff Reports, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Stop the false narrative about young children and covid. They need vaccines, Leana S. Wen, right, Oct. 28, 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.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Oct. 28, 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: 245,947,200, Deaths: 4,991,008
U.S. Cases:     46,597,003, Deaths:    761,856
India Cases:     34,231,809, Deaths:    456,418
Brazil Cases:    21,766,168, Deaths:    606,726

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 220.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of Oct. 28, 2021, measuring the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 191 million eligible persons fully vaccinated.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Climate Change, Weather, Disasters

 climate change photo

ny times logoNew York Times, At McKinsey, Widespread Furor Over Work With Planet’s Biggest Polluters, Michael Forsythe and Walt Bogdanich, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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 testify in Congress on Thursday on climate disinformation, Hiroko Tabuchi and Lisa Friedman, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Executives of some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies — Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell — appeared 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, Four killed, hundreds wounded in clash with police as radical Islamists move to march on Pakistan’s capital, Rachel Pannett and Shaiq Hussain, Oct. 28, 2021. Four police officers were killed and hundreds injured after armed members of a hard-line Islamist group clashed with Pakistani security forces Wednesday near the northeastern city of Lahore during a protest over a French newspaper’s publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

The violence occurred during a demonstration led by the outlawed Islamist group Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan outside the capital city of Punjab province, as they prepared to march on the national capital, Islamabad. More than 250 people were injured in the clash, according to Usman Buzdar, chief minister of Punjab, who vowed “strict action” against those involved in the incident.

The Islamists were armed with automatic weapons and fired directly on security forces attempting to control the crowd, police said.

It is the latest of several deadly protests organized by the group in Pakistan since French President Emmanuel Macron honored a teacher who was beheaded last year in France after he showed a class the cartoons depicting Muhammad.

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. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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.”

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden heads abroad with most ambassadorial picks stranded in Senate, stunting diplomatic efforts, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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.”

Other Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the key provisions in President Biden’s $1.85 trillion proposal, Jim Tankersley and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Oct. 28, 2021. The framework leaves out several key planks of the economic agenda that Mr. Biden laid out on the campaign trail and shortly after taking office. It does nothing to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors, and it omits what would have been the nation’s first federally guaranteed paid family and medical leave for workers. It does not include free community college for all, as Mr. Biden had promised. It would expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, but not vision or dental services.

It also would not raise the corporate tax rate or the top individual income tax rate, and it would not impose a new tax on the unrealized wealth gains of billionaires, as Democrats had recently proposed.

The key provisions of the proposal include:

  • $555 billion to fight climate change, largely through tax incentives for low-emission sources of energy.
  • $400 billion to provide universal prekindergarten to 3- and 4-year-olds, and to significantly reduce health care costs for working families earning up to $300,000 a year.
  • $200 billion to extend an expanded tax credit for parents through 2022, and to permanently allow parents to benefit from the child tax credit even if they do not earn enough money to have income tax liability.

Offsetting that spending is an estimated $2 trillion in revenue increases, including:

  • A 15 percent minimum tax on the reported profits of large corporations.
  • Efforts to reduce profit-shifting by multinational companies, including a separate 15 percent minimum tax on profits earned by U.S. companies abroad — and tax penalties for companies that have their headquarters in global tax havens.
  • A 1 percent tax on corporate stock buybacks.
  • Increased enforcement for large corporations and the wealthy at the Internal Revenue Service.
  • An additional 5 percent tax on incomes exceeding $10 million a year and another 3 percent tax on incomes above $25 million.
  • Efforts to limit business losses for the very wealthy and to impose a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on certain people earning more than $400,000 a year who did not previously pay that tax.

 

pope francis

ny times logoNew York Times, Meeting Between Francis and Biden Will Highlight Rift With U.S. Bishops, Jason Horowitz, Oct. 28, 2021. Pope Francis, above, and President Biden, who meet at the Vatican on Friday, are the common targets of conservative American bishops seeking to undercut them.

When Joseph R. Biden Jr. visits the Vatican on Friday, he will be the third American president Francis has met since becoming pope in 2013. Each has marked a distinct phase not only of his papacy, but also of the political upheaval in the United States and in its Roman Catholic church.

President Barack Obama shared Francis’ global magnetism, celebrity wattage and a focus on immigrants, climate change and the poor. President Donald J. Trump, whose Christianity Francis once questioned for his anti-immigrant policies, ushered in a populist era that helped sideline Francis.

Now Mr. Biden, a Catholic who rarely misses Sunday Mass, arrives at a moment when the political polarization in America has seeped deeply into its Catholic church. The president and pope, who share common ground on many issues, have become common targets of powerful conservative American bishops seeking to undercut them.

The most hostile among them, appointed by Francis’ conservative predecessors, have either ignored or resisted the pope’s efforts to reorient the priorities of the church toward inclusion and social justice, and away from culture war issues like abortion and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pope Francis and President Biden: Their enemies bring them together, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). When ej dionne w open neckPresident Biden meets with Pope Francis on Friday, the two men will have something important in common: They share many of the same enemies.

Their bittersweet solidarity illustrates how profoundly culture-war politics have engulfed the Catholic Church in the United States. If the church were not so divided, we might be focusing instead on the historic nature of this encounter.
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The religiously observant Biden is only the second Roman Catholic U.S. president, while Francis is the first pope from the Americas. Francis’s views on economics and globalization, shaped by the experience of the global south, are far removed from the market consensus in Washington or New York.

Both favor robust policies to contain climate change. The core purpose of Biden’s European visit is the Glasgow summit on the climate crisis that opens Sunday. If anything, Francis is to what might be seen as Biden’s left on the issue, having outlined an especially bold vision on the dangers of a warming planet in his encyclical, Laudato Si’

But what would astonish — and mystify — earlier generations of U.S. Catholics is the extent to which a pope is far more sympathetic to a Catholic president than are many American bishops — and that Biden’s most ardent detractors among Catholics are, in many cases, open critics of Francis.

The turmoil says a lot about Francis and also speaks to the impact that political polarization has had on the U.S. church — specifically over whether opposition to abortion should dominate the church’s public mission.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyer in $9.5 Billion Chevron Settlement Case Goes to Prison, Isabella Grullón Paz, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Steven Donziger, an environmental activist who won what is considered the largest ever lawsuit against an oil company, was found guilty of contempt of court in July.

Steven Donziger, the environmental and human rights lawyer who won a $9.5 billion settlement against Chevron over oil dumped in Indigenous lands in the Amazon rainforest, surrendered himself to the federal authorities on Wednesday to begin a six-month prison sentence.

Mr. Donziger was found guilty in July of six counts of criminal contempt of court for withholding evidence in a long, complex legal fight with Chevron, which claims that Mr. Donziger fabricated evidence in the 1990s to win a lawsuit he filed against the oil giant on behalf of 30,000 Indigenous people in Ecuador. The convictions led to Mr. Donziger’s being disbarred last year.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Donziger turned himself in to a federal prison in Danbury, Conn., where he will serve his six-month sentence. He had already spent more than 800 days under home detention after the court cited flight-risk concerns, his lawyer, Ronald L. Kuby, said on Wednesday.

“After 100 pages of legal briefing, the appellate court today denied my release in 10 words,” Mr. Donziger said on Twitter on Tuesday. “This is not due process of law. Nor is it justice.”

“We will get through this,” he added.

Representatives for Chevron did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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On July 31, 2019, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, a former corporate lawyer, tried to charge Mr. Donziger with contempt of court based on his refusals in 2014 to give the court access to decades of client communications on devices like his phone and his computer. That year, Judge Kaplan supported Chevron’s complaint in a 500-page ruling finding that Mr. Donziger and his associates had engaged in a conspiracy and criminal conduct by ghostwriting an environmental report used as a crucial piece of evidence and bribing a judge in Ecuador.

After the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York declined to prosecute the case, Judge Kaplan took the rare step of appointing a private law firm, Seward & Kissel, to prosecute Mr. Donziger in the name of the U.S. government, Mr. Kuby said.

Seward & Kissel has represented many oil and gas companies throughout the years, including Chevron in 2018.

Misdemeanor criminal contempt carries a maximum sentence of one year. If the penalty is more than six months for this type of charge, Mr. Kuby said, a defendant would get a trial by jury. Even after multiple objections by Mr. Donziger, Judge Loretta A. Preska lowered the sentencing to six months — it had previously been set to a year — and denied Mr. Donziger’s request for a jury trial.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just made a whole new mess for the GOP, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 28, 2021. Donald Trump keeps signaling in his “press bill palmerreleases” that he wants to campaign this week in Virginia for Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. But by all accounts, Youngkin doesn’t want Trump to come. This is the latest reminder of three things.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, Trump is exceedingly unpopular. Yes, his die-hard base still loves him. But most Americans hate him. Youngkin knows that for every extremist vote he’d gain by campaigning with Trump, he’d probably lose at least one moderate vote by standing next to Trump. The notion that Trump is somehow a viable candidate for 2024 is laughable.

Second, because Trump keeps trying to regain relevance by trying to insert himself into elections like this, the Republican Party is stuck with him. Trump will keep causing trouble for Republican candidates like Glenn Youngkin, until Trump lands in prison or croaks. Trump is an albatross around the GOP’s neck.

Finally, this is a reminder that Glenn Youngkin is beatable in Virginia on Tuesday, as he faces the no-win situation of how to deal with Trump. It’s more important than ever that we make a last minute push for Democrat Terry McAuliffe. You can donate or volunteer online no matter what state you live in. Go here now.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP used Senate delays to make changes at U.S. product safety regulator, Todd C. Frankel, Oct. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A growing number of Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate have ugly pasts, Amber Phillips, Oct. 28, 2021. Explaining the controversial pasts of candidates like Herschel Walker in Georgia and Sean Parnell in Pennsylvania.

One top senatorial Republican candidate in Georgia is accused of threatening his then-wife’s life. Another in Pennsylvania could lose custody of his children during the campaign. One in Ohio is dating a subordinate on his campaign. And in Missouri, a leading candidate is the state’s former GOP governor, who resigned after a hairdresser with whom he had an affair accused him in gruesome detail of sexually assaulting her.

In a normal year, these candidates would be likely to be shunned by the Republican establishment, but the GOP has been put in the position of either supporting them or girding for their potential nomination, thanks to their ties to and even the support of former president Donald Trump.

And these races could determine which party controls the Senate next year. The Senate is split evenly, so Republicans need only a net gain of a single seat gain to retake majority control.

washington post logoWashington Post, Marjorie Taylor Greene buys up to $50,000 worth of Trump SPAC stock during week of wild fluctuation, Bryan Pietsch, Oct. 28, 2021. The stock is down from its high on Friday, when the Republican congresswoman purchased the shares. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) purchased as much as $50,000 in stock of the company that plans to merge with former president Donald Trump’s new media firm, the congresswoman disclosed in a filing on Tuesday.

Greene, an ardent Trump supporter, on Friday purchased between $15,001 and $50,000 in shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. The firm is a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, created to buy another business and give it a stock-market listing. Digital World trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker “DWAC.”

Digital World’s stock price swung widely on Friday, opening at $118.79 per share and rising as high as $175 per share. At its lowest, a share in Digital World sold for $67.96 that day. It is not clear what price Greene bought the shares at.

On Tuesday, when Greene disclosed the purchase in a congressional filing, the stock closed at $59.07 per share. On Wednesday, it closed at $64.89. The disclosure was first noted by congresstrading.com, which tracks stock purchases by members of Congress.

Since news of Digital World’s proposed combination with Trump’s company, the “meme stock” had been the subject of posts on the Reddit channel WallStreetBets, a forum where day traders have seized on stocks such as GameStop and AMC.

Trump Media and Technology Group said last week that it would merge with Digital World as it announced the development of a new social media platform called Truth Social. Trump said in a statement that the network would “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.” The former president was booted from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

 

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. 28, 2021 (print ed.). 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.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trooper Charged With Murder in Death of Girl, 11, in a High-Speed Chase, Ed Shanahan, Updated Oct. 28, 2021. The trooper, Christopher Baldner, killed the girl, Monica Goods, by ramming her family’s car after a late-night traffic stop, officials said.

Not long before midnight on Dec. 22, a New York state trooper stopped a car for speeding near Kingston, about an hour and a half north of Manhattan. Inside were Tristin Goods, his wife, April, and his daughters, Monica, 11, and Tristina, 12. They were heading north on the New York State Thruway, on their way to visit family for Christmas.

In the exchange that followed, Mr. Goods and the trooper, Christopher Baldner, began to argue, and Mr. Goods, his lawyer said, asked to speak to a supervisor. Trooper Baldner responded by shooting pepper spray into the car, officials said.

Fearing for his safety, his lawyer said, Mr. Goods drove off. Trooper Baldner chased him at a high speed. When he caught up to Mr. Goods, he rammed his car once and then, seconds later, rammed it again.

The impact knocked Mr. Goods’s car over a guardrail into the highway’s southbound lanes, his lawyer said. The vehicle flipped over several times before landing on its roof. Tossed from the car as it tumbled, Monica Goods died.

On Wednesday, Trooper Balder, 43, was charged with murder, manslaughter and reckless endangerment in an indictment announced by Letitia James, New York’s attorney general. “Police officers are entrusted to protect and serve,” Ms. James said in a statement. “But Trooper Baldner allegedly violated that trust when he used his car as a deadly weapon and killed a young girl.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Misconduct Complaint Is Filed Against Andrew Cuomo, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jonah E. Bromwich, Oct. 28, 2021. A criminal complaint was filed accusing former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of forcible touching, a spokesman for New York State’s court system said. Mr. Cuomo resigned in August after a state attorney general report concluded that he had sexually harassed multiple women.

andrew cuomo 2019A criminal complaint accusing former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, left, of forcible touching has been filed in Albany City Court, a spokesman for New York State’s court system said on Thursday.

“A misdemeanor complaint was filed in Albany City Court against the former governor this afternoon,” said the spokesman, Lucian Chalfen.

The complaint came more than two months after Brittany Commisso, a former aide to Mr. Cuomo, filed a criminal complaint against him with the Albany County sheriff’s office. She accused him of groping her breast while they were alone in his residence late last year.

The complaint, signed by an investigator from the Albany County sheriff’s office, Amy Kowalski, said Mr. Cuomo did “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly place his hand under the blouse shirt of the victim and onto her intimate body part.” It said Mr. Cuomo touched the victim’s left breast “for the purposes of degrading and gratifying his sexual desires, all contrary to the provisions of the statute.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Right’s Big Lie About a Sexual Assault in Virginia, Michelle Goldberg, right, Oct. 28, 2021. This is a story about how the right michelle goldberg thumbtwisted the sexual assault of a teenager into a culture war fantasy. It’s about how a distorted tale on a conservative website became grist for a nationwide moral panic.

On June 22, a middle-aged plumber named Scott Smith was dragged, lip bleeding and hands cuffed behind his back, from a raucous school board meeting in Loudoun County, Va. According to the local newspaper Loudon Now, he’d been swearing loudly at another parent and leaning toward her with a clenched fist when the police tackled him and pulled him outside. He’d eventually be convicted of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and given a suspended 10-day jail sentence.

Smith’s image quickly went viral as a symbol of the sort of school board strife breaking out all over America. The National School Boards Association, writing to President Biden to request help dealing with the “growing number of threats of violence and acts of intimidation” directed at school board members, included Smith’s arrest in a list of examples.

Soon, however, Smith revealed why he’d been so distraught. In an interview with The Daily Wire, a website co-founded by the conservative wunderkind Ben Shapiro, Smith said that his ninth-grade daughter had been sexually assaulted in a school bathroom by a boy wearing a skirt. Smith was opposed to a proposed policy allowing trans kids to use bathrooms aligned with their gender identities, believing it made girls like his daughter vulnerable.

“The point is kids are using it as an advantage to get into the bathrooms,” he told the reporter, Luke Rosiak.

By the time Smith spoke to Rosiak, the story had become even uglier. In July, the boy was arrested in the attack on Smith’s daughter and charged with two counts of forcible sodomy. But pending a hearing, he was allowed to enroll at another high school while wearing an ankle monitor. In early October he was arrested again, this time for allegedly forcing a girl into an empty classroom and touching her inappropriately.

After Rosiak’s article came out, Smith became a symbol of a different kind: a blue-collar martyr to wokeness. Appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, Rosiak said, “This story is one of the most disturbing I’ve ever worked on. It raises the possibility that the Loudoun County public schools covered up the rape of a 14-year-old girl at the hands of a boy wearing a skirt in order to pass a school policy that Democrats were adamant about passing.” As a result of that cover-up, Rosiak said, a second girl was allegedly attacked, “and to prevent all of this from coming out potentially, they arrested the father of the victim.”

Not surprisingly, the story ricocheted around the right. Conservatives have long argued that letting trans girls and women into women’s bathrooms would lead to sexual predation, and now that seemed to have happened. They’ve argued that wokeness is a form of tyranny, and in Smith they had a man who seemed to have been tyrannized because his family’s lived experience posed a threat to trans ideology.

If they had it all wrong, it’s almost hard to blame them — the narrative was too irresistible.

Outrage over the assaults has loomed over the Virginia gubernatorial race, where the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, has sought to harness parental anger toward school boards accused of putting left-wing dogma above student welfare. Senate Republicans recently harped on the case in a hearing for an appeals court nominee, Holly Thomas. On Wednesday, Senator Tom Cotton badgered Attorney General Merrick Garland about it, indignant about steps the Justice Department is taking to address threats to school board members. Smith’s daughter, said Cotton, “was raped in a bathroom by a boy wearing girls’ clothes and the Loudoun County School Board covered it up because it would interfere with their transgender policy during pride month.”

Buta Biberaj, the Commonwealth attorney who prosecuted Smith, received death threats. So did members of the school board.

But this week, during a juvenile court hearing, a fuller picture of Smith’s daughter’s ordeal emerged. She suffered something atrocious. It had nothing at all to do, however, with trans bathroom policies. Instead, like many women and girls, she was a victim of relationship violence.

Smith’s daughter testified that she’d previously had two consensual sexual encounters with her attacker in the school bathroom. On the day of her assault, they’d agreed to meet up again. “The evidence was that the girl chose that bathroom, but her intent was to talk to him, not to engage in sexual relations,” Biberaj, whose office prosecuted the case, told me. The boy, however, expected sex and refused to accept the girl’s refusal. As the The Washington Post reported, she testified, “He flipped me over. I was on the ground and couldn’t move and he sexually assaulted me.”

The boy was indeed wearing a skirt, but that skirt didn’t authorize him to use the girls’ bathroom. As Amanda Terkel reported in HuffPost, the school district’s trans-inclusive bathroom policies were approved only in August, more than two months after the assault. This was not, said Biberaj, someone “identifying as transgender and going into the girls’ bathroom under the guise of that.”

On Monday, the boy received the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict. The case dealing with the second attack he is accused of will be decided in November.

We don’t know exactly why the boy was allowed to attend a different school after his first arrest. The district has refused to comment on the transfer because of state and federal privacy laws. According to Biberaj, under state law, juveniles can be detained for only 21 days without a hearing, and her office needed more time than that to get DNA results. A condition of the boy’s release was that he could have no contact with the girl, so he couldn’t return to his original school.

It’s not clear whether the school system had the option of barring the boy from in-person school altogether. In a statement this month, the Loudoun County Public Schools superintendent, Scott Ziegler, called for policy changes that would allow administrators to “separate alleged offenders from the general student body.” Conservatives, of course, have traditionally opposed policies that would keep accused offenders out of school.

As Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education, said last year, “Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault.”

Even as the facts of this case have come out, the damage done by all the disinformation about it will be hard to undo. “Once the politics are over, we’re still dealing with the destruction,” said Biberaj, who wonders how her community is supposed to heal. “You can’t always successfully bring people back to say, ‘I know this is what you were told, but look what happened in court under oath.’”

A sad and complicated truth is probably no match for an exquisitely useful lie.

 

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

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

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.

 

marjorii taylor greene gun

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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

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Evil Rot at the Center of the Empire, Jacob G. Hornberger, Oct. 27, 2021. Given President Biden’s decision to jacob hornberger newsuccumb to the CIA’s demand for continued secrecy of the CIA’s 60-year-old Kennedy assassination-related records, this would be a good time to remind ourselves of how President Kennedy felt about this type of secrecy:

The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.

future of freedom foundation logo squareKennedy’s attitude toward the evil of governmental secrecy was just another reason why the U.S. national-security establishment hated him so deeply and considered him a grave threat to national security, in addition to, of course, Kennedy’s determination to end the Cold War racket and establish friendly and peaceful relations with the Soviet Union, Cuba, and the rest of the communist world.

In his 1985 book People of the Lie, the noted psychiatrist M. Scott Peck noted that there definitely is evil in the world.

The Central Intelligence Agency epitomizes the evil to which Peck was referring. That’s not to say, of course, that everyone who works for the CIA is evil. It’s to say that everyone who works for the CIA is either wittingly or unwittingly working for an evil institution, one that should never have been grafted onto America’s federal governmental system and that now forms the core of the rot that afflicts the American empire.

CIA LogoThe problem, of course, is that all too many Americans do not wish to confront, much less acknowledge, the existence of this evil. Succumbing to CIA propaganda and wishing to defer to the power of the national-security establishment, they have convinced themselves that the CIA is a force for good in the world and that it is necessary to their safety and well-being.

Thus, such Americans have turned a blind eye to the evil actions in which the CIA has engaged practically since its inception in 1947.

How many times are we reminded of the evil of the Nazi regime that the U.S. defeated in World War II? Hardly a week goes by without someone bringing it up in the mainstream press.

Yet, here we have an an entity within the federal government that secretly hired Nazi officials after World War II ended. How can that possibly be reconciled with moral or religious principles? When an entity knowingly cavorts and partners with evil, doesn’t that say something about the evil nature of that entity?

Let’s not forget the drug experiments that the CIA conducted on unsuspecting Americans. I don’t know if the CIA’s secret Nazi employees assisted with those drug experiments, but I do know that the mindset that went into those experiments was the same type of mindset that motivated the Nazis to conduct medical experiments on people.

That CIA partnership with Nazis isn’t the only partnership with evil that the CIA has engaged in. There is also its partnership with the Mafia, one of history’s most evil criminal organizations, one that engages in murder as one of its regular activities. Yet, all too many Americans ignore that CIA-Mafia partnership. They would rather just look the other way.

fidel castroWhat was the purpose of that secret CIA-Mafia partnership? Assassination, which is really just a fancy word for murder. The purpose of the secret CIA-Mafia partnership was to murder Cuba’s president Fidel Castro, left.

Why Castro? Because he was a communist. More important, he was also a communist who established peaceful and friendly relations with the Soviet Union and rest of the communist world.

That’s it. That’s what the CIA says justified its assassination partnership with the Mafia to assassinate Castro and its repeated attempts to assassinate Castro.

One of the fascinating aspects of the CIA-Mafia partnership to assassinate Castro has been the reaction of many Americans who just have taken it all in stride. That blasé reaction to unjustified state-sponsored murder is a perfect example of what CIA propaganda and indoctrination has done to warp, pervert, and stultify the consciences of many Americans.

The fact is that not only was the CIA partnership with the Mafia evil, so were its repeated assassination attempts on Castro. The CIA never had the moral, religious, or legal authority to murder anyone, including Castro, just because he happened to be a communist or a socialist or just because he favored establishing peaceful and friendly relations with the Soviet Union and the communist world.

And yet, all too many Americans, especially the mainstream press, have been so nonchalant about those repeated CIA murder attempts on Castro.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, there has also been a steadfast willingness among many Americans to turn a blind eye to the overwhelming evidence establishing that the November 22, 1963, assassination of President Kennedy was a regime-change operation on the part of the CIA and the national-security establishment, no different in principle from the CIA’s repeated assassination attempts on Castro.

patrice lumumba raising arms 1960But let’s set aside the Kennedy assassination. Let’s just talk about the CIA’s assassination of Patrice Lumumba, shown at right in 1960, three years before Kennedy was murdered. Or how about the CIA’s kidnapping/murder of Gen. Rene Schneider in Chile seven years after Kennedy was assassinated? How can those two assassinations be labeled anything but evil? What did Lumumba and Schneider do to warrant having their lives snuffed out by the CIA? They did nothing to warrant their assassinations.

Or how about the CIA’s regime-change operation in Iran ten years before Kennedy was assassinated? It was accompanied by the deaths of many innocent Iranian people. Then came 26 years of U.S.-supported horrific tyranny and oppression under a brutal U.S.-installed dictator. That led to the Iranian revolution and more decades of horrific tyranny and oppression. That led to brutal U.S. economic sanctions that have killed and impoverished countless innocent citizens of Iran. How can all that not be labeled evil?

Or how about the CIA’s regime-change operation in Guatemala nine years before the Kennedy assassination? The CIA had a secret assassination list for that operation which listed the people who were to be murdered as part of the operation.

What did Guatemalans do to deserve such evil being inflicted on them? They had the audacity to elect a socialist named Jacobo Arbenz, who declared a willingness to establish peaceful and friendly relations with the Soviet Union and the communist world.

He wasn’t the only one. Ten years after Kennedy was assassinated, the Chilean people elected a socialist named Salvador Allende, who, like Arbenz, established peaceful and friendly relations with the Soviet Union and the communist world. The CIA said that that made him a threat to U.S. “national security.” The CIA and the Pentagon convinced the Chilean national-security establishment that it had a moral duty to violently oust their country’s president from office. How can the CIA/Pentagon-instigated Chilean coup, which left Allende dead and tens of thousands of Chilean citizens raped, tortured, executed, or disappeared by the brutal U.S.-supported military dictator who replaced him, not be labeled evil?

In fact, that’s why the CIA’s goons kidnapped and murdered General Schneider. Schneider opposed the CIA’s violent regime-change operation and instead favored supporting and defending the Chilean constitution, which provided only two ways to remove a president from office: impeachment and election.

With the exception of the Kennedy assassination, Americans have come to accept all of these CIA regime changes as part of America’s legacy as a national-security state. Unfortunately, however, owing to a stultification of conscience that came with the unconstitutional conversion of the federal government to a national-security state, all too many Americans have not yet come to the moral realization that every one of those regime-change operations, including the Kennedy assassination, was evil to the core.

In his 1978 book The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck stated, “Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.”

The same principle applies to a nation. For America to heal in the wake of the Afghanistan and Iraq debacles and all the lies that came with them, it is necessary for Americans today to dedicate themselves to reality at all costs — especially the reality that a rotten evil entity known as the CIA lies at the core of America’s federal governmental structure. For America to restore morality, freedom, health, and right conduct to our land, it is necessary to eradicate, not reform, that evil.

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.”
 

ron desantis uncredited Custom

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

devin nunes file flagFresno Bee, Devin Nunes’ family ordered to say who’s paying for lawsuit, Joshua Bessex, Updated Oct. 27, 2021. A federal judge this week ordered Rep. Devin Nunes’ family members to disclose how they are paying for their defamation lawsuit against a reporter and magazine publisher over a 2018 story about their Iowa farm.

The judge will review the records detailing who is paying for the litigation behind closed doors before deciding whether to share them with lawyers for the reporter and publisher, meaning that there is a possibility that no one else — including those lawyers and their clients — will get to see the information.

Judge Mark Roberts of Iowa’s Northern District Court wants to know whether the congressman is involved in the family’s case, he wrote in his ruling.

In a court hearing this summer, the congressman’s brother said that he had “no idea” who was paying their lawyers and that the family had only paid one $500 fee.

“Anthony Nunes III’s lack of knowledge about who is paying the attorneys prosecuting this action raises legitimate concern about not only who may be in charge of the lawsuit, but also whether Plaintiffs are the still the real parties in interest,” Roberts wrote in his decision.

Lawyers for the journalist, Ryan Lizza, and the magazine company, Hearst, asked that the Nunes family share who was paying for their legal fees this summer. In their motion, they wrote that the lawsuit might be motivated by someone other than the family. They said this motivation was relevant to the case because it might be fueled by wealthy private donors connected to the congressman as a means to “chill” media coverage. Hearst attorneys wrote that information also could shed light on whether the Nunes family should be considered public figures, which would make it harder for them to win a defamation lawsuit.

Lawyers for the Nunes family objected, questioning relevance to the lawsuit. The family filed the lawsuit against Lizza and Hearst over a story published in its magazine Esquire that suggested the Nunes’ farm, NuStar Farms, employed undocumented immigrants. They are seeking $20 million in damages.

Throughout proceedings, the family has denied coordinating with the congressman, but has not denied receiving financial support for the litigation, Roberts wrote in his decision filed on Tuesday. He said that disclosing who was funding the suit would provide clarity on whether the family has actually coordinated with the congressman. “These circumstances may not ultimately turn out to be ‘untoward,’ but they are certainly unusual,” Roberts wrote.

 

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

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

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.

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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.

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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.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

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.

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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