Nov. 2021 News, Views

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

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

 

Nov. 30

Top Headlines

 

More on Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News, Global Human Rights

 

U.S. Media & Sports News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies work to place supporters in key election posts across U.S., Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). If they succeed, the former president and his backers could pull down some of the guardrails that prevented him from overturning President Biden’s victory, critics say.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn Michigan, local GOP leaders have sought to reshape election canvassing boards by appointing members who expressed sympathy for former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 vote was rigged.

republican elephant logoIn two Pennsylvania communities, candidates who embraced election fraud allegations won races this month to become local voting judges and inspectors.

And in Colorado, 2020 doubters are urging their followers on conservative social media platforms to apply for jobs in election offices.

djt maga hatA year after local and state election officials came under immense pressure from Trump to subvert the results of the 2020 White House race, he and his supporters are pushing an ambitious plan to place Trump loyalists in key positions across the administration of U.S. elections.

The effort goes far beyond the former president’s public broadsides against well-known Republican state officials who certified President Biden’s victory, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Citing the need to make elections more secure, Trump allies are also seeking to replace officials across the nation, including volunteer poll watchers, paid precinct judges, elected county clerks and state attorneys general, according to state and local officials, as well as rally speeches, social media posts and campaign appearances by those seeking the positions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Omicron alarms scientists, but new variant first must prove it can outcompete delta, Joel Achenbach, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Limited data impede any firm conclusions about the threat posed by omicron and whether it can evade immunity.

  • Washington Post, What we know about omicron
  • Washington Post, As variant spreads, China senses vindication over ‘zero covid’ strategy

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe Revisits Nuclear Power as Climate Deadlines Loom, Liz Alderman and Stanley Reed, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). While wind and solar ramp up, several countries are looking to expand their nuclear energy programs. Others aren’t so enthusiastic.

European countries desperate for a long-term and reliable source of energy to help reach ambitious climate goals are turning to an answer that caused earlier generations to shudder: nuclear power.

european union logo rectanglePoland wants a fleet of smaller nuclear power stations to help end its reliance on coal. Britain is betting on Rolls-Royce to produce cheap modular reactors to complement wind and solar energy. And in France, President Emmanuel Macron plans to build on the nation’s huge nuclear program.

As world leaders pledge to avert a climate catastrophe, the nuclear industry sees an opportunity for a revival. Sidelined for years after the disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl, advocates are wrangling to win recognition of nuclear energy, alongside solar and wind, as an acceptable source of clean power.

More than half a dozen European countries recently announced plans to build a new generation of nuclear reactors. Some are smaller and cheaper than older designs, occupying the space of two football fields and costing a fraction of the price of standard nuclear plants. The Biden administration is also backing such technology as a tool of “mass decarbonization” for the United States.

 

More On Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Warnings over vaccine effectiveness against omicron spook markets, Bryan Pietsch and Adela Suliman, Nov. 30, 2021. Regeneron’s antibody cocktail could be less effective against omicron, says maker; Pfizer set to request authorization for coronavirus booster for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Coronavirus vaccine maker Moderna set off alarm bells in financial markets Tuesday by warning that current vaccines may be less effective at combating the omicron variant compared with previous strains. “I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to … [say] ‘this is not going to be good,’” Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, told the Financial Times in an interview Tuesday.

On the heels of this prediction, U.S. stock futures slumped and Asian markets retreated. Markets in Europe also fell. U.S. oil prices dropped back below $70 a barrel, while gold rose and risk-sensitive currencies such as the Australian dollar weakened against the greenback. The 10-year Treasury yield also declined.

Bancel also said the variant may mean that vaccines will need to be modified next year. Germany’s BioNTech and its partner Pfizer have said they are working to understand what level of protection their vaccines offer and how to adapt them. Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac says it is working with international partners to collect and analyze samples of omicron in an effort to determine how effective its inactivated vaccine, CoronaVac, is against the variant.

Meanwhile, omicron is threatening the U.S. economy’s rebound and growth on a global scale, experts say. The chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, warned in remarks prepared for congressional testimony Tuesday that “the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of the Omicron variant pose downside risks to employment and economic activity and increased uncertainty for inflation.” He added that “greater concerns about the virus” could exacerbate existing problems, such as labor shortages and supply chain struggles.

Here’s what to know

  • Although the omicron variant’s mutations have concerned scientists, much remains unknown about its tangible impact: “It’s a complete black box,” one virologist told The Washington Post.
  • President Biden called the omicron coronavirus variant a “cause for concern” but “not a cause for panic.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention significantly expanded its recommendations for booster shots, saying that all adults 18 and older should get them.
  • South Africa, among the first countries to identify the variant, is preparing for a potential surge in infections. An epidemiologist there warned in a government briefing that the country could top 10,000 cases per day by the end of the week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge temporarily blocks Biden administration vaccine mandate for health-care workers in 10 states, Eli Rosenberg and Adela Suliman, Nov. 30, 2021. A federal judge in Missouri has partially halted another one of the Biden administration’s key vaccine requirements, temporarily blocking the imposition of a rule for certain health-care workers in 10 states.

The Biden administration issued the vaccine mandate, for health-care workers at facilities that received funding from Medicare and Medicaid, in early November through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It was estimated to apply to some 1.7 million workers at 76,000 facilities across the country, including hospitals and nursing homes.

missouri mapBut in a 32-page ruling issued on Monday in St. Louis, U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said that a preliminary injunction to halt the rule was warranted because he believed the arguments made by the plaintiffs — 10 mostly Republican-dominated states — that the CMS lacked authority to implement the requirement, probably had merit.

He also questioned whether there was enough data about transmissibility and vaccination status, and he said that he believed the order was probably “arbitrary and capricious.”

“Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact this politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate, which Supreme Court precedent requires,” he wrote.

The order will halt the CMS vaccine mandate in the 10 states that brought the lawsuit until the court can hear their legal challenges. They are: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

CMS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

However, CMS said in a statement that it was reviewing the ruling and underscored that unvaccinated health-care workers posed a threat to patient safety, according to Reuters.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: China pledged 1 billion Covid vaccine doses for Africa as the continent grapples with Omicron, Staff Reports, Nov. 30, 2021. As Africa grapples with the new Omicron coronavirus variant, Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has pledged to deliver another billion doses of vaccines to countries on the world’s least vaccinated continent.

The announcement from Mr. Xi is part of China’s continuing effort to burnish its image as a responsible global power helping to fight the pandemic, and it comes at a crucial time for countries in Africa, especially the southern region, where Omicron was first documented. Scientists fear that Omicron could already be spreading rapidly there, but they cautioned that much about the variant remains unknown, including where it originated.

africa nation mapHealth officials in South Africa said on Monday that Omicron appeared to be driving a new wave there. The daily average of new cases in the country has increased by more than 1,500 percent over the past two weeks, according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, although the case numbers remain far below the year’s earlier peaks.

Still, officials urged the public not to panic over the variant, and said it was still too soon to accurately assess whether it has a higher rate of transmission or causes more hospitalizations or severe illness.

With wealthy nations hoarding most of the global vaccine supply, Africa has the lowest vaccination levels of any continent, with just 10.3 percent of the population receiving at least one dose, compared with rates of at least 60 percent to over 80 percent in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the United States and Canada.

But in recent weeks, vaccine doses have started to flow into parts of Africa, and countries including South Africa — where nearly one-quarter of people are fully inoculated, one of the highest rates on the continent — are now dealing with the challenge of how to rapidly administer them. Shabir Mahdi, a virologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said that where doses are available, “countries are struggling to scale up.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, The Defense Department says Oklahoma National Guard must get vaccinated, Jennifer Steinhauer, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The Defense Department has rejected an attempt by the governor of Oklahoma to exclude the state’s National Guard from a federal vaccine mandate.

On Monday Lloyd J. Austin III, above, the secretary of Defense, sent a letter to Gov. Kevin Stitt that said the troops must comply with the requirement for all service branches.

The letter, which was widely expected, sets the stage for Guardmembers in the state to lose their jobs should they refuse.

“One could elect not to take the vaccine, of course,” John Kirby, a spokesman for Mr. Austin, said on Monday, “but then you would be putting at jeopardy your ability to stay in the National Guard.”

Department of Defense SealEarlier this month, the newly appointed head of the National Guard in Oklahoma said that troops would not be required to get vaccinated. The policy defies a Pentagon directive that makes vaccination mandatory for all troops, including the National Guard, by deadlines set by each service branch.

Mr. Kirby said that Guardmembers who refuse to get the shots will be “denied training opportunities,” and potentially “that would then lead to no longer being able to serve in the National Guard.” Guard troops are under the authority of the governor unless federally deployed, but Pentagon officials insist that does not obviate the federal vaccine requirement.

In Oklahoma, 89 percent of airmen in the Guard have been vaccinated, while only 40 percent of Army guardsmen have had shots.

Roughly 97 percent of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the United States have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

“The secretary reiterated that he wants them to keep that press up to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Mr. Kirby said, describing a meeting Mr. Austin had with all the service secretaries.

ny times logoNew York Times, Supply Chain Problems Have Small Retailers Gambling on Hoarding, Sapna Maheshwari and Coral Murphy Marcos, Nov. 30, 2021.  Some independent stores ordered in bulk well in advance, and now are hoping they can sell what they have.

washington post logoWashington Post, Omicron variant is ‘cause for concern, not a cause for panic,’ Biden says, Bryan Pietsch and Annabelle Timsit, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Moderna, BioNTech eye vaccine version that can defend against omicron.

  • Biden says vaccine manufacturers working to develop omicron-specific shots, boosters if needed
  • Biden says omicron variant is ‘cause for concern, not a cause for panic,’ urges vaccination, booster shots
  • Where the omicron variant has been detected around the worldSix omicron variant cases found in Scotland; not all linked to international travel
  • Coronavirus-positive Czech president swears in new prime minister from within transparent isolation box
  • WHO, South Africa say omicron travel bans counterproductive

washington post logoWashington Post, Pfizer set to request authorization for coronavirus booster for 16- and 17-year-olds, Laurie McGinley and Tyler Pager, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. regulators are said to be reassured by Israeli safety data. As President Biden exhorts Americans to get coronavirus vaccines and pfizer logobooster shots to strengthen protections against the delta and omicron variants, another age group might soon become eligible for the boosters: 16- and 17-year-olds.

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech are expected to ask the Food and Drug Administration in the coming days to authorize its booster shot for that age group, according to two people familiar with the situation. The regulators are expected to sign off quickly, said the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden said South Africa has turned down vaccine doses. The issue is more complicated than that, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lesley Wroughton, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Monday rebutted criticism that the United States is hoarding doses of coronavirus vaccines at the expense of South Africa and other middle- and low-income countries, pointing to the fact that South Africa has turned down additional doses in recent days.

But the story of vaccines in Africa is far more complicated than a matter of supply — a reality that became evident as vaccine availability emerged as a flash point in the days after a potentially dangerous new virus variant, dubbed omicron, was identified in southern Africa.

That story includes issues of access, fragile health-care systems and the difficulty of making sure Pfizer’s vaccine remains ultracold.

washington post logoWashington Post, Omicron poses ‘very high’ global risk, WHO warns as it recommends enhanced variant sequencing, testing and vaccination, Annabelle Timsit, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The World Health Organization is warning countries that the omicron coronavirus variant poses “very high” global risk — and is likely to spread internationally.

world health organization logo Custom“The likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said Sunday in a preliminary technical brief. It recommended that governments worldwide enhance their ability to sequence coronavirus variants, report any local cases of omicron to the global health body and speed up their vaccination drives.

The newly identified omicron variant has 26 to 32 spike mutations, the WHO brief states, “some of which are concerning” in that they could make it more transmissible and better able to evade the body’s immune defenses.

“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of COVID-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place,” the report says. “The overall global risk related to [omicron] is assessed as very high.” It added that “evidence for this assessment contains considerable uncertainty” and is subject to change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Red states are now paying people not to get vaccinated, Catherine Rampell, right, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Once upon a time, catherine rampellstates debated whether to pay people to get vaccinated. Now, some red states are paying people not to get vaccinated, by cutting checks to workers who quit or are fired because they refuse covid-19 shots.

All spring and summer, Republicans cried bloody murder about how too-generous unemployment benefits were supposedly discouraging Americans from returning to work. Expanded jobless benefits were creating welfare queens, they argued, and driving labor shortages and hurting small businesses.

As I wrote at the time, it seemed reasonable to believe that at least for some workers, jobless benefits were a factor weighed when deciding whether to accept or reject available jobs. But lots of other factors mattered, too — including child-care availability, fear of getting ill, transit problems, changing family priorities, the wages offered and burnout.

republican elephant logoUltimately, those other factors seemed to matter more. Expanded pandemic benefits ended, first in a few GOP-controlled states (over the summer) and eventually nationwide (in September). Their lapse appeared to have little impact on job growth.

That didn’t stop some Republican politicians from continuing to blame labor shortages on unemployment benefits even after the offending federal programs had expired nationwide. Their talking point long outlasted its plausible relevance.

Now, Republicans are expanding these laziness-inducing benefits once again — but only for workers who refuse shots.

At least four states — Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee — have recently extended benefits to workers who are fired or quit over their employers’ vaccine requirements. For context, workers who are fired for cause or who quit voluntarily are usually not eligible to receive unemployment benefits. With limited exceptions, only those laid off through no fault of their own have been able to receive such aid.

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

World Cases: 262,580,746, Deaths: 5,228,433
U.S. Cases:     49,301,070, Deaths:   801,326
Indian Cases:   34,587,822, Deaths:   468,980
Brazil Cases:   22,084,749, Deaths:   614,428

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.8 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.3 % of the population, as of Nov. 30, 2021. Note: Due to adjustments in reporting, Pennsylvania removed 1.2 million doses on Nov. 23.

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mark Meadows is now cooperating with the January 6th Committee, and Donald Trump’s life just became a nightmare, Bill Palmer, Nov. 30, 2021. Over the weekend, some readers expressed concern over the fact that former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows hadn’t yet been referred for contempt by the January 6th Committee.

Our response was that it didn’t really matter; Meadows was going to be dealt with one way or the other. When it was reported yesterday that the committee was moving forward with referring former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark for contempt, but apparently not Meadows, it still wasn’t anything to worry about. After all, none of these guys have magic wands for getting out of this.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, we’re now being reminded that there are indeed no magic wands in politics. It turns out the real reason the Mark Meadows criminal referral was taking so long was that he’s changed his mind and decided to cooperate with the committee after all. According to reporting from CNN and ABC News, Meadows has now turned over January 6th documents and agreed to give cooperative testimony.

It can’t be overstated just how big of a deal this is. Mark MeadowsMark Meadows, right, was Donald Trump’s right hand man in the White House, on an official and practical level, during the January 6th timeframe. It’s difficult to think of a better witness you’d want to cave and cooperate. When it comes to January 6th, Meadows can give up Trump more directly and thoroughly than perhaps any other inside witness.

Of course the defeatists on social media are already trying to spin this massive win into a loss. They’re insisting that Meadows isn’t sufficiently cooperating, or that this is all just some trick and Meadows will end up not cooperating or lying. But back in the real world, nothing works this way. If Meadows were insufficiently cooperating, the committee would have already rung him up for contempt. If he backs out of his cooperation, they can get him for contempt at that time. And if he lies during his testimony, they can ring him up for perjury.

The bottom line is that the Mark Meadows news is huge and overwhelmingly positive news. It’s also a reminder that the indictment of Steve Bannon, and the threat of indictment against Meadows, have worked. Meadows has caved. Another witness, Ali Alexander, announced over the weekend that he’s cooperating because he doesn’t want to end up in prison. The January 6th Committee knows what it’s doing, and its methods are working. More witnesses will surely cave now that the floodgates are starting to open.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The right's trashing of American symbols, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 21 books, including that portrayed below left, and a former Navy intelligence officer), Nov. 29-30, 2021. America's pro-Donald Trump wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallfascist movement proclaims itself as "patriotic" and its members as "patriots."

wayne madesen report logoHowever, these dregs of society have done everything possible to deface American symbols, including the U.S. flag. Almost every Trump rally features American flags that have been either disfigured with Trump's mug or recolored in a bizarre combination of black, white, and blue.

wayne madsen fourth reich coverThe Thin Blue Line flag and other defaced U.S. flags have a precedent in 1920 in Germany. While writing Mein Kampf while in prison following the failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, Adolf Hitler wrote about his desire for a new flag for Germany encompassing the red, white, and black colors of the defunct German Empire.

As was the case with Hitler's swastika flag that replaced the Weimar Republic's tri-band of black, red, and gold in 1933, the right's fascination with redesigning the U.S. flag to suit their far-right political aims symbolizes their opposition to the U.S. djt trump flag thumbs upConstitution and America's democratic history and traditions.

The most outrageous disfiguration of the American flag is the one often seen at Donald Trump rallies and among the crowd of insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

Trump, his supporters, and the far-right continue to show their utter contempt for the United States, its fallen, its traditions, and its history every time they display defaced alterations of Old Glory. They are shameless, repugnant, and despicable creatures in their thoughts, words, and deeds.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images)

ny times logoNew York Times, Ghislaine Maxwell’s Trial Opens, With Jeffrey Epstein at Its Center, Benjamin Weiser and Rebecca Davis O’Brien. Ms. Maxwell is charged with trafficking women and girls for her longtime partner, the disgraced financier Mr. Epstein, who died in prison in 2019. A prosecutor described Jeffrey Epstein and his longtime girlfriend and associate, Ms. Maxwell, as “partners in crime.”

More than two years after Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in a jail cell, Ghislaine Maxwell — the woman who prosecutors say helped him to recruit, groom and abuse young girls — went on trial on Monday in Manhattan.

Ms. Maxwell and Mr. Epstein were “partners in crime,” a federal prosecutor, Lara Pomerantz, told the jury. Ms. Maxwell sexually exploited young girls by developing their trust, helped to normalize abusive sexual conduct and then “served them up” to Mr. Epstein in a decade-long scheme, the prosecutor said.

“The defendant and Epstein made young girls believe that their dreams could come true,” Ms. Pomerantz said in Federal District Court. “They made them feel special, but that was a cover.”

“Behind closed doors,” Ms. Pomerantz said, “the defendant and Epstein were committing heinous crimes. They were sexually abusing teenage girls.”

WhoWhatWhy, Investigation and Analysis: Will Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Reveal Jeffrey Epstein Secrets? Gabriella Lombardo, Nov. 29-30, 2021. Long before she became public enemy No. 1, Ghislaine Maxwell was an heiress with a dark past. Her motivations are as difficult to determine as her life is difficult to believe.

whowhatwhy logoGhislaine Maxwell is used to being the woman of the hour. The 59-year-old British aristocrat was a fixture of the London and New York social scenes throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, rubbing shoulders and champagne flutes with an international cast of power players that included two US presidents and at least one prince. In her jet-setting, party-hopping days, she allegedly lived a double life as a groomer of girls, serving up underage victims to Jeffrey Epstein and the megawatt men who moved alongside him.

All eyes are again on Maxwell as her trial opens in Manhattan federal court, just steps from the lower Manhattan jail where Epstein was found dead in his cell two years ago. The charges against her for her role in Epstein’s decades-long international sex abuse ring include six counts related to child sex trafficking in the decade spanning 1994 to 2004, involving four girls — the youngest aged 14. The alleged crimes occurred at Epstein’s residences in Manhattan, Palm Beach, and New Mexico, as well as Maxwell’s London apartment.

Maxwell faces a separate trial, as yet unscheduled, for an additional two counts of perjury for statements she made in connection with a long-settled 2015 defamation suit against her. If convicted on all counts, Maxwell could face 80 years in prison. She has always denied any involvement in, or knowledge of, Epstein’s crimes, and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Epstein’s death in federal custody in 2019 left Maxwell bearing the brunt of public outrage at the chronic mishandling of his sex crimes by law enforcement and the courts. Still, Maxwell’s time with Epstein raises many questions: If she did indeed assist in his crimes, what motivated her?

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Last Abortion Clinic in Mississippi, Rick Rojas, Nov. 30, 2021. The clinic, busier than ever, is at the center of a Supreme Court case that could lead to one of the most consequential decisions on abortion rights in decades.

The clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has long negotiated measures intended by the Legislature to discourage women from obtaining abortions and to make it difficult for providers to operate. They include the requirement that doctors warn patients about a link between breast cancer and abortion, though the American Cancer Society says “scientific evidence does not support the notion.”

Now the culmination of those legislative efforts — a state law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy — has thrust the clinic into the center of a case that may lead to one of the most consequential rulings on abortion rights in decades.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What ‘My Body, My Choice’ Means to the Right, Michelle Goldberg, right, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Here’s a bit of evidence that we michelle goldberg thumblive in a simulation controlled by someone with a perverse sense of humor: At the very moment that Roe v. Wade could be overturned, the American right has become obsessed with bodily autonomy and has adopted the slogan “My body, my choice” about Covid vaccines and mask mandates.

Feminists have always known that if men — or at any rate cis men — could get pregnant, abortion would be a nonissue. The furious conservative reaction to Covid mitigation measures demonstrates this more than any hypothetical ever could. Many on the right, we can now see, believe it’s tyranny to be told to put something they don’t want on or in their bodies in order to save lives.

There is, to be fair, at least one prominent illiberal conservative, Harvard’s Adrian Vermeule, who has defended vaccine mandates, writing, “Even our physical liberties are rightly ordered to the common good of the community when necessary.” More typical on the right, however, is a paranoid sense that the vaccines are tied up with occult forces of social control.

In “Why I Didn’t Get the Covid Vaccine,” an essay in the Catholic anti-abortion journal First Things, the theologian Peter Leithart quotes a book called “The Great Covid Panic”: “A very effective way to dominate people is to convince them they are sinful unless they obey.” He invokes totalitarian “biopolitical regimes” that seek to exercise power over the body: “Once upon a time, the ruler bore a sword; now, a syringe,” he writes.

Of course, many American women will soon be faced with an infinitely more invasive form of biopolitical control, courtesy of First Things’ allies. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case dealing with Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks. It’s possible that the justices could gut Roe without overturning it outright, but after they let Texas’ abortion bounty law stand, at least for the time being, I’m expecting the worst. If Roe is tossed out, most abortions will instantly become illegal in at least 12 states, and they will be severely restricted in others.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: My Book Was Censored in China. Now It’s Blacklisted — in Texas, Andrew Solomon (a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia and a lecturer in psychiatry at Yale and the author of “The Noonday Demon” and “Far From the Tree”), Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Andrew Solomon never expected his books to come under threat in America. But as he writes in this essay, attacks on books are on the rise here, and one of his is under investigation by a state legislature.

On Oct. 25, the Texas state representative Matt Krause sent notice to the Texas Education Agency that he was initiating an inquiry into “school district content.” He appended a list of about 850 books and asked each district to indicate how many copies of each book it had, where in the school those copies were located and how much the district had paid for them.

Quoting Texas law, the letter stated that the state’s Committee on General Investigating, which Krause chairs, may undertake inquiries “concerning any ‘matter the committee considers necessary for the information of the Legislature or for the welfare and protection of state citizens.’” Most of the books on the list deal with race, sexual orientation, abortion or gender identity. Krause is one of several candidates hoping to unseat the incumbent Republican attorney general, and this bit of extremist theater is a maneuver to raise his profile among the ardent Trumpists and social conservatives likely to be G.O.P. primary voters.

My 2012 book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity was on Krause’s list. Finding my work thus blacklisted disturbingly evoked a childhood during which I was shunned and abused for being gay, in which I felt ashamed, defenseless, sad and epically vulnerable. I had written my book to help people, and now it was being held up as derelict and unpatriotic. The story of my life as a gay person — which had been elevated (along with those of many others) by the 2015 Obergefell decision that legalized gay marriage nationally — was relegated anew to a margin I thought I had finally escaped. Could my book’s additional demonstration of familial compassion for transgender children injure the society within which I had long fought to be recognized and accepted?

I have had my work censored before, but never in the United States. My Chinese publishers censored two of my books — Far From the Tree and The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression — without informing me, despite being contractually required to reveal any editorial changes. They deleted references to the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989 in Tiananmen Square, as well as every reference to my being gay. The publishers had simply assumed I wouldn’t find out.

I try to serve the various communities of which I am a part, including L.G.B.T.Q. people and those who confront mental illness. To find that my depression book had been stripped of references to homosexuality felt like a betrayal of gay people in China, whose challenges I have reviewed in my work with the L.G.B.T. project at Human Rights Watch. But I didn’t want to take the books out of circulation. My royalties from Chinese translations are minuscule, so my eagerness to see the book published in Mandarin stemmed primarily from a desire to offset China’s limited and sometimes nearly sadistic mental-health-care system and its persecution of gay people. In the end, my agent negotiated new contracts for both books from other Chinese publishers, and they were retranslated in new, inclusive editions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Farm Housing Mennonite Boys Engaged in Human Trafficking, Lawsuit Says, Neil Vigdor, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). In a federal lawsuit against the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church, two plaintiffs said they were deprived of food and restrained with zip ties at a forced-labor farm.

Two men filed a federal lawsuit this month against the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church, saying that they were victims of a human trafficking scheme while they lived at a forced-labor farm for troubled boys run by a church member.

The lawsuit said that the men, who were 14 and 18 when they first joined the farm, worked six days a week with no pay, and that they were physically and mentally abused when they stayed at Liberty Ridge Farm in McAlisterville, Pa. The lawsuit said they were denied food and zip-tied at times while at the farm.

The farm is about 40 miles northwest of Harrisburg, Pa., in Juniata County, which is home to several churches and schools affiliated with the Mennonites, a conservative Christian denomination known for its agrarian lifestyle and disconnect from technology.

Now in their mid-20s, the men were identified only by their initials in the lawsuit, which was filed on Nov. 17 in U.S. District Court in Allentown, Pa. The complaint said that the men were frequently punished after the people in charge told them that they had not worked hard enough or that they had acted “against the Bible.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Elizabeth Holmes Says Former Boyfriend Abused Her, Erin Woo and Erin Griffith, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth Holmes briefly crumpled her face as she spoke, her voice breaking.

Ramesh Balwani, her former boyfriend and business partner, emotionally and physically abused her, Ms. Holmes testified in court on Monday. He was controlling, she said, prescribing the food she ate, dictating every minute of her schedule and keeping her away from her family. And he forced her to have sex with him against her will, she said.

“He would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to because he would say that he wanted me to know he still loved me,” Ms. Holmes said on the stand, while crying.

elizabeth holmes twitter photoIt was the most dramatic moment in a three-month trial, with Ms. Holmes (shown in her Twitter portrait) accused of lying and faking her way into hundreds of millions of dollars for her failed blood testing start-up, Theranos. Since September, prosecutors have tried to show a jury that Ms. Holmes, who presented herself publicly as a wunderkind of business and technology, had misled investors, doctors and patients about the efficacy of Theranos’s blood testing technology.

She was indicted in 2018 alongside Mr. Balwani, who is known as Sunny, her secret boyfriend for more than a decade and the former chief operating officer of Theranos. Last year, Ms. Holmes’s lawyers successfully argued to split their fraud cases; Mr. Balwani will be tried next year. At her trial’s start, Judge Edward Davila of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, who is overseeing the case, instructed jurors not to speculate as to why Mr. Balwani was not present. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The trial has been held up as a parable of Silicon Valley hubris and “fake it till you make it” culture taken to a dangerous extreme. Few start-up founders who stretch the truth to raise money or secure business deals are ever charged with fraud. A guilty verdict could embolden regulators to further crack down on the tech industry at a moment when it has amassed enormous wealth and power. Ms. Holmes faces 20 years in prison if convicted.

With the new accusations about her relationship with Mr. Balwani, Ms. Holmes has potentially upended the narrative around her alleged wrongdoing and changed the jury’s perception of what happened. Thus far, her lawyers have painted Ms. Holmes as young, inexperienced and unqualified to run a research lab. They have only hinted at Mr. Balwani’s role in the fraud.

“Trusting and relying on Mr. Balwani as her primary adviser was one of her mistakes,” Lance Wade, Ms. Holmes’s lawyer, said in opening statements in September.

 

Biden federal appellate court nominee Dale Ho (Judicial Crisis Network opposition ad).

Biden federal court nominee Dale Ho (Judicial Crisis Network opposition ad).

Axios Sneak Peek, Conservative group targets Biden court pick ahead of Mississippi abortion case, Hans Nichols, Nov. 29-30, 2021. A conservative group is targeting Dale Ho, President Biden’s judicial nominee to serve on the Southern District Court of New York, with a six-figure ad buy — launching the first TV campaign against a Biden court pick.

Why it matters: The Supreme Court is set to hear a Mississippi abortion law case on Wednesday, and conservatives and progressives are bracing for the political fallout from additional legal showdowns, as well as a battle over the president’s effort to fill some 70 vacancies throughout the federal judiciary.

axios logoThe more than $300,000 cable and digital buy against Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union voting rights project, accuses him of being “a career puppet for left-wing, dark-money groups.” He was nominated in September and is awaiting a Senate committee hearing, potentially as early as this week.

The ad is from the Judicial Crisis Network, which also relies on so-called "dark money." The group spent $10 million to get now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the Supreme Court, and its spending now is an indication conservatives are willing to spend big to try to stop — or, at least, slow — Biden's court picks.

The big picture: During Biden’s first 10 months in office, the Senate has confirmed 28 of his district and appellate court judges, with another 36 awaiting a final vote, according to a scorecard from Demand Justice, a progressive group focused on the judiciary.

During President Trump’s first year, he had one Supreme Court justice and 16 lower-court judges confirmed. In his four years, Trump, working with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had 234 judges — including two more Supreme Court justices — confirmed.

President Obama got one Supreme Court justice confirmed during his first year but only an additional nine district and appellate judges after Republicans made a concerted effort to block his court picks.

Conservatives spent most of their energy during 2021 focusing on Biden’s Department of Justice picks, launching unsuccessful campaigns against Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general and Kristen Clarke to lead the civil rights division.

Now, they're starting to focus on judges, calling attention to Ho’s history of advocating for progressive causes. They have an eye on a potential Supreme Court vacancy in 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If the Supreme Court throws out ‘Roe v. Wade,’ it will tear the country apart, Eugene Robinson, right, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Roe eugene robinson headshot Customv. Wade is an important piece of the duct tape that holds this fractious nation together, and it would be a grievous error for the antiabortion majority on the Supreme Court to rip it away.

But that is precisely what the court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, looks poised to do. Wednesday’s oral arguments over Mississippi’s law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy will not really be about “textualist” or “originalist” legal principles. They will be about whether the Constitution protects a woman’s freedom over her own body — a liberty recognized when Roe was decided on Jan. 22, 1973.

ny times logoNew York Times, Taliban and 9/11 Families Fight for Billions in Frozen Afghan Funds, Charlie Savage, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The White House must figure out what to do with the Afghan central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve, now frozen under U.S. law.

Nearly 20 years ago, about 150 family members of Sept. 11 victims sought a measure of justice for their losses by suing a list of targets like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. A decade later, a court found the defendants liable by default and ordered them to pay damages now worth about $7 billion.

But with no way to collect it, the judgment seemed symbolic.

federal reserve system CustomToday, however, the Taliban is back in control of Afghanistan. The group’s leaders say their country’s central bank account at the Federal Reserve in New York, in which the former government accumulated about $7 billion from foreign aid and other sources, is rightfully theirs. And that in turn has raised a question: If the money is the Taliban’s, shouldn’t the plaintiffs in the Sept. 11 lawsuit be entitled to seize it?

High-level officials in the Biden administration are now debating the answer to that question, which presents a complex knot of national security, legal, diplomatic and political problems — the latest example of how thorny issues stemming from the terrorist attacks remain unresolved more than two decades later.

Among the specifics to be worked out is whether and how the United States can sidestep any legal requirement to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government in order to use the money in the central bank account to help resolve the claim by the Sept. 11 families.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

The American Prospect, Opinion: Biden the Silent, Harold Myerson, Nov. 30, 2021. The Democrats’ ‘messaging problem’ is partly due to Biden’s avoidance of the biggest bully pulpit, one only a president can use.

My colleague Bob Kuttner has a terrific piece up today on how Democrats should navigate today’s troubled political waters, commending Sens. Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown, as well as that onetime senator who now resides in the White House, for getting it essentially right. What unites this trio, Bob writes, is their advocacy for progressive populist economic reforms, their opposition to the financialization and corporatization of American life, and their support for social as well as economic justice—but situating that support within an affirmation of the nation’s best traditions rather than treating those traditions as trash.

joe biden resized oThe course Bob lays out is one that the Democrats have to follow if they’re to have a viable future, which requires winning back a number of the working-class voters—of all races—who haven’t seen much on offer or much they can identify with from the Democrats in recent decades. And the Democrat who most needs to heed Bob’s counsel is none other than that White House resident.

Because of the myriad critiques that Democrats are leveling at their own party these days as they analyze Biden’s sinking poll numbers—he’s too left, he’s not left enough, he’s too timid, and so on—the one that most resonates with me is that he’s too silent.

democratic donkey logoWho, after all, has dominated the news in defining what’s in the Build Back Better bill? It’s not Biden; it’s Joe Manchin, who opines almost daily on its size, while seldom getting around to discussing its particulars, since they’re wildly popular. To be sure, Biden has gone on the road to speak at events that highlight one or another of those particulars, but these generally non-prime-time appearances haven’t really made a dent in the media’s simplified portrayal of the bill as a big spending package.

What Biden hasn’t done is seize the bully pulpit as only a president can. Last week, my colleague David Dayen, in writing about how corporations are hiking their profit margins under the cover of inflation and supply-chain gridlock, noted that JFK, when confronted with an inflationary price hike from U.S. Steel, secured national prime-time all-network coverage of an address he delivered from the Oval Office attacking the company for raising the cost of living despite its pledge not to.

Yes, I know, there are now somewhere between 300 and a gazillion networks and streaming services rather than the three that dominated the airwaves and the national discussion in JFK’s time. Nonetheless, a prime-time Oval Office address would at least command the attention of anyone watching the legacy networks and the news networks. It still provides presidents with the biggest megaphone available to them. And Biden has yet to use it.

It’s time he did, to spell out what’s actually in both the infrastructure bill and Build Back Better. It will soon be time he went the prime-time route to make the case for the voting rights legislation that will come before the Senate early next year, in which he will have to talk about why voting rights are more fundamental to maintaining a democracy than the Senate’s filibuster rule.

He can make those cases in his State of the Union address early next year, but that in itself won’t suffice. His ongoing avoidance of a prime-time Oval Office talk with the nation, which has helped enable his intraparty adversaries to block his agenda, has been an abdication of presidential power and responsibility that has played a major role in bringing down both his standing and his party’s.

There’s been a good deal of talk around town (D.C., of course) that Biden’s counselors are wary of putting him in that kind of national spotlight for fear that he’ll flub his lines. That may be a reasonable fear, but in avoiding that risk, Biden is also forfeiting the reward that comes from selling his program and dominating the discourse. That’s a helluva lot for a president, and his party, to forfeit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Lauren Boebert renews Islamophobic attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar, rebuffs call for public apology, Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) refused to publicly apologize Monday in a phone call with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for her Islamaphobic comments about the Muslim congresswoman and instead accused her of “anti-American and anti-Semitic” rhetoric, prompting Omar to end the call.

The exchange spurred more calls for Republican leaders to condemn Boebert’s remarks and publicly address her behavior. Last week, House Democratic leaders denounced Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) “repeated failure to condemn inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric” from fellow Republicans, including Boebert.

In a statement Monday, Omar said that it is time for McCarthy “to actually hold his party accountable.”

“I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate,” Omar said. “To date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to condemn and hold their own members accountable for repeated instances of anti-Muslim hate and harassment. This is not about one hateful statement or one politician; it is about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relaions called on McCarthy and other Republican leaders to “condemn this bigotry and demand that Rep. Boebert immediately, clearly and publicly apologize.”

“If she once again refuses to do so, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer should move to censure her,” said CAIR’s director of government affairs, Robert McCaw, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). “Failing to do so would signal that Islamophobia is an acceptable form of bigotry in the halls of Congress.”

During an event last week in her Colorado district, Boebert told the audience described an encounter with Omar as “not my first ‘Jihad Squad’ moment,” according to a video posted on Twitter.

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World News, Global Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Dozens of Former Afghan Security Forces Dead or Missing, Report Says, Sharif Hassan, Nov. 30, 2021. More than 100 members of the military and police have been killed or have gone missing since the Taliban came into power, according to Human Rights Watch.

More than 100 former members of the Afghan security forces in four provinces have been killed or disappeared by the Taliban in the first two and a half months of the militants’ rule, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

The deaths are part of a string of assassinations and summary executions, largely considered revenge killings, that have been happening across Afghanistan since the fall of Ashraf Ghani’s government in August.

The attacks underscore the dangers that Taliban critics, activists and members of the former government’s security forces face despite the Taliban announcement when they seized power of a general amnesty for former government workers and military officials.

In a report released on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch detailed the killing and forced disappearance of 47 members of the former government’s security forces who had either surrendered to the Taliban or were detained by them between Aug. 15 and Oct. 31 in four of the countries 34 provinces: Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar and Kunduz. 

Peng Shuai of China celebrates a point against Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. during their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, N.Y., August 29, 2011. Right: Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli speaks during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China, May 14, 2017. (Eduardo Munoz, Lintao Zhang / Reuters)

Peng Shuai of China celebrates a point against Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. during their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, N.Y., August 29, 2011. Right: Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli speaks during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China, May 14, 2017. (Eduardo Munoz, Lintao Zhang/Reuters)

ny times logoNew York Times, China’s Silence on Peng Shuai Shows Limits of Beijing’s Propaganda, Amy Qin and Paul Mozur, Nov. 30, 2021. Officials have struggled to respond to a sexual assault allegation that hits at the heights of its buttoned-up political system.

When the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai accused a former top leader of sexual assault earlier this month, the authorities turned to a tried-and-true strategy. At home, the country’s censors scrubbed away any mention of the allegations. Abroad, a few state-affiliated journalists focused narrowly on trying to quash concerns about Ms. Peng’s safety.

Beijing seems to be relying on a two-pronged approach of maintaining the silence and waiting for the world to move on. The approach suggests that the country’s sprawling propaganda apparatus has limited options for shifting the narrative without drawing more attention to the uncomfortable allegations Beijing hopes would just disappear.

On China’s social media platforms and other digital public squares, the censors’ meticulous work has left almost no sign that Ms. Peng had ever accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier, of sexual assault. Like a museum to a previous reality, her social media account remains, without new updates or comments.

These tactics have worked for China in the past, at least at home. In recent years, officials have relied on heavy censorship and a nationalistic narrative of Western meddling to deflect blame for issues including the outbreak of Covid-19 to human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Like Fresh Meat’: Sexual Harassment Detailed in Australian Parliament, Yan Zhuang, Nov. 30, 2021. A sweeping report described a cloistered, alcohol-fueled environment where powerful men violated boundaries unchecked. Men strutting down corridors looking women up and down. Women carrying fake binders to block unwanted advances. Forcible touches, kisses, comments about appearance. Fears of speaking out.

australian flag wavingA sweeping review of the workplace culture in Australia’s Parliament paints a damning picture of widespread sexual harassment, with employees sharing harrowing stories of an alcohol-soaked atmosphere where powerful men blurred lines and crossed boundaries with impunity.

The report, released on Tuesday, was commissioned by the Australian government in March, shortly after a former employee’s account of being raped in Parliament House sent shock waves through Australia’s halls of power. It found that one-third of parliamentary employees — 40 percent of women — had experienced sexual harassment. About 1 percent of the more than 1,700 people who participated in the review said they had been the victim of attempted or actual sexual assault.

In response, Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, who conducted the study, proposed a series of measures to address the power imbalances, gender inequality and lack of accountability that she said had made Parliament a hostile workplace for many employees, especially young female staff members.

ny times logoNew York Times, Weak Recovery Leaves India’s Middle Class Anxious and Frugal, Karan Deep Singh, Nov. 30, 2021. Covid-19 essentially robbed the country of more than a year of badly needed economic growth. That’s lost ground that cannot be regained quickly.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Europe Can Teach Us About Jobs, Paul Krugman, right, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Americans have a hard time learning from paul krugmanforeign experience. Our size and the role of English as an international language (which reduces our incentive to learn other tongues) conspire to make us oblivious to alternative ways of living and the possibilities of change.

Our insularity may be especially damaging when it comes to countries with whom we have a lot in common. Western Europe is our technological equal; labor productivity in northern Europe is just a little below productivity here. But Europe’s policies and institutions are very unlike ours, and we could learn a lot by looking at how those differences have played out. Unfortunately, any suggestion that Europe does something we might want to emulate tends to be shouted down with cries of “socialism.”

Which brings me to an under-discussed aspect of the current economic scene: Europe’s comparative success in getting workers idled by the pandemic back into the labor force.

You’re probably aware that the United States is experiencing what many call the Great Resignation — a significant fall in the number of people willing to accept jobs, at least at pre-Covid wages. Four million fewer Americans are employed than were on the eve of the pandemic, yet the rate at which workers are quitting their jobs — usually a good indicator of labor market tightness — has hit a record, and the scramble of employers to find workers has led to rapid wage increases.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Chief Orders New Inquiry Into U.S. Airstrike That Killed Dozens in Syria, Eric Schmitt and Dave Philipps, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The move comes after a New York Times investigation described allegations that top officers and civilian officials had sought to conceal the casualties.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Monday ordered a new high-level investigation into a U.S. airstrike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of women and children, the Pentagon said.

The investigation by Gen. Michael X. Garrett, the four-star head of the Army’s Forces Command, will examine the strike, which was carried out by a shadowy, classified Special Operations unit called Task Force 9, as well as the handling of the task force’s investigation by higher military headquarters and the Defense Department’s inspector general, Pentagon officials said.

General Garrett will have 90 days to review inquiries that have been conducted into the episode and further investigate record-keeping errors, reports of civilian casualties, whether any violations of laws of war occurred, whether any recommendations from previous reviews were carried out, and whether anyone should be held accountable, the officials said.

Donald TrumpJohn F. Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said that Mr. Austin had decided to ask for the inquiry after speaking with Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of Central Command. Mr. Kirby said the inquiry would also look into “whether accountability measures would be appropriate.”

He announced the inquiry on Monday after the Defense Department notified Congress. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both said that they are investigating the strike.

Mr. Kirby called Mr. Austin’s appointment of General Garrett, a senior four-star general, “a reflection of how seriously he is taking the issue.”

Syria FlagMr. Austin’s decision comes after a New York Times investigation this month that described allegations that top officers and civilian officials had sought to conceal the casualties.

In a news conference two weeks ago, Mr. Austin vowed to overhaul military procedures and hold top officers responsible for civilian harm, but he did not outline any systemic problems that had allowed civilian casualties to persist on battlefields in Syria and Afghanistan.

The Syria airstrike took place near the town of Baghuz on March 18, 2019, as part of the final battle against Islamic State fighters in a shard of a once-sprawling religious state across Iraq and Syria. It was among the largest episodes of civilian casualties in the yearslong war against ISIS, but the U.S. military had never publicly acknowledged it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barbados to cast off Queen Elizabeth II as Prince Charles watches, Ross Kenneth Urken, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The easternmost Caribbean island, known for cricket, rum and Rihanna, will become the first Commonwealth realm in nearly three decades to declare itself a republic.

The move, debated for years, gained momentum amid the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and growing demands for reparations for slavery on the island. Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced last year that the nation of 300,000 would become a republic by Tuesday, the 55th anniversary of its independence.

That means removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, a break with nearly four centuries of history in the former British colony.

Prince Charles, who has long used the island dubbed “Little England” as his polo playground, plans to join the celebrations in Bridgetown. The heir to the British throne will be the next head of the Commonwealth, the association made up almost entirely of former territories of the British Empire.

Barbados, the easternmost island of the Caribbean, known for cricket, rum and the international pop star Rihanna, plans to remain a member of the group.

Its new government is to be led by Mottley, a London School of Economics-trained former chairwoman of the Caribbean Community, fresh from her turn lecturing world leaders on vaccine hoarding at the U.N. General Assembly and the need for climate finance measures at COP26. Governor General Sandra Mason, until now the queen’s representative on the island, will be its first president.

Barbados ready to dismiss Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state

The move from constitutional monarchy to republic enjoys broad support on the island. Mason was elected president last month by two-thirds votes of both houses of Parliament. But Mottley’s political opponents have questioned her timing and her refusal to put the moveto voters in a national referendum. They also want to know more about her plans for a new constitution.

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U.S. Media, Sports News

washington post logoWashington Post, Chris Cuomo sought ‘intel’ on media coverage about accusations against his brother, text messages show, Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Jeremy Barr, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was more extensively involved in helping to defend his brother, then-New chris cuomo cnnYork Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, against allegations of sexual misconduct than he has previously acknowledged, according to documents released Monday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Text messages between the CNN journalist and top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa show that Chris Cuomo, right, offered to draft statements for his brother to use to deny misconduct, demanded more influence over the strategy, and even researched potential news coverage and accusers for the governor’s office.

CNN“Please let me help with the prep,” Cuomo wrote at one point to DeRosa, as the claims against the governor surfaced earlier this year.

On another occasion, the younger Cuomo texted DeRosa that he needed “all the best facts” for “reporters. Who can do it?” Chris Cuomo also appeared to use his journalistic connections to gather information for the governor’s team. He fielded requests from DeRosa for “intel” on a then-unpublished investigative story by New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow and information about a rumor that more accusers were about to come forward on March 7.

“On it,” Cuomo responded to the second request. About 40 minutes later, he wrote back, “No one has heard that yet.”

The messages deepen questions about whether Chris Cuomo, one of CNN’s star anchors, crossed lines in his advocacy for his brother and misused his position as a prominent cable television anchor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The unexpected news caused Nasdaq to stop trading the company’s stock.

Jack Dorsey, shown at right (photo by Joe Raedel via Getty Images)Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey,, shown at right (photo by Joe Raedel via Getty Images), said he was stepping down from the social media service in a letter posted to Twitter early Monday.

Dorsey, right, who co-founded the company and has been a leader there for the last 18 years, said his departure would be effective immediately, leaving Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal to replace him. Dorsey will remain CEO of payments company Square.

“I want you to know this was my decision and I own it,” Dorsey wrote, saying he was “sad” but also “really happy.” “It was a tough one for me, of course. … There aren’t many companies that get to this level. And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego. I know we’ll prove this was the right move.”

twitter bird CustomThe message was captioned, “not sure if anyone has heard but, I resigned from Twitter.”

The surprise move caused Nasdaq to suspend trading on Twitter’s stock, and left most employees — many of whom were not working because it was an official company “Day of Rest” — in a state of confusion.

Even some senior executives seemed unprepared for the move. Vijaya Gadde, the company’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, tweeted congratulations to Agrawal and gratitude to Dorsey — but said she was “saving my ‘everything I learned from @Jack’ thread for another day.”

Dorsey has been distancing himself from direct leadership for years, according to people familiar with his management style who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Major decisions are generally made by other company leaders, though Dorsey does give a final sign-off. He also rarely tweets about Twitter, focusing most of his public energy promoting blockchain, decentralization, and bitcoin-related projects.

Though Twitter is much smaller than industry rivals Facebook and TikTok, the company punches above its weight because of its use by celebrities, politicians and other influential people. For years, the most influential user on Twitter was former president Donald Trump, who used the platform as a primary means to communicate — often in ways that pushed the boundaries of Twitter’s rules. The company suspended him for comments related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who is Twitter’s new CEO, Parag Agrawal? 5 things to know, Annabelle Timsit, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). When Jack Dorsey stepped parag agrawaldown as CEO of Twitter, the company he co-founded, the first question on everyone’s lips was why now? — and the second was who’s next?

Dorsey, who tweeted the news Monday after 15 years in company leadership, said Twitter has outgrown its founders as all companies eventually should, and that the time is right for him to go — in part because he has confidence in his replacement, Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief technology officer.

Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Sun Media proposes moving printing of newspapers to Delaware, laying off 100+ workers, Christopher Dinsmore, Nov. 30, 2021. Baltimore Sun Media is considering a plan to move the printing of its newspapers from Baltimore to a printing plant in Wilmington, Delaware, owned by the newspaper there.

The shift, proposed to occur by the end of January, likely would result in the loss of more than 100 jobs, most of them full-time.

Sun officials met with affected employees Tuesday to inform them of the proposal to shut down the Sun Park printing plant in South Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun opened Sun Park in 1992, but the circulation of the print newspaper has declined in recent years, even as digital subscriptions have grown, and the plant’s size dwarfs The Sun’s needs.

Under the proposal, The News Journal, a Wilmington paper owned by Gannett, would print and insert The Baltimore Sun, The Capital of Annapolis, the Carroll County Times and other affiliated publications.

“This preliminary agreement would reduce expenses related to the print operation and help continue the investment in our digital growth,” said Trif Alatzas, Baltimore Sun Media’s publisher and editor-in-chief, in an email sent to employees Tuesday evening.

Alatzas said the move would offset “ongoing print revenue declines exacerbated by the pandemic.”

The Sun would join a growing list of newspapers that have closed their printing plants and moved printing to other publications’ presses for similar reasons, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Tampa Bay Times and The Kansas City Star, all of which shut down their printing operations in 2021.

Earlier this year, The Sun’s parent company, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, was acquired by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has been accumulating newspapers for years and has a reputation for cutting its costs to remain profitable.

Alatzas wrote that the proposed changes with printing would not affect The Sun’s journalism or its ability to meet the needs of advertisers. Home delivery and retail sales of the newspapers also would not be affected, he said.

The Sun leases the building at Sun Park, which was purchased by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Development from The Sun’s former parent company in 2014 and rolled into the massive Port Covington mixed-use project.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Omicron poses ‘very high’ global risk, WHO warns as it recommends enhanced variant sequencing, testing and vaccination, Annabelle Timsit, Nov. 29, 2021. The World Health Organization is warning countries that the omicron coronavirus variant poses “very high” global risk — and is likely to spread internationally.

world health organization logo Custom“The likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said Sunday in a preliminary technical brief. It recommended that governments worldwide enhance their ability to sequence coronavirus variants, report any local cases of omicron to the global health body and speed up their vaccination drives.

The newly identified omicron variant has 26 to 32 spike mutations, the WHO brief states, “some of which are concerning” in that they could make it more transmissible and better able to evade the body’s immune defenses.

“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of COVID-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place,” the report says. “The overall global risk related to [omicron] is assessed as very high.” It added that “evidence for this assessment contains considerable uncertainty” and is subject to change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Omicron variant is ‘cause for concern, not a cause for panic,’ Biden says, Bryan Pietsch and Annabelle Timsit, Nov. joe biden twitter29, 2021. Moderna, BioNTech eye vaccine version that can defend against omicron.

  • Biden says vaccine manufacturers working to develop omicron-specific shots, boosters if needed
  • Biden says omicron variant is ‘cause for concern, not a cause for panic,’ urges vaccination, booster shots
  • Where the omicron variant has been detected around the worldSix omicron variant cases found in Scotland; not all linked to international travel
  • Coronavirus-positive Czech president swears in new prime minister from within transparent isolation box
  • WHO, South Africa say omicron travel bans counterproductive

washington post logoWashington Post, As variant is detected around world, travel bans may be too late, experts say, Rachel Pannett, Dan Diamond, María Luisa Paúl and Jennifer Hassan, Nov. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Governments are scrambling to close their borders to travelers from southern Africa, where a potentially dangerous new variant was first found.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies work to place supporters in key election posts across U.S., Amy Gardner, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 29, 2021. If they succeed, the former president and his backers could pull down some of the guardrails that prevented him from overturning President Biden’s victory, critics say.

In Michigan, local GOP leaders have sought to reshape election canvassing boards by appointing members who expressed sympathy for former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 vote was rigged.

republican elephant logoIn two Pennsylvania communities, candidates who embraced election fraud allegations won races this month to become local voting judges and inspectors.

And in Colorado, 2020 doubters are urging their followers on conservative social media platforms to apply for jobs in election offices.

djt maga hatA year after local and state election officials came under immense pressure from Trump to subvert the results of the 2020 White House race, he and his supporters are pushing an ambitious plan to place Trump loyalists in key positions across the administration of U.S. elections.

The effort goes far beyond the former president’s public broadsides against well-known Republican state officials who certified President Biden’s victory, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. Citing the need to make elections more secure, Trump allies are also seeking to replace officials across the nation, including volunteer poll watchers, paid precinct judges, elected county clerks and state attorneys general, according to state and local officials, as well as rally speeches, social media posts and campaign appearances by those seeking the positions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress returns to work staring down fiscal deadlines and fights over Biden’s agenda, Tony Romm, Nov. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The flurry of policy battles set the stage for a politically discordant month on Capitol Hill at a time when tensions between Democrats and Republicans are running higher than ever. Lawmakers must act to avert shutdown and debt ceiling deadlines as Democrats plan to push ahead on budget talks.

The clock is ticking for congressional Democrats this week as they return to Washington, where they hope to advance President Biden’s economic agenda, authorize key defense programs and resolve a slew of urgent fiscal deadlines with little time left in the year.

The flurry of policy battles set the stage for a politically discordant December on Capitol Hill at a moment when tensions between Democrats and Republicans are running high, and fears are resurfacing nationwide about a potential setback in the coronavirus pandemic.

New virus variant alarms world amid crashing stocks and banning flights

For lawmakers, their most immediate charge is to prevent a government shutdown. A short-term measure that funds federal agencies and initiatives is set to expire Friday, meaning the House and the Senate need to act swiftly to adopt another spending fix or risk a major disruption.

Then Democrats and Republicans may have less than two weeks to avert a second crisis. They must move to preserve the country’s ability to borrow to pay its bills, addressing the cap known as the debt ceiling, or Washington will experience an economy-crippling default.

The two tasks normally engulf the Capitol in partisan warfare, as lawmakers turn the debates into political proxy fights over the future of federal spending. The tensions could flash especially in the waning hours of this year, as Democrats also seek to approve a roughly $2 trillion package to overhaul the country’s health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws, a sprawling effort backed by Biden that Republicans vehemently oppose.

But Democrats in recent days have projected an air of optimism, stressing they can balance the routine duties of governance with their own political aims while accomplishing their full slate of policy objectives before the end of 2021.

ny times logoNew York Times, Europe Revisits Nuclear Power as Climate Deadlines Loom, Liz Alderman and Stanley Reed, Nov. 29, 2021. While wind and solar ramp up, several countries are looking to expand their nuclear energy programs. Others aren’t so enthusiastic.

European countries desperate for a long-term and reliable source of energy to help reach ambitious climate goals are turning to an answer that caused earlier generations to shudder: nuclear power.

european union logo rectanglePoland wants a fleet of smaller nuclear power stations to help end its reliance on coal. Britain is betting on Rolls-Royce to produce cheap modular reactors to complement wind and solar energy. And in France, President Emmanuel Macron plans to build on the nation’s huge nuclear program.

As world leaders pledge to avert a climate catastrophe, the nuclear industry sees an opportunity for a revival. Sidelined for years after the disasters at Fukushima and Chernobyl, advocates are wrangling to win recognition of nuclear energy, alongside solar and wind, as an acceptable source of clean power.

More than half a dozen European countries recently announced plans to build a new generation of nuclear reactors. Some are smaller and cheaper than older designs, occupying the space of two football fields and costing a fraction of the price of standard nuclear plants. The Biden administration is also backing such technology as a tool of “mass decarbonization” for the United States.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman, The unexpected news caused Nasdaq to stop trading the company’s stock.

jack dorsey small twitterTwitter CEO Jack Dorsey said he was stepping down from the social media service in a letter posted to Twitter early Monday.

Dorsey, right, who co-founded the company and has been a leader there for the last 18 years, said his departure would be effective immediately, leaving Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal to replace him. Dorsey will remain CEO of payments company Square.

“I want you to know this was my decision and I own it,” Dorsey wrote, saying he was “sad” but also “really happy.” “It was a tough one for me, of course. … There aren’t many companies that get to this level. And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego. I know we’ll prove this was the right move.”

twitter bird CustomThe message was captioned, “not sure if anyone has heard but, I resigned from Twitter.”

The surprise move caused Nasdaq to suspend trading on Twitter’s stock, and left most employees — many of whom were not working because it was an official company “Day of Rest” — in a state of confusion.

Even some senior executives seemed unprepared for the move. Vijaya Gadde, the company’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, tweeted congratulations to Agrawal and gratitude to Dorsey — but said she was “saving my ‘everything I learned from @Jack’ thread for another day.”

Dorsey has been distancing himself from direct leadership for years, according to people familiar with his management style who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Major decisions are generally made by other company leaders, though Dorsey does give a final sign-off. He also rarely tweets about Twitter, focusing most of his public energy promoting blockchain, decentralization, and bitcoin-related projects.

Though Twitter is much smaller than industry rivals Facebook and TikTok, the company punches above its weight because of its use by celebrities, politicians and other influential people. For years, the most influential user on Twitter was former president Donald Trump, who used the platform as a primary means to communicate — often in ways that pushed the boundaries of Twitter’s rules. The company suspended him for comments related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

 

More On Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Japan shuts borders to nonresident foreigners in response to omicron variant, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inum, Nov. 29, 2021. The country is slamming its doors closed again, just three weeks after reopening.

japan flagJapanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Monday that the country would take emergency measures for at least one month, while researchers study the variant and assess its risks.

Beginning Tuesday, Japan will bar nonresident foreigners, including business travelers, international students and foreign workers, from entering the country. The ban applies to all countries, not just ones with confirmed cases of the omicron variant. Japanese citizens and foreign residents are exempt.

The decision makes Japan one of the first countries, and by far the largest, to enact widespread border closures in response to the newest variant, alongside Israel and Morocco.

washington post logoWashington Post, International travelers stranded, angry in omicron’s wake: ‘The first thing I did was cry,’ Paulina Firozi and Brittany Shammas, Nov. 29, 2021. Travelers have been left stuck abroad, desperately trying to get home amid a slew of cancelations, while others are scratching plans to see loved ones in other countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, Travel bans on African countries are ‘Afrophobia,’ Malawi’s president says, Rachel Pannett, Nov. 29, 2021. Many countries have closed their borders to travelers from southern Africa after the new virus variant was identified by South African scientists last week.

Many countries have closed their borders to travelers from southern Africa after the new virus variant, dubbed omicron, was identified by South African scientists last week. Experts have warned that travel restrictions probably are too late to be effective, with cases already emerging as far away as Asia and Australia.

The bans have also angered political leaders in Africa who view them as hasty and unjustified — scapegoating countries that have been quick to come forward with information on a potentially dangerous new variant. South Africa’s health minister described the measures Friday as “misdirected” and “draconian.”

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

World Cases: 261,926,083, Deaths: 5,220,328
U.S. Cases:     49,099,590, Deaths:    799,414
Indian Cases:   34,580,832, Deaths:    468,790
Brazil Cases:   22,080,906, Deaths:    614,314

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 29, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

Related Recent Headlines:

 

Trump Watch

jeffrey clark nyt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Down goes Trump DOJ stooge Jeffrey Clark, Bill Palmer, Nov. 29, 2021. Earlier today we explained why the January 6th bill palmerCommittee’s criminal referral against Steve Bannon, which resulted in his indictment and arrest by the DOJ, has worked. “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander announced in a video last night that he’s coming out of hiding to cooperate with the committee, specifically because he doesn’t want to go to prison. Indicting Bannon was always about scaring other, more skittish witnesses into cooperating.

bill palmer report logo headerNow the committee has announced that it’s holding a vote this week to recommend former Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, shown above, for indictment. This vote will pass unanimously, and then the full House will formalize the referral within a day or two after that.

Given that Clark tried to invoke the same nonexistent “privilege” argument as Bannon, it’s not difficult to figure out that the DOJ will very likely indict and arrest Clark. What’s notable is that while Bannon simply refused to show up and testify at all, Clark, tried the trick of showing up and testifying but invoking “privilege” in response to key questions. The resulting criminal referral against him is a reminder that there are no magic wands for these witnesses.

Again, the point of indicting an obstructor like Jeffrey Clark is to scare other people into cooperating. The committee has scheduled dozens of Trump-connected people to testify, and while a few have publicly vowed not to cooperate, many of them are likely on the fence, trying to figure out their least bad option. Ali Alexander took one look at these contempt indictments coming down the pike and decided to cooperate. He likely won’t be the only one. The committee doesn’t need everyone to cooperate; it only needs a handful of key people.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The right's trashing of American symbols, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 21 books, including that portrayed below left, and a former Navy intelligence officer), Nov. 29, 2021. America's pro-Donald Trump wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallfascist movement proclaims itself as "patriotic" and its members as "patriots."

wayne madesen report logoHowever, these dregs of society have done everything possible to deface American symbols, including the U.S. flag. Almost every Trump rally features American flags that have been either disfigured with Trump's mug or recolored in a bizarre combination of black, white, and blue.

wayne madsen fourth reich coverThe Thin Blue Line flag and other defaced U.S. flags have a precedent in 1920 in Germany. While writing Mein Kampf while in prison following the failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, Adolf Hitler wrote about his desire for a new flag for Germany encompassing the red, white, and black colors of the defunct German Empire.

As was the case with Hitler's swastika flag that replaced the Weimar Republic's tri-band of black, red, and gold in 1933, the right's fascination with redesigning the U.S. flag to suit their far-right political aims symbolizes their opposition to the U.S. djt trump flag thumbs upConstitution and America's democratic history and traditions.

The most outrageous disfiguration of the American flag is the one often seen at Donald Trump rallies and among the crowd of insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th.

Trump, his supporters, and the far-right continue to show their utter contempt for the United States, its fallen, its traditions, and its history every time they display defaced alterations of Old Glory. They are shameless, repugnant, and despicable creatures in their thoughts, words, and deeds.

Forbes Magazine, Checks & Imbalances: A Third Trump Golf Course Appears To Be Violating Law By Using The Presidential Seal, Zach Everson, Nov. 29, 2021. A third Trump golf course appears to have deployed the presidential seal as a tee marker, possibly in violation of a federal law.

On Nov. 21, an Instagram user posted a photo showing the presidential seal set in the grass at Florida’s Trump National Golf Club Jupiter. The property joins Trump clubs in the Bronx and New Jersey in possible violation of a law that bars displaying the seal in a manner that could convey the impression of government approval or sponsorship. It’s also illegal to manufacture a likeness of the seal without the government’s authorization. The penalty can be up to six months in prison, although prosecutors have never prioritized charging people who misuse the seal.

In 2018, “Trump, Inc.,” a podcast from ProPublica and WNYC, uncovered a batch of markers similar to the ones that have appeared at Trump properties over the past few months. The Trump Organization blamed the incident on diehard supporters at the time and quickly removed the markers. “The plaques were presented to the club by a small group of members, who are incredible fans of the president, in honor of Presidents’ Day weekend,” the business said in a 2018 statement to the podcast. “They were temporary and have since been removed.”

“Trump Inc.” identified Eagle Sign and Design, a metalworking and sign company in the Louisville, Kentucky-area, as the marker’s manufacturer. The owner of B Sign Group, which acquired Eagle Sign and Design, did not immediately reply to an inquiry.

Trump retained a 100% interest in Trump National Golf Club Jupiter when he became president. Trump has been spotted at the club a few times while living 20 miles south at Mar-a-Lago.

 

Investigations

 

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images)

WhoWhatWhy, Investigation and Analysis: Will Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Reveal Jeffrey Epstein Secrets? Gabriella Lombardo, Nov. 29, 2021. Long before she became public enemy No. 1, Ghislaine Maxwell was an heiress with a dark past. Her motivations are as difficult to determine as her life is difficult to believe.

whowhatwhy logoGhislaine Maxwell is used to being the woman of the hour. The 59-year-old British aristocrat was a fixture of the London and New York social scenes throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, rubbing shoulders and champagne flutes with an international cast of power players that included two US presidents and at least one prince. In her jet-setting, party-hopping days, she allegedly lived a double life as a groomer of girls, serving up underage victims to Jeffrey Epstein and the megawatt men who moved alongside him.

All eyes are again on Maxwell as her trial opens in Manhattan federal court, just steps from the lower Manhattan jail where Epstein was found dead in his cell two years ago. The charges against her for her role in Epstein’s decades-long international sex abuse ring include six counts related to child sex trafficking in the decade spanning 1994 to 2004, involving four girls — the youngest aged 14. The alleged crimes occurred at Epstein’s residences in Manhattan, Palm Beach, and New Mexico, as well as Maxwell’s London apartment.

Maxwell faces a separate trial, as yet unscheduled, for an additional two counts of perjury for statements she made in connection with a long-settled 2015 defamation suit against her. If convicted on all counts, Maxwell could face 80 years in prison. She has always denied any involvement in, or knowledge of, Epstein’s crimes, and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Epstein’s death in federal custody in 2019 left Maxwell bearing the brunt of public outrage at the chronic mishandling of his sex crimes by law enforcement and the courts. Still, Maxwell’s time with Epstein raises many questions: If she did indeed assist in his crimes, what motivated her?

Law & Crime, Jeffrey Epstein’s Ex-Pilot Takes the Stand as Witness Testimony Kicks Off in Ghislaine Maxwell’s Sex Trafficking Trial, Adam Klasfeld, Nov. 29, 2021. The debut witness at Ghislaine Maxwell’s long-awaited sex trafficking trial, Jeffrey Epstein’s former pilot testified on Monday that he flew his former boss around to his various properties about “every four days.”

Flight records from Epstein’s travels around the globe and in between his properties sparked international controversy and the reputation of “Lolita Express.” Members of the international elite who reportedly have taken rides on Epstein’s aircraft included former President Bill Clinton, former President Donald Trump, the U.K.’s Prince Andrew, billionaire Bill Gates, actor Kevin Spacey, and model Naomi Campbell.

One protester lampooned the airplane outside of the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse on the same day its former pilot, Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr., took the witness stand, but he invoked none of those famous figures during Day One of his testimony.

Visoski told jurors that he couldn’t always tell who boarded the jet.

Referring to those approaching the plane by car, Visoski said: “I could see the driver and perhaps maybe the passenger; 99 percent of cars in Florida have tinted windows, so I probably couldn’t see the passengers as well, but depending upon how the car approached the aircraft, if I’m sitting in the cockpit looking down, I would be able to see the driver of the car.”

Questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey, Visoski quickly identified Maxwell inside the courtroom, and he described her relationship to Epstein as “more personal than business.”

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ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon Chief Orders New Inquiry Into U.S. Airstrike That Killed Dozens in Syria, Eric Schmitt and Dave Philipps, Nov. 29, 2021. The move comes after a New York Times investigation described allegations that top officers and civilian officials had sought to conceal the casualties.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III on Monday ordered a new high-level investigation into a U.S. airstrike in Syria in 2019 that killed dozens of women and children, the Pentagon said.

Department of Defense SealThe investigation by Gen. Michael X. Garrett, the four-star head of the Army’s Forces Command, will examine the strike, which was carried out by a shadowy, classified Special Operations unit called Task Force 9, as well as the handling of the task force’s investigation by higher military headquarters and the Defense Department’s inspector general, Pentagon officials said.

General Garrett will have 90 days to review inquiries that have been conducted into the episode and further investigate record-keeping errors, reports of civilian casualties, whether any violations of laws of war occurred, whether any recommendations from previous reviews were carried out, and whether anyone should be held accountable, the officials said.

Donald TrumpJohn F. Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said that Mr. Austin had decided to ask for the inquiry after speaking with Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of Central Command. Mr. Kirby said the inquiry would also look into “whether accountability measures would be appropriate.”

He announced the inquiry on Monday after the Defense Department notified Congress. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both said that they are investigating the strike.

Mr. Kirby called Mr. Austin’s appointment of General Garrett, a senior four-star general, “a reflection of how seriously he is taking the issue.”

Syria FlagMr. Austin’s decision comes after a New York Times investigation this month that described allegations that top officers and civilian officials had sought to conceal the casualties.

In a news conference two weeks ago, Mr. Austin vowed to overhaul military procedures and hold top officers responsible for civilian harm, but he did not outline any systemic problems that had allowed civilian casualties to persist on battlefields in Syria and Afghanistan.

The Syria airstrike took place near the town of Baghuz on March 18, 2019, as part of the final battle against Islamic State fighters in a shard of a once-sprawling religious state across Iraq and Syria. It was among the largest episodes of civilian casualties in the yearslong war against ISIS, but the U.S. military had never publicly acknowledged it.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

Biden federal appellate court nominee Dale Ho (Judicial Crisis Network opposition ad).

Biden federal court nominee Dale Ho (Judicial Crisis Network opposition ad).

Axios Sneak Peek, Conservative group targets Biden court pick ahead of Mississippi abortion case, Hans Nichols, Nov. 29, 2021.

A conservative group is targeting Dale Ho, President Biden’s judicial nominee to serve on the Southern District Court of New York, with a six-figure ad buy — launching the first TV campaign against a Biden court pick.

Why it matters: The Supreme Court is set to hear a Mississippi abortion law case on Wednesday, and conservatives and progressives are bracing for the political fallout from additional legal showdowns, as well as a battle over the president’s effort to fill some 70 vacancies throughout the federal judiciary.

axios logoThe more than $300,000 cable and digital buy against Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union voting rights project, accuses him of being “a career puppet for left-wing, dark-money groups.” He was nominated in September and is awaiting a Senate committee hearing, potentially as early as this week.

The ad is from the Judicial Crisis Network, which also relies on so-called "dark money." The group spent $10 million to get now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to the Supreme Court, and its spending now is an indication conservatives are willing to spend big to try to stop — or, at least, slow — Biden's court picks.

The big picture: During Biden’s first 10 months in office, the Senate has confirmed 28 of his district and appellate court judges, with another 36 awaiting a final vote, according to a scorecard from Demand Justice, a progressive group focused on the judiciary.

During President Trump’s first year, he had one Supreme Court justice and 16 lower-court judges confirmed. In his four years, Trump, working with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had 234 judges — including two more Supreme Court justices — confirmed.

President Obama got one Supreme Court justice confirmed during his first year but only an additional nine district and appellate judges after Republicans made a concerted effort to block his court picks.

Conservatives spent most of their energy during 2021 focusing on Biden’s Department of Justice picks, launching unsuccessful campaigns against Vanita Gupta for associate attorney general and Kristen Clarke to lead the civil rights division.

Now, they're starting to focus on judges, calling attention to Ho’s history of advocating for progressive causes. They have an eye on a potential Supreme Court vacancy in 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Taliban and 9/11 Families Fight for Billions in Frozen Afghan Funds, Charlie Savage, Nov. 29, 2021. The White House must figure out what to do with the Afghan central bank’s account at the Federal Reserve, now frozen under U.S. law.

Nearly 20 years ago, about 150 family members of Sept. 11 victims sought a measure of justice for their losses by suing a list of targets like Al Qaeda and the Taliban. A decade later, a court found the defendants liable by default and ordered them to pay damages now worth about $7 billion.

But with no way to collect it, the judgment seemed symbolic.

federal reserve system CustomToday, however, the Taliban is back in control of Afghanistan. The group’s leaders say their country’s central bank account at the Federal Reserve in New York, in which the former government accumulated about $7 billion from foreign aid and other sources, is rightfully theirs. And that in turn has raised a question: If the money is the Taliban’s, shouldn’t the plaintiffs in the Sept. 11 lawsuit be entitled to seize it?

High-level officials in the Biden administration are now debating the answer to that question, which presents a complex knot of national security, legal, diplomatic and political problems — the latest example of how thorny issues stemming from the terrorist attacks remain unresolved more than two decades later.

Among the specifics to be worked out is whether and how the United States can sidestep any legal requirement to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government in order to use the money in the central bank account to help resolve the claim by the Sept. 11 families.

 

willard noble chaiden miller counsel christine branstad des moines register

Associated Press via The Gazette (Fairfield, Iowa), Fairfield teens plead not guilty in high school Spanish teacher's death, Staff Report, Nov. 29, 2021. Two ap logosoutheast Iowa teenagers charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of their high school Spanish teacher pleaded not guilty in arraignment documents filed Monday.

Willard Noble Chaiden Miller (shown above with defense counsel Christine Branstad in a photo by the Des Moines Register) and Jeremy Everett nohema graberGoodale, both 16, are accused of killing Nohema Graber in Fairfield. Graber, 66, right, was reported missing Nov. 2 and her remains were found later that day at a Fairfield park where she was known to take daily walks. Earlier court filings stated that Graber suffered “inflicted trauma to the head.”

Miller and Goodale waived their right to a speedy trial, which means prosecutors are not required to try them within 90 days of formal charges being filed Nov. 12. Both said they are being held in juvenile detention facilities.

Last week, lawyers for the teens asked a state court judge to lower their bond so they could be released to the supervision of their parents, but prosecutors resisted and said the bonds should be maintained at $1 million or even raised to $2 million.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown said the “extremely brutal murder of an innocent person” justifies keeping them in custody.

The attorneys for Miller and Goodale argued for home confinement and other monitoring, saying they had no ability to flee prosecution. Miller’s attorney Christine Branstad said research shows detaining juveniles away from family for prolonged periods before trial can have a detrimental effect on them and stunt their development.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The hypocrisy argument on the filibuster is itself phony, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Nov. 29, 2021 (print ed.). With the Senate facing a do-or-die ej dionne w open neckmoment on whether it will protect the right to vote and honest counts in elections, opponents of much-needed reforms want to shift the topic to whether liberals are hypocrites about filibuster rules.

Their desire to change the subject is understandable. Opponents of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act prefer not to explain why a Republican Party that once embraced voting rights bills now echoes segregationist Democrats of old in defending “states’ rights” over federal voting guarantees.

And they would rather not be pressed on why they want to roll back the advances that made voting easier in 2020. More mail and early voting, drop boxes, less cumbersome registration and a slew of other changes led to record-breaking turnout.

Enter the Senate’s filibuster rules. Because every Republican senator voted against the Freedom to Vote Act last month — and all but one opposed even debating the John Lewis voting rights bill this month — no bill that would do anything worthwhile can reach the 60-vote threshold required to overcome the filibuster.

Reforming the filibuster is the only way Democrats can pass the voting guarantees favored by civil rights groups and democracy advocates. It’s the only way they can undo the voter suppression and election subversion laws that have been passed in more than a dozen GOP-controlled states since 2020. It’s the only way to dismantle wildly partisan gerrymanders.

This is where the hypocrisy charges come in. It is true that Democrats have used the filibuster to kill Republican bills in the past. It’s true that many Democrats once defended the filibuster. And conservatives can quickly unearth lots of quotations from Democratic senators asserting, well, the opposite of what many Democrats are saying now.

But beyond the fact that the retreat to procedural arguments dodges the substance of the rights at stake, the hypocrisy charge fails on the most basic level: No Democrat or progressive who has flipped on the filibuster is pretending they didn’t. They are quite clear in saying versions of what the Senate arch-traditionalist Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said in 1979: Rules that seemed appropriate in the past “must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.”

There are two big reasons why senators should vote to reform the filibuster, no matter their past views. The first is institutional: What started out as an unusual practice to extend debate has become a routine method for blocking the will of the majority. To put it starkly: Abuse of the filibuster is wrecking the Senate.

But the core reason the filibuster must be reformed is the moral imperative of passing bills to defend democracy. It confronts multiple challenges: to the right to vote; the right to have votes counted without political interference; and the right of voters to select their representatives — and not have politicians do it by drawing wildly partisan district boundaries.

If it fails to act, the party that won power in 2020 as the bulwark of democracy and civil rights will be saying that these commitments matter less than fealty to an outdated, dysfunctional practice that has been altered repeatedly in pursuit of far less noble goals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Lauren Boebert renews Islamophobic attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar, rebuffs call for public apology, Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro, Nov. 29, 2021. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) refused to publicly apologize Monday in a phone call with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for her Islamaphobic comments about the Muslim congresswoman and instead accused her of “anti-American and anti-Semitic” rhetoric, prompting Omar to end the call.

The exchange spurred more calls for Republican leaders to condemn Boebert’s remarks and publicly address her behavior. Last week, House Democratic leaders denounced Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) “repeated failure to condemn inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric” from fellow Republicans, including Boebert.

In a statement Monday, Omar said that it is time for McCarthy “to actually hold his party accountable.”

“I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate,” Omar said. “To date, the Republican Party leadership has done nothing to condemn and hold their own members accountable for repeated instances of anti-Muslim hate and harassment. This is not about one hateful statement or one politician; it is about a party that has mainstreamed bigotry and hatred.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relaions called on McCarthy and other Republican leaders to “condemn this bigotry and demand that Rep. Boebert immediately, clearly and publicly apologize.”

“If she once again refuses to do so, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer should move to censure her,” said CAIR’s director of government affairs, Robert McCaw, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). “Failing to do so would signal that Islamophobia is an acceptable form of bigotry in the halls of Congress.”

During an event last week in her Colorado district, Boebert told the audience described an encounter with Omar as “not my first ‘Jihad Squad’ moment,” according to a video posted on Twitter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kevin McCarthy’s weakness on Lauren Boebert defines the GOP, Jennifer Rubin, Nov. 29, 2021. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) told a racist story — and a lie to boot — about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

This is not the first instance in which Boebert has revealed her bigotry. (She’s also not shy about implying violence when describing Democrats.) She is kevin mccarthyperfectly at home in today’s GOP seeking to conserve and elevate White power as it displays open Islamophobia — including fearmongering over Afghan refugees — along with misogyny and xenophobia.

Boebert issued a semi-apology “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment” — an empty sentiment that leaves the onus of the apology on those she insulted, not on her. [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy’s written statement indicated no disapproval, let alone condemnation of his member’s vile remarks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Panicked Democrats are ready to shove Biden aside. Again, Matt Bai, Nov. 29, 2021. Ten months into President Biden’s term, panicky Democrats have already begun to speculate on who might take his place on the ticket in 2024, despite Biden’s assurances that he intends to stand for reelection.

For Biden, being written off as too old and out of his depth isn’t exactly a gut punch. It’s more like another day in the last 30 years.

 Other recent headlines:

 

World News, Global Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Barbados to cast off Queen Elizabeth II as Prince Charles watches, Ross Kenneth Urken, Nov. 29, 2021. The easternmost Caribbean island, known for cricket, rum and Rihanna, will become the first Commonwealth realm in nearly three decades to declare itself a republic.

The move, debated for years, gained momentum amid the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and growing demands for reparations for slavery on the island. Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced last year that the nation of 300,000 would become a republic by Tuesday, the 55th anniversary of its independence.

That means removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, a break with nearly four centuries of history in the former British colony.

Prince Charles, who has long used the island dubbed “Little England” as his polo playground, plans to join the celebrations in Bridgetown. The heir to the British throne will be the next head of the Commonwealth, the association made up almost entirely of former territories of the British Empire.

Barbados, the easternmost island of the Caribbean, known for cricket, rum and the international pop star Rihanna, plans to remain a member of the group.

Its new government is to be led by Mottley, a London School of Economics-trained former chairwoman of the Caribbean Community, fresh from her turn lecturing world leaders on vaccine hoarding at the U.N. General Assembly and the need for climate finance measures at COP26. Governor General Sandra Mason, until now the queen’s representative on the island, will be its first president.

Barbados ready to dismiss Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state

The move from constitutional monarchy to republic enjoys broad support on the island. Mason was elected president last month by two-thirds votes of both houses of Parliament. But Mottley’s political opponents have questioned her timing and her refusal to put the moveto voters in a national referendum. They also want to know more about her plans for a new constitution.

Recent Global Headlines:

 

U.S. Media, Sports News

 alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Alex Jones is facing a reckoning. Let it be a warning to other conspiracy theorists, Editorial Board, Nov. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Distortions. Lies. Profiteering off the hurt of others. Those are the signature characteristics that mark the radio work of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (shown above in a file photo.

So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Mr. Jones reacted to a judge’s ruling against him in lawsuits brought by families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., with more distortions, more lies and more attempts to raise money.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis earlier this month found Mr. Jones liable for damages in defamation lawsuits brought by the families of eight people killed in the 2012 school massacre after the Infowars host made repeated claims that the shooting was a giant hoax.

The judge ruled that because Mr. Jones had refused to turn over documents ordered by the court, he was liable by default. A similar determination was made by a Texas court in September in two lawsuits filed by victims’ families. Jury trials will next be held to determine the amount of damages.

After Judge Bellis issued her ruling, Mr. Jones went on air and complained about being deprived of a fair trial and invoked his rights to free speech under the First Amendment. Days later, he released a video pleading for money.

Mr. Jones’s claim about being denied a fair trial is undermined by his own refusal to cooperate with the courts in basic procedures necessary to conduct one. Judge Bellis said years of what she called inappropriate conduct by Mr. Jones’s attorneys regarding depositions and the “callous disregard” for her repeated rulings required the most severe sanction of default, which she called “a last resort.” The judge in the Texas case cited the defendants’ “general bad faith” toward the litigation and Mr. Jones’s “public threats,” as well as his contention that the proceedings were show trials.

Multiple efforts by Mr. Jones to have the cases dismissed on First Amendment grounds have been roundly rejected by the state courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. We are the first to stand up for First Amendment rights, but Mr. Jones’s repeated false claims that the shooting at Sandy Hook in which 26 people were killed was a hoax — “staged,” he said, and “inside job written all over it” — were beyond the pale and outside the Constitution’s protections. Mr. Jones, who has now belatedly acknowledged the reality of Sandy Hook, had no credible evidence for his outrageous claims, and his knowing lies did terrible damage to people who already had suffered the tragic loss of loved ones. One family has had to move nearly 10 times and even now is living in hiding.

The families have yet to specify the amount of damages they are seeking, and there is no amount of money that can make up for what they have suffered and will continue to suffer. Their hope, though, is that they will be able to establish that conspiracy profiteering off the tragedy of others is not an acceptable business model. Let’s hope that others in this age of increasing misinformation get that message.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Chris Christie’s book crashes and burns, Bocha Blue, Nov. 29, 2021. There was a time, many years ago, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was someone to take seriously. As I said, that was a long time ago. In recent months, the disgraced Governor and former Presidential candidate has attempted to stage a desperate comeback. Christie’s been out of power for a long time, and one can sense his desperation to once again become a part of the pulsating and ever-changing political circus.

bill palmer report logo headerChristie, right, has been aided in his pathetic efforts by many in the media, who have been relentless in featuring Christie, pontificating and bragging as he attempts to create a new image for himself – an image of an honest and courageous bloke.

chris christie april 2015Only sometimes the picture one tries to create is riddled with smears — sloppy in its falsities. And this, in the proper fashion of Karma, is precisely what appears to be happening to Christie.

Christie’s book tour was dismal. Nobody seemed interested in what the man had to say. But now, things have reached red alert levels of alarm for Jersey’s non-finest. Christie’s book is out and — ahem — not too many people seem interested in buying it. Sales have not been good, and his book has failed to make the NYT bestseller list.

Christie is a pretender. This country does not like pretenders. Most can see through them. Christie actually wants people to believe he is strong and courageous — the man who seems terrified of writing or even talking about the lies of Fox News. With his every word, his weakness shines through.

BoingBoing, Analysis: Despite continuous prime-time attention by a fawning media, Chris Christie fails to sell over 2,500 copies of his book, Mark Frauenfelder, Nov. 29, 2021. Ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is best known for three things:

  • Closing Island Beach State Park during a government shutdown then taking an expensive taxpayer-funded family holiday there.
  • His disastrous handling of the deadly lane closure of the George Washington Bridge, which he is suspected of ordering to exact revenge on a mayor who didn't support his reelection bid.
  • Running against Trump by declaring him unfit to lead (January 4, 2016: "Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America.") and becoming an embarrassing Trump sycophant after failing in the primary (February 26, 2016: "There is no one better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs both at home and around the world than Donald Trump.").

You'd think Christie would be a pariah, but for some reason the news channels like to bring this unsavory ... character on their shows and act like he's some kind of respected statesman. For the last few weeks it's been impossible to turn on the TV and not see Christie fibbing about, denying, and backpedaling on every terrible thing he's said and done for the last ten years.

But despite the countless hours of free promotion for his new book, he's only managed to sell 2,300 copies in its first week, making it clear that no one but the news netoworks thinks this double-talking know-it-all is worth anything other than making fun of.

From Press Run:

A senior publishing source with access to the industry's BookScan tabulations tells me that Republican Rescue sold just 2,289 copies during its first week in stores, which constitutes a colossal publishing flop. That figure does not include digital copies of the book, but based on industry sales patterns, given Christie's weak showing in stores he likely sold only a few hundred digital ones. (On Sunday, Republican Rescue was ranked 15,545th at Amazon's Kindle Store.)

In comparison to Christie's 2,000 copies debacle, Jonathan Karl's new book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, sold 24,000 hardcover copies the same week as the Christie failure. How Christie was able to sell so few books after lining up so much national media attention during his marketing roll-out — "This Week" and "The View," "Fox & Friends," along with Fox News, Fox Business, the Daily Show, HBO twice, and CNBC — represents an extraordinary disconnect.

 

chris christie republican rescue cover

Insider NJ, Book Review: Chris Christie to the Rescue? Fred Snowflack, Nov. 26, 2021. Chris Christie was all over TV last week hyping his book, Republican Rescue, the cover of which, creatively, shows an elephant holding a rescue tube in its trunk.

As the name implies, the GOP is in danger. If not, why would it need to be rescued? The peril for Republicans is Donald Trump and the wacky conspiracy theories the former president seems to inspire.

That is the essence of the book, but before we get there, Christie spends the first part of the book detailing his personal relationship with Trump. They met years ago when Christie was U.S. Attorney and their friendship blossomed.

When Trump got to the White House, Christie says the now-president offered him many jobs, but not the one he would have taken – Attorney General. So, Christie began spending his post-gubernatorial life at home in Mendham Township.

The anecdotes and observations Christie presents of Trump will shock no one who follows politics closely.

When a very ill Christie was fighting COVID at Morristown Medical Center, he got a call from the president. A heartfelt wish to get well?

Not really. Christie said the president was concerned that he (Christie) would blame him (Trump) for his getting the virus.

Justice Integrity Project, Marshall Islands provides lastest visitor to JIP site, Staff report, Nov. 29, 2021. A visitor to the Justice Integrity Project website last marshall islands flagweek from the Republic of the Marshall Islands made that nation the 214th to have a documented visitor to the site, according to computations kept by Flag Counter.

The republic informally known as the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States after almost four decades under U.S. administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The islands have a population estimated at 75,684 (as of 2018). They are located in the Pacific nearly equi-distant from California and Singapore.


Nov. 28

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washington post logoWashington Post, As variant is detected around world, travel bans may be too late, experts say, Rachel Pannett, Dan Diamond, María Luisa Paúl and Jennifer Hassan, Nov. 28, 2021. Governments are scrambling to close their borders to travelers from southern Africa, where a potentially dangerous new variant was first found.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Omicron Variant Circles the Globe, African Nations Face Blame and Bans, Benjamin Mueller and Declan Walsh, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). With countries trying to close their doors to the new coronavirus variant, southern African officials note that the West’s hoarding of vaccines helped create their struggle in the first place.

Nations in southern Africa protested bitterly on Saturday as more of the world’s wealthiest countries cut them off from travel, renewing a debate over border closures from the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic and compounding the problems facing poorly vaccinated countries.

A new coronavirus variant called Omicron, first detected in Botswana, put governments on edge after South Africa announced a surge of cases this week, plunging countries into the most uncertain moment of the pandemic since the highly contagious Delta variant took hold this spring.

As in the early days of Delta, political alarm spread quickly across the world, with officials trading blame over how the failures of the global vaccination effort were allowing the virus to mutate, even as researchers warned that the true threat of the new variant was not yet clear.
Tracking Omicron and Other Coronavirus Variants

Coronavirus mutations, variants and lineages.

Bearing a worrying number of mutations that researchers fear could make it spread easily, Omicron was spotted on Saturday in patients in Britain, Germany and Italy, leaving in its wake what scientists estimated to be thousands of cases in southern Africa and tens or hundreds more globally. One nation after another shut its doors to southern Africa even as they spurned public health measures that scientists said were far more urgently needed to take on the new variant.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. governor declares state of emergency, says of coronavirus variant: ‘It’s coming,’ Andrew Jeong, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). While omicron has not yet been detected in the United States, New York hospitals will be allowed to protect capacity by limiting nonessential and non-urgent care.

kathy hochul 2017New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) declared a state of emergency Friday in response to a cold-weather surge of coronavirus infections and the threat of the newly detected omicron variant, making her state one of the first in the country to impose measures against the mutation that was recently sequenced in southern Africa.

As part of the emergency, the state’s health department will be allowed to protect hospital capacity by limiting nonessential and non-urgent care until at least Jan. 15. Hospitals with less than 10 percent staffed bed capacity, or those designated by the state, will be authorized to screen patients and restrict admissions to keep beds open for the most urgent cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that omicron had not yet been detected in the United States, but Hochul said of the variant: “It’s coming.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress returns to work staring down fiscal deadlines and fights over Biden’s agenda, Tony Romm, Nov. 28, 2021. The flurry of policy battles set the stage for a politically discordant month on Capitol Hill at a time when tensions between Democrats and Republicans are running higher than ever. Lawmakers must act to avert shutdown and debt ceiling deadlines as Democrats plan to push ahead on budget talks.

The clock is ticking for congressional Democrats this week as they return to Washington, where they hope to advance President Biden’s economic agenda, authorize key defense programs and resolve a slew of urgent fiscal deadlines with little time left in the year.

The flurry of policy battles set the stage for a politically discordant December on Capitol Hill at a moment when tensions between Democrats and Republicans are running high, and fears are resurfacing nationwide about a potential setback in the coronavirus pandemic.

New virus variant alarms world amid crashing stocks and banning flights

For lawmakers, their most immediate charge is to prevent a government shutdown. A short-term measure that funds federal agencies and initiatives is set to expire Friday, meaning the House and the Senate need to act swiftly to adopt another spending fix or risk a major disruption.

Then Democrats and Republicans may have less than two weeks to avert a second crisis. They must move to preserve the country’s ability to borrow to pay its bills, addressing the cap known as the debt ceiling, or Washington will experience an economy-crippling default.

The two tasks normally engulf the Capitol in partisan warfare, as lawmakers turn the debates into political proxy fights over the future of federal spending. The tensions could flash especially in the waning hours of this year, as Democrats also seek to approve a roughly $2 trillion package to overhaul the country’s health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws, a sprawling effort backed by Biden that Republicans vehemently oppose.

But Democrats in recent days have projected an air of optimism, stressing they can balance the routine duties of governance with their own political aims while accomplishing their full slate of policy objectives before the end of 2021.

supreme court resized 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: To Protect Abortion Rights, Turn to Elections, Editorial Board, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Will the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade? As the justices prepare to hear oral arguments on Dec. 1 in the biggest abortion case in decades, that is the understandable question on everyone’s mind. It’s also a misleading one.

Yes, Roe could possibly meet its demise when the court decides Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which involves a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. After all, outlawing abortion in America has been an animating object of the conservative movement for nearly half a century. But the Supreme Court never had a reliably anti-choice majority to pull it off. Now, largely thanks to the engineering of Senator Mitch McConnell, the court is stacked with a supermajority of conservative justices, several of whom surely must be tempted to finish the job they were put on the court to do.

The fact that the Dobbs case made it to the court in the first place is reason enough for alarm: Many states have passed abortion bans similar to Mississippi’s that have been struck down because they are obviously unconstitutional in light of Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases. That the Mississippi law hasn’t met the same fate strongly suggests a confidence among conservative justices that they finally have the votes to end Roe for good. A similar confidence — not to mention a blithe indifference to women’s civil liberties — was reflected in the Supreme Court’s recent refusal to summarily strike down a new Texas law that effectively bans most abortions in the state.

As the justices are well aware, however, categorically eliminating a constitutional right that tens of millions of women have counted on, and which, according to a 2019 poll, more than three-quarters of Americans support upholding in some form, would invite an enormous social and political backlash that could end up doing damage to the very causes they hold dear.

The more likely outcome — for this term, at least — is not an outright reversal of Roe but a rerun of a show Americans have been watching for the past 30 years: a ruling that preserves the right to abortion in name while making the exercise of that right ever more difficult, if not impossible, in practice.

That’s why the most pressing issue in the Dobbs case is not the legal response of the court but the political response of a consistent majority of Americans who agree that a woman has the right to control what happens inside her own body.

So what happens next? The first step is acceptance — specifically, accepting that such a conservative Supreme Court is no longer going to protect reproductive freedom but will instead undermine it. The next step is to shift the focus away from the courts and onto electoral politics — by translating the American public’s consistent majority support for abortion rights into electoral victories at all levels of government, but especially in the states, where nearly all laws around reproductive rights get made.

This moment is also an opportunity to recast the fight over abortion and reproductive rights generally. It should be centered on women’s equality and liberty, not on their privacy, the right on which the Roe decision was grounded. The problem with that rationale, which was conjured by a court consisting of nine older men, is not only that it does not appear explicitly in the Constitution, but also that it carries insinuations of secrecy and even shame. That’s a rickety foundation for such a fundamental right. It is far harder to refute calls for equality and liberty, as evidenced by the struggles and successes of the L.G.B.T.Q. movement.

supreme court headshots 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, For Clarence Thomas, avowed critic of Roe v. Wade, Mississippi abortion case is a moment long awaited, Robert Barnes, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Judge Clarence Thomas said at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991 that he hadn’t given that much thought to whether Roe v. Wade was correctly decided.

But Justice Clarence Thomas, below left, took only months to reach a conclusion: the landmark 1973 ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion should be discarded.

clarence thomas official w“The power of a woman to abort her unborn child” is not a liberty protected by the Constitution, said a dissenting opinion from four members of the court, including Thomas.

The Supreme Court was invited to overturn Roe. A surprising majority didn’t

Thus began three decades of official Thomas opposition to the notion of a constitutionally protected right to abortion.

It will reach its zenith Wednesday, when Thomas and the most conservative Supreme Court in decades will consider a restrictive Mississippi abortion law that opponents and advocates alike agree is almost impossible to square with Roe and the precedents that have flowed from it.

The review coincides as well with something of a high-water mark for the 73-year-old Thomas, now the court’s longest-serving member. He sits on a court with more justices who think like him than at any other point in his career.

What the Supreme Court justices have said about abortion and Roe v. Wade

These days, his colleagues offer unprecedented deference. After years of not asking questions at oral arguments, Thomas this term has asked the first question in every hearing. That is because no one jumps in until he has finished his low-key inquiries.

 

More On Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Boris Johnson announces tougher entry rules to halt spread of variant in U.K., Karla Adam, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). In a bid to halt the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, announced new measures on Saturday evening, ranging from boris johnson tiemandatory self-quarantine for anyone arriving in the United Kingdom to tougher rules on mask-wearing.

The initiatives, including significant entry-rule changes made in response to the new variant, are a sign of how countries are reintroducing rules that many had thought were left behind.

Earlier in the day, Britain announced that two cases of the new variant, first identified in South Africa, had been detected in the U.K. The cases are linked and connected with travel to southern Africa.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel bars all foreigners, reinstates phone surveillance in effort to contain omicron variant, Shira Rubin, Nov. 28, 2021. Israel will forbid the entry of noncitizens for two weeks, starting at midnight Sunday night, in an attempt to stem the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant in Israel and to allow experts time to assess its level of transmissibility and resistance against existing vaccines.

israel flagThe newest variant, which was first detected in South Africa and which experts say may spread two to six times more quickly than the delta variant, is confirmed in one person and suspected in seven others in Israel. Only three of the suspected cases had recently european union logo rectanglereturned from abroad, raising concern that the variant’s transmission has already begun within Israel.

The United States, the European Union and Britain have begun implementing travel bans and restrictions for people coming from South Africa and neighboring countries. Israel is the first country to completely shut its borders because of the omicron variant.

washington post logoWashington Post, As new variant emerges, experts point to vaccine inequity between richer, poorer nations, Lesley Wroughton, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Across a world of vaccine haves and have-nots, the omicron variant sends a warning on how the virus can evolve and spread without more aggressive measures to expand vaccinations, a top South African scientist said Saturday.

“Until we vaccinate enough people we’re going to have this happen over and over again,” said Glenda Gray, head the South African Medical Research Council, as global health agencies rushed to understand more about the new variant just days after it was first identified in South Africa.

Her comments underscored one of the major challenges facing global efforts to curb the pandemic: the contrasts between wealthy nations with plentiful vaccines — and even booster shots — and world health organization logo Custommany poorer regions struggling to get vaccines and unable to fully distribute them.

In an opinion piece in the Guardian, former British prime minister Gordon Brown — now an ambassador with the World Health Organization — took aim at the developed world for failing to deliver donated doses it had promised.

“Despite the repeated warnings of health leaders, our failure to put vaccines into the arms of people in the developing world is now coming back to haunt us,” Brown wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, With much still to learn about omicron variant, here’s what is known so far, Meryl Kornfield, Adela Suliman, Christine Armario and María Luisa Paúl, Featured Nov. 28, 2021, updated Nov. 27. A new variant of the coronavirus that causes covid-19 is raising concern around the globe.

South Africa on Thursday confirmed that scientists there had detected a variant with a high number of mutations that could make it more easily transmissible. On Friday, the World Health Organization labeled it a “variant of concern,” a classification it has given to four other variants. The global health agency also gave it a Greek letter designation: omicron.

Several countries, including the United States, moved to curb flights Friday and Saturday from southern Africa, while epidemiologists began working to identify how far the variant may have spread. Cases have been identified in at least eight nations, most but not all tied to recent travel to Africa.

There is too little research to draw conclusions, with experts urging caution but not panic. Studies are underway to examine how vaccines hold up against the new variant, with some experts expressing initial optimism that they will offer protection. Officials in South Africa said most of those hospitalized with omicron had not gotten immunized.

 anthony fauci face nation 11 28 2021

Daily Beast, Fauci Burns Ted Cruz for Wanting Him Prosecuted: ‘What Happened on Jan. 6, Senator?!’ Justin Baragona, Nov. 28, 2021. Dr. Anthony Fauci got a bit snarky towards one of his loudest Republican critics on Sunday, firing back at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s demand that Attorney General Merrick Garland prosecute the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

daily beast logoDuring a wide-ranging sit-down with CBS News anchor Margaret Brennan, Fauci (shown above) dismissed the political “theater” coming from GOP lawmakers such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has called for Fauci to be arrested while accusing him of being responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brennan then noted that Cruz told the attorney general to prosecute Fauci, prompting the chief White House medical adviser to bring up the senator’s efforts to overturn the last presidential election. “I should be prosecuted?!” Fauci laughed. “What happened on Jan. 6, senator?!”

The CBS anchor went on to ask Fauci if he thought this was an attempt by Republicans to make him “a scapegoat to deflect from” former President Donald Trump. “Of course! You have to be asleep not to figure that one out,” he exclaimed.

“Sen. Cruz told the Attorney General you should be prosecuted.”

Dr. Fauci: [Laughs] I should be prosecuted? What happened on January 6th, senator? … That’s okay, I’m just gonna do my job. I'm gonna be saving lives, and [Republican lawmakers] are gonna be lying."

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Nov. 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 study finds:

World Cases: 261,512,384, Deaths: 5,215,675
U.S. Cases:     49,077,695, Deaths:    799,312
Indian Cases:   34,572,523, Deaths:    468,554
Brazil Cases:    22,076,863, Deaths:   614,236

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 28, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

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U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Rule of Six: A newly radicalized Supreme Court is poised to reshape the nation, Ruth Marcus, right, Nov. 28, 2021. Supreme ruth marcusCourt Justice William J. Brennan Jr., the Eisenhower appointee who became the liberal lion of the Warren Court, had a tradition for introducing every new batch of law clerks to the realities of the institution.

“Brennan liked to greet his new clerks each fall by asking them what they thought was the most important thing they needed to know as they began their work in his chambers,” Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel write in Liberal Champion, their Brennan biography. “The … stumped novices would watch quizzically as Brennan held up five fingers. Brennan then explained that with five votes, you could accomplish anything.”

Brennan, master vote-counter and vote-cajoler, was right — but there is an important corollary to his famous Rule of Five, one powerfully at work in the current Supreme Court. That is the Rule of Six. A five-justice majority is inherently fragile. It necessitates compromise and discourages overreach. Five justices tend to proceed with baby steps.

A six-justice majority is a different animal. A six-justice majority, such as the one now firmly in control, is the judicial equivalent of the monarchy’s “heir and a spare.” The pathways to victory are enlarged. The overall impact is far greater than the single-digit difference suggests.

On the current court, each conservative justice enjoys the prospect of being able to corral four colleagues, if not all five, in support of his or her beliefs, point of view or pet projects, whether that is outlawing affirmative action, ending constitutional protection for abortion, exalting religious liberty over all other rights or restraining the power of government agencies.

A six-justice majority is emboldened rather than hesitant; so, too, are the conservative advocates who appear before it. Such a court doesn’t need to trim its sails, hedge its language, or abide by legal niceties if it seems more convenient to dispense with them.

A conservative justice wary of providing a fifth vote for a controversial position can take comfort in the thought that now there are six; there is strength in that number. Meantime, a court with a six-justice majority is one in which the justices on the other side of the ideological spectrum are effectively consigned to a perpetual minority. They craft dissents that may serve as rebukes for the ages but do little to achieve change in the present. The most they can manage is damage control, and that only rarely.

Travis McMichael, left, Gregory McMichael and neighbor William

Travis McMichael, left, his father Gregory McMichael, center, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. (Ahmaud Arbery trial pool photo via Getty).

dan rather outspoken coverSteady, Opinion: A Jury for America, Dan Rather (shown at right on the cover of a memoir), Nov. 28, 2021. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

News of the verdict rocketed around the world: three white men convicted of murdering a young Black man, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, as he jogged through the small coastal town of Brunswick, Georgia.

Many news outlets framed their reporting through the lens of history - the deep stains of injustice that have defined much of the American story on account of race, crime, and punishment. That this judgement came out of a courtroom in the Deep South, and that it was decided by a jury composed almost exclusively of white people, was a newsworthy lede that made the story one of global interest.

This was, and is, progress. I have covered enough cases, stretching back to the 1950s, to have seen the playbook of white juries acquitting white men of killing Black people play out many times. Many of these cases had evidence that should have been open and shut for conviction, but for the race of those who committed the crime, the race of the victims, and the race of those passing judgement.

To all this tortured history, we now have a counternarrative. It says that, even in a small town in the South, the racial realities aren’t what they once were. We can rightfully celebrate this shift. But we also must recognize that the complete story around the Arbery case paints a murkier picture.

The conviction in Georgia almost didn’t happen. The trial almost didn’t happen. The arrests almost didn’t happen. The murderers walked free for 74 days after the killing. It took weeks of pressure and the recusal of not one but two prosecutors. It took the dogged determination of Larry Hobbs, a reporter for the small local paper, The Brunswick News, who wouldn’t give up on a story he felt was suspicious. It took the courage of Arbery’s family who, as often happens in cases like this, had to mix grief with advocacy. And it likely took a cellphone video, recorded and released by one of the murderers, which showed the events of that fateful day with a clarity that couldn’t be ignored. But for all of this, we might not have gotten to the point of a trial, let alone the convictions.

In the days since the judgement came down, I have been trying to think of the broader contexts that the case illuminates. I see progress, to be sure. But I also recognize the precarious path that progress often takes. When it comes to race, America is not the country of my youth. Not by a longshot, thank God. We are not the country of my young adulthood, or even my middle age. There were times, in courtrooms of the past, when Arbery’s killers would have walked free. But there might still be courtrooms and circumstances today where that would be the case, especially if the evidence hadn’t been so overwhelming.

 

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence greet a gathering of sheriffs at the White House on Sept. 5, 2018 (Washington Post photo by Calla Kessler).

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence greet a group of sheriffs at the White House on Sept. 5, 2018 (Washington Post photo by Calla Kessler).

washington post logoWashington Post, Unaccountable: An Examination of Policing in America: Under Trump, U.S. officials aggressively sought sheriffs to detain undocumented immigrants, Debbie Cenziper, Madison Muller, Monique Beals, Rebecca Holland and Andrew Ba Tran, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). The Trump administration recruited local law enforcement partners and courted sheriffs who championed similar views on immigration policy, according to dozens of emails obtained by The Post.

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins had spent years advocating for the removal of undocumented immigrants when he received a prized photo in his inbox in February 2019. It came from a group that has long fought to slash the number of immigrants allowed into the United States.

In the photo, Jenkins and more than three dozen other sheriffs posed (above) under a chandelier in the East Room of the White House.

Jenkins, serving his fourth term as sheriff in the western Maryland county, quickly forwarded the photo to an acquaintance. “Check this out,” he wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post.

“Pretty important!” she replied moments later. “You all meet to discuss how to get rid of the illegals?”

“Indeed!” Jenkins wrote back. “I have had the pleasure of being with the Pres on at least five occasions.”

The White House gathering in September 2018 was part of a two-day media and lobbying blitz by the Federation for American Immigration Reform to promote border control and immigration enforcement, including a contentious national program known as 287(g) that for years has drawn support from Jenkins and other sheriffs.

Operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the program empowers state and local law enforcement officers to act with federal authority: questioning, reporting and detaining undocumented immigrants. Although ICE promised that the program would focus only on serious criminals, pro-immigration groups have repeatedly warned that the partnerships enable hard-line sheriffs to target undocumented immigrants leading peaceful lives.

Despite mounting concerns about discriminatory policing, the Trump administration aggressively recruited local law enforcement partners and courted sheriffs who championed similar views on immigration policy, according to dozens of internal ICE emails obtained by The Post.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Biden administration is moving too slowly on ‘ghost guns’ like the one that killed my daughter, Bryan Muehlberger, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Bryan Muehlberger is the founder of the GracieStrong Foundation.

The worst package I’ve ever received in the mail was a DIY kit for a “ghost gun” addressed to my recently murdered daughter — who had been killed with a firearm made from a similar, easy-to-obtain kit.

My loving, funny, full-of-life daughter, Gracie, was shot to death by a classmate at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, Calif., on Nov. 14, 2019. She was 15 years old. The murderer also killed 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell and injured three other students before turning the gun on himself.

Gracie had purchased a ticket for her first high school dance only minutes before she was killed. The boy who shot her used a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol known as a ghost gun because they come without serial numbers and are completely untraceable.

nra logo CustomGhost gun kits sell for a few hundred dollars online. No background check is needed. The weapons are technically “unfinished,” thus skirting the law, but are often promoted online as 80 percent complete, requiring only a drill for assembly. (Sometimes the kits helpfully include the necessary drill bits.)

Putting together the components typically takes an hour or two. The top five YouTube instructional videos for constructing the guns have been viewed more than 3 million times.

Less than five months after my daughter was killed, as I learned more about ghost guns, I ordered a kit online, using her name, because I wanted to see how easy it really was. I had a feeling that these companies don’t care who buys their products. Or care if the purchaser has a felony conviction or if the purchaser, as Gracie would have been, is too young to legally purchase a gun. Or isn’t even alive.

When I received the kit in the mail, I cried. I was right.

Other recent headlines:

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, How the $4 Trillion Flood of Covid Relief Is Funding the Future, Charley Locke, Photographs by Christopher Payne, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). From broadband to transportation to high-tech medical manufacturing, benefits from America’s pandemic money infusion will linger.

joe biden twitterCovid-19 put American infrastructure to the test — and by most measures, it failed, exposing the unstable, outdated systems that uphold our lives. Students without access to the internet tried to get by on once-a-week printed packets. Nurses wore trash bags as medical equipment. Nobody could buy toilet paper. But these failures, along with so many more, may also have provided the impetus — in the form of unprecedented federal funding — for the United States to modernize itself, filling cracks and bridging gaps in our technological, medical and manufacturing capabilities that have been widening for decades.

To date, the federal government has allocated $4.52 trillion in response to Covid-19 — a staggering figure, one that exceeds the entire federal budget in 2019. Most of that funding comes from just two bills: the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, passed in March 2020 ($2.2 trillion), and the American Rescue Plan Act, or A.R.P., from March 2021 ($1.9 trillion).

These bills covered a huge range of funding, much of it focused on short-term recovery: Together, they allocated more than $1 trillion in direct aid to Americans in economic need, including $464 billion for additional unemployment benefits and $695 billion for stimulus checks, and also allocated nearly $428 billion for programs to aid small businesses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The hypocrisy argument on the filibuster is itself phony, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Nov. 28, 2021. With the Senate facing a do-or-die ej dionne w open neckmoment on whether it will protect the right to vote and honest counts in elections, opponents of much-needed reforms want to shift the topic to whether liberals are hypocrites about filibuster rules.

Their desire to change the subject is understandable. Opponents of the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act prefer not to explain why a Republican Party that once embraced voting rights bills now echoes segregationist Democrats of old in defending “states’ rights” over federal voting guarantees.

And they would rather not be pressed on why they want to roll back the advances that made voting easier in 2020. More mail and early voting, drop boxes, less cumbersome registration and a slew of other changes led to record-breaking turnout.

Enter the Senate’s filibuster rules. Because every Republican senator voted against the Freedom to Vote Act last month — and all but one opposed even debating the John Lewis voting rights bill this month — no bill that would do anything worthwhile can reach the 60-vote threshold required to overcome the filibuster.

Reforming the filibuster is the only way Democrats can pass the voting guarantees favored by civil rights groups and democracy advocates. It’s the only way they can undo the voter suppression and election subversion laws that have been passed in more than a dozen GOP-controlled states since 2020. It’s the only way to dismantle wildly partisan gerrymanders.

This is where the hypocrisy charges come in. It is true that Democrats have used the filibuster to kill Republican bills in the past. It’s true that many Democrats once defended the filibuster. And conservatives can quickly unearth lots of quotations from Democratic senators asserting, well, the opposite of what many Democrats are saying now.

But beyond the fact that the retreat to procedural arguments dodges the substance of the rights at stake, the hypocrisy charge fails on the most basic level: No Democrat or progressive who has flipped on the filibuster is pretending they didn’t. They are quite clear in saying versions of what the Senate arch-traditionalist Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said in 1979: Rules that seemed appropriate in the past “must be changed to reflect changed circumstances.”

There are two big reasons why senators should vote to reform the filibuster, no matter their past views. The first is institutional: What started out as an unusual practice to extend debate has become a routine method for blocking the will of the majority. To put it starkly: Abuse of the filibuster is wrecking the Senate.

But the core reason the filibuster must be reformed is the moral imperative of passing bills to defend democracy. It confronts multiple challenges: to the right to vote; the right to have votes counted without political interference; and the right of voters to select their representatives — and not have politicians do it by drawing wildly partisan district boundaries.

If it fails to act, the party that won power in 2020 as the bulwark of democracy and civil rights will be saying that these commitments matter less than fealty to an outdated, dysfunctional practice that has been altered repeatedly in pursuit of far less noble goals.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Minneapolis, White Families Are Asked to Help Do the Integrating, Sarah Mervosh, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). In a citywide overhaul, a beloved Black high school was rezoned to include white students from a richer neighborhood. It has been hard for everyone.

 Other recent headlines:

 

World News, Global Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, Afghan Economy Nears Collapse as Pressure Builds to Ease U.S. Sanctions, Christina Goldbaum, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Afghanistan’s economy has crashed since the Taliban seized power, plunging the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Three months into the Taliban’s rule, Afghanistan’s economy has all but collapsed, plunging the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Millions of dollars of aid that once propped up the previous government has vanished, billions in state assets are frozen and economic sanctions have isolated the new government from the global banking system.

Now, Afghanistan faces a dire cash shortage that has crippled banks and businesses, sent food and fuel prices soaring, and triggered a devastating hunger crisis. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization warned that around 3.2 million children were likely to suffer from acute malnutrition in Afghanistan by the end of the year — one million of whom at risk of dying as temperatures drop.

No corner of Afghanistan has been left untouched.

In the capital, desperate families have hawked furniture on the side of the road in exchange for food. Across other major cities, public hospitals do not have the money to buy badly needed medical supplies or to pay doctors and nurses, some of who have left their posts. Rural clinics are overrun with feeble children, whose parents cannot afford food. Economic migrants have flocked to the Iranian and Pakistani borders.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes? For One Man, It Seems to Have Worked, Gina Kolata, Nov. 28, 2021 (print ed.). A new treatment using stem cells that produce insulin has surprised experts and given them hope for the 1.5 million Americans living with the disease.

Brian Shelton’s life was ruled by Type 1 diabetes.

When his blood sugar plummeted, he would lose consciousness without warning. He crashed his motorcycle into a wall. He passed out in a customer’s yard while delivering mail. Following that episode, his supervisor told him to retire, after a quarter century in the Postal Service. He was 57.

His ex-wife, Cindy Shelton, took him into her home in Elyria, Ohio. “I was afraid to leave him alone all day,” she said.

Early this year, she spotted a call for people with Type 1 diabetes to participate in a clinical trial by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The company was testing a treatment developed over decades by a scientist who vowed to find a cure after his baby son and then his teenage daughter got the devastating disease.

Mr. Shelton was the first patient. On June 29, he got an infusion of cells, grown from stem cells but just like the insulin-producing pancreas cells his body lacked.

Recent Global Headlines:

 

Special Events: #MeToo Advocacy

The following event is recommended by the Justice Integrity Project

Rally for the victims of Jeffery Epstein on December 4, 2021!

              • Where: 1 Saint Andrews Plaza, New York, New York 10007
              • When:  1:00 PM

Details: Jeffrey Epstein trafficked underage girls for 25 years, and he’s the most prolific American child trafficker ever acknowledged by law enforcement. The media has sanitized the Epstein trafficking network by ostensibly determining that the youngest Epstein victims were 14 years old, even though multiple accounts state that they were as young as 11 or 12 years old.

A Sheer Post article published in August by Nick Bryant, left, “The Jeffrey Epstein Coverup: Pedophilia, Lies and Videotape,” demonstrates that more than two years nick bryant hsafter Epstein’s death federal law enforcement has utterly ignored indicting the procurers and perpetrators in the Epstein network.

Since Epstein’s death, over two years ago, the Justice Department and FBI have only indicted one of the perps—Ghislaine Maxwell—in the Epstein network. The many procurers and perps who colluded with Epstein have been unscathed by federal law enforcement. Epstein’s victims have courageously sought justice through civil litigation, but should the demand for justice fall solely on the shoulders of Epstein’s victims?

No! And you can help. Please sign our petition that is supported by seven Jeffrey Epstein victims, 40 anti-trafficking organizations and thousands of concerned citizens, demanding that the procurers and perpetrators in the Epstein trafficking network be brought to justice.

As a country dedicated to children’s safety, we must make a stand and pressure the government to bring the Epstein procurers and perpetrators to justice. We cannot send a message to the world that perpetrators in America who have wealth and power can molest our children with impunity. And if we allow the Justice Department to be apathetic and unresponsive to victims in a proven trafficking case, that sends a message to millions of victims that they have no voice and no hope for justice. Victims in the United States and around the world need to see that these child molesters are brought to justice.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter," said Martin Luther King, Jr.

The New York Police Department is issuing a permit for us to assemble in front of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, located at 1 Saint Andrews Plaza, New York, New York 10007, on Saturday December 4, 2021, at 1:00 PM.

The rally will be held a week after Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial commences. Our assembly will be peaceful and politically non-partisan. The Justice Department under four presidential administrations—George W. Bush, Barak Obama, Donald Trump, and now Joseph Biden—have failed to indict the perpetrators in Epstein’s pedophile network. #KidsToo/EpsteinJustice is not about politics, it's about the protection of our children.

Silence merely empowers perpetrators. Email a question to the organizers or ask for info about organizing a rally in your community.

 

U.S. Media, Sports News

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Local News Outlets Could Reap $1.7 Billion in Build Back Better Aid, Marc Tracy, Nov. 29, 2021 (print ed.). A small paper like The Storm Lake Times in Iowa would receive a big tax credit. So would Gannett, the nation’s largest news publisher.

For The Storm Lake Times, a family-run paper in northwestern Iowa, it could mean $200,000 in federal subsidies the first year and nearly $500,000 over the four years after that.

For EO Media, which publishes more than a dozen community newspapers in the Pacific Northwest, it could amount to $1.2 million the first year and $2.9 million over the next four.

gannett logo CustomAnd Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country, could receive $37.5 million the first year and tens of millions after that.

The relief would come in the form of a payroll tax credit earmarked for local news organizations, a small part of the Build Back Better bill that the House passed on Nov. 19.

“It acknowledges democracy starts at home,” said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School who studies the decline of local journalism.

If the $2.2 trillion social safety net and climate package makes it through the Senate, where it faces a stiff challenge, it will provide $1.67 billion over the next five years for newspapers, websites, radio and TV stations, and other outlets that primarily cover local news. If eligible, they could reap up to $25,000 for each locally focused journalist they employ in the first year and $15,000 in each of the next four.

News outlets across the country have struggled for decades, as the rise of digital media slowed their once-dependable streams of revenue — print ads and classifieds — to a trickle. With few exceptions, those publications have not made up the difference with digital advertising, an industry dominated by Google and Facebook.

Media outlets funded by political action committees would not be eligible. The same holds true for news organizations that do not carry media liability insurance or fail to disclose their owners. News publishers with more than 1,500 employees at a single location also would not qualify, under the terms of the bill. The New York Times would be ineligible for the tax credit, a company spokeswoman said.

Large chains that include publications focused on local coverage would be eligible. One of them, Gannett, borrowed more than $1 billion two years ago gatehouse media logofrom the private equity firm Apollo Global Management as part of its merger with Gatehouse Media.

Other major chains with Wall Street ties could also benefit from the tax credit. Tribune Publishing and MediaNews Group, both owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, appear to be eligible, as does McClatchy, which is owned by the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management.

Maribel Perez Wadsworth, the president of news at Gannett, defended the inclusion of her company, which publishes roughly 250 local newspapers, alden global capital logoincluding The Arizona Republic, The Detroit Free Press and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (as well as USA Today). “Scale allows us to solve for some things,” she said, “but at the end of the day they’re local newsrooms with local reporters and photographers and editors, up against the same headwinds.”

McClatchy declined to comment. A representative for Alden did not respond to a request for comment.

There are now 200 U.S. counties without a newspaper, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina, and more than 2,100 papers have shut down since 2004. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of journalists at newspapers fell to 31,000 last year from 71,000 in 2008.

Supporters of the tax credit note the role that local news outlets play in bringing communities together. Without them, who will chronicle town meetings, hold local official accountable and note births, deaths and weddings?

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Inside the ‘Misinformation’ Wars, Ben Smith, right, Nov. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Journalists and academics are developing a new ben smith twitterlanguage for truth. The results are not always clearer.

On Friday afternoons this fall, top American news executives have dialed into a series of off-the-record Zoom meetings led by Harvard academics whose goal is to “help newsroom leaders fight misinformation and media manipulation.”

Those are hot topics in the news industry right now, and so the program at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy drew an impressive roster of executives at CNN, NBC News, The Associated Press, Axios and other major U.S. outlets.

A couple of them, though, told me they were puzzled by the reading package for the first session.

It consisted of a Harvard case study, which a participant shared with me, examining the coverage of Hunter Biden’s lost laptop in the final days of the harvard logo2020 campaign. The story had been pushed by aides and allies of then-President Donald J. Trump who tried to persuade journalists that the hard drive’s contents would reveal the corruption of the father.

The news media’s handling of that narrative provides “an instructive case study on the power of social media and news organizations to mitigate media manipulation campaigns,” according to the Shorenstein Center summary.

The Hunter Biden laptop saga sure is instructive about something. As you may recall, panicked Trump allies frantically dumped its contents onto the internet and into reporters’ inboxes, a trove that apparently included embarrassing images and emails purportedly from the candidate’s son showing that he had tried to trade on the family name. The big social media platforms, primed for a repeat of the WikiLeaks 2016 election shenanigans, reacted forcefully: Twitter blocked links to a New York Post story that tied Joe Biden to the emails without strong evidence (though Twitter quickly reversed that decision) and Facebook limited the spread of the Post story under its own “misinformation” policy.

hunter biden unshaven newBut as it now appears, the story about the laptop was an old-fashioned, politically motivated dirty tricks campaign, and describing it with the word “misinformation” doesn’t add much to our understanding of what happened. While some of the emails purportedly on the laptop have since been called genuine by at least one recipient, the younger Mr. Biden, right, has said he doesn’t know if the laptop in question was his. And the “media manipulation campaign” was a threadbare, 11th-hour effort to produce a late-campaign scandal, an attempt at an October Surprise that has been part of nearly every presidential campaign I’ve covered.

The Wall Street Journal, as I reported at the time, looked hard at the story. Unable to prove that Joe Biden had tried, as vice president, to change U.S. policy to enrich a family member, The Journal refused to tell it the way the Trump aides wanted, leaving that spin to the right-wing tabloids. What remained was a murky situation that is hard to call “misinformation,” even if some journalists and academics like the clarity of that label. The Journal’s role was, in fact, a pretty standard journalistic exercise, a blend of fact-finding and the sort of news judgment that has fallen a bit out of favor as journalists have found themselves chasing social media.

 alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Alex Jones is facing a reckoning. Let it be a warning to other conspiracy theorists, Editorial Board, Nov. 28, 2021. Distortions. Lies. Profiteering off the hurt of others. Those are the signature characteristics that mark the radio work of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (shown above in a file photo.

So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Mr. Jones reacted to a judge’s ruling against him in lawsuits brought by families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., with more distortions, more lies and more attempts to raise money.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis earlier this month found Mr. Jones liable for damages in defamation lawsuits brought by the families of eight people killed in the 2012 school massacre after the Infowars host made repeated claims that the shooting was a giant hoax.

The judge ruled that because Mr. Jones had refused to turn over documents ordered by the court, he was liable by default. A similar determination was made by a Texas court in September in two lawsuits filed by victims’ families. Jury trials will next be held to determine the amount of damages.

After Judge Bellis issued her ruling, Mr. Jones went on air and complained about being deprived of a fair trial and invoked his rights to free speech under the First Amendment. Days later, he released a video pleading for money.

Mr. Jones’s claim about being denied a fair trial is undermined by his own refusal to cooperate with the courts in basic procedures necessary to conduct one. Judge Bellis said years of what she called inappropriate conduct by Mr. Jones’s attorneys regarding depositions and the “callous disregard” for her repeated rulings required the most severe sanction of default, which she called “a last resort.” The judge in the Texas case cited the defendants’ “general bad faith” toward the litigation and Mr. Jones’s “public threats,” as well as his contention that the proceedings were show trials.

Multiple efforts by Mr. Jones to have the cases dismissed on First Amendment grounds have been roundly rejected by the state courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. We are the first to stand up for First Amendment rights, but Mr. Jones’s repeated false claims that the shooting at Sandy Hook in which 26 people were killed was a hoax — “staged,” he said, and “inside job written all over it” — were beyond the pale and outside the Constitution’s protections. Mr. Jones, who has now belatedly acknowledged the reality of Sandy Hook, had no credible evidence for his outrageous claims, and his knowing lies did terrible damage to people who already had suffered the tragic loss of loved ones. One family has had to move nearly 10 times and even now is living in hiding.

The families have yet to specify the amount of damages they are seeking, and there is no amount of money that can make up for what they have suffered and will continue to suffer. Their hope, though, is that they will be able to establish that conspiracy profiteering off the tragedy of others is not an acceptable business model. Let’s hope that others in this age of increasing misinformation get that message.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Vick found a future on TV, but his past is still chasing, Michael Lee, Nov. 28, 2021. Michael Vick appears in the lobby dressed in all-black sweats, a look that helps one of the NFL’s most famous — and at one point, most infamous — retirees find a seat in the middle of the hotel’s restaurant without notice. He’s lean and fit; the gray hairs on his chin are all that keep you from assuming Vick could still make a pair of defenders comically take out each other in an attempt to tackle him.

michael vick foxVick, right, was once the future — not the first dual-threat quarterback in NFL history but the reimagined version, the one whose game looked as though it had been created with the assistance of computer-generated imaging. But the future is now the present, and the quarterback position has finally gone where Vick was supposed to take it.

fox news logo SmallVick, settling in for lunch on a fall Saturday, says he “changed the game” but admits that so much was left on the table. He retired without winning an MVP award or a Super Bowl ring, and he knows his trophy mantel would’ve been more crowded, his reputation less tattered, if not for his own hubris and an inability to reject the lures of the Newport News, Va., neighborhood that made him.

“I was a kid from the ghetto,” Vick says. “I never wanted to leave.”

His involvement in a deadly dogfighting ring halted a breathtaking career in its prime. He served his time, but no matter what he has done since — becoming a spokesman for animal rights, regaining all-pro status after his time in prison, and finding a second career in broadcasting — he can’t scramble from the stain. Still, he’s here, trying, with stories to share and a legacy linked to his darkest moment.

“I hate it,” Vick, 41, says between bites of Caesar salad. “I think about that more than all the good years and the good times. S---, it hurt [my chances of] going in the Hall of Fame. It’s going to impact everything. But it was all self-inflicted. I was young. I didn’t have no guidance. I don’t use this as no excuse. I could’ve said, ‘No.’ I could’ve made those right decisions, like, ‘This ain’t for me.’ That’s a blemish that I will never be able to erase.”

CelticsBlog, Shams: Enes Kanter is changing his name to Enes Kanter Freedom, Jack Simone, Nov. 28, 2021. The Boston Celtics center has changed his name just one day prior to officially becoming a U.S. citizen.

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is officially changing his name to Enes Kanter Freedom, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Kanter will become his middle name. He officially becomes a U.S. citizen tomorrow.

The Celtics center will earn U.S. citizenship after years of living in exile from his home country Turkey. For much of his NBA career, Kanter been publicly critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In 2017, the Turkish government revoked Kanter’s passport, accusing him and his family of terrorism. His father was jailed and later released. Kanter has skipped trips to Europe with his teams for fear of assassination.

Kanter has made headlines throughout this season with his social media campaign against the Chinese’s government treatment of the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities, millions of whom have been detained in internment camps in the Xinjiang province since 2017. Though Kanter’s main target this year has been Nike, he has called out Lebron James and Michael Jordan, who represent the brand, in the process. Celtics games, along with those of the Philadelphia 76ers, are not aired in China.

On the court, Kanter has been picking up the pace as of late. In his last five games with the Celtics, he is averaging 5.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per night. Kanter has seen a serious uptick in minutes since Robert Williams has been out with a non-COVID illness.

 

Nov. 27

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

World News, Global Human Rights

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Media, Entertainment

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Countries race to cut travel links with southern Africa amid fears of new variant, Chico Harlan and Lesley Wroughton, Nov. 27, 2021. The just-discovered omicron variant has raised fears about the global trajectory of the pandemic, in part because the world is still struggling to contend with delta.

european union logo rectangleA new round of countries on Saturday rushed to cut off or restrict travel to the southern region of Africa, aiming to slow the spread of the just-discovered omicron variant, which has a high number of mutations and has raised fears about the global trajectory of the pandemic.

Australia and Japan are among the latest nations to either halt flights to the region or announce mandatory quarantines and screenings. Thailand said it would bar entry from the same eight countries — Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa — that the United States had targeted with restrictions one day earlier.

“It is quite different to previous variants we have been watching,” Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said. He called his government’s approach “proportionate to the risk.”

  • U.S. to restrict travel from southern Africa as it assesses new variant
  • New York declares covid state of emergency as Gov. Hochul warns omicron variant ‘is coming’

washington post logoWashington Post, Omicron variant feared at Amsterdam airport as the Netherlands enters night-time lockdown, Amy Cheng, Nov. 27, 2021. The Netherlands braced for dozens of cases coming from two flights from South Africa as researchers raced to determine if passengers were infected with the variant.

Two planes carrying some 600 passengers from South Africa brought 61 people infected with covid to the Netherlands, Dutch health authorities said on Saturday after halting flights from several southern African countries over fears of the new omicron variant.

Passengers were tested at the airport and those with infections will be isolated at a hotel, a regional Dutch health agency said. The health body did not immediately return a request for comment early Saturday on whether the omicron variant was detected among the positive samples, though it has said researchers were racing to make a determination “as soon as possible.”

Omicron, a variant of the coronavirus that some scientists fear could be more transmissible than delta, was labeled as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization Friday. It was first detected in the southern region of Africa, where cases have started rising again in recent days.

Kevin Strickland, 62, managed a smile while talking to the media after his release from prison on Nov. 23 in Cameron, Mo. Strickland, who was jailed for more than 40 years for three murders, was released from prison after a judge ruled that he was wrongfully convicted in 1979. (Photo by Rich Sugg of the Kansas City Star via AP.)

Kevin Strickland, 62, managed a smile while talking to the media after his release from prison on Nov. 23 in Cameron, Mo. Strickland, who was jailed for more than 40 years for three murders, was released from prison after a judge ruled that he was wrongfully convicted in 1979. (Photo by Rich Sugg of the Kansas City Star via AP.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Exonerated former inmate won’t get compensation from Missouri, so donors raised $1 million, Lindsey Bever and Timothy Bella, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Kevin Strickland was exonerated in a 1978 triple murder, but under Missouri law, he is not eligible for any compensation from the state for the 43 years he spent behind bars — one of the longest-standing wrongful convictions in the nation’s history.

That hasn’t stopped his supporters from stepping in instead, raising more than $1 million through a GoFundMe campaign to help him start a new life.

“Missouri is not going to pay Mr. Strickland a dime, but the whole world is going to make sure he’s compensated,” Tricia Rojo Bushnell, Strickland’s attorney and executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project, said in a phone interview Friday with The Washington Post.

Strickland was released Tuesday after Judge James Welsh ruled that the 62-year-old man’s conviction should be tossed. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, family members provided alibis and the admitted killers said he was not present when Sherrie Black, 22, Larry Ingram, 21, and John Walker, 20, were shot to death. The case had been built on the testimony of a sole eyewitness who later tried to recant her testimony.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Abortion Law Complicates Care for Risky Pregnancies, Roni Caryn Rabin, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Doctors in Texas say they cannot head off life-threatening medical crises in pregnant women if abortions cannot be offered or even discussed.

A few weeks after Texas adopted the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, Dr. Andrea Palmer delivered terrible news to a Fort Worth patient who was midway through her pregnancy.

The fetus had a rare neural tube defect. The brain would not develop, and the infant would die at birth or shortly afterward. Carrying the pregnancy to term would be emotionally grueling and would also raise the mother’s risk of blood clots and severe postpartum bleeding, the doctor warned.

But the patient was past six weeks’ gestation, and under the new law, an abortion was not an option in Texas because the woman was not immediately facing a life-threatening medical crisis or risk of permanent disability.

“So we look at them like a ticking time bomb and wait for the complications to develop,” Dr. Palmer said of her patients.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, As cases rise nationwide, a flood of covid patients causes ‘almost unmanageable’ stress in Mich., Brittany Shammas and Paulina Firozi, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). At Spectrum Health, a major health-care system here, officials spent part of last week debating whether to move to “red status” in a show of how strained hospitals had become.

A flood of mostly unvaccinated covid-19 patients was arriving at emergency departments already packed with people suffering other medical issues, michigan mapsending capacity to unprecedented levels. The only hesitation for Spectrum’s decision-makers? Data suggested the covid surge was not over.
Tracker: U.S. coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations

“We don’t have a darker color,” said Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan. “So if we’re red now, what are we in two weeks?”

He and other leaders ultimately decided Thursday to make the change, upgrading the health-care system to the most serious tier for the first time since the pandemic began. In recent days, the state had emerged as a new covid hot spot, leading the nation in new infections and hospitalizations. By the end of last week, its seven-day average of new cases had hit a pandemic high. State leaders asked the U.S. Department of Defense to provide emergency hospital staffing to handle the surge — a request granted Wednesday.

Tracking coronavirus cases

Coronavirus cases are on the rise nationally, an unwelcome trend after leveling off earlier this fall. On Monday, the United States reported a seven-day daily average of just under 93,000 cases — an 18 percent jump from a week earlier, according to figures from a briefing by the White House covid-19 response team. Hospitalizations were also up, increasing 6 percent to about 5,600 patients admitted per day.

At least two dozen states have seen cases rise at least 5 percent in the past two weeks, with Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Hampshire and North Dakota each recording per capita jumps of more than 60 percent. Some highly vaccinated states, including Vermont and Massachusetts, were also seeing steep rises in cases.

washington post logoWashington Post, New data shows Merck’s experimental covid-19 pill is less effective than early results predicted, Katie Shepherd, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). fda logoA Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is expected to review the drug Tuesday.

Drugmaker Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics released data Friday showing their experimental pill to treat covid-19 is less effective than early clinical trials predicted, a finding that emerged as the Food and Drug Administration raised questions about the drug.

Molnupiravir, a pill that could be taken at home, had shown promise in cutting the risk of hospitalization and death by half among high-risk patients in data released by the company in October. But according to the latest findings Merck presented to the FDA, the pill reduced the risk of hospitalization merck logoand death only by 30 percent.

The study by the drugmakers found that, among participants receiving the pill, just one participant died during the trial, compared with nine deaths in the placebo group, the companies said in a news release Friday.

“It’s still a 30 percent effect, which is still good for a high-risk population,” said David Boulware, an infectious-disease physician and professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School who was not involved in Merck’s research. “It’s better than zero, and it’s a starting point, but it’s a little bit more modest.”

The FDA on Friday asked a panel of expert advisers to weigh the benefit of reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients against potential risks associated with the drug. Because Merck and Ridgeback presented new clinical trial data to the agency after FDA scientists completed their review, regulators said their analysis may change ahead of a Tuesday meeting to consider the scientific evidence on the drug.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Nov. 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 study finds:

World Cases: 261,067,096, Deaths: 5,210,063
U.S. Cases:     49,050,917, Deaths:    799,138
Indian Cases:   34,563,749, Deaths:    467,933
Brazil Cases:   22,067,630, Deaths:    614,000

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 27, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

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U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Embattled federal prisons need to prioritize employee disciplinary procedures, Editorial Board, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.).  When the warden of a women’s prison in Northern California was indicted in September on charges he had repeatedly sexually abused an inmate, forced her to undress and took nude photos of her — and then warned her he wouldn’t be punished owing to his connections — it was yet another black eye for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Prison systems are notoriously prone to corruption, racketeering and malfeasance within their employees’ ranks, but the long-standing problems at the bureau, which is part of the Justice Department, have come to seem endemic. In a recently published investigation, the Associated Press reported that more than 100 federal prison employees have been convicted, sentenced or arrested for crimes in the past three years. Of the criminal cases brought against Justice Department workers in recent years, two-thirds involved bureau personnel, who account for less than one-third of the department’s total payroll, the AP found.

The bureau, with an annual budget of nearly $8 billion, runs a network of facilities across the country that houses more than 150,000 inmates — roughly the same as in Texas, which incarcerates more people than any other state. About 37,500 people are on the bureau’s payroll.

The agency has suffered from a litany of problems in recent years, including short-staffing, escapes, and a staggering toll taken by the coronavirus pandemic, which resulted in almost 42,000 inmates testing positive for covid-19. At the Justice Department, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco says she is “taking a very serious look at these issues across the board.”

Good to hear. But what does it mean?

What steps is the department taking to rein in molestation and other sex crimes, which are second only to contraband violations among the offenses for which bureau workers have been charged or arrested? What training, oversight or investigative enhancements are being considered to transmit the message that bureau employees should meet the agency’s standards?

In particular, is the department reviewing the prison bureau’s disciplinary procedures? That would seem a pressing priority given the several instances in which the bureau apparently ignored accusations of misconduct against workers and, in other cases, did not suspend employees even after they were arrested for crimes, according to the AP investigation.

Among the more urgent problems facing the bureau is a vacancy rate of approximately one-third among its more than 20,000 corrections positions. That means fewer guards to keep an eye on inmates, which has prompted some facilities to use cooks, teachers and nurses in their place. The bureau is not alone among employers these days struggling to fill jobs or, for that matter, to maintain standards. But in a sprawling prison system, the price of falling short is high.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: D.C.’s homicide crisis isn’t just about guns. It’s about why people are willing to kill, Colbert I. King, right, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). colbert king twitterFor several years, I have written in late December about our city having once again reached a new and dreadful homicide mark. This time, it’s different. On Monday, the city recorded its 200th homicide in 2021 — an annual death toll not seen since 2003. And we have five more weeks to go.

The city has strong gun laws. The police have struggled to get illegal guns off the streets. The mayor is even offering large sums of money for anonymous gun tips that result in firearms recovery and arrests.

That still hasn’t stopped residents from reaching for guns — not to sell, but to use to threaten, rob or kill one another.

The rifle, pistol, machete are not mind-controlling devices that make people do what they ought not to do. Guns, knives, tire irons are means. The urge, the willingness to use them to kill or hurt another person stems from elsewhere.

What does create that urge? Think rage. Think greed, revenge, jealousy, fright, being looked down upon, mental brokenness — pick one, add others.

Our crisis — the urge to kill — is the curve that needs flattening. Otherwise, the annual homicide threshold will keep rising even as mothers, grandmas and other loved ones weep, and bodies continue to fall.

 

World News, Global Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, A Cure for Type 1 Diabetes? For One Man, It Seems to Have Worked, Gina Kolata, Nov. 27, 2021. A new treatment using stem cells that produce insulin has surprised experts and given them hope for the 1.5 million Americans living with the disease.

Brian Shelton’s life was ruled by Type 1 diabetes.

When his blood sugar plummeted, he would lose consciousness without warning. He crashed his motorcycle into a wall. He passed out in a customer’s yard while delivering mail. Following that episode, his supervisor told him to retire, after a quarter century in the Postal Service. He was 57.

His ex-wife, Cindy Shelton, took him into her home in Elyria, Ohio. “I was afraid to leave him alone all day,” she said.

Early this year, she spotted a call for people with Type 1 diabetes to participate in a clinical trial by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The company was testing a treatment developed over decades by a scientist who vowed to find a cure after his baby son and then his teenage daughter got the devastating disease.

Mr. Shelton was the first patient. On June 29, he got an infusion of cells, grown from stem cells but just like the insulin-producing pancreas cells his body lacked.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine’s Zelensky alleges Russia plotting coup against him for next week, David L. Stern, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). In remarks to journalists, President Volodymyr Zelensky said audio recordings showed Russian and Ukrainian conspirators were planning to overthrow him next week. He added that his rival, Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s richest man, was being drawn into the plot.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that a group of Russian and Ukrainians is planning to stage a coup d’etat in Ukraine next month and that the plotters are trying to enlist the help of the country’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov.

volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotZelensky, right, speaking at a “press marathon” for local and international media, said that audio recordings, obtained by Ukraine’s security services, caught plotters discussing their plans and mentioning Akhmetov’s name. Akhmetov was not involved in the actual coup plot, however, Zelensky said.

“I believe [Akhmetov] is being dragged into the war against Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “This will be a big mistake, because it is impossible to fight against the people, against the president elected by the people of Ukraine.”

Zelensky said the alleged coup was being planned for Dec. 1 or 2. He did not provide further details, however.

  • Putin is testing U.S., NATO with buildup along Russia-Ukraine border, defense minister says

Ukrainian media in recent weeks have commented on the growing tensions between Zelensky and Akhmetov. Zelensky has launched a “de-oligarchization”campaign to reduce the political influence of Ukraine’s richest people, who control key sections of the economy.

russian flag wavingAkhmetov, a mining and steel tycoon, also owns media holdings, which in recent weeks have increased their criticism of Zelensky and his administration.

Zelensky’s comments also come against a backdrop of rising tensions between Kyiv and Moscow.

Western and Ukrainian officials say that they have observed a buildup of Russian forces on the country’s border with Ukraine.

ukraine flagThe reasons for the buildup are unclear, but officials say that it could be in preparation for an invasion or an escalation in the seven-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine with anti-Kyiv insurgents, backed by Moscow, according to Western officials and independent researchers.

The Ukrainian president said that his country was prepared for any scenario.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iranian banks notch win in dispute over sanctions enforcement, Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Part of the skyline of Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on Dec. 10, 2011.  An arbitration panel has ruled in favor of two Iranian banks in a financial dispute over the 2015 closing of a Bahraini financial institution accused of helping Iran skirt U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions.

The Hague-based tribunal’s three arbitrators ordered the government of Bahrain to pay more than $270 million in compensation for losses and legal fees stemming from its decision to close Future Bank, an institution co-founded by Iranians and linked by Bahraini officials to money-laundering and other illicit practices.

While acknowledging that infractions had occurred, the panel concluded that Bahrain’s enforcement measures violated its own banking policies and regulations and were motivated primarily by politics — a “contrived agenda of political retribution” that reflected regional animosities against Iran, according to a copy of the panel’s ruling reviewed by The Washington Post.

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U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden administration pushes to raise rates for oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters, citing climate change, Sarah Kaplan, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). In an effort to boost revenue and protect the environment, the Biden administration on Friday laid out plans to make fossil fuel companies pay more to drill on federal lands and waters.

The 18-page Interior Department report describes an “outdated” federal oil and gas leasing program that “fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs.”

The document calls for increasing the government’s royalty rate — the 12.5 percent of profits fossil fuel developers must pay to the federal government in exchange for drilling on public lands — to be more in line with the higher rates charged by most private landowners and major oil- and gas-producing states. It also makes the case for raising the bond companies must set aside for cleanup before they begin new development.

Though Friday’s report focuses on the fiscal case for updating the leasing program, Interior officials say they will also consider how to incorporate the real-world toll of climate change into the price of permits for new fossil fuel extraction. The Biden administration this year set its “social cost of carbon” at $51 per ton of emissions, but suggested the number could go even higher as researchers develop new estimates of the damage caused by raging wildfires, deadly heat, crop-destroying droughts and catastrophic floods.

“The direct and indirect impacts associated with oil and gas development on our nation’s land, water, wildlife, and the health and security of communities — particularly communities of color, who bear a disproportionate burden of pollution — merit a fundamental rebalancing of the federal oil and gas program,” the report says.

But many activists were dissatisfied with the document, which they say breaks President Biden’s campaign promise to ban new oil and gas leasing on public lands.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Have a Golden Opportunity. They Will Probably Blow It, Ross Douthat, right, Nov. 27, 2021. Last weekend I considered what the Democratic Party should expect ross douthatfrom politics after Covid — the hope of revived popularity for Joe Biden under return-to-normalcy conditions, the danger that the left-tilting party might be losing ground across multiple different demographic groups. Now, after an interlude of giving thanks, let’s consider how post-Covid politics might look from the Republican side.

Republicans have a lot to be thankful for. In the years since George W. Bush their party has staggered around without a governing ideology, veering from one style of fantasy politics to another, and twice nominated a ridiculously unfit reality-television star for the presidency. Yet through it all the party has never collapsed, never fallen more than a little distance out of power and almost always retained a certain capacity to block the Democrats, which is the only thing its constituencies can agree on.

This pattern seems unlikely to be broken even if Biden’s poll numbers bounce back across 2022 and 2023. In that scenario Republicans will still probably narrowly recapture the House of Representatives, returning to the position that they held immediately after last November’s election — as a minority coalition, but a large one rather than a rump, which thanks to its structural advantages can always hope to hold at least part of Congress and ride a few lucky breaks into the White House.

But in a way, that advantage is also the core Republican weakness, and the party’s good fortune in avoiding profound punishment for all its follies is the reason those follies will probably continue. The problems in the Democratic Party — the danger that its progressive turn is costing it conservative-leaning minority votes, even as anti-Trump suburban voters could swing back to the G.O.P. — create an opportunity for Republicans to win real popular majorities at the national level, on the scale of Bush in 2004 if not quite Ronald Reagan. But the fact that they don’t need to be a majority coalition to exercise a certain power means that they’re more likely to choose badly, and stay roughly where they are.

 

beto orourke handup

ny times logoNew York Times, That ‘Team Beto’ Fund-Raising Email? It Might Not Be From Beto, Shane Goldmacher, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Mimicking official mail is an age-old marketing trick. But messages suggesting links to Beto O’Rourke’s campaign show how the tactic has accelerated.

Kenneth Pennington, a top digital strategist for Beto O’Rourke, had a simple plan.

Mr. O’Rourke (shown above in a file photo) would announce his bid for governor of Texas early on a recent Monday morning and then Mr. Pennington would break the news via email to Mr. O’Rourke’s lucrative list of supporters, a loyal following that had already raised tens of millions of dollars for Mr. O’Rourke in his past bids for the Senate and the White House.

But Mr. Pennington soon noticed something troubling: a parallel wave of look-alike emails from groups completely unaffiliated with the O’Rourke campaign that were designed to capitalize on the Texas Democrat’s moment and popularity. The emails used subject lines, sender names and URLs embedded with phrases like “team Beto” and “official Beto.” And in most cases, none of the money these emails eventually raised went directly to the campaign.

Mr. O’Rourke still brought in more than $2 million from 31,000 donors, the largest 24-hour sum that any new candidate has announced this year, his campaign said. But for Mr. Pennington and the rest of the campaign, the nagging question was how much more they might have hauled in if other Democratic groups hadn’t been so busy siphoning off their share.

“The frustrating thing,” Mr. Pennington said, “is we will never know how much we lost.”

Welcome to the sometimes-sketchy world of online campaign fund-raising, where misdirection and misleading everyday Americans — often older Americans — to maximize clicks and cash is increasingly a dark art form.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Minneapolis, White Families Are Asked to Help Do the Integrating, Sarah Mervosh, Nov. 27, 2021. In a citywide overhaul, a beloved Black high school was rezoned to include white students from a richer neighborhood. It has been hard for everyone.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Boebert apologizes after drawing criticism for telling anti-Muslim story about Rep. Omar, Mariana Alfaro, Nov. 27, 2021. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to take “appropriate action” against Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) Friday after Boebert shared an anti-Muslim story about Omar during Thanksgiving break.

lauren boebertDuring an event in her Colorado district, Boebert, left, told the audience about an encounter with Omar in the Capitol, describing another encounter with Omar as “not my first ‘Jihad Squad’ moment,” according to a video posted on Twitter.

“I was getting into an elevator with one of my staffers,” Boebert told the laughing crowd. “You know, we’re leaving the Capitol and we’re going back to my office and we get an elevator and I see a Capitol police officer running to the elevator. I see fret all over his face, and he’s reaching, and the door’s shutting, like I can’t open it, like what’s happening. I look to my left, and there she is. Ilhan Omar. And I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack, we should be fine.’ ”

On Twitter on Friday, Omar called for Boebert to be disciplined by House leaders.

“Saying I am a suicide bomber is no laughing matter,” Omar tweeted. “@GOPLeader and @SpeakerPelosi need to take appropriate action, normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress.”

Omar had, earlier on Thursday, said the story was made up and called Boebert a “buffoon.”

“Anti-Muslim bigotry isn’t funny & shouldn’t be normalized,” Omar said on Twitter. “Congress can’t be a place where hateful and dangerous Muslims tropes get no condemnation.”

In a statement, Democratic congressional leaders — including Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) — said Boebert has repeatedly made targeted Islamophobic comments against Omar and she should retract her latest story, which they said is fictionalized.

“This language and behavior are far beneath the standard of integrity, dignity and decency with which the Constitution and our constituents require that we act in the House,” they said.

Democratic leadership also called on McCarthy to correct Boebert.

“Leader McCarthy and the entire House Republican Leadership’s repeated failure to condemn inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric from members of their conference is outrageous,” they said. “We call on the Republican Leadership to address this priority with the Congresswoman and to finally take real action to confront racism.”

On Friday, Boebert tweeted an apology, saying she had reached out to Omar.

“I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar. I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly,” Boebert tweeted. “There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”

Boebert’s apology came after her comments drew bipartisan criticism online, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) calling her “TRASH” on Twitter and retweeting a message in support of Boebert’s primary challenger, Marina Zimmerman.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) called Boebert’s comments “upsetting for many reasons.”

“Yes, it’s anti-Muslim, and [Omar] has a young child who will see this. Even worse, this slur will inspire more death threats to Ilhan and her family,” Swalwell tweeted. “[Boebert] should be held accountable but so too should @GOPLeader McCarthy who condones it.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Seeking Backers for New Fund, Jared Kushner Turns to Middle East, Kate Kelly, David D. Kirkpatrick and Alan Rappeport, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Former President Trump’s son-in-law is trying to raise capital and is turning to a region that he dealt with extensively while in the White House.

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Trump Watch

Ali Akbar Alexander, Stop the Steal organizer (file photo).Ali Akbar Alexander, Stop the Steal organizer (file photo).

Daily Beast, Jan. 6 Organizer Ali Alexander Will Comply With Subpoena Because He’s Broke, Zachary Petrizzo, Nov. 27, 2021. Ali Alexander, one of the main organizers of the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the deadly Capitol riot, has announced that he will comply with a congressional subpoena over his role in the attempted insurrection. In a video posted to Telegram on Saturday evening, Alexander appeared on camera for the first time in months, saying he will be “privately deposed in December,” while adding that he doesn’t plan on fighting the subpoena because he doesn’t have “money to spend on legal bills.”

daily beast logo“The only reason I’m going is because I don’t want to go to jail. So under the threat of imprisonment and spending tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers, I will be privately deposed before this committee in December,” he said.

Following Steve Bannon’s indictment in early November, Alexander spun himself into a tizzy, making the case that one must live life “accept[ing] that you will die.” Speaking in the third person, Alexander added in his Saturday Telegram post that he would “not [be] backing down” from the congressional committee that he claims is attempting to “imprison him.” Alexander didn’t return a Daily Beast request for comment on Saturday evening.

World Crisis Radio, What ever happened to the fight against Wall Street? Webster G. Tarpley, right, Nov. 27, 2021. In recent years, predators of international webster tarpley twitterhigh finance have run wild without accountability as spotlight was shifted to race, gender, climate, and anti-vaccine; But while campaign against Wall Street could aspire to 99% support, these other issues are vulnerable to divide & conquer strategies: the debilitating effect of wokeism increasingly recognized;

Prime suspect in price hikes is speculation on London oil market using energy derivatives;

Fourth wave of covid in Europe & US hitting supply chains, triggering lockdowns; Options come down to being vaccinated, cured, or dead, says German Health Minister;

Jury awards $26 million in damages to Charlottesville riot victims; Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and “First Amendment Praetorians” must pay;

New human rights atrocities mean that US should lead total world boycott of February Winter Olympics in Communist China;

Lasting influence in American history of the defeatist Gen. George B. McClellan, the archetype of pessimism; How Grant sought to treat this problem in the Army of the Potomac; Submitting to psychological domination by the weakened Trump is recipe for disaster!

 

lin wood djt march 2020RawStory, Attorney Lin Wood flips out on Sidney Powell and 'Stop the Steal' organizers as thieving 'Deep State' fronts, Tom Boggioni, Nov. 27, 2021. Attorney Lin Wood (shown above at left with then-President Trump in March 2020) flips out on Sidney Powell and 'Stop the Steal' organizers as thieving 'Deep State' fronts.

raw story logo squareAttention-seeking QAnon attorney Lin Wood lashed out on his Telegram account on Friday, accusing the organizers of the Jan 6th "Stop the Steal " rally that preceded the Capitol insurrection of being a front for the "Deep State."

According to a report from Rolling Stone, the former attorney for Kyle Rittenhouse who is now in an ugly fight over the teen's bail money now that his trial has ended, has been spending the past few days pointing the finger at former allies on the right who have criticized his practices.

In response, he has accused them of being "grifters." In a post on Friday, he attacked the Stop the Steal organizers and included a record of a conversation he had with a high-profile supporter of Donald Trump, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.

You can read more here.

Rolling Stone, Lin Wood Goes Off the Deep State Deep End, Accuses Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell and Stop the Steal of Grifting, Peter Wade, Nov. 27, 2021. “After doing the research and connecting the dots, I have reached the conclusion that the Stop the Steal organization is a Deep State organization to raise money for purposes other than to FIX 2020,” Wood posted on his Telegram.

rolling stone logoRight-wing darling Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen acquitted of murder for killing two people at a racial justice protest, sent the QAnon world into a tailspin when he said in interviews that Lin Wood, a leading QAnon believer and Trump attorney who briefly represented Rittenhouse, was “insane” and had “taken advantage” of him.

That prompted right-wing Trump allies — including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, alt-right activist Jack Posobiec and former Trump White House aide Sebastian Gorka — to come out against Wood. In response, Wood has been posting through it, making wild claims without evidence. Over the past few days, he has shared increasingly outrageous claims on his Telegram and turned on pro-Trumpers who used to be his allies, including Sidney Powell, Sebastian Gorka and Michael Flynn.

“After doing the research and connecting the dots, I have reached the conclusion that the Stop the Steal organization is a Deep State organization to raise money for purposes other than to FIX 2020. … WATCH OUT for anyone affiliated with Stop the Steal. Every lie will be revealed,” Wood posted on Friday.

Wood then posted a recording of a phone call between himself and millionaire Trump supporter and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. During the sidney powellcall, Wood questioned where the money raised to overturn the election is going and accused Powell, right, of being a scammer.

“I’m not sure where all this money is going, but I think somebody owes to the American public a full accounting,” Wood told Byrne.

Byrne replied, saying that in March, Powell and Flynn invited him to move to Florida to help overturn the election. But Byrne only lasted 11 days with Powell until he, Flynn and others walked out on her in March, he said. Byrne added that he hasn’t spoken to her since, but he compared their working together as “The Devil Wears Prada” and claimed that someone told him Powell wanted to “bed” him.

“I have texts. Some of it has to do with Sidney wanting to bed me, and I said no. We have texts and witnesses to that, and that’s how she became a woman scorned,” Byrne said, later claiming that Powell was in love with him and sent him love letters.

“I haven’t spoken a word to to Sidney since April 6, and I never will again,” Byrne said.

He continued, “I gave her a laundry list of things she had to clean up and told her she had to get an auditor… She refused to let me look at any — well, I can’t tell you more. But we walked out after about 17 days there… You can infer what you want from that.”

Later in the conversation, Wood and Powell both said they believe Powell is currently under federal investigation, and Wood claimed that Powell “signed my name to certain lawsuits without my knowledge or permission, and she hasn’t been honest about that.” He added, “I’m not happy about it, I think I was set up by Sidney Powell.”

The men then discussed how much money Powell had raised, allegedly to fund her attempts to overturn the election, which they said ranged anywhere from $15 million to $70 million.

kyle rittenhouse tik tok profileBack to the topic of Rittenhouse, Wood and Byrne agreed that Rittenhouse (shown in a Tik Tok photo) must have been “coached” by someone to disparage Wood in his interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. Rittenhouse told Carlson that when Wood was his attorney, he had “taken advantage” of him and “held me in jail for 87 days.”

“It’s a lie,” Wood claimed, adding that Flynn has abandoned him since the teen made those claims. “Old Mike Flynn got out of the fox hole and ran,” Wood said.

 

U.S. Media, Entertainment

stephen sondheim

washington post logoWashington Post, Stephen Sondheim (1930–2021): Central figure in American musical theater dies at 91, Tim Page, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Stephen Sondheim, whose intricate and powerful lyrics, venturesome melodies and sweeping stage visions made him a central figure in contemporary American musical theater, died Nov. 26 at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 91.

Rick Miramontez, a publicist for the current Broadway production of Mr. Sondheim’s musical “Company,” confirmed his death but did not cite a cause.

In a career spanning more than five decades, Mr. Sondheim was associated with many of the most celebrated and enduring musicals of his time.

He won his initial fame as the lyricist for “West Side Story” (1957), with music by Leonard Bernstein, and followed up by writing the lyrics for Jule Styne’s “Gypsy” (1959). His primary achievement lies in the works for which he created both music and lyrics, including “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1962), “Company” (1970), “Follies” (1971), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Sweeney Todd” (1979), “Sunday in the Park With George” (1984), “Into the Woods” (1987) and “Passion” (1994).

Appreciation: There will never be another Stephen Sondheim

Unlike most of the earlier Broadway songwriters, including George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II (the last of whom was his first great mentor), Mr. Sondheim was less interested in creating stand-alone popular “hits” than in fashioning unified works that maintained a firm, near-operatic structural integrity throughout.

To be sure, earlier Broadway productions had aspired to high seriousness, with Jerome Kern and Hammerstein’s “Show Boat” (1927) and the Gershwins’ “Of Thee I Sing” (1931) at the top of the list. Mr. Sondheim not only bound music, lyrics and book inextricably together, but he explored in far greater depths the human condition in all its anxieties and moral complexities.

ny times logoNew York Times, Days Before Dying, Stephen Sondheim Reflects: ‘I’ve Been Lucky,’ Michael Paulson, Nov. 27, 2021 (print ed.). In an interview this week, the composer and lyricist discussed his shows running on Broadway and off, as well as a new movie about to be released. In a 90-minute interview on Sunday, Stephen Sondheim was engaged and playfully pugnacious, and gave little indication of being in ill health.

 

Nov. 26

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance


Trump Watch

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

World News, Global Human Rights

 

Top Stories

 

Linda Dunikoski has been a senior assistant district attorney in Cobb County since 2019. (Pool photo by Elijah Nouvelage.)

Linda Dunikoski has been a senior assistant district attorney in Cobb County since 2019. (Pool photo by Elijah Nouvelage.)

ny times logoNew York Times, How a Prosecutor Won in the Arbery Case With a Mostly White Jury, Richard Fausset, Nov. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Linda Dunikoski struck a careful tone in the trial of the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery, a case that many saw as an obvious act of racial violence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: The U.S. will restrict travel from 8 countries in southern Africa to try to contain the new variant, Staff Reports, Nov. 26, 2021. 
Mutations May Allow Omicron to Spread Quickly, W.H.O. Warns. Here’s the latest:

  • New York Times, Independent scientists agreed that Omicron warranted urgent attention, and further studies are needed to determine how it fares against vaccinated people.
  • New York Times, U.S. stocks tumbled 2.3% and oil prices plunged as the variant reignited concerns about the virus’s economic toll.

washington post logoWashington Post, As cases rise nationwide, a flood of covid patients causes ‘almost unmanageable’ stress in Mich., Brittany Shammas and Paulina Firozi, Nov. 26, 2021. At Spectrum Health, a major health-care system here, officials spent part of last week debating whether to move to “red status” in a show of how strained hospitals had become.

A flood of mostly unvaccinated covid-19 patients was arriving at emergency departments already packed with people suffering other medical issues, michigan mapsending capacity to unprecedented levels. The only hesitation for Spectrum’s decision-makers? Data suggested the covid surge was not over.
Tracker: U.S. coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations

“We don’t have a darker color,” said Darryl Elmouchi, president of Spectrum Health West Michigan. “So if we’re red now, what are we in two weeks?”

He and other leaders ultimately decided Thursday to make the change, upgrading the health-care system to the most serious tier for the first time since the pandemic began. In recent days, the state had emerged as a new covid hot spot, leading the nation in new infections and hospitalizations. By the end of last week, its seven-day average of new cases had hit a pandemic high. State leaders asked the U.S. Department of Defense to provide emergency hospital staffing to handle the surge — a request granted Wednesday.

Tracking coronavirus cases

Coronavirus cases are on the rise nationally, an unwelcome trend after leveling off earlier this fall. On Monday, the United States reported a seven-day daily average of just under 93,000 cases — an 18 percent jump from a week earlier, according to figures from a briefing by the White House covid-19 response team. Hospitalizations were also up, increasing 6 percent to about 5,600 patients admitted per day.

At least two dozen states have seen cases rise at least 5 percent in the past two weeks, with Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Hampshire and North Dakota each recording per capita jumps of more than 60 percent. Some highly vaccinated states, including Vermont and Massachusetts, were also seeing steep rises in cases.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Abortion Law Complicates Care for Risky Pregnancies, Roni Caryn Rabin, Nov. 26, 2021. Doctors in Texas say they cannot head off life-threatening medical crises in pregnant women if abortions cannot be offered or even discussed.

A few weeks after Texas adopted the most restrictive abortion law in the nation, Dr. Andrea Palmer delivered terrible news to a Fort Worth patient who was midway through her pregnancy.

The fetus had a rare neural tube defect. The brain would not develop, and the infant would die at birth or shortly afterward. Carrying the pregnancy to term would be emotionally grueling and would also raise the mother’s risk of blood clots and severe postpartum bleeding, the doctor warned.

But the patient was past six weeks’ gestation, and under the new law, an abortion was not an option in Texas because the woman was not immediately facing a life-threatening medical crisis or risk of permanent disability.

“So we look at them like a ticking time bomb and wait for the complications to develop,” Dr. Palmer said of her patients.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine’s Zelensky alleges Russia plotting coup against him for next week, David L. Stern, Nov. 26, 2021. In remarks to journalists, President Volodymyr Zelensky said audio recordings showed Russian and Ukrainian conspirators were planning to overthrow him next week. He added that his rival, Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s richest man, was being drawn into the plot.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that a group of Russian and Ukrainians is planning to stage a coup d’etat in Ukraine next month and that the plotters are trying to enlist the help of the country’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov.

volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotZelensky, right, speaking at a “press marathon” for local and international media, said that audio recordings, obtained by Ukraine’s security services, caught plotters discussing their plans and mentioning Akhmetov’s name. Akhmetov was not involved in the actual coup plot, however, Zelensky said.

“I believe [Akhmetov] is being dragged into the war against Ukraine,” Zelensky said. “This will be a big mistake, because it is impossible to fight against the people, against the president elected by the people of Ukraine.”

Zelensky said the alleged coup was being planned for Dec. 1 or 2. He did not provide further details, however.

  • Putin is testing U.S., NATO with buildup along Russia-Ukraine border, defense minister says

Ukrainian media in recent weeks have commented on the growing tensions between Zelensky and Akhmetov. Zelensky has launched a “de-oligarchization”campaign to reduce the political influence of Ukraine’s richest people, who control key sections of the economy.

russian flag wavingAkhmetov, a mining and steel tycoon, also owns media holdings, which in recent weeks have increased their criticism of Zelensky and his administration.

Zelensky’s comments also come against a backdrop of rising tensions between Kyiv and Moscow.

Western and Ukrainian officials say that they have observed a buildup of Russian forces on the country’s border with Ukraine.

ukraine flagThe reasons for the buildup are unclear, but officials say that it could be in preparation for an invasion or an escalation in the seven-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine with anti-Kyiv insurgents, backed by Moscow, according to Western officials and independent researchers.

The Ukrainian president said that his country was prepared for any scenario.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Multiple countries move to ban flights from southern Africa amid news of new coronavirus variant, Perry Stein and William Booth, Nov. 26, 2021. The chief medical adviser to the U.K. Health and Security Agency warned that the new variant found in southern Africa is the “most worrying we’ve seen.”

european union logo rectangleAs alarm over a new, possibly more infectious coronavirus variant spread around the world, France, Britain, Japan and Israel began to ban or order quarantines for air passengers arriving from the southern African region.

Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to Britain’s Health and Security Agency, warned that the new variant found in southern Africa is the “most worrying we’ve seen.”

The European Union is expected to also propose a ban on air travel arriving from southern Africa. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the proposal Friday morning on Twitter and said she is coordinating with the bloc’s 27 member states.

Britain acted quickly to shut down direct flights, even though the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that these travel bans may be premature.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Florida’s new anti-masking law denies us key tools to protect our schools from future covid surges, Carlee Simon, Nov. 26, carlee simon glam shot2021 (print ed.). Dr. Carlee Simon, right, is superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools in Florida.

Our hands have been tied.

If and when there’s another covid surge in Florida, public schools will be without two of the most useful weapons in our fight against the virus: masks and quarantines.

After months of harassing school districts, including mine, over our covid-19 protocols, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), below left, and the Florida Legislature have just passed a new law that blocks schools from requiring masks for students and quarantines for students and staff who appear asymptomatic. The governor even called a special legislative session to get this and other bills targeting covid-19 ron desantis hands outmeasures passed — although he conveniently waited until the delta-driven covid surge of the late summer and early fall had subsided in the state.

Of course, the outcome of the session was never in any doubt. DeSantis and other state leaders vehemently opposed mask mandates and quarantine protocols even as positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths from covid skyrocketed in Florida during the first few weeks of school. They fought school districts that required them tooth and nail, even withholding our funding because we did what was necessary to protect students and staff during a public health crisis.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the governor insists that masks are ineffective and even harmful. To bolster his viewpoint, he fast-tracked the appointment of Joseph Ladapo — an anti-vaccine, anti-mask, hydroxychloroquine-promoting doctor apparently focused on undermining rather than protecting public health — as the state’s surgeon general.

Their nonscientific and nonsensical agenda is now enshrined in Florida law. From here on out, school districts cannot require masks no matter what happens in the future.

Never mind that covid cases are rising in half of the states and that experts are warning of a potential winter spike. If another surge comes to Florida, schools will have been hamstrung by state leaders more concerned about appeasing their governor and his political base than promoting the health and well-being of their constituents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Health agency warns Europe’s covid surge may be ‘window into the future’ for the Americas, Paulina Villegas and Paulina Firozi, Nov. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The Pan American Health Organization said cases are up 23 percent over the past week in the Americas. Global health leaders are urging caution as the holiday season gets underway, pointing to a 23 percent spike in coronavirus cases across the Americas in the past week, a surge that follows spikes in Europe — which officials warn could be a “window into the future for the Americas.”

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Nov. 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 study finds:

World Cases: 260,510,392, Deaths: 5,203,097
U.S. Cases:     48,999,737, Deaths:   798,551
Indian Cases:   34,555,431, Deaths:   467,468
Brazil Cases:   22,055,608, Deaths:   613,697

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 26, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Governance, Economy, Politics, Elections

washington post logo

Washington Post, Biden administration approves first offshore wind farm to supply power to New York, Dino Grandoni, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The approval of 12 wind turbines east of Long Island moves the Biden administration closer to its clean energy goals — but it has a long way to go.

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Trump Watch

Palmer Report, Opinion: What does the Matthew Calamari news mean in the New York criminal probe into Donald Trump? Bill Palmer, Nov. 26, 2021. The bill palmerNew York criminal probe into Donald Trump has already resulted in criminal indictments against the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg. Once Weisselberg made it clear that he was not prepared to cooperate against Donald Trump, there were widespread reports that prosecutors had instead decided to try to pressure Trump Organization COO Matthew Calamari Sr. into flipping instead.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now Calamari’s attorneys are telling the New York Times that prosecutors have told them that they do “not currently plan to indict him in the purported tax-evasion scheme.” So what does this tell us? Even if we’re to take Calamari’s attorneys at their word – and to be clear, this is only sourced to them and not to the DA’s office itself – it’s worded very narrowly.

Even they don’t “currently” plan to indict him, that leaves open the possibility to indict him later. This also merely says they don’t currently plan to indict him in the tax scandal. The NY Times article further confirms numerous previous reports that the criminal probe has shifted its focus to Donald Trump’s allegedly inflated valuations of his properties for the purpose of obtaining loans.

One distinct possibility is that prosecutors have found more fruit on the property valuation side than the tax side, and have therefore decided to try to work their way up to Donald Trump accordingly. But why tell Calamari that he’s off the hook for now? Is he not involved in the alleged properly valuation crimes? Is he cooperating with the probe?

djt hands up mouth open CustomOne key clue is that Calamari’s attorneys are now telling NBC News that he’ll show up and testify if he’s subpoenaed. Another potential clue is that Calamari’s son Matthew Calamari Jr, who also works for the Trump Organization, reportedly testified to the grand jury in September. So the Calamari family is taking a cooperative stance toward prosecutors, both in public and behind closed doors. In such case, why indict Calamari Sr? If someone is taking a cooperative position, it’s best to keep things they way they are.

In any case, while this New York Times report may be good news for Matthew Calarami, there’s nothing in it that sounds like good news for Donald Trump. Even as Calamari is being told that he’s off the hook for now in the tax probe, this same article makes clear that New York prosecutors are aggressively scaling up their property valuation probe.

cy vance resized djtThe Times is also reporting that incoming Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg plans to keep the Trump probe in place with the current personnel, meaning the probe is not going to vanish just because current DA Cyrus Vance (shown at right) is retiring. Nothing that’s being newly reported should cause Donald Trump to start sleeping well at night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bannon files opposition to keeping documents from being released, Jacqueline Alemany, Nov. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump White House adviser, has filed an opposition to the U.S. district court’s standard protective order for discovery, which prohibits either side from releasing documents or evidence publicly.

Bannon, 67, right, pleaded not guilty last week to contempt-of-Congress charges, and his legal team previously argued that the case would be more complicated by agreeing to the prosecution’s protective order for discovery.

steve bannon beard“Members of the public should make their own independent judgment as to whether the U.S. Department of Justice is committed to a just result based upon all the facts,” said a statement provided to The Washington Post on behalf of Bannon. “In the opposition filed today, Mr. Bannon asked the judge to follow the normal process and allow unfettered access to and use of the documents.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda R. Vaughn has said that there are “less than 20 documents” to be provided, but Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran told reporters that there was probably going to be a need for the defense to locate more documents and witnesses.

Bannon’s legal team argued that the government offered little reason the documents should be withheld from public view, adding that many of the documents that would be restricted by the proposed protective order in this case are already public.

“The Government offered no reason why it wanted to limit Mr. Bannon’s attorneys in their use of the documents to prepare a defense,” Bannon’s statement said.

Bannon has refused to comply with an order from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to provide records and testimony about his actions leading up to the attack. The committee is interested in questioning Bannon about activities at the Willard hotel in the week leading up to Jan. 6.

 

chris christie republican rescue cover

Insider NJ, Book Review: Chris Christie to the Rescue? Fred Snowflack, Nov. 26, 2021. Chris Christie was all over TV last week hyping his book, Republican Rescue, the cover of which, creatively, shows an elephant holding a rescue tube in its trunk.

As the name implies, the GOP is in danger. If not, why would it need to be rescued? The peril for Republicans is Donald Trump and the wacky conspiracy theories the former president seems to inspire.

That is the essence of the book, but before we get there, Christie spends the first part of the book detailing his personal relationship with Trump. They met years ago when Christie was U.S. Attorney and their friendship blossomed.

When Trump got to the White House, Christie says the now-president offered him many jobs, but not the one he would have taken – Attorney General. So, Christie began spending his post-gubernatorial life at home in Mendham Township.

The anecdotes and observations Christie presents of Trump will shock no one who follows politics closely.

When a very ill Christie was fighting COVID at Morristown Medical Center, he got a call from the president. A heartfelt wish to get well?

Not really. Christie said the president was concerned that he (Christie) would blame him (Trump) for his getting the virus.

 

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 darrell brooks suspect 2 fox

ny times logoNew York Times, Wisconsin Suspect’s Previous Release May Hinder Efforts to Overhaul Bail, Glenn Thrush and Shaila Dewan, Nov. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Darrell Brooks, shown above, accused of plowing his S.U.V. through a Wisconsin parade killing six and wounding dozens more, had been freed on $1,000 bail for a different charge in Milwaukee County, where there is a backlog of cases.

In early November, prosecutors in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office made a fast, fateful decision, asking that bond for a 39-year-old repeat offender accused of brutalizing his girlfriend, then running over her with an S.U.V., be set at only $1,000.

That call, one of many made in the city’s bustling criminal court that day, initiated a succession of events that ended, according to the police, with that man, Darrell E. Brooks Jr., ramming his maroon Ford Escape through the barricades of a Christmas parade in nearby Waukesha, killing six people and injuring dozens more.

wisconsin map with largest cities CustomThe bail decision has brought criticism raining down on Milwaukee County’s district attorney, John T. Chisholm, a Democrat who has tried to reduce high rates of incarceration and racial disparities in the justice system. Longtime critics, led by Wisconsin’s previous governor, Scott Walker, blamed Mr. Brooks’s release on Mr. Chisholm’s “radical” liberal ideology.

It appears, though, that the controversial release may have been not a policy decision, but the result of happenstance and other factors — an inexperienced junior prosecutor and a rushed supervisor up against a huge backlog of cases that piled up during the coronavirus pandemic, according to court documents and interviews with judges, prosecutors, local officials and defense lawyers.

The bond was ultimately set by a court officer. Several people familiar with Milwaukee’s criminal courts said the amount was uncharacteristically low given the defendant’s background and charges, and it prompted an internal investigation within the district attorney’s office.

The backlash raised fears that the fatal episode would set back efforts across the country geared at reducing the incarceration of poor defendants awaiting trial because they cannot afford bail.

“This was not the product of criminal justice reform or bail reform efforts, which have rightfully questioned how we use pretrial and post-conviction incarceration,” said Craig Mastantuono, a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer who has worked on such efforts for 15 years.

The decision to allow Mr. Brooks to be released on $1,000 bond was “a mistake,” he said, that occurred “despite, not because of, the current bail and risk assessment system in place here.”

In a statement released after the events in Waukesha, Mr. Chisholm said the prosecutor’s bail recommendation had been “inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges” and not “consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant.”

Mr. Chisholm and his team also pointed out that Mr. Brooks had been given a $10,000 bond in a previous case, though that bail had been lowered by the courts after his trial was delayed.

The case has, nonetheless, reignited a long-running debate over criminal justice in a deeply polarized state that, just days before, had seen Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted of homicide after killing two men during the unrest in nearby Kenosha in 2020.

Mr. Walker, a former Republican presidential candidate who curtailed parole as governor, suggested that the release of Mr. Brooks was related to the “defund the police” movement and said that Republicans should emphasize the issue in campaigns.

“We saw last year during the pandemic when you let violent criminals back out on the street, they commit crimes,” he said in a television interview on Tuesday. That’s what criminals do.”

Critics of a system that relies on high bonds to keep people detained say that the ability to pay is not a gauge of dangerousness. For example, a drug kingpin who has killed repeatedly might be able to pay a $1 million bond and go free, while a shoplifter might not be able to pay $250.

Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that has banned commercial bail bonds, where defendants pay a percentage to a bond company to bail them out. Instead, defendants are required to pay the full amount of their bonds, although many counties make liberal use of signature bonds, where no money is required up front but defendants are liable under a financial judgment if they fail to appear.

In theory, prosecutors in Wisconsin can ask for a preventive detention hearing to make the case that a defendant should be held without bail. But in practice they request high bond amounts instead, people familiar with the system said; Mr. Brooks is being held on $5 million cash bail after being charged in the fatal parade attack.

People involved in the state’s criminal justice system said the bail decision in Mr. Brooks’s earlier case was less about ideology than exigency, and was almost certainly related to the massive backload of cases in the Milwaukee court system, made up of cases delayed by the pandemic plus a new wave of trials resulting from a recent spike in violent crime. More than 1,000 felony cases, and close to twice that many misdemeanors, are currently in the queue, officials said, increasing incentives to reduce the prison population by lowering bail.

“We are now facing, in Milwaukee County, a backlog to the tune of two years when it comes to trials,” said Mary E. Triggiano, chief judge of the state’s First Judicial District, which oversees courts in the city and surrounding area.

“The whole ecosystem is interconnected, so everything — the courts, jails, bail — is affected by the crisis,” she added. “We are struggling with this every single day.”

It is clear that Mr. Brooks — who had a criminal history of violence, domestic abuse, sexual crime, drug offenses and bail jumping dating to 1999 — should never have been eligible for such a low bail regardless of the state of the courts, lawyers who work in the system said.

Each defendant is screened by a pretrial risk assessment that uses nine data points, including age and prior convictions, to rate the defendant’s risk of failing to appear in court and of committing a new crime. Judges or court commissioners receive the risk score, along with recommendations by the defense and the prosecution, before setting the amount of bond and the release conditions, which can range from very little supervision for low-risk defendants to weekly check-ins and GPS monitoring.

The risk assessment is not a matter of public record, but someone with Mr. Brooks’s history would almost certainly have been rated a six out of six and flagged as a high risk for violence, several lawyers said.

Mr. Brooks was ordered to be under “Level 5” supervision, the most restrictive level possible, according to documents prepared for his Nov. 5 bail hearing. He was ordered to keep away from two female witnesses in the case, and prohibited from carrying a firearm, but he was not required to wear a GPS unit to track his location. The $1,000 bond was posted by a relative.

The prosecutor assigned to Mr. Brooks’s case, Michelle A. Grasso, a 2019 graduate of Marquette University Law School, and Carole Manchester, a veteran lawyer who represented the office in the bail hearing, did not respond to requests for comment.

The bail system in Milwaukee, with its pretrial protocols, is the result of a longstanding collaboration among the county judges, Mr. Chisholm’s office and the local public defender. In 2012, the courts introduced risk assessments to reduce unnecessary restrictions on low-level defenders and more accurately identify those who warranted closer supervision.

ABA Weekly Journal, Lawyer is suspended for texting witness during phone deposition; how did opposing counsel find out? Debra Cassens Weiss, Nov. 26, 2021. A Florida lawyer has been suspended for 91 days for texting advice to a witness during a phone deposition and then failing to come clean when questioned by the opposing counsel and a judge. The Florida Supreme Court suspended lawyer Derek Vashon James of Maitland, Florida, in a Nov. 18 decision.

The incident happened in July 2018 during a deposition of an adjuster who worked for an employer in a workers’ compensation case. James represented the employer. The court reporter refused to swear in the adjuster because she testified by phone, rather than by video.

The opposing lawyer, Toni Villaverde, heard typing sounds during the deposition and asked James and the witness whether they were texting. James replied that he was only receiving a text from his daughter, according to the court opinion. Villaverde asked James to stop texting and put his phone away. He said he would do so, but in fact, he continued texting, the state supreme court said.

ABA Weekly Journal, Fired K&L Gates partner is charged with cyberstalking former colleagues, Debra Cassens Weiss, Nov. 26, 2021. Fired K&L Gates partner Willie Dennis has been charged with four counts of cyberstalking former partners and other colleagues at the law firm.

The November 2020 indictment was unsealed this year Nov. 19, according to a press release by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Dennis, 59, of New York was arrested last week in the Dominican Republic.

The indictment accuses Dennis of engaging in a “campaign of harassment, intimidation and threats” against four unnamed people at his law firm.

Dennis, who is Black, had sued K&L Gates in November 2020, alleging that he was the victim of “systemic racism and discriminatory barriers to equal treatment” at the law firm. Dennis’ pro se suit said he was denied access to his office and email after he complained in an email sent to more than 300 partners about male partners dating women at the firm and then determining their compensation.

Dennis was expelled in a May 2019 vote of the partners because of “erratic, offensive and improper behavior,” the law firm contended in a statement at the time that Dennis filed suit. The statement said that, after Dennis was fired, he sent “thousands of disturbing emails, texts, faxes and voicemails to firm lawyers—at all hours of the day and night.”

 

World News, Global Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, France and Britain spar over illegal migration, after at least 27 drown in English Channel, Rick Noack and Karla Adam, Nov. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Wednesday’s drownings marked one of the deadliest incidents on the dangerous Dover Strait route.

The French government called for more European and British support for its efforts to combat human trafficking in the English Channel after at least 27 migrants drowned while trying to cross from France to Britain on Wednesday.

French FlagSpeaking on French radio on Thursday morning, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said “pregnant women, children died.”

French officials had previously said five women and a small girl were among the victims, but an investigation to identify the fatalities and their countries of origin was still ongoing. Two people, from Iraq and Somalia, survived and were being treated for hypothermia, United Kingdom flagaccording to Darmanin.

In a phone call with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron “underlined the shared responsibility” and urged the British to “refrain from exploiting a dramatic situation for political purposes,” the Élysée presidential palace said early Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Mine Blast Kills Dozens, Among Them Rescuers, Ivan Nechepurenko, Nov. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Investigators said a gas buildup at a Siberian mine with a history of problems led to the deaths of at least 52 people.

A gas buildup and explosion in a Siberian coal mine on Thursday killed at least 52 people — including six rescuers — in the country’s worst mining disaster in over a decade, Russian officials said.

russian flag wavingThe accident occurred early in the morning at the Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region of Russia, about 2,200 miles east of Moscow, after a ventilation shaft began filling with gas, Russia’s Investigative Committee reported.

Rescue efforts at the mine, which plunges 1,300 feet into the earth, continued throughout the day even as the death toll kept rising. Miners initially considered missing were gradually shifted to the list of the dead until late Thursday, when the authorities said they had been forced to suspend rescue operations because of a high concentration of methane in the mine.

Interfax, the Russian news agency, reported that there appeared to be no hope of finding anyone else alive.

Washington Post, Iranian banks notch win in dispute over sanctions enforcement, Joby Warrick and Souad Mekhennet, Nov. 26, 2021. Part of the skyline of Manama, the capital of Bahrain, on Dec. 10, 2011.  An arbitration panel has ruled in favor of two Iranian banks in a financial dispute over the 2015 closing of a Bahraini financial institution accused of helping Iran skirt U.S. and U.N. economic sanctions.

The Hague-based tribunal’s three arbitrators ordered the government of Bahrain to pay more than $270 million in compensation for losses and legal fees stemming from its decision to close Future Bank, an institution co-founded by Iranians and linked by Bahraini officials to money-laundering and other illicit practices.

While acknowledging that infractions had occurred, the panel concluded that Bahrain’s enforcement measures violated its own banking policies and regulations and were motivated primarily by politics — a “contrived agenda of political retribution” that reflected regional animosities against Iran, according to a copy of the panel’s ruling reviewed by The Washington Post.

 

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Nov. 25

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The opening of the Annual Thanksgiving Macy's Parade in New York City on Central Park Avenue near 77th St. on Nov. 25, 2021 (Photo via CNN).


Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance


Trump Watch

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

World News, Global Human Rights

 

Education, Media News

 

Top Stories

The opening of the Annual Thanksgiving Macy's Parade in New York City on Central Park Avenue near 77th St. on Nov. 25, 2021 (Photo via CNN).

The opening of the Annual Thanksgiving Macy's Parade in New York City on Central Park Avenue near 77th St. on Nov. 25, 2021 (Photo via CNN).

CNN, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: The crowds and pizzazz are back for 2021! Forrest Brown, Nov. 25, 2021. What a difference Covid-19 vaccines and 12 months make.

Last year, the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was a muted affair. Because of the pandemic, it was a TV-only event. No animated crowds lining Manhattan's avenues. No long parade route.

CNNThe 2021 spectacle returned to the more familiar parade of yore on Thursday. Travelers and residents have 2.5 miles of public viewing as balloons, floats and bands make their way from the Upper West Side to Macy's flagship store at Herald Square.

About 2.5 million people were expected to attend this year, according to a Macy's spokesman. "We're so thrilled to be back," Orlando Veras told CNN's Miguel Marquez.

Veras said "we have 6,500 participants in the parade, but there's thousands of more people who are supporting behind the scenes from various agencies in New York City, state and federal government. You know, it is one of the largest events in New York City and a national tradition."

Delighted about return

Longtime New York City resident Lisa Fischer is simply delighted about the 95th annual parade, which started at 9 a.m. ET Thursday. "Obviously, I had to watch it on TV" last year, she told CNN Travel. "It was still fun and brought back great memories." But Fischer said it wasn't the same experience without the energy of the street and the usual traditions.

Fischer has a lot of in-person, treasured experiences with the parade.

When her two children were younger, Fischer used to take them to watch the giant balloons being inflated. Then they'd catch the parade on TV the next day in their pajamas at home.

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Thanksgiving air travel rebounds, nearly hitting 2019 levels.
  • The French government will start revoking health passes for adults who do not get a booster shot.

 

President Abraham Lincoln, whose administration founded the modern celebration of Thanksgiving in 1863 during the Civil War, is shown in an Alexander Gardner photo at Library of Congress.

President Abraham Lincoln, who declared the first national Thanksgiving Day in 1863 during the Civil War, is shown above in an Alexander Gardner photo at Library of Congress. Below left is depiction by artist Thomas Nast of "Lady Liberty" celebrating Thanksgiving published by Harper's Weekly in 1863. A description of the drawing is here and of Nast's career here. His drawings later attacked Boss Tweed in New York City as corrupt and popularized the image of the Democrats represented by a donkey and Republicans by an elephant.  

The Lincoln Project, Commentary: A Thanksgiving story you may not know, Staff Report (staff shown below at right), Nov. 25, 2021. This Thanksgiving, we're grateful for you keeping us in this fight. You've heard from many of us about what "this fight" is and what we must do to save our democracy.

What does it mean to be part of the Lincoln Project? What does it mean to be one of the millions of supporters and donors who have stepped up, again lincoln project mike madrid rick wilson steve schmidt reed galen 60 minutesand again, first to defeat Trump in 2020 and now to defeat the authoritarian movement he leads?

All we ask today, this Thanksgiving, is for you to take a moment and read about a Thanksgiving story (stories) you may not know.

One answer to that question is that this is not a new fight. President Abraham Lincoln was elected to stop rich southern slaveowners from taking over the government and using it to enrich themselves. His election triggered Southern states forming the thanksgiving 1863 thomas nast lady libertyConfederacy, firing on Fort Sumter, and ultimately launching a bloody rebellion -- the Civil War.

It was a long, bloody fight, and the first two years of the war saw Northern defeat after defeat. The Union resolve was tested like it had never been. In winter of 1862, 17 state governors, trying to keep morale high, declared state Thanksgiving holidays as a way of remembrance and encouraging the community spirit the North desperately needed to summon.

Heather Cox Richardson's excellent newsletter cites New York Governor Edwin Morgan's proclamation, reflecting that 1862 "was nonetheless a time for giving thanks" because “the precious blood shed in the cause of our country will hallow and strengthen our love and our reverence for it and its institutions…. Our Government and institutions placed in jeopardy have brought us to a more just appreciation of their value.”

Abraham Lincoln read that proclamation and those from the other states in the Union. The next year, he declared a national Thanksgiving Day -- which marked a turning point in the war after the Union turned back the Confederacy at Gettysburg and began to push south.

On the first national Thanksgiving Day, August 6, 1863, people around the country were reassured of the Union victories, acknowledging the great sacrifice made by those who died and their families. But this was only the first Thanksgiving Day of 1863. In October, Lincoln declared a second Thanksgiving -- which was reprinted in Harper's Weekly and spread throughout the nation. Take a moment and read it.

In it, Lincoln "fervently implore(d) the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union."

This was soon followed by an address at Gettysburg that we all know well -- a proclamation declaring the emancipation of every slave -- and ultimate victory, defeating the Confederacy and restoring the Union.

Lincoln knew Reconstruction would be arduous, and though he never lived to see it, the Union was rebuilt and became the most prosperous democracy the world had ever seen, a guiding force for freedom in the world.

As Richardson writes, "In 1861, Americans went to war to keep a cabal from taking control of the government and turning it into an oligarchy. The fight against that rebellion seemed at first to be too much for the nation to survive. But Americans rallied and threw their hearts into the cause on the lincoln project logobattlefields even as they continued to work on the home front for a government that defended democracy and equality before the law."

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, remember that our democracy is challenged once again. We again must come together and defend its very soul. Lives have already been lost in this struggle, and more are threatened. But we give thanks for those on the front lines, defending our democracy from this latest authoritarian assault.

You may have seen that Joe Biden just announced two virtual "Summits for Democracy" this week to bring together leaders from all parts of our democracy in order to save it. The timing is of course fitting, and it is necessary. It will take all of us -- in every walk of life -- to defeat authoritarianism and preserve the great American experiment. Please consider sharing this story today with someone who needs to hear it.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Thanksgiving November 25, 1943 -- A tough and selfless America and a united anti-fascist world, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left (author of 21 books, including last month's "The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich" below and former Navy intelligence officer), Nov. 24, 2021. America should not be thankful this Thanksgiving. America should be ashamed of itself.

This year should be marked not by Thanksgiving but by Shamegiving. Shame on the Republican Party for adopting the fascist cult worship of Germany's Nazis and Italy's Fascisti. Shame on the American public for being a bunch of howling crybabies resistant to getting vaccinated against a viral pandemic. Shame on the United States for placing repugnant racists like Donald Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Kyle wayne madesen report logoRittenhouse, and Tucker Carlson on pedestals of right-wing idolatry. Shame on America for threatening the lives of school board members, school administrators, teachers, librarians, election administrators, public health officials, and Democratic Party officeholders.

On another Thanksgiving Day on another November 25, the United States was united like it had never been united before -- or since. The world was at war against fascism on every continent. Uniformed Americans on the overseas front lines and civilians supporting the war effort on the home front gave of themselves their all, including their lives. Military inductees did not bellyache about receiving vaccinations for smallpox, yellow fever, typhoid fever, and tetanus. Those who refused vaccinations were subject to court-martial. There were very few reported cases of vaccination refusal among the wayne madsen fourth reich covermilitary.

The common enemy was fascism, which included Adolf Hitler's plan for world conquest and a thousand year global Germania Reich, Benito Mussolini's vision of a restored Roman Empire, and Imperial Japan's plan to extend its feudalistic empire to the rest of Asia and the Pacific Rim.

America had no place for fascist propagandists either in print or on the radio airwaves. American Nazis and fascists, with the noted exception of individuals like Fred Trump, Sr., Father Charles Coughlin, and Charles Lindbergh, had either been sent to prison or deported back to Germany, Italy, or Japan.

Americans willingly complied with mandatory rationing, blackouts, and other hardships -- all in support of the war effort. They also voluntarily purchased war bonds, donated blood, and saved commodities from bacon grease to scrap metal.

Today, Americans who oppose voting rights, public education, and public health requirements and promote racism, fascism, and right-wing terrorism are basically shitting all over the memory and legacy of America's "Greatest Generation." And America's current dalliance with fascism and racism is not merely a domestic phenomenon. It is mirrored around the world, from Britain and France to Australia and Canada and every nation that fought against the evils of Nazism and fascism in World War II.

 

Travis McMichael, left, Gregory McMichael and neighbor William

Travis McMichael, left, his father Gregory McMichael, center, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. (Ahmaud Arbery trial pool photo via Getty).

ap logoAssociated Press, All 3 men charged in Arbery’s death convicted of murder, Russ Bynums, Nov. 24, 2021. All three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting that became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice.

The convictions for Greg McMichael (shown at center above), son Travis McMichael (at left) and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan (at right above) came after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours. The men face minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.

Travis McMichael stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.

Moments after the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.

“He didn’t do nothing,” the father said, “but run and dream.”

Ahmaud ArberyThe McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Black man, right, after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.

Though prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged them with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.

The jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley soon after returning to court Wednesday morning asking to view two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece.

georgia mapJurors returned to the courtroom to see the videos and listen again the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.

The disproportionately white jury received the case around midday Tuesday and spent about six hours deliberating before adjourning without a verdict.

The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and jumped in a pickup truck to chase him. Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.

On the 911 call the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.”

He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few second later.

The graphic video death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men. Each of them is charged with murder and other crimes.

Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.

travis mcMichael greg mcMichael william bryant

CBS News, All three men involved in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery found guilty of murder, Staff Reports, Nov. 24, 2021. A jury in Glynn County, Georgia, found three men – Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. – guilty on multiple counts of murder for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man fatally shot while out for a jog on February 23, 2020.

Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery, was found guilty on all of the nine charges he faced. His father, Gregory McMichael, was found guilty on eight of the nine charges he faced. William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. was found guilty on six of the nine charges he faced.

washington post logoWashington Post, A shaky video recorded on defendant’s cellphone changed the course of the Arbery murder case, Meryl Kornfield, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The first news story about the Feb. 23, 2020, shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a mere four paragraphs, offered little detail about what led to the death of the 25-year-old.

In the small coastal Georgia town of Brunswick, rumors swirled about a Black man who was shot while being pursued by two armed White men in a pickup truck, but no one was charged and the case received little attention nationally. It wasn’t until May 5, when a local radio station uploaded graphic footage of the deadly chase, that widespread outrage ensued. Two days later — 74 days after Arbery was killed while on a jog — arrests were made.

travis mcmichael pool photoThe convictions of Travis McMichael, (shown at right in a pool photo), 35, his father, Greg McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, on Wednesday raised recollections of the beginning of the case when police let the men walk free and two prosecutors did not press charges. Yet, after just two days of deliberations, the jury found the three men guilty of murder and other charges for the pursuit and fatal shooting of Arbery.

“We came very close to this crime not being prosecuted at all,” said Clark D. Cunningham, a professor at the Georgia State University College of Law.

After the Brunswick district attorney and Waycross district attorney recused themselves without charging the men, Cunningham noted two aspects of the case that made the arrests — and subsequent convictions — possible: Greg McMichael’s decision to share the video of the slaying with the public and Arbery’s outspoken family receiving national support and attention.

“We shouldn’t count on those kinds of things for justice to be done,” Cunningham said.

ahmaud arbery twitterArbery, above, a former high school football standout and avid runner, was killed weeks before George Floyd. But it wasn’t until the release of the video — showing men chasing him, cornering him and shooting him on a quiet suburban street — that the violence helped amplify the racial justice demonstrations of last year.

In an unlikely turn of events, Greg McMichael, with the help of attorney Alan Tucker, brought Bryan’s unsteady cellphone footage to radio station WGIG with the hope of absolving the men in the court of public opinion, WSB-TV Channel 2 reported.

“There had been very little information provided by the police department or the district attorney’s office, but there was entirely too much speculation, rumor, false narratives, and outright lies surrounding this event,” Tucker told Georgia Public Broadcasting last year. Tucker did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post on Wednesday. The McMichaels’ attorneys did not immediately respond to similar requests Wednesday night.

Instead, the video published online by the radio station surfaced questions nationwide about racial profiling and the lack of criminal charges.

At the time, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called it a lynching “before our very eyes.”

Like Cunningham, University of Maryland sociology professor Rashawn Ray said there wouldn’t have been a trial, let alone a conviction, without the video repeatedly aired in court after Greg McMichael made it public.

“Video is an objective observer,” Ray said. “It’s very clear what happened. And I think part of what the McMichaels were trying to leverage was what their defense attorneys were trying to allege: that the mere presence, the mere physical body of Ahmaud Arbery as a Black person just running through the street should pose a big enough threat to justify their use of force.”

But for Larry Hobbs, who wrote that first short news article, doubts about the case were raised at the onset.

Hobbs, one of four reporters at the daily Brunswick News, said police wouldn’t answer his questions or even tell him Arbery’s name, which he discovered by calling the coroner. He published four stories before he obtained the police report, based almost entirely on an interview with Greg McMichael, who said he told his son to grab his gun when he saw a Black man running.

“Red flags start going up,” Hobbs said. “All the things started falling into place that this wasn’t right.”

  • Washington Post, Journalists are reexamining their reliance on a longtime source: The police

Prosecutors were also not forthcoming, he said. Jackie Johnson, the Brunswick district attorney who was later indicted over her handling of the investigation and was voted out of office, gave the case to Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill. Barnhill justified the use of force as a lawful “citizen’s arrest” in a letter to police. Meanwhile, he told Hobbs he was still investigating, Hobbs said.

“The main thing I did was just not let go of it,” Hobbs said. “I didn’t do any great writing. I didn’t do any investigative reporting. I’m a small-town newspaper. We don’t really have time to invest. I come in every day and there’s an empty newspaper I have to do my part to fill up.”

At that time, the New York Times reported on the shooting, bringing national exposure and emerging details of the video that would later be released. Still, Hobbs has been credited for his dogged reporting, as he stayed on the case, covering the trial every day until he wrote Wednesday’s story of the conviction.

“Guilty. Guilty. Guilty,” he wrote.

Leaving the courthouse, Hobbs spoke with Arbery’s father, Marcus, and choked up hearing him say his son just wanted to “run and dream.”

“In times of reckoning, we’ve come up wanting so many times, especially people from my demographic,” Hobbs said. “The South got it right today.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Garland tells prosecutors to target crimes on planes, Ian Duncan, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Federal authorities have said they have zero tolerance for bad behavior in the sky, but the sheer number of incidents has strained systems designed to provide accountability.

merrick garlandAttorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo Wednesday directing federal prosecutors to prioritize investigations into crimes committed on planes, as record numbers of unruly passengers continue to disrupt travel.

“Passengers who assault, intimidate or threaten violence against flight crews and flight attendants do more than harm those employees; they prevent the performance of critical duties that help ensure safe air travel,” Garland said.

“Similarly, when passengers commit violent acts against other passengers in the close confines of a commercial aircraft, the conduct endangers everyone aboard,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been using its civil authorities to try to crack down on misbehaving passengers, opening 266 enforcement cases, and has sought federal criminal investigations in 37 cases. The majority of incidents have stemmed from disputes over wearing masks, which is required throughout the aviation system.

Justice Department log circularUnruly airplane passengers are straining the system for keeping peace in the sky

While federal authorities have said they have zero tolerance for bad behavior on planes, the sheer number of incidents this year has strained the systems designed to provide for accountability. Responsibility of investigating cases is shared among several agencies, including local police.

Garland’s memo could help bring more resources to bear on the problem and streamline investigations. He directed federal prosecutors to communicate to local authorities that crimes on planes were a priority for the Justice Department.

The memo comes as millions of Americans fly this week to attend Thanksgiving celebrations, pushing passenger numbers to their highest levels since the beginning of the pandemic. Garland told his staff that by focusing on crimes on board planes they were “helping to ensure that people across the faa logocountry can travel safely this holiday season and beyond.”

In all, the FAA has received 5,338 reports of unruly passengers this year and has launched 1,012 investigations.

On Monday, the agency announced fines totaling nearly $162,000 in connection with eight incidents involving drunk passengers. In one April incident, the FAA alleged that a passenger drank their own alcohol — a violation of federal rules — smoked marijuana and sexually assaulted a flight attendant. And in a March incident, a flight bound for Detroit was diverted to Atlanta after a passenger the FAA said was drunk wouldn’t keep his mask on and swore at other travelers. The federal mask mandate for transportation remains in effect until Jan. 18.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 92% of federal workers, military personnel have gotten at least one vaccine dose, White House says, Eric Yoder, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Ninety-two percent of federal employees and military personnel have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, while nearly 5 percent more have asked for exemptions on religious or medical grounds, the White House said Wednesday.

Among civil servants, vaccination percentages range from 86.1 percent at the Agriculture Department to 97.8 percent at the Agency for International Development (AID). Percentages of employees asking for exemptions also vary, from 10.2 percent at the Department of Veterans Affairs to 1.3 percent at AID and the State Department.

At the largest federal agency, the Defense Department, 93.4 percent of military and federal personnel combined have received at least one vaccination dose, while another 5.5 percent have asked for exemptions.

Figures from the Office of Management and Budget formed the most complete accounting to date of compliance with a requirement that federal employees be fully vaccinated as of Nov. 22, even if they are teleworking full-time. Deadlines for uniformed military personnel vary by service.

“This week’s deadline wasn’t an end point. For those employees who are not yet in compliance, agencies are beginning a period of education and counseling, followed by additional enforcement steps, consistent with guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force and the Office of Personnel Management,” the announcement said.

The recommended sequence for those refusing vaccines — unless they have asked for an exemption — is a week of counseling about them and the potential career consequences of not complying with the mandate, then a possible unpaid suspension of under two weeks. Only after that would they face being fired.

“At any point, if an employee gets their first shot or submits an exemption request, agencies will pause further enforcement to give the employee a reasonable amount of time to become fully vaccinated or to process the exemption request,” Wednesday’s announcement said.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Fights Covid Mandates, Then Blames Biden as Cases Rise, Jonathan Weisman, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans have long fought mask and vaccine mandates, but as infections again rise, they point to President Biden for failing to end the health crisis.

kevin mccarthyOver eight hours last Thursday night and into Friday morning, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, right, hit on many issues as he spoke on the House floor in an unsuccessful effort to thwart House passage of President Biden’s social safety net and climate change bill. But among his most audacious assertions was that Mr. Biden was to blame for the country’s failure to quell the pandemic.

Mr. McCarthy used this line of attack even as members of his own Republican Party have spent months flouting mask ordinances and blocking the president’s vaccine mandates, and the party’s base has undermined vaccination drives while rallying around those who refuse the vaccine. Intensive care units and morgues have been strained to capacity by the unvaccinated, a demographic dominated by those who voted last year for President Donald J. Trump.

rnc logoAs of mid-September, 90 percent of adult Democrats had been vaccinated, compared with 58 percent of adult Republicans.

Yet Mr. McCarthy, the House Republican leader, pressed his point: “I took President Biden at his word; I took him at his word when he said he was going to get Covid under control,” he declared in the dead of night. “Unfortunately, more Americans have died this year than last year under Covid.”

As cases surge once again in some parts of the country, Republicans have hit on a new line of attack: The president has failed on a central campaign promise, to tame the pandemic that his predecessor systematically downplayed. Democrats are incredulous, dismissing the strategy as another strand of spaghetti thrown at the wall.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates hit back hard: “If Covid-19 and inflation had lobbyists to help them kill more American jobs, Kevin McCarthy would be their favorite member of Congress,” he said. “He is actively undermining the fight against Covid, which is driving inflation.”

And Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called House Republicans “Covid’s biggest promoter” for “recklessly hand-waving lifesaving vaccines” and for promoting ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug falsely said to cure Covid-19.

“When Republicans abandoned the American people in the middle of a global crisis, House Democrats amped up vaccine distribution to crush the pandemic, reopened schools, small businesses and delivered a massive monthly middle-class tax cut,” Mr. Taylor said.

  • New York Times, See where coronavirus cases are surging in the U.S.

washington post logoWashington Post, Weekly jobless claims plunge to 199,000, lowest level in more than 50 years, Taylor Telford and Aaron Gregg, Nov. 24, 2021. The number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits — a proxy for layoffs — plunged by 71,000, falling well below pre-pandemic levels, the Labor Department reported. It’s the eighth straight weekly decline, a reflection of the tight U.S. labor market.

The number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims fell to 199,000 — the lowest level since November 1969 — the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

joe biden twitterClaims sank by more than 71,000 from the previous week, notching the eighth consecutive week of declines and falling well below pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, average weekly jobless claims hovered around 220,000.

The drop in claims, a proxy for layoffs, was preceded by small decline the week before, which was upwardly revised to 270,000. It’s a stark contrast to this time last year, when weekly unemployment claims were still hovering around 700,000.

us labor department logoA pandemic picture that was, up until recently, brightening, coupled with the protracted labor shortage, has cut down on layoffs that wracked the economy in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, said he thinks the trend is likely to continue.

“It is reasonable to expect that this proxy for layoffs should continue to improve, reflecting the overall strength of the job market and the need for many employers to retain or add to their workforces,” Hamrick said in comments emailed to The Post.

Hiring also strengthened in October, with the U.S. adding 531,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dropped from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent. It remains a far cry from its pre-pandemic low of 3.5 percent in February 2020, but marks a significant improvement over the course of 2021. In January, the unemployment rate stood at 6.3 percent.

The Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, which will be released next week, is expected to shed more light on the complex dynamics of the labor market. While jobless claims have ticked lower in recent weeks, more than 4.4 million workers (representing roughly 3 percent of the labor force) quit their jobs in September, a record high according to data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Children Begin Getting Vaccines, a ‘Huge Weight’ Is Lifted for Families, Jennifer Steinhauer, Nov. 25, 2021. The Smallest Covid Threats Get Their Shields. Millions of parents have been forced to view their children through a dual lens: as victims of isolation, and as potential vectors of infection.

After a long wait, many American families, especially those with immunocompromised adults, are now racing to vaccinate their 5-to-11-year-old children.

When the pandemic came for Georgia, Lauren Rymer had to make a snap choice: her mother’s safety or what she believed was best for her young child.

She locked down her family for the better part of last year, living with her mother, Sharon Mooneyhan, who has multiple sclerosis, and protecting her by keeping her son Jack, 5, out of kindergarten to avoid routine household exposure to Covid. “I didn’t want my mom to miss out on being with her only grandchild,” Ms. Rymer said.

So school was scrapped for mushroom hunts in the forest between her work Zoom calls, Legos and an intergenerational exploration of a backyard chicken coop. The upside was that she and her mother would not have to live in fear of a life-ending snuggle at bedtime.

Last week Jack, now 6, donned a superhero costume and hit the local CVS in Lawrenceville, Ga., to get a Covid shot, his first step toward a return to school, and a full life beyond their suburban Atlanta home.

“This vaccine is much bigger than a shot in the arm,” Ms. Rymer said. “It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.”

Millions of American parents have spent the better part of the last two years anxiously viewing their youngest family members through a dual lens: as the small souls crushed by the isolation of lockdowns or periodic quarantines and also as potentially fearsome vectors of infection dwelling in their midst. With another wave of Covid sweeping through parts of the country, the worry has not subsided altogether for so many families.

But for some, like the Rymers, finally getting children vaccinated this past month put a major piece of a protection puzzle in place for severely vulnerable adults who are immunocompromised, fighting cancer or coping with other diseases. That sense of relief has intensified with the holiday season here and all the trimmings and trepidation that accompany this year’s family gatherings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Health agency warns Europe’s covid surge may be ‘window into the future’ for the Americas, Paulina Villegas and Paulina Firozi, Nov. 25, 2021. The Pan American Health Organization said cases are up 23 percent over the past week in the Americas. Global health leaders are urging caution as the holiday season gets underway, pointing to a 23 percent spike in coronavirus cases across the Americas in the past week, a surge that follows spikes in Europe — which officials warn could be a “window into the future for the Americas.”

Los Angeles Times, L.A. firefighter accused of ‘despicable act’ in protest over vaccine mandate, Dakota Smith, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The Los Angeles Fire Department is investigating an incident in which a firefighter “responded inappropriately” after being handed a letter to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate, a department spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The LAFD member responded to receiving the non-compliance letter by dropping his pants and wiping his buttocks with the letter, leaving fecal matter on the document, before dropping it to the ground, according to the Stentorians of Los Angeles City, a group representing African American firefighters.

The alleged incident underscores the deep resistance among some within the Fire Department over the city’s mandate that employees be vaccinated.

LAFD spokeswoman Cheryl Getuiza said the alleged incident occurred on Nov. 18. “The department is aware of the seriousness of the allegations and took immediate action upon learning of this incident,” she said, declining to comment on the details. Getuiza said the firefighter is on paid administrative leave and “will face the consequences of any inappropriate acts.” She did not elaborate on specifically what prompted the leave.

An LAFD captain and a chief officer witnessed the incident, the Stentorians said in a statement sent to the Board of Fire Commissioners and city leaders. It took place at Fire Station 69 in Pacific Palisades, the group said.

“The LA City Stentorians are sickened and disgusted by this horrific display of unprofessionalism,” the Stentorians’ statement said. “To date, we have not heard from anyone from the LAFD administration condemning this act of blatant disrespect and harassment.” The group called on the mayor, City Council and fire commission “to take swift and immediate action to deter any city employee from feeling entitled and not encouraged but empowered to behave in such an embarrassing and threatening manner.”

The Stentorians described the act as a “terminable” offense. Their statement included a photo of a man holding what appeared to be a discolored document.

The city has sent vaccination compliance notices to workers as part of the city’s new vaccination mandate. Workers who have yet to get vaccinated or seek exemptions are supposed to sign notices that instruct them to provide proof of vaccination by Dec. 18.

Workers who refuse to sign those notices will be taken off duty and their pay halted as they await a notice of “proposed separation,” according to a memo that was sent to city departments by Garcetti.

The vaccination mandate has prompted angry outbursts for months from some in the Fire Department. A newly formed group called Firefighters 4 Freedom is suing the city over the vaccine rules, while a firefighter’s YouTube video criticizing the mandate went viral in August.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Nov. 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 study finds:

World Cases: 259,928,192, Deaths: 5,196,087
U.S. Cases:     48,972,550, Deaths:    798,245
Indian Cases:   34,544,882, Deaths:    466,980
Brazil Cases:   22,043,417, Deaths:    613,416

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 25, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Governance, Economy, Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democrats should temper their expensive enthusiasms with a clear-eyed look at the electorate, George F. Will, right, Nov. 25, 2021 george f will(print ed.). President Biden has been ever a willow, never an oak, bending under progressive winds. Now, however, congressional Democrats should consider tempering their enthusiasm with lucidity. That is, their enthusiasm about their many expensive enthusiasms, with lucidity about the electorate.

This is likely their only way to avoid a dispiriting, for them, 2022: Losing control of either congressional chamber would extinguish Biden’s legislative agenda. So, as the Democrats’ kamikaze caucus contemplates a (properly scored) $4 trillion-plus Build Back Better gusher to punctuate a year that has seen the highest inflation in 31 years, this caucus should ponder some data:

Joe Biden portrait 2Biden’s agenda for swollen government resembles Franklin D. Roosevelt’s in 1933 and Lyndon B. Johnson’s in 1965. The stark differences are the popular-vote margins that put the three into the presidency: FDR, 17 percentage points; LBJ, 23 points; Biden, 4.5 points. So, in 1933, there were 59 Democratic senators (out of 96) and 313 Democratic representatives. In 1965, there were 68 Democratic senators and 295 Democratic representatives. Today, the numbers are 50 and 221. Analyst Charlie Cook says of 2020:

democratic donkey logo“The presidential race came down to 125,084 votes spread across Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. A flip of just 62,543 votes and Donald Trump would now be [well] into a second term. In the Senate, the Georgia seat that put Democrats over the top was a matter of Jon Ossoff winning just 59,944 more votes than David Perdue. The margin in the House was 31,751 votes across five districts.”

In 2020, five states — Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania — were won by margins of 1.5 percentage points or less. Biden won all but North Carolina. If Trump had won the three that Biden carried by less than 1 point — Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona — he would be president.

The 2012 presidential election was the most recent one in which the Democratic candidate carried even 40 percent of Whites without college educations. Today, according to David Shor, a Democratic consultant, “If you look inside the Democratic Party, there are three times more moderate or conservative nonwhite people than very liberal white people, but very liberal white people are infinitely more represented” (emphasis added). And between 2016 and 2020, Trump increased his success with non-White working-class voters. Biden won a smaller share of both the White and non-White working class vote than Barack Obama received in 2012.

This is one reason Trump is the first incumbent president to increase his vote total — he did by 10 million — while failing to win reelection. Another reason is that just 10 percent of those who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 voted for Biden in 2020.

Ticket-splitting has declined: In 2020, only 16 of 435 congressional districts were won by a presidential candidate of one party and a House candidate of the other. In 2008, about 71 percent of Senate elections were won by the party whose presidential candidate carried the state. In 2020, the figure was 95.6 percent, the same as with House districts. But the three states Biden carried by the largest margins (Maryland, 33.2 points; Massachusetts, 33.5; Vermont, 35.4) have Republican governors.

In the 2021-2022 post-census redrawing of congressional districts, Republicans control legislatures in states with 187 districts, and Democrats have complete control in states with just 75. Furthermore, House races are susceptible to national waves, and since World War II, average midterm House losses for the president’s party are slightly worse in presidents’ first terms (23) than on average (22).

So, Biden could become the fifth consecutive president to see his party lose control of both the House and the Senate during his tenure. He could even lose both in the first midterm elections of his tenure. This most recently happened not recently — in 1994 and 1954, during Bill Clinton’s and Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first terms, respectively.

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon to track unexplained airborne objects through new intelligence group — a direct response to more than 140 reports of UFOs, Karoun Demirjian, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The Pentagon has created a new intelligence division exclusively dedicated to investigating unidentified objects that breach sensitive U.S. airspace, to understand both their origin and whether they could threaten national security.

Department of Defense SealAnnounced late Tuesday night, the new division — which the Defense Department will call its Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group — is a direct response to more than 140 reports of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or UAP, dating back nearly two decades and documented in a government study issued this past summer. That inquiry, intended to determine whether such sightings were signs of foreign threats, atmospheric anomalies, faulty sensors or even extraterrestrial life, yielded a report with few firm conclusions.

The group’s formation was directed by Kathleen Hicks, President Biden’s deputy secretary of defense. In a statement accompanying Tuesday’s announcement, defense officials said the government study made clear a need “to improve our ability to understand UAP.” The Pentagon treats reports of such “incursions — by any airborne object, identified or unidentified — very seriously,” particularly sightings occurring “on or near DOD training ranges and installations,” it said.

U.S. unable to explain more than 140 unidentified flying objects, but new report finds no evidence of alien life

Before the UAP report, produced by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, public scrutiny of such sightings was largely anecdotal, shrugged off in many circles as fantastical. But many of the observations it documented originated with U.S. military personnel, mainly Navy aviators. And there has been pressure on the Pentagon since, especially from Capitol Hill, to come up with more exacting and comprehensive answers about what these objects are and whether they pose a threat to U.S. interests.

washington post logo

Washington Post, Biden administration approves first offshore wind farm to supply power to New York, Dino Grandoni, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The approval of 12 wind turbines east of Long Island moves the Biden administration closer to its clean energy goals — but it has a long way to go.

 

glenn youngkin wins

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats’ disappointing performance in Va. should be wake-up call for party, report says, Amy B Wang, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). "If our most-effective message in 2022 is that Republicans = Trump, we’re going to get creamed,” the report stated.

A report conducted by Democrats in the wake of the Virginia election painted a gloomy picture for the party’s performance in the governor’s race there, led by a candidate voters did not find memorable and whose attempts to make the race about former president Donald Trump failed.

The report, which was conducted by the Democratic think tank Third Way and ALG Research, also laid out issues Democrats are likely to face in upcoming midterm and other elections, citing a “weak national brand” and an electorate that remains convinced the economy is doing poorly, despite several reports that show job gains, higher wages and other improvements amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Voters are unhappy with the direction of the country and don’t think we get it,” the report stated. “They aren’t hearing solutions from us, they don’t think we’re doing anything to address the big issues (lack of workers + rising prices), and in general they just aren’t seeing the smoother ride they thought they’d get after having voted out Trump.”

The report’s findings were based on interviews conducted virtually Nov. 8 and 9 with 18 voters — three focus groups of six voters each in the Richmond metro area and Northern Virginia. The demographic makeup of the focus groups was not specified. All had voted for President Biden in the 2020 presidential election, then either swung Republican or considered both candidates in the Virginia gubernatorial race.

Republican Glenn Youngkin, shown above announcing his victory this month, a former CEO of the Carlyle Group private equity firm and a first-time political candidate, defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe, who had already served as Virginia governor once before. Youngkin’s victory was an upset for Democrats a year after Biden won Virginia by 10 points.

The report offered a bleak assessment of the candidacy of McAuliffe, who received “no benefit” from having been governor before and who some voters got mixed up with current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D). “Zero respondents could remember anything [McAuliffe] did as governor,” the report stated. “He also was more of the same for them, at a time when they are frustrated with the status quo.”

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Trump Watchcy vance resized djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Investigation Enters Crucial Phase as Prosecutor’s Term Nears End, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich and David Enrich, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). New developments suggest the long-running inquiry has returned to an earlier focus: Donald Trump’s statements about the value of his assets.

A long-running criminal investigation into Donald J. Trump and his family business is reaching a critical phase as Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the prosecutor overseeing the inquiry (shown above right), enters his final weeks as Manhattan district attorney.

Mr. Vance’s prosecutors have issued new subpoenas for records about Mr. Trump’s hotels, golf clubs and office buildings. They recently interviewed a banker employed by Deutsche Bank, Mr. Trump’s top lender. And earlier this month, they told a top Trump executive who had been under scrutiny, Matthew Calamari, that they did not currently plan to indict him in the purported tax-evasion scheme that led to charges against Mr. Trump’s company and its chief financial officer.

The developments, described by people with knowledge of the matter, show that the Manhattan prosecutors have shifted away from investigating those tax issues and returned to an original focus of their three-year investigation: Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his assets.

In particular, the people said, the prosecutors are zeroing in on whether Mr. Trump or his company inflated the value of some of his properties while trying to secure financing from potential lenders. If Mr. Vance’s office concludes that Mr. Trump intentionally submitted false values to potential lenders, prosecutors could argue that he engaged in a pattern of fraud.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bannon files opposition to keeping documents from being released, Jacqueline Alemany, Nov. 25, 2021. Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump White House adviser, has filed an opposition to the U.S. district court’s standard protective order for discovery, which prohibits either side from releasing documents or evidence publicly.

Bannon, 67, pleaded not guilty last week to contempt-of-Congress charges, and his legal team previously argued that the case would be more complicated by agreeing to the prosecution’s protective order for discovery.

“Members of the public should make their own independent judgment as to whether the U.S. Department of Justice is committed to a just result based upon all the facts,” said a statement provided to The Washington Post on behalf of Bannon. “In the opposition filed today, Mr. Bannon asked the judge to follow the normal process and allow unfettered access to and use of the documents.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda R. Vaughn has said that there are “less than 20 documents” to be provided, but Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran told reporters that there was probably going to be a need for the defense to locate more documents and witnesses.

Bannon’s legal team argued that the government offered little reason the documents should be withheld from public view, adding that many of the documents that would be restricted by the proposed protective order in this case are already public.

“The Government offered no reason why it wanted to limit Mr. Bannon’s attorneys in their use of the documents to prepare a defense,” Bannon’s statement said.

Bannon has refused to comply with an order from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol to provide records and testimony about his actions leading up to the attack. The committee is interested in questioning Bannon about activities at the Willard hotel in the week leading up to Jan. 6.

 Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: A coup by any other name is still a coup, Wayne Madsen, Nov. 23-24, 2021. The committee's investigators wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallare on a trail that could ultimately point to Donald Trump being aware of the plans by insurrectionists to march on the U.S. Capitol. Those Oval Office plans could also include the physical occupation of the Capitol, as well.

If the plans to occupy the Capitol included placing the Vice President, Speaker of the House, Vice President-elect, and other key senators and representatives in physical harm's way, the criminal charges could be increased to conspiracy to commit murder of an elected federal official.

wayne madesen report logoHistory instructs us that some coup plans involve the storming of the national legislature. For example, the August 19, 1991 Soviet coup against President Mikhail Gorbachev also involved plans by the coup leaders' State Emergency Committee to storm the Russian Parliament building in Moscow  on the night of August 20-21, 1991.

Had it not been for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and thousands of his supporters encircling the Parliament building to protect it from pro-coup Soviet military and KGB personnel -- a force that never materialized -- the Parliament would have been stormed and the Russian democracy movement would have been stopped in its tracks.

The lessons of the Russian and Spanish coup attempts should not be lost on the House January 6th committee. Trump's involvement in the first actual American coup d'état should be met with a criminal indictment and trial. To do less only cheapens America's Constitution and rule of law.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 darrell brooks suspect 2 fox

ny times logoNew York Times, Wisconsin Suspect’s Previous Release May Hinder Efforts to Overhaul Bail, Glenn Thrush and Shaila Dewan, Nov. 25, 2021. Darrell Brooks, shown above, accused of plowing his S.U.V. through a Wisconsin parade killing six and wounding dozens more, had been freed on $1,000 bail for a different charge in Milwaukee County, where there is a backlog of cases.

In early November, prosecutors in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office made a fast, fateful decision, asking that bond for a 39-year-old repeat offender accused of brutalizing his girlfriend, then running over her with an S.U.V., be set at only $1,000.

That call, one of many made in the city’s bustling criminal court that day, initiated a succession of events that ended, according to the police, with that man, Darrell E. Brooks Jr., ramming his maroon Ford Escape through the barricades of a Christmas parade in nearby Waukesha, killing six people and injuring dozens more.

wisconsin map with largest cities CustomThe bail decision has brought criticism raining down on Milwaukee County’s district attorney, John T. Chisholm, a Democrat who has tried to reduce high rates of incarceration and racial disparities in the justice system. Longtime critics, led by Wisconsin’s previous governor, Scott Walker, blamed Mr. Brooks’s release on Mr. Chisholm’s “radical” liberal ideology.

It appears, though, that the controversial release may have been not a policy decision, but the result of happenstance and other factors — an inexperienced junior prosecutor and a rushed supervisor up against a huge backlog of cases that piled up during the coronavirus pandemic, according to court documents and interviews with judges, prosecutors, local officials and defense lawyers.

The bond was ultimately set by a court officer. Several people familiar with Milwaukee’s criminal courts said the amount was uncharacteristically low given the defendant’s background and charges, and it prompted an internal investigation within the district attorney’s office.

The backlash raised fears that the fatal episode would set back efforts across the country geared at reducing the incarceration of poor defendants awaiting trial because they cannot afford bail.

“This was not the product of criminal justice reform or bail reform efforts, which have rightfully questioned how we use pretrial and post-conviction incarceration,” said Craig Mastantuono, a Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer who has worked on such efforts for 15 years.

The decision to allow Mr. Brooks to be released on $1,000 bond was “a mistake,” he said, that occurred “despite, not because of, the current bail and risk assessment system in place here.”

In a statement released after the events in Waukesha, Mr. Chisholm said the prosecutor’s bail recommendation had been “inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges” and not “consistent with the risk assessment of the defendant.”

Mr. Chisholm and his team also pointed out that Mr. Brooks had been given a $10,000 bond in a previous case, though that bail had been lowered by the courts after his trial was delayed.

The case has, nonetheless, reignited a long-running debate over criminal justice in a deeply polarized state that, just days before, had seen Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted of homicide after killing two men during the unrest in nearby Kenosha in 2020.

Mr. Walker, a former Republican presidential candidate who curtailed parole as governor, suggested that the release of Mr. Brooks was related to the “defund the police” movement and said that Republicans should emphasize the issue in campaigns.

“We saw last year during the pandemic when you let violent criminals back out on the street, they commit crimes,” he said in a television interview on Tuesday. That’s what criminals do.”

Critics of a system that relies on high bonds to keep people detained say that the ability to pay is not a gauge of dangerousness. For example, a drug kingpin who has killed repeatedly might be able to pay a $1 million bond and go free, while a shoplifter might not be able to pay $250.

Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that has banned commercial bail bonds, where defendants pay a percentage to a bond company to bail them out. Instead, defendants are required to pay the full amount of their bonds, although many counties make liberal use of signature bonds, where no money is required up front but defendants are liable under a financial judgment if they fail to appear.

In theory, prosecutors in Wisconsin can ask for a preventive detention hearing to make the case that a defendant should be held without bail. But in practice they request high bond amounts instead, people familiar with the system said; Mr. Brooks is being held on $5 million cash bail after being charged in the fatal parade attack.

People involved in the state’s criminal justice system said the bail decision in Mr. Brooks’s earlier case was less about ideology than exigency, and was almost certainly related to the massive backload of cases in the Milwaukee court system, made up of cases delayed by the pandemic plus a new wave of trials resulting from a recent spike in violent crime. More than 1,000 felony cases, and close to twice that many misdemeanors, are currently in the queue, officials said, increasing incentives to reduce the prison population by lowering bail.

“We are now facing, in Milwaukee County, a backlog to the tune of two years when it comes to trials,” said Mary E. Triggiano, chief judge of the state’s First Judicial District, which oversees courts in the city and surrounding area.

“The whole ecosystem is interconnected, so everything — the courts, jails, bail — is affected by the crisis,” she added. “We are struggling with this every single day.”

It is clear that Mr. Brooks — who had a criminal history of violence, domestic abuse, sexual crime, drug offenses and bail jumping dating to 1999 — should never have been eligible for such a low bail regardless of the state of the courts, lawyers who work in the system said.

Each defendant is screened by a pretrial risk assessment that uses nine data points, including age and prior convictions, to rate the defendant’s risk of failing to appear in court and of committing a new crime. Judges or court commissioners receive the risk score, along with recommendations by the defense and the prosecution, before setting the amount of bond and the release conditions, which can range from very little supervision for low-risk defendants to weekly check-ins and GPS monitoring.

The risk assessment is not a matter of public record, but someone with Mr. Brooks’s history would almost certainly have been rated a six out of six and flagged as a high risk for violence, several lawyers said.

Mr. Brooks was ordered to be under “Level 5” supervision, the most restrictive level possible, according to documents prepared for his Nov. 5 bail hearing. He was ordered to keep away from two female witnesses in the case, and prohibited from carrying a firearm, but he was not required to wear a GPS unit to track his location. The $1,000 bond was posted by a relative.

The prosecutor assigned to Mr. Brooks’s case, Michelle A. Grasso, a 2019 graduate of Marquette University Law School, and Carole Manchester, a veteran lawyer who represented the office in the bail hearing, did not respond to requests for comment.

The bail system in Milwaukee, with its pretrial protocols, is the result of a longstanding collaboration among the county judges, Mr. Chisholm’s office and the local public defender. In 2012, the courts introduced risk assessments to reduce unnecessary restrictions on low-level defenders and more accurately identify those who warranted closer supervision.

ny times logoNew York Times, Newark Officer Hit a Pedestrian With His Car, Then Took the Body Home, Prosecutors Say, Mike Ives and Alyssa Lukpat, Nov. 25, 2021.  Louis Santiago was charged with reckless vehicular homicide after being accused of hitting a man on the Garden State Parkway. Instead of calling 911, the off-duty police officer took the victim to his home.

A Newark police officer was charged with reckless vehicular homicide, prosecutors said on Wednesday, accusing the man of hitting a pedestrian with his personal car and briefly taking the body home, where he discussed with his mother what to do with it.

The officer, Louis Santiago of the Newark Police Department, was off duty when his Honda Accord drifted into the northbound shoulder of the Garden State Parkway around 3 a.m. on Nov. 1, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release issued on Wednesday. His car struck Damian Z. Dymka, 29, a nurse from Bergen County.

 

World News, Global Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, France and Britain spar over illegal migration, after at least 27 drown in English Channel, Rick Noack and Karla Adam, Nov. 25, 2021. Wednesday’s drownings marked one of the deadliest incidents on the dangerous Dover Strait route.

The French government called for more European and British support for its efforts to combat human trafficking in the English Channel after at least 27 migrants drowned while trying to cross from France to Britain on Wednesday.

French FlagSpeaking on French radio on Thursday morning, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said “pregnant women, children died.”

French officials had previously said five women and a small girl were among the victims, but an investigation to identify the fatalities and their countries of origin was still ongoing. Two people, from Iraq and Somalia, survived and were being treated for hypothermia, United Kingdom flagaccording to Darmanin.

In a phone call with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday evening, French President Emmanuel Macron “underlined the shared responsibility” and urged the British to “refrain from exploiting a dramatic situation for political purposes,” the Élysée presidential palace said early Thursday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russian Mine Blast Kills Dozens, Among Them Rescuers, Ivan Nechepurenko, Nov. 25, 2021. Investigators said a gas buildup at a Siberian mine with a history of problems led to the deaths of at least 52 people.

A gas buildup and explosion in a Siberian coal mine on Thursday killed at least 52 people — including six rescuers — in the country’s worst mining disaster in over a decade, Russian officials said.

russian flag wavingThe accident occurred early in the morning at the Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region of Russia, about 2,200 miles east of Moscow, after a ventilation shaft began filling with gas, Russia’s Investigative Committee reported.

Rescue efforts at the mine, which plunges 1,300 feet into the earth, continued throughout the day even as the death toll kept rising. Miners initially considered missing were gradually shifted to the list of the dead until late Thursday, when the authorities said they had been forced to suspend rescue operations because of a high concentration of methane in the mine.

Interfax, the Russian news agency, reported that there appeared to be no hope of finding anyone else alive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian prosecutor calls on Supreme Court to abolish one of Russia’s most prominent human rights organizations, Robyn Dixon, Nov. 25, 2021. A Russian prosecutor Thursday called on the Supreme Court to abolish one of Russia’s most prominent human rights groups, the International Memorial Society, part of a comprehensive crackdown on all such groups in the country.

russian flagThe International Memorial Society is renowned for researching and memorializing the Soviet-era executions and imprisonment of dissidents. Its human rights wing, Memorial Human Rights Center, exposes the current abuses by Russian authorities and played a leading role in exposing military atrocities during the two Chechen wars in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

Under the tightening authoritarian rule of President Vladimir Putin, Memorial has been under pressure for years, but the bid to close it down shocked global human rights advocates and observers of Russia.

Both wings of the organization have been declared “foreign agents,” and must meet onerous requirements, including putting “foreign agent” warnings on all published materials, as well as tough reporting rules on finances.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gender-based harassment has surged online during pandemic. Laws haven’t kept up, activists say, Miriam Berger, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Online abuse has been part of a global spike in gender-based violence, according to a report released Wednesday.

Reports of online abuse directed toward women and girls — along with LGBTQ and nonbinary people and other marginalized groups — have risen during the nearly two years of the coronavirus pandemic, studies show.

Even as governments grapple with a growing impetus to regulate behemoth social media companies and stop cybercrimes, this overarching fact of life online — that women and girls face a heightened risk of abuse and harassment — is often missing from legislative efforts for change, anti-abuse activists say.

“We know that online abuse has a very gendered nature to it,” said Seyi Akiwowo, the founder and executive director of Glitch, a U.K. nonprofit aimed at ending online abuse. “We need language that addresses that.”

Harassment online is part of a broader, pandemic-era surge in gender-based violence worldwide, according to a report by U.N. Women released Wednesday, in the run-up to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence on Thursday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sweden elected its first female leader. She resigned hours later, Miriam Berger, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Magdalena Andersson's resignation came after her party quit the newly formed government following the passage of a budget bill backed by three right-wing parties.

Swedish flagSweden on Wednesday confirmed Magdalena Andersson as its first female leader, nearly 100 years after the Scandinavian country extended women the right to vote.

Her tenure was fleeting.

Hours after assuming office, Andersson resigned from the post when a member of the ruling coalition, the center-left Swedish Green party, quit the government in protest after lawmakers passed a budget bill backed by three right-wing parties. Andersson’s Social Democratic Party had put forward an alternative budget proposal that failed to pass. Andersson said she hopes to form a single-party ruling government.

Andersson had briefly joined the ranks of around two dozen current female heads of state and government, according to UN Women, the United Nations agency focused on gender equality. Around half of those women head European countries.

washington post logoWashington Post, Australia deploys forces to Solomon Islands as protesters burn Chinatown, Parliament, Michael E. Miller, Nov. 25, 2021. Riots shook australian flag wavingthe capital despite a lockdown, fueled partly by anger over the government’s move to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.

Smoke billowed over Honiara on Thursday, a day after protesters demanding the prime minister’s resignation set fire to Parliament and several other buildings.

The escalating riots — fueled by domestic grievances over development priorities and the country’s decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China — led Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to call on neighboring Australia for help. His Australian counterpart pledged to send about 120 soldiers and police officers to keep the peace.

washington post logoWashington Post, German parties to announce government led by center-left Olaf Scholz, marking end of Merkel era, Loveday Morris, Nov. 24, 2021. After two months of talks, German parties on Wednesday were set to announce a new government which will see Olaf Scholz, from the center-left Social Democrats, take over from Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years in power.

german flagThe Social Democrats and two other parties that made gains in Germany’s September elections: the climate conscious Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties were scheduled to give a joint news conference at 3 p.m. Berlin time, following a final round of negotiations.

The deal will mark a shift to the left for Germany after more than a decade and a half in power for Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, which will now head into opposition. But few expect drastic departures in policy from a government under Scholz, who served angela merkel w 2008as finance minister in Merkel’s outgoing cabinet.

After 16 years, Germany’s Merkel is stepping down. Here’s how she built her legacy.

Still, for both Germany and wider Europe where Merkel, right, had taken on the role of a de facto leader, it marks the end of an era.

ny times logoNew York Times, Australia Defamation Case Signals a Crackdown on Citizens, Critics Say, Yan Zhuang, Nov. 24, 2021. A government minister sued and won over a brief Twitter post that called him a “rape apologist.” A journalist sees “asymmetric warfare.”

australian flag wavingAustralia’s defense minister on Wednesday won a defamation case over a six-word tweet that called him a “rape apologist.”

Critics and experts said the court case exemplified the conservative government’s heavy-handed approach toward regulating damaging commentary on social media — what Prime Minister Scott Morrison called “a coward’s palace.” The case also represented a troubling shift as politicians bring more lawsuits against ordinary citizens, they said.

The dispute began when Shane Bazzi, an advocate for refugees who has 13,000 Twitter followers, wrote a Twitter post in February about Peter Dutton, then the country’s home affairs minister and now the defense minister.

“Peter Dutton is a rape apologist,” the tweet said, and linked to an article about comments Mr. Dutton had made that women seeking asylum in Australia used rape claims as an excuse to enter the country.

The post was published on the same day that Mr. Dutton also used the phrase “she said, he said” in reference to explosive accusations by Brittany Higgins, a former government staff member, who said she had been sexually assaulted in Australia’s Parliament House.

Mr. Dutton began defamation proceedings soon after, saying that the post had “deeply offended” him and had wrongly suggested he condoned and excused rape. Mr Bazzi’s blue Twitter check mark, Mr. Dutton also argued, implied recognition by the social media giant and had led the minister to believe that the post was not just the “rant of somebody randomly on Twitter.”

A spokeswoman for Twitter did not immediately respond to an email on Wednesday seeking comment.

Justice Richard White ruled in a judgment handed down on Wednesday that the tweet had, indeed, been defamatory. Justice White also rejected Mr. Bazzi’s defense that he had expressed his honest opinion, saying that neither the article about Mr. Dutton nor the “she said, he said” statement supported the conclusion that Mr. Dutton excused rape.

“Mr. Bazzi may have used the word ‘apologist’ without an understanding of the meaning he was, in fact, conveying,” Justice White said. “If, as I think likely, Mr. Bazzi did not appreciate the effect of his words, it would follow that he did not hold the opinion actually conveyed by the words.”

The court ordered Mr. Bazzi to pay Mr. Dutton 35,000 Australian dollars (about $25,000) in damages.

The case’s outcome was not unheard-of in a country with notoriously strict defamation laws, but it was unusual that the defendant was not another politician or a high-profile journalist, said Michael Douglas, a senior lecturer in private law at the University of Western Australia.

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Education, Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. professor steps down after firestorm over study into adults who are attracted to minors, Nicole Asbury, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Allyn Walker, an assistant professor of sociology, was previously placed on administrative leave.

Old Dominion University professor Allyn Walker, whose research into adults who are sexually attracted to minors drew protests and threats, has agreed to step down, Walker and the school announced in a joint statement Wednesday.

Walker, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, had been placed on administrative leave Nov. 16. They now will remain on leave until the expiration of their current contract in May.

Walker’s research into “minor-attracted people” and their use of that term had been met with an outcry from students and others online, who claimed that such language destigmatized sex offenders. Walker has maintained that their work was intended to better understand would-be sex offenders and prevent child sexual abuse.

 

Nov. 24

Top Headlines

 

Trump Watch

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Governance, Politics, Elections


U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 

World News, Global Human Rights

 

Media, Sports, Religious News

 

Top Stories

Travis McMichael, left, Gregory McMichael and neighbor William

Travis McMichael, left, his father Gregory McMichael, center, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. (Ahmaud Arbery trial pool photo via Getty).

ap logoAssociated Press, All 3 men charged in Arbery’s death convicted of murder, Russ Bynums, Nov. 24, 2021. All three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery were convicted of murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting that became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice.

The convictions for Greg McMichael (shown at center above), son Travis McMichael (at left) and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan (at right above) came after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours. The men face minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.

Travis McMichael stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.

Moments after the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.

“He didn’t do nothing,” the father said, “but run and dream.”

Ahmaud ArberyThe McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Black man, right, after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.

Though prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged them with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.

The jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley soon after returning to court Wednesday morning asking to view two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece.

georgia mapJurors returned to the courtroom to see the videos and listen again the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.

The disproportionately white jury received the case around midday Tuesday and spent about six hours deliberating before adjourning without a verdict.

The McMichaels told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar when they armed themselves and jumped in a pickup truck to chase him. Bryan joined the pursuit when they passed his house and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael blasting Arbery at close range with a shotgun as Arbery threw punches and grabbed for the weapon.

On the 911 call the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.”

He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few second later.

The graphic video death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men. Each of them is charged with murder and other crimes.

Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.

travis mcMichael greg mcMichael william bryant

CBS News, All three men involved in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery found guilty of murder, Staff Reports, Nov. 24, 2021. A jury in Glynn County, Georgia, found three men – Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. – guilty on multiple counts of murder for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man fatally shot while out for a jog on February 23, 2020.

Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery, was found guilty on all of the nine charges he faced. His father, Gregory McMichael, was found guilty on eight of the nine charges he faced. William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. was found guilty on six of the nine charges he faced.

 timothy walmsley pool photo stephen b morton

Judge Timothy R. Walmsley was tapped to preside over the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial after all five judges in Brunswick, Ga., where the killing occurred, recused themselves (Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Ahmaud Arbery’s Final Minutes: What Videos and 911 Calls Show, Malachy Browne, Drew Jordan, Dmitriy Khavin and Ainara Tiefenthäler, May 16, 2020. Using security footage, 911 calls and police reports, The Times reconstructed the 12 minutes before Mr. Arbery was shot.

 

Torchlight parade of neo-Nazis and White Supremiscists chanting such slogans as

Torchlight parade of neo-Nazis and white supremiscists chanting such slogans as "Jews will not replace us" in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, 2017.

washington post logoWashington Post, Spencer, Kessler, Cantwell and other white supremacists found liable in deadly Unite the Right rally, Elisa Silverman, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). A federal jury in Charlottesville was asked to consider whether some of the country’s most notorious white supremacists and hate groups conspired to commit racially motivated violence.

richard spencer file thumbProminent white supremacists Richard Spencer, left, Jason Kessler and Christopher Cantwell and others (portrayed below right on the front page of the New York Daily News) engaged in a conspiracy in advance of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, a jury has ruled.

The jury did not reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy charges, but did find that every defendant was liable for civil conspiracy under Virginia law.

charlottesville ny daily news cover death hate august 13 2017 custom 3The jury then awarded $500,000 in punitive damages against all 12 individual defendants, and $1 million against five white nationalist organizations on that conspiracy count. Other damages followed on further counts.

The 11 jurors need only to find “a preponderance of the evidence,” rather than the higher bar of “beyond reasonable doubt” in criminal trials. But they deadlocked on two federal claims of a race-based conspiracy, while agreeing that there was a conspiracy under Virginia state law and that the victims were entitled to compensation.

During that rage-filled weekend, a torch-carrying mob chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and a neo-Nazi rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer. Nine people who said they suffered physical and emotional harm filed the action.

Here’s what to know

  • Jason Kessler, the lead organizer of the Unite the Right rally, Richard Spencer, a featured speaker who coined the term “alt-right,” and Christopher chris cantwell mugCantwell, right, who became widely known as the “crying Nazi” after an emotional video of him was posted when a warrant was issued for his arrest in a separate case, are among the defendants.
  • Plaintiffs’ attorneys used a trove of evidence, including planners’ messages leaked from the group-chat platform Discord, in their argument that defendants planned, executed and celebrated the violence of that weekend.
  • Representatives for many of the two dozen defendants named in this case blamed others for the violence and said their hateful language in messages that featured calls for and celebrations of violence were hyperbolic — and constitutionally protected — speech.

washington post logoWashington Post, Weekly jobless claims plunge to 199,000, lowest level in more than 50 years, Taylor Telford and Aaron Gregg, Nov. 24, 2021. The number of first-time claims for unemployment benefits — a proxy for layoffs — plunged by 71,000, falling well below pre-pandemic levels, the Labor Department reported. It’s the eighth straight weekly decline, a reflection of the tight U.S. labor market.

The number of Americans filing initial unemployment claims fell to 199,000 — the lowest level since November 1969 — the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

joe biden twitterClaims sank by more than 71,000 from the previous week, notching the eighth consecutive week of declines and falling well below pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, average weekly jobless claims hovered around 220,000.

The drop in claims, a proxy for layoffs, was preceded by small decline the week before, which was upwardly revised to 270,000. It’s a stark contrast to this time last year, when weekly unemployment claims were still hovering around 700,000.

us labor department logoA pandemic picture that was, up until recently, brightening, coupled with the protracted labor shortage, has cut down on layoffs that wracked the economy in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, said he thinks the trend is likely to continue.

“It is reasonable to expect that this proxy for layoffs should continue to improve, reflecting the overall strength of the job market and the need for many employers to retain or add to their workforces,” Hamrick said in comments emailed to The Post.

Hiring also strengthened in October, with the U.S. adding 531,000 jobs. The unemployment rate dropped from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent. It remains a far cry from its pre-pandemic low of 3.5 percent in February 2020, but marks a significant improvement over the course of 2021. In January, the unemployment rate stood at 6.3 percent.

The Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, which will be released next week, is expected to shed more light on the complex dynamics of the labor market. While jobless claims have ticked lower in recent weeks, more than 4.4 million workers (representing roughly 3 percent of the labor force) quit their jobs in September, a record high according to data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.nasa logo

ny times logoNew York Times, NASA Launches New Mission: Crash Into Asteroid, Defend Planet Earth, Joey Roulette, Nov. 24, 2021. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft could be the first to alter an asteroid’s path, a technique that may help defend the planet in the future.

On Wednesday at 1:21 a.m. Eastern time, NASA launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, or DART, from a U.S. Space Force base in California (it was Tuesday local time). A 1,200-pound, refrigerator-size spacecraft will trek around the sun to slam into a small asteroid named Dimorphos at 15,000 miles per hour next year. If the mission succeeds, it could demonstrate for the first time humanity’s ability to punch a potentially hazardous asteroid away from Earth.

“We’re doing this work and testing this DART capability before we need it,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s chief of planetary defense, said. “We don’t want to be flying an untested capability when we’re trying to save a population on the Earth’s surface.”

bill nelsonNASA is led by former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), right, a former astronaut.

The $324 million DART mission is unusual for NASA, a civilian agency that focuses mainly on exploration, climate monitoring and hunting for signs of past life in our solar system. While it coordinates with and relies on the U.S. Department of Defense for some activities, NASA has not traditionally been responsible for leading efforts to protect the United States — or Earth, for that matter — from any security threat.

That changed in 2005, when Congress assigned the agency the imperative of protecting the planet from dangerous objects that orbit the sun and have the bad habit of occasionally crossing paths with our world. That includes tracking tens of thousands of so-called near-Earth asteroids large enough to wreak catastrophic damage. Lawmakers assigned NASA the task of cataloging 90 percent of the total expected amount of these space rocks, but it has missed that goal.

 

ian fishback

ny times logoNew York Times, Maj. Ian Fishback, Who Exposed Abuse of Detainees, Dies at 42, Sam Roberts, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). His letter to two senators about beatings by U.S. troops in Iraq led to legislation in 2005 prohibiting extreme mistreatment of military prisoners.

Ian Fishback, shown above, an Army whistle-blower whose allegations that fellow members of the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners prompted the Senate to approve anti-torture legislation in 2005, died on Nov. 19 in Bangor, Mich. He was 42.

His family said in a statement that the cause had not been determined. He died in an adult foster care facility, the climax to a distinguished but abbreviated career that the family said had begun to unravel as a result of neurological damage or post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was admitted to the facility following court-ordered treatment with anti-psychotic drugs after he had become delusional and created public disturbances, his family said.

Major Fishback was one of three former members of the 82nd Airborne who said soldiers in their battalion had systematically abused prisoners by assaulting them, exposing them to extreme temperatures, stacking them in human pyramids and depriving them of sleep to compel them to reveal intelligence — or, in some cases, simply to amuse the soldiers. He said his complaints were ignored by his superiors for 17 months.

Major Fishback reported some of the abuses in September 2005 in a letter to top aides of two senior Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee: John W. Warner of Virginia, the chairman, and John McCain of Arizona. The aides said his reports were sufficiently credible to warrant investigation.

 

Trump Watch

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Investigation Enters Crucial Phase as Prosecutor’s Term Nears End, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich and David Enrich, Nov. 24, 2021. New developments suggest the long-running inquiry has returned to an earlier focus: Donald Trump’s statements about the value of his assets.

A long-running criminal investigation into Donald J. Trump and his family business is reaching a critical phase as Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the prosecutor overseeing the inquiry, enters his final weeks as Manhattan district attorney.

Mr. Vance’s prosecutors have issued new subpoenas for records about Mr. Trump’s hotels, golf clubs and office buildings. They recently interviewed a banker employed by Deutsche Bank, Mr. Trump’s top lender. And earlier this month, they told a top Trump executive who had been under scrutiny, Matthew Calamari, that they did not currently plan to indict him in the purported tax-evasion scheme that led to charges against Mr. Trump’s company and its chief financial officer.

The developments, described by people with knowledge of the matter, show that the Manhattan prosecutors have shifted away from investigating those tax issues and returned to an original focus of their three-year investigation: Mr. Trump’s statements about the value of his assets.

In particular, the people said, the prosecutors are zeroing in on whether Mr. Trump or his company inflated the value of some of his properties while trying to secure financing from potential lenders. If Mr. Vance’s office concludes that Mr. Trump intentionally submitted false values to potential lenders, prosecutors could argue that he engaged in a pattern of fraud.

 enrique tarrio mic

   Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, shown above and currently serving a jail sentence, the chairman of the Proud Boys, was issued a subpoena for his involvement with the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Investigating Capitol Attack Subpoenas Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, Luke Broadwater, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Investigators believe the militia or paramilitary groups have information about the deadly siege on Jan. 6.

The House committee investigating the Capitol attack issued subpoenas on Tuesday to three militia or paramilitary groups, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, that investigators believe have information about the deadly siege on Jan. 6.

The subpoenas were issued to the Proud Boys International, L.L.C., and its chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio; the Oath Keepers and its president Elmer Stewart Rhodes; and the 1st Amendment Praetorian and its chairman Robert Patrick Lewis.

“The select committee is seeking information from individuals and organizations reportedly involved with planning the attack, with the violent mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 or with efforts to overturn the results of the election,” Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, said in a statement. “We believe the individuals and organizations we subpoenaed today have relevant information about how violence erupted at the Capitol and the preparation leading up to this violent attack.”

The committee said members of Proud Boys International called for violence before Jan. 6, and the Justice Department indicted at least 34 people affiliated with the group.

People associated with the Oath Keepers were similarly involved in planning and participating in the Capitol riot, the committee said, including 18 members who were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly planning a coordinated attack to storm the building. Mr. Rhodes repeatedly suggested that the Oath Keepers should engage in violence to ensure their preferred election outcome. He was also allegedly in contact with several of the indicted Oath Keepers members before, during and after the Capitol attack, including meeting some of them outside the Capitol.

1st Amendment Praetorian is an organization that provided security at multiple rallies leading up to Jan. 6 that amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. The group’s Twitter account suggested on Jan. 4 that violence was imminent, the committee said.

“Today is the day that true battles begin,” Mr. Lewis wrote on Twitter on Jan. 6. He also claimed to be involved with “war-gaming” to continue efforts to overturn the election results, the committee said.

The panel has issued more than 40 subpoenas and interviewed more than 200 witnesses as it investigates the violence that engulfed Congress and delayed the formalization of President Biden’s victory. The latest subpoenas demand records and testimony by mid-December.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Jan. 6 committee subpoena of Proud Boys suggests a look at coordinated action, Greg Sargent, right, Nov. 24, 2021. The House greg sargentselect committee examining the Jan. 6 insurrection just announced subpoenas for two groups that served as the shock troops in the assault on the Capitol: The Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

This will likely provoke a serious escalation of anger on the right. Which, in turn, highlights two subplots about the ongoing investigation: First, investigators appear largely unfazed by right-wing efforts to cow them into backing off by depicting the inquiry as a broader persecution of conservatives.

Second, despite efforts on the right to cast the investigation in those terms, the focus is falling heavily on the motives and conduct of potential organizers of the assault, as distinct from rallygoers outside those groups who might have gotten swept up in the passions of the moment.

The letters that the select committee sent to the new subpoena targets do not say exactly what was subpoenaed. But you can glean a sense of general intent: It appears investigators want to determine the degree of coordination that went into the assault.

eric trump djtPalmer Report, Opinion: Eric Trump’s burner phone just blew the January 6th scandal wide open, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 24, 2021. If it often seems that Donald bill palmerTrump Jr. and Eric Trump (above right) are in a perpetual race to see which one can prove he’s the dumbest son, the two of them rang true to form this past week.

First it was reported that Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle bragged in text messages that she raised millions of dollars to fund January 6th. Now Rolling Stone is reporting that Eric Trump and his wife Lara Trump used burner phones – no really, burner phones – to communicate in advance with January 6th organizers. (See: Rolling Stone, Investigation: Jan. 6 Organizers Used Anonymous Burner Phones to Communicate with White House and Trump Family, Sources Say, Hunter Walker.)

bill palmer report logo headerSuffice it to say that Eric and Lara Trump are now in a bit of a tough spot. The point of using a burner phone is so that no one knows you were involved to begin with, and therefore doesn’t know what to look for. But once you’ve been outed for using a burner phone – particularly by the people on the other end, which appears to be the case here – it means investigators can potentially find and seize your burner phone records and text messages just the same as any other phone.

Keep in mind that even if the Department of Justice and the January 6th Committee didn’t already know about Eric Trump’s burner phone, they do now. If they haven’t already moved to seize those phone records, they will now. This will be investigated on both a criminal and congressional level.

There’s no way for us to know if there is going to be enough for the DOJ to bring federal criminal charges over this. The mere act of using a burner phone is behavior consistent with that of someone who’s trying to conceal a criminal plot, but it alone doesn’t prove a criminal plot. That’ll depend on the specifics of the evidence and witnesses involved. Did Eric and Lara Trump instruct January 6th organizers to commit crimes? Did Eric and Lara Trump know that others were planning to commit crimes? These are questions prosecutors will have to answer based on the evidence.

In the meantime, things are much more straightforward for the January 6th Committee. The Rolling Stone expose alone should be enough of a legal basis to subpoena Eric and Lara Trump for documents and testimony – and to have the DOJ criminally indict them for contempt if they fail to comply.

 Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: A coup by any other name is still a coup, Wayne Madsen, Nov. 23-24, 2021. The committee's investigators wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallare on a trail that could ultimately point to Donald Trump being aware of the plans by insurrectionists to march on the U.S. Capitol. Those Oval Office plans could also include the physical occupation of the Capitol, as well.

If the plans to occupy the Capitol included placing the Vice President, Speaker of the House, Vice President-elect, and other key senators and representatives in physical harm's way, the criminal charges could be increased to conspiracy to commit murder of an elected federal official.

wayne madesen report logoHistory instructs us that some coup plans involve the storming of the national legislature. For example, the August 19, 1991 Soviet coup against President Mikhail Gorbachev also involved plans by the coup leaders' State Emergency Committee to storm the Russian Parliament building in Moscow  on the night of August 20-21, 1991.

Had it not been for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and thousands of his supporters encircling the Parliament building to protect it from pro-coup Soviet military and KGB personnel -- a force that never materialized -- the Parliament would have been stormed and the Russian democracy movement would have been stopped in its tracks.

The lessons of the Russian and Spanish coup attempts should not be lost on the House January 6th committee. Trump's involvement in the first actual American coup d'état should be met with a criminal indictment and trial. To do less only cheapens America's Constitution and rule of law.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Fights Covid Mandates, Then Blames Biden as Cases Rise, Jonathan Weisman, Nov. 24, 2021. Republicans have long fought mask and vaccine mandates, but as infections again rise, they point to President Biden for failing to end the health crisis.

kevin mccarthyOver eight hours last Thursday night and into Friday morning, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, right, hit on many issues as he spoke on the House floor in an unsuccessful effort to thwart House passage of President Biden’s social safety net and climate change bill. But among his most audacious assertions was that Mr. Biden was to blame for the country’s failure to quell the pandemic.

Mr. McCarthy used this line of attack even as members of his own Republican Party have spent months flouting mask ordinances and blocking the president’s vaccine mandates, and the party’s base has undermined vaccination drives while rallying around those who refuse the vaccine. Intensive care units and morgues have been strained to capacity by the unvaccinated, a demographic dominated by those who voted last year for President Donald J. Trump.

rnc logoAs of mid-September, 90 percent of adult Democrats had been vaccinated, compared with 58 percent of adult Republicans.

Yet Mr. McCarthy, the House Republican leader, pressed his point: “I took President Biden at his word; I took him at his word when he said he was going to get Covid under control,” he declared in the dead of night. “Unfortunately, more Americans have died this year than last year under Covid.”

As cases surge once again in some parts of the country, Republicans have hit on a new line of attack: The president has failed on a central campaign promise, to tame the pandemic that his predecessor systematically downplayed. Democrats are incredulous, dismissing the strategy as another strand of spaghetti thrown at the wall.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates hit back hard: “If Covid-19 and inflation had lobbyists to help them kill more American jobs, Kevin McCarthy would be their favorite member of Congress,” he said. “He is actively undermining the fight against Covid, which is driving inflation.”

And Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, called House Republicans “Covid’s biggest promoter” for “recklessly hand-waving lifesaving vaccines” and for promoting ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug falsely said to cure Covid-19.

“When Republicans abandoned the American people in the middle of a global crisis, House Democrats amped up vaccine distribution to crush the pandemic, reopened schools, small businesses and delivered a massive monthly middle-class tax cut,” Mr. Taylor said.

  • New York Times, See where coronavirus cases are surging in the U.S.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. asks court to reinstate Biden’s vaccination policy for businesses, Ann E. Marimow, Nov. 24, 2021. The Biden administration on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to reinstate its coronavirus vaccination or testing requirement for private businesses “as soon as possible” and to get rid of an earlier ruling that has temporarily blocked one of the White House’s signature policies, set to take effect in January.

Dozens of legal challenges primarily from Republican-led states, private employers and conservative groups have been consolidated before a single court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Before the cases were combined this month, a different set of judges halted the policy, finding that the Labor Department exceeded its authority and caused “economic uncertainty” and “upheaval” for businesses that “threatens to decimate their workforces.”

The Justice Department said in its filing Tuesday that the federal government should be permitted to address “the grave danger of Covid-19 in the workplace.”

The conservative-leaning 6th Circuit could respond at any time. Regardless of its ruling, the case is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court.

Legal battle over Biden’s vax-or-test mandate for businesses is just beginning

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules, private employers with more than 100 workers must require staffers to be vaccinated or face weekly testing and mandatory masking. The requirements are more flexible than many similar policies put in place by private companies and state and local governments but have faced a series of legal challenges.

OSHA invoked a rarely used emergency power to issue the policy, which is expected to cover 84 million workers. The Biden administration estimates the rules will save more than 6,500 lives and prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations over a six-month period.

If the Ohio-based 6th Circuit is not inclined to reinstate the policy, the government said the court should still narrow the earlier ruling from the Louisiana-based 5th Circuit to require the masking-and-testing policy to remain in effect while the litigation continues.

anthony fauci graphic Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: ‘Overwhelming majority’ of Americans should get booster shots, Fauci says, Andrew Jeong and Adela Suliman, Nov. 24, 2021. Senior health officials are calling for Americans to get vaccinated — and get their booster shots — as cases tick back up across the country and the approaching holiday season brings with it more indoor, maskless gatherings.

Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser (shown above in a file photo), said Tuesday in an interview with Reuters that the “overwhelming majority” of vaccinated Americans should receive a booster dose.

Fauci also said it is possible that the definition of a full vaccination could expand to include three doses of an mRNA vaccine such as those from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or two doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — to incorporate the booster doses. Adding to the urgency, new daily coronavirus cases in the United States rose by 10 percent in the past week, according to Washington Post figures. Deaths have increased by 10 percent while rochelle walensky 2hospitalizations have risen by 4 percent during the same period.

On Monday, Rochelle Walensky, left, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged Americans to get vaccinated ahead of the holiday season. “We are really enthusiastic for people to be able to gather again for this holiday season, and we would just encourage that people do so safely,” Walensky said.

More than 36 million Americans have received their booster shots, according to the CDC. Almost 60 percent of people have been fully vaccinated in the country so far.

Here’s what to know

  • With Thanksgiving around the corner, Americans are asking how to handle holiday visits to unvaccinated households and how to safely travel across the country.
  • The CDC has moved Denmark and Germany to its highest-risk category for travel, as Europe grapples with rising numbers of infections and deaths.
  • The World Health Organization has warned that covid-19 deaths in the European region are projected to reach 2.2 million by next spring, based on current trends. Europe has become the epicenter of the pandemic, with death rates on the rise, especially in pockets where vaccination rates remain low.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Nov. 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 study finds:

World Cases: 259,255,829, Deaths: 5,187,496
U.S. Cases:     48,835,216, Deaths:    796,319
Indian Cases:   34,535,763, Deaths:    466,584
Brazil Cases:   22,038,731, Deaths:    613,240

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 24, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Governance, Economy, Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: With hundreds of nominees to confirm, the Senate doesn’t deserve Thanksgiving break, Fred Hiatt (Editorial Page editor, fred hiattbelow right), Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Even as he approaches his first anniversary in office, President Biden is miles away from having an administration in place. Key positions across every department are empty.

At this rate, Biden is likely to be presiding over a dangerously unstaffed administration even halfway into his term. If Republicans gain a Senate majority in the 2022 election, he’s then likely to go an entire term without anything close to a full government in place.

The United States allows a new president to fire and replace about 4,000 officials. Other democracies install a relative handful of political appointees, who are expected to steer a professional civil service. Imagine a big company that fired its 4,000 top executives every four or even eight years; you’d be crazy to buy its stock.

To make matters worse, roughly 1,200 of those 4,000 need Senate confirmation. The Post and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service are tracking 802 of the most important of those 1,200 — and so far only 189 people have been confirmed and begun work.

Think about that: We’re approaching the end of Biden’s first year, and less than one-quarter of his leadership team is in place. This is no way to run a government.

There are multiple reasons. Biden has nominated just 432 people for those 802 positions. Before and after nomination, the vetting process can take months. And then, even if a nominee has the full backing of the relevant Senate committee, a single senator can gum up the works.

Which is where Ted Cruz comes in. He is blocking more than 40 State Department nominees, including most ambassadors.

How can Cruz single-handedly prevent Biden from sending ambassadors to crucial allied states such as Japan, France and Germany?

He can’t. But under Senate rules, he can force Majority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to spend hours debating and voting on each one. And Schumer has a few other things on his mind: If the Senate doesn’t pass some kind of budget soon, the government will shut down. If it doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the government will default. A defense authorization, the Build Back Better bill and nominees for lifetime judgeships are pending. So he would rather not devote floor time to confirming one administration official after another who, ordinarily, would be approved in quick votes, by unanimous consent.

But Schumer at least should say: If the obstruction doesn’t ease up, nobody’s going home for Christmas.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden to Nominate Shalanda Young as Budget Director, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Nov. 24, 2021. Ms. Young, the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget, would be the first Black woman to hold the post on a permanent basis.

shalanda youngPresident Biden said Wednesday he intends to nominate Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, to become the agency’s permanent leader after months without one.

Ms. Young, a deputy director who has been the interim leader since spring, would officially take the helm at a critical time for the office, which oversees the federal budget and shapes a host of regulations. On top of implementing a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package and a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, the administration expects to soon pass a more than $2 trillion social-spending package that is core to the president’s economic agenda.

The post has languished for months as one of the few high-level openings in the administration after the White House in March pulled its initial pick for budget director, Neera Tanden, who drew bipartisan criticism in part over vitriolic tweets targeting congressional members from both parties.

omb logo management and budget seal CustomMembers of Congress and administration officials have portrayed Ms. Young, in contrast, as having enough support from both Democrats and Republicans to gain Senate confirmation, and several lawmakers had pushed for her nomination. Ms. Young would be the first Black woman to hold the post.

Ms. Young, who was confirmed by the Senate in March to serve as the office’s deputy, 63 to 37, previously was staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, where she played key roles in shaping annual spending bills and a series of five pandemic relief packages that totaled $3 trillion — a centerpiece of the federal government’s emergency response to the pandemic.

While she won over both Democrats and Republicans during her work on Capitol Hill, some Republicans criticized her remarks during her confirmation hearing to serve as deputy budget director. Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, questioned her position to remove the so-called Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funds from going toward most abortions, from federal spending bills.

 Other recent headlines:

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, He’s Remaking Criminal Justice in L.A. But How Far Is Too Far? Emily Bazelon and Jennifer Medina, Nov. 17, Featured Nov. 24, 2021. To keep people out of prison, George Gascón is risking everything: rising violent crime, a staff rebellion and the votes that made him district attorney.

george gascon oLast December, when George Gascón, right, took over the largest local prosecutor’s office in the country, he made a complete break from the past. His inaugural speech as district attorney of Los Angeles County at once thrilled progressive activists and alienated many of the lawyers sizing up their new boss. Standing alone at a lectern as a pandemic precaution, Gascón put his hands to his forehead and half-bowed, yogi-style, to thank the judge who swore him in over a video connection. He flashed a smile and spoke in Spanish, his first language as a child growing up in Cuba, to honor his mother, who fled Fidel Castro’s Communist rule with his father and Gascón when he was 13.

Switching to English, Gascón, who is 67, acknowledged his long career in law enforcement. “You know, it was 40 years ago when I walked my first beat as a young Los Angeles police officer,” he said. “However, I am not the same man I was when I first put on the uniform.”

Then Gascón leveled an all-out attack on the status quo. The new district attorney described being arrested as “traumatic and dehumanizing,” lifting his hands for emphasis. “Our rush to incarcerate generations of kids of color,” he said, has torn apart “the social fabric of our communities.” Signaling that the police should expect new scrutiny, Gascón promised to review fatal shootings in the county by officers, going back to 2012.

He turned the argument for the “tough-on-crime approach” of other local law-enforcement leaders on its head, blaming their strategy for an eight-year rise in violent crime. He accused his opponents of making “unfounded and self-serving claims” about how more punishment increases public safety. “The status quo hasn’t made us safer,” he said, jabbing his fingers into the air.

Even prosecutors and prominent lawyers who voted for Gascón now thought his approach was wrongheaded. “If you want to make sustainable change,” says one veteran of the office who supported Gascón, “you don’t treat people like the enemy. You build respect.” The doubts rippled outward from there.

Some of them involved Gascón’s leadership team, which included several former public defenders, some of whom identify as prison abolitionists, rejecting the system they would now work within. “Huge reforms were needed in the culture of that office, and Gascón has good ideas,” says Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School who has worked with the office for years on innocence claims. “But he came in with his own people. Some were not familiar with the work of the office. Instead of getting to know the players and trying to change people’s perspectives, they came in and said, ‘This is the way to do it now.’”

In response to criticism, Gascón issued an order allowing for exceptions to certain directives in a small number of narrow circumstances. It didn’t mollify most of his critics.

In the last year and a half, the work of reform-minded prosecutors across the country has been complicated by a spike in killings. The murder rate remains far below the terrible peaks of the 1980s and ’90s, and crime overall has fallen slightly. The escalation is national — in small as well as big cities — affecting places with more traditional prosecutors as well as those like Los Angeles. And the rise in violence, which also includes an increase in aggravated assault, has coincided with the anomaly, and profound dislocation, of the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, With federal oversight in short supply, state AGs step in to probe troubled police, Kimberly Kindy, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). Police in Aurora, Colo., shot 20-year-old Jamaal Bonner in the back three times with a submachine gun during a sting operation, killing him. Four years later, the department formally apologized for killing the unarmed Black man and signed a legal agreement promising systemic changes.

Instead, Jamaal’s parents, Brenda and Bobby Bonner, have watched for more than a decade as violent police encounters with unarmed residents have continued.

There was 23-year-old Elijah McClain, another Black unarmed man, who died after he was detained without cause, placed in a chokehold and injected with a powerful sedative. And Shataeah Kelly, an unarmed Black woman who was hogtied and placed in the back of a patrol car. Then came Brittney Gilliam, an unarmed Black mother who was held at gunpoint for hours with her 6-year-old daughter, ordered to lay facedown on hot asphalt, on the false assumption that she stole the SUV that she legally owned.

Frustrated by the inability to enact wide-scale changes in police departments like Aurora with long histories of brutality claims, the Colorado General Assembly passed a bill last year giving the state attorney general a power traditionally wielded by the U.S. Department of Justice: to conduct investigations into the “pattern or practice” of civil rights abuses by police departments.

Breonna Taylor’s death sparked police reform in Louisville. But the path forward is complicated.

It was one of four such laws passed by state legislatures across the country after the death of George Floyd, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. These states are among about 10 that have explicitly given their attorneys general this authority but, with the exception of California, most have only acquired this power in recent years. At least one other state, Wisconsin, already has a similar bill pending.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kevin Strickland, held 43 years in triple murder, is exonerated after one of the nation’s longest-standing wrongful convictions, Timothy Bella, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Black man convicted by an all-White jury in a 1978 triple murder in Kansas City has spent over four decades in prison.

For the first time in more than four decades in prison, Kevin Strickland allowed himself to make a wish list of all the things he would do if he were to be exonerated for a triple murder he has long said he did not commit.

There are two places that Strickland — a 62-year-old Black man convicted by an all-White jury in 1979 and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for 50 years — hopes to see: the ocean, which he has never visited in person, and his mother’s grave.

“If we don’t stop at the gravesite first, I’m going to get out of the car and I’m going to try to make it there on my hands and knees,” Strickland told The Washington Post.

Strickland will get that opportunity.

A judge on Tuesday exonerated him after more than 43 years in prison, making his case the longest confirmed wrongful-conviction case in Missouri’s history — and one of the longest-standing such convictions in the nation’s history. He was released shortly after the judge issued his decision.

 

darrell brooks suspect 2 fox

washington post logoWashington Post, A child is the sixth person to die after driver of an SUV slammed into a Wis. parade, prosecutor says, Kim Bellware, Amy Cheng, Marisa Iati, Reis Thebault and Mark Berman, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The man accused of careening his vehicle into a holiday parade in Wisconsin appeared in court for the first time Tuesday, facing several counts of intentional homicide as the toll grew to six — the latest fatality a child who died of injuries sustained at the event.

Prosecutors said Darrell E. Brooks Jr., a Milwaukee resident (shown above), committed “an intentional act to strike and hurt as many people as possible” when he drove his maroon SUV into the holiday celebration in Waukesha on Sunday, plowing through barricades and past police officers, accelerating into a crowd that included young children, parents and elderly performers.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Brooks appeared in a Waukesha County courtroom a mile from the site of the parade carnage to hear the five homicide charges against him. Prosecutors informed the court of the sixth fatality and said they intend to file an additional homicide charge. If convicted, Brooks could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Brooks’s first court appearance took place amid mounting scrutiny of his criminal history — he faced two open cases before Sunday, including one in which he was accused of running over the mother of his child while driving the same vehicle that police say was used on Sunday.

He was released from custody in that case five days before the parade after posting $1,000 cash bail, which the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office now says was “inappropriately low.” Critics say Brooks should not have been freed last week.

Why suspect was out on bail after being accused of earlier car attack
Waukesha holiday parade victims include a child, a bank teller and Dancing Grannies, prosecutor says

  • Washington Post, Opinion: The Biden administration is moving too slowly on ‘ghost guns’ like the one that killed my daughter, Bryan Muehlberger, Nov. 24, 2021.

ny times logoNew York Times, She Ran a Bronx Homeless Shelter. Here’s What She Spent Millions On, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). A shelter operator admitted using money from the city to cover personal expenses, including shopping sprees at Neiman Marcus and Manolo Blahnik.

During the mid-2010s, New York City paid a nonprofit in the Bronx more than $10 million to house, feed and provide social services to families at a 100-room homeless shelter.

ethel perryAccording to the nonprofit’s executive director, Ethel Denise Perry, right, here is where much of the money went: Her gym membership. Her car payments. Shopping sprees at Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Ferragamo, Neiman Marcus, Manolo Blahnik, Tiffany’s and other luxury retailers. Her brother and nephew, whom she put on the payroll of the nonprofit, Millennium Care.

All together, Ms. Perry, 66, admitted using money the city paid Millennium Care to cover over $1 million in personal credit card bills, according to a plea agreement with the state attorney general’s office she signed on Friday. She took $2,394,169 from Millennium Care beyond her official salary.

Even after the attorney general’s office came after her for failing to file taxes three years in a row, she kept defrauding the authorities, belatedly reporting, for instance, $31,358 in income for 2015 when Millennium Care actually paid her over $700,000, according to the agreement.

  jeffrey epstein gurney cropped emergency room

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein’s Final Days: Celebrity Reminiscing and a Running Toilet, Benjamin Weiser, Matthew Goldstein, Danielle Ivory and Steve Eder, Nov. 23, 2021. Newly released records provide the most detailed look yet at the last days of the disgraced financier, and show mistake after mistake made by jail and bureau officials.

The disgraced financier, jailed in Manhattan on federal sex trafficking charges involving teenage girls, was found unconscious on the floor of his cell one morning in July 2019, a strip of bedsheet tied around his bruised neck. He is shown on a gurney above.

In the hours and days that followed that suicide attempt, Jeffrey Epstein would claim to be living a “wonderful life,” denying any thoughts of ending it, even as he sat on suicide watch and faced daunting legal troubles.

“I have no interest in killing myself,” Mr. Epstein told a jailhouse psychologist, according to Bureau of Prisons documents that have not previously been made public. He was a “coward” and did not like pain, he explained. “I would not do that to myself.”

But two weeks later, he did just that: He died in his cell on Aug. 10 in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, having hanged himself with a bedsheet, the medical examiner ruled.

djt epstein hand on shoulderAfter a life of manipulation, Mr. Epstein, shown at right with future president, Donald Trump, created illusions until the very end, deceiving correctional officers, counselors and specially trained inmates assigned to monitor him around the clock, according to the documents — among more than 2,000 pages of Federal Bureau of Prisons records obtained by The New York Times after filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The detailed notes and reports compiled by those who interacted with Mr. Epstein during his 36 days of detention show how he repeatedly assured them he had much to live for, while also hinting that he was increasingly despondent. The clues prompted too little action by jail and bureau officials, who made mistake after mistake leading up to Mr. Epstein’s death, the records reveal.

Beyond the legal and administrative matters, the collection of records provides the most intimate and detailed look yet at Mr. Epstein’s final days, and offers something often missing from public accounts: his voice.

He passed many days closed in a conference room with his lawyers, avoiding the confines of his dank and dirty cell. In conversations with psychologists and other inmates, he spoke of his interest in physics and mathematics and offered tidbits of investment advice. He reminisced about socializing with celebrities, even as he complained about the running toilet in his cell, the orange prison garb, his difficulty sleeping, his dehydration and a numbness in his right arm.

Inmate Epstein was also upset about wearing an orange jumpsuit and being treated like "a bad guy" when he did not do anything wrong in the prison. Custody and security concerns were addressed with inmate Epstein including why he has to wear his orange jumpsuit (due to his being housed in SHU).

And where Mr. Epstein had once rubbed shoulders with politicians, scientists and Wall Street titans, now he was left to converse about the food in the 12-story detention center. “Epstein wants to know who’s the best cook on 11 North,” one inmate wrote.

The newly obtained records offer no support to the explosion of conspiracy theories that Mr. Epstein’s death was not a suicide. They also shed no light on questions raised by his brother and one of his lawyers that he might have been assisted in killing himself. But they do paint a picture of incompetence and sloppiness by some within the Bureau of Prisons, which runs the federal detention center.

An intake screening form erroneously described Mr. Epstein as a Black male (he was white), and indicated that he had no prior sex offense convictions, even though he was a registered sex offender with two 2008 convictions in Florida, for solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors to engage in prostitution. A few social phone calls he made were not recorded, logged or monitored, records show, an apparent violation of jail policy.

The night he killed himself, Mr. Epstein lied to jail officials and said he wanted to phone his mother — who was long dead. He instead called his girlfriend. Jail personnel left him alone in his cell that night, despite an explicit directive that he be assigned a cellmate.

Two days after the suicide, William P. Barr, then the U.S. attorney general, said there were “serious irregularities” at the correctional center, but did not elaborate. He later blamed “a perfect storm of screw-ups.”

A 15-page psychological reconstruction of Mr. Epstein’s death, compiled by bureau officials five weeks later and never before made public, concluded that his identity “appeared to be based on his wealth, power and association with other high-profile individuals.”

Other Relevant Headlines

 

World News, Global Human Rights

ny times logoNew York Times, At Least 31 Dead After Migrant Boat Capsizes in English Channel, Aurelien Breeden and Constant Méheut, Nov. 24, 2021. The boat, which capsized near Calais, had been carrying a group of migrants to Britain.

At least 31 people drowned off the coast of France on Wednesday, after a boat carrying migrants trying to reach Britain capsized in the English Channel, according to the French authorities.

Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, said that the dead, including 5 women and a little girl, were part of a group of 33 migrants. There was no immediate word on where the migrants were from.

The death toll, one of the worst for migrants crossing the Channel in recent years, came only a few days after French and British authorities had reached an agreement to do more to stem the number of people taking to the sea.

“The shipwreck that occurred in the Channel is a tragedy,” Jean Castex, the French prime minister, said on Twitter.

Local maritime authorities said they quickly sent out rescue ships and helicopters after a fishing vessel alerted them that several people were lost off the coast of Calais.

“The operation is still ongoing, several of those who were shipwrecked have been picked up,” the French maritime authority for the area said in a statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, German parties to announce government led by center-left Olaf Scholz, marking end of Merkel era, Loveday Morris, Nov. 24, 2021. After two months of talks, German parties on Wednesday were set to announce a new government which will see Olaf Scholz, from the center-left Social Democrats, take over from Chancellor Angela Merkel after her 16 years in power.

german flagThe Social Democrats and two other parties that made gains in Germany’s September elections: the climate conscious Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties were scheduled to give a joint news conference at 3 p.m. Berlin time, following a final round of negotiations.

The deal will mark a shift to the left for Germany after more than a decade and a half in power for Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats, which will now head into opposition. But few expect drastic departures in policy from a government under Scholz, who served angela merkel w 2008as finance minister in Merkel’s outgoing cabinet.

After 16 years, Germany’s Merkel is stepping down. Here’s how she built her legacy.

Still, for both Germany and wider Europe where Merkel, right, had taken on the role of a de facto leader, it marks the end of an era.

ny times logoNew York Times, Australia Defamation Case Signals a Crackdown on Citizens, Critics Say, Yan Zhuang, Nov. 24, 2021. A government minister sued and won over a brief Twitter post that called him a “rape apologist.” A journalist sees “asymmetric warfare.”

australian flag wavingAustralia’s defense minister on Wednesday won a defamation case over a six-word tweet that called him a “rape apologist.”

Critics and experts said the court case exemplified the conservative government’s heavy-handed approach toward regulating damaging commentary on social media — what Prime Minister Scott Morrison called “a coward’s palace.” The case also represented a troubling shift as politicians bring more lawsuits against ordinary citizens, they said.

The dispute began when Shane Bazzi, an advocate for refugees who has 13,000 Twitter followers, wrote a Twitter post in February about Peter Dutton, then the country’s home affairs minister and now the defense minister.

“Peter Dutton is a rape apologist,” the tweet said, and linked to an article about comments Mr. Dutton had made that women seeking asylum in Australia used rape claims as an excuse to enter the country.

The post was published on the same day that Mr. Dutton also used the phrase “she said, he said” in reference to explosive accusations by Brittany Higgins, a former government staff member, who said she had been sexually assaulted in Australia’s Parliament House.

Mr. Dutton began defamation proceedings soon after, saying that the post had “deeply offended” him and had wrongly suggested he condoned and excused rape. Mr Bazzi’s blue Twitter check mark, Mr. Dutton also argued, implied recognition by the social media giant and had led the minister to believe that the post was not just the “rant of somebody randomly on Twitter.”

A spokeswoman for Twitter did not immediately respond to an email on Wednesday seeking comment.

Justice Richard White ruled in a judgment handed down on Wednesday that the tweet had, indeed, been defamatory. Justice White also rejected Mr. Bazzi’s defense that he had expressed his honest opinion, saying that neither the article about Mr. Dutton nor the “she said, he said” statement supported the conclusion that Mr. Dutton excused rape.

“Mr. Bazzi may have used the word ‘apologist’ without an understanding of the meaning he was, in fact, conveying,” Justice White said. “If, as I think likely, Mr. Bazzi did not appreciate the effect of his words, it would follow that he did not hold the opinion actually conveyed by the words.”

The court ordered Mr. Bazzi to pay Mr. Dutton 35,000 Australian dollars (about $25,000) in damages.

The case’s outcome was not unheard-of in a country with notoriously strict defamation laws, but it was unusual that the defendant was not another politician or a high-profile journalist, said Michael Douglas, a senior lecturer in private law at the University of Western Australia.

ny times logoNew York Times, Raids on Independent Groups in El Salvador Raise Fears of Repression, Bryan Avelar and Oscar Lopez, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). President Nayib Bukele bills himself as a young reformer, but a crackdown on voices outside the government’s control is fueling claims of growing authoritarianism.

The authorities in El Salvador have raided the offices of seven social service and advocacy groups in an embezzlement investigation that rights advocates charge is part of a politically motivated crackdown on independent voices.

The raids on Monday came as the country’s Legislative Assembly ​​considered a bill that would require any groups or individuals who receive funding from abroad to register with the Interior Ministry as foreign agents, a condition that critics say could severely limit the work of journalists and civil society.

In a statement, the attorney general’s office said the raids had been carried out as part of an investigation launched by the Assembly into “a series of abnormalities that may have arisen in the process of adjudication, execution and monitoring of funds from the Salvadoran state.” A spokesman for the president’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The raids are the latest example of President Nayib Bukele’s assault on democratic norms and institutions, critics say, with the charismatic young leader increasingly using his party’s control of the Assembly to chip away at judicial independence and undermine opposition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Taliban sends hundreds of fighters to eastern Afghanistan to wage war against Islamic State, Susannah George, Featured on Nov. 24, 2021. The Taliban has expanded its shadowy war against the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan, deploying hundreds more fighters to this eastern province in an increasingly violent fight and critical test of the group’s counterterrorism abilities after the U.S. troop withdrawal.

More than 1,300 additional Taliban fighters have been deployed to Nangahar province in the past month with orders to increase the tempo of operations, according to Taliban security officials. Taliban night raids against suspected Islamic State-Khorasan members are on the rise, and many of the hundreds arrested have disappeared or turned up dead, according to Jalalabad residents and Taliban fighters.

“The fight is difficult, and yes sometimes it is brutal, but we have to eradicate Daesh not just for Afghanistan, but for the entire world,” said Qari Nurullah Fateh, a Taliban fighter under the group’s intelligence wing in Jalalabad. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State commonly used in Afghanistan. “If someone doesn’t surrender to us, we kill them.”

Fateh’s unit carries out multiple search operations for Islamic State suspects in Jalalabad most nights from sunset until early morning prayers. Previously, the fighters would only leave base once or twice a week. Fateh estimated that seven to 10 Islamic State suspects are arrested in Jalalabad every week and about six are killed.

The Taliban crackdown has sent shock waves through the province and is emerging in Islamic State recruitment propaganda calling on Nangahar residents to rise up and resist. It is unclear how many new fighters have joined the Islamic State’s ranks, but since the Taliban takeover the group has strengthened, become more active and expanded its presence to nearly every Afghan province, according to United Nations assessments.

The wave of Islamic State attacks here and across Afghanistan is the first sustained challenge to the Taliban’s grip on security since the group took control of the country in August. But the escalating fight in Nangahar risks overstretching limited Taliban resources and further alienating many Afghans.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. plans to lift terrorist designation from former Colombian guerrilla group, Karen DeYoung and Samantha Schmidt, Nov. 24, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration has informed Congress that it plans to lift a nearly 25-year-old terrorist designation against the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, following a peace deal the group signed five years ago with the Colombian government.

New designations will be issued for at least one of the splinter groups that have broken with the FARC, as it was known, and still consider themselves at war with the government. The administration also plans to keep in place existing U.S. indictments against individual members, including for drug trafficking, according to people familiar with the decision.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Tuesday called the peace agreement “a seminal turning point” in the decades-old conflict between successive Colombian governments and the FARC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuela’s ruling socialist party claims sweeping wins in elections, Samantha Schmidt and Ana Vanessa Herrero, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Venezuela’s socialist ruling party claimed sweeping victories Sunday night in the first elections to include the country’s top opposition parties in nearly four years, a low-turnout vote that critics say was rigged from the start.

nicolas maduro customPolitical allies of President Nicolás Maduro, right, won 20 out of 23 gubernatorial offices across the country, according to preliminary results from the electoral council. With a turnout of just 41.8 percent, one of the country’s lowest rates in the past two decades, the vote reflected an electorate apathetic toward its leadership options in the crumbling socialist state.

“We have the whole map already, clear and drawn,” Maduro said in a speech early Monday, calling his party “a determining force in the history of this venezuela flag waving custombeautiful country called Venezuela.”

The opposition chose to participate in the elections, abandoning a years-long boycott, in the hopes of reviving a disillusioned base and redefining the leadership of the fractured and faltering pro-democracy movement. But it appeared they emerged from the contest as weak as they entered it, facing a ruling party with far greater campaign resources and tight control of the country’s electoral system.

“This process … was about reconnecting with the country, walking the streets of each neighborhood of Caracas and telling the people: WE ARE HERE,” tweeted Tomás Guanipa, who came in third place for mayor in a Caracas municipality won by a pro-government candidate. “But the reality is that the country spoke and spoke loudly, through abstention.”

It remained to be seen whether Venezuela’s electoral system passed a key test of legitimacy under the careful watch of more than 130 European Union observers, the first such mission here in 15 years. The mission plans to release initial findings on Tuesday. But as polls closed Sunday, human rights advocates raised alarm at reports of “irregularities, threats and attacks” in the electoral process.

Recent Global Headlines:

 

Media, Religious, Sports News

Harvard Nieman Journalism Lab, Now nonprofit, The Salt Lake Tribune has achieved something rare for a local newspaper: financial sustainability, Sarah Scire, Nov. 24, 2021. The Salt Lake Tribune’s transition to nonprofit status has been closely watched in the news industry. “The opportunity for us to prove that this can work is significant and so is the responsibility.”

The Salt Lake Tribune has plenty to celebrate in 2021. The first (and so far only) major newspaper to become a nonprofit is financially sustainable and, harvard logoafter years of layoffs and cuts, is growing its newsroom. Executive editor Lauren Gustus announced the news in a note to readers in which the relief of escaping hedge fund ownership was palpable.

“We celebrate 150 years this year and we are healthy,” Gustus wrote. “We are sustainable in 2021, and we have no plans to return to a previously precarious position.”

It’s been quite the turnaround. Utah’s largest newspaper escaped the clutches of the hedge fund Alden Global Capital in 2016 only to see its local owner, Paul Huntsman, lay off a third of staff two years later in the face of plunging ad revenue. In 2019, The Tribune made history as the first daily newspaper to become a nonprofit. And then amid the height of the pandemic last year, the Tribune ended a 149-year run of printing a daily newspaper and a 68-year-old joint partnership with the Deseret News.

(The Tribune, which once enjoyed a daily circulation nearing 200,000, had about 36,000 subscribers when the decision to move to a weekly print edition was announced. The Deseret News, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also stopped publishing its daily print edition.)

Gustus pointed out that hundreds of American newspapers are owned by financial institutions with a well-deserved reputation for making every newspaper they touch worse by gutting newsrooms, selling off assets, and jacking up subscription prices for readers. Gustus herself joined the Tribune from McClatchy (owned by a hedge fund) and spent years at Gannett (once managed by one hedge fund, and now deeply in debt to a different one). Her note to readers has “hedge fund” in the headline and URL. Clearly, she has thoughts! When I asked Gustus about leading a news organization that was once owned by Alden and seeing the effect hedge fund ownership has had on other newsrooms, however, she chose her words carefully.

Rolling Stone, ‘Bitter,’ ‘Angry,’ ‘Enraged’: Reality Winner Blasts the Intercept After 4 Years in Jail, Tessa Stuart, Nov. 24, 2021. Reality Winner, a former intelligence analyst contracted by the NSA, is serving a home confinement sentencing by the federal courts in Kingsville, Texas on July 3, 2021.

reality winner mug CustomOne of the first things Reality Winner did when she was released from federal prison in June was start building a paddock for a horse named Trouble, and a small shed for her gym equipment beside it.

rolling stone logoWinner, right, a former NSA contractor, was training for a powerlifting competition when she was arrested in June 2017, accused of leaking classified information to The Intercept. When the FBI showed up at her house that day, her main preoccupation was getting her perishable groceries into the fridge and figuring out who would feed her cat and foster dog if she came in for questioning. She hadn’t processed the fact that, not only would she miss the competition, she wouldn’t go home for years.

Inside the shed, where she spends most of her time these days, she’s got three hundred pounds of bumper plates, dumbbells, barbells, a kettlebell, pull-up bars, gymnastics rings, a nine-foot steel rig for doing squats and bench presses, a jump box, a rowing machine and stationary bike, all gifted by friends and supporters ahead of her release. Between reps, she’ll run out and give Trouble a scratch on his nose.

“I built my workout shed right by the side of his pasture, so he’s always creeping by,” Winner says. “It’s one of those moments where it’s, like, I’m doing deadlifts and petting my horse between sets? My life is perfect right now.”

For the next three years, Winner, who had her court-mandated ankle monitor removed on Tuesday, will still be on probation, which means mandatory drug tests every two weeks, a 10 p.m. curfew, and securing permission from her probation officer for any overnight trip she’d like to take.

“It enrages me,” Winner says, comparing the terms of her parole to those of friends she made inside the system.

nsa logo 2Winner was just 25 years old when she printed a single classified document — one that described Russian military efforts to spear-phish dozens of local election officials ahead of the 2016 election — smuggled it out of the NSA facility where she worked and mailed it to The Intercept. (For comparison, Edward Snowden provided at least 10,000 documents to, among others, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who later went on to co-found The Intercept. The NSA has claimed he took more than 1.7 million files.) Winner was ultimately sentenced to sixty-three months in prison for the leak, the longest prison term ever imposed for an unauthorized release of government information to the media.

The Intercept was widely criticized for its handling of the document Winner leaked—in particular, the decision to show the leaked document to the U.S. government.

After her arrest, First Look Media, which owns The Intercept, pledged to support Winner’s legal defense, but Winner says that support stopped shortly after her sentencing in August 2018. Nonetheless, she says, lawyers retained by First Look Media continued to advocate for her, even filing a petition for pierre omidyarcompassionate release “basically pro bono” after billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s nonprofit news outfit “fell behind” on payments to the firm. Omidyar is shown at right in a file photo.

According to Winner, the last time she discussed the matter with her then-legal team, First Look owed the legal team “30 percent of the original agreed cost” of her legal defense. David Bralow, legal director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund, strongly disputed Winner’s characterization.

In 2017, when Winner first came across the document on an internal NSA server, she chose to share it with The Intercept in large part because of her admiration for the disclosures Edward Snowden made with Greenwald and Poitras’ help, but also because of skepticism about Russia’s attempts to influence in the 2016 election.

Today, Winner is wary of what she sees as The Intercept’s contribution to an increasingly polarized media landscape. She has been especially stung by what she sees as Greenwald’s assertions that her own mistakes — including failing to follow guidelines for leakers outlined on The Intercept’s website, like specific advice not to contact the outlet either from work or by email — contributed to her arrest. (Greenwald, who was not involved in reporting the story, resigned from The Intercept in 2020, accusing the outlet of censoring an article critical of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.)

Like Chelsea Manning, Winner says she’s been surprised by what she views as a cynical change in Greenwald’s public persona. Greenwald, she says, is “addicted to negative press…He’s willing to have whatever message is going to generate the most attention… Glenn isn’t the problem, he’s a symptom, and they’re all going to wind up like him.”

glenn greenwald intercept anniversary poster april 16 2019Reached by email, Greenwald (shown above, second from left, as part of a 2019 promo, said, “The only point I ever made about Reality Winner is that even if The Intercept had acted responsibly, Reality Winner would have been caught anyway — not because she’s ‘stupid’ but because the US government has created such a pervasive surveillance system that it is very difficult for any inside source to evade detection if the government is determined to find them.”

“I wasn’t the first source that they burned and I definitely wasn’t the last — two other people have done prison time [due to] them being extremely sloppy,” Winner says, referring to Daniel Hale, sentenced to 45 months in prison earlier this year after he pled guilty to leaking documents about the U.S. military’s drone program, and Terry Albury, sentenced in 2018 to four years in prison after leaking documents concerning the bureau’s use of informants. “Every time one of their sources goes to prison, that’s another headline for them. That’s how they stay relevant — by burning sources, instead of the journalism that they once believed in.”

In a statement, Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, said, “As we’ve acknowledged before, in preparing the story on Russian election interference in 2017, we made errors in the course of verifying a document that came to us anonymously. We honor her courage and feel awful about what she went through… We have learned from Reality’s case and we work hard to minimize the risks whistleblowers face.” Separately, Reed said she wasn’t aware of any evidence that The Intercept had made missteps in its reporting in either Hale or Albury’s cases.

nfl logo cropped

ny times logoNew York Times, N.F.L. to Settle Lawsuit Over Rams’ Relocation for $790 Million, Ken Belson, Nov. 24, 2021. Rams owner Stanley Kroenke is expected to pay the entire amount, ending the four-year court battle over the team’s move to Los Angeles in 2016.

The N.F.L. has agreed to pay the city and county of St. Louis $790 million to settle a four-year dispute over whether the league broke its own relocation guidelines to pave the way for the Rams to move to Los Angeles in 2016, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity. A league spokesman confirmed that a settlement had been reached, but declined to confirm the amount.

In a civil suit, a group that included the city, the county and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority said Rams executives, N.F.L. officials and other teams’ owners had encouraged the group to try to build a new stadium to keep the franchise. Officials in St. Louis spent $17 million on designs and plans for a new stadium, but the league disregarded those efforts without explanation and team owners voted to allow the Rams to move to California, the complaint said.

Rams owner Stanley Kroenke, who in recent weeks tried to narrow the scope of his liability in the case, is expected to pay for the entire settlement.

The payout comes on top of the $550 million relocation fee that Kroenke paid to the N.F.L. for the right to move to Los Angeles. He has also spent roughly $5 billion to build SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., which the Rams share with the Los Angeles Chargers, and which will host the Super Bowl in February.

ny times logoNew York Times, Karim Benzema, French Soccer Star, Is Convicted in Sex Tape Scandal, Aurelien Breeden, Nov. 24, 2021. The Real Madrid striker was found guilty of being part of an attempt to blackmail a fellow player, charges that had led to his being dropped from his national team for more than five years.

Karim Benzema, a star striker for Real Madrid, was found guilty by a French court on Wednesday on charges that he was part of an attempt to blackmail a fellow player in a case involving a sex tape, a scandal that saw Benzema excluded from France’s national soccer team for more than five years.

Benzema, 33, was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros, or about $84,000.

He had been accused of helping four other men blackmail Mathieu Valbuena, a teammate in the France squad, over an intimate video that had been taken from Valbuena’s mobile phone.

Benzema has always denied the accusations, and his lawyers quickly announced that he would appeal the verdict. He was preparing for Real Madrid’s Champions League match later on Wednesday against Sheriff Tiraspol and did not attend court for the decision.

Crooks & Liars, Oh, And You Thought It Was Just You Being Seduced By Aliens? Susie Madrak, Nov. 24, 2021. End Times preacher Sharon Gilbert says that an alien imitated her husband, and then it tried to have sex with her, but after she invoked Jesus, it turned out to be a reptile.

Appearing on the Jim Bakker show, End Times preacher Sharon Gilbert says that an alien imitated her husband, tried to have sex with her, then it claimed to be Xerxes, she invoked Jesus, and then the alien revealed itself as a reptile with a gang of gargoyles.

Her husband, Derek P. Gilbert, hosts SkyWatchTV, a Christian television program, and co-hosts weekly video programs SciFriday and Unraveling Revelation with his wife, according to Amazon.

Coincidentally, he's also the co-author with his wife of Giants, Gods & Dragons, a new take on End Times prophecy that puts names to the entities called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Veneration, a book on ancient ancestor cults that reveals hidden prophecies of the return of the evil dead at Armageddon. Derek has also co-authored The Day the Earth Stands Still with Josh Peck, which documents the occult origins of “ancient aliens.”

I read something recently that evangelical grifters are really concerned about the possible fallout if the U.S. government, which is following a "drip, drip, drip" strategy, reveals UAPs are of extraterrestrial origin -- and presumably cuts into their cash flow. (Think those private jets are cheap?)

Fortunately, some of these forward-looking folks are already developing alternate theologies, like saying aliens are the old gods, come back to undermine Christianity.

 

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Torchlight parade of neo-Nazis and White Supremiscists chanting such slogans as

Torchlight parade of neo-Nazis and white supremiscists chanting such slogans as "Jews will not replace us" in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, 2017.

washington post logoWashington Post, Spencer, Kessler, Cantwell and other white supremacists found liable in deadly Unite the Right rally, Elisa Silverman, Nov. 23, 2021. 
A federal jury in Charlottesville was asked to consider whether some of the country’s most notorious white supremacists and hate groups conspired to commit racially motivated violence.

richard spencer file thumbProminent white supremacists Richard Spencer, left, Jason Kessler and Christopher Cantwell and others (portrayed below right on the front page of the New York Daily News) engaged in a conspiracy in advance of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, a jury has ruled.

The jury did not reach a verdict on two federal conspiracy charges, but did find that every defendant was liable for civil conspiracy under Virginia law.

charlottesville ny daily news cover death hate august 13 2017 custom 3The jury then awarded $500,000 in punitive damages against all 12 individual defendants, and $1 million against five white nationalist organizations on that conspiracy count. Other damages followed on further counts.

The 11 jurors need only to find “a preponderance of the evidence,” rather than the higher bar of “beyond reasonable doubt” in criminal trials. But they deadlocked on two federal claims of a race-based conspiracy, while agreeing that there was a conspiracy under Virginia state law and that the victims were entitled to compensation.

During that rage-filled weekend, a torch-carrying mob chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and a neo-Nazi rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old counterprotester Heather Heyer. Nine people who said they suffered physical and emotional harm filed the action.

Here’s what to know

  • Jason Kessler, the lead organizer of the Unite the Right rally, Richard Spencer, a featured speaker who coined the term “alt-right,” and Christopher chris cantwell mugCantwell, right, who became widely known as the “crying Nazi” after an emotional video of him was posted when a warrant was issued for his arrest in a separate case, are among the defendants.
  • Plaintiffs’ attorneys used a trove of evidence, including planners’ messages leaked from the group-chat platform Discord, in their argument that defendants planned, executed and celebrated the violence of that weekend.
  • Representatives for many of the two dozen defendants named in this case blamed others for the violence and said their hateful language in messages that featured calls for and celebrations of violence were hyperbolic — and constitutionally protected — speech.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden authorizes use of strategic oil reserves to help offset high gas prices, Jeff Stein, Nov. 23, 2021. The Department of Energy will release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The move comes as President Biden is under pressure over pump prices, but it could trigger a showdown with major oil-producing nations, which could allege the White House is attempting to improperly distort energy markets.

The move comes as President Biden is under mounting pressure from Republicans over pump prices and as Americans are preparing for Thanksgiving travel. Some leading Democrats had called for the White House to take the action for weeks, but it could trigger a showdown with other major oil producing nations, which could allege the White House is attempting to improperly distort energy markets.

More oil now, less oil later: Biden’s tricky message on energy

While energy experts have consistently said such a release would do little to lower prices at the pump, the White House said the effort would be undertaken “in parallel” with similar efforts by China, India, Japan, South Korea and Britain. India, for instance, also announced it would release 5 millions barrels of oil from its strategic reserves.

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence greet a gathering of sheriffs at the White House on Sept. 5, 2018 (Washington Post photo by Calla Kessler).

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence greet a group of sheriffs at the White House on Sept. 5, 2018 (Washington Post photo by Calla Kessler).

washington post logoWashington Post, Unaccountable: An Examination of Policing in America: Under Trump, U.S. officials aggressively sought sheriffs to detain undocumented immigrants, Debbie Cenziper, Madison Muller, Monique Beals, Rebecca Holland and Andrew Ba Tran, Nov. 23, 2021. The Trump administration recruited local law enforcement partners and courted sheriffs who championed similar views on immigration policy, according to dozens of emails obtained by The Post.

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins had spent years advocating for the removal of undocumented immigrants when he received a prized photo in his inbox in February 2019. It came from a group that has long fought to slash the number of immigrants allowed into the United States.

In the photo, Jenkins and more than three dozen other sheriffs posed (above) under a chandelier in the East Room of the White House.

Jenkins, serving his fourth term as sheriff in the western Maryland county, quickly forwarded the photo to an acquaintance. “Check this out,” he wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post.

“Pretty important!” she replied moments later. “You all meet to discuss how to get rid of the illegals?”

“Indeed!” Jenkins wrote back. “I have had the pleasure of being with the Pres on at least five occasions.”

The White House gathering in September 2018 was part of a two-day media and lobbying blitz by the Federation for American Immigration Reform to promote border control and immigration enforcement, including a contentious national program known as 287(g) that for years has drawn support from Jenkins and other sheriffs.

Operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the program empowers state and local law enforcement officers to act with federal authority: questioning, reporting and detaining undocumented immigrants. Although ICE promised that the program would focus only on serious criminals, pro-immigration groups have repeatedly warned that the partnerships enable hard-line sheriffs to target undocumented immigrants leading peaceful lives.

Despite mounting concerns about discriminatory policing, the Trump administration aggressively recruited local law enforcement partners and courted sheriffs who championed similar views on immigration policy, according to dozens of internal ICE emails obtained by The Post.

U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell and Deputy Chair Lael Brainard (Photo by Ann Saphir of Reuters).

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell and Board member Lael Brainard, President Biden's nominee to be deputy chair (Reuters photo by Ann Saphir.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to nominate Jerome Powell for second term as Fed chair, signaling continuity amid heavy economic headwinds, Rachel Siegel, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The president also will nominate Lael Brainard, the Fed’s only Democrat, to become the central bank’s vice chair.

President Biden will nominate Jerome H. Powell to lead the Federal Reserve for a second term, signaling a vote of confidence for the Republican chair as the economy continues to face challenges and uncertainty amid the ongoing pandemic.

In a Monday announcement, Biden also said he would nominate Lael Brainard, the Fed board’s lone Democrat, to be the central bank’s vice chair. Brainard had long been discussed as the main alternative to Powell, due largely to her influence on the Fed board on issues ranging from monetary policy to climate issues to banking regulation. Now, if confirmed by the Senate, they will lead the Fed together.

federal reserve system CustomPowell’s nomination signals Biden’s intent for continuity at the central bank, which is grappling with inflation at 30-year highs, widespread changes in the labor market and looming questions over how the Fed should and will respond. Whether the Fed’s policies prove to be right will have major implications for the U.S. and global economy.

The nominations will go before the Senate Banking Committee and then a full confirmation vote in the Senate. Powell and Brainard are expected to garner enough support from Democrats and Republicans to be confirmed again.

“If we want to continue to build on the economic success of this year we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve — and I have full confidence after their trial by fire over the last 20 months that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard will provide the strong leadership our country needs,” Biden said Monday.

In the coming weeks and months, Biden has a major opportunity to widen his stamp on the Fed’s makeup. In addition to the chair and vice chair, Biden is expected to fill slots for vice chair for supervision (the Fed’s top banking cop). There are also vacant seats on the board of governors. In a Monday release, the White House said Biden intends to make those appointments beginning in early December “and is committed to improving the diversity in the Board’s composition.”

Powell never faced overwhelming criticism from Democrats, and many on the left praised Powell for his emphasis on full employment, even in the face of rising inflation. But Monday’s announcement elevating Brainard is also likely to appease progressives who charged Powell was not aggressive enough on climate issues or banking regulation.

Brainard has consistently opposed policies to loosen regulations for large banks and Wall Street put in place after the Great Recession, garnering praise from the left for issuing roughly 20 dissents over the past few years.

ny times logoNew York Times, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart Perpetuated Opioid Crisis, Jury Finds, Jan Hoffman, Nov. 23, 2021. This is the first jury verdict in an opioids case. The decision embraced a key legal argument that judges in other opioids cases had recently rejected.

In a closely watched test case, a federal jury in Cleveland on Tuesday found that three of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS Health, Walmart and Walgreens, substantially contributed to the crisis of opioid overdoses and deaths in two Ohio counties, the first time the retail segment of the drug industry has been held accountable in the decades-long epidemic.

The trial judge will determine how much each company should pay the counties, after as yet unscheduled hearings. New federal data released last week show overdose deaths from illegal opioids such as heroin and street fentanyl have reached record levels during the pandemic.

The verdict — the first from a jury in an opioids case — was encouraging to plaintiffs in thousands of lawsuits nationwide who are relying on the same legal strategy employed in this case, namely that pharmaceutical companies contributed to a “public nuisance” — a legal hurdle that plaintiffs contend covers the public health crisis created by opioids.

“For decades, pharmacy chains have watched as the pills flowing out of their doors cause harm and failed to take action as required by law,” the lawyers for the two counties along with attorneys for local governments across the country said in a statement after the verdict.

darrell brooks suspect 2 fox

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Intentionally Drove Into Wisconsin Holiday Parade, Police Say: Live Updates, Dan Simmons, Mitch Smith, Robert Chiarito, Jesus Jiménez and Livia Albeck-Ripka, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The five people killed ranged in age from 52 to 81. Among those injured in the attack were 18 children.

The police have identified Darrell E. Brooks, a 39-year-old Milwaukee man (shown above at right in a Fox News graphic), as the driver of a red S.U.V. that barreled through a Christmas parade on Sunday, killing at least five adults and injuring more than 40 others, including more than a dozen children.

All of the dead were over the age of 50, Dan Thompson, chief of the Waukesha Police Department, told reporters on Monday.

Mr. Brooks steered the S.U.V. through parade barricades moments after fleeing the scene of a domestic disturbance, Chief Thompson said. He faces five counts of first-degree intentional homicide.

The incident was not related to terrorism, and Mr. Brooks was not being pursued by the police at the time, he added. He was captured shortly after speeding away from the scene, according to the chief, who said he was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene.

Mr. Brooks had been free on $1,000 bail in an earlier criminal case, in which he was accused of running over the mother of his child in the parking lot of a Milwaukee gas station with his maroon 2010 Ford Escape earlier this month. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office on Monday described the state’s bail recommendation in that earlier case as “inappropriately low” in light of the seriousness of the charges, and “not consistent” with office policy.

It was supposed to have been a celebratory night in Waukesha. Dance groups and high school bands and politicians were marching along Main Street in the Milwaukee suburb’s Christmas parade, which was returning from a pandemic hiatus.

 

Trump Watch

 enrique tarrio mic

   Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, shown above and currently serving a jail sentence, the chairman of the Proud Boys, was issued a subpoena for his involvement with the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Panel Investigating Capitol Attack Subpoenas Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, Luke Broadwater, Nov. 23, 2021. Investigators believe the militia or paramilitary groups have information about the deadly siege on Jan. 6.

The House committee investigating the Capitol attack issued subpoenas on Tuesday to three militia or paramilitary groups, including the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, that investigators believe have information about the deadly siege on Jan. 6.

The subpoenas were issued to the Proud Boys International, L.L.C., and its chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio; the Oath Keepers and its president Elmer Stewart Rhodes; and the 1st Amendment Praetorian and its chairman Robert Patrick Lewis.

“The select committee is seeking information from individuals and organizations reportedly involved with planning the attack, with the violent mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 or with efforts to overturn the results of the election,” Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, said in a statement. “We believe the individuals and organizations we subpoenaed today have relevant information about how violence erupted at the Capitol and the preparation leading up to this violent attack.”

The committee said members of Proud Boys International called for violence before Jan. 6, and the Justice Department indicted at least 34 people affiliated with the group.

People associated with the Oath Keepers were similarly involved in planning and participating in the Capitol riot, the committee said, including 18 members who were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly planning a coordinated attack to storm the building. Mr. Rhodes repeatedly suggested that the Oath Keepers should engage in violence to ensure their preferred election outcome. He was also allegedly in contact with several of the indicted Oath Keepers members before, during and after the Capitol attack, including meeting some of them outside the Capitol.

1st Amendment Praetorian is an organization that provided security at multiple rallies leading up to Jan. 6 that amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. The group’s Twitter account suggested on Jan. 4 that violence was imminent, the committee said.

“Today is the day that true battles begin,” Mr. Lewis wrote on Twitter on Jan. 6. He also claimed to be involved with “war-gaming” to continue efforts to overturn the election results, the committee said.

The panel has issued more than 40 subpoenas and interviewed more than 200 witnesses as it investigates the violence that engulfed Congress and delayed the formalization of President Biden’s victory. The latest subpoenas demand records and testimony by mid-December.

 Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: A coup by any other name is still a coup, Wayne Madsen, Nov. 23, 2021. The committee's investigators wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallare on a trail that could ultimately point to Donald Trump being aware of the plans by insurrectionists to march on the U.S. Capitol. Those Oval Office plans could also include the physical occupation of the Capitol, as well.

If the plans to occupy the Capitol included placing the Vice President, Speaker of the House, Vice President-elect, and other key senators and representatives in physical harm's way, the criminal charges could be increased to conspiracy to commit murder of an elected federal official.

wayne madesen report logoHistory instructs us that some coup plans involve the storming of the national legislature. For example, the August 19, 1991 Soviet coup against President Mikhail Gorbachev also involved plans by the coup leaders' State Emergency Committee to storm the Russian Parliament building in Moscow  on the night of August 20-21, 1991.

Had it not been for Russian President Boris Yeltsin and thousands of his supporters encircling the Parliament building to protect it from pro-coup Soviet military and KGB personnel -- a force that never materialized -- the Parliament would have been stormed and the Russian democracy movement would have been stopped in its tracks.

The lessons of the Russian and Spanish coup attempts should not be lost on the House January 6th committee. Trump's involvement in the first actual American coup d'état should be met with a criminal indictment and trial. To do less only cheapens America's Constitution and rule of law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: N.Y. prosecutors set sights on new Trump target: Widely different valuations on the same properties, David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell, Josh Dawsey and Shayna Jacobs, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The Trump Organization owns an office building at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan. In 2012, when the company was listing its assets for potential lenders, it said the building was worth $527 million — which would make it among the most valuable in New York.

But just a few months later, the Trump Organization told property tax officials that the entire 70-story building was worth less than a high-end Manhattan condo: just $16.7 million, according to newly released city records.

That was less than one-thirtieth the amount it had claimed the year before.

That property is now under scrutiny from the Manhattan district attorney and New York attorney general, along with several others like it for which the Trump Organization gave vastly different value estimates, according to public records and people familiar with their investigations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing inquiries.

After the indictment of the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer this summer for income tax fraud, prosecutors now appear to be examining whether the company broke the law by providing low values to property tax officers, while using high ones to garner tax breaks or impress lenders.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has said she is considering a lawsuit, and prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office have also convened a new grand jury, which could vote on criminal charges, according to the people familiar with the investigations.

Among the other properties under scrutiny: former president Donald Trump’s California golf club, for which he valued the same parcel of land at $900,000 and $25 million depending on the intended audience, and an estate in suburban New York, for which Trump’s valuations ranged from $56 million up to $291 million. The valuations were all given in the five years before Trump won the presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge orders nearly $187,000 in fees assessed against two lawyers who filed suit challenging 2020 presidential election, Rosalind S. Helderman, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The order is one of the first efforts to put a dollar figure on penalties for lawyers who attempted to use the legal system to overturn the results of the presidential balloting.

A federal judge has ordered two Colorado lawyers who filed a lawsuit late last year challenging the 2020 election results to pay nearly $187,000 to defray the legal fees of groups they sued, arguing that the hefty penalty was proper to deter others from using frivolous suits to undermine the democratic system.

“As officers of the Court, these attorneys have a higher duty and calling that requires meaningful investigation before prematurely repeating in court pleadings unverified and uninvestigated defamatory rumors that strike at the heart of our democratic system and were used by others to foment a violent insurrection that threatened our system of government,” wrote Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter.

“They are experienced lawyers who should have known better. They need to take responsibility for their misconduct,” he wrote.

The two lawyers, Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker, filed the case in December 2020 as a class action on behalf of 160 million American voters, alleging there was a complicated plot to steal the election from President Donald Trump and give the victory to Joe Biden.

The two argued that a scheme was engineered by the voting machine vendor Dominion Voting Systems; the tech company Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan; and elected officials in four states. They had sought $160 billion in damages.

Their case was dismissed in April. In August, Neureiter ruled that the attorneys had violated their ethical obligations by filing it in the first place, arguing that the duo had run afoul of legal rules that prohibit clogging the courts with frivolous motions and lodging information in court that is not true. At the time, he called their suit “the stuff of which violent insurrections are made,” alleging they made little effort to determine the truth of their conspiratorial claims before filing them in court. He ordered them to pay the legal fees of all of the many entities that they had sued.

Rolling Stone, Investigation: Jan. 6 Organizers Used Anonymous Burner Phones to Communicate with White House and Trump Family, Sources Say, Hunter Walker, Nov. 23, 2021. A key planner of the Jan. 6 rally near the White House insisted the burner phones be purchased with cash, a source says.

Some of the organizers who planned the rally that took place on the White House Ellipse on Jan. 6 allegedly used difficult-to-trace burner phones for their most “high level” communications with former President Trump’s team.

Kylie Kremer, a top official in the March for Trump group that helped plan the Ellipse rally, directed an aide to pick up three burner phones days before Jan. 6, according to three sources who were involved in the event. One of the sources, a member of the March for Trump team, says Kremer insisted the phones be purchased using cash and described this as being “of the utmost importance.”

The three sources say Kylie Kremer took one of the phones and used it to communicate with top White House and Trump campaign officials, including Eric Trump, the president’s second-oldest son, who leads the family’s real-estate business; Lara Trump, Eric’s wife and a former senior Trump campaign consultant; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; and Katrina Pierson, a Trump surrogate and campaign consultant.

Some of the organizers who planned the rally that took place on the White House Ellipse on Jan. 6 allegedly used difficult-to-trace burner phones for their most “high level” communications with former President Trump’s team.

Kylie Kremer, a top official in the March for Trump group that helped plan the Ellipse rally, directed an aide to pick up three burner phones days before Jan. 6, according to three sources who were involved in the event. One of the sources, a member of the March for Trump team, says Kremer insisted the phones be purchased using cash and described this as being “of the utmost importance.”

The three sources say Kylie Kremer took one of the phones and used it to communicate with top White House and Trump campaign officials, including Eric Trump, the president’s second-oldest son, who leads the family’s real-estate business; Lara Trump, Eric’s wife and a former senior Trump campaign consultant; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; and Katrina Pierson, a Trump surrogate and campaign consultant.

Some of the organizers who planned the rally that took place on the White House Ellipse on Jan. 6 allegedly used difficult-to-trace burner phones for their most “high level” communications with former President Trump’s team.

Kylie Kremer, a top official in the March for Trump group that helped plan the Ellipse rally, directed an aide to pick up three burner phones days before Jan. 6, according to three sources who were involved in the event. One of the sources, a member of the March for Trump team, says Kremer insisted the phones be purchased using cash and described this as being “of the utmost importance.”

The three sources say Kylie Kremer took one of the phones and used it to communicate with top White House and Trump campaign officials, including Eric Trump, the president’s second-oldest son, who leads the family’s real-estate business; Lara Trump, Eric’s wife and a former senior Trump campaign consultant; Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff; and Katrina Pierson, a Trump surrogate and campaign consultant.

Daily Beast, Broadway Performer Who Plays ‘Judas’ in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Tour Charged with Breaching U.S. Capitol, AJ McDougall, Nov. 23, 2021. James D. Beeks, a musical theater actor with multiple Broadway credits, has been arrested on charges related to the breaching of the Capitol on Jan. 6. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced on Tuesday that the 49-year-old Beeks, “an affiliate of the Oath Keepers,” has been charged with obstruction of Congress and unlawfully entering a restricted building or grounds.

daily beast logoAs of Tuesday, Beeks was still listed on the Jesus Christ Superstar’s U.S. tour cast page as playing ‘Judas’ under the stage name ‘James T. Justis.’ Federal investigators apparently attended several performances of the Jesus Christ Superstar tour in November in order to observe him in the role. Beeks’ Broadway credits include Kinky Boots, Aida, Ragtime, and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. He is also a self-described “Top Michael Jackson Tribute artist,” according to his YouTube page.

Per the findings of a federal investigation, Beeks was part of the mob that attacked law enforcement as it pushed into the Capitol. He had previously paid dues to the Oath Keepers just two weeks before Jan. 6, the report said. Unlike many others around him who wore homemade body armor to the insurrection, Beeks apparently chose to sport a BAD jacket from Michael Jackson’s world tour.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The MAGA loons don’t even know what to do with this one, Bocha Blue, Nov. 23, 2021. There are some events that occur which are so bizarre, so impossibly amusing that it is almost impossible not to find them hilarious. This article will describe such an event to you — with actual quotes from some of the people involved in said event.

This event begins with Kyle Rittenhouse. I’m sure many of you are tired of hearing his name, and I agree in that regard, but this story needs to be told.

bill palmer report logo headerThe right has elevated Rittenhouse to mythical status. He’s been dubbed a hero, the perfect face of the GOP.
Only they might well be rethinking that now — or at least some of them most definitely are.

Rittenhouse did an interview with terrible Tucker Carlson. And in this interview, he insisted he is no racist. Then he endorsed Black Lives Matter. “I’m not a racist person. I support the BLM movement.”

Uh-oh. Did you hear it? Did you hear the howls, the sound of breaking dishes, the wailings — as MAGAs everywhere promptly lost their shit?

This is one of the biggest unravelings I have ever seen. I am not exaggerating either. The furious tweets of enraged trolls discovering their hero had feet of clay was impossible to ignore — and was utterly hysterical.

“They got to him,” screamed one MAGA.

“Rhinos control him now,” said another mournfully.

“Lost all respect,” said one more.

But it did not stop there. Rittenhouse also called out lunatic Lin Wood. Rittenhouse accused the non-lawyer of leaving him in jail for longer than he needed to be.

That presented a unique challenge to MAGA. What to say when two of one’s idols suddenly are against each other?

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid-19 live updates: Daily coronavirus cases up 18 percent, according to CDC director, Lateshia Beachum, Annabelle Timsit and Bryan Pietsch, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The seven-day average of reported coronavirus infections has increased by 18 percent, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Monday news conference.

cdc logo CustomThe rise in cases and a 6 percent increase in the seven-day average of hospital admissions come just days after the Food and Drug Administration recommended booster shots for all adults 18 and older who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months after their second dose, making more than 135 million people eligible for boosters. Anyone who received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine also is eligible for a booster.

“Heading into the winter months, when respiratory viruses are more likely to spread, and with plans for increased holiday season travel and gatherings, boosting people’s overall protection against covid-19 disease and death was important to do now,” Walensky said.

Walensky and Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, implored unvaccinated Americans to seek shots for protection as recent CDC data showed the increased risks of being unvaccinated and catching the virus.

“Most tragic are the vaccine-preventable deaths we are still seeing from this disease,” Walensky said. “Even in our updated data, unvaccinated people are at 14 times greater risk of dying from covid-19 than people who are vaccinated.”

Here’s what to know

  • The White House announced that 95 percent of federal employees have complied with the vaccination mandate before a Monday evening deadline set by the Biden administration in September.
  • Vice President Harris announced $1.5 billion in funding to help eliminate the shortage of doctors and nurses in underserved communities by providing scholarships and repaying the student loans of providers who work in medically needy areas.
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday on NBC News’s “Meet The Press” that he has not implemented a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel because other strategies, such as mandatory masking, are proving effective.
  • In Europe, which the World Health Organization recently called the latest “epicenter” of the pandemic, large-scale, violent protests broke out over the weekend against renewed coronavirus restrictions, including a nationwide lockdown taking effect Monday in Austria.

More than 90 percent of 3.5 million federal employees covered by the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate have received at least one dose, and a “vast majority” of those have been fully vaccinated, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said at a news conference Monday.

The figure is high compared with the approximately 59 percent of the general population that is fully vaccinated, about 196.3 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The White House announced earlier in the day that 95 percent of federal employees complied with the vaccination mandate before Monday’s deadline, which the Biden administration set in September.

Zients said the deadline isn’t an “endpoint or a cliff” for employees, and he added that more federal employees have been getting vaccinated.

“We have 98 percent compliance at the IRS, with nearly 25 percent of IRS employees getting vaccinated after the president announced the requirement,” he said. “At the FBI, 99 percent compliance.”

There’s nearly 98 percent compliance at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 93 percent at the Transportation Security Administration and 99 percent at the Federal Aviation Administration.

A full agency-by-agency report will be released Wednesday, Zients said.

The vaccine requirements have prompted political and legal brawls across the nation, with several states fighting against the federal government, some local governments fighting against their states, and employees fighting against employers.

Employees generally can apply for a medical or religious exemption from the mandate. Those who are unvaccinated and do not have an exemption will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination or removal from their jobs.

CBS 19 (Tyler, TX), Long haul COVID symptoms torment survivors with "sewage" smells, Shandel Menezes, Nov. 23, 2021. 3.5 million Texans have contracted COVID-19 and many of these people are still dealing with stubborn symptoms from the virus. About 10% of people who have had COVID suffer from Parosmia, a smell disorder that distorts odors, according to a Wiley study in June.

A common symptom is losing your sense of taste or smell. A less common one affects about 10% of people who have had COVID according to a Wiley study in June.

It's called Parosmia, a smell disorder that distorts odors. It can make things someone once loved smell and taste like sewage, garbage, gasoline, mold or ammonia - just to name a few.
Henderson resident Angela Johnson got COVID in late December. She's still trying to recover her senses.

"I've sort of had to re-learn what things smell like... A lot of things smelled like raw or rotting meat," she said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: H.H.S. is doling out billions of dollars to support rural health care providers slammed by the pandemic, Mark Walker, and other staff reporters, Nov. 23, 2021. With cases surging, officials in the Buffalo area are the first in New York to bring back a mask mandate.

Health-and-human-services-logo.pngThe Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing billions of dollars to rural health care providers to ease the financial pressures brought by the coronavirus pandemic and to help hospitals stay open.

The agency said on Tuesday that it had started doling out $7.5 billion to more than 40,000 health care providers in every state and six U.S. territories through the American Rescue Plan, a sprawling relief bill that Congress passed in March. The infusion of funds will help offset increased expenses and revenue losses among rural physicians during the pandemic, the agency said.

Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, said that the coronavirus pandemic had made clear the importance of having timely access to quality medical care, especially in rural America.

“When it comes to a rural provider, there are a number of costs that are incurred, that sometimes are different from what you see with urban providers or suburban providers,” Mr. Becerra said. “And oftentimes, they’re unique only to rural providers.”

Rural physicians serve a disproportionate number of patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which often have more complex medical needs. Many rural hospitals were already struggling before the pandemic; 21 have closed since 2020, according to data from the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina.

Under the program, every eligible provider that serves at least one Medicare, Medicaid, or C.H.I.P. beneficiary in a rural part of the country will receive at least $500. Payments will range up to $43 million, with an average of $170,700; the size is based on how many claims a provider submitted for rural patients covered by these programs from January 2019 through September 2020.

Rural America is home to some of the country’s oldest and sickest patients, many of whom were affected by the pandemic.

The new funding is supposed to help rural hospitals stay open in the long run and improve the care they provide, building on efforts the Biden administration has already made to help improve access to health care in rural communities, which it considers crucial to its goal of addressing inequities in access to care.

The money can be put toward salaries, recruitment, or retention; supplies such as N95 or surgical masks; equipment like ventilators or improved filtration systems; capital investments; information technology and other expenses related to preventing, preparing for or responding to the pandemic.

The administration has also allocated billions of dollars through the American Rescue Plan for coronavirus testing for the uninsured, increased reimbursement for Covid vaccine administration, improving access to telehealth services in rural areas, and a grant program for health care providers that serve Medicare patients.

On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris said that the administration would be investing $1.5 billion to address the shortage of health care workers in underserved tribal, rural and urban communities. The funds — which will provide scholarships and pay off loans for clinicians who commit to jobs in underserved areas — come on the heels of a report from the White House’s Covid Health Equity Task Force that made recommendations on how inequalities in the health care system could be fixed.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Nov. 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 study finds:

World Cases: 258,591,101, Deaths: 5,178,602
U.S. Cases:     48,748,557, Deaths:    794,864
Indian Cases:   34,526,480, Deaths:    466,147
Brazil Cases:   22,019,870, Deaths:    612,842

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 23, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

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U.S. Governance, Economy, Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: With hundreds of nominees to confirm, the Senate doesn’t deserve Thanksgiving break, Fred Hiatt (Editorial Page editor, below right), fred hiattNov. 23, 2021.

Even as he approaches his first anniversary in office, President Biden is miles away from having an administration in place. Key positions across every department are empty.

At this rate, Biden is likely to be presiding over a dangerously unstaffed administration even halfway into his term. If Republicans gain a Senate majority in the 2022 election, he’s then likely to go an entire term without anything close to a full government in place.

The United States allows a new president to fire and replace about 4,000 officials. Other democracies install a relative handful of political appointees, who are expected to steer a professional civil service. Imagine a big company that fired its 4,000 top executives every four or even eight years; you’d be crazy to buy its stock.

To make matters worse, roughly 1,200 of those 4,000 need Senate confirmation. The Post and the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service are tracking 802 of the most important of those 1,200 — and so far only 189 people have been confirmed and begun work.

Think about that: We’re approaching the end of Biden’s first year, and less than one-quarter of his leadership team is in place. This is no way to run a government.

There are multiple reasons. Biden has nominated just 432 people for those 802 positions. Before and after nomination, the vetting process can take months. And then, even if a nominee has the full backing of the relevant Senate committee, a single senator can gum up the works.

Which is where Ted Cruz comes in. He is blocking more than 40 State Department nominees, including most ambassadors.

How can Cruz single-handedly prevent Biden from sending ambassadors to crucial allied states such as Japan, France and Germany?

He can’t. But under Senate rules, he can force Majority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to spend hours debating and voting on each one. And Schumer has a few other things on his mind: If the Senate doesn’t pass some kind of budget soon, the government will shut down. If it doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the government will default. A defense authorization, the Build Back Better bill and nominees for lifetime judgeships are pending. So he would rather not devote floor time to confirming one administration official after another who, ordinarily, would be approved in quick votes, by unanimous consent.

But Schumer at least should say: If the obstruction doesn’t ease up, nobody’s going home for Christmas.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Problem of Political Despair, Michelle Goldberg, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). On Friday morning, after a night of insomnia fueled by worries about raising michelle goldberg thumbchildren in a collapsing society, I opened my eyes, started reading about efforts by Wisconsin Republicans to seize control of the state’s elections, then paused to let my tachycardiac heartbeat subside. Marinating in the news is part of my job, but doing so lately is a source of full-body horror. If this were simply my problem, I’d write about it in a journal instead of in The New York Times. But political despair is an issue for the entire Democratic Party.

It’s predictable that, with Donald Trump out of the White House, Democrats would pull back from constant, frenetic political engagement. But there’s a withdrawal happening right now — from news consumption, activism and, in some places, voting — that seems less a product of relief than of avoidance. Part of this is simply burnout and lingering trauma from Covid. But I suspect that part of it is about growing hopelessness born of a sense that dislodging Trump has bought American democracy only a brief reprieve.

One redeeming feature of Trump’s presidency, in retrospect, was that it was possible to look forward to the date when Americans could finish it. Covid, too, once seemed like something we’d be able to largely put behind us when we got vaccinated. Sure, Trumpism, like the virus, would linger, but it was easy to imagine a much better world after the election, the inauguration and the wide availability of shots.

Now we’re past all that, and American life is still comprehensively awful. Dystopia no longer has an expiration date.

My friend Chris Hayes, the MSNBC host, uses the phrase “the bad feeling” to describe certain kinds of stories about America’s democratic unraveling. “The bad feeling is that pit of the stomach feeling that we’re not OK, and it’s not clear we’re going to be OK,” he told me.

The problem isn’t just that polls show that, at least right now, voters want to hand over Congress to a party that largely treats the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as heroes. That’s upsetting, but it’s also fairly normal given the tendency of American voters to react against the party in power, and in a democratic system Republicans should prevail when they have public sentiment behind them.

What’s terrifying is that even if Democrats win back public confidence, they can win more votes than Republicans and still lose. Gerrymandering alone is enough to tip the balance in the House. North Carolina, a state Joe Biden lost by 1.3 percentage points, just passed a redistricting map that would create 10 Republican seats, three Democratic ones and one competitive one. “Democrats would have to win North Carolina by 11.4 points just to win half its congressional seats,” FiveThirtyEight reported.

There are already lawsuits against the map, but the Supreme Court — which is controlled by conservatives even though Democrats won the popular vote in seven out of the last eight elections — gutted constitutional limitations on gerrymandering in 2019.

Things are, if anything, even worse in the Senate, where growing geographic polarization threatens to give Republicans a near lock on the chamber. As my colleague Ezra Klein wrote last month, the Democratic data guru David Shor predicts that if Democrats win 51 percent of the two-party vote in 2024, they will lose seven seats compared to where we are now.

Meanwhile, Republicans are purging local officials who protected the integrity of the 2020 election, replacing them with apparatchiks. It will be hard for Republicans to steal the 2024 election outright, since they don’t control the current administration, but they can throw it into the sort of chaos that will cause widespread civil unrest. And if they win, it’s hard to imagine them ever consenting to the peaceful transfer of power again. As Hayes said, there’s an inexorability about what’s coming that is “very hard to watch.”

Already, the Republican Party winks at the violent intimidation of its political enemies. During the presidential campaign, a right-wing caravan tried to run a Biden campaign bus off the road, and Senator Marco Rubio cheered them on. School board members and public health offices have sought help from the Justice Department to deal with a barrage of threats and harassment. Three congressional Republicans have said they want to give an internship to the teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse. One of those Republicans, Representative Paul Gosar, earlier tweeted an animated video of himself killing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the overwhelming majority of his caucus stood by him.

I look at the future and I see rule without recourse by people who either approve of terrorizing liberals or welcome those who do. Such an outcome isn’t inevitable; unforeseen events can reshape political coalitions. Something could happen to forestall the catastrophe bearing down on us. How much comfort you take from this depends on your disposition.

Given the bleak trajectory of American politics, I worry about progressives retreating into private life to preserve their sanity, a retreat that will only hasten democracy’s decay. In order to get people to throw themselves into the fight to save this broken country, we need leaders who can convince them that they haven’t already lost.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Joe Biden’s travails and the deep roots of liberal despair, Greg Sargent, right, Nov. 23, 2021. These are strange times for greg sargentAmerican liberals. We’re in what you might call a split-screen moment.

On one screen, Democrats are close to passing massive investments in our country and its people that rival the great progressive achievements of the 20th century. If you had told liberals 18 months ago that something this potentially transformative was on the horizon, many would have laughed bitterly in your face.

On the other screen, things look as dark as ever. Republicans are entrenching minority rule everywhere. The Virginia results suggest Republicans won’t pay a price for their embrace of insurrection and political violence. Republicans are all but certain to capture at least the House. President Biden’s sliding approval suggests a deep chasm between voter approval of Democrats’ actual agenda and the political fate that voters may soon mete out to them.

And a Donald Trump comeback seems entirely plausible.

Given these whiplash-inducing story lines, how should liberals feel about this moment?

A trio of New York Times columnists has just taken on this question, and because these are ambitious and challenging pieces, it’s worth trying to synthesize big-picture narratives from all of them.

Paul Krugman argues for the first screen. As he notes, the vast Build Back Better expenditures are in keeping with our history of investment in infrastructure (the Erie Canal, the interstate highway system) and in our people (expanded high school and university education).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Jerome Powell was Biden’s smartest political option to lead the Federal Reserve, Jennifer Rubin, right, author of the new book "Resistance," Nov. 23, 2021. President jennifer rubin new headshotBiden, in deciding who will lead the Federal Reserve, could not split the difference between conservative credentialed Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell and progressive favorite Lael Brainard. Instead, he selected Powell to continue as chair and elevated Brainard to vice chair. The handwriting was on the wall for months.

jennifer rubin book resistanceIn announcing the nominations on Monday, Biden declared: “Every country is dealing with the same problems emerging from the pandemic: supply chain bottlenecks, disruption caused by spikes in COVID-19, elevated prices. They’re all taking a bite out of our family budgets.” Meeting the Fed’s twin goals of maximum employment and low inflation, he said, requires “patience, skill and independence,” which is why he selected Powell.

The Post's View: President Biden stands up for an independent fed

“Put directly, at this moment ... of both enormous potential and enormous uncertainty for our economy, we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve,” Biden said, recalling Powell’s determination to stand up to Donald Trump’s meddling on interest rates. In doing so, Powell “successfully maintained the integrity and credibility of this ... institution” and won “support from across the political spectrum.”

Biden, on a bipartisanship high after the infrastructure bill passed, stressed: “I believe we need to do everything we can to take the bitter partisanship of today’s politics out of something as important as the independence and credibility of the Federal Reserve. This is vital to maintaining public trust in an independent institution like the Federal Reserve.”

Then there’s inflation, Biden’s biggest concern politically and economically. That made it far more important for Biden to choose a Fed chair with the strongest anti-inflation credentials possible and to defuse some (though certainly not all) criticism from the right.

Powell’s selection was likely cinched, ironically, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made the outrageous claim that he is a “dangerous man” for failing to adopt financial reform she deemed necessary. It does not hurt Biden to distance himself occasionally from the left wing of his party, especially after helping to negotiate the Build Back Better package, which contains many progressive priorities. Biden’s nomination of Powell will likely lose a few votes from the left of his party, but he will gain a substantial majority in the Senate, countering the claim that he is the left’s puppet. He seems content to lose the vocal progressives’ votes so as to avoid a squeaker of a confirmation vote.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Bezos Gives $100 Million to the Obama Foundation, Nicholas Kulish, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Former President Barack Obama’s private foundation announced on Monday that it had been promised $100 million from the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

The gift, the largest yet for the Obama Foundation, was one in a series of splashy donations in recent months by Mr. Bezos, one of the world’s richest people. Last week, Mr. Bezos announced $96.2 million in grants to groups working to end family homelessness.

Since stepping down as the chief executive of Amazon in July, Mr. Bezos has significantly raised his profile as a philanthropist, in addition to traveling to space on a ship made by his rocket company, Blue Origin.

In return for the donation, Mr. Bezos asked that a plaza at the Obama Presidential Center be named for the civil rights leader John Lewis, who died last year. The center, being built in Chicago, will include Mr. Obama’s presidential library, a museum, an athletic center and more.

“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” Mr. Bezos said in a statement released by the Obama Foundation. “I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”

It was neither Mr. Bezos’ biggest gift in recent months nor his first brush with Mr. Obama’s orbit thanks to his philanthropy. In September, Mr. Bezos, standing alongside John Kerry, Mr. Obama’s former secretary of state, pledged $1 billion through his Bezos Earth Fund for conservation, out of $10 billion he has promised to the fund.

Though Mr. Obama is out of office, he remains an important member of the Democratic Party establishment. The Obama Foundation’s previous president, Adewale Adeyemo, was a member of Mr. Obama’s National Security Council and is now the deputy Treasury secretary.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sean Parnell Suspends G.O.P. Senate Bid in Pennsylvania, Jennifer Medina, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Parnell, who was endorsed by Donald Trump in one of the highest-profile 2022 Senate races, had been accused by his estranged wife of spousal and child abuse.

Sean Parnell, a leading Republican candidate for Senate from Pennsylvania, suspended his campaign on Monday after a judge ruled that his estranged wife should get primary custody of their three children in a case in which she accused him of spousal and child abuse.

Mr. Parnell, who was endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump in September, said he was “devastated” by the decision and planned to appeal.

“There is nothing more important to me than my children, and while I plan to ask the court to reconsider, I can’t continue with a Senate campaign,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is 100% on my children, and I want them to know I do not have any other priorities and will never stop fighting for them.”

Mr. Parnell’s estranged wife, Laurie Snell, testified in court this month that Mr. Parnell had repeatedly abused her and their children, choking her and hitting one of their children so hard that he left a welt on the child’s back. The Butler County judge wrote that he found Ms. Snell to be “the more credible witness” and that he believed Mr. Parnell had committed “some acts of abuse in the past,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

 timothy walmsley pool photo stephen b morton

Judge Timothy R. Walmsley was tapped to preside over the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial after all five judges in Brunswick, Ga., where the killing occurred, recused themselves (Pool photo by Stephen B. Morton.) Shown below are defendants in the case.

travis mcMichael greg mcMichael william bryant

ny times logoNew York Times, Jury Deliberates in Ahmaud Arbery Killing Trial, Staff  Reports, Nov. 23, 2021. The jurors must sort through a matrix of interlocking charges and different forms of culpability that can depend on one another. Follow updates here. Jurors are deciding the fate of the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick, Ga., in February 2020. The jury that will decide the fate of the three white men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery is composed of 11 members who are white and one who is Black.

The lopsided balance — especially in a case that has been widely perceived as an act of racial violence — has been a cause of concern for civil rights activists. And it prompted legal experts in recent days to speculate that the racial makeup of the jury played a role in prosecutors’ decision not to make racial animus part of their case against Mr. Arbery’s assailants.

 jeffrey epstein gurney cropped emergency room

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein’s Final Days: Celebrity Reminiscing and a Running Toilet, Benjamin Weiser, Matthew Goldstein, Danielle Ivory and Steve Eder, Nov. 23, 2021. Newly released records provide the most detailed look yet at the last days of the disgraced financier, and show mistake after mistake made by jail and bureau officials.

The disgraced financier, jailed in Manhattan on federal sex trafficking charges involving teenage girls, was found unconscious on the floor of his cell one morning in July 2019, a strip of bedsheet tied around his bruised neck. He is shown on a gurney above.

In the hours and days that followed that suicide attempt, Jeffrey Epstein would claim to be living a “wonderful life,” denying any thoughts of ending it, even as he sat on suicide watch and faced daunting legal troubles.

“I have no interest in killing myself,” Mr. Epstein told a jailhouse psychologist, according to Bureau of Prisons documents that have not previously been made public. He was a “coward” and did not like pain, he explained. “I would not do that to myself.”

But two weeks later, he did just that: He died in his cell on Aug. 10 in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, having hanged himself with a bedsheet, the medical examiner ruled.

After a life of manipulation, Mr. Epstein created illusions until the very end, deceiving correctional officers, counselors and specially trained inmates assigned to monitor him around the clock, according to the documents — among more than 2,000 pages of Federal Bureau of Prisons records obtained by The New York Times after filing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The detailed notes and reports compiled by those who interacted with Mr. Epstein during his 36 days of detention show how he repeatedly assured them he had much to live for, while also hinting that he was increasingly despondent. The clues prompted too little action by jail and bureau officials, who made mistake after mistake leading up to Mr. Epstein’s death, the records reveal.

Beyond the legal and administrative matters, the collection of records provides the most intimate and detailed look yet at Mr. Epstein’s final days, and offers something often missing from public accounts: his voice.

He passed many days closed in a conference room with his lawyers, avoiding the confines of his dank and dirty cell. In conversations with psychologists and other inmates, he spoke of his interest in physics and mathematics and offered tidbits of investment advice. He reminisced about socializing with celebrities, even as he complained about the running toilet in his cell, the orange prison garb, his difficulty sleeping, his dehydration and a numbness in his right arm.

Inmate Epstein was also upset about wearing an orange jumpsuit and being treated like "a bad guy" when he did not do anything wrong in the prison. Custody and security concerns were addressed with inmate Epstein including why he has to wear his orange jumpsuit (due to his being housed in SHU).

And where Mr. Epstein had once rubbed shoulders with politicians, scientists and Wall Street titans, now he was left to converse about the food in the 12-story detention center. “Epstein wants to know who’s the best cook on 11 North,” one inmate wrote.

The newly obtained records offer no support to the explosion of conspiracy theories that Mr. Epstein’s death was not a suicide. They also shed no light on questions raised by his brother and one of his lawyers that he might have been assisted in killing himself. But they do paint a picture of incompetence and sloppiness by some within the Bureau of Prisons, which runs the federal detention center.

An intake screening form erroneously described Mr. Epstein as a Black male (he was white), and indicated that he had no prior sex offense convictions, even though he was a registered sex offender with two 2008 convictions in Florida, for solicitation of prostitution and procurement of minors to engage in prostitution. A few social phone calls he made were not recorded, logged or monitored, records show, an apparent violation of jail policy.

The night he killed himself, Mr. Epstein lied to jail officials and said he wanted to phone his mother — who was long dead. He instead called his girlfriend. Jail personnel left him alone in his cell that night, despite an explicit directive that he be assigned a cellmate.

Two days after the suicide, William P. Barr, then the U.S. attorney general, said there were “serious irregularities” at the correctional center, but did not elaborate. He later blamed “a perfect storm of screw-ups.”

A 15-page psychological reconstruction of Mr. Epstein’s death, compiled by bureau officials five weeks later and never before made public, concluded that his identity “appeared to be based on his wealth, power and association with other high-profile individuals.”

Politico, Businessman pleads guilty in $25M extortion attempt of Matt Gaetz’s father, Josh Gerstein, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). A Florida businessman pleaded guilty Monday to involvement in an effort to extort $25 million from the wealthy father of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), right, as part of a bizarre scheme that involved a pledge matt gaetz officialto secure a presidential pardon for Gaetz in the high-profile federal sex trafficking investigation the lawmaker faces.

Stephen Alford, 62, appeared in federal court in Pensacola to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with the convoluted shakedown, which also included securing the release of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.

politico CustomDuring the hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Timothy recommended that Alford’s guilty plea be accepted.

Alford, of Fort Walton Beach, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at his sentencing, set for Feb. 16 before U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers. Defendants typically get a sentence far below the maximum, but Alford could face a stiff prison term because he has prior federal convictions for fraud.

After being approached about the alleged pardon deal earlier this year, Matt Gaetz’s father Don went to the FBI. Agents helped the elder Gaetz, a wealthy former Florida state senate leader, record meetings with Alford and others involved in the caper.

Alford allegedly said he could “guarantee” a pardon for Matt Gaetz, who is the focus of an ongoing investigation into allegations that he and his associates had sex with underage girls and paid women for sex through online sites catering to so-called “sugar daddies.”

How, if at all, Alford hoped to get a pardon from President Joe Biden for one of former President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters has never been clear. A court filing Monday says Alford admitted that he lied about having such assurances.

In one letter to Don Gaetz, Alford wrote: “The team has been assured by the President that he will strongly consider such matters because he considers the release of Robert Levinson a matter of national urgency.”

However, Alford told FBI agents in April that statement was “a lie,” the statement of facts submitted in connection with the guilty plea says.

“Alford’s fraudulent scheme was thus making materially false promises to obtain millions of dollars from DG, although Alford knew he could not ’guarantee’ a pardon for DG’s family member,” the statement said.

In a tweet posted before the plea hearing Monday, Matt Gaetz faulted the Justice Department for not charging others who allegedly worked with Alford on the scheme. “Alford wasn’t acting alone. DOJ is having him take the fall to protect their own,” the congressman said.

Matt Gaetz has not been charged in the ongoing DOJ investigation into his actions, but a once-close associate — former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg — is cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty in May to sex trafficking of a minor.

The lawmaker has denied wrongdoing.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Michigan woman tried to hire an assassin online at RentAHitman.com. Now, she’s going to prison, Jonathan Edwards, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Seething and vengeful, Wendy Wein was on the lookout for the professional killer she meant to hire as she waited inside a southeastern Michigan cafe in July 2020.

Wein wanted her ex-husband dead. But she didn’t want to murder him herself and didn’t know anyone she trusted to do it for her. So she did what a lot of people do when they have a job they can’t or don’t want to do themselves — she searched for help on the Internet.
On RentAHitman.com.

What Wein found was presumably reassuring. The website promised her confidentiality. It boasted of industry awards. It showed off testimonials of satisfied customers, including one from Laura S., who had “caught my husband cheating with the babysitter.” The website bragged about complying with HIPPA, which it said was “the Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964,” a nod to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, the law passed in 1996 to protect patients’ medical information.

The trouble for Wein was that RentAHitman.com is a fake website. It’s not run by “Guido Fanelli,” as it claims, but by Bob Innes, a 54-year-old Northern California man who forwards any serious inquiries to law enforcement. Innes launched the site 16 years ago as part of an Internet security business that never went anywhere. Instead, it has served as a honeypot of sorts, attracting people who want to hire professional killers.

For Wein, it didn’t go well. She was arrested within days of seeking out an assassin and pleaded guilty earlier this month to solicitation of murder and using a computer to commit a crime. Under her plea agreement, she faces at least nine years in prison when she is sentenced in January.

All these years later, he’s still a little dumbfounded people don’t realize his site is bogus.

“I don’t get it,” Innes told The Washington Post. “People are just stupid.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 80 looters simultaneously broke into a Nordstrom near San Francisco, police say: ‘Clearly a planned event’ in weekend filled with looting incidents, Jessica Lipscomb, Nov. 22, 2021. Drivers blared their horns Saturday evening as dozens of thieves carrying luggage and bags darted from a Nordstrom department store near San Francisco and hopped into cars waiting for them outside. All but three of the 80 or so looters escaped, police said.

Two store employees were assaulted, and one was pepper-sprayed by the intruders, according to officers in Walnut Creek, a city about 25 miles east of San Francisco. In a news release, police called the crime “clearly a planned event.”

“Walnut Creek Police investigators are in the process of reviewing surveillance footage to attempt to identify other suspects responsible for this brazen act,” the department said.

The spectacle Saturday night was one of several incidents of looting and shoplifting reported at high-end retail stores around the Bay Area over the weekend.

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World News, Global Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuela’s ruling socialist party claims sweeping wins in elections, Samantha Schmidt and Ana Vanessa Herrero, Nov. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Venezuela’s socialist ruling party claimed sweeping victories Sunday night in the first elections to include the country’s top opposition parties in nearly four years, a low-turnout vote that critics say was rigged from the start.

nicolas maduro customPolitical allies of President Nicolás Maduro, right, won 20 out of 23 gubernatorial offices across the country, according to preliminary results from the electoral council. With a turnout of just 41.8 percent, one of the country’s lowest rates in the past two decades, the vote reflected an electorate apathetic toward its leadership options in the crumbling socialist state.

“We have the whole map already, clear and drawn,” Maduro said in a speech early Monday, calling his party “a determining force in the history of this venezuela flag waving custombeautiful country called Venezuela.”

The opposition chose to participate in the elections, abandoning a years-long boycott, in the hopes of reviving a disillusioned base and redefining the leadership of the fractured and faltering pro-democracy movement. But it appeared they emerged from the contest as weak as they entered it, facing a ruling party with far greater campaign resources and tight control of the country’s electoral system.

“This process … was about reconnecting with the country, walking the streets of each neighborhood of Caracas and telling the people: WE ARE HERE,” tweeted Tomás Guanipa, who came in third place for mayor in a Caracas municipality won by a pro-government candidate. “But the reality is that the country spoke and spoke loudly, through abstention.”

It remained to be seen whether Venezuela’s electoral system passed a key test of legitimacy under the careful watch of more than 130 European Union observers, the first such mission here in 15 years. The mission plans to release initial findings on Tuesday. But as polls closed Sunday, human rights advocates raised alarm at reports of “irregularities, threats and attacks” in the electoral process.

Truthout, Commentary: Socialists Secure Massive Victory in Venezuelan Elections, José Luis Granados Ceja, Nov. 23, 2021. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela secured a resounding victory in Sunday’s regional and local elections, which were defined by the return of obstinate far right political parties to Venezuela’s democratic process after years of United States-backed destabilization efforts and violent regime-change plots.

Preliminary results from the country’s electoral authority showed Chavistas winning up to 20 of the 23 governorships that were up for grabs. The results cemented the ruling socialists’ dominance over a political opposition that has struggled to unite under a cohesive strategy and banner after years of violent political schemes that failed to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power despite the opposition having considerable bipartisan support from the U.S. political establishment, which maintains a punishing sanctions regime on the country.

United Socialist Party of Venezuela supporters and sympathizers celebrated their victory, taking to the streets even before results were announced.

“We believe it is significant that we won 20 of 23 of the state contests — the math does not lie,” said Abril Viscaya, a political organizer and member of Frente Revolucionario Artístico Patria o Muerte (or “Homeland or Death Revolutionary Artistic Front”), in an interview with Truthout. “We must remain on this pathway of participation; we are a people that are not willing to surrender in the face of unilateral coercive measures by the United States government.”

These elections saw races for 3,082 public offices, including 23 state governors, 335 local mayors, 253 regional legislators and 2,471 local councilors, and were accompanied by more than 300 international visitors invited by the National Electoral Council and political parties in Venezuela, as well as delegations from the European Union, the Carter Center and the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA).

Martin Sereno, a regional lawmaker from the province of Misiones, Argentina, who accompanied the electoral process told Truthout that the vote was well organized, peaceful and marked by a festive atmosphere. “We also saw many adults and seniors that came to vote, and that speaks to the enthusiasm of the people to be able to elect their representatives and authorities,” said Sereno.

Nicanor Moscoso, head of the CEELA delegation, praised the organization of the election and said in a press conference that the process met international standards.

Venezuela has a rigorous system to prevent fraud, with voters having to present their identification, have their fingerprints scanned, and both sign and leave a thumbprint on a paper record. The South American country is one of few in the world that has an entirely electronic voting system which automatically produces a paper record that is then deposited into a ballot box in case of an audit. Political parties are also invited to have a representative at every polling location to supervise the process and the count.

Cybel González, one of the citizens tasked by the electoral authority with supervising a voter center in the municipality of Carrizal in the state of Miranda, told Truthout that in her center the process had taken place without incident with representatives from four political organizations present to scrutinize the vote.

Carlos Ruiz Patiño, a voter in the city of Los Teques, just outside the capital of Caracas, said he found the organization of the election to have been excellent, despite the additional safety protocols implemented in light of the pandemic.“Going out to vote is the most important thing,” said Ruiz.

The End of Violence in Venezuelan Politics?

With a history of sabotage by political forces interested in disrupting elections and rumors of potential violence, Venezuela mobilized a significant number of state security forces to provide security at the voting centers.

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, visiting one of the polling locations in the Coche Parish in Caracas, told Truthout that there had been no significant incidents in the country. “The people are the ones who will be the protagonists on this day, and they are doing it. The people of Venezuela have always demonstrated their civic duty,” said Padrino.

Certain elements of the political opposition, particularly those close to self-declared “interim” President Juan Guaidó and his Popular Will Party, have in the recent past staged months-long violent street protests known as guarimbas. Guaidó himself, along with his mentor, former Chacao Municipality Mayor Leopoldo López, unsuccessfully tried to stage a military coup.

The insurrectionary strategy proved unsuccessful, being largely rejected by the Venezuelan people, leading Guaidó to tepidly endorse a return to an electoral strategy, with other hardline parties more emphatically calling for an end to violent tactics.

“The people of Venezuela have said ‘no’ to that violence and have come out in massive numbers to vote,” said Padrino. “They have said ‘no’ to interventionism, ‘no’ to political violence, ‘yes’ to democracy, ‘yes’ to harmony, ‘yes’ to coexistence, and this is another example of what the Venezuelan people want.”

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U.S. Media News

Missouri Independent, Alden Global Capital moves to buy Lee Enterprises, owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Nov. 23, 2021. Alden, which has amassed around 200 publications through a series of acquisitions of large, financially struggling legacy newspaper chains.

Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund that this year became the second largest newspaper publisher in the United States, has made an offer to purchase Lee Enterprises, the media company that owns 75 daily newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

alden global capital logoDennis Swibold, a professor of journalism at the University of Montana and author of a book on the history of newspaper ownership in the state, said in Lee, Alden must think it can find some loose change somewhere.

“They see savings,” Swibold said. “They wouldn’t be making this offer if they didn’t see cuts.”

Alden, which has amassed around 200 publications through a series of acquisitions of large, financially struggling legacy newspaper chains, is making an all-cash offer to buy Lee at $24 a share, a healthy premium, for a total of $141 million. Lee stock was trading at around $18.50 by the end of last week, but since climbed to $23.40 a share by Monday afternoon.

“We believe that as a private company and part of our successful nationwide platforms, Lee would be in a stronger position to maximize its resources and realize strategic value that enhances its operations and supports its employees in their important work serving local communities,” Alden wrote to Lee’s board of directors in a letter Monday. “Our interest in Lee is a reaffirmation of our substantial commitment to the newspaper industry and our desire to support local newspapers over the long term.”

missouri mapHowever, Alden’s track record seems to suggest otherwise. The firm has a history of purchasing newspapers to cut costs wherever possible and squeeze whatever profit is left out of a struggling medium in a struggling industry — often, this comes in the form of layoffs, selling off buildings, increased subscription prices and diminished coverage of local stories. It made one of its biggest moves this year, purchasing Tribune Publishing, which operated the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and other large legacy papers.

As recently covered in The Atlantic, whatever profits Alden makes generally aren’t reinvested in news, but are put in other areas. Its purchase of the Chicago Tribune meant buyouts for around a quarter of the newsroom. At the Denver Post, under Alden subsidiary Digital First Media, the editorial staff was reduced by two-thirds and its downtown newsroom leased out. Last year, Alden managing director Heath Freeman told the Washington Post he wanted his firm to be remembered for saving the industry — though the Post reported he “told friends the pragmatic truth is that newspapers need to be cut to be saved.”

It’s likely that Alden, which first bought a six percent stake in Lee last year, is making a similar play here, said Swibold. Alden said it could close a deal in approximately four weeks.

“I remember when they bought almost 6 percent of Lee, this is one of the things that instantly popped on my radar screen as something that could happen,” Swibold said. “Their history is one of ruthless efficiency. They have really taken a lot of the papers they’ve bought and purchased and put them through an incredibly intense stress test to find savings.”

In its letter to Lee’s board, Alden noted that “back office operations and legacy public company functions” in the news business “remain bloated.”

There’s no guarantee that Lee’s stakeholders take the offer, though Alden has proven to be persistent — in 2019, it attempted an (ultimately unsuccessful) hostile takeover of Gannett, itself a newspaper company known for making cuts.

Lee did not return a request for comment.

Swibold acknowledged that Lee has made its fair share of cuts and asset sales, but has generally tried to stay in the black. Still, the news industry has faced significant decline and consolidation, and hedge funds have often come in to fill the void left by collapsing legacy companies.

“It’s really hard for public companies,” he said, “when they’re faced with these kind of offers and their stockholders see a way out.”

For most of its history, the Post-Dispatch was owned by the Pulitzer family. In 2005, Lee purchased Pulitzer Inc. in a cash deal valued at $1.46 billion. The company also owns the Daily Journal in Park Hills, Missouri.

 

danny fenster deadline detroitDeadline Detroit, Video: Freed Metro Detroit Journalist Danny Fenster on Prison, Hopelessness and His Joyful Flight Home, Allan Lengel, Nov. 23, 2021.  Metro Detroit journalist Danny Fenster, above, was starting to lose hope. He’d already spent about four months in a Myanmar prison, much of it in a 9’-by-7’ cell, waiting to learn more about the case against him. He didn’t know what was being done on the outside to secure his release, but whatever it was, it wasn't working.

"At one point, I thought, I may be here for three years. ... I could never think of more than that at one time."

Weeks later, after being sentenced to 11 years of hard labor for violating laws related to the media and immigration, Fenster was pardoned and released last week.

The 37-year-old recently sat down at his parents' home in Huntington Woods with Deadline Detroit's Allan Lengel and talked in detail about prison life, the food, the guards, being blindfolded after his airport arrest May 24 and the English-speaking inmates he befriended.

Fenster, then-managing editor of the publication, Frontier Mynamer, talked about learning that guitarist Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and U2’s Bono tweeted about his plight. He also discussed the strange obsession, apparently even in Southeast Asia, with George Soros. Below is the full interview.

kyle rittenhouse closeup safe imagewashington post logoWashington Post, Kyle Rittenhouse attorney says he ‘did not approve’ Tucker Carlson’s film crew following them at trial, Timothy Bella, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). “I did not approve of that,” attorney Mark Richards said of the Fox Nation film crew, hours after his client was acquitted of all charges. “I threw them out of the room several times. I don’t think a film crew is appropriate for something like this.”

fox news logo SmallHours after Kyle Rittenhouse (shown above in a screenshot) was acquitted on all charges Friday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, below right, tucker carlsonannounced that he would not only interview the teen on Monday, but also had a film crew following the 18-year-old throughout the murder trial as part of an upcoming documentary for Fox Nation.

In a clip that aired Friday night, a smiling Rittenhouse told the film crew he was relieved to be acquitted, more than a year after he fatally shot two people and wounded a third amid unrest over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis.

“The jury reached the correct verdict,” Rittenhouse said. “Self-defense is not illegal.”

Press Run, Opinion: GOP violence is the most important political story in America, Eric Boehlert, right, Nov. 22, 2021. Ripping at the seams. Democrats never eric.boehlertused their considerable political muscle to try to demolish free and fair elections in America. That’s not true for today’s Republican Party, as it actively mainstreams the looming menace of hostility by fanning the flames of civil unrest, including last week celebrating an underage vigilante killer, Kyle Rittenhouse.

After he was acquitted on murder charges, at least three House Republicans said they wanted the gunman to be their intern, including Rep. Madison Cawthorn who urged his followers to “be armed and dangerous,” while posting a message celebrating Rittenhouse’s acquittal.

“Hard to describe how chilling it is to see members of the GOP and open white supremacists come together to celebrate a vigilante killing two people and getting away with it,” Cassie Miller, an extremism researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, tweeted.

The flashpoints of Republicans and conservatives promoting political violence have become ceaseless, to the point of frightening normalization. After Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted an anime video altered to show him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and swinging two swords at President Joe Biden, virtually the entire Republican Party rallied to Gosar’s side when he faced a formal House rebuke for his violent, dehumanizing outburst.

Despite the GOP’s nearly universal support, Politico insisted the episode highlighted the “fringe” side of the party, while the Beltway media outlet Punch Bowl reduced the threatening, unnerving Gosar chapter to Democrats and Republicans just not trusting each other.

The violent virus is spreading to the grassroots level. Polls suggest that as many as 21 million Americans think that the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency. In Kansas, anti-vaxxers showed up to municipal meetings wearing yellow stars, suggesting they had equal footing with Jewish victims of the Holocaust. White nationalist members of The Proud Boys are showing up at local school board meetings, to lend a menacing air to the proceedings.

At a conservative rally in western Idaho last month, a young man asked local leaders when he could start killing Democrats. “When do we get to use the guns?” he said as the audience applauded. When Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) voted in favor of the recent infrastructure bill to help rebuild roads across the country she was inundated with death threats. One man told her, “I pray to God that if you’ve got any children, they die in your face.”

The welcome Times piece last week on GOP violence stood in contrast to a wave of vague, worthless reporting we’ve seen this year about how “Americans” are angry, without pinpointing the obvious source of the unbridled, incoherent wrath.

“Americans are angry about ... everything. Is that bad?” read a recent Christian Science Monitor headline. The piece equated right-wing, anti-mask parents storming local school board meetings and issuing death threats with social justice activists taking to the streets to protest police brutality. Those two things aren’t remotely similar.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: We’re a Small Arkansas Newspaper. Why Is the State Making Us Sign a Pledge About Israel? Alan Leveritt, Nov. 22, 2021. At The Arkansas Times, a publication I founded 47 years ago, our pages focus on small-scale local issues, like protecting Medicaid expansion from the predations of our state legislature and other elements of Arkansas politics, history and culture.

So I was surprised when in 2018 I received an ultimatum from the University of Arkansas’s Pulaski Technical College, a longtime advertiser: To continue receiving its ad dollars, we would have to certify in writing that our company was not engaged in a boycott of Israel. It was puzzling. Our paper focuses on the virtues of Sims Bar-B-Que down on Broadway — why would we be required to sign a pledge regarding a country in the Middle East?

I understood the context of that email. In 2017, Arkansas pledged to enforce support for Israel by mandating that public agencies not do business with contractors unless those contractors affirm that they do not boycott Israel.

The idea behind the bill goes back 16 years. In 2005, Palestinian civil society launched a campaign calling for “boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.” Around the world, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S., as it became known, gained momentum. In response, Israel and lobbyists have used multiple strategies to quash the movement. In the United States, one such strategy took the form of anti-B.D.S. bills. Currently, more than 30 states have provisions on the books similar to Arkansas’s.

It soon became clear that The Arkansas Times had to answer our advertiser. Though boycotting Israel could not have been further from our minds and though state funding is a significant source of our income, our answer was no. We don’t take political positions in return for advertising. If we signed the pledge, I believe, we’d be signing away our right to freedom of conscience. And as journalists, we would be unworthy of the protections granted us under the First Amendment.

And so, instead of signing, we sued to overturn the law, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, on the grounds that it violates the First and 14th Amendments. We are still fighting it.

The Arkansas legislature is dominated by conservative evangelicals, such as the former Senate majority leader, Bart Hester. He is featured in the new documentary film “Boycott,” directed by Julia Bacha and produced by the group Just Vision.

“Boycott” follows three plaintiffs, including me, challenging their states’ anti-boycott laws. In the film, Senator Hester explains that his religious belief motivates everything he does as a government official, including writing Arkansas’s anti-boycott law. He also explains his eschatological beliefs: “There is going to be certain things that happen in Israel before Christ returns. There will be famines and disease and war. And the Jewish people are going to go back to their homeland. At that point Jesus Christ will come back to the earth.” He added, “Anybody, Jewish or not Jewish, that doesn’t accept Christ, in my opinion, will end up going to hell.” Senator Hester and his coreligionists may see the anti-boycott law as a way to support Israel, whose return to its biblical borders, according to their reading of scripture, is one of the precursors to the Second Coming and Armageddon.

In other words, Senator Hester and other supporters of the law entwine religion and public life in a manner that we believe intrudes on our First Amendment rights.

These types of laws are not restricted to states in which fundamentalist Christians hold sway. In 2016, California passed a law requiring large contractors working with a state agency to certify that they will not discriminate against Israel, and Andrew Cuomo, as governor of New York, signed an executive order that compels state entities to divest money and assets from a list of organizations regarded by the state as participating in the boycott. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York proposed national anti-boycott legislation.

Let’s be clear, states are trading their citizens’ First Amendment rights for what looks like unconditional support for a foreign government.

If we lose in the Eighth Circuit, our last hope is the Supreme Court. Ours isn’t the only case out there. In 2018 and 2019, federal courts in Texas, Arizona and Kansas ruled against their states’ anti-B.D.S. laws. If the Supreme Court rules against us, the other favorable rulings could be in jeopardy. Also concerning is that these states have since amended their anti-boycott laws, narrowing their scope so they apply only to companies with a large number of contractors and to public contracts that are more than $100,000 but without addressing what we see as the laws’ fundamental unconstitutionality.

Although the Arkansas press has covered the case, there has been little editorial support for or comment on our fight beyond that. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette signed the pledge — as did Arkansas Business, our business journal. And yet freedom of expression is a sacred American value and foundational to our democratic ideals.

Alan Leveritt is the founder and publisher of The Arkansas Times. His lawsuit against Arkansas’s anti-boycott law is the subject of Just Vision’s upcoming documentary “Boycott.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s race-blind decisions on hate speech came at expense of Black users, documents show, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Nitasha Tiku and Craig Timberg, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Researchers proposed a fix to the biased algorithm, but one internal document predicted pushback from “conservative partners.”

Last year, researchers at Facebook showed executives an example of the kind of hate speech circulating on the social network: an actual post featuring an image of four female Democratic lawmakers known collectively as “The Squad.”

facebook logoThe poster, whose name was scrubbed out for privacy, referred to the women, two of whom are Muslim, as “swami rag heads.” A comment from another person used even more vulgar language, referring to the four women of color as “black c---s,” according to internal company documents exclusively obtained by The Washington Post.

The post represented the “worst of the worst” language on Facebook — the majority of it directed at minority groups, according to a two-year effort by a large team working across the company, the document said. The researchers urged executives to adopt an aggressive overhaul of its software system that would primarily remove only those hateful posts before any Facebook users could see them.

But Facebook’s leaders balked at the plan. According to two people familiar with the internal debate, top executives including Vice President for Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan feared the new system would tilt the scales by protecting some vulnerable groups over others. A policy executive prepared a document for Kaplan that raised the potential for backlash from “conservative partners,” according to the document. The people spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

The previously unreported debate is an example of how Facebook’s decisions in the name of being neutral and race-blind in fact come at the expense of minorities and particularly people of color. Far from protecting Black and other minority users, Facebook executives wound up instituting half-measures after the “worst of the worst” project that left minorities more likely to encounter derogatory and racist language on the site, the people said.

 

Nov. 22

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U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell and Deputy Chair Lael Brainard (Photo by Ann Saphir of Reuters).

Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell and Board member Lael Brainard, President Biden's nominee to be deputy chair (Reuters photo by Ann Saphir.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to nominate Jerome Powell for second term as Fed chair, signaling continuity amid heavy economic headwinds, Rachel Siegel, Nov. 22, 2021. The president also will nominate Lael Brainard, the Fed’s only Democrat, to become the central bank’s vice chair.

President Biden will nominate Jerome H. Powell to lead the Federal Reserve for a second term, signaling a vote of confidence for the Republican chair as the economy continues to face challenges and uncertainty amid the ongoing pandemic.

In a Monday announcement, Biden also said he would nominate Lael Brainard, the Fed board’s lone Democrat, to be the central bank’s vice chair. Brainard had long been discussed as the main alternative to Powell, due largely to her influence on the Fed board on issues ranging from monetary policy to climate issues to banking regulation. Now, if confirmed by the Senate, they will lead the Fed together.

federal reserve system CustomPowell’s nomination signals Biden’s intent for continuity at the central bank, which is grappling with inflation at 30-year highs, widespread changes in the labor market and looming questions over how the Fed should and will respond. Whether the Fed’s policies prove to be right will have major implications for the U.S. and global economy.

The nominations will go before the Senate Banking Committee and then a full confirmation vote in the Senate. Powell and Brainard are expected to garner enough support from Democrats and Republicans to be confirmed again.

“If we want to continue to build on the economic success of this year we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve — and I have full confidence after their trial by fire over the last 20 months that Chair Powell and Dr. Brainard will provide the strong leadership our country needs,” Biden said Monday.

In the coming weeks and months, Biden has a major opportunity to widen his stamp on the Fed’s makeup. In addition to the chair and vice chair, Biden is expected to fill slots for vice chair for supervision (the Fed’s top banking cop). There are also vacant seats on the board of governors. In a Monday release, the White House said Biden intends to make those appointments beginning in early December “and is committed to improving the diversity in the Board’s composition.”

Powell never faced overwhelming criticism from Democrats, and many on the left praised Powell for his emphasis on full employment, even in the face of rising inflation. But Monday’s announcement elevating Brainard is also likely to appease progressives who charged Powell was not aggressive enough on climate issues or banking regulation.

Brainard has consistently opposed policies to loosen regulations for large banks and Wall Street put in place after the Great Recession, garnering praise from the left for issuing roughly 20 dissents over the past few years.

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Marine Corps compliance with vaccine mandate on course to be military’s worst, Alex Horton, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The holdouts will join thousands of Air Force personnel who have outright refused the vaccine or sought an exemption on medical or religious grounds.

Up to 10,000 active-duty Marines will not be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus when their deadline arrives in coming days, a trajectory expected to yield the U.S. military’s worst immunization rate.

While 94 percent of Marine Corps personnel have met the vaccination requirement or are on a path to do so, according to the latest official data, for the remainder it is too late to begin a regimen and complete it by the service’s Nov. 28 deadline. Within an institution built upon the belief that orders are to be obeyed, and one that brands itself the nation’s premier crisis-response force, it is a vexing outcome.

marine corps logoThe holdouts will join approximately 9,600 Air Force personnel who have outright refused the vaccine, did not report their status, or sought an exemption on medical or religious grounds, causing a dilemma for commanders tasked with maintaining combat-ready forces — and marking the latest showdown over President Biden’s authority to impose vaccination as a condition of continued government service.

“Marines know they’re an expeditionary force, and pride themselves on discipline and being first to fight,” said David Lapan, a retired Marine Corps officer and former communications chief for the service. Leadership, he said, should be alarmed that the Marine Corps ethos of always being ready for the next mission appears to be tarnished in this case. “Why,” Lapan asked, “did they decide not to follow a direct order?”

Department of Defense SealAnswering that question will be essential, he added, “if this is somehow indicative of a problem” that could arise again in the future.

The Marine Corps made no secret it has struggled with vaccine hesitancy in the ranks. Late last month, officials issued an ultimatum: get vaccinated, apply for an exemption or get kicked out.

Then, as the cutoff to be in compliance drew near, the Marines’ top general, Commandant David H. Berger, and his senior enlisted adviser, Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black, distributed a video message to the force imploring those who had not been vaccinated to get it done. They appealed to Marines’ sense of fidelity and calmly explained that the Marine Corps would be less capable unless everyone met the requirement.

“When something bad happens around the world and the president says, ‘I need to know how long it’s going to take to get Marines there,’ it’s too late then to get vaccinated,” Berger said in the video.

“It’s challenging for us to be able to continue the mission,” Black added, “if we’re not ready to go.”

Berger spoke last: “We need every single Marine in the unit to be vaccinated. We don’t have extra Marines. We’re a pretty small force, and we have to make sure that everybody on the team is ready to go all the time. That’s our job.”

The Marine Corps is the U.S. military’s least-populous branch of service. Numbering about 183,000, it’s roughly one-third the size of the active-duty Army but fills a significant role within the Defense Department’s portfolio. Whenever there’s a high-stakes emergency overseas — such as the hasty evacuation from Afghanistan this past summer — Marines are often among the first U.S. personnel to set foot in harm’s way.

Importantly, the service’s coexistence within the Navy Department means Marines routinely operate from ships at sea, living in close, enclosed spaces where the virus can spread readily. Navy data shows that 99.7 percent of sailors have received at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine ahead of the same Nov. 28 deadline — the top figure among all military services.

The general’s message, circulated Nov. 8, appears to have made little impact. At that time, the Marine Corps’ partial vaccination rate — an indicator of newly obtained shots — was 94 percent and remained unchanged as of Wednesday, according to official data. The rate slowed in recent weeks overall, indicating the pool of Marines who intended to comply has all but dried up.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Michigan woman tried to hire an assassin online at RentAHitman.com. Now, she’s going to prison, Jonathan Edwards, Nov. 22, 2021. Seething and vengeful, Wendy Wein was on the lookout for the professional killer she meant to hire as she waited inside a southeastern Michigan cafe in July 2020.

Wein wanted her ex-husband dead. But she didn’t want to murder him herself and didn’t know anyone she trusted to do it for her. So she did what a lot of people do when they have a job they can’t or don’t want to do themselves — she searched for help on the Internet.
On RentAHitman.com.

What Wein found was presumably reassuring. The website promised her confidentiality. It boasted of industry awards. It showed off testimonials of satisfied customers, including one from Laura S., who had “caught my husband cheating with the babysitter.” The website bragged about complying with HIPPA, which it said was “the Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964,” a nod to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, the law passed in 1996 to protect patients’ medical information.

The trouble for Wein was that RentAHitman.com is a fake website. It’s not run by “Guido Fanelli,” as it claims, but by Bob Innes, a 54-year-old Northern California man who forwards any serious inquiries to law enforcement. Innes launched the site 16 years ago as part of an Internet security business that never went anywhere. Instead, it has served as a honeypot of sorts, attracting people who want to hire professional killers.

For Wein, it didn’t go well. She was arrested within days of seeking out an assassin and pleaded guilty earlier this month to solicitation of murder and using a computer to commit a crime. Under her plea agreement, she faces at least nine years in prison when she is sentenced in January.

All these years later, he’s still a little dumbfounded people don’t realize his site is bogus.

“I don’t get it,” Innes told The Washington Post. “People are just stupid.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why Joe Biden had to do it this way, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 22, 2021.  Now that President Biden and the Democrats are finally making bill palmerinfrastructure happen, they’ll move on to voting rights legislation in the new year. This has led to the fair question of why they didn’t do voting rights first. After all, what good are roads and bridges if we’re no longer a democracy anyway? The answer is actually pretty straightforward.

bill palmer report logo headerBiden and the Democrats started off 2021 by trying to voting rights legislation first. But there just wasn’t the momentum for it. Manchin has to be pushed and squeezed into doing anything, and Sinema is, well, Sinema. Even though political activists all understand the importance of voting rights legislation, the average American simply doesn’t at this time. And there’s no amount of yelling around that’s going to change that.

So because there was no way to leverage enough public pressure to force Manchin and Sinema to cave on voting rights in 2021, Biden and the Democrats decided to use 2021 to get infrastructure done instead, because – in spite of what the doomsday types insist – the Democrats are in fact really good about making sure they’re getting something done.

joe biden signs resized relief billThe doomsday types just have no frame of reference for how long it takes to pass any legislation this complex with a majority this narrow; they don’t appear to have been paying attention when Trump and the Republicans had a 52 vote Senate majority and still couldn’t pass their own health care legislation after about a year of trying. The fact that Biden and the Democrats got infrastructure done with a 50 one Senate “majority” is nothing short of amazing, no matter how long it took.

But you see, politics is the art of the possible. Voting rights legislation wasn’t possible in 2021, because the public support and enthusiasm for it just wasn’t there. After all, no matter how much time we’ve spent talking about these egregious voter suppression laws being passed in red states, the average American simply has no interest in hearing about voting and elections in odd numbered years.

This brings us to 2022. Once we get into the new year, Biden and the Democrats will have the ability to convince the average American that their voting rights are in danger “later this year.” That’ll resonate with a whole lot more people. To that end, as more red states pass voter suppression laws, it’ll give the Democrats more ammunition for proving to the general public that federal voting rights legislation really is a crucial thing.

Throw in the fact that the Biden DOJ has civil cases ongoing against red states over voter suppression laws, and in the new year we should start getting court victories out of it. That’ll help push voter suppression to the forefront of the media’s favorite narratives, and it’ll give the Democrats guidance for fine tuning their voting rights legislation so that it survives any court challenges.

We’re going to get voting rights legislation done in the new year. The people who are insisting it’ll “never happen” are the same people who insisted Biden’s infrastructure legislation would “never happen.” They obviously have no credibility and must be tuned out. Politics is the art of the possible. Voting rights legislation wasn’t possible in 2021, but infrastructure was. Voting rights legislation will be possible in 2022, and we’re going to put in the work to make it happen. Fortunately, Biden and the Democratic leadership are savvy enough to have made this all possible.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Intentionally Drove Into Wisconsin Holiday Parade, Police Say: Live Updates, Dan Simmons, Mitch Smith, Robert Chiarito, Jesus Jiménez and Livia Albeck-Ripka, Nov. 22, 2021. The five people killed ranged in age from 52 to 81. Among those injured in the attack were 18 children.

The police have identified Darrell E. Brooks, a 39-year-old Milwaukee man, as the driver of a red S.U.V. that barreled through a Christmas parade on Sunday, killing at least five adults and injuring more than 40 others, including more than a dozen children.

All of the dead were over the age of 50, Dan Thompson, chief of the Waukesha Police Department, told reporters on Monday.

Mr. Brooks steered the S.U.V. through parade barricades moments after fleeing the scene of a domestic disturbance, Chief Thompson said. He faces five counts of first-degree intentional homicide.

The incident was not related to terrorism, and Mr. Brooks was not being pursued by the police at the time, he added. He was captured shortly after speeding away from the scene, according to the chief, who said he was one of the first officers to arrive at the scene.

Mr. Brooks had been free on $1,000 bail in an earlier criminal case, in which he was accused of running over the mother of his child in the parking lot of a Milwaukee gas station with his maroon 2010 Ford Escape earlier this month. A spokesman for the district attorney’s office on Monday described the state’s bail recommendation in that earlier case as “inappropriately low” in light of the seriousness of the charges, and “not consistent” with office policy.

It was supposed to have been a celebratory night in Waukesha. Dance groups and high school bands and politicians were marching along Main Street in the Milwaukee suburb’s Christmas parade, which was returning from a pandemic hiatus.

 

Trump Watch

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump regime turned Washington into a fetid and lawless version of wartime Tangier and Macao, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, Nov. 21, 2021. During his four years in office, Donald Trump, accompanied by his unethical and immoral family, business associates, and advisers, turned Washington, DC into a replica of wartime neutral cities like Tangier and Macao, where anything and everyone was for sale to the highest bidder. 

In May 2017, Trump hosted the Russian Foreign Minister and ambassador to Washington at the Oval Office. Trump told the Russians, “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job." Trump was no different than the pro-Japanese chief of the Macau police, Carlos de Souza Gorgulho, who wayne madesen report logodid everything he could do ingratiate himself to the Japanese military that had all but taken over the Portuguese colony during the war.

President Joe Biden did not merely become President of the United States following his defeat of the incumbent. He inherited a treasonous administration jam-packed with fascists, racists, neo-Nazis, and unpatriotic sellouts.

Nothing points to the transformation of America's capital to a backwater nest of foreign espionage intrigue, sedition, and treason more than the Republicans in Congress.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: N.Y. prosecutors set sights on new Trump target: Widely different valuations on the same properties, David A. Fahrenthold, Jonathan O'Connell, Josh Dawsey and Shayna Jacobs, Nov. 22, 2021. The Trump Organization owns an office building at 40 Wall Street in Manhattan. In 2012, when the company was listing its assets for potential lenders, it said the building was worth $527 million — which would make it among the most valuable in New York.

But just a few months later, the Trump Organization told property tax officials that the entire 70-story building was worth less than a high-end Manhattan condo: just $16.7 million, according to newly released city records.

That was less than one-thirtieth the amount it had claimed the year before.

That property is now under scrutiny from the Manhattan district attorney and New York attorney general, along with several others like it for which the Trump Organization gave vastly different value estimates, according to public records and people familiar with their investigations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing inquiries.

After the indictment of the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer this summer for income tax fraud, prosecutors now appear to be examining whether the company broke the law by providing low values to property tax officers, while using high ones to garner tax breaks or impress lenders.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) has said she is considering a lawsuit, and prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office have also convened a new grand jury, which could vote on criminal charges, according to the people familiar with the investigations.

Among the other properties under scrutiny: former president Donald Trump’s California golf club, for which he valued the same parcel of land at $900,000 and $25 million depending on the intended audience, and an estate in suburban New York, for which Trump’s valuations ranged from $56 million up to $291 million. The valuations were all given in the five years before Trump won the presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge orders nearly $187,000 in fees assessed against two lawyers who filed suit challenging 2020 presidential election, Rosalind S. Helderman, Nov. 22, 2021. The order is one of the first efforts to put a dollar figure on penalties for lawyers who attempted to use the legal system to overturn the results of the presidential balloting.

A federal judge has ordered two Colorado lawyers who filed a lawsuit late last year challenging the 2020 election results to pay nearly $187,000 to defray the legal fees of groups they sued, arguing that the hefty penalty was proper to deter others from using frivolous suits to undermine the democratic system.

“As officers of the Court, these attorneys have a higher duty and calling that requires meaningful investigation before prematurely repeating in court pleadings unverified and uninvestigated defamatory rumors that strike at the heart of our democratic system and were used by others to foment a violent insurrection that threatened our system of government,” wrote Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter.

“They are experienced lawyers who should have known better. They need to take responsibility for their misconduct,” he wrote.

The two lawyers, Gary D. Fielder and Ernest John Walker, filed the case in December 2020 as a class action on behalf of 160 million American voters, alleging there was a complicated plot to steal the election from President Donald Trump and give the victory to Joe Biden.

The two argued that a scheme was engineered by the voting machine vendor Dominion Voting Systems; the tech company Facebook, its founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan; and elected officials in four states. They had sought $160 billion in damages.

Their case was dismissed in April. In August, Neureiter ruled that the attorneys had violated their ethical obligations by filing it in the first place, arguing that the duo had run afoul of legal rules that prohibit clogging the courts with frivolous motions and lodging information in court that is not true. At the time, he called their suit “the stuff of which violent insurrections are made,” alleging they made little effort to determine the truth of their conspiratorial claims before filing them in court. He ordered them to pay the legal fees of all of the many entities that they had sued.

 

Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes cnn

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Two Fox News Contributors Quit in Protest of Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 Special, Ben Smith, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes (above right), stars of a brand of conservatism that has fallen out of fashion, decide they’ve had enough, our media columnist writes.

The trailer for Tucker Carlson’s special about the Jan. 6 mob at the Capitol landed online on Oct. 27, and that night Jonah Goldberg sent a text to his business partner, Stephen Hayes: “I’m tempted just to quit Fox over this.”

“I’m game,” Mr. Hayes replied. “Totally outrageous. It will lead to violence. Not sure how we can stay.”

The full special, “Patriot Purge,” appeared on Fox’s online subscription streaming service days later. And last week, the two men, both paid Fox News contributors, finalized their resignations from the network.

In some ways, their departures should not be surprising: It’s simply part of the new right’s mopping up operation in the corners of conservative institutions that still house pockets of resistance to Donald J. Trump’s control of the Republican Party. Mr. Goldberg, a former National Review writer, and Mr. Hayes, a former Weekly Standard writer, were stars of the pre-Trump conservative movement. They clearly staked out their positions in 2019 when they founded The Dispatch, an online publication that they described as “a place that thoughtful readers can come for conservative, fact-based news and commentary.” It now has nearly 30,000 paying subscribers.

Their departures also mark the end of a lingering hope among some at Fox News — strange as this is for outsiders to understand — that the channel would at some point return to a pre-Trump reality that was also often hyperpartisan, but that kept some distance from Republican officials. Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, recently deplored Trumpism while acting as though — as Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien noted — he didn’t run the company.

The reality of Fox and similar institutions is that many of their leaders feel that the tight bond between Mr. Trump and their audiences or constituents leaves them little choice but to go along, whatever they believe. Fox employees often speak of this in terms of “respecting the audience.” And in a polarized age, the greatest opportunities for ratings, money and attention, as politicians and media outlets left and right have demonstrated, are on the extreme edges of American politics.

 

World News, Global Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Venezuela’s ruling socialist party claims sweeping wins in elections, Samantha Schmidt and Ana Vanessa Herrero, Nov. 22, 2021. Venezuela’s socialist ruling party claimed sweeping victories Sunday night in the first elections to include the country’s top opposition parties in nearly four years, a low-turnout vote that critics say was rigged from the start.

nicolas maduro customPolitical allies of President Nicolás Maduro, right, won 20 out of 23 gubernatorial offices across the country, according to preliminary results from the electoral council. With a turnout of just 41.8 percent, one of the country’s lowest rates in the past two decades, the vote reflected an electorate apathetic toward its leadership options in the crumbling socialist state.

“We have the whole map already, clear and drawn,” Maduro said in a speech early Monday, calling his party “a determining force in the history of this venezuela flag waving custombeautiful country called Venezuela.”

The opposition chose to participate in the elections, abandoning a years-long boycott, in the hopes of reviving a disillusioned base and redefining the leadership of the fractured and faltering pro-democracy movement. But it appeared they emerged from the contest as weak as they entered it, facing a ruling party with far greater campaign resources and tight control of the country’s electoral system.

“This process … was about reconnecting with the country, walking the streets of each neighborhood of Caracas and telling the people: WE ARE HERE,” tweeted Tomás Guanipa, who came in third place for mayor in a Caracas municipality won by a pro-government candidate. “But the reality is that the country spoke and spoke loudly, through abstention.”

It remained to be seen whether Venezuela’s electoral system passed a key test of legitimacy under the careful watch of more than 130 European Union observers, the first such mission here in 15 years. The mission plans to release initial findings on Tuesday. But as polls closed Sunday, human rights advocates raised alarm at reports of “irregularities, threats and attacks” in the electoral process.

washington post logoWashington Post, Olympics official warns that Peng Shuai case ‘may spin out of control’ as images of tennis star raise questions, Ellen Francis, Updated Nov. 21, 2021. The crisis over the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, which has sparked a global outcry, “may spin out of control” and push the International Olympic Committee into taking a harder line with Beijing, an Olympics official warned.

Peng Shuai of China celebrates a point against Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. during their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, N.Y., August 29, 2011. Right: Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli speaks during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China, May 14, 2017. (Eduardo Munoz, Lintao Zhang / Reuters)Peng, 35, a three-time Olympian and a two-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, has not spoken in public for more than two weeks after she accused a former vice premier in an online post of sexually assaulting her about three years ago. Her post — and discussion of it — was quickly censored on Chinese social media.

Photos and videos have emerged in recent days showing Peng at a restaurant and a tennis match, but there have been questions about their authenticity.

Star athletes such as Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have demanded information on her, while the United Nations’ human rights office has called for proof of Peng’s safety.

olympics 2022 beijing winter logo

washington post logoWashington Post, IOC says President Thomas Bach had video call with missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, Les Carpenter, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Bach spoke by video with Peng in an apparent attempt to alleviate concerns about her safety.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach had a half-hour video call with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, the Olympic governing body said Sunday, amid global concerns about Peng’s safety.

In announcing the call on its website, the IOC showed a picture of Bach speaking with Peng, who is visible on a monitor. The IOC said Bach was joined on the call by IOC Athletes Commission chair Emma Terho and IOC board member Li Lingwei, a friend of Peng’s who is in China.

Worries about Peng’s safety have grown in recent weeks after she accused a former high-level Chinese official of sexual assault in a social media post Nov. 2. In the days after making the accusation, Peng’s name could no longer be found on Chinese search engines and she was not seen in public for more than two weeks. Photos and videos of her posted on social media by Chinese state-run media in recent days have done little to assuage fears for her well-being, with human rights researchers saying the images only raised more questions.

ny times logocolumbia flag mapNew York Times, Two of 17 Kidnapped Missionaries in Haiti Are Freed, Group Says, Maria Abi-Habib and Oscar Lopez, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). After being held hostage for 37 days by a gang, two people with a U.S. Christian aid group were released in Port-au-Prince and were described as “safe.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Sudan’s military, civilian leaders reach deal that reinstates prime minister deposed in coup, Miriam Berger, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Sudan’s military and civilian leaders reached a deal Sunday to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was ousted from power in a coup last month that reignited mass protests and political uncertainty over two years after a popular uprising forced out longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Hamdok praised the agreement as a way to restore the country’s fragile democratic transition. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s top general, said that Hamdok will lead “an independent technocratic Cabinet until elections can be held,” according to the Associated Press, which noted that the government would still remain under military oversight.

Sudan’s revolutionaries vow to resist military’s power grab

It also remains unclear if the new terms will bolster Hamdok’s popular support — or further distance him from the country’s pro-democracy protest movements as thousands marched in Khartoum the same day, denouncing the coup and calling for the immediate transfer of power to civilians.

washington post logoWashington Post, Canada’s Parliament returns: Trudeau looks to address unfinished business as Conservatives squabble, Amanda Coletta, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). In August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulled the plug on his minority government and called a snap election. Canada, he said, was at justin trudeau twitterperhaps the most “pivotal” moment since the end of World War II, and voters deserved a say on how to defeat the coronavirus and chart an economic recovery.

canadian flagThey delivered their verdict in September, reelecting the telegenic Liberal Party leader but depriving him again of the majority he sought. Now, a new session of Parliament is set to open on Monday — more than two months after the election, a period opposition parties have complained has been unnecessary dillydallying.

As leader of a minority government, Trudeau, right, must depend on the backing of opposition lawmakers to pass his agenda and stay in power. But with his main foes mired in internecine feuds and alignment in key policy areas with the left-leaning New Democratic Party, there’s opportunity to address some unfinished business.

washington post logoWashington Post, Back from the Belarus border, Iraqis recount abuse and eye the future with despair, Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Lured by promises of a new life in Europe, exhausted migrants return home to an uncertain fate.

belarus flagTheir return felt humiliating. As men, women and children trudged exhausted through the arrivals hall of Irbil airport, camera crews mobbed them and yelled questions about why they had left Iraq in the first place.

Most of the families just kept their heads down. On the outbound journey they had been hopeful, ready for the new life in Europe that travel agents had promised. But it turned out they were unwitting pawns in Europe’s latest migration battle. The repatriation flight brought them back to the place they had spent life savings trying to leave.

alexander lukashenko resized 2019The return of more than 400 Iraqis on the Iraqi Airways flight last week appeared to mark an easing of a growing crisis at the border of the European Union. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, has facilitated the passage of thousands of mostly Middle Eastern migrants through Belarus and across the border into Poland, where most are now stranded and near-freezing.

On Thursday night, many among the returning Iraqis looked dazed beneath the airport’s glaring lights. Most were from the country’s Kurdish region. In the days that followed, they recounted their ordeals at the hands of European border guards and eyed the future with despair.

Migrants said they were fleeing hopelessness. “There’s no life for us here,” said Mohamed Rasheed, 23, back home and facing the task of rebuilding his savings from scratch. “There are no jobs, there is no future.”

  • Washington Post, Venezuela’s ruling socialist party claims sweeping wins in elections, Samantha Schmidt and Ana Vanessa Herrero, Nov. 22, 2021.

Recent Global Headlines:

 

Justice Scandals, Complaints

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why is this Justice Department fighting more oversight? Ruth Marcus, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Helping the Justice Department ruth marcusrecover from the politicization of the Trump years is at the top of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s agenda. That is why it is so puzzling that Garland’s Justice Department has come out against a measure — one that enjoys nearly unanimous, bipartisan support — that would help restore accountability to the battered institution.

The issue involves the authority of the department’s inspector general to investigate professional misconduct by the department’s lawyers — an authority that the inspector general now lacks. Yes, you read that right. Unique in the government, the Justice Department lacks the power to probe a significant — arguably the most significant — part of the department’s workforce. (The inspector general still has the FBI, Bureau of Prisons, Drug Enforcement Administration and other department components to kick around.)

Under a long-standing arrangement, first enshrined in the 1988 law that created the Justice inspector general, the job of reviewing the conduct of the department’s lawyers is largely left to the Office of Professional Responsibility. It isn’t up to the job and has long fallen short in performing it.

Justice Department log circularThe department’s political appointees get to hire and, if they want, fire the head of the Office of Professional Responsibility; the inspector general is confirmed by the Senate and can be removed only by the president.

And the OPR serves, for the most part, as a black hole of accountability. Investigations may be launched, but the results are rarely made public, and then often grudgingly. The inspector general, by contrast, has a track record of producing compelling investigations, for public review. These include, to take just a few recent examples, the searing takedowns of the FBI’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar and the bureau’s error-ridden Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign.

But the inspector general operates under unnecessary constraints that may serve the interests of the department’s lawyers but do not serve the public. During the Trump administration, Inspector General Michael Horowitz had his hands tied for months when Attorney General William P. Barr intervened to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Trump ally Roger Stone. Department officials rebuffed Horowitz’s bid to investigate the cushy plea deal obtained by Jeffrey Epstein; OPR conducted a probe that came in for wide criticism.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid-19 live updates: Daily coronavirus cases up 18 percent, according to CDC director, Lateshia Beachum, Annabelle Timsit and Bryan Pietsch, Nov. 22, 2021. The seven-day average of reported coronavirus infections has increased by 18 percent, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Monday news conference.

cdc logo CustomThe rise in cases and a 6 percent increase in the seven-day average of hospital admissions come just days after the Food and Drug Administration recommended booster shots for all adults 18 and older who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months after their second dose, making more than 135 million people eligible for boosters. Anyone who received Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine also is eligible for a booster.

“Heading into the winter months, when respiratory viruses are more likely to spread, and with plans for increased holiday season travel and gatherings, boosting people’s overall protection against covid-19 disease and death was important to do now,” Walensky said.

Walensky and Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, implored unvaccinated Americans to seek shots for protection as recent CDC data showed the increased risks of being unvaccinated and catching the virus.

“Most tragic are the vaccine-preventable deaths we are still seeing from this disease,” Walensky said. “Even in our updated data, unvaccinated people are at 14 times greater risk of dying from covid-19 than people who are vaccinated.”

Here’s what to know

  • The White House announced that 95 percent of federal employees have complied with the vaccination mandate before a Monday evening deadline set by the Biden administration in September.
  • Vice President Harris announced $1.5 billion in funding to help eliminate the shortage of doctors and nurses in underserved communities by providing scholarships and repaying the student loans of providers who work in medically needy areas.
  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday on NBC News’s “Meet The Press” that he has not implemented a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel because other strategies, such as mandatory masking, are proving effective.
  • In Europe, which the World Health Organization recently called the latest “epicenter” of the pandemic, large-scale, violent protests broke out over the weekend against renewed coronavirus restrictions, including a nationwide lockdown taking effect Monday in Austria.

More than 90 percent of 3.5 million federal employees covered by the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate have received at least one dose, and a “vast majority” of those have been fully vaccinated, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said at a news conference Monday.

The figure is high compared with the approximately 59 percent of the general population that is fully vaccinated, about 196.3 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The White House announced earlier in the day that 95 percent of federal employees complied with the vaccination mandate before Monday’s deadline, which the Biden administration set in September.

Zients said the deadline isn’t an “endpoint or a cliff” for employees, and he added that more federal employees have been getting vaccinated.

“We have 98 percent compliance at the IRS, with nearly 25 percent of IRS employees getting vaccinated after the president announced the requirement,” he said. “At the FBI, 99 percent compliance.”

There’s nearly 98 percent compliance at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 93 percent at the Transportation Security Administration and 99 percent at the Federal Aviation Administration.

A full agency-by-agency report will be released Wednesday, Zients said.

The vaccine requirements have prompted political and legal brawls across the nation, with several states fighting against the federal government, some local governments fighting against their states, and employees fighting against employers.

Employees generally can apply for a medical or religious exemption from the mandate. Those who are unvaccinated and do not have an exemption will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination or removal from their jobs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: With poor nations only 5 percent vaccinated, wealthy nations need to look in the mirror, Editorial Board, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). What began as a hopeful attempt to vaccinate the poorest nations against the coronavirus has struggled mightily. In high-income and upper-middle-income nations, 73 percent of eligible people have gotten at least one shot, while only 41 percent have in lower-middle-income and a paltry 5 percent have in low-income countries. The United States and other wealthy nations should look in the mirror and strive to keep this from happening next time.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Nov. 22, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a study finds:

World Cases: 257,993,624, Deaths: 5,170,948
U.S. Cases:     48,592,810, Deaths:    793,651
Indian Cases:   34,518,901, Deaths:    465,911
Brazil Cases:   22,017,276, Deaths:    612,722

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 22, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

Related Recent Headlines:

 

U.S. Governance, Economy, Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson to retire as Democrats brace for tough battle to keep the House, Annabelle Timsit, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, who has represented Texas in Congress for nearly 30 years, will retire in January 2023, she said Saturday — eddie bernice johnson othe latest high-ranking Democrat to retire ahead of what is shaping up to be a difficult 2022 election for the party.

Johnson, 85, made the announcement at an event in Dallas attended by her supporters and family. She had previously suggested that the current congressional term — her fifteenth — would be her last. But some had speculated in recent months that she could change her mind, with Democrats looking ahead to the midterms as recent polls show a Republican advantage if elections were held today and the party grappling with its loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race.

The Texas congresswoman — who early in her career became the first Black woman to serve Dallas in the state Senate since Reconstruction, and in Congress was the first female and first Black chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology — alluded to the push-and-pull in her speech.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Donors Back Manchin and Sinema as They Reshape Biden’s Agenda, Kenneth P. Vogel and Kate Kelly, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The two Democratic senators are attracting campaign contributions from business interests and conservatives as progressives fume over their efforts to pare back the president’s domestic policy bill. Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are attracting contributions from conservatives as they work to pare back President Biden’s domestic policy bill.

Over the summer, as he was working to scale back President Biden’s domestic agenda, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia traveled to an $18 million mansion in Dallas for a fund-raiser that attracted Republican and corporate donors who have cheered on his efforts.

Dick ShelbyIn September, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who along with Mr. Manchin has been a major impediment to the White House’s efforts to pass its package of social and climate policy, stopped by the same home to raise money from a similar cast of donors for her campaign coffers.

Even as Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin, left, both Democrats, have drawn fire from the left for their efforts to shrink and reshape Mr. Biden’s proposals, they have won growing financial support from conservative-leaning donors and business executives in a striking display of how party affiliation can prove secondary to special interests and ideological motivations when the stakes are high enough.

Ms. Sinema is winning more financial backing from Wall Street and constituencies on the right in large part for her opposition to raising personal and corporate income tax rates. Mr. Manchin has attracted new Republican-leaning donors as he has fought against much of his own party to scale back the size of Mr. Biden’s legislation and limit new social welfare components.

How the U.S. Lost Ground to China in the Contest for Clean Energy

China’s pursuit of Congo’s cobalt has helped give it an enormous head start over the U.S. in the race to dominate the electrification of the auto industry.
But a Times investigation revealed that the U.S. essentially surrendered the resources, failing to safeguard decades of investments in Congo.

The quest for Congo’s cobalt has shown how the clean energy revolution is caught in a cycle of greed and gamesmanship.

ny times logoNew York Times, Thanksgiving Will Cost More This Year. That Could Cost Democrats, Too, Trip Gabriel, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Rising prices for gas and food could come back to bite Democrats, who fear that inflation may upend their electoral prospects in the 2022 midterms.

Samantha Martin, a single mother shopping ahead of Thanksgiving, lamented how rising gas and grocery prices have eaten away at the raise she got this year as a manager at McDonald’s.

democratic donkey logoGas “is crazy out of hand,” Ms. Martin said as she returned a shopping cart at an Aldi discount market in Auburn Hills, a Detroit suburb, to collect a 25-cent deposit.

Her most recent fillup was $3.59 a gallon, about $1 more than the price in the spring. Her raise, to $16 an hour from $14, was “pretty good, but it’s still really hard to manage,” Ms. Martin said. “I got a raise just to have the gas go up, and that’s what my raise went to.”

Ms. Martin, 35, a political independent, doesn’t blame either party for inflation, but in a season of discontent, her disapproval fell more heavily on Democrats who run Washington. She voted for President Biden but is disappointed with him and his party. “I think I would probably give somebody else a shot,” she said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Bezos Gives $100 Million to the Obama Foundation, Nicholas Kulish, Nov. 22, 2021. Former President Barack Obama’s private foundation announced on Monday that it had been promised $100 million from the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

The gift, the largest yet for the Obama Foundation, was one in a series of splashy donations in recent months by Mr. Bezos, one of the world’s richest people. Last week, Mr. Bezos announced $96.2 million in grants to groups working to end family homelessness.

Since stepping down as the chief executive of Amazon in July, Mr. Bezos has significantly raised his profile as a philanthropist, in addition to traveling to space on a ship made by his rocket company, Blue Origin.

In return for the donation, Mr. Bezos asked that a plaza at the Obama Presidential Center be named for the civil rights leader John Lewis, who died last year. The center, being built in Chicago, will include Mr. Obama’s presidential library, a museum, an athletic center and more.

“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” Mr. Bezos said in a statement released by the Obama Foundation. “I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”

It was neither Mr. Bezos’ biggest gift in recent months nor his first brush with Mr. Obama’s orbit thanks to his philanthropy. In September, Mr. Bezos, standing alongside John Kerry, Mr. Obama’s former secretary of state, pledged $1 billion through his Bezos Earth Fund for conservation, out of $10 billion he has promised to the fund.

Though Mr. Obama is out of office, he remains an important member of the Democratic Party establishment. The Obama Foundation’s previous president, Adewale Adeyemo, was a member of Mr. Obama’s National Security Council and is now the deputy Treasury secretary.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sean Parnell Suspends G.O.P. Senate Bid in Pennsylvania, Jennifer Medina, Nov. 22, 2021. Mr. Parnell, who was endorsed by Donald Trump in one of the highest-profile 2022 Senate races, had been accused by his estranged wife of spousal and child abuse.

Sean Parnell, a leading Republican candidate for Senate from Pennsylvania, suspended his campaign on Monday after a judge ruled that his estranged wife should get primary custody of their three children in a case in which she accused him of spousal and child abuse.

Mr. Parnell, who was endorsed by former President Donald J. Trump in September, said he was “devastated” by the decision and planned to appeal.

“There is nothing more important to me than my children, and while I plan to ask the court to reconsider, I can’t continue with a Senate campaign,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is 100% on my children, and I want them to know I do not have any other priorities and will never stop fighting for them.”

Mr. Parnell’s estranged wife, Laurie Snell, testified in court this month that Mr. Parnell had repeatedly abused her and their children, choking her and hitting one of their children so hard that he left a welt on the child’s back. The Butler County judge wrote that he found Ms. Snell to be “the more credible witness” and that he believed Mr. Parnell had committed “some acts of abuse in the past,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Miami Herald, Opinion: Biden delays release of Kennedy assassination files until 2022, Jefferson Morley, Nov. 22, 2021. CIA continues to conceal JFK assassination files. But here’s what we do know.

As a professional journalist who has been reporting on the assassination of John F. Kennedy for almost 30 years, I have long been skeptical about the pursuit of a proverbial “smoking gun” that supposedly will blow open the case of the murdered president.

But when the Biden White House announced late in the evening of Oct. 22 that the last of the JFK documents would not be released until December 2022 at the earliest, I began to rethink my caution. Friday nights are traditionally when the White House press office takes out the president’s smelliest garbage in hopes that the stench will pass by Monday morning. The announcement that the CIA and other federal agencies had delayed compliance with the 1992 JFK Records Act for the second time in four years was a story the White House understandably wanted to go away.

The CIA’s slow-walking tactics are not quite definitive proof of a JFK conspiracy. They do, however, demonstrate that the CIA does not intend to obey a law concerning the assassination of a sitting American president. The most plausible explanation of the CIA’s six-decade long history of deception, deceit and delay about assassination-related records is the desire to hide embarrassment or malfeasance. If nothing else, Biden’s order on the JFK files indicates that the CIA has a JFK problem: the clandestine service today cannot afford full disclosure about what happened in Dallas a long time ago.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real game that Chris Christie is playing, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 22, 2021. Chris Christie knows that if he runs in 2024, he’ll likely get bill palmer1% of the vote in the Republican primary and then have to drop out. But he’ll use his failed 2024 campaign to market his next book and make millions. And the media will spend his entire campaign pretending it’s real and not a book tour.

bill palmer report logo headerWhy do you think Christie has spent the past couple years working for a mainstream media outlet? It’s allowed him to make friends with reporters and build up favors with them, so they’ll help him market his books. These things are always about book deals. It’s where the money is.

Unfortunately, book tours disguised as presidential campaigns are a new trend, very profitable for the people who do it, but obviously not good for the nation. This won’t stop until the media at large begins calling it out. But with so many mainstream media figures also cashing in on lucrative book deals, will they be willing to call out faux-candidates for doing the same?

ny times logoNew York Times, In an interview, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned whether Democratic leaders understand their base’s demands, Astead W. Herndon, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The House progressive spoke about “demoralizing” congressional negotiations, how she was told to stay away from Virginia’s elections, and what it means to excite the Democratic base.

democratic donkey logoLast year, after Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the Democratic presidential nomination, a group of progressive lawmakers rallied around him to project party unity at a critical time.

More than a year later, as the president seeks to pass a robust spending package of social policies that represent the bulk of his domestic agenda, many of the same leaders are looking for a return on their political investment.

In an interview with The New York Times, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the country’s most prominent progressives, questioned whether Democratic leaders and the White House understood the scope of the demands coming from the party’s base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP bets on resentment over problem solving, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). The leaders of both parties in the ej dionne w open neckHouse of Representatives offered the nation an important lesson last week about why our politics are broken and our national mood is so surly.

The master class was taught inadvertently by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and somewhat more consciously by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Their closing speeches on the Build Back Better bill passed by the House on Friday illustrates how our political parties are not even in the same business anymore.

The Republican enterprise is devoted to stoking anger and social resentment, not to enacting legislation. Democrats may take an eternity to do it, but they actually want to pass bills, create programs and spotlight day-to-day concerns (child care, health care) that government can plausibly address.

McCarthy’s 8 ½-hour rant reflected his need to mollify the GOP’s large right wing with a protracted, nihilistic scream of opposition, even if “some of his claims,” as The Post’s Marianna Sotomayor, Paul Kane and Jacqueline Alemany wrote, “wildly defied the facts.”

His marathon of negativity capped a week in which just two House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to censure Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) for tweeting an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The party’s collective refusal to draw a line against such odiousness speaks to a degree of extremism that is partly obscured by the willingness of a small number of Republicans, particularly in the Senate, to work with Democrats on a handful of issues.

The GOP now focuses on undermining our electoral system and stoking division across racial lines. In pursuit of these goals, Republicans are willing to tolerate and apologize for right-wing violence and intimations of violence by the likes of Gosar.

In her brief speech before the bill finally won House approval Friday morning, Pelosi tweaked the Republican leader for his bombast — “as a courtesy to my colleagues, I will be brief,” she said to applause. But her emphasis was on the sweeping legislation’s specifics: bringing down the costs of insulin, cutting child-care costs “fully in half for most families,” “universal pre-K for every 3- and 4-year old in America,” “high-quality home health care.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Squad of Trump loyalists sees its influence grow amid demands for political purity in GOP, Jacqueline Alemany, Marianna Sotomayor and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). These Republican lawmakers have rocketed to fame on the political right with massive social media followings, frequent appearances on pro-Trump media and growing fundraising networks that get a boost with every provocative tweet.

The show of force from Donald Trump’s staunchest congressional allies began almost immediately after 13 House Republicans voted this month in favor of a massive infrastructure bill that handed President Biden one of the biggest victories of his tenure.

“Traitor Republicans,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) declared in a series of tweets where she posted their office phone numbers after saying that all those in her party who “hand over their voting card to Nancy Pelosi to pass Biden’s Communist takeover of America will feel the anger of the GOP voter.”

Others chimed in. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) promised to “primary the hell” out of any Republican who voted for the measure.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted it was “Time to name names and hold these fake republicans accountable.” And, this past week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told a pro-Trump podcast that there was never a situation during the infrastructure debate in which Republicans should work with Democrats: “They were going to win it all, or we were going to win it all.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Welch announces Democratic bid for seat of retiring Sen. Leahy of Vermont, John Wagner, Nov. 22, 2021. The congressman, who has held his seat since 2007, pledged to focus on issues including child care and family leave.

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Yahoo News, Oliver Stone Yet Again Makes the Case That the CIA Killed JFK, Nick Schager, Nov. 22, 2021. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, has arguably spawned more conspiracy theories than any other incident in American history, and no one has hypothesized about the nefarious forces at play in this homicide more publicly, and feverishly, than Oliver Stone.

The acclaimed director’s star-studded 1991 thriller JFK turned the tragedy into a national guessing game of motives, culprits and covert machinations carried out in the shadows, pointing fingers in so many directions that, today, it feels like a progenitor of our current fake news-addled reality. Depending on who you ask, JFK cemented Stone’s legacy as either a firebrand willing to speak truth to power, or a crackpot lost in a haze of make-believe.

Now, 30 years later, he’s returned to the scene of the crime.

Based on Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case by James DiEugenio, the doc JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass aims to lay out concrete answers about Kennedy’s murder and, in doing so, to validate Stone’s prior fictionalized take on the subject. Premiering Nov. 19 on Showtime (following its debut at this past July’s Cannes Film Festival), it’s a typical Stone effort, at once comprehensive and overstuffed, compelling and tiresome, sure of its own authoritativeness and yet unwilling (or unable) to provide definitive proof for its claims. Narrated by Stone, Whoopi Goldberg and Donald Sutherland, the last of whom also co-starred in JFK, as well as occasionally featuring Stone himself on camera, it’s a non-fiction inquiry that’s packed to the gills with names, dates, faces, documents, events, conversations, conjecture and talking-head commentary from a variety of authors and academics. If ever a movie was at once exhaustive and exhausting, this is it.

Even though he hasn’t made a memorable fictional feature in 15 years (that would be World Trade Center), JFK Revisited immediately proves that the director has lost none of his montage-y artistry. In the first few minutes, he splices together a cornucopia of archival clips regarding Kennedy’s assassination that provide a comprehensive contextual foundation for the inquiry to follow. The breadth of information that Stone crams into this opening salvo, and the suspense, terror and heartache he captures, is a marvel to behold. It so ably conveys the primary facets of Kennedy’s execution that the filmmaker is then free to pick apart myriad aspects of the official narrative that would subsequently emerge.

The swiftness with which Stone stages his introduction doesn’t dissipate for the remainder of the proceedings, which is at once a blessing and a curse. Having gotten the basics out of the way, Stone dives headfirst into examining various key details that are open to reinterpretation, thanks to revelations that came to light in the weeks, months and years following Kennedy’s death. First up is the “single bullet theory” promoted by the Warren Commission and, in particular, then-staffer Arlen Specter, which contended that one projectile fired by Lee Harvey Oswald struck Kennedy in the back, exited via his throat, and then hit Texas Governor John Connally, who was seated in front of the president during their motorcade through Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. A collection of speakers poke holes in different aspects of this premise, from discrepancies regarding chain-of-custody reports, to the lack of damage found on the bullet, to the dubiousness of Oswald owning the rifle that wound up in police custody, to autopsy reports (about the gunshot wound location, and weight of Kennedy’s brain) that may have been altered.

Stone throws all of this up on the screen without allotting a moment for the audience to take a breath and consider what’s being presented, and the effect is akin to being lectured by someone who wants to sway through overwhelming force. Stone may move at this pace so he can fit all of his ideas into a two-hour runtime, but that doesn’t change the fact that JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass strives to persuade through a blitzkrieg-like approach. While Stone’s sheer abundance of data is intended to project a measure of bedrock certainty, the director’s speedy dispensation of his material suggests a lack of absolute confidence, as if he’s afraid that lingering too long on any one item—or allowing contrary voices to be heard—might undercut the entire endeavor.

Thus, the film blazes onward into further realms, including Oswald’s potentially close ties to the CIA, and the CIA’s (and right-wing establishment’s) objection to Kennedy’s progressive ideas and ambitions. The former thread involves rehashing Oswald’s 1959 defection to the Soviet Union, his stint passing out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans, and his own slaying on national TV at the hands of Jack Ruby. The latter entails surmising about the CIA’s role in sabotaging the Bay of Pigs, and opposition to Kennedy’s plans to withdraw from Vietnam and his support for civil rights. Much of this has been heard before, from Stone and many others, some of it mildly convincing, some of it… less so.

The overarching argument forwarded by JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass is that the CIA offed Kennedy and then engaged in an elaborate, multi-pronged cover-up via the Warren Commission and multiple operatives who successfully doctored or destroyed records, strong-armed people to lie about what they saw or did, and disseminated falsehoods in order to manipulate public sentiment. Stone’s kitchen-sink investigation does suggest that questions remain about certain elements of this saga, not least of which is Oswald’s relationship with the CIA, since the office of Oswald’s pro-Cuba group was located in the same building as that of a former FBI agent—and, it turns out, was also across the street from the local CIA HQ. Those sorts of coincidences abound, and together, they go some way toward raising suspicions about the Warren Commission’s single-shooter theory.

On the other hand, though, Stone’s tack in making this case—namely, to bombard viewers with “evidence”—frequently sabotages his ultimate point. JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass may contain some truths, but they’re buried beneath so much excitable speculation that it’s impossible to firmly grasp them.

Politico, Businessman pleads guilty in $25M extortion attempt of Matt Gaetz’s father, Josh Gerstein, Nov. 22, 2021. A Florida businessman pleaded guilty Monday to involvement in an effort to extort $25 million from the wealthy father of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), right, as part of a bizarre scheme that involved a pledge matt gaetz officialto secure a presidential pardon for Gaetz in the high-profile federal sex trafficking investigation the lawmaker faces.

Stephen Alford, 62, appeared in federal court in Pensacola to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with the convoluted shakedown, which also included securing the release of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.

politico CustomDuring the hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Timothy recommended that Alford’s guilty plea be accepted.

Alford, of Fort Walton Beach, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at his sentencing, set for Feb. 16 before U.S. District Court Judge M. Casey Rodgers. Defendants typically get a sentence far below the maximum, but Alford could face a stiff prison term because he has prior federal convictions for fraud.

After being approached about the alleged pardon deal earlier this year, Matt Gaetz’s father Don went to the FBI. Agents helped the elder Gaetz, a wealthy former Florida state senate leader, record meetings with Alford and others involved in the caper.

Alford allegedly said he could “guarantee” a pardon for Matt Gaetz, who is the focus of an ongoing investigation into allegations that he and his associates had sex with underage girls and paid women for sex through online sites catering to so-called “sugar daddies.”

How, if at all, Alford hoped to get a pardon from President Joe Biden for one of former President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters has never been clear. A court filing Monday says Alford admitted that he lied about having such assurances.

In one letter to Don Gaetz, Alford wrote: “The team has been assured by the President that he will strongly consider such matters because he considers the release of Robert Levinson a matter of national urgency.”

However, Alford told FBI agents in April that statement was “a lie,” the statement of facts submitted in connection with the guilty plea says.

“Alford’s fraudulent scheme was thus making materially false promises to obtain millions of dollars from DG, although Alford knew he could not ’guarantee’ a pardon for DG’s family member,” the statement said.

In a tweet posted before the plea hearing Monday, Matt Gaetz faulted the Justice Department for not charging others who allegedly worked with Alford on the scheme. “Alford wasn’t acting alone. DOJ is having him take the fall to protect their own,” the congressman said.

Matt Gaetz has not been charged in the ongoing DOJ investigation into his actions, but a once-close associate — former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg — is cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty in May to sex trafficking of a minor.

The lawmaker has denied wrongdoing.

washington post logoWashington Post, 80 looters simultaneously broke into a Nordstrom near San Francisco, police say: ‘Clearly a planned event’ in weekend filled with looting incidents, Jessica Lipscomb, Nov. 22, 2021. Drivers blared their horns Saturday evening as dozens of thieves carrying luggage and bags darted from a Nordstrom department store near San Francisco and hopped into cars waiting for them outside. All but three of the 80 or so looters escaped, police said.

Two store employees were assaulted, and one was pepper-sprayed by the intruders, according to officers in Walnut Creek, a city about 25 miles east of San Francisco. In a news release, police called the crime “clearly a planned event.”

“Walnut Creek Police investigators are in the process of reviewing surveillance footage to attempt to identify other suspects responsible for this brazen act,” the department said.

The spectacle Saturday night was one of several incidents of looting and shoplifting reported at high-end retail stores around the Bay Area over the weekend.

TMZ, Malcolm X Daughter Malikah Found Dead ... No Foul Play Suspected, Staff Report, Nov. 22, 2021. Malikah Shabazz, the daughter of the late civil rights leader Malcolm X, has been found dead in Brooklyn, less than a week after the 2 men convicted for her father's assassination were exonerated, TMZ has confirmed.

Law enforcement sources tell us Shabazz's death does not appear to be suspicious, she was found face-down on the floor in her living room by her daughter. The timing is eerie considering just last week 83-year-old Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam -- who died in 2009 -- were exonerated after a several-decades long investigation.

Shabazz was one of 6 of Malcolm X's kids with wife Betty Shabazz. Malcolm X was just 39 when he was assassinated in NYC in 1965. Malikah was only 56, her official cause of death is not yet known..

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kyle rittenhouse closeup safe imagewashington post logoWashington Post, Kyle Rittenhouse attorney says he ‘did not approve’ Tucker Carlson’s film crew following them at trial, Timothy Bella, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). “I did not approve of that,” attorney Mark Richards said of the Fox Nation film crew, hours after his client was acquitted of all charges. “I threw them out of the room several times. I don’t think a film crew is appropriate for something like this.”

fox news logo SmallHours after Kyle Rittenhouse (shown above in a screenshot) was acquitted on all charges Friday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, below right, tucker carlsonannounced that he would not only interview the teen on Monday, but also had a film crew following the 18-year-old throughout the murder trial as part of an upcoming documentary for Fox Nation.

In a clip that aired Friday night, a smiling Rittenhouse told the film crew he was relieved to be acquitted, more than a year after he fatally shot two people and wounded a third amid unrest over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis.

“The jury reached the correct verdict,” Rittenhouse said. “Self-defense is not illegal.”

Press Run, Opinion: GOP violence is the most important political story in America, Eric Boehlert, right, Nov. 22, 2021. Ripping at the seams. Democrats never eric.boehlertused their considerable political muscle to try to demolish free and fair elections in America. That’s not true for today’s Republican Party, as it actively mainstreams the looming menace of hostility by fanning the flames of civil unrest, including last week celebrating an underage vigilante killer, Kyle Rittenhouse.

After he was acquitted on murder charges, at least three House Republicans said they wanted the gunman to be their intern, including Rep. Madison Cawthorn who urged his followers to “be armed and dangerous,” while posting a message celebrating Rittenhouse’s acquittal.

“Hard to describe how chilling it is to see members of the GOP and open white supremacists come together to celebrate a vigilante killing two people and getting away with it,” Cassie Miller, an extremism researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, tweeted.

The flashpoints of Republicans and conservatives promoting political violence have become ceaseless, to the point of frightening normalization. After Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted an anime video altered to show him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and swinging two swords at President Joe Biden, virtually the entire Republican Party rallied to Gosar’s side when he faced a formal House rebuke for his violent, dehumanizing outburst.

Despite the GOP’s nearly universal support, Politico insisted the episode highlighted the “fringe” side of the party, while the Beltway media outlet Punch Bowl reduced the threatening, unnerving Gosar chapter to Democrats and Republicans just not trusting each other.

The violent virus is spreading to the grassroots level. Polls suggest that as many as 21 million Americans think that the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency. In Kansas, anti-vaxxers showed up to municipal meetings wearing yellow stars, suggesting they had equal footing with Jewish victims of the Holocaust. White nationalist members of The Proud Boys are showing up at local school board meetings, to lend a menacing air to the proceedings.

At a conservative rally in western Idaho last month, a young man asked local leaders when he could start killing Democrats. “When do we get to use the guns?” he said as the audience applauded. When Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) voted in favor of the recent infrastructure bill to help rebuild roads across the country she was inundated with death threats. One man told her, “I pray to God that if you’ve got any children, they die in your face.”

The welcome Times piece last week on GOP violence stood in contrast to a wave of vague, worthless reporting we’ve seen this year about how “Americans” are angry, without pinpointing the obvious source of the unbridled, incoherent wrath.

“Americans are angry about ... everything. Is that bad?” read a recent Christian Science Monitor headline. The piece equated right-wing, anti-mask parents storming local school board meetings and issuing death threats with social justice activists taking to the streets to protest police brutality. Those two things aren’t remotely similar.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: We’re a Small Arkansas Newspaper. Why Is the State Making Us Sign a Pledge About Israel? Alan Leveritt, Nov. 22, 2021. At The Arkansas Times, a publication I founded 47 years ago, our pages focus on small-scale local issues, like protecting Medicaid expansion from the predations of our state legislature and other elements of Arkansas politics, history and culture.

So I was surprised when in 2018 I received an ultimatum from the University of Arkansas’s Pulaski Technical College, a longtime advertiser: To continue receiving its ad dollars, we would have to certify in writing that our company was not engaged in a boycott of Israel. It was puzzling. Our paper focuses on the virtues of Sims Bar-B-Que down on Broadway — why would we be required to sign a pledge regarding a country in the Middle East?

I understood the context of that email. In 2017, Arkansas pledged to enforce support for Israel by mandating that public agencies not do business with contractors unless those contractors affirm that they do not boycott Israel.

The idea behind the bill goes back 16 years. In 2005, Palestinian civil society launched a campaign calling for “boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.” Around the world, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S., as it became known, gained momentum. In response, Israel and lobbyists have used multiple strategies to quash the movement. In the United States, one such strategy took the form of anti-B.D.S. bills. Currently, more than 30 states have provisions on the books similar to Arkansas’s.

It soon became clear that The Arkansas Times had to answer our advertiser. Though boycotting Israel could not have been further from our minds and though state funding is a significant source of our income, our answer was no. We don’t take political positions in return for advertising. If we signed the pledge, I believe, we’d be signing away our right to freedom of conscience. And as journalists, we would be unworthy of the protections granted us under the First Amendment.

And so, instead of signing, we sued to overturn the law, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, on the grounds that it violates the First and 14th Amendments. We are still fighting it.

The Arkansas legislature is dominated by conservative evangelicals, such as the former Senate majority leader, Bart Hester. He is featured in the new documentary film “Boycott,” directed by Julia Bacha and produced by the group Just Vision.

“Boycott” follows three plaintiffs, including me, challenging their states’ anti-boycott laws. In the film, Senator Hester explains that his religious belief motivates everything he does as a government official, including writing Arkansas’s anti-boycott law. He also explains his eschatological beliefs: “There is going to be certain things that happen in Israel before Christ returns. There will be famines and disease and war. And the Jewish people are going to go back to their homeland. At that point Jesus Christ will come back to the earth.” He added, “Anybody, Jewish or not Jewish, that doesn’t accept Christ, in my opinion, will end up going to hell.” Senator Hester and his coreligionists may see the anti-boycott law as a way to support Israel, whose return to its biblical borders, according to their reading of scripture, is one of the precursors to the Second Coming and Armageddon.

In other words, Senator Hester and other supporters of the law entwine religion and public life in a manner that we believe intrudes on our First Amendment rights.

These types of laws are not restricted to states in which fundamentalist Christians hold sway. In 2016, California passed a law requiring large contractors working with a state agency to certify that they will not discriminate against Israel, and Andrew Cuomo, as governor of New York, signed an executive order that compels state entities to divest money and assets from a list of organizations regarded by the state as participating in the boycott. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York proposed national anti-boycott legislation.

Let’s be clear, states are trading their citizens’ First Amendment rights for what looks like unconditional support for a foreign government.

If we lose in the Eighth Circuit, our last hope is the Supreme Court. Ours isn’t the only case out there. In 2018 and 2019, federal courts in Texas, Arizona and Kansas ruled against their states’ anti-B.D.S. laws. If the Supreme Court rules against us, the other favorable rulings could be in jeopardy. Also concerning is that these states have since amended their anti-boycott laws, narrowing their scope so they apply only to companies with a large number of contractors and to public contracts that are more than $100,000 but without addressing what we see as the laws’ fundamental unconstitutionality.

Although the Arkansas press has covered the case, there has been little editorial support for or comment on our fight beyond that. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette signed the pledge — as did Arkansas Business, our business journal. And yet freedom of expression is a sacred American value and foundational to our democratic ideals.

Alan Leveritt is the founder and publisher of The Arkansas Times. His lawsuit against Arkansas’s anti-boycott law is the subject of Just Vision’s upcoming documentary “Boycott.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s race-blind decisions on hate speech came at expense of Black users, documents show, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Nitasha Tiku and Craig Timberg, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Researchers proposed a fix to the biased algorithm, but one internal document predicted pushback from “conservative partners.”

Last year, researchers at Facebook showed executives an example of the kind of hate speech circulating on the social network: an actual post featuring an image of four female Democratic lawmakers known collectively as “The Squad.”

facebook logoThe poster, whose name was scrubbed out for privacy, referred to the women, two of whom are Muslim, as “swami rag heads.” A comment from another person used even more vulgar language, referring to the four women of color as “black c---s,” according to internal company documents exclusively obtained by The Washington Post.

The post represented the “worst of the worst” language on Facebook — the majority of it directed at minority groups, according to a two-year effort by a large team working across the company, the document said. The researchers urged executives to adopt an aggressive overhaul of its software system that would primarily remove only those hateful posts before any Facebook users could see them.

But Facebook’s leaders balked at the plan. According to two people familiar with the internal debate, top executives including Vice President for Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan feared the new system would tilt the scales by protecting some vulnerable groups over others. A policy executive prepared a document for Kaplan that raised the potential for backlash from “conservative partners,” according to the document. The people spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

The previously unreported debate is an example of how Facebook’s decisions in the name of being neutral and race-blind in fact come at the expense of minorities and particularly people of color. Far from protecting Black and other minority users, Facebook executives wound up instituting half-measures after the “worst of the worst” project that left minorities more likely to encounter derogatory and racist language on the site, the people said.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Biden and aides tell allies he is running in 2024 amid growing Democratic fears, Michael Scherer, Tyler Pager and Sean Sullivan, Nov. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The message is aimed in part at tamping down the assumption that President Biden may not seek reelection, given his age and waning popularity, while also effectively freezing the field for other presidential hopefuls.

President Biden and members of his inner circle have reassured allies in recent days that he plans to run for reelection in 2024, as they take steps to deflect concern about the 79-year-old president’s commitment to another campaign and growing Democratic fears of a coming Republican return to power.

The efforts come as the broader Democratic community has become increasingly anxious after a bruising six-month stretch that has seen Biden’s national approval rating plummet more than a dozen points, into the low 40s, amid growing concerns about inflation, Democratic infighting in Washington and faltering public health efforts to move beyond the covid-19 pandemic.

The message is aimed in part at tamping down the assumption among many Democrats that Biden may not seek reelection given his age and waning popularity, while also effectively freezing the field for Vice President Harris and other potential presidential hopefuls.

“The only thing I’ve heard him say is he’s planning on running again,” said former senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a Biden friend. “And I’m glad he is.”

At a virtual fundraiser this month, Biden told a small group of donors that he plans to seek a second term, underscoring the message he gave the nation in March at his first White House news conference before cautioning that he had “never been able to plan three-and-a-half, four years ahead, for certain.”

Biden approval hits new low as economic discontent rises, Post-ABC News poll shows

“What he is saying publicly is what he firmly believes. There’s no difference,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who attended the fundraising event. “He will not run if he feels he can’t do the job physically or emotionally.”

But interviews with 28 Democratic strategists and officials, many of whom requested anonymity to speak more frankly, show that the assurances have not stopped the internal debate over whether Biden will appear on the ticket.

Biden received a health checkup Friday — a day before his 79th birthday Saturday — at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that found the president to be “healthy,” “vigorous” and working out five days a week. His doctor described a stiffer walking gait in recent years, which he attributed to spinal arthritis, and some acid reflux that has caused him to repeatedly clear his throat.

  • Washington Post, As Biden agenda advances in Congress, White House weighs new offensive on inflation, Jeff Stein, Nov. 20, 2021.

pentagon dc skyline dod photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Marine Corps compliance with vaccine mandate on course to be military’s worst, Alex Horton, Nov. 21, 2021. The holdouts will join thousands of Air Force personnel who have outright refused the vaccine or sought an exemption on medical or religious grounds.

Up to 10,000 active-duty Marines will not be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus when their deadline arrives in coming days, a trajectory expected to yield the U.S. military’s worst immunization rate.

While 94 percent of Marine Corps personnel have met the vaccination requirement or are on a path to do so, according to the latest official data, for the remainder it is too late to begin a regimen and complete it by the service’s Nov. 28 deadline. Within an institution built upon the belief that orders are to be obeyed, and one that brands itself the nation’s premier crisis-response force, it is a vexing outcome.

marine corps logoThe holdouts will join approximately 9,600 Air Force personnel who have outright refused the vaccine, did not report their status, or sought an exemption on medical or religious grounds, causing a dilemma for commanders tasked with maintaining combat-ready forces — and marking the latest showdown over President Biden’s authority to impose vaccination as a condition of continued government service.

“Marines know they’re an expeditionary force, and pride themselves on discipline and being first to fight,” said David Lapan, a retired Marine Corps officer and former communications chief for the service. Leadership, he said, should be alarmed that the Marine Corps ethos of always being ready for the next mission appears to be tarnished in this case. “Why,” Lapan asked, “did they decide not to follow a direct order?”

Air Force is first to face troops’ rejection of vaccine mandate as thousands avoid shots

Answering that question will be essential, he added, “if this is somehow indicative of a problem” that could arise again in the future.

The Marine Corps made no secret it has struggled with vaccine hesitancy in the ranks. Late last month, officials issued an ultimatum: get vaccinated, apply for an exemption or get kicked out.

Then, as the cutoff to be in compliance drew near, the Marines’ top general, Commandant David H. Berger, and his senior enlisted adviser, Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black, distributed a video message to the force imploring those who had not been vaccinated to get it done. They appealed to Marines’ sense of fidelity and calmly explained that the Marine Corps would be less capable unless everyone met the requirement.

“When something bad happens around the world and the president says, ‘I need to know how long it’s going to take to get Marines there,’ it’s too late then to get vaccinated,” Berger said in the video.

“It’s challenging for us to be able to continue the mission,” Black added, “if we’re not ready to go.”

Berger spoke last: “We need every single Marine in the unit to be vaccinated. We don’t have extra Marines. We’re a pretty small force, and we have to make sure that everybody on the team is ready to go all the time. That’s our job.”

The Marine Corps is the U.S. military’s least-populous branch of service. Numbering about 183,000, it’s roughly one-third the size of the active-duty Army but fills a significant role within the Defense Department’s portfolio. Whenever there’s a high-stakes emergency overseas — such as the hasty evacuation from Afghanistan this past summer — Marines are often among the first U.S. personnel to set foot in harm’s way.

Importantly, the service’s coexistence within the Navy Department means Marines routinely operate from ships at sea, living in close, enclosed spaces where the virus can spread readily. Navy data shows that 99.7 percent of sailors have received at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine ahead of the same Nov. 28 deadline — the top figure among all military services.

The general’s message, circulated Nov. 8, appears to have made little impact. At that time, the Marine Corps’ partial vaccination rate — an indicator of newly obtained shots — was 94 percent and remained unchanged as of Wednesday, according to official data. The rate slowed in recent weeks overall, indicating the pool of Marines who intended to comply has all but dried up.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Is Energized, but ‘Trump Cancel Culture’ Poses a Threat, Jonathan Martin and Shane Goldmacher, Nov. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Former President Trump, tightening his grip on the party as a haphazard kingmaker, threatens Republican incumbents and endorses questionable candidates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Across Europe, protests swell against pandemic restrictions, Perry Stein, Nov. 21, 2021 (print ed.). In Rotterdam, at least seven people were injured, and an investigation was launched over police gunfire.

Protests against coronavirus restrictions erupted across Europe — including clashes in Rotterdam and massive rallies in Vienna — as authorities announced more-stringent measures in an attempt to control rising cases ahead of the winter holidays.

european union logo rectangleAt least seven people were injured and more than 50 arrested after protests in Rotterdam turned violent late Friday, with protesters throwing stones and police firing shots, according to Dutch police. Demonstrators decried a proposed law that would ban unvaccinated people from entering businesses even if they provide a negative test. They also protested a partial lockdown that went into effect last week and will last until at least Dec. 4, forcing restaurants and other establishments to close at 8 p.m.

In Vienna, tens of thousands of people took the streets Saturday after the country’s decision to mandate vaccines for everyone starting in February and impose new lockdowns beginning Monday.

In Italy, weekly protests against coronavirus restrictions showed no signs of easing, with demonstrations in Rome, including at the ancient Circus Maximus grounds. On social media, users posted videos from protests in other countries including France and Switzerland.

Ferd Grapperhaus, the Netherlands’ minister of security and justice, called for a “vigorous debate” over pandemic measures but said “harassment and violence do not belong” there.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Rittenhouse Case Highlights America’s Division Over Gun Rights, Glenn Thrush, Nov. 21, 2021 (print ed.). Four days before Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of murder, the judge in his case tossed out a charge: illegal possession of the military-style semiautomatic rifle he used to kill two people.

The withdrawal of the misdemeanor charge, which carried a maximum sentence of less than a year, was a footnote in a much bigger drama. Yet it was a telling reminder that the Rittenhouse case, in addition to examining the polarizing issues of race and the right to self-defense in the country, highlighted the growing proliferation of guns on America’s streets and the failure of efforts to enact even modest new gun restrictions.

While the government remains mired in stalemate on gun control, weapons purchases are at record levels: The run on ammunition has become so frenzied gun shop owners have had to turn away hunters heading out for the winter big-game season. A spike in the firearm-related homicide rate during the pandemic has overwhelmed local police departments, and the proliferation of homemade firearms, “ghost guns,” has reached epidemic proportions in California.

Gun control advocates thought they would make some headway under President Biden but have faced a backlash.

For the advocates, there have been some gains, including a pending ban on the online sale of kit guns and $5 billion in new violence prevention funding that was included in the social spending passed by the House hours before the verdict was announced. But congressional Republicans have blocked efforts to expand federal background checks on gun purchasers and restrict the sale of semiautomatic guns, or even to confirm a permanent director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

All of that has limited the White House to adopting a series of executive actions, including new regulations on ghost guns and accessories, called stabilizing braces, that can effectively turn a pistol into short-barreled rifle; the regulatory changes are likely to provoke legal challenges. A ban on assault weapons, like the one that Mr. Rittenhouse carried, lapsed in 2004, and Republicans have blocked its renewal.

In the wake of the Rittenhouse verdict, gun control supporters face another, much more significant setback, with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court likely to strike down, or seriously weaken, a New York state law that imposes strict limits on carrying weapons outside the home.
As groups debate the effect of Kyle Rittenhouse’s not-guilty verdict, the legislative stalemate over gun control shows no signs of changing.
Weapons purchases are at record levels, and a spike in the firearm-related homicide rate during the pandemic has overwhelmed local police departments.

 

World News, Global Human Rights

washington post logoWashington Post, Olympics official warns that Peng Shuai case ‘may spin out of control’ as images of tennis star raise questions, Ellen Francis, Updated Nov. 21, 2021. The crisis over the whereabouts of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, which has sparked a global outcry, “may spin out of control” and push the International Olympic Committee into taking a harder line with Beijing, an Olympics official warned.

Peng Shuai of China celebrates a point against Varvara Lepchenko of the U.S. during their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, N.Y., August 29, 2011. Right: Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli speaks during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, China, May 14, 2017. (Eduardo Munoz, Lintao Zhang / Reuters)Peng, 35, a three-time Olympian and a two-time Grand Slam champion in doubles, has not spoken in public for more than two weeks after she accused a former vice premier in an online post of sexually assaulting her about three years ago. Her post — and discussion of it — was quickly censored on Chinese social media.

Photos and videos have emerged in recent days showing Peng at a restaurant and a tennis match, but there have been questions about their authenticity.

Star athletes such as Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have demanded information on her, while the United Nations’ human rights office has called for proof of Peng’s safety.

washington post logoWashington Post, IOC says President Thomas Bach had video call with missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, Les Carpenter, Nov. 21, 2021. Bach spoke by video with Peng in an apparent attempt to alleviate concerns about her safety.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach had a half-hour video call with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, the Olympic governing body said Sunday, amid global concerns about Peng’s safety.

In announcing the call on its website, the IOC showed a picture of Bach speaking with Peng, who is visible on a monitor. The IOC said Bach was joined on the call by IOC Athletes Commission chair Emma Terho and IOC board member Li Lingwei, a friend of Peng’s who is in China.

Worries about Peng’s safety have grown in recent weeks after she accused a former high-level Chinese official of sexual assault in a social media post Nov. 2. In the days after making the accusation, Peng’s name could no longer be found on Chinese search engines and she was not seen in public for more than two weeks. Photos and videos of her posted on social media by Chinese state-run media in recent days have done little to assuage fears for her well-being, with human rights researchers saying the images only raised more questions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Two of 17 Kidnapped Missionaries in Haiti Are Freed, Group Says, Maria Abi-Habib and Oscar Lopez, Nov. 21, 2021. After being held hostage for 37 days by a gang, two people with a U.S. Christian aid group were released in Port-au-Prince and were described as “safe.”

ny times logoNew York Times, As Pandemic Evictions Rise, Spaniards Declare ‘War’ on Wall Street Landlords, Nicholas Casey and Roser Toll Piraffé, Nov. 21, 2021,  Foreign investment firms have bought thousands of homes in Spain over the past decade and are forcing out those who can’t pay the rent.

When lawyers of private equity firms come with police officers to force residents from their homes, members of the group — some of them longtime housing activists — surround the building to block their entry. As residents are pushed out of apartments, the group sends squatters to occupy properties owned by the firms elsewhere in the city — sometimes breaking in to gain entry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sudan’s military, civilian leaders reach deal that reinstates prime minister deposed in coup, Miriam Berger, Nov. 21, 2021. Sudan’s military and civilian leaders reached a deal Sunday to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was ousted from power in a coup last month that reignited mass protests and political uncertainty over two years after a popular uprising forced out longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

Hamdok praised the agreement as a way to restore the country’s fragile democratic transition. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s top general, said that Hamdok will lead “an independent technocratic Cabinet until elections can be held,” according to the Associated Press, which noted that the government would still remain under military oversight.

Sudan’s revolutionaries vow to resist military’s power grab

It also remains unclear if the new terms will bolster Hamdok’s popular support — or further distance him from the country’s pro-democracy protest movements as thousands marched in Khartoum the same day, denouncing the coup and calling for the immediate transfer of power to civilians.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bodies found hanging from overpass in Mexico as cartels battle for territory, Mary Beth Sheridan and Erin Cunningham, Nov. 21, 2021 (print ed.). In the latest sign of Mexico’s staggering levels of violence, the bodies of 10 men were found hanging from a bridge on a federal highway in northwest Zacatecas state. The bodies were a sign of the brutal battles between rival drug gangs that have bloodied the state.

mexico flag1The men apparently were kidnapped from the rural town of San Pedro Piedra Gorda, about 20 miles from the capital city of Zacatecas, according to news reports. They were tortured and hung from a bridge, and then their assailants opened fire on the bodies, according to the reports.

Stunned residents of San Pedro Piedra Gorda traveled to the bridge to try to identify their relatives. “They say that my brother-in-law is there, but we want to see if my father-in-law is, too,” one man told a police officer, according to the Jornada newspaper. Three women nearby hugged and wept, it said.

Drug groups quietly cultivated marijuana in Zacatecas for decades. But in the past few years, the state has become a battleground, with rival narcotics groups shooting or beheading their enemies.

In July, two men were discovered crucified in the Zacatecas town of Morelos, in what was seen as an attack by organized crime. Earlier this week, the bodies of three policemen — including a local police director in Loreto city in Zacatecas — were found just days after they were kidnapped by armed men, local media reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Canada’s Parliament returns: Trudeau looks to address unfinished business as Conservatives squabble, Amanda Coletta, Nov. 21, 2021. In August, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulled the plug on his minority government and called a snap election. Canada, he said, was at justin trudeau twitterperhaps the most “pivotal” moment since the end of World War II, and voters deserved a say on how to defeat the coronavirus and chart an economic recovery.

canadian flagThey delivered their verdict in September, reelecting the telegenic Liberal Party leader but depriving him again of the majority he sought. Now, a new session of Parliament is set to open on Monday — more than two months after the election, a period opposition parties have complained has been unnecessary dillydallying.

As leader of a minority government, Trudeau, right, must depend on the backing of opposition lawmakers to pass his agenda and stay in power. But with his main foes mired in internecine feuds and alignment in key policy areas with the left-leaning New Democratic Party, there’s opportunity to address some unfinished business.

washington post logoWashington Post, Back from the Belarus border, Iraqis recount abuse and eye the future with despair, Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, Nov. 21, 2021. Lured by promises of a new life in Europe, exhausted migrants return home to an uncertain fate.

Their return felt humiliating. As men, women and children trudged exhausted through the arrivals hall of Irbil airport, camera crews mobbed them and yelled questions about why they had left Iraq in the first place.

Most of the families just kept their heads down. On the outbound journey they had been hopeful, ready for the new life in Europe that travel agents had promised. But it turned out they were unwitting pawns in Europe’s latest migration battle. The repatriation flight brought them back to the place they had spent life savings trying to leave.

alexander lukashenko resized 2019The return of more than 400 Iraqis on the Iraqi Airways flight last week appeared to mark an easing of a growing crisis at the border of the European Union. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, left, has facilitated the passage of thousands of mostly Middle Eastern migrants through Belarus and across the border into Poland, where most are now stranded and near-freezing.

On Thursday night, many among the returning Iraqis looked dazed beneath the airport’s glaring lights. Most were from the country’s Kurdish region. In the days that followed, they recounted their ordeals at the hands of European border guards and eyed the future with despair.

Migrants said they were fleeing hopelessness. “There’s no life for us here,” said Mohamed Rasheed, 23, back home and facing the task of rebuilding his savings from scratch. “There are no jobs, there is no future.”

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Justice Scandals, Complaints

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why is this Justice Department fighting more oversight? Ruth Marcus, Nov. 21, 2021. Helping the Justice Department ruth marcusrecover from the politicization of the Trump years is at the top of Attorney General Merrick Garland’s agenda. That is why it is so puzzling that Garland’s Justice Department has come out against a measure — one that enjoys nearly unanimous, bipartisan support — that would help restore accountability to the battered institution.

The issue involves the authority of the department’s inspector general to investigate professional misconduct by the department’s lawyers — an authority that the inspector general now lacks. Yes, you read that right. Unique in the government, the Justice Department lacks the power to probe a significant — arguably the most significant — part of the department’s workforce. (The inspector general still has the FBI, Bureau of Prisons, Drug Enforcement Administration and other department components to kick around.)

Under a long-standing arrangement, first enshrined in the 1988 law that created the Justice inspector general, the job of reviewing the conduct of the department’s lawyers is largely left to the Office of Professional Responsibility. It isn’t up to the job and has long fallen short in performing it.

Justice Department log circularThe department’s political appointees get to hire and, if they want, fire the head of the Office of Professional Responsibility; the inspector general is confirmed by the Senate and can be removed only by the president.

And the OPR serves, for the most part, as a black hole of accountability. Investigations may be launched, but the results are rarely made public, and then often grudgingly. The inspector general, by contrast, has a track record of producing compelling investigations, for public review. These include, to take just a few recent examples, the searing takedowns of the FBI’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar and the bureau’s error-ridden Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Russia and the Trump campaign.

But the inspector general operates under unnecessary constraints that may serve the interests of the department’s lawyers but do not serve the public. During the Trump administration, Inspector General Michael Horowitz had his hands tied for months when Attorney General William P. Barr intervened to reduce career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Trump ally Roger Stone. Department officials rebuffed Horowitz’s bid to investigate the cushy plea deal obtained by Jeffrey Epstein; OPR conducted a probe that came in for wide criticism.

Daily Kos via Crooks and Liars, NeoNazi Holds Key Counterterror Post At DOJ, David Neiwert, Nov. 20, 2021. It’s become clear that one of the first steps in confronting the wave of far-right extremism that crested Jan. 6 will have to entail rooting them out of our law enforcement apparatus down to the local level.
NeoNazi Holds Key Counterterror Post At DOJ Credit: Flickr

A man who was a leading figure in the racist skinhead scene in the late ‘80s—the drummer for a white-power band called Arresting Officers, and an associate of a notorious neo-Nazi terrorist group—is now a key official overseeing counterterrorism for the Department of Justice, charged with coordinating intelligence shared by law enforcement officers throughout the nation, according to a devastating exposé published this week.

Justice Department log circularBrian P. Haughton, who left the skinhead scene in the mid-1990s and became a Philadelphia police officer before eventually joining the DOJ, is identified in the report by Helen Christophi in The Progressive as currently holding a high-ranking position in the Justice Department’s Regional Information Sharing Systems program (RISS), which gathers and distributes intelligence provided by law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. He currently is the law enforcement coordinator for RISS’s Middle Atlantic–Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

Neither Haughton nor the DOJ responded to Christophi’s queries. She notes that there is nothing in Haughton’s record to indicate either that he has misused his position or continues to harbor white-supremacist beliefs.

Nonetheless, the threat to our democracy posed by the infiltration of American law enforcement by right-wing extremists has been staring the nation in the face since the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, when it turned out that dozens of the people who besieged Congress that day had backgrounds as police officers and even some federal agents. It’s become clear that one of the first steps in confronting the wave of far-right extremism that crested Jan. 6 will have to entail rooting them out of our law enforcement apparatus down to the local level.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated Nov. 21, 2021), with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a study finds:

World Cases: 257,583,138, Deaths: 5,166,371
U.S. Cases:    48,558,229, Deaths:     793,539
Indian Cases:  34,510,413, Deaths:     465,662
Brazil Cases:  22,012,150, Deaths:     612,625

washington post logoWashington Post, At least 196.3 in U.S. fully vaccinated, 59.1 % of the population, as of Nov. 21, 2021. In the last week, an average of 1.38 million doses per day were administered, a 9% increase over the week before

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Investigations: How the U.S. Lost Ground to China in the Contest for Clean Energy

ny times logoNew York Times, Race to the Future: What to Know About the Frantic Quest for Cobalt, Eric Lipton, Dionne Searcey and Michael Forsythe, Nov. 21, 2021 (print ed.). A New York Times investigation examines the global demand for raw materials as the clean energy revolution takes off. This is what we found.

The clean energy revolution is replacing oil and gas with a new global force: the minerals and metals needed in electric car batteries, solar panels and other forms of renewable energy.

Places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, which produces two-thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt, for example, are stepping into the kinds of roles once played by Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich nations. And a race between China and the United States to secure supplies could have far-reaching implications for the shared goal of protecting the planet.

An investigation by The New York Times drew on interviews with more than 100 people on three continents and thousands of pages of financial, diplomatic and other documents. Here are some of the findings.

One of BHR’s early deals was to help finance an Australian coal-mining company controlled by a Chinese state-owned firm. It also assisted a subsidiary of a Chinese defense conglomerate in buying a Michigan auto parts maker.

Before the deal was done, BHR also signed an agreement that allowed China Molybdenum to buy BHR’s share of the mine, which the company did two years later, the filings show. That purchase gave China Molybdenum 80 percent ownership of the mine. (Congo’s state mining enterprise kept a stake for itself.)

By the time BHR sold its share in 2019, Mr. Biden controlled 10 percent of the firm through Skaneateles L.L.C., a company based in Washington. While Chinese corporate records show Skaneateles remains a part owner of BHR, Chris Clark, a lawyer for Mr. Biden, said that he “no longer holds any interest, directly or indirectly, in either BHR or Skaneateles.” The Chinese records show that Mr. Biden was no longer on BHR’s board as of April 2020. Mr. Biden did not respond to requests for comment.

A former BHR board member told The New York Times that Mr. Biden and the other American founders were not involved in the mine deal and that the firm earned only a nominal fee from it. The money, the former board member said, went into the firm’s operating funds and was not distributed to its owners.

It is unclear how the firm was chosen by China Molybdenum. Current executives at BHR did not return emails and phone calls seeking comment. “We don’t know Hunter Biden, nor are we aware of his involvement in BHR,” Vincent Zhou, a spokesman for China Molybdenum, said in an email.

A dozen executives from companies involved in the deal, including Freeport-McMoRan and Lundin, said in interviews that they were not given a reason for BHR’s participation. Most of the executives also said they were unaware during the deal of Mr. Biden’s connection to the firm.

Paul Conibear, Lundin’s chief executive at the time, said it was made clear that China Molybdenum was leading the transaction even though the buyer of Lundin’s stake was BHR.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: A Power Struggle Over Cobalt Rattles the Clean Energy Revolution, Dionne Searcey, Michael Forsythe and Eric Lipton, Photographs by Ashley Gilbertson, Nov. 21, 2021 (print ed.). This wooded stretch of southeast Democratic Republic of Congo, called Kisanfu, holds one of the largest and purest untapped reserves of cobalt in the world.

The gray metal, typically extracted from copper deposits, has historically been of secondary interest to miners. But demand is set to explode worldwide because it is used in electric-car batteries, helping them run longer without a charge.

Outsiders discovering — and exploiting — the natural resources of this impoverished Central African country are following a tired colonial-era pattern. The United States turned to Congo for uranium to help build the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then spent decades, and billions of dollars, seeking to protect its mining interests here.

Now, with more than two-thirds of the world’s cobalt production coming from Congo, the country is once again taking center stage as major automakers commit to battling climate change by transitioning from gasoline-burning vehicles to battery-powered ones. The new automobiles rely on a host of minerals and metals often not abundant in the United States or the oil-rich Middle East, which sustained the last energy era.

But the quest for Congo’s cobalt has demonstrated how the clean energy revolution, meant to save the planet from perilously warming temperatures in an age of enlightened self-interest, is caught in a familiar cycle of exploitation, greed and gamesmanship that often puts narrow national aspirations above all else, an investigation by The New York Times found.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hunter Biden’s investment firm helped secure one of the world’s richest cobalt deposits for a Chinese conglomerate, Michael Forsythe, Eric Lipton and Dionne Searcey, Nov. 21, 2021 (print ed.). The president’s son was part owner of a venture involved in the $3.8 billion purchase by a Chinese conglomerate of one of the world’s largest cobalt deposits. The metal is a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles.

An investment firm where Hunter Biden, the president’s son, was a founding board member helped facilitate a Chinese company’s purchase from an American company of one of the world’s richest cobalt mines, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr. Biden and two other Americans joined Chinese partners in establishing the firm in 2013, known as BHR and formally named Bohai Harvest RST (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company.

The three Americans, all of whom served on the board, controlled 30 percent of BHR, a private equity firm registered in Shanghai that makes investments and then flips them for a profit. The rest of the company is owned or controlled by Chinese investors that include the Bank of China, according to records filed with Chinese regulators.

The firm made one of its most successful investments in 2016, when it bought and later sold a stake in CATL, a fast-growing Chinese company that is now the world’s biggest maker of batteries for electric vehicles.

The mining deal in Congo also came in 2016, when the Chinese mining outfit China Molybdenum announced that it was paying $2.65 billion to buy Tenke Fungurume, a cobalt and copper mine, from the American company Freeport-McMoRan.

As part of that deal, China Molybdenum sought a partner to buy out a minority stakeholder in the mine, Lundin Mining of Canada. That is when BHR became involved.

Records in Hong Kong show that the $1.14 billion BHR, through subsidiaries, paid to buy out Lundin came entirely from Chinese state-backed companies.

 

U.S. Governance, Economy, Politics, Elections

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson to retire as Democrats brace for tough battle to keep the House, Annabelle Timsit, Nov. 21, 2021. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, right, who has represented Texas in Congress for nearly 30 years, will retire in January 2023, she said Saturday — eddie bernice johnson othe latest high-ranking Democrat to retire ahead of what is shaping up to be a difficult 2022 election for the party.

Johnson, 85, made the announcement at an event in Dallas attended by her supporters and family. She had previously suggested that the current congressional term — her fifteenth — would be her last. But some had speculated in recent months that she could change her mind, with Democrats looking ahead to the midterms as recent polls show a Republican advantage if elections were held today and the party grappling with its loss in the Virginia gubernatorial race.

The Texas congresswoman — who early in her career became the first Black woman to serve Dallas in the state Senate since Reconstruction, and in Congress was the first female and first Black chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology — alluded to the push-and-pull in her speech.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Donors Back Manchin and Sinema as They Reshape Biden’s Agenda, Kenneth P. Vogel and Kate Kelly, Nov. 21, 2021. The two Democratic senators are attracting campaign contributions from business interests and conservatives as progressives fume over their efforts to pare back the president’s domestic policy bill. Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are attracting contributions from conservatives as they work to pare back President Biden’s domestic policy bill.

Over the summer, as he was working to scale back President Biden’s domestic agenda, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia traveled to an $18 million mansion in Dallas for a fund-raiser that attracted Republican and corporate donors who have cheered on his efforts.

republican elephant logoIn September, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who along with Mr. Manchin has been a major impediment to the White House’s efforts to pass its package of social and climate policy, stopped by the same home to raise money from a similar cast of donors for her campaign coffers.

Even as Ms. Sinema and Mr. Manchin, both Democrats, have drawn fire from the left for their efforts to shrink and reshape Mr. Biden’s proposals, they have won growing financial support from conservative-leaning donors and business executives in a striking display of how party affiliation can prove secondary to special interests and ideological motivations when the stakes are high enough.

Ms. Sinema is winning more financial backing from Wall Street and constituencies on the right in large part for her opposition to raising personal and corporate income tax rates. Mr. Manchin has attracted new Republican-leaning donors as he has fought against much of his own party to scale back the size of Mr. Biden’s legislation and limit new social welfare components.

How the U.S. Lost Ground to China in the Contest for Clean Energy

China’s pursuit of Congo’s cobalt has helped give it an enormous head start over the U.S. in the race to dominate the electrification of the auto industry.
But a Times investigation revealed that the U.S. essentially surrendered the resources, failing to safeguard decades of investments in Congo.

The quest for Congo’s cobalt has shown how the clean energy revolution is caught in a cycle of greed and gamesmanship.

ny times logoNew York Times, Thanksgiving Will Cost More This Year. That Could Cost Democrats, Too, Trip Gabriel, Nov. 21, 2021. Rising prices for gas and food could come back to bite Democrats, who fear that inflation may upend their electoral prospects in the 2022 midterms.

Samantha Martin, a single mother shopping ahead of Thanksgiving, lamented how rising gas and grocery prices have eaten away at the raise she got this year as a manager at McDonald’s.

democratic donkey logoGas “is crazy out of hand,” Ms. Martin said as she returned a shopping cart at an Aldi discount market in Auburn Hills, a Detroit suburb, to collect a 25-cent deposit.

Her most recent fillup was $3.59 a gallon, about $1 more than the price in the spring. Her raise, to $16 an hour from $14, was “pretty good, but it’s still really hard to manage,” Ms. Martin said. “I got a raise just to have the gas go up, and that’s what my raise went to.”

Ms. Martin, 35, a political independent, doesn’t blame either party for inflation, but in a season of discontent, her disapproval fell more heavily on Democrats who run Washington. She voted for President Biden but is disappointed with him and his party. “I think I would probably give somebody else a shot,” she said.

ny times logoNew York Times, In an interview, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned whether Democratic leaders understand their base’s demands, Astead W. Herndon, Nov. 21, 2021. The House progressive spoke about “demoralizing” congressional negotiations, how she was told to stay away from Virginia’s elections, and what it means to excite the Democratic base.

democratic donkey logoLast year, after Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the Democratic presidential nomination, a group of progressive lawmakers rallied around him to project party unity at a critical time.

More than a year later, as the president seeks to pass a robust spending package of social policies that represent the bulk of his domestic agenda, many of the same leaders are looking for a return on their political investment.

In an interview with The New York Times, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, one of the country’s most prominent progressives, questioned whether Democratic leaders and the White House understood the scope of the demands coming from the party’s base.

ny times logo

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the media keeps pretending Trump will run in 2024, and keeps pretending Biden won’t run in 2024, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. bill palmer21, 2021. The media keeps questioning whether President Joe Biden, who’s almost perfectly healthy and just aced his physical, will run again in 2024. But the media keeps insisting that Donald Trump will run in 2024 even though he increasingly comes off as a walking corpse.

bill palmer report logo headerWhy does the media keep doing this? The answer on both counts is straightforward enough: ratings. The easiest way to scare mainstream Americans into staying tuned in right now is to insist that Trump is going to make a magic comeback in 2024 and take over again. The fact that Trump looks like death these days, and the fact that he’s in such bad shape his handlers try to keep him out of the public eye as much as possible, don’t fit the prevailing narrative so these facts are simply ignored.

And if the easiest way to scare mainstream Americans into staying tuned in is to insist that Trump is going to run and win in 2024, then the second-easiest way to scare people into staying tuned in is to hint that Biden won’t run in 2024. It doesn’t matter that there’s nothing to support this notion. It only matters that if audiences can be scared into believing that the Democrats won’t have the incumbency advantage in 2024, then Trump’s magic comeback really might happen.

So the media endlessly hypes the notion that Biden won’t run in 2024, and that Trump will. It doesn’t matter that these are both highly unlikely scenarios; this is about ratings.

Actually, it is notable that these are both unlikely scenarios. It underscores one of the most fundamental tricks that the media uses on its worst days to keep the audience’s blood pumping. The media can create the most artificial controversy of all by presenting unlikely scenarios as if they were very likely to happen, while casting artificial doubt on things that actually are very likely to happen – and controversy equals ratings. Then, when things play out exactly like they were always likely to play out, the media can turn around and try to get even more ratings out of it by presenting the obvious outcome as if it were shocking “breaking news” that no one could have seen coming.

Once you see the media relying on these patterns, you can’t unsee it. All you can do is let the media know that you’re no longer willing to put up with these ratings-driven false narratives, and that unless the media is willing to back down, you’ll tune out and stop the media from hitting its ratings marks. That’s the only thing that’ll ultimately cause the media to stop relying on these kinds of narrative tricks.

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U.S. Law, Courts, Crime, Race

Gen. Charles Flynn, left, shown with his brother, retired Gen. Michael Flynn during their service in Afghanistan (File photo).

Gen. Charles Flynn, left, shown with his brother, retired Gen. Michael Flynn during their service in Afghanistan (File photo).

OpEdNews, Opinion: Subpoena Flynn Brother Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn & Roger Stone, Weiner & Lasky ask Jan. 6 Committee, Robert Weiner, Nov. 19, 2021. To help the Jan. 6 Committee draw closer to the truth, Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) should subpoena Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, disgraced National Security Advisor Gen. Mike Flynn's brother, who was at the Pentagon in the inner circle of decisions for the National Guard delays and involved in those decisions, a fact the Pentagon first denied but later confirmed.

Flynn can reveal and confirm who at the White House or elsewhere called and influenced decisions, and how the inexcusable delays occurred of Guard intervention that would have stopped the riots.

In addition, Thompson and the Committee should subpoena Roger Stone, lifetime Trump friend and dirty trickster who apparently worked with the organizations involved in the insurrection's violence at the Capitol. Stone called and met regularly with Trump, right up to the riots.

The Committee should also work to obtain documents on the White House meetings and call logs involved, but may already have that part underway.

If Flynn and Stone are noncompliant, truth demands the Committee refer both men to Attorney General Merrick Garland for indictments for contempt of Congress. It is unlikely Flynn, a current army and DOD official, would exert executive privilege or refuse to cooperate, and his information would be invaluable.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 20 injured after driver plows through parade in Wisconsin, Reis Thebault, Nov. 21, 2021. Witnesses described a terrifying scene in Waukesha, Wis., telling local news outlets that the vehicle barreled into a crowd that appeared to include several children. Police have not commented on possible suspects or motives.

As marching bands played and residents lined the street, a driver in a red SUV sped through a holiday parade in Waukesha, Wis., late Sunday afternoon, hitting several people, leaving more than 20 injured and an unspecified number dead, city officials said.

Authorities have recovered the suspect’s vehicle and have taken one person into custody, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson said. He did not comment on a possible motive behind the attack and declined to specify the exact number of casualties.

The car struck people in the parade around 4:40 p.m. local time, Thompson said, about 40 minutes after the event began.

“Some of the individuals were children,” Thompson said at a news briefing.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly participated in the parade and described a jubilant atmosphere that quickly turned nightmarish.

“Today we experienced a horrible, senseless tragedy,” Reilly said. “I walked in the parade at the beginning. I saw all the happy children sitting on the curb. I saw all the happy parents behind their children. I can still see the smiling faces.”

Other witnesses recounted a terrifying scene, telling local news outlets that the vehicle barreled into a crowd that appeared to include several children, shattering the festive mood at the annual event in Waukesha, about 20 miles west of Milwaukee.

Other Relevant Headlines

Washington Post, Opinion: The GOP bets on resentment over problem solving, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Nov. 21, 2021. The leaders of both parties in the ej dionne w open neckHouse of Representatives offered the nation an important lesson last week about why our politics are broken and our national mood is so surly.

The master class was taught inadvertently by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and somewhat more consciously by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Their closing speeches on the Build Back Better bill passed by the House on Friday illustrates how our political parties are not even in the same business anymore.

The Republican enterprise is devoted to stoking anger and social resentment, not to enacting legislation. Democrats may take an eternity to do it, but they actually want to pass bills, create programs and spotlight day-to-day concerns (child care, health care) that government can plausibly address.

McCarthy’s 8 ½-hour rant reflected his need to mollify the GOP’s large right wing with a protracted, nihilistic scream of opposition, even if “some of his claims,” as The Post’s Marianna Sotomayor, Paul Kane and Jacqueline Alemany wrote, “wildly defied the facts.”

His marathon of negativity capped a week in which just two House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to censure Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) for tweeting an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).