Dec. 2020 News

 
 JIPLogo


Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative December 2020 news and views

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

 

Dec. 31

christmas wreath

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Election

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

djt council to reopen america fox

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Officials Say Covid-19 Vaccination Effort Has Lagged; 14 Million Doses Shipped, 2.6 Million Injected, Rebecca Robbins, Updated cdc logo CustomDec. 31, 2020. Federal health officials acknowledged that only a fraction of the doses shipped had been administered. The number falls far short of the government’s goal of 20 million people vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of this year.

“We know that it should be better, and we’re working hard to make it better,” said Moncef Slaoui, a leader of the federal effort to accelerate vaccine development and distribution.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: We Came All This Way to Let Vaccines Go Bad in the Freezer? Editorial Board, Dec. 31, 2020. America did not sufficiently plan for how to get millions of people vaccinated.

It’s been two weeks since U.S. officials launched what ought to be the largest vaccination campaign in the nation’s history. So far, things are going poorly.

How poorly? Untold numbers of vaccine doses will expire before they can be injected into American arms, while communities around the country are reporting more corpses than their mortuaries can handle.

Operation Warp Speed has failed to come anywhere close to its original goal of vaccinating 20 million people against the coronavirus by the end of 2020. Of the 14 million vaccine doses that have been produced and delivered to hospitals and health departments across the country, just an estimated three million people have been vaccinated. The rest of the lifesaving doses, presumably, remain stored in deep freezers — where several million of them could well expire before they can be put to use.

djt virus trump did it Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Vaccines issued slowly as federal officials leave final steps to beleaguered states, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). The reasons for the slow start in the United States include a chronic lack of public health funding and the absence of unified communication about the vaccines and their availability.

The largest immunization campaign in U.S. history is off to a slow start, dimming hopes, at the end of a dismal year, of an imminent return to normal.

In suburban Milwaukee, clinicians recently discarded 500 doses of coronavirus vaccine after vials were left unrefrigerated. In southeastern Arizona, a rural clinic has enough shots but too few employees lining up to take them. And on the coast of Maine, physicians have been left in the dark about when they will get vaccinated.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Trump is inciting chaos on Jan. 6, both in and outside the Capitol, Editorial Board, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). January 6, the day Congress meets in a joint session to accept the results of the presidential election, should be a testament to America’s enduring democracy.

Yet it may become a demonstration of its poor health. President Trump, along with craven enablers such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), is seeking to upend what should be solemn but largely perfunctory proceedings to ratify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden. The result could be a shameless show of support by numerous congressional Republicans for erasing the votes of millions of Americans — and, perhaps, mayhem incited by the president in the streets of D.C.

donald trump twitter“Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!,” Mr. Trump tweeted earlier this month in an appeal to his supporters to come to the capital to buttress his campaign to overturn the election results. He followed up Sunday, “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it. Information to follow!” And again on Wednesday, “JANUARY SIXTH, SEE YOU IN DC!”

That the president is actively seeking to incite street protests is a matter of more than a little concern to D.C. officials who — based on the behavior of some of Mr. Trump’s supporters at two previous rallies — fear there could be violence. While daytime demonstrations were largely peaceful on Nov. 14 and Dec. 12, destruction and bloodshed broke out when night came.

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump has yet to accept the election results months after Republicans said he would, JM Rieger, Dec. 31, 2020. The Republican Party continues refusing to accept the election results even as state and federal investigations have found little or no voter fraud and as Trump has lost 59 of 60 election lawsuits filed by his campaign and political allies, including two filed at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Among the roughly three dozen congressional Republicans who have publicly acknowledged Biden’s win, many waited days or weeks after the election was called before doing so. It was a stark departure from the public congratulations that many of those same Republicans gave to then-President-elect Trump in the hours and days after the 2016 election was called.

That so many elected Republicans still refuse to accept the election’s outcome is perhaps not surprising, given how many Trump supporters falsely think that Biden did not legitimately win the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Early Voting Numbers in Georgia Senate Races Put G.O.P. on Edge, Astead W. Herndon and Richard Fausset, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). While polls suggest that the state’s crucial runoff elections are up for grabs, Republicans have grown worried about strong turnout in Democratic areas and mixed messages from President Trump.

kelly loeffler o CustomSenator Kelly Loeffler, right, issued a now-familiar warning during a campaign event on Wednesday in Bibb County: If Democrats win the Georgia Senate runoff elections, there will be little left to stem a rising tide of extremist socialism in America.

But Dale Washburn, a Republican state legislator who introduced Ms. Loeffler at the event, had another warning. This one was based not on ideology, but on numbers that suggest Democrats are outpacing Republicans in early voting turnout — which means that Republicans may need a tremendous election-day performance on Jan. 5 if they are to win the state’s two high-stakes runoff races and maintain control of the Senate.

republican elephant logoLess than a week before election day, the last-minute challenges, messages and strategies for the two parties in Georgia’s runoffs are coming into focus, even as polls indicate that the elections are too close to call. Those messages will be hammered home on the day before the elections by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who plans to campaign on Monday in Atlanta, and by President Trump, who will hold a rally on the same day in Dalton, a city in northwest Georgia.

However, some Republicans are increasingly worried that Mr. Trump, who continues to make the baseless claim that he lost Georgia because of a rigged voting system, is sending confusing signals to his followers that may serve to keep them home on election day. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump on Twitter pushed for the resignation of Gov. Brian Kemp, a staunch conservative and Trump supporter who has declined to take steps to overturn the state’s election results.

djt march 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, to resign, John Wagner, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Wednesday called for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to resign, escalating his criticism of a fellow Republican who has refused to intervene in the state’s presidential election or embrace Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud.

brian kemp 2019 Custom“@BrianKempGA should resign from office,” Trump said in a tweet. “He is an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG!”

“Also won the other Swing States,” Trump claimed, continuing a series of false claims he has made since President-elect Joe Biden was projected as the winner nationally.

Trump’s latest criticism of Kemp, shown at right, came in a tweet that urged his supporters to watch a broadcast of a Senate hearing in Atlanta on purported election irregularities.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump really is trying to take the Republicans down with him, Shirley Kennedy, Dec. 31, 2020. Donald Trump has spent his entire “presidency” breaking norms. Now that he has lost his reelection bid, he is creating chaos. From pardoning his criminal friends, to lambasting fellow Republicans, to holding up aid to the American people, Trump is making us even happier that he will soon be gone. Recently, his anger has been directed at Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump denigrating Brian Kemp is nothing new. He has been doing so since he lost the 2020 election when Kemp refused to break the law for Trump. The Washington Post reported that Trump proclaimed Kemp an “obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG!” Continuing his lying ways, Trump then claimed: “Also won the other Swing States.” There is so much wrong with Trump that is revealed in his words. From his use of all capitals, capitalizing words that do not need capitalization, and speaking of himself in the third person, he sounds like a lunatic.

brad raffenspergerBrad Raffensperger, right, who has tired of Trump’s attacks, took it upon himself to look at a sampling of mail-in ballots from Cobb County. Raffensperger brought in the GBI [Georgia Bureau of Investigation] to help, and after reviewing 15,118 ballot envelopes, they not only found that no fraud occurred but found that only two signatures did not match those voters’ signatures on file with the Secretary of State (one of which was signed by the voter’s wife).

This “exercise,” if you will, resulted in a 99.99 percent accuracy rate by election officials who examined signatures. So much for Trump “winning Georgia, BIG!” In response, Trump tweeted that Raffensperger’s “brother works for China, and they definitely don’t want Trump. So disgusting!”

No, Trump is disgusting. Besides, the individual in question isn’t Brad Raffensperger’s brother. Further, for those who still refuse to admit that Trump is racist, his main complaint about Raffensperger’s examination is that he did not choose Fulton County, which is republican elephant logopredominantly black. Can someone please tell Trump that Biden also carried Cobb? What an idiot.

For his part, Kemp has decided that Trump is “a distraction,” as reported by the Gwinnett Post. Kemp’s focus is now on the January 5th runoff. He is also preoccupied with getting COVID vaccinations to nursing homes in Georgia and ensuring that the state has enough hospital beds as the virus continues to spread. Both are more important uses of his time than sparring with Trump. Kemp told reporters: “I’ve supported the president. I worked as hard as anybody in this state for his reelection. But at the end of the day, I have to follow the law and the Constitution,” both of which are utterly foreign to “president” Trump.

washington post logomike pence o SmallWashington Post, Pence seeks dismissal of lawsuit that aimed to expand his power to overturn election, John Wagner and Rosalind S. Helderman, Dec. 31, 2020. Vice President Pence’s filing came in response to a lawsuit from Republicans who argued that the Constitution gives him, in his role as president of Senate, sole discretion to determine whether electors put forward by the states are valid.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoMitchell McConnellWashington Post, Senate won’t be ‘bullied’ on stimulus checks, McConnell says, Tony Romm and Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, appeared to deliver a political death blow to a last-minute push to authorize $2,000 stimulus checks. The Senate leader said the measure would be too costly, would not be targeted toward needy and would help families that are living comfortably.

washington post logoWashington Post, Britain grants approval to coronavirus vaccine by Oxford and AstraZeneca, William Booth and Karla Adam, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Britain on Wednesday became the first country to grant approval for a homegrown coronavirus vaccine from the University of Oxford and the astrazeneca logoBritish-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, adding a second shot to the fight against a surging outbreak, driven here by a new, highly infectious variant of the virus.

United Kingdom flagBritish Health Minister Matt Hancock said clinical trials have proved the new vaccine is safe and effective, but he did not say how effective.

Although Hancock called the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine a "game-changer," Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which approved the vaccine for distribution, did not immediately present its data.

Researchers from the Oxford-AstraZeneca team earlier this month published interim results from clinical trials that showed their vaccine was 62 percent effective for volunteers who were given two full doses and 90 percent effective for a smaller subgroup who received a half dose followed by a full dose.

Doubts have been raised over how robust the half-dose data is. The Oxford scientists said they were studying why the different regimens produced such different results.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Trump Virus, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 31, 2020. Since May I have made it a habit of tweeting (as @RAHarrington) “I like robert harringtnn portraitpresidents who don’t kill …” together with the latest number of Americans who have died to date. For example, “I like presidents who don’t kill 350,778 people. (As of 30 December, 2020).”

That daily practice keeps me in touch with just how many people Donald Trump is killing on a daily basis. It motivates me each day to do my small part in the grim and necessary work of bringing him down and destroying his legacy. The last 24 hours have been particularly disturbing as 4,199 people have died since the previous day, including actress Dawn Wells, who played Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island.”

bill palmer report logo headerNow there is a new mutation of coronavirus in America. It made its first appearance (we believe) here in the United Kingdom. Steps were taken to contain it, steps which failed. It is significantly more contagious than the previous strain.

Nearly twice as many Americans have died in December as died in November. That increase will be worse in January, spectacularly so, because of the increase in human gatherings over Christmas and, no doubt, the efficacy of the new mutation. Death is a trailing indicator of the increase in infection rate.

Meanwhile the soon-to-be erstwhile President of the United States plays golf and whines about losing the election. According to the Trump Archive, as of December 30 Trump has sent out his 216th tweet using the word “rigged” to describe the election. Trump averages at least one such tweet every single day. He hasn’t mentioned coronavirus, on the other hand, since December 8.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Dawn Wells, Mary Ann on ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ Dies at 82, Anita Gates, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Her character on the 1960s sitcom radiated all-American wholesomeness and a youthful charm. After her TV career cooled down, she focused on theater.

dawn wells playbillDawn Wells, right, the actress who radiated all-American wholesomeness, Midwestern practicality and a youthful naïve charm as the character Mary Ann on the hit 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island,” died on Wednesday in a nursing home in Los Angeles. She was 82.

Her publicist, Harlan Boll, said the cause was related to Covid-19.

Premiering on CBS in 1964, “Gilligan’s Island” followed an unlikely septet of day trippers (on a “three-hour tour,” as the theme song explained) who ended up stranded on a desert island.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 31, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 83,206,321, Deaths: 1,815,260
U.S. Cases:   20,216,991, Deaths:    350,778

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 31, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: China Approves Its First Coronavirus Vaccine, Staff Reports, Dec. 31, 2020. The country is now set to inoculate tens of millions with a vaccine manufactured by the state-run company Sinopharm. Stunned by their husbands’ sudden deaths, many widows have forged ties. Here’s the latest pandemic news.

ny times logoNew York Times, Unemployment claims in the U.S. dipped but remained high last week, the Labor Department said, Nelson D. Schwartz, Dec. 31, 2020. The report published on Thursday might have been skewed by the holiday. The labor market remains in distress as the pandemic limits consumer activity across the country.

us labor department logoInitial claims for unemployment benefits dropped modestly last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The Christmas holiday likely affected filings because of the shortened workweek, a phenomenon that also occurred during Thanksgiving week. “They bounce up and down a lot during the holidays,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group in Pittsburgh.

There were 841,000 new claims for state benefits, compared with 873,000 the previous week. Another 308,000 filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for part-time workers, the self-employed and others ordinarily ineligible for jobless benefits.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

joe biden

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: My Joe Biden Story, Linda Greenhouse, right, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). In a career as a journalist, I had never encountered a linda greenhouse thumb Custompolitician like him.

As Ben Smith, the media columnist for The Times, suggested a few weeks ago, pretty much every journalist who passed through Washington, D.C., during the past half century knows President-elect Joe Biden and has a story to tell. I’d like to end this strange year, and welcome the new one and the new president, by telling mine.

I met then-Senator Biden in the mid-1980s, when he was a member of the Judiciary Committee and I was covering the occasional judicial confirmation. By 1987, he was chairman of the committee, after the Democrats retook the Senate in the 1986 midterms. That summer, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sen. Perdue became wealthy outsourcing work to China. Now he stands with Trump, who wants to ‘end our reliance on China,’ Michael Kranish, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). When Republican David Perdue ran for the Senate six years ago, he spoke proudly of his years as a corporate david perdue headshotexecutive in Asia.

He made no apologies for having said that he “spent most of my career” relying on the outsourcing of jobs. He fended off attacks that he republican elephant logohad enriched himself as companies he led relied on offshore production, and he won the Georgia seat.

But as Perdue, right, seeks reelection, in a contest that will determine which party controls the Senate, he has sought to shift the focus away from such work as he allies himself with President Trump, who has blasted corporate executives who move jobs overseas.

Mediaite, Jon Ossoff Hijacks Another Interview, Challenges Fox’s Peter Doocy On China Question: ‘Come On Man, You’re a Serious Reporter,’ Colby Hall, Dec. 31, 2020. If the immediate political plans for Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff don’t work out, perhaps he can convince Fox News’ Peter Doocy to pitch a new version of the legendary cable news program Crossfire.

Just two days after Ossoff took advantage of a live interview with Doocy to directly address Fox News viewers and criticize Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the same thing happened again, only in a more contentious, yet still civil manner.

Doocy caught up with Ossoff outside a political meet-and-greet in Suwanee, Georgia, and immediately challenged him over Perdue’s allegations, asking, “Why is it that you waited until after the primary to reveal that your business did business with the company in Hong Kong that was linked to the Chinese government?”

“This is utter nonsense,” Ossoff immediately replied, and repeatedly claimed, “My company has produced multiple investigations of atrocities committed by ISIS or criminals.” He then dismissed “the entire substance of Senator Perdue’s campaign against” him as being based on one Hong Kong television outlet airing a report of his investigations.”

Ossoff then pivoted to criticism of Perdue’s business dealings in China. Ossoff ranted:

“The irony of this is that Senator Perdue ran the factories in Shenzhen province in cooperation with the Chinese communist party. Senator Perdue spent his entire career outsourcing jobs to China. The same senator who refuses even to debate me, the same senator who has been telling establishment Republican donors in private that Donald Trump is responsible for Republican defeat, blaming the president personally, refusing to support the $2,000 stimulus checks that even President Trump demanded until we were five days from an election. The same senator who blames President Trump for Republican difficulty in Georgia but then in public indulges the president’s fantasy that he actually won here.”

Doocy then pivoted to another recent story of alleged Chinese influence. “Recently, we saw that the Chinese government tried to make inroads with a young democratic lawmaker Eric Swalwell, he noted. “Are you concerned that through payment to a well known young Democrat, somebody linked to China, or the Chinese through another company, could be trying to influence you?

“Look. Chinese intelligence operations in the United States are a great threat to our national security. And that’s why it’s so concerning that we have a senator like David Perdue.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes up in smoke, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 31, 2020. Just how lost in a haze of delusional and senile confusion is Donald bill palmerTrump? He’s now accusing Republican Governor Brian Kemp of conspiring with Stacey Abrams to rig the presidential election against him in Georgia.

Meanwhile back in the real world, it would be harder to find two people less likely to want to conspire together than Kemp and Abrams. After all, Kemp rigged his own election against Abrams just two years ago.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump just got blown out by seven million votes. He’s toxically and historically unpopular. Anyone standing next to him now will have zero chance of becoming President in 2024. Only the stupidest of Republican politicians are taking that sucker bait.

Tweet of the day, from President-elect Joe Biden: “The next few weeks and months are going to be a very tough period for our nation — maybe the toughest of the whole pandemic. But we are going to get through it. Brighter days are coming, but it’s going to take all the grit and determination we have as Americans to do it.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret Service to make changes to presidential detail to bring on agents who worked with Biden, Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). The Secret Service is making some staff changes in the presidential detail that will guard President-elect Joe Biden, amid concerns from Biden allies that some current members were politically aligned with President Trump, according to two people familiar with the changes.

secret service logoAs Biden readies his new administration, the Secret Service plans to bring back to the White House detail a handful of senior agents whom Biden knows well from their work more than four years ago guarding him and his family when he was vice president.

Staff changes are typical with the arrival of a new president and are designed to increase the trust and comfort the incoming president feels with his protective agents, who often stand by the president’s side during sensitive discussions and private moments.

But the shifts underway occur at a particularly contentious time, as Trump has blamed his reelection loss on unfounded allegations of voter fraud and has sought to block his administration from treating Biden as the president-elect. Some in the Secret Service also came under criticism during Trump’s tenure for appearing to embrace his political agenda.

Associated Press via Washington Post, Census Bureau to miss deadline, jeopardizing Trump plan, Mike Schneider, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). The Census ap logoBureau will miss a year-end deadline for handing in numbers used for divvying up congressional seats, a delay that could undermine President Donald Trump’s efforts to exclude people in the country illegally from the count if the figures aren’t submitted before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The Census Bureau plans to deliver a population count of each state in early 2021, as close to the missed deadline as possible, the statistical agency said in a statement late Wednesday.

It will be the first time that the Dec. 31 target date is missed since the deadline was implemented more than four decades ago by Congress.

Internal documents obtained earlier this month by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform show that Census Bureau officials don’t expect the apportionment numbers to be ready until days after Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Once in office, Biden could rescind Trump’s presidential memorandum directing the Census Bureau to exclude people in the country illegally from numbers used for divvying up congressional seats among the states. An influential GOP adviser had advocated excluding them from the apportionment process in order to favor Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

Besides deciding how many House seats each state gets, the census is used for determining how $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed each year.

Trump’s July order on apportionment was challenged in more than a half dozen lawsuits around the U.S., but the Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that any challenge was premature, allowing the plan to move forward. The Census Bureau hasn’t publicly revealed how it plans to determine who is in the country illegally since the Supreme Court last year prohibited a citizenship question from being added to the census questionnaire.

 

U.S. Media News

tribune publishing logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Hedge Fund Seeks Control of Tribune Publishing, a Major News Chain, Michael J. de la Merced and Marc Tracy, Dec. 31, 2020. Alden Global Capital, which is already Tribune’s biggest shareholder, valued the company at about $520.6 million.

Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has amassed a newspaper empire, has expressed interest in taking full control of Tribune Publishing, the parent of major metropolitan dailies including The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.

If a deal goes through, it would strengthen the financial industry’s grip on the struggling news media business.

Alden controls some 200 newspapers nationwide through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, and its acquisition of Tribune Publishing would make it an even more formidable rival to the largest United States newspaper chain, Gannett, a company controlled by the private equity fund Fortress Investment Group.

Alden’s designs on Tribune Publishing, a publicly traded company that runs eight prominent metro dailies across the country, became clear in 2019, when the hedge fund revealed that it had taken a 32 percent stake in the chain, making it the company’s largest shareholder. Many Tribune Publishing reporters denounced Alden’s hold on the company, citing the hedge fund’s strategy of slashing newsroom costs at its MediaNews Group publications.

alden global capital logoAlden’s offer, if it goes through, may strike fear into the hearts of journalists at Tribune newspapers, who have publicly urged benefactors to keep the hedge fund from taking control of the chain’s papers.

Alden’s most famous run-in with journalists came in 2018, when the staff of The Denver Post openly rebelled, publishing a special opinion section devoted to blasting its hedge fund ownership, which had made drastic cuts at the paper. “If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will,” the paper’s editorial board wrote.

Tribune was a chain in trouble before Alden’s entry into the company. For many years, it billed itself under a new name meant to suggest its digital emphasis — Tronc — and its executives tangled with journalists at the Los Angeles Times in a series of spats that did not end until Tribune sold that paper to the medical entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his wife, Michele B. Chan. In 2018, Tribune cut the staff of The New York Daily News, once the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, in half.

Since Alden acquired its 32 percent stake in Tribune, the hard times have continued. The company has offered buyouts and closed several newsrooms while trying to endure the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on an already distressed industry.

In August, after most newspaper employees had worked remotely for months, Tribune announced that it was permanently closing the newsroom of The Daily News. That announcement was quickly followed by the company’s shuttering of the physical newsrooms of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; The Orlando Sentinel; The Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md.; and The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. In December, the newsroom at another Tribune daily, The Hartford Courant, which has been in operation since 1764, also went dark.

spiked HR cover11Revenue has plummeted for local newspapers over the past 15 years as readers have increasingly favored getting the news on screens rather than in print newspapers. Alden and other hedge funds have found that they have nonetheless been able to wring profits from newspaper chains through austere management practices.

Journalists and press advocates have expressed alarm over the influx of private equity into the news-gathering business, arguing that finance firms make imperfect stewards of an industry built on the work of watching closely over government and commerce.

Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig published a 1987 book, "Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper" (Peregrine Press), documenting problems at the Hartford Courant in Connecticut as a case study of the transformation of the newspaper sector under conglomerate ownership.

Times Mirror bought the locally owned newspaper, the second largest in New England, in 1979 for the then-record price of $105 million and then resold it to the Tribune Companies. The Courant recently announced the closure of its much-downsized newsroom, thereby requiring journalists to work from home.

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange Exposes U.S. Myths About Freedom and Tyranny, Glenn Greenwald, Dec. 31, 2020. That U.S. indictment and the accompanying request to extradite Assange to the U.S. to stand trial provided, by design, the pretext for the British government to imprison Assange indefinitely.

A judge quickly ruled that Assange could not be released on bail pending his extradition hearing, but instead must stay behind bars while the U.K. courts fully adjudicate the Justice Department's extradition request. No matter what happens, it will takes years for this extradition process to conclude because whichever side (the DOJ or Assange) loses at each stage (and Assange is highly likely to lose the first round when the lower-court decision on the extradition request is issued next week), they will appeal, and Assange will linger in prison while these appeals wind their way very slowly through the U.K. judicial system.

Julian Assange August That means that absent a pardon by Trump or the withdrawal of the charges by what will become the Biden DOJ, Assange, right, will be locked up for years without any need to prove he is guilty of any crime. He will have been just disappeared: silenced by the very governments whose corruption and crimes he denounced and exposed.

Those are the same governments -- the U.S. and U.K. -- that sanctimoniously condemn their adversaries (but rarely their repressive allies) for violating free speech, free press and due process rights.

(he ample evidence showing that the indictment of Assange is the single gravest threat to press freedoms in years, and that the arguments mounted to justify it are fraudulent, has been repeatedly documented by myself and others, so I will not rehash those discussions here. Those interested can see the article and video program I produced on this prosecution along with my op-ed inThe Washington Post; Laura Poitras' New York Times op-ed last week on the indictment; former Brazilian President Lula da Silva's Guardian op-ed calling for Assange's immediate release; the editorial from The Guardian and column from The Washington Post's media reporter Margaret Sullivan condemning this prosecution as abusive; and statements from the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Columbia Journalism Review, and the ACLU warning of the serious dangers to press freedoms it poses).

Justice Department log circularEven Assange's conviction on "bail jumping" charges, and the way it is portrayed in mainstream media discourse, reveals how deceitful these narratives are, and how illusory are these supposedly protected liberties.

Assange's misdemeanor bail jumping conviction was based on his decision to seek asylum from Ecuador rather than appear for his 2012 extradition hearing in London. That asylum request was granted by Ecuador on the ground that Sweden's attempt to extradite Assange from the U.K. for a sexual assault investigation could be used as a pretext to ship him to the U.S., which would then imprison him for the "crime" of reporting on its illegal and deceitful acts. Such retaliatory imprisonment, said Ecuador, would amount to classic political persecution, thus necessitating asylum to protect his political rights from attack by the U.S. (the case in Sweden was subsequently closed after prosecutors concluded that Assange's asylum rendered the investigation futile).

When the U.S. grants asylum to dissidents from adversary countries in order to protect them from persecution, the U.S. media heralds it a noble, benevolent act, one that proves how devoted the U.S. Government is to the rights and freedoms of people all over the world.

ny times logo

New York Times, Opinion: Goodbye, Twitter Trump! And Other Predictions for 2021, Kara Swisher, right, Dec. 31, 2020. The coronavirus has forced the kind of kara swisherwork experimentation that would have taken a decade otherwise. No one expected 2020 to turn out the way it did. The worst I imagined for this year, in my annual list of digital predictions in 2019, was that the “ever screechy” President Trump would get “to stay on Twitter retweeting fake accounts and links that appear to unmask a whistle-blower.”

If only. Mr. Trump is screechier than ever, and even more unhinged than expected. Most of his tweets are now labeled “disputed” by Twitter, which I would translate from geekspeak as a polite way of calling them lies.

Since I’m not polite, I’m starting this round of prognosticating with this: Soon after our forever troller in chief leaves office on Jan. 20, his account will be donald trump twittersuspended by Twitter temporarily, and then, since he cannot stop breaking rules, he’ll get tossed off, just like his hideous pal, Alex Jones.

I have never thought, as many have, that Mr. Trump should have been de-platformed during his term as president. As flagitious as he can be, Mr. Trump has been a legitimate news figure and, thus, what he had to say should be aired.

twitter bird CustomBut after Joe Biden is inaugurated, Mr. Trump should be treated like any other mendacious loudmouth, and Twitter will be well within its rights to put a sock in it. He’ll rage and then head over Parler to try to make fetch happen, which will not satisfy his enormous ego. It will all end in a whimper.

The Amazon acquisition this week of the podcast maker Wondery, in a deal valued at $300 million — whatever that means — was exactly the kind of thing we will see more of. Amazon is aiming its considerable heft and pocketbook directly at a nascent podcast market. This will amazon logo smallresult in an inevitable smackdown with Spotify, which has been playing the most aggressively in this space, and we’ll see Apple wade in too along with traditional media companies.

Speaking of media companies: While the reverberations of the Warner Bros. decision to put all its 2021 movies on its HBOMax streaming service are sorting themselves out, the shift is permanent — whether offended filmmakers like it or not. Creators who adapt will benefit, especially if they devise new models of payment.

The longtime entertainment business model was built on powerful gatekeepers that made most of the money and relied on a vast network of middlemen. But in the new world, those who can assemble a fan base that they directly service will profit. Imagine the future relationship between creators and fans as a subscription business, and the economics get much more interesting. Hollywood will have to become much more nimble and entrepreneurial.

Mediaite, GOP Congressman Slams Mark Levin Over Calling Him A ‘Reckless Politician’: ‘Godfather Of Outrage For Profit,"
Zachary Petrizzo, Dec. 31, 2020. Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) fired back at Fox News host Mark Levin Thursday morning after Levin took a series of potshots at the Republican legislator over him being a vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

Levin, who was once a “NeverTrump” supporter, began the war of words by tweeting early Thursday morning that Kinzinger was a “reckless politician.”

“Adam Kinzinger is very devious and reckless politician. He was elected as a Tea Party candidate 10 years ago and quickly turned on them,” the Fox News host tweeted. “He is now an activist for the administrative state and against constitutionalists.”

Levin proceeded to take additional swings at Kinzinger.

“Unsurprisingly, he’s celebrated by the Dem-Party media. His attack on those earnestly trying to fix what the Dems broke during this election cycle & their efforts to prevent further usurpations of the Constitution (as they’ve announced their intentions), is unconscionable,” Levin added.

“He should be defeated at the ballot box in the next Republican primary. Then he can join CNN or MSNBC as a full-time, conservative-trashing contributor,” Levin concluded.

adam kinzinger twitterYet Kinzinger, right, wasn’t going to let the big-time conservative talk radio host’s words go without a response.

“Mark is The Godfather of ‘outrage for profit.’ For some reason he has been obsessed with me for a while,” Kinzinger fired back.

In recent days, Levin has touted his departure from Facebook and continues to be an outspoken supporter of Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

And how could one forget that Levin wants Trump to be honored with a ‘ticker-tape parade.”

UPDATE (1/1/2021): Levin responded to Kinzinger ripping him.

“I guess I hit a nerve. Don’t flatter yourself, Hollywood. And don’t worry about my finances. I pay your overpaid salary. Just do your damn job,” Levin tweeted.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

Associated Press via Washington Post, Nashville man’s girlfriend warned he was building bombs, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Documents obtained by The anthony warnerAssociated ap logoPress show officers visited Anthony Warner’s home in 2019 after his girlfriend told them he was building bombs in an RV trailer at his house. Police were told that Warner “knows what he is doing and is capable of making a bomb,” documents show.

Investigators have not uncovered a motive for the Christmas day bombing nor was it revealed why Warner, right, had selected the particular location, which damaged an AT&T building and wreaked havoc on cellphone, police and hospital communications in several Southern states as the company worked to restore service. The company said on Monday the majority of services had been restored for residents and businesses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Josh Hawley reminds us that the GOP is the sedition party, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 31, 2020. The Republican Party yet again jennifer rubin new headshotprovides us with reason for its own demise. The Post reports: “Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) announced Wednesday that he would object next week when Congress convenes to certify the electoral college vote, a move that will force a contentious floor debate that top Senate Republicans had hoped to avoid before President-elect Joe Biden’s victory is cemented.” There is no irregularity or evidence of fraud that justifies this move. It is pandering to a party’s base which has lost touch with reality and fidelity to our Constitution.

josh hawley missouriLike the 126 Republican House members who signed on to a lawsuit to throw out votes of states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden, Hawley, left, has joined the authoritarian right-wingers who openly seek to overthrow the results of an election he does not like. He is a reminder to voters in Georgia of why allowing Hawley’s party to retain its Senate majority puts our democracy (not to mention our financial security and health) at risk.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the lawsuit “seditious abuse.”

That’s an apt description for Hawley’s latest move. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) accurately explained that Hawley is “engaged in the attempted overthrow of democracy.” Whatever you call it — sedition, a coup, an anti-democratic putsch — Hawley’s move violates his oath of office. Not that it will do much good, but he should face an ethics charge and a demand for expulsion (which would require a two-thirds vote, pursuant to the Constitution).

samuel little two mugs

washington post logoWashington Post, Deadliest serial killer in American history dies at 80, with police still searching for his victims, Hannah Knowles, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Samuel Little, shown above in an early mug shot and more recently, who admitted late in life to killing 93 people across 19 states, evaded justice for more than four decades.

Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Federal judge: South Dakota can't use COVID-19 as an excuse for not having speedy trials, Danielle Ferguson, Dec. 31, 2020. A federal judge says a state court can't use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to delay a Codington County trial and in the same breath criticized South Dakota's response to the pandemic, saying it has done "little, if anything," to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Charles B. Kornmann ordered that unless the Codington County state court resolves Matthew Kurtenbach's May 2019 case by January 15, 2021, Kurtenbach will win a federal petition he filed claiming wrongful imprisonment and a violation of his right to a speedy trial.

And in that same adjudication, filed federally in the Northern Division of the District of South Dakota and which can be read in full at the bottom of this story, Kornmann harshly criticized the state and Gov. Kristi Noem's response to the pandemic and said some state courts could have done more to keep cases moving while protecting parties.

“South Dakota has done little, if anything, to curtail the spread of the virus," Kornmann wrote in the Dec. 28 decision.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Explosions rock Aden airport, killing at least 22, as new Yemen government arrives, Ali Al-Mujahed and Sudarsan Raghavan, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). Blasts rocked the airport in the Yemeni city of Aden on Wednesday, killing at least 22 people and injuring 58, shortly after members of a newly created unity government arrived.

The death toll is expected to rise, as 36 victims remain in serious condition with wounds requiring major surgeries, said Ali Abdullah Saleh, director of Aden’s health office. He said the injured were taken to several hospitals in the southern coastal city.

The assault, for which no group immediately claimed responsibility, threatens to ignite more turmoil in the Middle East nation already reeling from war and hunger. It was launched after the Yemeni government forged a political alliance with southern separatists, ending months of feuding that threatened to plunge the country into more conflicts and chaos.

Videos posted on social media showed that the blast occurred just as members of the new government were disembarking from their plane, belonging to national carrier Yemenia, which flew in from Saudi Arabia.

The plane’s passengers included Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed and other cabinet members, as well as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Said al-Jaber, according to Saudi state media. All members of the new government were accounted for and taken to safety, the Saudi media reported.

The new power-sharing government, brokered by Saudi Arabia this month, brought together the two main groups fighting Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels who control much of northern Yemen.

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. and China agree to investment pact despite labor concerns, U.S. objections, Emily Rauhala, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). The European Union and China reached an agreement in principle Wednesday on a long-stalled investment pact, a diplomatic victory for China and a snub to the incoming Biden administration, which had pointedly called for Europe to wait.

The agreement, which must be ratified by the European Parliament, gives European and Chinese companies better access to each other’s markets.

 

Dec. 30

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

djt i dont take responsibility at all

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden criticizes Trump response to pandemic, vows faster production of vaccines, equipment, Jenna Johnson, Amy B Wang and Chelsea Janes, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden on Tuesday cast President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as meager and insufficient, as he vowed to fully use the federal government’s powers once inaugurated to speed the production and dispersal of vaccines and protective equipment.

joe biden twitterBiden said he would invoke the Defense Production Act to ramp up production of materials needed for the coronavirus vaccines. The law, enacted in 1950, gives the president the power to compel companies to produce and distribute supplies. Trump has invoked the act several times to increase the manufacturing of ventilators, among other items.

Biden said that the Trump administration has yet to fully scale up testing — “that’s a travesty,” he said — and that its vaccine distribution efforts were also lagging behind what had been promised.

Although federal officials initially promised to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of this year, only 11.5 million doses have been distributed by the federal government and only 20 percent of those have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the current rate continues, Biden said, it will “take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell stops first attempt to vote on $2,000 stimulus checks, Mike DeBonis and Tony Romm, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.).  Mitchell McConnellA growing number of Republicans have joined Democrats in supporting the larger checks, and the House approved the payments on Monday. Democrats probably will try to hold another vote this week, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), right, hasn't spelled out his plan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Pence Do the Right Thing? Neal K. Katyal, right, and John Monsky, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). On Jan. 6, neal katyal othe vice president will preside as Congress counts the Electoral College’s votes. Let’s hope that he doesn’t do the unthinkable — and unconstitutional.

President Trump recently tweeted that “the ‘Justice’ Department and FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud,” followed by these more ominous lines: “Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”

The unmistakable reference is to the day Congress will count the Electoral College’s votes, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding. Mr. Trump is leaning on the vice president and congressional allies to invalidate the mike pence leftNovember election by throwing out duly certified votes for Joe Biden.

Mr. Pence, shown in a file photo thus far has not said he would do anything like that, but his language is worrisome. Last week, he said: “We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We’re going to win Georgia, we’re going to save America,” as a crowd screamed, “Stop the steal.”

And some Republicans won’t let up. On Monday, Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas and other politicians filed a frivolous lawsuit, which has multiple fatal flaws in both form and substance, in an attempt to force the vice president to appoint pro-Trump electors.

Mr. Katyal, a law professor at Georgetown, is a former acting solicitor general of the United States. Mr. Monsky is the creator of the American History Unbound Series of multimedia productions that covers watershed moments in American history and a board member of the New-York Historical Society.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Vaccinations lag as hospitalizations hover near record high, Marisa Iati, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). About 2.1 million people have received the first dose of coronavirus vaccine, far below health officials' projections that the U.S. would be able to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of December amid alarming case numbers.

cdc logo CustomA significant delay in coronavirus vaccinations is putting pressure on public-health leaders to explain the slow progress as hospitalizations continue to set records as the nation heads into the new year.

Although officials projected that the United States would be able to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 11.4 million doses have been sent to states and only about 2.1 million people have received the vaccine’s first dose with three days until the month’s end.

Gustave Perna, who oversees vaccine distribution for the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, apologized earlier this month for a “miscommunication” that caused states to receive many fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than they had expected.

Questioned Tuesday about the pace of vaccinations, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, acknowledged the lag and said he was cautiously optimistic that vaccinations would pick up momentum to reach previously projected levels.

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.K. coronavirus cases hit record high, health-care workers are overwhelmed, Adam Taylor, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Doctors and nurses across Britain are sounding the alarm as confirmed cases of covid-19 reach record highs, with experts urging the government to implement a United Kingdom flagstricter lockdown to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.

Some health-care workers are issuing their own public warnings, detailing how hospitals in London and the southeast of England are already setting up tents to increase their capacity. They say ambulances are waiting outside hospitals for hours because there is no space inside.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Coronavirus vaccinations are off to a very slow start. That should set off alarms, Leana S. Wen, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). If you're getting flashbacks to the administration's testing debacle, you're not alone.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday that 2.1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in two weeks. While this might sound like an impressive number, it should set off alarms.

Let’s start with the math. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease doctor, estimates that 80 to 85 percent of Americans need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses. Eighty percent of the American population is around 264 million people, so we need to administer 528 million doses to achieve herd immunity.

At the current rate, it would take the United States approximately 10 years to reach that level of inoculation. That’s right — 10 years. Contrast that with the Trump administration’s rosy projections: Earlier this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar predicted that every American will be able to get the vaccine by the second quarter of 2021 (which would be the end of June). The speed needed to do that is 3.5 million vaccinations a day.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 30, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 82,471,764, Deaths: 1,799,996
U.S. Cases:   19,979,169, Deaths:    346,603

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 30, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Vaccines Are Safe, No Matter What Bobby Kennedy Says, Kerry Kennedy Meltzer (Dr. Meltzer is an internal medicine resident physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center), Dec. 30, 2020.  "I love my uncle. But when it comes to vaccines, he is wrong."

My hospital, along with hundreds of others across the country, recently began to administer the first Covid-19 vaccines. My social media feed is filled with pictures of friends and colleagues, sleeves rolled up, writing about how much this vaccination means to them. In an otherwise dark year, it’s a moment of hope.

And yet, not everyone is celebrating the historic vaccine rollout. I stopped following my uncle Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a noted anti-vaccination activist (shown at left in a Gage Skidmore portrait) — on social media in 2019, when he was posting misinformation about the dangers of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine in the midst of an outbreak.

robert f kennedy jr gage skidmoreWhen I take a look at his Facebook page now, I find a post about the Covid-19 vaccine that says, “We clearly have a systematic problem when government health regulators have utterly abdicated their responsibility to safeguard public health and refer safety concerns about shoddily tested, zero-liability vaccines to pharmaceutical companies.”

facebook logoHis concern — that the Covid vaccine is potentially unsafe, and hasn’t been properly tested — is widespread, and dangerously wrong. According to a report published by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Dec. 15, roughly a quarter of Americans say they “probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists.”

If this number holds, then Dr. Anthony Fauci’s estimate that at least 75 percent of Americans must be vaccinated for the country to achieve herd immunity, and effectively end person-to-person spread of the disease, could be unachievable.

In May 2019, my sister, Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean; my mother, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend; and my uncle Joseph P. Kennedy II, wrote in Politico about their concerns regarding my uncle Bobby’s spread of distrust in vaccines.

At that time, there was a resurgence of measles, a highly infectious disease which the United States had declared eliminated in 2000. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the outbreak was largely “driven by misinformation about measles and the MMR vaccine, which has led to undervaccination in vulnerable communities.”

What’s more, a 2019 study found that the over half of Facebook advertisements spreading misinformation about vaccines were funded by two anti-vaccine groups, including the World Mercury Project, which was founded by my uncle Bobby. The organization has since changed its name to Children’s Health Defense, and Bobby is chairman. For its part, Facebook is no longer allowing anti-vaccination ads on its platform.

As of today, more than 2.1 million people in the United States have been vaccinated and only 11 have reported a serious allergic reaction. In comparison, a recent study showed 11 percent of all Americans have a food allergy and one quarter of them have been given an epinephrine prescription.

I recognize, with some trepidation, that people may wonder why I feel I need to speak out publicly about vaccines and against my uncle. The truth is, his name and platform mean that his views carry weight. After three hours, his Facebook post accusing government regulators of abdicating their responsibility to protect the public had 4,700 reactions, 2,300 shares and 641 comments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernie Sanders vows to hold up defense bill unless Senate votes on $2,000 stimulus checks, Tim Elfrink, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Hours after the House voted Monday to boost stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) vowed to push the GOP-controlled Senate to vote on the move as well.

His leverage?

Bernie SandersA threat to force senators to cancel their holiday travels by throwing a wrench into Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plans for a quick vote this week on an override of President Trump’s defense bill veto.

“Let me be clear: If Sen. McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve,” Sanders, right, said in a statement.

McConnell (R-Ky.), left, has not signaled how he intends to handle the House’s stimulus boost, The Washington Post’s Mike Mitchell McConnellDeBonis reported.

At least one other Democrat, Sen. Edward J. Markey (Mass.), said he would join Sanders in blocking the veto override vote until there’s also a vote scheduled on the increased stimulus payout.

While the Democrats can’t indefinitely delay the veto override vote, they could inconvenience Republicans and further heighten tensions in the GOP over the stimulus payments. Trump on Sunday signed a $900 billion stimulus deal but called the $600 checks “measly” and urged his party to up the amount.

Trump appeared to back Sanders’s move early Tuesday when he retweeted a post about it.

Politico, Louisiana congressman-elect dies of Covid, Melanie Zanona, Dec. 30, 2020. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R-La.) has died from the coronavirus, multiple sources confirmed Tuesday evening. He was 41.

luke letlow resizedLetlow, who announced on Dec. 18 that he tested positive for Covid-19, had been in the intensive care unit at Ochsner LSU Health in Shreveport.

Letlow, right, who served as chief of staff to former Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) before being elected to fill that seat, was supposed to be sworn into Congress on Sunday. He is the first member or member-elect to die from the coronavirus, though dozens of lawmakers have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past year.

Letlow leaves behind a wife and two small children. He was initially admitted to a Monroe hospital on Dec. 19, but was transferred and placed in the ICU last week when his condition deteriorated.

washington post logojared polis 2019 CustomWashington Post, First known U.S. instance of more transmissible variant detected in Colorado, Joel Achenbach, Ben Guarino and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). The variant recently identified in the United Kingdom has been found in a man with no travel history, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, right, said. Scientists have said the variant is more transmissible but does not make people sicker.

The Colorado case involves a man in his 20s, who is in isolation in Elbert County, about 50 miles southeast of Denver.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida, Ohio and Texas put elderly over essential workers for vaccine, bucking federal advice, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). The choices reflect distinct needs in a diverse country, but they also highlight an emerging patchwork that could hinder the national effort to corral the pandemic.

Texas, Florida and some other Republican-led states are bucking federal advice to provide early doses of the new coronavirus vaccines to front-line workers, choosing instead to prioritize the elderly — a decision exposing fissures in the nationwide immunization campaign.

Federal recommendations give priority, in the second tier, to grocery store employees, transit staffers and other front-line workers, along with people 75 and older. But officials in Florida and Texas, where a combined 50 million people live, are moving ahead with a different strategy, offering vaccine to a broader segment of their elderly populations and asking front-line workers to wait.

The choices reflect distinct needs in a highly diverse nation where the coronavirus has killed unevenly, but they also highlight an emerging patchwork that could pose obstacles to the national effort to curb the pandemic. The divergence is coming into view as states face delays in the administration of vaccine doses, with each operating on its own timeline based on the capacities of local health departments and hospital systems.

Fewer than 20 percent of the 11.5 million doses distributed by the federal government had been put into people’s arms by the beginning of this week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at ‘weak and tired’ Republican congressional leadership, John Wagner, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Tuesday lashed out at fellow Republicans who lead his party on Capitol Hill both for not fully embracing his unfounded claims of election fraud and for allowing an override of his veto of a $741 billion defense authorization bill to advance.

“WE NEED NEW & ENERGETIC REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP. This can not stand,” Trump said in a string of morning tweets in which he continued to air grievances about the election, including baseless claims of fraud in Pennsylvania, one of the battleground states Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump allies mount final push to overturn results ahead of congressional vote to confirm Biden win, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his allies are growing increasingly desperate as Congress prepares to formally receive the votes that will confirm his election loss next week, filing lawsuits against nonexistent entities and even Trump’s own vice president as they try to come up with new ways to overturn the vote.

djt profile balding big head palmerOne lawsuit filed last week by a conservative group that supports Trump targeted, among others, the electoral college — which does not exist as a permanent body. Another lawsuit filed Sunday by U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) and several Arizona Republicans against Vice President Pence attempts to get a federal judge to expand Pence’s power to affect the outcome.

Pence will preside over next week’s joint session of Congress, where the electoral votes cast earlier this month will be read aloud. President-elect Joe Biden won 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232, reflecting Biden’s 81 million votes nationwide as he secured the White House.

Trump has been working to incite his supporters over the ceremonial milestone, falsely portraying it as a final showdown in his battle to alter the election’s outcome. “See you in Washington, DC, on January 6th. Don’t miss it,” Trump tweeted Sunday.

How Trump drove the lie that the election was stolen, undermining voter trust in the outcome

There were some initial signs Tuesday that Trump’s last-ditch appeal may be faltering, even among some of his most fervent supporters.

In an interview, Stanley Grot, a Trump elector in Michigan, a longtime Republican and the clerk of the Detroit suburb of Shelby Township, said he does not plan to come to Washington.

When the electoral college met Dec. 14 to certify Biden’s win in the state, Grot joined other Trump electors in Lansing to register their continued support for the president in a state where Trump has exerted especially strong pressure on supporters to overturn the vote. But Grot said Tuesday that there is nothing more he can do next week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sorry, President Trump. January 6 is not an election do-over, Edward B. Foley, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his supporters are trying to turn the Jan. 6 congressional session for counting electoral college votes into something that it is not and was never intended to be: a forum for litigating Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Never mind that Trump has no evidence to support his assertion that massive fraud is what caused Joe Biden to win the popular vote in enough states for an electoral college victory. The critical point is this: Even if there were such proof, the Jan. 6 session is not the place to present it.

The Constitution and the Electoral Count Act of 1887 intended the Jan. 6 session to address a narrow question: Are the electoral votes received by Congress ones cast by electors the states appointed? This limited inquiry requires Congress simply to authenticate the documents.

American System Network, Opinion: Four Epiphanies for the First Week of the New Year, Webster G.Tarpley, right, Dec.30, 2020. First, Georgia: Trump Demands webster tarpley 2007the Ouster of Republican Governor Kemp for Insufficient Zeal; Don also Condemns Secretary of State Raffensperger for Alleged Communist Chinese Ties of Alleged Brother; Thanks to this Chaos, Democrats Ossoff and Warnock Have Real Chance to Win in Jan. 5 Double Run-Off for Senate.

Second: Trump Camp Hyping Jan. 6 Protests Against Honest of Electoral Votes in Congress; Sen. Hawley of Missouri Defies Orders from Mitch and Thune, Pledges to Object to Legal Slates of Electors, Threatening to Split GOP and Make Unprincipled Opportunists Choose Between Legality and Loyalty to Trump;

Three: Will there be Demos in Washington DC and Other Cities? Will They Be Violent? Plan is to Use Conflict to Declare Martial Law and Cancel Results of November 3 Ballot in Battleground States Trump Lost;

Four: Pentagon Bigwigs Refuse to Brief Biden Transition About What They Are Doing, Raising Specter of Autogolpe and Putsch; Why Are Kash Patel and Cohn-Watnick Tampering with NSA, US Cybercommand, and FBI?; One Insider Scenario Has NSA Splitting from Cybercommand under Control of pro-Trump Bureaucrats and Joining with Decapitated FBI to Keep Usurper in Power;

As Part of Same Effort, Sharp High-Level Disagreements Are Reported about Whether Iran is Preparing a Surprise Strike against US Assets in Gulf Region for Suleimani Anniversary; Is This a Smokescreen for Trump War Provocations?

Manhattan DA Hires Leading Forensic Accounting Firm to Prepare Expected Tax and Bank Fraud Case against Don after January 20; Tonight, Trump Abruptly Announces Surprise Early Return from Florida to White House; Why Would He Be Needed in Capital?

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s dead-enders are playing a dangerous game, Bill Palmer, Dec. 30, 2020. After Donald Trump lost the election, he began installing a handful of corrupt partisan loyalists in key civilian positions at places like the Department of Defense. These people were never going to have bill palmer report logo headerthe power to undo the election result or start a war. But they have managed to slow down the transition to President Biden in small and petty yet significant ways.

Here’s the thing, though. They run the risk of this blowing up in their faces. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bromwich explained it this way:

Michael R. Bromwich
@mrbromwich
Trump dead-enders at DOD and OMB are playing a dangerous game--for the country and themselves. It wouldn't take a particularly creative prosecutor to charge them with conspiracy to defraud the US by obstructing the orderly functions of government -- i.e., the transition.

What’s particularly odd is these people will automatically lose these jobs the minute Trump is gone, so there’s no real gain for them career-wise. Perhaps these goons are counting on federal pardons from Trump. But preemptive pardons are constitutionally flimsy and can be challenged in court – particularly when they’re granted to co-conspirators.

So why did these “dead enders” even take these positions? Even they probably don’t know. They were just the last true believers that Donald Trump had left in his orbit, and so they were willing to go along with Trump’s dumbest and most pointless of petty stunts. Now they could end up in prison for it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Howard Rubenstein, Public Relations Impresario, Dies at 88, Robert D. McFadden, Updated Dec. 30, 2020. He polished the images of the rich, the famous and the flawed, with clients that included Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and George Steinbrenner.

Howard J. Rubenstein, who softened life’s blows and polished the tarnished images of the rich, the famous and the flawed for more than 65 years in becoming New York’s pre-eminent public relations impresario, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 88.

A spokeswoman, Nancy Haberman, confirmed the death. No cause was given.

In a profession often regarded with skepticism, Mr. Rubenstein, the founding chairman and president of Rubenstein Associates, was sometimes called a spin doctor, a charlatan or worse. But with a little help from his friends in the news media, he publicized the triumphs of many achievers, and when crises struck celebrities, politicians, corporations or cultural institutions, he was a fixer of choice, called in at a moment’s notice to control the damage and restore reputations.

Mediaite, ‘No Time for Playing Politics’: Mike Pence, on Ski Vacation, Defends Trump, on Golf Vacation, Over Biden’s Criticism of Vaccine Rollout, Reed Richardson, Dec. 30. 2020. Vice President Mike Pence offered a public defense for his boss, President Donald Trump, over the increasingly alarming lack of progress in Covid inoculations of Americans, as both were spending their holidays at respective vacation spots.

Tweeting from his ski vacation in Vail, Colorado, Pence echoed an earlier tweet from Trump, who is ensconced in his Mar-A-Lago golf resort in Florida, pushing back on reports that Operation Warp Speed is falling far short of its ambitious vaccine rollout plans. This news come as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc by breaking new records for hospitalizations and claiming the lives of roughly 3,000 Americans every day, including a 41-year-old just-elected GOP Congressman.

“Operation Warp Speed is on track to distribute 20 Million doses of Coronavirus Vaccine by next week,” Pence claimed. “Millions of Americans have been vaccinated and we are working with States every day to vaccinate millions more. This is no time for playing politics!”

Pence’s tweet was clearly a shot at the incoming administration, as it linked to a news story that featured President-elect Joe Biden warning the country was “far behind” where it needed to be to meet the goal of inoculating most Americans by this summer.

Earlier in the evening, Pence’s boss had posted his own thinly-veiled attempt at shifting blame for the poor progress on Covid vaccine inoculations onto the states — even though Trump was personally taking credit for its apparent success just a week before.

But all of the supposed good news Pence and Trump were touting about the vaccine rollout while on their respective vacations was, in fact, just the latest in a series of scaled-back White House promises.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

The Hill, Top federal prosecutor resigns after Pennsylvania election fraud investigation, Zack Budryk, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. attorney who was widely criticized for the September announcement of an investigation into discarded Pennsylvania ballots announced his resignation from the Justice Department Tuesday.

“For the past three years, I have had the great fortune to work with the highly skilled attorneys and staff in the Middle District of Pennsylvania,” David Freed said in a statement Tuesday.

Freed previously made headlines in September when he took the highly unusual step of announcing that his office was investigating the discarding of mail-in ballots in Luzerne County. The full Justice Department press release about an ongoing investigation was highlighted as an atypical move, as was Freed’s announcement that seven of the ballots were reportedly cast for President Trump.

The president and his allies seized on the case as evidence for Trump’s frequent claims that mail-in voting would enable widespread voter fraud. Trump has continued to promote such claims since his loss in November, particularly in Pennsylvania, one of several states that flipped from 2016 and clinched President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Peter Smith, who served as U.S. attorney for the Middle District during the Obama administration, told the Times-Leader in September that Freed was “an honorable guy [but] it is, I think, not appropriate to give details. I would not have done it if I was U.S. Attorney.”

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Brandler, who has served with the U.S. attorney’s office for more than three decades, is set to replace Freed, according to PennLive.

washington post logoWashington Post, N.Y. prosecutor hires forensic accounting experts as Trump criminal probe escalates, Shayna Jacobs and Jonathan O'Connell, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has retained a consulting firm with expertise in real estate fraud cases to advise prosecutors, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office has retained forensic accounting specialists to aid its criminal investigation of President Trump and his business operations, as prosecutors ramp up their scrutiny of his company's real estate transactions, according to people familiar with the matter.

cyrus vance jrDistrict Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., right, opened the investigation in 2018 to examine alleged hush-money payments made to two women who, during Trump’s first presidential campaign, claimed to have had affairs with him years earlier. The probe has since expanded, and now includes the Trump Organization's activities more broadly, said the people familiar with the matter. Vance’s office has suggested in court filings that bank, tax and insurance fraud are areas of exploration.

Vance has contracted with FTI Consulting to look for anomalies among a variety of property deals, and to advise the district attorney on whether the president’s company manipulated the value of certain assets to obtain favorable interest rates and tax breaks, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive. The probe is believed to encompass transactions spanning several years.

Trump’s post-presidency will be cluttered with legal battles

Headquartered in Washington, FTI provides a range of financial advisory services to clients worldwide in public and corporate sectors. “We provide the industry's most complete range of forensic, investigative, data analytic and litigation services,” according to a corporate brochure, which also noted FTI’s “extensive experience serving leading corporations, governments and law firms around the globe.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s worst pardon is one you haven’t heard about, Alex Busansky, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Alex Busansky, president of Impact Justice, was a lawyer in the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Charles Kushner, Stephanie Mohr. You’ve probably heard about President Trump’s odious pre-Christmas pardons for the first three — and nothing about Mohr, a former Prince George’s County police officer. But Mohr’s pardon — for violating a homeless man’s civil rights by unleashing her K-9 on him — is equally, if not more undeserving. Of all the acts to pardon in a year that witnessed the killing of George Floyd, it is the most insensitive and inflaming.

I know; I was part of the team at the Justice Department’s civil rights division that helped prosecute Mohr in 2001.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal officials formally close investigation of Tamir Rice killing, Devlin Barrett, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.).  The Justice Department announced Tuesday it had formally closed its investigation into the police shooting of Tamir Rice, a Cleveland child whose killing in 2014 spurred nationwide protests over law enforcement’s use of deadly force against minorities.

The outcome was long expected, particularly because officials at Justice rejected a request more than a year ago from prosecutors on the case to have a grand jury hear evidence. That decision became the subject of an internal whistleblower complaint.

Rice, a 12-year-old African American, was at a playground with a pellet gun that officials have said was indistinguishable from a regular pistol.

washington post logoWashington Post, Louisville police move to fire two more officers involved in the raid that killed Breonna Taylor in March, Marisa Iati, Dec. 30, 2020 (print ed.). Louisville police on Tuesday moved to fire two officers involved in the fatal raid on Breonna Taylor’s home in a bid for more accountability in the tragedy that ignited the country last summer amid a broader racial-justice movement.

Detective Joshua Jaynes, who was responsible for the “no-knock” search warrant, received a pre-termination letter Tuesday, according to a copy of the missive shared by local news outlets. The department is also seeking to terminate Detective Myles Cosgrove, the officer who, an FBI ballistics report concluded, fired the shot that proved fatal to Taylor, according to the New York Times and several local news outlets.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court ruling means House Democrats can’t access Trump’s tax and financial records, Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 30, 2020. The D.C. Circuit took no position on the president’s legal battle with Congress and returned the case to a lower court. The House intends to reissue the subpoena to President Trump’s longtime accounting firm at the start of the new Congress next week.

President Trump ran out the clock Wednesday in his long-running legal battle to shield his tax and financial records from Congress when a federal appeals court declined to rule on the matter and sent the case back to a lower court.

The brief order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit does not mean that the effort by House Democrats to access Trump’s business records is over. But the congressional term will expire, and Trump will leave office in January without having his financial data turned over to lawmakers.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Argentina to legalize elective abortion, Ruby Mellen and Ana Vanessa Herrero, Dec. 30, 2020. Argentine lawmakers voted early Wednesday to legalize elective abortion, a key step in making the predominantly Roman Catholic country the largest in Latin America to allow the procedure.

argentine flagThe legislation championed by President Alberto Fernández was approved by Argentina’s House of Deputies earlier this month. Fernández is now expected to sign it.

Elective abortion is legal in Cuba, Uruguay, Guyana and parts of Mexico. In Argentina, as in much of the region, the procedure has been permitted only in the case of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pierre Cardin,1922–2020: Designer who transformed fashion in the 1960s dies at 98, Megan Buerger, Dec. 29, 2020. He introduced a new silhouette to men’s and women’s clothing and licensed his name to jewelry and other products.

“I was born an artiste,” the French couturier Pierre Cardin once declared, “but I am a businessman.”

A perennial trendsetter, Mr. Cardin, who died Dec. 29 at age 98, radically transformed men’s and women’s fashion in the 1960s with modern designs such as the Nehru jacket and the space-race-inspired bubble dress.

He redefined the field of commercial branding by licensing his name to products including toiletries, jewelry, luggage, candy, wine and wigs. He also bought the landmark Parisian restaurant Maxim’s and built it into an international chain of eateries, boutiques and clubs.

 

Dec. 29

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Elections

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden accuses Trump appointees of obstructing transition on national security, Amy B Wang and Jenna Johnson, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden specifically called out the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department as agencies where his transition team had encountered “roadblocks” from political leadership.

NSA Official LogoPresident-elect Joe Biden on Monday accused President Trump and his political appointees of obstructing the transition of power to his incoming administration, particularly on national security issues, an escalation in tone after reports of isolated difficulties in the transition process last week.

In remarks from Wilmington, Del., Biden specifically called out the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department as agencies where his transition team had encountered Department of Defense Seal“roadblocks” from political leadership. Biden’s remarks came shortly after he attended a briefing with nearly two dozen of his national security advisers.

“Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said of the resistance his teams were facing. He warned that such delays could allow enemies of the United States to take CIA Logoadvantage of vulnerabilities, citing a massive cybersecurity breach that compromised several U.S. agencies earlier this month.

“My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies,” Biden said. “We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.”

washington post logoWashington Post, House backs increasing stimulus checks to $2,000, Mike DeBonis, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The measure, which would increase the size of the $600 checks that were signed into law Sunday, passed the Democratic-controlled House with bipartisan support. But it faces an uncertain fate in the Republican-controlled Senate.

djt nypost stop insanity cover dec 28 2020

washington post logoWashington Post, Murdoch’s New York Post urges Trump to accept defeat: ‘You’re cheering for an undemocratic coup,’ Tim Elfrink, Dec. 28, 2020. The tabloid, long one of President Trump’s strongest allies, demanded he stop spreading false claims of voter fraud and accept Joe Biden’s victory.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just lost Georgia again, Bill Palmer, Dec. 29, 2020. Ever since Joe Biden was declared the winner of Georgia in the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump has continually insisted that he only lost the state due to fraudulent mail-in votes. He predicted that if signature matching tests were performed, it would prove that the mail-in votes for Biden were all somehow fake.

bill palmer report logo headerAccordingly, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has announced the results of its signature match audit in Democrat-heavy Cobb County. Out of 15,000 votes that were probed, just two of them had mismatched signatures. That’s right, two votes. These two votes weren’t even intentional fraud; it was simply a matter of a wife signing her ballot and her husband’s ballot, and both votes getting flagged as a result.

In other words, Joe Biden just won Georgia yet again. For that matter, Donald Trump’s little tantrum could end up causing the Republicans problems in next week’s Georgia Senate runoff races. If the Republicans lose, but try to claim that they only lost due to mail-in voter fraud, this Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe just proved that this type of fraud simply doesn’t exist.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 29, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 81,815,414, Deaths: 1,784,537
U.S. Cases: 19,785,332, , Deaths: 343,186

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 29, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, Treasury rushes to begin sending stimulus checks by week’s end, Tony Romm, Rachel Siegel and Lisa Rein, Dec. 28, 2020. The push is part of a scramble by multiple agencies to disburse $900 billion in stimulus funds that were held up for several days before President Trump signed the package into law.

The Trump administration is scrambling to send one-time stimulus payments to millions of Americans starting as soon as this week, as the U.S. government races to implement a $900 billion coronavirus aid package that President Trump signed after days of delays.

irs logoThe schedule corresponds with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s earlier promise to dispatch stimulus checks to families this week — a plan later thrown into turmoil after Trump initially refused to sign the stimulus package. Trump had attempted to secure last-minute changes to the bill after it passed the House and the Senate, but his own party did not support some of his demands and he relented on Sunday.

The Treasury Department is able to move more swiftly than usual to deposit checks for as much as $600 into Americans’ bank accounts as a result of its earlier work this spring, when it disbursed larger sums under an earlier stimulus program. Americans who previously obtained their federal tax refunds through direct deposit were among the first to receive their payments at the time. Those receiving paper checks had a longer wait for the aid.

The electronic deposits could go out Wednesday and Thursday in large tranches, according to a senior official at the Internal Revenue Service, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the agency’s early plans.

It remains unclear, however, if other obstacles might ultimately result in delays — particularly given the holiday week and its impact on staffing at major banks. A senior treasury official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the agency was sticking to the same targeted timeline as Mnuchin recently outlined — but signaled that the timing could change.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: Despite Strict Measures, England’s Virus Cases Are Soaring, Staff reports, Dec. 29, 2020. united kingdom flagHospitals are now treating more patients than at any time during the pandemic as the country faces a variant of the coronavirus. Research on coronavirus patients’ viral loads could help doctors. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

The pandemic has sickened more than 80 million people and killed at least 1.7 million. This is a timeline.

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida, Ohio and Texas put elderly over essential workers for vaccine, bucking federal advice, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Dec. 29, 2020. The choices reflect distinct needs in a diverse country, but they also highlight an emerging patchwork that could hinder the national effort to corral the pandemic.

Texas, Florida and some other Republican-led states are bucking federal advice to provide early doses of the new coronavirus vaccines to front-line workers, choosing instead to prioritize the elderly — a decision exposing fissures in the nationwide immunization campaign.

Federal recommendations give priority, in the second tier, to grocery store employees, transit staffers and other front-line workers, along with people 75 and older. But officials in Florida and Texas, where a combined 50 million people live, are moving ahead with a different strategy, offering vaccine to a broader segment of their elderly populations and asking front-line workers to wait.

The choices reflect distinct needs in a highly diverse nation where the coronavirus has killed unevenly, but they also highlight an emerging patchwork that could pose obstacles to the national effort to curb the pandemic. The divergence is coming into view as states face delays in the administration of vaccine doses, with each operating on its own timeline based on the capacities of local health departments and hospital systems.

Fewer than 20 percent of the 11.5 million doses distributed by the federal government had been put into people’s arms by the beginning of this week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Biden to address nation on pandemic as Fauci says surge of cases ‘has just gotten out of control,’ John Wagner, Dec. 29, 2020. The president-elect is scheduled to deliver remarks from Wilmington, Del., as officials warn of a post-holiday increase in covid-19 cases.

President-elect Joe Biden plans to deliver an address on the coronavirus pandemic as the nation experiences what his chief medical adviser on the issue, Anthony S. Fauci, described Tuesday as a surge in cases “that has just gotten out of control in many respects.”

Biden’s remarks, planned Tuesday afternoon in Wilmington, Del., are expected to be his most extensive comments to date since early this month, when he laid out a plan for his first 100 days in office that included imploring all Americans to wear masks.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ABC News, Judge Blocks Residency Challenges To 4,000 Georgia Voters, Staff reports, Dec. 29, 2020. A federal judge ordered local election officials in Georgia to allow voting by more than 4,000 people whose eligibility was being challenged ahead of next week’s runoff elections for the U.S. Senate.

U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner blocked election boards in Ben Hill County and Muscogee County, which includes Columbus, from forcing large numbers of voters to prove their residency before casting ballots in the runoffs. The judge ruled that denying so many voters access to the ballot so close to an election would likely violate the National Voter Registration Act.

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both face runoff elections next Tuesday. If both lose to Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Democrats will take control of the Senate.

Challenges against roughly 4,000 voters in Muscogee County and more than 150 voters in Ben Hill County were part of an effort by the Texas-based conservative group True The Vote to coordinate challenges statewide under a Georgia law that allows any registered voter to challenge the eligibility of any other voter within the same county.

The group said on Dec. 18 that it was bringing challenges in each of Georgia’s 159 counties against more than 364,000 voters whose residency was being questioned based on change of address data obtained from the U.S. Postal Service.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump plays golf but remains mum on Nashville bombing, following a familiar pattern, David Nakamura, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The president continued to tweet false claims of election fraud but has said nothing about the Christmas Day bombing that destroyed more than 40 businesses.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Maneuver on Covid-19 Stimulus Bill Falls Flat, Michael D. Shear and Catie Edmondson, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s threat to scuttle a $900 billion relief package held workers in limbo but ultimately was unlikely to change the bill’s outcome.

As an exercise in raw presidential power, it was a flop. As a political tactic, it backfired. And as a coda to his final weeks in office, President Trump’s threat to veto a $900 billion Covid relief and government funding bill merely underscored his tumultuous tenure in the Oval Office.

For five days, starting before Christmas, Mr. Trump virtually held the nation hostage, delaying the extension of unemployment benefits for millions of out-of-work Americans, holding up the delivery of $600 checks, and dangling the possibility of a total government shutdown even as officials raced to distribute a coronavirus vaccine.

And then he caved.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s own failing schemes are now betraying him, Shirley Kennedy, Dec. 29, 2020. The bully known as Donald Trump backed down late Sunday and signed the stimulus bill that had been agreed upon by the House and Senate.

bill palmer report logo headerWhile Trump tried to snow us that he was holding out for more money, CNN put in perspective that Trump was merely playing games and seeking revenge on Republicans who refused to support his false claims of election fraud.

Trump enjoyed making the American people guess what he planned to do. He teased his plans, directly avoiding questions about his intentions.

While he enjoyed his time at Mar-a-Lago, with no expense spared—he held the lives of millions of Americans in his hands, and he decided it would be a good idea to play with those lives. At the same time, Mike Pence was enjoying his ski vacation in Vail while Mnuchin lounged on the beach in Cabo. Trump’s supporters are up in arms about his election loss, yet they say nothing about the way he is playing with the American people.

We can only assume none of them work, so his games are neither here nor there for them. But for millions of others, concern about having to re-apply for benefits they could have continued receiving is marring what should be a time of celebration.

Making things worse, Trump made a statement following his delayed signing of the bill, claiming that one of the reasons for delay was a promise from lawmakers “to focus strongly on the very substantial voter fraud which took place in the November 3 presidential election.”

What the hell? Surely, Trump did not hold up aid to millions of Americans over his imaginary voter fraud scheme. There has been absolutely no evidence of any type of voter fraud in the election, and 60 or so dismissed or abandoned court cases back that up.

washington post logoWashington Post, House votes to override Trump’s veto of defense bill, setting up first such rebuke during his presidency, Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate will also vote this week and appears to have the two-thirds majority necessary to allow the $741 billion defense authorization to become law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kentucky Is Hurting as Its Senators Limit or Oppose Federal Aid, Ben Casselman and Will Wright, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Urban and rural fortunes diverge in the state, with the pandemic compounding troubles that predated it.

Mediaite, Scaramucci Makes Ominous Prediction for Final Weeks of Trump White House: ‘Nefarious Neglect,’ ‘Ridiculous Pardons’ and ‘Fundraising’ for Post Presidency, Reed Richardson, Dec. 29, 2020. Anthony Scaramucci, whose 11-day tenure as Trump White House communications director was so disastrously brief that it became its own infamous time unit, predicted that the final “Scaramucci” or two of this administration will be marked by more “ridiculous pardons,” “nefarious neglect,” and plenty of fundraising to pad the post presidency of Donald Trump and his family.

Speaking with Anderson Cooper 360 guest host Jim Sciutto on Tuesday night, Scaramucci expressed his confidence that Vice President Mike Pence would not engage in any Electoral College shenanigans, but very little else.

But then Scaramucci turned to Trump and his analysis was far less sanguine.

“The last two weeks of the administration, there will be a series of ridiculous pardons and they’ll be a series of nefarious neglect and activity related to setting up President Trump and his family for the post presidency and some of it will be gimmickry, some of it related to fundraising, and some will be pardons with those pardons being tied to something in the future. You know, it’s terrible.”

And before he left, Scaramucci was given the opportunity for one last prediction — about the next presidential election.

“Just very quickly yes or no,” Sciutto pressed. “If you had to bet five bucks now, is he running again in 2024 or is this a charade?”

“Forget about five bucks, I got five thousand that he’s not,” Scaramucci said confidently. “If you want to take it to 50 [thousand], Jim, we probably got to go to a bookie, but I’m in. There’s no chance this guy is running again.”

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Outside Trump’s Inner Circle, Odds Are Long for Getting Clemency, Frances Robles, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has doled out pardons to friends and fellow Republicans. Thousands of others without connections have largely been left out.

Nichole M. Forde, a federal inmate serving 27 years in prison for trafficking crack cocaine from Chicago to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, saw the list of politicians and presidential pals who were granted clemency last week and lamented: What about people like me?

Ms. Forde, 40, incarcerated for a decade now, has no connection to President Trump. No reality TV star has championed her life story, with its attempts to overcome sexual abuse, drug addiction, mental illness, teenage motherhood and homelessness.

Unlike many of those pardoned by Mr. Trump in his final weeks in office, she says she did bad things and deserved to be punished.

Her clemency petition has languished at the Justice Department for four years.

Mr. Trump used the power of his office last week to grant clemency to dozens of people, among them his daughter’s father-in-law, his former campaign manager and a longtime friend.

He bestowed mercy on three Republican congressmen, one of whom pleaded guilty to stealing campaign funds for personal use, a second convicted of securities fraud, and a third serving a 10-year sentence after being convicted of fraud and money laundering. Others pardoned included two allies who were convicted of lying to the F.B.I. during the Russia investigation.

He also pardoned four Blackwater private security contractors convicted in connection with a massacre in Baghdad. Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater and a Trump ally, is the brother of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary.

A vast majority of the people to whom he granted pardons or commutations had either a personal or political connection to the White House, and it appears that only seven were recommended by the government’s pardon attorney, according to a Harvard University professor who is tracking the process.

ap logoAssociated Press via ABC News, Federal judge in Iowa ridicules Trump's pardons, Ryan J. Foley, Dec. 29, 2020. A federal judge who has warned against political corruption is ridiculing President Donald Trump’s pardons, including those issued to former Republican members of Congress and campaign operatives.

“It’s not surprising that a criminal like Trump pardons other criminals,” senior U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt of the Southern District of Iowa told The Associated Press in a brief phone interview Monday. In a bit of humor, he said: “But apparently to get a pardon, one has to be either a Republican, a convicted child murderer or a turkey.”

Pratt was referring to pardons Trump granted to his former campaign aides convicted during the special counsel's Russia inquiry, former GOP congressmen who committed crimes, and security contractors convicted of killing innocent civilians in Iraq. Trump also pardons turkeys — this year two from Iowa — annually before Thanksgiving.

Pratt has been on the bench since his appointment by President Bill Clinton in 1997. He has had a reduced caseload since 2012, when he assumed senior status.

Pratt made the remarks when asked for comment on pardons granted to two former top aides for Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, who were convicted in a corruption scheme related to the Iowa caucuses.

He noted that the framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to stop U.S. officials from “enriching themselves” while in office by banning gifts and payments from foreign powers. Ongoing lawsuits have accused Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his luxury Washington hotel. A White House spokesman declined comment on Pratt’s remarks.

Trump last week pardoned Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton and campaign manager John Tate, who were convicted at trial of concealing $73,000 in payments that went to state Sen. Kent Sorenson in exchange for Sorenson’s endorsement of Paul. Benton and Tate were sentenced to six months of home confinement and probation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bomber’s Aim Seemed to Be ‘More Destruction Than Death,’ Official Says, Jamie McGee and Lucy Tompkins, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Investigators are searching for a motive in the Nashville, Tenn., bombing, with officials grappling with whether it meets the legal definition of terrorism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Supreme Court considers when the U.S. can judge other nations’ human rights violations, Charles Lane, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The issue in Germany v. Philipp is deceptively technical: whether the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) of 1976 guarantees foreign individuals the right to sue foreign governments — ordinarily protected from such litigation — in a U.S. court for taking property pursuant to violating international human rights law.

Morally, though, the case is hardly technical at all, given that the systematic human rights violation in question was genocide: the Holocaust. The plaintiffs seek justice from Germany for the Nazis’ allegedly pressuring their ancestors, German Jewish art dealers, to sell valuable medieval religious objects known as the Guelph Treasure to an agent for Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man, in 1935.

Their claim having been denied by a special German commission, which Berlin established to arbitrate such claims at the United States’ urging, the heirs — two Americans and a British subject — now want to sue in federal court.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Refugees Come Under Fire as Old Foes Fight in Concert in Ethiopia, Declan Walsh and Simon Marks, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Forces from Eritrea have joined the war in Ethiopia, rampaging through refugee camps and committing human rights violations, officials and witnesses say.

abiy ahmed ethiopian pmFor weeks, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, right, of Ethiopia has denied that soldiers from Eritrea — a country that Ethiopia once fought in an exceptionally brutal war — had entered Tigray, where Mr. Abiy has been fighting since early November to oust rebellious local leaders.

In fact, according to interviews with two dozen aid workers, refugees, United Nations officials and diplomats — including a senior American official — Eritrean soldiers are fighting in Tigray, apparently in coordination with Mr. Abiy’s forces, and face credible accusations of atrocities against civilians. Among their targets were refugees who had fled Eritrea and its harsh leader, President Isaias Afwerki.

washington post logoWashington Post, China imprisons citizen journalist for Wuhan lockdown reports during height of coronavirus outbreak, Lily Kuo, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). A citizen journalist who documented the desperation of residents in Wuhan at the height of China's coronavirus outbreak was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday in a case that underlined Beijing's extreme sensitivity to criticism of its pandemic response.

China FlagIn a closed-door trial that lasted less than three hours, authorities in Shanghai handed down the sentence to Zhang Zhan, 37, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a charge often used against dissidents.

Zhang, a former lawyer turned activist, traveled to Wuhan in February, where she filmed from overwhelmed hospitals, neighborhoods and community centers, providing a rare window into the locked-down city.

Her critical reports accusing the government of suppressing the voices of regular citizens and failing to inform residents of the reality of the situation contrasted with rosy state media coverage, one of the few sources of information. Zhang was detained in May.

washington post logoWashington Post, Saudi activist who campaigned for women’s right to drive is sentenced to nearly six years, Kareem Fahim, Dec. 29, 2020 (print ed.). A court in Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the country's most prominent women's rights advocates, to a prison term of five years and eight months on terrorism-related charges, her family said in a statement.

Human rights groups said the charges were solely based on Hathloul’s activism: her contacts with journalists, diplomats and other human rights advocates, as well as her calls to end a system of male “guardianship” in the kingdom, according to the indictment.

The court suspended a portion of her sentence, which means Hathloul could be released within the next few months, her family said.

Hathloul, 31, is perhaps best known for campaigning for the right of Saudi women to drive. She has been in custody since May 2018 and was arrested as part of a government roundup of prominent women’s rights advocates, some of whom were branded as “traitors” in government-friendly news outlets and initially accused of aiding the kingdom’s foreign enemies.

 

Dec. 28

Top Headlines


Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Courts, Media

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump signs stimulus bill into law, averting shutdown, Dec. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s decision to back down and sign the measure released $900 billion in stimulus funds into the economy that had been held up for nearly a week. The consequences of inaction were immense: Unemployment benefits, eviction protections, small business aid and stimulus checks would all be frozen — and a government shutdown would begin.

djt old looking resized headshotPresident Trump unexpectedly capitulated Sunday night and signed the stimulus bill into law, releasing $900 billion in emergency relief funds into the economy and averting a Tuesday government shutdown.

After holding the bill up for nearly a week, White House officials didn’t explain why he decided to suddenly back down and sign a bill into law he had just days earlier referred to as a “disgrace.”

Trump signed the bill while vacationing in Florida and on a weekend when he had allowed unemployment benefits for 14 million Americans to expire.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has no idea what he’s even trying to do, Bill Palmer, Dec. 28, 2020. After spending all week refusing to sign the stimulus relief bill because he said it wasn’t to his liking, Donald Trump went ahead and signed it last night anyway – after having gained zero concessions. It’s a reminder that Trump really is the worst deal maker in history.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s also a reminder that Trump has absolutely no idea what he’s even trying to do. He keeps tweeting that he wants the $600 relief checks increased to $2,000, but he’s made no effort to make this happen. The Democratic House is about to approve $2,000 checks today, but Trump has seemingly given no guidance to what he wants his own party to do about it in the Republican Senate.

If Trump had any coherence to his strategy, he’d be pushing the Republican Senate to support the $2,000 relief checks, so he could try to take credit for the whole thing. It might or might not work, but he’s seemingly not even making that simple play. Nor does Trump seem to be doing anything to try to take credit for the ongoing vaccine rollout, or much of anything else. There are opportunities, albeit isolated ones, but he’s not even grasping at those.

washington post logoWashington Post, Authorities identify Nashville bomber, say remains found in wreckage, Michael Kranish, Paulina Firozi, Brandon Gee and Meryl Kornfield, Dec. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Investigators matched human remains found at the scene with Anthony Q. Warner’s DNA, confirming suspicions that he blew himself up on Christmas Day, police said. They are still searching for information on his motive.

Anthony Quinn Warner was responsible for the Christmas morning explosion that rocked downtown Nashville, officials said Sunday, and he was killed in the blast.

Investigators matched human remains found at the scene with Warner’s DNA, confirming suspicions that he blew himself up in a recreational vehicle, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch told reporters. Law enforcement said they were still investigating a motive behind the incident.

Authorities had assembled Saturday at Warner’s home in Antioch, Tenn., located about 10 miles southeast of the explosion site. Several neighbors described seeing an RV similar to the one that blew up on Friday morning in the backyard of the Antioch home.

Warner, 63, was unmarried and rarely ventured from his home, according to neighbors, living for years with his parents and then by himself. He once owned an alarm company, and he protected his home with an array of security cameras, rarely returning a neighborly wave and not responding to an offer of Christmas dinner, neighbors said in interviews.

The RV detonated in front of an AT&T transmission building in downtown Nashville, damaging more than 40 businesses and causing widespread disruptions to cell service and Internet connections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: CDC wasted weeks pursuing complex test at pandemic’s start, David Willman, Dec. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Thai scientists deployed a coronavirus test within hours. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took 46 days to roll out a working test as the virus spread.

A new virus was exploding in Wuhan, a Chinese city with 11 million people connected by its airport to destinations around the world. In the United States, cdc logo Customdoctors and hospitals were waiting for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a test to detect the threat.

On Jan. 13, the World Health Organization had made public a recipe for how to configure such a test, and several countries wasted no time getting started: Within hours, scientists in Thailand used the instructions to deploy a new test.

The CDC would not roll out one that worked for 46 more days.

world health organization logo CustomInside the 15-acre campus of the CDC in northeast Atlanta, the senior scientists developing the coronavirus test were fighting and losing the battle against time.

The agency squandered weeks as it pursued a test design far more complicated than the WHO version and as its scientists wrestled with failures that regulators would later trace to a contaminated lab.

The Washington Post reviewed internal documents and interviewed more than 30 government scientists and others with knowledge of the events to understand more fully the missteps in those early weeks as the coronavirus began to spread unchecked across the nation. Most spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to do so publicly.

Robert RedfieldThis account reveals new details about how an overly ambitious test design and laboratory contamination caused the CDC’s delay, and describes previously unreported challenges that confronted the agency scientists assigned to carry out the work.

CDC Director Robert Redfield, right,an appointee of President Trump, took a hands-off approach while the in-house manufacturing efforts foundered and agency scientists clashed over whether to alter the design of the problem-plagued test, according to CDC and other federal officials.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: 450 Million People, 27 Nations: Europe’s Vaccination Campaign Takes Off, Staff Reports, Dec. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The European Union’s enormous campaign against the coronavirus started with older people and the workers who care for them; It was a rare respite as the continent struggles with one of its most precarious moments of the pandemic.

The effort to protect people in 27 nations started with inoculations in nursing homes and hospitals. “Today Italy reawakens,” the prime minister said after a 29-year-old nurse received the country’s first shot. Here’s the latest.

  • Germany’s vaccine rollout comes after months of preparation.
  • In efforts to vaccinate Europeans, a push to overcome skepticism.
  • In some E.U. countries, vaccinations will start in the coming days.
  • Pope Frances welcomed a vaccine’s arrival in Italy, where nearly 10,000 doses were given on Sunday.
  • Canada, France, Japan, Spain and Sweden find cases of the new coronavirus variant.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 28, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 81,228,574, Deaths: 1,773,811
U.S. Cases:   19,573,847, Deaths: 341,138

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 28, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Courts, Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: At least we know that Trump's not serious about 2024, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 28, 2020. As if an attempted coup, insulting the jennifer rubin new headshot“totally incompetent and weak” Supreme Court (including three appointees who supposedly were his big gift to conservatives), and refusing even to comment on the covid-19 surge did not make it clear, President Trump’s recent actions should show he is not seriously contemplating another presidential run in 2024.

Not even he could be so delusional as to imagine this recent flurry of destructive behavior helps him retain plausibility as a future presidential contender.

If he manages to sabotage the two Georgia GOP Senate candidates, he will deprive Republicans of the Senate majority, which would greatly assist President-elect Joe Biden in getting his nominees and legislative agenda through Congress.

This is the conduct of someone who wants to burn down his party — and the country — if he cannot be president. While his cruelty still astounds, his temper tantrum also reveals the foolishness of Republicans who placated and defended him for four years.

 ny times logoNew York Times, House Vote on Overriding Trump’s Military Bill Veto, Staff reports, Dec. 28, 2020. The vote tonight sets up the first veto override of his presidency. The bill passed by overwhelming margins, though some Republicans who voted for it have indicated they will sustain his veto

jon ossoff warnock

ny times logoNew York Times, Ossoff Got Some Breaks in Politics, and He Made a Few of His Own, Reid J. Epstein and Serge F. Kovaleski, Dec. 28, 2020. Some well-timed introductions and a knack for opportunity have helped Jon Ossoff, above, in Georgia. Now he carries Democratic hopes in a Senate runoff.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Officers Killed Breonna Taylor, Malachy Browne, Anjali Singhvi, Natalie Reneau and Drew Jordan, Dec. 28, 2020 (video report). None of the police officers who raided her home wore body cameras. Our video reconstructs the critical sequence of events that led to a fatal outcome.

washington post logoWashington Post, This D.C. hotel is historic, affordable and, lately, the Proud Boys’ unofficial headquarters, Joe Heim and Marissa J. Lang, Dec. 27, 2020. The repeated and growing presence of the militant far-right group at the Hotel Harrington and its bar, Harry’s, has unnerved some guests and workers, many of whom are Black and Hispanic and were intimidated by their presence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: A Cheerleader’s Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 28, 2020. A Pennsylvania school district adam liptakhas asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether students may be disciplined for what they say on social media. The Supreme Court next month will consider whether to hear the case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., involving a student’s freedom of speech while off school grounds.

It was a Saturday in the spring of 2017, and a ninth-grade student in Pennsylvania was having a bad day. She had just learned that she had failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad and would remain on junior varsity.

The student expressed her frustration on social media, sending a message on Snapchat to about 250 friends. The message included an image of the student and a friend with their middle fingers raised, along with text expressing a similar sentiment. Using a curse word four times, the student expressed her dissatisfaction with “school,” “softball,” “cheer” and “everything.”

Though Snapchat messages are ephemeral by design, another student took a screenshot of this one and showed it to her mother, a coach. The school suspended the student from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to “avoid chaos” and maintain a “teamlike environment.”

Next month, at its first private conference after the holiday break, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the case, Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., No. 20-255. The Third Circuit’s ruling is in tension with decisions from several other courts, and such splits often invite Supreme Court review.

The key precedent is from a different era. In 1969, in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Supreme Court allowed students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War but said disruptive speech, at least on school grounds, could be punished.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Heather Cox Richardson Offers a Break From the Media Maelstrom. It’s Working, Ben Smith, Dec. 28, 2020 (print ed.). She is the breakout star of the newsletter platform Substack, doing the opposite of most media as she calmly situates the news of the day in the long sweep of American history.

Last Wednesday, I broke the news to Heather Cox Richardson that she was the most successful individual author of a paid publication on the breakout newsletter platform Substack.

Early that morning, she had posted that day’s installment of “Letters From an American” to Facebook, quickly garnering more than 50,000 reactions and then, at 2:14 a.m., she emailed it to about 350,000 people. She summarized, as she always does, the events of the day, and her 1,120 words covered a bipartisan vote on a spending measure, President Trump’s surprise attack on that bill, and a wave of presidential pardons. Her voice was, as it always is, calm, at a slight distance from the moment: “Normally, pardons go through the Justice Department, reviewed by the pardon attorney there, but the president has the right to act without consulting the Department of Justice,” she wrote. “He has done so.”

The news of her ranking seemed to startle Dr. Richardson, who in her day job is a professor of 19th century American history at Boston College. The Substack leader board, a subject of fascination among media insiders, is a long way from her life on a Maine peninsula — particularly as the pandemic has ended her commute — that seems drawn from the era she studies. On our Zoom chat, she sat under a portrait that appeared as if it could be her in period costume, but is, in fact, her great-great-grandmother, who lived in the same fishing village, population a bit over 600.

 

Dec. 27

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Pandemic Aid

 

U.S. Crime, Race, Education

Prominent Passings

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Trump’s Fraud Claims Died in Court, but Myth of Stolen Elections Lives, Jim Rutenberg, Nick Corasaniti and Alan Feuer, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). For years, Republicans have used the specter of cheating as a reason to impose barriers to ballot access. A definitive debunking of claims of wrongdoing in 2020 has not changed that message.

djt mouth openPresident Trump’s baseless and desperate claims of a stolen election over the last seven weeks — the most aggressive promotion of “voter fraud” in American history — failed to get any traction in courts across seven states, or come anywhere close to reversing the loss he suffered to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But the effort has led to at least one unexpected and profoundly different result: A thorough debunking of the sorts of voter fraud claims that Republicans have used to roll back voting rights for the better part of the young century.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn making their case in real courts and the court of public opinion, Mr. Trump and his allies have trotted out a series of tropes and canards similar to those Republicans have pushed to justify laws that in many cases made voting disproportionately harder for Blacks and Hispanics, who largely support Democrats.

Their allegations that thousands of people “double voted” by assuming other identities at polling booths echoed those that have previously been cited as a reason to impose strict new voter identification laws.

joe biden twitterTheir assertion that large numbers of noncitizens cast illegal votes for Mr. Biden matched claims Republicans have made to argue for harsh new “proof of citizenship” requirements for voter registration.

And their tales about large numbers of cheaters casting ballots in the name of “dead voters” were akin to those several states have used to conduct aggressive “purges” of voting lists that wrongfully slated tens of thousands of registrations for termination.

After bringing some 60 lawsuits, and even offering financial incentive for information about fraud, Mr. Trump and his allies have failed to prove definitively any case of illegal voting on behalf of their opponent in court — not a single case of an undocumented immigrant casting a ballot, a citizen double voting, nor any credible evidence that legions of the voting dead gave Mr. Biden a victory that wasn’t his

ny times logoNew York Times, As Virus Resurges in Africa, Doctors Fear the Worst Is Yet to Come, Sheri Fink, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). When the pandemic began, the coronavirus killed far fewer people in Africa than in Europe and the Americas. Now, a tide of new cases on the continent is raising alarms.

When the pandemic began, global public health officials raised grave concerns about the vulnerabilities of Africa. But its countries overall appeared to fare far better than those in Europe or the Americas, upending scientists’ expectations. Now, the coronavirus is on the rise again in swaths of the continent, posing a new, possibly deadlier threat.

In South Africa, a crush of new cases that spread from Port Elizabeth is growing exponentially across the nation, with deaths mounting. Eight countries, including Nigeria, Uganda and Mali, recently recorded their highest daily case counts all year. “The second wave is here,” John N. Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has declared.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Palmer Report, Opinion: Did Donald Trump just fall for the bait and switch? Bill Palmer, Dec. 27, 2020. Donald Trump signed the stimulus relief bill on Sunday night, after spending a week getting none of the changes that he was demanding. But based on the signing statements he added to the bill, he appears to now mistakenly believe that he has line item veto power.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s common for presidents to attach signing statements to bills, but they’re more for the historical record than anything; they certainly carry no legal weight, and don’t change the legislation in any way. The president can either sign a bill or veto it, not edit on the fly.

But Trump is claiming that he’s sending a “redlined” version of the bill back to Congress, when in reality he’s not sending anything back to Congress. He signed the bill. It’s now law. The end.

Now comes the question of what led Donald Trump to sign this bill into law while performing essentially imaginary edits to it. Did someone in his own circle trick him into signing the bill by telling him that red line edits actually count for something? Is Trump that far gone that he actually fell for it?

washington post logoWashington Post, Mnuchin’s loyalty to Trump could end with painful setback as president shreds relief deal, Jeff Stein, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Lawmakers had thought the treasury secretary was speaking for the president in negotiating the $908 billion pact, but President Trump called it a “disgrace.”

President Trump on Saturday continued to demand changes to the $900 billion stimulus deal that Democrats and Republicans approved on Dec. 21, steven mnuchin wraising the odds that the government could shut down on Tuesday and the economy could suffer a devastating shock in the final days of his presidency.

“I simply want to get out great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” Trump wrote in a tweet.

His demand for $2,000 stimulus checks is a direct rejection of the $600 checks that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, had personally proposed and negotiated with Democrats and Republicans. Now, Trump’s rejection of the deal has confounded many leaders on Capitol Hill because they had thought Mnuchin negotiated the package on behalf of the president. The treasury chief’s standing with many lawmakers is now in tatters just days before a full-blown crisis is set to occur.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 27, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 80,815,253, Deaths: 1,766,796
U.S. Cases:   19,436,574, Deaths:    339,934

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 27, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Why 530 Frozen Bodies Sit in a Brooklyn Warehouse, Sharon Otterman, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). In the first wave of Covid, the crush of bodies overwhelmed New York City’s capacity to deal with the dead. Now, the city is prepared if a second onslaught occurs.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Great Cultural Depression’ Looms for Legions of Unemployed Performers, Patricia Cohen, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). With theaters and concert halls shuttered, unemployment in the arts has cut deeper than in restaurants and other hard-hit industries.

In the top echelons of classical music, the violinist Jennifer Koh is by any measure a star.

With a dazzling technique, she has ridden a career that any aspiring Juilliard grad would dream about — appearing with leading orchestras, recording new works, and performing on some of the world’s most prestigious stages.

Now, nine months into a contagion that has halted most public gatherings and decimated the performing arts, Ms. Koh, who watched a year’s worth of bookings evaporate, is playing music from her living room and receiving food stamps.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republicans begin openly feuding with each other as Donald Trump circles the drain, Bill Palmer, Dec. 27, 2020. With Donald Trump now just three and a half weeks from exiting politics and becoming a defendant and/or inmate for the rest of his life, the Republicans in office really don’t seem to know what to do with themselves. Do they gamble on pandering to Trump’s base? Do they try to get out ahead of Trump’s ugly downfall by attacking him? Do they pretend that Trump never existed?

bill palmer report logo headerThe reality is that each House Republican will land on a different answer, depending on what their own district looks like, and where they think this is all headed. This will inevitably lead to some of them turning on each other. In fact, with Trump having given up entirely on providing any leadership or guidance, we’re seeing some of this already.

adam kinzinger twitterFor instance, House Republican Adam Kinzinger (shown in his Twitter photo), who has long been anti-Trump, tweeted this on Saturday: “All this talk about Jan 6th from Donald Trump and other congressional grifters is simply explained: they will raise money and gain followers by blaming everyone else knowing full well they can’t do anything. It’s sad, and an utter scam.”

This prompted Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was just elected to the Republican House by pushing Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories, to fire back at Kinzinger: “How does it feel to be quote tweeted with resounding approval by Democrats & Progressives while you call marjorie greene campaignyourself ‘Republican’ & say #RestoreOurGOP? 75+ million ‘grifters’ know Donald Trump’s election was stolen.”

So we already have Kinzinger and Greene openly feuding about whether the future of the Republican Party should consist of throwing Trump under the bus, or driving the bus off a cliff. Of course Kinzinger and Greene are at opposite ends of the republican elephant logoRepublican spectrum when it comes to Trump, so naturally they’re among the first to begin trying to destroy each other.

But once Donald Trump is off the stage in a few weeks, we’ll see a lot more of this ugly infighting within the House Republican caucus. Trump will be too tied up in court to focus on politics at all, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is far too stupid to keep his caucus together once Trump is gone.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Stinging Setback in California Is a Warning for Democrats in 2022, Adam Nagourney, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Democrats lost four swing House districts in the state, suggesting that their hold on a number of formerly Republican seats is tenuous at best.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosTwo years ago, Democrats celebrated a sweep of seven Republican-held congressional seats in California as evidence of the party’s growing ability to compete in swing districts here and across the nation.

But this year, Republicans snatched back four of those seats even as Joseph R. Biden Jr. swamped President Trump in California. The losses stunned Democrats and contributed to the razor-thin margin the party will hold in the House of Representatives this January.

republican elephant logoThe turnaround is testimony to how competitive the seats are, particularly in Orange County, once a bastion of conservative Republicanism that has been moving steadily Democratic over the past 20 years.

But by any measure, the results were a setback for Democrats in this state and nationally, signaling the steep obstacles they will face in 2022 competing in the predominantly suburban swing districts that fueled their takeover of the House in 2018.

The attacks — led in no small part by Mr. Trump as a central part of his re-election strategy — came at a time when parts of California were swept by street protests against police abuses and racial injustice, some of which turned into glass-shattering bouts of looting and confrontations with law enforcement that were heavily covered on local television.

Business Insider via Yahoo! News, Former Trump aide Omarosa said that she thinks he's 'going through a psychotic episode' over his election loss, Travis omarosa manigault newman unhinged coverClark, Dec. 27, 2020. Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former communications director of the White House Office of Public Liaison, said in an interview with MSNBC's Alex Witt on Saturday that she thinks President Trump is "going through a psychotic episode" over his election loss.

Since losing reelection to President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has regularly made false claims about election fraud and sought to overturn the results through lawsuits that have gone nowhere. Election officials have found no evidence of voter fraud.

Witt asked Manigault Newman, widely known as just Omarosa, if she thinks Trump really believes that he won.

"I think that he has come to terms with his loss, but his arrogance, his ego will not allow him to accept that he is not going to be president come January."

Manigault Newman (shown on the cover of her No. 1 best-selling book Unhinged), who was also a contestant on Trump's reality TV series "The Apprentice," added that his actions since the election remind her of the show because he's "trying to produce a moment" to change the results.

"But this is not 'The Apprentice', this is not a reality show," she said. "The American people need true leadership, not a reality TV host, which Donald Trump is reverting to."

ny times logoNew York Times, Jobless Benefits Run Out as Trump Resists Signing Relief Bill, Emily Cochrane, Updated Dec. 27, 2020. Millions of Americans lost their unemployment coverage on Saturday as President Trump resisted signing a sweeping $900 billion aid package until lawmakers more than tripled the size of relief checks, putting the fate of the measure in limbo.

djt handwave fileMr. Trump’s resistance to signing the bill risks leaving millions of unemployed Americans without crucial benefits, jeopardizes other critical assistance for businesses and families set to lapse at the end of the year and raises the possibility of a government shutdown on Tuesday.

The president blindsided lawmakers this week when he described as “a disgrace” a relief compromise that overwhelmingly passed both chambers and was negotiated by his own Treasury secretary.

He hinted that he might veto the measure unless lawmakers raised the bill’s $600 direct payment checks to $2,000, and Mr. Trump, who was largely absent from negotiations over the compromise, doubled down on that criticism on Saturday while offering little clarity on his plans. A White House spokesman declined to indicate what the president intended to do.

republican elephant logo“I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter Saturday, a day he continued to dedicate many of his posts to falsehoods about the election. “Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork.’”

If the president does not sign the $2.3 trillion spending package, which includes the $900 billion in pandemic aid as well as funding to keep the government open past Monday, coverage under two federal jobless programs that expanded and extended benefits will have ended on Saturday for millions of unemployed workers.

lin wood djt march 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just blew it again, Bill Palmer, Dec. 27, 2020. Trump just keeps finding ways to make things even harder for average Americans — including the ones who just gullibly voted for him last month.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump’s lawyer Lin Wood (shown above at left in the Oval Office in March 2020) says Republican voters should boycott the Georgia Senate runoffs. I agree with him 100%. Trump supporters should definitely stay home on January 5th and send the Republican Party a message.

Tweet of the day, from Mark Hamill: “If a Democratic Presidential Candidate falsely claimed an Election was Rigged & Stolen — with NO proof of such acts & rejected by every judge at a level never seen before — the public would consider it an act of a desperate delusional sore loser & laugh themselves to death.”

 

U.S. Crime, Race, Education

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It takes a team to fix the Justice Department, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 27, 2020. jennifer rubin new headshotThe variety and seriousness of the issues facing the next attorney general are daunting and include depoliticizing enforcement and sentencing decisions, diversifying the department’s workforce, enforcing of civil rights and police reform, and making the pardon system more transparent.

President-elect Joe Biden is taking his time, wisely in my view, to find the person whom he can trust to undertake all that while maintaining an appropriate separation between political aides at the White House and the Justice Department.

As Biden put it, there is no “obvious choice” for attorney general.

Each of the leading candidates has deficits. Former acting attorney general Sally Yates, right, may not get confirmed. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) may not have Sally Yatesthe experience to navigate and shake-up the department. Judge Merrick Garland, too moderate for some activists, would open up a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

With no standout pick, Biden may wait until the Georgia Senate races are held on Jan. 5 to assess Yates’s chances in the Senate.

Justice Department log circularGiving himself more time also allows Biden to consider whether there are other candidates for the top job who would combine experience and add diversity. Long-time U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal, New York state attorney general Letitia James, or progressive jurist and Justice Department veteran Nina Pillard from the D.C. Circuit would all fit the bill.

The passage of time also raises new challenges that might require someone with a different background. The stunning cyber-attack we recently learned about underscores the national-security aspect of the job. That would point to someone like Lisa Monaco, who helped vet Biden’s vice presidential candidates. She has decades of experience in the national security realm, both at the White House and at the Justice Department.

The Post also reports that “it is possible that when he reveals his decision, he also will announce picks for deputy attorney general, associate attorney general and solicitor general.” Waiting to announcing a senior team to lead the Justice Department certainly could minimize any gaps or shortcomings Biden’s attorney general pick might have. Garland may seem too moderate to satisfy some progressive civil rights groups, but announcing his name along with, for example, former head of the civil rights division Vanita Gupta as the deputy or associate attorney general would provide reassurance he will move aggressively on civil rights enforcement and police reform.

djt michael cohen disloyal

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s criminal culpability, Robert Harrington, Dec. 27, 2020. In all of Donald Trump’s pardons and commutations to date, robert harringtnn portraitsixty of the sixty-five have a personal connection. While the Constitution places no barrier on pardons or commutations and no standard by which they must adhere, it is nevertheless so very, er, Trumpian — for lack of a better word — that most of Donald Trump’s pardons and commutations could be construed as having a corrupt purpose.

Cory Booker puts it even more plainly in his recent tweet: “A pardon is supposed to be an instrument of justice — not a tool of corruption.”

bill palmer report logo headerIn a recent interview with CBS, former fixer and hatchet man for Donald Trump Michael Cohen, above right — who is currently serving an in-home three year sentence for fraud and lying to Congress during the Russia probe — gave his opinion about Trump’s perceived abuse of the presidential pardon. Cohen also used the opportunity to plug his book, Disloyal, which became a New York Times bestseller, and to plug his upcoming book which will, no doubt, also be a bestseller.

The difference between what Cohen has to say and what Trump has to say boils down to — what else? — evidence. Cohen’s testimony in court and his final mea culpa before Congress has been backed by impressive mountains of evidence.

djt hands up mouth open CustomThe bottom line, as far as Cohen is concerned, is that Trump is going to face a mountain of legal issues once he leaves office, because “I have been questioned by the attorney general’s team on many occasions now as well as the District Attorney’s office … I know what it is they’re looking for.” That they will be prosecuting Donald Trump Cohen has no doubt.

Cohen cannot get into details because “it’s an ongoing investigation,” but, “it has to do with his finances, it has to do with his tax returns, it has to do with his properties, it has to do with the financial personal statements that he provided in order to obtain loans.” So if Cohen is right, Donald Trump is in significant civil and criminal jeopardy.

Cohen also thinks Trump is on the order of a billion dollars in debt. Trump, of course, calls Cohen a liar, and that is one of his more polite adjectives used by the one-term lame duck president. “The fact that Donald Trump calls me a liar,” Cohen avers, “should automatically mean that I’m telling the truth.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Agents Scour Home as They Hunt for Clues in Nashville Blast, Rick Rojas, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Steve Cavendish, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Investigators said they were working to determine whether more than one person was involved in the Christmas Day explosion that rattled Nashville.

Investigators were rushing on Saturday to piece together what officials described as an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, chasing hundreds of leads, to identify the culprit and the motivation behind the Christmas Day explosion that rocked Nashville.

Federal officials said on Saturday that the investigation included hundreds of federal agents, who were following up on nearly 500 tips that had been called in since Friday. They said they were still trying to determine whether more than one person was involved.

The authorities have identified a 63-year-old man who apparently owned an R.V. similar to the one in the bombing and were seeking to question him, according to a federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

On Saturday morning, several dozen investigators with the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began searching a brick duplex in Antioch, a neighborhood in the Nashville area. An image of the building from May 2019, captured on Google Street View, shows an R.V. in the yard that appears similar to the one that the authorities say is at the center of the explosion.

“Our investigative team is turning over every stone,” Douglas Korneski, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I. field office in Memphis, said in a news conference on Saturday, “to make sure we know as many details as possible to answer the question of who is responsible for this, and also to understand why did they do this.”

In Nashville, a several-block area was closed off in a search for evidence on Saturday. Officials said that they were aware of no other explosive threats and that the search so far had not uncovered any other devices in the area.

“It is like a giant jigsaw puzzle created by a bomb that throws pieces of evidence across multiple city blocks,” Donald Q. Cochran, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said during the Saturday briefing. “They have got to gather it, they have got to catalog it, put it back together.”

The explosion came on Friday morning after Nashville police officers responding to a complaint about gunfire encountered an R.V. parked on Second Avenue North blaring a message that a bomb was about to detonate. The blast rippled across several blocks, blowing windows and even causing one building to collapse, and it left Nashville rattled and perplexed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nashville Explosion: What to Know, Staff Reports, Updated Dec. 27, 2020. Officials named a 63-year-old man as a person of interest in the Christmas morning explosion in downtown Nashville.

Federal agents have searched the home of the man, Anthony Quinn Warner, in Antioch, Tenn., roughly 11 miles from the site of the blast, according to a federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. Mr. Warner apparently owns an R.V. similar to the one in the bombing, and investigators are seeking to question him.

A spokesman for the Nashville Police Department confirmed to The New York Times on Sunday that Mr. Warner was being sought. His identity had been reported by The Tennessean.

Mr. Warner has experience working with electronics, having been an information technology specialist for Nashville area businesses. He also had a burglar alarms business that was registered in Tennessee from 1993 to 1998, according to state records.

Several dozen investigators with the F.B.I. and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began searching a brick duplex in Antioch, a neighborhood in the Nashville area, on Saturday morning. Images of the same building from March and May 2019, captured on Google Street View, show an R.V. in the yard that appears similar to the one that the police say was detonated.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Racial Slur, a Viral Video, and a Reckoning, Dan Levin, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). A white high school student withdrew from her chosen college after a three-second video caused an uproar. The classmate who shared it has no regrets.

Jimmy Galligan was in history class last school year when his phone buzzed with a message. Once he clicked on it, he found a three-second video of a white classmate looking into the camera and uttering an anti-Black racial slur.

The slur, he said, was regularly hurled in classrooms and hallways throughout his years in the Loudoun County school district. He had brought the issue up to teachers and administrators but, much to his anger and frustration, his complaints had gone nowhere.

So he held on to the video, which was sent to him by a friend, and made a decision that would ricochet across Leesburg, Va., a town named for an ancestor of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee and whose school system had fought an order to desegregate for more than a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling.

“I wanted to get her where she would understand the severity of that word,” Mr. Galligan, 18, whose mother is Black and father is white, said of the classmate who uttered the slur. He tucked the video away, deciding to post it publicly when the time was right.

WIFR-TV (CBS affiliate in Rockford, IL), 37-year-old active military member charged with shooting, Staff Report, Dec. 27, 2020. A man faces murder charges and attempted murder charges after being arrested following the shooting at Don Carter Lanes on Saturday night.

Duke Webb, 37, a resident of Florida and active military member is currently being held in the Winnebago County Jail without bond. He is charged with three counts of first degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Webb is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Monday. This comes on the heels of a shooting that took place at Don Carter Lanes Saturday night, when Rockford Police responded to a shots fired call just before 7 p.m., reported as a “completely random act.”

Officials say there are six victims in total. A 73-year-old male, a 65-year old male and a 69-year-old male were killed in the shooting. Two teens were at the establishment to pick up food for carry-out.

 

Prominent Passings

SBNation Celtics Blog, KC: the quiet Celtics legend who won at every level, Professor Parquet, Dec 27, 2020. That understated, slightly enigmatic style fit the nba logoformer Boston Celtic who won eight NBA titles as a player, two as a head coach and one more as an assistant for the hated Lakers.

K.C. Jones, who died at age 88, became the latest sports legend to pass away in this difficult year which also included the death of long-time teammate, Tom Heinsohn. He is one of just a handful of men to win an NCAA title, Olympic gold medal and NBA title as a player.

In his first eight NBA seasons after a military hitch, Boston won the championship each year. In his last season they finally were unseated as champs by the 76ers in 1967.

After serving as a valuable reserve apprenticing under the great Bob Cousy, he had the unenviable task of succeeding the league’s most popular player when the legend retire in 1963. All he did was help lead Boston to three more crowns. He wasn’t a good shooter, nor the kc jones bill russell resized mike kullen appasser or scorer Bob was, and he didn’t run the fast break with the aplomb of Cooz, but he was a superior defender and a tough competitor, clever and unselfish.

College teammate and roommate Bill Russell (shown at left with Jones in an AP photo by Mike Kullen) said the taciturn Jones knew more about basketball than anyone he ever met.

In the mid 1980s, when Larry Bird was at his peak, Jones was the head coach of the Celtics. He led Boston to the NBA Finals in each of his first four seasons. They won it all in 1984 and 1986, and lost to the Laker in six games in 1985 and 1987 in large part due to injuries and a rougher road to The Finals.

Justice Integrity Project editor Andrew Kreig covered the Jones-led Celtics during the 1982-83 season as the Hartford Courant's NBA writer, primarily covering the Celtics.

 ny times logoNew York Times, George Blake, British Spy Who Betrayed the West, Dies at 98, Robert D. McFadden, Dec. 27, 2020 (print ed.). He was caught spilling secrets to the Soviets in 1961 and imprisoned. Five years later, he escaped and fled to Moscow, where he was hailed a hero. He is shown below in a 1992 george blake 1992 at left 1961 mugshotphoto and at right in a 1961 mug shot.

George Blake, a notorious British double agent who betrayed Cold War secrets and Western spies to the Soviet Union in the 1950s and, after being caught, staged a spectacular escape to live out his life as a K.G.B. colonel in Moscow, has died. He was 98.

“Colonel Blake was a brilliant professional of a special kind and courage,” President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said in a statement. “In the years of his difficult and intense service, he made a truly invaluable contribution to ensuring strategic parity and preserving peace on the planet.”

United Kingdom flagLike the Cambridge-educated moles Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, Blake became a dedicated Marxist, disillusioned with the West, and a high British intelligence officer while secretly working for the Soviets. His clandestine life lasted less than a decade, but had cost the lives of many agents and had destroyed vital British and American operations in Europe.

But unlike the Cambridge clique, who defected when the authorities closed in, Blake was caught in 1961, tried secretly and sentenced to 42 years in prison. Five years later, with inside and outside help, he escaped from London’s Wormwood Scrubs prison and fled to Moscow. He left behind a wife, three children and an uproar over his getaway, the tatters of a case that encapsulated the intrigues of a perilous nuclear age, with flash points in Korea and Germany, where Blake served.

Settling into a new life in Moscow in 1966, Blake assumed the identity of Colonel Georgiy Ivanovich Bleyk, was awarded the Order of Lenin and given a pension and an apartment. He divorced his wife, remarried and had a son and grandson, helped train Soviet agents and on his 85th birthday in 2007, received the Order of Friendship from President Vladimir Putin of Russia. He wrote an autobiography, No Other Choice (1990) and a memoir, Transparent Walls (2006).

In a 1991 interview with NBC News, Blake voiced regret over the deaths of agents he had exposed, but not over his espionage. He denied being a traitor, insisting he had never regarded himself as British, though he was the son of a naturalized subject. “To betray, you first have to belong,” he later said. “I never belonged.”

 

Dec. 26

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Pandemic Aid

 

 U.S. Law, Crime, Race, Courts

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Unemployment Aid Set to Lapse Saturday as Trump’s Plans Remain Unclear, Alan Rappeport, Updated Dec. 26, 2020. At least a temporary lapse in expanded unemployment benefits is inevitable because of President Trump’s delay in signing a $900 billion pandemic relief bill. Expanded unemployment benefits were set to lapse for millions of struggling Americans on Saturday, a day after President Trump expressed more criticism of a $900 billion pandemic relief bill that was awaiting his signature and would extend them.

The sprawling economic relief package that Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support would extend the amount of time that people can collect unemployment benefits until March and revive supplemental unemployment benefits for millions of Americans at $300 a week on top of the usual state benefit.

If Mr. Trump signs the bill on Saturday, states will still need time to reprogram their computer systems to account for the new law, according to Michele Evermore of the National Employment Law Project, but unemployed workers would still be able to claim the benefits.

Further delays could prove more costly. States cannot pay out benefits for weeks that begin before the bill is signed, meaning that if the president does not sign the bill by Saturday, benefits will not restart until the first week of January. But they will still end in mid-March, effectively trimming the extension to 10 weeks from 11.

Mr. Trump blindsided lawmakers on Tuesday when he hinted he may veto the measure, which he decided at the last minute was unsatisfactory. The most pressing issue prompted by the president’s delay was the fate of unemployment benefits. At least a temporary lapse in those benefits is now inevitable.

washington post logoWashington Post, Families on brink of eviction, hunger describe nightmare Christmas as $900 billion relief bill hangs in limbo, Heather Long and Rachel Siegel, Dec. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Struggling renters face avalanche of evictions without federal aid.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump is in la la land, Bill Palmer, Dec. 26, 2020. Donald Trump is still publicly calling for $2,000 stimulus relief checks, even as his puppet Kevin McCarthy has blocked a unanimous consent vote and forced Speaker Pelosi to bring the House back into session just to pass the $2,000 amendment.

bill palmer report logo headerThis means that either Trump is working behind the scenes to sabotage his own $2,000 check initiative, or he’s so far removed from the political process that he’s not bothering to participate in the process at all. Either way, his behavior has become essentially incoherent. Even if Trump thinks he can somehow magically save himself with $2000 checks, they’re not going to happen unless he actually leans on the Republicans.

donald trump twitterThere’s still no clear indication what Mitch McConnell will do in the Senate, once the House sends over the $2000 check amendment. At this point it’s anyone’s guess as to why McConnell seems to think the Republicans have better odds in the Georgia Senate runoffs if they don’t sign off on decent sized stimulus checks.

In any case it’s more clear than ever that we have no President of the United States. If he’d simply kept his mouth shut and signed the stimulus bill, at least $600 would be on its way to the American public. Because Trump has weighed in on the matter in such incoherent, listless, and seemingly senile fashion, Americans may end up getting no checks at all. Trump is in la la land.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 26, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 80,295,694, Deaths: 1,759,533
U.S. Cases:   19,210,460, Deaths:    338,263

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 26, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

TMZ, Zombies in Toronto Protest COVID Vaccine, Staff report, Dec. 26, 2020. COVID 2020 Zombies Protest Vaccines ... 'Questioning Vaccines is Murder.' It's good to know ... Canadians are now as crazy as us folks in the U.S. of A.

A group protesting the COVID vaccines dressed like zombies, kinda ... they had white masks, white hazmat suits ... the works, as they proselytized at the Fairview Mall in Toronto.

With an assist from a loudspeaker, they screamed, “Everyone loves the pharmaceutical companies” ... "Obedience is love ... questioning vaccines is murder ... you are not essential. Big business is essential. The government is essential. The government is life. ... questioning masks is murder ... thinking for yourself endangers the common good.”

It was peaceful, as zombies tend to be sometimes. At the end of the protest, for unsafe measure, they hugged and screamed, "Good job, everybody!"

It's the latest way some folks are expressing their feelings about the vaccine. The zombies may not have heard ... Toronto has 55,000 cases and 2,000 deaths, as of this week.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Power Plays

michael flynn djt

Former general and Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, shown above in a file photo separate from Trump's, has called for a military coup to maintain the presidency of Trump, who has pardoned Flynn from federal crimes stemming from lying at Flynn's contacts with Russians before taking office in January 2017. Flynn's attorney Sydney Powell, invited to the White House three times in recent days to meet with Trump, has been working on courtroom, political and media strategies to disallow voting results in multiple swing states to keep Trump in office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Sidney Powell’s secret intelligence contractor witness is a pro-Trump podcaster, Jon Swaine, Dec. 26, 2020 (print ed.). As she asked the U.S. Supreme Court this month to overturn President Trump’s election loss, the attorney Sidney Powell cited testimony from a secret witness presented as a former intelligence contractor with insights on a foreign conspiracy to subvert democracy.

sidney powellPowell, right, told courts that the witness is an expert who could show that overseas corporations helped shift votes to President-elect Joe Biden. The witness’s identity must be concealed from the public, Powell has said, to protect her “reputation, professional career and personal safety.”

The Washington Post identified the witness by determining that portions of her affidavit match, sometimes verbatim, a blog post that the pro-Trump podcaster Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman published in November 2019. In an interview, Maras-Lindeman confirmed that she wrote the affidavit and said she viewed it as her contribution to a fight against the theft of the election.

“This is everybody’s duty,” she said. “It’s just not fair.”

terpsichore maras lindemanIn a recent civil fraud case, attorneys for the state of North Dakota said that Maras-Lindeman, shown in a screenshot at left, falsely claimed to be a medical doctor and to have both a Ph.D. and an MBA. They said she used multiple aliases and social security numbers and created exaggerated online résumés as part of what they called “a persistent effort . . . to deceive others.”

Powell’s reliance on Maras-Lindeman’s testimony may raise further questions about her judgment and the strength of her arguments at a time when she is becoming an increasingly influential adviser to the president.

Trump’s legal team distanced itself from Powell last month after she falsely claimed Republican state officials took bribes to rig the election. But she has visited the White House three times in the past week, once to participate in an Oval Office meeting. Trump has weighed naming Powell a special counsel to investigate the election, according to previous reports.

Maras-Lindeman, 42, served in the Navy for less than a year more than two decades ago and has said she worked later as a government contractor and part-time interpreter. She has identified herself as a “trained cryptolinguist.”

North Dakota’s assertions about her credentials came in a civil case brought by the state’s attorney general in 2018 over a purported charitable event she tried to organize in Minot, N.D., where she and her family resided. Attorneys for the state said she used money she collected — ostensibly to fund homeless shelters and wreaths for veterans’ graves — on purchases for herself at McDonald’s, QVC and elsewhere.

A judge ultimately found that Maras-Lindeman violated consumer protection laws by, among other things, misspending money she raised and soliciting donations while misrepresenting her experience and education. He ordered her to pay more than $25,000.

Maras-Lindeman has appealed to the state Supreme Court. In court filings and in her interview with The Post, she denied mishandling the funds or misleading donors. She blamed identity theft and bureaucratic failings for a proliferation of variations on her name and social security numbers associated with her.


U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, A Stinging Setback in California Is a Warning for Democrats in 2022, Adam Nagourney, Dec. 26, 2020. Democrats lost four swing House districts in the state, suggesting that their hold on a number of formerly Republican seats is tenuous at best.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosTwo years ago, Democrats celebrated a sweep of seven Republican-held congressional seats in California as evidence of the party’s growing ability to compete in swing districts here and across the nation.

But this year, Republicans snatched back four of those seats even as Joseph R. Biden Jr. swamped President Trump in California. The losses stunned Democrats and contributed to the razor-thin margin the party will hold in the House of Representatives this January.

The turnaround is testimony to how competitive the seats are, particularly in Orange County, once a bastion of conservative Republicanism that has been moving steadily Democratic over the past 20 years.

But by any measure, the results were a setback for Democrats in this state and nationally, signaling the steep obstacles they will face in 2022 competing in the predominantly suburban swing districts that fueled their takeover of the House in 2018.

The attacks — led in no small part by Mr. Trump as a central part of his re-election strategy — came at a time when parts of California were swept by street protests against police abuses and racial injustice, some of which turned into glass-shattering bouts of looting and confrontations with law enforcement that were heavily covered on local television.

 

donald trump melania trump piano pose

TMZ, Donald Trump Says 'Elitist Snobs' in Fashion Biz Kept Melania Off Magazine Covers, Staff report, Dec. 26, 2020. Donald Trump has too many grievances to count ... the latest being his anger that Melania (shown in a file photo with him) has not graced a single magazine cover in the 4 years he's been President, and he thinks he knows why.

Trump tweeted his outrage that, as he called her, "the most elegant First Lady" has been blackballed from mag covers by "elite snobs," and without directly saying it, it seems he might be zeroing in on Anna Wintour.

Melania was on the cover of Vogue in 2005, shortly after her marriage to Trump, but that was it.

Michelle Obama, by contrast, was on the cover of Vogue 3 times during her tenure in the White House. The last cover was in November 2016 ... after Trump's victory. As you know, the Obamas popularity drives Trump insane, so no surprise here.

Melania was actually on one cover that we know of ... the February 2017 issue of Vanity Fair Mexico.

Wintour is not a Trump fan, for sure. She's been public about her political preferences, which include Kamala Harris, whom she profiled in April 2018.

How 'bout focusing on that COVID relief bill, please.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ossoff, Warnock each raised more than $100 million in two months, records show, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Anu Narayanswamy, Dec. 26, 2020 (print ed.). The two Democratic candidates in the upcoming Senate runoffs in Georgia each raised more than $100 million in the past two months — huge sums that put them ahead of their Republican opponents in closely watched races that will determine control of Congress's upper chamber.

jon ossoff warnockDemocrat Jon Ossoff, left, raised almost $107 million, while his Republican opponent, Sen. David Perdue, took in $68 million, according to Federal Election Commission reports made public Thursday night.

Democrat Raphael Warnock, right, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, raised $103 million while his opponent, Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, raised nearly $64 million, the filings show.

raphael warnockThe filings cover the period between Oct. 15 and Dec. 16, including a portion of the general election and six weeks of the runoff. They provide a snapshot of a race that has attracted national attention and, as was made clear Thursday, hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign cash.

Nearly half of the campaign haul for the two Democratic candidates came from people donating less than $200. Donations from such small-dollar givers made up 29 percent of Loeffler's haul and 25 percent of Perdue's.

Political groups and campaigns have spent nearly $468 million on ad buys in the two races, according to data from AdImpact.

Palmer Report, Opinion: David Perdue goes off the rails in Georgia Senate runoff race, James Sullivan, Dec. 26, 2020. The viral moment that put David Perdue’s race for re-election on the social media map – being sharply rebuked by his opponent Jon Ossoff for his willingness to put his constituents’ lives at david perdue headshotrisk while he profited off PPE is hardly one to be proud of.

It’s the reason that Perdue, right, has been avoiding even showing up in public with Ossoff at their scheduled debates so he can avoid being humiliated and looking as weak as he did in that particular moment. Perdue is hardly shy about campaigning, however – as he decided to take yet another page out of Donald Trump’s playbook and hold a massive rally in the same state currently suffering due to his criminal neglect.

bill palmer report logo headerOf course, Perdue felt the need to tweet pictures showing the size of the crowd on his social media, where he’s pictured alongside his equally corrupt running mate, Kelly Loeffler, right.

Georgia recently set a record for the highest number of recorded COVID cases just last kelly loeffler o Customweek and the state’s governor set an executive order banning social gatherings of over 50 people – an order that Perdue is clearly defying in his Twitter pics. In a way, this is perhaps the truest side of Perdue that most people will ever get to see – as he yet again defies rules that he feels are meant to be obeyed by those beneath him.

The trouble is that lives are being directly affected, and the state he’s hoping to represent in the Senate could be looking at a shortage of hospital beds very soon – with his superspreader events only making the problem worse.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Race, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, A Warning, Then a Blast: Nashville Explosion Was Deliberate, Jamie McGee, Rick Rojas, Lucy Tompkins and Derrick Bryson Taylor, Dec. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Before dawn, police officers found an R.V. blaring a strange and unsettling message: There was a bomb. It would detonate in 15 minutes.

First came the warning, then came the blast, shattering the Christmas morning silence in the heart of the city’s tourist district.

Before dawn on Friday, Nashville police officers rushed to calls of gunfire on Second Avenue, a strip of honky tonks, restaurants and boot shops. Instead of gunfire, they found an R.V., blaring a strange and unsettling message: There was a bomb. It would detonate in 15 minutes.

When the R.V. did explode, it sent plumes of smoke billowing above the city, blew out windows in shops and offices for several blocks, left three people hospitalized — and Nashville shaken.

Police said the explosion was deliberate. It was also deeply unsettling, coming in an area that draws thousands of people nightly. But who set it off and why remained unknown as officials began to make sense of the blast.

It is still unclear if a person was inside the R.V. when it exploded, officials said. In a news conference on Friday evening, police officials said there were no indications of fatalities, but possible human tissue had been found amid the debris.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes off the deep end in a haze of delusional desperation, Bill Palmer, Dec. 26, 2020. Just how poorly are things going President Donald Trump officialfor Donald Trump? He’s spent the day accusing the Supreme Court, the FBI, the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney John Durham, and Republican Senators of conspiring to hide the fact that he secretly won the 2020 election. Translation: he knows it’s all over for him.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump also made up a fake story today about an imaginary person who told him that elections in Afghanistan are better run than the 2020 U.S. election was. In response to this idiocy, “Move to Afghanistan” is now trending on Twitter. No one outside his shrinking lunatic base wants Trump here anymore. Then again, it’s doubtful that Afghanistan would want him either.

As Donald Trump’s delusional desperation grows more absurd, his most ardent remaining supporters are heading down that same path. Earlier today they tried to convince themselves on social media that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has secretly been arrested. This obviously didn’t happen. Trump and his supporters have always made up nonsense, but now that he’s lost and their movement is at a dead end, that nonsense is becoming more clinically insane.

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind Trump Clemency, a Case Study in Special Access, Kenneth P. Vogel, Eric Lipton and Jesse Drucker, Dec. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Philip Esformes was sentenced to 20 years for Medicare fraud. Then a well-connected organization supported by his family weighed in with the White House.

philip esformesPhilip Esformes, left, acquired a $1.6 million Ferrari and a $360,000 Swiss watch and traveled around the United States on a private jet, a spending spree fueled by the spoils from what federal prosecutors called one of the largest Medicare fraud cases in history.

“Philip Esformes is a man driven by almost unbounded greed,” Denise M. Stemen, an agent in the F.B.I.’s Miami field office, said last year after Mr. Esformes, 52, a nursing home operator, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the two-decade scheme that involved an estimated $1.3 billion worth of fraudulent claims.

djt smiling fileThat prison term ended suddenly this week, when President Trump commuted what remained of Mr. Esformes’s sentence.

His rapid path to clemency is a case study in how criminals with the right connections and resources have been able to cut through normal channels and gain the opportunity to make their case straight to the Trump White House.

Background: South Florida Business Journal, South Florida man sentenced to 20 years in $1B Medicare fraud, Ashley Portero, Sept. 13, 2019. Former health care executive Philip Esformes was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

philip esformesThe Miami Beach resident, right, was convicted on 20 criminal charges, including bribery and money laundering, in connection to what's been described as the largest Medicare fraud scheme in U.S. history.

“Esformes will now spend years in prison for orchestrating a kick-back and money laundering scheme that defrauded America’s health care system out of millions of dollars,” said Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

HHS logoEsformes was accused of billing Medicare and Medicaid programs for more than $1 billion in fraudulent services from 1998 to 2016. In April, a federal jury found him guilty of paying kickbacks to doctors and administrators and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

FBI logoEsformes operated a network of skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida, including Adar Associates, Eden Gardens LLC, Lauderhill Manor LLC, Flamingo Park Manor LLC and La Serena Retirement. The nursing homes admitted many Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, even if they did not qualify for those placements.

Once patients were admitted, the facilities billed the government health care programs for unnecessary treatments and services, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors claimed Esformes concealed inadequate care and conditions at the facilities by bribing an employee of a Florida state regulator. In return, he received advanced notice of surprise inspections to the facilities in his network (Emphasis added).

He personally received more than $37 million during the course of the fraud, according to court documents. Prosecutors said he spent some of the illegal proceeds on luxury cars, expensive clothes and watches, and on a bribe to a basketball coach at the University of Pennsylvania.

Odette Barcha, a hospital administrator, and Arnaldo Carmouze, a former physician assistant, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. In April, Carmouze was sentenced to 80 months in prison and ordered to pay $12,590,761 in restitution (Emphasis added). Barcha was sentenced to three to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay $704,516 in restitution.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Brexit Deal Done, Britain Now Scrambles to See How It Will Work, Benjamin Mueller Dec. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Britain’s departure from the E.U. is only the beginning of a high-stakes experiment to unstitch commercial relations across an integrated continent.

United Kingdom flagFor weary Brexit negotiators on both sides of the English Channel, a Christmas Eve trade agreement sealed 11 months of painstaking deliberations over Britain’s departure from the European Union, encompassing details as arcane as what species of fish could be caught by each side’s boats in British waters.

But for many others — among them bankers, traders, truckers, architects and millions of migrants — Christmas was only the beginning, Day 1 of a high-stakes and unpredictable experiment in how to unstitch a tight web of commercial relations across Europe.

european union logo rectangleThe deal, far from closing the book on Britain’s tumultuous partnership with Europe, has opened a new one, beginning on its first pages with what analysts say will be the biggest overnight change in modern commercial relations.

In the four years since Britons voted to cast off a half-century of ties to Europe, many migrants have stopped moving to Britain for work and British firms have sent employees to Paris and Frankfurt to set up toeholds on the continent. But for all those preparations, seven days are now all that stand between businesses and an avalanche of new trading obstacles on Jan. 1.

 

Dec. 25

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Pandemic Aid

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Race, Courts

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, House GOP blocks Democrats’ effort to advance $2,000 stimulus checks pushed by Trump, Jeff Stein, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). House Democrats also blocked a measure sought by Republicans to reevaluate U.S. spending on foreign aid, something President Trump pushed. The Christmas Eve move came as Trump has refused to sign a $900 billion economic relief package into law.

House Republicans on Thursday blocked an effort by House Democrats to approve $2,000 stimulus payments for millions of republican elephant logoAmericans. Democrats were seeking to advance the measure after President Trump demanded it on Tuesday night, breaking with many of his fellow Republicans.

House Democratic leadership attempted to advance the measure by “unanimous consent,” but the effort was blocked by Republican leadership.

Trump has hinted he will not sign a $900 billion emergency economic relief package into law unless these larger stimulus payments are approved. Many Democrats also support the higher payments, while most Republicans do not. But Trump’s late-stage intervention puts the entire package in jeopardy, and the government will shut down on Tuesday if there is not a resolution.

House Democrats also blocked a measure sought by Republicans to reevaluate U.S. spending on foreign aid, something Trump nancy pelosi djt 2 olderalso pushed for earlier this week.

“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), above right, said in a statement. “If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Families on brink of eviction, hunger describe nightmare Christmas as $900 billion relief bill hangs in limbo, Heather Long and Rachel Siegel, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Struggling renters face avalanche of evictions without federal aid.

washington post logoWashington Post, Explosion rocks Nashville in what police suspect was an ‘intentional’ act, Derek Hawkins and Paulina Firozi, Dec. 25, 2020. Early Christmas morning, police called a bomb squad to investigate a suspicious RV. Before the squad could arrive, a blast ripped through downtown, hospitalizing at least three people with noncritical injuries.

Investigators are working to create a timeline of events both before and after the explosion, Knight said. Authorities responded to the area around 6 a.m. local time after a report of shots fired on Second Avenue North.

ny times logopeter baker twitterNew York Times, Analysis: For a Defeated President, Pardons as an Expression of Grievance, Peter Baker, right, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s grants of clemency are a way to lash out at a system that he believes has treated him and his friends unfairly, Peter Baker writes.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Will Require Negative Coronavirus Test for All Travelers From Britain, Russell Goldman, Updated Dec. 25, 2020. The new rule, which takes effect on Monday, will apply to Americans as well as citizens of foreign countries.

The United States will require all airline passengers arriving from Britain to test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their departure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

United Kingdom flagThe move comes as a new highly transmissible variant of the virus, which first appeared in Britain, has led countries to seal their borders to travelers from there.

The new rule, which takes effect on Monday, will apply to Americans as well as foreign citizens, and will require passengers to show proof of a negative result on a genetic test, known as a P.C.R., or an antigen test.

cdc logo Custom“This additional testing requirement will fortify our protection of the American public to improve their health and safety and ensure responsible international travel,” the C.D.C. said in a statement.

Passengers will be required to“provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (in hard copy or electronic) to the airline,” the C.D.C. said, adding that “if a passenger chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger.”

washington post logoWashington Post, U.K. and E.U. announce trade deal, smoothing departure, William Booth, Michael Birnbaum and Karla Adam, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The pact will reshape relations between the two allies and antagonists for years to come, and may United Kingdom flagbegin to mute the bickering that has consumed the sides in rancorous, nationalistic debate.

After seemingly endless negotiations, Britain and the European Union on Thursday announced they had struck a post-Brexit trade and security deal, which will reshape relations between the two allies and antagonists for years to come, and may begin to mute the bickering that has consumed the sides in rancorous, often nationalistic debate.

european union logo rectangleThe outlines of the new pact were still emerging Thursday morning, but the deal will allow hundreds of billions of dollars in goods to continue to flow between Britain and the 27 remaining nations in the E.U., the richest trading club on the planet.

“The deal is done,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, posted on Twitter, along with a photo of himself boris johnson tiewith two thumbs up.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at a news conference: “It was a long and winding road. It is fair, it is a balanced deal, and it is the right and responsible thing to do for both sides.”

“Now is the time to turn the page and look to the future,” she said. “The United Kingdom is a third country. But it is a trusted partner. We share the same values and interests.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Brexit Is Finally Done, but It Already Seems Out of Date, Mark Landler, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The idea of an agile “Global Britain” was an effective sales pitch. But that was before President Trump and others began erecting barriers to trade.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: People Are Dying. Whom Do We Save First With the Vaccine? Emily Bazelon, Updated Dec. 25, 2020. With limited doses available, and a pandemic claiming more lives every day, a complex moral calculus has begun. Five thinkers weigh the choices ahead.

In mid-December, before a key vote by an advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a public debate flared up over what might cdc logo Customwell be the most momentous policy decision of 2021: how to distribute the Covid-19 vaccine. This particular fight centered on how to balance the vaccination of seniors (who die from the coronavirus at much higher rates than younger people) against that of essential workers (who, because they come into contact with many people over the course of any given day, risk getting sick themselves and becoming superspreaders).

That debate was just the first of what will be many contentious ones in the months to come, when supplies of Covid vaccine will surely be among the world’s most precious, scarce resources. The calculation of how to prioritize various groups inevitably touches on all the fault lines that divide American society — race, class, age, geography, occupation and more — and ultimately bleeds into the question of our ethical obligations to the poorer nations of the world, which risk being forced to wait for lifesaving vaccine supplies while the wealthy save themselves first.

djt virus news conference nyt photo Custom

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 25, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 79,847,901, Deaths: 1,751,685
U.S. Cases:   19,111,326, Deaths:    337,066

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 25, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

anthony fauci graphic Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci’s Christmas Eve: Turning 80, fighting the pandemic, Joel Achenbach, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The head of the U.S. pandemic response, shown above in a file photo, says he has worked every day since January. The adulation and criticism are mostly a distraction.

Anthony S. Fauci celebrates a big birthday on Christmas Eve. He’ll be 80. He says he has worked every day since January, often late into the night, laser-focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. He enters his ninth decade with remarkable vigor, and attributes his youthful appearance to genetics. His father lived to 97 and never looked his age.

To deal with the demands of his job, Fauci says he relies on the muscle memory from his days as a young doctor working crazy shifts in a big New York City hospital, often all through the night, triaging patients with life-threatening injuries.

“There is no option to get tired. There is no option to sit down and say ‘I’m sorry, I’ve had enough,’ ” he said. When fatigued, he recalled, he would tell himself: “I’m gonna dig deep and just suck it up.”

Which is kind of what he’s been advising the whole country.

 

Christmas Carol Through the AgesEbenezer Scrooge, left, the Charles Dickens character from

Ebenezer Scrooge, left, the Charles Dickens character from "A Christmas Carol," shown with clerk Bob Cratchit in John Leech illustrated from the 1843 book.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump gets Scrooged, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 25, 2020. Let’s be clear on one thing. A guy who is now forbidden by law to robert harringtnn portraitestablish a charity in the State of New York because he stole money from a children’s cancer fund doesn’t give a flying crap if Americans get a $2,000 stimulus check or not.

Donald Trump’s hint that he will veto a bill giving Americans a one-time stimulus payment of $600 because “it’s not enough” is nothing more than lame duck grandstanding by a child raping, murdering criminal on his way out the door. He’s playing politics with the lives of people. At Christmas.

bill palmer report logo headerThis is what you get when Ebenezer Scrooge is also a game show host. This is the cynical game a man like Trump can and will play, a man who was born into a family worth $200 million and has never known what hunger or poverty feels like. Trump is playing games with the lives of ordinary Americans and you can bet that some of them still think he’s “working hard” for ordinary Americans. He is in djt tax passage nydn cover Smallfact back at Mar-a-Lago for yet another round of golf. To Trump, Christmas is just an excuse to play golf.

Republicans are no better.

Mitch McConnell and the gang want one thing and one thing only: liability protection for corporations. In short, they want to protect major corporations who have abused their positions of power during the pandemic from being sued by Americans who have been screwed by their heartless, greedy policies. That this boon to corporate America will somehow trickle down to Americans who have lost their jobs and are struggling at Christmas is the fantasy Republicans are trying to sell. And they’re trying to sell it at Christmas.

This is why compassion matters.

In 2016 many people thought that by voting for Donald Trump they would finally make America successful by hiring a businessman. Instead, they got a heartless psychopath, a conscience-free game show host (as illustrated by many things, including covers of New York tabloids who know him well, as exemplified at right).

But as Jacob Marley said to Ebenezer Scrooge, “Mankind was my business!”

The message Dickens was sending to the England of the 1840s is as true today as it was then, a person’s worth is measured not by the size of their wallet but by the quality of their compassion.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Predicts Success in Congress Where Predecessors Failed, Michael D. Shear, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden insisted that his skills and his history would enable him to secure bipartisan support for bold initiatives. When he takes office next month, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will confront a sharply divided Congress where many Republicans argued that his election was fraudulent.

But Mr. Biden expressed optimism on Wednesday that his decades-long brand of centrist deal making would empower him to move beyond the bitter partisanship of the past four years and advance his agenda.

“My leverage is, every senior Republican knows I’ve never once, ever, misled them,” Mr. Biden said during a telephone conversation with several columnists, including David Leonhardt of The New York Times. “I’ll never publicly embarrass them.”

As vice president, Mr. Biden had a front-row seat to the eight years of obstruction that Republicans waged against President Barack Obama. In his second term, Mr. Obama all but abandoned hope for large-scale legislative victories, turning to executive actions instead. President Trump adopted a similar approach as he battled Democrats in the House.

But Mr. Biden insisted on Wednesday that his skills and his history gave him an opportunity to break the cycle.

joe biden kamala harris

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Biden and Harris Owe the Poor, william barber hsWilliam J. Barber II and Liz Theoharis (Dr. Barber, right, and Dr. Theoharis are co-chairs of the Poor People's Campaign), Dec. 25, 2020. They must reject the politics of austerity and fulfill their commitment to policies that address human needs.

Before he was elected in November, Joe Biden promised that his “theory of change” for reforming the economy would be “ending poverty.” He pledged to champion a $15 minimum wage, affordable health care for all and federal action to address systemic racism. In the midst of an economic crisis, a pandemic and an uprising for racial justice, low-income Americans — Black, white, brown, Asian and Native — voted to overwhelm a reactionary base that President Trump had stoked with lies and fear.

As Democrats have argued about losses in congressional districts that saw a surge of Mr. Trump’s base, some have suggested the Biden administration’s mandate is to compromise with Republican demands. But Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris’s victory depended on the turnout of a diverse coalition that wants economic and racial justice, and deserves bold policy solutions.

At least six million more low-income people voted in this election than in 2016. According to early polls, those with household incomes of less than $50,000 voted for Mr. Biden by an 11.5-point margin — a more than 30 percent increase. This surge of poor and low-income voters of all races joined Black, brown and Native voters as well as white anti-Trump voters in the suburbs to meet and surpass the turnout of Mr. Trump’s base.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The ‘Trump Bump’ for Books Has Been Significant. Can It Continue? Alexandra Alter, Dec. 25, 2020. As a new administration looms, publishers have snapped up another crop of forthcoming Trump books by prominent journalists and pundits.

In the past four years, publishers have released more than a thousand books about Donald J. Trump. Authors have examined seemingly every facet of his persona, in works about his presidency, family, political rise, business dealings, reality-TV career and golfing habits. The body of work is so voluminous that there’s even a book about all the Trump books.

What’s left to parse? A lot, it seems. As his presidency comes to an end, publishers are racing to acquire news-breaking works about his final days in office, as well as comprehensive historical accounts of the Trump era, sober expositions examining how he has changed the Republican Party and the country, and gossipy insider accounts of what really went on in the White House.

“Trump doesn’t want to let go of his job, and a shockingly high number of us don’t want to let go of him,” said Rafe Sagalyn, a literary agent at ICM. “There’s going to be an amazing appetite for books about what happened, and all the OMG moments of the last four years. Books are the medium for filling in all these blanks.”

“The books that will endure are those that shape historical perspectives about the period,” said Kristine Puopolo, editorial director of nonfiction at Doubleday. “We’re moving into a new phase where we are going to see Trump as history. We’ve seen that it is only after people leave an administration that they’re open to being completely candid.”

In sheer volume, Trump books dwarf works released about the previous administration during its first term: There have been more than 1,200 unique titles about Mr. Trump published in the last four years, compared to around 500 books about former President Barack Obama and his administration during his first term, according to an analysis by NPD BookScan.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Good news for Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia Senate runoffs, Ron Leshnower, Dec. 25, 2020. The Georgia runoff elections are little more than a week away. If Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win, the Democrats will control the U.S. Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a possible tiebreaker for close votes. If Kelly Loeffler or Mike Perdue (or both) win, it means more painful years of Moscow Mitch McConnell and his obstructionist Republicans standing in the way of everything America so urgently needs.

bill palmer report logo headerWhat will it take for Ossoff and Warnock to emerge victorious on January 5? For starters, they need a fair election. Thankfully, two developments that threatened to make absentee voting unnecessarily and unlawfully difficult for Georgians are no longer a concern. Courts in two separate cases just took action yesterday to ensure that people who vote by absentee ballot won’t be disenfranchised.

Fulton County, which includes nearly all of Atlanta, is Georgia’s most populous of its 159 counties, which means any election-related court ruling is sure to affect a significant number of voters. Naturally, the Republican National Committee and the Georgia Republican Party filed a lawsuit there seeking to lock absentee ballot drop boxes when county election offices close for the day.

democratic donkey logoJudge Kimberly Esmond Adams dismissed the GOP’s case on Thursday, ruling that Fulton County voters may use drop boxes at any time of day or night, with video surveillance, through January 5. The Georgia State Election Board in April approved a rule requiring all drop boxes in the state to remain open 24 hours, and so Judge Adams refused to carve out an exception for Fulton County, according to reporting from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In another development yesterday, a federal court approved a settlement aimed at removing an additional set of obstacles for absentee voting. The settlement ends lawsuits brought by civil rights groups including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Vote Forward to ensure that Donald Trump and Louis DeJoy’s shenanigans with kneecapping the Postal Service won’t prevent ballots from arriving on time.

The approved settlement agreement requires Georgia postal facilities to sweep for undelivered ballots until January 5 and continue using expedited delivery services for mail-in ballots, according to a report from The Hill. These measures are essential particularly in light of the significant uptick in mail delivery delays this holiday season.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Five myths about voting machines, Douglas W. Jones, (Douglas W. Jones is a computer science professor at the University of Iowa and the co-author of “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?”), Dec. 24, 2020.

Myth No. 1: Voting machines were hacked

Trump has complained of “voting machine ‘glitches’ all over the place (meaning they got caught cheating!).” His former lawyer Sidney Powell has said computer algorithms shifted votes from Trump to Biden. Democrats made similar allegations about voting machines in Ohio in 2004, suggesting that tampering helped reelect President George W. Bush.

Voting machines are easy to hack: In the hands of a skilled person, individual machines are shockingly vulnerable, as experts demonstrated at Def Con, a hacker convention, in 2019. That’s why a growing movement over the past 20 years has pushed to replace paperless voting machines with devices that record votes on paper ballots.

That transition is still in progress, but paperless machines have been eliminated in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the states Trump supporters have focused on since November. Wherever paper ballots are used, officials can check behind the machines with recounts and audits to find out whether the software was honest. The hand audits done in Georgia, plus recounts in Dane and Milwaukee counties in Wisconsin and in Antrim County, Mich., found no evidence of hacking, and confirmed Biden wins (in Georgia and the Wisconsin counties) as well as a Trump one (in Antrim County).

Myth No. 2: There's no way to verify that vote counts weren't rigged

Trump supporters say there isn’t enough transparency around how votes were counted. “Perhaps no device illustrates that technology is a double-edged sword than the machines and associated software that have come to be used to tabulate votes across all 50 states,” White House economic adviser Peter Navarro writes in a report on ostensible irregularities, including what he says are “process fouls” that made it impossible to check the results. Trump’s attorneys argued in court that swing states were “systematically loosening the measures for ballot integrity so that fraud becomes undetectable.”

But the election was conducted in the open. When polls closed, precinct officials everywhere made both a paper and an electronic report of vote totals. The electronic reports were sent to computer systems at local election offices, and the results from those systems were released to the public on election night as unofficial totals.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Race, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, As Biden zeroes in on attorney general pick, some worry one contender is too moderate on criminal justice issues, Matt Zapotosky and Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). As President-elect Joe Biden seeks an attorney general who can restore public faith in the Justice Department as an independent law enforcement institution while boosting internal morale, merrick garlandfederal appeals court judge Merrick Garland has consistently found himself on the shortlist.

To some legal observers, Garland, right, is an ideal candidate. A former federal prosecutor and Justice Department official who oversaw the case against the Oklahoma City bomber, Garland has the kind of Justice Department experience and credibility many have sought. Famously snubbed by a Republican Senate, which refused to consider his 2016 nomination by President Barack Obama to serve on the Supreme Court, he still enjoys a reputation as a unifying, moderating force on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and is seen as being easily confirmable by the Senate.

But as Garland draws increasingly serious consideration, some defense lawyers and criminal justice reform advocates say they worry Garland’s record on the bench shows he is too deferential to the government and law enforcement — and perhaps would not be as aggressive about implementing the kind of dramatic changes they had hoped for.

“It’s certainly a safe choice,” said Kevin Ring, the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), a criminal justice advocacy group. “It’s not an inspired choice.”

g. douglas jonesBiden’s attorney general search narrows

Garland is among three people, all former federal prosecutors, who remain under consideration by Biden for the attorney general job, according to people familiar with the discussions. The others are Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), right, who lost his reelection bid, and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ruling on Woman on Death Row Puts Her Execution in Doubt, Bryan Pietsch, Dec. 25, 2020. A ruling by a federal judge to delay the execution of the only woman on federal death row could push the new date into the early days of the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has said he would work to end federal capital punishment.

The woman, Lisa Montgomery, had been scheduled to be executed on Dec. 8, but that date was delayed after two of her lawyers tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after traveling to a federal prison in Texas to visit her in November.

Should Ms. Montgomery’s life be spared as a result of the series of delays caused by the infection of her lawyers, it would be a rare reprieve for a prisoner from a virus that has swept through prisons, infecting inmates crammed into shared spaces.

The Justice Department had rescheduled her execution for Jan. 12, but Judge Randolph D. Moss of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled on Thursday that the January execution date had been unlawfully rescheduled because a stay order, which was issued because of her lawyers’ illnesses, was still in effect.

Ms. Montgomery, of Melvern, Kan., was convicted in 2008 of killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was 23 years old and eight months pregnant at the time, and cutting a baby from her abdomen. She tried to pass off Ms. Stinnett’s baby as her own before admitting to the crime. A jury convicted her of kidnapping resulting in death in federal court in Missouri.

If Ms. Montgomery is executed, it would be the first federal execution of a woman since 1953, when Bonnie Heady was killed in a gas chamber for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Kansas City, Mo. The Trump administration resumed federal executions in July for the first time since 2003.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Most Disgusting Pardons, Michelle Goldberg, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Blackwater mercenaries committed a michelle goldberg thumbmassacre. Now they’ll go free.

The youngest victim of the 2007 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, committed by Blackwater mercenaries whom Donald Trump pardoned on Tuesday, was a 9-year-old boy named Ali Kinani.

In a 2010 documentary, the journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed Ali’s father, Mohammed Hafedh Abdulrazzaq Kinani, who spoke of how he’d welcomed the American invasion of his country and brought along his son to greet U.S. soldiers. “The first day the American Army entered Baghdad, I handed out juice and candy in the street to celebrate our liberation from Saddam,” said Kinani. Scahill called him “that rare personification of the neoconservative narrative about the U.S. invasion.”

On Sept. 16, 2007, Kinani was driving toward the traffic circle at Nisour Square with his sister, her children and Ali when guards from Blackwater opened fire with machine guns and grenade launchers. (Blackwater, a private security company, has since changed its name to Academi.) Ali was one of 17 people killed. According to The Washington Post, a U.S. military report found that there had been no provocation. “It was obviously excessive, it was obviously wrong,” a military official told the paper. An F.B.I. investigator reportedly described it as the “My Lai massacre of Iraq.”

The U.S. Embassy offered Ali’s family a $10,000 condolence payment. After initially refusing the money, they donated half of it to the family of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. “They wanted to do that to honor and acknowledge the sacrifice of those men and women that had come over to Iraq to fight for them and free them from Saddam Hussein,” Paul Dickinson, a lawyer who represented Kinani and others in a civil suit against Blackwater, told me.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian hackers accessed Microsoft cloud customers’ emails, other data, Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The intrusions appear to have occurred via a Microsoft corporate partner that handles cloud-access services, those familiar with the matter said.

Russian government hackers have compromised Microsoft cloud customers and stolen emails from at least one private-sector company, according to people familiar with the matter, a worrying development in Moscow’s ongoing cyberespionage campaign targeting numerous U.S. agencies and corporate computer networks.

The intrusions appear to have occurred via a Microsoft corporate partner that handles cloud-access services, those familiar with the matter said. They did not identify the partner or the company known to have had emails stolen. Like others, these people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss what remains a highly sensitive subject.

Microsoft hasn’t publicly commented on the intrusions. On Thursday, an executive with the tech giant sought to downplay the issue’s significance.

“Our investigation of recent attacks has found incidents involving abuse of credentials to gain access, which can come in several forms,” Jeff Jones, Microsoft’s senior director for communications, said. “We have still not identified any vulnerabilities or compromise of Microsoft product or cloud services.”

 

World News

bbc news logo2BBC via Yahoo! News, Boko Haram kill villagers in Christmas Eve attack, Dec. 25, 2020. Several people are dead in northeast Nigeria after Boko Haram militants raided a mostly Christian village and burnt down a church on Christmas Eve. Local sources said at least 11 people had been killed, according to AFP news.

nigerian flag wavingFighters rode into Pemi, in Borno state, on trucks and motorbikes shooting indiscriminately, a local leader told the news agency. Pemi is close to Chibok where 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in 2014.

Boko Haram have carried out a number of attacks in northern Nigeria where they are fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. They promote a version of Islam that forbids Muslims from taking part in activity not derived from Islamic tradition. Boko Haram loosely translates to mean "western education is forbidden."

The group's most infamous attack targeted schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014 and held many captive for years.

 

Dec. 24

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Pandemic Aid

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logopeter baker twitterNew York Times, Analysis: For a Defeated President, Pardons as an Expression of Grievance, Peter Baker, right, Dec. 24, 2020. President Trump’s grants of clemency are a way to lash out at a system that he believes has treated him and his friends unfairly, Peter Baker writes.

roger stone making of the president stone photo

Roger Stone, Donald Trump's longtime friend, political strategist and fixer, and biographer (as indicated above) was among those like Stone's former business partner and Trump 2016 Campaign Manager Paul Manafort to whom Trump extended pardons or clemenacy after some, included Stone and Manafort, resisted efforts for years by Trump Justice Department officials to investigate Trump and his activities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pardons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone in latest wave of clemency grants, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Colby Itkowitz and Jonathan O'Connell, Dec. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The president once again used his executive power to benefit his allies and undermine an investigation that dogged his presidency.

President Trump on Wednesday granted pardons or other clemency to another 29 people, including real estate developer Charles Kushner, his son-in-law’s father, and two former advisers who were convicted as part of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election — once again using his executive power to benefit his allies and undermine an investigation that dogged his presidency.

paul manafort mugWith his time in office nearing its end, Trump pardoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, shown in a mug shot at left, who was convicted in 2018 of committing financial fraud and conspiring to obstruct the investigation of his crimes, and he upgraded to a full pardon the sentence commutation he provided earlier to longtime friend Roger Stone.

Trump also pardoned Kushne (shown below at left with his prosecutor, Chris Christie), the father of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, below right, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to having made false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and he subsequently pleaded guilty to witness tampering, and tax evasion stemming from $6 million in political contributions and gifts mischaracterized as business expenses.

The move came just a day after Trump granted commutations or pardons to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two others who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russia’s activities four years ago.

The president also pardoned military contractors involved in the killing of unarmed civilians during the Iraq War. Routinely, Trump has avoided the normal Justice Department process for pardons, instead granting clemency to political allies and the well-connected.

melania trump i really dont care jacket twitterTrump vowed to drain the swamp. Then he granted clemency to three former congressmen convicted of federal crimes. He and his wife (shown in a file photo) left for Florida for the holidays.

Wednesday’s announcement is unlikely to be the last batch of clemency the president unleashes. Trump has told aides, advisers, allies, lawmakers and others to bring him names for consideration, according to two people who have spoken to him. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said, “This is rotten to the core.

charles kushner chris christie resized

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just gave away that he knows it’s over for him, Bill Palmer, Dec. 24, 2020. When Donald Trump began pardoning his treason co-conspirators like Roger Stone and Paul Manafort last night, it didn’t mean Trump suddenly had a plan for saving himself.

bill palmer report logo headerInstead, it’s a sign that Trump knows it’s over for him, and he’s using what few tools he has left to try to give himself a slightly softer landing for when he leaves office and faces criminal charges and bankruptcy.

If you want proof of this, just check out what’s happening with Trump’s approval rating.

djt old looking resized headshotIn the month and a half since the election, Trump’s support among Republican voters had dropped 8%, according to the latest Gallup polling. This means that even some of the people who voted for him are now turning against him, thanks to his embarrassing post-election antics.

Each time Trump falsely claims he won the election, or files yet another absurd conspiracy theory-laden court case, or pardons yet another of his criminal underlings, it turns even more people against him.

Even Trump knows this. If he thought there were even a slight chance he could somehow magically steal a second term, or even be viable in 2024, he wouldn’t be behaving in the kind of manner that’s driving his approval rating even lower. He knows it’s over.”

djt impeachment graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump vetoes a military bill that Congress passed with veto-proof majorities, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 24, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump on Wednesday made good on his promise to veto the annual military policy bill, setting up what could be the first veto override of his presidency after both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly approved the legislation.

In refusing to sign the legislation, Mr. Trump cited a series of provisions, including one that would allow the military to strip the names of Confederate leaders from military bases. He also has demanded that the bill include a provision that would repeal a legal shield for social media companies that he has tangled with, a significant legislative change that Republicans and Democrats alike have said is irrelevant to a bill that dictates military policy and has become law for each of the last 60 years.

“My administration has taken strong actions to help keep our nation safe and support our service members,” Mr. Trump wrote in the veto notification. “I will not approve this bill, which would put the interests of the Washington, D.C., establishment over those of the American people.”

The House is expected to return on Monday to vote on an override. Should it pass, the Senate is expected to return on Tuesday to begin considering the override.

The veto is the latest sign that Mr. Trump, in his last weeks in office, is ready to challenge lawmakers in his own party, forcing them to chose between fealty to him and loyalty to their congressional leaders and, for some, their ideals.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., Pfizer reach deal expanding American vaccine supply, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Amy Goldstein, Dec. pfizer logo24, 2020 (print ed.). Pfizer will now sell the country 200 million doses of the vaccine — enough to immunize 100 million people with a two-dose regimen. The government will pay $1.95 billion for the additional doses and has agreed to help Pfizer obtain the ingredients needed to make the vaccine.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jobless claims remain high, raising stakes for Trump’s new demands on economic relief bill, Rachel Siegel, Dec. 24, 2020 (print ed.). If President Trump does not sign the $900 billion stimulus package, up to 14 million Americans will lose unemployment aid after Christmas.

us labor department logoAn estimated 803,000 people applied for unemployment aid for the first time last week, the Labor Department said Wednesday, showing the economy’s persistent weakness as new drama swirls over Washington’s response to the crisis. The figure was a slight decrease from the previous week but still much higher than normal.

President Trump stunned aides and lawmakers Tuesday night when he posted a video demanding changes to the $900 billion stimulus bill that Congress approved on Monday.

The new Labor Department data show how weak the economy is, particularly the labor market. The surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths in the past few months has cooled the partial economic recovery from the summer.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 24, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 79,212,869, Deaths: 1,740,762
U.S. Cases:   18,919,461, Deaths:    334,239

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 24, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Pandemic Aid

ny times logoNew York Times, A President Unhappy, Unleashed and Unpredictable, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Dec. 24, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump remains the most powerful man in the world, but powerless to achieve what he most wants: to avoid leaving office as a loser.

ny times logo

New York Times, How Trump Has Jeopardized Stimulus Relief, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 24, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s demand that Congress amend a giant coronavirus relief and government spending bill has raised the unexpected prospect that help may no longer be days away.

President Trump on Tuesday unexpectedly threatened to reject a far-reaching, catchall spending package that includes $900 billion in coronavirus relief and funding for the government through Sept. 30. The threat in effect dropped a depth charge on the Republican Party, but beyond politics, the coming days will determine whether his actions actually deny or delay relief to struggling Americans and shut down the government.

What happened?

To guarantee smooth passage for both the pandemic relief package and the $1.4 trillion in funding to keep the government operating, congressional leaders and top White House officials agreed to combine all of the legislation in one behemoth package.

The end product, nearly 5,600 pages, includes a dozen must-pass funding bills and an array of bipartisan legislative priorities that are routinely attached to what is typically the last substantive legislative act of the calendar year.

But in a video posted online on Tuesday, Mr. Trump conflated the $900 billion relief package with the routine funding portion running along side it, declaring that the coronavirus rescue bill had been larded with provisions that had nothing to do with the pandemic, like foreign aid and federal fish hatcheries. Many of the items he objected to came straight from his own budget proposal.

So what happens to the stimulus aid — and its benefits?

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told Americans on Monday that they could receive the $600 direct payments included in the coronavirus relief legislation as early as next week. The bill also would ensure that two federal unemployment programs set to expire after this week are extended.

But the bill’s size means it could take several days for the Government Publishing Office to physically print the bill, have it signed by congressional officials, then bring it to the White House, a process called enrollment. With that process not expected to be finished until Thursday or Friday, some state labor departments — which administer both federal and state unemployment benefits — have already begun to prepare for the programs’ end, meaning that several million jobless workers will still see a lapse in payments after Christmas.

Mr. Trump’s indication that he will not sign the legislation without changes, including more than tripling the size of the direct payments to individuals, from $600 to $2,000, could further delay both the distribution of any payments and the amount of time it takes for jobless workers to begin seeing their payments again. (The legislation, if signed, does ensure workers will receive back payments for the time missed.)

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020. At left above is attorney Sidney Powell, whom the Trump White House announced earlier November as one of its lawyers before firing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Sidney Powell’s secret intelligence contractor witness is a pro-Trump podcaster, Jon Swaine, Dec. 24, 2020. As she asked the U.S. Supreme Court this month to overturn President Trump’s election loss, the attorney Sidney Powell cited testimony from a secret witness presented as a former intelligence contractor with insights on a foreign conspiracy to subvert democracy.

Powell told courts that the witness is an expert who could show that overseas corporations helped shift votes to President-elect Joe Biden. The witness’s identity must be concealed from the public, Powell has said, to protect her “reputation, professional career and personal safety.”

The Washington Post identified the witness by determining that portions of her affidavit match, sometimes verbatim, a blog post that the pro-Trump podcaster Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman published in November 2019. In an interview, Maras-Lindeman confirmed that she wrote the affidavit and said she viewed it as her contribution to a fight against the theft of the election.

“This is everybody’s duty,” she said. “It’s just not fair.”

In a recent civil fraud case, attorneys for the state of North Dakota said that Maras-Lindeman falsely claimed to be a medical doctor and to have both a PhD and an MBA. They said she used multiple aliases and social security numbers and created exaggerated online résumés as part of what they called “a persistent effort . . . to deceive others.”

Powell’s reliance on Maras-Lindeman’s testimony may raise further questions about her judgment and the strength of her arguments at a time when she is becoming an increasingly influential adviser to the president. Trump’s legal team distanced itself from Powell last month after she falsely claimed Republican state officials took bribes to rig the election. But she has visited the White House three times in the past week, once to participate in an Oval Office meeting. Trump has weighed naming Powell a special counsel to investigate the election, according to previous reports.

Maras-Lindeman, 42, served in the Navy for less than a year more than two decades ago and has said she worked later as a government contractor and part-time interpreter. She has identified herself as a “trained cryptolinguist.”

North Dakota’s assertions about her credentials came in a civil case brought by the state’s attorney general in 2018 over a purported charitable event she tried to organize in Minot, N.D., where she and her family resided. Attorneys for the state said she used money she collected — ostensibly to fund homeless shelters and wreaths for veterans’ graves — on purchases for herself at McDonald’s, QVC and elsewhere.

A judge ultimately found that Maras-Lindeman violated consumer protection laws by, among other things, misspending money she raised and soliciting donations while misrepresenting her experience and education. He ordered her to pay more than $25,000.

Maras-Lindeman has appealed to the state Supreme Court. In court filings and in her interview with The Post, she denied mishandling the funds or misleading donors. She blamed identity theft and bureaucratic failings for a proliferation of variations on her name and social security numbers associated with her.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans Are Stuck Between President and Party on the Stimulus, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 24, 2020 (print ed.). After President Trump’s threat to veto the stimulus deal, Republican lawmakers are faced with a dilemma. Mr. Trump is pushing for $2,000 payments for individuals, a position embraced by progressives and deplored by conservatives. Here’s the latest in politics.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Wednesday dared congressional Republicans to block an effort to unanimously pass legislation that would provide $2,000 direct payments to millions of Americans, trying to drive a wedge in the opposition by taking up President Trump’s call to expand the checks..

The House is set to convene on Christmas Eve in a so-called pro forma session, typically a brief meeting that requires one lawmaker be present and lasts for just a few minutes, and Democrats plan to bring up a stand-alone bill that would provide for $2,000 direct payments for American families. The legislation passed by Congress on Monday set those checks at $600.

The maneuver could be blocked by any one lawmaker willing to return to Washington and object to the request during the 9 a.m. session, and Ms. Pelosi said that top Democrats were waiting to hear from Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, to see if any Republican would object to the request.

It is likely that at least one Republican will object to the request, given consternation among many rank and file lawmakers in the Republican conference about the enormous level of government spending approved on Monday. And in the Senate, efforts earlier this month to unilaterally pass a stand-alone bill with $1,200 direct payments were repeatedly blocked.

djt wind jim watson afp getty

Palmer Report, Opinion: Four more weeks, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 24, 2020. The richest country in the world has a $900 billion robert harringtnn portraitdefense budget pending in Congress. That’s just for one year.

The United States of America spends more on national defense than China, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea and Brazil — combined. America spends more on war fantasies in a year than most countries spend on defense in a decade. I think America’s big stick is finally big enough, except possibly for those who have insecurities about such things.

Meanwhile, money is the number one concern in American politics. Senatorial and Congressional campaigns have budgets bigger than medium-sized airlines. Presidential campaigns will soon be measured not in millions or hundreds of millions but billions of dollars. More and more lobbyists and corporations are running the country.

bill palmer report logo headerMeanwhile, an entire party, the Republicans, are vested in keeping the non-white population of the United States in poverty and ignorance. They become fiscally conservative every chance they get to short-change all forward-looking or progressive social programs that help the poor, the voiceless and the marginalised. They’d love to help — they really would — but they must be responsible to the taxpayer, that is, the very people who pay the taxes for whom those social programs would do the greatest amount of good. And so on.

Meanwhile, we have a world in crisis from global warming and coronavirus. Meanwhile, it’s Christmas and families are facing eviction, starvation and privation. And so on.

All of which is to say, In four weeks time we will be rid of a psychopath, a malignant, narcissistic, child-raping, murdering racist. That’s very good news. That bit of good news cannot be overstated.

But America still has one hell of a lot of problems. And they are not going to go away just because Donald Trump has gone away, they are not going to go away if we ignore them. We, those of us who care, those who fight injustice, those who speak for the voiceless, are still needed to fight the good fight.

I look forward to a day, someday in the not-too-distant future I should hope, when I can look back and honestly say I have neither typed nor spoken the name “Donald Trump” for that entire day. I am heartily sick of that whiny, insignificant, petty little man, his petulant, incoherent hate-speech and his brackish, medieval thinking. I’m sick of him and the people who carry water for him, sick of their pearl-clutching outrages and counterfeit indignation over minor instances of manufactured “scandal.” Sick of their hypocrisy, sick of their weakness, sick of their cowardice.

Raw Story, Ted Cruz begs for donations to 'keep Georgia RED' — but the money is going into his Senate campaign coffers, Matthew Chapman, Dec. 24, ted cruz o2020. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is sending a new plea to his supporters with Georgia's two Senate runoffs weeks away, asking them to contribute money "to save our Senate majority and keep Georgia RED."

But according to Inside Elections reporter Jacob Rubashkin, there's a catch: the donation link Cruz, right, is giving to his supporters is for Ted Cruz for Senate. Meaning that the money is going to his campaign, and not directed to the campaigns of Georgia Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

The runoffs will decide control of the Senate, as Democrats winning both would tie the chamber 50-50 and give Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the controlling vote when legislation falls along party lines. Both parties have therefore been pouring millions of dollars into the race, with polls showing a close race with Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Turkish court sentences exiled journalist to 27 years in prison for a news report, Kareem Fahim, Dec. 24, 2020 (print ed.). A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced Can Dundar, a former editor of one of Turkey's largest newspapers, to 27 years in prison on charges of espionage and aiding a terrorist group.

turkey flagThe charges were related to an article and video footage published in 2015 by Dundar’s newspaper, Cumhuriyet, alleging that Turkey’s intelligence agency was secretly funneling weapons to Syria. Human Rights Watch criticized his initial trial as “one of the most flawed prosecutions in Turkey in recent times.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration pushes forward on $500 million weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, Missy Ryan and Karen DeYoung, Dec. 24, 2020 (print ed.).  The Trump administration has formally notified Congress that it intends to sell nearly $500 million in precision bombs to Saudi Arabia, a transaction that is likely to fuel criticism from lawmakers who object to arming the Persian Gulf nation over its record of human rights abuses and stifling dissent and role in the war in Yemen.

An individual familiar with the sale, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment to the news media, said the deal includes 7,500 “Paveway IV” precision-guided bombs, worth $478 million, which under the terms of the agreement would be produced in the kingdom.

The proposed transaction, which has been in the works since early last year, also includes an internal security communications systems worth $97 million. Bloomberg first reported that the State Department sent the notification on Tuesday.

William Hartung, director of the arms and security program at the Center for International Policy, said the sale should not go ahead.

“Saudi access to tens of thousands of precision-guided munitions thus far has not diminished the civilian toll in Yemen, so Pentagon claims that more accurate bombs will reduce civilian casualties don’t hold up to scrutiny,” he said in a statement.

 

Dec. 23

Top Headlines

american flag upside down distress

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Pandemic Aid

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Race, Crime

 

World News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls on Congress to approve $2,000 stimulus checks, hinting he might not sign relief bill without changes, Rachel Siegel, Josh Dawsey and Mike DeBonis, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump described the mammoth legislation as “a disgrace” and suggesting he would not immediately sign off on aid for millions of Americans.

President Trump on Tuesday night asked Congress to amend the nearly $900 billion stimulus bill passed just one day before, describing the legislation as “a disgrace” and suggesting he would not immediately sign off on aid for millions of Americans.

In a video posted to Twitter, Trump called on Congress to increase the “ridiculously low” $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 and outlined a list of provisions in the overall package of legislation that he described as “wasteful spending and much more.” He did not mention that the $600 stimulus check idea came from his treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.

“I am also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation, and to send me a suitable bill, or else the next administration will have to deliver a covid relief package, and maybe that administration will be me,” Trump said.

The video landed like a sonic boom in Washington. His own aides were stunned. Congressional aides were stunned. Stock market futures quickly slumped on the prospect that the economic aid could be in doubt.

And the implications for what happens next could be severe. If he refuses to sign the bill, the government will shut down on Dec. 29. The $900 billion in emergency economic aid will be frozen, and the race for the two Senate seats in Georgia could also be upended.

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (Noel St. John) Feb. 27, 2017House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif., shown in a file photo at right), however, quickly responded to the Twitter post by saying congressional Democrats would move as soon as Thursday, when the House is scheduled to meet for a brief pro forma session, to advance the $2,000 stimulus checks.

“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks,” she posted on Twitter on Tuesday night after Trump’s message. “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s Chuck Schumer DMCAdo it!”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), shown at left and also with Pelosi above, also tweeted that he supported the idea of larger stimulus checks, but he blamed Republicans for preventing them from being included in the bill.

“We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks but Republicans blocked it,” Schumer wrote. “Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open and we’re glad to pass more aid Americans need. Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mitch McConnell is having a really terrible night, Bill Palmer, Dec. 23, 2020. Mitch McConnell really thought Mitchell_McConnellhe had the Democrats boxed in with that lousy $600 stimulus cap just ahead of the Georgia runoff elects. But McConnell’s victory barely lasted twenty-four hours, and now he’s suddenly having the worst night of anyone in politics. Funny how that works.

bill palmer report logo headerOf course Trump wants to send cash payments to every American. He knows that twelve of them are going to end up on the jury at his criminal trial.

Tweet of the day, from House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff: “Last night, McConnell claimed ‘Republicans were advocating for a package just like this one, all along, in real time.’ That’s just not true. They opposed a bill at $3.2 trillion, $2 trillion, $1.8 trillion and, yes, $900 billion. In real time. Don’t let him gaslight you.”

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

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

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden calls on Trump to confirm whether Russia is responsible for cyber-hacks of U.S. government agencies, Felicia Sonmez and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Biden on Tuesday urged Trump to confirm whether Russian government hackers are behind the ongoing cyberattacks on the U.S. government, days after Trump played down the attacks and baselessly suggested on Twitter that the true culprit “may be China (it may!)”

“The Trump administration needs to make an official attribution,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday afternoon. “This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch when he wasn’t watching.”

Biden said he has seen “no evidence” that the situation is under control and noted that Trump “hasn’t even identified who’s responsible yet.” He added that Trump “still has a responsibility as president to defend American interests for the next four weeks.”

“But rest assured that even if he does not take it seriously, I will,” Biden said.

Trump’s aversion to calling out the Kremlin for its malign activities in cyberspace and his deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin has become a hallmark of his presidency. On Saturday, Trump addressed the hacks for the first time, seeking to turn blame away from Moscow in defiance of mounting evidence while playing down how devastating the intrusions appear to be.

djt impeachment graphic

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump grants clemency to 20 people, including three GOP former members of Congress and two men convicted in the Russia probe, Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump granted clemency on Tuesday to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two people who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 president election.

The pardons and commutations came as Trump has been exploring how to use his clemency powers to reward friends and allies in the waning days before leaving office next month.

george papadopoulos cropped headshotTrump gave a full pardon to George Papadopoulos, left, a foreign policy adviser to his 2016 campaign who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during its Russia investigation.

Papadopoulos in 2017 agreed he had misled the FBI about his interactions with a London-based professor who claimed Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival, in the form of thousands of emails. In 2018, Papadopoulos served his 14-day prison robert mueller full face filesentence.

But the onetime energy adviser, 33, later actively sought a pardon to expunge his record and bolster his post-conviction claims that he had been unfairly targeted by the U.S. authorities, including special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, right — allegations that echoed Trump’s own grievances against the Mueller probe.

alex van der zwaanTrump also pardoned Alex van der Zwaan, left, a lawyer who had worked with Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in work related to Ukraine and pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller’s team.

The president has now used his powers to personally intervene and grant clemency in multiple cases Mueller brought against his former advisers. In November, he pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with a Russian chris collins cropped odiplomat, though he later sought to withdrew that plea.

In July, the president commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone, who was convicted of seeking to impede a duncan hunter nbc newscongressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and sentenced to 40 months in prison.

Trump’s other pardons on Tuesday included grants of clemency to former Republican members of congress Steve Stockman (TX), Duncan Hunter (CA), left, and Chris Collins (NY), right, with the latter two being Trump's first two supporters in the House for his 2016 presidential run.

Trump (impeached a year ago as shown below by headlines from around the nation) also pardoned four military contractors convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

djt impeachment collage Custom 2

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is about to get very ugly for Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Dec. 23, 2020. Donald Trump is making a mockery of the criminal justice system by pardoning his own guilty co-conspirators, as rewards for keeping quiet. But don’t worry, the “Law and Order” part will come when Trump is on criminal trial in New York State. One of the few guarantees in all of this is that Trump ends up in a prison cell when it’s all said and done. This is about to get very ugly for him.

bill palmer report logo headerRepublican Senator Ben Sasse knew Trump was guilty but voted to acquit him anyway. Sasse doesn’t get to take the high ground now; he’s criminally complicit in everything Trump has done since the impeachment ben sasse o croppedtrial. Sasse, right, will run for President in 2024. We should hound the media to spend every day talking about Sasse’s criminal act of letting a guilty Trump off the hook.

Roger Stone’s preemptive pardon is legally flimsy and may not cover the additional crimes Stone was still being investigated for when Mueller was ousted. Stone can still end up in prison. New York has criminal charges pending against Paul Manafort. He can end up back in prison.

This is just getting started. If anything, the public outrage over these pardons increases the odds that prosecutors will try to bring additional charges against these thugs.

washington post logoalex padilla oWashington Post, California Gov. Newsom selects Alex Padilla to succeed Harris in the Senate, Colby Itkowitz, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). California Gov. Gavin  Newsom (D) on Tuesday announced that he has chosen Padilla, the California secretary of state, to fill the remaining Senate term of Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris.

Alex Padilla, 47, right, Padilla would be the first Latino to represent California in the Senate. Harris is expected to resign her seat next month before Jan. 20 when she is sworn in as vice president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pfizer Nears Deal With Trump Administration to Provide More Vaccine Doses, Sharon LaFraniere and Katie Thomas, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Pfizer could provide tens of millions of additional vaccine doses to the U.S. under a deal that would give it better access to manufacturing supplies.

The deal would help the U.S. at least partly offset a looming shortage that could leave as many as 110 million adults uncovered in the first half of 2021.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Department Sues Walmart, Saying It Fueled U.S. Opioid Crisis, Katie Benner and Michael Corkery, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The 160-page civil complaint alleges that the retail giant knew that its system for detecting illegitimate prescriptions was inadequate.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Your next stimulus check may not be in the mail until mid-January, Michelle Singletary, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said $600 payments may start going out next week. But many Americans may not get their funds that soon. The relief bill says the Treasury Department has until Jan. 15 to get out the payments. If they can’t be sent by then, people will have to wait until they file their 2020 tax return.

The $900 billion pandemic-relief bill Congress passed Monday night provides a second stimulus payment of up to $600 to individuals earning $75,000 or less and up to $1,200 for couples filing jointly earning $150,000 or less. Families are also eligible for $600 per dependent child under 17.

President Trump Tuesday night demanded larger stimulus checks in the bill and criticized it for “wasteful spending," creating uncertainty about when -- or if -- the checks would still come.

Calculate how much you’ll get from the $600 (or more) coronavirus checks

steven mnuchin wBut even before Trump’s intervention, based on glitches from the last distribution of stimulus payments, I need to manage your expectations.

And Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, left, should have done that, too, even though he was speaking before Trump’s surprising video.

“People are going to begin seeing this money next week,” Mnuchin said during a CNBC interview Monday.

This sets up the IRS for a herculean task. The already-beleaguered agency is still trying to address backlogs from coronavirus shutdowns that sent its staff home. There are 2019 tax returns and refunds to process from the delayed 2020 tax season, which shifted its deadline to July 15 this year.

  • Washington Post, Calculate how much you’ll get from the coronavirus checks

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Battle of Britain, Robert Harrington, Dec. 23, 2020. In the 24 hours since last I wrote to you, brothers and sisters, America has passed a new and shattering milestone. Four thousand and fifty two Americans have died from coronavirus, almost a thousand more than died at the battle of Gettysburg and well over a thousand more than died on 11 September 2001.

bill palmer report logo headerMeanwhile at Porton Down, England, a scant 11 miles from where I sit typing this, a puzzling new variant of coronavirus is being studied. The variant, which is sweeping the southeast of England, is said to be 76% more contagious than the standard pathogen most familiar to the rest of the world. As a consequence, Europe is shutting its doors to Britain, and the remarkable island that brought Shakespeare and Sir Isaac Newton to the world is now once again famous for another inhabitant — a new bug a thousand times smaller than a grain of rice.

Will Britain be able to isolate this new strain of coronavirus from the rest of the world? Almost certainly not. A virus that spreads this rapidly will almost certainly get out. In any case, by the time it does an even faster-spreading variant could possibly spring up elsewhere. All of which makes the triumvirate of precautions all the more vital: wear a mask, maintain social distancing and wash your hands.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jobless claims remain high, raising stakes for Trump’s new demands on economic relief bill, Rachel Siegel, Dec. 23, 2020. If President Trump does not sign the $900 billion stimulus package, up to 14 million Americans will lose unemployment aid after Christmas.

An estimated 803,000 people applied for unemployment aid for the first time last week, the Labor Department said Wednesday, showing the economy’s persistent weakness as new drama swirls over Washington’s response to the crisis. The figure was a slight decrease from the previous week but still much higher than normal.

President Trump stunned aides and lawmakers Tuesday night when he posted a video demanding changes to the $900 billion stimulus bill that Congress approved on Monday.

The new Labor Department data show how weak the economy is, particularly the labor market. The surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths in the past few months has cooled the partial economic recovery from the summer.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 23, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 78,366,708, Deaths: 1,724,050
U.S. Cases:   18,684,628, Deaths:    330,824

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 23, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

Biden Transition

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden to Pick Chief of Connecticut Schools as Education Secretary,  Erica L. Green, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Dr. Miguel Cardona, who was Connecticut’s first Latino commissioner of education, would be a blunt contrast to private-school champion Betsy DeVos.

miguel cardonaPresident-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to nominate Miguel A. Cardona, right, Connecticut’s education commissioner, to serve as his education secretary, tapping a Latino to be the nation’s highest education policymaker, according to two officials familiar with his plans.

Dr. Cardona, if confirmed by the Senate, would be tasked with bringing the elementary, secondary and higher education systems back from the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and repairing the considerable damage done. School districts, colleges and universities have hemorrhaged money as they struggled with distance learning, retrofitted buildings to make them somewhat safer, and lost students, especially foreign university students who had been paying full tuition.

The pandemic has also widened the achievement gap between affluent students and poorer pupils who fell behind as they suffered through deficient internet access and difficult home-learning conditions.

The selection of Dr. Cardona would fulfill Mr. Biden’s campaign promise to appoint a diverse cabinet and a secretary of education with public school experience — a blunt juxtaposition to President Trump’s billionaire private-school champion Betsy DeVos, right. The official announcement is expected as soon as Tuesday.

Dr. Cardona was appointed Connecticut’s first Latino commissioner of education in 2019 after two decades of experience as a public school educator, starting in a Meriden, Conn., elementary school classroom, according to his official biography. He also served as a principal for a decade, among the youngest in the state, and as assistant superintendent and adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut.

betsy devos oDr. Cardona emerged as a front-runner for the position in recent days, beating out teachers union leaders, higher education academics, and superintendents of large, urban school districts. He garnered the endorsements of important stakeholders in the Biden campaign, including congressional leaders, teachers unions, community groups and one of Mr. Biden’s early preferred candidates, Linda Darling-Hammond, who headed the campaign’s education transition team but took herself out of the running.

Even in the final hours before Mr. Cardona’s likely nomination became public, it was jeopardized by some groups pushing for a Black woman or Latina, according to several people familiar with deliberations.

Hartford Courant, Who is Miguel Cardona? The Connecticut education commissioner is President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for U.S. education secretary, Russell Blair, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The Meriden, Connecticut, native took the top job overseeing the state’s K-12 schools last summer after being nominated by Gov. Ned Lamont. Before that, he was a teacher, principal and administrator in Meriden’s public schools. Biden said previously he wanted an educator in the post.

During his confirmation hearing before the legislature in February, Cardona described himself as a “goofy, little Puerto Rican kid” born in the Yale Acres public housing complex in Meriden.

“The passion I have for public education stems from my belief that it is the best lever for economic success and prosperity in Connecticut,” he told lawmakers. “And the belief that public education is still the great equalizer. It was for me.”

Cardona’s father and brother work for the Meriden Police Department. After attending public schools in Meriden, Cardona graduated from the state-run Wilcox Technical High School in the city before attending Central Connecticut State University for his bachelor’s degree and earning his master’s, doctorate and superintendent certification at UConn.

“I hold five degrees or certificates from Connecticut universities and I’m a true product of the system I hope to lead,” he told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump may be fading faster than you think, Jennifer Rubin, right, Dec. 23, 2020. Come January, the political calculus changes jennifer rubin new headshotfrom “What will keep the president from attacking me?” to “What is good for me?” The results are not necessarily going to be any more moderate, but they surely will be less Trump-centric.

 

U.S. Politics, Elections, Pandemic Aid

ny times logo

New York Times, How Trump Has Jeopardized Stimulus Relief, Emily Cochrane, Dec. 23, 2020. The president’s demand that Congress amend a giant coronavirus relief and government spending bill has raised the unexpected prospect that help may no longer be days away.

President Trump on Tuesday unexpectedly threatened to reject a far-reaching, catchall spending package that includes $900 billion in coronavirus relief and funding for the government through Sept. 30. The threat in effect dropped a depth charge on the Republican Party, but beyond politics, the coming days will determine whether his actions actually deny or delay relief to struggling Americans and shut down the government.

What happened?

To guarantee smooth passage for both the pandemic relief package and the $1.4 trillion in funding to keep the government operating, congressional leaders and top White House officials agreed to combine all of the legislation in one behemoth package.

The end product, nearly 5,600 pages, includes a dozen must-pass funding bills and an array of bipartisan legislative priorities that are routinely attached to what is typically the last substantive legislative act of the calendar year.

But in a video posted online on Tuesday, Mr. Trump conflated the $900 billion relief package with the routine funding portion running along side it, declaring that the coronavirus rescue bill had been larded with provisions that had nothing to do with the pandemic, like foreign aid and federal fish hatcheries. Many of the items he objected to came straight from his own budget proposal.

So what happens to the stimulus aid — and its benefits?

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, told Americans on Monday that they could receive the $600 direct payments included in the coronavirus relief legislation as early as next week. The bill also would ensure that two federal unemployment programs set to expire after this week are extended.

But the bill’s size means it could take several days for the Government Publishing Office to physically print the bill, have it signed by congressional officials, then bring it to the White House, a process called enrollment. With that process not expected to be finished until Thursday or Friday, some state labor departments — which administer both federal and state unemployment benefits — have already begun to prepare for the programs’ end, meaning that several million jobless workers will still see a lapse in payments after Christmas.

Mr. Trump’s indication that he will not sign the legislation without changes, including more than tripling the size of the direct payments to individuals, from $600 to $2,000, could further delay both the distribution of any payments and the amount of time it takes for jobless workers to begin seeing their payments again. (The legislation, if signed, does ensure workers will receive back payments for the time missed.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Republicans Are Stuck Between President and Party on the Stimulus, Emily Cochrane, After President Trump’s threat to veto the stimulus deal, Republican lawmakers are faced with a dilemma. Mr. Trump is pushing for $2,000 payments for individuals, a position embraced by progressives and deplored by conservatives. Here’s the latest in politics.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Wednesday dared congressional Republicans to block an effort to unanimously pass legislation that would provide $2,000 direct payments to millions of Americans, trying to drive a wedge in the opposition by taking up President Trump’s call to expand the checks..

The House is set to convene on Christmas Eve in a so-called pro forma session, typically a brief meeting that requires one lawmaker be present and lasts for just a few minutes, and Democrats plan to bring up a stand-alone bill that would provide for $2,000 direct payments for American families. The legislation passed by Congress on Monday set those checks at $600.

The maneuver could be blocked by any one lawmaker willing to return to Washington and object to the request during the 9 a.m. session, and Ms. Pelosi said that top Democrats were waiting to hear from Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, to see if any Republican would object to the request.

It is likely that at least one Republican will object to the request, given consternation among many rank and file lawmakers in the Republican conference about the enormous level of government spending approved on Monday. And in the Senate, efforts earlier this month to unilaterally pass a stand-alone bill with $1,200 direct payments were repeatedly blocked.

ny times logoNew York Times, Buried in Pandemic Aid Bill: Billions to Soothe the Richest, Luke Broadwater, Jesse Drucker and Rebecca R. Ruiz, Updated Dec. 23, 2020. The bill includes provisions — good, bad and just plain strange — that few lawmakers got to read.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just screwed the Republicans something fierce, Bill Palmer, Dec. 23, 2020. There’s a reason Mitch McConnell gave Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats a choice of either a lousy $600 relief package or none at all: McConnell wanted to make the Democrats look bad for either accepting a bad bill, or make the Democrats look bad for not delivering a stimulus at all. And for a day and a half, McConnell’s plan was almost working.

Then Donald Trump decided that he saw an opportunity. He threatened to veto the bill unless the $600 was increased to $2,000.

bill palmer report logo headerNow that Pelosi has quickly and emphatically agreed to have the House approve the $2000 package, one of two things will happen next. Either McConnell will cave, and the Democrats will get to go into the Georgia runoffs taking full credit for the increased dollar amount. Or McConnell will force it to remain at $600, and the public will clearly understand that it was the Republican Senate who screwed them. Now consider that two of the Republican Senators are running in the Georgia runoffs, and will face voter backlash if they vote against the $2000 package.

Trump is a terrible negotiator and never was very good at understanding how this kind of stuff works. So maybe he doesn’t realize he just screwed the Republicans. Or maybe he does, and this is part of his revenge plot against McConnell for having dared to admit that Biden won the election. Either way, Christmas just came early for the Democrats.

And if no more money does come out of this, at least the public will now understand that McConnell – and not Pelosi – was to blame all along.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Race, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Officials find just a small number of possible cases of voter fraud, Rosalind S. Helderman, Jon Swaine and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Despite President Trump's intense hunt for fraud, only a handful of criminal cases have been filed — some against Republican voters who sought to boost the president, officials said.

In Pittsburgh, the local police department this year received 10 complaints of possible fraudulent voting in the November election. Eight of those cases have already been closed without charges or findings of wrongdoing.

Wisconsin officials have charged one woman with voter fraud — a resident of suburban Milwaukee accused of attempting to cast a ballot in the name of her partner, who died in July.

In Michigan, two people have been charged with fraud, both accused of forging the names of their own daughters to obtain or cast a ballot.

After an intense hunt by President Trump’s allies to surface voting irregularities in this year’s election, law enforcement agencies in six key swing states targeted by the president have found just a modest number of complaints that have merited investigation, according to cases tracked by state officials.

So far, only a handful of cases have resulted in actual criminal charges alleging wrongdoing — some of them against Republican voters aiming to help Trump, according to officials, including a man charged Monday with trying to cast a ballot in Pennsylvania for the president in the name of his deceased mother.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lev Parnas argues timing of his arrest was orchestrated to protect Trump, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). Parnas, the indicted Ukrainian-born businessman whose affiliation with Rudolph W. Giuliani became a focal point during President Trump's impeachment, has asked a federal judge to order the administration to turn over records he hopes will show his arrest was part of an elaborate plot to protect the president.

Attorney Joseph Bondy argued in court papers unsealed Tuesday that the timing of Parnas’s arrest in October 2019 was consistent with a pattern of behavior exhibited by the Justice Department under the leadership of Attorney General William P. Barr, who critics have accused of leveraging the power of his office in deference to Trump and his interests.

Bondy’s filing cites Barr’s intervention in the cases of Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, Trump allies swept up in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Potential jurors in George Floyd case asked if they support defunding police, amid concerns about ‘fair and safe’ trial, Holly Bailey, Dec. 23, 2020 (print ed.). The judge overseeing the criminal case stemming from George Floyd's death issued a 16-page questionnaire to potential jurors Tuesday as the court considers whether the four former police officers charged with Floyd's murder can be tried fairly in Minneapolis.

The lengthy survey questions potential jurors about their views on policing, the criminal justice system and movements like Black Lives Matter. It provides several blank pages for long written answers, asking everything they know about the case, including how many times, if any, they viewed videos of Floyd’s death and their impressions of Floyd and the four involved officers.

“No matter what you have heard or seen about the case, and no matter what opinions you might have formed, can you put all of that aside and decide this case only on the evidence you receive in court, follow the law and decide the case in a fair and impartial manner?” the survey asks.

The questionnaire, issued more than three months before the scheduled trial, comes as attorneys for the former officers have questioned the ability to seat an impartial jury in Minneapolis, citing intense media coverage of the case and the possibility that protests could threaten the safety of participants, including jurors.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Government Collapses, Forcing 4th Election in 2 Years, Isabel Kershner, Dec. 23, 2020, (print ed.). A protracted political crisis revolving around Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal troubles brings down the coalition government.

Israel FlagIsrael’s government collapsed Tuesday, pushing the country into yet another early election — the fourth in two years.

The Israeli Parliament dissolved itself at midnight on Tuesday. The move forced a new election after weeks of infighting and paralysis in the so-called unity government, an uneasy coalition sworn in just seven months ago that paired Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party with his main rival-turned-partner, Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party.

benny grantz cropped flickr as israel defense forces chief of staffjpg SmallMr. Netanyahu and Mr. Gantz, left, blamed each other for the crisis.

“I think at the current time, we should have united forces to find a way to avert these needless elections,” Mr. Netanyahu (shown at right in a file photo) said in Parliament early Tuesday as he tried, and failed, to seek a delay in its dissolution.

benjamin netanyahu frown screenshotA new election must take place in three months and is scheduled for March 23. But an election date in the late spring or summer, once the coronavirus vaccination campaign is well underway, might have been more advantageous for Mr. Netanyahu.

Parliament automatically dispersed at midnight after failing to meet the legal deadline for approving a budget for 2020. Mr. Netanyahu, whose party holds the finance portfolio, had refused to present a budget, in violation of his coalition agreement with Mr. Gantz — the ostensible reason for the government breakdown.

washington post logoWashington Post, Assassins silence another ‘voice of Afghan democracy’ in Kabul killing, Pamela Constable and Sharif Hassan, Dec. 23, 2020. The head of the election monitoring group Free and Fair Elections Forum of Afghanistan, Yusof Rashid was the latest figure murdered.

On Wednesday morning, Rasheed became the latest victim in an intensifying surge of lethal bombings and shootings that have targeted a variety of individuals, including government officials, medical doctors and journalists, in Kabul and other cities.

 

Dec. 22

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Media News

 

World News

 

Top Stories 

ny times logoNew York Times, Congress Passes $900 Billion Pandemic Relief Package, Emily Cochrane, Updated Dec. 22, 2020. With millions of Americans set to lose expanded and extended unemployment benefits days after Christmas, the bill’s passage was not in doubt. Lawmakers in both chambers agreed that the measure’s approval was shamefully overdue. It now goes to President Trump for his signature.

us senate logoCongress on Monday night overwhelmingly approved a $900 billion stimulus package that would send billions of dollars to American households and businesses grappling with the economic and health toll of the pandemic.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, below left, said hundreds of dollars in direct payments could begin reaching individual Americans as early as next week.

steven mnuchin wThe long-sought relief package was part of a $2.3 trillion catchall package that included $1.4 trillion to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. It included the extension of routine tax provisions, a tax deduction for corporate meals, the establishment of two Smithsonian museums, a ban on surprise medical bills and a restoration of Pell grants for incarcerated students, among hundreds of other measures.

Though the $900 billion stimulus package is half the size of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law passed in March that provided the core of its legislative provisions, it remains one of the largest relief packages in modern American history. It will revive a supplemental unemployment benefit for millions of unemployed Americans at $300 a week for 11 weeks and provide for another round of $600 direct payments to adults and children.

“I expect we’ll get the money out by the beginning of next week — $2,400 for a family of four — so much needed relief just in time for the holidays,” Mr. Mnuchin said on CNBC. “I think this will take us through the recovery.”

william barr doj announcement Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Sees ‘No Reason’ for Special Counsels for Hunter Biden or the Election, Katie Benner, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The outgoing attorney general, William Barr, again broke with President Trump on his unsupported claims of widespread election fraud and the need to appoint a special counsel to investigate the president-elect’s son.

Attorney General William P. Barr, shown above in a file photo, said Monday that he saw no reason to appoint special counsels to oversee the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., or to investigate President Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, again undercutting Mr. Trump’s efforts to bend the department to his political will and to overturn the results of the election.

President Donald Trump officialAt a news conference to announce charges in an unrelated terrorism case, Mr. Barr said that he did not “see any reason to appoint a special counsel” to oversee the ongoing investigation into the younger Mr. Biden.

“I have no plan to do so before I leave,” Mr. Barr said. ”To the extent that there is an investigation, I think that it’s being handled responsibly and professionally.”

He also said that he would name a special counsel to oversee an inquiry into election fraud if he felt one was warranted. “But I haven’t and I’m not going to,” Mr. Barr said. He added that he saw “no basis” for the federal government to seize voting machines.

Mr. Barr’s comments are sure to further poison his relationship with Mr. Trump, who has expressed rage that Mr. Barr has not done more to help him overturn the results of the November election.

Mr. Barr has long been regarded as Mr. Trump’s most loyal and effective cabinet member, who on several occasions made decisions that directly benefited Mr. Trump and his allies. But his relationship with the president fractured in the wake of the election after he publicly said that he had not seen enough voter fraud to change the election’s outcome and it became clear that he had kept the ongoing investigation in Mr. Biden’s son under wraps.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr sides with Mike Pompeo against Donald Trump as everything falls apart, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 21, 2020. There is no longer any plan, strategy, or scheme that bill palmerwill magically save Donald Trump from being booted out of office in thirty days. He can’t accept that, because once he’s out of office, he’ll be on a path to prison, bankruptcy, and the end of his life as he knows it.

There’s a reason why Trump is now reduced to listening to the delusional fantasies of his crackpot election lawyers: they’re the only people still floating any scenarios for magically saving him. Trump’s “adult” henchmen already know it’s over, and are now trying to cover their own backsides.

bill palmer report logo headerAttorney General Bill Barr is publicly admitting that Trump lost the election fair and square. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is publicly admitting that it was indeed Russia who hacked U.S. government agencies. Barr has lost his job over it, and Pompeo might be about to. But now Barr is publicly siding with Pompeo on the Russia thing, contradicting Trump’s assertion that the hack was either overblown, or fake, or somehow done by China.

It’s clear that henchmen like Barr and Pompeo are trying to rehabilitate their images now that Trump is taking a fall. After all, the DOJ could easily charge them both with felonies for the criminal antics they carried out while in office. The best way to beat those charges is to establish the narrative now that they couldn’t have been willing Trump henchmen, since they stood up to him in the end.

Barr and Pompeo shouldn’t be let off the hook at all. They each belong in prison; Barr for numerous instances of felony obstruction of justice and Pompeo for his criminal antics in the Ukraine scandal. But for now, the point is that some of Trump’s biggest henchmen are already selfishly turning against him. They know Trump is finished.

djt impeachment graphic

ny times logoNew York Times, Virus Disrupts Travel and Trade Between U.K and Europe, Staff Reports, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Congress designates more aid in stimulus agreement for minority businesses.

  • Stocks sink as a fast-spreading virus strain emerges in Britain and overshadows a stimulus deal.
  • Worries over Britain’s food supplies grow after France suspends trucks from Britain.
  • A crisis at Eurostar, the high-speed train, worsens amid a travel ban on Britain.
  • Moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for F.H.A. loans is extended.
  • Congress faces another midnight deadline to approve the new stimulus deal.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, A Dinner, a Deal and Moonshine: How the Stimulus Came Together, Nicholas Fandos, Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane, Updated Dec. 22, 2020. Top party leaders cinched a deal after laying down their swords. But it took an empowered, bipartisan group of moderates to help bridge the divide.

lisa murkowski oA week before Thanksgiving, a small group of moderate senators gathered in the spacious living room of Senator Lisa Murkowski’s home on Capitol Hill to embark on what they considered an urgent assignment. She is shown at right in a file photo.

They were there — eating Tuscan takeout as they sat socially distanced, with the windows open to let the cold air circulate as a coronavirus precaution — to talk about how to get the Senate, polarized and paralyzed on nearly every issue, working again.

They were also determined to find a way to deliver a more immediate kind of relief, brainstorming how to break a monthslong partisan stalemate over providing a new round of federal aid to millions of Americans and businesses buckling under the economic weight of the coronavirus pandemic.

The stimulus deal they began discussing that evening ultimately showed that both were possible. In hatching the compromise, the centrists provided a backbone for the $900 billion relief measure that Congress approved late Monday. Perhaps just as important, they delivered a template for the kind of bipartisan deal-making that will be crucial to getting Congress to function again in the Biden era, when tiny majorities in both chambers will force the parties to find their way to the center to accomplish any major initiative.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 22, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 77,828,466, Deaths: 1,711,641
U.S. Cases: 18,473,716, Deaths: 326,772

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 22, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Stimulus Deal: What’s in It for You, Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Lawmakers agreed to issue stimulus payments and a federal unemployment benefit of $300. But that money will take time to start arriving.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Full Are Hospital I.C.U.s Near You? Matthew Conlen, John Keefe, Lauren Leatherby and Charlie Smart, Updated Dec. 21, 2020. See how many Covid-19 patients are being treated, and how many intensive-care beds remain available, at hospitals in the U.S.

Almost one-fifth of U.S. hospitals with intensive care units reported that at least 95 percent of their I.C.U. beds were full in the week ending Dec. 17, as the coronavirus pandemic surged to alarming highs. Nationwide, 78 percent of intensive care hospital beds were occupied.

See how the pandemic has affected recent hospital capacity in the map below, which shows data reported by individual hospitals. Health officials said that the data should not discourage sick people from seeking care.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Pandemic’s Inhuman Demands, Michelle Goldberg, right Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Emotional respite has michelle goldberg thumbbecome a scarce public resource.

The journalist Anne Helen Petersen recently asked, on Twitter, for articles about the “long-term psychological effects” of the pandemic. She soon noticed that many of the replies were about the damage it was doing to children.

Seeing this crystallized something I’d been dimly aware of. The strange politics of the coronavirus have created a taboo, at least in certain progressive circles, in talking too much about the emotional suffering wrought by nine months of purgatorial isolation. It’s easier to discuss what it’s doing to our kids, because we feel justified in trying to spare them pain.

If, before this year, I felt for a day the way I now feel all the time, I’d consider it an emergency and do anything I could to fix it. Now that I’m waiting out a pandemic in a small apartment with small kids and winter closing in, most things I’d need to do to be less miserable are proscribed, though sometimes by suggestion rather than decree. In many cases, it’s up to each of us to decide how much seclusion, how much joylessness, how much boredom and frustration we can tolerate, even though the pandemic means that whatever risks we take for relief aren’t ours alone.

Western Journal via WND, Dr. Birx to retire after her travel to visit family ignites controversy, Jack Davis, Dec. 22, 2020. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx announced Tuesday that she plans to retire following recent backlash to her Thanksgiving weekend trip to her Delaware vacation home, where more than one household was present.

deborah birx profile palmer Custom“I want the Biden administration to be successful,” Birx (shown in a file photo) told Newsy. “I will be helpful in any role that people think I can be helpful in, and then I will retire," she added. "I will have to say that this experience has been a bit overwhelming. It's been very difficult on my family.

"I think what was done in the last week to my family ... you know, they didn't choose this for me," Birx continued. "You know, they've tried to be supportive, but to drag my family into this ..."

The White House official addressed the American people on Nov. 19, in a coronavirus briefing, to warn them of the dangers the upcoming holiday season would bring during the pandemic. In her statement, Birx asked Americans to "remain vigilant" and "really limit interactions indoors to immediate households."

Then, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Birx reportedly traveled to a vacation property she owns on Fenwick Island in Delaware for a family gathering. Birx, her husband, a daughter, her son-in-law and two young grandchildren were in attendance, according to The Associated Press, who reported that the three generations live in two separate households.

Birx owns several houses in the U.S., including one in Washington, D.C., and one in Potomac, Maryland, where her parents, along with her daughter's family, live. Birx reportedly visits the Potomac house from time to time.

When asked about her Thanksgiving weekend activities, Birx revealed to the AP that she went to Delaware to winterize the property in anticipation of a potential sale. “I did not go to Delaware for the purpose of celebrating Thanksgiving,” Birx said in a statement, while admitting that her family had shared a meal together at the home.

But the coronavirus response coordinator's remarks fell short for many Americans, who, frustrated by months of lockdowns, were not in an understanding mood. In response to the backlash, Birx said that her family has suffered during the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucked into Congress’s massive stimulus bill: Tens of billions in special-interest tax giveaways, Yeganeh Torbati, Dec. 22, 2020. The electric motorcycle and beer industries were among those that emerged as big winners.

Congress on Monday unveiled a 5,593-page spending bill and then voted on it several hours later, with lawmakers claiming urgent action was needed to rescue an ailing economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

But tucked in the bill was over $110 billion in tax breaks that strayed far from the way the bill was marketed to many Americans. These giveaways include big tax cuts for liquor producers, the motorsports entertainment sector and manufacturers of electric motorcycles.

These measures, added onto the broader spending bill, are known as “tax extenders” — tax breaks targeted at specific, sometimes niche industries. And routinely extending these “temporary” measures has become something of a year-end tradition, despite loud complaints from some lawmakers who allege the votes largely benefit special-interest groups who stand to gain financially from the outcome.

These tax extenders are designed to be temporary but are frequently renewed, often at the urging of industry lobbyists, and done so during late-night votes at the end of the year. (The Senate vote Monday took place shortly before midnight.) The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated the extenders benefiting industry and special interests included in the stimulus bill would cost over $110 billion over 10 years.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats see grim prospects in final election results despite Biden’s win, Michael Scherer, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). As returns were finalized, concerns have risen about holding suburbs, connecting with White working-class voters and avoiding Black and Latino erosion in future elections.

Voters in the once Democratic Ohio county that surrounds the shuttered Lordstown General Motors plant delivered a decisive victory last month to the sitting president who had promised and failed to save their jobs.

In the heavily Hispanic South Bronx, the liberal sanctum of San Francisco and the immigrant-rich neighborhoods of Miami, President Trump also shrank Democratic margins by drawing thousands more to his side. He even swept the 31 Iowa counties that voted twice for Barack Obama before choosing Trump in 2016.

Ultimately, President-elect Joe Biden won the contests that mattered most, besting Trump by 7.1 million votes nationally and scoring pathbreaking wins in Georgia and Arizona. But beneath the surface, despite low approval ratings, high unemployment and a raging pandemic whose handling he had fumbled, Trump’s strength grew among key parts of the electorate.

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: The Ghost of Sabotage Future, Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). This winter’s economy won’t be as grim as feared, but what about after?

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Is Trump Really All That Holds the G.O.P. Together? Matthew Continetti (Resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute), Dec. 22, 2020. The Republican Party has embraced reality-TV authoritarianism not out of strength but weakness.

djt profile balding big head palmerNo other Republican or conservative leader personalized his leadership in this way. In 1960, Barry Goldwater told a student group lobbying him to run for president: “The man is not important. The principles you espouse are.” In 1976, Ronald Reagan told “60 Minutes” that the Republican Party would be “dead” unless it “stands up and erects a set of principles around which people can rally.” The “Contract With America” wasn’t between the country and Representative Newt Gingrich. It was with the Republican Party.

But that is ancient history.

tommy tuberville doug jonesIncoming Republican U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, left, is shown with the incumbent Alabama Democrat whom he defeated, Doug Jones.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s final hope rests with Tommy Tuberville. Sad! Dana Milbank, right, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). dana milbank CustomPresident-unelect Trump has studied every play in the Coups-for-Dummies playbook: court challenges, pressure on Republican officials to overturn the election, even a half-baked plan for martial law from pardoned convict Michael Flynn. But no luck.

Now, Trump’s final hope rests with Tommy Tuberville.

This is like finding out your death-row appeal will be argued by Sidney Powell.

Tuberville — or “Tubs,” from his college football coaching days — is the Republican senator-elect from Alabama, and he’s proposing to object to the election results in the Senate on Jan. 6. Trump exulted: “Great senator.”

Problem is, Tubs, if he were a Democrat, is what Trump might call a “low-IQ individual.” In their wisdom, the voters of Alabama chose to replace Democrat Doug Jones, who prosecuted the Birmingham church bombing, with a man who recently announced his discovery that there are “three branches of government,” namely, “the House, the Senate and the executive.”

Tuberville was baffled by the vote counting after Election Day (“The referees are suddenly adding touchdowns to the other team’s side of the scoreboard”), and last week said he plans a Senate challenge to the electoral college tally.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump may have just unwittingly made Joe Biden’s life easier, James Sullivan, Dec. 22, 2020. One of the staples of Donald Trump’s foreign policy – or poor attempt at having a foreign policy – has been his ongoing trade war with China.

Before COVID, he decided to call himself “Tariff Man” as he levied tariffs on $370 billion of imports – something that hit American farmers in the process, as much as Trump denied this and tried to bail them out on his own. When the pandemic hit, he tried as hard as he could to blame China and hope he could make it stick, to deflect from his own administration’s gross mismanagement of the pandemic. The problem is, whatever other problems his erratic China policy may have caused, it may have had a side effect Trump wasn’t planning on: Giving Joe Biden the upper hand when it comes to trade talks.

Even though President-elect Biden and fellow Democrats oppose many of the measures the Trump administration took against China, the trade sanctions will all still be on the table after Biden is sworn in as president, giving him substantial leverage for any negotiating with China’s President Xi.

Biden’s Justice Department could, for example, negotiate for a Huawei executive to be returned to China whose hearing is scheduled for next spring, which could happen even before things are fully sorted out within Biden’s cabinet.
Although Biden has said that he doesn’t plan to make any immediate moves, he called for U.S. allies to be on the same page – and some of the more aggressive countermoves made by Xi have already turned some countries against China, meaning they’re more likely to take Biden’s side when talks begin.

The upshot here is that not only are we going to get adults in the White House in less than a month who know how to handle a crisis, but Trump’s attempts to look tough on China are only going to make him look like more of a failure in retrospect after losing the election and leaving behind a mess that his opponent can quickly begin untangling.

 

Biden Transition

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is just getting weird, Bill Palmer, Dec. 22, 2020. As Donald Trump continues to drag out his sore loser routine after his election loss, he’s getting in the way of other professional grifters like Mitch McConnell and Pat Robertson, who are now publicly telling him to get off the stage. Accordingly, Trump is now trying to turn Senate Republicans against McConnell.

Meanwhile, Trump is now reduced to plotting with the few Republicans who still think they have something to gain by propping up the rotting corpse of his presidency.

bill palmer report logo headerYesterday Trump met with a handful of House Republicans including Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, who come from far right districts, and think they can score partisan points back home by conspiring with Trump. Let’s put jim jordan headshot Customthis in context: a Republican President has now decided that his best course of action is to conspire with Jim Jordan, right, and Matt Gaetz while attacking Mitch McConnell. Does that sound like a winning strategy to you?

This just getting weird. Republicans with serious career ambitions no longer want anything to do with Donald Trump, because he’s become dead weight.

So instead Trump is humiliating himself by conspiring with lightweights and punchlines who are willing to prop up his fantasy that he can somehow magically find a happy ending in all this. This is as seditious as it is pointless. It’s guaranteed to fail. And everyone involved knows that, except perhaps for Trump himself. 

usda logo horizontal Customny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s Choice of Vilsack for U.S.D.A. Raises Fears for Small Farmers, Alan Rappeport and Michael Corkery, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Democrats have struggled to win voters in rural America and critics say the return of Tom Vilsack, a former agriculture secretary, won’t help.

tom vilsack oIf confirmed, Mr. Vilsack, left, a former Iowa governor, will retake the helm of the Agriculture Department at a time when America’s farmers have been battered by Mr. Trump’s trade wars and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Smaller farmers in particular have been hit hard and farm bankruptcies have increased over the past few years, even with record amounts of federal assistance. Family-owned dairy producers have faced an especially difficult stretch, with prices declining because of an oversupply of milk. In Wisconsin, half of the herds have disappeared in the last 15 years.

Critics of Mr. Vilsack, who recently earned $1 million a year as a lobbyist for the dairy industry, worry that he will favor big industry over independent farmers and not do enough to ensure worker safety.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports (updated). One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

Palmer Report, Opinion: Has Jared Kushner finally punched his ticket to prison? Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 22, robert harringtnn portrait2020. What do Jared Kushner (Senior White House advisor and son-in-law to Donald Trump), Lara Trump (Eric Trump’s wife), John Pence (Mike Pence’s nephew) and Sean Dollman (Trump campaign CFO) all have in common? That’s a question that is going to become increasingly relevant to DOJ prosecutors and investigators as the pirate ship known as the Trump administration winds down into irrelevance.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out that Kushner, right, helped to create a shell corporation called American Made Media Consultants Corporation, also known as American Made Media Consultants LLC.

Kushner named Lara, John and Sean to the board of that corporation. Some $617 million was funnelled to that corporation to spend as it saw fit. Some of the spending was legitimate. But $170 million of it was not. That money found its way into the greedy pockets of the Trump family. And that, my friends, is what’s known as campaign finance fraud — writ large.

The $170 million was laundered as unearned salaries for various members of the Trump family together with a slush fund for various types of spending. But it all ended up being used for the personal gain of Trump family members.

donald trump twitterWhy was this done? The shell corporation was created in order to hide from Trump’s donors the fact that their money was being funneled directly into the pockets of Trump family members, and not for the Trump campaign or to help in the defense fund to reclaim the “stolen” election. In other words, those members of Trump’s following who dug deep into their own pockets to help their “Dear Leader” win re-election, and later, to help him take his “rightful place” to a second term, are really just losers and suckers financing the lifestyles of the already rich.

william barr new oIt turns out that the Department of Justice (that’s right, Bill Barr’s very own DOJ) is already looking into this. (Apparently, when you inherit a contraption the size of the DOJ you can’t always control all of its moving parts.) Once President Biden’s administration takes over it can pick up where they left off.

It’s probably no coincidence, therefore, that the defense bill that Donald Trump wants to veto also contains a rider intended to crack down on the creation of just such shell corporations as American Made Media Consultants LLC. The more you drill down, the more self-serving and incestuous the relationships become.

Naturally, so many of Trump’s followers are such thoroughly glassy-eyed dybbuks that they won’t care about this scam, but some of the not yet thoroughly zombified will. Whatever the case, one does not create a shell corporation for just such an operation unless one has something to hide.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Longtime Banker at Deutsche Bank Resigns, David Enrich, Dec. 22, 2020. Rosemary Vrablic, who oversaw hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to President Trump’s company, will leave the bank next week.

President Trump’s longtime banker at Deutsche Bank, who arranged for the German lender to make hundreds of millions of dollars of loans to his company, is stepping down from the bank.

deutsche bank logoRosemary Vrablic, a managing director and senior banker in Deutsche Bank’s wealth management division, recently handed in her resignation, which the bank accepted, according to a bank spokesman, Daniel Hunter.

“I’ve chosen to resign my position with the bank effective Dec. 31 and am looking forward to my retirement,” Ms. Vrablic, 60, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The reasons for Ms. Vrablic’s abrupt resignation were not clear. Deutsche Bank in August opened an internal review into a 2013 real estate transaction between Ms. Vrablic and a company owned in part by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of Mr. Trump and a client of Ms. Vrablic’s. Dominic Scalzi, a longtime colleague of Ms. Vrablic’s who played a role in that transaction, will also leave the bank.

Ms. Vrablic and Mr. Scalzi joined Deutsche Bank in 2006 from Bank of America. Ms. Vrablic quickly made a name for herself as one of her division’s leading rainmakers.

In 2011, she landed a prominent new client: Mr. Trump, who for decades had been mostly off limits to the mainstream banking world because of his tendency to default on loans. With her bosses’ approval, Ms. Vrablic agreed to a series of loans, totaling well over $300 million, for his newly acquired Doral golf resort in Florida, for his troubled Chicago skyscraper and for the transformation of the Old Post Office building in Washington into a luxury hotel.

 wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Damage assessment on possible sleeper agent Mike Flynn, Wayne Madsen (shown at left, syndicated wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallcolumnist, author of 18 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), Dec. 22, 2020.

Retired three-star Army General Michael Flynn's recent call for Donald Trump to declare martial law and effect a Michael Flynn Harvard 2014military-run redo of the presidential election requires the law enforcement and intelligence arms of the armed forces to conduct a damage assessment covering Flynn's entire military career.

It is known that upon retiring as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Flynn, right, began working for at least two foreign governments, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and perhaps others. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration weighs legal immunity for Saudi crown prince in alleged assassination plot, Spencer S. Hsu and Kareem Fahim, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Riyadh has asked the State Department to shield Mohammed bin Salman from a U.S. lawsuit by a former Saudi intelligence officer who claims he was targeted days after Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in 2018. Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Saud

The U.S. government is weighing a request to declare Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, immune from a federal lawsuit accusing him of targeting for assassination a former top intelligence officer who could disclose damaging secrets about the prince’s ascent to power, according to legal documents related to the case.

The Saudi government has asked that the prince be shielded from liability in response to a complaint brought by Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi counterterrorism leader and longtime U.S. intelligence ally now living in exile in Canada.

A State Department recommendation could also lead to the dismissal of the prince as a defendant in other cases recently filed in the United States, including ones accusing him of directing the death and dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018; and of targeting a hack and leak operation to discredit an Al Jazeera news anchor, Ghada Oueiss, in retaliation for her critical reports on Mohammed and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates.

The request to the Trump administration comes as the State Department, Aljabri’s family and supportive U.S. lawmakers have condemned Riyadh for detaining two of Aljabri’s children in a bid to silence him.

President Trump, though, has been an ardent supporter of the crown prince, who is sometimes referred to by his initials, MBS.

washington post logoWashington Post, Washington Football Team settled sexual misconduct claim against Daniel Snyder for $1.6 million, Will Hobson, Beth Reinhard and Liz Clarke, Dec. 22, 2020. Owner Daniel Snyder admitted no wrongdoing in the 2009 settlement, but details of the team’s payout come as the NFL investigates allegations of sexual harassment at the franchise.

nfl logoThe Washington Football Team paid a female former employee $1.6 million as part of a confidential settlement in 2009, according to a copy of the agreement reviewed by The Washington Post. The settlement was struck after the woman accused team owner Daniel Snyder of sexual misconduct, a person familiar with the matter said.

The alleged incident occurred on Snyder’s private plane on a flight returning from the Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke on the condition of anonymity. In court records filed Monday as part of an ongoing feud among the team’s owners, Snyder’s business partners referenced the woman’s allegation, calling it “a serious accusation of sexual misconduct.”

The revelation of a seven-figure settlement involving Snyder comes as the NFL conducts an investigation into sexual harassment inside the organization he has owned since 1999.

Key details of the agreement reviewed by The Post align with a settlement that surfaced during the NFL’s investigation, and that the team’s lawyers are fighting in federal court to keep under wraps.

Sacramento Bee, ‘Doomed to die in pain.’ Pelican throat pouches slashed in California, rescue says, Don Sweeney, Dec. 22, 2020. Someone has been slashing the throat pouches of brown pelicans in Southern California, a bird rescue says.

Four pelicans have been brought to International Bird Rescue in San Pedro with symmetrical cuts on both sides of their throat pouches, which the birds use to feed, the agency says.

“These wounds leave the pelicans in shock and doomed to die in pain,” the rescue group said. The organization has offered a $5,000 reward for information on the attacks.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions of Christmas presents may arrive late because of USPS package delays, Jacob Bogage and Hannah Denham, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Historic volumes of e-commerce orders, soaring coronavirus cases among its workforce and continuing fallout from a hobbled cost-cutting program are choking U.S. Postal Service operations.

us mail logoNearly 19,000 of the agency’s 644,000 workers have called in sick or are isolating because of covid-19, according to the American Postal Workers Union. Meanwhile, packages have stacked up inside some postal facilities, leading employees to push them aside to create narrow walkways on shop floors.

Some processing plants are now refusing to accept new mail shipments. The backlogs are so pronounced that some managers have reached out to colleagues in hopes of diverting mail shipments to nearby facilities. But often, those places are full, too. Meanwhile, packages sit on trucks for days waiting for floor space to open so their loads can be sorted.

“[Customers] are screaming, ‘Where’s my package? Why did it go to Jacksonville, Fla., when it’s going to Miami?’" said Martin Ramirez, president of the APWU Local 170 in Ohio. “I can’t speak on that. I’ve never seen this before where these places are overflowing.”

The end result: Many families won’t see online orders arrive in time for Christmas Day.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Bloomberg Reporter Who Covered Martin Shkreli Reveals Relationship With Him, Katie Robertson, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). Christie Smythe helped break the story of Mr. Shkreli’s arrest in 2015. Then she “started to fall for him,” she said, and quit her job at Bloomberg News. The relationship between Ms. Smythe, who joined Bloomberg News as a legal reporter in 2012, and Mr. Shkreli was revealed in an Elle magazine article on Sunday.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Israeli government on the verge of collapse after lawmakers fail to reach budget compromise, Steve Hendrix, Dec. 22, 2020. Bitterly divided Israeli lawmakers were unable to agree on a key budget vote early Tuesday, marking the likely end of an eight-month-old coalition government and setting the country on a path to its fourth round of national elections in less than two years.

Israel FlagThe Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has until midnight Tuesday (5 p.m. Eastern time) to pass a 2020 budget, one of the many basic acts of lawmaking that have gone unfinished under the fractious power-sharing agreement between right-wing and centrist parties that have battled each other since forming their unity government in April.

The campaign will unfold as health officials race to vaccinate the population against the coronavirus, an effort unlikely to be completed by election day. That would mark the second time that Israelis, who last voted in March, will go to the polls amid an outbreak that has killed more than 3,000 people in the country.

european union logo rectangle

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: E.U. Urges Member Countries to Lift Travel Bans on Britain, Staff reports, Dec. 22, 2020.  The European Commission recommended testing or quarantines instead. An expert saw no evidence yet that a vaccine would need to change. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, Hong Kong’s highest court upholds ban on masks at protests, Shibani Mahtani, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The ruling upheld the power of Hong Kong’s chief executive to use colonial-era security laws to unilaterally enact legislation.

 

Dec. 21

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Media News

 

World News


Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Pandemic Deal by Congress Provides Economic Relief, for Now, Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley, Updated Dec. 21, 2020. The $900 billion agreement has probably spared millions of Americans from a winter of poverty and kept the country from falling back into recession. But it comes too late to prevent lasting damage to many families and businesses, our reporters write in an analysis.

us senate logoFor much of the economy — especially people and industries that have been insulated from the worst effects of the pandemic — the deal on Sunday may provide a bridge to a vaccine-fueled rebound. That is especially likely if the vaccine is quickly and widely distributed, and the swelling number of coronavirus cases doesn’t force another round of widespread shutdowns.

The injection of money comes months too late for tens of thousands of failed businesses, however, and it may not be enough to sustain unemployed workers until the labor market rebounds. Moreover, it could be the last help from Washington the economy gets anytime soon.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr sides with Mike Pompeo against Donald Trump as everything falls apart, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2020. There is no longer any plan, strategy, or scheme that will magically save Donald Trump from being booted out of office in thirty days. He can’t accept that, because once he’s out of office, he’ll be on a path to prison, bankruptcy, and the end of his life as he knows it.

There’s a reason why Trump is now reduced to listening to the delusional fantasies of his crackpot election lawyers: they’re the only people still floating any scenarios for magically saving him. Trump’s “adult” henchmen already know it’s over, and are now trying to cover their own backsides.

bill palmer report logo headerAttorney General Bill Barr is publicly admitting that Trump lost the election fair and square. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is publicly admitting that it was indeed Russia who hacked U.S. government agencies. Barr has lost his job over it, and Pompeo might be about to. But now Barr is publicly siding with Pompeo on the Russia thing, contradicting Trump’s assertion that the hack was either overblown, or fake, or somehow done by China.

It’s clear that henchmen like Barr and Pompeo are trying to rehabilitate their images now that Trump is taking a fall. After all, the DOJ could easily charge them both with felonies for the criminal antics they carried out while in office. The best way to beat those charges is to establish the narrative now that they couldn’t have been willing Trump henchmen, since they stood up to him in the end.

Barr and Pompeo shouldn’t be let off the hook at all. They each belong in prison; Barr for numerous instances of felony obstruction of justice and Pompeo for his criminal antics in the Ukraine scandal. But for now, the point is that some of Trump’s biggest henchmen are already selfishly turning against him. They know Trump is finished.

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jennar Ellis allege election fraud to Republican legislators this month in a performance widely ridiculed because of lack of evidence persuasive to courts and Giuliani's flatulence (heard shortly before this screenshot).

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jennar Ellis allege election fraud to Republican legislators this month in a performance widely ridiculed because of lack of evidence persuasive to courts and Giuliani's flatulence (heard shortly before this screenshot).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump drove the lie that the election was stolen, undermining voter trust in the outcome, Amy Gardner, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Flanked by pro-Trump media outfits and an assortment of state lawmakers and lawyers who gave oxygen to debunked allegations, the president persuaded millions of Americans that the vote was rigged.

Mediaite, Rudy Giuliani Disavows Sidney Powell’s Role in Trump Legal Fight — After Her Third Oval Office Visit in Four Days, Reed Richardson, Dec 21, 2020. Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and quixotic leader of the campaign to overturn the 2020 election, Rudy Giuliani, labored to distance the president from fellow legal conspiracist Sidney Powell, even though she has visited the White House in three of the last four days.

During an appearance on Newsmax’s Spicer & Co, Giuliani insisted that Powell was acting independently and was not associated with his official efforts on behalf of Trump, despite those visits.

Giuliani’s reference to “special counsel” came after news reports that, during Powell’s Friday Oval Office audience with the president, he reportedly floated the idea of naming Powell as special counsel to investigate election fraud — a move that it should be pointed out is beyond Trump’s authority, since, by regulation, only the attorney general can appoint a special counsel.

However, just moments later, Giuliani appeared to subtly cast aspersions on Powell’s legal strategy. “We’re going to be extremely aggressive, we’re going to fight for our client as hard as we can,” he added. “But we’re also going to do in within the bounds of rationality, common sense, and the law. And it can be done. There’s no reason to go beyond anything.”

This isn’t the first time Giuliani has ruled out Powell having an official role in the legal fight, as he claimed the pair were “pursuing two different theories” just before Thanksgiving. Still, Giuliani’s disavowal rings hollow, since Powell continues to have the president’s ear and, just days before his earlier disavowal, Giuliani and Powell held a surreal, joint press conference where he stood beside her as she pushed delusional election conspiracies involving George Soros, Hugo Chavez, the Clintons, and Antifa, among others.

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is leaving behind crises and undermining Biden before he takes office, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). In a situation without precedent in U.S. history, one president is ending his term amid a global emergency while seeking to delegitimize a successor — and floating the prospect of mounting a four-year campaign to return to power. 

Biden’s incoming administration has long described a “perfect storm” of four crises facing the country — the pandemic, economic distress, climate change and racial justice. It suddenly has another to add: a historic cyber intrusion into government networks that likely began months ago and could reverberate for months to come.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some European Countries Begin Barring U.K. Travelers, Staff reports, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). A few nations began closing united kingdom flagborders to travelers from the U.K. after Britain ordered a lockdown on London, citing concerns of a variant of the virus. The bans emerged as people rushed to travel hubs in London to flee the lockdown, the U.K.’s harshest measure against the virus in months. Here’s the latest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Coronavirus Is Mutating. What Does That Mean for Us? Apoorva Mandavilli, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Officials in Britain and South Africa claim new variants are more easily transmitted. There’s a lot more to the story, scientists say.

Citing the rapid spread of the virus through London and surrounding areas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, left, imposed the country’s most stringent lockdown Boris Johnsonsince March. “When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defense,” he said.

In South Africa, a similar version of the virus has emerged, which seems to share some of the mutations seen in the British variant. That south africa flag after 1994virus has been found in 90 percent of the samples whose genetic sequences have been analyzed in South Africa.

Scientists are worried about these variants, but not surprised by them. Researchers have recorded thousands of tiny modifications in the genetic material of the coronavirus as it has hopscotched across the world.

united kingdom flagThe British variant has 23 mutations, including several that affect how the virus locks onto human cells and infects them. These mutations may allow the variant to replicate and transmit more efficiently, said Muge Cevik, an infectious disease expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and a scientific adviser to the British government.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Virus Disrupts Travel and Trade Between U.K and Europe, Staff Reports, Dec. 21, 2020. Congress designates more aid in stimulus agreement for minority businesses.

  • Stocks sink as a fast-spreading virus strain emerges in Britain and overshadows a stimulus deal.
  • Worries over Britain’s food supplies grow after France suspends trucks from Britain.
  • A crisis at Eurostar, the high-speed train, worsens amid a travel ban on Britain.
  • Moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for F.H.A. loans is extended.
  • Congress faces another midnight deadline to approve the new stimulus deal.

  

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Big Fight’ Breaks Out Over Which Interest Groups Get Vaccine First, David Goodman and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Companies, unions and industry trade associations are fighting to include their workers in the next round of coronavirus vaccines.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 21, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 77,272,681, Deaths: 1,701,701
U.S. Cases: 18,267,579, Deaths: 324,869

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 21, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, Aid Long Sought From the Government Totals $900 Billion, Emily Cochrane, Updated Dec. 21, 2020. The package would provide direct payments of $600 to struggling Americans and funds for small businesses, hospitals, schools and vaccine distribution. The emergence of the coronavirus vaccine has stirred hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, allowing many to imagine life on the other side of the pandemic.

The deal would deliver the first significant infusion of federal dollars into the economy since April, as negotiators broke through months of partisan Mitchell McConnellgridlock that had scuttled earlier talks, leaving millions of Americans and businesses without federal help as the pandemic raged. While the plan is roughly half the size of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March, it is one of the largest relief packages in modern history.

“We can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time,” Senator Mitch McConnell, right, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said Sunday night. “More help is on the way.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Not an Ideal Process or Agreement, but, Finally, a Deal, Charlie Brennan, Rick Rojas and Sarah Maslin Nir, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Americans nationwide are glad that Congress, after a painfully prolonged process, has agreed to a stimulus package, however imperfect.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The ‘Red Slime’ Lawsuit That Could Sink Right-Wing Media, Ben Smith, Updated Dec. 21, 2020. Last week, a lawyer for Antonio Mugica sent scathing letters to Fox, Newsmax and OAN demanding that they immediately, forcefully clear his company’s name. Voting machine companies threaten “highly dangerous” cases against Fox, Newsmax and OAN, says Floyd Abrams.

antonio mugicaAntonio Mugica, left, was in Boca Raton when an American presidential election really melted down in 2000, and he watched with shocked fascination as local government officials argued over hanging chads and butterfly ballots.

It was so bad, so incompetent, that Mr. Mugica, a young Venezuelan software engineer, decided to shift the focus of his digital security company, Smartmatic, which had been working for banks. It would offer its services to what would obviously be a growth smartmaticindustry: electronic voting machines. He began building a global company that ultimately provided voting machinery and software for elections from Brazil to Belgium and his native Venezuela. He even acquired an American company, then called Sequoia.

Last month, Mr. Mugica initially took it in stride when his company’s name started popping up in grief-addled Trump supporters’ wild conspiracy theories about the election.

“Of course I was surprised, but at the same time, it was pretty clear that these people were trying to discredit the election and they were throwing out 25 conspiracy theories in parallel,” he told me in an interview last dominion voting systemsweek from Barbados, where his company has an office. “I thought it was so absurd that it was not going to have legs.”

rudy giuliani recentBut by Nov. 14, he knew he had a problem. That’s when Rudy Giuliani, right, serving as the president’s lawyer, suggested that one voting company, Dominion Voting Systems, had a sinister connection to vote counts in “Michigan, Arizona and Georgia and other states.” Mr. Giuliani declared on Twitter that the company “was a front for SMARTMATIC, who was really doing the computing. Look up SMARTMATIC and tweet me what you think?”

Soon his company, and a competitor, Dominion — which sells its services to about 1,900 of the county governments that administer elections across America — were at the center of Mr. Giuliani’s and Sidney Powell’s theories, and on the tongues of commentators on Fox News and its farther-right rivals, Newsmax and One America News.

Here’s the thing: Smartmatic wasn’t even used in the contested states. The company, now a major global player with over 300 employees, pulled out of the United States in 2007 after a controversy over its founders’ Venezuelan roots, and its only involvement this November was with a contract to help Los Angeles County run its election.

In an era of brazen political lies, Mr. Mugica has emerged as an unlikely figure with the power to put the genie back in the bottle.

djt maga hatLast week, his lawyer sent scathing letters to the Fox News Channel, Newsmax and OAN demanding that they immediately, forcefully clear his company’s name — and that they retain documents for a planned defamation lawsuit.

He has, legal experts say, an unusually strong case. And his new lawyer is J. Erik Connolly, who not coincidentally won the largest settlement in the history of American media defamation in 2017, at least $177 million, for a beef producer whose “lean finely textured beef” was described by ABC News as “pink slime.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: There is no middle ground between fact and fiction on the election results, Editorial Board, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). As President Trump continues to lie about last month’s election, national Republican leaders are trying to stake out what they imagine as a middle ground: While Joe Biden is the president-elect, the 2020 election was marred by substantial fraud and election irregularities. In fact, this is also a lie, and their dishonesty damages U.S. democracy.

ron johnson oAt a Wednesday Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), right, declared that it is “not sustainable” for a large proportion of Americans to believe the election results are illegitimate. He then set about encouraging this false belief by dignifying debunked attacks on the vote’s integrity. Mr. Johnson insisted that pro-Trump forces have raised “legitimate concerns” about “violations of election laws,” “fraudulent votes and ballot stuffing,” and “corruption of voting machines and software that might be programmed to add or switch votes.”

Republicans are inaugurating a new, dangerous era in which political parties may refuse to acknowledge election results merely because they dislike the choices voters made. The damage is twofold: Dignifying fake claims of widespread election irregularities shreds confidence in democracy, destabilizing the nation’s politics and encouraging potentially violent resistance to duly elected leaders.

Meanwhile, GOP state lawmakers in swing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania have responded to Republican outrage about Mr. Trump’s loss by promising major voting overhauls. This would fit into Republicans’ longer-term efforts to impose restrictions on casting ballots that depress voter participation yet provide little improvement in election integrity.

Sidney Powell, right, and Jenna Ellis

Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell conduct a press conference with Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani before Trump fired Powell.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump checks out, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 21, 2020. Donald Trump’s election lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood have spent this bill palmerevening using social media to rather viciously attack Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accusing them of being part of some kind of ill-defined conspiracy against Trump.

Presumably, this is because Meadows dared to tell Trump that Powell’s lunatic plans to magically overturn the election were literally impossible, and that Pompeo dared to publicly admit that it was Russia who hacked U.S. government agencies. But the specific reasoning behind the scuffle is less important than the fact that it’s happening at all, and what it tells us about Donald Trump himself.

bill palmer report logo headerPowell, Wood (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore photo), Meadows, and Pompeo are all fully complicit in Trump’s overall corrupt agenda. They’re all his henchmen. If Trump were still in the game, he’d be giving them marching orders, telling them what to do, and getting them all on the same page – his page.

Instead, Trump’s henchmen are all eating each other alive, even as Trump says and does little. This is a clear sign that he’s checked lin wood gage skidmoreout mentally, and his henchmen are each left to their own devices and trying to fill the resulting power vacuum with their own personal agendas.

Best anyone can tell, Trump likes to hear from his lunatic lawyers because their magical imaginary solutions make him feel good – but then he also likes it when his more stable henchmen explain why none of it’s real, because that gives him an excuse not to have to take action.

Donald Trump is in that place where he’s scared of his own shadow, knows he’s one false move from finished, also knows that he’s doomed if he doesn’t do anything, and just wants to be told that it’s all going to be magically okay. In other words, he’s checked out entirely.

Yahoo! News, Trump personally pressured more than 150 Republicans to overthrow election for him, report says, Graig Graziosi, Dec. 21, 2020. Donald Trump launched an expansive campaign to convince more than 150 Republican officials to overturn election results in his favour, a new report claims.

A Politico report outlined the unprecedented steps Mr Trump took to convince Republican lawmakers at various levels of power to use their authority to overturn election results in his favour.

In one instance, Mr Trump contacted Monica Palmer, who sits on a board that confirms the election results for Wayne County, Michigan – the state's most populous county.

Shortly after the call, Ms Palmer said she wanted to rescind her vote to authorise the election results, which showed that Joe Biden had won.

djt profile balding big head palmerThough her efforts were ultimately in vain, they were just the beginning of Mr Trump's attempts to sway lawmakers into fraudulently naming him the election victor.

Over the next month, Mr Trump contacted at least 31 Republican officials, primarily state and local officials in battleground states that he lost, the report says.

He called at least 11 people, and invited 20 Republicans to meet personally with him at the White House. The attendees included state attorneys general, party leaders, and lawmakers.

He also discussed his plans with sitting House Republicans and at least three incoming Republican senators.

Politico spoke with 22 White House aides who described the president's attempts to convince Republicans to overturn the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House secures ‘three martini lunch’ tax deduction in draft of coronavirus relief package, Jeff Stein, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has long seized on the tax break as a way to revive the restaurant industry. But economists have panned it as ineffective and largely benefitting the wealthy.

The draft language of the emergency coronavirus relief package includes a tax break for corporate meal expenses pushed by the White House and strongly denounced by congressional Democrats, according to a summary of the deal circulating among congressional officials and officials who are familiar with the provision.

republican elephant logoPresident Trump has for months talked about securing the deduction — derisively referred to as the “three-martini lunch” by critics — as a way to revive the restaurant industry badly battered by the pandemic.

But critics said it would do little to help struggling restaurants and would largely benefit business executives who do not urgently need help at this time. Some Democrats recoiled at the proposal, though it has also been denounced as ineffective by conservative tax experts as well.

During negotiations, however, Democratic leaders agreed to the provision in exchange for Republicans agreeing to expand tax credits for low income families and the working poor in the final package, according to a Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of internal negotiations.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Even Pat Robertson is now telling Donald Trump to go away and never come back, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2020. Now that Donald Trump has lost the election and then proceeded to make a sore loser fool of himself, he’s made it a lot harder for his allies to stick with him. In fact he’s made it a lot easier for his allies to selfishly decide that their best career move is to throw him under the bus.

bill palmer report logo headerAccordingly, far right evangelical preacher Pat Robertson is now insisting that the “very erratic” Donald Trump should admit he lost and move on. In fact Robertson is going as far as to tell Trump not to bother running in 2024 either. In other words, go away and never come back.

Why is Pat Robertson doing this? He’s a corrupt fraudster with no principles, so it’s not like he suddenly grew a conscience. Instead, he’s made a calculation that his own career (and profit potential) will be better off with Donald Trump out of the picture. Trump’s transactional allies were always going to selfishly sell him out once he reached the point in his downfall that he became a liability to them. We’ll see more of this as Trump continues to circle the drain.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden nominees mount charm offensive amid tough confirmation landscape, Amy B Wang, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for treasury secretary, spoke to three trade and advocacy groups this week about her plans for healing the economy. Health and human services nominee Xavier Becerra appeared on Politico Live to stress his concern about health-care inequities. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, tapped to be U.N. ambassador, met with Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy and won his backing.

joe biden kamala harris hands up transitionAnd taken together, Biden’s appointees have held more than 100 Zoom meetings with lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, in the past week alone.

This multifaceted charm offensive reflects the transition team’s attempts to smooth the tough confirmation landscape the nominees will soon face in the Senate, a potentially hostile environment exacerbated by a narrow partisan divide and ongoing bitterness from the Trump era, with some Republicans still questioning Biden’s win.

That makes the confirmation battles, set to start well before Inauguration Day, the first real testing ground for post-Trump politics. They will show if Biden can win over Senate Republicans, if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can stymie Biden, and if individual senators, especially Republicans hoping to run for president in 2024, can attract a following by vocally attacking Biden’s efforts.

Critical and potentially controversial picks are still expected in coming days, including for attorney general and CIA director. The Biden team’s courtship, meanwhile, is complicated by the covid-19 pandemic, as casual drop-bys in senators’ offices are replaced by far less intimate Zoom introductions and virtual roundtables. But the Biden transition team sees no alternative.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘I’m Haunted by What I Did’ as a Lawyer in the Trump Justice Department, Erica Newland, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Ms. Newland worked in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department from 2016-18. No matter our intentions, lawyers like me were complicit. We owe the country our honesty about what we saw.

Justice Department log circularI was an attorney at the Justice Department when Donald Trump was elected president. I worked in the Office of Legal Counsel, which is where presidents turn for permission slips that say their executive orders and other contemplated actions are lawful. I joined the department during the Obama administration, as a career attorney whose work was supposed to be independent of politics.

I never harbored delusions about a Trump presidency. Mr. Trump readily volunteered that his agenda was to disassemble our democracy, but I made a choice to stay at the Justice Department — home to some of the country’s finest lawyers — for as long as I could bear it. I believed that I could better serve our country by pushing back from within than by keeping my hands clean. But I have come to reconsider that decision.

My job was to tailor the administration’s executive actions to make them lawful — in narrowing them, I could also make them less destructive. I remained committed to trying to uphold my oath even as the president refused to uphold his.

But there was a trade-off: We attorneys diminished the immediate harmful impacts of President Trump’s executive orders — but we also made them more palatable to the courts.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Conservative Justice in Wisconsin Says He Followed the Law, Not the Politics, Reid J. Epstein, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Like officials in Arizona and Georgia, Justice Brian Hagedorn is a longtime Republican who is now under fire for ruling against President Trump’s challenges to the election.

brian hagedornJustice Brian Hagedorn, left, of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is a veteran of the last decade’s fiercest partisan wars.

As chief legal counsel of Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, Justice Hagedorn helped write the 2011 law that stripped public-sector labor unions of their collective bargaining rights. Then in 2019, he won a narrow election to a 10-year term on the Supreme Court with backing from the state’s Republican media and grass-roots networks.

But Justice Hagedorn, a member of the conservative Federalist Society, who in 2016 founded a private school that forbids same-wisconsin map with largest cities Customsex relationships among its employees and students, is no longer a darling of the right. In a series of 4-3 decisions in recent months, he sided with the court’s three liberal justices to stop an effort to purge 130,000 people from the Wisconsin voter rolls, block the Green Party candidate and Kanye West from the general election presidential ballot and, on two separate occasions, reject President Trump’s effort to overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in Wisconsin.

Justice Hagedorn has in recent days found himself at odds not just with his political base but with his fellow conservative justices, who have spared little expense in showing their anger at him in judicial dissents defending Mr. Trump’s case.

He discussed the experience in an interview on Friday with The New York Times. The following is an excerpt from the conversation, condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: There are flickers of hope for local journalism. So far, it’s not nearly enough, Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). With its margaret sullivan 2015 photo14-member newsroom, Mississippi Today is by far the largest in the state, he said. Only 20 years ago, a typical regional newspaper boasted a newsroom staff of at least 100; larger ones, as in Cleveland and Detroit, had 300 journalists or more.

Fifty-five news outlets have closed for good since the pandemic began — and that’s on top of more than 2,000 newspapers that have folded since 2004. Thousands of local journalists have been fired or furloughed.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Antitrust Case Against Big Tech, Shaped by Tech Industry Exiles, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Regulators are relying on insiders like Dina Srinivasan, who left her digital ad job after concluding that “Facebook and Google were going to win and everybody else is going to lose.”

Three years ago, before she became an antitrust scholar whose work laid the blueprint for a new wave of monopoly lawsuits against Big Tech, Dina facebook logoSrinivasan was a digital advertising executive bored with her job and worried about the bleak outlook for the industry.

“It just felt like, OK, Facebook and Google were going to win and everybody else is going to lose and that’s just the way the cards were stacked,” Ms. Srinivasan said. “I don’t think this was widely understood.”

google logo customSo she quit her job at a unit of WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, and pursued something she hadn’t done since her days as a law student at Yale: writing a legal treatise.

With no background in academia but an insider’s understanding of the digital ad world and a stack of economics books, she wrote a paper with a novel theory — that Facebook harmed consumers by extracting more and more personal data for using its free services. This year, she argued in another paper that Google’s monopoly in advertising technology allowed for the type of self-dealing and insider trading that would be illegal on Wall Street.

Her arguments reframed the antitrust thinking about the companies. And her timing was perfect.

ny times logoNew York Times, Giving Billions Fast, MacKenzie Scott Upends Philanthropy, Nicholas Kulish, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Through a streamlined operation, Ms. Scott has given away $6 billion this year, much of it to small charities and nonprofits. On a Monday evening in November, Dorri McWhorter, the chief executive of the Y.W.C.A. Metropolitan Chicago, got a phone call from a representative of the billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The news was almost too good to be true: Her group would be receiving a $9 million gift.

Between the pandemic and the recession, it had been a difficult year for the Chicago Y.W.C.A., which runs a rape crisis hotline and provides counseling to women on jobs, mortgages and other issues. Money was tight. Ms. McWhorter shed tears of joy on the call.

Similar scenes were playing out at charities nationwide. Ms. Scott’s team recently sent out hundreds of out-of-the-blue emails to charities, notifying them of an incoming gift. Some of the messages were viewed as possible scams or landed in spam filters. Many of the gifts were the largest the amazon logo smallcharities had ever received. Ms. McWhorter was not the only recipient who cried.

All told, Ms. Scott — whose fortune comes from shares of Amazon that she got after her divorce last year from Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder — had given more than $4 billion to 384 groups, including 59 other Y.W.C.A. chapters.

 

World News

Philippines

washington post logoWashington Post, Philippine cop shoots dead mother and son on camera, reigniting nation’s debate over police impunity, Regine Cabato, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Thousands have died at the hands of police in President Duterte’s war on drugs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police killed 20 Kenyans while enforcing coronavirus rules. Chance of justice is slim, Max Bearak and Rael Ombuor, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). At least 20 people have been killed by Kenyan police while they enforced curfew and other coronavirus-related rules such as mandatory kenya flagmask-wearing. The government’s police oversight authority said 20 had been killed. It also documented 73 severe assaults, some sexual in nature.

Since the inception of Kenya’s police oversight body in 2011, only eight officers have been convicted of crimes, less than 1 percent of the cases it has pursued. According to Amnesty International, more than 740 Kenyans have been killed by police since 2007, including at least 130 already this year. A national survey in 2018 found that most Kenyans believed the biggest risk to their lives was violence by police.

 

Dec. 20

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Security, Russia, China

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

djt old looking resized headshot

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Trump Weighed Naming Election Conspiracy Theorist as Special Counsel, Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). In a meeting, President Trump weighed appointing Sidney Powell, who promoted conspiracy theories about voting machines, to investigate voter fraud.

sidney powellIn a meeting, President Trump weighed appointing Sidney Powell, right, who promoted conspiracy theories about voting machines, to investigate voter fraud.

It was unclear if Mr. Trump will move ahead with such a plan.

Most of his advisers opposed the idea, two of the people briefed on the discussion said, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. In recent days Mr. Giuliani has sought to have the Department of Homeland Security join the campaign’s efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss in the election.

rudy giuliani recentMr. Giuliani, shown at left in a file photo, joined the discussion by phone initially, while Ms. Powell was at the White House for a meeting that became raucous and involved people shouting at each other at times, according to one of the people briefed on what took place.

Ms. Powell’s client, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser whom the president recently pardoned, was also there, two of the people briefed on the meeting said. Some senior administration officials drifted in and out of the meeting.

michael flynn djtDuring an appearance on the conservative Newsmax channel this week, Mr. Flynn (shown at right in file photos with the president) pushed for Mr. Trump to impose martial law and deploy the military to “rerun” the election. At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea.

Ms. Powell’s ideas were shot down by every other Trump adviser present, all of whom repeatedly pointed out that she had yet to back up her claims with proof. At one point, one person briefed on the meeting said, she produced several affidavits, but upon inspection they were all signed by a man she pat cipollone file croppedhas previously used as an expert witness, whose credentials have been called into question.

The White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, left, and the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, repeatedly and aggressively pushed back on the ideas being proposed, which went beyond the special counsel idea, those briefed on the meeting said.

Mr. Trump was defeated in the election by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. by more than 7 million votes. The states have confirmed Mr. Biden’s Electoral College victory by a margin of 306-232.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Martial law? Not even close, as Donald Trump’s late night meltdown reveals how hobbled he is, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 20, 2020. It’s bill palmermidnight and Donald Trump is ranting about John Bolton and the Republican Governor of Georgia – a reminder of just how cornered, hobbled, powerless, desperate, and defeated Trump really is, even amidst all this “martial law” nonsense.

bill palmer report logo headerThe Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army just put out a joint statement confirming that the military has no role in elections. So no, martial law isn’t somehow happening. For that matter, the reporting (Investigation: Trump Weighed Naming Election Conspiracy Theorist as Special Counsel) reveals that Meadows, Cipollone, and Cuccinelli – three people who are actively helping Trump commit various other crimes – all explained to him that it would be literally impossible for him to somehow magically invoke the military.

We’re not doing ourselves any favors by running around suggesting that Trump might somehow be able to pull off something like martial law. That hands him leverage that he doesn’t have. The cold hard reality is that Trump is trying to trick us into believing he can just magically remain in office, so we’ll give him something in return for leaving. It’s more crucial than ever that we not fall for this nonsense, and not cower to Trump’s impossible threats on his way down.

Roll Call, Deal reached on $900B coronavirus relief package; timing uncertain, Jennifer Shutt and David Lerman, Dec. 20, 2020.  Legislative text still being finalized with government funding set to run out at midnight; another stopgap funding bill seen likely

Congressional leaders on Sunday night reached agreement on a massive pandemic rescue measure that will be attached to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

mitch mcconnell2"At long last we have the bipartisan breakthrough the country has needed," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, right, said on the Senate floor. "Now we need to promptly finalize text, avoid any last-minute obstacles and cooperate to move this legislation through both chambers."

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told reporters a little before McConnell spoke that the nearly $900 billion COVID-19 aid package, which had been holding up the rest of the omnibus legislation, was in the final stages.

"We are getting real close to getting this final document agreed to, and lots of it has been written already so we’re pushing to do that as soon as possible, hopefully late tonight," Schumer said.

The New York Democrat described the delay in terms of making sure the legislative language itself reflects the most recent bipartisan deals that have been cut. "They’ve written the vast majority of it which has been agreed to, but they have to rewrite the parts or write the parts that have just been recently agreed to," Schumer said.

He wouldn't say for sure if there'd be a final vote before stopgap funding runs out at midnight. "Hope, hope, hope," Schumer said.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., put lawmakers in that chamber on notice Sunday morning that a vote on the as-yet-unreleased text would be held later in the day. But it still wasn't clear when the final bill would be ready and posted for lawmakers and the public to see it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Special Report: The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). 

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Some European Countries Begin Barring U.K. Travelers, Staff reports, Dec. 20, 2020. A few nations began closing united kingdom flagborders to travelers from the U.K. after Britain ordered a lockdown on London, citing concerns of a variant of the virus. The bans emerged as people rushed to travel hubs in London to flee the lockdown, the U.K.’s harshest measure against the virus in months. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, contradicting Pompeo, attempts to downplay gravity of hack of U.S. government, as well as Russia’s role, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump addressed the ongoing cyber hacks of the U.S. government for the first time on Saturday, seeking to turn blame away from Moscow in defiance of mounting evidence while downplaying how devastating the intrusions appear to be.

In a bizarre outburst on Twitter that Trump’s critics condemned for its alarming disconnect from the facts, the president contradicted his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Friday pinned the breaches that have afflicted at least five major federal agencies “clearly” on Russia. Rather, the president baselessly suggested that the true culprit “may be China (it may!)”

Trump’s aversion to calling out the Kremlin for its malign activities in cyberspace and his deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin has become a hallmark of his presidency. He has repeatedly trusted the word of Putin over the assessments of his own intelligence community, including its conclusion that Russia waged a sophisticated campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election — a verdict Trump believes calls into question the legitimacy of his victory four years ago.

washington post logoWashington Post, Weekend deal for stimulus package hits major roadblock over GOP plan to limit Federal Reserve, Mike DeBonis, Jeff Stein, Rachel Siegel and Seung Min Kim, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Senior lawmakers attempting to complete an emergency coronavirus relief package this weekend slammed into a major roadblock on Saturday over Republican demands to limit the authority of the Federal Reserve.

pat toomeyA late push from Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), right, to rein in the nation’s central bank had already divided lawmakers over the last several days. But the impasse appeared to grow significantly wider on Saturday, as congressional leadership and rank-and-file senators on both sides of the aisle dug in over the issue, imperiling prospects for a deal before Monday.

Toomey, a conservative lawmaker on the Senate’s banking committee, has demanded provisions be included in the covid relief package that would curb the ability of the Fed to restart emergency lending programs for localities and small businesses.

federal reserve system CustomSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Senate Republicans on a private call Saturday afternoon that the party should stick by Toomey’s plan, according to two people who requested anonymity to share details of the call.

But senior Democrats have balked at agreeing to what they see as a nakedly political attempt to limit the economic tools available to the Biden administration. Throughout Friday and Saturday, a chorus of Senate Democrats emerged urging party leadership not to budge on the issue. Democrats have already agreed to drop aid to state and local governments from the relief package, and some lawmakers have hoped the central bank could serve as a backstop for assisting ailing municipalities.

washington post logoWashington Post, Warp Speed chief accepts blame for reduced vaccine doses but creates confusion about quality control, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Laurie McGinley and Lena H. Sun, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Gustave Perna, the four-star Army general overseeing the formidable task of distributing coronavirus vaccines, said Saturday he was responsible for the “miscommunication” with states causing them to receive vastly fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the second wave of shipments next week than they had been anticipating.

pfizer logo“I want to assure everybody, and I want to take personal responsibility for the miscommunication,” Perna, who is chief operating officer for the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, told reporters. “I know that’s not done much these days, but I am responsible.”

The problem stemmed from mistaken forecasts he initially gave state officials, which did not account for steps involved in actually clearing available vaccine for release, he said. “There is a delay between what is available and what is releasable,” he said, “because we’re talking about hundreds and thousands and millions of doses that we want to make sure are right.”

But he was not clear about the scope of quality assurance, or about why it would delay the release of doses, saying only that the Food and Drug Administration “does a fantastic job doing that.”

The FDA does not review batches of vaccine before their distribution, an agency spokesperson said Saturday in response to requests to explain the process. Under the terms of the agency’s authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the company is required to submit “certificates of analysis for each drug product lot at least 48 hours before vaccine distribution.” But the FDA does not review the information before the product is shipped.

Asked about the steps involved in clearing doses for release, Perna said he didn’t know “the exact details on that.” He did stress that there had been “zero problems” with Pfizer’s product.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Second Vaccine Comes at a Stark Moment in the U.S., Staff Reports, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Moderna’s vaccine will be shipped next week across the country, which reported over 251,000 new daily infections, a once-unthinkable record. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a moderna logosevere lockdown on London as a more infectious variant of the virus rips through Britain. Here’s the latest.

  • The U.S. has recorded over 250,000 cases in a day for the first time.
  • Congressional leaders work feverishly to finalize a $900 billion stimulus deal before midnight Sunday.
  • The F.D.A. approves Moderna’s Covid vaccine, adding millions more doses to the U.S. supply.
  • @TwoShotsInTheArm celebrates the vaccinations of health care workers.
  • Emmanuel Macron’s health condition is stable ‘compared to Friday,’ according to his doctor.
  • Coronavirus cases in Syria go uncounted amid shortages of critical supplies and medical personnel.
  • Restaurant chains are struggling to reach a unified approach, with varied rules across the U.S.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Trump Fading, Ukraine’s President Looks to a Reset With the U.S., Andrew E. Kramer, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). “They roped us in, but I think we behaved with dignity,” Volodymyr Zelensky said of his encounter with American politics.

ukraine flagFinally free of the shadow of President Trump, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, right, is looking to put relations with the United States back on a volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotsound footing with the incoming administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“Joe Biden, it seems to me, knows Ukraine better than the previous president,” Mr. Zelensky said in his first interview with an American news organization since the election.

“Before his presidency, he had close ties to Ukraine, and he understands the Russians well, he understands the difference between Ukraine and Russia, and, it seems to me, he understands the Ukrainian mentality,” Mr. Zelensky said. “It will really help strengthen relations, help settle the war in Donbas and end the occupation of our territory. The United States can help.”

During the Obama years, Mr. Biden was put in charge of relations with Ukraine, where he worked with varying degrees of success to crack down on corruption and, after 2014, to end the war in Eastern Ukraine, an area referred to in Ukraine as the Donbas.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Compromise reached over GOP proposal for Fed, clearing way for stimulus package vote, Mike DeBonis, Jeff Stein and Rachel pat toomeySiegel, Dec. 20, 2020. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), right, had proposed curbing the central bank’s ability to offer emergency loans. The compromise would give the central bank more flexibility to respond to future economic calamities.

With the issue now resolved, a deal on the nearly $1 trillion legislation could be near. Updated above.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.20, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 76,738,133, Deaths: 1,694,232
U.S. Cases:   18,078,925, Deaths:    323,404

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 20, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

U.S. Security, Russia, China

washington post logoWashington Post, The massive cyber spy campaign against the U.S. government is grave and ongoing. And Russia is ‘pretty clearly’ behind it, Pompeo says, Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The secretary of state is the first Trump administration official to publicly blame Moscow for the hacks.

mike pompeo portraitRussia is behind the massive, ongoing cyber spy campaign against the federal government and private sector, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday — the first Trump administration official to publicly blame Moscow for the computer hacks.

“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in Russian Flagthis activity,” said Pompeo, right, in an interview with “The Mark Levin Show.”

The department he leads is one of a growing list of federal agencies discovered in recent days to have been breached.

Until now the administration has refrained from attributing the operation and President Trump, who has long expressed skepticism that Russia engaged in interference in the 2016 election, has not publicly addressed the issue.

 

Biden Transition

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Cabinet Leans Centrist, Leaving Some Liberals Frustrated, Michael D. Shear and Michael Crowley, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden’s choices are more pragmatic and familiar than ideological. It’s what he campaigned on, but the left had hoped for more. 

His economic and environment teams are a little left of center. His foreign policy picks fall squarely in the Democratic Party’s mainstream. His top White House aides are Washington veterans.

Taken together, the picture that emerges from President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s initial wave of personnel choices is a familiar, pragmatic and largely centrist one.

That fits with the implicit deal that the former vice president and longtime senator offered Democrats during the 2020 primaries — that he was neither as progressive as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, nor a product of Wall Street like Michael Bloomberg, the Republican-turned-Democrat who failed in his last-minute attempt to offer a moderate alternative to Mr. Biden.

Still a work in progress, Mr. Biden’s cabinet is designed to be an extension of his own ideology, rooted in long-held Democratic Party principles but with a greater focus on the plight of working-class Americans, a new sense of urgency about climate change and a deeper empathy about the issues of racial justice that he has said persuaded him to run for the presidency a third time.

His nominees are a reflection of the image that his campaign conveyed and that powered his defeat of President Trump. They are diverse in ways that appeal to liberals, young voters and people of color. And they are moderate like the swing voters who helped him win in states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Even as Trump vows to keep fighting, his aides are quietly starting to move on, Josh Dawsey and David A. Fahrenthold, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Vice President Pence has begun looking for a new home in the Washington suburbs, and he’s planning a valedictory foreign trip to begin the day Congress counts the electoral college votes.

As President Trump remains defiant, refusing to publicly acknowledge that he lost the Nov. 3 election, all signs around the White House point to a four-year whirlwind coming to an end. Aides are quietly lining up next jobs, friends are wrangling last-minute favors and Cabinet secretaries are giving exit interviews.

djt stephen miller resizedAdvisers have begun reviewing pitches for post-presidency books, deciding which deserve cooperation and which should be shunned, according to a person familiar with the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Jason Miller, a campaign aide (shown at right), is at the center of that process, the person said, though Trump will have final approval.

Requests for favors — final lunches in the White House mess, photos in the West Wing — are flowing to senior officials daily.

“People are asking for everything. West Wing tours, visits to the gift shop, meals, final photos in the White House for their Christmas cards — they are all trying to get their last lick of the ice cream cone,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone wants a final Christmas tour. Everyone wants something.”

OpEdNews, Opinion: Comparing Republican With Democratic Party Energy Levels: No Contest, Ralph Nader, Dec. 20, 2020. Just under 400,000 votes, in ralph nader r 0 11the six battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, gave Biden his Electoral College victory! Democrats wake up!

The Republican and Democratic Parties have been evaluated in many ways but not often by the standard of sheer energy levels. Compare the ferocious drive by Trump, Republican Senators and Representatives, Attorneys General, and Governors in promoting, with baseless allegations and buckets of lies, overturning the presidential election. Of the more than 50 election lawsuits filed by Trump's Republican allies, almost all of them have been promptly thrown out of court.

The wildly frivolous efforts by Trump and his cronies have provoked a rare public letter, signed by over 1,500 lawyers, including past presidents of bar associations, urging disciplinary proceedings against the lawyers representing craven Republican operatives in their attempted electoral coup. (See: lawyersdefendingdemocracy.org)

Even after the Electoral College voted on December 14, 2020, to declare Joe Biden the winner, the Trumpsters are continuing their reckless fanaticism. Extreme Trumpster Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) plans to lead a move on January 6, 2020, to demand that the House and the Senate refuse to certify the Electoral College decision.

Now let's go back to the George Bush/Al Gore presidential election in 2000, where there were real shenanigans. It all came down to Florida's electoral votes, notwithstanding Al Gore winning the national popular vote by about 500,000. Thousands of people were prevented from voting because they had names similar to the names of ex-felons who were purged from the voting rolls.

Democrats meekly accepted this whole sordid episode, apart from their lawsuit. Vice-president Al Gore, presiding over the U.S. Senate rejected pleas from House Democrats to challenge the Electoral College certification. Al Gore had already accepted arguably the most blatantly, politically partisan Supreme Court decision "selecting" George W. Bush on December 12, 2000.

The 2004 presidential contest, between George Bush and John Kerry, came down to the swing state of Ohio. By 118,601 thousand votes, the Republican Secretary of State awarded the state to Bush/Cheney. There were, in the days before the election, claims of Republican skullduggery, including voting place irregularities, obstructions of voters, and flaws in proprietary software used in the vote-counting process. Kerry's vice-presidential running mate, Senator John Edwards begged Kerry not to immediately concede and to wait for more revelations. But Kerry threw in the towel the day mitch mcconnell2after the election.

What accounts for the difference between the two parties? Well, the Republicans are really into their trilogy -- get more tax cuts and subsidies, get even less regulatory law enforcement and keep the war machine humming. The rank-and-file Republicans also slam the Democrats on abortion, judicial nominations, immigration, and being soft on crime.

Senate tyrant Mitch McConnell, right, defies red and blue state governors, mayors, federal and state lawmakers, social service groups, and overwhelming public opinion by blocking the stimulus-relief legislation for months.

What Democratic Senators or Representatives have this energy level?

It was Kevin Phillips, the big business-aware, Republican strategist and writer who years ago provided the apt metaphor: "Republicans go for the jugular, and the Democrats go for the capillaries."

 ny times logoNew York Times, In Last Rush, Trump Grants Mining and Energy Firms Access to Public Lands, Eric Lipton, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The outgoing administration is pushing through approval of corporate projects over the opposition of environmental groups and tribal communities.

The Trump administration is rushing to approve a final wave of large-scale mining and energy projects on federal lands, encouraged by investors who want to try to ensure the projects move ahead even after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office.

deb haaland oThese projects, reflect the intense push by the Interior Department, which controls 480 million acres of public lands, and the Forest Service, which manages another 193 million acres, to find ways to increase domestic energy and mining production, even in the face of intense protests by environmentalists and other activists.

When he takes office on Jan. 20, Mr. Biden, who has chosen a Native American — Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, left — to lead the Interior Department, will still have the ability to reshape, slow or even block certain projects.

david frum twitter CustomThe Atlantic, Commentary: How Long Can This Continue? David Frum, right, Dec. 20, 2020. Trump is turning the Republican Party against atlantic logodemocracy.

Most elected Republicans surely disagree with Trump’s actions. They dare not say so. They will try to pretend it never happened—as Don Draper says to Peggy Olson in Mad Men, “It will shock you how much it never happened.” But to the extent that the pretense cannot be sustained, they will have to find ways to condone or excuse Trump’s actions.

djt melania trump file

Palm Beach Post, Trump expected to arrive on Dec. 23 for last presidential Christmas at Mar-a-Lago, Christine Stapleton, Dec. 20, 2020. President Donald Trump is expected to arrive in Palm Beach on Dec. 23 and return to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 3 after his last Christmas and New Years at Mar-a-Lago as president, according to a source who learned of the visit from the Secret Service.

Widespread speculation in the past week had previously suggested that Trump might spend his final Christmas in office in the White House, or that he might come to Mar-a-Lago and not return to Washington for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Jan. 20.

How Trump will spend the holiday and how many family members will join him is not known. The first couple (shown above in a file photo) will not be going to Bethesda-by-the-Sea, where they have traditionally attended Christmas Eve services. The church, where the couple married and their son Baron was baptized, is holding virtual Christmas Eve services on YouTube.

However, Trump and the first lady could attend live services at Family Church in West Palm Beach. Last year, Trump broke with tradition and went to Christmas Eve services at the evangelical church during a time in the campaign when his behavior was being criticized by some evangelical Christian scholars.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Befuddled child Marco Rubio goes off the deep end, Bill Palmer, Dec. 20, 2020. Now that Trump has been destroyed, various marco rubio buttonRepublican Senators are reacting in the way you’d expect. Some are pretending they never propped him up to begin with. Some of them are auditioning to be the fascist heir apparent. Then there’s the befuddled child, Marco Rubio.

Rubio, right, has always come off as a ten year old, standing on stilts, hiding them with a trench coat, and hoping no one notices that he doesn’t fit in with the adults around him. But while he’s a child, he’s also fully aware that he helped create Trump’s reign of terror.

bill palmer report logo headerRubio always told himself he was fine with the destruction, treason, and death that Trump brought because it meant Rubio’s side was winning. But now the bubble has burst, and Rubio is having to admit to himself that he helped facilitate all that destruction for nothing.

Rubio’s tweets this past week reveal that he’s still desperate to pretend that he has the high ground, but he’s unable to even convince himself of that, let alone anyone else.

Rubio has been on the verge before. In 2016 he was reduced to standing on stage and repeating the same rehearsed line over and over again, cracking under the pressure and malfunctioning on the most basic level. Then he announced he was quitting politics, before changing his mind.

The conservative establishment wants Marco Rubio to run for president again in 2024, but at this rate he’ll be lucky if he keeps his senate seat in 2022. And he may well self destruct before that. He’s simply too soft to handle the mass murder and treason he knows he participated in. It’s eating him alive, and he deserves it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Details emerge on stimulus checks as Congress rushes to finalize deal, Jeff Stein, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, Dec. 20, 2020.  Consensus has settled on $600 stimulus checks, which would begin to be reduced at $75,000 a year income level. Congress would also extend unemployment benefits.

House leadership tells lawmakers to prepare to be ready to vote as early as Sunday, but there are still details that need to be worked out, according to people familiar with the conversations.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Epstein Associate Is Charged With Rape of Minors in France, Constant Méheut, Dec. 20, 2020 (print ed.). A former French modeling agent who jean luc brunelwas a close associate of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein has been charged with rape of minors over the age of 15 and sexual harassment, the Paris prosecutor said on Saturday.

The associate, Jean-Luc Brunel, 74, right, is also under investigation on suspicion of human trafficking of minors for sexual exploitation, according to the Paris prosecutor, Rémi Heitz. “He is suspected of having committed rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment on various victims, both minors and adults, and in particular of having organized the transportation and lodging for girls and young women on behalf of Jeffrey Epstein,” the prosecutor said.

The indictment of Mr. Brunel, who has been placed in pretrial detention, is a significant development in a broader inquiry that Paris prosecutors opened in August 2019 to uncover potential offenses committed either in France or against French victims abroad in connection with the Epstein scandal.

 

U.S. Media News

NBC News, Kansas City Star apologizes for decades of racist coverage, Tim Stelloh, Dec. 20, 2020. The newspaper had “robbed an entire community of nbc news logoopportunity, dignity, justice and recognition,” the newspaper's editor wrote.

One Midwest’s most influential newspapers apologized Sunday for what its top editor described as decades of racist coverage of Kansas City.

In a letter to readers, Mike Fannin, who has been the Kansas City Star's editor since 2008, wrote that the newspaper “disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians. It reinforced Jim Crow laws and redlining.”

For much of the early history of the newspaper, which was founded in 1880, the Star “robbed an entire community of opportunity, dignity, justice and recognition,” Fannin wrote.

The apology came three months after the publisher of another influential U.S. newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, acknowledged its own “blind spots” and said its staff was beginning the process of “acknowledging” its past biases and affirming that its newsroom will not tolerate prejudice.

 

Dec. 19

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

U.S. Security, Russia, China

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Weekend deal for stimulus package hits major roadblock over GOP plan to limit Federal Reserve, Mike DeBonis, Jeff Stein, Rachel Siegel and Seung Min Kim, Dec. 19, 2020. Senior lawmakers attempting to complete an emergency coronavirus relief package this weekend slammed into a major roadblock on Saturday over Republican demands to limit the authority of the Federal Reserve.

pat toomeyA late push from Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), right, to rein in the nation’s central bank had already divided lawmakers over the last several days. But the impasse appeared to grow significantly wider on Saturday, as congressional leadership and rank-and-file senators on both sides of the aisle dug in over the issue, imperiling prospects for a deal before Monday.

Toomey, a conservative lawmaker on the Senate’s banking committee, has demanded provisions be included in the covid relief package that would curb the ability of the Fed to restart emergency lending programs for localities and small businesses.

federal reserve system CustomSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Senate Republicans on a private call Saturday afternoon that the party should stick by Toomey’s plan, according to two people who requested anonymity to share details of the call.

But senior Democrats have balked at agreeing to what they see as a nakedly political attempt to limit the economic tools available to the Biden administration. Throughout Friday and Saturday, a chorus of Senate Democrats emerged urging party leadership not to budge on the issue. Democrats have already agreed to drop aid to state and local governments from the relief package, and some lawmakers have hoped the central bank could serve as a backstop for assisting ailing municipalities.

nancy pelosi nbc sept 26 19 impeachment

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress approves stopgap measure with hours before lapse in government funding, Jeff Stein, Mike DeBonis, Lisa Rein and Rachel Siegel, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Congress on Friday evening approved a two-day extension in funding for the federal government to give lawmakers more time to resolve the remaining sticking points on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package.

U.S. House logoThe measure was quickly approved within hours by both the House and Senate on Friday evening. President Trump still has to sign the measure into law.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday evening that there were “still some significant issues outstanding” in the way of a coronavirus relief deal. Hoyer added that House lawmakers should not expect to vote earlier than Sunday at 1 p.m.

The measure passed the Senate unanimously. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) temporarily held up the vote and on the Senate floor urged lawmakers to approve another round of stimulus payments, but quickly withdrew his objections after a short speech.

Congressional leaders will still continue to work on the larger stimulus package with the hopes of announcing a deal, possibly as soon as Friday night, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal planning. The short-term spending bill gives lawmakers time to review the bill before voting on it either over the weekend or at the beginning of next week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Warp Speed chief accepts blame for reduced vaccine doses but creates confusion about quality control, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Laurie McGinley and Lena H. Sun, Dec. 19, 2020. Gustave Perna, the four-star Army general overseeing the formidable task of distributing coronavirus vaccines, said Saturday he was responsible for the “miscommunication” with states causing them to receive vastly fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the second wave of shipments next week than they had been anticipating.

pfizer logo“I want to assure everybody, and I want to take personal responsibility for the miscommunication,” Perna, who is chief operating officer for the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, told reporters. “I know that’s not done much these days, but I am responsible.”

The problem stemmed from mistaken forecasts he initially gave state officials, which did not account for steps involved in actually clearing available vaccine for release, he said. “There is a delay between what is available and what is releasable,” he said, “because we’re talking about hundreds and thousands and millions of doses that we want to make sure are right.”

Tracking vaccine distribution, state by state

But he was not clear about the scope of quality assurance, or about why it would delay the release of doses, saying only that the Food and Drug Administration “does a fantastic job doing that.”

The FDA does not review batches of vaccine before their distribution, an agency spokesperson said Saturday in response to requests to explain the process. Under the terms of the agency’s authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the company is required to submit “certificates of analysis for each drug product lot at least 48 hours before vaccine distribution.” But the FDA does not review the information before the product is shipped.

Asked about the steps involved in clearing doses for release, Perna said he didn’t know “the exact details on that.” He did stress that there had been “zero problems” with Pfizer’s product.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.D.A. OKs Moderna Vaccine, Adding Millions of Doses to U.S. Supply, Staff reports, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The authorization for emergency use will make Moderna’s vaccine the second to reach the U.S. public. The first shots are expected to be given Monday. It’s easier to store and handle than Pfizer’s, speeding access to less populated areas. Here’s the latest.

fda logoThe Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna for emergency use, allowing the shipment of millions more doses across the nation and intensifying the debate over who will be next in line to get inoculated.

The move will make Moderna’s vaccine the second to reach the American public, after the one by Pfizer and BioNTech, moderna logowhich was authorized just one week ago.

The F.D.A.’s decision sets the stage for a weekend spectacle of trucks rolling out as expert committees begin a new round of discussions weighing whether the next wave of vaccinations should go to essential workers, or to people 65 and older, and people with conditions that increase their risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19.

Jockeying for the next shots in January and February has already begun, even though there is still not enough of the two vaccines for all the health care workers and nursing home staff members and residents given first priority.

Uber drivers, restaurant employees, morticians and barbers are among those lobbying states to include them in the next round along with those in the more traditional categories of the nation’s 80 million essential workers, like teachers and bus drivers.

The rapid progress from lab to human trials to public inoculation has been almost revolutionary, spurred by the nation’s urgent need to blunt the pandemic that has broken record after record in U.S. deaths, hospitalizations and economic losses. In the last week alone, there has been an average of 213,165 cases per day, an increase of 18 percent from the average two weeks earlier. And the daily death toll in recent days has surpassed 3,200.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Second Vaccine Comes at a Stark Moment in the U.S., Staff Reports, Dec. 19, 2020. Moderna’s vaccine will be shipped next week across the country, which reported over 251,000 new daily infections, a once-unthinkable record. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a severe lockdown on London as a more infectious variant of the virus rips through Britain. Here’s the latest.

  • The U.S. has recorded over 250,000 cases in a day for the first time.
  • Congressional leaders work feverishly to finalize a $900 billion stimulus deal before midnight Sunday.
  • The F.D.A. approves Moderna’s Covid vaccine, adding millions more doses to the U.S. supply.
  • @TwoShotsInTheArm celebrates the vaccinations of health care workers.
  • Emmanuel Macron’s health condition is stable ‘compared to Friday,’ according to his doctor.
  • Coronavirus cases in Syria go uncounted amid shortages of critical supplies and medical personnel.
  • Restaurant chains are struggling to reach a unified approach, with varied rules across the U.S.

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Future: Tons of Cash and Plenty of Options for Spending It, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump will have a pile of cash to fuel his future ambitions. He can hold rallies, hire staff and even prepare for a potential 2024 run.

Donald J. Trump will exit the White House as a private citizen next month perched atop a pile of campaign cash unheard-of for an outgoing president, and with few legal limits on how he can spend it.

Deflated by a loss he has yet to acknowledge, Mr. Trump has cushioned the blow by coaxing huge sums of money from his loyal supporters — often under dubious pretenses — raising roughly $250 million since Election Day along with the national party.

More than $60 million of that sum has gone to a new political action committee, according to people familiar with the matter, which Mr. Trump will control after he leaves office. Those funds, which far exceed what previous outgoing presidents had at their disposal, provide him with tremendous flexibility for his post-presidential ambitions: He could use the money to quell rebel factions within the party, reward loyalists, fund his travels and rallies, hire staff, pay legal bills and even lay the groundwork for a far-from-certain 2024 run.

The post-election blitz of fund-raising has cemented Mr. Trump’s position as an unrivaled force and the pre-eminent fund-raiser of the Republican Party even in defeat. His largest single day for online donations actually came after Election Day — raising almost $750,000 per hour on Nov. 6. So did his second biggest day. And his third.

“Right now, he is the Republican Party,” said John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who worked on Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign. “The party knows that virtually every dollar they’ve raised in the last four years, it’s because of Donald Trump.”

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Claims Credit for Vaccines. Some of His Backers Don’t Want Them, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Deep distrust of the government is fueling hesitancy among Republicans, who are more likely than Democrats to resist being inoculated against Covid-19. It is a paradox of the pandemic: Helping speed the development of a coronavirus vaccine may be one of Mr. Trump’s proudest accomplishments, but at least in the early stages of the vaccine rollout, there is evidence that a substantial number of his supporters say they do not want to get it.

Until the past week, their objections were largely hypothetical. But with a second vaccine about to become available in the United States — the Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized emergency use of the vaccine developed by Moderna, a week after the version developed by Pfizer and BioNTech won the same approval — more people will confront the choice of getting inoculated or not.

The authorization will clear the way for the shipment of 5.9 million doses over the weekend and tens of millions more in coming months, greatly expanding the reach of the vaccination campaign as the nation grapples with the uncontrolled spread of the disease.

ny times logoNew York Times, Employers can make workers get a vaccine and bar them from the workplace if they won’t, the federal government said, Vimal Patel, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Public health experts see employers as playing an important role in vaccinating enough people to reach herd immunity and get a handle on a pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 Americans. Widespread coronavirus vaccinations would keep people from dying, restart the economy and usher a return to some form of normalcy, experts say.

Employers had been waiting for guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination, because requiring employees be tested for the coronavirus touches on thorny medical and privacy issues covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

The guidance, issued on Wednesday, confirmed what employment lawyers had expected.

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly all of California under regional stay-at-home orders, Staff reports, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The orders were triggered by alarmingly low capacity in intensive care units. Statewide, a sliver of those critical beds were available: 2.1 percent.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.19, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 76,120,962, Deaths: 1,683,693
U.S. Cases:   17,888,353, Deaths:    320,845

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 19, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vice President Mike Pence Receives Coronavirus Vaccine on Live TV, Staff Reports, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Mr. Pence, right, was Mike Pencegiven a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the White House today. “I didn’t feel a thing,” he said. California reported 3 percent availability of intensive care beds. Here’s the latest.

  • Counting the dead by the hour as I.C.U.s fill up.
  • Minister reveals E.U. vaccine pricing, notably lower than those given by pharmaceutical companies.
  • A million new cases in five days as U.S. outbreak picks up speed.
  • Evictions return, and some sheriffs try for a humane approach.
  • Merkel meets with BioNTech scientists, and other news from around the world.
  • The vice president was given a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the White House. In the last five days, the U.S. has reported over 1 million new cases, and California reported just 3 percent availability of I.C.U. beds statewide on Thursday

 

U.S. Security, Russia, China

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump administration and Biden team at odds about presidential transition in the Pentagon, Dan Lamothe, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Acting defense secretary Christopher Miller, right, unexpectedly postponed meetings with the president-elect’s team on Friday.

christopher miller official.jpgThose meetings, initially scheduled for Friday, were postponed after legal officials in the Pentagon raised concern that they could not keep up with the work, said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. The Pentagon did not dispute that Miller’s decision about meetings on Friday were a surprise to the Biden team.

Department of Defense SealMiller said that the meetings can be held after a “mutually-agreed upon holiday pause,” and that he is “committed to a full and transparent transition” with the Biden team. His “key focus” over the next two weeks, he said, is supporting requests for information about the U.S. military’s involvement in the effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines, and other pandemic information, he said.

Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the transition, said in a call with reporters that there “was no mutually agreed upon holiday break” and while the Biden team has received “widespread cooperation on transition,” there have been “pockets of recalcitrance, and DOD has been one of them.”

Jennifer Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Biden transition, declined to say that Miller was lying, but said reporters could make their “own judgment about the information we provided.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal prosecutors accuse Zoom executive of working with Chinese government to surveil users and suppress video calls, Drew Harwell and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.).  The case is a stunning blow for the $100 billion video-call giant that has become the go-to source for staying in touch during the pandemic.

Justice Department log circularA security executive with the video-tech giant Zoom worked with the Chinese government to terminate Americans’ accounts and disrupt video calls about the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square, Justice Department prosecutors said Friday.

The case is a stunning blow for Zoom, one of the most popular new titans of American tech, which during the pandemic became one of the main ways people work, socialize and share ideas around the world. The California-based company is now worth more than $100 billion.

But the executive’s work with the Chinese government, as alleged by FBI agents in a criminal complaint unsealed Friday in a Brooklyn federal court, highlights the often-hidden threats of censorship on a forum promoted as a platform for free speech. It also raises questions about how Zoom is protecting users’ data from governments that seek to surveil and suppress people inside their borders and abroad.

Prosecutors said the China-based executive, Xinjiang Jin, worked as Zoom’s primary liaison with Chinese law enforcement and intelligence services, sharing user information and terminating video calls at the Chinese government’s request.

washington post logochina flag SmallWashington Post, Chinese dissidents say they’re being harassed by a businessman with links to Steve Bannon, Jeanne Whalen and Gerry Shih, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Human-rights scholar in New Jersey says he’s the latest victim of intimidating protests staged by Guo Weng. The harassment includes daily pickets outside dissidents' homes.

 

Biden Transition

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden just nailed it, Bill Palmer, Dec. 19, 2020. Donald Trump spent today publicly siding with Russia in its cyberterrorist joe biden twitterattacks against U.S. government agencies, and trying to scare people by making the impossible threat of some kind of military coup. Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden spent today reminding us why he beat Trump by seven million votes.

bill palmer report logo headerBiden held an event to roll out multiple new cabinet members, including Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy, and Michael Regan as EPA Administrator. These are all highly qualified people who will be able to hit the ground running on day one.

Climate guru Al Gore was overwhelmingly pleased with Joe Biden’s picks, tweeting this: “President-elect Biden has assembled not only an “A” team to lead his climate agenda forward, but an “A+” team! Each appointee is ready on Day 1 to take on the urgent, existential threat of the climate crisis, while creating millions of new jobs & protecting frontline communities.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 45,000 names, 130 packets of information and gut instincts: How Biden is managing his transition, Matt Viser, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The president-elect has kept deliberations over his picks to a small circle of advisers. Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris has interviewed all of the candidates separately.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: GOP inches toward an unprecedented attempt to overturn the 2020 election, Aaron Blake, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). It’s looking increasingly likely that our country could be headed for uncharted territory: members of Congress combining to formally object to states’ electors in an attempt to overturn a presidential election result.

Sen.-elect Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) signaled Thursday that he might provide the crucial Senate vote that, when combined with at least one House Republican, would force Congress to consider the challenges

Let’s first be clear: The effort is doomed. Such challenges would be resolved by votes in both chambers of Congress. Democrats control the House, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said this week that Joe Biden won the election — joining several other Senate Republicans who say it’s time to move on. With the GOP’s narrow Senate majority, the votes just aren’t there.

But even the attempt would be unprecedented. Yes, there have been attempts to object to state’s electors. But only one since 1877 (when rules for electors were established) has succeeded in actually formally challenging an entire state’s electors

djt kiddie desk nov 30 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: Crippled Donald Trump is trying to scare us with talk of a military coup he knows he can’t pull off, Bill Palmer, Dec. 19, 2020. One of the most consistent aspects of Donald Trump’s behavior: when he leaks that he’s going to do something dastardly, it means he knows he doesn’t have the muscle to do it, and he’s merely trying to create the appearance of strength. Accordingly, when Trump (shown above in a file photo shot Nov. 30 at the White House) is actually going to do something dastardly, he doesn’t threaten to do it first; he just does it.

bill palmer report logo headerThe New York Times is now reporting (Investigation: Trump Weighed Naming Election Conspiracy Theorist as Special Counsel) that during a meeting last night, Donald Trump asked his handlers about the possibility of using the U.S. military to somehow magically keep himself in office. This means that Trump knows he doesn’t have the muscle to pull off something like that, and he leaked it because he wants us all cowering to him. If Trump were going to do something like this, according to his own pattern of behavior, he’d be doing it instead of threatening to do it.

That said, even the fact that Donald Trump is talking about such an impossible scenario is grounds for his immediate removal from office. Mike Pence is the only person in the U.S. government who can initiate the 25th Amendment, and we must place as much political pressure on Pence as possible to get him to do it.

We must also not cower to Donald Trump. We’ve already defeated him. He’s now crippled and he knows it. His future consists of bankruptcy and prison, and he knows that too. If we cower to his impossible threats, it’ll hand him leverage for negotiating some kind of immunity deal on his way out of office. One of the most important things we can do right now is to make sure Trump knows that we know he can’t magically pull off a military coup. This takes away whatever leverage he’s trying to carve out right now with his threats to do impossible things to us.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Trump Eyes Martial Law to Hold onto Power, Triggering Heated Clash in Oval Office Friday, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Dec. 19, 2020. webster tarpley 2007White House Counsel Cipollone and Chief of Staff Meadows Said to Reject Autogolpe to Impose Dictatorship; Flynn’s Lawyer Sidney Powell Allegedly Considered as Stay-Behind Special Counsel; In This Atmosphere of Outrageous Sedition, Trump Must Immediately Resign or Be Removed Under XXV Amendment.

Flynn Had Touted Martial Law with Military Forces to Obtain Do-Over Vote in Decisive Swing States; But American People Will Not Be Coerced into a Dog and Pony Show to Subvert Constitution and Install a New Duce; Pentagon Halts Briefings to Biden Transition Team, Raising Suspicion of What Trump’s Newly-Appointed Conspiracy Buffs Might Be Doing Behind Curtain of Silence; Army Gen. McCaffrey: If Trump Calls for a Coup d’État, “Nobody Will Come.’

After a Week of Silence, Trump Refuses to Attribute Large-Scale Hack of Federal Agencies to Russian Intelligence, Despite Previous Statement by Pompeo Clearly Accusing Kremlin; Trump Claims China is Guilty Party; Trump Still Threatening to Veto Pentagon Budget Bill, with GOP Quislings Getting Less Likely to Override; “We Want Them Infected” – HHS Emails Show Officials Advocated Mass Casualty Herd Immunity Policy during Pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Fire Robert Wilkie, Editorial Board, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The Department of Veterans Affairs secretary no longer has the trust of those who served. All major American veterans’ organizations have called for the ouster of Robert Wilkie, right, as secretary of veterans affairs over the robert wilkie vashameless treatment by him and his senior staff of a veteran who says she was sexually assaulted. When men and women who served in uniform speak almost with one voice, it is not politics, as Mr. Wilkie would have it, but the will of the people he is meant to serve.

The case is straightforward. In September 2019, Andrea Goldstein, a Navy veteran, Reserve intelligence officer and staff member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, reported to the police that while in the main lobby of the V.A. Medical Center in Washington, a man “bumped his entire body against mine and told me I looked like I needed a smile and a good time.”

The response from Mr. Wilkie and his senior staff was to start trying to smear Ms. Goldstein, even though the man who assaulted her was a contractor with a criminal record and there had been persistent problems of harassment reported by women at the medical center.

Politico Magazine, What Happened to the Democrats Who Never Accepted Bush’s Election, Joanna Weiss, Dec. 19, 2020. The 2004 vote-fraud conspiracy movement never really died. What does that mean for Trump’s true believers — and America? Kerry volunteer Beth Beene cries as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., give his concession speech on the television at the Kerry-Edwards central Pennsylvania victory headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2004.

Steven Freeman felt, in his bones, that something was wrong with the election. It was November 2, 2004, and the exit polls had predicted an overwhelming victory for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. But as the night rolled on, the margins grew for President George W. Bush — especially in Ohio, where the race remained uncalled as the clock ticked into the wee morning hours.

For most of the world, the uncertainty didn’t last. Kerry conceded the next day, making a cordial call to Bush, after concluding that a recount in Ohio wouldn’t change the outcome of the race.

But Freeman, then a research scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, remembers wondering, “How could this be?” It sounds familiar to anyone who follows President Donald Trump.

Joanna Weiss is a writer in Boston and the editor of Experience magazine, published by Northeastern University. 

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Nigeria’s Abducted Schoolboys Meet President, Ruth Maclean and Ismail Alfa, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Capitalizing on a rare victory, the Nigerian government publicly displayed the more than 300 boys who had been released.

Nigerian FlagHundreds of boys kidnapped last week from their boarding school in northwest Nigeria were freed on Thursday night after six days in captivity. But they had some public relations to do for the government before they could go home.

Cameras rolled on Friday as they were led barefoot by soldiers carrying rifles and wearing balaclavas through the manicured grounds of the governor’s house in Katsina, 80 miles south of Kankara, the town where they had been studying.

Looking dazed, and still wearing their dusty clothes, they were packed into a conference room, some crouching on the floor, others dwarfed by big leather chairs. Television reporters thrust microphones at them.

Then they were given new clothes to change into and taken to meet Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel is starting to vaccinate, but Palestinians may have to wait months, Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Israel FlagThe split highlights the gap between Israel and the Palestinian populations it effectively controls, and between vaccine haves and have-nots.

Israel, like many high-income countries, is moving quickly to roll out newly approved coronavirus vaccines, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled to get the symbolic first shot Saturday. But next door in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the prospects for vaccinating almost 5 million Palestinians are far less certain, as financial, political and logistical hurdles could delay inoculations against the raging pandemic for months.

washington post logosouth africa flag after 1994Washington Post, South Africa’s second coronavirus wave is fueled by a new strain and teen ‘rage festivals,’ Lesley Wroughton and Max Bearak, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). In a beach town last week, more than 3,000 17- and 18-year-olds went ahead with a huge, week-long graduation party, and more than 1,000 of them have since tested positive for the coronavirus. Hundreds more refused to get tested or gave wrong numbers to contact tracers

 

U.S. Media News

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News forced to finally crack down on lunatic host Lou Dobbs, Bill Palmer, Dec. 19, 2020. Just how much of a lunatic tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist has Lou Dobbs become? Fox News doesn’t even air him on its main network, and instead airs him on Fox Business Channel. Dobbs’ show generally consists of laugh out loud conspiracy theories, with a healthy heaping of racism and pro-Trump cheerleading.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now Lou Dobbs’ nonsense has finally gotten him in trouble. After one voting machine company demanded that Fox stop allowing hosts like Dobbs to spread phony conspiracy theories about its machines, Fox responded by forcing Dobbs to air a two minute long fact check, shooting down his own claims. What’s more, Mediaite says that Fox is going to force Judge Jeanine Pirro to air the same fact check during her show this weekend.

fox news logo SmallHosts like Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro are unwatchably inane, and we’ve long suspected that Fox only keeps them around because Donald Trump is a fan of them. We’ve wondered if the end of Trump’s presidency might eventually mean the end of their shows. At this rate they might not last as long as we were expecting.

peter navarro white house image

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: This might be the most embarrassing document created by a White House staffer, Philip Bump, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). Peter Navarro's compilation of nonsensical fraud claims offers a new low-water mark,

The first thing I did when I cracked open White House trade adviser Peter Navarro’s 30-page compilation of President Trump’s voter-fraud greatest hits was check a footnote. The introduction claimed that, as of midnight on Election Day, Trump looked to be “well on his way to winning a second term,” given that he “was already a lock to win both Florida and Ohio.”

But this, in broad strokes, is how Navarro’s document operates. It throws out as near-certainties things that are unfounded, misrepresented or unimportant.

epoch timesHis footnotes cite the blatantly pro-Trump Epoch Times more than the Washington Post and the New York Times combined. In fact, he celebrates his reliance on biased and flawed sources of information

Put another way, Americans seeking dubious or debunked information are only able to find it from outlets willing to publish and air dubious and debunked information.

One of the hallmark characteristics of rhetoric from the White House is the substitution of volume for value. Trump offers dishonest statements with abandon, hoping that his audience will accept as true at least some small percentage of his blizzard of nonsense.

But the White House also uses presenting a lot of accusations as somehow being evidence supporting the accusations, as though getting 500 people to say they believe aliens invented pistachios makes it more likely to be true than if one person said it. Navarro does this exact thing explicitly at one point, in fact, hyping widespread belief that something dubious occurred — belief fostered by Trump and the above-named media outlets — as evidence that it did.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Riveting ISIS Story, Told in a Times Podcast, Falls Apart, Mark Mazzetti, Ian Austen, Graham Bowley and Malachy Browne, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). He described the killings in lurid detail — how he shot one man in the head and stabbed another in the heart before hanging the corpse on a cross.

A Canadian’s gruesome account as an Islamic State executioner in Syria, which was the subject of the “Caliphate” podcast, was fabricated, officials say.

He spoke at length about joining the religious police of the Islamic State in Syria, and being trucked to a terrorist training session on attacking the West, including North America, his homeland.

He recounted how Islamic State commanders displayed maps and color-coded instructions, showing recruits like him how to strike major Western targets, get into restricted areas, kill people and attain martyrdom.

They envisioned “something as spectacular as 9/11,” he said. “They wanted to outdo Al Qaeda, make their mark.”

But Shehroze Chaudhry, the central figure in the 2018 podcast “Caliphate,” by The New York Times, was a fabulist who spun jihadist tales about killing for the Islamic State in Syria, Canadian and American intelligence and law enforcement officials contend.

washington post logoWashington Post, The New York Times could not verify ISIS claims in its ‘Caliphate’ podcast. Now it’s returning a prestigious award, Elahe Izadi and Paul Farhi, Dec. 19, 2020 (print ed.). The New York Times acknowledged Friday that a celebrated podcast that featured a would-be Islamic State terrorist’s account of committing atrocities in Syria could not be substantiated, completing a spectacular journalistic fall for the award-winning series and its primary reporter.

In several episodes of “Caliphate,” a Canadian man named Shehroze Chaudhry hauntingly described barbaric acts that included executing two hostages in Syria in 2014.

But after a nearly three-month review, the Times concluded that the podcast, co-hosted by reporter Rukmini Callimachi and audio producer Andy Mills, “did not meet our standards for accuracy,” according to an editor’s note now attached to the series.

michael pack

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump appointee names conservative allies to run Radio Free Europe and Cuba broadcast agency, Paul Farhi, Dec. 19, 2020. Michael Pack (shown above in a file photo) continues his purge of the U.S.-funded media operations, but his new hirings may be short-lived and largely symbolic. President-elect Joe Biden’s aides have indicated Biden intends to fire Pack when he assumes office on Jan. 20.

 

Dec. 18

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Race, Regulation

virginia roberts giuffres st tropaz naomi cambpell

 

World News

 

Top Stories

djt i dont take responsibility at all

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Sets Records for New Cases and Deaths Heading Into the Holidays, Staff Reports, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). More Covid-19 deaths are being reported each day than before in the U.S.

Just as the United States greets the arrival of promising vaccines — and prepares to celebrate a starkly transformed holiday season — more Covid-19 deaths are being reported each day than at any time before during the pandemic.

The nation set single-day records on Wednesday for reported deaths, with more than 3,600, and for newly reported cases, more than 245,000. The previous case record was set last Friday, when more than 236,800 new infections were announced, not including tens of thousands of significantly older cases reported that day.

Three times as many people in the United States are dying each day now than three months ago, and the number of new cases is six times what it was then. Also, with large cities already ravaged by the virus, it is now exacting a deadly toll on many midsize cities.

In the past week, just over 30 percent of the nation’s coronavirus-related deaths were reported in the South, and nearly 30 percent in the Midwest. Pennsylvania, Arizona and Kansas in particular have seen dizzying growth in death tolls over the last seven days; North and South Dakota registered the most deaths relative to the size of their populations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jobless Claims Remain Far Above Historical Levels, Staff Reports, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). U.S. workers filed 935,000 claims for benefits last week. The trading app Robinhood will pay $65 million to settle charges from the S.E.C. Here’s the latest.

Rising Covid-19 cases are taking a steep toll on economic activity, battering the labor market even as new vaccines offer a ray of hope for next year.

The number of Americans filing initial claims for unemployment insurance remained high last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. After dropping earlier in the fall, claims have moved higher, and they remain at levels that dwarf the pace of past recessions.

us labor department logoThere were 935,000 new claims for state benefits, compared with 956,000 the previous week, while 455,000 filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally funded program for part-time workers, the self-employed and others ordinarily ineligible for jobless benefits.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the number of new state claims was 885,000, an increase of 23,000 from the previous week.

Consumer caution, coupled with new restrictions on business activity like indoor dining, has pummeled the hospitality industry, lodging, airlines and other service businesses. The debut of a coronavirus vaccine this week offers the prospect of relief, but until mass inoculations begin next year, the economy will remain under pressure.

“Businesses are closing, and as a result, we are seeing job losses mount — and that’s exactly what we were fearful of going into the winter,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “It’s going to be a challenging few months, no doubt.”

At the end of November, more than 20 million workers were collecting unemployment benefits under state or federal programs, Labor Department data indicates.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Vice President Mike Pence Receives Coronavirus Vaccine on Live TV, Staff Reports, Dec. 18, 2020. Mr. Pence, right, was Mike Pencegiven a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the White House today. “I didn’t feel a thing,” he said. California reported 3 percent availability of intensive care beds. Here’s the latest.

  • Counting the dead by the hour as I.C.U.s fill up.
  • Minister reveals E.U. vaccine pricing, notably lower than those given by pharmaceutical companies.
  • A million new cases in five days as U.S. outbreak picks up speed.
  • Evictions return, and some sheriffs try for a humane approach.
  • Merkel meets with BioNTech scientists, and other news from around the world.
  • The vice president was given a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the White House. In the last five days, the U.S. has reported over 1 million new cases, and California reported just 3 percent availability of I.C.U. beds statewide on Thursday

washington post logoWashington Post, White House aides talked Trump out of last-minute demand for stimulus checks as big as $2,000, Jeff Stein, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). White House aides talked Trump out of last-minute demand for stimulus checks as big as $2,000. Advisers persuaded the president on Thursday not to announce support for significantly bigger stimulus payments.

djt handwave fileWhite House aides intervened Thursday to prevent President Trump from issuing a statement calling for substantially larger stimulus payments for millions of Americans, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of the private exchange.

On a phone call Thursday afternoon, Trump told allies that he believes stimulus payments in the next relief package should be “at least” $1,200 per person and possibly as big as $2,000 per person, the officials said. Congressional leadership is preparing a stimulus package that would provide checks of $600 per person.

Trump was in the middle of formally drafting his demand for the larger payments when White House officials told him that doing so could imperil delicate negotiations over the economic relief package, the officials said. Congressional Republicans have insisted that the relief bill remain less than $1 trillion, and it’s currently designed to cost around $900 billion. Larger stimulus checks could push the package’s total over $1 trillion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden picks Rep. Deb Haaland to be first Native American interior secretary, Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Tribal and progressive activists lobbied hard to put an indigenous leader in charge of a department that helps oversee Indian County.

deb haaland oPresident-elect Joe Biden has tapped Deb Haaland, right, a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, to serve as the first Native American interior secretary in a historic pick for a department that oversees the country’s vast natural resources, including tribal lands.

A member of Pueblo of Laguna, Haaland, 60, would become the first descendant of the original people to populate North America to serve as a Cabinet secretary. It marks a turning point for a 171-year-old institution that has often had a fraught relationship with 574 federally recognized tribes.

The first-term House member, who hails from a top oil- and gas-producing state, has pledged to transform the department from a champion of fossil fuel development into a promoter of renewable energy and policies to mitigate climate change.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal investigators find evidence of previously unknown tactics used to penetrate government networks, Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). A warning from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency underscored the reach of Russia’s recent intrusions and the logistical nightmare facing federal officials trying to purge intruders from key systems.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Can We Do Twice as Many Vaccinations as We Thought? Zeynep Tufekci and Michael Mina, Dec. 18, 2020. Data suggests significant protection even without a second shot. If studies prove that’s true, it could be a game changer.

Dr. Tufekci, a contributing opinion writer, has written extensively about the pandemic. Dr. Mina is an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

washington post logopfizer logoWashington Post, States report confusion as federal officials reduce vaccine shipments, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Lena H. Sun, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Officials in several states said they were alerted late Wednesday that their second shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine next week had been reduced, sparking widespread confusion. The vaccine maker’s CEO said it had millions more doses than were being distributed.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.17, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 75,419,510, Deaths: 1,671,225
U.S. Cases:   17,628,568, Deaths:    317,929

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 18, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive for the coronavirus after showing symptoms, James McAuley and Michael Birnbaum, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for the coronavirus, the country's presidential palace announced Thursday.

emmanuel macronHe was administered a test after he began to show symptoms associated with the virus. The 42-year-old president, right, will now isolate for the next seven days but will continue his work, the statement declared. A spokeswoman for the palace told Reuters that all of the president’s upcoming trips — including a visit to Lebanon that was scheduled for next week — have been canceled.

Macron is the latest world leader to test positive for the virus, including President Trump, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. All have recovered.

 

Biden Transition

Axios Sneak Peak, Analysis: Democrats fret about Garland for A.G, Sam Baker and Alayna Treene, Dec. 18, 2020. If Joe Biden picks Merrick Garland to be his attorney general, he could cost his party control of one of the most important judicial appointments in America — and many Democrats do not want him to take that chance, Axios' Sam Baker and I hear.

merrick garlandHow it works: Biden still hasn't named his choice to lead the Justice Department, and if he taps Garland, right, it would open up his seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. If Democrats don’t win both Georgia Senate runoff elections next month, Mitch McConnell would almost surely prevent the president-elect from filling it.

“Merrick Garland is a great American, but I refuse to believe that Biden would open up a seat on the DC Circuit that McConnell would never fill if we don't prevail in Georgia,” former Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said.

Why it matters: The D.C. Circuit is the venue for many lawsuits against the federal government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden picks Michael Regan, top N.C. environmental official, to run EPA, Brady Dennis, Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden will choose to nominate Michael S. Regan, who heads the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator, according to two individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it has not yet been formally announced.

Regan, 44, below at left, would be the first Black man to run the EPA. He would play a central role in realizing Biden’s promises to combat climate change, embrace green energy and address environmental racism. As administrator of the EPA, he would be responsible for crafting fuel-efficiency standards for the nation’s cars and trucks, overseeing emissions from power plants and oil and gas facilities, and cleaning up the country’s most polluted sites.

In the past four years, the Trump administration has reversed or weakened more than 130 environmental protections and regulations, according to a Post analysis, with plans to target nearly a dozen more by mid-January. Those rollbacks include scaling back automobile fuel-efficiency standards and emissions limits for coal-burning plants, as well as lifting Obama-era limits on methane released from new oil and gas wells.

michael reganMany senior rank-and-file EPA employees clashed with Trump’s political appointees and a number retired rather than continue working at the agency. There are now 14,222 full- and part-time permanent employees at the EPA, according to the agency, nearly 300 fewer than when President Trump took office.

Regan has served as North Carolina’s top environmental official since early 2017, when Gov. Roy Cooper (D) named him to his role. During that time, he forged a tough multibillion-dollar settlement over a coal ash cleanup with Duke Energy, established an environmental justice advisory board, and reached across the political divide to work with the state’s Republican legislature.

washington post logoWashington Post, With historic picks at interior and EPA, Biden puts environmental justice front and center, Juliet Eilperin, Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed). The selection of the first Native American interior secretary and first Black male EPA chief highlights pollution disparities.

President-elect Joe Biden chose Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) Thursday to serve as the first Native American Cabinet secretary and head the Interior Department, a historic pick that marks a turning point for the U.S. government’s relationship with the nation’s Indigenous peoples.

With that selection and others this week, Biden sent a clear message that top officials charged with confronting the nation’s environmental problems will have a shared experience with the Americans who have disproportionately been affected by toxic air and polluted land.

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland tweeted Thursday night. “ ... I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”

In addition to Haaland, Biden has turned to North Carolina environmental regulator Michael S. Regan to become the first Black man to head the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as Obama administration veteran Brenda Mallory to serve as the first Black chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

While the picks represent a concession to progressives in Biden’s party, who publicly campaigned for an American Indian at the helm of Interior, they were also chosen to personify Biden’s plans to address the long-standing burdens low-income and minority communities have shouldered when it comes to dirty air and water. All three nominees will play a central role in realizing his promises to combat climate change, embrace green energy and address environmental racism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Faces Challenge as Congress Drops State Aid to Secure Stimulus, Jim Tankersley and Emily Cochrane, Updated Dec. 18, 2020. A campaign by conservative activists and disputes over federal assistance have thwarted negotiators, presenting a test for President-elect Joe Biden.

joe biden twitterAs lawmakers race to put the final touches on a $900 billion bipartisan stimulus package, one thing is becoming clear: Congress has left a significant challenge for the incoming president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his efforts to revive the faltering economy.

To seal the deal after months of struggle, lawmakers agreed to exclude a direct stream of money for state and local governments, which Republicans objected to as a blue state “bailout” but Democrats said was needed to prevent job cuts and economic pain.

Mr. Biden has promised to help local governments, which are struggling with plunging tax revenue and increased costs, creating huge budget gaps that have already resulted in 1.3 million state and local jobs lost since March. Economists warn that, without further help, states and cities could further slow the economic recovery by cutting more jobs and spending.

“States and cities are already facing large, large budget shortfalls this year,” Mr. Biden said this month. “They’ve already laid off more than a million workers. Even more teachers, firefighters, cops will lose their jobs unless federal government steps up now.”

As people steer clear of hotels, restaurants and sporting events because of the coronavirus pandemic, the plunge in economic activity has walloped tax revenue in many states, particularly those that rely heavily on tourism or on oil, coal and other sources of energy whose prices have fallen from reduced demand. Budgets have been further strained by spending on social assistance programs, like unemployment, and other pandemic-related costs, like safety measures in public buildings.

ny times logoNew York Times, Closing In on Stimulus Deal, Lawmakers Clash Over Fed’s Role, Emily Cochrane and Jeanna Smialek, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed). As lawmakers pushed to finalize a roughly $900 billion stimulus deal, congressional leaders remained divided on Thursday over a handful of issues whose outcome could help determine the course of a sputtering economic recovery.

federal reserve system CustomDemocrats were mounting a last-ditch effort to provide emergency aid to states, which they argued was critical to helping governments weather the pandemic and avoid huge layoffs and cuts in services that could reverberate through the economy.

Republicans were working to limit the power of the Federal Reserve to provide credit to businesses, municipalities or other institutions in the future, both by rescinding money earmarked to support Fed lending programs and preventing the central bank from restarting them using different funds.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Reform the Presidency After the Wreckage of Trump, Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith, Dec. 18, 2020. Our post-Watergate laws and practices for the presidency need revamping.

Any program for reform of the presidency must give precedence to our health and economic crises. It must also acknowledge political realities. Some reforms can be carried out by the executive branch, but others require legislation. Those must attract at least modest bipartisan support in the Senate.

Mr. Bauer served as White House counsel to President Obama and as senior adviser for the Biden campaign. Mr. Goldsmith served in the George W. Bush administration as an assistant attorney general and as special counsel to the Department of Defense. They are the authors of “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Return of the Phony Deficit Hawks, Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Suddenly, Republicans are pretending to care about paul krugmandebt. It looks as if Congress will soon pass a much-needed economic relief (not stimulus) bill — something that will help distressed Americans get through the next few months, while we wait for widespread vaccination to set the stage for economic recovery.

That’s good news, because something is better than nothing, even though what we know about the legislation says that it’s going to be deeply flawed.

But the way this debate has been playing out is ominous for the future.

ny times logorobert gatesNew York Times, Opinion: The World Is Full of Challenges. Here’s How Biden Can Meet Them, Robert M. Gates, right, Dec. 18, 2020. The incoming administration needs to update American policy to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Mr. Gates served as secretary of defense for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2006 to 2011.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Hacking Attacks Found as Officials Warn of ‘Grave Risk’ to U.S. Government, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, Updated Dec. 18, 2020, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden said his administration would impose “substantial costs” on those responsible. President Trump has been silent on the hacking.

Federal officials issued an urgent warning on Thursday that hackers who American intelligence agencies believed were working for the Kremlin used a far wider variety of tools than previously known to penetrate government systems, and said that the cyberoffensive was “a grave risk to the federal government.”

The discovery suggests that the scope of the hacking, which appears to extend beyond nuclear laboratories and Pentagon, Treasury and Commerce Department systems, complicates the challenge for federal investigators as they try to assess the damage and understand what had been stolen.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sacklers Face Furious Questions in Rare Testimony on Opioid Crisis, Jan Hoffman, Updated Dec. 18, 2020. The House hearing was the first time in years that members of the family that owns Purdue Pharma have taken questions publicly. The exchanges were tense.

Members of Congress on Thursday hurled withering comments and furious questions at two members of the billionaire Sackler family that owns Purdue purdue pharma logoPharma, the maker of OxyContin, seeking to use a rare public appearance to extract admissions of personal responsibility for the deadly opioid epidemic as well as details about $10 billion that records show the family withdrew from the company.

The hearing, before the House Oversight Committee, offered a highly unusual opportunity for the public to hear directly from some members of the family, whose company is a defendant in thousands of federal and state lawsuits for misleading marketing of OxyContin, the painkiller seen as initiating a wave of opioid addiction that has led to the deaths of more than 450,000 Americans. Eight members of the family have been individually named in many state cases.

The singularity of the Sacklers’ appearance on Thursday was underscored by the likelihood that they may never testify in open court, because the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings and nationwide litigation may resolve in settlements rather than trials. Despite millions of dollars in legal expenses racked up by plaintiffs and Purdue alike — and the company’s subsequent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2019 — one obstacle to resolution persists: the refusal of the Sacklers to be held personally or criminally responsible and to turn over substantial portions of their fortune.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has clearly given up hope, Bill Palmer, Dec. 18, 2020.  Donald Trump has been under the proverbial gun the entire time he’s been in the Oval Office. From the Mueller probe, to impeachment, to his consistently low approval rating numbers, he’s always been on the verge of ouster. But he’s always had hope that he would hang on – until now.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is playing some awfully petty games right now. In fact they’re so petty, his strategy is almost indistinguishably faint. Russia gets caught hacking us, and he (naturally) does nothing. Pfizer demands to know where to send the next doses of the vaccine, and he does nothing. Congress tries to figure out a stimulus package, and he does nothing.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump’s Pentagon loyalists, the Russian hack, and the Pentagon’s sudden transition stall-out, Bill Palmer, Dec. 18, 2020. Shortly after Donald Trump lost the election, he installed a number of partisan loyalists in civilian positions at the Pentagon. At the time, the move made no sense, even from a villain standpoint. It wasn’t as if these loyalists were in a position to magically start a war as a distraction or anything. So why did Trump make a point of putting them there?

bill palmer report logo headerThen this week we learned that Russia hacked into several key U.S. agencies several months ago, and has since gained access to an unknown but potentially devastating amount of secret intel. Then on Friday, the Pentagon suddenly stopped cooperating with the Biden transition, in a move that was such a panic drill, it couldn’t even get its excuses straight for the holdup.

This could all be one big coincidence. But it’s starting to feel like it isn’t one. What if Trump knew about the hacking before the public did, and that’s why he sent in his loyalists? It could be that the U.S. government discovered the hacks last month and briefed Trump on it. It could also be that Putin realized his hack was about to be discovered, and tipped off Trump that action needed to be taken.

To that end, what if Trump’s loyalists at the Pentagon are now suddenly panicking and making up excuses to stall, because they’ve realized they can’t cover it up before Team Biden gets a look at it? Trump has consistently shown that protecting Putin’s interests is his top priority, even at the expense of his own interests. As Trump runs out of time and circles the drain, perhaps he’s still frantically trying to help Putin out as the clock strikes zero.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Race, Regulation

  virginia roberts giuffres st tropaz naomi cambpell

Sex fiend Jeffrey Epstein's accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, recruited by Mar-a-Lago member Jeffrey Epstein's operation from her work as a towel girl at poolside at the Trump-owned club in Florida, is shown at center at a party in St. Topez during her global travels as a 17-year-old in bygone days with such society figures as model Naomi Campbell, top right, and Epstein's friend, sex partner and alleged recruiter, Ghislaine Maxwell, back to camera at upper right. Maxwell, aughter of the late "billionaire" press lord, con man and espionage opertive Robert Maxwell,  is seeking release from pre-trial custody for the holidays on bond pending trial on sex trafficking charges next summer.

New York Post, Jeffrey Epstein’s modeling agent pal Jean-Luc Brunel detained in Paris, Rebecca Rosenberg, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Jean-Luc Brunel, model-scout pal of late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, has been taken into custody in France for questioning on suspicion of raping and trafficking minors, Paris prosecutors said.

jean luc brunelBrunel, who was being investigated as part of a French probe into the sexual abuse of women and girls by Epstein and his friends, was picked up Wednesday at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, officials said. He was about to board a flight to Dakar, Senegal, the Guardian reported.

Epstein accuser Virginia Giuffre alleges that Brunel, 74, had once “gifted” the late financier three 12-year-old French girls from poor families for his birthday.

She alleged that Brunel bought them in Paris from their parents, promising to promote their modeling careers, then shipped them to New York to be sexually abused by Epstein. They were allegedly returned to France the following day.

Giuffre, who has claimed she was coerced into being Epstein’s “sex slave,” made the disturbing disclosure in court papers.

Brunel’s lawyer has previously said he denies the allegations. He has been dogged by sexual abuse claims for decades. Ghislaine Maxwell introduced Brunel to Epstein in the 1980s, according to the Guardian. Maxwell was arrested in July on charges she recruited girls and women to be abused by her and Epstein. She has pleaded not guilty.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ghislaine Maxwell Calls Jail Oppressive. Prosecutors Say She Has It Easy, Benjamin Weiser and Amy Julia Harris, Dec. 18, 2020. Ms. Maxwell, a longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, has asked to be released on $28.5 million bond as she awaits trial on federal charges.

In Ghislaine Maxwell’s telling, the conditions in her Brooklyn jail are oppressive. Guards with flashlights rouse her every 15 minutes to check whether she’s breathing. She is subjected to constant surveillance and to frequent strip searches. In her own cell away from other prisoners, she has been deprived of food and sleep, and she is unable to communicate with friends or family.

But on Friday, federal prosecutors contended that Ms. Maxwell didn’t have it so bad. She is released from her cell for 13 hours a day. She has her own shower, her own phone and exclusive use of two computers — even her own TV.

“Those conditions set her far apart from general population inmates, not to mention other inmates in protective custody,” the government wrote in a new court filing opposing Ms. Maxwell’s latest request to be released from jail — this time on a $28.5 million bond.

Ms. Maxwell, the longtime companion of Jeffrey Epstein, is awaiting trial on charges that she contributed to his abuse of teenage girls — one as young as 14 — more than two decades ago. Prosecutors said Ms. Maxwell, 58, had participated in some of the abuse.

Ms. Maxwell, who has pleaded not guilty, was originally denied bail after she was arrested over the summer on grounds that she might flee. She has been in custody ever since, and is being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

washington post logogoogle logo customWashington Post, Nearly 40 states sue Google over search manipulation, marking the third antitrust salvo against the tech giant, Tony Romm, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The lawsuit by the state attorneys general marks the third competition case that U.S. regulators have filed against the search-and-advertising giant since October

washington post logoahmaud arberyWashington Post, Newly released video shows police didn’t immediately help Ahmaud Arbery as he lay dying, Bert Roughton and Hannah Knowles, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed). Ahmaud Arbery, right, was still alive when police arrived in the minutes after he was fatally shot, but officers did not immediately tend to him and showed little skepticism of the suspects’ accounts on the scene, body camera videos show.

 ny times logoNew York City Will Change Many Selective Schools to Address Segregation, Eliza Shapiro, Dec. 18, 2020. The pandemic prompted the mayor’s most significant action yet on integration: a major shift in how hundreds of schools admit students.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday major changes to the way hundreds of New York City’s selective middle and high schools admit their students, a move intended to address long-simmering concerns that admissions policies have discriminated against Black and Latino students and exacerbated segregation in the country’s largest school district.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Nigeria’s Abducted Schoolboys Meet President, Ruth Maclean and Ismail Alfa, Dec. 18, 2020. Capitalizing on a rare victory, the Nigerian government publicly displayed the more than 300 boys who had been released.

Nigerian FlagHundreds of boys kidnapped last week from their boarding school in northwest Nigeria were freed on Thursday night after six days in captivity. But they had some public relations to do for the government before they could go home.

Cameras rolled on Friday as they were led barefoot by soldiers carrying rifles and wearing balaclavas through the manicured grounds of the governor’s house in Katsina, 80 miles south of Kankara, the town where they had been studying.

Looking dazed, and still wearing their dusty clothes, they were packed into a conference room, some crouching on the floor, others dwarfed by big leather chairs. Television reporters thrust microphones at them.

Then they were given new clothes to change into and taken to meet Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Iran’s Rouhani confident Biden will rejoin nuclear deal, lift sanctions, Erin Cunningham, Dec. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The Iranian president’s remarks signaled a willingness to preserve the accord in exchange for economic relief.

Iran FlagIranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday that he has "no doubt" the incoming U.S. administration will rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal and remove punishing sanctions on Iran's economy.

His remarks came a day after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also appeared to endorse the swift resumption of Iran’s commitments under the deal if it would herald the end of harsh U.S. sanctions.

“I have no doubt that the heroic national resistance of Iran is going to compel the future U.S. government to bow … and the sanctions will be broken,” Rouhani said Thursday at the inauguration of several infrastructure projects, where he spoke via videoconference.

 ny times logoNew York Times, A Riveting ISIS Story, Told in a Times Podcast, Falls Apart, Mark Mazzetti, Ian Austen, Graham Bowley and Malachy Browne, Dec. 18, 2020. He described the killings in lurid detail — how he shot one man in the head and stabbed another in the heart before hanging the corpse on a cross.

A Canadian’s gruesome account as an Islamic State executioner in Syria, which was the subject of the “Caliphate” podcast, was fabricated, officials say.

He spoke at length about joining the religious police of the Islamic State in Syria, and being trucked to a terrorist training session on attacking the West, including North America, his homeland.

He recounted how Islamic State commanders displayed maps and color-coded instructions, showing recruits like him how to strike major Western targets, get into restricted areas, kill people and attain martyrdom.

They envisioned “something as spectacular as 9/11,” he said. “They wanted to outdo Al Qaeda, make their mark.”

But Shehroze Chaudhry, the central figure in the 2018 podcast “Caliphate,” by The New York Times, was a fabulist who spun jihadist tales about killing for the Islamic State in Syria, Canadian and American intelligence and law enforcement officials contend.

 

Dec. 17

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many of Our Networks Do the Russians Control? Thomas P. Bossert (the homeland security adviser to President Trump and deputy homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush), Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The magnitude of this national security hack is hard to overstate.

At the worst possible time, when the United States is at its most vulnerable — during a presidential transition and a devastating public health crisis — the networks of the federal government and much of corporate America are compromised by a foreign nation. We need to understand the scale and significance of what is happening.

us dhs big eagle logo4Last week, the cybersecurity firm FireEye said it had been hacked and that its clients, which include the United States government, had been placed at risk. This week, we learned that SolarWinds, a publicly traded company that provides software to tens of thousands of government and corporate customers, was also hacked.

The attackers gained access to SolarWinds software before updates of that software were made available to its customers. Unsuspecting customers then downloaded a corrupted version of the software, which included a hidden back door that gave hackers access to the victim’s network.

This is what is called a supply-chain attack, meaning the pathway into the target networks relies on access to a supplier. Supply-chain attacks require significant resources and sometimes years to execute. They are almost always the product of a nation-state. Evidence in the SolarWinds attack points to the Russian intelligence agency known as the S.V.R., whose tradecraft is among the most advanced in the world.

According to SolarWinds S.E.C. filings, the malware was on the software from March to June. The number of organizations that downloaded the corrupted update could be as many as 18,000, which includes most federal government unclassified networks and more than 425 Fortune 500 companies.

The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months. The Russian S.V.R. will surely have used its access to further exploit and gain administrative control over the networks it considered priority targets. For those targets, the hackers will have long ago moved past their entry point, covered their tracks and gained what experts call “persistent access,” meaning the ability to infiltrate and control networks in a way that is hard to detect or remove.

While the Russians did not have the time to gain complete control over every network they hacked, they most certainly did gain it over hundreds of them. It will take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy.

The logical conclusion is that we must act as if the Russian government has control of all the networks it has penetrated. But it is unclear what the Russians intend to do next. The access the Russians now enjoy could be used for far more than simply spying.

 U.S. House logo

 washington post logous senate logoWashington Post, Congressional leaders try to clear final hurdles in sprint to finish coronavirus relief package, Mike DeBonis, Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Negotiators have been upbeat about talks and were working to hammer out a final deal.

ny times logocdc logo CustomNew York Times, Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the C.D.C., Noah Weiland, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). A former chief of staff at the C.D.C. and his deputy are speaking out about the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

rebekah jones handsup resized

Former State of Florida health data scientist Rebekah Jones is shown above after police with guns drawn raided her home, scaring her family and seizing her communications equipment. She is shown also below at left in a photo on Twitter, which she uses even after her firing, to disclose her best calculations of health threats in Florida.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ron DeSantis caught faking Florida’s coronavirus daily death toll to try to help Trump win the election, Bill Palmer, left, Dec. 17, 2020. bill palmerFlorida Governor Ron DeSantis, perhaps the most brazenly corrupt politician in the nation, has been playing games with the pandemic all along. We’ve seen him try to manipulate the death toll, and then have the police raid the house of a scientist (Rebekah Jones), seizing her computers on Dec. 7) who blew the whistle on him.

ron desantis oAt the time of the raid, Palmer Report predicted that DeSantis, right, would end up regretting it. After all, the first rule of a coverup is that your actions should result in there being less public interest in the story, not more public interest. Sure enough, DeSantis’ raid appears to have prompted the Sun-Sentinel, a major Florida newspaper, to go back and examine those death toll numbers.

bill palmer report logo headerAs it turns out, thirteen days before election day, DeSantis announced that his office would be independently reviewing every reported coronavirus death in the state. Then ten days before election day, DeSantis manipulated Florida’s daily coronavirus death toll numbers sharply downward. Then, after the media announced on November 7th that Trump had lost the election, Florida’s daily death toll numbers spiked on November 8th.

In other words, DeSantis didn’t just fake Florida’s coronavirus death toll numbers for political gain in general. He did it specifically to try to manipulate the rebekah jonesoutcome of the presidential election. This has to be seen as election tampering.

If DeSantis truly believed that his office’s alterations to the death toll numbers were legitimate, the official numbers would have remained low even after the election. Instead, by allowing the death toll criteria to go back to normal immediately after the election, DeSantis has given away his guilt. Wow is this guy ever stupid.

pfizer logoPalmer Report, Opinion: Pfizer says Donald Trump regime is blowing the vaccine rollout, Bill Palmer, Dec. 17, 2020.  From the department of 'we should have bill palmer report logo headerseen this coming': Pfizer now says that it has millions of additional doses of the coronavirus vaccine sitting in a warehouse, because the Trump regime is refusing to tell it where to send them. Is there anything Trump and his clowns can’t screw up?

Can we just swear in President Biden already?

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.17, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 74,702,055, Deaths: 1,658,645
U.S. Cases:   17,401,787, Deaths:    314,694

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 17, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, California, the latest epicenter, is reporting more coronavirus cases than most countries in the world, Reis Thebault, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Record numbers of covid-19 patients push hospitals and staffs to the limit.

washington post logoWashington Post, French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive for the coronavirus after showing symptoms, James McAuley and Michael Birnbaum, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for the coronavirus, the country's presidential palace announced Thursday.

He was administered a test after he began to show symptoms associated with the virus. The 42-year-old president will now isolate for the next seven days but will continue his work, the statement declared. A spokeswoman for the palace told Reuters that all of the president’s upcoming trips — including a visit to Lebanon that was scheduled for next week — have been canceled.

Macron is the latest world leader to test positive for the virus, including President Trump, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. All have recovered.

washington post logoWashington Post, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tests positive for coronavirus, Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Two other top Interior officials contracted the virus last month.

Interior Department Secretary David Bernhardt, 51, tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, the department spokesman confirmed after an inquiry from The Washington Post.

Bernhardt was tested for the virus that causes covid-19 before President Trump held a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. As a result, the secretary did not attend the session.

“He is currently asymptomatic and will continue to work on behalf of the American people while in quarantine,” Interior spokesman Nicholas Goodwin said in an email.

Bernhardt’s infection has set off a wave of tests among high-ranking department officials. He has spent the past two days in meetings with political appointees.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Coronavirus hits Donald Trump’s cabinet, Bill Palmer, Dec. 17, 2020. With just 35 days left until it’s officially dissolved, Donald Trump’s cabinet is already falling to pieces. Attorney General Bill Barr just resigned and/or was fired. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in quarantine after having been exposed to coronavirus. And now Trump’s Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has tested positive for coronavirus.

bill palmer report logo headerWhat’s more, the Washington Post is reporting that Bernhardt was preparing to attend a cabinet meeting with Trump on Wednesday, but sat it out after a last-minute test result confirmed he was positive. In other words, if the test result had been faulty, which happens sometimes, he would have infected the entire Trump cabinet.

It’s not yet clear if David Bernhardt’s confirmed coronavirus case has anything to do with why Mike Pompeo is now quarantining for coronavirus. But Bernhardt did spend the past two days “in meetings with political appointees,” meaning he’s surely infected a lot of people in the Trump administration unless he was wearing a mask. This comes after Ben Carson was very ill with coronavirus last month but recovered.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden taps environmental law expert to head White House Council on Environmental Quality, Brady Dennis, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Brenda Mallory, a longtime expert in environmental law and regulation, to head the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, according to several people familiar with the decision who spoke anonymously because the appointment has not been publicly announced.

The nomination would place a veteran government official and conservation advocate in a key administration post, one who works closely with agencies to shape federal environmental and energy policy and to ensure individual communities have a voice in the construction of pipelines, roads and other potentially polluting projects.

Legal Schnauzer, Commentary: Does Doug Jones' background include unpleasantness that could turn his confirmation process into a Clarence roger shuler and murphyThomas/Brett Kavanaugh slugfest? (Part Two), Roger Shuler (shown right, with his pet schnauzer in a file photo), Dec. 17, 2020. U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) is seen by many as the most confirmable of Joe Biden's possible nominees for U.S. attorney general. But the D.C.-based publisher of the Justice Integrity Project (JIP) hints that a thorough investigation of Jones' past might unearth ugliness that could turn his confirmation process into a lugfest.

Journalist-lawyer-author Andrew Kreig suggests Jones' background might include some unpleasantness that could make his confirmation more difficult than some might imagine:

If any senators from either party dared dig beyond the surface? A confirmation proceeding could well become more explosive than any other in modern times, making the Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh court confirmations seem tame by contrast, and might well tarnish top figures in the Obama-Biden administration for failures to clean up what are reliably reported as shocking levels of official corruption in Alabama in recent years.

It took many years until nearly the present even for [Tommy\ Gallion and [Don] Siegelman to publish 2020 books that penetrate the inherent secrecy of the Justice Department in such sensitive matters.

So, it is no surprise or embarrassment that one of the major Washington Post stories, as of this writing, Biden narrows attorney general list, portrayed Jones as perhaps the most readily confirmable of attorney general candidates because of perceptions that he is a moderate who gets along with most Republicans.

Read further for a deeper view.

Alabama has been riddled with corruption since at least the mid 1990s -- for much of Doug Jones' professional life.

And yet, the junior U.S. senator has done precious little to improve the situation, Kreig reports. In essence, Kreig writes, Jones saw the Alabama swamp and dove right in, splashing around with the swamp rats.

That hardly seems to make him the kind of rock-ribbed reformer that likely will be needed for justice-related positions in the post-Trump era. That, Kreig writes, would make Jones a particularly poor choice as Joe Biden's nominee to be U.S. attorney general.

tommy tuberville doug jonesIncoming Republican U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, left, is shown with the incumbent Democrat he defeated, Doug Jones.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump bets the last of his chips on… Tommy Tuberville? Bill Palmer, Dec. 17, 2020. If Donald Trump wants to have incoming Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville force a Senate floor vote on the election results, then so be it. He doesn’t have the votes to overturn anything.

bill palmer report logo headerBut it’ll force every Republican Senator to side with or against Trump, which will end up hurting their reelection odds no matter which way they vote. There’s a reason that even Mitch McConnell is urging Tuberville not to go through with it.

Tuberville is brand new to the Senate, and he’s a clueless idiot. I suspect that once he gets sworn in, he’ll quickly realize that McConnell financially controls his reelection prospects, and he’ll back down on this, just like McConnell wants him to. But if he does force a vote, that’s fine and dandy.

The question is why Trump is betting the last of his chips on a laugh out loud stooge like Tuberville. Then again, there’s really no one else to carry Trump’s “I secretly won the election” water at this point.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two outsiders emerge as top contenders for Biden’s education secretary, Laura Meckler and Valerie Strauss, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Leslie T. Fenwick, dean emeritus of the Howard University School of Education, and Miguel Cardona, the top education official in Connecticut, are the transition team’s focus, people familiar with the process said.

Two lesser-known educators have emerged as top candidates for education secretary — a former dean at Howard University and the commissioner of schools in Connecticut, people familiar with the process said.

The first is Leslie T. Fenwick, dean emeritus of the Howard University School of Education and a professor of educational policy and leadership. The second is Miguel Cardona, who last year was named the top education official in Connecticut.

Both have positions that could draw fire, though in different ways. Fenwick is a fierce critic of many attempts at education reform, including some touted by President Barack Obama’s Education Department. Cardona has promoted a return to school buildings during the pandemic, saying it is imperative to get children back to face-to-face learning.

The situation remains fluid, and no decisions have been made. Three people familiar with the process said the transition committee is focusing its attention on these two candidates at the moment. Another person cautioned that others are in the mix. All four spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

Fenwick and a spokesman for Cardona declined to comment Wednesday on the education secretary post.

An announcement has been expected by next week, as President-elect Joe Biden works to name his entire Cabinet before Christmas, but it’s possible that timing will change. Education has proved to be a tricky position to fill, as transition officials consider competing opinions within the Democratic Party over education policy and Biden’s effort to assemble a diverse set of leaders.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Joe Biden may be tougher than the GOP expects, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden’s ej dionne w open neckdecision to campaign in Georgia for two Democratic Senate candidates facing runoff elections next month is a bigger deal than you might think. Consider what another president-elect chose not to do 12 years ago.

In 2008, incumbent Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss was forced into a runoff by veteran Democratic state legislator Jim Martin. In the first round, Chambliss secured 49.8 percent to Martin’s 46.8 percent. But despite the closeness of the race, the nation’s most popular Democrat decided not to journey south on behalf of Martin.

Barack Obama did a radio ad and recorded some robocalls, but that was about it. And when the runoff came, Chambliss swept to victory, 57 percent to 43 percent. Between the general election and the runoff, turnout plummeted, from 3.75 million votes to just under 2.14 million.

By campaigning, Biden is also signaling that however strong his affection might be for an older, less polarized politics, he understands that it’s not the 1970s — or 2008 — anymore. The radicalization of the Republican Party is a fact he is coming to accept.

washington post logoWashington Post, Climate Solutions: A MacArthur ‘genius’ battles America’s ‘dirty secret’ — its failing sewage systems, Sarah Kaplan, Dec. 17, 2020. Climate change is raising the risk of failing sewage systems. Instead of flushing waste, Catherine Coleman Flowers envisions a system that turns it into water for use in washing machines, nutrients for fertilizer, even energy for homes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The fight against Trumpism is only beginning, Reed Galen (a co-founder of the Lincoln Project), Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). A year ago, The Lincoln Project launched with two stated goals: First, Defeat Donald Trump at the ballot box. Second, ensure Trumpism failed alongside him. We are proud to have been a part of the broad and deep coalition that helped elect Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris to the White House. Trumpism, however, is far from extinction.

The six weeks since Election Day have seen much of the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, turn fully against American democracy.

Trump’s allies and abettors, including more than 100 lawmakers and 18 Republican state attorneys general, tried to poison our political system in the service of a personality cult. Theirs is a veneration driven not by high ideals but by fear, resentment and a transparent desire to maintain power for its own sake.

We must combat these forces, everywhere and all the time. It will take the dedication of citizens of all political beliefs to recognize that what Trumpism represents is far outside the American mainstream. Progressives will need to join with conservatives. Independents will need to join the army of decency and democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We’ve finally identified the source of fraud in the 2020 election. It’s Ron Johnson, Dana Milbank, right, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). dana milbank CustomFinally, significant fraud has been identified in the 2020 election. It is being perpetrated by Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin.

President Trump lost the election. He lost the recounts. He lost the vote certifications, by Republican and Democratic officials alike. He lost 59 of 60 court cases. He lost the electoral college vote. His own attorney general said “we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome.”

ron johnson oBut Johnson, left, forges ahead with his fraudulent attempt to undermine the election — and the credibility of elections in the United States generally.

Though passively admitting “the conclusion has collectively been reached” that any fraud was too small to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s win, Johnson then spent nearly four hours in a hearing Wednesday trying to suggest otherwise.

“There was fraud in this election,” Johnson said. “I don’t have any doubt about that.” He went on at length about alleged “irregularities,” including “violations of election laws,” “fraudulent votes and ballot stuffing,” and “corruption of voting machines and software.” He insisted that “many of these irregularities raise legitimate concerns.”

Johnson, you may recall, used his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee last month to promote the long-discredited quackery that hydroxychloroquine cures the coronavirus. He used Wednesday’s hearing, mercifully his last as chairman, to mention “the Russian collusion hoax,” “censorship” of conservatives, “financial entanglements of the Biden family,” Hillary Clinton and the Steele dossier.

washington post logojoe biden twitterWashington Post, Senate GOP has accepted Biden’s win but continues to push Trump’s baseless fraud claims, Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 17, 2020 (print ed.). A hearing on election irregularities became a forum for revisiting rejected complaints the president made without evidence about alleged voter fraud in several swing states.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: What you need to know about the Georgia Senate runoff elections, Amber Phillips, Dec. 17, 2020. These two races will decide control of the U.S. Senate, which will impact what President-elect Joe Biden can get done in his first two years in office.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump supporters are talking about forming their own Patriot Party – and it could be good news for us, Bill Palmer, Dec. 17, 2020. Might as well call it the Confederate party and be done with it.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing: if the conservative vote is split among the Republican Party and the Patriot Party, either party will have a difficult time winning elections. The Democrats will dominate for awhile, until one of the two conservative parties dies.

Of course Trump supporters are having trouble getting over his loss. They lost the civil war 150 years ago and they haven’t gotten over that yet either.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Roberts’s self-defeating attempt to make the court appear nonpolitical, Varad Mehta and Adrian Vermeule, Dec. 17, 2020).  If Roberts’s apostasies have demoralized the right — Vice President Pence flatly called him a “disappointment to conservatives” in August — john roberts othey have emboldened the left.

Far from sating critics of the court, his concessions have only whetted their appetite. His fundamental error has been to think that he could deflect attacks from the left by surrendering to it on some of the most divisive issues. Rather than conciliatory, these gestures have been regarded as a sign of weakness.

Varad Mehta is a historian and writer. Adrian Vermeule is the Ralph S. Tyler Jr. professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump can delay providing DNA sample if he turns over other evidence, accuser tells court, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 17, 2020. Lawyers for author E. Jean Carroll, below at left, who accused President Trump of raping her years ago and now is suing him for defamation, told a federal court Thursday that she is willing to delay her effort to collect his testimony and DNA in exchange for faster access to other records that relate to her case.

e jean carrollThe surprise concession comes as the Justice Department continues its fight to represent the president, even though Trump’s days in office are rapidly drawing to a close. The department’s civil division is appealing a ruling by U.S. District Judge A. Lewis Kaplan that excluded its controversial intervention in the case.

Kaplan rejected the theory that Trump should be treated as a regular federal employee covered under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and that disparaging Carroll was conduct within the scope of his employment.

Carroll’s legal team in a filing Thursday proposed proceeding with discovery while the Justice Department appeals Kaplan’s ruling, but said it would consent to waiting until the appeal is decided to depose the outgoing president and to collect a DNA sample from him. Trump’s side has proposed halting all proceedings until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit delivers its finding — a process that could take months.

Carroll says she has the dress she wore when she was allegedly assaulted by Trump in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan in the 1990s and her team expects to compare DNA found on the dress to Trump’s genetic sample. Trump has adamantly denied the encounter.

American System Network, Opinion: Trump Still Threatening to Veto National Defense Authorization Act, Webster G. Tarpley, Dec. 17, 2020. Trump Still webster tarpley 2007Threatening to Veto National Defense Authorization Act; Claims Bill Favors China; He also Wants to End Liability Shield for Social Media and Stop Removal of Confederate Names from US Bases; Likely Real-World Goal: To Cripple US Intelligence Defenses as Part of Appeasement.

While Trump Remains Spitefully Silent, New Reports on Extent of Russian SVR Hack Demonstrate Break-Ins at State, Defense, Treasury, Homeland Security, NIH, and other Government Agencies Since March.

New Attacks Revealed on Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Federal Energy Regulatory Regulatory Commission, and the Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories; US “Einstein System” Fails to Detect Presence of Hackers; Trump Cabinet Vet Bossert Warns that Current Level of Russian Access Could be Used for Things Far Worse than Just Spying.

Biden Calls Hack Attacks “a Matter of Great Concern…my Administration will Make Cybersecurity a Top Priority at Every Level of Government”; Coons, Evidently Acting as Semi-Official Transition Spokesman for Biden, Condemns Extraordinary Russian Aggressivity, Noting Ominously that Blatant Cyber-War Attack Proves “Deterrence Has Failed”; Putin Refuses to Deny Kremlin Role in Poisoning of Opposition Figure Navalny; Accuses Navalny of Working with CIA.


World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia still barred from Olympics, World Cup after court reduces doping ban to two years, Rick Maese, Dec. 17, 2020. The Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced Russia’s four-year ban from international sports competition by half.

Wayne Madsen Report, Nation Island Covid Roundup Analysis: Apia, Tarawa, Palikir, Nuku'alofa, Melekeok, Funafuti, Yaren District, Avarua, Mata Utu, Alofi, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallKingston, Adamstown, Jamestown, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Georgetown, and Longyearbyen, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec. 17, 2020. While government officials receive death threats for imposing quarantines, lockdowns, and mask orders around the United States, wayne madesen report logoseveral island nations and territories are Covid-free because of the strong action taken by their governments and local authorities.

In the South Pacific, Samoa remains Covid-free because of a state of emergency declared early in the pandemic that bans international travel to and from the country. The ban includes travel to and from neighboring American Samoa, which reported its first three Covid cases in November.

The Pacific has fared better than the Caribbean, where Covid has struck in all of the island nations.

 

Dec. 16

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

Trump Watch

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Defying Trump, McConnell Seeks to Squelch Bid to Overturn the Election, Nicholas Fandos, Updated Dec. 16, 2020. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and pleaded with Republicans privately not to join an effort by House members to throw out the results.

Mitchell McConnellBreaking with President Trump’s drive to overturn his election loss, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, right, on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his victory and began a campaign to keep fellow Republicans from joining a doomed last-ditch effort to reverse the outcome in Congress.

Although Mr. McConnell waited until weeks after Mr. Biden was declared the winner to recognize the outcome, his actions were a clear bid by the majority leader, who is the most powerful Republican in Congress, to put an end to his party’s attempts to sow doubt about the election.

He was also trying to stave off a messy partisan spectacle on the floor of the House that could divide Republicans at the start of the new Congress, forcing them to choose between showing loyalty to Mr. Trump and protecting the sanctity of the electoral process.

“Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. “The Electoral College has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”

A short time later, on a private call with Senate Republicans, Mr. McConnell and his top deputies pleaded with their colleagues not to join members of the House in objecting to the election results on Jan. 6, when Congress meets to ratify the Electoral College’s decision, according to three people familiar with the conversation, who described it on the condition of anonymity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Relief Live Updates, Congressional Leaders Close In on a Stimulus Deal, Staff reports, Dec. 16, 2020. Officials on Capitol Hill appeared to be nearing an agreement for a plan that would infuse the economy with as much as $900 billion in pandemic relief. The plan would include another round of direct stimulus payments to Americans and additional unemployment benefits. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, FDA authorizes first over-the-counter, rapid home virus test, William Wan,Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Unlike previous home tests, this version does not require samples to be sent to a lab and can be taken without a doctor’s orders by anyone older than age 2.

fda logoThe Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first rapid coronavirus test that can be taken at home without prescription and that yields immediate results.

The test could be a vital tool in the country’s fight against the virus — especially in the months before most Americans are vaccinated. Unlike previous home tests, this version does not require samples to be sent to a lab and can be taken without doctor’s orders by anyone older than 2.

The test, developed by Australian company Ellume, is just one of several positive developments for coronavirus testing.

After months of failures, long lines and continued shortages, the country’s testing capacity is finally expected to increase rapidly in the coming two to three months, reaching many times its current levels, experts said. That reflects new technologies coming online and long-standing investments to ramp up production that are coming to fruition.

ny times logocdc logo CustomNew York Times, Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the C.D.C., Noah Weiland, Dec. 16, 2020. A former chief of staff at the C.D.C. and his deputy are speaking out about the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice.

ny times logoNew York Times, Moderna Vaccine Prevents Severe Covid-19, Data Show, Noah Weiland, Denise Grady and Carl Zimmer, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna is highly protective, according to new data released on Tuesday, setting the stage for its emergency authorization this week by federal regulators and the start of its distribution across the country.

The Food and Drug Administration intends to authorize emergency use of the vaccine on Friday, people familiar with the agency’s plans said. The moderna logodecision would give millions of Americans access to a second coronavirus vaccine beginning as early as Monday. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, cleared last week, was the first to be authorized.

“This is great news, as this now brings us to two products with high levels of efficacy,” said Rupali Limaye, an associate scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

This would ensure access for millions more Americans. The review confirms Moderna’s assessment of an efficacy rate of 94.1 percent for its shot.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many of Our Networks Do the Russians Control? Thomas P. Bossert (the homeland security adviser to President Trump and deputy homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush), Dec. 16, 2020. The magnitude of this national security hack is hard to overstate.

At the worst possible time, when the United States is at its most vulnerable — during a presidential transition and a devastating public health crisis — the networks of the federal government and much of corporate America are compromised by a foreign nation. We need to understand the scale and significance of what is happening.

Last week, the cybersecurity firm FireEye said it had been hacked and that its clients, which include the United States government, had been placed at risk. This week, we learned that SolarWinds, a publicly traded company that provides software to tens of thousands of government and corporate customers, was also hacked.

The attackers gained access to SolarWinds software before updates of that software were made available to its customers. Unsuspecting customers then downloaded a corrupted version of the software, which included a hidden back door that gave hackers access to the victim’s network.

This is what is called a supply-chain attack, meaning the pathway into the target networks relies on access to a supplier. Supply-chain attacks require significant resources and sometimes years to execute. They are almost always the product of a nation-state. Evidence in the SolarWinds attack points to the Russian intelligence agency known as the S.V.R., whose tradecraft is among the most advanced in the world.

According to SolarWinds S.E.C. filings, the malware was on the software from March to June. The number of organizations that downloaded the corrupted update could be as many as 18,000, which includes most federal government unclassified networks and more than 425 Fortune 500 companies.

The Russians have had access to a considerable number of important and sensitive networks for six to nine months. The Russian S.V.R. will surely have used its access to further exploit and gain administrative control over the networks it considered priority targets. For those targets, the hackers will have long ago moved past their entry point, covered their tracks and gained what experts call “persistent access,” meaning the ability to infiltrate and control networks in a way that is hard to detect or remove.

While the Russians did not have the time to gain complete control over every network they hacked, they most certainly did gain it over hundreds of them. It will take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy.

The logical conclusion is that we must act as if the Russian government has control of all the networks it has penetrated. But it is unclear what the Russians intend to do next. The access the Russians now enjoy could be used for far more than simply spying.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, With First Dibs, Rich Countries Have ‘Cleared the Shelves,’ Megan Twohey, Keith Collins and Katie Thomas, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S., Britain, Canada and others are hedging their bets, reserving doses that far outnumber their populations, as many poorer nations struggle to secure enough.

While many poor nations may be able to vaccinate at most 20 percent of their populations in 2021, some of the world’s richest countries have reserved enough doses to immunize their own multiple times over.

ny times logoNew York Times, If Teachers Get the Vaccine Quickly, Can Students Get Back to School? Eliza Shapiro and Shawn Hubler,  Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Teachers’ unions largely support plans to put educators near the front of the line, but given availability and logistics, that might not be enough to open more schools in the spring.

Given the limited number of vaccines available to states and the logistical hurdles to distribution, including the fact that two doses are needed several weeks apart, experts said that vaccinating the nation’s three million schoolteachers could be a slow process, taking well into the spring.
Live Updates:

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.16, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 73,940,622, Deaths: 1,644,800
U.S. Cases:   17,143,942, Deaths:    311,073

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 16, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, In Biden’s Delaware hometown, economic pain enters new phase as pandemic rages on, David J. Lynch, Dec. 16, 2020. For the president-elect, addressing the complex blend of urgent short-term issues and chronic ailments facing families in places such as Wilmington will be among his most difficult challenges.

Like larger cities, Wilmington has lost more than a third of its population since its industrial heyday and struggles with violent crime.
Trump Watch

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to pick Buttigieg for transportation secretary, Michael Laris, Ian Duncan and Seung Min Kim, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The most pressing task will be rebuilding transportation networks battered by the pandemic.

President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Pete Buttigieg, right, to be his secretary of transportation, elevating the onetime rival to a key role in the incoming pete buttigieg mayor south bend inadministration’s push to rebuild American infrastructure and the economy, according to three people familiar with the decision.

The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Biden at a critical moment in March ahead of the Super Tuesday primaries. Shortly afterward, an emotional Biden compared the former intelligence officer for the Navy Reserve, who served a tour in Afghanistan, to his son Beau, who died of brain cancer at age 46.

“It’s the highest compliment I can give any man or woman,” Biden said then, citing Buttigieg’s “moral courage” and “backbone like a ramrod,” and predicting a long and bright future. “I promise you, you’re going to end up, over your lifetime, seeing a hell of a lot more of Pete than you are of me.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden chooses Granholm for energy secretary, Will Englund, Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The former Michigan jennifer granholm twitter1governor, shown at right in her Twitter photo, will need an experienced deputy to handle nuclear weapons programs. Biden selects former EPA chief Gina McCarthy, below at left, as climate czar.

President-elect Joe Biden is nominating Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan who has been a strong voice for zero-emissions vehicles, as secretary of energy, two people familiar with the process said Tuesday.

Granholm, 61 and currently an adjunct professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, has argued that the United States risks being left behind by other countries if it doesn’t develop alternate energy technologies. Her pick is a clear sign that Biden wants the department to play an important role in combating climate change.

gina mccarthyArun Majumdar, a materials scientist and engineer who led a new research agency within the Energy Department under the Obama administration, is under consideration as deputy secretary, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decision had been finalized. Majumdar, who has been working for the Biden transition team and was considered a candidate himself for the top Energy post, is an enthusiastic advocate for modernizing the nation’s electricity grid.

Granholm and Majumdar are both immigrants — she from Canada, he from India. Both come to the department from California with backgrounds and expertise in promoting and developing alternate technologies, even as the bulk of Energy’s mandate has to do with the maintenance and safeguarding of the nation’s nuclear weapons and handling the cleanup efforts at contaminated nuclear sites.

In budgetary terms, the nuclear program consumes about 75 percent of the department’s budget, or $27 billion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 16, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

washington post logoWashington Post, What you need to know about Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, Emily Davies, Justin Jouvenal, Teddy Amenabar and Matt Viser, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.).

Joe Biden is expected to begin his term as the 46th president Jan. 20, when he is scheduled to be sworn into office amid an inauguration ceremony unlike any other in recent memory.

The coronavirus pandemic will transform the traditions long associated with inaugural celebrations. In fact, Biden’s transition team is urging all Americans to stay home, refrain from travel and to limit gatherings during the inauguration to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Galas and balls may be canceled entirely. Some events, such as the parade on Pennsylvania Avenue, are expected to occur in a smaller and potentially distant form. Other celebratory components may be virtual, drawing inspiration from the Democratic National Convention’s online event. And people interested in coming to D.C. for the 59th presidential inauguration will have to navigate coronavirus travel restrictions. Here’s a look at what is known so far.

 

Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out at McConnell for recognizing Biden’s victory: ‘People are angry!’ Timothy Bella, Dec. 16, 2020. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) finally acknowledged on Tuesday that Joe Biden is the president-elect, President Trump publicly pleaded with him to support his continued efforts to upend the election with baseless claims of mass electoral fraud.

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore portrait)“Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up,” the president tweeted at nearly 1 a.m. Wednesday. “Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!”

Trump’s tweet made it clear that McConnell’s decision to recognize Biden as president-elect has opened a rift at the top of the GOP, with the president continuing to falsely claim victory while McConnell works behind the scenes to convince Republican senators not to challenge the electoral college, which cast 306 votes for Biden on Monday, formalizing his victory.

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Mar-a-Lago neighbors to Trump: Spend your post-presidency elsewhere, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Carol D. Leonnig, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The feud over whether Trump has the right to live at his Palm Beach club reaches a boiling point.

Next-door neighbors of Mar-a-Lago, President Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., that he has called his Winter White House, have a message for the outgoing commander in chief: We don’t want you to be our neighbor.

That message was formally delivered Tuesday morning in a demand letter delivered to the town of Palm Beach and also addressed to the U.S. Secret Service asserting that Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the storied estate from his private residence to a private club. The legal maneuver could, at long last, force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president after the swearing-in of Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

The contretemps sets up a potentially awkward scenario, unique in recent history, in which a former Oval Office occupant would find himself having to officially defend his choice of a place to live during his post-presidency. It also could create a legal headache for Trump because he changed his official domicile to Mar-a-Lago, leaving behind Manhattan, where he lived before being elected president and came to fame as a brash, self-promoting developer. (Trump originally tried to register to vote in Florida using the White House in Washington as his address, which is not allowed under Florida law. He later changed the registration to the Mar-a-Lago address.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Trump Organization to give more records to N.Y. attorney general, Shayna Jacobs, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.).  A state judge dealt a loss to the Trump Organization on Tuesday, ordering the president's company to turn over records related to a controversial property that is the subject of a civil investigation by the New York attorney general's office.

“We will immediately move to ensure that the Trump Organization complies with the court’s order and submits records related to our investigation,” letitia james o headshotAttorney General Letitia James, right, a Democrat, said in a statement after the ruling.

Trump got a $21 million tax break for saving the forest outside his N.Y. mansion. Now the deal is under investigation.

The documents and communications at issue could help investigators answer questions about a conservation easement that was granted several years ago at the Seven Springs estate in suburban New York’s Westchester Country, a move that netted President Trump’s company a $21 million tax deduction. The materials, which Trump’s lawyers had sought to shield, include messages exchanged between an engineer and a land-use lawyer who worked on Trump’s behalf.

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Hundreds of invitees skip Mike Pompeo’s indoor holiday party at State Department, John Hudson, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Only a tiny fraction of the more than 900 guests invited to an indoor holiday party hosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan showed up on mike pompeo portraitTuesday following an outcry from public health officials and U.S. lawmakers warning that the reception bore all the hallmarks of a superspreader event, said two U.S. officials familiar with the event.

Pompeo, whose name was on the invitation and who was scheduled to speak at the event, canceled his speech and tapped a substitute speaker, said the two officials. The event was dedicated to the family members of diplomats serving overseas in dangerous postings that require them to leave their spouses and children behind, such as in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mike Pompeo enters coronavirus quarantine, Bill Palmer, Dec. 16, 2020.In the final days of his failed presidency, Donald Trump is running out of henchmen. Attorney General Bill Barr resigned and/or was fired on Monday. Now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been forced to enter quarantine after being exposed to coronavirus.

bill palmer report logo headerPompeo had been planning to hold a 900-person Christmas party, a dangerously deranged idea in a pandemic. It turned out almost no one RSVP’d for the party, and Pompeo ended up skipping it himself, presumably to avoid the embarrassment of hosting a party and having no one show up. But even that apparently didn’t prevent Pompeo from being exposed to coronavirus somewhere along the way, and the Washington Post says he’s now quarantining.

Pompeo has tested negative thus far. But it’s commonplace for infected people to test negative until they start showing symptoms, which could take five to fourteen days, before finally testing positive. Even if Pompeo continues to test negative, he’ll be out of the game for several days while under quarantine – and this comes at a time when Trump and Pompeo only have 35 days left.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

washington post logoWashington Post, Investors in breached software firm SolarWinds traded $280 million in stock just days before hack was revealed, Drew Harwell and Douglas MacMillan, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The timing of the trades raises questions about whether major shareholders used inside information to avoid stark losses after the attack. The firm’s share price has plunged roughly 22 percent since its role in the breach was revealed.

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. government spent billions on a system for detecting hacks. The Russians outsmarted it, Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Russia’s digital Trojan horse communicated for months undetected.

When Russian hackers first slipped their digital Trojan horses into federal government computer systems, probably sometime in the spring, they sat dormant for days, doing nothing but hiding. Then the malicious code sprang into action and began communicating with the outside world.

russian flagAt that moment — when the Russian malware began sending transmissions from federal servers to command-and-control computers operated by the hackers — an opportunity for detection arose, much as human spies behind enemy lines are particularly vulnerable when they radio home to report what they’ve found.

Why then, when computer networks at the State Department and other federal agencies started signaling to Russian servers, did nobody in the U.S. government notice that something odd was afoot?

The answer is part Russian skill, part federal government blind spot.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Barr failed at his job. His bootlicking resignation letter made that clear, Ruth Marcus, right, Dec. ruth marcus twitter Custom16, 2020 (print ed.). William P. Barr told friends, when he was tapped for attorney general two years ago, that he was returning to the position to help save the Justice Department. Barr failed spectacularly at that task and ruined his reputation in the process.

Nothing made that more clear than the bootlicking letter of resignation he submitted Monday to President Trump.

No aspect of Barr’s departure is normal. Cabinet officials do not leave administrations to spend more time with their loved ones — the president tweeted that Barr wanted to “spend the holidays with his family” — 37 days before the end of a presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr was a disdainful block of gray, Robin Givhan, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The outgoing attorney general established himself as the lump who sat before Congress during this summer of protests against racial injustice and refused to see the powerful implications of color within our society.

william barr new oOf the many images of William P. Barr embedded in the historical record, the ones that most resonate with his time as attorney general in the Trump administration reflect a graceless, block of a man hunched over a hearing room desk with a resting expression of genial disgust.

His salt-and-pepper hair, combed forward and side-parted, juts from his head — an echo of a 1950s childhood and an aesthetic forged by that era. He has a hangdog jaw which is coupled with piercing eyes set behind schoolboy glasses. He is a bundle of contradictions wrapped up in serviceable business attire.

Barr will leave his position Dec. 23, a fact made public by the president on Twitter rather than by Barr himself. He leaves after refusing to give credence to the falsehoods and conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. The legal veteran of significant stature, who began his tenure in this administration with impressive bona fides and a smidgen of bipartisan support, leaves it as a tweet.

washington post logo

Washington Post, An ex-cop held an A/C repairman at gunpoint over a false claim he had 750,000 fake ballots, police said, Andrea Salcedo, Dec. 16, 2020. A right-wing organization paid the former police captain more than $250,000 to pursue far-fetched voter-fraud conspiracy theories. An air-conditioning repairman was driving his truck through Houston in late October when a black SUV suddenly slammed into his tail. When he got out, the SUV’s driver leaped out and pointed a gun at his head, police said.

When police arrived, the gunman offered an incredible tale: The driver, he said, was the face of a vast election-fraud scheme and had about 750,000 fake ballots stuffed inside his truck.

That story was totally bogus, police now say. The man’s truck was full of nothing but A/C parts, and the gunman — Mark Anthony Aguirre, a former Houston Police Department captain — had been paid more than $250,000 by a right-wing organization to pursue far-fetched voter-fraud conspiracy theories.

On Tuesday, Aguirre was arrested and charged with felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as part of a “bogus voter-fraud conspiracy,” the Harris County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

washington post logoWashington Post, North Carolina GOP lawmaker urges Trump to suspend civil liberties to keep power: ‘Invoke the Insurrection Act,’ Katie Shepherd, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). On Facebook, North Carolina state Sen. Bob Steinburg (R) paraphrased a conservative commentator to make a radical suggestion: President Trump should declare a national emergency, suspend civil rights and remain in power over his baseless claims of election fraud.

djt maga hatAsked by a local TV station on Tuesday whether he stands by those sentiments, Steinburg doubled down, insisting that nefarious forces had corrupted President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

“There’s something going on here bigger than what anybody is willing to talk about,” Steinburg told WRAL Tuesday evening. “I don’t like conspiracy theories at all. But something is going on here that’s bigger than meets the eye.”

Steinburg wasn’t alone among GOP lawmakers in suggesting that Trump suspend civil liberties, even after the electoral college finalized Biden’s win on Monday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) publicly acknowledged the Democrat’s victory on Tuesday. Virginia state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R) on Tuesday also called for martial law, echoing a suggestion floated by Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser pardoned by the president last month.

Steinburg, who recently won reelection to his state Senate seat in North Carolina, wrote an inflammatory Facebook post on Tuesday quoting an interview with retired Air Force lieutenant general Thomas McInerney earlier this month. .

“President Trump must declare a national emergency,” the 72-year-old state senator wrote in the post, which has since been deleted. “Trump should also invoke the Insurrection Act.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Kansas mayor resigns over violent threats for backing mask mandate: ‘I do not feel safe anymore,’ Teo Armus, Dec. 16, 2020. The emails and voice mails to Dodge City, Kan., Mayor Joyce Warshaw began pouring in last month, after the city commission voted to require everyone in town to wear masks indoors.

djt maga hatSome anonymous messages told her that she was restricting civil liberties, Warshaw told The Washington Post. Others said she should go to jail over her vote.

But after the western Kansas city’s uphill battle against the coronavirus pandemic was highlighted in a USA Today feature on Friday, the messages grew more frequent and aggressive: Burn in hell. Get murdered. One person simply wrote, “We’re coming for you.”

So after nearly eight years in government, she called it quits Tuesday.

“They were loud, and they were aggressive, and they frightened me and my family,” said Warshaw, who had been serving her second stint as mayor.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McConnell sets up a clash with Trump over who’s in charge in the GOP, Aaron Blake, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Two things can be true at the same time. One is that Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election has been evident for several weeks, with no legitimate reason to doubt it (despite plenty of digging). And two is that Mitch McConnell just provided perhaps the most significant, if belated, recognition of that fact to date.

Mitchell McConnellThe Senate majority leader, right, acknowledged Biden’s win on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, one day after the electoral college made it official.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos“The electoral college has spoken, so today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” said McConnell (R-Ky.). He also nodded to the historic elevation of his Senate colleague, Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), to the vice presidency.

McConnell’s comments should have the effect of taking some pressure off his colleagues, but they also matter practically speaking. The position of the Senate GOP leader is now clear, pretty much negating any chance that Senate Republicans would participate in some kind of unlikely end-run not to accept the verdict of the electoral college.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ron Johnson could take his last stand as Trump’s most stalwart Senate defender, Michael Kranish, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Sen. Ron Johnson believes Americans have been “snookered into this mass hysteria” about the coronavirus. He continues to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine, rejecting scientific studies that found it can endanger covid-19 patients. He has said the country’s intelligence service conspired with the media to undermine President Trump.

djt maga hatNow the Republican from Wisconsin is using his last days as chairman of the powerful Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to investigate what he calls “election irregularities” related to the 2020 campaign. The hearing, to be held Wednesday, comes after an array of federal and state courts rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud and in the wake of Monday’s electoral college vote confirming Joe Biden’s victory.

Johnson’s evolution from ideologically driven standard-bearer of the tea party to one of Trump’s most stalwart defenders mirrors the arc of his party over the past decade. With Johnson’s term expiring in 2022, Wednesday’s hearing could be both the last stand of Trump’s most fervent Senate follower and the first act of a post-Trump Republican Party.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Boko Haram claims the kidnapping of 300 boys in Nigeria, marking an alarming move into new territory, Danielle Paquette, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Boko Haram claimed responsibility Tuesday for abducting more than 300 boys from a secondary school in northwest Nigeria, marking a striking leap from the extremist group's usual area of operation and a chilling expansion of Islamist militancy in West Africa.

Nigerian FlagHundreds of gunmen surrounded the boarding school in Katsina state on Friday and opened fire in a community that had never known such violence, witnesses said, before dragging the students deep into the woods.

The mass kidnapping shocked the continent's most populous country as deaths from a multifront conflict in the region soar. West Africa is home to the fastest-growing Islamist insurgencies in the world, conflict researchers say, with unrest from disparate forces gripping Nigeria and three of its regional neighbors: Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Boko Haram has killed at least 36,000 people and displaced millions over the past decade, but the campaign of terrorism has rarely stretched far from its stronghold in the Lake Chad Basin. The assault in the town of Kankara, however, signaled the fighters’ murderous reach has shifted nearly 500 miles west, endangering peace in new territory.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuits by U.S. victims accuse top Qatar banks and charity of financing terrorism in Israel, Spencer S. Hsu, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The allegations of duplicity come at a delicate time in U.S.-Middle East diplomacy.

QatarU.S. victims of extremist violence in Israel allege that three of Qatar’s leading financial institutions have secretly funneled millions of dollars to Palestinian groups responsible for killing Americans, accusing a key U.S. ally in the Middle East of duplicity.

In U.S. lawsuits, victims and their families claim that the government and royal family members of the wealthy Persian Gulf nation have spearheaded “a terrorism financing conspiracy” that has channeled tens of millions of dollars to support Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), both U.S.-designated terrorist groups.

Philippines

washington post logoRodrigo DuterteWashington Post, International Criminal Court sees ‘reasonable basis’ for crimes against humanity in Philippines drug war, Siobhán O'Grady, Dec. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Human rights groups have raised alarm for years about President Rodrigo Duterte’s years-long and violent crackdown on drugs that has claimed thousands of lives.

 

Dec. 15

Top Headines

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

President-elect Joe Biden confirmed by Electoral College victory on Dec. 14 (Gage Skidmore photo via Flickr).

 

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Media & Sports News

 

Top Stories

pfizer logony times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Coronavirus Vaccinations Begin, But Some Americans Are Wary, Staff Reports, Dec. 15, 2020. A new survey revealed that more than one-quarter of Americans say they probably or definitely would not take a coronavirus vaccine. The skepticism, mainly from Republican, rural and Black Americans, presents a challenge as infections and hospitalizations continue to surge. On the same day as the first inoculations were administered, the

U.S. passed 300,000 deaths — more than any other country. In London, tighter virus rules raised the pressure on Boris Johnson. Here’s the latest.

election 2020 national map washington post

washington post logoWashington Post, Electoral college makes Biden’s victory over Trump official, Elise Viebeck, Dan Simmons, Amy Worden and Omar Sofradzija, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Day-long series of votes delivers no surprises. The proceedings harked back to more typical presidential elections and stood in contrast with the unprecedented — though fruitless — six weeks of legal and procedural chaos triggered by President Trump’s refusal to accept his loss.

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Biden’s speech to America: ‘It is time to turn the page,’ Matt Viser, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The president-elect ridiculed President Trump for claiming victory despite multiple failed efforts to overturn the election results and vowed to represent all of the nation, not just those who voted for him.

President-elect Joe Biden reaffirmed his faith in the integrity of American elections and the legitimacy of his presidency after the electoral college formalized his November win Monday, ridiculing President Trump for claiming victory despite multiple failed efforts to overturn the election results.

In sweeping and sometimes agitated comments 37 days after he was projected the winner, Biden attempted to unify a polarized and skittish country with direct appeals to the more than 74 million Americans who voted for Trump.

“In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,” Biden said. “We the people voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And now it is time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history. To unite. To heal.”

The speech represented, to date, Biden’s most forceful defense of the election as well as his most complete denunciation of Trump’s fraudulent claims. Biden noted that he received 7 million more popular votes, and the same number of electoral votes, 306, as Trump did in 2016 when he claimed “a landslide.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden keeps giving Republicans who ignore his win the benefit of the doubt, Amber Phillips, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.).  He’s not necessarily getting the same in return.

william barr at doj

washington post logoWashington Post, William P. Barr to depart as attorney general, Trump announces, Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). William P. Barr, right, is stepping down as attorney general, President Trump announced Monday, ending a controversial tenure as the country’s top law enforcement official in which critics say he repeatedly used the Justice Department to aid Trump’s allies only to have the president turn on him when he did not bring charges against those seen as political foes and disputed claims of widespread election fraud.

Trump revealed the move on Twitter, writing that he and Barr, shown above in a file photo, had a “nice meeting” at the White House, and Barr would “be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family.”

Trump claimed, “Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!” — though Trump had expressed frustration with Barr in recent days because Barr did not reveal before the election that Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son, was under investigation by the Justice Department.

He told Fox News this weekend that Barr “should have stepped up” on the matter.

“All he had to do is say an investigation’s going on,” Trump said, adding later, “When you affect an election, Bill Barr, frankly, did the wrong thing.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys who came ‘seeking violence’ sparked clashes during pro-Trump rally, D.C. officials say, Tom Jackman, Michael Brice-Saddler and Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Police said that 38 people had been arrested for protest-related actions, and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said eight officers were injured, one seriously. Ten people were charged with assault on a police officer.

Reuters, Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard indicted in U.S. on sex trafficking charges, Rod Nickel and Jonathan Stempel, Dec. 15, 2020. The Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was charged on Tuesday with sex trafficking, racketeering and other crimes targeting dozens of women and underage girls over a quarter century in three countries, U.S. authorities said.

peter nygard 2016Canadian police arrested Nygard, shown in a 2016 file photo, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Monday at the U.S. government’s request under the countries’ extradition treaty.

Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan said Nygard, 79, had since 1995 used his influence and businesses to “recruit and maintain” victims in the United States, Canada and the Bahamas to sexually gratify himself and his associates.

“Mr. Nygard vehemently denies all the allegations and expects to be vindicated in court,” his lawyer Jay Prober said.

Nygard wore a white face mask, a gray sweatshirt and sweatpants, with his long white hair pulled back in a bun, at an initial appearance in a Winnipeg courtroom.

He was led away while wearing handcuffs and leg chains. Nygard plans to seek bail, and his next scheduled hearing is on Jan. 13, 2021.

Nygard also faces class-action civil litigation in Manhattan by 57 unnamed women accusing him of sexual misconduct. He has denied wrongdoing.

Born in Finland, Nygard grew up in Manitoba, eventually running his own namesake clothing companies and becoming one of Canada’s wealthiest people.

Authorities said that victims were assaulted by Nygard or his associates, with some drugged to ensure they met his sexual demands, and that Nygard often targeted victims who came from disadvantaged backgrounds or had suffered abuse.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, What Getting Inoculated Is Like for Frontline Doctors and Nurses, Jack Healy, Lucy Tompkins and Audra D. S. Burch, Updated Dec. 15, 2020. Even as medical workers lined up for America’s first shots, many of them recalled nightmarish moments from the pandemic.

As Dr. Rishi Seth rolled up his left sleeve on Monday to receive one of the United States’ first Covid-19 vaccines, he thought of his patients back in the Special Care Unit.

There was the Uber driver who had walked out of the hospital after being on a ventilator. The dying father who said goodbye to his two college-age daughters on a video chat. The four coronavirus patients Dr. Seth had treated just on Monday morning, checking their oxygen levels and reviewing treatment plans before he stripped off his protective gear and joined a first wave of health care workers to get vaccinated in hospitals across the country.

“That’s why today is so emotional,” said Dr. Seth, an internal-medicine physician with Sanford Health in North Dakota, a state that has been ravaged by the virus. “You’re still fighting a battle, but you’re starting to see the horizon.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Virus Live Updates: Trump reverses course on plan to have White House staff get vaccine first, Antonia Noori Farzan, Erin Cunningham, Siobhán O'Grady, Marisa Iati and Brittany Shammas, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Health officials urge Americans to get behind Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine.

President Trump reversed course on a plan to have some White House staff members be among the first Americans to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Earlier, White House officials had said that senior members of the administration would receive priority, an announcement that drew criticism in light of the fact that Trump and his top advisers have repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic while flouting public health guidance.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.15, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 73,292,364, Deaths: 1,630,579
U.S. Cases:   16,942,980, Deaths:    308,091

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 15, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logous mail logoWashington Post, USPS struggles under crush of holiday packages as delays build up, Hannah Denham and Jacob Boga, Dec. 15, 2020. Private carriers FedEx and UPS have cut off delivery service for some retailers, sending massive volumes of packages to the Postal Service. The result has pushed the nation’s mail agency to the brink again.

ny times logoNew York Times, Appreciation: What Country Music Asked of Charley Pride, Jon Caramanica, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The singer put himself on the line to become the genre’s first Black superstar. He died on Saturday not long after performing at a largely mask-free awards ceremony.

At the 54th annual Country Music Association Awards last month, there was Charley Pride, right, onstage singing his indelible 1971 hit “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” alongside the rising country star Jimmie Allen. In the socially distanced audience, Nashville luminaries took in the wondrous spectacle. Eric Church, exuding stoic cool — no mask. Brothers Osborne singing along — no masks. Ashley McBryde swaying to the music — no mask.

charlie prideOf all the recent awards shows — the BET Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, the Billboard Awards, the Latin Grammys, the American Music Awards — the CMAs were singular in showing almost no people wearing masks, either onstage or in the audience. (It was also one of very few shows with an audience of any kind.)

If you believed what you were watching, you might think that the country music business was a tolerant one, encouraging of Black performers and willing to acknowledge the genre’s debt to Black music. And you might believe that it was possible for a gaggle of superstars (and the behind-the-scenes people who help them navigate the world) to keep the pandemic at bay.

The optics were pretty much seamless, the reality less so.

Five of the show’s planned performers pulled out because they tested positive for the coronavirus, or were exposed to someone who did. And most cruel was the news that this past Saturday, a month after the awards, Pride died, at 86, of complications of Covid-19. It is likely impossible to know whether Pride contracted the virus traveling from Texas to Nashville, or at the CMAs, but many, including the country stars Maren Morris and Mickey Guyton, expressed reasonable concern on Twitter that Pride’s appearance on the show might have led to his exposure.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 15, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Can’t Handle the Truth, Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 8, 2020 (print ed.). You shouldn’t be surprised that they’re still paul krugmanbacking Trump. President Trump’s continuing attempts to overturn an election he lost decisively more than a month ago is, like so much of what he’s done in office, shocking but not surprising. Who imagined that he would go quietly?

What some people may not have been fully prepared for is the way Trump’s party as a whole has backed his dangerous delusions. According to a survey by The Washington Post, only 27 Republican members of Congress are willing to say that Joe Biden won. Despite the complete lack of evidence of significant fraud, two-thirds of self-identified Republicans said in a Reuters/Ipsos poll that the election was rigged.

But you really shouldn’t be surprised by this willingness to indulge malicious, democracy-endangering lies. After all, when was the last time Republicans accepted a politically inconvenient fact? It has been clear for years that the modern G.O.P. is a party that can’t handle the truth.

Most obviously, Republican refusal to accept the election results follows months of refusal to acknowledge the dangers of the coronavirus, even as Covid-19 has become the nation’s leading cause of death, and even as a startling number of people in Trump’s orbit have been infected.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says Election ‘Should Be Celebrated, Not Attacked’ as Electoral College Affirms His Victory, Sydney Ember, Kathleen Gray and Glenn Thrush, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Michigan Republican leaders affirm state’s electoral votes and reprimand lawmaker who suggested there might be violence.

The two most senior leaders in the Michigan legislature, both Republicans, on Monday affirmed the state’s electoral votes that would formalize Joseph R. Biden’s victory, as a fellow lawmaker was punished for suggesting there may be violence at the meeting of electors.

In blistering terms, House Speaker Lee Chatfield wrote that he “can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win,” describing such a move as “unprecedented for good reason.”

“That’s why there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors,” he added. “I fear we’d lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can’t stand for that. I won’t.”

Last month, Mr. Chatfield and Mike Shirkey, the state Senate majority leader, were both summoned by President Trump to the White House in a bid to get lawmakers to substitute their own slate of electors. The two men, both rumored to be interested in higher office, went through with the visit but rebuffed Mr. Trump’s request.

Mr. Biden won Michigan by about 150,000 votes, a much greater margin than in the other most hotly contested battlegrounds. The electors upheld those results on Monday afternoon.

“Michigan’s Democratic slate of electors should be able to proceed with their duty, free from threats of violence and intimidation,” Mr. Shirkey said. “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris won Michigan’s presidential election. It our responsibility as leaders to follow the law and move forward in pursuit of policies that contribute to the betterment of Michigan.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: New poll is a warning sign for the GOP in Georgia, Aaron Blake, Dec. 15, 2020. GOP strategists have worried that Trump’s baseless voter fraud crusade could harm turnout in the Senate runoffs. A new poll suggests there could be something to that. The Fox News poll asked people whether “this presidential election has made you more or less likely to vote in the next presidential election.” Overall, 75 percent say it has made them more likely, while just 11 percent say it has made them less likely.

But there is a partisan split. While 84 percent of Democrats say this election has made them more likely to vote in the next one, just 69 percent of Republicans say the same. Only 6 percent of Democrats say they’re less likely to vote, while 16 percent of Republicans say the same.

What’s more, the group with the highest “less likely” number? Trump voters. Fully 19 percent — about 1 in 5 — say they are less likely to vote in the next presidential election, vs. just 5 percent of Biden voters. No other group broken out in the poll says it is as turned off as Trump voters; the next highest numbers come from voters under 45 years old, Whites without college degrees and rural voters, with the latter two groups overlapping significantly with Trump’s base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the ‘nasty’ feud between Trump and the Republican governor he blames for losing Georgia, Ashley Parker, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). The first major fissure in the relationship between President Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp came a year ago, when Kemp paid Trump a clandestine visit in the White House residence.

The strain between the two Republicans has now boiled over into a full-blown feud in the aftermath of Trump’s 2020 electoral defeat, as the president has fixated on his loss in Georgia as a humiliation that he blames in large part on Kemp. Trump lost the solidly Republican state by approximately 12,000 votes and is furious with Kemp for not heeding his calls to question the integrity of the state’s election results.

This portrait of Trump’s combustible relationship with Kemp — which portends a potential intraparty civil war in the coming months and years — is the result of interviews with 15 allies and advisers to both men, as well as Republican political operatives, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.

ny times logoevan mcmullin twitterNew York Times, Opinion: Should NeverTrump Conservatives Form A New Party? Evan McMullin, right, Dec. 15, 2020. In the wake of Trump’s electoral defeat and political survival, principled Republicans must offer their own vision for America. In the wake of Trump’s electoral defeat and political survival, principled Republicans must offer their own vision for America.

Mr. McMullin, a former C.I.A. operations officer, was chief policy director for the House Republican Conference. In 2016, he resigned to run for president as an independent candidate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McConnell sets up a clash with Trump over who’s in charge in the GOP, Aaron Blake, Dec. 15, 2020. Two things can be true at the same time. One is that Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election has been evident for several weeks, with no legitimate reason to doubt it (despite plenty of digging). And two is that Mitch McConnell just provided perhaps the most significant, if belated, recognition of that fact to date.

Mitchell McConnellThe Senate majority leader, right, acknowledged Biden’s win on the Senate floor Tuesday morning, one day after the electoral college made it official.

“The electoral college has spoken, so today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden,” said McConnell (R-Ky.). He also nodded to the historic elevation of his Senate colleague, Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), to the vice presidency.

McConnell’s comments should have the effect of taking some pressure off his colleagues, but they also matter practically speaking. The position of the Senate GOP leader is now clear, pretty much negating any chance that Senate Republicans would participate in some kind of unlikely end-run not to accept the verdict of the electoral college.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, More than a month after U.S. election, Russia’s Putin recognizes Biden’s win, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dec. 15, 2020. More than a Vladimir Putinmonth later than most world leaders, Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joe Biden for his victory in the election, a delayed recognition that could set the tone for icy relations.

“In his message Vladimir Putin wished the president-elect every success and expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Russian FlagIt went on to say that Putin relayed to Biden that he is “ready for interaction and contact” and suggested cooperation between the two countries based on “equality and mutual respect.”

Putin was one of the last heads of state to acknowledge Biden’s win; Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un are other holdouts. The congratulations come after Biden’s victory became more formal on Monday, when 306 electors officially voted for him.

Other major world leaders didn’t wait for that step, reaching out to Biden after U.S. television networks called the race for him, as is customary. In 2016, Putin congratulated Donald Trump within hours of his acceptance speech, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said this situation differed because Trump didn’t concede and threatened legal action to contest the count in several swing states. Peskov added that the Kremlin would wait until the result became “official” without specifying what that meant.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Ex-Hill Staffer Linked to Veselnitskaya Dies Suddenly After Fall Near His Home, Nico Hines, Updated Dec. 15, 2020.  Paul Behrends, who lost his job on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee after links to Russia were reported, suffered a head injury close to his home on Friday night.

dana rohrabacher oThe longtime aide to “Putin’s Congressman,” Dana Rohrabacher, right, died suddenly from a head injury over the weekend.

Paul Behrends was found by emergency responders close to his home on Friday night with severe head trauma. Behrends was a controversial figure on Capitol Hill who lost his job as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee after The Daily Beast reported on his links to Trump Tower lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya’s operation in the U.S.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hopes for ‘normal’ holidays fade as virus rages in Europe, North America, Adam Taylor, Dec. 15, 2020. When governments in Europe announced new shutdowns amid surging coronavirus cases last month, some world leaders floated a tantalizing light at the end of the tunnel.

“I have no doubt that people will be able to have as normal a Christmas as possible,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a news conference Nov. 5, as he announced a four-week lockdown. But with coronavirus cases surging again as the holiday season approaches, and vaccine rollouts in stages too early to make a dent, hope for a Christmas miracle has come to look like a mirage.

 

U.S. Media & Sports News

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Opinion: Plea to the Press: Don’t Make Trump 2021’s Shadow President, Matt Lewis, Dec. 15, 2020. BE BEST, MEDIA! As president, everything he says is news. Soon, that won’t be so. We have to learn not to take his bait.

right, in a file photo by Jim Watson of AFP via GettyThere’s a dirty little secret between Donald Trump (right, in a file photo by Jim Watson of AFP via Getty) and the media that at this point isn’t much of a secret.

A symbiosis exists between us; we use him and he uses us. Now that his presidency is mercifully taking its last gasp, can we quit him and return to a modicum of sanity and normalcy? Starting in January, can we string together a few Trump-free news cycles? More to the point: can we quit taking his bait? Or are we doomed to cover Trump’s antics as a sort of shadow presidency?

washington post logoWashington Post,‘This is the reality’: Newsmax and One America grapple uneasily with Biden’s electoral college victory, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). As electors certified the presidential vote, the conservative outlets that have tried to outflank Fox News changed their tune on election denialism — slightly.

For the past six weeks, two upstart cable news channels — Newsmax and One America News — have tried to outflank Fox News from the right by embracing President Trump’s strategy of election denialism.

But on Monday, as the electoral college sealed Democrat Joe Biden’s victory, their paths seemed to diverge slightly.

ny times logonba logoNew York Times, An Agent’s Mistake Cost an N.B.A. Player $3 Million. He Paid Him Back, Sopan Deb, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). All Bill Duffy had to do was inform the Miami Heat that Anthony Carter planned to return. Two decades after failing to do that, Duffy has made his client whole. 

 

Dec. 14

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

 

Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

World News

 

U.S. Media & Sports News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Transition Live Updates: Biden Says Election ‘Should Be Celebrated, Not Attacked’ as Electoral College Affirms His Victory, Sydney Ember, Kathleen Gray and Glenn Thrush, Dec. 14, 2020. Michigan Republican leaders affirm state’s electoral votes and reprimand lawmaker who suggested there might be violence.

The two most senior leaders in the Michigan legislature, both Republicans, on Monday affirmed the state’s electoral votes that would formalize Joseph R. Biden’s victory, as a fellow lawmaker was punished for suggesting there may be violence at the meeting of electors.

In blistering terms, House Speaker Lee Chatfield wrote that he “can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win,” describing such a move as “unprecedented for good reason.”

“That’s why there is not enough support in the House to cast a new slate of electors,” he added. “I fear we’d lose our country forever. This truly would bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College. And I can’t stand for that. I won’t.”

Last month, Mr. Chatfield and Mike Shirkey, the state Senate majority leader, were both summoned by President Trump to the White House in a bid to get lawmakers to substitute their own slate of electors. The two men, both rumored to be interested in higher office, went through with the visit but rebuffed Mr. Trump’s request.

Mr. Biden won Michigan by about 150,000 votes, a much greater margin than in the other most hotly contested battlegrounds. The electors upheld those results on Monday afternoon.

“Michigan’s Democratic slate of electors should be able to proceed with their duty, free from threats of violence and intimidation,” Mr. Shirkey said. “President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris won Michigan’s presidential election. It our responsibility as leaders to follow the law and move forward in pursuit of policies that contribute to the betterment of Michigan.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Virus Death Toll Crosses 300,000 as Vaccinations Begin, Staff reports, Dec. 14, 2020. High-risk health care workers are being pfizer logogiven priority as the U.S. surpassed more than 300,000 virus-related deaths. Australia and New Zealand intend to establish a travel bubble.

  • The number of people with the virus who died in the U.S. passes 300,000.
  • Health care workers in New York, Iowa and Ohio were among the first to receive the vaccine, opening a new chapter in the battle against the pandemic.
  • The inoculations began as the nation’s Covid-19 death toll passed 300,000, a surge that reflected how much faster the virus has spread in recent months.
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci laid out a timeline for a return to normalcy that stretched well into 2021.
  • election 2020 national map washington post

ny times logoNew York Times, Live updates: Electoral College Is Voting; Will Formalize Biden’s Victory, Staff reports, Dec. 14, 2020. Crucial Step in Process That Trump Has Tried to Subvert.

  • Electors in key battleground states President Trump has contested — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia — have voted, with no surprises or defections.
  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court again denied Mr. Trump’s attempt to invalidate more than 200,000 votes.

The Electoral College was nearing completion Monday afternoon of the process that will officially designate Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the president-elect, joe biden twitteras electors in battleground states President Trump had contested — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona — voted with no surprises or defections.

Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia, announced the state’s 16 votes for Mr. Biden.

“As we stand here today about to make history,” said Representative-elect Nikema Williams, the state Democratic Party chairwoman who will be sworn into Congress next month, “we know this result was not luck. It was thanks to the hard work of organizers, volunteers and voters across Georgia.”

Indeed, despite palpable tensions across the country and rumors of mass protests at electoral meeting sites, wrought in large part by the rhetoric of the president, the Electoral College process appeared to be proceeding smoothly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis, For weeks, the Trump campaign said the electoral college vote would decide the election, JM Rieger, Dec. 14, 2020.  As President Trump and his allies have sought to challenge and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, his officials have at times pointed to the Dec. 14 electoral college vote as the de facto deadline for its challenges. You can watch examples of this in the video above.

stephen miller nbc screenshot wh“Let’s remember that the electoral college, which is our constitutional process, does not vote until Dec. 14,” Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis said on Nov. 24. “We have plenty of time to pursue all legal options.”

By Monday morning, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, right, suggested the challenges could continue until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. “The only date in the Constitution is Jan. 20,” Miller told Fox News. “So we have more than enough time to right the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner of the election.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian government spies are behind a hacking campaign that has breached U.S. agencies and a top cyber firm, Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 14, 2020 (print ed.). The Treasury and Commerce departments are among those compromised, sources say. This latest attack is part of a long-running campaign targeting government agencies.

The Russian government hackers who breached a top cybersecurity firm are behind a global espionage campaign that also compromised the Treasury and Commerce departments and other U.S. government agencies, according to people familiar with the matter.

The FBI is investigating the campaign by a hacking group working for the Russian foreign intelligence service, SVR. The breaches have been taking place for months and may amount to an operation as long-running and significant as one that occurred in 2014-2015.

The group, known among private-sector security firms as APT29 or Cozy Bear, also hacked the State Department and the White House during the Obama administration.

All of the organizations were breached through a network management system called Solar Winds, according to three people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. Solar Winds could not immediately be reached for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s Obama-era Cabinet picks frustrate liberals, civil rights leaders, Seung Min Kim and Annie Linskey, Dec. 14, 2020. His process has also discomforted some allies on the Hill, who say they have not been sufficiently consulted about picks.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.14, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 72,756,494, Deaths: 1,620,967
U.S. Cases:   16,737,267, Deaths:    306,459

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 14, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

Biden Transition

Palmer Report, Opinion: Electoral College slams the door shut on Donald Trump in key swing states, Bill Palmer, Dec. 14, 2020. All of the states that Trump tried to steal have now cast their Electoral College votes for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Trump has lost yet again. Biden will address the nation tonight at 7:30pm eastern time, as President-elect.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is now filing suit in New Mexico, a state he lost by eleven points. He’s exhausted his legal challenges in the swing states he was trying to steal. So now he’s trying to prolong his grift by pretending to contest the election in states where he got blown out. This is just pathetic. And again, it has no chance of getting him anywhere.

Tweet of the day, from Congresswoman Maxine Waters: “Trump, you attempted to overthrow the legitimate votes of Americans. You got kicked in the face by 46 courts & the crown kicking came from the Supreme Court you thought you owned! The democracy is stronger than you will ever understand. Goodbye & good riddance!”

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Just How Dangerous Was Donald Trump? Michelle Goldberg, Dec. 14, 2020. He failed to bend the state to his will, but he still broke the country. Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, there’s been an argument on the left over the sort of threat he poses.

The American left’s most famous figures — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Noam Chomsky — saw Trump as an authoritarian who could, if re-elected, destroy American democracy for good. But another strain of left opinion viewed Trump’s fascistic gestures as almost purely performative, and believed his clumsiness in marshaling state power made him less dangerous than, say, George W. Bush.

A leading proponent of this position is the political theorist Corey Robin, author of an essential book about right-wing thought, “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.” In an interview with the left-wing publication Jewish Currents, he argued, “Compared to the Republican presidencies of Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush, Trump’s was significantly less transformational, and its legacy is far less assured.”

The day when the Electoral College meets to ratify Joe Biden’s victory seems an appropriate one to revisit this debate. Trump tried, in his sloppy, chaotic way, to overturn the election, and much of his party, including the majority of Republicans in the House, and many state attorneys general, lined up behind him. Yet he failed, and it’s unlikely that he will follow calls from supporters, like his former national security Adviser Michael Flynn, to declare martial law.

So what matters more, the president’s desire to overthrow American democracy, or his inability to follow through? Just how fascist was Trump?

Part of the answer depends on whether you’re evaluating Trump’s ideology or his ability to carry it out. It seems obvious enough that the spirit of Trumpism is fascistic, at least according to classic definitions of the term. In “The Nature of Fascism,” Roger Griffin described fascism’s “mobilizing vision” as “the national community rising phoenix-like after a period of encroaching decadence which all but destroyed it.” Translate this into the American vernacular and it sounds a lot like MAGA.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Georgia’s Secretary of State on Standing Up to Trump, Hosted by Kara Swisher, Dec. 14, 2020 (taped interview with Brad Raffensperger -- "getting it from all sides"). Brad Raffensperger is getting it from all sides. Georgia’s secretary of state infuriated Donald Trump when he stood by Georgia’s presidential election results. Now he has the critical task of overseeing two U.S. Senate runoffs that will determine the fate of the nation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Election Live Updates: Electoral college to formally cast ballots for Biden as president, John Wagner, Dec. 14, 2020. Analysis: Today’s electoral college vote could push more Republicans to back Biden’s win. Or not; Wall Street Journal editor blames ‘cancel culture’ after critics blast op-ed on Jill Biden; Biden to speak after electoral college voting concludes. Electors include Bill and Hillary Clinton in New York and Stacey Abrams in Georgia.

The electoral college is poised to convene in state capitols around the country on Monday to formally vote for Joe Biden as the nation’s next president, even as President Trump continues to falsely claim that he won the election.

Following the gatherings, which will occur throughout the day, Biden plans to address the nation. Trump has planned no public events but continues to tweet grievances about the election, which he claimed Sunday is “under protest.”

djt as chosen one

President Trump is shown in an idealized graphic created when he described himself during his 2020 campaign as "The Chosen One."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Trump the tedious, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 14, 2020. This is what Donald Trump had to say (in part) to Fox News creep Brian robert harringtnn portraitKilmeade:

“The election was rigged by local Democrats, by state Democrats. They outsmarted State Republicans. Do you know what I do… I [run] a country and we ran it great. I did more than any other president. Then I had to campaign. We had the greatest campaign in history. We had the biggest crowds anyone’s ever had. I did 56 rallies with a number of people [that] were incredible okay, incredible, record-setting. And then I go home and I watch the television to see how we are doing and by 10:30 it was over. We won. I got calls from everybody, pros, people you know very well, saying congratulations. I say let’s not go so fast, I don’t trust these machines and a lot of bad things happen with these people. And in essentially five or six states the local people who run it rigged the election.”

My apologies for that Trump screed. I know, it was only 147 words, but it seemed longer. But my point was not to bore you with Trump’s rant, my point was not the content of the rant’s character but the character of the rant’s content.

Somebody, anybody, tell me by now you couldn’t have written the bill palmer report logo headerabove paragraph yourself. Word for word. You could have written it easily. If you have spent the last four years listening to Trump, then you can’t tell me that you couldn’t have written the above paragraph yourself — and convinced most people it came from Trump.

I have spent the last two and a half years criticizing Donald Trump here in the pages of the Palmer Report. But one area I have not emphasized, or at least I haven’t mentioned much, is how tediously unoriginal and predictable Trump is.

He is so predictable that most of us already know what he’s going to say before he says it. We already know what words and and phrases he’s got in his limited repertoire (“incredible,” “strongly,” “disgraceful,” “tremendous,” “a lot of people are saying,” “nobody’s ever heard of,” “we had the greatest campaign in history,” “a lot of people called me and said,” etc.). Any of those words or phrases could be recruited to create a Trumpian rant on any subject. We’ve all heard it, over and over and over.

This is a man who’s spent the last four years telling us how great he is, how perfect, how he’s the best president America has ever had, and how awful and corrupt and dishonest everyone who doesn’t agree with him is, using some of the most staggeringly unoriginal language possible. Between rounds of golf he’s tweeted it, he’s repeated it by phone to Fox and Friends, he’s said it in interviews, in rallies, in gaggles, at ceremonies.

It’s what he says just about every time he goes off script in the course of one of his rare formal speeches. Trump’s presidency has been one long, tedious, predictable, limited, unoriginal, graceless and classless commercial for himself.

robert wilkie vaThe Hill, Hoyer calls on VA Secretary Wilkie to resign after watchdog report, Justine Coleman, Dec. 14, 2020 (print ed.). House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Sunday called on Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert Wilkie, right, to resign after a watchdog report revealed he disparaged a congressional aide who reported being sexually assaulted at a VA facility.

World News

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Taking their cue from Trump, Nazis rise again in Germany and Austria, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec. 14, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2020. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies in Germany and Austria are increasingly vigilant as resurgent Nazi groups take advantage of Covid-19 public health restrictions to gain adherents and rant against democratic government.

 

 

U.S. Media & Sports News michael pack

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Restoring the Voice of America after a Trump ‘wrecking ball’ won’t be easy. But it’s worth saving, Margaret Sullivan, right, Dec. 14, 2020 (print ed.). The global news organization has been under siege by CEO Michael Pack (shown above), who claims to be rooting out bias.

 

Dec. 13

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies


Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Media News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Begins Shipping Vaccine as Virus Rages On, Staff reports, Dec. 13, 2020. The first doses left a Pfizer facility in Michigan early Sunday, kicking off the most ambitious inoculation campaign in U.S. history. The effort to ship the vaccine to all 50 states comes as the pfizer logocountry’s coronavirus death toll approaches 300,000. Here’s the latest.

  • Vaccine distribution is about to begin in the virus-ravaged U.S.
  • How pharmacies plan to get Pfizer’s vaccine to nursing homes.
  • Fears of a ‘twindemic’ recede as the flu lies low.
  • Germany announces a strict lockdown over Christmas.
  • Bahrain is the second country to approve a Chinese vaccine, and other news around the world.
  • As the U.S. vaccine rollout begins, port workers ask for early access.
  • Major airlines will introduce a health passport app to verify passengers’ test results.

washington post logoWashington Post, In contesting his election loss, Trump cements control of GOP, Toluse Olorunnipa and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). President Donald Trump officialOfficials from all wings of the Republican Party are bending to the president’s will as he undermines the peaceful transfer of power with baseless election challenges.

For the past six weeks, Trump has staged the ultimate loyalty test for the party faithful as he forced Republican officials to opt between siding with him and the nation’s democratic process. Through public displays of support and lengthy silences, the vast majority of elected Republicans chose to back Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The last wall’: How dozens of judges rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn election, Rosalind S. Helderman and Elise Viebeck, Rosalind S. Helderman and Elise Viebeck, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). They are both elected and appointed, selected by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Some have served for decades — while others took the bench only months ago.

Since the November election, they have all ruled in court against Trump or one of his allies seeking to challenge or overturn the presidential vote.

In a remarkable show of near-unanimity across the nation’s judiciary, at least 86 judges — ranging from jurists serving at the lowest levels of state court systems to members of the United States Supreme Court — rejected at least one post-election lawsuit filed by Trump or his supporters, a Washington Post review of court filings found.

The string of losses was punctuated Friday by the brief and blunt order of the Supreme Court, which dismissed an attempt by the state of Texas to thwart the electoral votes of four states that went for President-elect Joe Biden

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: After humiliating Supreme Court defeat, Donald Trump shifts course in his grift, Bill Palmer, Dec. 13, 2020. The Supreme Court has now destroyed Donald Trump. It’s ended his presidency, and it’s cleared the way for others to drive him into prison and bankruptcy. But that isn’t stopping Trump from continuing his grift. In fact, now that his life is about to get squeezed from all sides, he needs the money more than ever.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is now planning to run TV ads pretending that he won the election, according to Bloomberg. Since there is literally no one else for him to appeal to, it means he’s simply trying to con his gullible supporters into giving him money for an imaginary election battle.

Trump had better pocket what he can. He’s now just 38 days from being an ordinary citizen again. New York State is ramping up its criminal case against him, amid rumblings that his creditors are planning to cut their losses on him. Trump is so pathetically in debt, even his election grifting isn’t likely to keep his financial house of cards intact for long.

washington post logoWashington Post, Multiple people stabbed after thousands gather for pro-Trump protests in Washington, Emily Davies, Rachel Weiner, Clarence Williams, Marissa J. Lang and Jessica Contrera, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Thousands of maskless rallygoers who refuse to accept the results of the election turned downtown Washington into a falsehood-filled spectacle Saturday, two days before the electoral college will make the president’s loss official.

In smaller numbers than their gathering last month, they roamed from the Capitol to the Mall and back again, seeking inspiration from speakers who railed against the Supreme Court, Fox News and President-elect Joe Biden. The crowds cheered for recently pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn, marched with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and stood in awe of a flyover from what appeared to be Marine One.

But at night, the scene became violent. At least four people were stabbed near Harry’s Bar at 11th and F streets NW, a gathering point for the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization with ties to white nationalism. The victims were hospitalized and suffered possibly life-threatening injuries, D.C. fire spokesman Doug Buchanan said.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Covid-19 is spreading wildly in prisons like mine. We should get the vaccine early, Christopher Blackwell, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). In many states, stigma against incarcerated people is derailing sensible policy.

I have spent eight months watching my fellow prisoners inside a state penitentiary in Washington suffer from covid-19. Now there is finally a vaccine on the horizon. Unfortunately, it may not get to many incarcerated people in time to save us.

Those responsible for deciding the order in which people get the vaccine (chiefly members of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel and state officials) say their goal is to prioritize front-line health-care workers and people especially likely to contract the virus and experience the worst outcomes, including nursing home residents. The close quarters where prisoners live make us an extremely high-risk population, too, and the prison population is aging. But because of social stigma, we’ve become an afterthought in many states (although a very few, including Massachusetts, Nebraska and North Carolina, have placed us ahead of the healthy general population). The Federal Bureau of Prisons will get an early allotment of the vaccine, but the agency plans to give it to staff, not incarcerated people.

Prisoners lose their liberty — I am serving time for robbery and a murder I committed in my early 20s, something I regret every day and know I cannot change — but we have not been sentenced to suffer or die from a virus. If the standard for vaccine distribution involves helping the most vulnerable, as officials insist, then we ought to be near the top of the list.

A recent study found that prisoners were nearly four times as likely than the average citizen to get the coronavirus and — adjusting for age, sex and ethnicity — twice as likely to die from it. (The discrepancy was even higher earlier in the pandemic, narrowing only as the virus spread aggressively in the general population.) One of the largest coronavirus clusters of any kind occurred at Avenal State Prison, in California’s San Joaquin Valley, with more than 2,800 infected incarcerated people. Nationally, there have been nearly 230,000 covid cases in prisons, and more than 1,500 people have died, according to the Marshall Project, a nonprofit criminal justice news outlet.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec.1 3, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

World Cases: 72,250,742, Deaths: 1,614,159
U.S. Cases:   16,551,634, Deaths:   305,088

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 13, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

washington post logoWashington Post, Covid-19’s U.S. toll: Nearly 300,000 lives lost as nation starts seeing days with more than 3,000 deaths reported, Marc Fisher, Scott Wilson and Arelis R. Hernández, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.).  Between late September and mid-November, the death tally climbed from 200,000 to 250,000. Now it has nearly reached the 300,000 marker in less than half that time — even though treatment of the most severe cases has improved.

The year of the coronavirus is ending much as the pandemic began, with overwhelmed hospitals and thousands of deaths each day. There is still no national plan for curbing the spread of the disease, just a hodgepodge of conflicting local and state approaches to everything from shutdowns to masking up.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Begins Staggering Effort to Get Vaccines to States, Abby Goodnough, Reed Abelson and Jan Hoffman, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The F.D.A.’s approval set in motion the most ambitious vaccination campaign in U.S. history, against a backdrop of soaring infection rates and deaths.

The first injections are expected to be given by Monday to high-risk health care workers, the initial step toward the goal of inoculating enough Americans fda logoby spring to finally halt the spread of a virus that has killed nearly 300,000, sickened millions and upended the country’s economy, education system and daily life.

The rapid development of the vaccine, and its authorization based on data showing it to be 95 percent effective, has been a triumph of medical science, but much in this complicated next stage could go wrong.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking vaccine distribution, state by state, Dan Keating, John Muyskens and Garland Potts, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Find out how many doses are expected to be delivered in the first set of Pfizer's newly authorized vaccine.Distribution to more than 600 locations in all 50 states was set to begin within 24 hours of federal clearance of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. These locations are primarily large health-care systems able to handle the vaccines and their storage at ultracold temperatures. If the Moderna vaccine is approved in December, supply to the states will increase greatly.

 

Biden Transition

ny times logoNew York Times, Seeking a Diverse Administration, Biden Finds One Group’s Gain is Another’s Loss, Michael D. Shear and Annie Karni, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The pressure on President-elect Joe Biden is intense, even as his efforts to ensure ethnic and gender diversity already go far beyond those of President Trump. The head of the N.A.A.C.P. had a blunt warning for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. when Mr. Biden met with civil rights leaders in Wilmington this week.

Nominating Tom Vilsack, a former secretary of agriculture in the Obama administration, to run the department again would enrage Black farmers and threaten Democratic hopes of winning two Senate runoffs in Georgia, Derrick Johnson told Mr. Biden.

“Former Secretary Vilsack could have a disastrous impact on voters in Georgia,” Mr. Johnson cautioned, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by The Intercept. Mr. Johnson said Mr. Vilsack’s abrupt firing of a popular Black department official in 2010 was still too raw for many Black farmers despite Mr. Vilsack’s subsequent apology and offer to rehire her.

Mr. Biden promptly ignored the warning. Within hours, his decision to nominate Mr. Vilsack to lead the Agriculture Department had leaked, angering the very activists he had just met with.

The episode was only one piece of a concerted campaign by activists to demand the president-elect make good on his promise that his administration will “look like America.” In their meeting, Mr. Johnson and the group also urged Mr. Biden to nominate a Black attorney general and to name a White House civil rights “czar.”

samantha power un 8 12 14

Axios Sneak Peek, Biden Weighs Power for USAID, Kadia Goba, Dec. 13, 2020. Joe Biden is considering Samantha Power (shown above at the United Nations in 2014) to head the United States Agency for International Development, which would place a high-profile figure atop foreign aid and coronavirus relief efforts, people familiar with the matter tell Axios' Hans Nichols.

Why it matters: Installing Power — a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about genocide — would signal the Biden administration plans to revitalize foreign assistance and use it as an instrument of soft power and to achieve humanitarian goals. ower was a prominent member of President Obama's Cabinet and recently wrote a Foreign Affairs article about the president-elect headlined: "The Can-Do Power: America’s Advantage and Biden’s Chance."

washington post logoWashington Post, Chart: Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet, Staff reports, Dec. 13, 2020. One of President-elect Joe Biden’s very first tasks will be filling the top positions in his White House and Cabinet. In contrast to President Trump’s notably White and male Cabinet, Biden has promised to be “a president for all Americans” and build a Cabinet that reflects its diversity.

joe biden kamala harrisIn making his selections Biden (shown at right with Vice President Election Kamala Harris) is looking to appease factions of the Democratic Party from moderates to progressives and longtime allies to newer faces. Cabinet positions — with the exception of the vice president and White House chief of staff — will also require approval from a Republican Senate, unless Democrats can win two Senate race runoffs in early January.

Once confirmed, they will be instrumental in carrying out his goals and setting the tenor his presidency. We’re tracking the people who Biden has already named and the top contenders for unfilled roles.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

djt old looking resized headshot

 ny times logoNew York Times, How the G.O.P. Tried to Topple a Pillar of Democracy, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump was also a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders who had put their interests ahead of the country’s.

The court’s decision on Friday night, an inflection point after weeks of legal flailing by Mr. Trump and ahead of the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday, leaves the president’s party in an extraordinary position. Through their explicit endorsements or complicity of silence, much of the G.O.P. leadership now shares responsibility for the quixotic attempt to ignore the nation’s founding principles and engineer a different verdict from the one voters cast in November.

Many regular Republicans supported this effort, too — a sign that Mr. Trump has not just bent the party to his will, but pressed a mainstay of American politics for nearly two centuries into the service of overturning an election outcome and assaulting public faith in the electoral system. The G.O.P. sought to undo the vote by such spurious means that the Supreme Court quickly rejected the argument.

Even some Republican leaders delivered a withering assessment of the 126 G.O.P. House members and 18 attorneys general who chose to side with Mr. Trump over the democratic process, by backing a lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to throw out some 20 million votes in four key states that cemented the president’s loss.

Palmer Report, Opinion: It’s time for the 14th Amendment, Robert Harrington, right, Dec. 13, 2020. It’s time for the 14th Amendment. This week 126 House robert harringtnn portraitRepublicans asked the Supreme Court to prevent four swing states from casting electoral votes for Joe Biden to seal his victory in the November election.

bill palmer report logo headerI encourage you to read that first sentence again, because in a year overburdened with scandal and outrage, that (seemingly) quiet sentence is perhaps the most scandalous and outrageous. It may signal the inflection point when America definitively passed from a country of two democratic (small “d”) parties to a country divided between supporters of democracy and elements of insurrection and autocracy.

In a year when it could have been said a thousand times that “Republicans have finally gone too far” they finally and truly have. To put it another way, 126 members of the United States Congress supported a move to overturn the presidential election based on hoped-for evidence they haven’t actually seen but only wished was there. It is one thing to be disappointed in the outcome of an election, it’s another thing entirely to try to subvert that outcome by asserting evidence that you only hope exists but haven’t actually seen.

Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution is explicit on this. I provide it here in its entirety:

“Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Yet 126 members of the House of Representatives “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against a lawfully constituted election, asserting that the election was null and void, not because they have actual evidence of fraud but because the people of Texas “feel” they were denied the outcome they wanted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Texas Lawsuit and the Age of Dreampolitik, Ross Douthat, right, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). The separation of political reality ross douthatfrom political fantasy still exists — for now.

When it comes to Donald Trump’s efforts to claim victory in the 2020 presidential election, there are two Republican Parties. One G.O.P. has behaved entirely normally, certifying elections, rejecting frivolous claims and conspiratorial lawsuits, declining to indulge the conceit that state legislatures might substitute their votes for the electoral outcome.

The other G.O.P. is acting like a bunch of saboteurs: insisting that the election was stolen, implying that the normal party’s officials are potentially complicit and championing all manner of outlandish claims and strategies — culminating in the lawsuit led by the attorney general of Texas that sought to have the Supreme Court essentially nullify the election results in the major swing states.

What separates these two parties is not necessarily ideology or partisanship or even loyalty to Donald Trump. (Nobody had Brian Kemp and Bill Barr, both prominent members of the first group, pegged as NeverTrumpers.)

It’s all about power and responsibility: The Republicans behaving normally are the ones who have actual political and legal roles in the electoral process and its judicial aftermath, from secretaries of state and governors in states like Georgia and Arizona to Trump’s judicial appointees. The Republicans behaving radically are doing so in the knowledge — or at least the strong assumption — that their behavior is performative, an act of storytelling rather than lawmaking, a posture rather than a political act.

This postelection division of the Republican Party extends and deepens an important trend in American politics: The cultivation of a kind of “dreampolitik” (to steal a word from Joan Didion), a politics of partisan fantasy that so far manages to coexist with normal politics, feeding gridlock and stalemate and sometimes protest but not yet the kind of crisis anticipated by references to Weimar Germany and our Civil War.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Aide Accuses Cuomo of Sexual Harassment, Dana Rubinstein and Jesse McKinley, Dec. 13, 2020. A former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday accused him of sexual harassment, asserting that the governor would often discuss her physical appearance, something she said occurred over the course of years.

“I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks,” Lindsey Boylan, the former aide, wrote on Twitter. “Or would it be both in the same conversation?”

Ms. Boylan declined multiple requests for further comment. She has thus far discussed no specific allegations, nor did she provide any immediate corroboration.

“There is simply no truth to these claims,” the governor’s press secretary, Caitlin Girouard, said on Sunday.

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, John le Carré, who lifted the spy novel to literature, dies at 89, Matt Schudel, Dec. 13, 2020. John le Carré, a British author who drew on the enigma of his incorrigibly criminal father and his own experiences as a Cold War-era spy to write powerful novels about a bleak, morally compromised world in which international intrigue and personal betrayal went hand in hand, died Dec. 12 at a hospital in Cornwall, England. He was 89.

The cause was pneumonia, his U.S. publisher, Viking Penguin, said in a statement.

In a literary career spanning six decades, Mr. le Carré published more than two dozen books. His best-known titles, including “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” (1963) and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (1974), sold in the millions and were made into acclaimed film and television adaptations. More than a master of espionage writing, he was widely regarded as an elegant prose stylist whose skills and reputation were not limited by genre or era.

 

Dec. 12

Top Headines

supreme court Custom

 

Virus Victims, Remedies


Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

djt old looking resized headshot

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

World News

 

Top Stories

djt biden smiles resized

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court on adam liptakFriday rejected a lawsuit by Texas that had asked the court to throw out the election results in four battleground states that President Trump lost in November, ending any prospect that a brazen attempt to use the courts to reverse his defeat at the polls would succeed.

The court, in a brief unsigned order, said Texas lacked standing to pursue the case, saying it “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”

The order, coupled with another one on Tuesday turning away a similar request from Pennsylvania Republicans, signaled that a conservative court with three justices appointed by Mr. Trump refused to be drawn into the extraordinary effort by the president and many prominent members of his party to deny his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his victory.

It was the latest and most significant setback for Mr. Trump in a litigation campaign that was rejected by courts at every turn.

Texas’ lawsuit, filed directly in the Supreme Court, challenged election procedures in four states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It asked the court to bar those states from casting their electoral votes for Mr. Biden and to shift the selection of electors to the states’ legislatures. That would have required the justices to throw out millions of votes.

djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrettMr. Trump has said he expected to prevail in the Supreme Court, after rushing the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October in part in the hope that she would vote in Mr. Trump’s favor in election disputes.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” Mr. Trump said of the election a few days after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September. “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.”

He was right that an election dispute would end up in the Supreme Court. But he was quite wrong to think the court, even after he appointed a third of its members, would do his bidding. And with the Electoral College set to meet on Monday, Mr. Trump’s efforts to change the outcome of the election will soon be at an end.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many Doses Will Your State Get? Danielle Ivory, Mitch Smith, Jasmine C. Lee, Jordan Allen, Alex Lemonides, Barbara Harvey, Alex Leeds Matthews, Cierra S. Queen, Natasha Rodriguez and John Yoon, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The New York Times surveyed all 50 states for their estimates of how much coronavirus vaccine they expect to receive before the end of 2020.

djt march 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump, allies vow to ‘fight on’ after Supreme Court loss, Colby Itkowitz, Dec. 12, 2020. President Trump lashed out at his attorney general and GOP governors he deemed unfaithful. President Trump on Saturday amplified his unfounded claims and falsehoods about Joe Biden’s victory, lashed out at his attorney general and GOP governors he deemed unfaithful to him, and vowed to continue challenging the election results, despite the Supreme Court dealing a final blow to his brazen legal efforts to overturn the vote.

“I WON THE ELECTION IN A LANDSLIDE, but remember, I only think in terms of legal votes, not all of the fake voters and fraud that miraculously floated in from everywhere! What a disgrace!,” Trump tweeted shortly after 8 a.m., one in a series of morning posts that Twitter labeled as disputed.

Many of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress were unswayed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the challenge brought by the Texas attorney general that asked the justices to invalidate millions of ballots cast in four battleground states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia — and toss out Biden’s win. The Congress members accused the Supreme Court of dodging or lacking courage.

 washington post logoWashington Post, FDA authorizes first coronavirus vaccine in U.S., Laurie McGinley, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Josh Dawsey, Dec. 12, 2020. The historic authorization of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech came after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to be prepared to submit his resignation if the agency did not clear the vaccine by day’s end Friday.

pfizer logoThe Food and Drug Administration on Friday gave emergency use authorization to the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine, launching what scientists hope will be a critical counteroffensive against a pathogen that has killed more than 290,000 Americans, shredded the nation’s social and political fabric and devastated the economy.

The historic authorization of the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for people age 16 and older, just 336 days after the genetic blueprint of a novel coronavirus was shared online by Chinese scientists, sets in motion a highly choreographed and complex distribution process aimed at speeding vaccines throughout the United States to curb the pandemic.

mark meadowsThe FDA action came after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, left, on Friday told FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, right, to be prepared to submit his resignation if the agency did not clear the vaccine by day’s end, according to people familiar with the situation stephen hahn owho spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss what happened.

Meadows’s threat followed months of efforts by FDA scientists to try to ward off President Trump’s importuning on the vaccine and keep the review process apolitical and transparent in hopes of boosting public confidence in the shots. The FDA already had planned to clear the vaccine Saturday morning, and accelerating the authorization to Friday night was not expected to change the delivery timeline of the first shots.

The nation set a record for covid-19 deaths Thursday for the second day in a row, surpassing 3,300. The death tally for Friday was 2,950, only slightly lower, bringing the U.S. death toll to nearly 295,000.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Many Doses Will Your State Get? Danielle Ivory, Mitch Smith, Jasmine C. Lee, Jordan Allen, Alex Lemonides, Barbara Harvey, Alex Leeds Matthews, Cierra S. Queen, Natasha Rodriguez and John Yoon, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The New York Times surveyed all 50 states for their estimates of how much coronavirus vaccine they expect to receive before the end of 2020.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking vaccine distribution, state by state, Dan Keating, John Muyskens and Garland Potts, Dec. 12, 2020. Find out how many doses are expected to be delivered in the first set of Pfizer's newly authorized vaccine.Distribution to more than 600 locations in all 50 states was set to begin within 24 hours of federal clearance of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. These locations are primarily large health-care systems able to handle the vaccines and their storage at ultracold temperatures. If the Moderna vaccine is approved in December, supply to the states will increase greatly.

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. officials clamp down on restaurants, South Korean researchers argue that six feet between indoor diners isn’t enough, Tim Carman, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Earlier this year, two diners at a South Korean restaurant were infected with novel coronavirus in a matter of minutes from a third patron who sat at least 15 feet away from them. The third patron was asymptomatic at the time.

After dissecting that scene from June, South Korean researchers released a study last month in the Journal of Korean Medical Science that suggests the virus, under certain airflow conditions, travels farther than six feet and can infect others in as little as five minutes.

The study appears to be more bad news for restaurants, which have already been identified in research as a primary source for the spread of the virus. The Korean researchers recommend that public health authorities update safety guidelines based on their study, arguing that six feet of space between tables is not enough to protect diners from being infected.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: Dec. 11, 2020, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2here):

71,438,206, Deaths: 1,601,190
16,295,458, Deaths:    302,750

Health Data, University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Projected U.S. Covid-19 Deaths by March 1 (based on current scenario: 470,974 U.S. Covid-19 deaths, Staff report, Dec. 11, 2020. Projected daily U.S. deaths at 1,695 by March 1, with 389,908 total U.S. deaths projected by Jan. 21.

 

Biden Transition

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden narrows attorney general list, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Matt Viser, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The search for the next attorney general has become more focused on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates, according to people familiar with the discussions, who said that appeals court Judge Merrick B. Garland remains a serious contender.

President-elect Joe Biden’s search for the next attorney general is increasingly focused on Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates, according to people familiar with the discussions, who said that appeals court judge Merrick B. Garland remains a serious contender.

Jones, who lost his reelection bid in November, is the favorite at this stage, but Biden and his inner circle continue to debate the nomination, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.

It is increasingly unlikely, these people said, that former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick will be selected to become the nation’s top law enforcement official. People familiar with the discussions said in recent days that the discussions of the three other candidates have increasingly shifted toward the likelihood of confirmation in the Senate, which is currently controlled by Republicans. On that question, Jones is viewed as having an edge over Yates, according to the people familiar with the discussions.

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

djt old looking resized headshot

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump throws late night tantrum after Supreme Court says it’s over for him, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 12, 2020. bill palmerWhen the Supreme Court agreed by a 9-0 margin tonight that Donald Trump’s final election case had no merit, and voted by a 7-2 margin to not even hear the case before throwing it out, it meant the end for Trump. He’ll now be gone from office within weeks, and on track for prison and bankruptcy after that.

bill palmer report logo headerFive hours after the ruling came down, Palmer Report pointed out at 11:32 pm that Trump still hadn’t said anything about it. He had seemingly been stunned into silence. But as if on cue, just five minutes after our article, Trump erupted with his inevitable meltdown.

After posting some incoherent quotes from Fox News, Trump ended up tweeting this: “The Supreme Court really let us down. No Wisdom, No Courage!” Well okay then. Is this a concession speech? Does he know that there’s no further recourse for anyone beyond the Supreme Court? Whatever, it’s over for him.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP lawsuits challenge Ga. absentee-ballot requirements, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Dec. 12, 2020. The court filings set the stage for legal fights that could lead to last-minute changes for the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections.

State and national Republicans this week filed lawsuits challenging Georgia’s requirements for verifying and submitting absentee ballots, setting the stage for legal fights that could lead to last-minute changes for the Jan. 5 runoff elections and confusion for voters who are already submitting their vote by mail.

The Republican National Committee, Georgia Republican Party and other GOP plaintiffs filed three suits this week against the Republican secretary of state and other election administrators, asking the courts for additional reviews of the signatures on absentee ballots and to limit the use of ballot drop boxes.

In the lawsuits, Republican officials raised concerns with the ways that signatures were matched on absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election — the source of criticism lobbed by President Trump and his allies in their efforts to sow doubt in the integrity of the presidential vote in Georgia.

That state certified its election results for the second time this week after a second recount of presidential ballots reaffirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state. But Trump and his allies have repeatedly, without evidence, alleged widespread improprieties with the state’s signature-matching process for absentee ballots — a voting method widely preferred by Democrats this year.

The lawsuits seek changes for the runoff election, although absentee voting is already underway and tens of thousands of Georgians have already submitted their ballots.

washington post logoWashington Post, Seven Senators are at least 80 years old. Is it time for them to exit? Paul Kane, Dec. 12, 2020. Republicans want Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), 87, to seek another six-year term, and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), 80, will decide next November. A few years ago, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) established unusual benchmarks for deciding whether to run for reelection in 2022, potential six-year terms that would end with Grassley in his mid-90s and Leahy in his late 80s.

“If I can run three miles four times a week, I’ll be running for reelection,” Grassley, now 87, said at the time.

Leahy, in non-pandemic times, celebrates his birthday by scuba diving, first swimming down to the depth of his new age, doing a somersault underwater. “If I reach the point that I can’t go scuba diving and do my somersaults, that will be one clear indication,” Leahy, now 80, said in late 2017.

The longest-serving Republican and Democrat in the Senate are part of a large bloc of octogenarians who continue to serve well past the average retirement age of a typical American worker.

Today, seven senators are at least 80 years old, the second-largest number of 80-somethings to ever serve together, according to records kept by the Senate Historical Office. The largest group came in 2018, when eight senators had eclipsed their 80th birthday, which nearly doubled the previous record for octogenarians serving in the Senate.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

djt looking up

ny times logoNew York Times, Manhattan D.A. Intensifies Investigation of Trump, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and David Enrich, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Prosecutors have recently interviewed employees of President Trump’s lender and insurance brokerage, in the latest indication that he still faces the potential threat of criminal charges once he leaves office.

Daily Kos via OpEdNews, Opinion: Barr knew that Hunter Biden was " not charged with anything and not the subject of a criminal probe, Mark Sumner, Dec. 12, 2020. To be absolutely clear: Bill Barr is a terrible attorney general who has used his position to grossly distort the whole purpose of the Justice Department. Barr has spent most of the last two years trying to fulfill Donald Trump's every conspiracy theory dream by appointing special investigators, providing an endless stream of disinformation to right-wing media, and traveling the world in an attempt to find an ally willing to roast U.S. intelligence agencies. And all of that is on top of Barr's previous star turn in which he played a central role in dismissing charges resulting from Iran-Contra. He's a bad attorney general, a bad American, and simply a bad man.

But just because Barr is determinedly malevolent, and saved Trump from what should have been an impeachment over the plain fact that his campaign engaged in every form of cooperation with the Russian government in order to subvert the outcome of a U.S. election, it doesn't mean that Trump is always going to be happy with him. And now, in the twilight of both their careers, Trump is increasingly treating Barr as an enemy.

In Trump's mind, there are only two possible roles anyone can serve: Completely subservient bootlicker, or infuriating opponent. There is no in-between.

So the fact that Barr didn't wholeheartedly join in with Rudy Giuliani and his parade of Hunter Biden laptops as confirmed by blind shop owners before the election had already made Barr suspect. Trump repeatedly tweeted a mixture of disdain and distaste for Barr in the weeks before the election as it became clear that, unlike 2016, there was not going to be some last-minute statement from the DOJ or FBI to provide Trump a last-minute vote infusion.

And now a story from The Wall Street Journalhas Trump hammering away at Barr again, while Trump supporters are calling Barr a traitor and Republican senators are demanding yet another very special counsel.

The claims from the WSJ began with a story in which Hunter Biden admitted that his federal income taxes are under investigation. Of course, Donald Trump has claimed that he could not reveal his tax returns for the last ever because he's perennially under audit. It's also widely known that Trump's taxes are the subject of investigations by the State of New York.

However, what's routine for Trump is apparently supposed to be scandalous for Joe Biden's surviving son -- a son who will have no role in the upcoming administration. The investigation into Hunter Biden's taxes apparently predates both Barr and Trump's phone call to Ukraine but is said to be restricted to tax issues and "doesn't implicate other members of his family or the president-elect."

But what has the whole right wing in an uproar is the idea that ... Barr knew. Barr knew, and he didn't make a statement that Trump could use before the election. For Trump, this isn't just an excuse to attack Barr for failing to come through the clinch, but also to claim that Biden's term is going to be "so plagued by scandal" that the Supreme Court just might as well hand the election to Trump and save everyone some time and embarrassment.

And of course, Barr did know. He knew that while Hunter Biden's taxes were being investigated by an office of the department he controlled.

Barr also knew that no crime has been alleged, no one has been indicted, and that nothing appeared to be connected to the actual candidate for office. A fuming Trump supporter inside the DOJ also complained that Barr knew about another investigation involving Hunter Biden, an investigation that the WSJ was quick to highlight ... before reaching the point where it admits that its sources indicate Hunter was "never a specific target for criminal prosecution." Connected to the first investigation, this appears to be more a matter of looking at a bank that may have made some shady deals rather than anything specifically done by Hunter Biden.

So what Barr knew was that Hunter Biden's taxes were being examined in one investigation, and Biden was not the target of a second investigation. Still, Barr's failure to jump up and down and scream about a family of criminals is apparently all that was required to toss him from the good graces of Trump and his supporters.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump and Bill Barr get into bizarre war of words as everything unravels for them both, Bill Palmer, Dec .12, 2020. Earlier today, Palmer Report explained why it really doesn’t much matter at this point whether or not Donald Trump fires Attorney General Bill Barr. But things do seem to be coming to a head tonight between the two of them, even as everything unravels for them both.

bill palmer report logo headerAccording to CNN, a “source familiar with” Bill Barr is now leaking that Barr views Trump’s post-election threats and antics as nothing more than “the deposed King ranting.” To be clear, Barr has a consistent history of leaking things to the media under the guise of it coming from a ” source familiar with” him. In other words, Barr is putting these fighting words out there on purpose.

So what is Barr doing? At this point it sounds like he’s trying to get fired. Why would he do this? Once Trump is out of office in just 39 days, the DOJ will have to decide whether to criminally charge Barr for the several counts of felony obstruction of justice that he committed in the name of helping Trump. Perhaps Barr figures that if he can get Trump to fire him, it’ll allow him to argue that he couldn’t have possibly been corruptly in league with Trump. This won’t work, but Barr is facing prison, and he has to try something.

In any case, if Bill Barr is indeed now trying to get fired, it suggests that either Donald Trump has already secretly pardoned Barr, or that Barr has concluded he’s not going to get a pardon one way or the other. And again, if Trump fires Barr, it won’t suddenly give Trump some kind of magical DOJ powers. It would generate a lot of scary ratings-driven hype from pundits, but it really wouldn’t change much.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, U.S. executes Louisiana man who killed daughter, Michael Tarm, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.).  The Trump administration has carried out its 10th execution of the year, putting to death Fred Bourgeois, 56, a Louisiana truck driver who killed his 2-year-old daughter by slamming her head against a truck’s windows and dashboard.

The Trump administration continued its unprecedented series of post-election federal executions Friday by putting to death a Louisiana truck driver who severely abused his 2-year-old daughter for weeks in 2002, then killed her by slamming her head repeatedly against a truck’s windows and dashboard.

Alfred Bourgeois, 56, was pronounced dead at 8:21 p.m. Eastern time at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. His lawyers had argued he had an IQ that put him in the intellectually disabled category, saying that should have made him ineligible for the death penalty.

In his last words, Bourgeois, strapped to a gurney, offered no apology and instead struck a deeply defiant tone, insisting that he neither killed nor sexually abused his baby girl.

“I ask God to forgive all those who plotted and schemed against me, and planted false evidence,” he said. He added: “I did not commit this crime.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Archdiocese of Washington sues D.C. mayor over virus attendance restrictions, Michelle Boorstein, Dec. 12, 2020. The Catholic church cites Christmas seven times and says new limits -- as regional cases surge -- are “arbitrary” and “chilling.”

The Catholic archdiocese of Washington Friday sued D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and the city over Washington’s coronavirus attendance limits, saying they are “chilling” and harm hundreds of thousands of Catholics as Christmas approaches.

The suit was filed as the region has added to its growing list of restrictions and closures. This week saw the largest number of coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic. The seven-day average of new cases across Virginia, Maryland and D.C. stood Friday at 6,887, down slightly from Thursday’s record high.

The suit charges that the city is violating the rights of the 650,000 Catholics in the archdiocese, which includes the District and its Maryland suburbs. It says the attendance limits violate the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and cites a Supreme Court ruling a few weeks ago that said a state violated the rights of some houses of worship by imposing mandatory attendance caps, regardless the size of the facility.

The D.C. archdiocese’s filing late Friday also cited the caps on tighter new restrictions put in place last month as cases began to climb. In late November, the new rules said houses of worship can have only 50 attendees, no matter the size of the room. Half of the city’s Catholic parishes, the suit says, can seat more than 500 people.

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. braces for clashes Saturday as pro-Trump demonstrators descend on Washington, Clarence Williams, Marissa J. Lang, Emily Davies and Jessica Contrera, Dec. 12, 2020. Long before the day’s events officially started, clashes had already begun.

With waving flags, air horns and several hundred in their ranks, protesters who refuse to accept that President-elect Joe Biden won the election began their “March for Trump” Saturday morning at the Capitol.

djt maga hatThe gathering is the first in a day of planned rallies for the president, two days before the electoral college votes to make his 306-to-232 loss official.

His supporters will be met by counterprotesters who hope to protect Black Lives Matter Plaza and by a police force determined to keep the two groups apart.

But long before the day’s events officially started, clashes had already begun. Just before midnight on Friday, a chaotic brawl broke out between small groups of Trump supporters and anti-Trump demonstrators at 15th and K streets NW, two blocks from the White House. With about a dozen people on each side, angry taunts escalated into shoving, tackling, punching and kicking.

D.C. police officers tried to separate the sides, but were shoved by people from both groups who seemed intent on a fight. In the skirmish, one anti-Trump supporter was wrestled to the ground and kicked repeatedly. Five people were arrested on charges that included assaulting officers, disorderly conduct, inciting violence and resisting arrest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Too many of D.C.’s youth are victims of violence — or causing it. We have to help them all, Colbert I. King, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). Too many of this city’s youths are on the receiving end of violence — or are causing bodily harm to others — often to the point of death. To pretend otherwise, and suggest that our greatest problems are too many cars on the streets, too little clean air and inattention to motor scooters and bikes, is absurd.

Yes, the community was shocked almost two weeks ago by the story of 15-month-old Carmelo Duncan being shot to death in Southeast D.C. while strapped in a car seat next to his 8-year-old brother.

But you might have missed the item in The Post’s Dec. 8 Metro section about a 15-year-old boy who was arrested and charged with first-degree murder after a man was found shot in a Southeast neighborhood.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Sidney Powell’s secret ‘military intelligence expert’ never worked in military intelligence, Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The witness is code-named “Spyder.” Or sometimes “Spider.” His identity is so closely guarded that lawyer Sidney Powell has sought to keep it even from opposing counsel. And his account of vulnerability to international sabotage is a key part of Powell’s failing multistate effort to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Powell describes Spyder in court filings as a former “Military Intelligence expert,” and his testimony is offered to support one of her central claims. In a declaration filed in four states, Spyder alleges that publicly available data about server traffic shows that voting systems in the United States were “certainly compromised by rogue actors, such as Iran and China.”

Spyder, it turns out, is Joshua Merritt, a 43-year-old information technology consultant in the Dallas area. Merritt confirmed his role as Powell’s secret witness in phone interviews this week with The Washington Post.

Records show that Merritt is an Army veteran and that he enrolled in a training program at the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion, the unit he cites in his declaration. But he never completed the entry-level training course, according to Meredith Mingledorff, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, which includes the battalion.

“He kept washing out of courses,” said Mingledorff, citing his education records. “He’s not an intelligence analyst.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Jimmy Lai, Media Mogul, Is Charged Under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, Vivian Wang, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). The China Flagprominent pro-democracy activist is accused of colluding with foreign forces. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison. Jimmy Lai, shown at his Hong Kong home in August, is the highest-profile figure to be formally charged under the new law.

Jimmy Lai, the publishing tycoon and one of Hong Kong’s most outspoken critics of the Chinese Communist Party, was charged under the city’s new national security law on Friday, as Beijing intensified its efforts to smother pro-democracy activism in the once-freewheeling metropolis.

The move against Mr. Lai was not surprising. He is one of the best-known faces internationally of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, and Chinese state news outlets have long railed against him as one of the driving forces behind the huge anti-government protests last year.

Still, the news underscored Beijing’s determination to intimidate an already disheartened movement. Street protests have mostly evaporated since the law was enacted in June, and open dissent among most residents has quieted. But well-known activists such as Mr. Lai have continued to speak out, to the fury of Chinese officials.

washington post logoWashington Post, European leaders clash in Brussels but ultimately agree on a coronavirus rescue package, new climate goals, Michael Birnbaum and Quentin Ariès, Dec. 12, 2020 (print ed.). German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who intends to retire next year after a 15-year stint as Europe’s most powerful leader, brokered the compromises.

european union logo rectangleEuropean leaders gathered in Brussels this week ready to clash on fundamental issues, from democracy to climate change. But they ended a two-day summit on Friday with a string of significant deals, including a plan to give unprecedented money-raising authority to the European Union to help economies struggling through the pandemic.

Although the specter of a disorderly British break from the E.U. on Dec. 31 loomed over the meeting, the prime ministers and presidents spent little time on it. Instead, they fought over a host of other issues — and, ultimately, struck some bargains. Along with a $2.2 trillion spending plan that includes an emergency pandemic fund, leaders committed to sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions within the next decade.

It was a diplomatic triumph for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who intends to retire next year after a 15-year stint as Europe’s most powerful leader. With Germany holding the rotating presidency of the European Council, Merkel chaired the proceedings and brokered the compromise agreements — though critics said too much was given away in the spirit of a deal.

 

Dec. 11

Top Headines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies


Biden Transition

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

U.S. Courts, Crime, Culture

 

World News

 

Top Stories

 

djt march 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, White House orders FDA chief to authorize vaccine today or submit his resignation, Josh Dawsey and Laurie McGinley, Dec. 11, 2020. Warning led FDA to move authorization up from Saturday; The message from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows came as the Food and Drug Administration prepared to clear the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine, according to three people familiar with the situation.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, left, on Friday told Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to submit his mark meadowsresignation if the agency does not clear the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine by day’s end, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss what happened.

fda logoThe threat came on the same day that President Trump tweeted that the FDA is “a big, old, slow turtle” in its handling of vaccines, while exhorting Commissioner Stephen Hahn to “get the dam vaccines out NOW.” He added: “Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!”

It also led the FDA to accelerate its timetable for clearing America’s first vaccine from Saturday morning to later Friday, according to two people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

The White House actions once again inject politics into the vaccine race, potentially undermining public trust in one of the most crucial tools to end the pandemic that has killed more than 290,000 Americans. It comes in the midst of a process that had been designed to show no shortcuts were taken in reviewing the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine as surveys show many people remain unsure whether they will get the shots.

A White House official declined to comment, saying “we don’t comment on private conversations, but the Chief regularly requests updates on progress toward a vaccine.”

stephen hahn o“This is an untrue representation of the phone call with the Chief of Staff,” Hahn, right, said in a statement. “The FDA was encouraged to continue working expeditiously on Pfizer-BioNTech’s EUA request. FDA is committed to issuing this authorization quickly, as we noted in our statement this morning.”

pfizer logoThe two-shot vaccine, which has been shown to be 95 percent effective in randomized trials involving tens of thousands of people, has already been cleared by Britain, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials have engaged in a more rigorous review process that they believe will boost public confidence.

Meadows’ threat and the president’s tweets constituted the latest attack by Trump, who has complained vociferously that the vaccine wasn’t authorized before Election Day, blaming it on the ‘Deep State’ inside the agency that he accused of working against