March 2021 News

 
 

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

 

March 31

Top Headlines

 

Trump Team: Profiteering On Pandemic?

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Trump Ally Gaetz Probed


 U.S. Courts, Crime, Regulation

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

World News


Media / Politics

 

Top Stories 

 

joe biden

washington post logoWashington Post, White House unveils jobs plan, setting up fight over role of government, Jeff Stein, Juliet Eilperin and Michael Laris, March 31, 2021. The White House on Wednesday unveiled an approximately $2 trillion jobs plan focused on infrastructure and the climate, a blueprint that represents President Biden’s vision for how to reshape the U.S. economy.

transportation dept logoUnder what the administration calls the American Jobs Plan, Biden aims to tackle some of the nation’s most pressing problems — from climate change to decaying water systems to the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The administration’s promises are vast and may prove difficult to enact, even if the effort can get through Democrats’ extremely narrow majority in Congress. The plan, set to be introduced by Biden in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, says it will enable drivers across the country to find electric charging stations for their vehicles on the road. Every lead pipe in the country would be replaced. All Americans would have access to high-speed Internet broadband by the end of the decade. As many as 2 million homes and housing units would be built, retrofitted or renovated.

 george floyd derek chauvin Custom

George Floyd, above left, and former police officer Derek Chauvin, whose trial began Monday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Clerk Who Questioned $20 Bill Watched Floyd Arrest With Guilt, John Eligon, Shaila Dewan, Tim Arango and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs
March 31, 2021. During the third day of Derek Chauvin’s trial, witness after witness agonized over whether they could have done anything to stop what would eventually happen to George Floyd.

He chatted with a store clerk about playing football. He grabbed a banana off a shelf, flipped through a wad of cash, and hugged and exchanged pleasantries with a woman, laughing with his hand on her back.

In surveillance footage played for the first time in a Minneapolis courtroom on Wednesday, the world got to see George Floyd as it never had before: He was just another customer in a corner store that he liked to frequent.

Within half an hour, Mr. Floyd would be handcuffed and face down on the pavement outside of Cup Foods, calling out for his mother as a police officer pressed his knee into Mr. Floyd’s neck. Roughly two hours after he walked into the store he was dead.

On the third day of testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murdering Mr. Floyd, a clearer picture emerged of the events preceding Mr. Floyd’s death, with witness after witness agonizing over whether they could have done anything to stop what would soon unfold.

The 19-year-old clerk who served Mr. Floyd at the corner store that day wondered whether the death was his fault because he had reported that Mr. Floyd used a fake $20 bill. A 61-year-old man who saw the police pinning Mr. Floyd to the ground shook his head and held back tears as a video of the brutal arrest played. He collapsed on the witness stand, sobbing. “I can’t help but feel helpless,” said the man, Charles McMillian. “I don’t have a mama either, but I understand him.”

Mr. Floyd’s death last May left a trail of agony for the people who were part of the unfolding tragedy — the weight of what they had witnessed plain to see in the form of tears, long pauses and deep breaths during their testimony.

It all began casually at the corner store. In the surveillance footage, Mr. Floyd is seen pacing the aisles, speaking with other customers and workers. He goes from one end to the next, accidentally knocks over a banana and puts it back, and then makes his way to the tobacco section at the front of the store.

At the counter, Mr. Floyd can be seen offering the teenage clerk, Christopher Martin, a $20 bill in exchange for a pack of cigarettes. Mr. Martin said he quickly realized the bill was counterfeit; the blue pigmentation gave it away, he testified. For one brief moment, Mr. Martin thought to let it go and put it on his own tab — the store’s policy was that fake money would be deducted from the paycheck of the employee who accepted it, he said. But then he changed his mind.

During the third day of Derek Chauvin’s trial, witnesses agonized over whether they could have stopped what eventually happened to George Floyd.
Here are takeaways from Day 3 of the trial.

 

Trump Ally Gaetz Probed

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Gaetz subject of federal grand jury investigation in Orlando for underage sex trafficking, Wayne Madsen, March 31, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. For the past few years, WMR has been investigating Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) for a number of sexual misdeeds. Gaetz is a current Department of Justice target in an underage sex trafficking probe being conducted by the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida in Orlando.

wayne madesen report logoWMR readers can peruse the Opposition Research dossier collected on Gaetz by clicking here. This dossier, compiled by a Republican primary opponent of Gaetz, has been in the hands of key Republican members of the House of Representatives, including the leadership.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Be Investigated Over Possible Sexual Relationship With a Girl, 17, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, March 31, 2021 (print ed.). An inquiry into the Florida congressman was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, people briefed on it said.

matt gaetz o CustomRepresentative Matt Gaetz, right, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

Justice Department log circularIt was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.

The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, below right,l the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — william barr new owere notified of the investigation, the people said.

The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.

Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, visited the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.

republican elephant logoMr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida.

Mr. Greenberg pleaded not guilty last year and was sent to jail this month for violating the terms of his bail. He is scheduled to go on trial in June in Orlando.

A frequent presence on Fox News and other conservative media, Mr. Gaetz has recently mused with confidants about quitting elected politics and taking a full-time job with the conservative television channel Newsmax or another network, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Axios first reported on Tuesday that Mr. Gaetz was considering leaving Congress.

Matt Gaetz, center, Roger Stone, left, and Joel Greenberg in a 2017 Facebook photo.

Mr. Greenberg maintained ties to controversial figures who have supported Mr. Trump, an examination of court records, social media posts and far-right websites showed. A website run by a member of the far-right group the Proud Boys and a network of fake social media accounts linked to Mr. Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. have promoted false accusations about Mr. Greenberg’s rivals similar to rumors that prosecutors accused Mr. Greenberg of secretly trying to spread.

It was not clear how Mr. Greenberg (shown at right in the photo adjoining) knew either Mr. Gaetz (shown at center) or Mr. Stone (shown at left). He posted a selfie with both in 2017 (shown at left), tweeting, “Great catching up.” The following year, Mr. Gaetz  expressed support for Mr. Greenberg’s successful bid for local office, predicting he would someday make a great member of Congress.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Gaetz has embraced the role of villain to the left as much as he has served as one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders and enablers, often with theatrical flair. He wore a gas mask on the House floor last year in the early days of the pandemic, insisting he was demonstrating concern for public safety amid accusations he was mocking the seriousness of the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr. Gaetz was first elected to Congress in 2016. As a member of the Florida State Legislature and the scion of a Republican political family, he had initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in the Republican presidential primary that year before hitching his political fortunes to Mr. Trump.

It paid off. He won a seat in Congress representing part of the Florida Panhandle, and as one of Mr. Trump’s most flamboyant supporters on Capitol Hill and on cable television, his profile skyrocketed.

Mr. Gaetz invited a right-wing Holocaust skeptic to the State of the Union address in 2018, and attended an event last year where he said the Proud Boys had provided security, though he has distanced himself from the group on his podcast. When Democrats moved in 2019 to impeach Mr. Trump for the first time, Mr. Gaetz and a phalanx of Republicans following him barged past Capitol Police into the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee to briefly break up the investigation into the president.

After Mr. Trump’s defeat last year, Mr. Gaetz once again rallied to his side, defending the president’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud. Mr. Gaetz helped organize efforts among lawmakers to challenge President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory during Congress’s certification of it on Jan. 6 that was disrupted for hours by a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol. Mr. Gaetz later traveled to Wyoming to hold a rally against Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican leader who had voted to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the riot.

In 2017, Mr. Gaetz was the only member of Congress to vote against a law that gave the federal government more power and money to fight human trafficking.

“Voters in Northwest Florida did not send me to Washington to go and create more federal government,” Mr. Gaetz said in a local television interview at the time. “If anything, we should be abolishing a lot of the agencies at the federal level.”

Mr. Gaetz’s personal life has gained attention before. Last summer, he announced that he had a son, Nestor Galban, 19, though Mr. Gaetz said he was not Mr. Galban’s biological father, nor had he adopted him. Mr. Galban had been 12 when they met and had come to the United States from Cuba; Mr. Gaetz was at the time dating Mr. Galban’s sister.

“He is a part of my family story,” Mr. Gaetz told People magazine in June. “My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me.”

Mr. Gaetz proposed to his girlfriend, Ginger Luckey, at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on Dec. 30.

It was unclear how investigators in the Greenberg case began examining Mr. Gaetz’s conduct. Last June, federal prosecutors secured an indictment against Mr. Greenberg, accusing him of stalking a political rival.

Around that time, federal authorities seized Mr. Greenberg’s phone and laptop, according to court records. They discovered evidence that Mr. Greenberg, whose job responsibilities included issuing licenses, was creating fake identification cards for himself and a teenage girl, and was experimenting with holograms used on permits for concealed firearms, according to court documents.

Two months later, he was indicted on the sex trafficking charge. From May to November 2017, prosecutors said, Mr. Greenberg targeted the girl, who was between 14 and 17, saying he “recruited” and “solicited” her for sex acts in exchange for unspecified perks or favors.

Mr. Greenberg worked in advertising before running successfully at the age of 31 in 2016 for tax collector in Seminole County.

Within days of taking office, he fired three employees who had supported his predecessor and began spending more than $1.5 million in taxpayer money on personal expenses, including guns, ammunition, body armor and a drone, as well as on computers for his own cryptocurrency venture, a county audit later revealed.

The following year, according to The Orlando Sentinel, Mr. Greenberg posted a photograph of himself on social media with Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing personality who has a history of making racist remarks. The newspaper also detailed Mr. Greenberg’s own misogynist and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook.

In his bid for re-election, Mr. Greenberg turned in late 2019 to clandestine tactics to undermine a possible rival, according to court papers. Prosecutors said he sent an anonymous letter to the school where one potential candidate worked that made unfounded accusations of sexual misconduct with a student and making similar claims on a fake Facebook account.

As the primary race intensified last summer, similar messaging began appearing on fake social media accounts that have been tied to Mr. Stone.

“Watch out Seminole county,” said someone named April Goad on Facebook, warning Floridians “don’t open your door” to the rival candidate, according to Graphika, a company that specializes in analyzing social media.

The post linked to an article about the rival published on Central Florida Post, a website controlled by Mr. Stone’s associates that had written favorable articles about Mr. Greenberg. The website was founded by a member of the Proud Boys who has been linked to security providers for Mr. Stone on Jan. 6 in Washington in the lead-up to the insurrection at the Capitol.

Mr. Greenberg’s re-election efforts quickly evaporated when he was first indicted last June, and he resigned a day later.

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. @NYTMike

Katie Benner covers the Justice Department. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @ktbenner

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is just so ugly, Bill Palmer, right, March 31, 2021. Last night everything hit the fan when it was reported that the Department of Justice is bill palmerinvestigating Matt Gaetz for alleged underage sex trafficking, which he denied and claimed he’s being extorted over it.

As we were all frantically trying to piece together last night what was going on with Gaetz and the DOJ, it evoked memories of the Trump era, where we seemingly couldn’t go three days without some kind of new revelation about some hideously ugly criminal scandal involving Trump and/or his allies. Since he’s been pushed out of power, the news cycle has shifted elsewhere. We still have far too many disturbing news cycles and ugly scandals, but it’s no longer about just one monster and his pals.

bill palmer report logo headerBut last night was a distinct reminder of just how ugly and corrupt the Trump era was. Is Matt Gaetz guilty? We don’t have any way of knowing yet. But of course Gaetz is a Trump ally, because these kinds of stories in American politics somehow have a way of nearly always finding their way back to Trump.

It’s a reminder of just how normalized this kind of deranged scandalousness became during the previous years. Of course the criminal investigations into Donald Trump and his allies are just now properly getting underway, after four years of a compromised DOJ and FBI, so we’re expecting even more ugly criminal allegations to surface against Trump and his pals. Let’s just be glad that they’re no longer in charge of the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson denies Gaetz claim that he met witness in FBI probes: ‘One of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,’ Teo Armus, March 31, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was on Fox News on Tuesday night, defending himself against newly public allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, when he seemed to pull his interviewer into the matter.

“You and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you’ll remember her,” Gaetz told Tucker Carlson, connecting that friend to an ongoing Justice Department investigation of the lawmaker.

He alleged that the woman had been “threatened” by the FBI and told “she could face trouble” if she didn’t confess to authorities that Gaetz was involved in a “pay-for-play scheme.”

“I don’t remember the woman you are speaking of or the context at all, honestly,” Carlson cut in to say, visibly stunned.

Later on in the show, Carlson — still looking surprised — appeared to distance himself further from Gaetz, saying: “That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

On Tuesday evening, the lawmaker appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” slamming the Times report as an attempt to thwart a separate investigation into his extortion claims. Gaetz insisted there was no 17-year-old and denied any allegations of sex trafficking.

“Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime,” he told Carlson.

Gaetz specifically blamed the extortion attempt on David McGee, a former Justice Department official. McGee denied those claims to The Post, saying he had no connection to the agency’s probe into possible sex trafficking by Gaetz.

At one point, in what appeared to be an effort to get Carlson to relate to his circumstances, the lawmaker mentioned that the Fox News host was falsely accused of rape years ago.

“I’m not the only person on screen right now who’s been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” the lawmaker told Tucker Carlson. “You were accused of something you did not do, so you know what this feels like.”

With a puzzled look on his face, Carlson responded: “You just referred to a mentally ill viewer who accused me of a sex crime 20 years ago. And of course, it was not true. I never met the person.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-GOP official Joel Greenberg flaunted ties to Matt Gaetz. Then he was charged with child sex trafficking, Katie Shepherd,  March 31, 2021.joel greenberg seminole county tax collector Until last year, Joel Greenberg was an ascendant political player in Seminole County, Fla., where he unseated a longtime incumbent in the race for county tax collector, won a political battle to allow his deputies to carry guns on the job and flaunted his connections to prominent Republicans with close ties to president Donald Trump, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Roger Stone.

But last June his reputation fell apart in spectacular fashion when federal investigators arrested him on stalking and child sex trafficking charges, prompting his resignation.

On Tuesday, the case against Greenberg, 36, shown in a file photo as tax collector, gained national prominence after the New York Times reported that it had also sparked a separate criminal investigation into allegations that Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.

Yahoo News, Analysis: It’s Hard To Choose The Weirdest Part Of The Matt Gaetz Scandal — But We’ll Try, Lydia Wang, March 31, 2021. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is under investigation for reportedly violating sex trafficking laws by engaging in a sexual relationship with a minor and paying for her to travel with him. According to The New York Times, the probe is just one part of a bigger investigation into Joel Greenberg, a former Florida GOP official tied to Gaetz who currently awaits trial for 14 charges including and related to sex trafficking. In an attempt to clear things up, Gaetz appeared on Fox News to discuss the investigation with Tucker Carlson, but now we have even more questions. Specifically: What is going on?

In an odd segment that Carlson then described as “one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,” Gaetz denied the allegations, claimed the probe is a part of an ongoing extortion attempt, and attempted to throw Carlson under the bus twice. He told Carlson that any claims that he was involved with or traveled with a 17-year-old girl are “verifiably false” and “merely intended to bleed my family out of money.” Gaetz went on to clarify, “What is happening is an extortion of me and my family involving a former Department of Justice official.”

Gaetz says he and his father, Florida politician Don Gaetz, received a message several weeks ago from a person demanding $25 million “in exchange for making sex trafficking allegations go away.” According to Gaetz, his father wore a wire in a meeting with a former official from the Department of Justice, and Gaetz is convinced that audio footage from this meeting would clear his name.

The former DOJ official, whom Gaetz identified as lawyer David McGee, has denied Gaetz’s accusation. “This is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to be indicted for sex-trafficking underage girls,” McGee told The Daily Beast, adding that allegations of his involvement in any kind of extortion are “completely, totally false.”

As if that weren’t enough, Gaetz also tried to implicate Carlson in the ongoing investigation. “I can say that actually, you and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you’ll remember her,” Gaetz said. “She was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow, I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme, that she could face trouble.” Carlson said that he did not remember this specific dinner or friend.

At another point in the interview, Gaetz turned on Carlson again. “I’m not the only person on-screen right now who has been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” he said. “You were accused of something you did not do, so you know what this feels like.” It is unclear what Gaetz was talking about here; it’s possible he was referring to a claim that Carlson, along with two other Fox personalities, sexually harassed a guest last year. Carlson quickly clarified that a person he had apparently never met accused him of a sex crime “20 years ago” before moving on with another question.

Before his Fox News appearance, Gaetz told the Times that he was involved in an investigation but did not know any specifics about the probe. “I only know that it has to do with women,” he said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.” He reiterated this same sentiment to Carlson, emphasizing that it is not a crime to purchase plane tickets and hotel rooms for girlfriends of legal age.

Gaetz made a name for himself as one of former President Donald Trump’s staunchest allies. He’s made headlines for bizarre reasons several times: In November, people speculated that he was dating Tiffany Trump after he appeared to flirt with her on Twitter. Many have also struggled to make sense of his relationship with Nestor, a 19-year-old college student who Gaetz says is his son. (Nestor is not biologically or legally related to Gaetz.) And he’s had several other controversies and viral moments that, in retrospect, are even more concerning, including that time he was the only “no” vote on a bipartisan anti-human trafficking bill and this unfortunate tweet that, for some reason, has not yet been deleted.

Mediaite, Fox News Responds to Report on Matt Gaetz’s Future: ‘We Have No Interest in Hiring Him,’ Josh Feldman, March 31, 2021. Before the news of a DOJ investigation into whether he had a relationship with a 17-year-old broke on Tuesday, Congressman Matt Gaetz was getting attention for an Axios report saying he has plans to move from the House of Representatives to a media job.

As Axios reported, Gaetz has told people he’s “seriously considering not seeking re-election and possibly leaving Congress early for a job at Newsmax.”

On Wednesday, amid the stunning news about the DOJ probe and his allegations of an extortion scheme and smear campaign, Gaetz told The Daily Beast he’s had “many conversations with many people about life after Congress,” saying he’s “talked to either executives, producers or hosts at Newsmax, OAN, Fox, Fox Business, Real America’s Voice and probably others I’m forgetting in this moment as I focus intently on refuting false accusations against me.”

In a statement to Mediaite on the report, a Fox News spokesperson said, “No one with any level of authority has had conversations with Matt Gaetz for any of our platforms and we have no interest in hiring him.”

OAN founder/CEO Robert Herring spoke to Daily Beast for its report and said, “Somebody did call me and say that Congressman Gaetz might be looking for a job, possibly at Newsmax… I think he is a great congressman, and I told [that ‘somebody’] to tell him to stay there. That’s what I want Congressman Gaetz to do.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 97.6 million vaccinated, as of March 31, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 36.5 of the eligible population,16 and older and 29.4 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 31, 2021), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 128,978,966, Deaths: 2,819,210
U.S. Cases:     31,099,466, Deaths:   564,199
Brazil Cases:   12,664,058, Deaths:   317,936

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Said to Be Powerfully Protective in Adolescents, Staff Report, March 31, 2021. A clinical trial found no infections among vaccinated children ages 12 to 15, the companies said, and there were no serious side effects. President Emmanuel Macron of France pfizer logowill address the country on Wednesday and is expected to announce new restrictions. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • A third national lockdown seems likely in France as hospitals are overwhelmed.
  • Vaccines bring hope to New Yorkers, but virus cases are still alarmingly high.
  • Turkey forbids gatherings as virus cases surge and Ramadan nears.
  • After W.H.O. report on the pandemic’s origins, China tries to shift attention elsewhere.
  • The E.U. vows to speed up its vaccine rollout as more countries tighten rules.
  • Scientists wonder if a mix-and-match approach to vaccines could be the way to go.
  • Russia claims to be the first country to develop coronavirus shots for animals.
  • In San Francisco, turmoil over reopening schools turns a city against itself.
  • In Ukraine, the price for a vaccine can be a selfie.

 

U.S. Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Arrested in Anti-Asian Attack Was on Parole for Killing Mother, Michael Gold, March 31, 2021. Brandon Elliot, who killed his mother two decades ago, was arrested and charged with the brutal assault on a Filipino woman near Times Square.

A homeless man who was out on parole for killing his mother was arrested and charged with a hate crime early Wednesday morning in connection with a violent attack on a Filipino immigrant near Times Square, the police said.

The man, Brandon Elliot, 38, was living at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan that has been serving as a homeless shelter, the police said. He was charged with felony assault as a hate crime, attempted assault as a hate crime and separate assault and attempted assault charges.

The police said that Mr. Elliot was the man seen on security footage brutally assaulting Vilma Kari, 65, who was walking down a city street on Monday morning.

The video shows a man police believe to be Mr. Elliot kicking Ms. Kari in the chest outside a luxury apartment building. After she staggers back and collapses onto the sidewalk, he then kicks her repeatedly in the head. A police official said that he then shouted an obscenity at her and said “You don’t belong here.”

Several workers in the building’s lobby were shown in the video appearing to do nothing to intervene, with one man, a security guard, closing the front door to the building after the attack.

The horrifying footage spread widely across social media and in news reports, intensifying the outrage and fear caused by an increasing number of reports of anti-Asian hate crimes across the nation in recent weeks.

Mr. Elliot was convicted of second-degree murder after fatally stabbing his mother, Bridget Johnson, three times in the heart in the Bronx in 2002, when he was 19, according to state records and news reports.

He was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years to life in prison and was released on parole in November 2019, after he had served 16 years, according to state corrections records.

gordon liddy

ny times logoNew York Times, G. Gordon Liddy, Mastermind Behind Watergate Burglary, Dies at 90, Robert D. McFadden, Updated March 31, 2021. Unlike other defendants in the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, Mr. Liddy refused to testify and drew the longest prison term.

G. Gordon Liddy, a cloak-and-dagger lawyer who masterminded dirty tricks for the White House and concocted the bungled burglary that led to the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon in 1974, died on Tuesday in Mount Vernon, Va. He was 90.

His death, at the home of his daughter Alexandra Liddy Bourne, was confirmed by his son Thomas P. Liddy, who said that his father had Parkinson’s disease and had been in declining health.

Decades after Watergate entered the lexicon, Mr. Liddy was still an enigma in the cast of characters who fell from grace with the 37th president — to some a patriot who went silently to prison refusing to betray his comrades, to others a zealot who cashed in on bogus celebrity to become an author and syndicated talk show host.

As a leader of a White House “plumbers” unit set up to plug information leaks, and then as a strategist for the president’s re-election campaign, Mr. Liddy helped devise plots to discredit Nixon “enemies” and to disrupt the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Most were far-fetched — bizarre kidnappings, acts of sabotage, traps using prostitutes, even an assassination — and were never carried out.

But Mr. Liddy, a former F.B.I. agent, and E. Howard Hunt, a former C.I.A. agent, engineered two break-ins at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate complex in Washington. On May 28, 1972, as Mr. Liddy and Mr. Hunt stood by, six Cuban expatriates and James W. McCord Jr., a Nixon campaign security official, went in, planted bugs, photographed documents and got away cleanly.

A few weeks later, on June 17, four Cubans and Mr. McCord, wearing surgical gloves and carrying walkie-talkies, returned to the scene and were caught by the police. Mr. Liddy and Mr. Hunt, running the operation from a Watergate hotel room, fled but were soon arrested and indicted on charges of burglary, wiretapping and conspiracy.

In the context of 1972, with Mr. Nixon’s triumphal visit to China and a steam-rolling presidential campaign that soon crushed the Democrat, Senator George S. McGovern, the Watergate case looked inconsequential at first. Mr. Nixon’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler, dismissed it as a “third-rate burglary.”

But it deepened a White House cover-up that had begun in 1971, when Mr. Liddy and Mr. Hunt broke into the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times, looking for damaging information on him. Over the next two years, the cover-up unraveled under pressure of investigations, trials, hearings and headlines into the worst political scandal — and the first resignation by a sitting president — in the nation’s history.

“I have lived as I believed I ought to have lived,” Mr. Liddy, a small dapper man with a baldish pate and a brushy mustache, told reporters after his release. He said he had no regrets and would do it again. “When the prince approaches his lieutenant, the proper response of the lieutenant to the prince is, ‘Fiat voluntas tua,’” he said, using the Latin of the Lord’s Prayer for “Thy will be done.”

Disbarred from law practice and in debt for $300,000, mostly for legal fees, Mr. Liddy began a new career as a writer. His first book, “Out of Control,” (1979) was a spy thriller. He later wrote another novel, “The Monkey Handlers” (1990), and a nonfiction book, “When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country” (2002). He also co-wrote a guide to fighting terrorism, “Fight Back! Tackling Terrorism, Liddy Style” (2006), and produced many articles on politics, taxes, health and other matters.

In 1980, he broke his silence on Watergate with his autobiography, Will. The reviews were mixed, but it became a best seller. After years of revelations by other Watergate conspirators, there was little new in it about the scandal, but critics said his account of prison life was graphic. A television movie based on the book was aired in 1982 by NBC.

JIP Editor's Note: This obituary, like most mainstream accounts of Watergate, fails to mention research since the 1970s challenging basic conventional wisdow about the break-in. Key questions answered by the new research are who ordered the break-in and what specifically was the desired goal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Tosses Trump Campaign Aide’s Confidentiality Agreement, Eric Lipton, March 31, 2021 (print ed.). An effort by former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign to silence a former campaign worker who claimed she was the target of abusive treatment and sexual harassment by another member of Mr. Trump’s campaign was effectively voided on Tuesday by a federal court judge in New York.

Judge Paul G. Gardephe nullified a confidentiality agreement signed in 2016 by Jessica Denson, who had worked on Mr. Trump’s campaign that year as a phone bank supervisor and Hispanic outreach coordinator. Judge Gardephe concluded the agreement was “invalid and unenforceable.”

Mr. Trump’s campaign had won a $50,000 award against Ms. Denson after asserting that she had violated the confidential agreement when she first raised the mistreatment claims. That award was overturned by a New York State court last year.

Ms. Denson then sued on behalf of herself and other Trump campaign aides who had been forced to sign confidentiality agreements, asking that they all be invalidated as too broad and illegal in New York because they lasted indefinitely.

Judge Gardephe declined on Tuesday to invalidate all of the confidentiality agreements. But he did rule that the one Ms. Denson had signed was invalid.

“It is difficult if not impossible for Denson or another campaign employee to know whether any speech might be covered by one of the broad categories of restricted information,” the ruling says.

Ms. Denson’s lawyers — David K. Bowles of Bowles & Johnson, Joe Slaughter of Ballard Spahr, and John Langford from the nonprofit group Protect Democracy — worked on the case pro bono and now intend to ask the court to consider broadly invalidating all of the confidentiality agreements that Trump campaign workers signed.

Ms. Denson claimed she was “subject to a hostile work environment and experienced sex discrimination, and that after she complained, high-ranking persons in the campaign retaliated against her.”

Mr. Trump’s post-presidential office did not respond to a request for comment.

Her case was one of several in which Mr. Trump — using lawyers paid for by his campaign or at times even the Justice Department — went after former aides that criticized him or his campaign, including Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser to Mr. Trump, and Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide.

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Legalizes Recreational Marijuana, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, March 31, 2021. New Yorkers will immediately be allowed to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational purposes. Other changes will be phased in over several months.

After years of stalled attempts, New York State has legalized the use of recreational marijuana, enacting a robust program to reinvest millions of dollars in minority communities ravaged by the decades-long war on drugs.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the cannabis legislation on Wednesday, a day after the State Legislature passed the bill following hours of debate among lawmakers in Albany.

With his signature, New York became the 15th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, positioning itself to quickly become one of the largest markets of legal cannabis in the nation.

Previous attempts to legalize marijuana were stymied over disagreements on how the tax revenue from marijuana sales would be distributed. Democratic lawmakers, especially those who are nonwhite, insisted that a large portion of the money be earmarked for communities where Black and Latino people have been disproportionately arrested on marijuana charges; the governor wanted to retain more control over how the money was spent.

The lawmakers prevailed. Forty percent of the tax revenue from pot sales will be steered to those communities, and people with marijuana-related convictions that are no longer criminalized will have their records automatically expunged. The law also seeks to allow people with past convictions and those involved in the illicit cannabis market to participate in the new legal market.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: After emotional day, Chauvin trial to resume with firefighter who was ‘desperate’ to help Floyd, Holly Bailey, Timothy Bella and Lateshia Beachum, March 31, 2021. Rep. Marilyn Strickland says Derek Chauvin’s trial will be a ‘proof-point;’ Chauvin’s lawyer asked a Black witness about anger, conjuring centuries-old tropes, scholars say

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Iowa Democrat drops attempt to contest House race, citing ‘toxic campaign of political disinformation,’ Marianna Sotomayor, March 31, 2021. In recent weeks, Republicans have accused Democrats of trying to overturn a fairly won election after the House Administration Committee began investigating the result.

Democrat Rita Hart has dropped her challenge in the Iowa 2nd Congressional District race, asking the House to no longer consider an investigation into the outcome of her race against Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks following intense Republican pushback.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosIn a statement released Wednesday, Hart said she decided to inform the House Administration Committee to no longer investigate her case after having numerous conversations with people about the future of the investigation. She also blamed Republican criticism in announcing her decision to drop the appeal.

“Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted, the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans,” Hart said.

Resistance grows in both parties to Democratic probe of narrow Iowa race

Miller-Meeks was declared the winner over Hart following a recount in November with a difference of just six votes out of 400,000 cast. Miller-Meeks is now serving as the district’s representative, but Hart had asked the House to overturn the result. Hart alleges that 22 legally cast ballots were not considered during the initial November canvass and subsequent recount, resulting in the tightest congressional electoral outcome in modern history.

In a video responding to Hart’s decision, Miller-Meeks announced that she received “a very gracious call” from her former Democratic opponent officially conceding the race.

“I’m deeply appreciative that we’re ending this now and I wish only the best for she and her family because I know how stressful this has been,” she said.

A person familiar with Hart’s decision, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions, said she no longer wanted to put her family through mounting negative and what they described as misleading attacks on her request to have the House overturn the election results.

538.com, Analysis: Why Democrats Weren’t Going To Reverse The Result In Iowa, Geoffrey Skelley, March 31, 2021. Congress Disputed Seat: Democrat Rita Hart lost to Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by just six votes last November.

That whoosh you just heard? That was House Democrats breathing a sigh of relief now that Democrat Rita Hart has withdrawn her challenge to contest the result in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, which she lost to Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks by just six votes last November — one of the closest federal elections in U.S. history.

Democrats were reportedly worried at the prospect of having to vote on whether to unseat Miller-Meeks, especially considering how loudly they protested former President Trump and Republicans’ attempts to overturn the 2020 election earlier this year. Additionally, there were concerns it would undermine Democrats’ efforts to pass a massive voting rights and election reform bill. That, along with the Democrats’ narrow majority, suggested it was going to be very challenging for Democrats to reverse the outcome — even if they felt Hart had a valid case.

Moreover, Republican messaging had put Democrats on the defensive. For instance, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed they were trying to “steal” the election, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pointedly asked major businesses and organizations that were critical of GOP objections to the Electoral College on Jan. 6 to hold Democrats to “the same standard” for contesting the Iowa result.

The Iowa situation was pretty unusual, as contested elections are fairly uncommon nowadays — and reversing election outcomes is even rarer. As the table below shows, contested House elections were once a regular occurrence, especially in the years following the Civil War, when many disputes centered on congressional races in the South, according to data compiled by Jeffery Jenkins at the University of Southern California. But now the number has tailed off considerably, averaging barely one case every five congresses.

Contested elections used to be far more common.

A contested election indicates a result that was formally disputed in the House. Not all contested races resulted in a different winner.

The House reached its current size of 435 seats after the 1910 census, except for the 86th and 87th congresses (1959-1962), when it expanded to include at-large seats from Alaska and Hawaii. The House then returned to 435 seats after the 1960 census and the subsequent reapportionment before the 1962 election.

In the past 50 years, the House has voted to reverse an election outcome only once: In 1985, the Democratic-controlled House investigated and recounted the votes in the 1984 election for Indiana’s 8th Congressional District and determined that Democratic Rep. Frank McCloskey had won by four votes after the Republican candidate had led by 418 votes following a state-run recount. The House then voted 236 to 190 to seat McCloskey, prompting House Republicans to stage a walk-out.

But Democrats had a much larger majority in 1985 than they do today, so they could have afforded 30 or more defections when they voted to seat McCloskey. By comparison, fewer than five Democratic “nays” could have sunk an attempt to seat Hart because Democrats currently hold only a 219-to-211 seat majority. And some Democrats had privately — and even publicly — let it be known they didn’t want to vote to unseat Miller-Meeks.

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

National Public Radio (NPR), 2 Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump For Injuries Sustained During Jan. 6 Riot, Jaclyn Diaz, March 31, 2021. Two U.S. Capitol police officers are suing former President Donald Trump, for allegedly inciting the riots that took over the Capitol building Jan. 6.

Officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby argue in court documents reviewed by NPR that Trump is responsible for the physical and emotional injuries the officers received following the violent riots at the Capitol. The insurrection resulted in the death of five people.

npr logoThe lawsuit details the violence Blassingame and Hemby faced during the Jan. 6 attack, as well as the physical and emotional toll they continue to deal with.

Lawyers for the officers argue Trump's repeated false claims over several months that the 2020 presidential election could be stolen or was eventually "rigged" motivated the eventual insurrectionists.

Trump "inflamed, encouraged, incited, directed, and aided and abetted" the "insurrectionist mob" to force its way into the Capitol building to stop the certification of the election on Jan. 6. The mob "forced its way over and past the plaintiffs and their fellow officers, pursuing and attacking them inside and outside the United States Capitol, and causing the injuries."

The lawsuit says Trump is liable for the injuries the plaintiffs and other Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department officers sustained that day.

Court documents include pictures of Trump's Twitter posts and statements the former president made during the 2020 campaign questioning the integrity of the U.S. election system.

The officers are seeking unspecified monetary damages with the lawsuit. Documents say the "amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, not counting interest and costs."

Emotional, physical damage remain

According to the lawsuit, Blassingame was thrown against a stone column as a mob of people rushed into the Crypt of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. He hit his spine and the back of his head and was unable to move for a period of time. He was called racial slurs by the attackers and was hit repeatedly, according to court documents.

Blassingame was one of eight or nine officers who attempted to protect the Crypt as the mob filled the area, according to the lawsuit.

Once he was able to flee to safety, Blassingame remained locked in the House Ways and Means Committee room with members, some of whom were unmasked for hours.

The lawsuit states, "Officer Blassingame was acutely aware that many in the Ways and Means room were neither masked nor socially distanced from Covid-19 transmission. He had no option but to remain in place."

As Hemby sought to protect the Capitol, he was sprayed in the face and body with chemical irritants that burned his skin.

The lawsuit said Hemby was "crushed against the doors on the east side trying to hold the insurrectionists back. Over and over, he tried to tell the insurrectionists that the doors opened outward and that pressing him into the door would do no good."

Both Blassingame and Hemby continue to deal with the emotional fallout of the attack. The lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., says Blassingame is haunted by the memory of being attacked and remains triggered by the sights, sounds, smells of the events that day.

"The weight on Officer Blassingame has been heavy and pervasive. He was not able to sleep and he could not talk about what happened, even with his wife and friends," the lawsuit states.

Hemby still has damage to his left hand and knee as well as his neck and back that requires regular physical therapy.

The lawsuit states, "He continues to sleep poorly and feels hyper-aware and on high alert during his waking hours."

 

 World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Three female polio workers gunned down in Afghanistan, Sharif Hassan, March 31, 2021 (print ed.). The attacks are the latest in a string of targeted killings sowing unease in government-held towns and cities despite ongoing peace talks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jailed Russian opposition leader Navalny declares hunger strike, Robyn Dixon, March 31, 2021. Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny declared a hunger strike Wednesday after unsuccessful attempts to get medical care for severe back pain, according to an Instagram post in his name.

Navalny survived an August assassination attempt with a chemical weapon that the U.S. State Department blames on Russian security agencies, but he was jailed when he flew back to Russia in January after treatment in Germany.

He was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for breaching parole conditions in a 2014 fraud case, partly because he failed to report to authorities while under treatment in Germany.

Navalny last week requested painkilling injections for back pain and a right leg so numb that he says it barely supports his weight.

“I have the right to call a doctor and get medicine. Neither of which I am given, stupidly,” the Wednesday post said. It said the numbness was moving to his left leg.

The Kremlin has declined to comment on Navalny’s complaints, calling it a matter for prison authorities.

The post said he was lying in his cell on his bed on a hunger strike, in what he called a major violation of prison rules. He was reading the Bible, the only book made available to him in prison.

The post said was also being “tortured by sleep deprivation,” roused eight times every night by a guard shining a torch in his face to supposedly ensure he has not absconded.

 

Media / Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Hunter Biden’s Memoir: 7 Takeaways From ‘Beautiful Things,’ Elisabeth Egan, March 30, 2021. Hunter Biden doesn’t beat around the bush in his new memoir, “Beautiful Things,” which comes out on April 6.

hunter biden cover“I’m a 51-year-old father who helped raise three beautiful daughters,” writes President Biden’s younger son, who now has a year-old son of his own, in the prologue. “I’ve bought crack cocaine on the streets of Washington, D.C., and cooked up my own inside a hotel bungalow in Los Angeles. I’ve been so desperate for a drink that I couldn’t make the one-block walk between a liquor store and my apartment without uncapping the bottle to take a swig. In the last five years alone, my two-decades-long marriage has dissolved, guns have been put in my face, and at one point I dropped clean off the grid, living in $59-a-night Super 8 motels off I-95 while scaring my family even more than myself.”

The book is equal parts family saga, grief narrative and addict’s howl. Here is what readers will learn.

The title of Hunter Biden’s book was inspired by Beau Biden’s mantra while he was undergoing cancer treatment. “He insisted that when he got well, we would dedicate our lives to appreciating and cultivating the world’s boundless beauty.” Biden writes. “‘Beautiful Things’ became a catchall for relationships and places and moments — for everything.”

hunter biden melissa biden cohen resized wedding abcHe credits his wife, Melissa Cohen (shown with him at left in a wedding photo), for his sobriety. In March 2019, Hunter Biden was “done with the world of politics, of figuring out how to go out on the campaign trail with Dad, if it came to that, as I would have in any other election year.” He writes, “I was a crack addict and that was that.”

He had been asked to vacate a hotel in Los Angeles where he was living, but before he left, he befriended some people at the pool who gave him the number of a South African filmmaker named Melissa Cohen.

An hour into their first dinner, they declared their love to one another. An hour after that, Biden told Melissa he was a crack addict. She said, “Not anymore. You’re finished with that.”

 

March 30

Top Headlines

 

Trump Team Scandals?

  

Virus Victims, Responses


U.S. Courts, Regulation

 

U.S. Culture, Race, Religion

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Religion

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

World News

 

Top Stories 

djt virus news conference nyt photo Custom

This photo from last year shows President Trump at center, with Vice President Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx directly behind, leading a news conference about the virus and touting the administration's efforts to curtail it and keep workplaces, schools and other venues open.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump officials say coronavirus response was worse than known, Dan Diamond, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). 'That’s what bothers me every day’: Birx and others admit failures that hampered the White House response.

Several top doctors in the Trump administration offered their most pointed and direct criticism of the government response to coronavirus last year, with one of them arguing that hundreds of thousands of covid-19 deaths could have been prevented.

CNNThey also admitted their own missteps as part of a CNN special that aired Sunday night, saying that some Trump administration statements the White House fiercely defended last year were misleading or outright falsehoods.

“When we said there were millions of tests available, there weren’t, right?” said Brett Giroir, who served as the nation’s coronavirus testing czar, referencing the administration’s repeated claims in March 2020 that anyone who sought a coronavirus test could get one. “There were components of the test available, but not the full meal deal.”

“People really believed in the White House that testing was driving cases, rather than testing was a way for us to stop cases,” said Deborah Birx, who served as White House coronavirus coordinator. Birx also said that most of the virus-related deaths in the United States after the first 100,000 in the spring surge could have been prevented with a more robust response. “That’s what bothers me every day,” she said.

deborah birx djt white house photo croppedCNN’s special with Giroir, Birx (shown at right speaking last year at a White House news conference flanked by Trump and fellow advisor Anthony Fauci) and four other senior physicians was pitched as a tell-all with former Trump officials, who are increasingly speaking out about what went wrong after more than 400,000 people in the United States died with the virus during the Trump administration. An additional 130,000-plus have died of covid-19 since President Biden’s inauguration, according to data compiled by The Washington Post

scott atlas resized But the finger-pointing and portrayals of some episodes prompted critics to say that former Trump administration officials who managed the pandemic response have turned to a new project: managing their legacies. Shown above left, Trump advisor Scott Atlas, who minimized dangers from the virus and advocated the economic and political advantages of keeping businesses and schools open.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Calls for States to Reimpose Mask Mandates to Curb Virus Spread, Sharon LaFraniere and Eileen Sullivan, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s comments came hours after the C.D.C. director said she felt an “impending doom” about a possible fourth surge. Here’s the latest.

The president’s call comes hours after the C.D.C. director warned of an “impending doom” of possible virus spread. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are very effective against infections, the C.D.C. said. A W.H.O. report suggests that bats were the source of the coronavirus.

President Biden on Monday called on governors and mayors to maintain or reinstate mask-wearing orders, saying that because of “reckless behavior,” the coronavirus was again spreading fast, threatening the progress the nation has made so far against the pandemic.

“People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing,” he said. “We are giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains.”

omb logo management and budget seal CustomMr. Biden asked the nation to persevere, saying that he had directed his coronavirus team to ensure that there was a vaccination site within five miles of 90 percent of Americans within three weeks.

He said doses are now plentiful enough that nine of ten adults in the nation — or more — will be eligible for a shot by April 19. Previously, he had only called on states to broaden eligibility to all adults by May 1.

While it will take time for everyone to get an appointment, Mr. Biden said, “you won’t have to wait till May to be eligible for your shot.”

Buoyed by promises of bigger shipments of doses in coming weeks, many states have already moved quickly to allow more people to sign up for shots. On Monday, New York said all adults would be eligible starting April 6, joining at least 37 other states that will make all adult residents eligible for vaccinations by mid-April.

eligible starting April 6, joining at least 37 other states that will make all adult residents eligible for vaccinations by mid-April.

Asked if states should pause their reopening efforts, the president replied simply, “Yes.” He said that governors, mayors, local officials and businesses should demand mask-wearing, calling it a “patriotic duty” that is crucial to the nation’s fight against the virus.

“Please, this is politics,” he said. “Reinstate the mandate if you let it down.”

 george floyd derek chauvin Custom

George Floyd, above left, and former police officer Derek Chauvin, whose trial begins Monday.

washington post logoWashington Post, First day of Derek Chauvin murder trial includes blunt testimony, new video footage, Holly Bailey and Kim Bellware, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). Derek Chauvin violated his oath as a police officer when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes and ignored Floyd’s cries for help “until the very life was squeezed out of him,” a prosecutor said Monday as testimony began in the landmark trial set to be a defining moment in the nation’s reckoning over race and policing.

In opening statements, the prosecution and defense presented vastly different pictures of the May 25 scene that ended with the 46-year-old Black man unresponsive beneath the White police officer’s knee on a South Minneapolis street.

Floyd’s death, captured on video, was followed by worldwide protests and weeks of civil unrest in cities across the country. Many will be closely watching to see whether the long days spent in the streets, in what many called the new civil rights movement, will result in justice not just for Floyd, but for the countless Black Americans who have been abused and killed by police.

Special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the jury that Chauvin “didn’t let up” and “didn’t get up” even after Floyd repeatedly complained of struggling to breathe, cried out for his mother and ultimately went limp.

“Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd when he put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him until the very breath — no, ladies and gentlemen — until the very life was squeezed out of him,” Blackwell said.

The prosecutor then played for the jury several minutes of the viral bystander video that showed Chauvin and three other police officers holding Floyd down as he begged for his life, a video that several jurors told the court they had never seen beyond 30-second clips on the news.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, pushed back against the prosecution, urging jurors to consider the “totality of the circumstances” and to put aside public opinion as they begin to consider the case against his client. “There is no political or social cause in this courtroom,” Nelson said during his roughly 20-minute opening statement. “The evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”

Nelson said that Chauvin arrived at the scene at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue to find other officers struggling to place Floyd inside a squad car and that he was following his training as he and the other officers held the man on the ground. He pointed out that Floyd was several inches taller and outweighed his client. He said the incident occurred in an area known to be hostile to police, shaping his client’s response.

He disputed the prosecution claim that Chauvin was to blame for Floyd’s death, saying the autopsy presented “no telltale signs” of asphyxiation from the officer’s knee. He said he will present evidence that Floyd died from a combination of drug intoxication, heart disease and high blood pressure and that adrenaline rushing through his body from this struggle with police “acted to further compromise an already compromised heart.”

In his autopsy, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker, who is expected to be a key witness in the case, noted the drugs in Floyd’s system, including fentanyl and methamphetamine. But Baker, who ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, listed the cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

 

Trump Team Scandals?

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Gaetz subject of federal grand jury investigation in Orlando for underage sex trafficking, Wayne Madsen, March 31, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. For the past few years, WMR has been investigating Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) for a number of sexual misdeeds. Gaetz is a current Department of Justice target in an underage sex trafficking probe being conducted by the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida in Orlando.

wayne madesen report logoWMR readers can peruse the Opposition Research dossier collected on Gaetz by clicking here. This dossier, compiled by a Republican primary opponent of Gaetz, has been in the hands of key Republican members of the House of Representatives, including the leadership.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Be Investigated Over Possible Sexual Relationship With a Girl, 17, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, March 30, 2021. An inquiry into the Florida congressman was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, people briefed on it said.

matt gaetz o CustomRepresentative Matt Gaetz, right, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

Justice Department log circularIt was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.

The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, below right,l the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — william barr new owere notified of the investigation, the people said.

The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.

Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, visited the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.

republican elephant logoMr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida.

Mr. Greenberg pleaded not guilty last year and was sent to jail this month for violating the terms of his bail. He is scheduled to go on trial in June in Orlando.

A frequent presence on Fox News and other conservative media, Mr. Gaetz has recently mused with confidants about quitting elected politics and taking a full-time job with the conservative television channel Newsmax or another network, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Axios first reported on Tuesday that Mr. Gaetz was considering leaving Congress.

Matt Gaetz, center, Roger Stone, left, and Joel Greenberg in a 2017 Facebook photo.

Mr. Greenberg maintained ties to controversial figures who have supported Mr. Trump, an examination of court records, social media posts and far-right websites showed. A website run by a member of the far-right group the Proud Boys and a network of fake social media accounts linked to Mr. Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. have promoted false accusations about Mr. Greenberg’s rivals similar to rumors that prosecutors accused Mr. Greenberg of secretly trying to spread.

It was not clear how Mr. Greenberg (shown at right in the photo adjoining) knew either Mr. Gaetz (shown at center) or Mr. Stone (shown at left). He posted a selfie with both in 2017 (shown at left), tweeting, “Great catching up.” The following year, Mr. Gaetz  expressed support for Mr. Greenberg’s successful bid for local office, predicting he would someday make a great member of Congress.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Gaetz has embraced the role of villain to the left as much as he has served as one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders and enablers, often with theatrical flair. He wore a gas mask on the House floor last year in the early days of the pandemic, insisting he was demonstrating concern for public safety amid accusations he was mocking the seriousness of the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr. Gaetz was first elected to Congress in 2016. As a member of the Florida State Legislature and the scion of a Republican political family, he had initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in the Republican presidential primary that year before hitching his political fortunes to Mr. Trump.

It paid off. He won a seat in Congress representing part of the Florida Panhandle, and as one of Mr. Trump’s most flamboyant supporters on Capitol Hill and on cable television, his profile skyrocketed.

Mr. Gaetz invited a right-wing Holocaust skeptic to the State of the Union address in 2018, and attended an event last year where he said the Proud Boys had provided security, though he has distanced himself from the group on his podcast. When Democrats moved in 2019 to impeach Mr. Trump for the first time, Mr. Gaetz and a phalanx of Republicans following him barged past Capitol Police into the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee to briefly break up the investigation into the president.

After Mr. Trump’s defeat last year, Mr. Gaetz once again rallied to his side, defending the president’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud. Mr. Gaetz helped organize efforts among lawmakers to challenge President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory during Congress’s certification of it on Jan. 6 that was disrupted for hours by a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol. Mr. Gaetz later traveled to Wyoming to hold a rally against Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican leader who had voted to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the riot.

In 2017, Mr. Gaetz was the only member of Congress to vote against a law that gave the federal government more power and money to fight human trafficking.

“Voters in Northwest Florida did not send me to Washington to go and create more federal government,” Mr. Gaetz said in a local television interview at the time. “If anything, we should be abolishing a lot of the agencies at the federal level.”

Mr. Gaetz’s personal life has gained attention before. Last summer, he announced that he had a son, Nestor Galban, 19, though Mr. Gaetz said he was not Mr. Galban’s biological father, nor had he adopted him. Mr. Galban had been 12 when they met and had come to the United States from Cuba; Mr. Gaetz was at the time dating Mr. Galban’s sister.

“He is a part of my family story,” Mr. Gaetz told People magazine in June. “My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me.”

Mr. Gaetz proposed to his girlfriend, Ginger Luckey, at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on Dec. 30.

It was unclear how investigators in the Greenberg case began examining Mr. Gaetz’s conduct. Last June, federal prosecutors secured an indictment against Mr. Greenberg, accusing him of stalking a political rival.

Around that time, federal authorities seized Mr. Greenberg’s phone and laptop, according to court records. They discovered evidence that Mr. Greenberg, whose job responsibilities included issuing licenses, was creating fake identification cards for himself and a teenage girl, and was experimenting with holograms used on permits for concealed firearms, according to court documents.

Two months later, he was indicted on the sex trafficking charge. From May to November 2017, prosecutors said, Mr. Greenberg targeted the girl, who was between 14 and 17, saying he “recruited” and “solicited” her for sex acts in exchange for unspecified perks or favors.

Mr. Greenberg worked in advertising before running successfully at the age of 31 in 2016 for tax collector in Seminole County.

Within days of taking office, he fired three employees who had supported his predecessor and began spending more than $1.5 million in taxpayer money on personal expenses, including guns, ammunition, body armor and a drone, as well as on computers for his own cryptocurrency venture, a county audit later revealed.

The following year, according to The Orlando Sentinel, Mr. Greenberg posted a photograph of himself on social media with Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing personality who has a history of making racist remarks. The newspaper also detailed Mr. Greenberg’s own misogynist and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook.

In his bid for re-election, Mr. Greenberg turned in late 2019 to clandestine tactics to undermine a possible rival, according to court papers. Prosecutors said he sent an anonymous letter to the school where one potential candidate worked that made unfounded accusations of sexual misconduct with a student and making similar claims on a fake Facebook account.

As the primary race intensified last summer, similar messaging began appearing on fake social media accounts that have been tied to Mr. Stone.

“Watch out Seminole county,” said someone named April Goad on Facebook, warning Floridians “don’t open your door” to the rival candidate, according to Graphika, a company that specializes in analyzing social media.

The post linked to an article about the rival published on Central Florida Post, a website controlled by Mr. Stone’s associates that had written favorable articles about Mr. Greenberg. The website was founded by a member of the Proud Boys who has been linked to security providers for Mr. Stone on Jan. 6 in Washington in the lead-up to the insurrection at the Capitol.

Mr. Greenberg’s re-election efforts quickly evaporated when he was first indicted last June, and he resigned a day later.

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. @NYTMike

Katie Benner covers the Justice Department. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @ktbenner

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Matt Gaetz Tries to Rope Tucker Into His FBI Teen Sex Case Defense, Justin Baragona, March 30, 2021. ‘I DON’T REMEMBER.’ That was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,” Carlson said after the wild and strange segment was over.

Just hours after The New York Times dropped a bombshell story Tuesday that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is being investigated for an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl, the Florida congressman gave a wild interview in which he attempted to rope Tucker Carlson into the allegations surrounding him.

The Fox News host, for his part, wanted viewers to know that he had no idea what the Republican lawmaker was talking about.

tucker carlsonThe Times reported on Tuesday evening that the Department of Justice is looking into allegations that Gaetz had a sexual relationship with the teenage girl and paid for her travel with him, which could violate sex trafficking laws. According to the paper, the probe was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under former Attorney General William Barr.

fox news logo SmallGaetz responded to the story with a tweetstorm claiming that the Times story was a “planted leak” that was “intended to thwart” an investigation into “criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name.”

He added: “No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”

During his appearance on Carlson’s primetime show, Gaetz continued to profess his innocence, saying the allegations about the teenager are “verifiably false” while reiterating his previous claims that the whole situation stems from an extortion plot. The congressman further claimed that his father was supposed to contact the former DOJ official on Wednesday to arrange a $4.5 million down payment on the $25 million extortion bribe but that the FBI sting was blown up by the Times story.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that tonight somehow The New York Times is leaking this information, smearing me and ruining the investigation that would likely result in one of the former colleagues of the current DOJ being brought to justice,” Gaetz added.

The conservative lawmaker then told Carlson that the ex-DOJ employee who is allegedly blackmailing him is David McGee, now an attorney for the law firm Beggs & Lane. He said McGee dangled a pardon in front of him to make the DOJ investigation go away.

“I know that there was a demand for money in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away, along with his co-conspirators,” Gaetz declared. “They even claimed to have specific connections inside the Biden White House. I don’t know if that’s true, they were promising that Joe Biden would pardon me. Obviously, I don’t need a pardon.”

At one point, in what appeared to be an effort to get Carlson to relate to his circumstances, Gaetz brought up a false accusation of rape brought up against the Fox host years ago.

“I’m not the only person on screen right now who’s been falsely accused of a terrible sex act,” the congressman said. “You were accused of something you did not do, so you know what this feels like.”

A somewhat befuddled Carlson responded: “You just referred to a mentally ill viewer who accused me of a sex crime 20 years ago. And of course, it was not true. I never met the person.”

From there, things only got weirder, as Gaetz tried to get Carlson to affirm on air that the two of them had a dinner with one woman who is apparently part of the FBI probe against Gaetz.

“You and I went to dinner about two years ago, your wife was there, and I brought a friend of mine, you’ll remember her,” Gaetz said. “And she was actually threatened by the FBI, told that if she wouldn’t cop to the fact that somehow I was involved in some pay-for-play scheme that she could face trouble.”

He added: “And so I do believe that there are people at the Department of Justice who are trying to smear me, you know. Providing for flights and hotel rooms for people that you’re dating who are of legal age is not a crime. And I’m just troubled that lack of any sort of legitimate investigation into me… would then convert into this extortion attempt.”

Carlson, taken aback, immediately replied: “I don’t remember the woman you are speaking of or the context at all, honestly.”

The Fox News host went on to ask who the 17-year-old girl was and if Gaetz ever had a relationship with her, prompting the congressman to insist that “the person doesn’t exist.” As for Carlson’s question about how long the DOJ investigation into him has been going on, Gaetz wouldn’t answer and instead pivoted to the supposed extortion plot, which he said began on March 16.

“The FBI and the Department of Justice must release the tapes that are in their possession that were done at their direction,” Gaetz said at the conclusion of the bizarre interview. “Those tapes will show that I am innocent and that the whole concept of sex charges against me was really just a way to try to bleed my family out of money and probably smear my name because I am a well-known, outspoken conservative, and I guess that’s out of style in a lot of parts of the country right now.”

Daily Beast, Rep. Matt Gaetz Says Teen-Sex Allegation Is Part of Extortion Plot, Blake Montgomery and Asawin Suebsaeng, March 30, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-daily beast logoFL) responded to a bombshell report that he is under investigation for an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old girl by claiming that he is the victim of an extortion plot by a former Justice Department official.

The New York Times reported Tuesday evening that federal investigators are examining Gaetz’s alleged payment for the girl’s travel alongside him about two years ago, which could violate sex trafficking laws. Gaetz says he is cooperating with the feds and has no plans to resign from Congress.

The Justice Department opened the probe in the twilight of former President Donald Trump’s administration under former Attorney General William Barr, who briefed senior DOJ officials on the matter, according to the Times.

In a three-tweet thread, Gaetz put an entirely different spin on the reported probe.

“Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name,” he wrote.

“We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter,” he continued, adding that his father, former Republican Florida state Sen. Don Gaetz “has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.”

His wild account continued: “The planted leak to the FBI tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”

Gaetz told Axios after the Times report that none of the women he has dated were underage. However, he did acknowledge that he had paid for their expenses: “I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated. You know, I've paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.”

No charges have been filed against Gaetz, who is 38. He told the Times in a statement that he was only aware that he had come up in an investigation, though he did not believe he was the target: “I only know that it has to do with women. I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

During an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News Tuesday night, Gaetz called the story a “horrible allegation” and a “lie.”

“The New York Times is running a story that I have traveled with a 17-year-old woman and that is verifiably false. People can look at my travel records and see that that is not the case,” he said.

Gaetz claimed that, as part of an FBI sting, his father was supposed to contact this former DOJ employee on Wednesday to arrange a downpayment of $4.5 million on the $25 million extortion. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for Northern and Central Florida declined to comment.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that tonight somehow The New York Times is leaking this information, smearing me and ruining the investigation that would likely result in a one of the former colleagues of the current DOJ being brought to justice,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz told Fox that the former DOJ employee going after him was David McGee, now a lawyer at Beggs & Lane.

In an interview with The Daily Beast late Tuesday night, McGee said any reports of extortion involving him or his firm were “completely, totally false.”

“This is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to be indicted for sex trafficking underage girls,” McGee said.

Before the Fox interview Tuesday night, Gaetz used his Twitter to call on the Justice Department to “immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations.”

When asked how long, and in what ways, he had been cooperating with the feds, the MAGA congressman simply texted The Daily Beast on Tuesday night, “March 16 first extortion text was sent.” He did not immediately reply to follow-up messages seeking clarification.

Axios, Investigation: Rep. Matt Gaetz eyes early retirement from Congress to take job at Newsmax, Alayna Treene, March 30, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has axios logoprivately told confidants he's seriously considering not seeking re-election and possibly leaving Congress early for a job at Newsmax, three sources with direct knowledge of the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Gaetz is a provocative figure on the right who's attracted attention by being a fierce defender of former President Trump. The Republican also represents a politically potent district on the Florida panhandle.

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free

What we’re hearing: Gaetz has told some of his allies he’s interested in becoming a media personality, and floated taking a role at Newsmax.

One of the sources said Gaetz has had early conversations with the network about what a position could look like.

The backdrop: Many Republicans turned to the network after Fox News called Arizona early for President Biden.

Some critics now say Fox is not conservative enough for their tastes, providing an opening for Newsmax and the One America News Network (OANN).

Gaetz has previously toyed with the idea of running for higher office.

Between the lines: Gaetz, 38, went to Florida State University and received a law degree from the College of William and Mary. He served in the Florida House before being elected to Congress in 2016.

While the party out of power tends to gain seats in midterm elections — creating the possibility of Republicans' taking control of the House in 2022 — a prominent spot in the media could give Gaetz a platform for a future national political role.

Former Fox executives and contributors were among Trump's many senior advisers, including Bill Shine, John Bolton and Larry Kudlow.

Trump has stoked speculation he may seek a second and final term in 2024.

For the record: Gaetz and his spokesman did not immediately respond to several requests for comment.

 

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Reuters via Yahoo News, Trump must face 'Apprentice' contestant's defamation lawsuit -NY court, Jonathan Stempel, March 30, 2021. New York state's highest court on Tuesday cleared the way for a former contestant on "The Apprentice" to sue Donald Trump for defamation, after the former U.S. president called her a liar for accusing him of sexual assault.

summer zervosTrump (shown above in a publicity photo for the show) had argued before leaving the White House on Jan. 20 that Summer Zervos (shown in a file photo) could not pursue her case because a sitting president could not be sued, but the state Court of Appeals said in a brief order that "the issues presented have become moot."

Zervos' case will now return to a Manhattan trial court, where her lawyers may have an opportunity to question Trump under oath. The case had been on hold during Trump's appeal.

"Now a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice for Ms. Zervos, and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims," Beth Wilkinson, a lawyer for Zervos, said in an email.

Lawyers for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Zervos came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign with accusations that Trump subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping after she sought career advice in 2007, two years after her appearance on his reality television show.

She sued Trump in January 2017 after he branded such allegations by women "lies" and retweeted a post calling Zervos' claims a "hoax."

Zervos has sought a retraction or an apology, plus compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Trump has denied Zervos' claims, and called her case politically motivated.

Former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll is also suing Trump for defamation, after he denied having raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.

Trump has also denied claims by several other women of improper sexual conduct.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion, Dominion lawsuit outs Fox News’ disinformation campaign, Erik Wemple, March 30, 2021. Fox News commonly boasts about it fabulous ratings, its huge audience. In this suit from a voting firm, the network's reach is a liability.

fox news logo SmallBack in December, Dominion Voting Systems warned Fox News and other spreaders of election-related conspiracy theories that lawsuits were imminent. For reasons that remain murky, the voting-machine company became a target for those seeking to convince the American public that the presidential election had been stolen from then-President Trump.

dominion voting systemsWith the help of lawyer Sidney Powell and longtime Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, Fox hosts laundered bogus claims that Dominion had flipped votes from Joe Biden to Trump; that “kickbacks” had been provided to officials in states that used Dominion systems; and that Dominion was owned by voting outfit Smartmatic, a company that has already sued Fox News over election coverage.

In pushing back against Dominion’s threat, a Fox News spokeswoman “pointed to” a pair stories that the network had done on this matter: One was an interview by host Eric Shawn with a Dominion executive who stated that the company’s voting machines hadn’t been involved with fraud and that claims to the contrary were false; the other was the high-profile segment in which host Tucker Carlson said that Powell hadn’t mustered evidence for her allegations.

When asked about a torrent of disinformation, in other words, Fox News highlighted two stories that told the truth. “You can’t get away from defamation by saying the truth in the morning and then lying through your teeth in the afternoon. That doesn’t cut it,” said Stephen Shackelford, a Dominion attorney, on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday.

Now Dominion — company that provided voting machines in 28 states — has followed through with its suit against Fox News, and it is shoving the Carlson-Shawn segments right down the network’s throat. The segments don’t mitigate the network’s culpability, argues the filing. To the contrary: “some of the strongest evidence proving Fox knew it was spreading lies about Dominion came from the Fox on-air talent who declined to endorse and amplify those lies,” reads the complaint.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, CDC director issues emotional warning about rising cases: ‘Right now, I’m scared,’ Erin Cunningham, Brittany Shammas, Dan Diamond and Ben Guarino, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). J&J commits to supplying 55 African countries with millions of vaccine doses; Family Christmas looks possible again as Fauci and others look ahead to the holidays

cdc logo CustomThe director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an emotional warning Monday about rising caseloads in the U.S., describing a feeling of “impending doom.”

rochelle walensky 2“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope," Rochelle Walensky (shown in a file photo at left) said during a White House news briefing, her voice breaking at times. “But right now, I’m scared.”

Her comments came as the U.S. seven-day average hovered at about 60,000 daily cases — a 10-percent increase compared to the prior seven-day period. Hospitalizations have risen, too. The seven-day average death rate, which typically lags behind cases and hospitalizations, increased by 3 percent, Walensky said.

washington post logoWashington Post, 96 million vaccinated, as of March 30, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 35.9 of the eligible population,16 and older and 28.9 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 30, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 128,368,691, Deaths: 2,806,810
U.S. Cases:     31,033,801, Deaths:   563,206
Brazil Cases:   12,577,354, Deaths:   314,268

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: New U.S. coronavirus cases rise by 12 percent as nation braces for a fourth pandemic wave, Erin Cunningham and Marisa Iati, March 30, 2021. Turkey reimposes coronavirus restrictions just weeks after reopening; 145,000 hearts to be painted on a London wall — one for each life lost to covid.

New coronavirus cases in the United States continued to rise in the past week, jumping by as much as 12 percent nationwide, as senior officials implored Americans to stick to public health measures to help reverse the trend.

The seven-day average of new cases topped 63,000 for the first time in nearly a month, according to data compiled by The Washington Post, while states such as Michigan, Vermont and North Dakota reported substantial spikes in new infections. The nation appeared poised for a fourth wave of illness even as vaccine eligibility is expanding in many states.

Michigan led the nation in new cases with a 57 percent rise over the past week. The state, which relaxed covid-related restrictions earlier this month, also reported the largest increase in coronavirus hospitalizations, which grew by more than 47 percent.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Two dozen world leaders joined the World Health Organization on Tuesday to call for a global pandemic treaty that would prepare future generations for a health emergency similar to covid-19.
  • President Biden on Monday implored leaders of state and local governments to continue requiring face coverings in public in an effort to curb coronavirus President Donald Trump officialinfections that are back on the rise across the country.
  • Former president Donald Trump responded to criticism of his coronavirus policies by his health officials with a caustic statement ridiculing them as “self promoters” with “bad instincts and faulty recommendations.”
  • Scientists in Canada recommended against the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for people age 55 and younger, citing “substantial uncertainty” over its benefits because of “rare” cases of serious blood clots

washington post logoWashington Post, How long will the coronavirus vaccines protect you? Experts weigh in, Lindsey Bever, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). Although it is not known exactly how long immunity from a coronavirus vaccine will last, experts say we can make an educated guess.

As with most aspects of the virus, the answer is not completely clear. Why? Because although we have been battling the pandemic for more than a year, the vaccines were granted emergency use authorization relatively recently. So experts have not had time to observe their long-term effectiveness.

But based on clinical trials, experts do know that vaccine-induced immunity should last a minimum of about three months. That does not mean protective immunity will expire after 90 days; that was simply the time frame participants were studied in the initial Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson trials. As researchers continue to study the vaccines, that shelf life is expected to grow.

In the real world, immunity from the vaccines should last quite a bit longer, though the length of time still needs to be determined with further studies, experts said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Millions might miss out on looming economic boom, Rachel Siegel, March 30, 2021. The economy is projected to grow at its fastest pace in four decades this year, but it is still in bad shape for millions of Americans. And for many of them, jobs may not come back.

 

U.S. Courts, Regulation

ketanji brown jackson u of chicago Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s first slate of judicial nominees aims to quickly boost diversity in federal courts, Ann E. Marimow and Matt Viser, March 30, 2021. President Biden announced his first slate of judicial nominees on Tuesday, elevating U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (shown above in a University of Chicago photo) to the influential appeals court in Washington to succeed Merrick Garland as part of the largest and earliest batch of court picks by a new administration in decades.

Jackson, often mentioned as someone who could become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, is among Biden’s 11 nominations that include three Black women for appeals court vacancies and the first Muslim American to serve on a District Court. The group is designed to send a message about the administration’s desire for more diversity on the federal bench and how rapidly the president wants to put his mark on it.

Biden previously pledged to name the first Black woman to the high court, and his picks signal an early departure from the Trump administration, which successfully reshaped the federal courts with nominees who were overwhelmingly White and male.

The nominees come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, including former public defenders, former prosecutors, sitting judges and attorneys at large law firms, according to a list provided by the White House.

“This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession,” Biden said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong.”

In addition to Jackson’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Biden’s initial list includes Zahid N. Quraishi a magistrate judge in New Jersey and former military prosecutor, who would be the nation’s first Muslim American on a District Court bench; Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a former longtime federal public defender and current litigator in Washington for the Chicago-based 7th Circuit; and Tiffany Cunningham, an intellectual-property lawyer in Chicago, for a spot on the Federal Circuit in Washington, where she once was a law clerk.

Top White House officials have said that judicial nominations are a priority. They are attempting to fill vacancies more quickly — in part responding to criticism that President Barack Obama acted slowly — and use them as a rallying cry for the party in a way that Republicans have done for decades.

By this point in his first term, Obama had made only one judicial nomination. Trump, known for his record-setting pace of nominations, had picked two.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Have an Ambitious Agenda for the Supreme Court, Ian Millhiser (commentator on the Supreme Court, the Constitution and the intersection of law and politics), March 30, 2021. Why the G.O.P. doesn’t need to try to pass mostly unpopular policies through the elected branches.

Not so long ago, Republicans had one of the most ambitious legislative agendas of any political party in modern American history.

paul ryan wDevised by the former House speaker, Paul Ryan, left, the so-called Ryan budget sought to reduce much of the nation’s social safety net to ashes. Congressional Republicans planned to slash Medicaid spending and food stamps. In the most aggressive version of Mr. Ryan’s proposal, Republicans would have replaced Medicare with “premium support” vouchers that could be used to buy private insurance, and then reduced the value of this subsidy every year — effectively eliminating traditional Medicare over time.

But all of that has changed. The Ryan budget is a relic. At their 2020 national convention, Republicans didn’t even bother to come up with a new platform.

republican elephant logoYet while the party appears to have no legislative agenda, it’s a mistake to conclude that it has no policy agenda. Because Republicans do: They have an extraordinarily ambitious agenda to roll back voting rights, to strip the government of much of its power to regulate, to give broad legal immunity to religious conservatives and to immunize many businesses from a wide range of laws.

It’s just that the Republican Party doesn’t plan to pass its agenda through either one of the elected branches. Its agenda lives in the judiciary — and especially in the Supreme Court.

From 2011, when Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and denied President Barack Obama a governing majority, until the pandemic forced legislators’ hands in 2020, Congress enacted hardly any major legislation outside of the 2017 tax law.

In the same period, the Supreme Court dismantled much of America’s campaign finance law; severely weakened the Voting Rights Act; permitted states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion; expanded new “religious liberty” rights permitting some businesses that object to a law on religious grounds to diminish the rights of third parties; weakened laws shielding workers from sexual and racial harassment; expanded the right of employers to shunt workers with legal grievances into a privatized arbitration system; undercut public sector unions’ ability to raise funds; and halted Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Now, a 6-to-3 conservative-majority Supreme Court is likely to reshape the country in the coming decade, exempting favored groups from their legal obligations, stripping the Biden administration of much of its lawful authority, and even placing a thumb on the scales of democracy itself.

Many of these changes would build on decisions handed down long before President Donald Trump reshaped the Supreme Court. The court, for example, first allowed employers to force workers to sign away their right to sue the company — locking those workers into a private-arbitration system that favors corporate parties — in a 2001 case, Circuit City v. Adams. But the court’s current majority is likely to make it much harder for workers and consumers to overcome these tactics. In Epic Systems v. Lewis (2018), Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s majority opinion favoring an employer that forced its employees to give up their right to sue.

 

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Ghislaine Maxwell Charged With Sex Trafficking of 14-Year-Old Girl, Benjamin Weiser, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). A new indictment accuses Ms. Maxwell of paying a victim of her longtime associate Jeffrey Epstein.

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, was charged on Monday for the first time with sex trafficking of a minor, as federal prosecutors accused her of grooming a 14-year-old girl to engage in sexual acts with Mr. Epstein and later paying her.

A new federal indictment filed in Manhattan charged that on multiple occasions between 2001 and 2004, the girl provided nude massages to Mr. Epstein at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, during which he engaged in sex acts with her.

The new charges against Ms. Maxwell go further than those contained in an earlier indictment that accused her of helping Mr. Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately sexually abuse girls, but did not include sex trafficking allegations.

The new indictment says that after the girl provided Mr. Epstein with the massages, Ms. Maxwell or others who worked for him paid the girl hundreds of dollars in cash.

A lawyer for Ms. Maxwell did not respond to a request for comment on the new charges.

The indictment comes almost nine months after Ms. Maxwell, 59, once a fixture on New York’s social scene, was arrested in New Hampshire on charges she had lured underage girls — one as young as 14 — into Mr. Epstein’s orbit, and contributed to his abuse of them.

The indictment issued on Monday cites an additional 14-year-old girl who is identified only as Minor Victim-4.

djt hands up mouth open CustomWayne Madsen Report, Opinion; Trump and GOP leaders guilty of "social murder?" Wayne Madsen, left, March 30, 2021. Dr. Deborah Birx, Donald wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallTrump's one-time official Covid-19 death enumerator and White House pandemic response coordinator, told CNN in a recent interview that she believes Trump is responsible for the deaths of 450,000 of the total 550,000 U.S. deaths from the pandemic.

There is a growing belief among legal experts that whether Trump is responsible for 450,000 virus deaths, or half that number, or the total of 550,000, he should face a trial for his negligence as president.

ny times logoNew York Times, Banks Face Billions in Losses as a Bet on Stocks Goes Awry, Kate Kelly, Matt Phillips, Andrew Ross Sorkin and Alexandra Stevenson, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). Archegos Capital Management, led by Bill Hwang, couldn’t meet financial demands, creating turmoil on Wall Street and raising questions about the fund’s ties to lenders.

Turmoil surrounding a little-known firm run by a onetime star trader rippled through Wall Street on Monday, exposing banks to billions of dollars in losses and highlighting yet again the potential of individual players to hobble an intricately connected but largely opaque financial system.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance, Religion

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP is facing a sickness deeper than the coronavirus, Michael Gerson, right, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). It is the sign of a sickness michael gerson file photodeeper than covid-19 that the defiance of public health guidance has become a political selling point in the Republican Party.

Consider the case of South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem, below left.

Speaking last month to the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference, she stirred some presidential buzz for her proud resistance to basic virus control measures even at the height of the pandemic. “Now let me be clear, covid didn’t crush the economy, government crushed the economy,” Noem told the conference. “South Dakota is the only state in America that never kristi noemordered a single business or church to close. We never instituted a shelter in place order. We never mandated that people wear masks.”

Noem continued: “We have to show people how arbitrary these restrictions are, and the coercion, the force and the anti-liberty steps that government takes to enforce them.”

Now let me be clear. South Dakota has the second-highest case rate and the eighth-highest covid death rate in the country. In that sparsely populated state, the disease has taken the lives of nearly 2,000 people. And Noem’s defiant inaction has made that number higher than it should have been. What level of hubris, extremism or insanity does it take to crow about one of the worst covid records in the nation? Noem might as well be campaigning for higher office in a hearse.

washington post logoWashington Post, White House dramatically increased tax proposal as it sought to address tensions over next big plan, Jeff Stein, March 30, 2021 (print ed.).  Biden aides see the next major legislative effort as akin to Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, but they face divisions among key allies.

irs logoWhen President Biden’s team began putting together his infrastructure and jobs package this February, the White House National Economic Council circulated an internal proposal calling for about $3 trillion in new spending and $1 trillion in new tax hikes, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

But soon enough, some members of the economic team second-guessed themselves, concerned that the plan could jeopardize the nation’s long-term financial stability. The officials worried that the large gap between spending and revenue would widen the deficit by such a large degree that it could risk triggering a spike in interest rates, which could in turn cause federal debt payments to skyrocket, said the people familiar with the matter.

Partially in response, the two-pronged package Biden will begin unveiling this week includes higher amounts of federal spending but also significantly more in new tax revenue — with possibly as much as $4 trillion in new spending and more than $3 trillion in tax increases, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private dynamics.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Yes, HR1 is going to happen, Bill Palmer, right, March 30, 2021. Someone recently asked me how I can still be confident that HR1 and related bill palmervoting rights legislation are going to become law, when the Senate is set to go on recess for two weeks. That question made no sense to me. Why would a brief recess stand in the way of the passing of legislation that we don’t realistically need to pass until the middle of 2022? Then it hit me: we’re stuck in another one of those panicked moments.

Yes, it’s true that we absolutely must pass federal voting rights legislation into law, in order to wipe out the increasingly egregious state level voter suppression legislation. It’s crucial. It must happen. But it doesn’t need to happen right this minute, unless the 2022 election has been moved up to next week and someone forgot to tell me about it.

bill palmer report logo headerIt seems we’ve once again fallen into the trap of thinking that just because something must end up happening, it must happen right now or else all hope is lost. The reality is that voting rights legislation simply needs to happen before the next major election. Passing it sooner won’t change anything. And while it would be nice to get it done sooner rather than later, nothing is ever that simple in the Senate, and nothing ever moves that quickly. Put another way: the odds of it passing into law are infinitely greater a few months down the road, than if it were brought to a vote right now.

HR1 will become law because even people like Joe Manchin, who are the most reluctant to change Senate rules in order to pass legislation, have already publicly committed themselves to finding a way to make HR1 happen. Manchin has said he’s open to reforming filibuster and/or reconciliation rules in order to pass it. He wouldn’t say something like that unless he was already on board with it. It’s how these cautious types in the middle work.

So yes, voting rights legislation is going to become law. Yes, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and activism on our part, and savvy political maneuvering on the Democrats’ part. But we’re going to get it done. And it’ll happen in time for the 2022 election cycle. It’s just not going to happen tomorrow or next week, or even next month.

The most effective way to make something happen isn’t always to try to immediately make it happen. Importance and urgency are not the same concept. We’re on track to pass HR1. Don’t let short sighted pundits scare you into believing that we’re all doomed if it doesn’t happen by this time

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta faces boycott threats for stance on new Georgia voting law, Hannah Sampson, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). Social media users said they would no longer give the airline their business.

Georgia’s new voting law, which puts barriers in place for absentee and mail-in voting and makes it illegal for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters in line, has earned widespread criticism from Democrats and voting rights advocates. President Biden called it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”

delta logoAtlanta-based Delta Air Lines, on the other hand, put out a statement on Friday saying the bill — which was signed into law Thursday night — had “improved considerably during the legislative process” and noted some elements for praise.

That statement from CEO Ed Bastian has prompted a #BoycottDelta trend on social media.

“Do not fly Delta. Do not spend money with Delta. Boycott Delta. Ruin Delta,” political commentator Keith Olbermann wrote in a tweet while quoting the airline’s statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Can’t Republicans Be Populists? Paul Krugman, right, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). The establishment has been routed, but its economic orthodoxy rules.

paul krugmanPresident Biden’s American Rescue Plan is incredibly popular, even among Republican voters. We don’t have details yet on the next big Democratic initiative, but we can expect it to poll well, because we know that it will combine major infrastructure spending with tax hikes on corporations and the rich — which are all popular things.

But like the rescue plan, the next plan probably won’t get a single Republican vote in Congress. Why are elected Republicans still so committed to right-wing economic policies that help the rich while shortchanging the working class?

Fair warning: I’m not going to offer a good answer to this question. The point of today’s article is, instead, to argue for the question’s importance.

 

U.S. Culture, Race, Religion

ny times logoNew York Times, Maryland’s State Song, a Nod to the Confederacy, Nears Repeal, Neil Vigdor, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). The lyrics of “Maryland, My Maryland,” long criticized as sympathetic to the Confederacy, refer to Abraham Lincoln as a “despot” and Union soldiers as “Northern scum!”

Now, the song, “Maryland, My Maryland,” is poised to be swept into the dustbin of history, with the governor poised to sign a bill repealing its cherished status after state lawmakers approved the change.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The G.O.P. Has Some Voters It Likes and Some It Doesn’t, Jamelle Bouie, right, March 30, 2021. This is what it looks like when a political party turns against democracy itself.

jamelle bouieThe most outrageous provision of the Election Integrity Act of 2021, the omnibus election bill signed by Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia last week, is one that makes it illegal for anyone except poll workers to offer food or water directly to voters standing in line. Defenders of the law say that this is meant to stop electioneering at the polls; critics say it is a direct response to volunteers who assisted those Georgians, many of them Black, who waited for hours to cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election.

Less outrageous but more insidious is a provision that removes the secretary of state from his (or her) position as chairman of the State Election Board and replaces him with a new nonpartisan member selected by a majority of the Georgia’s Republican-controlled Legislature. The law also gives the board, and by extension the Legislature, the power to suspend underperforming county election officials and replace them with a single individual.

Looming in the background of this “reform” is the current secretary of state Brad Raffensperger’s conflict with Donald Trump, who pressured him to subvert the election and deliver Trump a victory. What won Raffesnsperger praise and admiration from Democrats and mainstream observers has apparently doomed his prospects within the Republican Party, where “stop the steal” is dogma and Trump is still the rightful president to many. It is not even clear that Raffensperger will hold office after his term ends in 2023; he must fight off a primary challenge next year from Representative Jody Hice of Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, an outspoken defender of Trump’s attempt to overturn the election.

This is what it looks like when a political party turns against democracy. It doesn’t just try to restrict the vote; it creates mechanisms to subvert the vote and attempts to purge officials who might stand in the way. Georgia is in the spotlight, for reasons past and present, but it is happening across the country wherever Republicans are in control.

washington post logoWashington Post, Church membership in the U.S. has fallen below the majority for the first time in nearly a century, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). The proportion of Americans who consider themselves members of a church, synagogue or mosque has dropped below 50 percent, according to a poll from Gallup released Monday. It is the first time that has happened since Gallup first asked the question in 1937, when church membership was 73 percent.

washington post logoWashington Post, A teacher forgot to exit a Zoom call with a student. That’s when her racist rant started, his family says, Andrea Salcedo, March 30, 2021.  'This is what Black people do': Teacher's racist rant captured on Zoom video; A California teacher, who forgot to end a Zoom call, went on a racist rant against a Black mother and her son on Jan. 20, according to the family's attorney.

Katura Stokes’s 12-year-old son had struggled to adapt to online learning at his Southern California school, so his mother was thrilled when his science teacher set up a Zoom call in January to help him. But then the teacher, Kimberly Newman, apparently forgot to end the call.

For more than 30 minutes, Stokes says, she recorded Newman as she made racist comments about the family, which is Black, and bashed Stokes’s parenting skills.

“She’s answered her phone for the first time the entire year,” the White sixth-grade teacher allegedly says in a video recording shared with The Washington Post. “I mean these parents, that’s what kind of piece of s--- they are.”

Newman, who was suspended that day after Stokes reported the incident to school officials, has since resigned, said David Garcia, a spokesman with the Palmdale School District. According to Garcia, the district was never able to open an investigation into the incident because Newman refused to cooperate and resigned shortly after district officials called her for an interview.

 

Pro-Trump Capitol Riot, Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, A Black Lives Matter activist exposed the role local police officers played in the Capitol riot. Their small town rapidly took sides, Kimberly Kindy | Photos by Jahi Chikwendiu, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). Protests in Rocky Mount, Va., began after the killing of George Floyd. Divisions deepened after the U.S. Capitol insurrection, as the town confronted the pace of social and racial change.

A photograph of two local police officers popped up on Bridgette Craighead’s cellphone after a long day at her beauty shop. The two men peering out at her from the selfie image had befriended her while on duty at a Black Lives Matter protest she led months before. They stood beside her and held her homemade signs that read “Silence is Violence” and “No Justice. No Peace.”

Now, there they were, proudly posing inside the nation’s Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection — amid a mob of people, many bearing symbols of white supremacy as they sought to overturn the presidential election to keep Donald Trump in power.

What happened next is inflaming a culture war in this southwest Virginia town of 5,000 people, a microcosm of the schisms across America as explosive disagreements over the election, race and the role of police are fracturing relationships between relatives, friends and neighbors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Man photographed in Capitol with zip-tie cuffs and his mother win pretrial release, Rachel Weiner, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). A man photographed inside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot with a handful of plastic handcuffs and the mother with whom he traveled to Washington will be released from jail to home confinement ahead of their trial after weeks of debate over how dangerous they might be.

eric munchelEric Munchel, 30, right, and his mother, Lisa Marie Eisenhart, 57, both accused of trespassing at the Capitol and obstructing the congressional confirmation of President Biden’s victory, can await trial on home confinement in Tennessee, prosecutors said Monday.

Their decision came after a federal appeals court on Friday sided with the two accused rioters’ request for release from jail, drawing a distinction between violent and nonviolent rioters. Prosecutors are struggling with the issue in dozens of cases stemming from the Capitol attack.

A U.S. District Court judge had previously agreed with prosecutors that Munchel and Eisenhart are radicals who are too dangerous to release. But defense attorneys have argued that while they may have expressed violent fantasies, neither acted in a violent way on Jan. 6.

Capitol riot defendants facing jail have regrets. Judges aren’t buying it.

The appeals court panel said U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth erred in deeming the pair a threat.

“In our view, those who actually assaulted police officers and broke through windows, doors, and barricades, and those who aided, conspired with, planned, or coordinated such actions, are in a different category of dangerousness than those who cheered on the violence or entered the Capitol after others cleared the way,” wrote Judge Robert L. Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Wilkins was writing in response to Lamberth, who wrote in ordering the mother and son detained that “few offenses are more threatening to our way of life” than supporting “the violent overthrow of our government.”

Wilkins said that threat had to be considered in the current context as compared with Jan. 6, when a huge crowd and the congressional count presented “a unique opportunity to obstruct democracy.”

Without those elements, he said, “Munchel and Eisenhart — two individuals who did not engage in any violence and who were not involved in planning or coordinating the activities — seemingly would have posed little threat.”

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Three female polio workers gunned down in Afghanistan, Sharif Hassan, March 30, 2021.  The attacks are the latest in a string of targeted killings sowing unease in government-held towns and cities despite ongoing peace talks.

March 29

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime

 

World News

 

Media, Education News

 

Top Stories

barack obama joe biden new high res

Then-President Obama and Vice President Biden are shown in a White House file photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Biden do-over: Democrats get a chance to try again on Obama defeats, Annie Linskey and Marianna Sotomayor, March 29, 2021 (print ed.). Surrounded by many of the same top aides who worked in the Obama White House, Team Biden is behaving almost like they are back to work after a lengthy sabbatical, picking up where Obama left off.

Barack Obama, facing pressure from both parties, worked to keep his stimulus package under $1 trillion. Joe Biden launched his presidency by spending about $2 trillion and hopes to bump it up to $5 trillion.

Obama spent months negotiating with Republicans, thirsty for a bipartisan credential that never came, while Biden nodded to the opposition party and then pushed his agenda without them.

democratic donkey logoObama thought good policy would sell itself. Biden’s aides say he designed his package around key pieces that sell well, including easy-to-understand ideas such as $1,400 stimulus payments and vaccines.

The opening months of the Biden administration have provided the Democratic Party with a rare “do-over” — a chance to enact wide-ranging agenda items far more quickly and on a larger scale than in 2009. Even Biden’s slogan, Build Back Better, aspires to improve what came before.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Fox News hits rock bottom, Bill Palmer, March 29, 2021. When you’re a cable news network with an already sketchy reputation and you’re suddenly faced with a ratings crisis, do you 1) bring in more reputable talent in the hope of attracting a higher caliber of viewer, or 2) turn yourself into even more of a train wreck so people won’t be able to look away?

Fox News has, predictably, decided upon option number two. First it took Maria Bartiromo’s toxic waste dump of a Fox Business Channel show and promoted it to the main Fox News network. Then it hired serial liar and worthless propagandist Kayleigh McEnany as an on-air analyst. Now Fox has revealed today that it’s hired Lara Trump as an analyst, thus removing any scant remaining doubt about where this is headed.

bill palmer report logo headerThat’s right, faced with losing viewers to bottom feeding garbage networks like OAN and Newsmax, Fox News has decided to become bottom feeding garbage in order to get those viewers back. The likes of McEnany and Lara Trump have literally zero insight to offer, and are only there to hype far right conspiracy theories. But that’s largely all that right wingers want to hear these days, so Fox is predictably going where it thinks the ratings are.

That said, this is far from a surefire ratings strategy for Fox News. Even its lowbrow viewers usually want there to be some kind of narrative to the false and misleading stories that the network is reporting. Kayleigh McEnany and Lara Trump aren’t offering much more than the political analysis equivalent of grunting noises. Even Fox viewers may not be able to sit through that kind of slop.

If nothing else, these new Fox News hires could fend off Donald Trump’s ongoing threat to launch a cable news network of his own. Given his disastrous financial situation, even worse legal situation, and seemingly worsening cognitive state, Trump was unlikely to launch a Fox News competitor anyway. But with Fox already losing viewers, perhaps these hires are simply about hedging its bets against total disaster.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ten Months After George Floyd’s Death, Minneapolis Is at War Over Policing, John Eligon and Tim Arango, March 28, 2021. Residents and community leaders in the city have struggled to reach consensus on how to change public safety, and what role the police should play. Looming over the debate is unease over what the jury will decide in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck.

  • New York Times, Here’s what to know about the trial of Derek Chauvin

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Lawyers Set to Present Case in George Floyd Killing, Staff Reports, March 29, 2021. The murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer, begins today in Minneapolis. Here’s the latest on the trial, including how to watch.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 95 million vaccinated, as of March 29, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 35.6 of the eligible population,16 and older and 28.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 29, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases:   127,874,407, Deaths: 2,797,695
U.S. Cases:       30,965,545, Deaths:    562,526
Brazilian Cases: 12,534,688, Deaths:    312,299
Mexican Cases:   2,226,550, Deaths:    201,623

ny times logoNew York Times, Remote Work Is Here to Stay. Manhattan May Never Be the Same, Matthew Haag, March 29, 2021. New York City, long buoyed by the flow of commuters into its towering office buildings, faces a cataclysmic challenge, even when the pandemic ends.

Spotify’s headquarters in the United States fills 16 floors of 4 World Trade Center, a towering office building in Lower Manhattan that was the first to rise on the site of the 2001 terror attacks. Its offices will probably never be full again: Spotify has told employees they can work anywhere, even in another state.

A year after the coronavirus sparked an extraordinary exodus of workers from office buildings, what had seemed like a short-term inconvenience is now clearly becoming a permanent and tectonic shift in how and where people work. Employers and employees have both embraced the advantages of remote work, including lower office costs and greater flexibility for employees, especially those with families.

washington post logoWashington Post, Administration waives rule on student loan forgiveness for disabled borrowers, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, March 29, 2021. The Education Department is ensuring that 230,000 disabled borrowers approved for loan forgiveness are not derailed by paperwork during the pandemic, but advocates say the agency can help nearly twice as many by automating the process.

Anyone who is declared by a physician, the Social Security Administration or Department of Veterans Affairs to be totally and permanently disabled is eligible to have their federal student debt canceled. Those who benefit are subject to a three-year monitoring period, in which they must submit annual documentation verifying their income does not exceed the poverty line.

Sidelined by disability and saddled with student loans

On Monday, the department said it will waive the paperwork requirement during the coronavirus pandemic, retroactive to March 13, 2020, when President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.

The agency estimates the move will help more than 230,000 borrowers, including 41,000 who had a total of $1.3 billion in loans reinstated during the health crisis for failing to verify their earnings. Those who lost their discharge amid the pandemic will regain the benefit in coming weeks.

 

More On U.S. Courts, Crime

djt michael cohen

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is getting really ugly for Donald Trump in New York, Bill Palmer, right, March 29, 2021. Here’s the thing about financial fraud cases. bill palmerWhen the paperwork and documents are in hand, there’s zero doubt about guilt, and so a conviction ends up being almost automatic. It’s why career criminals like Donald Trump typically end up going down for financial fraud, even when other kinds of criminal charges haven’t stuck over the years.

It’s why Trump is screwed in New York whether anyone flips on him or not. But the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has clearly decided that it’s not willing to simply rely on documents and paperwork when it puts Trump on criminal trial for his financial crimes. It wants his own people to testify against him as well.

bill palmer report logo headerMichael Cohen (shown above) has long been cooperating with the DA’s office in the case against Trump, as evidenced by the eight times he’s met with them. But the only thing better than an inside witness is multiple inside witnesses. And the key to lining up additional witnesses is to pressure people near Trump to flip on him.

It’s not enough to have a slam dunk criminal case against someone like Allen Weisselberg or Steve Bannon. Prosecutors don’t want to have to spend a year or two convicting them, before finally getting them to cut a cooperating plea deal against Trump. Prosecutors want these guys to realize right now that they’re screwed, so they’ll cut deals and flip on Trump now.

Earlier this month there was the revelation that Allen Weisselberg’s former daughter in law is working with prosecutors. This weekend the news surfaced that the DA’s office has enlisted the help of New York Attorney General personnel in an increasingly aggressive criminal case against Steve Bannon.

We’ll see who caves and when. Prosecutors won’t wait forever for Trump’s underlings to cut plea deals against him. If no one flips, then before too much longer we’ll ostensibly see Trump indicted without the help of a Weisselberg or a Bannon.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, White House dramatically increased tax proposal as it sought to address tensions over next big plan, Jeff Stein, March 29, 2021.  Biden aides see the next major legislative effort as akin to Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, but they face divisions among key allies.

irs logoWhen President Biden’s team began putting together his infrastructure and jobs package this February, the White House National Economic Council circulated an internal proposal calling for about $3 trillion in new spending and $1 trillion in new tax hikes, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

But soon enough, some members of the economic team second-guessed themselves, concerned that the plan could jeopardize the nation’s long-term financial stability. The officials worried that the large gap between spending and revenue would widen the deficit by such a large degree that it could risk triggering a spike in interest rates, which could in turn cause federal debt payments to skyrocket, said the people familiar with the matter.

Partially in response, the two-pronged package Biden will begin unveiling this week includes higher amounts of federal spending but also significantly more in new tax revenue — with possibly as much as $4 trillion in new spending and more than $3 trillion in tax increases, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private dynamics.

washington post logoWashington Post, The richest 1 percent dodge taxes on more than one-fifth of their income, study shows, Christopher Ingraham, March 29, 2021 (print ed.). The richest Americans are hiding more than 20 percent of their earnings from the Internal Revenue Service, according to a comprehensive new estimate of tax evasion, with the top 1 percent of earners accounting for more than a third of all unpaid federal taxes.

That’s costing the federal government roughly $175 billion a year in revenue, according to the findings by a team of economists from academia and the IRS.

The data comes as Senate Democrats consider raising taxes on the ultrawealthy to reduce inequality and fund their legislative priorities. President Biden, in a sharp reversal from his predecessor, has signaled that he wants to raise taxes on the wealthy, corporations and estates.

The researchers say that years of IRS funding cuts, combined with the increased sophistication of tax evasion tactics available to the rich, have made shirking tax obligations easier than ever. And they say that these estimates probably understate the true extent of tax evasion at the top of the income spectrum.

To catch tax cheats and measure evasion, the IRS randomly audits returns. But such reviews turn up very little evidence of evasion among the extremely wealthy, in part because the rich use sophisticated accounting techniques that are difficult to trace, such as offshore tax shelters, pass-through businesses and complex conservation easements.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden outfoxes the GOP in first 60 days, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 29, 2021.  Republicans’ united opposition to every initiative jennifer rubin new headshotPresident Biden has put forth appears to have been a historic blunder. According to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, “Overall, around three in four Americans approve of how Biden is handling the distribution of coronavirus vaccines (75%) and the response to the virus itself (72%). Sixty percent approve of how Biden is handling the country’s economic recovery.” On the vaccine rollout, even 53 percent of Republicans approve of his performance.

On the economy, 60 percent of Americans approve of Biden’s performance, including 63 percent of independents. And on guns, Biden and the Democrats have a distinct advantage. “By a two-to-one margin, more Americans say enacting new laws to try to reduce gun violence is the higher priority at the moment,” the poll says. “There is widespread agreement on this issue, with Americans of all ages, education levels, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and from all regions in agreement.” Republicans are outside that consensus, although even among them, more than a third favor enacting new laws.

Whether on the vaccine, the coronavirus relief package or guns, Biden enjoys a supermajority of public support, one that is not reflected in Congress, where every single Republican opposed the American Rescue Plan. One would think reporters would be pressing GOP congressional leaders on why they are thwarting policies that many of their own voters support. Republicans’ public grousing about the size of the economic package has evidently fallen on deaf ears.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s next big move could blow up one of the silliest myths in D.C., Greg Sargent, right, March 29, 2021. When President Biden greg sergeantrolls out his next big economic package this week, it could do more than trigger a national debate about how best to invest in our future. It might also explode a big Washington myth, one repeated so often that it has become accepted as truth.

It’s the idea that the GOP is moving left on economics in some fundamental way, largely due to former president Donald Trump’s influence. While there is ideological ferment in the GOP — among the “conservative populists” challenging GOP orthodoxy in some ways — the debate over Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan will likely reveal the true limits of that ferment.

Biden’s second economic package — which will likely total at least $3 trillion and will be introduced Wednesday — will have two parts: one focused on rebuilding physical infrastructure, and the other on rebuilding “human capital.”

Each one will likely reveal just how limited the GOP’s supposed move to the left on economics really is.

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta faces boycott threats for stance on new Georgia voting law, Hannah Sampson, March 29, 2021. Social media users said they would no longer give the airline their business.

Georgia’s new voting law, which puts barriers in place for absentee and mail-in voting and makes it illegal for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters in line, has earned widespread criticism from Democrats and voting rights advocates. President Biden called it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, on the other hand, put out a statement on Friday saying the bill — which was signed into law Thursday night — had “improved considerably during the legislative process” and noted some elements for praise.

That statement from CEO Ed Bastian has prompted a #BoycottDelta trend on social media.

“Do not fly Delta. Do not spend money with Delta. Boycott Delta. Ruin Delta,” political commentator Keith Olbermann wrote in a tweet while quoting the airline’s statement.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: House Republican Reed's demise predicted by WMR in 2012, Wayne Madsen, left, March 29, 2021. 
wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSomething unsurprising happened on Representative Tom Reed's (R-NY) way to officially declare his candidacy to run for governor of New York.

tom reed oReed, right, a co-chair of the bipartisan and centrist "Problem Solvers Caucus," was one of the first politicians to declare his candidacy against his Democratic predecessor, Eric Massa, who was falsely accused by his male staffers of sexual misconduct. Massa, who resigned his seat in 2010, was later cleared by a House panel of any wrongdoing.

Our January 12, 2012 report follows: "WMR . . . learned of another incident in which Reed, while mayor of Corning, invited a group of wayne madesen report logoyoung people he met at the bar at the Switzerland Inn in Corning, including two members of Massa's congressional staff, to a friend's lakeside home. Reed, who was clearly drunk, drove a boat across the lake to the residence. When at the residence, Reed, who is married, attempted to sexually assault some of the females from the bar. The episode was captured on one of Massa's staffers video-phones."

 ny times logoNew York Times, Transgender Girls in Sports: G.O.P. Pushes New Front in Culture War, Jeremy W. Peters, March 29, 2021. State lawmakers are advancing and passing bills to bar transgender athletes in girls’ sports, a culture clash that seems to have come out of nowhere.

The last time Republicans in South Dakota made a serious push to bar transgender girls from school sports, in 2019, their bill was known only by its nondescript numerical title, Senate Bill 49. Its two main sponsors were men. And it died without ever getting out of committee, just 10 days after it was introduced.

republican elephant logoBut when Republicans decided to try again in January, they were far more strategic in their approach. The sponsors this time were two women who modeled their bill after a template provided by a conservative legal organization. They gave the bill a name that suggested noble intent: the “act to promote continued fairness in women’s sports.” Supporters from Minnesota and Idaho traveled to the Capitol in Pierre to testify that a new law was urgently needed to keep anyone with male biological characteristics out of female competitions, even though they acknowledged only a handful of examples of that happening in South Dakota.

Then things took an unexpected turn. Gov. Kristi Noem, who is seen as a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, demanded changes to the bill before she would sign it. The response was swift and harsh: Social conservative activists and Republican lawmakers accused Ms. Noem of being cowed by pressure from business and athletics organizations, which have been successful at stopping laws in other states that single out transgender people for exclusion and feed ugly stereotypes.

South Dakota is just one of a growing number of states where Republicans are diving into a culture war clash that seems to have come out of nowhere. It has been brought about by a coordinated and poll-tested campaign by social conservative organizations like the American Principles Project and Concerned Women for America. The groups are determined to move forward with what may be one of their last footholds in the fight against expanding L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

ny times logoNew York Times, Contentious Union Vote at Amazon Heads to a Count, Karen Weise and Michael Corkery, March 29, 2021. The outcome of a vote at a warehouse in Alabama could have far-ranging implications for both the company and the labor movement.

By the end of Monday, thousands of yellow envelopes mailed to a squat brick building in Birmingham, Ala., will hold the fate of one of the most closely watched union elections in recent history, one that could alter the shape of the labor movement and one of America’s largest employers.

amazon logo smallThe envelopes contain the ballots of workers at an Amazon warehouse near Birmingham. Almost 6,000 workers at the building, one of Amazon’s largest, are eligible to decide whether they form the first union at an Amazon operation in the United States, after years of fierce resistance by the company.

The organizers have made the case in a monthslong campaign that Amazon’s intense monitoring of workers infringes on their dignity, and that its pay is not commensurate with the constant pressure workers feel to produce. The union estimates that roughly 85 percent of the work force at the warehouse is Black and has linked the organizing to the struggle for racial justice.

Amazon has countered that its $15 minimum wage is twice the state minimum, and that it offers health insurance and other benefits that can be hard to find in low-wage jobs.

 

World News

 ny times logoNew York Times, Cargo Ship Is Finally Freed, Clearing Way for Suez Traffic to Resume, Vivian Yee and Marc Santora, March 29, 2021. Aided by the moon and the tides, the giant container ship was wrenched from the shore on Monday afternoon, six days after blocking the vital trade route.

The Ever Given, the giant cargo ship blocking the Suez Canal, was wrenched free on Monday, six days after it ran aground. Horns blared in celebration as images emerged on social media of the once-stuck ship on the move. Here’s the latest on the effort.

The mammoth cargo ship blocking one of the world’s most vital maritime arteries was wrenched from the shoreline and finally set free on Monday, raising hopes that traffic could soon resume in the Suez Canal and limit the economic fallout of the disruption.

Salvage teams, working on land and water for six days and nights, were ultimately assisted by forces more powerful than any machine rushed to the scene: the moon and the tides.

The ship was ultimately set free at around 3 p.m., according to shipping officials. Horns blared in celebration as images emerged on social media of the once stuck ship on the move.

It was a turning point in one of the largest and most intense salvage operations in modern history, with the smooth functioning of the global trading system hanging in the balance.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt celebrated the moment on Twitter, writing that “Egyptians have succeeded today in ending the crisis of the stuck ship in the Suez Canal despite the great complexities surrounding this situation in every aspect.”

 

Media, Education News

  mike lindell screengrab

Yahoo News, MyPillow guy tells Steve Bannon that Trump 'will be back in office in August, Tim O'Donnell, March 29, 2021. Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow, is still touting wild conspiracy theories about voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Most recently, during an appearance on former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon's "War Room: Pandemic" podcast, Lindell baselessly asserted he has evidence that will eventually get to the Supreme Court and overturn the results of the 2020 election. "[Former President] Donald Trump will be back in office in August," he boldly proclaimed.

Trump doesn't have many allies left who are still publicly claiming the election was rigged, but Lindell has never slowed down, even though he has yet to bring anything remotely noteworthy to the table to back up his baseless claims, which even compelled a NewsMax host to walk out of an interview with him earlier this year.

But the "MyPillow Guy" wasn't the only person pushing the narrative in recent days. On Sunday night, former Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) participated in a World Prayer Network prayer call, during which she called the 2020 election a "coup" driven by voter fraud and asserted her belief that congressional Democrats' voting rights bill, known as H.R. 1, will "forever cement that illegal takeover into place."

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Inside America’s Most Interesting Magazine, and Media’s Oddest Workplace, Ben Smith, March 29, 2021 (print ed.). Harper’s has become an unexpectedly excellent magazine that stands out amid a homogenized media landscape, our media columnist Ben Smith writes.

Last August, when the pandemic seemed endless, John R. MacArthur, the publisher of Harper’s, asked his doctor about the virus.

“I haven’t seen a case in three months,” his doctor told him. Mr. MacArthur ordered up some office air filters, put arrows on the floor and brought his small staff back to work.

“We’re better off working together,” he told me in an interview inside Harper’s headquarters, an underpopulated warren on Broadway north of Houston Street, in mid-March. “And I’m happier here.”

What has ensued at Harper’s since last summer is a kind of hostage situation, in which the magazine’s 17 newsroom staff members reluctantly trudge into work, try to keep office windows open and Zoom one another from their desks.

The situation, widely viewed internally as insane, makes complete sense to those familiar with the recent history of the magazine. Harper’s first published an excerpt from “Moby Dick” in 1851, but has had a difficult couple of decades, sinking into obscurity as Mr. MacArthur battled the rising digital tide and his own staff. Now, Harper’s is the weirdest place to work in New York media and yet an unexpectedly excellent magazine that stands out in part because of its wide range, in style and substance, amid a homogenizing media landscape.

 

March 28

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Race, Justice

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Media, Education News

 

Top Stories

joe biden fist in air

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden is betting on bigger government. The pandemic may be helping him, Dan Balz, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). The president is adding to an expansion in government spending, hoping that public resistance has eased as the pandemic exposes untreated problems.

The biggest expansion of the federal government in a generation is underway, a pandemic-inspired shift in resources and responsibilities that will challenge President Biden and the Democrats to demonstrate that they can make government work.

Over the course of the pandemic, Congress has authorized an astonishing amount of spending. Biden recently passed his American Rescue Plan, a nearly $2 trillion package of aid and assistance designed to soften the blows of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals and stimulate an economy that suffered major blows as the pandemic took hold.

That bill followed shortly after the passage of nearly $1 trillion in coronavirus-related spending at the end of last year, which came after Congress had approved more than $2 trillion in assistance during the earlier months of the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Congress’s popularity at highest level in more than a decade as stimulus checks hit bank accounts, Paul Kane, March 28, 2021 (print ed.).  The events of the first quarter of this year sent congressional approval ratings up to 36 percent, Gallup announced Tuesday.

us senate logoFor the second time in the pandemic era, Congress is experiencing a burst of relative popularity, the normally reviled institution winning public support in the early days of a Democratic-run Washington.

Most of the surge comes from Democratic voters who are happy to see their party controlling both the House and Senate, along with the White House, for the first time since 2010, but a chunk of independents appear to be happy with the late December bipartisan passage of the $900 billion relief legislation that included $600 checks for most workers. Those independents remained content with Congress after the U.S. House logonew $1.9 trillion legislation that President Biden signed into law March 11.

But Democrats are now turning to the more difficult part of their agenda: proposing higher taxes to pay for a massive infrastructure package. They remain in a stalemate over how to address immigration laws, gun control and raising the minimum wage. Failure to pass these key liberal agenda items would deflate Democratic voters, but approving them in a hyperpartisan fashion could again alienate independents.

   President Biden at his first White House news conference (Associated Press photo).

President Biden at his first White House news conference on March 25, 2021 (Associated Press photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Poised to Raise Taxes on Business and the Rich, Jim Tankersley and Emily Cochrane, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats have spent the last several years clamoring to raise taxes on corporations and the rich, seeing that as a necessary antidote to widening economic inequality and a rebuke of President Donald J. Trump’s signature tax cuts.

Now, under President Biden, they have a shot at ushering in the largest federal tax increase since 1942. It could help pay for a host of spending programs that liberal economists predict would bolster the economy’s performance and repair a tax code that Democrats say encourages wealthy people to hoard assets and big companies to ship jobs and book profits overseas.

The question is whether congressional Democrats and the White House can agree on how sharply taxes should rise and who, exactly, should pay the bill. They widely share the goal of reversing many of Mr. Trump’s tax cuts from 2017, and of making the wealthy and big businesses pay more. But they do not yet agree on the details — and because Republicans are unlikely to support their efforts, they have no room for error in a closely divided Senate.

For Mr. Biden, the need to find consensus is urgent. The president is set to travel to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to unveil the next phase of his economic agenda — a sprawling collection of programs that would invest in infrastructure, education, carbon-reduction and working mothers and cost $3 trillion to $4 trillion.

The package, which follows on the heels of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic aid bill, is central to the president’s long-term plan to revitalize American workers and industry by funding bridges and roads, universal pre-K, emerging industries like advanced batteries and efforts to invigorate the fight against climate change.

Mr. Biden plans to finance that spending, at least in part, with tax increases that could raise upward of $2.5 trillion in revenue if his plan hews closely to what he proposed in the 2020 presidential campaign. Aides suggest his proposals might not be entirely paid for, with some one-time spending increases offset by increased federal borrowing.

ny times logoNew York Times, China, With $400 Billion Iran Deal, Could Deepen Influence in Mideast, Farnaz Fassihi and Steven Lee Myers, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). The countries signed a sweeping pact that calls for Chinese investments in Iran in exchange for oil, potentially easing Iran’s international isolation.

Iran FlagChina agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for a steady supply of oil to fuel its growing economy under a sweeping economic and security agreement signed on Saturday.

China FlagThe deal could deepen China’s influence in the Middle East and undercut American efforts to keep Iran isolated. But it was not immediately clear how much of the agreement can be implemented while the U.S. dispute with Iran over its nuclear program remains unresolved.

President Biden has offered to resume negotiations with Iran over the 2015 nuclear accord that his predecessor, President Trump, abrogated three years after it was signed. American officials say both countries can take synchonized steps to bring Iran into compliance with the terms of the agreement while the U.S. gradually lifts sanctions.

Iran has refused to do so, and China has backed it up, demanding that the United States act first to revive the deal it broke by lifting unilateral sanctions that have suffocated the Iranian economy. China was one of five world powers that, along with the U.S., signed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial, Georgia Republicans’ ban on giving voters water epitomizes the GOP’s disturbing priorities, Editorial Board, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). A petty crusade is just one provision in a bad new election law.

Let's say you sat down with a group to brainstorm on how best to strengthen our democracy. Let’s say someone said, “I know! Let’s make sure that people waiting to vote in long lines on hot days can’t be given water to drink!” You might reply: “Uh . . . what?”

Yet that is indeed one of the “reforms” Republicans in Georgia implemented this week.

Georgia has been a primary battleground in the voting wars, pitting Republicans who seek to restrict voting against Democrats, good-government groups and others who want casting a ballot to be easier, not harder. While state Republicans backed off their worst ideas, such as abolishing no-excuse absentee voting, the restrictionists still scored a victory on Thursday, when Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a bill containing plenty of noxious provisions. Among them: a ban on distributing food or water to voters waiting in long polling place lines.

This provision will do little to improve confidence in the vote, but it promises to make voting in person in Georgia — particularly in those areas that see epic voting lines — even less pleasant. Meanwhile, state lawmakers added new rules on absentee voting, which may require more people to sit out in the sun to cast a ballot.

It is clear who would be hurt most by this shift. Lines tend to be long in predominantly non-White precincts — areas that tend to vote for Democrats. State and local officials have failed to keep pace with the fast growth of ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the Atlanta area, leading to lengthy voting backups. Data on Georgia’s primary elections last June, collected by Georgia Public Broadcasting and ProPublica, revealed that the average wait after 7 p.m. in predominantly non-White neighborhoods was 51 minutes, while in predominantly White neighborhoods it was six minutes.

Georgia state law previously barred people and groups from handing out gifts, such as refreshments, to those waiting in line. But the law appeared to allow the distribution of food and water if it were available to everyone — voters, poll workers, passersby — so it did not amount to a reward for voting.

Moreover, those passing out the refreshments could not do any campaigning. Now the law restricts anyone from giving out water to any voter within a certain distance of a polling place, authorizing only election officials to provide self-service water from an unattended receptacle — and only if election officials choose to do so.

Georgia lawmakers also banned mobile voting buses such as those that Atlanta’s Fulton County used to ease lines. They added voter ID requirements for absentee voting and narrowed the amount of time people have to request mail-in ballots. They placed so many limits on ballot drop boxes as to render them practically useless. So it is now a criminal offense for someone to hand a bottle of water to an elderly Black voter in Fulton County — who had to wait in line because she could not navigate the new absentee ballot requirements.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

washington post logoWashington Post, Deborah Birx tells CNN most U.S. covid deaths ‘could have been mitigated’ after first 100,000, Amy B Wang, March 27, 2021. Birx, who headed the White House’s efforts to combat the coronavirus throughout that period, has been criticized for not speaking more frequently and forcefully against Donald Trump, who as president downplayed the seriousness of the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, 93.6 million vaccinated, as of March 28, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 35 of the eligible population,16 and older and 28.2 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 28, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 127,406,423, Deaths: 2,791,313
U.S. Cases:     30,917,142, Deaths:    562,013

ny times logoNew York Times, A Volunteer Army’s Mission: Vaccinate Black People in the Rural South, Andrew Jacobs, March 28, 2021. Despite limited transportation, patchy internet and threadbare medical care, community leaders are trying to shrink racial disparities in vaccine access.

 

U.S. Crime, Race, Justice

 ny times logoNew York Times, Ten Months After George Floyd’s Death, Minneapolis Is at War Over Policing, John Eligon and Tim Arango, March 28, 2021.  Residents and community leaders in the city have struggled to reach consensus on how to change public safety, and what role the police should play. Looming over the debate is unease over what the jury will decide in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former officer who knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck.

  • New York Times, Here’s what to know about the trial of Derek Chauvin

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. has charged 474 people with trying to steal $569 million in covid-related fraud schemes, Matt Zapotosky, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). The department said it found business owners inflating payroll expenses to get Paycheck Protection Program loans larger than what they would have qualified for, as well as “serial fraudsters” reviving defunct corporations or purchasing shell companies with no operations to apply for large loans.

Justice Department log circularThe department said it has seen fraud attempts connected to several government aid programs. The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, for example, has charged at least 120 people in connection with fraud of the Paycheck Protection Program, a taxpayer-subsidized loan program regulated by the Small Business Administration, which has long been of concern because of how program funds were disbursed with relatively little oversight.

The department said it had also seen immense fraud in connection with the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program, and, along with the Secret Service and U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado, had seized $580 million of possibly stolen money from that program through administrative procedures. That money, authorities said, is separate from the funds explicitly tied to criminal charges.

george floyd derek chauvin Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, What Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd means for America, Holly Bailey, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). Many view the case as a barometer of racial change in the United States as much as about the former officers's guilt or innocence.

On Monday, a White former police officer will go on trial here for the killing of a Black man, shown above at left, in a case that many view as a barometer of racial change in the United States as much as about Derek Chauvin's guilt or innocence.

Chauvin, shown above at right in a mug shot, is charged with murder for his actions on Memorial Day when, during an investigation, he held his knee on George Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes while he was handcuffed, facedown on a street, begging for breath and calling for his dead mother until he went limp.

The incident, which was filmed and viewed by millions of people around the world, sparked a summer of nationwide protests and forced a national reckoning on issues of race, policing and social justice.

Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police department before he was fired in May, is charged with second- and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death.

While potential jurors being interviewed for the case were told by Chauvin's defense attorney that it was "not about race" or "broader social issues," few observers believe race won't shape the trial, the most high-profile police brutality case since the 1991 beating of Rodney King by four White Los Angeles police officers.

Many Black Americans will be watching to see what justice means after seeing so many cases in which police officers have largely been acquitted or gone uncharged in the killing of Black men and women.

washington post logoWashington Post, Raised to identify as Black, Harris steps into role as a voice for Asian Americans amid rise in hate incidents, David Nakamura, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). Though her late mother was an immigrant from India, Harris, 56, whose father is from Jamaica, was raised to identify as Black — a kamala harris portraitreflection of her mother’s recognition that a young biracial woman would be viewed that way in a society whose racial dialogue was defined principally through a lens of Black and White.

Now, amid accounts of rising violence targeting Asian Americans, it is her South Asian heritage that has put Harris in a unique position to give voice to the pain and anger that inspired a nascent political movement.

People who have worked with her said that Harris — although she seldom talks publicly about her Indian background — has an authentic understanding of the trepidation felt by many Asian Americans and shares their sense of urgency.

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump helped GOP raise $2 billion. Now ex-aides, allies are jockeying to tap his fundraising power, Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer and Anu Narayanswamy, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). One day before the Republican Party’s elite donors are slated to gather for their April retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., a nonprofit group aligned with onetime aides to former president Donald Trump is hosting an “investors meeting” a few miles away for major GOP contributors.

The keynote speaker is Trump himself, and his gilded Mar-a-Lago Club is hosting the event.

The group, the Conservative Partnership Institute, now has former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on its payroll and has partnered with other former Trump aides, such as Russ Vought and Stephen Miller. It has planned a slate of events that buttress Trump’s agenda, including a dinner titled “An America First Future” and a panel on “Fighting Big Tech,” according to an agenda obtained by The Washington Post.

The goal, according to people familiar with the organization, is to woo at least some wealthy party donors in town for the Republican National Committee retreat and persuade them to devote large sums to the group.

The aggressive pitch to Republican contributors comes as the number of independent money operations connected to Trump — some directly associated with the former president, others that have his tacit blessing — has been rapidly expanding since he left office.

The groups, which include both nonprofits and big-money super PACs, are seeking to capitalize on Trump’s fundraising firepower, which drove a record $2.2 billion into the three Republican Party campaign committees during his time in office, campaign finance records show.

GOP officials are now trying to keep that pipeline going, a prospect complicated by Trump’s ambivalence about letting the party continue to fundraise off his name — and the separate fundraising efforts springing up around him, some of which could take aim at Republicans who have crossed the former president.

The rapidly shifting assortment of pro-Trump groups were described by more than a dozen people familiar with the plans, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key West residents voted to slash the number of daily visitors from cruise ships. State legislation would override that decision, Richard Morin, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). It was another balmy day in paradise when Key West, Fla., voters decided they’d had enough of the thousands of here-today, gone-tonight tourists who regularly pour from giant cruise ships onto the streets of their iconic city.

By decisive, even overwhelming margins, the voters approved ballot measures to immediately slash the number of passengers who can disembark daily as well as ban the biggest ships.

But several months later, in an end-around that has incensed locals, the cruise industry is fighting back. Two state lawmakers with broad industry backing are pushing bills to nullify the vote and prohibit Key West from regulating such activity in its own port.

“I am so furious that I can hardly see straight,” said Kate Miano, owner of the luxe Gardens Hotel, where century-old brick walkways wind past orchid-festooned trees. “We battled the big cruise ship companies, and now they’re taking away my vote? I can’t understand how they can possibly do that.”

Yes, they can, say legislators now meeting in Tallahassee. And there’s a good chance they will soon succeed.

“We can’t simply have a group of 10,000 people closing down the port of Key West and holding the state of Florida hostage,” Rep. Spencer Roach (R) said at a hearing this month, his number referring to the total votes cast in support of the three city charter changes.

The maneuvering in the state Capitol has at times been both blatant and blundering, marked by dueling statistics, charges of betrayal, threats of retribution and alternating predictions of economic or environmental doom. It has fueled editorial outrage in newspapers statewide — with Roach, one of the bills’ sponsors, accused with other Republicans of trampling on democracy.

Before the coronavirus pandemic idled fleets globally, cruise tourism in Key West had grown from a single ship that docked monthly in 1969 to a $73 million-a-year business. By 2018, more than a million passengers were arriving annually in ever-larger vessels that resembled floating communities; the biggest measured more than three football fields in length and carried more than 4,000 passengers and crew.

Collectively, it all had quite an impact on this island community of 25,000, a place made famous by the literary likes of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Wallace Stevens.

The November vote limited the total number of cruise-ship tourists allowed to come ashore every day to 1,500 — fewer than half the daily average in February 2020. It also closed the port to ships with more than 1,300 passengers and crew — about half the size of most ships that docked before the pandemic. The final charter change gave docking priority to ships with the best environmental and health records.

 

World News

myanmar map

ny times logoNew York Times, Dozens Gunned Down in ‘Day of Shame’ for Myanmar, Richard C. Paddock, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). The killings, among them a 5-year-old boy and three teenagers, took place on a holiday honoring the army. At a military parade on Saturday, the general who led the overthrow of Myanmar’s civilian government last month said the army was determined “to protect people from all danger.”

myanmar flagBefore the day was over, the security forces under his command had shot and killed a 5-year-old boy, two 13-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl. A baby girl in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, was struck in the eye with a rubber bullet, although her parents said she was expected to live.

The slain children were among dozens of people killed on Saturday as the security forces cracked down on protests across Myanmar, in what appeared to be one of the deadliest days since the Feb. 1 coup led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander of the Tatmadaw, as the military is known. One news outlet, Myanmar Now, put Saturday’s death toll as high as 80.

“Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,” Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for a group of elected officials who say they represent Myanmar’s government, said in a statement.

The killings took place on Armed Forces Day, a holiday honoring the Tatmadaw, which was the occasion for General Min Aung Hlaing’s speech in Naypyidaw, the capital.

The general promised to pave the way for democracy, despite having rejected the results of the country’s Nov. 8 election and arrested many of those who were elected to Parliament that day. He reiterated a pledge to hold new elections, but offered no timetable.

 

Media, Education News

ny times logoNew York Times, Under Biden, Diplomacy Is an Attractive Career Again, Pranshu Verma, March 28, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden’s outreach to other nations is appealing to aspiring diplomats, many of whom felt alienated by former President Trump’s policies.

 

bandy lee resized sterling stacks

Former Yale University Professor Bandy Lee in the university's Sterling Library.

DC Report, Commentary: We Stand With Our Writer: Bandy Lee Sues Yale, Says University Fired Her Over Efforts to Expose Donald Trump’s Mental Illness, david cay johnston headshotDavid Cay Johnston, right, March 28, 2021. As Dr. Bandy X. Lee’s frequent publisher, we, the editors of DCReport.org, believe she has made vital contributions to our understanding of public mental health, and she responsibly underscored the damaging effects of deeply mentally ill Donald Trump’s grip on the most powerful job in the world.

Trump’s delusions, which are well-documented and were noticed for decades, have resulted in the spread of baseless conspiracy theories, numerous acts of deadly violence and the failed Jan. 6 attempt to overthrow our government.

Collateral damage from Trumpism continues. Yet, some Trump followers who embraced his delusions appear to be recovering from their own temporary loss of rationality and mental well-being.

Yale University fired Lee, an established professor on its medical school faculty, citing the misnamed Goldwater Rule. That non-governmental policy — a gag order in Lee’s view — directs mental health professionals to hold their tongues about the mental well-being of officials.

American citizens discuss Trump’s mind every day around their kitchen tables, in public forums and on national television. To deny the citizenry the insights of educated mental health professionals is more than absurd; it is an attack on the very principle of American democratic self-governance.

We believe every one of her opinion columns and interviews falls well within the boundaries of the highest standards of responsible journalism.

The rule is itself of dubious provenance and relevance. And, it is outdated. Yet one of America’s leading universities clings to this orthodoxy in firing Lee after 17 years on its medical school faculty for advancing and widening human understanding of public mental health and the deleterious effects of governance by a leader who suffers from severe delusions.

All Americans should be deeply disturbed at Yale’s implicit attack on robust public debate by punishing Lee and seeking to intimidate other well-informed mental health scholars about our elected leaders and their fitness to hold office. This is especially so for anyone whose finger can press the nuclear button.

We have published more than 40 articles by Lee and expect to post more. We believe every one of her opinion columns and interviews falls well within the boundaries of the highest standards of responsible journalism. Her writing also advances our mission, which is to cover what politicians do not what they say and to encourage citizens to take their rightful ownership of our government.
Lawsuit Filed

On Monday, Lee filed a lawsuit against Yale for wrongful termination, as the student-run Yale Daily News reported today.

Lee’s complaint, logged in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, asserts that “Yale violated its contractual obligations to Dr. Lee and violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

“Yale further committed the tort of negligent misrepresentation by not adhering to its policies on academic freedom, upon which Dr. Lee had relied.”

We hope that the trustees and academic leaders at Yale cease their attack, acknowledge their error and embrace the fundamental principle of American democracy which depends on rational and reasoned debate, not dogma like the Goldwater Rule.

This rule was adopted in 1973 in response to a survey of more than 12,000 psychiatrists during the 1964 campaign between Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican presidential nominee, and President Lyndon B. Johnson. Some of the psychiatrists expressed obvious bias against Goldwater. The rule, adopted in 1973, was intended to “prevent reckless speculation by psychiatrists about public figures.”

The lawsuit notes that the American Psychiatric Association reinterpreted its Goldwater Rule shortly after Trump became president.
‘Gag Order’

“The reinterpreted Goldwater Rule created a gag order, recommending that its members not comment on public figures… even where there is a responsibility to society to protect public health” unless these politicians have submitted to psychiatric evaluation, the complaint states. It notes that the APA is a voluntary professional organization of psychiatrists, not a regulatory body with government powers. Lee dropped APA membership in 2007.

Lee says, and we agree, that the APA’s new interpretation of the rule is “in conflict with [the] duties, responsibilities and role in the interest of public health” in light of her belief that Donald Trump posed a dangerous threat to this country and the world.

For this reason, she held an ethics conference at Yale in April 2017 with some of the most respected members of her profession. This conference, initially attended by two dozen people, drew national attention and led to a public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

That book became a New York Times bestseller.

 

March 27

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Guns

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Media, Education News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden attacks new Georgia voting law as ‘Jim Crow,’ Seung Min Kim, March 26, 2021. President Biden issued a full-throated attack Friday on a new Georgia law that dramatically constrains voting access in the Peach State, calling it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century” and putting his voice behind efforts to pass voting-rights legislation in Congress.

Biden’s criticism of Georgia’s SB 202, which was signed into law Thursday evening, came after similarly vehement comments from the president at his first formal news conference this week, in which he denounced efforts by Republican-led state legislatures to restrict access to voting.

georgia map“Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over,” Biden said of the Georgia statute. “It adds rigid restrictions on casting absentee ballots that will effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters.”

Like other critics, Biden took particular aim at a provision that forbids people from providing drinks or food, including water, to voters waiting in line at the polls — arguing that it was Republicans themselves who created those lines by cutting the number of polling sites, especially in majority Black communities.

But some civil rights activists argued that Biden is not doing enough beyond his impassioned rhetoric to ensure the passage of a federal voting protection law.

“I think he has to do more, and do everything within his power,” said Helen Butler, executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. “I understand he’s trying to work across the aisle and get bipartisanship, but voting is sacred. So he has to be out in public explaining why it’s necessary that it pass, that it’s important.”

republican elephant logoThe White House has been somewhat vague about Biden’s plans to push for voting rights, but the president said Friday he would continue to make the public argument that voting restrictions hurt democracy.

“I will take my case to the American people — including Republicans who joined the broadest coalition of voters ever in this past election to put country before party,” Biden said. “If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.”

SB 202 is one of the first comprehensive state bills to significantly restrict voting access in the aftermath of the 2020 election, when former president Donald Trump repeatedly and baselessly attacked the integrity of state elections systems.

Trump’s attacks were particularly severe in Georgia, after he became the first Republican presidential nominee to lose the state since 1992.

The new Georgia law has several components: It allows state lawmakers to initiate takeovers of local election boards while stripping power from the secretary of state. It institutes new ID requirements for mail ballots and curtails the use of drop boxes. It includes the ban on providing food and drink to those in line.

 

"Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander, center, and his co-organizer, Infowars radio host, Alex Jones, to his right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Far-Right Extremists Move From ‘Stop the Steal’ to Stop the Vaccine, Neil MacFarquhar, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). Extremist groups are trying to bolster a rash of false and alarmist disinformation about vaccines in an effort to undermine the government.

Adherents of far-right groups who cluster online have turned repeatedly to one particular website in recent weeks — the federal database showing deaths and adverse reactions nationwide among people who have received Covid-19 vaccinations.

Although negative reactions have been relatively rare, the numbers are used by many extremist groups to try to bolster a rash of false and alarmist disinformation in articles and videos with titles like “Covid-19 Vaccines Are Weapons of Mass Destruction — and Could Wipe out the Human Race” or “Doctors and Nurses Giving the Covid-19 Vaccine Will be Tried as War Criminals.”

republican elephant logoIf the so-called Stop the Steal movement appeared to be chasing a lost cause once President Biden was inaugurated, its supporters among extremist organizations are now adopting a new agenda from the anti-vaccination campaign to try to undermine the government.

Bashing of the safety and efficacy of vaccines is occurring in chat rooms frequented by all manner of right-wing groups including the Proud Boys; the Boogaloo movement, a loose affiliation known for wanting to spark a second Civil War; and various paramilitary organizations.

These groups tend to portray vaccines as a symbol of excessive government control. “If less people get vaccinated then the system will have to use more aggressive force on the rest of us to make us get the shot,” read a recent post on the Telegram social media platform, in a channel linked to members of the Proud Boys charged in storming the Capitol.

Apocalyptic warnings about the vaccine feed into the far-right narrative that the government cannot be trusted, the sentiment also at the root of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The more vaccine opponents succeed in preventing or at least delaying herd immunity, experts noted, the longer it will take for life to return to normal and that will further undermine faith in the government and its institutions.

In April, a conference with the tagline “Learn How to Fight Back for Your Health and Freedom,” is set to bring together Trump allies like Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell along with high-profile members of the anti-vaccination effort.

Maligning the coronavirus vaccines is obviously not limited to extremist groups tied to the Capitol riot. There is deep partisanship over the vaccines generally.

One third of Republicans surveyed in a CBS News poll said that they would avoid getting vaccinated — compared with 10 percent of Democrats — and another 20 percent of Republicans said they were unsure. Other polls found similar trends.

About 100 members of the House of Representatives, roughly one-quarter, had not been vaccinated as of mid-March, according to Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader.

It is unclear where Mr. Trump will fit into the vaccine battle. The former president, who has been vaccinated, endorsed getting the shot recently, provoking some disbelief in QAnon and other chat rooms. “I would recommend it, and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it, and a lot of those people voted for me frankly,” he said in an interview with Fox News.

washington post logoWashington Post, NRA faces internal woes as it girds for new gun control fight, Tom Hamburger, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). In 2017, the National Rifle Association celebrated its ascendant political power with a newly elected U.S. president, Donald Trump, who stood at the organization’s national convention lectern promising to deliver for the gun-rights group that had helped secure his election.

nra logo CustomFour years later, though, the NRA is confronting challenges that have undercut the power of the long-feared lobby organization, even as new gun control measures are proposed after two mass shootings in a week in Atlanta and Boulder, Colo.

The group has been plagued by infighting and allegations of self-dealing and is defending itself against a sweeping lawsuit filed in August by the New York attorney general that alleges that the organization violated its nonprofit status as its top leaders allegedly raided the organization’s coffers for personal gain.

The NRA disclosed last year that it was cutting salaries and preparing to lay off employees as donations dried up during the coronavirus pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil’s Covid Outbreak Pushes Hospitals to Brink of Collapse, Ernesto Londoño and Letícia Casado, Photographs by Mauricio Lima, March 27, 2021. Brazil is facing the most new Covid-19 cases and deaths in the world, a crisis fueled by a contagious variant, political infighting and conspiracy theories. The breakdown is a stark failure for a country that, in past decades, was a health policy model for other developing nations.

brazil flag wavingThe virus has killed more than 300,000 people in Brazil, its spread aided by a highly contagious variant, political infighting and distrust of science.

The patients began arriving at hospitals in Porto Alegre far sicker and younger than before. Funeral homes were experiencing a steady uptick in business, while exhausted doctors and nurses pleaded in February for a lockdown to save lives.

But Sebastião Melo, Porto Alegre’s mayor, argued there was a greater imperative.

“Put your life on the line so that we can save the economy,” Mr. Melo appealed to his constituents in late February.

Now Porto Alegre, a prosperous city in southern Brazil, is at the heart of an stunning breakdown of the country’s health care system — a crisis foretold.

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection

seth abramson headshotsecret service logoProof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: 15 Questions for the Secret Service About Its Conduct During the January 6 Insurrection, Seth Abramson, March 27, 2021 (PM). America deserves a thorough public Congressional inquiry into the actions of the Secret Service both before and during the January 6th, 2021 armed insurrection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi taps head of D.C. Guard to become House’s first Black sergeant-at-arms, Paul Sonne, Marianna Sotomayor and Aaron C. Davis, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, a former top DEA official, would become the first African American to occupy the post tasked with overseeing the chamber’s security.

william walker resized proofThe previous holder resigned in the wake of the insurrection on Jan. 6, which saw pro-Trump rioters storm the Capitol complex and threaten lawmakers in one of the nation’s biggest security failures since the 9/11 attacks.

Walker, a former special agent and top career official at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as a longtime Guardsman, was leading the D.C. Guard during those events, and has since criticized the Pentagon’s leadership for restricting his powers ahead of the event and taking too long to allow him to send available Guardsmen to the Capitol. He said the delay left him “stunned.”

Top Defense Department officials have denied those accusations, saying they moved as quickly as possible, given that the Capitol Police, the force responsible for securing Congress, had not asked the military to prepare a backup force in advance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump falsely claims Jan. 6 rioters were ‘hugging and kissing’ police, Colby Itkowitz, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump has offered an alternative reality of what occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6 when a mob of his supporters stormed the building, violently attacking law enforcement officers who tried to stop them.

djt hands up mouth open CustomTrump (shown in a file photo), who encouraged his supporters to fight against the confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory by Congress and to march to the Capitol, told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Thursday night that the rioters posed “zero threat.”

“Right from the start, it was zero threat,” he said. “Look, they went in — they shouldn’t have done it — some of them went in, and they’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know? They had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in, and they walked out.”

Accounts from that day immediately shatter Trump’s attempt at revisionist history.

One police officer died after being assaulted during the attack, two others died by suicide days later, another lost an eye and another suffered two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs. Many officers suffered concussions and other bodily injuries from being beaten with flagpoles, sprayed with bear spray, punched, dragged and trampled. In all, 140 officers were hurt.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News Faces Second Defamation Suit Over Its Election Coverage, Michael M. Grynbaum, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). Dominion, an election technology company that was at the center of a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy, is seeking $1.6 billion. Here’s the latest on business.

Fox News and its powerful owner, Rupert Murdoch, are facing a second major defamation suit over its coverage of the 2020 presidential election, a new front in the growing legal battle over media disinformation and its consequences.

fox news logo SmallDominion Voting Systems, an election technology company that was at the center of a baseless pro-Trump conspiracy about rigged voting machines, filed a lawsuit on Friday that accused Fox News of advancing lies that devastated its reputation and business.

Dominion, which has requested a jury trial, is seeking at least $1.6 billion in damages. The lawsuit comes less than two months after Smartmatic, another election tech company, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against Mr. Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and named several Fox anchors, including Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs, as defendants.

dominion voting systemsIn a 139-page complaint filed in Delaware Superior Court, Dominion’s legal team, led by the prominent defamation firm Clare Locke, portrayed Fox as an active player in spreading falsehoods that Dominion had manipulated vote counts and manipulated its machines to benefit Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the election.

Those claims were false, but they were relentlessly pushed by Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Rudolph Giuliani and Sidney Powell, including during appearances on Fox News programs. In January, Dominion individually sued Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell for defamation.

smartmatic“The truth matters,” Dominion’s lawyers write in the complaint. “Lies have consequences. Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes, severely injuring Dominion in the process. If this case does not rise to the level of defamation by a broadcaster, then nothing does.”

Fox News did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment.

In February, Fox Corporation filed a motion to dismiss the Smartmatic lawsuit, arguing that the false claims of electoral fraud made on its channels were part of news coverage of a matter of significant public interest. “An attempt by a sitting president to challenge the result of an election is objectively newsworthy,” Fox’s legal team wrote in the motion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Two more tied to Proud Boys hit with conspiracy charges in Jan. 6 Capitol breach, Spencer S. Hsu and Emily Davies, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). A Proud Boys member and his brother from Oregon have been ordered jailed pending trial on federal charges of conspiring to breach the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, including by allegedly wrenching open a door and impeding police using a pole with a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

The arrests Tuesday of Jonathanpeter Allen Klein, 21, of Heppner, Ore., and Matthew Leland Klein, 24, of Sherwood, Ore., bring to at least 25 the number of Proud Boys members and associates charged in the rioting that forced lawmakers to evacuate, delayed Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 election results and led to assaults on nearly 140 police officers.

Prosecutors have alleged that four leaders communicated with as many 60 users of an encrypted “Boots on the Ground” channel to coordinate actions in Washington that day by members of the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violence. On Friday, a federal magistrate released one of the four, Zach Rehl, 35, of Philadelphia, to house arrest from jail pending trial, but stayed his order pending any appeal.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Guns

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. has charged 474 people with trying to steal $569 million in covid-related fraud schemes, Matt Zapotosky, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). The department said it found business owners inflating payroll expenses to get Paycheck Protection Program loans larger than what they would have qualified for, as well as “serial fraudsters” reviving defunct corporations or purchasing shell companies with no operations to apply for large loans.

Justice Department log circularThe department said it has seen fraud attempts connected to several government aid programs. The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, for example, has charged at least 120 people in connection with fraud of the Paycheck Protection Program, a taxpayer-subsidized loan program regulated by the Small Business Administration, which has long been of concern because of how program funds were disbursed with relatively little oversight.

The department said it had also seen immense fraud in connection with the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program, and, along with the Secret Service and U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado, had seized $580 million of possibly stolen money from that program through administrative procedures. That money, authorities said, is separate from the funds explicitly tied to criminal charges.

  Former Trump 2016 Campaign CEO and White House advisor Steve Bannon after his arrest last August 21 on a fugitive Chinese billionaire's yacht, portrayed in the background.

Former Trump 2016 Campaign CEO and White House advisor Steve Bannon after his arrest last August 21 on a fugitive Chinese billionaire's yacht, portrayed in the background. Trump pardoned Bannon from the charges, which involved a massive fraud diverting to Bannon and his co-defendants funds donated by Trump supporters towards a phony scheme to build with private funds a "Wall" on the U.S.-Mexican border.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bannon criminal probe in N.Y. includes embedded investigators from state attorney general’s office, Shayna Jacobs, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). The New York attorney general's office has partnered with Manhattan's district attorney to investigate Stephen K. Bannon for the alleged fundraising scam that prompted his federal pardon in the waning hours of Donald Trump's presidency, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move adds prosecutorial firepower to a criminal case widely seen as an attempted end-run around the former president's bid to protect a political ally.

Investigators employed by the state attorney general were deputized to work as prosecutors with the team led by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D), whose investigation of Bannon began shortly after his pardon was announced in January, these people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

letitia james o headshotState Attorney Gen. Letitia James, right, has built a reputation, in part, around her promises to hold Trump and his associates accountable for alleged misdeeds, and she sued his administration several times over policy decisions that affected New Yorkers. It was not immediately clear whether the scope of her interest in Bannon, who helped engineer Trump’s 2016 election victory and later served as White House strategist, goes beyond his alleged role in what federal prosecutors characterized last summer as a lucrative ploy to defraud donors of a private effort to expand the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Vance’s investigation is focused on the same allegations charged in Bannon’s federal indictment, people familiar with the investigation said.

Bannon, along with three others, was indicted in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on charges of stealing funds from their “We Build The Wall” campaign. Federal prosecutors alleged he pocketed more than $1 million after representing to supporters that all funds collected through the effort would be used for wall construction.

Bannon denied any wrongdoing, as did the others. They have not been charged with any crimes by state authorities, but the ongoing federal case does not preclude that from happening.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logojoe biden oNew York Times, For Biden, a New Virus Dilemma: How to Handle a Looming Vaccine Glut, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, March 27, 2021 (print ed.).  As U.S. manufacturers hit their stride, vaccine scarcity will soon turn to plenty, even as much of the world goes without. Vaccine makers need to know what to do with surplus shots. President Biden’s administration is grappling with whether to keep them or redirect them.

washington post logoWashington Post, 91.7 million vaccinated, as of March 27, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 34.3 of the eligible population,16 and older and 27.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 27, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 126,842,722, Deaths: 2,782,112
U.S. Cases:     30,853,032, Deaths:   561,142

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governance

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason so many Republican Senators are heading for the exits, Bill Palmer, right, March 27, 2021. The pattern is becoming more bill palmerblatant to say the least. This month Republican Senator Ron Johnson announced that he was leaning toward retiring next year. Then Republican Senator Roy Blunt announced that he’s definitely retiring next year.

The list just keeps getting longer. Richard Burr, Richard Shelby, and Pat Toomey are also retiring – and this is on top of the steps Mitch McConnell has been taking to lay the groundwork for his potential early retirement. So what’s behind all of this?

bill palmer report logo headerThere are individual explanations for why some of these Republican Senators could be bailing. Burr, below at right, is facing potential insider trading trouble. Shelby, below at left, is 86 years old. But most of these retiring Senators are fairly young and scandal-free. In such case, there are logically only a handful of reasons to retire instead of seeking reelection.

The first is that you expect to lose reelection anyway. But most of these retiring Republican Senators would have had a greater than 50-50 chance of winning in 2022. The second reason is that you expect your party to remain in the minority after the next election, and you don’t want to stick around for that.

If Republican Senators really are expecting to lose the 2022 midterm battle, they must know something we don’t. As of right now the Senate is 50-50, and the Republicans would need to gain just one seat in order to regain majority control, which feels like a realistic possibility.

It makes you wonder if Republican Senators really do know something we don’t, and they expect it to come out before the 2022 republican elephant logoelection, and they expect it to harm their party’s prospects. For instance, Donald Trump will certainly be criminally indicted before then in at least one jurisdiction. Are they afraid that Trump’s prosecution will expose the kinds of GOP secrets that could cost the party its viability?

In any case, while all these retirements have to be seen as good news for Democrats, this is not the time to get complacent. The Democrats certainly have a shot at flipping the Senate seats in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, and perhaps others particularly if the Republican incumbents aren’t running. But flipping even one Senate seat takes an extraordinary amount of work. It also requires the discipline to focus your hard work and donations on the Senate races that are the most winnable, and not merely the Senate races where the incumbent Republican is the most repulsive.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Support Builds for Amazon Workers in Struggle to Obtain Union Representation in NRLB Election Ending Monday, Webster G. webster tarpley 2007Tarpley, right, March 27, 2021. Sanders, Barber Attend Rallies in Bessemer, Alabama; At Stake is a New Era of Militant Civil Rights Unionism on Ruins of Globalist anti-Worker Policies of Last Three Decades; Contest Pits Six Thousand Largely Black Workers against World’s Most Infamous Finance Predator; Bezos’ Beijing-Style Micromanagement of Workers by Algorithm Destroys Human Dignity and Must Be Stopped; Alliance of Revived Labor Movement with Democratic Party Could Stabilize US Politics for Many Years; Time for Multi-Billionaire Oppressors to Lose One for a Change!

Defeated in January 6 Bid for Dictatorship by Autogolpe, Republicans Fall Back on Gradual Creeping Coup through the Institutions, with Voter Suppression and Vote Fraud as Key Weapons; Georgia GOP Seeks to Cancel XV Amendment to Stop Black Voters; Move Condemned by Biden as Atrocity and Attack on Constitution; Blatant Gestapo Tactics against Black Legislators Likely to Trigger Backlash against Party; Trump’s New Lost Cause Narrative of to Disguise Failed Coup is a Tissue of Lies;

Xi’s Favorite Myanmar Junta Kills Over 100 in Worst Repression Yet of Protests against February Coup; Blinken Condemns Horrifying “Reign of Terror”; PRC Diplomats Keep Lying about Uighurs of East Turkestan; Pentagon Contracts for Mid-Course Defense Signal New Phase of Anti-Ballistic Measures;

Biden to Announce More Specifics of $3 Trillion Infrastructure and Industrial Policy Bill in Pittsburgh on Wednesday; No to Buttigieg’s Gambit of a Regressive “Mileage Tax.”

 

 World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin foe Navalny once described prison life with dark humor. Now his messages are just dark, Robyn Dixon, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). Former inmates told Russian media that life in Penal Colony No. 2 consists of a constant forced rush, where you are always running late to perform endless meaningless tasks — making your bed over and over, for example.

Navalny has been persecuted and harassed for years, dating back to the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections, when he shocked the Kremlin by coming in second place. He then faced a series of criminal prosecutions that ensured he was barred from ever seeking public office again.

 

Media, Education News

ny times logoNew York Times, Under Biden, Diplomacy Is an Attractive Career Again, Pranshu Verma, March 27, 2021. President Biden’s outreach to other nations is appealing to aspiring diplomats, many of whom felt alienated by former President Trump’s policies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Larry McMurtry (1936–2021): Award-winning novelist who pierced myths of his native Texas dies at 84, Joe Holley, March 27, 2021 (print ed.). Larry McMurtry, a Texas-born, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Oscar-winning screenwriter who pierced the myth of the Lone Star State’s romanticized past in works such as “Lonesome Dove” and “The Last Picture Show,” died March 25 at his home in Tucson.

In a prodigious career spanning six decades, Mr. McMurtry wrote more than 30 novels, scripts for nearly as many movies and television series, three memoirs, countless book reviews and essays, and biographies of Western characters including Crazy Horse, George Custer and Buffalo Bill.

 

March 26

Top Headlines

 

More On Georgia's Voter Supppression In Georgia

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Guns

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Elections, Politics, Governing

 

World News

 

Media, Education News

 

Top Stories

 President Biden at his first White House news conference (Associated Press photo).

President Biden at his first White House news conference (Associated Press photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says Republican Efforts to Limit Voting Rights Are ‘Un-American,’ Staff reports, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). At a news conference, President Biden signaled he would be open to changing the filibuster to advance his agenda — including protecting voting rights.

democratic donkey logoHe reiterated that it would be hard to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by May 1. And he touted his administration’s progress in fighting the pandemic.

He said he expected to run for re-election in 2024, with Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate. Here’s the latest.

  • Biden calls efforts to limit voting rights ‘un-American’ in his first formal news conference as president.
  • ‘This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,’ Biden says of G.O.P. efforts to curtail voting.
  • 200 million vaccines in 100 days is the new goal, Biden says, though the U.S. is already on track to meet that.
  • ‘We have started to see new signs of hope in our economy,’ Biden says, hailing the passage of the stimulus bill.
  • Responding to questions on gun control legislation, Biden makes clear it’s not his top priority.
  • Joe Manchin pumps the brakes on Democrats’ elections overhaul.
  • The Senate extends pandemic aid for small businesses for two months.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law, Mark Niesse, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). Absentee and runoff voting targeted after 2020 elections. Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race.

brian kemp 2019 CustomKemp, right, finalized the bill just over an hour after it cleared the General Assembly, leaving no doubt about its fate amid public pressure against voting restrictions.

Republican lawmakers pushed the legislation through both the House and Senate over the objections of Democratic lawmakers. The legislation passed along party lines in both chambers, with votes of 34-20 in the Senate and 100-75 in the House.

Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill would disenfranchise voters, calling it “Jim Crow 2.0.” Supporters of the measure, Senate Bill 202, argued it would protect election integrity.

“Significant reforms to our state elections were needed. There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia,” Kemp said after signing the bill.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe elections overhaul in a state with a history of voting rights struggles came after the first victory by Democrat in a presidential election since 1992. Then in January, Democrats won two runoffs for the U.S. Senate, giving them the majority.

Opponents of the bill said it would create obstacles for voting, especially on absentee ballots and in runoffs.

Absentee voters would be required to submit driver’s license numbers or other documentation under a new process for checking their identity, replacing signature matching processes. Over 200,000 Georgia voters lack a driver’s license or state ID number, meaning they would need to submit additional proof of their identities.

Axios, Georgia governor signs law curbing voting access, Shawna Chen, March 26, 2021. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a sweeping, GOP-sponsored axios logooverhaul to the state's election law on Thursday.

Why it matters: It is the first battleground state to pass such a law in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds already signed a bill into law scaling back early voting in the state. "Republican efforts to change voting laws in Georgia followed record-breaking turnout that led to Democratic victories in the presidential contest and two U.S. Senate runoffs in the once reliably red state," AP writes.

georgia mapJoe Biden won the state by only slightly more than 12,000 votes in the 2020 presidential election. The new law includes measures that:

  • Cut the time period voters have to request absentee ballots and impose new identification requirements.
  • Make it easier for state officials to take over local elections boards.
  • Limit the use of ballot drop boxes.
  • Allow challenges to voting eligibility.
  • Criminalize any attempt to approach voters in line, even if only to give them food or water.
  • "[R]eplace the elected secretary of state as the chair of the state election board with a new appointee of the legislature after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rebuffed [former President] Trump’s attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results," AP writes.

What they're saying: "Few are more important than the law I signed moments ago," which ensures Georgia’s elections are "secure, accessible and fair," Kemp said at a press conference on Thursday.

"It's like the Christmas tree of goodies for voter suppression," Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan said on the Senate floor Thursday, per CNN.

Some lawmakers argue restrictions will boost election integrity, despite no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, critics say these measures are intended to target heavily Democratic jurisdictions and will hurt Black and Latino voters the most, Washington Post reports.

President Biden called the GOP effort "sick" and "un-American" at his press conference on Thursday. Former President Jimmy Carter, who previously served as a state senator in Georgia and then governor, also voiced opposition early on.

park cannonOf note: During the signing ceremony, Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon (D), right, was handcuffed and "forcefully removed" after knocking on the governor's office door, Atlanta-based WXIA-TV reports.

The big picture: Republican lawmakers have proposed at least 253 laws to restrict voting access in 43 states across the country, according to data compiled as of Feb. 19 by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. More proposals have reached the floor since, CNN writes.

The Georgia bill passed the state House in a 100-75 vote, and then was agreed to by Senate Republicans, with 34-20 in favor on Thursday afternoon.

 

joe biden signs resized relief bill

Politics: Biden Signs Stimulus Bill Ahead of Prime-Time Address; Analysis: In contrast with ‘I alone can fix it,’ Biden says only we together can defeat virus.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Looks like Joe Biden’s presidency isn’t going to be “boring” after all, Sheree McSpadden, March 26, 2021. Axios reports that President Biden recently held an undisclosed meeting at the White House with a number of historians who advised him this moment in history is unique, and it is time to go big and fast with his agenda, to jam through once-in-a-lifetime changes in America.

The historians’ views were reportedly very much in sync with Biden’s own views at this time: “It is time to go even bigger and faster than anyone expected. If that means chucking the filibuster and bipartisanship, so be it.” Yes!

bill palmer report logo headerI whole-heartedly agree. It just feels right. There is a new kind of patriotic movement in the air that feels electric. I believe our President is on the verge of making historic changes for the greater good.

But it can’t happen as quickly as we all would like. The Senate is scheduled to go on a two-week recess starting Thursday.

Four things are pushing Biden to jam through what could be a $5 trillion overhaul of America, and vast changes to voting, infrastructure, immigration, gun control and inequality: (1) he has full party control of Congress; (2) he has party activists egging him on; (3) he has strong economic winds at his back; and (4) he has rising popularity in the polls.

Axios was told Biden won’t hesitate, but he won’t rub Republicans’ nose in it either. However, other reports say he is likely to start by showcasing the abuse of the filibuster. Democrats plan to use Republican obstruction to their advantage which means they will have to start pushing things to a vote, which will take some time.

I’m very excited about this news. I had a feeling something was up when I saw how energized and fight-ready Chuck Schumer was with CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday night, whereas Mitch McConnell appears to be running scared. Biden’s Presidency isn’t going to be so boring after all.

 

 

More On Georgia's Voter Supppression In Georgia

Palmer Report, Opinion: Brian Kemp just pulled off his hood, Daniel Cotter, March 26, 2021. Governor Brian Kemp took a look back at the Jim Crow era and the days of old in Georgia, signing a voter suppression bill on Thursday in Georgia that gives the GOP power over all election boards in their state, takes away the use of drop boxes and makes giving voters in obscenely long poll lines food and water a crime. Cheating ugly with racial undertones is the way that the GOP can win, the only way.

bill palmer report logo headerAccording to Democratic state Senator Jen Jordan, “It’s like the Christmas tree of goodies for voter suppression.” Unsaid is that the law is also a return to a “White” Christmas.

brian kemp 2019 CustomSadly and shamefully, the GOP has not found any reason to stop this. Rather, in 43 states, more than 250 bills have been introduced to reduce or block the voter from exercising the right to vote.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is unlikely to step in and put an end to this return to Jim Crow and the period before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 became law. With the VRA eviscerated and the Court not interested in voting equality generally, the nation will continue to see those who would lose power by the demographic shifts of the nation turn to every manner and effort to oppress and suppress the vote. We must band together and end this “hoods off” climate by passing HR1.

park cannon arrest atlanta journal constitution

washington post logoWashington Post, Georgia state Democratic lawmaker arrested while trying to watch Gov. Kemp sign voting bill, Amy B Wang and Teo Armus, March 26, 2021. Video shows Georgia lawmaker being arrested while trying to watch governor sign voting bill.

park cannonGeorgia state Rep. Park Cannon (D) (shown above in a TNS photo via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) and at right in a file photo) was arrested Thursday after trying to watch Gov. Brian Kemp (R) sign a controversial new voting bill into law, authorities said, in a heated interaction that was caught on video.

Facebook Live video shows Cannon knocking on the door to Kemp’s office as he was holding a news conference inside about SB 202, a sweeping set of restrictions on how ballots are cast and counted in Georgia.

“A capitol officer came over and said, ‘Don’t knock on my door,’ and she’s like, ‘Well, are they in there signing the bill?’ and he’s like, ‘Don’t knock on the door.’ And it was at that point that I started filming.”

In a statement to The Post, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Public Safety confirmed that Cannon was arrested for obstructing law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.

Cannon’s pastor, Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), visited Cannon in Fulton County Jail as she was released on Thursday night. Speaking to reporters outside the facility, he criticized both her arrest and the provisions of the bill, SB 202.

“What we have witnessed today is a desperate attempt to lock out and squeeze the people out of their own democracy,” Warnock said. “We are going to take this fight to give the people their voices back.”

The newly signed law, among other restrictions, imposes identification requirements for mail ballots and makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line. While proponents have said it is necessary to shore up confidence in Georgia’s elections, critics countered that it will lead to longer lines, partisan control of elections and more difficulties voting by mail.

“I am not the first Georgian to be arrested for fighting voter suppression. I’d love to say I’m the last, but we know that isn’t true,” Cannon tweeted early on Friday. “Who -- and what -- are they protecting when they work this hard to suppress our vote?”

lawcrime logoLaw &Crime, First Lawsuit Against Georgia’s ‘Election Integrity Act’ Says the New Law Is Actually a ‘Voter Suppression Bill,’ Aaron Keller, March 26, 2021. A lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia challenged the Peach State’s SB 202, the “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” on the very same day the Act was signed into law.

The lawsuit refers to the Act by a new moniker: the “Voter Suppression Bill.” It alleges that the Act “was animated by an impermissible goal of restricting voting” rather than by an honest belief that the state’s procedures and criminal penalties needed to be legitimately strengthened.

brad raffenspergerThe named plaintiffs are The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund, and Rise, Inc. The defendants are various members of the Georgia State Election Board and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), right, all of whom are sued in their official capacities.

The lawsuit recaps the state’s “record-shattering” turnout in 2021, then takes aim at conspiracy theories that the election was rife with fraud, misconduct, and other unscrupulous behavior. It notes that none of the lawsuits filed by “[s]upporters of former President Donald J. Trump” found support for such “fanciful claims” of malfeasance.

The Act signed into effect Thursday evening by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is “clearly intended to and will have the effect of making it harder for lawful Georgia voters to participate in the State’s elections,” the lawsuit alleges.

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely on Thursday.Credit...Energy and Commerce Committee, via YouTube

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers Grill Tech C.E.O.s on Capitol Riot, Getting Few Direct Answers, David McCabe and Cecilia Kang, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said that the site played a role in the storming of the Capitol, in what appeared to be the first public twitter bird Customacknowledgment by a top social media executive of the influence of the platforms on the riot.

When a Democratic lawmaker asked the executives to answer with a “yes” or a “no” whether the platforms bore some responsibility for the misinformation that had contributed to the riot, Mr. Dorsey said “yes.” Neither Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook nor Sundar Pichai of Google would answer the question directly.

As lawmakers on Thursday threatened to strip the liability protection encoded in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the chieftains of the biggest social networks couldn’t agree on how to fix the act, or if it even needs fixing. Mr. Zuckerberg urged Congress to take on “thoughtful reform” of facebook logoSection 230. He said the law needed to be updated for the modern age. Mr. Pichai said while regulation has a role to play in “addressing harm and improving accountability,” he cautioned that recent proposals to change Section 230 would have unintended consequences.

Democratic lawmakers accused the chief executives of making money by allowing disinformation to run rampant online, reflecting their google logo custommounting frustration about the spread of extremism, conspiracy theories and falsehoods online in the aftermath of the riot at the Capitol.

Republican lawmakers came into the hearing steaming about the Capitol riot, but their animus was focused on the decisions by the platforms to ban right-wing figures, including former President Donald J. Trump, for inciting violence. The decisions to ban Mr. Trump, many of his associates and other conservatives, they said, amounted to liberal bias and censorship.

seth abramson headshotProof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: 15 Questions for the Secret Service About Its Conduct During the January 6 Insurrection, Seth Abramson, March 26, 2021. America deserves a thorough public Congressional inquiry into the actions of the Secret Service both before and during the January 6th, 2021 armed insurrection.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Guns

washington post logoWashington Post, Boulder tried to ban assault rifles in years leading up to mass shooting, Scott Wilson, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). This week’s deadly attack has revived questions about gun ownership and the rights of cities, whose politics sometimes lie outside those of the state, to enact their own public-safety laws.

A state court overturned Boulder’s assault weapons ban just days before Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, who appeared in court on 10 murder charges for the first time Thursday and will be held without bail pending trial, allegedly traveled a half-hour from his home to carry out the killings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We know what was used to kill 40,000 Americans last year. We just won’t do anything about it, Eugene Robinson, right, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). We all know what instruments snuffed out 18 innocent lives in two mass shootings within the space of a week. We all know what tools eugene robinson headshot CustomAmericans used to kill more than 43,000 people, whether others or themselves, last year. The answer is obvious.

The problem is that the nation is cursed with an absurdly and tragically vast oversupply of guns. And, as a society, we refuse to even talk about the kind of comprehensive disarmament that could prevent the next massacre by someone full of entitlement and rage, the next drive-by killing by a homicidal drug dealer or the next gun suicide by someone in unbearable pain from depression. We would rather live with the carnage than seriously try to end it.

There are rage-filled people, drug dealers and people suffering from depression in Britain, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Spain — in every country in the world. But those nations have only a tiny fraction of the gun violence we experience in the United States. Why might that be? Because they have far fewer guns to use to do violence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. has charged 474 people with trying to steal $569 million in covid-related fraud schemes, Matt Zapotosky, March 26, 2021. The department said it found business owners inflating payroll expenses to get Paycheck Protection Program loans larger than what they would have qualified for, as well as “serial fraudsters” reviving defunct corporations or purchasing shell companies with no operations to apply for large loans.

Justice Department log circularThe department said it has seen fraud attempts connected to several government aid programs. The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, for example, has charged at least 120 people in connection with fraud of the Paycheck Protection Program, a taxpayer-subsidized loan program regulated by the Small Business Administration, which has long been of concern because of how program funds were disbursed with relatively little oversight.

The department said it had also seen immense fraud in connection with the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program, and, along with the Secret Service and U.S. attorney’s office in Colorado, had seized $580 million of possibly stolen money from that program through administrative procedures. That money, authorities said, is separate from the funds explicitly tied to criminal charges.

lawcrime logoLaw &Crime, Federal Appeals Court Suspends Larry Klayman from Practicing Law in D.C., Jerry Lambe, March 26, 2021. A federal appeals court on Friday suspended attorney and activist Larry Klayman, the founder of conservative legal organization Judicial Watch. Klayman represented Judicial Watch but later turned around and litigated against the organization three times. That’s an ethics problem, a federal court ruled.

larry klayman file circa 2012In a harshly worded 13-page opinion penned by Circuit Judge David S. Tatel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit imposed a reciprocal 90-day suspension on the high-profile attorney, right, who has represented Laura Loomer, George Zimmerman, and Joe Arpaio. Judge Tatel also referred Klayman’s case to the Committee on Admissions and Grievances for recommendations “on whether further discipline is warranted.”

Klayman, who founded Judicial Watch in 1994, was penalized by the D.C. Bar for violating Professional Conduct Rule 1.9, which says that “[a] lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent.” The official comments under the rule (which are highly persuasive, but not binding) further suggest that attorneys who have been involved in a “specific transaction” should not represent other clients with “materially adverse interests.”

The underlying conduct involved three instances in which Klayman initially represented Judicial Watch in some capacity, then left the organization and represented clients against the group.

One case involved a former Judicial Watch employee who sued the organization alleging she was subjected to a hostile work environment. After initially advising Judicial Watch as its general counsel, Klayman subsequently went on to represent the former employee in the lawsuit; he similarly represented Judicial Watch in fundraising agreements with outside clients only to go on and represent those clients against the organization years later, court documents say.

lawcrime logoLaw &Crime, 3 People Arrested in Mysterious Double Murder of Couple Found Dead by Snowplow Driver on California Highway, Alberto Luperon, March 26, 2021. Investigators in Mono County, California say they solved a mysterious double murder. Bradley Kohorst, 35, Cory Spurlock, 33, and Orit Oged, 32, were arrested this week in the deaths of Burbank couple William Larsen and Yesenia Larsen.

Missoula, Montana residents Kohorst, Spurlock, and Oged were “business associates” of William Larsen, the California Department of Justice said in their statement. Now, these defendants are in the hands of law enforcement more than two seasons after the discovery of the bodies.

As previously reported, authorities said a snowplow driver discovered the couple dead on the shoulder of Highway 395 last November, 10 miles north of the county seat of Bridgeport. Investigators determined they were murdered, and had been targeted. The alleged motive still remains publicly murky.

washington post logoWashington Post, Founder of ‘Uber for private investigators’ sentenced to 8 years in prison, Rachel Weiner, March 26, 2021. Daniel Boice’s Arlington start-up was a fraud.

Boice admitted last year that he sustained his start-up by lying to investors, then used a good chunk of their funding to live the lush life of a mogul.

“It would be difficult to describe the havoc you created by your fraudulent actions,” Judge T.S. Ellis III said before sentencing Boice to eight years in prison. “It’s an egregious fraud.”

lawcrime logoLaw &Crime,Murder Suspect Also Plotted ‘Mass Casualty Event,’ Had AR-15 Rifle, Handguns, Explosives: Deputies, Alberto Luperon, March 26, 2021. Police believe that a suspect in the death of a 19-year-old man in Frederick County, Maryland plotted even more bloodshed. Joshua David Eckenrode, also 19, had “potential plans” for a “mass casualty event,” said Frederick County Sherriff Chuck Jenkins, according to WUSA9.

Right now the death toll remains at one. Curtis Mason Smith’s family reported him missing on Friday, March 19, but he was soon found dead in a car at an abandoned barn. Police said the death was suspicious.

Authorities said that Eckenrode and Smith went to school together at Governor Thomas Johnson High School. Jenkins specified there was “no reason to believe” they planned the mass casualty event together. That’s all allegedly on the defendant.

Detectives said that they tracked down Eckenrode as someone who allegedly met up with the victim on the day of the disappearance. The defendant allegedly told investigators that Smith, a former classmate, was maybe going to sell him a car. Detectives noted that Eckenrode seemed “uncomfortable” during their talk, with heavy breathing, a rapid pulse, not answering questions several times, and looking away.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logojoe biden oNew York Times, For Biden, a New Virus Dilemma: How to Handle a Looming Vaccine Glut, Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland, March 26, 2021.  As U.S. manufacturers hit their stride, vaccine scarcity will soon turn to plenty, even as much of the world goes without. Vaccine makers need to know what to do with surplus shots. President Biden’s administration is grappling with whether to keep them or redirect them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: States Expand Vaccine Eligibility Amid a Stubborn U.S. Caseload, Staff Reports, March 26, 2021.  At least 31 states are giving all adults access to vaccines by mid-April, and more aim to by President Biden’s May 1 goal. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • ‘The epidemic situation is not good’: France extends lockdowns to more regions.
  • New Zealand tightens rules for people returning from abroad.
  • What the people cleaning New York City’s subway want passengers to know.

washington post logoWashington Post, 89.6 million vaccinated, as of March 26, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 33.75 of the eligible population,16 and older and 27 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 26, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 126,210,104, Deaths: 2,769,638
U.S. Cases:     30,775,790, Deaths:    559,747

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden May Be the Most Pro-Labor President. That May Not Save Unions, Noam Scheiber, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). Even as labor leaders effusively praise President Biden, experts worry that he may be powerless to reverse unions’ long-term decline.

Two months into the new administration, labor leaders are proclaiming Joseph R. Biden Jr. to be the most union-friendly president of their lifetime — and “maybe ever,” as Steve Rosenthal, a former political director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said in an interview.

Mr. Biden has moved quickly to oust government officials whom unions deemed hostile to labor, and to reverse Trump-era rules that weakened worker protections. He has pushed through legislation sending hundreds of billions of dollars to cities and states, aid that public-sector unions consider essential, and tens of billions to shore up union pension plans.

Perhaps most notably, the president appeared in a video alluding to a union vote underway at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, warning that “there should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda” — an unusually outspoken move by a president in a standard union election.

Yet Mr. Rosenthal and other labor advocates confess to a gnawing anxiety: Despite Mr. Biden’s remarkable support for their movement, unions may not be much better off when he leaves office than when he entered it.

That’s because labor law gives employers considerable power to fend off union organizing, which is one reason that union membership has sunk to record lows in recent decades. And Senate Republicans will seek to thwart any legislative attempts — such as the PRO Act, which the House passed this month — to reverse the trend.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Decline of Republican Demonization, Paul Krugman, right, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). Why has opposition to Biden’s plans been paul krugmanso low energy?

Republicans may realize that an attempt to revive Obama-era critiques would expose them to ridicule over their record of hypocrisy: After declaring deficits an existential threat under Obama, then dropping the issue the minute Donald Trump took office, it’s hard to pull off another 180-degree turn.

They may also be inhibited by the utter failure of their past predictions, whether of inflation under Obama or a vast investment boom unleashed by the Trump tax cut, to come true — although inconvenient facts haven’t bothered them much in the past.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Israel’s Shadow War With Iran Moves Out to Sea, Patrick Kingsley, Ronen Bergman, Farnaz Fassihi and Eric Schmitt, March 26, 2021.  and Iran have fought a clandestine war across the Middle East for years, mainly by land and air. Now ships are under attack in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

Iran FlagSince 2019, Israel has been attacking ships carrying Iranian oil and weapons through the eastern Mediterranean and Red Seas, opening a new maritime front in a regional shadow war that had previously played out by land and in the air.

Iran appears to have quietly responded with its own clandestine attacks. The latest came on Thursday afternoon, when an Israeli-owned container ship, the Lori, was hit by an Iranian missile in the Arabian Sea, an Israeli official said. No casualties or significant damage were reported.

Israel FlagThe Israeli campaign, confirmed by American, Israeli and Iranian officials, has become a linchpin of Israel’s effort to curb Iran’s military influence in the Middle East and stymie Iranian efforts to circumvent American sanctions on its oil industry.

But the conflict’s expansion risks the escalation of what has been a relatively limited tit-for-tat, and it further complicates efforts by the Biden administration to persuade Iran to reintroduce limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

“This is a full-fledged cold war that risks turning hot with a single mistake,” said Ali Vaez, Iran program director at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based research organization. “We’re still in an escalatory spiral that risks getting out of control.”

ny times logopope francis uncropped 3 13New York Times, As Coronavirus Hits Vatican Revenue, Pope Cuts Cleric Pay, Elisabetta Povoledo, Updated March 26, 2021.  The Vatican has been hit hard by the economic impact of the pandemic, prompting Francis to impose pay cuts on cardinals and others so lower-ranking employees can keep their jobs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin foe Navalny once described prison life with dark humor. Now his messages are just dark, Robyn Dixon, March 26, 2021. Former inmates told Russian media that life in Penal Colony No. 2 consists of a constant forced rush, where you are always running late to perform endless meaningless tasks — making your bed over and over, for example.

Navalny has been persecuted and harassed for years, dating back to the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections, when he shocked the Kremlin by coming in second place. He then faced a series of criminal prosecutions that ensured he was barred from ever seeking public office again.

 

Media, Education News

 Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Corporate media dummies, Wayne Madsen, left, March 26, 2021. On March 25, CNN's Kaitlan Collins took advantage of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallPresident Biden's first formal news conference to ask him whether he would keep Kamala Harris as his running mate if he decides to run for re-election in 2024.

CNNDuring a pandemic and after an attempted armed coup d'etat against the United States, that was all Collins had? Where did Collins come from? She was the "entertainment" reporter for "The Daily Caller," the outlet run by the egregious racist Tucker Carlson, before joining CNN.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden’s news conference did not make big news but was revealing for other reasons, Dan Balz, March 26, 2021. He conveyed that he understands the rhythms of Washington learned over a lifetime in the capital.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden excels at his first news conference. The media embarrass themselves, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 26, 2021. After weeks of jennifer rubin new headshotwhining, the White House press corps got its first official Biden presidential news conference on Thursday. President Biden used the event to pledge that 200 million covid-19 vaccinations would be administered by the end of his first 100 days, double his original goal.

Try as they might to seem “tough,” the media did not succeed in knocking Biden off message. Biden spoke in great detail and length to show not only his mastery of the issues but also to suck tension and conflict out of the room. He simply would not be lured into accepting a false premise devised by Republicans (i.e., that his nice demeanor prompts parents to send kids thousands of miles under deadly conditions).

The media did not distinguish themselves. By asking about immigration multiple times and echoing the false narrative that Biden had created a “surge," they showed they were more interested in sound bites than actual news. Their failure to ask about the pandemic, the recession, anti-Asian violence, climate change or even infrastructure (Biden had to bring it up himself) was nothing short of irresponsible. They pleaded for a news conference and then showed themselves to be unserious. They never laid a glove on Biden; they did, however, make the case for why these events are an utter waste of the president’s time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden keeps returning to Trump as a cause of troubles, Ashley Parker, March 26, 2021. The specter of Donald Trump loomed awkwardly at President Biden’s first news conference Thursday — part foil, part scapegoat and, once, as a punchline. President Biden mentioned him early and often. He mentioned him overtly and obliquely. And he mentioned him on a range of issues, from immigration to human rights to Afghanistan.

In Biden’s first solo news conference on Thursday, the specter of former president Donald Trump loomed awkwardly — part foil, part scapegoat and, once, as a punchline.

ny times logokara swisherNew York Times, Opinion: Trump May Start a Social Network. Here’s My Advice, Kara Swisher, right, March 26, 2021 (print ed.). Recast your past failures as successes, engage in meaningless optics, and other tips from the Silicon Valley playbook.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Social Justice Purge at Idaho Colleges, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 26, 2021. Republican lawmakers try to michelle goldberg thumbcancel diversity programs.

The right-wing caricature of progressive public schools as pampered re-education camps is extremely far from my own family’s experience, but if any kids are being bullied and shamed for refusing to espouse social justice principles, even principles I agree with, that’s wrong.

However, the claim that the right’s war on critical race theory doesn’t threaten academic freedom is also wrong. Consider what just happened in Idaho, where last week Boise State University suspended dozens of classes, online and in person, dealing with different aspects of diversity. This week, they were reinstated, but online only and “asynchronously,” without any live discussions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Larry McMurtry (1936–2021): Award-winning novelist who pierced myths of his native Texas dies at 84, Joe Holley, March 26, 2021.  Larry McMurtry, a Texas-born, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Oscar-winning screenwriter who pierced the myth of the Lone Star State’s romanticized past in works such as “Lonesome Dove” and “The Last Picture Show,” died March 25 at his home in Tucson.

In a prodigious career spanning six decades, Mr. McMurtry wrote more than 30 novels, scripts for nearly as many movies and television series, three memoirs, countless book reviews and essays, and biographies of Western characters including Crazy Horse, George Custer and Buffalo Bill.

 

March 25

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection

 

U.S. Law, Education, Regulation

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

 President Biden at his first White House news conference (Associated Press photo).

President Biden at his first White House news conference on March 25, 2021 (Associated Press photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Says Republican Efforts to Limit Voting Rights Are ‘Un-American,’ Staff reports, March 25, 2021. At a news conference, President Biden signaled he would be open to changing the filibuster to advance his agenda — including protecting voting rights.

He reiterated that it would be hard to pull all troops out of Afghanistan by May 1. And he touted his administration’s progress in fighting the pandemic.

He said he expected to run for re-election in 2024, with Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate. Here’s the latest.

  • Biden calls efforts to limit voting rights ‘un-American’ in his first formal news conference as president.
  • ‘This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,’ Biden says of G.O.P. efforts to curtail voting.
  • 200 million vaccines in 100 days is the new goal, Biden says, though the U.S. is already on track to meet that.
  • ‘We have started to see new signs of hope in our economy,’ Biden says, hailing the passage of the stimulus bill.
  • Responding to questions on gun control legislation, Biden makes clear it’s not his top priority.
  • Joe Manchin pumps the brakes on Democrats’ elections overhaul.
  • The Senate extends pandemic aid for small businesses for two months.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sweeping changes to Georgia elections signed into law, Mark Niesse, March 25, 2021. Absentee and runoff voting targeted after 2020 elections. Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race.

brian kemp 2019 CustomKemp, right, finalized the bill just over an hour after it cleared the General Assembly, leaving no doubt about its fate amid public pressure against voting restrictions.

Republican lawmakers pushed the legislation through both the House and Senate over the objections of Democratic lawmakers. The legislation passed along party lines in both chambers, with votes of 34-20 in the Senate and 100-75 in the House.

Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill would disenfranchise voters, calling it “Jim Crow 2.0.” Supporters of the measure, Senate Bill 202, argued it would protect election integrity.

“Significant reforms to our state elections were needed. There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia,” Kemp said after signing the bill.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe elections overhaul in a state with a history of voting rights struggles came after the first victory by Democrat in a presidential election since 1992. Then in January, Democrats won two runoffs for the U.S. Senate, giving them the majority.

Opponents of the bill said it would create obstacles for voting, especially on absentee ballots and in runoffs.

Absentee voters would be required to submit driver’s license numbers or other documentation under a new process for checking their identity, replacing signature matching processes. Over 200,000 Georgia voters lack a driver’s license or state ID number, meaning they would need to submit additional proof of their identities.

In addition, there would as little as one week of early voting before runoffs, down from the current three-week early voting period. The bill calls for runoffs to be held four weeks after general elections, leaving little time for early voting.

“It is unbelievable that there are still some people trying to stop people from voting today. You are changing the rules, cutting the voting hours, and making it more difficult for people to vote,” said state Rep. Erica Thomas, a Democrat from Austell. “Too many people fought, bled and died for our right to vote.”
Explore
AJC Bill Tracker: Live updating bills to watch in the Georgia Legislature

Republican lawmakers said the measure would increase trust in election outcomes following unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Recounts both by hand and machine showed that Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican Donald Trump by about 12,000 votes.

“Our goal is to ensure that voters in Georgia have confidence in the elections process,” said state Sen. Max Burns, a Republican from Sylvania. “This is a solid step in the right direction to provide voter integrity in Georgia.”

Many Republican state legislators expressed sympathy for suspicions about the presidential race, though election officials say there’s no evidence of widespread fraud. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said the November election was successful and accurate.

As Georgia lawmakers debated the bill, Biden criticized attempts by Republicans-led state legislatures across the country seeking to create new voting restrictions. He’s backing a far-reaching federal voting rights bill pending in the U.S. Senate.

“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is,” Biden said. “It’s sick.”

The 95-page Georgia elections bill covers many aspects of voting access, ballot counting, election oversight and runoffs.

Besides requiring ID numbers to vote absentee, the bill would also require ballot drop boxes to be located inside early voting locations, limiting their usefulness. Drop boxes wouldn’t be available to voters in the last four days of an election, when it’s often too late to mail them in time.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Senate Republicans hit the panic button, Sheree McSpadden, March 25, 2021. Democrats’ continued their plans to overhaul federal elections Wednesday, holding a Senate hearing on HR1 (The For The People’s Act), a sweeping bill expanding voting rights while blunting Republicans’ wave to even further restrict and suppress them (including hundreds of efforts in at least 43 states).

bill palmer report logo headerHR1 is full of Democratic priorities that would usher in landmark changes making it easier to vote, enact new campaign finance laws, and end partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. (Yes!) Republicans are working hard to clamp down on ballot access, arguing the bill is a “power grab” for Democrats.

Democrats believe testimony from prominent voting experts and anticorruption advocates builds on an already rising tide of support from Democrats and Independents alike.

“Today, in the 21st century, there is a concerted, nationwide effort to limit the rights of citizens to vote and truly have a voice in their own government,” said majority leader Chuck Schumer, calling Republican state rollbacks “an existential threat to our democracy” reminiscent of Jim Crow segregation laws, and chanting, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at Republicans.

“This bill is the single most dangerous bill this Committee has ever considered,” claimed Ted Cruz, as over-dramatic as ever, while projecting his own theatrics onto Democrats. Cruz also lied that the bill would register millions of undocumented immigrants to vote, and made other ridiculously false claims. Republican witnesses were the usual idiots who backed overturning Biden’s election win.

The bill also proposes turning the Federal Election Commission from an evenly-split bipartisan panel into one with an odd number of members, where a chairman selected by the President would effectively take control. “Talk about shame,” said minority leader Mitch McConnell.

The fact that Republicans have been making it harder to vote than it is for some nut-job killer to buy an assault weapon is more than shameful, and hasn’t been lost on voters either.

 joe biden first news conference doug mills nyt march 25 2021

At his first news conference on Thursday, President Biden was the sober political veteran comfortable with thinking out loud, talking personally and conversationally, and showing occasional impatience.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

ny times logoNew York Times, Timing Is Everything, Biden Says, and ‘Politics Is the Art of the Possible,’ Annie Karni and Katie Rogers, March 25, 2021. In his first formal news conference since taking office, President Biden offered an early glimpse of the man who inhabits the Oval Office and his approach to the presidency.

He reflected on his reputation as a “nice guy” and a “decent man.” He talked about how his great-grandfather set sail on the Irish Sea to make the difficult journey to America. He observed that “politics is the art of the possible.”

In his first formal news conference since taking office, President Biden offered an early glimpse of the man who inhabits the Oval Office and how he is approaching the presidency so far. Unlike President Donald J. Trump’s hot-tempered blowups or President Barack Obama’s extended answers of professorial cool, Mr. Biden was the sober political veteran comfortable with thinking out loud, talking personally and conversationally, and showing occasional impatience before a roomful of reporters.

When he received a question he did not like, such as whether he expected to run in 2024 against Mr. Trump, he shrugged it off with, “I don’t know where you guys come from, man.” But Mr. Biden did say he expected to run again, with Vice President Kamala Harris at his side.

After nearly four decades in politics, including eight years as vice president, he showed himself as a student of the office. “It’s a matter of timing,” he said when asked about his legislative priorities. “As you’ve all observed, the successful presidents better than me have been successful in large part because they know how to time what they’re doing. Order it. Decide priorities. What needs to be done.” To that end, he cited his $3 trillion infrastructure bill as “the next major initiative.”

And when asked why he did not push to abolish the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to pass most legislation and which Mr. Biden called a relic of the Jim Crow era, he said simply that “successful electoral politics is the art of the possible” — and that he wanted to see whether he could change the filibuster first.

Mr. Biden also recalled the Senate of yore, as he has done multiple times as president: “It used to be you had to stand there and talk and talk and talk and talk until you collapsed. And guess what, people got tired of talking.”

But he joked about how outdated his own views could sometimes sound. “I believe we should go back to a position in the filibuster that existed just when I came to the United States Senate 120 years ago,” he said.

The president engaged on questions about his administration’s attempt to ramp up capacity to temporarily care for the thousands of migrant children who are arriving at the southwestern border without legal guardians. He also took aim at the zero-tolerance policies enacted by Mr. Trump, saying his administration is trying “to put in place what was dismantled.”

transportation dept logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Buttigieg Asks Congress for ‘Generational Investment’ in Infrastructure, Emily Cochrane and Pranshu Verma, March 25, 2021. The transportation secretary defended the Biden administration’s broad plans in a hearing as Democrats laid the groundwork for legislation and Republicans expressed skepticism.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoastrazeneca logoWashington Post, AstraZeneca says vaccine is 76 percent effective in a new analysis after its use of data was questioned, Carolyn Y. Johnson, March 25, 2021 (print ed.). The new analysis was done after an independent data board informed U.S. officials that the company had used outdated data

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Total U.S. cases set to hit 30 million as infections rise in most states, Erin Cunningham, March 25, 2021. The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States was nearing the 30 million mark Thursday as new infections continued to trend upward in a majority of states despite an escalating vaccination campaign.

Cases rose by 4 percent nationwide over the past week with states such as Michigan, Colorado and Connecticut all reporting spikes of more than 30 percent, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. The growing number of U.S. infections comes as cases surge around the globe, an uptick health experts say is due to the rapid spread of new variants of the virus.

  • Vaccine hesitancy rife among health-care workers in the Middle East
  • Second wave of infections crashes over India as vaccines roll out
  • Biden commits $10 billion to close racial and other gaps in vaccine coverage

washington post logoWashington Post, 87.3 million vaccinated, as of March 25, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 32.7% of the eligible population,16 and older and 26.3% of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 25, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 124,919,952, Deaths: 2,748,590
U.S. Cases:    30,636,534,  Deaths:    556,883

washington post logoWashington Post, Rachel Levine, historic transgender nominee, confirmed as assistant health secretary, Dan Diamond and Samantha Schmidt, March 25, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate on Wednesday voted 52 to 48 to confirm Rachel Levine as the nation’s assistant secretary for health, making her the highest-ranking openly transgender official in U.S. history.

All Democrats and independents voted to support Levine, with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) crossing the aisle to support her, prompting cheers from Health-and-human-services-logo.pngadvocates who called the vote a breakthrough.

“I firmly believe that turning points, such as today’s Senate confirmation vote for Dr. Levine’s appointment, are powerful indications that this nation is truly heading down the pathway to lasting transgender equality,” said Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who served in the Obama administration and was the first openly transgender official to work in the White House.

Levine, who most recently served as Pennsylvania’s top health official, is the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the Senate. Her candidacy was widely opposed by religious rights groups, and some Republican critics also zeroed in on gaps in Pennsylvania’s nursing home data that they said complicated the state’s response to the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Andrew Cuomo’s family members were given special access to covid testing, people familiar with the arrangement say, Josh Dawsey, Amy Brittain and Sarah Ellison, March 25, 2021 (print ed.). As the coronavirus pandemic swept through New York early last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration arranged for his family members and other well-connected figures to have special access to state-administered coronavirus tests, dispatching a top state doctor and other state health officials to their homes, according to three people with andrew cuomodirect knowledge of the effort.

As part of the program, a state lab immediately processed the results of those who were tested, the people said, even as average New Yorkers were struggling to get tested in the early days of the pandemic because of a scarcity of resources. Initially, the lab was capable of running only several hundred tests a day for a state with 19 million residents.

The use of state resources to benefit people close to the governor raises serious ethical questions, experts said. New York law prohibits state officials from using their positions to secure privileges for themselves or others.

washington post logoWashington Post, Executive resigns from hospital that offered early vaccines to employees at Trump’s Chicago hotel, David A. Fahrenthold, March 25, 2021 (print ed.). The chief operating officer of a small Chicago hospital resigned on Wednesday after reports that he used coronavirus vaccines meant for low-income residents to vaccinate employees at his luxury wristwatch dealer, his regular steakhouse and his condo building — which is former president Donald Trump’s Chicago tower.

The resignation of Anosh Ahmed was announced late Wednesday by Loretto Hospital, a hospital serving a majority-Black neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side.

Ahmed’s actions — reported over the past week by the news site Block Club Chicago — had raised concerns that Loretto executives were putting their friends ahead of their patients. The city of Chicago had already cut off Loretto’s supply of new vaccines while it investigated.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank Dr. Ahmed for his contributions to the Loretto Hospital community and we wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Edward M. Hogan, chairman of Loretto’s board of trustees, said in a written statement.

Ahmed declined to comment to The Washington Post.

On March 10 and 11, Loretto vaccinated 72 employees at Trump’s downtown hotel and condo tower, where Ahmed had bought a $2.7 million 43rd-floor condo five months earlier. Under city guidelines, hotel workers were not supposed to be vaccinated until three weeks later.

In addition, the hospital offered vaccines to county judges and congregants at Loretto Hospital CEO George Miller’s church. A hospital spokeswoman said only eligible congregants were given vaccines.

On Monday, Block Club Chicago reported that Loretto also offered vaccines to employees at a luxury watch store where Ahmed was a regular customer.

The watch shop is in Chicago’s luxe “Gold Coast” shopping district, about 10 miles away from the neighborhood that Loretto serves. Block Club Chicago said that watch store employees were vaccinated March 3, a week before the event at Trump’s Chicago tower.

Then, on Wednesday, came the latest report: that Ahmed had arranged for vaccinations at Maple and Ash, a downtown steakhouse he frequents. The menu shows that some steaks cost up to $180 each.

 

Jan. 6 Pro-Trump Riot, Insurrection 

seth abramson headshotProof via Substack, Investigative Commentary, A January 6 Secret Service Scandal Is Brewing, Seth Abramson, March 25, 2021. Evidence of a seditious conspiracy involving officials who remain in the Secret Service is growing as the Secret Service's role in the insurrection comes under new scrutiny.

CNN, DEA agent says he was wrongly fired and is now under investigation for being at Capitol during insurrection, Adrienne Winston, March 25, 2021. New video appears to show CNNattack on slain officer during Capitol riot.

A US Drug Enforcement Administration agent suspended for being at the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection said Tuesday that he has since been fired from the agency and is now "the subject of a criminal investigation," even though he claims he "never even stepped foot on the stairs of the Capitol building."

Mark Ibrahim said in an interview with Fox News that after the attack on the Capitol he "got on a flight back to LA. I had my badge and gun taken away from me. I was escorted off the premises to my apartment like a criminal, and I was fired after being suspended for two months, for performance issues."
"Now, I'm actually the subject of a criminal investigation," he told the network.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Ibrahim's assertion that he is under investigation, and Ibrahim's attorney, Darren Richie, declined to provide further information to CNN.

The DEA said in a statement to CNN that per agency policy, it "cannot comment on specific personnel matters" protected by privacy laws.

Ibrahim's firing adds to a growing list of consequences facing people who were present at the US Capitol on January 6 when a pro-Trump mob stormed the building in an attack that left five dead. The government has charged nearly 300 others in connection to the insurrection. The rioters were attempting to stop the Senate from counting the electoral votes to confirm Joe Biden's presidential win.
Ibrahim, who said he is now taking "legal action against the DEA" said in the interview that he was at the Capitol on January 6 because a "friend I served in Iraq with asked me to help him get there for documentation purposes and we were just spectators."

"When the crowd began to be hostile toward law enforcement, me being law enforcement myself, I started to document everything and, via my friend, we handed everything over to the FBI so those criminals could face justice," he said.

His lawyer previously said Ibrahim was at the Capitol to enjoy "an important day in history" and that "Mr. Ibrahim was not part of, affiliated with nor participatory in any trespass or violent acts and vehemently denounces them."

 

U.S. Law, Education

washington post logoWashington Post, USC reaches $852 million settlement in lawsuits involving ex-gynecologist accused of sexual abuse, Nick Anderson, March 25, 2021. The lawsuits allege that the george tyndalluniversity failed to respond adequately to complaints that former USC gynecologist George Tyndall, right, sexually abused patients at its student health center. Tyndall is awaiting trial on criminal charges in connection with the accusations.

The University of Southern California has agreed to an $852 million settlement to resolve lawsuits from hundreds of women alleging that the university failed to respond adequately to complaints that a gynecologist sexually abused patients at its student health center, according to terms disclosed Thursday.

USC and attorneys for the plaintiffs made the terms public after a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The magnitude of the settlement — about one seventh of the size of the $5.9 billion endowment USC reported in 2020 — made it a landmark case for higher education.

Previously, the university had also agreed to pay more than $200 million in a 2018 federal class action settlement involving women who were patients of Tyndall. Counting Thursday’s developments, the total bill for legal settlements now exceeds $1 billion.

ny times logoNew York Times, Left in the Lurch by Private Loans From For-Profit Colleges, Sarah Butrymowicz and Meredith Kolodner, March 25, 2021. The loans have ensnared hundreds of thousands of students, who aren’t protected by the same government safeguards carried by federal loans.

After Kashia Campbell graduated from Florida Career College, the school refused to release her transcript, which she would need for taking a certification exam, until she repaid more of a $6,500 loan it had made to her.

The problem was a $6,500 private loan she had taken out from the college to help her cover tuition. Florida Career College demanded that she pay more of her loan before it would release her transcript, something she said she had not been told previously. The transcript was a prerequisite for the certification exam, and she ended up in a lower-paying job earning $10 an hour. Four years later, she can pay only $50 a month on her school loan.

Ms. Campbell’s loan is a tiny fraction of the more than $30 million owed to Florida Career College’s parent company, the International Education Corporation. The company doesn’t care whether she, and thousands of others, ever fully pay it back. Its main reason for lending to people like her is so the company can operate its other, much more lucrative business model — reaping revenue from federal student aid. By law, a tenth of a for-profit school’s revenue must come from sources other than federal financial aid (loans, grants and other programs students use to pay for college) and loans like Ms. Campbell’s help them meet that quota.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Testing Time at the Supreme Court, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), March 25, 2021. The outcome of a property rights case could foretell linda greenhouse cover just a journalisthow much conservatives can expect from the justices.

The case that the Supreme Court heard this week about a California law granting union organizers access to private farms has been described as a labor case, which it marginally is. It has also been described as a case about property rights, which it definitely is. But what makes Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid one of the most important cases of the current term is the question it presents for the newly configured court: whether, after years of disappointment, the political right may finally be able to take the Supreme Court for granted.

The case exemplifies a dynamic likely to become quite familiar in the coming months or years. In an ordinary lawsuit, the plaintiff might dream of winning big, but would be satisfied simply to win. By contrast, Cedar Point Nursery — or, more precisely, the Pacific Legal Foundation — is shooting for the moon. Its lawyer made clear in his argument on Monday that it expects to come away with nothing less.

The group is using Cedar Point, a strawberry grower, along with another employer that packs and ships grapes and citrus fruit, as stalking horses for its long-running project to elevate property rights.

In one remarkable exchange, the foundation’s lawyer, Joshua Thompson, rejected out of hand a potential path to victory offered by Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As the lawyer kept resisting that proffered hand, Justice Kavanaugh said in evident frustration: “Just to be clear. I’m saying that you would prevail under Babcock. You don’t want to prevail under Babcock, though?”

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden once called himself ‘a gaffe machine.’ Today’s news conference will test his discipline, Matt Viser, March 25, 2021. Biden has surprised many longtime associates with the discipline and conciseness of his communications as president during his first two months in office. Thursday’s session will test whether Biden truly has grown more scripted, or whether the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic — and the tight controls on the presidency — just make it seem that way.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden May Be the Most Pro-Labor President. That May Not Save Unions, Noam Scheiber, March 25, 2021. Even as labor leaders effusively praise President Biden, experts worry that he may be powerless to reverse unions’ long-term decline.

Two months into the new administration, labor leaders are proclaiming Joseph R. Biden Jr. to be the most union-friendly president of their lifetime — and “maybe ever,” as Steve Rosenthal, a former political director for the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said in an interview.

Mr. Biden has moved quickly to oust government officials whom unions deemed hostile to labor, and to reverse Trump-era rules that weakened worker protections. He has pushed through legislation sending hundreds of billions of dollars to cities and states, aid that public-sector unions consider essential, and tens of billions to shore up union pension plans.

Perhaps most notably, the president appeared in a video alluding to a union vote underway at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, warning that “there should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda” — an unusually outspoken move by a president in a standard union election.

Yet Mr. Rosenthal and other labor advocates confess to a gnawing anxiety: Despite Mr. Biden’s remarkable support for their movement, unions may not be much better off when he leaves office than when he entered it.

That’s because labor law gives employers considerable power to fend off union organizing, which is one reason that union membership has sunk to record lows in recent decades. And Senate Republicans will seek to thwart any legislative attempts — such as the PRO Act, which the House passed this month — to reverse the trend.

ny times logoNew York Times, Riders Are Abandoning Buses and Trains, Adding to Another Global Crisis, Somini Sengupta, Geneva Abdul, Manuela Andreoni and Veronica Penney, March 25, 2021, Public transit offers a relatively simple way for cities to lower their greenhouse gas emissions — and improve air quality, noise and congestion.

But the pandemic has pushed ridership, and revenue, off a cliff, threatening their long-term survival.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Jobless Claims Fall to Lowest Level Since the Pandemic Began, Nelson D. Schwartz, March 25, 2021. Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to 657,000, a decrease of 100,000 from the previous week.

The numbers come as vaccinations have gathered speed and restrictions on activities have receded in many states. Here’s the latest business news

While vaccination efforts have gathered speed and restrictions on activities have receded in many states, the job market is showing signs of life.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell last week to 657,000, a decrease of 100,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was the lowest weekly level of initial state claims since the pandemic upended the economy a year ago.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 684,000.

In addition, there were 242,000 new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, part-timers and others who do not routinely qualify for state benefits, a decrease of 43,000.

Unemployment claims have been at historically high levels for the past year, partly because some workers have been laid off more than once. Much of the drop last week was accounted for by a decline in new claims in Ohio and Illinois, but economists said the overall trend was encouraging.

“This is definitely a positive signal and a move in the right direction,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. “We would expect to see further improvements as vaccines roll out and restrictions are lifted.”

Between the state and federal programs, the total number of new jobless claims was just under 900,000 after being stuck above one million a week.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Political Updates: Analysis: Bipartisan Senate lunch crew hopes to do more than just break bread together, John Wagner, March 25, 2021. More than two months into his term, President Biden plans Thursday to hold his first formal news conference at the White House, as his fledging administration grapples with mass shootings, an influx of migrants at the border and an ongoing battle with the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden is scheduled to appear at 1:15 p.m. Eastern time in the East Room. Later Thursday, Biden plans to meet virtually with European Union leaders about his desire to revitalize U.S.-E.U. relations that were strained during the tenure of President Donald Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pro-Trump Senate candidates create early 2022 headaches for GOP, Mike DeBonis, March 25, 2021 (print ed.). One candidate resigned the Missouri governorship in disgrace, facing criminal charges and allegations that an extramarital affair had turned violent.

Another, an Alabama congressman, served as President Donald Trump’s warm-up act for the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, urging participants ralliers to “start taking down names and kicking ass.”

A third recently had his Twitter account temporarily suspended when the Ohio hopeful referred to some of the people crossing the southern border as “Muslim Terrorists” and “Mexican Gangbangers.”

And that could be just the beginning.

More than a year ahead of the first state primaries, hard-edge pro-Trump conservatives are rushing into Republican Senate races that have been upended by the impending retirements of veteran lawmakers — heralding a long battle ahead over the direction of the GOP, with not only control of the Senate but the tenor of the nation’s politics at stake.

This week, former Missouri governor Eric Greitens entered the race to succeed fellow Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, declaring himself “exonerated” of the wrongdoing that sparked his resignation and committing himself to “defending President Trump’s America-first policies,” while Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) announced plans to run for the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Richard C. Shelby at an event where he was flanked by Trump immigration adviser Stephen Miller.

washington post logoWashington Post, The gun implicated in Boulder uses the same ammunition as an AR-15. It’s legally a pistol, Alex Horton, March 25, 2021 (print ed.). In a promotional video for the Ruger AR-556, a company product manager gushed that the weapon, legally designated as a pistol but closer to an AR-15 rifle in design, offered much more than a typical handgun.

The compact body features the same rail system as wildly popular AR-15-style rifles, he noted, allowing owners to attach accessories like optics and flashlights, and its short barrel makes for easy transport.

“It’s still great for all the applications of a pistol — or a rifle,” the Ruger staffer said in the 2019 video.

Two key components that help define what a rifle is, the barrel and the stock, have been altered by firearm manufacturers to circumvent existing gun laws, critics have said, producing a weapon that functions much like a rifle but is legally classified as a pistol. That affects how they are bought, sold and regulated.

The result is the AR-15-style pistol. The weapon, championed by some gun enthusiasts but relatively obscure among the general public, has become more visible following the massacre Monday in Boulder, Colo., in which a gunman killed 10 people in a grocery store.

The suspect bought a Ruger AR-556 days before the killings, police wrote in an arrest affidavit. They noted that they recovered a protective vest, a rifle and a handgun but did not say whether either was the Ruger.

washington post logoWashington Post, Only 0.1 percent of Trump farm relief went to Black farmers, agriculture secretary says, Laura Reiley, March 25, 2021. In an interview with The Post, Tom Vilsack said the previous administration’s pandemic response exacerbated disparities in the American farm economy. A tiny fraction of the Trump administration’s coronavirus relief for American farmers — just 0.1 percent of the overall package — went to Black farmers, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was confirmed in February with strong bipartisan support for a second stint in the role.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Vilsack for the first time noted the extent to which the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated existing disparities across the American economy.

The distribution of coronavirus relief increased those gaps, he said.

Black farmers received only $20.8 million of nearly $26 billion in two rounds of payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program announced by the Trump administration last April, he said.

American Prospect, Commentary: President Manchin’s Agenda, David Dayen, March 25, 2021. Plus, real talk about the border. Moderate members of Congress who represent the margin of victory on legislation always get outsized attention. You might say that’s why they’re moderates; nobody’s hanging on Richard Blumenthal’s every word, after all (though they should! Blumenthal is an underrated lawmaker. But I digress.)

But the combination of an extremely narrow Senate majority and pent-up demand for liberal policies have forced us to peer entirely too deeply into the mind of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). And it’s a pretty confusing place.

Manchin has kind of a shtick on big bills, where he stakes out a very rigid position, calls for bipartisanship around it, and then signs on to the Democratic position, once he wins something or other. That thing can be harmless or even laudatory. On the American Rescue Plan it was the Butch Lewis Act, the $86 billion multiemployer pension rescue, which was a priority of a lot of the caucus but was Manchin’s bill for years. But it was also the cutback of $100 a week on the federal unemployment enhancement in exchange for one additional week of coverage, and the rapid narrowing of the phase-out on direct payments. There was no economic or even political case for this other than for Manchin to say he changed the law.

Dick ShelbyNow we’re seeing this play out on additional parts of the Democratic agenda. Two weeks ago Manchin said Republicans had to be included in any infrastructure bill in order to win his vote. This would threaten to sink the entire project. Then yesterday he said that the package would be “huge,” as much as $4 trillion (above the $3 trillion plan Biden will reportedly roll out next week), and that it should be paid for by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy, something no Republican would ever agree to. Pressed on that fundamental distinction, Manchin said Republican intransigence was not “reasonable,” asking, “Where do they think it's going to come from? How are you going to fix America?”

This suggests that Manchin knows well that infrastructure will only happen through the reconciliation process, and that “including” Republicans means allowing them to reject tax increases before finding a way around them. This increases the chances of success over the too-cute White House theory that you could pass the pieces that Republicans like through a regular bill and throw everything else into reconciliation, hoping that the opposition just plays along. I don’t know that every dollar needs to be offset on this bill, but we’re talking about someone in Manchin who gets a call from staff daily updating him on the precise national debt figure. So that’s where we are.

Manchin is right now leading a group of 20 Senators charged with showing that the Senate can work under the current rules. Another way of saying that is that Manchin is leading a group that’s opposed to Senate majority rule and desperate to find a fig leaf to keep it at bay. Manchin has said that the filibuster rule enables “cooperation.” If by that you mean cooperating on not doing much of anything, sure. Manchin desperately wants common ground where none is to be found. But he’s still a West Virginia senator, and he’ll take money to build the Joe Manchin Suspension Bridge. Just not the Joe Manchin Independent Redistricting Commission.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden faces new challenges ahead of first White House news conference, Ashley Parker and Sean Sullivan, March 25, 2021 (print ed.). Seeking to focus on the coronavirus relief plan and vaccination successes, the president must also grapple with mass shootings and a border surge as mounting crises.

 

World News

Strategic Culture Foundation, Commentary: Sino-American Relations Exacerbated by U.S. Racism, Wayne Madsen, March 25, 2021. Antony Blinken, who graduated from Columbia University with a law strategic culture logodegree, is obviously not well suited in history or diplomacy. When it comes to Asia Political Science, he earns a failing grade.

When Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office of the Chinese Communist Party Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi sat across the table from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, Alaska and were taken to task by Blinken for perceived Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang, antony blinken o newTibet, and Hong Kong, the Chinese side were apparently beside themselves in anger.

Just a day before the Sino-U.S. summit, a 21-year-old fundamentalist religious fanatic – read that as a member of the political base of the racist ex-President Donald Trump – went on a shooting spree in the Atlanta Metro area that saw Asian-operated spas as the targets. The shooter killed six Asian women, two from China and four from Korea. The Atlanta shooting spree came after 3800 hate crimes against Asians in the United States were reported to have occurred in the past year and during China Flagthe coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Blinken, dusting off the old and discredited “R2P” (Responsibility to Protect) playbook from the Barack Obama administration, lectured the Chinese government delegation on China’s policies toward Muslims in Xinjiang, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and Tibetans. The essence of the private talks between the two sides was said to have been contentious and that was obvious from Yang’s public statement, in which he berated the United States for its utter hypocrisy. Yang said, “We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world,” adding, “Many people within the United States actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States.”

After an attempted January 6 right-wing militia coup d’etat in Washington, DC a racially-inspired massacre in the state of Georgia that saw six Asian women singled out for murder by a right-wing lunatic, Yang had an extremely valid point.

 

March 24

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Media / Politics News

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

 

 World News

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

More On Guns, Shootings, Politics

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Terror in a Boulder supermarket: How the King Soopers shooting unfolded, Jennifer Oldham, Frances Stead Sellers, Shayna Jacobs and Marc Fisher, March 24, 2021. In the most mundane of settings, a burst of bullets.

Ten people died: Shoppers and shop clerks, managers and mothers, regular folks getting their food, making a living.

It was 2:30 p.m. on a cold, gray Monday in Boulder, clumps of snow still on the ground. And at the King Soopers, part of a sprawling shopping center hard by a senior living center, two churches and a Montessori school, another man with a gun was killing people.

washington post logoWashington Post, Suspect in shooting had alarmed classmates with violent outbursts, Ari Schneider, Lenny Bernstein, Kim Bellware and Craig Timberg, March 24, 2021. The suspect pleaded guilty to a 2017 assault on a high school classmate for an alleged ethnic slur.

ahmad al aliwi alissa mug via reutersMaybe he didn't quite fit in at his midsize high school in this Denver suburb, but Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, shown at right in a mug shot, certainly didn't stand out. One of 11 siblings in a family that emigrated from Raqqa, Syria, two decades ago, Alissa seemed to get along with others in his early teens — a moon-faced boy who wrestled but perhaps wanted for friends.

“He was a pretty chill kid from what I can remember,” said Mark Dorokhov, who said he often ate lunch with Alissa during the short period that Dorokhov attended Arvada West High School. “He wasn’t like a popular kid or anything. And he wasn’t like the high school loser, either. He was just kind of in-between. He was like me, I guess.”

That mild persona soon unraveled. In November 2017, his senior year, the man accused of killing 10 people in a Boulder grocery store this week stood up in class and assaulted an unsuspecting student, pummeling him in the head and face for an alleged ethnic slur. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to probation and community service.

washington post logoWashington Post, Shootings spur Biden to call for tighter gun rules, Sean Sullivan, Paul Kane and Seung Min Kim, March 24, 2021. President Biden on Tuesday called for tightening of the nation’s gun laws, plunging him into an impassioned debate that he largely tiptoed around until it erupted anew after two mass shootings.

But Biden and Democratic leaders tempered their push for swift action with some doubt about their ability to enact new restrictions, even with party control of the White House and Congress, underlining the political volatility that has long surrounded efforts to overhaul gun laws.

In hastily arranged remarks less than 24 hours after a shooting rampage in Boulder, Colo., that left 10 people dead, Biden proposed a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as an expansion of background checks during gun sales. Gun-control advocates have tried to push through all these initiatives over the past decade, but strong cultural and political divisions have stymied their efforts.

brian sicknick

ny times logoNew York Times, Officer Brian Sicknick Died After the Capitol Riot. New Videos Show His Attack, Evan Hill, David Botti, Dmitriy Khavin, Drew Jordan and Malachy Browne, March 24, 2021. Videos obtained by The New York Times show publicly for the first time how he was attacked with a chemical spray while facing rioters on Jan. 6.

New videos obtained by The New York Times show publicly for the first time how the U.S. Capitol Police officer who died after facing off with rioters on Jan. 6 was attacked with chemical spray.

The officer, Brian D. Sicknick, who had been guarding the west side of the Capitol, collapsed later that day and died the next night. Little had been known about what happened to Officer Sicknick during the assault, and the previously unpublished videos provide new details about when, where and how he was attacked, as well as about the events leading up to the encounter.

 

Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, right, and Rudy Giuliani, now defendants in billion-dollar defamation actions by election software companies, confer during a November press conference touting their false claims of election rigging.

Trump attorneys Sidney Powell, right, and Rudy Giuliani, now defendants in billion-dollar defamation actions by election software companies, confer during a November press conference touting their false claims of election rigging.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Sidney Powell’s Tucker Carlson-esque defense: ‘Reasonable people’ wouldn’t take her wild voter-fraud claims as fact, Aaron Blake, March 24, 2021. Except lots of Trump supporters clearly did.

Former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell has signaled her legal strategy in the defamation lawsuit brought against her by the voting machine company Dominion, and it’s simultaneously unsurprising and remarkable.

Her legal team claims that “reasonable people” would not take her claims about widespread election fraud as fact.

“Given the highly charged and political context of the statements, it is clear that Powell was describing the facts on which she based the lawsuits she filed in support of President Trump,” Powell’s defense team said in a motion to dismiss.

It added: “Indeed, Plaintiffs themselves characterize the statements at issue as ‘wild accusations’ and ‘outlandish claims.’ They are repeatedly labeled ‘inherently improbable’ and even ‘impossible.’ Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support Defendants’ position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

So there you have it: One of the chief architects of former president Donald Trump’s baseless effort to overturn the 2020 election admits that maybe, actually it was just that baseless and she was just saying stuff.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s quite similar to the defense offered by another Trump ally in a high-profile defamation lawsuit: Tucker Carlson. When Carlson accused Karen McDougal of extorting former president Donald Trump over her claims of an affair, McDougal filed suit against him. Fox News’s defense was that a “reasonable viewer” would not accept such claims as fact because of the tenor of Carlson’s show. And a judge agreed, dismissing the case.

The strategy successfully insulated Carlson and Fox News from legal liability, but it now hangs over Carlson’s programming. He’s forever pegged as the journalist whose own employer admitted a reasonable person wouldn’t — and perhaps shouldn’t — expect his claims to be true. (MSNBC offered a somewhat similar hyperbole defense in a suit involving Rachel Maddow that was dismissed, though Maddow wasn’t freelancing nearly as much as Carlson.)

Powell is running into the same Sophie’s Choice, and she’s opted for the least-bad option: the you-guys-didn’t-actually-believe-what-I-was-saying defense.

 

joe biden black background resized serious file

Palmer Report, Opinion: We’re in it now, Bill Palmer, right, March 24, 2021.  We’re still nowhere near being out of the COVID crisis, and now we’re being reminded bill palmerthat we still have a long running gun crisis. This comes even as Republican state legislatures continue to create a voting rights crisis. There are really too many American crises right now to list.

bill palmer report logo headerIt all serves to underscore just how crucial and historical the current congressional term is. Politics continues to be an arena in which progress is delivered through procedural maneuvering and leveraged negotiations, not through magic wands. So it’s continuing to take time to deliver solutions to these crises, at a time when – thanks to four years of criminal negligence – this nation doesn’t have much time to spare.

american flag upside down distressIt’s no exaggeration to say that everything is on the line. We knew all along that if we were able to oust Trump from power, we’d be tasked with the biggest cleanup operation of all time.

Now it’s upon us. It’s more important than ever that we keep our heads in the game and keep fighting. Someday our descendants will ask us not just what we did to help get rid of Trump, but what we did to piece the nation back together afterward. We’ll be proud of the answers we have for them.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook and Twitter must do more to fight anti-vaccine misinformation, a dozen state attorneys general demand, Cat Zakrzewski and
Rachel Lerman, March 24, 2021. A coalition of 12 state attorneys general on Wednesday will send a letter to Facebook and Twitter, pressing them to do more to ensure online falsehoods aren’t undermining efforts to vaccinate the public against covid-19.

twitter bird CustomConnecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) and 11 other Democratic state attorneys general called Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey to “take immediate steps” to fully enforce their policies against vaccine misinformation.

The attorneys general say the companies have not cracked down hard enough on prominent anti-vaccine accounts that repeatedly violate the companies’ terms of service. They also say that falsehoods about the safety of coronavirus vaccines from a small pool of individuals has facebook logoreached over 59 million followers on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, citing data from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which studies online misinformation and disinformation.

They are sending the letter the day before Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are expected to testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing is broadly focused on disinformation, and lawmakers and their staff have been in communication with leaders of Anti-Vax Watch, a collection of people and organizations concerned about vaccine disinformation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Deaths from coronavirus on the rise worldwide after weeks of decline, warns the WHO, Paul Schemm, March 24, 2021.

  • France’s culture minister hospitalized with covid-19
  • Eastern European countries report record covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths

Global deaths due to covid-19 are on the rise following weeks of steady increases in the number of new cases, according to the World Health Organization.

Also, new infections fell around the world for six consecutive weeks in January and February but recently began climbing again under pressure from more transmissible variants and the relaxation of restrictions — a phenomenon also observed in the United States. Deaths are now catching up with a 3 percent global rise in fatalities over the past week — Southeast Asia in particular has seen a major increase of 14 percent.

More than three-quarters of all new cases and deaths were reported in Europe and the Americas. Brazil, however, has been particularly devastated, reporting a record 3,251 deaths Tuesday — four times more than the much larger United States. The global trend suggests that U.S. deaths, which have continued to fall for months, may soon rise again as well.

washington post logoWashington Post, 85.5 million vaccinated, as of March 24, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 32.0% of the eligible population,16 and older and 25.7% of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 24, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 124,919,952, Deaths: 2,748,590
U.S. Cases:    30,636,534,  Deaths:    556,883

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly half of schools are open full time, survey finds, Laura Meckler, March 24, 2021 (print ed.). Data shows that White children are far more likely than Black, Hispanic or Asian American students to be attending in person.

 

Media, Film, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Gatekeepers: These tech firms control what’s allowed online, Geoffrey A. Fowler and Chris Alcantara, March 24, 2021. Moderating content isn’t just something Facebook, Google and Twitter do. There’s a whole “stack” of companies that run the Internet — and are under pressure to exert control.

Joan Donovan, research director at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center, proposed this view of the Internet’s gatekeepers after deadly shootings in 2019 that germinated on a message board called 8chan. Online hate and disinformation spread because an entire ecosystem supports them, she said, and the rest of the stack has to step up to break the circuit.

parler logoTypically unseen parts of the stack flexed their power after the Capitol riot. Amazon Web Services — which provides the cloud-computing power that keeps many apps and websites running — ended its contract with social network Parler for having too many violent posts and insufficient moderation. App stores run by Apple and Google kicked out Parler, too, effectively kneecapping the platform. amazon logo smallParler, supported financially by major Trump backer Rebekah Mercer, called the moves part of a “coordinated effort” to silence Trump and his supporters. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

It’s a lot of power to put into the hands of tech executives who aren’t elected or don’t necessarily have experience weighing what’s right for society.

In some slices of the stack, a small number of companies have inordinate influence. Apple’s App Store, for example, is the only way you can buy apps for iPhones and iPads.

Yet tech companies have long made these kinds of calls, dating back to efforts to thwart child exploitation and police people who pirate music and movies.

A law known as Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act says “interactive computer services” — companies up and down the stack — cannot be held legally responsible for what others use their services to say. That provides them with a legal shield, with a few exceptions such as sex trafficking, but also gives companies the right to police content as they see fit.

“There’s no way for major consumer brands like PayPal to stay fully out of the culture wars,” says PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, adding that the company, which also owns Venmo, removes from service hundreds of websites and individuals each month for a variety of reasons. “It’s our responsibility to ensure that we don’t allow people to use PayPal or Venmo to advocate for violence or hatred or racial intolerance,” he said.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Her Film on Sex Assault Depicts Her Own and Fuels a #MeToo Moment, Cara Buckley, March 24, 2021. Danijela Stajnfeld included her account of being assaulted in a film that has led to contentious debate in Serbia and prompted other women to come forward to say they were sexually abused.

Her face graced billboards in Belgrade. She appeared regularly in Serbian movies, magazines and television shows. Trained at the prestigious Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, Danijela Stajnfeld had, by the age of 26 in 2011, won two major theater prizes and was a permanent member with the esteemed Belgrade Drama Theater.

The following year, she abruptly and mysteriously dropped from public view. It wasn’t until last summer that she publicly revealed why.

In her documentary, “Hold Me Right,” about victims and perpetrators of sexual assault, Stajnfeld said that she too had been sexually assaulted eight years earlier by a powerful Serbian man, which had prompted her move to the United States.

When the film premiered last year at the Sarajevo Film Festival, Stajnfeld said she was nervous but could not imagine its causing waves. “I thought no one remembered me, I didn’t keep in touch with anyone in Serbia,” she said in an interview.

The media firestorm that erupted within days of the premiere proved her wrong.

Stajnfeld’s face was suddenly all over the Serbian press again. Television and online commentators praised her for speaking out or savaged her for not disclosing the man’s name.

She said she did not identify the man because she wanted the film to focus on survivors and healing, rather than singling out a perpetrator. But the country’s tabloids speculated wildly about his identity. Reporters approached Stajnfeld’s unsuspecting parents in their small village. Critics questioned her motives. “Sick!” read one headline. “Actress made up the rape to advertise her film.”

Even for someone who had grown up in Serbia, where sexism and male chauvinism are deeply entrenched, the blowback was stunning, Stajnfeld said. While the country has taken steps to advance the cause of women’s rights in recent years — in 2013 it ratified a human rights convention addressing gender-based violence — in Serbia, as in the surrounding region, sexual harassment and assaults are still only rarely reported, and victim shaming abounds.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sharon Stone Is Telling Her Side of the Story, Dave Itzkoff, March 24, 2021. The actress and star of films like “Basic Instinct” and “Casino” writes about her life, upbringing and brushes with death in a new memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice. “I don’t think that my life is exceptional, except that I ended up being a movie star,” Sharon Stone said.

During an extended hospitalization in 2001, when Sharon Stone was being treated for a stroke and a subarachnoid hemorrhage that had bled into her brain, head and spine, she writes that she was visited by her grandmother Lela, who had been dead for 30 years.

“This is where it gets weird,” Stone writes in a new memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice, which Knopf will publish on Tuesday. Lela came to convey a warning: “Whatever you do, don’t move your neck.”

It is one of several scenes from her life that Stone, the 63-year-old star of films like “Basic Instinct,” “Casino” and “The Quick and the Dead,” relates with candor and sardonic humor. Despite her long career in Hollywood playing femme fatales and women of mystery — even in recent television series like “Mosaic” and “Ratched” — her memoir is a more episodic account of her life and upbringing, particularly her youth in modest Meadville, Pa., and the indelible but troubled family that raised her there.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook and Twitter must do more to fight anti-vaccine misinformation, a dozen state attorneys general demand, Cat Zakrzewski and
Rachel Lerman, March 24, 2021. A coalition of 12 state attorneys general on Wednesday will send a letter to Facebook and Twitter, pressing them to do more to ensure online falsehoods aren’t undermining efforts to vaccinate the public against covid-19.

jack dorsey resized 2018Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) and 11 other Democratic state attorneys general called Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey, right, to “take immediate steps” to fully enforce their policies against vaccine misinformation.

The attorneys general say the companies have not cracked down hard enough on prominent anti-vaccine accounts that repeatedly facebook logoviolate the companies’ terms of service. They also say that falsehoods about the safety of coronavirus vaccines from a small pool of individuals has reached over 59 million followers on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, citing data twitter bird Customfrom the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which studies online misinformation and disinformation.

They are sending the letter the day before Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are expected to testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing is broadly focused on disinformation, and lawmakers and their staff have been in communication with leaders of Anti-Vax Watch, a collection of people and organizations concerned about vaccine disinformation.

heath freeman alden capital east hampton resort realtor

The waterfront property boasts a hotel with seven luxury suites, 13 private cottages, a restaurant, a marina, tennis courts and a heated outdoor pool. It is just minutes from East Hampton Village (photo via realtor.com).

New York Post Page Six, Hedge fund ‘vampire’ buys luxury Hamptons resort for near $20 million, Emily Smith, March 24, 2021. Hamptons regulars are stunned after Wall Streeter Heath Freeman — dubbed “the hedge fund vampire that bleeds newspapers dry” — bought the beloved East Hampton Point resort for less than $20 million.

Freeman is president of Alden Global Capital, which was also named “the grim reaper of American newspapers” by Vanity Fair for its slash-and-burn practice of initiating deep cuts and mass layoffs at papers it buys, such as the Denver Post and the San Jose Mercury News.

alden global capital logoAlden just finalized a $431 million deal to buy the remaining stake in Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and the troubled New York Daily News.

Now Page Six can exclusively reveal that 40-year-old Freeman personally, along with a group of investors, has finalized a deal to buy East Hampton Point “for less than $20 million,” according to a source with knowledge of the sale.

The waterfront property — which used to house the celebrity- and billionaire-frequented sunset hotspot Moby’s — boasts a hotel with seven luxury suites, 13 private cottages, a restaurant, a marina, tennis courts and a heated outdoor pool. It is just minutes from East Hampton Village.

The resort had originally been put up for sale around 15 years ago for $50 million by the late Ben Krupinski, a popular Hamptons home builder who died in a plane crash in 2018. The sale price was more recently slashed to $27 million.

The sale to Freeman’s group closed in December after multiple bids were submitted, we’re told. East Hampton Point is a personal investment by Freeman and a group of investors and doesn’t involve Alden Global Capital, the source added.

They are currently renovating the rooms and the restaurant and plan to be fully open by the summer to take advantage of the much-anticipated Hamptons exodus.

One Hamptons source told us, “Given Freeman’s ambition, I am sure this place will be expensive, and attract a big power crowd of wealthy customers. But the news of this deal certainly won’t sit well with the journalists and editors who have been laid off by his company.”

His company Alden is now one of the largest newspaper operators in the US, with titles including the Los Angeles Daily News, the Boston Herald, New Jersey’s Trentonian and around 200 others — and has also attracted a lot of criticism for shrinking and dismantling local media.

The Washington Post last year reported that some reporters and editors who worked for Freeman after Alden purchased their publications have protested outside his Hamptons home or his Midtown Manhattan office. Twenty-one senators have reportedly urged him to stop his “reckless acquisition and destruction of newspapers.”

However, Freeman also told the Washington Post last year, “I wanted to clear up some misconceptions.” The business of local news has been broken a long time, he said, continuing, “We have bought almost all of our newspapers out of bankruptcy. Many of these papers were left for dead, and would have been liquidated if not for [our] seasoned newspaper executive team stepping up.”

He added, “I would love our team to be remembered as the team that saved the newspaper business.”

 

U.S. Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, E.P.A. to Review Attacks on Science Under Trump, Lisa Friedman, March 24, 2021. The agency said it would carry out an accounting of political interference in science, an unusually public act that Biden administration officials said was needed to restore trust in the agency’s decisions.

The Biden administration is taking the unusual step of making a public accounting of the Trump administration’s political interference in science, drawing up a list of dozens of regulatory decisions that may have been warped by political interference in objective research.

The effort could buttress efforts to unwind pro-business regulations of the past four years, while uplifting science staff battered by four years of disregard. It is particularly explicit at the Environmental Protection Agency, where President Biden’s political appointees said they felt that an honest accounting of past problems was necessary to assure career scientists that their findings would no longer be buried or manipulated.

In a blunt memo this month, one senior Biden appointee said political tampering under the Trump administration had “compromised the integrity” of some agency science. She cited specific examples, such as political leaders discounting studies that showed the harm of dicamba, a popular weedkiller that has been linked to cancer and subsequently ruling that its effectiveness outweighed its risks.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Sidney Powell does an about-face on her Stop the Steal claims, David Von Drehle, March 24, 2021. What it says that Team Trump’s legal advocate now argues that no one should have believed her election-fraud claims.

Now she tells us.

Attorney Sidney Powell, you may recall, was the Madame Defarge of the recent attempt to overturn the election results. She knitted elaborate lawsuits from the yarns of unreliable witnesses, patterned with a vast conspiracy to rig voting machines, as the partisans she inflamed rolled their tumbrels toward the Capitol in search of such supposed traitors as then-Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

dominion voting systemsSued for defamation by the voting-machine vendor in question, Powell is now scoffing in federal court at the idea that anyone could have taken her seriously. “Reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact,” Powell averred in her motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Instead, the allegations that helped to fuel the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol were mere “claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

When she said, as the nation was spinning into crisis, that she had evidence of “the greatest crime of the century if not the life of the world” — a world that in living memory has witnessed the Holocaust and other unspeakable crimes — Powell meant nothing of the sort, she now admits. That was just politics. Wrapping herself in an earlier court ruling, she quoted the “well recognized principle that political statements are inherently prone to exaggeration and hyperbole.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: With Senate Hearing, Democrats Begin Push for Elections Overhaul, Staff Reports, March 24, 2021. The Senate Rules Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday morning on its plan to overhaul federal elections. Here’s the latest.

  • The bill, which passed the House this month, would usher in expanded voting rights, new campaign finance laws and an end to congressional gerrymandering.
  • The latest mass shooting draws a familiar reaction in Washington, with lawmakers splintering along partisan lines.
  • The White House agrees to focus on Asian-American representation after Democrats threaten nominees.
  • Minute-by-minute videos detail the attack on a Capitol Police officer who died after the Jan. 6 riot.
  • Biden has extended the Affordable Care Act enrollment period until August.
  • The contest for an Iowa House seat was one of the closest in U.S. history. Congress could overturn it.
  • Watch live: Jerome Powell and Janet Yellen testify on the pandemic recovery.

Palmer Report, Opinion: House Republican Mo Brooks is completely out of control, Sheree McSpadden, March 24, 2021. Mo Brooks, House Republican and mo brooks o resized croppedinsurrection “rabble-rouser,” announced on Monday that he will be running for Senator to replace Richard Shelby of Alabama, who is retiring. But Brooks, right, did not let that stop him from shining light on the fact that he’s a gun-loving, right-wing extremist and more than a bit insane. (One of Brooks’ crazier admissions, and my personal favorite, is he doesn’t think ‘sick people’ morally deserve access to affordable healthcare.)

bill palmer report logo headerBrooks not only made his announcement at a Huntsville gun club and shooting range (where he was introduced by none other than Stephen Miller, the Trump aide who is really most responsible for any crisis at the border), making yet another of the many loony speeches he is famous for, but he also released an announcement video, featuring his seditious “kick-ass” speech at the Jan. 6th Trump/insurrection rally.

On Monday, he rallied up the gun-toting crowd through the usual fear and hate, by painting a picture of “a society besieged from nefarious sources” (i.e. liberals) right “within our country,” repeating the usual Big Lie crap about how the 2020 election was “stolen,” and warnings that “radical socialists” were republican elephant logotaking over America.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the racist xenophobe’s announcement, headlines were being made that Brooks had compared Biden’s election to the start of another Civil War. In a Sean Hannity podcast interview, done by none other than Rep. Louis Gohmert, guest host, Brooks claimed, “This is pretty much it for our country.” Then, referring to the election of Abraham Lincoln, he continued, “In my judgment, it rivals the election if 1860, and we saw what ensued from that” — meaning the Civil War.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Working around Joe Manchin, Bocha Blue, March 24, 2021. On Tuesday, Senator Manchin said he opposes the House legislation on background checks. He prefers the legislation he had been working on with Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.

bill palmer report logo headerHis comments enraged some Democrats who reacted swiftly. Many called for him to be primaried. Many said he should just change his party affiliation to Republican. This is dangerous talk. Let’s break it down.

First off, Manchin represents the state of West Virginia. It is one of the reddest states in the United States. If Manchin were to be primaried, a more liberal Democrat would never and could never win in that state. If Manchin were to change parties, the Senate would fall into the hands of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who would become Majority leader.

The Senator represents a state entrenched in guns. He is getting lots of pushback from his state to take a hard line on this. As much as we do not like what he is doing, we cannot let that dislike boil over into rage because if we did that, we’d be in danger of losing virtually everything we’ve worked so hard for.

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

djt hands up mouth open Custom

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Trump and Don Jr. Lawyer Up for Eric Swalwell’s Jan. 6 Riot Lawsuit, Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, Updated March 24, 2021. The former president and his eldest son have tapped a familiar “Stop the Steal” attorney.

Former President Donald Trump, as well as his eldest son Donald Trump Jr., have retained attorney Jesse Binnall to represent each of them in a lawsuit filed by Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, right, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Binnall, a Republican attorney based in Virginia, previously represented former Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn, alongside attorney Sidney Powell, after prosecutors charged him with lying to the FBI about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

More recently, Binnall filed a lawsuit in Nevada on behalf of the Trump campaign which sought to overturn President Joe Biden’s electoral victory there, and he has also repped Defending the Republic, a legal group founded in part by Powell, in a defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors allege ‘alliance’ between Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on Jan. 6, Rachel Weiner, Spencer S. Hsu and Tom Jackman, March 24, 2021. Federal investigators have been building conspiracy cases against associates of two organized right-wing groups accused of breaking into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 — the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. Now, they say members of the two groups coordinated beforehand, preparing for violence.

“This week I organized an alliance between Oath Keepers, Florida 3%ers, and Proud Boys,” Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs wrote Dec. 19, in one of a string of Facebook communications included by prosecutors in a detention memo filed Tuesday in his case. “We have decided to work together and shut this [expletive] . . . down.”

It is not clear if Meggs was referring to pro-Trump rallies that took place the previous week, Dec. 12 in Washington and Miami. But a week later, Meggs allegedly said he had “orchestrated a plan with the proud boys” for Jan. 6.

The Proud Boys “always have a big group” and could act as a “force multiplier,” he added, according to the memo from prosecutors.

The discussion centered not on invading the Capitol but on attacking left-wing “antifa” supporters in case President Donald Trump called in the military or Republican lawmakers otherwise blocked the certification of Joe Biden’s victory as president. According to the court documents, Meggs suggested that the Oath Keepers wait until police had separated the Proud Boys from left-wing activists. Then, he said, “we will come in behind antifa and beat the hell out of them.”

“Wait for the 6th when we are all in DC to insurrection,” Meggs advised another recruit, warning another Jan. 3, “Tell your friend this isn’t a Rally!!”

Another Oath Keepers associate, Donovan Crowl, is recorded in a Facebook message at about 3 a.m. on Jan. 6 vowing to go “‘tifa’ hunt’in” the following evening, according to court documents. While the plan may not have been to breach the Capitol, prosecutors argued that Crowl and other Oath Keeper associates “moved into action.”

And after the riot they celebrated, prosecutors said, quoting Crowl in another Facebook message as saying: “Hope they got the message. The Storm has arrived.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Green Beret, Army reservist who wore Hitler mustache jailed pending trial on Jan. 6 Capitol riot charges, Rachel Weiner, Shayna Jacobs and Emily Davies, March 24, 2021 (print ed.). A U.S. Army Reserve sergeant and a former Army Special Forces soldier were ordered jailed pending trial Tuesday on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, while a veteran New York Police Department officer turned herself in to face trespassing charges.

timothy hale cusanelliTimothy Hale-Cusanelli, right, an Army reservist and military contractor, was ordered detained on charges of civil disorder and related ones. Prosecutors also said at his hearing that his supervisor at a U.S. naval base was suspended for defending Hale-Cusanelli against allegations that he held white-supremacist views.

Hale-Cusanelli ran an antisemitic podcast, wore a Hitler mustache to work and shared violent, racist fantasies with colleagues, prosecutors said. After the Capitol breach, which disrupted Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 presidential election results and the peaceful of transfer of power, Hale-Cusanelli expressed hope for a “civil war, at a time when we’re having concerns about that in this country,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James Nelson said.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden of Washington ordered Hale-Cusanelli detained, saying it was a “close case” given that the defendant is not accused of hurting anyone or associating with a violent group Jan. 6.

“We don’t typically penalize people for what they say and think,” the Trump appointee said, and “hateful conduct” is not the same as “violent conduct.” But he added, “I am concerned about all the violent language.”

According to court records, Hale-Cusanelli admits using hand signals to encourage others to push past police lines and entering the building through a door kicked open from the inside.

Former top prosecutor in Capitol riot case faces internal review after ‘60 Minutes’ interview

Defense attorney Jonathan Zucker argued that Hale-Cusanelli “simply is not a dangerous person by his actions.”

Zucker had submitted a letter to the court from someone who supervised Hale-Cusanelli at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey, saying his subordinate was “slandered in the press in regards to him being a ‘white supremacist.’ ”

However, the supervisor has been placed on administrative leave after prosecutors revealed that he told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in January that Hale-Cusanelli was a Nazi sympathizer whom he had cautioned about “joking but not” racist comments. Thirty-four of the 44 colleagues interviewed by investigators agreed that Hale-
Cusanelli held “extremist or radical views pertaining to Jewish people, minorities, and women.”

Separately, a federal magistrate denied bond for Jeffrey McKellop, 55, of Augusta County, Va., who served two enlistments totaling 22 years in the Army, including as a Special Forces communications sergeant.

McKellop is accused of throwing a flagpole at a police officer like a spear and assaulting three other officers, according to the FBI and court documents.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui of Washington called the decision “very difficult.”

Former Green Beret charged in riot threw a flagpole at an officer like a spear, FBI says

Defense attorneys Greg Hunter and Seth Peritz cited McKellop’s military record as evidence of his character, including multiple tours overseas and three Bronze Star Medals. Prosecutors said that his training made him more dangerous and that he should have known better.

“It’s really difficult to resolve those two seemingly intractable divisions, that someone who could be a patriot could do something that was so undemocratic at the same time,” Faruqui said.

Ultimately, he said a government video exhibit that allegedly showed McKellop slamming a flagpole on a police captain’s shield and then throwing it at him was “one of the most egregious” assaults against police, ordering McKellop held because he was a danger to the community.

Also Tuesday, retired veteran New York Police Department officer Sara Carpenter surrendered to authorities and was released on personal recognizance to face trespassing and disorderly conduct charges after she was allegedly seen in the U.S. Capitol carrying a tambourine. Carpenter, 51, retired from the department in 2004 after serving 20 years, including in its public relations branch, a person familiar with her career said. A department spokesman said in a statement it “worked closely with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force culminating” in Carpenter’s arrest.

An attorney for Carpenter declined to comment when reached Tuesday.

Another retired NYPD officer, Thomas Webster, 54, was arrested last month, accused of assaulting a police officer outside the Capitol with a metal pole. Prosecutors said Webster beat the D.C. police officer with a flagpole that he had used to display a Marine Corps flag and was also seen tackling the officer to the ground.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former top prosecutor in Capitol riot case faces internal review after ‘60 Minutes’ interview, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu, March 24, 2021 (print ed.). Justice Department prosecutors have launched an internal review of the former interim U.S. attorney for the District, over comments he made recently on “60 Minutes” about the ongoing Capitol riot investigation ¬— remarks a federal judge warned Tuesday may threaten the fair-trial rights of some of the accused rioters.

U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta called a surprise hearing Tuesday on six hours’ notice to discuss his concerns that comments by Michael R. Sherwin aired on Sunday and a separate article published Monday by the New York Times indicated the Justice Department was not following the court’s rules or the agency’s internal procedures to refrain from speaking about ongoing cases outside of court.

The internal review and the judge’s displeasure are an ominous development for Justice Department officials trying to oversee one of the largest criminal investigations in U.S. history, in which more than 300 defendants have already been charged and 100 more are expected to be. Already, defense lawyers are trying to use Sherwin’s remarks to argue their clients are being treated unfairly.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Sherwin said he thought seditious conspiracy charges could be filed at some point against defendants in the investigation, and suggested former president Donald Trump’s conduct was being examined. Both statements echoed similar remarks Sherwin made shortly after the Jan. 6 riot carried out by Trump’s supporters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senior Navy official sexually harassed women for years, Pentagon watchdog finds, Dan Lamothe, March 24, 2021. The Defense Department’s top watchdog has found that a senior Navy official sexually harassed women in his office for years, a pattern of behavior that employees described to investigators as an “open secret,” according to a new report released Wednesday.

Several women said that Ronnie J. Booth, the former auditor general of the Navy, propositioned them sexually, and one employee said she had a years-long sexual relationship with him. Seven women said they either transferred out from under his supervision or requested to do so.

Booth denied the allegations and said in a brief voice message to the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General that “I don’t know where these accusations are coming from.”

“I see no credibility behind those, and that’s my comment,” he said. “They are strictly allegations, and I don’t have any other comment than that.”

The 56-page report was released on the same day the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on personnel held a hearing on sexual assault in the military and retaliation against victims who report it.

On Wednesday, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks also announced the beginning of a 90-day review of sexual assault and harassment in the military by a new, independent commission established by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

 

More On Guns, Shootings, Politics

Palmer Report, Opinion: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just dealt a major blow to gun fanatics, Bill Palmer, March 24, 2021. The Second Amendment doesn’t say anything about being able to carry a gun around in public. In fact it doesn’t say anything beyond granting citizens the right to possess a gun as part of a well regulated militia. Even as we continue to work to get the courts to correctly interpret the Second Amendment, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals took a major step in that direction today.

bill palmer report logo headerHawaii has a law that places severe restrictions on who can carry a gun in public, whether it be “open carry” or concealed. Today the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of that law. This means that the court is essentially saying there is no inherent constitutional right to carry a gun in public, and that states can statutorily limit who can carry a gun.

The 9th Circuit’s ruling is hundreds of pages long, but our initial understanding of it is that states can place whatever limitations they want on carrying a gun in public, and that the federal government can do the same. This will now surely head to the Supreme Court, which has a mixed record on guns at best. But the 9th Circuit did just establish precedent against carrying a gun, meaning the Supreme Court would have to bend over backward to find a way to strike down that precedent.

Even as the long Supreme Court process plays out, we now have firm legal precedent that there is no constitutional right to carry a gun in public. It comes at a crucial time when mass shootings are out of control, and Congress is working on gun reform laws. It’s just the momentum that gun control advocates need.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker: Biden’s claim that the 1994 assault-weapons law ‘brought down’ mass shootings, Glenn Kessler, March 24, 2021. Whether the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons, pushed through the Senate by Biden, was effective has long been a subject of interest for politicians and researchers — and The Fact Checker. Every few years, usually after a mass shooting, we find ourselves digging into the research to see whether there is fresh evidence to bolster the claims of Democrats that the ban was effective.

Over time, as more research has been published, the Pinocchio count has decreased. It also makes a difference how a politician frames the issue. Biden did not claim a “big drop” in deaths, as former president Bill Clinton did in 2019; Biden more modestly said the law resulted in fewer mass killings.

Part of the problem is that the assault weapons ban existed for only 10 years, and there are relatively few mass shootings per year, making it difficult to fully assess its impact. Adding to the complexity, researchers use different definitions for a “mass shooting,” which can vary from at least three to six people killed. There is not even an settled definition of “assault weapons,” though most people would include the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, which is implicated in many mass shootings.

Let’s review the latest evidence: The body of research now increasingly suggests the 1994 law was effective in reducing mass-shooting deaths.

washington post logoWashington Post, How other countries have responded to mass shootings, Adam Taylor and Amanda Coletta, March 24, 2021 (print ed.). Many countries have imposed more ambitious gun control measures than what courts interpreting the U.S. Constitution would permit.

  • Washington Post, 21-year-old man charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder'
  • Washington Post, Shootings never stopped during the pandemic: 2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades

washington post logoWashington Post, Girls, 13 and 15, charged with murder after alleged carjacking attempt in D.C., Peter Hermann, Justin Jouvenal and Paul Duggan, March 24, 2021. Two girls ages 13 and 15 have been charged with felony murder after D.C. police said their attempt to carjack a food delivery driver outside Nationals Park on Tuesday afternoon ended in a crash that fatally injured the man.

The death of Mohammad Anwar, a 66-year-old immigrant from Pakistan who lived in Virginia and was working as a driver for Uber Eats, comes amid a wave of carjackings that began last year in the District and in suburban Maryland, and is continuing this year.

D.C. police say 46 carjackings occurred in the District in the first five weeks of this year, compared to eight by the same time in 2020. In all of last year, police reported 345 carjackings, a spike of 143 percent from the 142 that occurred in 2019.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Facing sweltering soldiers and flooded ports, NATO to focus on climate change, Michael Birnbaum and Missy Ryan, March 24, 2021 (print ed.). Hotter summers in Iraq are blasting soldiers sitting inside armored vehicles. Flooding is threatening the world’s largest navy base. Russian submarines are prowling the melting Arctic. Now NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wants to make global warming a major focus of the military alliance’s strategy and planning, pushing environmental issues to the center as a security threat.

The new push at NATO, which was approved Tuesday by alliance foreign ministers at a gathering at the headquarters in Brussels, signals a significant shift for the organization, which has traditionally guarded against threats from Russia and other political actors around the world.

Now, NATO will also try to incorporate a different sort of danger into its work, as climate change upends old security assumptions and creates new risks for democratic societies. Stoltenberg, a former U.N. special envoy on climate change, said he hopes leaders will use a summit later this year to pledge to make their militaries carbon-neutral by 2050.

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu’s political future unclear as early vote tallies show no certain winner in Israeli election, Steve Hendrix and Erin Cunningham, March 24, 2021. The embattled leader’s right-wing Likud party appeared to win the most seats in Tuesday’s polls. But his path to governing majority grew Israel Flagmore difficult as the official vote count continued. Final results are not expected until later this week and the lack of a decisive winner could prolong Israel’s political stalemate, raising the prospect of yet another election later this year.

With almost 90 percent of the vote counted Wednesday morning, Netanyahu’s Likud had secured 30 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament. His coalition of right-wing and religious parties appeared to control 52 spots, leaving Netanyahu no easy route to the 61-seat majority.

jonathan pollard

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Commentary: Israeli Spy Pollard Betrays America Yet Again, Jeff Stein, Updated, March 23, 2021. The traitor's latest self-serving lie adds another burden to minorities in U.S. national security agencies. Jonathan Pollard, his grandiosity, narcissism and disingenuousness undiminished, cannot stop hurting the country that gave his Holocaust-ravaged family a life.

In the first part of an interview with a right-wing Israeli newspaper this week, Pollard (shown in a file photo) claimed he had “no choice” but to steal U.S. intelligence documents because Washington was withholding information on Arab WMD threats to the Jewish nation.

What a whopper. No American citizen is forced to spy for a foreign intelligence organization—and Pollard was a very well-paid volunteer, with over a half million dollars in earnings for his perfidy. Nor could he know of what intelligence the U.S. was or wasn’t sharing with Israel.

So I doubt he’ll come clean in the second part of his interview with the right-wing Israel Hayom, funded by the late pro-Trump casino magnate Sheldon Adelson—on how he stole more than a million documents, “enough to fill a six-by-ten-foot room stacked six feet high,” according to former NCIS agent Ron Olive, a number of which he also shopped to South Africa, Pakistan, his financial advisers and his then-wife, who used them to “advance her personal business interests,” Olive wrote in his 2006 book, Capturing Jonathan Pollard: How One of the Most Notorious Spies in American History Was Brought to Justice.

“Pollard's operation has few parallels among known US espionage cases,” a declassified version of the CIA’s 1987 damage assessment stated.

Some Jewish American and Israeli quarters venerated—and continue to worship—Pollard as a Zionist martyr, a characterization even hawks like Martin Peretz, the former editor of The New Republic, rejected when Pollard’s early release from his 30-year sentence was under consideration during the Obama administration.

“Jonathan Pollard is not a Jewish martyr,” Peretz wrote. “He is a convicted espionage agent who spied on his country for both Israel and Pakistan (!) — a spy, moreover, who got paid for his work. His professional career, then, reeks of infamy and is suffused with depravity.”

Peretz labelled Pollard's supporters, “professional victims, mostly brutal themselves, who originate in the ultra-nationalist and religious right. They are insatiable. And they want America to be Israel's patsy.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally welcomed Pollard “home” when he landed at Ben Gurion International Airport last Dec. 19.

Double Damages

Pollard’s latest perfidy not only threatens to cast doubt again about the ultimate loyalty of American Jews, it casts a shadow on other government servants with foreign ties or backgrounds. Chief among them, according to a recent article in Politico and comments by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), are Asian American and Pacific Islander employees of the State Department (and no doubt other national security agencies).

Ironically, younger Asian American diplomats, recruited in part for their area knowledge, cultural understanding and language skills, end up being restricted from working on or in Asian countries out of fears by the State Department that they’re inordinately susceptible to coercion and recruitment by foreign intelligence services.

The “assignment restriction” policy, spelled out in a State Department manual, places limits on a diplomat’s security clearance, based on concerns about “targeting and harassment by foreign intelligence services as well as to lessen foreign influence.”

Needless to say, such restrictions can pull the plug on a mid-level diplomat’s drive to fly high in the foreign service. And there’s little recourse. According to a detailed analysis by the Diplopundit web site, the appeals route for frustrated Asian American or other “ethnic” diplomats might as well be conducted by the hookah smoking caterpillar in Alice-in-Wonderland.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Will Die Protecting My Country’: In Myanmar, a New Resistance Rises, Hannah Beech, March 24, 2021. In a jungle in the borderlands of myanmar flagMyanmar, the troops sweated through basic training. They learned how to load a rifle, pull the pin of a hand grenade and assemble a firebomb.

These cadets are not members of Myanmar’s military, which seized power last month and quickly imposed a battlefield brutality on the country’s populace. Instead, they are an eclectic corps of students, activists and ordinary office workers who believe that fighting back is the only way to defeat one of the world’s most ruthless armed forces.

“I see the military as wild animals who can’t think and are brutal with their weapons,” said a woman from Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, who was now in the forest for a week of boot camp. Like others who have joined the armed struggle, she did not want her name published for fear that the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, would target her.

“We have to attack them back,” she said. “This sounds aggressive, but I believe we have to defend ourselves.”

After weeks of peaceful protests, the frontline of Myanmar’s resistance to the Feb. 1 coup is mobilizing into a kind of guerrilla force. In the cities, protesters have built barricades to protect neighborhoods from military incursions and learned how to make smoke bombs on the internet. In the forests, they are training in basic warfare techniques and plotting to sabotage military-linked facilities.

The boldness and desperation of this new front recalls the radicalization of a previous generation of democracy activists in Myanmar, who traded treatises on political philosophy for guns. As in the past, the hard-line opposition is a defensive response to the military’s mounting reign of terror. The Tatmadaw has cracked down on peaceful protesters and unarmed bystanders alike, killing at least 275 people since the coup, according to a monitoring group.

As the military kills, assaults and terrorizes civilians each day, some protesters say there is no choice but to fight the army on its own terms.

Schumer and McConnell Square Off in Voting Rights Bill Hearing

The measure, which passed the House this month and is chock-full of liberal priorities, would usher in landmark changes making it easier to vote.
Senator Mitch McConnell called it “an attempt by one party to write the rules.” Senator Chuck Schumer chanted “Shame!” at Republicans. Here’s the latest.

 

March 23

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

More On Mass Shootings

 

U.S. Media News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Suspect Charged With 10 Counts of Murder in Boulder, Colo., Shooting, Staff Reports, March 23, 2021. In addition to a police officer who had responded to 911 calls, the authorities identified nine other victims, who ranged in age from 20 to 65.

The suspect was prone to angry outbursts, according to former classmates. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The suspect charged in the Boulder shooting used an assault rifle in the attack.
  • The shooting victims included a police officer, a grocery worker and a retiree.
  • A ‘devastated’ Biden addressed the shooting in Boulder before leaving for Ohio.
  • First Atlanta, then Boulder: Two mass shootings in a week.
  • She thought it might be her last phone call: ‘I just told them I loved them.’
  • A judge recently blocked Boulder from enforcing its assault-weapon ban.
  • Grocery store workers dealt with ‘worst of the worst’ even before the Boulder shooting.
  • A bleak, long and incomplete list of recent mass shootings.

The suspect charged in the murders of 10 people at a Boulder, Colo., grocery store — the second mass shooting to shake the country in less than a week — is a 21-year-old man from a nearby Denver suburb who used an AR-15 type of assault rifle, law enforcement officials said.

The police in Arvada, Colo., said they had two encounters in 2018 with the suspect, identified on Tuesday as Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, of Arvada — one on a report of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and one of criminal mischief. It is not clear if he was convicted of a crime.

A police affidavit made public on Tuesday said that last week he bought a Ruger AR-556 semiautomatic pistol, though it is not clear that weapon was involved in the shooting on Monday. The affidavit said he had both a rifle and a pistol at the store.

The suspect’s identity was known to the F.B.I. because he was linked to another individual under investigation by the bureau, according to law enforcement officials.

Among the victims of the massacre on Monday was Officer Eric Talley, 51, with the Boulder Police Department, who had responded to a “barrage” of 911 calls about the shooting, Chief Maris Herold said.

The authorities identified the nine additional victims as Denny Stong, 20; Neven Stanisic, 23; Rikki Olds, 25; Tralona Bartkowiak, 49; Suzanne Fountain, 59; Teri Leiker, 51; Kevin Mahoney, 61; Lynn Murray, 62; and Jody Waters, 65.

Chief Herold said at a news conference that police officers had run into the King Soopers grocery store within minutes of the shooting and had shot at the suspect. No other officers were injured during the response, she said. She said Mr. Alissa was taken to a hospital for treatment of a leg injury, and would be taken to jail on Tuesday.

He was charged on Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder. Officials gave no indication of a motive.

Court records show he was born in Syria in 1999, as did a Facebook page that appeared to belong to the suspect, giving his name as Ahmad Al Issa; the page was taken down within an hour of his name being released by the authorities. Michael Dougherty, the Boulder County district attorney, said the suspect had “lived most of his life in the United States.”

The Facebook page said he went to Arvada West High School, where he was a wrestler, and listed wrestling and kickboxing as being among his interests. Many of the posts were about martial arts, and one, in 2019, said simply, “#NeedAGirlfriend.”

  • Eric Talley, officer killed in shooting, loved his job and his seven children: ‘That was his life.’
  • Boulder’s assault weapons ban was blocked 10 days before grocery store attack (See story below).

washington post logoWashington Post, Oversight probes hindered by Trump officials may finally be coming to light, Lisa Rein, Tom Hamburger, Michael Laris and John Hudson, March 23, 2021. Independent federal watchdogs who scrutinized the Trump administration ran into roadblocks in at least nine inquiries, according to documents and people familiar with inspector general offices.

Almost as soon as she opened a politically charged investigation in 2019 into whether the Trump White House blocked hurricane relief to a devastated Puerto Rico, the internal watchdog at the Department of Housing and Urban Development ran into obstacles.

HUD demanded that their attorneys sit in on witness interviews, a tactic inspectors general said was unusual and could shape witness testimony. White House officials told top agency appointees to withhold their communications, documents and interviews show. Other records took months to obtain.

Four months after Donald Trump’s defeat, Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis still hasn’t announced whether her investigators found that Trump inappropriately held up federal disaster aid from an island reeling from a brutal hurricane.

It’s far from the only politically sensitive work by government watchdogs — mandated by Congress to monitor federal agencies for waste, fraud and misconduct — that faced roadblocks or otherwise were dragged out during the Trump era.

Across the government, at least nine key oversight investigations were impeded by clashes with the White House or political appointees, people familiar with inspector general offices and public documents show.

Long-anticipated reports were released only this month on two senior Trump officials. One found evidence that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao may have misused her position by repeatedly deploying her staff on personal business. A second concluded that former White House physician Ronny Jackson bullied his staff and drank on the job.

The timing meant their damaging disclosures emerged only after the former president left office and Jackson, a former Navy rear admiral, was elected to Congress from Texas.

Tensions between federal watchdogs and the administration they monitor are not uncommon. But 11 inspectors general or their senior aides who served under Trump, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal government deliberations, said hostility to oversight reached unprecedented levels during his time in office.

The result, they said, was that government hid wrongdoing from the public and important reforms to improve government efficiency were ignored. With Trump now out of office, advocates for government accountability predict other damaging revelations may only now begin to emerge.

“IGs under Trump faced an angry, account-settling president who had no compunction about removing those who threatened to reveal bad things about him,” said Gordon Heddell, a former inspector general at the Defense and Labor departments who served under Republican and Democratic presidents.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a second batch of $1,400 stimulus payments arrives this week, some Social Security and other federal beneficiaries are left out, Michelle Singletary, March 23, 2021 (print ed.).  A second batch of 17 million stimulus payments are coming this week, the IRS announced today. Taxpayers should watch the mail for paper checks and prepaid debit cards loaded with their economic impact payments. The Treasury and the IRS say to start watching your bank accounts and the mail because a second batch of stimulus payments is due to start arriving this week.

In this second distribution, a large number of payments also will be mailed in the form of a check or prepaid debit card, which will be identified as an economic impact payment or EIP card.

Calculate how much you would get from the $1,400 (or more) coronavirus checks

“We urge people to carefully watch their mail for a check or debit card in the coming weeks,” said IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.

The IRS is making approximately 17 million direct deposits with a payment date of March 24 and is beginning to mail about 20 million checks and debit cards, according to a banking industry official.

The payments began processing last Friday and may have shown up as a pending or provisional deposit, the IRS said. “Additional payments anticipated on a weekly basis going forward,” the agency said.

The American Rescue Plan provides for stimulus payments of up to $1,400 for eligible individuals and $2,800 for couples filing a joint return. Dependents regardless of age also receive $1,400.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden team searches for new ways to slow border surge, Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim, March 23, 2021 (print ed.). The administration is sending sterner warnings to would-be migrants and devising alternate pathways for legal entry. But it’s unclear whether it will be enough.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: D.C. statehood may no longer be a pipe dream, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 23, 2021. The case for statehood for the District of Columbia jennifer rubin new headshotgot a boost, ironically, from the disgraced former president. Both the 2020 assault against peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square, and the violent insurrection at the Capitol in January underscored D.C.'s vulnerability.

Unlike the National Guard units of the 50 states, D.C.'s National Guard is not controlled by its chief executive and thus cannot be deployed by the mayor in defense of its citizens. It remains a captive of the federal government. In both incidents, the federal government failed to defend D.C. residents (over-reacting in one and under-reacting in the other).

muriel bowser CustomD.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), left, minced no words on Monday while testifying before the House Oversight and Reform Committee to identify what is behind opposition to D.C. statehood.

“The disenfranchisement of Washingtonians is one of the remaining glaring civil rights issues of our time,” she said. The District has historically always been a city with a large African American population, so opposition to its representation in Congress has taken on a distinctly racial cast.

“Historic records are replete with statements of successive members of Congress referencing the ‘negro problem’ and the ‘color problem’ within D.C. as a justification to withhold Congressional representation,” Bowser explained. “This was their way of saying that African Americans are unable to govern themselves, or vote for their best interests, and should therefore be denied political power and suffrage.”

tom cotton o CustomEven today, Republicans speak of D.C. as though its inhabitants are not quite American enough to vote for Congress (although they vote for president). Last year, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), right, came up a brand new excuse to deny statehood — its economy is not diverse enough! — but it’s clear that partisan advantage and race are the true barriers to D.C. statehood. “Wyoming is a well-rounded working-class state,” Cotton declared last year. “A new state of Washington would not be.”

White rural Americans are “well-rounded,” but African Americans and Whites in an urban setting are not? (And in any event, being “well-rounded” is obviously not a qualification for enfranchisement.)

 

 Virus Victims, Responses

 ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Johnson & Johnson Shot Was My Ticket Out of Hell, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 23, 2021 (print ed.). Some people are balking at the one-shot vaccine, but I was thrilled to get it.

michelle goldberg thumbI handled this past pandemic year worse than most people I know. Not because I had it harder, obviously; my family was insulated by all sorts of privilege. But emotionally, I more or less fell apart.

Unlike my friends and acquaintances, I developed no new domestic skills or hobbies. If there were silver linings, I was too mired in hysterical grief for my old life to appreciate them. Knowing how little I’d lost compared to others didn’t lessen my misery, it just added a johnson johnson logoslimy coating of shame to it.

Frantic for an escape hatch, I started applying to vaccine trials last year, and was accepted into the Johnson & Johnson one. Sometimes when I mention this people have thanked me, but there was nothing really altruistic about it. I’m delighted to have played a minuscule part in the development of a vaccine, but to me, any risk involved paled beside the possibility of getting immunity early.

washington post logoWashington Post, 83.9 million vaccinated, as of March 23, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 23, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 124,390,921, Deaths: 2,737,714
U.S. Cases:     30,578,674, Deaths:    555,991

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

Roll Call, Duckworth to vote ‘no’ on Biden nominees unless they are minorities, LGBTQ, Katherine Tully-McManus, March 23, 2021. In 50-50 Senate, their support could be key for upcoming nominees.

tammyd duckworth o Custom CustomSen. Tammy Duckworth, right, is pressuring President Joe Biden to step up Asian American and Pacific Islander representation in top positions of the administration, saying Tuesday she will not vote for any future nominees who are white and straight until the situation is addressed to her satisfaction.

“I am a no vote on the floor, on all non-diversity nominees. You know, I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ, but anybody else I’m not voting for,” she told reporters.

“I am not going to be voting for any nominee from the White House, other than diversity nominees, probably a no on everyone until they figure this out,” said Duckworth, one of only two Asian Americans in the Senate.

Duckworth said she informed the White House of her decision Tuesday morning, but said she has been advocating on the issue for months.

“Hopefully they figure it out, but I’m a no on everything other than the diversity candidates,” she said, citing her opposition to the nomination of Colin Kahl to be assistant secretary of Defense for policy.

Duckworth, who was born to a Thai mother of Chinese descent and an American father, was assistant secretary of Veteran Affairs from 2009-2011 in the Obama administration. Her name came up as a possible nominee for Defense secretary and VA secretary in a Biden administration.

With the Senate split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, even just one defector on the Democratic side can put nominations and legislation in jeopardy.

“In a 50-50 Senate, every senator has the power to complicate,” said Majority Whip and fellow Illinois Democrat Richard J. Durbin about Duckworth’s plan.

mazie hirono oDuckworth has support for her move from Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono, left, the other Asian American in the Senate. Hirono is Japanese American.

“I’m joining her in that, which means that we would like to have a commitment from the White House that there’ll be more diversity representation in the Cabinet, and in senior White House positions. And until that happens, I will join her in voting no on non diversity nominees,” said Hirono. “We’re not just calling for AAPIs. This is not about pitting one diversity group against another. So, I'm happy to vote for a Hispanic, a Black person, an LGBTQ person, an AAPI person,” she said. “I’d just like to see more diversity represented.”

Hirono told CNN Tuesday that she, too, was unsatisfied with the White House’s response to her inquiries about AAPI representation at Monday’s virtual Senate Democratic retreat.

“I realize that we have Katherine Tai, but I don’t think the trade representative is what the community understands as a Cabinet level,” Hirono said.

katherine tai resizedThe Senate voted 98-0 to confirm Tai, right, to be U.S trade representative, which is referred to as a Cabinet-level role. The post is not among the 15 department secretaries that comprise the president’s Cabinet and is not in the presidential line of succession.

Of the 15 department secretaries, all of whom are confirmed as of this week, eight are straight white men or women: Antony Blinken (State), Janet Yellen (Treasury), Merrick G. Garland (Justice), Tom Vilsack (Agriculture), Gina Raimondo (Commerce), Marty Walsh (Labor), Jennifer Granholm (Energy) and Denis McDonough (Veterans Affairs).

The other seven would meet Duckworth’s criteria for diversity, being either a racial minority or LGBTQ: Lloyd Austin (Defense), Deb Haaland (Interior), Xavier Becerra (Health and Human Services), Marcia Fudge (Housing and Urban Development), Pete Buttigieg (Transportation), Miguel Cardona (Education) and Alejandro Mayorkas (Homeland Security).

At what is considered the Cabinet level on the White House website, there are seven people in their positions, and one vacancy. Of those seven, five would meet Duckworth’s diversity criteria: Michael Regan (EPA), Tai (USTR), Linda Thomas-Greenfield (U.S. ambassador to the United Nations), Cecilia Rouse (chair of the Council of Economic Advisers) and Isabel Guzman (Small Business Administration.) The two others would not: Avril Haines (director of national intelligence) and Ron Klain (White House chief of staff). There is a vacancy at the Office of Management and Budget.

Duckworth said that the White House has pointed to Vice President Kamala Harris, whose mother was an Indian immigrant and father was Black, as an example of high ranking and extremely visible Asian American representation.

"To be told that, ‘well you have Kamala Harris, we’re very proud of her, you don’t need anybody else is insulting,’ ” said Duckworth.

She said her frustration with the situation and White House response escalated during Monday night’s virtual retreat of the Senate Democratic caucus.

“Multiple times I’ve heard that. And that is not something you would say to the Black caucus: ‘Well, you have Kamala, we’re not going to put any more African Americans in the Cabinet because you have Kamala,’ why would you say it to AAPI?” she said.

Neera Tanden, who was born to immigrant parents from India, was Biden’s top pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget, but she withdrew from consideration when key senators, including West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III, voiced opposition to her nomination. Tanden's detractors also zeroed in on colorful tweets disparaging some of the same senators she needed to court for votes, like Maine Republican Susan Collins.

washington post logoWashington Post, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh confirmed as labor secretary, Eli Rosenberg, March 23, 2021 (print ed.).  Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was confirmed Monday by the Senate as secretary of labor, setting the stage for him to take the reins of an agency that is central to President Biden’s worker-friendly agenda.

marty walshWalsh (D), 53, right, a friend of the president’s who was a favored candidate of organized-labor groups such as the AFL-CIO, will be the first labor secretary to come from a union background in nearly 50 years.

He rose to prominence in Boston through the building-trades unions after dropping out of college early to work in construction. He also served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Walsh’s nomination was relatively uncontroversial. He was approved on a 68-to-29 vote.

us labor department logoDuring a mostly amicable confirmation hearing, he was asked repeatedly by senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about disparities for women and people of color in areas such as unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, wages and earnings, and health care.

“We are dealing with a system of systemic racism that we have to continue to address,” Walsh said at the hearing. “It’s not simply just throwing fancy words out there, but in policies, it’s actually doing the work, rolling up our sleeves.”

Walsh has supported labor policies including the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a proposal that the House passed last year to update labor laws and give employees more ability to organize at work. He also has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Shalanda Young, Top House Aide, Is Confirmed as Biden’s No. 2 Budget Official, Emily Cochrane, March 23, 2021.Late one night in February 2019, as lawmakers toiled to break a monthslong impasse over funding a wall at the southwestern border, Shalanda Young leaned over to quietly confer with her boss, Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York.

Now was her moment, Ms. Young told Ms. Lowey, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, to issue an ultimatum on funding for Donald J. Trump’s border wall: Republicans could either accept even less than what they had suggested, or Ms. Lowey would walk away from the negotiating table and potentially allow the government to shut down again.

Republicans agreed, and the resulting deal ended a spending fight that had led to the longest government shutdown in history. It is the kind of delicate agreement that has earned Ms. Young bipartisan trust on Capitol Hill, where she was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, 63 to 37, to serve as President Biden’s deputy budget director.

As the first Black woman to serve as staff director for the House Appropriations Committee, Ms. Young played critical roles on Capitol Hill in negotiating not only the dozen annual spending bills, but also a series of five pandemic relief packages that together totaled $3 trillion and represented the leading edge of a sweeping federal response to the crisis.

Now she is headed to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue to become the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. After Mr. Biden’s pick to lead the agency, Neera Tanden, withdrew amid bipartisan opposition, Ms. Young will have a leading role steering the office in the coming weeks as the administration begins to prepare its first budget proposal and pursue an ambitious infrastructure plan.

The administration is set to release its funding priorities next week, the agency confirmed on Tuesday and Bloomberg reported earlier.

Mr. Biden has not yet said whether he will elevate Ms. Young to the position of director. But among lawmakers, she is by far the preferred candidate, having drawn an unusual array of public endorsements from across the political spectrum based on her work on the Appropriations Committee. Ms. Young, a 43-year-old Louisiana native, would be the first Black woman to lead the agency should Mr. Biden nominate her.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Senate confirms Dr. Vivek Murthy to be the surgeon general — again, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, March 23, 2021. Dr. Vivek Murthy will resume as surgeon general at a critical moment, as the president tries to steer the nation out of the worst public health crisis in a century.

Vivek Murtha Dr. Vivek Murthy, who helped found several health-related advocacy groups and later tackled the opioid epidemic and e-cigarettes as surgeon general during the Obama administration, was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday to reprise that role for President Biden.

The vote, 57 to 43, was a much smoother ride for Dr. Murthy than the first time he was confirmed, in 2014, when Republicans cast Dr. Murthy as a politically connected supporter of President Barack Obama’s who would use his position to push for stricter gun control. The fight dragged on for months, leaving the country without a top doctor for more than a year.

When President Donald J. Trump was elected, Dr. Murthy was asked to resign. He refused and was fired, his wife, Alice Chen, said at the time.

Dr. Murthy will return as surgeon general at a critical moment, as the president tries to steer the nation out of the worst public health crisis in a century while expanding access to health care for millions of Americans. During his confirmation hearing, he told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that he would make ending the coronavirus pandemic his highest priority.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Not to Panic About Inflation, Paul Krugman, right, March 23, 2021 (print ed.). Remember the lessons of the 2010-2011 scare. paul krugmanAfter the 2008 financial crisis plunged America into a deep recession, both the new Obama administration and the Federal Reserve tried to stimulate the economy, spending hundreds of billions on a variety of programs while buying trillions in bonds.

There is now consensus among economists that these efforts were helpful, but it’s also widely believed that they were inadequate (as some of us strenuously argued at the time).

On the right, however, it’s an article of faith that activist government is always bad, even in a crisis. So there were many dire warnings that these efforts to rescue the economy would cause runaway inflation. By mid-2010 there was a palpable sense of frustration among some conservatives that the predicted inflation had failed to materialize.

barack Obama Biden New High res

ny times logoNew York Times, After 11 Years, the Affordable Care Act Defies Opponents and Expands, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Updated March 23, 2021. More than 200,000 have used a special enrollment period to sign up for health insurance.

More than 200,000 Americans flocked to the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace to sign up for health insurance during the first two weeks of an open enrollment period created by President Biden — a sign that those who lost insurance during the pandemic remain in desperate need of coverage.

At the same time, a provision in the president’s $1.9 trillion stimulus law to make Medicaid expansion more fiscally appealing has prompted deeply conservative Alabama and Wyoming to consider expanding the government health program to residents who are too rich to qualify now but too poor to afford private health plans.

Eleven years after President Barack Obama (shown with then Vice President Biden in a file photo) signed his signature domestic achievement, and after several near-death experiences, the health law is again expanding.

The Biden White House will celebrate Tuesday’s anniversary in a big way. The president will visit Ohio as part of his “Help Is Here” tour to talk up the stimulus law, which greatly expanded subsidies to make insurance affordable for tens of millions of people. And Mr. Biden’s newly installed health secretary, Xavier Becerra, whom the Senate confirmed just last week, will travel to Carson City, Nev., to help mark the moment.

joe biden bernie sanders palmer headshots

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: An Unusually Optimistic Conversation With Bernie Sanders, Ezra Klein, right, March 23, 2021. The Vermont senator (shown above right in a file photo) discusses the ezra klein twitterRescue Act, cancel culture, the filibuster and more.

Bernie Sanders didn’t win the 2020 election. But he may have won its aftermath. If you look back at Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders’s careers, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, looks a lot like the proposals Sanders has fought for forever, without much of the compromise or concerns that you used to see from Senator Joe Biden. That’s not to take anything away from Biden. He’s the president. This is his plan. And it is to his credit that he saw what the country needed, what the politics of the moment would support and where his party had moved, and met it with full force.

But Sanders’s two presidential campaigns are part of the reason that the Democratic Party had moved, and the politics of the moment had changed. And so I’ve wondered what Sanders makes of this moment. Is it a triumph? A disappointment? A beginning?

washington post logoWashington Post, Resistance grows in both parties to Democratic probe of narrow Iowa race, Marianna Sotomayor, March 23, 2021 (print ed.). House Democratic leaders are facing increased resistance from key members of both parties to an investigation into whether the results of an Iowa congressional race won narrowly by a Republican can be overturned by Congress.

Several moderate House Democrats on Monday expressed opposition to or discomfort with Congress taking any action regarding the race. Their statements came after nine of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former president Donald Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a letter asking her to call off the investigation, warning it could further erode voters’ confidence in the electoral system.

“As I have said before in connection with the 2020 presidential election, legislators should be heeding states’ certifications of their elections, and unless there is rampant error and substantial evidence thereof, I do not believe it is the role of House members to dictate the outcome of elections,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), who represents a competitive district, said in a statement.

The focus of the debate is on the outcome of race in Iowa’s 2nd District, where Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was declared the winner over Democrat Rita Hart following a recount in November with a difference of just six votes out of 400,000 cast. Miller-Meeks is now serving as the district’s representative, but Hart has asked the House to overturn the result. Hart alleges that 22 legally cast ballots were not considered during the initial November canvass and subsequent recount, resulting in the tightest congressional electoral outcome in modern history.

The consternation over the Iowa race comes at a time of intense debate over how to revamp voting laws following Trump’s unfounded attacks on the results of the presidential election, where he alleged fraud while never providing evidence to back up such claims.

washington post logoWashington Post, Evanston, Ill., leads the country with first reparations program for Black residents, Mark Guarino, March 23, 2021 (print ed.). The money is part of a larger $10 million package approved for continued reparations initiatives, which will be funded by income from annual cannabis taxes over the next decade.

The nation's first government reparations program for African Americans was approved Monday night in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, action that advocates say represents a critical step in rectifying wrongs caused by slavery, segregation and housing discrimination and in pushing forward on similar compensation efforts across the country.

“Right now the whole world is looking at Evanston, Illinois. This is a moment like none other that we’ve ever seen, and it’s a good moment,” said Ron Daniels, president of the National African American Reparations Commission, which wants redress at local and federal levels.

The Evanston City Council approved the first phase of reparations to acknowledge the harm caused by discriminatory housing policies, practices and inaction going back more than a century. The 8-to-1 vote will initially make $400,000 available in $25,000 homeownership and improvement grants, as well as in mortgage assistance for Black residents, primarily those can show they are direct descendants of individuals who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 and suffered from such discrimination.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Law

washington post logoWashington Post, White House pulls nominee for Interior’s No. 2 post after opposition from centrists, Juliet Eilperin and Joshua Partlow, March 23, 2021. The White House is withdrawing its nominee for deputy secretary of the Interior Department two months after touting Elizabeth Klein as one of several women President Biden had selected for top department posts, a concession to centrist senators unhappy about her advocacy to curb fossil fuels.

The move, which came after Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) raised objections, shows the challenge the Biden administration faces in advancing its environmental agenda in a closely divided Congress. Four individuals briefed on the matter discussed it on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly.

Both Manchin and Murkowski represent states that are closely tied to the fossil fuel industry — coal in West Virginia and oil in Alaska — and they have emerged as pivotal votes in Congress on issues related to energy and climate change. The Interior Department represents a central battleground in climate policy, as nearly a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions stem from oil and gas drilled on public lands it controls.

The department declined to comment on the move, which was first reported by Politico. The decision to sideline Klein was made before Murkowski and three other Republican senators voted to confirm Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, an outspoken liberal, last week.

Biden’s transition team had flagged Klein early on, identifying her as its pick for Interior’s No. 2 position before Biden was inaugurated, and had been preparing her for interviews with senators.

Klein, who worked at Interior during both the Clinton and Obama administrations, helped challenge several Trump administration environmental rules as deputy director of New York University School of Law’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center. She also worked at the D.C. office of the firm Latham & Watkins.

White House officials are now eyeing Tommy Beaudreau, a partner at Latham & Watkins, according to several individuals familiar with the nominations process. Beaudreau, who joined Interior in June 2010 to help handle the BP oil spill, headed the department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and served as Interior chief of staff during President Barack Obama’s second term.

Neither Klein nor Beaudreau could be reached for comment Tuesday.

One person familiar with Klein’s nomination said that opponents — including Murkowski and Manchin — felt that Haaland and Klein would be a difficult team for the oil and gas industry to work with, as both have prioritized fighting climate change. The person added that the sprawling and complicated Interior Department would also benefit from a deputy secretary with more management experience.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden faces ‘moment of truth’ as he weighs key U.S. climate promise, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin, March 23, 2021.  Democrats and scientists say the U.S. needs to dramatically lower the pollution driving climate change. Republicans say that will harm the economy.

In far-flung corners of the federal government, staffers have been busy calculating how quickly the United States could embrace electric cars or phase out the last of the nation’s coal-fired power plants. They are estimating how fast the country can construct new battery-charging stations and wind turbines, as well as how farmers can store more carbon in the soil — and how much Congress might allocate to fund such efforts.

They’re urgently trying to tally up the elements of a major promise, one that could shape how aggressively the world takes on climate change.

By April 22, when President Biden convenes world leaders for an Earth Day summit, he is expected to unveil a new, aggressive plan to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030. The moment is aimed at reestablishing American leadership in the fight to limit the Earth’s warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial levels — a threshold beyond which scientists predict irreversible environmental damage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Eric Greitens resigned as Missouri governor over an affair and blackmail claims. Now he’s running for Senate, Tim Elfrink, March 23, 2021 (print ed.). Nearly three years ago, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens left the state capitol in disgrace as he faced down two criminal charges, an ethics probe, and public fallout over reports that he’d had an affair with a hairdresser and then allegedly tried to blackmail her with nude photos.

eric greitens oNow, the criminal charges have been dropped, the ethics case has been closed, and Greitens, right, is aiming for a Lazarus-esque comeback.

The Republican announced on Fox News on Monday that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat opening next year with the retirement of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) — a move that quickly froze out some other GOP figures angling for the seat.

Greitens, 46, has tied his political fortunes to former president Donald Trump, backing Trump’s false claims about mass election fraud and promising on Twitter that he would “continue Trump’s America First policies.” His candidacy has left some in the state party, which essentially forced him from office in 2018, wringing their hands about his entry to the race, Politico recently reported.

“I was honored to serve the people of Missouri as their governor,” Greitens told Fox News host Bret Baier on Monday. “… I think that now the people of Missouri need a fighter in the United States Senate.”

The announcement would have seemed improbable in July 2018, when Greitens was largely abandoned by the state GOP and resigned as governor, marking an abrupt end to an unlikely political ascent.

A former Rhodes scholar and Navy SEAL, in 2016 he surprisingly bested a field of Republican candidates featuring a heavily funded businessman and two political veterans and then topped Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster in the general election.

American System Network, Opinion: After Latest Gun Massacre in Boulder, Biden Calls for Background Checks and Ban on Assault Weapons, Webster G. webster tarpley 2007Tarpley, right, March 23, 2021. Extremist Cruz Leads the GOP Pack in Slandering Any and All Gun Safety Reforms as “Ridiculous Theater”; If Senate Republicans Now Insist on Carrying Out Their Usual Despicable Routine, Will This Finally Convince All Concerned that “Bipartisanship” is an Impossible Chimera?

Priority Must Be to Pass $3 Trillion Public Works Recovery Bill by Budget Reconciliation, While Ending the Filibuster and Enabling Gun Safety Legislation in the Process; Eyes of World on Monday’s NLRB Election at Amazon Shipping Center in Bessemer, Alabama Where Jeff Bezos, the World’s Richest Man, Treats His Employees Like Serfs in One of Worst Union-Busting States; Union Organizers Seeking to Win Over Last Undecided Workers;

Biden Should Put Jerome Powell on Warning that Federal Reserve will Be Called on to Help Finance $3 Trillion Infrastructure and Modernization Bill, Even if GOP Senate Blocks It; FDR Did This in 1940 When Fascist Threat Came from Abroad; Today’s Fascist Threat Comes from Within, Feeding Off Poverty and Despair;

Chinese Government Stunned by First-Time Coordinated Sanctions by EU, Five Eyes, and US: This Was Something Trump was Somehow Never Able to Do
In Fourth Israeli Election in Two Years, Fragmentation of Splinter Parties Increases, Leaving Formation of Next Government Uncertain; Netanyahyu’s Likud Party Leads with About Half of Necessary Majority, Just Two Weeks before He Enters the Next Phase of his Ongoing Corruption Trial; Jury Still Out on Worldwide Left Turn Signaled by Biden Win.

austin mcguigan resized nick lacy

Photo by Hartford Advocate photographer Nick Lacy of Connecticut's Chief State's Attorney Austin McGuigan, portrayed as a courageous corruption-busting prosecutor in the 1987 book Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Newspaper by Andrew Kreig, now editor of the Justice Integrity Project.

Hartford Courant, Austin J. McGuigan, a fearless prosecutor of corrupt politicians and mobsters, dies after a long illness, Edmund H. Mahony, March 23, 2021.  State prosecutor Austin J. McGuigan led an anti-corruption push in the mid-1970s as an assistant and later head of the office of the chief state's attorney. McGuigan successfully prosecuted gangters involved in the state's jai alai gambling business and won numerous convictions in a municipal corruption case in New Britain.

But McGuigan attracted powerful critics who accused him of overreaching, and in 1985 the legislature changed the way the chief state's attorney was appointed and he was forced out. "I may take up admiralty law," he said at the time. "My ship just sunk."

State prosecutor Austin J. McGuigan led an anti-corruption push in the mid-1970s as an assistant and later head of the office of the chief state's attorney. McGuigan successfully prosecuted gangters involved in the state's jai alai gambling business and won numerous convictions in a municipal corruption case in New Britain. But McGuigan attracted powerful critics who accused him of overreaching, and in 1985 the legislature changed the way the chief state's attorney was appointed and he was forced out. "I may take up admiralty law," he said at the time. "My ship just sunk." (Michael Lennahan / Hartford Courant)

Austin J. McGuigan, who as a brash young prosecutor rocked the political status quo with a series of corruption investigations that frayed Connecticut’s reputation for Yankee propriety, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 77.

McGuigan was appointed as Connecticut’s second Chief State’s Attorney and, through the late 1970s and early 1980s, took what had been created as a central office for a staid prosecutorial system and molded it to his crusading personality in a way that hasn’t been seen since.

In addition to young and brash, he was outspoken, ambitious and never shy of the attention generated by his string of sensational investigations and prosecutions never seen before in the state.

He convicted 30 in a government job selling conspiracy. He convicted the state transportation commissioner in a case that linked contract awards to donations to the then-entrenched Democratic Party. He developed evidence that mobsters, including Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger, had penetrated the sport of jai alai. He charged — but a judge dismissed the allegation in a controversial ruling — that gangsters had paid to get the pari-mutuel gambling business legalized in Connecticut with bags of cash.
[Related] A new public defender program has ‘professionalized’ Connecticut’s parole process, exciting both advocates and prison officials »

What made McGuigan a fearless prosecutor made for powerful enemies, in politics and among his rivals in law enforcement. After focusing on questionable political fundraising — he revealed that prominent Democratic party figures raised illegal cash contributions during the 1980 Presidential primary — a special legislative commission decided there was a constitutional defect in the method by which he and his predecessor as chief state’s attorney had been appointed.

As a result, he was fired abruptly in 1985 after seven years in office. Nearly all his investigations were closed. And the office was restructured in way that has made it more difficult for police agencies and prosecutors to investigate sophisticated crime. Since then, no one in state law enforcement has come close to his record.

“I may take up admiralty law,” McGuigan told the Courant minutes after being sacked. “My ship just sunk.”

McGuigan, a Democrat, transitioned to a successful, if quieter private practice, eventually joining Republican heavyweight and unsuccessful 1982 gubernatorial candidate Lewis Rome in the downtown Hartford law firm Rome McGuigan. Among his clients were the United Technologies Corp., the Mohegan Sun casino and a variety of banks.

Even in private practice, McGuigan kept a hand in a case that had consumed him as a prosecutor. In 2007, he was part of a team of lawyers that won a $101.7 million judgment for four innocent Boston men who spent decades in prison after corrupt FBI agents, in a scheme to cultivate mob informants, permitted the fabrication of evidence that led to their wrongful convictions for a 1965 murder.

One of the agents found to be liable for the miscarriage of justice was implicated years later in the murder by Bulger and his gang of Roger Wheeler, the president of World Jai Alai, which operated pari-mutuel jai alai frontons in Hartford and Florida.

McGuigan died after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed in 2013.

There are still some in law enforcement who suspect McGuigan’s removal from public office was retribution by politicians fed up by what seemed to be the premise beneath his investigations: The party that controlled government treated the award of public contracts as fundraising opportunities. If it was retribution, it didn’t work.

Federal law enforcement officials watched from the sidelines as McGuigan’s career unraveled. They became persuaded his ouster demonstrated that the state political class had little appetite for fighting graft.

“Not only did the state have no appetite for it,” a federal official said, “there was a fear that somehow, orders had come down from on high not to do it.”
[Related] Read the stories behind the photos on the Hartford Courant Instagram »

Federal prosecutors and agents, who had never aggressively pursued political crime in the state, filled the vacuum created by McGuigan’s removal. Working from the same “pay to play” premise, they compiled a conviction record of their own that included, to name a few, a governor, a state treasurer, three big city mayors, a state judge, bureaucrats, inspectors and dozens of their political colleagues, not to mention the bankers, financiers, fundraisers and construction executives and criminals who pay them off.

“That is Austin’s legacy,” said Kevin Kane, a top McGuigan assistant, who later became Chief State’s Attorney himself. “When we started, there was no history of doing these kinds of cases and we didn’t have the tools to do them. Austin had to look all the way back to the 1930s to find a political corruption case in the state. He figured out a way. And later, the feds took over.”

McGuigan grew up outside of Boston in Medford, Mass. His father suffered emotional trauma in the battle for Guadalcanal in World War II and left the family in 1949. McGuigan, then 6 years old, never saw him again.

McGuigan obtained an undergraduate degree from Merrimack College on a scholarship from the Diocese of Boston. After graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era and was assigned to military intelligence in Germany. Following the service, he graduated first in his class from the Boston University School of Law.

He arrived in Hartford as a law clerk for John B. Cotter, associate justice and later chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

When the state legislature created the new office of chief state’s attorney in the 1970s, McGuigan joined it. His first assignment was as an assistant prosecutor assigned to the state police organized crime investigative task force. Two years later, he was appointed Chief State’s Attorney.

As Chief, McGuigan worked with the state police, which, at the time, operated large squads of crack detectives assigned to investigate the growing, legalized gambling industry; political corruption; and traditional organized crime. McGuigan soon learned that prosecutors in Connecticut lacked — and still lack today — the legal tool essential to success against corruption and one used routinely by almost every other prosecutorial agency in the country: an efficient means of issuing subpoenas and compelling testimony of witnesses in criminal investigations.

McGuigan found he could compensate with a relic he dug out of the state’s legal past — something called an investigative, one-man grand jury. A judge appointed as the grand juror could immunize witnesses, compel them to testify and charge them with perjury for lying. McGuigan used the grand jury aggressively — critics said far too aggressively — opening 20 or so investigations into crimes running from conspiracies to fix jai alai matches to bid rigging.

McGuigan’s hold on his job began fraying at about the same time his relationship with the state police began to deteriorate. A disagreement over tactics in response to allegations that well-known Waterbury prosecutor Arthur McDonald was taking bribes was an early cause of friction. He and his police counterparts began sniping at one another in the newspapers. That became a public feud and a factor in his removal. The dispute ended up costing State Police Commander Lester Forst his job as well.

Some in law enforcement believe the McGuigan-Forst feud began even earlier, with his criticism of the agency for its interrogation and arrest of Peter Reilly for the 1973 murder of his mother in Canaan. Reilly was later cleared, with support from McGuigan and others, and the state police investigation was widely condemned. The relationship worsened over other disagreements. There was also suspicion within the state police that McGuigan would leverage the publicity around his work as a prosecutor to take control of high profile state police investigations.

Ed Mahony has covered Connecticut for more than three decades, mostly for the Hartford Courant. Over the last decade, he has covered some of the country’s biggest political and mob trials. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk award, which he has won twice.

 

World News

washington post logoIsrael FlagWashington Post, Netanyahu’s party wins the most seats and governing coalition may be within reach, exit polls show, Steve Hendrix, Shira Rubin and Miriam Berger, March 23, 2021. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alliance of right-wing and religious parties garnered 53 seats, according to an average of three television exit polls, which puts him within reach of forming a new government if he can persuade one of his former coalition partners to join him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prince Harry takes a job at Silicon Valley start-up, Antonia Noori Farzan, Jennifer Hassan and Hamza Shaban, March 23, 2021. Prince Harry has a new title: tech executive.

The Duke of Sussex is the newest employee of BetterUp, a Silicon Valley start-up, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. No longer a working member of the British royal family, Harry will serve as “chief impact officer” for the company.

United Kingdom flagBetterUp “brings together world-class coaching, AI technology, and behavioral science experts” to help people “live more meaningful, vibrant lives,” according to the company’s website. It works with corporations to identify employees who could benefit from coaching and gives them “a personalized path to growth — so you’re able to tap into the employees most prepared to transform your business.”

Harry, who has been vocal about his struggles with mental health, has been working with one of BetterUp’s coaches and using the app himself. But his unusual background apparently made filling out the initial multiple-choice questionnaire a bit of a challenge.

 

More On Mass Shootings

washington post logoWashington Post, Boulder’s assault weapons ban, meant to stop mass shootings, was blocked 10 days before grocery store attack, Teo Armus, March 23, 2021. The ban, adopted in 2018, was meant to prevent a deadly mass shooting just like the one that occurred in the city on Monday.

The city of Boulder, Colo., barred assault weapons in 2018, as a way to prevent mass shootings like the one that killed 17 at a high school in Parkland., Fla., earlier that year.

But 10 days after that ban was blocked in court, the city was rocked by its own tragedy: Ten people, including a Boulder police officer, were killed at a supermarket in the city’s south end on Monday after a gunman opened fire, law enforcement officials said.

Rachel Friend, a city council member, made a similar observation on Twitter, adding she was “heartsick and angry and mostly so, so sad.”

But the Colorado State Shooting Association, one of the plaintiffs that sued Boulder over the assault weapons ban, rejected that sentiment, arguing in a statement that “emotional sensationalism” about gun laws would cloud remembrance of the victims.

The three-year court fight over Boulder’s ordinance seems likely to preview a similar public debate over whether new gun control measures are warranted after the latest attack in a part of the country that has seen many such incidents, with several politicians already calling for legislative responses on Monday.

The North Central region of Colorado has seen as many as nine school shootings since the Columbine massacre in 1999, which left 12 students and a teacher dead. Four other major shootings have occurred within 20 miles of the high school, including a 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora that left 12 dead.

washington post logoWashington Post, 10 people killed in shooting at grocery store in Boulder, Colo., Paulina Villegas, Andrea Salcedo and Amanda Miller, March 23, 2021.  A Boulder police officer was among the victims of the shooting at a King Soopers store Monday. Law enforcement officials said the suspect is in custody, but they offered scarce details about the attack, including any information about a possible motive.

Ten people were killed at a King Soopers grocery store on Monday, including a Boulder police officer, after a shooter opened fire on customers and responding officers.

Boulder Officer Eric Talley, 51, who was among the first to respond, was among those killed by the shooter, Police Chief Maris Herold said. Herold vowed that police will “work night and day” to complete the investigation, which she said will take no less than five days.

“I want to reassure the community that they are safe and that we will try to make our best to identify the victims and work with the coroner’s office as prompt as possible,” said Herold, holding back tears.

The rampage was the latest in a long history of mass shootings in the Denver area, and comes as the nation is still grappling with a devastating attack in Atlanta that left eight people dead, including six Asian women, less than a week earlier.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate hearing examines gun violence in wake of mass shootings, John Wagner, March 23, 2021. Scheduled before the shooting in Boulder, Colo., the hearing will be the first in a series, Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said, and subsequent hearings will examine more specific proposals.

 

U.S. Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s first news conference is a test for him. But it’s a bigger test for White House reporters, Margaret Sullivan, right, March 23, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2021 (print ed.). Journalists must bring context, especially on immigration, and resist post-Trump false equivalence.

The first news conference of a new administration is always a high-stakes affair for the White House.

How will the new president do under the glare of direct questioning from a crowd of correspondents? Will he utter a cringe-inducing gaffe? Will he actually make any real news?

But when President Biden steps to the lectern Thursday, the pressure will also be on the White House press corps themselves, as reporters recalibrate after the tumultuous, misinformation-filled Trump years to a president who is far less showy and, to date, much more truthful.

It’s a major test for news organizations and reporters in covering Biden.

And Joe Lockhart, the press secretary under President Bill Clinton, fears the press corps won’t be able to resist walking in with the mentality of, “We’re gonna show all the MAGA people we can be just as tough on Biden as we were on Trump.”

There’s never a shortage of bluster at a televised White House briefing, but this week, it will almost inevitably center on the heated subject of immigration at the Texas border, where a legitimate crisis has been taking shape as thousands of children have crossed into the United States seeking asylum.

So far, our political press corps has been treating the issue with far more heat than light. This past weekend, ABC News relocated its “Powerhouse Roundtable” — the panel discussion segment of its Sunday morning news show — to the Texas border.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Two spring breakers allegedly drugged, raped woman in Miami Beach. She was found dead in a hotel room, Tim Elfrink, March 23, 2021. acing an “overwhelming” influx of spring breakers pouring onto Miami Beach’s sandy oceanfront and swarming its neon-lit streets — including many who have disregarded pandemic rules and brawled with police — the city on Sunday extended a state of emergency through this week.

Now, two visitors are charged with drugging and raping a woman in her hotel room and then stealing her credit cards to fuel their spending on the island. The woman was later found dead inside her room.

Dorian Taylor, 24, and Evoire Collier, 21, who both traveled to Miami Beach from North Carolina, gave the victim a pill before they propped her up on the way to her hotel room, assaulted her and then left her, police said.

They have been charged with sexual battery, burglary and credit card fraud as a medical examiner completes tests on the woman, who hasn’t been identified, to determine a cause of death.

“He couldn’t even pick up a phone to call the police or 911 after they did whatever they did to her,” Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Mindy Glazer said in a remote video hearing posted online by the Miami Herald.

The incident involving Taylor and Collier began on Thursday, according to a police report reviewed by WTVJ, after the pair traveled to South Florida from Greensboro, N.C.

Law&Crime, High-Profile Former Mormon Accuses Church of Fraud, Seeks Millions in Restitution, Jerry Lambe, March 23, 2021. A prominent lawcrime logoformer member of the Mormon Church and brother to former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman filed a federal lawsuit on Monday accusing the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints of defrauding members by spending their charitable donations to further commercial interests.

In a 13-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, James Huntsman alleged that the church’s corporate arm, the LDS corporation, has been collecting tithes—ten-percent of members’ incomes—and using it to prop up private businesses with ties to the church.

“For decades, in a fraudulent effort to elicit the donation of tithing funds from Mr. Huntsman and other devout Church members, the LDS Corporation repeatedly and publicly lied about the intended use of those funds, promising that they would be used for purely non-commercial purposes consistent with the Church’s stated priorities – namely, to fund missionary work, member indoctrination, temple work, and other educational and charitable activities,” the suit states. “Behind the scenes, however, rather than using tithing funds for the promised purposes, the LDS Corporation secretly lined its own pockets by using the funds to develop a multi-billion dollar commercial real estate and insurance empire that had nothing to do with charity.”

Specifically, the complaint claims that the LDS Corporation used approximately $1.5 billion in donations to develop a for-profit shopping center in Salt Lake City called the City Creek Mall and to bail out a church-owned insurance and financial company called Beneficial Life Insurance. Huntsman said the church had explicitly stated on several occasions that tithes would not go towards those endeavors, calling those statements “outright lies.”

According to the suit, Huntsman relied on such misrepresentations when he donated $5 million to the church from 1993 to 2017, money he now wants back, saying he’ll donate any recovered funds to “benefit organizations and communities whose members have been marginalized by the Church’s teachings and doctrines, including by donating to charities supporting LGBTQ, African-American, and women’s rights.”

Huntsman claims to have discovered the church’s misdeeds after a senior portfolio manager at Ensign Peak Advisors—the church’s investment branch—became an IRS whistleblower in 2019. David A. Nielsen alleged that the LDS Corporation misappropriated more than $2 billion in the church’s charitable contributions while simultaneously failing to fund any “religious, educational, or charitable activities” for more than 20 years.

Huntsman also unequivocally stated that his lawsuit was not attacking the church’s beliefs, only its alleged financial misdeeds.

In a statement shared with news organizations following the suit’s filing, the church denied Huntsman’s claims, calling them “baseless.”

“Mr. James Huntsman resigned his Church membership last year. Now, he is demanding through his lawyers that tithing he paid to the Church as charitable contributions be returned to him. He claims that, contrary to assurances made by past Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, the Church used tithing to build City Creek, a mixed use commercial development across the street from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City,” spokesperson Eric Hawkins said. “In fact, tithing was not used on the City Creek project. As President Hinckley said in the April 2003 General Conference of the Church, the funds came from ‘commercial entities owned by the Church’ and the ‘earnings of invested reserve funds.’ A similar statement was made by President Hinckley in the October 2004 General Conference. Mr. James Huntsman’s claim is baseless.”

 

March 22

Top Headlines

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Videos, Arrests

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, How Biden quietly created a huge social program, Annie Linskey, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats have been pressing to expand child payments for decades. The covid stimulus provided a way, and they grabbed it. An unlikely coalition of Democrats across the ideological spectrum joe biden kamala harris campaign shotmounted an 11th-hour push in the final weekend before the American Rescue Plan for President Biden to go big on tackling child poverty.

They prevailed over what one person involved in the process called the “cost police” in Biden’s inner circle, those anxiously warning about the ballooning cost of the stimulus package.

This under-the-radar success created what could be the most consequential piece of the $1.9 trillion package — one that, if made permanent, could approach the impact of the programs established under President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

The sudden, unexpected creation of an approximately $120 billion social program has thrown a twist into the political landscape. Some Democrats now fear being labeled big-government spenders in the upcoming midterms. Some conservatives, on the other hand, are embracing the idea as a family-friendly measure.

washington post logoWashington Post, AstraZeneca’s U.S. trial shows vaccine is 79 percent effective, William Booth and Carolyn Y. Johnson, March 22, 2021. The result is a boost for the troubled vaccine, which had its rollout paused across Europe last week after reports of a relative handful of rare but worrying blood clots.

astrazeneca logoOxford University and AstraZeneca reported on Monday that their coronavirus "vaccine for the world" was safe and 79 percent effective overall, according to data from a long-awaited clinical trial in the United States, alongside other studies in Chile and Peru. The two-shot regimen was completely effective at preventing severe cases of illness.

In a news release, the Oxford researchers, who developed the easily transported $4 shot for the British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, said their coronavirus vaccine is “safe and highly effective, adding to previous trial data from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa, as oxford university square logowell as real-world impact data from the United Kingdom.”

An independent monitoring board combed through the data to look for any cases of blood clotting events similar to those that caused the vaccination effort to be suspended in many European countries. While vaccination was started again after a pause, it undermined confidence in the vaccine. The independent board found no suggestion that the vaccine carried an increased risk of clotting.

The trials included 32,449 adult participants in all age groups, most of them in the United States. The volunteers received either two standard doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine or a placebo, at a four-week interval, the researchers said.

 

Jan. 6 Insurrection Videos, Arrests

djt jan 6 twitter

Donald Trump rouses supporters in a speech outside the White House just prior to the mob's assault on the U.S. Capitol, which contained elected members of Congress giving final certification of November election results on Jan. 6, 2021 in advance of President-elect Joe Biden's planned Inaugution.

washington post logoWashington Post, The rioter next door: How the Dallas suburbs spawned domestic extremists, Annie Gowen, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). The FBI voiced concern that radical ideologies are going mainstream in Texas.

FBI logoHope for Trump's return is fervent in Frisco and across the north Dallas suburbs, an area of rapid growth and rapidly increasing diversity. Nineteen local residents have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to federal authorities, one of the largest numbers in any place in the country.

Many of the rioters came from the "mainstream of society," according to the FBI's Dallas field office, including three real estate agents, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, an oilman and an actor who once appeared on the popular television show "Friday Night Lights." They were driven by a "salad bowl of grievances," the FBI said, including anger over the presidential election, white-supremacist ideology and the discredited extremist ideology QAnon, which holds that Trump will save the world from a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles.

Their groundless claims are being fed by conservative politicians and from the pulpits of large, powerful evangelical churches with teachings that verge on white nationalism, both motivated by fear that they are losing a largely White, conservative enclave that views these changes with suspicion.

More arrests are coming, and North Texas remains a focus for investigators who expect to charge as many as 400 people from across the country in the attack on the Capitol.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: The Five Must-See Insurrection Videos, Seth Abramson, left, March 21, 2021. The next wave of January 6 arrests is seth abramson headshotcoming. These damning videos highlight the actions of several people who orchestrated many of the events of that horrible day.

Thus far, over 320 Trumpists have been arrested for their actions on January 6, 2021, and the DOJ says that more than 100 additional arrests are coming. But what many of us are most anxiously awaiting is not more arrests of lower-middle-class and middle-class Donald Trump supporters—though the massive video archive published by ProPublica confirms that many of these richly deserve indictment and incarceration—but rather the as-yet unaccountable elites who orchestrated the events of January 6.

seth abramson proof logoFor instance, we’ve yet to see what sort of accountability, legal or professional, awaits politicians like Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), or Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), all of whom helped strategize and/or incite the events of January 6.

Likewise, one wonders what will become of those civilians who allegedly organized and/or funded many of the events of January 6, among them staunch GOP allies like Julie Jenkins Fancelli, Bianca Gracia, Caroline Wren, Cindy Chafian, Hannah Salem, Maggie Mulvaney, Arina Grossu, Kyle Jane Kremer, Amy Kremer, Rose Tennet and—most critically—Stop the Steal organizers Ali Alexander, Roger Stone and Alex Jones.

And of course America still waits eagerly for the first signs of justice for the Trumps themselves, along with their closest allies and advisers, a list of insurrection-adjacent figures that includes Trump himself, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Lara Trump, Ivanka Trump, Trump Jr. girlfriend and Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle, Katrina Pierson, Corey Lewandowski, Peter Navarro, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Lindell, Sidney Powell, and Michael Flynn. We know, by and large, what these men and women did on and before January 6; what we don’t know is why the FBI has apparently yet to speak with any of them or seize and search their electronic devices. We don’t know why we are told to cheer the arrests of Trumpist peons even as the powerful, wealthy, and/or influential people who guided their conduct are ignored by federal law enforcement.

As we await the next round of January 6 indictments—hoping that, in the coming weeks and months, we can track advances in the work of the FBI and DOJ by tracing the “operations level” of the defendants they indict (e.g., it is a hopeful sign that more and more conspiracy charges against members of the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have been unveiled lately)—here, below, are five videos every American should watch.

 

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Then-Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin speaks on Jan. 12 at a Justice Department press conference about the Jan. 6 pro-Trump insurrection stage at the U.S. Capitol. He amplified his remarks in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview on March 21, 2021 (pool photo by the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Evidence in Capitol Attack Most Likely Supports Sedition Charges, Prosecutor Says, Katie Benner, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). “I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” said Michael Sherwin, who had led the Justice Department’s inquiry into the riot.

Evidence the government obtained in the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol most likely meets the bar necessary to charge some of the suspects with sedition, Michael R. Sherwin, the federal prosecutor who had been leading the Justice Department’s inquiry, said in an interview that aired on Sunday.

The department has rarely brought charges of sedition, the crime of conspiring to overthrow the government.

But in an interview with “60 Minutes,” Mr. Sherwin said prosecutors had evidence that most likely proved such a charge.

“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Mr. Sherwin said. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”

The last time federal prosecutors brought a sedition case was 2010, when they accused members of a Michigan militia of plotting to provoke an armed conflict with the government. They were ultimately acquitted, and the judge in the case said the Justice Department had not adequately proved that the defendants had entered a “concrete agreement to forcibly oppose the United States government.”

The statute on seditious conspiracy also says that people who conspire to “oppose by force the authority” of the government or use force “to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States” can be charged with sedition.

The government has charged some defendants in the Jan. 6 case with conspiring to derail the final certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.

Mr. Sherwin witnessed the crime as it unfolded. After he dressed in his running clothes and entered the crowd at the rally near the White House, he observed a “carnival environment” of people listening to speeches and selling T-shirts and snacks.

“I noticed there were some people in tactical gear. They were tacked up with Kevlar vests. They had the military helmets on,” he said in the “60 Minutes” interview. “Those individuals, I noticed, left the speeches early.”

“Where it was initially pro-Trump, it digressed to anti-government, anti-Congress, anti-institutional,” Mr. Sherwin said. “And then I eventually saw people climbing the scaffolding. The scaffolding was being set up for the inauguration. When I saw people climbing up the scaffolding, hanging from it, hanging flags, I was like, ‘This is going bad fast.’”

From the start, Mr. Sherwin oversaw the investigation as the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, a role that he ceded to a new interim leader in early March. He stepped down from leading the investigation on Friday and returned to Miami, where he had been a line prosecutor.

Mr. Sherwin told “60 Minutes” that the government had charged more than 400 people. Among them are hundreds accused of trespassing and more than 100 accused of assaulting officers, including Brian D. Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died after fighting with rioters.

Mr. Sicknick and two other officers were sprayed with an unidentified chemical agent that one of the assailants said was used to repel bears.

A medical examiner has not determined how Officer Sicknick died, Mr. Sherwin said, so two suspects were charged with assaulting an officer instead of murder. But that could change, he said.

“If evidence directly relates that chemical to his death,” Mr. Sherwin said, “in that scenario, correct, that’s a murder case.”

Mr. Sherwin said that only about 10 percent of the cases so far dealt with more complicated conspiracies planned and executed by far-right extremists — including members of the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters and the Proud Boys — to organize, come to Washington and breach the Capitol.

He reiterated assertions he made shortly after the attack that prosecutors were examining the conduct of former President Donald J. Trump, who had told his supporters to attend the rally on Jan. 6 and egged them on with baseless claims that he had won the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: What Is ‘Sedition’? It Has a Complicated History, Jennifer Schuessler, Jan. 7, 2021. As a mob stormed the Capitol, the word “sedition” was on many people’s lips. Its force is clear, but its echoes across U.S. history are more complex.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial Board: How to Collect $1.4 Trillion in Unpaid Taxes, Editorial Board, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). Wealthy Americans are concealing large amounts of income from the I.R.S. There is a straightforward corrective.

When the federal government started withholding income taxes from workers’ paychecks during World War II, the innovation was presented as a matter of fairness, a way to ensure that everyone paid. Irving Berlin wrote a song for the Treasury Department: “You see those bombers in the sky? Rockefeller helped to build them. So did I.”

irs logoThe withholding system remains the cornerstone of income taxation, effectively preventing Americans from lying about wage income. Employers submit an annual W-2 report on the wages paid to each worker, making it hard to fudge the numbers.

But the burden of taxation is increasingly warped because the government has no comparable system for verifying income from businesses. The result is that most wage earners pay their fair share while many business owners engage in blatant fraud at public expense.

In a remarkable 2019 analysis, the Internal Revenue Service estimated that Americans report on their taxes less than half of all income that is not subject to some form of third-party verification like a W-2. Billions of dollars in business profits, rent and royalties are hidden from the government each year. By contrast, more than 95 percent of wage income is reported.

 

joe biden signs resized relief bill

Politics: Biden Signs Stimulus Bill Ahead of Prime-Time Address; Analysis: In contrast with ‘I alone can fix it,’ Biden says only we together can defeat virus.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Challenge Is to End the Coronavirus Crisis Faster, Jim Tankersley and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, March 22, 2021.  President Biden is setting benchmarks, such as a 4 percent unemployment rate, to mark a full recovery. But the wild card is the same: the virus itself.

The Biden administration, with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend to end the Covid crisis, has set a series of aggressive benchmarks to determine whether the economy has fully recovered, including returning to historically low unemployment and helping more than one million Black and Hispanic women return to work within a year.

But restoring economic activity, which was central to President Biden’s pitch for his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, faces logistical and epidemiological challenges unlike any previous recovery. Infectious new variants of the virus are spreading. Strained supply chains are holding up the distribution of rapid Covid-19 tests, which could be critical to safely reopening schools, workplaces, restaurants, theaters and concert venues.

Then there are questions of whether the money can reach schools and child care providers quickly enough to make a difference for parents who were forced to quit their jobs to care for their children.

ny times logodemocratic donkey logoNew York Times, Live Washington updates: House Democrats will make the case that Washington, D.C., should be granted statehood, Staff Reports, March 22, 2021. There is new momentum in Congress for Washington, D.C., to be granted statehood, and President Biden endorsed the idea last week. The bill to give over 700,000 city residents federal representation faces an uphill climb: Republicans are uniformly opposed.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP Rep. Tom Reed apologizes for sexual misconduct, won’t challenge Cuomo in 2022, Beth Reinhard, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). Two days after a former lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct in a Washington Post report, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) on Sunday publicly apologized, vowed not to seek reelection and abandoned a possible run against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

tom reed oReed, right, said in a statement that he was “struggling” in early 2017, when the incident occurred, and entered treatment for alcohol abuse that year.

Reed recently has been weighing a bid to unseat Cuomo (D) and had called for the governor to be impeached amid allegations that he sexually harassed multiple women, mostly state employees. Since he was elected to Congress in 2010, Reed has cast himself as a republican elephant logochampion of women’s rights.

In the story that published Friday, Nicolette Davis, a former lobbyist for Aflac insurance, said that Reed rubbed her back and unhooked her bra during a gathering with other lobbyists at a Minneapolis pub in 2017. She was 25 years old at the time and on her first networking trip. He was 45.

“A drunk congressman is rubbing my back,” she texted a friend and co-worker at Aflac that evening, adding later, “HELP HELP.”

 leon black jeffrey epstein

Leon Black, left, CEO and co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, Leon Black to Leave Apollo Sooner Than Expected, Matthew Goldstein, March 22, 2021. The Wall Street billionaire, who was the main client of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein in recent years, decided to leave for health reasons.

Leon Black, the Wall Street billionaire who was the main client of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein for the last decade of his life, is stepping down as chief executive of Apollo Global Management, several months ahead of schedule.

Mr. Black also will give up the chairmanship of the private equity firm, which he helped found roughly three decades ago, the firm said in a statement on Monday. Jay Clayton, the former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman who recently joined the firm as an independent director, will take his place.

The firm had said in January that he would step down as chief executive before his 70th birthday in July while retaining the chairman role. But Mr. Black said on Monday that he had decided to leave now to focus on his family and his and his wife’s health.

Apollo had previously announced that Marc Rowan, another Apollo co-founder, would succeed Mr. Black as chief executive. News of the succession came after the release of a report by an outside law firm that detailed how Mr. Black had paid Mr. Epstein, the registered sex offender who killed himself in August 2019 while facing federal sex trafficking charges, $158 million in fees and lent him nearly $30 million. The review by the Dechert law firm found no wrongdoing by Mr. Black.

Mr. Black said in a statement that the firm expected its quarterly earnings would exceed expectations and that it was “the ideal moment to step back and focus on my family, my wife Debra’s and my health issues, and my many other interests.”

In a letter to the Apollo board that the company included in a regulatory filing, Mr. Black said the controversy over his ties to Mr. Epstein had taken a toll on him and his family.

“The relentless public attention and media scrutiny concerning my relationship with Jeffrey Epstein — even though the exhaustive Dechert Report concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing on my part — have taken a toll on my health,” Mr. Black said.

Apollo’s announcement in January that Mr. Black would eventually step down as chief executive, along with a number of corporate governance changes, helped soothe many investors who were nervous about Mr. Black’s association with Mr. Epstein. But some, like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, had offered only cautious support.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 81.4 million vaccinated, as of March 22, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 266.8 % of the prioritized population and 24.5 % of the total U.S. population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 22, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 123,947,814, Deaths: 2,729,181
U.S. Cases:     30,521,774, Deaths:    555,314

washington post logoWashington Post, In rural Trump country, the coronavirus vaccine is an easy sell — for now, Laura Vozzella, March 22, 2021. Far Southwest Virginia has some of the highest vaccination rates in the state. But officials wonder how long that will last.

The area’s robust public health infrastructure, which for years has delivered typical flu vaccines in mass settings, is part of the reason. So was the wake-up call that followed Thanksgiving — a post-holiday surge in cases so high that two hospitals brought in refrigerated trucks because their morgues were overflowing.

And then came the death of one of the area’s most prominent figures: state senator, lawyer and cattle farmer A. Benton Chafin Jr.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

robert aaron long cherokee county sheriffs office 641

washington post logoWashington Post, Accused Atlanta gunman’s church expels him, saying his actions display ‘total corruption of mankind, Jonathan Krohn, Drew Harwell and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). Crabapple First Baptist Church said Sunday that Robert Aaron Long, shown above, is no longer considered a “regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”

The conservative Baptist church attended by the accused Atlanta gunman expelled him from its congregation Sunday morning, saying he is no longer georgia mapconsidered a “regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”

Parishioners of Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Ga., voted to remove Robert Aaron Long, 21, from the church’s membership following an hour-long service dedicated to the eight people he is charged with killing at three Atlanta-area spas Tuesday night.

“Our hearts are filled with so many emotions; with grief, with anger, sadness, with emptiness, confusion,” Associate Pastor Luke Folsom said in a prayer before a crowd of more than 100 congregants. “There’s so much confusion. It doesn’t make any sense. But, father, we know this is the result of sin. It displays the total corruption of mankind.”

Long, 21, was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. The eight victims included a woman two days shy of her 50th birthday and a newlywed who had just given birth to her second child. Seven of the eight killed were women; six of them were of Asian descent.

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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Ex-Blackwater cop and the Georgia spa massacre, Wayne Madsen (shown at left, commentator, author and former Navy intelligence officer), March 22, 2021. Captain Jay Baker of the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallCherokee County Sheriff’s Office set off a firestorm on March 17 when he stated that a 21-year old white gunman who shot to death six Asian spa employees and two other people in the Atlanta Metro area did so because he had a “really bad day."

Baker's Facebook page also featured anti-Asian racist shirts with the following: "Covid 19 - Imported Virus from Chy-na." Although Baker was suspended from his job as spokesman for the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office for his intemperate remarks, it was his prior employment with the mercenary firm Blackwater that raised eyebrows.

WMR exposed the close relationship between Blackwater and civilian law enforcement agencies on October 14, 2007, warning that the connection could result in major infringements on the safety of U.S. citizens in the future. Based on the Baker incident in Georgia we are re-running the 2007 piece.

laurence silberman susan walsh ap resized

Judge Laurence Silberman, senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, speaks at the memorial service for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on March 1, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Susan Walsh / AP Photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s attacks on the press were bad. What this federal judge did was worse, Ruth Marcus, right, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). It’s ruth marcus twitter Customalarming enough when a president calls reporters the “enemy of the people.” It’s even more alarming when words to that effect come from one of the nation’s most prominent federal appeals court judges — and when he goes even further, calling New York Times v. Sullivan, the foundational ruling protecting press freedom, “a threat to American Democracy.”

That happened Friday when federal appeals court judge Laurence H. Silberman dissented in a defamation case decided by the D.C. Circuit. To understand the significance — and danger — of the Silberman dissent requires understanding Silberman’s place near the apex of the conservative legal pantheon.

At 85, named to the bench by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, he is one of the architects of the conservative legal movement, godfather to many of its current luminaries. So when Silberman speaks, conservative lawyers and judges listen.

On Friday, the notoriously volcanic Silberman — he once said he was tempted to punch a colleague in the nose — didn’t just talk, he thundered. The case, Tah v. Global Witness Publishing, involved two former Liberian officials who claimed they were defamed by a human rights group, Global Witness, that suggested they had accepted bribes in exchange for an oil development license. (The Washington Post joined an amicus brief on behalf of Global Witness.)

The two judges in the majority, David S. Tatel, a Clinton appointee, and Sri Srinivasan, named by President Barack Obama, dismissed the case, applying the “actual malice” test set out in Times v. Sullivan: Did Global Witness act with knowing or reckless disregard of the truth in reporting on public officials?

washington post logoWashington Post, State of emergency declared in Miami Beach as spring breakers overwhelm the city, Brittany Shammas, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). As curfew struck and police moved to clear Miami Beach’s iconic Ocean Drive on Saturday, throngs of revelers stood shoulder to shoulder, packing the street. In footage captured by local media, people danced on top of cars, some clutching liquor bottles. One man threw out fistfuls of cash.

Then, with sirens blaring and the sound of pepper balls being fired, those in the crowd began to run, briefly causing a stampede.

The chaotic scene played out the first night police enforced a curfew in response to an “overwhelming” volume of spring break visitors. City officials had declared a state of emergency earlier that day, pointing to several instances in which crowds of partyers turned disruptive and violent.

During an emergency meeting on Sunday, city commissioners voted to extend emergency orders imposing an 8 p.m. curfew in the entertainment district and limiting access to causeways leading to the island city. The measures are now set to continue Thursday to Sunday until April 11, the end of the spring break period.

With its miles of beaches and famed party scene, Miami Beach has long been a spring break destination. City officials have for years attempted to crack down, citing raucous crowds and occasional fights. In 2019, for instance, police in protective armor patrolled the beach as prison transport vehicles stood ready to carry away noncompliant visitors. The next year, officers tackled and punched spring breakers who were resisting arrest, the Miami Herald reported.

Such actions have drawn criticism from the NAACP, with leaders noting that many of those who visit over spring break are Black. Some Black leaders expressed concern about the city’s latest crackdown attempts, including the use of pepper balls to help clear Ocean Drive on Saturday night.

The mayor and other city officials insisted they were targeting conduct rather than specific groups of people. Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said officers used pepper balls Saturday night in response to some in the crowd rushing toward them.

Since Feb. 3, the police department said, about 1,000 arrests have been made, including 350 on felony charges. About 51 percent of arrests involved non-Florida residents. Officers also have seized 80 firearms. Police in nearby cities have sent reinforcements to help manage crowds

 

U.S. Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Assaulting the Truth, Ron Johnson Helps Erode Confidence in Government, Trip Gabriel and Reid J. Epstein March 22, 2021 (print ed.). ron johnson oSenator Ron Johnson (R-WI) incited widespread outrage when he said recently that he would have been more afraid of the rioters who rampaged the Capitol on Jan. 6 had they been members of Black Lives Matter and antifa.

But his revealing and incendiary comment, which quickly prompted accusations of racism, came as no surprise to those who have us senate logofollowed Mr. Johnson’s career in Washington or back home in Wisconsin. He has become the Republican Party’s foremost amplifier of conspiracy theories and disinformation now that Donald Trump himself is banned from social media and largely avoiding appearances on cable television.

republican elephant logoMr. Johnson is an all-access purveyor of misinformation on serious issues such as the pandemic and the legitimacy of American democracy, as well as invoking the etymology of Greenland as a way to downplay the effects of climate change.

The senator has become Republicans’ foremost amplifier of disinformation, pushing falsehoods on the coronavirus, vaccines and the Capitol riot.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: He Redefined ‘Racist.’ Now He’s Trying to Build a Newsroom, Ben Smith, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). Our media columnist Ben Smith spoke to Ibram X. Kendi and Bina Venkataraman about their new venture to cover racism, inspired by Boston’s abolitionist newspapers.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is deranged, even for Tucker Carlson, Bocha Blue, March 22, 2021. The Atlanta shootings that took place last week are a human tucker carlsontragedy. Our hearts go out to all the victims and their families. Yet, one person is deeply concerned about another aspect of this horrific case which he claims is being ignored. And that person, of course, is one Tucker Carlson, right.

bill palmer report logo headerThere does not seem to be any end in sight for the madness of the crazed Fox host. He will do anything he can to prove the false narrative that Racism does not exist. Tucker was outraged by the shootings. But not for the reasons all of us are. Tucker insists these shootings have nothing to do with race. Terrible Tucker says we need a serious question answered. Per Carlson: “Why is there so much prostitution in Atlanta?”

He really asked that question. It is enraging, but it also shows his ignorance and complete lack of empathy. We have no evidence that these women were sex workers, and even if they were, who gives a damn?

Second, I believe these shootings were race-motivated. Georgia is a state that has a high Asian population, particularly Koreans. Atlanta is filled with Massage parlors. And there are plenty of non-Asian ones. How do I know this? Because I have been to the Atlanta area and I have seen them.

fox news logo SmallTucker seems to be taking the word of a sociopathic maniac and treating it as gospel. He refuses to acknowledge any Racism toward any one group because he’d have to admit he is part of the problem if he did. And for this little troll, that absolutely cannot happen. These are tragedies, and racism has become worse, no doubt because of the former Insurrectionist in Chief. We cannot let idiots like Tucker hijack the narrative.

 

March 21

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U.S. Crime, Regulation, Media

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

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 washington post logoWashington Post, Mayorkas says ‘the border is closed,’ defends Biden’s strategy, Amy B Wang, March 21, 2021. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended President Biden’s immigration strategy and emphasized in multiple interviews Sunday that the southern border of the United States “is closed,” as the Biden administration faces criticism over a record number of migrants seeking entry into the country from Mexico and Central America.

Alejandro MayorkasMayorkas, right, who appeared on almost all of the major political shows Sunday morning, sought to push a consistent message as the Biden administration is being pressed about conditions in overcrowded detention centers for unaccompanied immigrant children.

“The border is closed. We are expelling families. We are expelling single adults,” Mayorkas said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, adding that unaccompanied minors should not attempt to make any journey to the U.S.-Mexico border now. “We strongly urge, and the message is clear, not to do so now. I cannot overstate the perils of the journey that they take.”

Mayorkas said the administration’s “message has been straightforward and simple,” and Biden himself last week disputed that the surge was a result of his overturning some of former president Donald Trump’s policies. But the message coming from the administration has at times been conflicting, particularly Mayorkas’s message that asylum seekers should not come “now” while other members of the administration have said they should not come period, and seek asylum from where they are. That has frustrated even some of their Democratic allies steeped in immigration issues.

us dhs big eagle logo4Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) blamed Biden for changing or doing away with Trump policies like “Remain in Mexico,” which under the previous administration meant asylum seekers needed to wait outside of the U.S. for their cases to be decided.

“It was working. It disincentivized people from taking this dangerous trip,” Ducey said of the policy on ABC’s “This Week.”

Republicans have blamed the sharp rise in migrants arriving on Biden’s rollbacks, saying he changed Trump’s policies prematurely and without backup systems in place. Democrats have emphasized they are attempting to take a more humane approach to immigration.

Mayorkas on Sunday reiterated that the Biden administration would not “expel into the Mexican desert” young, vulnerable children like the last administration did.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Access, Influence and Pardons: How a Set of Allies Shaped Trump’s Choices, Kenneth P. Vogel and Nicholas Confessore, March 21, 2021. A collection of well-connected groups led by a pair of Orthodox Jewish organizations had success in winning clemencies under former President Trump.

Justice Department log circularOne hacked the computers of business rivals. One bribed doctors to win referrals for his nursing homes.

Another fled the country while he was on trial for his role in a fraud that siphoned $450 million from an insurance company, leading to its collapse. Still another ran a Ponzi scheme that plunged a synagogue into foreclosure.

Each won clemency from President Donald J. Trump.

They also had something else in common, an investigation by The New York Times found. The efforts to seek clemency for these wealthy or well-connected people benefited from their social, political, or financial ties to a loose collection of lawyers, lobbyists, activists and Orthodox Jewish leaders who had worked with Trump administration officials on criminal justice legislation championed by Jared Kushner.

Donald Trump (Defense Department photo by Dominique Pineiro)That network revolved around a pair of influential Jewish organizations that focus on criminal justice issues — the Aleph Institute and Tzedek Association — and well-wired people working with them, including the lawyer Alan M. Dershowitz, Brett Tolman, a former U.S. attorney for Utah, and Nick Muzin, a Republican operative.

The combination of access, influence and substantive expertise they brought to bear produced striking results.

Of the 238 total pardons and commutations granted by Mr. Trump during his term, 27 went to people supported by Aleph, Tzedek and the lawyers and lobbyists who worked with them. At least six of those 27 went to people who had been denied clemency through the official Justice Department process during the Obama administration.

Over the years, at least four of those who received clemency or their families had donated to Aleph. Others or their allies and families had retained people like Mr. Dershowitz, who represented Mr. Trump in his first impeachment trial, Mr. Tolman and Mr. Muzin to press their cases before the Trump administration, often working in parallel with Aleph and Tzedek, according to public records and interviews.

washington post logoWashington Post, Drug companies defend vaccine monopolies in face of global outcry, Christopher Rowland, Emily Rauhala and Miriam Berger, March 21, 2021 (print ed.). Despite rising alarm over the immunization gap and widespread calls for greater cooperation, drug companies are continuing to protect valuable vaccine patents and manufacturing know-how.

Abdul Muktadir, the chief executive of Bangladeshi pharmaceutical maker Incepta, has emailed executives of Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax offering his company’s help. He said he has enough capacity to fill vials for 600 million to 800 million doses of coronavirus vaccine a year to distribute moderna logothroughout Asia.

He never heard back from any of them. The lack of interest has left Muktadir worried about prolonged coronavirus exposure for millions of citizens of Bangladesh and other low-income nations throughout Asia and Africa who are at the back of the global queue for shots.

johnson johnson logo“Now is the time to use every single opportunity in every single corner of the world,” Muktadir, whose company is being promoted by the Bangladesh government for emergency vaccine production, said in a Zoom interview. “These companies should make deals with as many countries as possible.”

Tracking the covid vaccine: Doses, people vaccinated, by state

The drug companies that developed and won authorization for coronavirus vaccines in record time have agreed to sell most of the first doses coming off production lines to the United States, European countries and a few other wealthy nations.

washington post logoWashington Post, In this Nigerian city, Pfizer fears loom over the vaccine rollout, Ibrahim Garba and Danielle Paquette, March 21, 2021 (print ed.). Twenty-five years after a controversial clinical trial, hurt and skepticism linger in Kano.

pfizer logoBy the time Pfizer arrived, the meningitis epidemic had struck hundreds of children, leaving many dead or partially paralyzed.

Nigerian FlagThe American pharmaceutical giant pledged to fight the 1996 outbreak in West Africa while testing a new drug, enrolling 200 stricken young patients in a clinical trial. Eleven died of the brain infection — an outcome Pfizer said was in line with results from standard treatment — and families in Kano, along with the state government, later received millions of dollars in a lawsuit settlement.

Now the memory looms over the coronavirus vaccine rollout in Nigeria’s second-largest city, sowing doubts around foreign-made shots that officials are rushing to distribute.

“I don’t trust anything from the West,” said Abubakar Sadiq Sulaiman, a 20-year-old college student in Kano, “because of what happened here.”

Vaccine fears driven by the history of medical experimentation in Africa threaten to undermine the battle to end the pandemic, health officials say, as several nations kick off inoculation campaigns this month.

 

U.S. Crime, Regulation, Media

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Anguish of Atlanta Suspect Is Familiar Thorn for Evangelicals, Ruth Graham, March 21, 2021 (print ed.). The man accused of killing eight people at spas was a churchgoer who told officers he was addicted to sex. Parts of evangelical culture imply that sexual sins are more serious than others.

When Brad Onishi heard that the man accused of a rampage at three Atlanta-area spas told detectives that he had carried out the attacks as a way to eliminate his own temptations, the claim sounded painfully familiar.

Dr. Onishi, who grew up in a strict evangelical community in Southern California that emphasized sexual purity, had spent his teenage years tearing out any advertisements in surfing magazines that featured women in bikinis.

Dr. Onishi, now an associate professor of religious studies at Skidmore College, recalled the evangelical culture he was raised in, he said, “teaches women to hate their bodies, as the source of temptation, and it teaches men to hate their minds, which lead them into lust and sexual immorality.”

robert aaron long mug croppedRobert Aaron Long, shown at right in a mug shot, the suspect in the massacres that left eight people dead, told the police this week that he had a “sexual addiction,” and he had been a customer at two of the spas that he targeted. He was so intent on avoiding pornography that he blocked several websites on his computer and had sought help at a Christian rehab clinic. A former roommate said that Mr. Long agonized over the possibility of “falling out of God’s grace.”

When Mr. Long, 21, was arrested on Tuesday on his way to Florida, the police said, he told officers he had planned to carry out another attack on a business connected to the pornography industry.

Many people saw clear signs of misogyny and racism in the attacks, in which six of the victims were women of Asian descent.

But Mr. Long’s characterization of his motivations was also very recognizable to observers of evangelicalism and some evangelicals themselves. He seemed to have had a fixation on sexual temptation, one that can lead to despair among people who believe they are failing to follow the ideal of refraining from sex and even lust outside heterosexual marriage.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘No end in sight’: Inside the Biden administration’s failure to contain the border surge, Ashley Parker, Nick Miroff, Sean Sullivan and Tyler Pager, March 21, 2021 (print ed.). Shortly before Christmas last year, Susan Rice and Jake Sullivan, two top advisers to President-elect Joe Biden, sat for an interview with EFE, a Spanish wire service, to issue a stark warning to migrants considering journeying north to the nation’s southern border: Don’t come now — but help is on the way.

joe biden oThe next day, Biden was similarly pointed, saying his administration — while eager to roll back Donald Trump’s immigration policies — first needed to implement “guardrails” to avoid winding up with “2 million people on our border.”

Less than a month later, the new president began tearing down some of the guardrails himself. He issued five immigration executive us dhs big eagle logo4orders on Inauguration Day alone and promised an immigration policy far more humane and welcoming than that of his predecessor. His administration also began allowing unaccompanied minors into the country, a marked departure from the Trump administration’s approach.

Now, the Biden administration is scrambling to control the biggest surge in 20 years, with the nation on pace for as many as 2 million migrants at the southern border this year — the outcome Biden said he wanted to avoid.

Hollywood PoliTrivia, Film Commentary: The Hollywood Extermination List, Wayne Madsen, March 21, 2021. Adolf Hitler had a plan to round up all of Hollywood's "undesirables" and transport them to concentration camps.

The Germans relied on a massive network of U.S. collaborators -- members of such organizations as the Friend of New Germany (FNG), its successor, the German-American Bund, and the Silver Shirts -- who provided German intelligence with the personal details on key figures in the American motion picture industry.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 81.4 million vaccinated, as of March 21, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 266.8 % of the prioritized population and 24.5 % of the total U.S. population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 21, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 123,546,841, Deaths: 2,723,706
U.S. Cases:     30,483,286, Deaths:    554,884

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ill Biden launch a global democratic wave? E.J. Dionne Jr., rfight, March 21, 2021. Voting in the Netherlands last week and recent ej dionne w open neckstate elections in Germany and Australia point to a covid-era seriousness about government’s responsibilities, a search for democratic stability after a series of right-wing uprisings, and a redefining of progressive politics in a green direction.

Taken together, these things don’t necessarily suggest a Biden wave, but they do point toward the same sensibility that led to his election. Activism with a moderate tone, competence and focus in ending the pandemic, alertness about climate change — these approaches are being embraced by the center-left, but also by parts of the moderate right.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kill the filibuster — and reap what you sow, Ruth Marcus, right, March 21, 2021 (print ed.). Fast forward to January 2025. Donald ruth marcus twitter CustomTrump has been elected to a second term. The House and Senate are in Republican hands. In the Senate, the filibuster is gone, having been abolished by frustrated Democrats in 2021. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, back for a final term as majority leader at age 82, declares that he will not move to restore it.

Welcome to the apocalypse.

This completely possible nightmare is not to argue that Democratic fury over the filibuster today isn’t justified. The filibuster has been abused and overused, stopping measure after measure that has majority support — not just in the Senate but among the public. The device is neither a sacred right nor part of the constitutional design.

Still, the question remains: Do the benefits of doing away with the filibuster, immediate and obvious as they are, outweigh the risks of what a different majority would do down the road? That should be a sobering concern for anyone pressing for its abolition, because a return to complete GOP control is a matter of only a few seats, and the damage that Republicans could do would be immense.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: India, the world’s largest democracy, is now powered by a cult of personality, Kapil Komireddi (author of Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India), March 21, 2021 (print ed.). Is there a cult of personality in the democratic world to rival Narendra Modi’s?

Consider the pageantry of veneration consecrated to the Indian prime minister just last month. On Feb. 24, the world’s largest cricket stadium — built at a cost of more than $100 million and bearing the name of one of India’s most revered founding fathers — was unblushingly re-christened the Narendra Modi india flag mapStadium by the Modi government.

Four days later, the country’s space agency catapulted a satellite bearing a photo of Modi into the heavens. In one week, Modi had his name monumentalized on Earth and his face exalted in the stars.

narendra modi 2014The glorification of Modi, shown in a file photo, originated in service of a cause larger than the man.

Its purpose, at first, was to ennoble Hindu nationalism by elaborately showcasing its most successful proponent.

Bereft of respectable historical icons who espoused their creed, Hindu nationalists had been stigmatized for decades as ideological renegades in a country that identified itself as a secular republic. The men venerated by Hindu supremacists had spurned the inclusive struggle for India’s freedom from British rule pioneered by Mohandas Gandhi, eulogized Hitler, peddled race myths borrowed from the Nazis, rationalized the murderous persecution of German Jews as a “good lesson” for India, and vilified Christians and Muslims even as they collaborated with the Muslim supremacists who founded Pakistan.

The secular pantheon had Gandhi; Jawaharlal Nehru, the first popularly elected prime minister; and Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet who bequeathed India its national anthem.

The Hindu nationalist hall of infamy featured Nathuram Godse, the chauvinist who assassinated Gandhi; VD Savarkar, the sectarian prophet who mentored Godse; and MS Golwalkar, the demagogue who considered the Third Reich the highest expression of racial pride.

This baggage explains why Modi played down his ideology and campaigned as an inclusive, modernizing technocrat in 2014.

 

state dept map logo SmallStrategic Culture Foundation, Opinion: The Status Quo Enthusiasts of Foggy Bottom: Living in the Past, Wayne Madsen, March 21, 2021. The Biden administration has displayed initial deluded and antiquated thinking when it comes to foreign policy.

After the four-year interregnum of Donald Trump’s “Cirque du Stupide,” America’s foreign diplomacy should be undergoing a total facelift. Returning to the stodgy “business as usual” foreign policy of the past is not the answer.

strategic culture logoNews to Team Biden: The year is 2021, not 1951. Whatever “special relationship” the United States had in the past with the United Kingdom, that has long been overtaken by events, including the practical inevitability of Scotland becoming independent and rejoining the European Union and Northern Ireland being an effective part of a customs union, minus the rest of the UK, with the Republic Ireland. It would seem the old “special relationship” has devolved to new political entities.

It would do the State Department and White House well to reinvent the mechanisms of diplomacy. There is as much a need for Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Biden to be on the phone with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as there is for vapid phone conversations with England’s own version of “Trump,” Mr. Johnson.

There may be 193 member states of the United Nations, but around the world, newly-devolved regions, provinces, and areas – well over 100 – are taking on the trappings of statehood or autonomous status and more are planned. More than a handful of these autonomous entities even have their own ministries of foreign affairs or, as they are alternately known, ministries of international cooperation.

United Kingdom flagThat fact, alone, should change the face of modern diplomacy and a new subset of that discipline, known as paradiplomacy, as well as the very essence of statecraft. Nevertheless, it will be like pulling teeth to convince the State Department, so rooted in the traditions of the 19th century, to update its old and stale act.

Unfortunately, for the recycled Obama and Clinton administration foreign officials the Biden administration is slotting into State Department, National Security Council, and Defense Department positions, it will be Madeleine Albright- and Susan Rice-style diplomacy. Under Obama, that took on embarrassing dimensions as Obama personally weighed in on Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum, urging Scotland to remain within an unevenly ruled United Kingdom dominated by England.

The Biden administration has displayed initial deluded and antiquated thinking when it comes to foreign policy. It should be remembered that Biden’s Senate career began when Mao Zedong was still in charge in China, a war with the U.S. as a main participant continued to rage in Southeast Asia, a country called the United Arab Republic was the center of political activity in the Middle East, white rule and apartheid was the name of the game in southern Africa, and right-wing dictatorships ruled throughout Latin America. Those who live in the past will never be prepared to face the future.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tokyo Olympics organizers ban spectators from outside Japan in pandemic-control measure, Simon Denyer, March 21, 2021 (print ed.). Overseas spectators will be barred from attending the Tokyo Summer Olympics Games in an attempt to lessen pandemic risks, the games’ organizing Japancommittee said Saturday.

Tickets purchased by overseas residents will be refunded, it said in a statement.

“The fact that the spectators are not able to attend the games from abroad, that is very disappointing and it’s regrettable,” Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, told a news conference. “But given the current stance of covid-19 and the situation we are seeing in Tokyo, and also in order to make sure that we do not cause any inconvenience to the medical situation, we had to make the decision and we have to ensure a safe and secure environment for all the participants. It was an unavoidable decision.”

The Games were postponed last year because of the pandemic, and opinion polls show a majority of Japanese people say they should not go ahead in the summer.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is strongly encouraging athletes, coaches and officials to get vaccinated before coming to Japan, and has accepted an offer from China to supply vaccines to any Olympic delegations in need of doses. For each vaccine supplied to a participant, the IOC will pay for two more doses for ordinary people in that country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Brian Barger (1952–2021): Journalist who helped unravel Iran-contra scandal, dies at 68, Bart Barnes, March 21, 2021 (print ed.). A former reporter for the Associated Press and The Washington Post, Brian Barger in recent years worked as a full-time volunteer with immigrants’ rights organizations.

brian barger 2008 family photoBrian Barger, shown at right in a 2008 family photo, was an investigative journalist who edited and reported on Colombian drug cartels, covert operations of the CIA, international terrorism, money laundering, excessive levels of toxins in sea fish, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was among the primary reporters covering the Iran-contra arms-for-hostage scandals of the Reagan administration.

In a journalism career spanning three decades, he worked for the Associated Press, CNN and The Washington Post, among other CIA Logoorganizations. He was a restless man who disliked staying long in one place. Early in his career he was a school bus driver and a garbage collector in suburban Maryland; a bartender in Tokyo; a logging truck driver in Wyoming; and an auto mechanic, taxi driver, carpenter, house painter, short-order cook and motorcycle messenger in Washington, D.C.

For a time, he was a California farmworker and organized protests against low wages and poor working conditions. He also had been an insurance claims adjuster and an activist for political and humanitarian causes. He was arrested several times in protests against the Vietnam War.

In 1999, he took a three-year hiatus from journalism to co-found and direct Casa Amiga, a rape crisis and domestic violence counseling center network in Mexico. This, said his family, was an outgrowth of his friendship with Dianna Ortiz, a Catholic nun and missionary who in 1989 was abducted, raped and tortured by members of the Guatemalan military. She died Feb. 19 and is shown at below in a 1996 AP photo pointing at a press conference to sketches of her attackers.

sister ortiz guatemalan attackers 1996 ron edmonds apMr. Barger, a District resident who in recent years has been a full-time volunteer with immigrants’ rights organizations, died Feb. 22 at a hospital in New York. He was 68 and the cause was complications following surgery for pancreatic cancer, said his wife, Tia Duer.

Brian King Barger was born in Washington on June 21, 1952. His father was a Foreign Service officer, whom he accompanied to postings in Indonesia, Mexico and Tokyo.

He began his journalism career in 1979 as a Post news aide and retired in 2008 after seven years as an assistant foreign editor. In between, he was an independent correspondent in Latin America and an off-camera reporter with CBS and ABC News, and a Washington-based reporter with the AP, United Press International and CNN.

At the AP, Mr. Barger partnered with colleague Robert Parry on the Iran-contra story, conducting extensive and early reporting about drug trafficking by members of the right-wing Nicaraguan force known as the contras, who had U.S. backing and ties to National Security Council member Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North.

But as Mr. Barger and Parry were examining details of North’s role in the illegal Iran-contra affair, the journalists complained that the bureau chief blocked or delayed running their findings while high-level news agency officials were in discussions with North about securing the release of Terry Anderson, an AP journalist who had been taken hostage during the Lebanon civil war.

At the time, Louis D. Boccardi, president and general manager of AP, denied the allegation that he or others “were somehow editing the AP wire to suit Ollie North.” Mr. Parry soon left for CBS News.

As a foreign desk editor at The Post from 2001 to 2008, Mr. Barger worked on stories connected with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, national security issues and current events in Latin America and the Middle East.

 

March 20

Top Stories

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Regulation

 

Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

Trump Team Troubles

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, How Anti-Asian Activity Online Set the Stage for Real-World Violence, Davey Alba, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). On platforms such as Telegram and 4chan, racist memes and posts about Asian-Americans have created fear and dehumanization.

In January, a new group popped up on the messaging app Telegram, named after an Asian slur.

Hundreds of people quickly joined. Many members soon began posting caricatures of Asians with exaggerated facial features, memes of Asian people eating dog meat and images of American soldiers inflicting violence during the Vietnam War.

This week, after a gunman killed eight people — including six women of Asian descent — at massage parlors in and near Atlanta, the Telegram channel linked to a poll that asked, “Appalled by the recent attacks on Asians?” The top answer, with 84 percent of the vote, was that the violence was “justified retaliation for Covid.”

The Telegram group was a sign of how anti-Asian sentiment has flared up in corners of the internet, amplifying racist and xenophobic tropes just as attacks against Asian-Americans have surged. On messaging apps like Telegram and on internet forums like 4chan, anti-Asian groups and discussion threads have been increasingly active since November, especially on far-right message boards such as The Donald, researchers said.

The activity follows a rise in anti-Asian misinformation last spring after the coronavirus, which first emerged in China, began spreading around the world. On Facebook and Twitter, people blamed the pandemic on China, with users posting hashtags such as #gobacktochina and #makethecommiechinesepay. Those hashtags spiked when former President Donald J. Trump last year called Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu.”

While some of the online activity tailed off ahead of the November election, its re-emergence has helped lay the groundwork for real-world actions, researchers said. The fatal shootings in Atlanta this week, which have led to an outcry over treatment of Asian-Americans even as the suspect said he was trying to cure a “sexual addiction.”

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Rhetorical clashes with Russia, China clarify new stance for U.S., John Hudson, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration, under new Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, antony blinken ohas shown a surprisingly strong appetite for high-profile fights with America’s top adversaries. The dramatic standoffs help clarify Washington’s new outlook in a post-Trump era, but also create unpredictable and sometimes chaotic outcomes on the diplomatic stage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon chief meets Indian prime minister Modi and discusses China challenges, Dan Lamothe, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior officials on Friday as the United States works to expand partnerships to counter an increasingly assertive China.

The visit, held as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other U.S. officials continued a tense, high-profile meeting with Chinese counterparts in Anchorage, marks the latest stop on a tour of Asia in which Austin and Blinken appeared together in South Korea and Japan.

india flag mapBut while the United States has deep history and treaties with Seoul and Tokyo, its relationship with India is more limited and complicated by India’s history of neutrality abroad and human rights issues at home.

“Secretary Austin commended India’s leadership role in the Indo-Pacific and growing engagement with like-minded partners across the region to promote shared goals,” said John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman. “The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to promote a free and open regional order.”

narendra modi 2014Modi, right, said in a tweet that he conveyed his best wishes to President Biden in the meeting.

“India and US are committed to our strategic partnership that is a force for global good,” he said.

Austin also met with India’s national security adviser, Ajit Kumar Doval, and plans to meet with Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Saturday.

Austin, a retired Army general selected by Biden to run the Pentagon, is the first Cabinet member in the new administration to visit India. The discussions with other senior Indian officials were planned weeks ago, but Modi became available Friday on relatively short notice, said two senior defense officials on the trip, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Regulation

robert aaron long cherokee county sheriffs office 641

washington post logoWashington Post, The Atlanta spa shooting suspect’s life before attacks, Mark Berman, Brittany Shammas, Teo Armus and Marc Fisher, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). The alleged killer of eight, including six Asian women, grew fixated on sex and porn, those who know him said.

The war within Robert Aaron Long, shown above in a file photo via authorities, was evident for years.

A unitary theory about what brought Long — now facing murder charges in the shootings of eight people, six of them Asian women — to three Atlanta-area spas on a chilly Tuesday evening is as elusive as the explanations the 21-year-old repeatedly sought for his own troubles. What is clear is that those who spent time with Long in recent years often saw a life in severe disruption.

That wasn’t always the case. At Sequoyah High School in Canton, Ga., Long, who went by his middle name and graduated in 2017, kept a low profile. He played the drums, carried a Bible and attended meetings of a Christian student club. Outside of school, he hunted deer, played video games and traveled with his church youth group.

In an Instagram bio that the social media company has since removed, he summed himself up as “Pizza, guns, drums, music, family, and God. It’s a pretty good life.”

But over the past four years, Long’s life turned toward the tumultuous. He started college classes and left after one year. He believed he was straying from his faith, telling friends that he was fixated on sex to the extent that he thought he was addicted. His relationship with a girlfriend collapsed after she found out that he frequented massage businesses, according to his roommate. His bond with his parents frayed; on the night before the shootings, they threw him out of their house, according to police.

washington post logoWashington Post, Surveillance video shows Atlanta suspect enter first spa more than an hour before shooting, Elyse Samuels, Tim Craig and Timothy Bella, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). The length of time that Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in the shootings at three Atlanta-area spas, spent inside Young’s Asian Massage was previously unknown. Video obtained by The Washington Post shows the scene before the rampage that left eight people dead, most of them Asian women.

The suspect in the shootings at three Atlanta-area spas entered Young’s Asian Massage more than an hour before gunfire was reported at the business, the beginning of a rampage that left eight people dead, most of them Asian women, surveillance video obtained by The Washington Post shows.

The video shows that Robert Aaron Long first spent an hour sitting in the parking lot outside the shop. He then entered and 1 hours and 12 minutes elapsed before he was seen leaving the establishment and getting into his car. Several minutes later, people appear in the parking lot and police arrive. The length of time that Long spent inside Young’s was previously unknown. It’s unclear what he was doing for the hour after he was seen entering the spa and before the shooting began.

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Biden administration finally lands on the obvious border message, Aaron Blake, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). There’s an early pattern on the administration’s messaging around its biggest challenges.

Alejandro MayorkasTwice this month, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas addressed the surge of migrants by telling them, “Don’t come now.”

The “now” part of that was a shift from how even the last Democratic administration addressed a similar border surge. When unaccompanied minors were flooding to the border in 2014, President Barack Obama told them not to come, period, and that they would be sent back if they did.

us dhs big eagle logo4Mayorkas made clear each time he said this that it wasn’t just a wayward “now” that he attached to his plea. He instead indicated that this was indeed the administration’s line — that he was pleading for time rather than would-be migrants to change their plans completely.

Earlier this week, he was pressed on whether the better message was “don’t come, period,” and he doubled down.

“Well I think, actually, do not come now,” Mayorkas said. “Give us the time to rebuild the system that was entirely dismantled in the prior administration. And we have in fact begun to rebuild that system.”

He said at a March 1 White House briefing: “We are not saying, ‘Don’t come.' We are saying, ‘Don’t come now,' because we will be able to deliver a safe and orderly process to them as quickly as possible.”

Amid criticism that its rhetoric might be feeding the crisis by appearing too welcoming, though, the administration has now pulled a 180.

joe biden oPresident Biden seemed to walk back Mayorkas’s comments a bit in an interview with ABC News this week, and now Roberta Jacobson, the White House’s ambassador to the southern border, is saying pretty much the opposite.

“The message isn’t ‘Don’t come now'; it’s ‘Don’t come in this way, ever,’ ” Jacobson, told Reuters on Thursday. “The way to come to the United States is through legal pathways.”

That’s Jacobson effectively agreeing with the premise that Mayorkas explicitly disputed — and just a few days later.

Immigration is a complicated issue, involving lots of pathways to entry. Some migrants might have legitimate asylum claims or family in the United States. But the tenor of the message has apparently shifted rather dramatically.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senators see dire conditions in packed border stations, as officials consider flying migrants north, Maria Sacchetti and Nick Miroff, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). Homeland Security officials and a bipartisan group of senators toured the El Paso sector of the border and saw hundreds of children packed into large, open rooms.

Migrant children and families are dangerously packed into holding facilities on the southwest border, lawmakers and child­-welfare monitors warned Friday, as Customs and Border Protection weighed taking the emergency step of putting migrant families on airplanes to states near the Canadian border for processing.

ICE logoThe strain of a sudden, sharp spike in apprehensions became clear as Department of Homeland Security officials and Democratic and Republican lawmakers toured the El Paso sector of the border and saw hundreds of children packed into large, open rooms and families streaming across the border at night.

Conditions were even worse hundreds of miles to the southeast in the Rio Grande Valley, a court-appointed monitor told a federal judge Friday, saying the crowding in Border Patrol facilities was “profound,” “not sustainable” and at risk of unraveling.

The Biden administration is rushing to manage a rapidly growing influx at the border even as it plays down the emergency as a “challenge,” not a crisis. But a growing number of Republicans and some Democrats say the situation is spiraling out of control, with thousands of unaccompanied minors filling shelters and thousands more in border holding areas not meant for children.

Health and Human Services said it had 9,800 unaccompanied minors in shelters Friday, but so many new groups were fast arriving that 4,700 more children and teenagers were waiting in Border Patrol facilities designed for adults. Their average time in custody was 135 hours, nearly twice the legal limit.

 

Capitol Riot, Insurrection

jeffrey mckellop fbi photo

A video still from a police officer's bodycam shows who the FBI says is Jeffrey McKellop assaulting an officer with a flagpole on Jan 6. (FBI)

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Green Beret charged in riot threw a flagpole at an officer like a spear, FBI says, Alex Horton, March 20, 2021 (print ed.).  The former Special Forces soldier, who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, faces six charges.

A former Army Special Forces soldier charged with a half-dozen crimes stemming from the Capitol riot threw a flagpole at a police officer like a spear and assaulted three other officers, according to the FBI and court documents.

Jeffrey McKellop, 55, who was arrested Wednesday, is among more than 30 veterans charged in the Jan. 6 incident but appears to be the first so far who served in Special Operations, according to service records analyzed by The Washington Post.

McKellop, of Augusta County, Va., faces six charges, among them assaulting a police officer with a deadly or dangerous weapon. He did not enter a plea on Thursday. His attorneys Greg Hunter and Seth Peritz declined to comment on his case.

The former soldier served two enlistments for a total of 22 years, according to his Army service record. His second enlistment, from 1993 to 2010, included time as a mechanic and a Special Forces communications sergeant. The role includes overseeing radios and other communications vital to small team Green Beret missions.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Is Roger Stone unindicted co-conspirator UCC-1? Sheree McSpadden, March 20, 2021. The Washington Post and NPR reported Friday afternoon that two Proud Boys leaders were arrested and charged with conspiring to overwhelm police, obstruct Congress in order to prevent the certification of President Biden’s Electoral College victory, and take over the Capitol on Jan. 6, revealing detailed new encrypted communications between the alleged leaders and an “unindicted co-conspirator”, as well as two other Proud Boys, whose arrests were reported last Wednesday.

bill palmer report logo headerThe five co-conspirators were communicating vis radio with 60 others on an encrypted channel called Boots on the Ground, including discussions to “go over tomorrow’s plan.” But the group feared it was so close to being uncovered by the FBI, and hit with criminal gang counts, they erased or nuked all of their communicstions on that channel on Jan. 4th, and created a new channel, called “MOSD,” on the same date after the arrest of their national leader, preventing him from taking part in the actual insurrection.

roger stone headshotThe co-conspirators continued planning activities on MOSD, including the unindicted co-conspirator named UCC-1, who was giving orders. These Proud Boys did not attend Trump’s rally, but breached the Capitol using bear spray and the officers’ riot shields against them. One of the leaders announced it over the radio when they breached the Capitol, saying “We stormed the Capitol unarmed.”.

Chief instigators raised money for their protective gear, radios, and travel. They dressed “incognito” to evade police. Before breaching the Capitol they led chants and taunted police, threatening to “take the Capitol.”

Three of the four co-conspirators are ex-military. I can’t help but wonder if UCC-1 is Roger Stone, right, and investigators are trying to obtain his cooperation to go after bigger fish.

 

capitol weare the storm flyer resized

Organizers for the Jan. 6 terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol used as one of their tools the flyer above, distributed widely by partner organizations. See the commentary by Mark Karlin, the founder of BuzzFlash.com: Trump Didn't Just Incite Sedition on January 6. He Aided and Abetted Ongoing Insurrection, Jan. 19, 2021.

seth abramson headshotseth abramson proof logoProof via Substack, Investigation: "Here Is the Twelve-Point Plan Donald Trump Had for January 6," Seth Abramson, shown at left, (best-selling author, attorney, Harfvard Law grad, professor), March 10, 2021 (subscription required). "It's time we started talking about the former president's game plan for the armed insurrection of January 6, as all its details are now public — and they're terrifying."

 

 

Trump Team Troubles

 

This is the current state of Trump's 757 at Stewart Airport in Orange County, NY: 1 engine broken, the other wrapped (CNN Screenshot).

This is the current state of Trump's 757 in Orange County, NY: 1 engine broken, the other wrapped (CNN Screenshot).

CNN, Investigation: Glory days of Trump's gold-plated 757 seem far away as plane sits idle at a sleepy airport, Kate Bennett and Pete Muntean, March 19, CNN2021. Donald Trump's personal Boeing 757 was always the crown jewel of his wealth -- the ultimate sign that he had made it.

He's used it as a backdrop for sleek photo shoots, campaign rallies, VIP tours, for shots of him eating his Big Macs and KFC, plated, with a knife and fork. Trump loved to show it off -- the customized cream-colored leather seats, gilded bathrooms, the seat buckles layered in 24-karat gold.

But today it sits idle on an airport ramp in Orange County, New York, about 60 miles north of Manhattan.

One engine is missing parts. The other is shrink-wrapped in plastic. The cost to fix and get it flyable could reach well into the high six-figures, a price-tag Trump doesn't appear to be dealing with right now. Though the current state of his finances aren't public, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the hospitality industry home to so many of his businesses.

Flight records accessed by CNN show the 757 hasn't been flown at all since Inauguration Day, when Trump's use of Air Force One ended, leaving him to less showy modes of transport.

A representative for the Trump Organization did not immediately return CNN's request for comment as to why the plane is not being used, nor has been fixed -- and whether or not Trump intends to get it in flying shape anytime soon.

A CNN camera crew saw Trump's plane parked on a fenced-off tarmac at the small upstate New York airport on Wednesday, about an hour and a half drive from Trump Tower. The choice to leave it outside at a northeastern airport, exposed to the elements, has baffled aviation experts who spoke with CNN. They note that it's just a few hours' flight to warmer, more arid climes.

Snow, rain, and moisture can lead to metal corrosion of the airframe and the engines -- hard to detect, and, in severe cases, catastrophic. Large airplanes are typically stored for long stretches of time in the desert southwest, where the dry climate makes corrosion nearly impossible.

Trump's 757 is seen at Stewart Airport in New York in March 2021. The right engine wrapped in plastic, while the left engine appears to be removed.

Trump rarely, if ever, admits to losing power. With the 757 apparently out of commission, Trump is left with his much smaller corporate jet, at least for now. According to flight data, Trump's 1997 Cessna 750 Citation X has been in semi-regular rotation for the last few months, often flying between Palm Beach International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York.

It was this plane Trump flew on when he made his first post-presidency trip back to Manhattan earlier this month. "The small jet isn't his favorite," says a former White House official who frequently flew with Trump on both planes. With just eight seats, the Citation such as the one Trump is using is a tighter squeeze and far less luxe than the 757.

"It also doesn't have his name on the outside," the source said, noting the gigantic Trump name that the 757 bears across its front section. The Citation does have a small Trump family crest on the fuselage. That's a downgrade for a man who likes to paint his surname on just about everything he owns, from hotels to bottles of wine.

Plane as campaign draw

When Donald Trump bought the used Boeing 757 airplane in 2010 from the late Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, it swiftly became his favorite toy, as he liked to tell friends. Though it was already almost twenty years old, for the next decade, Trump lauded his plane. He was picky about who got to fly on it, where they would sit and how they could move about, says another frequent flier. None of the regular travelers were willing to speak on the record for fear of retribution.

When he hit the campaign trail in earnest, the 757, aka "Trump Force One," became as much a promotional ploy as billboards or TV ads. Look how successful I am-- was the message Trump was sending to voters, sometimes parking it behind the stage at his rallies.

Trump's flash-and-cash boasting worked all the way to the White House, with many of his supporters lured by the informercial-like, almost hypnotic reel of planes, limos, homes, glamorous women, gold, and quasi-celebrity. His gilded, high-flying brand may be the most valuable thing he owns. The New York Times found his personal brand strategy to be "the most successful part of the Trump business," as part of their September review of Trump tax returns.

A money suck

But, like many Trump accoutrements crafted for the purpose of marketing, the reality of the giant jet was different behind the scenes. It was a money suck, a plane past its prime with decaying mechanics and exorbitant storage fees.

"Flying that thing was so expensive," says the former senior official. "I don't think people realized that just to get it up in the air and make one stop was literally tens of thousands of dollars."

The cost to fly a Boeing 757 is about $15,000 to $18,000 per hour, according to CNN aviation analyst David Soucie. But that's when the plane can actually fly. Trump's 757 is nowhere near flight ready, according to an experienced pilot who saw it this week. The source declined to be identified.

"It's an older engine and parts availability is becoming a challenge so operating costs go up significantly," says Soucie. "Most airlines are retiring the 757 since more cost-effective models are now available."

Before Trump purchased it from Paul Allen, the plane served as a commercial airliner in Mexico in the 1990s, according to a 2016 Times story on the plane.

The pricey extravagance of the jet may now be too much for Trump's finances to handle. His net worth has taken a tumble over the last few years. Trump is personally liable for debts and loans totaling $421 million, according to the New York Times reporting. Most of that debt comes due in the next four years. Some of his best-known business ventures report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year, according to the Times. That includes golf courses that have racked up at least $315 million in losses over the past two decades. The Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.

A Bloomberg News report this week estimates that Trump's net worth has fallen by $700 million since February 2016, from $3 billion to $2.3 billion.

Trump could use money in his political action committees to pay for the plane upgrades, or other expenses, experts say. "PACs are often used as slush funds," said Paul S. Ryan, an expert on campaign finance and a top lawyer at Common Cause, a good governance non-profit.

"Campaign finance law doesn't require PAC money to be used for political purposes, leaving open the possibility that Trump could use PAC funds to pay for private plane repairs."

The disclosures for Trump's newest PACs aren't due for some time, so it's unclear if he has spent any of that money on maintaining the plane.

But he has used campaign money in the past for travel. When running for president in 2016, for example, Trump used his campaign funds to pay travel expenses to a Trump-owned entity called Tag Air. In all, he spent $8.7 million with Tag Air in that cycle, according to a CNN tally at the time.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Broke Donald Trump can’t even afford to get his plane fixed, Bill Palmer, March 19, 2021. Even while Donald Trump was in office, it was fairly clear that the money he was pilfering from taxpayers was merely being used to make interest payments on his debts, and that he had no actual cash President Donald Trump officialon hand at any given time. Now that Trump is out of office, we’re seeing more reports that Trump’s struggling businesses are indeed all upside down. Now it turns out things are really bad for Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerYou know his prized 757 jumbo jet with the “Trump” logo on the side that he loved to fly around in during the 2016 campaign? It’s now sitting in disrepair somewhere outside of New York City, according to CNN. How bad off is the plane? One of the engines is missing parts. In other words, Trump can’t even afford to pay to get it fixed.

This could help explain why Trump insisted on leaving Washington DC a few hours before the end of his presidential term. This allowed him to fly down to Mar-a-Lago on Air Force One. If Trump had waited until noon to leave DC that day, he’d no longer have been president, and he’d have needed to provide his own transportation to Florida. That would have been a problem, considering he’s so broke that his personal airplane is in pieces.

 

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Palmer Report, Opinion: We told you Trump stooge Mark Meadows was screwed, Bill Palmer, left, March 20, 2021. Last week a new phone recording surfaced bill palmerwhich captured Donald Trump pressuring another Georgia official to alter the results of the 2020 election. During that call, Trump mentioned that his White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was behind the whole thing, and that Meadows had even traveled to Georgia to meddle in the process. From this, Palmer Report deduced that Meadows was going to be in serious legal trouble.

Mark MeadowsSure enough, Reuters is now reporting that the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, above, is indeed investigating Meadows, right, as part of her case into the Georgia election fraud. This is a big deal, because the DA recently hired a racketeering expert and has already begun putting the case in front of a grand jury, meaning serious criminal charges are coming down the pike.

bill palmer report logo headerLast week Palmer Report predicted that the District Attorney would end up pressuring Mark Meadows to flip on Donald Trump. Now we’re more convinced than ever that this is the route the DA will take. Will Meadows end up cutting a deal? We’ll see. Meadows seemed bizarrely loyal to Trump while he was White House Chief of Staff. But is Meadows loyal enough to go to prison for Trump?

 

mar a lago aerial Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club partially closed after staff infected with coronavirus, David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey and Lori Rozsa, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida has been partially closed after some of its employees were infected with the coronavirus, according to an email sent to club members Friday afternoon.

“As some of our staff have recently tested positive for COVID-19, we will be temporarily suspending service at the Beach Club and à la carte Dining Room,” club management said, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

“Banquet and Event services remain open,” the email said.

The Trump Organization declined to say how many workers were affected. The Palm Beach club — which includes the former president’s home as well as restaurants and banquet facilities — has dozens of employees during the winter season.

“Out of an abundance of caution we have quarantined some of the workers and partially closed a section of the club for a short period of time,” a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization said in a statement to The Post.

Lee Lipton, a member at the club, said he received a phone call Friday saying his dinner reservations were canceled for Friday and Saturday nights. “But they said the car show was going on Sunday, and the hotel rooms are fine,” he said.

The partial closure of the club was first reported by the Associated Press.

Palm Beach County, which includes the club, still requires that all guests wear masks, except while “actively consuming food and beverage.”

djt golf shirt march 14 2021Last weekend, Mar-a-Lago hosted two large fundraisers for a charity called Big Dog Ranch Rescue, including one event at which Trump appeared, praising the group.

Photos from those events show that few attendees were wearing masks. Trump, who had covid-19 in the fall and was vaccinated earlier this year, also did not wear a mask. [Trump is shown at the event on March 14 at right, without his usual tan makeup.]

Two people familiar with the club said that Mar-a-Lago waiters wore masks during the events. A spokesperson for the charity declined to comment about the event.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bannon battling prosecutors who won’t dismiss his case after Trump’s pardon, Shayna Jacobs, March 20, 2021 (print ed.).  Stephen K. Bannon, the firebrand political strategist and ex-confidant to former president Donald Trump, is fighting to get his federal fraud case formally dismissed over the strong objection of prosecutors, who have argued that his full pardon does not mean his indictment must be wiped from the record.

Bannon, who helped engineer Trump’s 2016 election win before briefly serving as a White House adviser, asked a judge late Thursday to follow others in New York and elsewhere who outright dismissed cases after Trump issued pardons. To support his bid, Bannon cited the post-pardon dismissals of charges against Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser accused of lying about his contacts with Russian officials, and rapper Lil’ Wayne, who was facing gun charges in Florida.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Steve Bannon’s legal troubles just got worse, Bill Palmer, right, March 20, 2021. When Donald Trump pardoned Steve Bannon on the federal bill palmercharges he was facing for a “build the wall” fraud scheme, various legal experts pointed out that the pardon was poorly written and might not hold up in court. Palmer Report also pointed out that Bannon was likely to face state level charges in New York. Now things have taken an interesting turn.

bill palmer report logo headerFederal prosecutors have decided not to pursue the fraud charges against Bannon, but according to the Washington Post, they’re also refusing to dismiss the existing indictment against him. No one is specifically sure why this is happening. But two scenarios come to mind, and either one would be bad news for Bannon.

The first possibility is that federal prosecutors are still building a criminal case against Steve Bannon on other charges that weren’t properly pardoned, and they plan to use this existing indictment against him as part of the legal proceedings. The second is that the federal indictment is remaining in place because it’s playing some kind of legal role in the criminal case that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is confirmed to be building against Bannon.

Either way, it’s pretty clear that Steve Bannon is going to end up being hit with criminal charges of some kind, whether they be federal or state or both. It’s also clear that prosectors have a specific strategy in mind that somehow includes the existing indictment against him. It’s looking more likely than ever that Bannon will end up in prison.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 79.4 million vaccinated, as of March 20, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 265.2 % of the prioritized population and 23.9 % of the total U.S. population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 20, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 123,018,994, Deaths: 2,715,584
U.S. Cases:     30,425,787, Deaths:    554,104

 

steve bannon eduardo alvarez ap

Mother Jones, Steve Bannon: Wellness Warrior? Stephanie Mencimer, March 20, 2021. The former Trump adviser is now hawking vitamins and other anti-science mumbo jumbo to fight COVID.

Former Trump adviser and former Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon does not radiate “pinnacle of health.” The portly, cigar-smoking, possibly former alcoholic is not known for his workout ethic. But like many a far-right media figure, including Trump himself (once upon a time), Bannon is now hawking vitamins as a “Wellness Warrior.”

People have called Bannon a lot of things over the years. Wellness Warrior is not one of them. Yet Bannon now appears in ads on his website for “The War Room Defense Pack,” a collection of zinc and Vitamin D3, with the slogan, “You can’t fight if you’re sick!”

Anyone ordering a free sample is treated to a complimentary “War Room Viral Defense Guide,” which doesn’t come right out and say it’s offering a COVID cure, lest Bannon run into trouble with the FDA. But the savvy consumer will be able to read through the lines. Despite a lack of any scientific evidence, lots of conspiracy theorists, and fanatical promoters of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID cure and prophylactic, believe zinc and Vitamin D can cure or prevent COVID. Bannon is clearly tapping into that demographic.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu turns to extremist party that calls for expelling Arabs from Israel, Shira Rubin and Steve Hendrix, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). Fighting for reelection, the prime minister has joined with a group inspired by radical rabbi Meir Kahane.

Israel FlagBacked by Netanyahu, Ben Gvir’s Jewish Power party is poised to gain its first spot in Israel’s Knesset and possibly even a cabinet position in the next government, providing the ultranationalist group with a foothold in its bid for legitimacy.

That prospect has electrified thousands of modern-day Kahanists, who see Ben Gvir as the kind of polished leader who can make their ideology palatable to an increasingly right-wing electorate. He advocates expelling Arabs deemed “disloyal” from Israel and the occupied territories and calls for Israel to annex the entire West Bank, which is home to some 3 million Palestinians.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tokyo Olympics organizers ban spectators from outside Japan in pandemic-control measure, Simon Denyer, March 20, 2021. Overseas spectators will be barred from attending the Tokyo Summer Olympics Games in an attempt to lessen pandemic risks, the games’ organizing Japancommittee said Saturday.

Tickets purchased by overseas residents will be refunded, it said in a statement.

“The fact that the spectators are not able to attend the games from abroad, that is very disappointing and it’s regrettable,” Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, told a news conference. “But given the current stance of covid-19 and the situation we are seeing in Tokyo, and also in order to make sure that we do not cause any inconvenience to the medical situation, we had to make the decision and we have to ensure a safe and secure environment for all the participants. It was an unavoidable decision.”

The Games were postponed last year because of the pandemic, and opinion polls show a majority of Japanese people say they should not go ahead in the summer.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is strongly encouraging athletes, coaches and officials to get vaccinated before coming to Japan, and has accepted an offer from China to supply vaccines to any Olympic delegations in need of doses. For each vaccine supplied to a participant, the IOC will pay for two more doses for ordinary people in that country.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Gavin Newsom’s pandemic year: Mistakes, progress and political jeopardy, Scott Wilson, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). A look back over California’s past year of spiking and falling coronavirus infection rates, dying and healing, opening and shuttering, is to trace the trajectory of a once-popular governor’s rise with early decisions, decline as the pandemic wore on, and finally, finish in a political dilemma that will probably force him to answer to voters a year earlier than scheduled.

Gavin Newsom oThe pandemic for every governor has been a crisis that, lacking precedent, is vulnerable to the sharpest of hindsight judgment and in the most unforgiving of partisan political environments. Of a handful of big-state governors, only Florida’s Ron DeSantis (R) has an approval rating today that exceeds his pre-pandemic levels, according to some recent surveys.

But none face the unique political peril Newsom does, partly due to California’s peculiar referendum system and partly because of the pandemic’s savage run through this state of 40 million people, battering its poorest and its people of color far harder than others. More than 3.5 million Californians have contracted the virus and nearly 56,000 have died from it.

On Wednesday, a Republican-led recall drive submitted more than enough still-to-be-validated signatures to qualify the question for the ballot. Five other recall efforts against Newsom, right, have been launched and failed since he took office 26 months ago. State agencies will have until late April to validate these new signatures, then schedule an election that would probably fall in November or December.

Such a statewide recall effort has been successful only once before in California and, although it is a heavily Democratic state, the uncertainties surrounding what is effectively a vote of no confidence on a governor’s competence means that Newsom is in a real fight to stay in office. Polls show the race favors him but only by the slightest of margins.

washington post logoWashington Post, Louisiana voters go to the polls in two House special elections, David Weigel, March 20, 2021 (print ed.). The seats are open because of a Democrat’s move to the Biden White House and a Republican’s death from covid complications.

Louisiana voters will nominate candidates in two open House seats today, as Democrats battle over a safe seat in the New Orleans area and Republicans Democratic-Republican Campaign logosdecide whether the widow of a 2020 candidate should take the seat he won last year.

The special election in the 2nd Congressional District, which stretches from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, became necessary after former representative Cedric L. Richmond (D) resigned to become an adviser to President Biden. Richmond endorsed state Sen. Troy Carter, who has pitched himself to voters as a pragmatic legislator whose Washington clout could deliver for the majority-Black district.

Going into Saturday, there were five vacancies in the 435-member House — two in formerly Republican-held seats and three in seats once held by Democrats in a chamber only narrowly controlled by the party.

New Mexico will elect a replacement for Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on June 1, while northeast Ohio voters will nominate candidates to replace newly-confirmed Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge on Aug. 3, with a special election to follow in November. On May 1, voters in north Texas will vote on a replacement for the late Rep. Ron Wright, a Republican whose widow is seeking his old seat.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Diplomatic Clashes with Russia and China Confirm Reality of Three-Block World with US and Allies Arrayed on Defensive against webster tarpley 2007Totalitarian Aggressors, Webster G. Tarpley, right, March 20, 2021. Increased Belligerence of Moscow and Beijing Suggests Domestic Disaffection After Regime Failures and Crackdowns on Opposition.

US Alliance System Emerges as Decisive Asset, in Sharp Contrast to Trump’s Unilateral Rage and Greed; Biden Shows that Appeasement Is Over; Austin Hints US Edge Eroded by Futile Neocon Wars in Middle East.

Democrats Must Act Immediately to Disrupt GOP’s Creeping Coup Apparatus Before It Can Consolidate for 2022 Takeover of Congress; Filibuster Must Be Abolished; No More Republican Purges of Voter Rolls and Other Vote Fraud Tactics; Vigilance on Loyalty in Military; House Opens Door to Citizenship for Dreamers by 228-197 vote;

Myanmar Generals Show World the Grim Future that Awaits Beijing Satellites with Over 200 Killed in Anti-Coup Protests and Pervasive Use of Huawei’s Facial Recognition Technology;

Michael Cohen Completes Eighth Session with Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Expects More Visits, Says Charges May Be Imminent in Trump Organization Case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fudge may have violated ethics law by championing Democrats in Ohio Senate race at White House, Tyler Pager, March 20, 2021 Marcia Fudge o(print ed.). Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge may have violated the Hatch Act this week in the White House briefing room when discussing the 2022 Senate race in Ohio and promoting Democrats’ chances to win the seat, experts said Friday.

Fudge, right, who recently resigned her seat in Congress to join President Biden’s Cabinet, declined to answer a question Thursday about whether she would endorse a candidate in the special election to fill her seat, but then engaged in a follow-up question about the race for the seat of retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Hartford Courant, Former Connecticut Sen. Billy Ciotto dies at 91; colorful lawmaker served 54 years in state government, including 12 in Senate, Christopher Keating, March 20, 2021. Biagio “Billy’' Ciotto, a former deputy motor vehicles commissioner who became one of the most colorful state senators in a career that spanned five decades in state government, died Saturday at his home in Wethersfield after an extended illness. He was 91.

An old-school Italian Democrat who lived a full life, Ciotto was known for telling stories from his 12 years as a state senator and 42 years at the state motor vehicles department. He also spoke to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for 45 minutes about their Italian heritage, the recent federal stimulus package and the ongoing pandemic. Ciotto traveled to Washington, D.C. at Pelosi’s personal invitation in January 2019 for her swearing-in as Speaker, which Ciotto called one of the biggest events of his life to see an Italian-American woman sworn in as the top leader in the House.

JFK Document Releases / Suppression

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Brian Barger (1952–2021): Journalist who helped unravel Iran-contra scandal, dies at 68, Bart Barnes, March 21, 2021 (print ed.). A former reporter for the Associated Press and The Washington Post, Brian Barger in recent years worked as a full-time volunteer with immigrants’ rights organizations.

brian barger 2008 family photoBrian Barger, shown at right in a 2008 family photo, was an investigative journalist who edited and reported on Colombian drug cartels, covert operations of the CIA, international terrorism, money laundering, excessive levels of toxins in sea fish, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was among the primary reporters covering the Iran-contra arms-for-hostage scandals of the Reagan administration.

In a journalism career spanning three decades, he worked for the Associated Press, CNN and The Washington Post, among other CIA Logoorganizations. He was a restless man who disliked staying long in one place. Early in his career he was a school bus driver and a garbage collector in suburban Maryland; a bartender in Tokyo; a logging truck driver in Wyoming; and an auto mechanic, taxi driver, carpenter, house painter, short-order cook and motorcycle messenger in Washington, D.C.

For a time, he was a California farmworker and organized protests against low wages and poor working conditions. He also had been an insurance claims adjuster and an activist for political and humanitarian causes. He was arrested several times in protests against the Vietnam War.

In 1999, he took a three-year hiatus from journalism to co-found and direct Casa Amiga, a rape crisis and domestic violence counseling center network in Mexico. This, said his family, was an outgrowth of his friendship with Dianna Ortiz, a Catholic nun and missionary who in 1989 was abducted, raped and tortured by members of the Guatemalan military. She died Feb. 19 and is shown at below in a 1996 AP photo pointing at a press conference to sketches of her attackers.

sister ortiz guatemalan attackers 1996 ron edmonds apMr. Barger, a District resident who in recent years has been a full-time volunteer with immigrants’ rights organizations, died Feb. 22 at a hospital in New York. He was 68 and the cause was complications following surgery for pancreatic cancer, said his wife, Tia Duer.

Brian King Barger was born in Washington on June 21, 1952. His father was a Foreign Service officer, whom he accompanied to postings in Indonesia, Mexico and Tokyo.

He began his journalism career in 1979 as a Post news aide and retired in 2008 after seven years as an assistant foreign editor. In between, he was an independent correspondent in Latin America and an off-camera reporter with CBS and ABC News, and a Washington-based reporter with the AP, United Press International and CNN.

At the AP, Mr. Barger partnered with colleague Robert Parry on the Iran-contra story, conducting extensive and early reporting about drug trafficking by members of the right-wing Nicaraguan force known as the contras, who had U.S. backing and ties to National Security Council member Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North.

But as Mr. Barger and Parry were examining details of North’s role in the illegal Iran-contra affair, the journalists complained that the bureau chief blocked or delayed running their findings while high-level news agency officials were in discussions with North about securing the release of Terry Anderson, an AP journalist who had been taken hostage during the Lebanon civil war.

At the time, Louis D. Boccardi, president and general manager of AP, denied the allegation that he or others “were somehow editing the AP wire to suit Ollie North.” Mr. Parry soon left for CBS News.

As a foreign desk editor at The Post from 2001 to 2008, Mr. Barger worked on stories connected with the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, national security issues and current events in Latin America and the Middle East.

March 20

Mary Ferrell Foundation, Analysis: State of the JFK Releases 2021, Rex Bradford

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Mary Ferrell Foundation, Analysis: State of the JFK Releases 2021, Rex Bradford (director), right, March 20, 2021. This essay discusses the state of the JFK Records Collection as of March 2021. It describes the background and results of the declassifications which occurred in 2017 and 2018, and alerts readers to rex bradfordthe re-review which is taking place this year. Particular focus is placed on 3,598 "withheld in full" records which the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) declared would be finally released. Some were, and some weren't, as will be explained.

A companion column to this, Analysis: Withheld in Full -- 2021 Update, is excerpted below. It contains an interactive table where the not-released portion of the 3,598 "withheld in full" records may be explored.

A companion page, 2017 Document Releases, discusses the set of records that were released in 2017 and 2018, along with links to read and search them all.

Background: The JFK Records Act and the Assassination Records Review Board

Following public outcry over Oliver Stone's film JFK, Congress in 1992 passed the JFK Records Act. This law created the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), which from 1994 until 1998 oversaw the declassification of a large number of documents related to the assassination of President Kennedy and the various investigations into his murder; this broad effort included a wide swath of formerly-secret records on Kennedy foreign policy on Cuba and Vietnam, and FBI and CIA and other agencies' files on myriad related topics and individuals.

The revelations from the declassifications of the 1990s have rewritten the story of the formation of the Warren Commission, thrust into prominence Lee Harvey Oswald's trip to Mexico City in the fall of 1963 and the allegations of Communist conspiracy emanating from that city, and turned that story on its head with the stunning news that Director Hoover -- in a memo to the Secret Service and a now-erased presidential phone call -- relayed the FBI's determination that someone had impersonated Oswald there. Also released were formerly-secret notes of Oswald's interrogation which include an alibi for his whereabouts, buried testimony about the nature of JFK's wounds (and thus the direction of shots), which was taken by Congressional investigators and then hidden, documents revealing that CIA officers lied about their knowledge of Oswald before the assassination, a Pentagon false-flag operation named Northwoods outlining terrorist acts which could be implemented and then used to justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba, written plans kept secret for 35 years to withdraw U.S. forces from Vietnam, and so much more, far too voluminous to even summarize here.

The JFK Records Act has been in many ways a great success in reaching toward a fuller history of Kennedy's murder and its context.

The JFK Collection now sits at over 300,000 records comprising over 5 million pages, plus abundant photographic and audiovisual records. The records processed in the 1990s and later all have a unique 13-digit record number assigned to them and are represented in a master collection database. A substantial portion of the 5 million pages, including voluminous Warren Commission files, predate this system, have no record numbers, and do not appear in the database.

But while the ARRB oversaw a massive declassification effort, it also deferred in many cases to government agencies desiring continued secrecy; tens of thousands of JFK records were released with "redactions" (blackouts) -- sometimes as small as a name, sometimes entire pages. And thousands of records remained "withheld in full."

The JFK Records Act mandated that, 25 years after the passage of the Act, all such records should be released in full, barring a determination by the president that "continued postponement is made necessary by an identifable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations" and "the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure."

The 25-year deadline came on October 26, 2017. But when the 25-year deadline finally arrived, the remaining records were not released in full. Instead, under a process approved by then-President Trump:

Over 34,000 documents were released, or re-released with fewer redactions, in 7 batches in 2017 and 2018.

Hundreds of documents were declared sealed in accordance with Sections 10 and 11 of the JFK Records Act (IRS and Social Security Administration records are exempt from public disclosure, as are those sealed by court order or donated to the Archives under a restrictive "deed of gift").

On the date of the last batch of releases, April 26 2018, another Trump memorandum authorized a process whereby the more than 15,000 records with remaining redactions would be subject to re-review in 2021.

It is now 2021.

The 2017 and 2018 Releases

In seven batches in 2017 and 2018, the National Archives (NARA) put online more than 34,000 documents from its JFK Collection. Some of these had been previously released in redacted form, and were re-released in full. Others were simply re-released with fewer (or, inevitably, more) redactions. The nara logodocuments themselves may be read and searched here at the Mary Ferrell Foundation.

According to NARA's JFK Assassination Records Processing Project page, 15,834 documents still feature redactions. A listing of which particular documents remain redacted is not available, and it is not possible without access to all those records to independently make such a determination. NARA's online database of records, which does list the status of records, has not been updated since 2008, and so is quite out-of-date in this regard. The Mary Ferrell Foundation (MFF) is in possession of scanned copies of only 20% or so of the collection, and thus is not in a position to do this analysis.

NOTE: NARA has for years provided online a searchable database of the metadata -- title, date, subjects, etc. -- of the over 300,000 records in the JFK Collection. The JFK Assassination Collection Reference System webpage says the database is "currently down for maintenance"; a huge downloadable spreadsheet is available there instead. The MFF had already obtained a copy of the database and used it to fashion our innovative JFK Database FBI logoExplorer, which may be used to filter and search listings of all metadata records in the database.

The majority of the newly-released documents came from the FBI and CIA, but other agencies which released records included the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department, Department of Justice, the National Archives itself, and others. Records from previous investigations including the Church Committee, the Rockefeller Commission, and the House Select Committee on Assassinations were also declassified.

What was in the redacted text that got revealed, and what blackouts remain? There is no single answer. In many cases, the redactions relate to "sources and methods" -- agent or informant names or numbers, or names or details of particular operations. Sometimes they involve a relationship with a foreign government official. Agencies like the FBI and CIA naturally want to keep these secret, but a full accounting of the JFK assassination story can turn on such details. The issue is whether, more than 55 year later, revealing them is really a matter of "identifiable harm" of "such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure."

The 2017/2018 releases contained revelations of interest to researchers -- that the mayor of Dallas was a CIA asset, for example. Among audiotapes released were actual interrogations of Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko, whom the CIA imprisoned during the Warren Commission investigation and afterwards. Abundant details in CIA files are still being studied to fill out much of the story of the "secret war" against Castro's Cuba. Generally, the 2017/2018 releases did not produce the vast sweeping new revelations that the 1990s declassifications uncovered. But the removal of redactions is indeed helping researchers fill in previously-murky details of various aspects of the vast JFK assassination saga.

Too many redactions remain, however, without compelling reasons for them. Some examples of the kinds of redactions still seen in the records:

CIA LogoClassification that prevents the release of trivial information: In one document about CIA's Mexico City station, the word "unilateral" was made public only in 2017 (see then vs. now). In context, "unilateral" means no other intelligence service assisted in technical surveillance in Mexico City 55 years ago. Did withholding this information protect U.S. national security? It's hard to see how. This redaction is symptomatic of widespread overclassification of JFK files.

Classification that spares the CIA embarrassment and has nothing to do with national security: In this testimony of CIA officer Sam Halpern (who is one of very few insiders alleging that Robert Kennedy was a driving force in the plots to kill Fidel Castro) the Agency is still hiding the details of a 1960's scheme, in which Halpern participated, to make a fake porno film about President Sukarno of Indonesia because he charted a foreign policy independent of the U.S. government. This type of withholding is a matter of public relations, not public safety.

Classification that blocks release of potentially significant JFK information: Some of the 2017/2018 releases actually left redactions completely unchanged. For example, see this March 1964 CIA memo for the Warren Commission, then vs. now. The redacted information in this case is almost certainly the job title of counterintelligence officer Lee Wigren and the CIA component he worked in. This information could be significant in the JFK story because the Warren Commission was originally told that the CIA had only 5 documents on Lee Harvey Oswald at the time of the assassination. In fact, the true number of pre-assassination Oswald documents was at least 42. The CIA waited ten weeks to share this very basic information with the Commission. Lee Wigren did the belated sharing. What CIA office was he working for in 1964? His CIA job title/office in 1975 are declassified in this document, which has been in the public domain for decades. So why is his title/office in 1964 withheld? The answer might help illuminate the process by which the CIA slow-walked the Oswald investigation. This is exactly the kind of question the release of JFK records is supposed to answer.

Not all documents were previously seen with redactions. Also among the released files were nearly 2,500 which had been "withheld in full" -- not previously available even with blackouts. One of these is the subject of the concluding section of this essay. In general these completely-secret documents naturally invoke curiosity, and for them we do have a listing of the documents in question. Our discussion turns next to these records.

Withheld in Full - Released Now?

In 2016, in response to a Freedom of Information request from Politico, other news organizations, and researchers, the National Archives produced a listing of 3,603 documents which were at that time "withheld in full." That list was amended to 3,598 (and still later amended, mistakenly, to a count of 3,571). These records were explicitly slated for release as part of the 2017 declassifications in accordance with the JFK Records Act.

Sample metadata for a withheld JFK record

The Mary Ferrell Foundation has conducted an analysis of these 3,598 records, comparing that list to what was actually released in 2017 and 2018. We have also taken into account declarations made on NARA's project page. In summary, only 2,447 of them were released in any form; 1,151 remain withheld, were declared released but not put online, or are missing. NARA's project page contains explanations for most of these, though there are a few ambiguities and the provided explanations in some cases are questionable. Our analysis indicates that an unknown but significant number of records remain unaccounted for.

Here is a summary of the information provided by NARA regarding what we identify as 1,151 records not released online by the Archives, coupled with our own analysis:

...

[Visit Mary Ferrell Foundation site for its detailed analysis of links to this material]

...

The Upcoming 2021 Review

Where are we now? The April 26, 2018 Trump administration memorandum set a date of April 26, 2021 by which time agencies must "identify to the Archivist the specific basis for concluding that records (or portions of records) satisfy the standard for continued postponement under section 5(g)(2)(D) of the Act." It further states that "the Archivist shall recommend to the President, no later than September 26, 2021, whether continued withholding from public disclosure of the identified records is warranted after October 26, 2021."

At the time of this writing, April 26 is not much more than a month away. President Biden's decision on the fate of these continued withholdings comes six months later. Researcher Larry Schnapf has sent a detailed and compelling letter to the House Oversight Committee chairperson asking for hearings and enforcement of the JFK Records Act. Specifically, he asks that Congress:

  • Conduct an oversight hearing before the April 26th deadline established by the Archivist for the agencies to request further postponement;
  • Instruct agencies that requested records to be withheld in 2017 that they are to comply with the April 26th deadline;
  • Instruct any agency requesting further postponement to provide a Vaughn Index setting forth specific explanations on a document-by-document basis why the particular document needs to be withheld as required by Section 4(3)(e) of the JFK Act;
  • Require all agencies to provide and publish in the Federal Register explanations for each and every postponed document (or portion of a document); and
    Investigate if certain records were properly categorized as “Not Believed Relevant” (NBR).

The MFF endorses all of these requests.

The Cost to History

There is a cost to the lack of transparency, to the willful destruction of historical records, to the endless kicking the can down the road on declassification orders. John F. Kennedy was killed more than 55 years ago, and as for the figures named in these documents, the obituaries are piling up every year. That makes continued withholding less likely to hit the bar set by the Congress that "postponement is made necessary by an identifiable harm..." and that "the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure."

Among the releases of December 15, 2017 was the 6/23/1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations' sworn testimony of Orest Pena, a bar owner in New Orleans. Why was the testimony of a bar owner held in complete secrecy for nearly 4 decades? Why did the Assassination Records Review Board apparently not review this testimony for release (its date of last review is 7/22/1993, before the ARRB was formed)? You may ask, but you will not find a satisfactory answer.

It has long been known that Mr. Pena told the HSCA that he knew that Lee Harvey Oswald, who frequented his bar in the summer of 1963, was an FBI informant. It has also long been known that Pena told the Committee that he himself was also an informant to the same FBI agent, Warren de Brueys, whom Pena said had threatened him physically after the assassination to keep his silence. The HSCA chose to disbelieve Pena, writing that de Brueys denied these accusations, and citing a few (weak) reasons why "he was not a credible witness."

Now that the testimony is finally public, what's in it? In one sense, nothing new -- Pena tells the story the HSCA attributed to him. The reader can judge the credibility of the witness across the 38-page transcript; to this reader he seemed compelling. More importantly, Pena named names. A Mr. Pedro to whose restaurant Oswald would "go...in the morning with other federal agents from the Customs House Building." A Victor Perez who could verify Pena's having seen Oswald in their company at that restaurant. These people are no doubt dead now. And if the HSCA ever interviewed Mr. Pedro or Mr. Perez, there is no such indication in the metadata of the records it left behind, nor were they cited in the dismissal of Orest Pena's allegations.

Regarding Oswald and U.S. Customs, the earlier Church Committee was also onto this connection during their limited review of the JFK assassination. Declassified memos written by staffer Paul Wallach made notes of phone conversations with a David Smith of Customs, and an associate named Wendall Roach of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Wallach noted that both names had been provided by none other than Orest Pena. Roach told the staffer "I've been waiting twelve years to talk to someone about this," and said he was "willing to come to D.C. at our convenience." However, there is no subsequent interview transcript with Wendall Roach to be found in the released Church Committee files. That Committee's other records on this matter are frustratingly meager.

Oswald palling around with government agents doesn't mesh well with the "lone nut" assassin theory. But the point here is not to say with any certainty that Pena's allegations and the Oswald-Customs connection would necessarily have held up under investigative scrutiny. The point is that the investigations failed in this and so many other instances to do what was needed, and their files have remained secret for too long, and thus as a country we have failed to get to the bottom of Kennedy's assassination.

This is the "identifiable harm" we should be attending to -- the harm to our nation due to ongoing secrecy - not now-inconsequential harm or embarrassment from the release of the remaining clues in these records. Justice demands allegiance to the truth, and democracy demands accountability and transparency, and we have not had enough of either in this affair. We should end the pattern of obstruction. Release all the files now.

Mary Ferrell Foundation, Analysis: Withheld in Full -- 2021 Update, Rex Bradford (director), right, March 20, 2021. In 2016, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the National Archives produced a spreadsheet of 3,598 "withheld in full" records slated for declassification in 2017. In the subsequent rex bradfordreleases of 2017 and 2018, 2,447 of these were in fact released online, but 1,151 were not. The table at the bottom of this page lets you explore those 1,151 unreleased records. As an organizational aid, the Mary Ferrell Foundation has split them into categories -- these mary ferrell foundation logocategories are an MFF invention and not official designations.

The categories into which these records are divded was developed using guidance from the JFK Assassination Records Processing Page, which described reasons why some of these documents remain withheld and declares others lost or previously released.

Each record is summarized by its 13-digit record number, agency where the record was held, date, title, and subjects, all taken from the National Archive's JFK Records database. Records can be expanded to show the full set of metadata from the database.

Here's how use the table below:

  • nara logoSelect a category. Click one of the tabs to view summaries of that category of records. A description of the category appears between the tabs and the record summaries.
  • Expand an entry. Click the record number of an entry to view full metadata for that record.
  • Expand all entries. Click the "expand all" and "collapse all" to see full metadata for the entire list

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Diplomatic Clashes with Russia and China Confirm Reality of Three-Block World with US and Allies Arrayed on Defensive against webster tarpley 2007Totalitarian Aggressors, Webster G. Tarpley, right, March 20, 2021. Increased Belligerence of Moscow and Beijing Suggests Domestic Disaffection After Regime Failures and Crackdowns on Opposition.

US Alliance System Emerges as Decisive Asset, in Sharp Contrast to Trump’s Unilateral Rage and Greed; Biden Shows that Appeasement Is Over; Austin Hints US Edge Eroded by Futile Neocon Wars in Middle East.

Democrats Must Act Immediately to Disrupt GOP’s Creeping Coup Apparatus Before It Can Consolidate for 2022 Takeover of Congress; Filibuster Must Be Abolished; No More Republican Purges of Voter Rolls and Other Vote Fraud Tactics; Vigilance on Loyalty in Military; House Opens Door to Citizenship for Dreamers by 228-197 vote;

Myanmar Generals Show World the Grim Future that Awaits Beijing Satellites with Over 200 Killed in Anti-Coup Protests and Pervasive Use of Huawei’s Facial Recognition Technology;

Michael Cohen Completes Eighth Session with Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Expects More Visits, Says Charges May Be Imminent in Trump Organization Case.

jfk american university Custom

President John Kennedy delivering his iconic "Peace Speech" at American University in June, 1963.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Commentary: Oswald or the Pentagon/CIA? Jacob G. Hornberger, right, March 17, 2021.This evening at 7 p.m. jacob hornberger newEastern time, we continue with our online conference “The National Security State and the Kennedy Assassination.” We currently have 693 registrations.

Our speaker is Dr. John Newman, below left, adjunct professor of political science at James Madison University. Newman is the author of the seminal book JFK and Vietnam and four books relating to the JFK assassination. He served as a consultant for Oliver Stone’s movie john newman newJFK. To receive a zoom link, just register (or re-register) at our conference web page.

Our first two speakers — James DiEugenio and Michael Swanson — set the stage for John Kennedy’s assumption of the presidency in 1961. Those two talks can be found in the multimedia section of FFF’s website.

After World War II, the federal government was converted to a national-security state, which vested omnipotent, non-reviewable powers in the hands of the federal government, including the powers of assassination and regime change.

As DiEugenio and Swanson pointed out, there was already tension between Kennedy and the Pentagon and the CIA before he even became president. As DiEugenio observed, Kennedy sided with Third World independence movements, which the Pentagon and the CIA were certain were communist-directed. As Swanson indicated, Kennedy also was skeptical about sending combat troops into Southeast Asia, something that the Pentagon and the CIA believed was necessary to prevent a communist takeover of the United States.

future of freedom foundation logo squareWith Newman’s talk tonight, we head directly into the Kennedy administration and the various crises faced by Kennedy, which led to an ever-growing devolution in the relationship between Kennedy and the Pentagon and the CIA, which ultimately culminated in outright war between the executive branch and the national-security branch of the government, much as it would ten years later within the Chilean national government.

Since the time of the assassination, the official story, one promoted by both the Pentagon and the CIA, has been that a communist former U.S. Marine assassinated Kennedy because he was a little man wanting to kill a big man.

From the beginning, there have been problems with that theory. For one, Oswald denied he committed the crime. In fact, he claimed that he was being framed for the crime. That’s what he meant when he stated that he was a “patsy” or fall guy for the crime. If he was really just a little man wanting to kill a big man, wouldn’t the natural thing to do be to brag about what he had done rather than deny it?

Moreover, how many communist Marines have you known? Communists hate the Marines and vice versa. Marines kill communists. They, along with others in the military, killed millions of communists in Korea and Vietnam. Why would a communist want to join an organization that hated communists and wanted to kill them? Why would the U.S. Marines permit a communist to exist within their midst? Does that sound like the Marines you know?

john newman oswald ciaAnd it’s not as though Oswald was hiding his supposed affinity to communism while he was a Marine. His Marine buddies were jokingly calling him “Oswaldovitch.” That’s because he was learning to speak Russian fluently while in the military and studying the principles of Marxism at the same time.

This was the Cold War period of time, when the U.S. national-security establishment was infiltrating communist organizations with the intention of spying on them and destroying them. In order for a person to be a good infiltrator, he had to convince the organization that he was one of them — that he believed in Marxism and socialism as much as they did. Naturally, an infiltrator oftentimes had to be trained to be an infiltrator,

As previously secret evidence has been uncovered over the years, it has led inexorably to Oswald’s operating as a U.S. intelligence operative, one who was recruited and trained when he was in the Marines. One revealing factor here is that when Oswald returned to the United States after supposedly trying to defect to the Soviet Union, to which he promised to divulge classified information he had acquired as a Marine, they did nothing to him. No indictment. Not even a grand jury summons. No torture. No anything. Remember: This is supposedly one of the most notorious communists in U.S. history and yet they didn’t give him the treatment that they gave to people like Dalton Trumbo and many others who had done nothing more than become members of the Communist Party.

lee harvey oswald hsLet’s talk about motive. If Oswald, left, had been a genuine communist, why would he want to kill Kennedy? After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy experienced a breakthrough that would culminate in a full-fledged war between him and the Pentagon/CIA. At his Peace Speech in June 1963 at American University, he declared an end to the Cold War and America’s intention to establish peaceful and friendly relations with the Soviet Union and the communist world, a position that the Pentagon and the CIA were convinced posed a grave threat to national security.

Pursuant to this new course for America, Kennedy entered into a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets, over the vehement objection of the Pentagon and the CIA. He also ordered a partial withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and told aides he would bring them all home after he won the 1964 presidential election. He announced that he wanted to explore the possibility of a joint moon shot with the Soviets, which meant sharing U.S. rocket technology with the communists. He sided with Martin Luther King and the civil-righs movement, which the national-security establishment, particularly the FBI, was convinced was a communist front.

Why would a genuine communist want to kill a president who was establishing peaceful and friendly relations with the communist world, especially given that Vice President Lyndon Johnson was on the same page as the Pentagon and the CIA?

It stands to reason that people who would have the motive to kill the president, and frame a “communist” for the crime, were those who vehemently objected to the new course that Kennedy was setting for the United States, a course that posed a grave threat to the existence of the national-security establishment itself.

To get a zoom link [free], just register at our conference website.

Date   Speaker(s)         Time                        Topic

3/3/21  Jim DiEugenio     7:00 PM Eastern Time  President Kennedy and the Third World
3/10/21 Mike Swanson    7:00 PM Eastern Time  JFK, the Vietnam War, and the War State
3/17/21 John Newman     7:00 PM Eastern Time  JFK and the Cold War: Deception, Treachery, and the Struggle for Power
douglas horne 20213/24/21 Jefferson Morley  7:00 PM Eastern Time  Morley v. the CIA [Part 1]
3/31/21 Jefferson Morley  7:00 PM Eastern Time  Morley v. the CIA [Part 2]
4/7/21   Douglas Horne (r.) 7:00 PM Eastern Time The JFK Medical Coverup
4/14/21 Douglas Horne     7:00 PM Eastern Time  JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment
4/21/21 Jacob Hornberger 7:00 PM Eastern Time  Regime Change: The JFK Assassination

March 19

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

World News

 

U.S. Media News

 

Top Stories

 ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, As House approves ‘dreamers’ bill, Biden pushes for support amid GOP resistance in Senate, Seung Min Kim and Marianna Sotomayor, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Thursday implored lawmakers to enact permanent protections for immigrants without legal joe biden ostatus who came to the United States as children, a path that would formalize their footing in a country they have known as home for years.

On Capitol Hill, though, nascent legislative efforts on the issue have become immediately intertwined with the increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children now arriving at the U.S. border — an escalating challenge that the Biden administration has struggled to manage.'

Any legislative efforts on immigration have become intertwined with the growing number of unaccompanied migrant children at the U.S. border.

ny times logoNew York Times, Washington Political Updates: The House passes bills to give millions of Dreamers and farmworkers a path to citizenship, Staff reports, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). 

  • The House passes bills to give millions of Dreamers and farmworkers a path to citizenship
  • Democrats, facing steep odds on repealing the filibuster, consider an exemption for voting rights bills.

The Democratic-led House voted on Thursday to create a path to citizenship for an estimated four million undocumented immigrants, reopening a politically charged debate over the nation’s broken immigration system just as President Biden confronts a growing surge of migrants at the border.

ICE logoIn a near party-line vote of 228 to 197, the House first moved to set up a permanent legal pathway for more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, and others granted Temporary Protected Status for humanitarian reasons. Just nine Republicans voted yes.

Hours later, lawmakers approved a second measure with more bipartisan backing that would eventually grant legal status to close to a million farmworkers and their families while updating a key agricultural visa program. This time, 30 Republicans, many representing agriculture heavy districts, joined nearly every Democrat to vote in favor.

The votes were significant milestones for the Dreamers and other activists who have waged a decade-long campaign, often at great personal risk, to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States without permanent legal status out of the shadows. Dreamers, those who have T.P.S. and agricultural workers have in many cases lived in the United States for long periods, and measures to normalize their status have broad public support.

In moving swiftly to consider both bills, House leaders wagered that singling out relatively narrow but publicly popular immigration fixes could shake up a deadlocked policy debate after years of failed attempts at more comprehensive immigration legislation, and deliver for a key constituency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police, witnesses paint picture of murderous rampage in Ga., Tim Craig, Mark Berman, Hannah Knowles and Marc Fisher, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). Robert Aaron Long’s parents kicked him out of the house on Monday night, according to police and a friend. The next day, police said, he bought a handgun.

Robert Aaron Long's family had finally had it. Long, 21, was so obsessed with sex — watching hour upon hour of pornography online, visiting the kinds of spas where the customers bought "massages with happy endings" — that on Monday night, his parents kicked him out of the house, according to police and a friend who confirmed the account.

robert aaron long mug croppedThe next day, police said, Long (shown in a mug shot) bought a handgun. And then, as dusk fell over metropolitan Atlanta on Tuesday evening, Long launched himself on what authorities say was a premeditated trail of terror. He drove to three Atlanta-area Asian spas, where he shot nine people, killing eight of them.

He was on a mission, he would later tell police, to stem his addiction to sex. The spas were “a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate,” said Capt. Jay Baker, a spokesman for the Cherokee County sheriff’s office.

That restatement of the confessed shooter’s motive was meant to allay fears that Long had embarked on a racially motivated campaign of terror against Asian women, but it instead raised disturbing questions about his animus toward women and the racial attitudes that fueled his decision to target Asian spas.

joe biden kamala harris

ny times logoNew York Times, Politics Live Updates: Biden and Harris Condemn Violence Against Asian-Americans, Staff Reports, March 19, 2021. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris delivered remarks in Atlanta after a shooting rampage at Asian massage businesses left eight people dead.

omb logo management and budget seal CustomExpressing grief for the victims, Mr. Biden said the tragedy was part of a “skyrocketing spike” in violence against people of Asian descent in America. The suspect’s church called the attacks the “result of a sinful heart and depraved mind.” Here’s the latest on the shootings.

  • Outside an attacked spa, Asian-Americans share their growing sense of fear.
  • The suspect’s church blames his ‘sinful heart and depraved mind.’
  • The police made prostitution arrests at one of the spas in the attacks several years ago.
  • The suspect asked if he was going to jail for ‘the rest of his life,’ police say.
  • Mass shootings in public spaces had become less frequent during the pandemic.

vladimir putin hand up palmer

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Erupts in Fury Over Biden’s Calling Putin a Killer, Anton Troianovski, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). The Kremlin described the U.S. president’s response to an interview question as “very bad,” and recalled its ambassador to “analyze what needs to be done” about the countries’ relations.

Russia recalled its ambassador to the United States and unleashed a storm of derision aimed at President Biden after he said in a television interview that he thought President Vladimir V. Putin (shown above in a file photo) was a killer.

Russian FlagRussia’s Foreign Ministry said late Wednesday that it had summoned its envoy in Washington, Anatoly I. Antonov, to Moscow “in order to analyze what needs to be done in the context of relations with the United States.”

“We are interested in preventing an irreversible deterioration in relations, if the Americans become aware of the risks associated with this,” the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria V. Zakharova, said in a statement.

Ms. Zakharova did not specify whether a specific event had prompted the decision to recall Mr. Antonov, but the rare move came as Russian officials reacted with fury to an interview with Mr. Biden aired by ABC News. In the interview, when asked whether he thought Mr. Putin was a “killer,” Mr. Biden responded: “Mmm hmm, I do.”

dmitry peskovDmitri S. Peskov, left, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, described Mr. Biden’s comments as “very bad.”

“He clearly does not want to improve relations with our country, and we will be proceeding based precisely on this,” Mr. Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

Despite Mr. Biden’s long-running criticism of Mr. Putin, some Russian analysts had voiced hope that the Kremlin could forge a productive working relationship with the White House on areas of common interest.

“This is a watershed moment,” Konstantin I. Kosachev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s upper house of Parliament, wrote in a post on Facebook on Thursday in reference to Mr. Biden’s interview. “Any expectations for the new U.S. administration’s new policy toward Russia have been written off by this boorish statement.”

On state television, news programs devoted extensive airtime to describing Mr. Biden as confused and out of touch, while politicians lined up to voice their anger and threaten a response.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), The Brothers Flynn -- Are they "sleeper" agents? Wayne Madsen, left (author of 18 books and former Navy Intelligence officer and National Security Agency analyst), March 18, 2021. Fans of the Netflix award-winning television wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallseries "The Americans" were treated to a very close to real-life drama about Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a seemingly all-American suburban couple with a son and daughter living in the Washington DC suburb of Falls Church, Virginia. The Jennings family is not the typical suburban DC family their neighbors believe them to be. They are "sleeper" agents inserted by the Soviet KGB into the United States.

The Soviet "Illegals Program" achieved major success in penetrating U.S. intelligence agencies with either sleeper agents or turncoats. There was not a gru logo Custom 2single U.S. intelligence organization in which the KGB or GRU (logo at right)military intelligence service had not successfully placed agents, including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Donald Trump's disgraced national security adviser, Lt. General Michael Flynn, capped off his Army career as Director of DIA. Flynn's charles flynn michael flynn afghanistan providencebrother, Lt. General Charles Flynn, was serving as the Army Department's Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7) at the time of Trump's attempted January 6 coup d'état to neutralize the U.S. Congress and assassinate its top leadership.

Charles Flynn (shown at left with his brother in Afghanistran in a photo via the Providence Journal) was involved in a January 6 afternoon conference call dealing with providing National Guard troops to help protect the U.S. Capitol building from marauding Trump supporters, some of them armed.

In the call, Flynn's boss, Lt. General Walter Platt, the current Director of the Army Staff at the Pentagon, turned down a request from District of Columbia and U.S. Capitol Police for National Guard forces, saying, "I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background."

After initially denying he was on the call, other Army brass admitted that Flynn was, indeed, on the call. Michael Flynn had recently called for Trump to impose martial law and conduct a "redo" election overseen by the military.

The excerpt above is from a longer column, which is Part I of a projected two-part series.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Why the Brothers Flynn Rhode Island hometown would've been of interest to the Soviets (Part 2), Wayne Madsen, March 19, 2021. Many of the sleeper agents placed by Soviet intelligence in the United States during the Cold War had specific places of residence chosen for them for their connections with U.S. military research and development.

It would have been no different for the hometown of the suspect Brothers Flynn: retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and his brother, Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, whose suspicious role in the January 6 attempted right-wing coup has likely and justifiably prompted President Biden to hold up his assignment as the commander of all U.S. Army forces in the Pacific.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Vaccines: A Very European Disaster, Paul Krugman, right, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). The United States has a lot to learn from Europe’s policy paul krugmansuccesses, especially when it comes to health care.

european union logo rectangleYet at this crucial moment in the Covid-19 saga, when new vaccines finally offer a realistic prospect of returning to normal life, policy in the European Union has been marked by one bungle after another. Jabs in arms got off to a slow start: Adjusted for population, Britain and the U.S. have administered around three times as many doses as France or Germany. And the E.U. countries are still lagging, administering vaccines less than half as rapidly as we are.

Europe’s vaccination debacle will almost surely end up causing thousands of unnecessary deaths. And the thing is, the continent’s policy bungles don’t look like isolated instances, a few bad decisions made by a few bad leaders. Instead, the failures seem to reflect fundamental flaws in the continent’s institutions and attitudes — including the same bureaucratic and intellectual rigidity that made the euro crisis a decade ago far worse than it should have been.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than 4 in 10 health-care workers have not been vaccinated, Post-KFF poll finds, William Wan, Frances Stead Sellers, Naema Ahmed and Emily Guskin, March 19, 2021. The lingering obstacles to vaccinating health-care workers foreshadows the challenge the United States will face as it attempts to get the vast majority of the population vaccinated.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 77.2 million vaccinated, as of March 19, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 263.4 % of the prioritized population and 23.3 % of the total U.S. population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 19, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 122,493,956, Deaths: 2,705,393
U.S. Cases:     30,360,639, Deaths:    552,475

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Rushes to Expand Vaccine Eligibility in ‘Race Against Time,’ Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith, March 19, 2021. At least 17 states have committed in recent days to widening the list of people who may get a coronavirus vaccine. The country finds itself at a precarious point in the pandemic as cases plateau, variants spread and restrictions ease.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Send Millions of Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada, Natalie Kitroeff, Maria Abi-Habib, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Jim astrazeneca logoTankersley, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). Tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been sitting in American manufacturing sites. The vaccine has not yet been approved in the U.S.

The announcement came as the Biden administration has been quietly pressing Mexico to ramp up its efforts to limit the flow of migrants.

tivated attacks against Asian-Americans in places like New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: C.D.C. Says 3 Feet Between Elementary School Students With Masks Is OK, Staff Reports, March 19, 2021. The revision cdc logo Customfrom federal health officials could help many schools open. The six-foot rule still applies to the community at large and adults in schools. New York City schools will give students another chance to opt back in to in-person classes following the new guidance.

The F.B.I. is investigating whether Cuomo aides gave the Justice Department false information about Covid deaths in nursing homes. Parts of France begin a monthlong lockdown as cases surge. Here’s the latest pandemic news.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dennis Mileti, Expert on Preparing for Disasters, Dies at 75, Neil Genzlinger, March 19, 2021 (part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic). He preached the importance of consistent messaging in the face of calamity and was dismayed at America’s response to the pandemic. He died of Covid-19.

Dr. Mileti was director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1994 to 2003; wrote a pivotal book in the field, “Disasters by Design” (1999); and was often quoted on the finer points of disaster planning and response. Reporters and government agencies sought him out for input on Hurricane Katrina, the catastrophic tsunami of 2004, even the potential impact of the temporary closing of a Los Angeles freeway.

 

U.S. Law, Courts, Crime

ny times logoNew York Times, All 8 Victims Have Now Been Publicly Identified. Here’s What We Know, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Edgar Sandoval, Anne Berryman and Corina Knoll, March 19, 2021. A spa owner, her employee, a patron in the line of fire and a U.S. Army veteran were among eight people killed at three spas in the Atlanta area.

On Friday, the authorities publicly identified four of the victims who had not been named before. The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the women as Soon C. Park, 74; Hyun J. Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong A. Yue, 63.

Ms. Grant, 51, was an employee at Gold Spa. She spent most of her time working, rising early and returning late at night, according to her son, Eric Park. A single mother, she worried about helping her two sons with their college tuition and paying the rent and bills on the home they shared in Duluth, Ga.

She did not speak much about her job, preferring to tell people that she worked at a makeup store. “She didn’t want us to worry about her ever,” said Mr. Park, 20.

Xiaojie Tan, the hardworking owner of Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Ga., where four people were killed, made her patrons feel at home and treated her friends like family, one longtime customer said on Thursday. Ms. Tan died two days ahead of her 50th birthday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Atlanta spa killings lead to questions about sex work and exploitation, Jessica Contrera, Tracy Jan and Douglas MacMillan, March 19, 2021. The Atlanta-area massage businesses where eight people were shot and killed Tuesday have long been identified online and by police as places where sex work and possible sexual exploitation regularly occurred — and where Asian women could be found.

Customers who posted about the illicit offerings at Gold Spa, Aromatherapy Spa and Young’s Asian Massage made the businesses targets for people robert aaron long mug croppedwho showed up expecting to be able to purchase sex acts. This week, those businesses became targets for a man who showed up with a gun, intent on ending the lives of those who worked there.

Police have given no indication that any of the victims were sex workers. But the suspected gunman, Robert Aaron Long, right, told law enforcement that he was a regular customer at two of the massage spas he attacked. He said he saw the people who worked in them as “temptations” he needed to “eliminate,” signaling that he set out with the intention of attacking Asian women whom he perceived to be selling sex.

“I would absolutely call it a hate crime,” said Justice Rivera, a national advocate for sex workers. “This was targeted violence.”

Now, as more information about the businesses emerges, sex worker advocates and anti-sex-trafficking groups are anxious about how the shooting victims could be dehumanized by narratives that form about them in the media, and how the other employees who have already been victimized by this crime will be treated during the investigation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Atlanta shooting updates Church condemns suspected killer’s ‘evil actions and desires,’ Keith McMillan and Teo Armus, March 19, 2021. GoFundMe campaign started by victim’s son raises $880K in 14 hours. Robert Aaron Long’s longtime church condemned him in a lengthy statement on Friday morning, saying the 21-year-old suspect in the shootings at three Georgia spas had committed an “extreme and wicked act.”

“These unthinkable and egregious murders directly contradict his own confession of faith in Jesus and the gospel,” the statement from Crabapple First Baptist Church read. “Aaron’s actions are antithetical to everything that we believe and teach as a church.”

Meantime, details are emerging about the nine shooting victims, including the eight dead, six of whom were Asian women. Xiaojie Tan, the owner of Young’s Asian Massage, was about to celebrate her 50th birthday. Delaina Yaun had recently given birth and been married, and was taking a spa day with her husband.

National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center, XVideos Parent Company Sued for Hosting Child Sexual Abuse, Sex Trafficking Videos in Class Action Lawsuit, Staff Report, March 19, 2021. XVideos Visited More than Netflix, Amazon, and Wikipedia Combined.

A class action lawsuit was filed against XVideos and its parent company, WebGroup Czech Republic (WGCZ), for trafficking Jane Doe, a victim of child sexual abuse material (child pornography) and sex trafficking. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Doe by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center (NCOSE) together with five other survivor-focused and commercial litigation law firms. Jane Doe represents the class of numerous victims who, as children, had their child sexual abuse images published and monetized by this online international pornography company. The case, Jane Doe v. WebGroup Czech Republic et al, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles.

Plaintiff Jane Doe, using a pseudonym in litigation to protect her safety, is a victim and survivor of childhood sex trafficking. Videos of her childhood sexual abuse were sold, published, and distributed on websites owned and operated by XVideos, which commercially monetized the images. This violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, among other laws.

“XVideos not only violated the law by hosting Jane Doe’s child sexual abuse material, it profited from her abuse given that each image and video of her was monetized. This cannot be allowed to stand and remain unchallenged. Victims of childhood sexual abuse such as Jane Doe unequivocally deserve justice,” said Dani Pinter, senior legal counsel of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

XVideos boasts that it has 200 million daily visitors and 6 billion daily impressions on its various websites from which it has consolidated production and distribution. As of January 2021, XVideos is the most frequently visited pornography website in the world and the 7th most trafficked website in the world, visited more than Netflix, Amazon, and Wikipedia, with over 3 billion visits a month.

As a child, Jane Doe was trafficked and sold for sex. Many of these sex acts were recorded on video and uploaded to the XVideos website. At least four videos that included Jane Doe being trafficked as a minor have been identified on WGCZ sites. At least one “content partner” and official “channel” on XVideos disseminated these illegal videos of Jane Doe’s rape. This “content partner” continues to be a promoted channel on XVideos.

Neither XVideos, nor any other website, owned or operated by these Defendants undertook any measure to verify Jane Doe’s identity or age. As a result, child sex abuse material depicting Jane Doe was distributed broadly throughout the world on XVideos internet websites. During the time that XVideos distributed and advertised this child sex abuse material, it profited financially through the sale of advertising and by drawing users to its websites to view the videos.

“Jane Doe has courageously stepped out to share her story to help other victims of XVideos. We stand ready to help others who have experienced similar abuse at the hands of XVideos or any other WGCZ entities. It is time to end this pornography company’s abuses and egregious violations of the law,” Pinter added.

washington post logoWashington Post, A farmer’s feud with workers union leads to high-stakes Supreme Court showdown, Robert Barnes, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). A pending Supreme Court case that pits union rights against property rights began on a cold October morning in 2015 on a California strawberry plant farm near the Oregon border.

Mike Fahner, the third-generation owner of Cedar Point Nursery in Dorris, recalls a “frightening” scene: “We had strangers on bullhorns marching up and down through our buildings.” He cites a video of flag-waving union demonstrators he describes as an “invasion” and blames California’s law that gives organizers the right to access a grower’s property to make their case to farmworkers.

Union officials are blunt in response. “They’re absolutely lying about it being a trespass,” United Farm Workers of America (UFW) general counsel Mario Martínez said. “What they’re upset about is that their own workers went on strike. … The video they’ve circulated? Those are all Cedar Point workers. They’re not union organizers.”

The California Agricultural Labor Relations Board dismissed Cedar Point’s complaint, determining “the actions of the striking workers are not attributable to the UFW” organizers who were present, state officials told Cedar Point’s lawyer.

Fahner acknowledges he would be in the lawsuit no matter how polite or ill-mannered union organizers might be. “The right-to-access law, whether provided to unions or anybody to somebody’s personal private property, is wrong,” he said. “And it doesn’t exist anywhere else in the nation.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys conspired in multiple encrypted channels ahead of Jan. 6 riot, fearing criminal gang charges, U.S. alleges, Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner, March 19, 2021. U.S. prosecutors accused Proud Boys leaders from four states of conspiring to overwhelm police and obstruct Congress in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, revealing detailed new encrypted communications between alleged leaders including an “unindicted co-conspirator” and two newly arrested defendants.

An indictment unsealed Friday charging Zach Rehl, 35, a president of the group’s chapter in Philadelphia, and Charles Donohoe, 33, an organizer in Winston-Salem, N.C., alleges they were among 60 others who communicated on an encrypted channel called “Boots on the Ground” and discussed how one already charged defendant wanted to “go over tomorrow’s plan.” Charging papers allege the group feared it was so close to being uncovered by the FBI and hit with criminal gang counts that they erased, or “nuked,” their prior communications on Jan. 4.

The indictment charged Rehl and Donahoe with six counts, including conspiracy to aid and abet the obstruction of Congress’s confirmation of the 2020 presidential election and police trying to prevent civil disorder.

The indictment also added the conspiracy and civil disorder count against previously charged Ethan Nordean, 30, of the Seattle area and Joseph Biggs, 37, of Ormond Beach, Fla., and dropped an allegation that Nordean abetted the destruction of government property.

None of the four — three U.S. military veterans except Nordean — has entered a plea. A Tuesday arraignment for Nordean on a solo indictment was postponed.

The superseding charges paint a more sweeping and intricate conspiracy among Proud Boys in the days leading up to the assault, which forced the evacuation of Congress, led to assaults on 139 police officers, and left five people dead.

U.S. prosecutors and the FBI have charged about 20 members or associates of the Proud Boys — a far-right group with a history of violence. The government has called some chief instigators who allegedly raised funds for travel and protective gear, schemed to evade law enforcement by dressing “incognito,” and using programmable radios and encrypted communications. Prosecutors have also accused certain Proud Boys of leading the charge to storm police lines, dismantle barricades, assault officer and break windows.
...defendants. An indictment unsealed Friday charging Zach Rehl, 35, a president of the group’s chapter in Philadelphia.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Nominates Former Florida Senator to Lead NASA, Kenneth Chang, March 19, 2021.  Bill Nelson flew on a space shuttle in 1986 and lost re-election for a fourth Senate term in 2018. Some space advocates fear his approach to the agency could take it backward.

A statement from the White House announcing the nomination said of Mr. Nelson, “In the Senate he was known as the go-to senator for our nation’s space program.”

The selection raised concerns that the Biden administration may restore a more traditional space program that relies on large, legacy aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, rather than more nimble newcomers like SpaceX.

bill nelsonMany people in the field had also hoped that Mr. Biden would nominate the first woman to serve as administrator.

“Given how many qualified and talented women were rumored to be in consideration, he’s putting great trust in his former Senate colleague,” said Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA during the Obama administration.

Mr. Nelson, who lost his bid for re-election to a fourth term in 2018, was a onetime astronaut and longtime supporter of NASA in the Senate. He was also a chief architect of the 2010 law that directed NASA to develop a heavy-lift rocket known as the Space Launch System. Although the rocket had a successful engine test on Thursday, it is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

That has created challenges to the agency’s ability to reach destinations in deep space in the years ahead. Some wonder if Mr. Nelson, as an ardent supporter of the Space Launch System, would be willing to change course if less expensive commercial alternatives like SpaceX’s Starship, currently under development, become available.

 ny times logoNew York Times, William J. Burns is confirmed as C.I.A. director, Julian E. Barnes, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate approved William J. Burns on Thursday as director of the C.I.A., placing a veteran diplomat in charge of rebuilding morale battered during the Trump administration and focusing more intelligence resources on China.

Mr. Burns, right, was approved by unanimous consent without a roll-call vote.

williams burns 2005A former ambassador in Russia and Jordan and a senior State Department official, Mr. Burns, 64, is the only career diplomat chosen to lead the C.I.A. (George Bush had served as United Nations ambassador and as the top diplomat in China before becoming the agency’s director.)

During Mr. Burns’s long career, he earned a reputation for careful analysis of national security and foreign policy problems, a talent that CIA Logohelped prompt President Biden to choose him for the C.I.A. post.

But strong ties to Mr. Biden and his team may be Mr. Burns’s most important attribute. Former C.I.A. officials say other outsiders with little direct intelligence collection experience but close links to the White House, like Leon Panetta, were effective directors. A “close and trusting relationship with the president” helps a C.I.A. director win the president’s ear, said John McLaughlin, a former deputy director of the agency.

Roll Call, Senate confirms Becerra as Biden’s health secretary, Mary Ellen McIntire, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). Incoming secretary will oversee COVID-19 pandemic, health insurance. The Senate voted, 50-49, on Thursday to confirm Xavier Becerra, right, as the first Latino secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Xavier Becerra twitterBecerra will take charge of a health department a year into a global pandemic that has reshaped how doctors provide care, highlighted racial and ethnic disparities in the health care system and threatened employer-sponsored health insurance for people who lost their jobs.

He’ll also start the job as the administration is grappling with a surge of migrants at the southern border, many of whom are children placed into HHS’ charge.

Becerra is expected to take on a key role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration’s top priority, alongside the White House and HHS officials who took the lead during President Joe Biden’s first two months.

“It's going to be very important for Xavier to be at that table, and for the entire team to be working closely with one another,” said Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., who previously served in the House with Becerra.

Many of the policy issues that Biden and congressional Democrats campaigned on, like lowering prescription drug prices and other health care costs, will also run through HHS, he said.

“He brings people together. He convenes people. He's a good listener,” Luján said of Becerra. “But he also is able to make tough decisions that make a positive difference in people's lives.”

Other Democrats who previously worked with Becerra say the pandemic will be the top issue, even as Becerra will likely look to expand health insurance coverage and ensure equitable access to health care.

“Getting to the other side of COVID is going to be critical to reestablishing the economy and getting that labor participation rate back to where it was,” said Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., who served with Becerra on the committee. “You can't get to full economic recovery until you defeat the virus and we're still battling the virus.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who also worked with Becerra on the panel, said Becerra has been a “tenaciously hard worker for access to quality, affordable health care for everyone.”

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., who was California’s secretary of state alongside Becerra as the state’s attorney general, said they’d worked together on issues such as voting rights during that time, and that he expected him to advance those types of issues by improving equity in health care.
Republican opposition

Becerra was confirmed by a slim margin, with most Republicans sharply opposed to his views on abortion and arguing he was unqualified for the role, citing his lack of medical experience.

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, did not vote. An aide said Hirono is in Hawaii because of a family emergency.

Republicans were nearly unanimously opposed to Becerra with the exception of Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former lobbyist accuses Rep. Tom Reed, a potential Cuomo challenger, of sexual misconduct, Beth Reinhard, March 19, 2021. Nicolette Davis, now a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, told The Post the Republican congressman rubbed her back and unhooked her bra during a gathering at a Minneapolis pub when she was a junior lobbyist in 2017. Reed says her account is “not accurate.”

tom reed oNicolette Davis said she was 25, on her first networking trip as a junior lobbyist for an insurance company, when she felt the 45-year-old congressman’s hand on her back. She and other lobbyists had gathered at an Irish pub in Minneapolis after a day of ice fishing, Davis told The Washington Post, and Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y), right, was seated to her left.

“A drunk congressman is rubbing my back,” she texted a friend and co-worker at Aflac that evening in 2017, adding later, “HELP HELP.”

republican elephant logoReed, his hand outside her blouse, briefly fumbled with her bra before unhooking it by pinching the clasp, Davis told The Post. He moved his hand to her thigh, inching upward, she said.

Frozen in fear, she said, she asked the person sitting to her right for help. He obliged by pulling the congressman away from the table and out of the restaurant, Davis said.

Reed declined to be interviewed for this story. In response to a detailed list of questions, he said in a statement provided by his office: “This account of my actions is not accurate.”

Davis’s account comes at a time when Reed is considering a run against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who is facing calls to resign after multiple women, mostly former state employees, accused him of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior. Reed, who has described combating sexual violence and harassment as one of his priorities in Congress, recently argued that Cuomo should be impeached.

ny times logoNew York Times, A DeVos System Allowed 12 Minutes to Decide Student Loan Forgiveness, Stacy Cowley, March 19, 2021. Education Dept. documents filed in federal court describe a process that denied 130,000 claims from borrowers who say schools misled them,

betsy devos oFormer Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, made no secret of her disdain for a program intended to forgive the federal student loans of borrowers who were ripped off by schools that defrauded their students. She called it a “free money” giveaway, let hundreds of thousands of claims languish for years and slashed the amount of relief granted to some successful applicants to $0.

Then, after a class-action lawsuit made it impossible to stall any longer, her agency built what amounted to an assembly line of rejection.

In Ms. DeVos’s final year in office, her agency denied nearly 130,000 claims — far surpassing the 9,000 rejections in the prior five years — with a system that pressured workers to speed through applications in a matter of minutes, according to internal Education Department documents filed in federal court.

Education Secretary Miguel CardonaThe department aimed to process 5,000 applications a week, the documents show — a standard that required agency employees to adjudicate claims that could stretch to hundreds of pages in less than 12 minutes. Those who did it faster were eligible for bonuses; those who took longer risked being fired. Agency employees rejected claims against hundreds of schools for not including written evidence that borrowers were never required to submit. And the department frequently disregarded its own findings of wrongdoing by schools when reviewing claims from their students.

“The majority of applications will be denied,” Colleen Nevin, a career department official who led the unit that handled claims, wrote in a 2019 memo. Her group had evaluated cases involving 1,400 schools, she wrote, and approved claims involving only three. All the approvals were based on criteria established before Ms. DeVos took office.

The documents were obtained under court order by lawyers in the class-action case, which involves more than 200,000 people who brought claims under a relief program known as borrower defense to repayment. The program permits borrowers who were substantially misled by their schools to have their federal student loans forgiven. Once little used, the system was flooded with claims during the Obama administration after a government crackdown toppled a series of large for-profit chains.

Most of those claims were still lingering when President Donald J. Trump took office, and the lawsuit, filed in 2019 in federal court in San Francisco, sought to compel the department to review claims that had languished for as long as four years. In a settlement agreement struck last year, the department agreed to speed things up and make decisions.

In seven months, the department rejected 91,000 applications — a flood of denials that the borrower’s lawyers described as “nearly worthless pieces of paper that do not explain their decisions.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Testy Exchange in Alaska Signals a More Confrontational China, Steven Lee Myers, March 19, 2021. The Biden administration’s strategy to curb Beijing’s behavior faces a stiff challenge as China uses its economic, diplomatic and military might to deflect criticism.

The extraordinary rancor aired by China’s top diplomats in Alaska was a manifestation of a newly combative and unapologetic China, one increasingly China Flagunbowed by diplomatic pressure from American presidential administrations.

Just as American views on China have shifted after years of encouraging the country’s economic integration, so have Beijing’s perceptions of the United States and the privileged place in the world that it has long held. The Americans, in their view, no longer have an overwhelming reservoir of global influence, nor the power to wield it against China.

That has made China more confident than it once was in pursuing its aims openly and unabashedly — from human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang to the territorial disputes with India and Japan and others in South China Sea to, most contentiously of all, the fate of Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that China claims as its own.

While China still faces enormous challenges at home and around the world, its leaders now act as if history were on their side.

antony blinken o newChina’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, delivered a 16-minute jeremiad in Anchorage at the top of a meeting with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, and President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, accusing them of condescension and hypocrisy.

Chinese officials and experts have recently espoused this new view in speeches and articles, said Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia and now head of the Asia Society, a New York-based nonprofit.

China’s more aggressive diplomatic posture is likely to inflame tensions with the United States, which has itself declared China as a national security rival. China’s hardening views have already surfaced in activity along its borders and in its surrounding waters, where it fought Indian troops last year and menaced ships from several countries, including Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam.

That has led to warnings of the potential for dangerous escalation. “We’re not predicting that there will be a war between the United States and China over Taiwan, but we are worried about it,” Robert D. Blackwill, a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and co-author of a new report on the issue, said on Thursday.

Meetings between the Chinese and the Americans have been testy before, but the balance of power between the two countries has changed.

China today feels far more assured in its ability to challenge the United States and push for its own vision of international cooperation. It is a confidence embraced by China’s leader since 2012, Xi Jinping, who has used the phrase, “the East is rising, and the West is declining.”

 

U.S. Media News

 

laurence silberman susan walsh ap resized

Judge Laurence Silberman, senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, speaks at the memorial service for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on March 1, 2016, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. (Susan Walsh / AP Photo).

Politico, Federal judge pens dissent slamming decades-old press protections, Josh Gerstein, March 19, 2021. D.C. Circuit Senior Judge Laurence Silberman’s diatribe amounted to an assault on a Supreme Court decision that set the framework for modern defamation law.

A federal appeals court judge issued an extraordinary opinion Friday attacking partisan bias in the news media, lamenting the treatment of conservatives in American society and calling for the Supreme Court to overturn a landmark legal precedent that protects news outlets from lawsuits over reports about public figures.

D.C. Circuit Senior Judge Laurence Silberman’s diatribe, contained in his dissent in a libel case, amounted to a withering, frontal assault on the 1964 Supreme Court decision that set the framework for modern defamation law — New York Times v. Sullivan.

Silberman said the decision, requiring public figures to show “actual malice” to recover against a news organization for libel, was a “policy-driven” result that the justices simply invented out of whole cloth.

“The holding has no relation to the text, history, or structure of the Constitution, and it baldly constitutionalized an area of law refined over centuries of common law adjudication,” the Ronald Reagan appointee wrote.

Silberman echoed and approvingly cited an opinion Justice Clarence Thomas issued two years ago, questioning the rationale of New York Times v. Sullivan and calling for the high court to revisit the decision. “Justice Thomas has already persuasively demonstrated that New York Times was a policy-driven decision masquerading as constitutional law,” the judge wrote.

But the exceptional aspect of Silberman’s opinion was not its legal arguments, but the protracted airing of the judge’s evidently deep-seated, pent-up grievances that conservatives are being oppressed by overwhelmingly liberal news media, academia and technology companies. That has created “a frighteningly orthodox media culture,” he wrote.

“The increased power of the press is so dangerous today because we are very close to one-party control of these institutions,” the judge declared. “Although the bias against the Republican Party—not just controversial individuals—is rather shocking today, this is not new; it is a long-term, secular trend going back at least to the ’70s….One-party control of the press and media is a threat to a viable democracy.”

Silberman slammed the New York Times and the Washington Post as “virtually Democratic Party broadsheets.” He added: “Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet. Even the government-supported National Public Radio follows along.”

Silberman acknowledged the existence of conservative outlets such as Fox News, but warned of “serious efforts to muzzle” the network. He did not explain further.

Silberman also specifically decried Twitter’s decision prior to last fall’s election to ban links to a New York Post story relaying allegations about the contents of a computer that once belonged to Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden. The judge cited that as an example of how Silicon Valley “filters news delivery in ways favorable to the Democratic Party.”

The judge also took sides in the ongoing public debate about the duties of social media companies, arguing that they are morally obligated to allow free expression and a diversity of views. Arguments that the platforms are private businesses and not legally obliged to follow First Amendment standards may be right, the judge said, but don’t absolve social media outlets from engaging in what he termed “censorship.”

“Repression of political speech by large institutions with market power…is—I say this advisedly—fundamentally un-American,” Silberman wrote. “As one who lived through the McCarthy era, it is hard to fathom how honorable men and women can support such actions.”

The vehicle for Silberman’s blistering judicial rant was a libel suit two former Liberian government officials filed against a human rights group, Global Witness, over a report the officials said implied they had taken bribes in connection with an oil contract.

The majority on the D.C. Circuit panel found the case fairly straightforward under existing precedents, concluding that Global Witness was protected by the “actual malice” standard because it had no persuasive indication that its report was false at the time it was published. The officials’ denials of wrongdoing were insufficient to suggest that the report was probably false, Judge David Tatel wrote in an opinion joined by Judge Sri Srinivasan.

Tatel recoiled at some of Silberman’s rhetoric, including his description of the majority’s legal conclusions as “obviously fallacious.”

Tatel also warned that arguments the Liberian officials put forward in the case had “breathtaking” implications and “would find support for an inference of actual malice in a wide swath of investigative journalism that turns out to be critical of its subject.”

Both judges in the majority are Democratic appointees. Tatel is an appointee of President Bill Clinton, while Srinivasan was appointed by President Barack Obama.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Newly Hired Teen Vogue Editor Resigns After Fury Over Racist Tweets, Katie Robertson, March 19, 2021 (print ed.). The hiring of Alexi McCammond, who was supposed to start at the Condé Nast publication next week, drew complaints because of racist and homophobic tweets she had posted a decade ago.

Alexi McCammond, who made her name as a politics reporter at the Washington news site Axios, had planned to start as the editor in chief of Teen Vogue next Wednesday. Now, after Teen Vogue staff members publicly condemned racist and homophobic tweets Ms. McCammond had posted a decade ago, she has resigned from the job.

Condé Nast, Teen Vogue’s publisher, announced the abrupt turn on Thursday in an internal email that was sent amid pressure from the publication’s staff, readers and at least two advertisers, just two weeks after the company had appointed her to the position.

“After speaking with Alexi this morning, we agreed that it was best to part ways, so as to not overshadow the important work happening at Teen Vogue,” Stan Duncan, the chief people officer at Condé Nast, said in the email, which was obtained by The New York Times.

In a statement included in the email, Ms. McCammond said her “past tweets have overshadowed the work I’ve done to highlight the people and issues that I care about.”

“I wish the talented team at Teen Vogue the absolute best moving forward,” she said.

Ms. McCammond, 27, established herself as a prominent political reporter last year. She covered President Biden’s campaign for Axios and was a contributor to MSNBC and NBC. In 2019, she was named the emerging journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists. She would have been the third Black woman to serve as Teen Vogue’s top editor, after Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Elaine Welteroth.

Her job status became shaky days after Condé Nast named her to the position, when the offensive tweets she had posted as a teenager in 2011 resurfaced. They included comments on the appearance of Asian features, derogatory stereotypes about Asians and slurs for gay people. Ms. McCammond had apologized for the tweets in 2019 and deleted them. Screenshots of the tweets were recirculated on social media after her hiring at Teen Vogue was announced on March 5.

Within days, more than 20 staff members at Teen Vogue posted a note on social media saying they had made a complaint to company leaders about the tweets, and Ms. McCammond apologized for them again both publicly and in meetings with Condé Nast staff. “I’ve apologized for my past racist and homophobic tweets and will reiterate that there’s no excuse for perpetuating those awful stereotypes in any way,” she wrote in a March 10 letter posted on her Twitter account. “I am so sorry to have used such hurtful and inexcusable language.”

As the criticism of her hiring mounted, Ulta Beauty and Burt’s Bees, major advertisers with Teen Vogue, suspended their campaigns with the publication.

The scrutiny of her tweets has come at a time of heightened concern about violence and harassment directed against Asian-Americans. On Wednesday, after eight people were killed in shootings in Atlanta, including six women of Asian descent, Condé Nast’s chief executive, Roger Lynch, sent a memo to the company’s staff that said one in 10 of its employees identified as Asian.

“Our teams, our families and our friends have all been affected by the rise in hate crimes toward Asian people and it’s unacceptable,” Mr. Lynch wrote in the memo, which was reviewed by The Times.

Ms. McCammond had been vetted before Condé Nast hired her, and top executives including Mr. Lynch and Anna Wintour, the chief content officer and the global editorial director of Vogue, were aware of the decade-old racist tweets, Mr. Duncan said in his note on Thursday, and Ms. McCammond acknowledged them in interviews with the company.

Ms. Wintour discussed the tweets with leaders of color at Condé Nast before the job was offered, according to a company executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel issue. Ms. McCammond struck Condé Nast leaders as an impressive candidate, the executive said, and they felt her 2019 apology showed that she had learned from her mistakes.

Although the company was aware of the racist tweets, it did not know about the homophobic tweets or a photo, also from 2011, that was recently published by a right-wing website showing her in Native American costume at a Halloween party, the executive said. The vetting process did not turn up the additional material because it had been deleted, the executive added.

 

March 18

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World News

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

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robert aaron long

washington post logoWashington Post, Rampage amplifies fears among Asian Americans, Tim Craig, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Paulina Firozi and Griff Witte, March 18, 2021 (print ed.). Suspect (above) in killing of 8 people at Atlanta spas charged with murder.

Police on Wednesday charged a 21-year-old man with murder, a day after eight people were shot dead at three Asian spas in and around Atlanta in a killing rampage that sharply amplified fears among Asian Americans over a nationwide surge in hate crimes and bigoted rhetoric.

Long, a White man who was described by those who know him as a devout Christian, told investigators he did not have a racial motive. But police said it was too early to exclude that possibility. And officials noted that the attacks had come amid a wave of anti-Asian sentiment and behavior.

keisha lance bottoms cnn Custom“Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that the majority of the victims were Asian,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at a news conference. “We also know that this is an issue that is happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.”

Long was charged Wednesday in all eight killings, law enforcement officials said. He was charged with four counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault for the attacks in north suburban Cherokee County, where the killings began and where Long lives.

Apprehended on a highway Tuesday night after a brief manhunt, Long told authorities he was headed to Florida, where he may have been planning to carry out similar attacks to the ones in Georgia, police said. A 9mm firearm was recovered from his vehicle. Long had legally purchased a gun earlier Tuesday, georgia mapthe store that sold it to him confirmed.

Investigators said cooperation from Long’s parents helped speed his arrest.

Long grew up in a one-story home in Woodstock, Ga., a leafy, majority-White town about 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta. Photos and video on social media, as well as accounts from Long’s former pastor and neighbors, paint a picture of a young man who, like the rest of his family, was active and visible at the Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, another nearby Atlanta suburb.

Those who knew him then said they struggled to reconcile their memories of Long with the allegation he committed mass murder. A 2017 high school graduate, Long does not appear to have had a criminal record. The suspect told investigators he had a “sex addiction,” according to authorities who said possible racial motives were being investigated.

  • Washington Post, The Atlanta suspect isn’t the first to blame ‘sex addiction’ for crimes. But scientists are dubious.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Police say the suspect said he had a ‘sexual addiction,’ Richard Fausset and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, March 18, 2021 (print ed.). The gunman who shot and killed eight people at massage parlors in the Atlanta area told the police that he had a “sexual addiction” and had frequented massage parlors in the past before carrying out the shootings to eliminate his “temptation,” the authorities said on Wednesday.

 

World News

vladimir putin hand up palmer

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Erupts in Fury Over Biden’s Calling Putin a Killer, Anton Troianovski, March 18, 2021. The Kremlin described the U.S. president’s response to an interview question as “very bad,” and recalled its ambassador to “analyze what needs to be done” about the countries’ relations.

Russia recalled its ambassador to the United States and unleashed a storm of derision aimed at President Biden after he said in a television interview that he thought President Vladimir V. Putin (shown above in a file photo) was a killer.

Russian FlagRussia’s Foreign Ministry said late Wednesday that it had summoned its envoy in Washington, Anatoly I. Antonov, to Moscow “in order to analyze what needs to be done in the context of relations with the United States.”

“We are interested in preventing an irreversible deterioration in relations, if the Americans become aware of the risks associated with this,” the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria V. Zakharova, said in a statement.

Ms. Zakharova did not specify whether a specific event had prompted the decision to recall Mr. Antonov, but the rare move came as Russian officials reacted with fury to an interview with Mr. Biden aired by ABC News. In the interview, when asked whether he thought Mr. Putin was a “killer,” Mr. Biden responded: “Mmm hmm, I do.”

dmitry peskovDmitri S. Peskov, left, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, described Mr. Biden’s comments as “very bad.”

“He clearly does not want to improve relations with our country, and we will be proceeding based precisely on this,” Mr. Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

Despite Mr. Biden’s long-running criticism of Mr. Putin, some Russian analysts had voiced hope that the Kremlin could forge a productive working relationship with the White House on areas of common interest.

“This is a watershed moment,” Konstantin I. Kosachev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s upper house of Parliament, wrote in a post on Facebook on Thursday in reference to Mr. Biden’s interview. “Any expectations for the new U.S. administration’s new policy toward Russia have been written off by this boorish statement.”

On state television, news programs devoted extensive airtime to describing Mr. Biden as confused and out of touch, while politicians lined up to voice their anger and threaten a response.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), The Brothers Flynn -- Are they "sleeper" agents? Wayne Madsen, left (author of 18 books and former Navy Intelligence officer and National Security Agency analyst), March 18, 2021. Fans of the Netflix award-winning television wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallseries "The Americans" were treated to a very close to real-life drama about Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, a seemingly all-American suburban couple with a son and daughter living in the Washington DC suburb of Falls Church, Virginia. The Jennings family is not the typical suburban DC family their neighbors believe them to be. They are "sleeper" agents inserted by the Soviet KGB into the United States.

The Soviet "Illegals Program" achieved major success in penetrating U.S. intelligence agencies with either sleeper agents or turncoats. There was not a gru logo Custom 2single U.S. intelligence organization in which the KGB or GRU (logo at right)military intelligence service had not successfully placed agents, including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Donald Trump's disgraced national security adviser, Lt. General Michael Flynn, capped off his Army career as Director of DIA. Flynn's charles flynn michael flynn afghanistan providencebrother, Lt. General Charles Flynn, was serving as the Army Department's Deputy Chief of Staff G-3/5/7) at the time of Trump's attempted January 6 coup d'état to neutralize the U.S. Congress and assassinate its top leadership.

Charles Flynn (shown at left with his brother in Afghanistran in a photo via the Providence Journal) was involved in a January 6 afternoon conference call dealing with providing National Guard troops to help protect the U.S. Capitol building from marauding Trump supporters, some of them armed.

In the call, Flynn's boss, Lt. General Walter Platt, the current Director of the Army Staff at the Pentagon, turned down a request from District of Columbia and U.S. Capitol Police for National Guard forces, saying, "I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background."

After initially denying he was on the call, other Army brass admitted that Flynn was, indeed, on the call. Michael Flynn had recently called for Trump to impose martial law and conduct a "redo" election overseen by the military.

The excerpt above is from a longer column, which is Part I of a projected two-part series.

ny times logoNew York Times, Washington Political Updates: The House passes bills to give millions of Dreamers and farmworkers a path to citizenship, Staff reports, March 18, 2021. Both bills face steep odds in the evenly divided Senate. Top American and Chinese diplomats are in Alaska for their first meetings of the Biden era.

  • The House passes bills to give millions of Dreamers and farmworkers a path to citizenship.
  • The first face-to-face meeting between top Biden officials and their Chinese counterparts was a tense confrontation.
  • Democrats, facing steep odds on repealing the filibuster, consider an exemption for voting rights bills.

The Democratic-led House voted on Thursday to create a path to citizenship for an estimated four million undocumented immigrants, reopening a politically charged debate over the nation’s broken immigration system just as President Biden confronts a growing surge of migrants at the border.

ICE logoIn a near party-line vote of 228 to 197, the House first moved to set up a permanent legal pathway for more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, and others granted Temporary Protected Status for humanitarian reasons. Just nine Republicans voted yes.

Hours later, lawmakers approved a second measure with more bipartisan backing that would eventually grant legal status to close to a million farmworkers and their families while updating a key agricultural visa program. This time, 30 Republicans, many representing agriculture heavy districts, joined nearly every Democrat to vote in favor.

The votes were significant milestones for the Dreamers and other activists who have waged a decade-long campaign, often at great personal risk, to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States without permanent legal status out of the shadows. Dreamers, those who have T.P.S. and agricultural workers have in many cases lived in the United States for long periods, and measures to normalize their status have broad public support.

In moving swiftly to consider both bills, House leaders wagered that singling out relatively narrow but publicly popular immigration fixes could shake up a deadlocked policy debate after years of failed attempts at more comprehensive immigration legislation, and deliver for a key constituency.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Vaccines: A Very European Disaster, Paul Krugman, right, March 18, 2021. The United States has a lot to learn from Europe’s policy paul krugmansuccesses, especially when it comes to health care.

european union logo rectangleYet at this crucial moment in the Covid-19 saga, when new vaccines finally offer a realistic prospect of returning to normal life, policy in the European Union has been marked by one bungle after another. Jabs in arms got off to a slow start: Adjusted for population, Britain and the U.S. have administered around three times as many doses as France or Germany. And the E.U. countries are still lagging, administering vaccines less than half as rapidly as we are.

Europe’s vaccination debacle will almost surely end up causing thousands of unnecessary deaths. And the thing is, the continent’s policy bungles don’t look like isolated instances, a few bad decisions made by a few bad leaders. Instead, the failures seem to reflect fundamental flaws in the continent’s institutions and attitudes — including the same bureaucratic and intellectual rigidity that made the euro crisis a decade ago far worse than it should have been.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

  djt march 2020 Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s onslaught of legal problems: Investigations in multiple states and dozens of lawsuits, David A. Fahrenthold, Amy Gardner, Shayna Jacobs and Spencer S. Hsu, March 18, 2021. The district attorney is sifting through millions of pages of his tax records. The state attorney general has subpoenaed his lawyers, his bankers, his chief financial officer — even one of his sons.

And that’s just in New York. Former president Donald Trump is also facing criminal investigations in Georgia and the District of Columbia related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And Trump must defend himself against a growing raft of lawsuits: 29 are pending at last count, including some seeking damages from Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, when he encouraged a march to the Capitol that ended in a mob storming the building.

No charges have been filed against Trump in any of these investigations. The outcome of these lawsuits is uncertain. Trump has raised more than $31 million for his post-presidential political action committee, which he could tap to pay legal fees.

But the sheer volume of these legal problems indicates that — after a moment of maximum invincibility in the White House — Trump has fallen to a point of historic vulnerability before the law.

He has lost the formal immunities of the presidency and the legal firepower of the Justice Department, but he is also without some of the informal shields that protected him even before he was president: his reputation for endless wealth and his clout as a political donor in New York.

Now, prosecutors roam free in his financial records. New lawsuits keep arriving. Some of his key lawyers have quit. A man who once used the law to swamp his enemies, overwhelming them with claims and legal bills, is finding himself on the other side of the wave, unable to control what comes next.

Until recently, “at his level, there was no such thing as being in ‘legal trouble,’ in the way that ordinary people think about it,” said Michael D’Antonio, who wrote a 2015 biography of Trump. He said Trump usually had something he could hold over the head of his opponents: withholding donations, bad press or a messy countersuit.

Today, D’Antonio said, in the urban and liberal jurisdictions where Trump is facing the most peril, “nobody needs him now.”

“What does he have to offer anybody? And in fact there’s every incentive to crush him,” D’Antonio said.

washington post logoWashington Post, USPS finds ‘no evidence’ of mail ballot fraud in case cited by top Republicans, Jacob Bogage and Shawn Boburg, March 18, 2021 (print ed.). us mail logoPostal worker Richard Hopkins told federal agents he “assumed” supervisors discussed illegally backdating ballots and recanted his claims, Inspector General report says.

U.S. Postal Service investigators found no evidence to support a Pennsylvania postal worker’s claims that his supervisors had tampered with mail-in ballots, according to an inspector general report — allegations cited by top Republicans to press baseless claims of election fraud.

Richard Hopkins, a mail carrier in Erie, alleged in November that he overheard the local postmaster discussing plans to backdate ballots received after the Nov. 3 vote and pass them off to election officials as legitimate. Working with Project Veritas, a nonprofit that seeks to expose what it says is bias in mainstream media, Hopkins publicly released a sworn affidavit recounting those allegations.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), left, cited Hopkins’ claims in a letter to the U.S. Justice Department in November calling for a federal investigation into election results in Pennsylvania, where President Biden beat then-president Donald Trump by more than 81,000 votes, and Democratic candidates outperformed GOP challengers in votes submitted by mail.

Graham and scores of other congressional Republicans refused to accept the outcome of the election for weeks, even after states audited and certified election results.

william barr new oThen-Attorney General William P. Barr, right, subsequently authorized federal prosecutors to open investigations into credible allegations of voting irregularities and fraud before results were certified, a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy.

Postal worker recanted allegations of ballot tampering, officials say

But Hopkins soon recanted, officials from the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General told members of Congress on Nov. 10, and the new investigation confirmed. In an interview with federal agents, Hopkins “revised his initial claims, eventually stating that he had not heard a conversation about ballots at all — rather he saw the Postmaster and Supervisor having a discussion and assumed it was about fraudulent ballot backdating,” the report states.

Hopkins “acknowledged that he had no evidence of any backdated presidential ballots and could not recall any specific words said by the postmaster or supervisor,” according to the report, which was published by the inspector general’s office in late February and posted Monday to the blog 21st Century Postal Worker.

The Erie postmaster, Rob Weisenbach, called the allegations “100% false” in a Facebook post in November and said they were made “by an employee that was recently disciplined multiple times.”

washington post logoWashington Post, IRS pushes filing deadline to May 17 as agency grapples with backlog of returns, Tony Romm and Jeff Stein, March 18, 2021 (print ed.). The delays come as the tax agency sends out a third round of payments and prepares to implement other key elements of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

irs logoThe Internal Revenue Service is expected to postpone the country’s tax-filing deadline to mid-May, according to two people familiar with the decision, as the agency grapples with a backlog of 24 million returns awaiting processing since the 2019 tax year.

The workload has put the agency underwater — and under political siege — as lawmakers fret that long-unresolved troubles at the IRS could undercut the Biden administration’s economic recovery efforts. Millions of Americans still have not received some stimulus checks under prior coronavirus aid packages, even as the tax agency continued distributing payments Wednesday under the $1.9 trillion stimulus signed into law this month.

federal reserve system CustomThe IRS shared the full scope of its backlog with the House Ways and Means Committee and the agency’s own government watchdogs. The numbers, obtained by The Washington Post, dwarf the data the IRS has shared with the public. The IRS communicated its plans to adjust the tax-filing deadline to House and Senate lawmakers on Wednesday, although the agency briefly stoked confusion about the exact date of the change.

Still, the effects of the IRS backlog have been substantial: The delays have kept some Americans from receiving their tax refunds for months while preventing some cash-strapped workers and companies nationwide from taking advantage of some of the stimulus benefits that Congress authorized to blunt the economic impact of the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Donald Trump-Tucker Carlson cold war has begun, Philip Bump, March 18, 2021 (print ed.). It was perhaps inevitable that the two would butt heads.

One of the mysteries that lingers around President Donald Trump’s final days in office is why he chose to downplay the deployment of the coronavirus vaccine.

Granted, his last days took place in the shadow of the insurrection on Jan. 6 that followed his constant insistences that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen. But at some point that month, Trump himself quietly got the vaccine and, despite having nearly nothing else on his schedule, he never undertook any substantial effort to promote vaccination. No events focused on it. There was little mention of the vaccine publicly, in part because he was so focused on injecting his election-fraud nonsense into his followers.

Speaking to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on Tuesday night, Trump for the second time directly advocated for people to get the shot — but only after Bartiromo prompted him to do so. (The first time was a brief mention in his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.)

Trump is no longer the guy simply throwing bombs from the outside, as he was in 2015. He’s the guy who has a legacy to defend, and he’s the guy who now has a political record that will need to be reframed over time to maintain the same support from his base.

The problem is that there is a Trump-like figure out there causing friction. He showed up on Fox News a few minutes later to host his own show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 75.5 million vaccinated, as of March 18, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 262 % of the prioritized population and 22.7 % of the total U.S. population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 18, 2021 (print ed.), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 121,956,311, Deaths: 2,695,004
U.S. Cases:     30,295,501, Deaths:   550,671

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. to Send Millions of Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada, Natalie Kitroeff, Maria Abi-Habib, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Jim astrazeneca logoTankersley, March 18, 2021. Tens of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been sitting in American manufacturing sites. The vaccine has not yet been approved in the U.S.

The announcement came as the Biden administration has been quietly pressing Mexico to ramp up its efforts to limit the flow of migrants.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Regulation

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washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: 'There has to be an accounting’: Former AT&T lawyer says company systemically overcharged neediest schools, Laura Meckler and Douglas MacMillan, March 18, 2021. Theodore Marcus left AT&T after he came to believe the telecom giant was ignoring the rules of E-Rate, a federal program that offers low-priced phone and Internet service to schools based on need.

Theodore Marcus once was an in-house lawyer for AT&T, tasked with reviewing whether the telecom giant was overcharging schools and libraries for Internet and telephone service.

Marcus came to believe that AT&T did not charge low prices required by law, misled the government about its compliance with the rules of a federal program and then rebuffed his concerns. A few months before he left AT&T, Marcus handed what he thought was damning information to a lawyer suing the company, with the expectation that he might share in the payout if the suit were victorious.

As a result, AT&T is now accusing Marcus of “shocking” legal misconduct and is trying to persuade a federal judge to dismiss a sweeping lawsuit because of it. The future of the case will depend, in part, on whether a federal court views Marcus as a whistleblower trying to right a wrong, or a corporate lawyer violating his duty to his former employer.

Marcus never locked in an agreement to benefit from the pending suits, which allege overcharging, and is not in line to share in any proceeds. att logoBut he is furious, saying AT&T abused a government program designed to help needy schools, and he is detailing his allegations publicly for the first time.

“There’s been no consequences for a bunch of folks … who failed to do what they were supposed to do for a program that’s supposed to take care of poor children,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “That’s what’s driving me. These are poor Black and Brown kids and they cannot fend for themselves and you have to do what’s right. There has to be an accounting.”

The program in question, called E-Rate, was authorized by Congress and set up by the Federal Communications Commission in 1996 to help connect schools and libraries to telecommunications services, including what was then a burgeoning Internet. Telecom customers pay a small fee on every phone bill into a fund, which provides subsidies, with more help for the poorest schools. In the past year, as the coronavirus pandemic forced remote learning on millions of children, policymakers have considered expanding the program to cover Internet connections in students’ homes.

‘A national crisis’: Millions of disconnected students are being left behind

E-Rate has delivered telecom companies billions of dollars in revenue, but it has come with a catch: They had to charge what the law calls the “lowest corresponding price,” or LCP, defined as no more than what similar customers pay. It’s a tricky calculation, because no two contracts are identical. The carriers are responsible for certifying that they are in compliance.

For nearly two decades, including the period when Marcus was at AT&T, the program had to turn away schools because it lacked funding to cover all their requests. Starting in 2015, the government doubled the fund to about $4 billion a year, more than enough to reimburse all eligible applicants. In 2020, E-Rate subsidies covered $2.9 billion in Internet costs for more than 21,000 schools and libraries.

If the pattern of overcharging that Marcus and others have alleged is true, the telecom giant deprived hundreds of school districts nationwide of millions of dollars they could have used for education expenses. Limited money in the E-Rate fund at that time could have funded service to more communities.

In a statement, Fletcher Cook, a spokesman for AT&T, said the company has always complied with the lowest-corresponding-price rule. He accused Marcus of raising concerns after a poor performance review and not receiving a position he sought. AT&T also noted that the U.S. government declined to intervene in the lawsuits alleging overcharging, and said internal reviews found that the company did nothing wrong.

The spokesman called Marcus’s claim that AT&T’s actions hurt children living in poverty “baseless and offensive.”

“We comply with the rules of the E-Rate program, and there is no evidence to support these absurd claims,” Cook said.

Marcus said the poor performance review came after he raised questions internally and that AT&T never denied him a position he sought.

tom wheeler oMarcus’s claims also raise questions about the government’s role and response, since it knew about these allegations for more than a decade. For years, federal regulators were reluctant to address possible abuses by telecom companies, even as they investigated schools for possible fraud in the program, said Tom Wheeler, right, who served as FCC chairman from 2013 to 2017.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judges Juggle Over 2,700 Cases Each as Families Wait for Day in Court, Tracey Tully, March 18, 2021 (print ed.). Short-handed and deluged by complex cases, New Jersey’s federal court is in a crisis. The backlog of cases has only gotten worse in the pandemic.

Phillip White, an unarmed Black man, died in police custody in New Jersey six years ago. After the Vineland, N.J., officers involved in the encounter were cleared by a grand jury and their own department, Mr. White’s family filed a $10 million wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court, accusing one officer of using excessive force.

The suit, filed in 2016, has not yet gone to trial — one of 46,609 cases that were still awaiting action last year in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, according to the latest available figures. Consistently ranked among the busiest courts in the country, New Jersey’s federal bench is also extraordinarily understaffed: One-third of its judicial seats are vacant and have been for years, leaving each seated judge with a pending caseload that is well over three times the national average.

Former President Donald J. Trump fundamentally reshaped the justice system during his four years in office, filling federal appeals court vacancies at a record-setting pace and appointing scores of judges with conservative views. By January, 174 new district court judges, who handle trials, had also been seated.

But not a single judge was named in New Jersey, leaving six empty spots on the court’s 17-seat bench.

Only the Western District of Washington State, which includes Seattle and Tacoma, has a greater percentage of judicial vacancies.

 

Media News

washington post logojames levine 40 years coverWashington Post, James Levine (1943–2021): Acclaimed Metropolitan Opera conductor accused of sexual abuse dies at 77, Tim Page, March 18, 2021 (print ed.). James Levine (shown at right on an album cover), a conductor whose musical versatility and vitality — and near-infallible knowledge of the works he interpreted — made him one of the world’s most acclaimed orchestra leaders but whose career ended amid accusations of sexual abuse, died March 9 at his home in Palm Springs, Calif.

 

More World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Live: As U.S.-China Policy Shifts, Top Officials Will Meet in Alaska, Staff Reports, March 18, 2021. President Biden is engineering a sharp shift in policy toward China, focused on countering Beijing’s coercive diplomacy and becoming more competitive in critical technologies. The meeting is China’s first opportunity to stand up to the United States’ new leadership.

China FlagPresident Biden is engineering a sharp shift in policy toward China, focused on gathering allies to counter Beijing’s coercive diplomacy around the world and ensuring that China does not gain a permanent advantage in critical technologies.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, right, and Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, will road-test the new approach in what promises to be a tense first encounter on Thursday with their Chinese counterparts in Anchorage. It is a meeting they antony blinken o newdelayed until they could reach the outlines of a common strategy with allies — notably Japan, South Korea, India and Australia — and one they insisted had to take place on American soil.

At first glance, the Biden administration’s policy shift seems to adopt much of the Trump administration’s conviction that the world’s two biggest powers are veering dangerously toward confrontation, a clear change in tone from the Obama years.

But the emerging strategy more directly repudiates the prevailing view of the last quarter century that deep economic interdependence could be counted on to temper fundamental conflicts on issues like China’s military buildup, its territorial ambitions and human rights.

It focuses anew on competing more aggressively with Beijing on technologies vital to long-term economic and military power, after concluding that President Donald J. Trump’s approach — a mix of expensive tariffs, efforts to ban Huawei and TikTok, and accusations about sending the “China virus” to American shores — had failed to change President Xi Jinping’s course.

washington post logoWashington Post, Obituaries: John Magufuli, coronavirus-denying president of Tanzania, dies at 61, Matt Schudel, March 17, 2021. John Magufuli, who presided over an increasingly authoritarian regime as president of Tanzania and, during the final year of his reign, rejected scientific evidence of the coronavirus pandemic, urging his citizens to raise their voices in prayer rather than cover their faces with masks, has died March 17 at a hospital in Dar es Salaam. He was 61.

tanzania flagThe death was announced in a statement by Tanzanian vice president Samia Suluhu Hassan, who cited “heart complications” as the cause. There had been earlier unconfirmed reports from opposition leaders, which Mr. Magufuli’s government denied, that he had been hospitalized in Nairobi for covid-19. He was last seen in public on Feb. 27.

Mr. Magufuli, who was trained as a chemist and once was a teacher, served as Tanzania’s minister of public works from 2005 to 2015, earning the nickname “the Bulldozer” as much for his blunt, domineering manner as for his building projects.

As a first-time presidential candidate in 2015, he was the unexpected choice of the CCM party (also known as the Revolutionary Party), which had controlled Tanzanian politics for decades. Sandwiched between Kenya to the north and Mozambique to the south, Tanzania had been considered a relative beacon of stability in East Africa since securing independence from Britain in the early 1960s.

Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance, Russian Backer Halts Funds in New Blow to U.S. Aluminum Project, Joe Deaux and Yuliya Fedorinova, March 18, 2021. The Russian company backing an aluminum project in Kentucky said it’s suspending investments as it waits for U.S. partners to raise funds, dealing a new setback to the billion-dollar-plus mill that was supposed to be completed last year.

United Co. Rusal International PJSC announced the move on Unity Aluminum, formerly known as Braidy Industries, in a call on Wednesday. Rusal has so far poured $65 million into the venture, which local officials have been counting on to bring hundreds of high-paying jobs to the region.

The funding freeze is the latest in a series of twists, including a battle for control of the mill that led to the ousting last year of Braidy’s chief executive officer, and questions over the timing when the U.S. lifted sanctions on Rusal. The plan announced in 2017 was for a $1.3 billion rolling mill to meet growing demand for the metal from the automotive, packaging and aerospace markets.

“Unfortunately, our partner failed to contribute necessary equity from their side, so then it was a substantial change of the management and shareholder structure of Braidy Industries,” Oleg Mukhamedshin, Rusal’s deputy CEO, said on a call. “We put on hold any further investments of the project as per our agreement, and we still expect our partners to raise necessary financing after the Covid pandemic gets better.”

Mukhamedshin said Rusal’s “Plan B” is to convert the investment into a debt instrument with certain securities if Unity Aluminum isn’t successful in securing the necessary funding.

In 2019, Rusal announced its commitment to invest $200 million in the plant, which stirred up criticism as the decision came shortly after the U.S. Treasury Department lifted sanctions on Rusal and its parent company. A spokesman for Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, then majority leader, told the Washington Post that the lawmaker didn’t know at the time that Braidy had hopes of a deal with Rusal when he backed the effort to lift sanctions on the Russian company.

 

March 17

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U.S. Politics, Governance

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Regulation

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Live Politics: Putin Ordered 2020 Election Meddling to Aid Trump, U.S. Intelligence Says, Julian E. Barnes and Staff colleagues, March 17, 2021 (print ed.). Moscow used Trump associates to try to hurt Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign, says a new U.S. report on influence efforts from Russia, Iran and elsewhere. China considered efforts to influence the vote, but ultimately concluded that any such operation would fail and most likely backfire. Here’s the latest.

A newly declassified report represents the most comprehensive intelligence assessment of foreign efforts to influence the 2020 vote. President Biden has faced intensifying criticism over his handling of migration to the U.S. border with Mexico. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Mayorkas expects border agents to confront more migrants at the U.S. border with Mexico than in the last 20 years.
  • McConnell warns of ‘scorched earth Senate’ if Democrats change filibuster rules.
  • The White House must decide by month’s end what to do about Trump’s incomplete border wall.
  • Biden withholds judgment as Washington turns on Cuomo.
  • President Biden visits Pennsylvania to promote the stimulus bill and focus on small businesses.
  • As Amazon workers in Alabama debate unionizing, The Times investigates how the company has tried to thwart past efforts.
  • Top U.S. officials strike a critical tone toward China during a visit to Japan.
  • A top Trump donor gave $10 million for ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance to explore an Ohio Senate bid.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia authorized extensive efforts to interfere in the American presidential election to denigrate the candidacy of Joseph R. Biden Jr., including intelligence operations to influence people close to former President Donald J. Trump, according to a declassified intelligence report released Tuesday.

rudy giuliani recentThe report did not name those people but seemed to be a reference to the work of Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, right, who relentlessly pushed allegations of corruption about Mr. Biden and his family involving Ukraine.

“Russian state and proxy actors who all serve the Kremlin’s interests worked to affect U.S. public perceptions in a consistent manner,” the report said.

The declassified report represented the most comprehensive intelligence assessment of foreign efforts to influence the 2020 vote. Besides Russia, Iran and other Russian Flagcountries sought to influence the election, the report said. China considered efforts to influence the presidential vote, but ultimately concluded that any such operation would fail and most likely backfire, intelligence officials concluded.

A companion report by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security also rejected false allegations promoted by Mr. Trump’s allies in the weeks after the election that Venezuela or other foreign countries defrauded the election.

The reports, compiled by career officials, amounted to a repudiation of Mr. Trump, his allies and some of his top administration officials. They categorically dismissed allegations of foreign-fed voter fraud, cast doubt on Republican accusations of Chinese intervention on behalf of Democrats and undermined the allegations that Mr. Trump and his allies spread about the Biden family’s work in Ukraine.

The report also found that there were no efforts by Russia or other countries to change ballots themselves, unlike in 2016. Efforts by Russian hackers to probe state and local networks were unrelated to efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential vote.

Some of the information in the intelligence report was released in the months leading up to the election, reflecting an effort by the intelligence community to release more information about foreign operations during the campaign season after its reluctance to do so in 2016 helped misinformation spread.

In other news:  

Border officials are expecting to encounter more migrants at the southwest border and its port entries this year than in the last two decades, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, said Tuesday.

us dhs big eagle logo4President Biden has faced intensifying criticism over his handling of migration to the U.S. border with Mexico, particularly the treatment of thousands of Central American children and teenagers stuck in border detention facilities. Lawyers who interviewed some of the young migrants in Texas have reported that they had been left to sleep on gym mats with foil sheets and had been confined to an overcrowded tent.

More than 9,400 minors — ranging from young children to teenagers — arrived along the border without parents in February, a nearly threefold increase over that month last year.

The encounters specified by Mr. Mayorkas include migrants who will be detained in U.S. border facilities as well as those rapidly turned away under a pandemic emergency rule. It does not include those who manage to avoid border agents when crossing the border. Many of those who crossed the border in the early 2000s were single adults seeking economic opportunity.

McConnell warns of ‘scorched earth Senate’ if Democrats change filibuster rules.

Senator Mitch McConnell, right, on Tuesday bluntly warned Democrats who are considering weakening or eliminating the filibuster to push through progressive legislation mitch mcconnell elevator getty croppedthat Republicans would bring the Senate to a complete standstill and derail President Biden’s agenda if Democrats took that step.

Mr. McConnell issued his warning after Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat and a respected veteran of the institution, on Monday said it was time to stop allowing the minority party to routinely block legislation by requiring a three-fifths majority to advance most bills. It was the most explicit call yet by a leading Democrat leadership to take action.

American System Network, Opinion: After Defeat of January 6 Attempted Autogolpe, GOP Regroups around Plan for Cold Coup or Creeping webster tarpley 2007Coup Designed to Establish Dictatorship in Two Years, Webster G. Tarpley, right, March 17, 2021. Scenario Includes Subversion of Military Units as Suggested by Army Memo Supplying Reasons to Refuse National Guard Defense of US Capitol.

Republican Assault on Voting Rights Shows Intent to Seize Congress through Voter Suppression; Senate Filibuster Can Sabotage Biden’s Measures to Pacify Domestic Privations and Conflicts: GOP Attorneys General Start Legal Challenge to Rescue Plan over Ban on Using Federal Money to Fund Tax Cuts for GOP Parasites.

US Hits More Chinese Functionaries with Sanctions on Eve of Yang-Blinken Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Alaska; DNI Avril Haines Reports that Kremlin Peddled Slanders against Biden through Politicians and Media to Help Trump in 2020 Election; Biden Repeats that Sanctions Loom Next Week in Solar Winds Hack Attack.

Biden Accepts That Putin is “Killer” with “No Soul,” Signaling End of Four Years of Groveling Appeasement under Trump; Russian Ambassador to Washington Recalled in a Huff.

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows was near the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Army pushed to deny D.C.’s request for National Guard before Jan. 6, Paul Sonne, Peter Hermann, Ellen Nakashima and Matt Zapotosky, March 17, 2021 (print ed.). In a draft memo, the Army argued the U.S. military shouldn’t be needed unless more than 100,000 demonstrators were expected.

The Army initially pushed to reject the D.C. government’s request for a modest National Guard presence ahead of the Jan. 6 rally that led to the Capitol riot, underscoring the deep reluctance of some higher-ups at the Pentagon to involve the military in security arrangements that day.

Department of Defense SealIn an internal draft memo obtained by The Washington Post, the Army said the U.S. military shouldn’t be needed to help police with traffic and crowd management, as city officials had requested, unless more than 100,000 demonstrators were expected.

The draft memo also said the request should be denied because a federal agency hadn’t been identified to run the preparations and on-the-day operations; the resources of other federal agencies hadn’t been exhausted; and law enforcement was “far better suited” for the task.

The Army leadership made its position clear in deliberations at the Pentagon the weekend before the event, citing those reasons among others, according to four people familiar with the discussions, who like others in this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal Defense Department matters.

The Army ultimately relented after facing pressure from acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, and realizing that District officials weren’t going to turn to the Justice Department for help instead, as the Army had wanted, the people said.

Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy agreed to support the request, so long as a lead agency was identified and all other federal agencies “exhausted their assets to support these events,” according to the recommendation he gave in a revised final memo to Miller, who approved the request.

Still, the Army’s initial impulse to consider refusing military involvement in the security arrangements — even though the Guard is trained to assist law enforcement during large-scale protests and has done so regularly for decades in the District — shows the extraordinary steps officials at the Pentagon were taking to stay away from what was shaping up to be a politically toxic and volatile moment for the nation.

The Army’s previously undisclosed draft memo advocating against the deployment ahead of the pro-Trump rally sheds light on the thinking of leaders involved in the security arrangements, which permitted one of the biggest national security failures since the 9/11 attacks.

washington post logoWashington Post, A dozen Republicans voted against Congressional Gold Medals for police who protected them on Jan. 6, Colby Itkowitz, March 17, 2021. A dozen House Republicans voted against a resolution to award three Congressional Gold Medals, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, to the Capitol Police, the D.C. police and the Smithsonian Institution in recognition of those who protected the U.S. Capitol when it was attacked Jan. 6.

The GOP lawmakers, who said they objected to the use of the term “insurrectionists” in the resolution, are: Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Andy Harris (Md.), Lance Gooden (Tex.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Michael Cloud (Tex.), Andrew S. Clyde (Ga.), Greg Steube (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.) and John Rose (Tenn.).

“We had to combine it with these editorial comments about the January 6 sequence of events, and then we had to logroll it with this exhibit at the Smithsonian, and … that was a little much for me,” Gaetz said after the vote.

Massie also objected to the use of the word “temple,” saying it was “a little too sacrilegious for me.”

The resolution states: “On January 6, 2021, a mob of insurrectionists forced its way into the U.S. Capitol building and congressional office buildings and engaged in acts of vandalism, looting, and violently attacked Capitol Police officers.”

It also says: “The desecration of the U.S. Capitol, which is the temple of our American Democracy, and the violence targeting Congress are horrors that will forever stain our Nation’s history.”

Gohmert has reportedly drafted a competing resolution to honor the two Capitol Police officers who died after the attack, but his language does not mention the attack itself.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) lashed out at the Republicans who voted against the resolution.

“It is deeply unfortunate that a number of House Republicans opposed this action as they attempt to erase the events of January 6 and deny the responsibility of a far-right, insurrectionist mob incited by former President Trump,” he said in a statement. “The alternative resolution they have proposed insults the memory of the officer who was killed defending the Capitol and the two others who died as a result of the attack in its immediate aftermath, using language implying that the three officers did not lose their lives in the line of duty. Such disrespect for the heroes who courageously tried to protect the American people’s Capitol is disgusting.”

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Feinstein’s Future Could Swing on Husband’s Potential Posting Overseas, Jonathan Martin, March 17, 2021 (print ed.). Richard Blum, a wealthy investor and the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, has indicated to President Biden’s advisers that he’s interested in being appointed to an ambassadorship, a move that would renew questions about Ms. Feinstein’s political future.

dianne feinsteinMr. Blum, according to Democrats in California and Washington, is eyeing a European capital, a posting that could pave the way for the 87-year-old Ms. Feinstein, right, to leave the Senate. In November, she agreed to relinquish her ranking position on the Judiciary us senate logoCommittee under pressure from Senator Chuck Schumer, now the majority leader, and other Democrats.

Should Mr. Blum, 85, be appointed and Ms. Feinstein join him overseas, it could solve an increasingly awkward problem for Democrats.

Senior party officials have been blunt in private about what they describe as the senator’s diminished acuity and are eager to replace her with a Black woman, of which there are none in the Senate after the departure of Vice President Kamala Harris.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Endorses Filibuster Rule Changes, Carl Hulse, March 17, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden for the first time said he favored a return to the requirement that opponents occupy the floor when making their case against legislation. Senator Mitch McConnell promised a “scorched earth” response.

joe biden gage skidmore microphoneIn an interview with ABC News, Mr. Biden gave his most direct endorsement yet of overhauling the filibuster, saying that he favored a return to what is called the talking filibuster: the requirement that opponents of legislation occupy the floor and make their case against it.

“I don’t think that you have to eliminate the filibuster; you have to do it, what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days,” the president said. “You had to stand up and command the floor, and you had to keep talking.” The comments were a significant departure for us senate logoMr. Biden, a 36-year veteran of the Senate who has been frequently described by aides as reluctant to alter Senate procedure.

“It’s getting to the point where, you know, democracy is having a hard time functioning,” he added.

Currently, senators need only to register their objections to legislation to force supporters to produce 60 votes to break the filibuster, which has become a near-daily part of Senate life. Requiring opponents to hold the floor would put more of the burden on them and theoretically make it harder for them to sustain their opposition.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Politics Live Updates: Biden, for the first time, says he wants to overhaul the filibuster, John Wagner, March 17, 2021. To mark St. Patrick’s Day, President Biden attended mass on Wednesday and is hosting a virtual meeting with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin while senior administration officials travel to Capitol Hill to detail efforts on combating the coronavirus and addressing a surge of migrants on the southwestern border.

joe biden twitterMeanwhile, in a television interview broadcast on ABC, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin would “pay a price” for seeking to influence the U.S. 2020 presidential election and that New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) should resign if an investigation confirms allegations of sexual harassment.

Here’s what to know

  • Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is expected to face pointed questions from members of both parties about the surge in migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border as he appears at a House Homeland Security Committee meeting.
  • Anthony S. Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, and Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are scheduled to testify on the administration’s efforts to increase coronavirus vaccinations before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
  • Analysis: The talking filibuster — and its limits; Cedric Richmond endorsement before joining White House roils Louisiana race

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Biden Wants No Part of the Culture War the G.O.P. Loves, Thomas B. Edsall, March 17, 2021. The generosity of his $1.9 trillion relief bill has the added benefit of shifting attention where he wants it.

The Biden administration appears to have adopted a two-pronged strategy to reduce the corrosive impact of hot-button social, cultural and racial issues: first by inundating the electorate with a flood of cash via the $1.9 trillion Covid relief act and second by refusing to engage fractious issues in public, joe biden ocalculating that deprived of oxygen, their strength will fade.

The sheer magnitude of the funds released by the American Rescue Plan, the White House is gambling, will shift voters’ attention away from controversies over Dr. Seuss, who can use which bathroom and critical race theory. So far, the strategy is working.

Biden has a favorability rating of 52.9 to 41.9, according to the Real Clear Politics average of the seven most recent surveys, and a Pew Research poll the first week of March found that a decisive majority of voters, at 70-28 percent, have a positive opinion of the Covid stimulus bill.

According to a rundown by the Center for American Progress of the bill’s exceptionally generous provisions, the bill will cut child poverty in half, and a middle-income family of four with one child under age 6 and one child age 6 or above will receive $8,200 at minimum.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Were the Airline Bailouts Really Needed? Andrew Ross Sorkin, March 17, 2021 (print ed.). Once again, we have socialized an industry’s losses and privatized its profits.

The good news is that the rescue money likely saved as many as 75,000 jobs, most remaining at full pay. And that money also kept the airlines from filing for bankruptcy, and in a position to ferry passengers all over the country to jump start economic growth as the health crisis subsides.

The bad news is that it is also likely that taxpayers massively overpaid: The original grant of $25 billion in April meant that each of the 75,000 jobs saved cost the equivalent of more than $300,000. And with each additional round of bailout money, that price has grown.

The truth is that shareholders of the airlines have been the biggest beneficiaries. That includes airline executives, many of whom have been paid in stock for years and stood to lose millions of dollars if their holdings were wiped out. Airline chiefs collected tens of millions per year in compensation before the pandemic, in part by boosting their companies’ share prices by regularly buying back tens of billions in shares. That meant setting aside less money for a rainy day — or, in this case, a pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Cuomo’s Team Tried to Tarnish One of His Accusers, Maggie Haberman and Jesse McKinley, March 17, 2021 (print ed.). People tied to Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to damage the credibility of Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment.

Days after Lindsey Boylan became the first woman to accuse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of sexual harassment in a series of Twitter posts in December, people tied to the governor started circulating an open letter that they hoped former staff members would sign.

andrew cuomoThe letter was a full-on attack on Ms. Boylan’s credibility, suggesting that her accusation was premeditated and politically motivated. It disclosed personnel complaints filed against her and attempted to link her to supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.

“Weaponizing a claim of sexual harassment for personal political gain or to achieve notoriety cannot be tolerated,” the letter concluded. “False claims demean the veracity of credible claims.”

The initial idea, according to three people with direct knowledge of the events, was to have former Cuomo aides — especially women — sign their names to the letter and circulate it fairly widely.

Multiple drafts were created, and Mr. Cuomo was involved in creating the letter, one of the people said. Current aides to the governor emailed at least one draft to a group of former advisers. From there, it circulated to current and former top aides to the governor.

It is not clear how many people were asked to sign the letter, but two former officials — speaking on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to anger Mr. Cuomo, New York’s Democratic governor — decided that they did not want their names on it.

The letter, which was reviewed by The New York Times, was never released. Ms. Boylan did not immediately elaborate or follow up on her Twitter posts in December, allowing her accusations to fade, along with the urgency of the effort to discredit her. Still, the letter shows that the Cuomo administration was poised to quickly and aggressively undercut Ms. Boylan, a Democrat who is running for Manhattan borough president.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 73.7 million vaccinated, as of March 17, 2021: The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 260.5% of the prioritized population and 22.2 % of the total U.S. population. See about your state.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: March 17), with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 121,411,923, Deaths: 2,684,646
U.S. Cases:     30,232,688, Deaths:   549,384

Raw Story, Far-right Trump supporters hope to use RFK Jr.-backed protests to stage a comeback, Jordan Green, March 17, 2021. Far-right Trump supporters hope to use RFK Jr.-backed protests to stage a comeback.

Promoted on Facebook and Telegram, the "Worldwide Demonstration for Freedom" scheduled for Saturday promises that people around the world will rise up in unity against a nebulous enemy, using lofty phrases like "peace," "human rights," "democracy," "sovereignty" and "solidarity."

The soft framing and new age-y presentation belies a hard-edged message of protest against COVID restrictions that will be clearly understood by anti-lockdown stalwarts but vague enough to appeal to a wider audience. Launched by an obscure outfit in central Germany called Freie Bürger Kassel (translated as Free Citizens of Kassel), the Worldwide Demonstration has received a promotional boost from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccination campaigner and nephew of the 35th US president, who has been building transatlantic links with the German anti-lockdown movement over the past six months.

The group pledged in a Feb. 23 Facebook post to "form the biggest demonstration of the current time" with simultaneous actions in dozens of countries scheduled for Saturday, but social media engagement suggests it will fall short of the goal: Stockholm, one of the larger European capitals with an event page, shows only 30 people "interested." The US footprint is even more modest: Among 25-some events, the Alabama rally is taking place not in Birmingham, the largest city in the state, but at a distillery in Madison, a small city outside of Huntsville. The address for the Dallas event is actually an undeveloped parcel in suburban Arlington.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. unemployment rate will fall to 4.5 percent this year, and inflation will rise, Federal Reserve projects, Rachel Siegel, March 17, 2021. The Fed’s latest economic projections paint a much rosier picture compared to a few months ago. Federal Reserve officials expect the economy to rapidly surge us labor department logotoward its pre-pandemic strength, with the unemployment rate falling to 4.5 percent by the end of this year, and inflation surpassing the Fed’s 2 percent target, according to projections released Wednesday.

The estimates paint a far-rosier picture than those released just a few months ago, before the passage of two economic stimulus bills and more widespread access to coronavirus vaccines.

Now, Fed officials anticipate that gross domestic product could grow 6.5 percent, the fastest since the 1980s. Inflation is also projected to hit 2.4 percent by the end of the year, a marked jump from the 1.8 percent projection in December. A growing number of Fed policymakers expect the economy to be healed enough to begin raising interest rates from near-zero in 2023.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Regulation

ny times logoNew York Times, Judges Juggle Over 2,700 Cases Each as Families Wait for Day in Court, Tracey Tully, March 17, 2021. Short-handed and deluged by complex cases, New Jersey’s federal court is in a crisis. The backlog of cases has only gotten worse in the pandemic.

Phillip White, an unarmed Black man, died in police custody in New Jersey six years ago. After the Vineland, N.J., officers involved in the encounter were cleared by a grand jury and their own department, Mr. White’s family filed a $10 million wrongful-death lawsuit in federal court, accusing one officer of using excessive force.

The suit, filed in 2016, has not yet gone to trial — one of 46,609 cases that were still awaiting action last year in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, according to the latest available figures. Consistently ranked among the busiest courts in the country, New Jersey’s federal bench is also extraordinarily understaffed: One-third of its judicial seats are vacant and have been for years, leaving each seated judge with a pending caseload that is well over three times the national average.

Former President Donald J. Trump fundamentally reshaped the justice system during his four years in office, filling federal appeals court vacancies at a record-setting pace and appointing scores of judges with conservative views. By January, 174 new district court judges, who handle trials, had also been seated.

But not a single judge was named in New Jersey, leaving six empty spots on the court’s 17-seat bench.

Only the Western District of Washington State, which includes Seattle and Tacoma, has a greater percentage of judicial vacancies.

Raw Story, Republican’s ‘fixer’ found dead in Ohio after being ensnared in sweeping bribery investigation, Sky Palma, March 17, 2021. The death of a longtime Ohio lobbyist who was charged in a nearly $61 million bribery scheme is being investigated by authorities after a passerby found him in a car in a wooded area this Monday.

According to Dayton.com, Neil S. Clark, 67, was found with a handgun and a bullet wound in his head.

Clark was arrested on July 21 along with former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder, former Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, lobbyist Juan Cespedes and political strategist Jeff Longstreth. The group was charged by prosecutors for allegedly taking nearly $61 million in dark money from Ohio utility companies to position Householder as speaker, and in turn pass and defend a $1.3 billion bailout law for the companies. Clark pleaded not guilty.
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"All forms of public corruption are unacceptable," said FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman in a statement last year. "When the corruption is alleged to reach some of the highest levels of our state government, the citizens of Ohio should be shocked and appalled."

In response to Clark's death, acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel said in a written statement that in matters in which a defendant has passed away, "the process is that a 'Suggestion of Death' is typically filed upon receipt of a death certificate, resulting in dismissal of the decedent from the case but not impacting the rest of the case. All that will be addressed in due course."

"For now, we extend our condolences to Mr. Clark's family and friends," the statement added.

According to prosecutors, Clark was Householder's "fixer." He also referred to himself as Householder's "hit man" who does the "dirty s--t."

"When [Householder's] busy, I get complete say. When we're working on stuff, if he says, 'I'm busy,' everyone knows," Clark was quoted as saying in 2019.

jfk american university Custom

President John Kennedy delivering his iconic "Peace Speech" at American University in June, 1963.

Future of Freedom Foundation, Lecture Announcement: Oswald or the Pentagon/CIA? Jacob G. Hornberger, right, March 17, 2021.This evening at 7 p.m. jacob hornberger newEastern time, we continue with our online conference “The National Security State and the Kennedy Assassination.” We currently have 693 registrations.

Our speaker is Dr. John Newman, below left, adjunct professor of political science at James Madison University. Newman is the author of the seminal book JFK and Vietnam and four books relating to the JFK assassination. He served as a consultant for Oliver Stone’s movie john newman newJFK. To receive a zoom link, just register (or re-register) at our conference web page.

Our first two speakers — James DiEugenio and Michael Swanson — set the stage for John Kennedy’s assumption of the presidency in 1961. Those two talks can be found in the multimedia section of FFF’s website.

After World War II, the federal government was converted to a national-security state, which vested omnipotent, non-reviewable powers in the hands of the federal government, including the powers of assassination and regime change.

As DiEugenio and Swanson pointed out, there was already tension between Kennedy and the Pentagon and the CIA before he even became president. As DiEugenio observed, Kennedy sided with Third World independence movements, which the Pentagon and the CIA were certain were communist-directed. As Swanson indicated, Kennedy also was skeptical about sending combat troops into Southeast Asia, something that the Pentagon and the CIA believed was necessary to prevent a communist takeover of the United States.

future of freedom foundation logo squareWith Newman’s talk tonight, we head directly into the Kennedy administration and the various crises faced by Kennedy, which led to an ever-growing devolution in the relationship between Kennedy and the Pentagon and the CIA, which ultimately culminated in outright war between the executive branch and the national-security branch of the government, much as it would ten years later within the Chilean national government.

Since the time of the assassination, the official story, one promoted by both the Pentagon and the CIA, has been that a communist former U.S. Marine assassinated Kennedy because he was a little man wanting to kill a big man.

From the beginning, there have been problems with that theory. For one, Oswald denied he committed the crime. In fact, he claimed that he was being framed for the crime. That’s what he meant when he stated that he was a “patsy” or fall guy for the crime. If he was really just a little man wanting to kill a big man, wouldn’t the natural thing to do be to brag about what he had done rather than deny it?

Moreover, how many communist Marines have you known? Communists hate the Marines and vice versa. Marines kill communists. They, along with others in the military, killed millions of communists in Korea and Vietnam. Why would a communist want to join an organization that hated communists and wanted to kill them? Why would the U.S. Marines permit a communist to exist within their midst? Does that sound like the Marines you know?

john newman oswald ciaAnd it’s not as though Oswald was hiding his supposed affinity to communism while he was a Marine. His Marine buddies were jokingly calling him “Oswaldovitch.” That’s because he was learning to speak Russian fluently while in the military and studying the principles of Marxism at the same time.

This was the Cold War period of time, when the U.S. national-security establishment was infiltrating communist organizations with the intention of spying on them and destroying them. In order for a person to be a good infiltrator, he had to convince the organization that he was one of them — that he believed in Marxism and socialism as much as they did. Naturally, an infiltrator oftentimes had to be trained to be an infiltrator,

As previously secret evidence has been uncovered over the years, it has led inexorably to Oswald’s operating as a U.S. intelligence operative, one who was recruited and trained when he was in the Marines. One revealing factor here is that when Oswald returned to the United States after supposedly trying to defect to the Soviet Union, to which he promised to divulge classified information he had acquired as a Marine, they did nothing to him. No indictment. Not even a grand jury summons. No torture. No anything. Remember: This is supposedly one of the most notorious communists in U.S. history and yet they didn’t give him the treatment that they gave to people like Dalton Trumbo and many others who had done nothing more than become members of the Communist Party.

lee harvey oswald hsLet’s talk about motive. If Oswald, left, had been a genuine communist, why would he want to kill Kennedy? After the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy experienced a breakthrough that would culminate in a full-fledged war between him and the Pentagon/CIA. At his Peace Speech in June 1963 at American University, he declared an end to the Cold War and America’s intention to establish peaceful and friendly relations with the Soviet Union and the communist world, a position that the Pentagon and the CIA were convinced posed a grave threat to national security.

Pursuant to this new course for America, Kennedy entered into a nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets, over the vehement objection of the Pentagon and the CIA. He also ordered a partial withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and told aides he would bring them all home after he won the 1964 presidential election. He announced that he wanted to explore the possibility of a joint moon shot with the Soviets, which meant sharing U.S. rocket technology with the communists. He sided with Martin Luther King and the civil-righs movement, which the national-security establishment, particularly the FBI, was convinced was a communist front.

Why would a genuine communist want to kill a president who was establishing peaceful and friendly relations with the communist world, especially given that Vice President Lyndon Johnson was on the same page as the Pentagon and the CIA?

It stands to reason that people who would have the motive to kill the president, and frame a “communist” for the crime, were those who vehemently objected to the new course that Kennedy was setting for the United States, a course that posed a grave threat to the existence of the national-security establishment itself.

To get a zoom link [free], just register at our conference website.

Date   Speaker(s)         Time                        Topic

3/3/21  Jim DiEugenio     7:00 PM Eastern Time  President Kennedy and the Third World
3/10/21 Mike Swanson    7:00 PM Eastern Time  JFK, the Vietnam War, and the War State
3/17/21 John Newman     7:00 PM Eastern Time  JFK and the Cold War: Deception, Treachery, and the Struggle for Power
douglas horne 20213/24/21 Jefferson Morley  7:00 PM Eastern Time  Morley v. the CIA [Part 1]
3/31/21 Jefferson Morley  7:00 PM Eastern Time  Morley v. the CIA [Part 2]
4/7/21   Douglas Horne (r.) 7:00 PM Eastern Time The JFK Medical Coverup
4/14/21 Douglas Horne     7:00 PM Eastern Time  JFK’s War with the National Security Establishment
4/21/21 Jacob Hornberger 7:00 PM Eastern Time  Regime Change: The JFK Assassination

Raw Story, Florida Republicans pushing proposal that would allow Trump to open casino over local objections, Travis Gettys, March 17, 2021. Florida Republicans pushing proposal that would allow Trump to open casino over local objections. Former president Donald Trump may be permitted to turn his struggling Doral golf resort into a gambling destination despite objections from the neighboring community if a Republican proposal goes through the Florida legislature.

His younger son Eric Trump, who runs the family's private company, has been promoting the possibility of transforming the resort as Republican state legislators discuss a proposal that would allow developers to transfer gambling licenses to properties in areas that have long prohibited casinos -- and also prohibit local governments from stopping them, reported the Washington Post.

"My understanding is they are trying to take the gambling permits that are in South Florida and make them portable, and preempt local governments from stopping them," said Miami Beach mayor Dan Gelber, a Democrat and longtime gambling opponent.

No bill has been submitted yet, but the proposal has been so widely discussed that both sides on the issue have started preparing for a legislative fight that could involve the twice-impeached one-term president and his close ally Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Doral has seen a drop in business through Trump's presidency and into a second year of the coronavirus pandemic, and Eric Trump told the Post the Miami property would be a natural choice if the GOP proposal goes through.

"Many people consider Trump Doral to be unmatched from a gaming perspective," Eric Trump said in an email statement. "At 700 acres, properties just don't exist of that size and quality in South Florida, let alone in the heart of Miami."

The proposal is being guided by state Senate president Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby), according to two sources, and could be introduced in the next couple of weeks.

South Florida billionaire and philanthropist Norman Braman, who opposes casinos in the area, said the former president undoubtedly had an influence on the debate, whether he was directly involved or not.

Trump spent years before he ran for political office trying to persuade Florida lawmakers to approve new casino licenses, and even hired a top lobbyist in the state after buying the Doral in 2012, although critics say that might not be enough to save the property he owes $125 million on to Deutsche Bank.

"This guy has bankrupted every casino he's ever run," said Democratic state Rep. Joseph Geller. "How do you bankrupt a casino? I don't think we need a failed casino. We don't want to be the next Atlantic City."

Raw Story, Former GOP lawmaker's home raided by law enforcement after reports surface about his scheme to sway elections, Sky Palma, March 17, 2021. The home of former Florida state Sen. Frank Artiles (R) was raided by law enforcement this Wednesday.

According to The Miami Herald, Artiles is believed to be tied to an investigation by Florida authorities regarding a no-party candidate who allegedly influenced a Miami-Dade Senate race.

In December, the Miami Herald reported that Artiles boasted about planting auto parts dealer Alex Rodriguez in Miami-Dade's Senate District 37 race -- a no-party candidate who shared the same surname as the incumbent Democrat. As the Miami Herald points out, Rodriguez had never run for political office before and only registered as a Republican days before he became a candidate.

At an election night party, Artiles bragged that he planted Rodriguez in the race.

The Herald's December report states that Artiles talked about his so-called "siphoning strategy" in the summer of 2018 with a friend, saying that he planned to use no-party candidates to draw votes away from his intended target to sway elections.

Artiles resigned from the Senate in 2017 as two scandals involving him simultaneously erupted -- one being an alcohol-fueled rant in which he called two Black lawmakers a racist slur in a Tallahassee bar, the other involving the hiring of a former Hooters "calendar girl" and a Playboy model with no political experience as "consultants" using funds from his political committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Derek Chauvin trial: Judge dismisses two seated jurors who heard about George Floyd family settlement, Holly Bailey, March 17, 2021. The judge overseeing the criminal trial related to George Floyd’s death on Wednesday dismissed two jurors already seated in the case after they told the court they had seen headlines about the city’s $27 million civil settlement with Floyd’s family and weren’t sure they could be impartial toward Derek Chauvin, one of the former Minneapolis police officers charged in his killing.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill questioned seven of the nine jurors that had had been previously seated in the case via Zoom as he weighs requests from Chauvin’s attorney to delay the case and reconsider a change-of-venue motion because of publicity related to the settlement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas Three Percenters member charged in Jan. 6 riot set up security company to circumvent gun laws, obtain high-grade weapons, U.S. alleges, Spencer S. Hsu, March 17, 2021 (print ed.). A man charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has been jailed pending trial after allegedly recruiting members to the Texas Three Percenters by telling them he had created a new security business to circumvent gun laws and obtain high-grade weapons and ammunition available to law enforcement.

Guy Reffitt, 48, of Wylie, Tex., pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three charges of obstructing an official proceeding, trespassing and witness tampering after prosecutors say he was hit by police rubber bullets and chemical spray while allegedly rushing the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Prosecutors also say he threatened his teenage children not to turn him in after he returned from Washington.

U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the District of Columbia set the next hearing for April 19.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui said it was not Reffitt’s statements to his family that prompted his detention order but the government’s allegations that he appeared with body armor, a helmet, firearm and plastic flex-cuffs on Capitol grounds. The judge said it appeared Reffitt planned for violence before and after the event in encrypted communications with other members of the right-wing anti-government group, for which he said he conducts vetting and intelligence.

ammon bundy

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is going really poorly for right wing stooge Ammon Bundy, Suzanne Shatto, March 17, 2021. What happens when you are out on bail and don’t show up for your court date? Well, this happened to Ammon Bundy (shown above in a file photo).

Masks are mandated at the Ada County Courthouse and Ammon Bundy refuses to wear a mask, so the Judge issued a warrant for his arrest for not showing up on his court date. It was the first day of his jury trial and he did not appear. He was arrested, assigned a $10,000 bond, and is now residing in Ada County Jail and he can be brought from there to his jury trial, if he wears a mask.

bill palmer report logo headerBundy wanted a jury trial over the misdemeanor charges of trespassing and resisting arrest from an August incident at the Idaho Statehouse. He refused to leave the Capitol Building in Boise, Idaho during a special session of the legislature. “Troopers were forced to physically remove Bundy from the Senate Gallery,” police said. Bundy and others were at the Capitol demanding an end to the state of emergency.

Ammon Bundy is the son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who engaged in an armed showdown with the Federal Bureau of Land Management in 2014 about grazing rights for his cattle. Cliven Bundy had refused to pay the BLM to lease grazing rights over federal land. The Bundys were acquitted for using force in an armed conflict with federal agents. Ammon Bundy is known for the 2016 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. On January 2, 2016, an armed group of far-right anti-government extremists seized and occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon, and continued to occupy it until law enforcement made a final arrest on February 11, 2016.

Since that time, the Bundys have built a network of like-minded people who confront situations while armed, called People’s Rights. Ammon Bundy describes this group as a neighborhood watch on steroids. They have participated in over 50 demonstrations at the homes of politicians, health agency managers and even a police officer who had arrested a protester. They demonstrated rather threateningly at Legacy Hospital at Salmon Creek in Clark County, Washington, because a daughter of a Covid patient called them to get her mother released from the hospital because the daughter believed the mother did not have Covid and therefore had no need of any treatment.

Donald Trump, Melania Knauss (future Melania Trump), Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a party at Mar-a-Lago (Getty / Davidoff Studios).

Donald Trump, Melania Knauss (future Melania Trump), Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell (left to right) at a party at Mar-a-Lago (Getty / Davidoff Studios).

washington post logoWashington Post, Ghislaine Maxwell’s tawdry fall from grace — and her new PR push, Manuel Roig-Franzia, March 17, 2021. In times gone by, she luxuriated on a yacht named in her honor by her publishing mogul father. She befriended British royalty. She dazzled in three languages at galas. She dated a billionaire.

Ghislaine Maxwell moved in the rarest of rare air. There she is boarding a private jet with former president Bill Clinton, his forearm resting casually on her right shoulder; and another time attending his daughter Chelsea’s wedding. There she is, slender, fashionably coifed, eminently poised — again and again and again — in photos with a future president, Donald Trump.

It all seems so long ago.

Far from gliding into a gilded future that has been her destiny, Maxwell is now firmly fixed in a tabloid rogues’ gallery, as she stands accused of procuring and grooming underage girls to satisfy the boundless sexual appetite of her onetime lover, the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein.

For the past eight months, Maxwell, 59, has been imprisoned at a federal detention center in Brooklyn, twice denied bail as a flight risk while she awaits a trial scheduled to begin in July on charges of perjury and conspiracy to entice three minors in the 1990s to have sex with Epstein, who committed suicide in jail in 2019. Maxwell’s third attempt to persuade a judge to release her before her trial has set in motion in the past few days an effort by her family to reshape her image, aided by publicists and a family attorney.

Her brother, Ian Maxwell, has appeared on television in the United States and Britain, portraying his sister as a woman of substance and as a victim being used as a substitute for Epstein, who received an extraordinary light sentence after pleading guilty in an underage sex case in Florida in 2005 and died before facing trial in a massive sex trafficking case in New York. If Maxwell succeeds in altering public opinion of his sister — even a little — he’ll have accomplished a monumental public relations feat.

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